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Title: Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, Vol. 2 of 3 - Olympus
Author: Gladstone, W. E. (William Ewart)
Language: English
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  VOL. II.

  Plenius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore.--HORACE.





  Plenius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore.--HORACE.


  [_The right of Translation is reserved._]





  SECT. I.

  _On the mixed character of the Supernatural System,
  or Theo-mythology of Homer._

  Homer’s method not systematic                      Page      1

  Incongruities of his Theo-mythology point to diversity of
          sources                                              2

  Remnants of primitive tradition likely to be found in the
          Poems                                                3

  Extra-judaical relations between God and man                 6

  With tradition it combines invention                         9

  It is a true Theology corrupted                              9

  It has not its basis in nature-worship                      10

  It could not have sprung from invention only                13

  Sacrifices admitted to be traditional                       15

  Tendency of primitive religion to decay                     17

  Downward course of the idea of God                          18

  Decline closely connected with Polytheism                   20

  Inducements to Nature-worship                               21

  The deterioration of religion progressive                   23

  Paganism in its old age                                     25

  The impersonations of Homer                                 26

  The nature of the myths of Homer                            29

  Tradition the proper key to many of them                    30

  He exhibits the two systems in active impact                32

  Steps of the downward process                               33

  Sources of the inventive portions                           35

  Originality of the Olympian system                          37


  _The traditive element of the Homeric Theo-mythology._

  The channels of early religious tradition                   39

  Some leading early traditions of Scripture                  40

  As to the Godhead                                           42

  As to the Redeemer                                          42

  As to the Evil One                                          43

  Their defaced counterparts in Homer                         43

  Deities of equivocal position                               46

  Threefold materials of the Greek religion                   48

  Messianic traditions of the Hebrews                         49

  To be learned from three sources                            49

  Attributes ascribed to the Messiah                          51

  The deities of tradition in Homer                           54

  Minerva and Apollo jointly form the key                     55

  Notes of their Olympian rank                                56

  Of their higher antiquity                                   57

  The Secondaries of Minerva                                  59

  The Secondaries of Apollo                                   60

  Argument from the Secondaries                               63

  Picture of human society in Olympus                         64

  Dignity and precedence of Minerva                           66

  Of Apollo                                                   69

  Minerva’s relations of will and affection with Jupiter      70

  Those of Apollo                                             71

  Apollo the Deliverer of Heaven                              72

  Power of Minerva in the Shades                              73

  These deities are never foiled by others                    74

  The special honour of the Trine Invocation                  78

  They receive universal worship                              79

  They are not localized in any abode                         82

  They are objects together with Jupiter of habitual prayer   83

  Exempt from appetite and physical limitations               86

  Their manner of appreciating sacrifice                      88

  Their independent power of punishment                       90

  They handle special attributes of Jupiter                   94

  They exercise dominion over nature                          98

  Relation of Apollo (with Diana) to Death                   101

  Exemption from the use of second causes                    104

  Superiority of their moral standard                        105

  Special relation of Apollo to Diana                        108

  Disintegration of primitive traditions                     108

  The Legend of Alcyone                                      111

  Place of Minerva and Apollo in Providential government     113

  It is frequently ascribed to them                          115

  Especially the inner parts of it to Minerva                117

  Apollo’s gift of knowledge                                 119

  Intimacy of Minerva’s personal relations with man          121

  Form of their relation to their attributes                 122

  The capacity to attract new ones                           124

  Wide range of their functions                              125

  Tradition of the Sun                                       126

  The central wisdom of Minerva                              129

  The three characters of Apollo                             130

  The opposition between two of them                         131

  Minerva and Apollo do not fit into Olympus                 133

  Origin of the Greek names                                  133

  Summary of their distinctive traits                        134

  Explanation by Friedreich                                  138

  Treatment of Apollo by Müller                              141

  After-course of the traditions                             142

  The Diana of Homer                                         143

  Her acts and attributes in the poems                       144

  The Latona of Homer                                        147

  Her attributes in the poems                                149

  Her relation to primitive Tradition                        153

  Her acts in the poems                                      154

  The Iris of Homer                                          156

  The Atè of Homer                                           158

  The ἀτασθαλίη of Homer                                     162

  Other traditions of the Evil One                           162

  Parallel citations from Holy Scripture                     165

  The Future State in Homer                                  167

  Sacrificial tradition in Homer                             171

  He has no sabbatical tradition                             171


  _The inventive element of the Homeric Theo-mythology._

  The character of Jupiter                                   173

  Its fourfold aspect.--1. Jupiter as Providence             174

  2. Jupiter as Lord of Air                                  178

  Earth why vacant in the Lottery                            179

  3. Jupiter as Head of Olympus                              181

  His want of moral elements                                 183

  His strong political spirit                                185

  4. Jupiter as the type of animalism                        186

  Qualified by his parental instincts                        189

  The Juno of Homer                                          190

  Juno of the Iliad and Juno of the Odyssey                  191

  Her intense nationality                                    192

  Her mythological functions                                 193

  Her mythological origin                                    197

  The Neptune of Homer                                       199

  His threefold aspect                                       200

  His traits mixed, but chiefly mythological                 201

  His relation to the Phœnicians                             205

  His relation to the tradition of the Evil One              206

  His grandeur is material                                   209

  The Aidoneus of Homer                                      210

  His personality shadowy and feeble                         211

  The Ceres or Demeter of Homer                              212

  Her Pelasgian associations                                 213

  Her place in Olympus                                       215

  Her mythological origin                                    215

  The Proserpine or Persephone of Homer                      217

  Her marked and substantive character                       218

  Her connection with the East                               220

  Her place in Olympus doubtful                              223

  Her associations Hellenic and not Pelasgian                224

  The Mars of Homer                                          225

  His limited worship and attributes                         226

  Mars as yet scarcely Greek                                 229

  The Mercury of Homer                                       231

  Preeminently the god of increase                           233

  Mercury Hellenic as well as Phœnician                      235

  But apparently recent in Greece                            237

  His Olympian function distinct from that of Iris           238

  The poems consistent with one another in this point        241

  The Venus of Homer                                         243

  Venus as yet scarcely Greek                                244

  Advance of her worship from the East                       247

  Her Olympian rank and character                            249

  Her extremely limited powers                               249

  Apparently unable to confer beauty                         251

  Homer never by intention makes her attractive              252

  The Vulcan of Homer                                        254

  His Phœnician and Eastern extraction                       255

  His marriage with Venus                                    257

  Vulcan in and out of his art                               259

  The Ἠέλιος of Homer                                        260

  In the Iliad                                               261

  In the Odyssey                                             262

  Is of the Olympian court                                   263

  His incorporation with Apollo                              264

  The Dionysus or Bacchus of Homer                           266

  His worship recent                                         266

  Apparently of Phœnician origin                             267

  He is of the lowest inventive type                         269


  _The Composition of the Olympian Court; and the
  classification of the whole supernatural order in Homer._

  Principal cases of exclusion from Olympus                  271

  Case of Oceanus                                            273

  Together with that of Kronos and Rhea                      274

  The _Dî majores_ of the later tradition                    275

  Number of the Olympian gods in Homer                       275

  What deities are of that rank                              277

  The Hebe and the Paieon of Homer                           278

  The Eris of Homer                                          280

  Classification of the twenty Olympian deities              282

  The remaining supernatural order, in six classes           283

  Destiny or Fate in Homer                                   285

  Under the form of Αἶσα                                     286

  Death inexorable to Fate or Deity alike                    287

  Destiny under the form of Μοῖρα                            290

  Under the form of μόρος                                    293

  General view of the Homeric Destiny                        294

  Not antagonistic to Divine will                            297

  The minor impersonations of natural powers                 298

  The Ἁρπυῖαι of Homer                                       300

  The Erinues of Homer                                       302

  Their office is to vindicate the moral order               305

  Their operation upon the Immortals                         306

  Their connection with Aides and Persephone                 308

  Their relation to Destiny                                  310

  Their operation upon man                                   310

  Their occasional function as tempters                      312

  The translation of mortals                                 313

  The deification of mortals                                 314

  Growth of material for its extension                       316

  The kindred of the gods (1) the Cyclopes                   318

  (2) The Læstrygones                                        319

  (3) The Phæacians                                          320

  (4) Æolus Hippotades                                       322

  SECT. V.

  _The Olympian Community and its Members considered in

  The family order in Olympus                                325

  The political order in Olympus                             326

  Absence of important restraints upon their collective
          action                                             327

  They are influenced by courtesy and intelligence           328

  Superiority of the Olympian Immortals                      330

  Their unity imperfect                                      331

  Their polity works constitutionally                        332

  The system not uniform                                     333

  They are inferior in morality to men                       334

  And are governed mainly by force and fraud                 335

  Their dominant and profound selfishness                    337

  The cruelty of Calypso in her love                         339

  Their standard of taste and feeling low                    340

  The Olympian life is a depraved copy of the heroic         341

  The exemption from death uniform                           342

  The exemption from other limitations partial               345

  Sometimes based on peculiar grounds                        346

  Divine faculties for the most part an extension from the
          human                                              348

  Their dependence on the eye                                350

  Their powers of locomotion                                 352

  Chief heads of superiority to mankind                      353

  Their superiority in stature and beauty                    354

  Their libertinism                                          355

  Their keen regard to sacrifice and the ground of it        357

  Their circumscribed power over nature                      358

  Parts of the body how ascribed to them                     359

  Examples of miracle in Homer                               361

  Mode of their action on the human mind                     363

  They do not discern the thoughts                           365


  _The Olympian Community and its Members considered
  in their influence on human society and conduct._

  Lack of periodical observances and of a ministering class  367

  Yet the religion was a real power in life                  368

  The effect of the corruption of the gods was not yet
          fully felt                                         369

  They show little regard to human interests                 371

  A moral tone is occasionally perceptible                   373

  Prevalent belief as to their views of man and life         374

  It lent considerable support to virtue                     377

  Their course with respect to Troy                          378

  Bearing of the religion on social ties                     380

  And on political relations                                 382

  The Oath                                                   383

  Bearing of the religion on the poems                       385

  As regards Neptune’s wrath in the Odyssey                  387

  As regards the virtue of purity                            388

  As regards poetic effect                                   388

  Comparison of its earliest and latest form                 390

  Gloom prevails in Homer’s view of human destiny            392

  The personal belief of Homer                               394


  _On the traces of an origin abroad for the Olympian

  The Olympian deities classified according to local
          extraction                                         397

  Their connection as a body with the Æthiopes               399

  Confirms the hypothesis of Persian origin                  402

  Herodotus on the Scythian religion                         402

  His report from Egypt about the Greek deities              404

  Four several bases of religious systems                    405

  Anthropophuism in the Olympian religion                    406

  Nature-worship as described in the Book of Wisdom          406

  Its secondary place in the Olympian religion               407

  In what sense it follows a prior Nature-worship            409

  The principle of Brute-worship                             410

  Its traces in the Olympian religion                        411

  Chief vestige: oxen of the Sun                             412

  Xanthus the horse of Achilles                              414


  _The Morals of the Homeric Age._

  The general type of Greek character in the heroic age      417

  The moral sense in the heroic age                          418

  Use of the words ἀγαθός and κακός                          421

  Of the word δίκαιος                                        423

  Religion and morals were not dissociated                   425

  Moral elements in the practice of sacrifice                427

  Three main motives to virtue. 1. Regard to the gods        427

  2. The power of conscience                                 428

  3. Regard for the sentiments of mankind                    430

  The force and forms of αἰδὼς                               431

  Other cognate terms                                        435

  Homicide in the heroic age                                 436

  Eight instances in the poems                               437

  Why viewed with little disfavour                           440

  Piracy in the heroic age                                   442

  Its nature as then practised                               443

  Mixed view of it in the poems                              444

  Family feuds in the heroic age                             446

  Temperance in the heroic age                               447

  Self-control in the heroic age                             448

  Absence of the vice of cruelty                             450

  Savage ideas occasionally expressed                        451

  These not unfamiliar to later Greece                       453

  Wrath in Ulysses                                           454

  Wrath in Achilles                                          455

  Domestic affections in the heroic age                      456

  Relationships close, not wide                              459

  Purity in the heroic age                                   460

  Lay of the Net of Vulcan                                   461

  Direct evidence of comparative purity                      465

  Treatment of the human form                                466

  Treatment of various characters                            467

  Outline of Greek life in the heroic age                    468

  Its morality, and that of later Greece                     471

  Points of its superiority                                  472

  Inferior as to crimes of violence                          475

  Some effects of slavery                                    476

  Signs of degeneracy before Homer’s death                   477


  _Woman in the heroic age._

  The place of Woman generally, and in heroic Greece         479

  Its comparative elevation                                  480

  1. State of the law and custom of marriage                 481

  Marriage was uniformly single                              483

  2. Conceived in a spirit of freedom                        483

  Its place in the career of life                            485

  Mode of contraction                                        486

  3. Perpetuity of the tie of marriage                       487

  Adultery                                                   488

  Desertion                                                  489

  4. Greek ideas of incest                                   489

  5. Fidelity in married life                                492

  Treatment of spurious children                             494

  Case of Briseis                                            495

  Mode of contracting marriage                               496

  Concubinage of Greek chieftains in Troas                   497

  Dignity of conjugal and feminine manners                   499

  Social position of the wife                                500

  Force of conjugal attachments                              502

  Woman characters of Homer                                  503

  The province of Woman well defined                         505

  Argument from the position of the goddesses                506

  Women admitted to sovereignty                              507

  And to the service of the gods                             509

  Their household employments                                511

  Their service about the bath                               512

  Explanation of the presumed difficulty                     515

  Proof from the case of Ulysses in Scheria                  517

  Subsequent declension of Woman                             518

  SECT. X.

  _The Office of the Homeric Poems in relation to that
  of the early Books of Holy Scripture._

  Points of literary resemblance                             521

  Providential functions of Greece and Rome                  523

  Of the Early records of Holy Scripture                     524

  The Sacred Books are not mere literary works               525

  Providential use of the Homeric poems                      527

  They complete the code of primitive instruction            529

  Human history had no visible centre up to the Advent       531

  Nor for some time after it                                 532

  A purpose served by the whole design                       533





_On the Mixed Character of the Supernatural System, or Theo-Mythology,
of Homer._

Though the poems of Homer are replete, perhaps beyond any others, with
refined and often latent adaptations, yet it may be observed in general
of the modes of representation used by him, that they are preeminently
the reverse of systematic. Institutions or characters, which are in
themselves consistent, probably gain by this method of proceeding,
provided the execution be not unworthy of the design. For it secures
their exhibition in more, and more varied, points of view, than can
possibly be covered by the more didactic process. But the possession of
this advantage depends upon the fact, that there is in them a harmony,
which is their base, and which we have only to discover. Whereas, if
that harmony be wanting, if in lieu of it there be a groundwork of
fundamental discrepancy, then the conditions of effect are wholly
changed. The multiplied variety of view becomes a multiplication
of incongruity; each new aspect offers a new problem: and the more
masterly the hand of the artist, the more arduous becomes the attempt
to comprehend and present in their mutual bearings the pictures he has
drawn, and the suggestions he has conveyed.

Thus it has been with that which, following German example, I have
denominated the Theo-mythology of Homer. By that term it seems not
improper to designate a mixture of theology and mythology, as these two
words are commonly understood. Theology I suppose to mean, a system
dealing with the knowledge of God and the unseen world: mythology, a
system conversant with the inventions of man concerning them. In the
Homeric poems I find both of these largely displayed: but with this
difference, that the first was in visible decline, the second in such
rapid and prolific development, that, while Homer is undoubtedly a
witness to older fable, which had already in his time become settled
tradition, he is also in this department himself evidently and largely
a Maker and Inventor, and the material of the Greek mythology comes out
of his hands far more fully moulded, and far more diversified, than it
entered them.

Of the fact that the Homeric religion does not present a consistent and
homogeneous whole, we have abundant evidence in the difficulties with
which, so soon as the literary age of Greece began, expositors found
themselves incumbered; and which drove them sometimes upon allegory
as a resource, sometimes, as in the case of Plato, upon censure and

[1] Döllinger Heid. u. Jud. v. 1. p. 254.

~_Extended relations of God to man._~

I know not whether it has been owing to our somewhat narrow jealousies
concerning the function of Holy Scripture, or to our want of faith in
the extended Providence of God, and His manifestations in the world, or
to the real incongruity in the evidence at our command, or to any other
cause, but the fact, at least, seems to me beyond doubt, that our modes
of dealing with the Homeric poems in this cardinal respect have been
eminently unsatisfactory. Those who have found in Homer the elements of
religious truth, have resorted to the far-fetched and very extravagant
supposition, that he had learned them from the contemporary Hebrews,
or from the law of Moses. The more common and popular opinion[2] has
perhaps been one, which has put all such elements almost or altogether
out of view; one which has treated the Immortals in Homer as so many
impersonations of the powers of nature, or else magnified men, and
their social life as in substance no more than as a reflection of his
picture of heroic life, only gilded with embellishments, and enlarged
in scale, in proportion to the superior elevation of its sphere. Few,
comparatively, have been inclined to recognise in the Homeric poems the
vestiges of a real traditional knowledge, derived from the epoch when
the covenant of God with man, and the promise of a Messiah, had not yet
fallen within the contracted forms of Judaism for shelter, but entered
more or less into the common consciousness, and formed a part of the
patrimony of the human race[3].

[2] See Heyne ad Il. i. 603; Terpstra, Antiquitas Homerica, i. 3. And
so late as the Cambridge Essays 1856. p. 149.

[3] See ‘Homerus, pt. i.’ by Archdeacon Williams: ‘Primitive
Tradition,’ 1843, by the same; Edinb. Rev. N^o. 155, art. Homerus, and
the reference, p. 50, to Cesarotti’s Ragionamento Storico-Critico.

But surely there is nothing improbable in the supposition, that in
the poems of Homer such vestiges may be found. Every recorded form of
society bears some traces of those by which it has been preceded: and
in that highly primitive form, which Homer has been the instrument
of embalming for all posterity, the law of general reason obliges us
to search for elements and vestiges belonging to one more primitive
still. And, if we are to inquire in the Iliad and the Odyssey for
what belongs to antecedent manners and ideas, on what ground can it be
pronounced improbable, that no part of these earlier traditions should
be old enough to carry upon them the mark of belonging to the religion,
which the Book of Genesis represents as brought by our first parents
from Paradise, and as delivered by them to their immediate descendants
in general? The Hebrew Chronology, considered in connection with the
probable date of Homer, would even render it difficult or irrational
to proceed upon any other supposition: nor if, as by the Septuagint
or otherwise, a larger period is allowed for the growth of our race,
will the state of this case be materially altered. For the facts must
remain, that the form of society exhibited by Homer was itself in
many points essentially patriarchal, that it contains, in matter not
religious, such, for instance, as the episode of the Cyclops, clear
traces of a yet earlier condition yet more significant of a relation
to that name, and that there is no broadly marked period of human
experience, or form of manners, which we can place between the great
trunk of human history in Holy Scripture, and this famed Homeric
branch, which of all literary treasures appears to be its eldest born.
Standing next to the patriarchal histories of Holy Scripture, why
should it not bear, how can it not bear, traces of the religion under
which the patriarchs lived?

The immense longevity of the early generations of mankind was eminently
favourable to the preservation of pristine traditions. Each individual,
instead of being as now a witness of, or an agent in, one or two
transmissions from father to son, would observe or share in ten times
as many. According to the Hebrew Chronology, Lamech the father of
Noah was of mature age before Adam died: and Abraham was of mature
age before Noah died. Original or early witnesses, remaining so long
as standards of appeal, would evidently check the rapidity of the
darkening and destroying process.

Let us suppose that man now lived but twenty years, instead of
fourscore. Would not this greatly quicken the waste of ancient
traditions? And is not the converse also true?

~_Sufficiently proved from Holy Scripture._~

Custom has made it with us second nature to take for granted a
broad line of demarcation between those who live within the pale of
Revelation, and the residue of mankind. But Holy Scripture does not
appear to recognise such a severance in any manner, until we come to
the revelation of the Mosaic law, which was like the erection of a
temporary shelter for truths that had ranged at large over the plain,
and that were apparently in danger of being totally absorbed in the
mass of human inventions. But before this vineyard was planted, and
likewise outside its fence, there were remains, smaller or greater,
of the knowledge of God; and there was a recognised relation between
Jehovah and mankind, which has been the subject of record from time to
time, and the ground of acts involving the admonition, or pardon, or
correction, or destruction, of individuals or communities.

The latest of these indications, such as the visit of the Wise Men from
the East, are not the most remarkable: because first the captivity in
Babylon, and subsequently the dissemination of Jewish groups through so
many parts of the world, could not but lead to direct communications
of divine knowledge, at least, in some small degree. From such causes,
there would be many a Cornelius before him who became the first-fruits
of the Gentiles. Yet even the interest, which probably led to such
communications from the Jew, must have had its own root in relics of
prior tradition, which attested the common concern of mankind in Him
that was to come. But in earlier times, and when the Jewish nation
was more concentrated, and was certainly obscure, the vestiges of
extra-patriarchal and extra-judaical relations between God and man
are undeniable. They have been traced with clearness and ability in a
popular treatise by the hand of Bishop Horsley[4].

[4] Horsley’s Dissertation on the Prophecies of the Messiah dispersed
among the heathen. See also Mr. Harvey’s Observations on the Gnostic
System, pp. iii and seqq., prefixed to his S. Irenæus, Cambridge, 1857.
Williams’s Primitive Tradition, p. 9.

Let us take, for instance, that case of extreme wickedness, which most
severely tries the general proposition. The punishment of Sodom and
Gomorrah for their sins was preceded by a declaration from the Most
High, importing a direct relation with those guilty cities[5]; and two
angels, who had visited Abraham on the plains of Mamre, ‘came to Sodom
at even.’ Ruth the Moabitess was an ancestress, through king David,
of our Lord. Rahab in Jericho, ‘by faith,’ as the Apostle assures us,
entertained the spies of the Israelites. Job, living in a country
where the worship of the sun was practised, had, as had his friends,
the knowledge of the true God. Melchizedek, the priest of On, whose
daughter Joseph married, and Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, are
other conspicuous instances. Later in time, Nineveh, the great Assyrian
capital, received the message of the prophet Jonah, and repented at his
preaching. Here the teaching organ was supplied from among the Jews:
but Balaam exhibits to us the gift of inspiration beyond their bounds.
Once more; many centuries after the Homeric manners had disappeared,
and during the captivity, we find not only a knowledge of God, but
dreams and signs vouchsafed to Assyrian kings, and interpreted for
them by the prophet Daniel. We have, in short, mingling with the whole
course of the Old Testament, a stream of evidence which shows the
partial remnants of the knowledge of God, apart from that main current
of it which is particularly traced for us in the patriarchal and
Mosaic histories. Again, many centuries after Homer, when all traces
of primitive manners had long vanished, still in the Prometheus of
Æschylus, and in the Pollio of Virgil, we have signs, though I grant
they are faint ones, that the celestial rays had not even then ‘faded
into the light of common day’ for the heathen world. It would really
be strange, and that in a high degree, if a record like that of Homer,
with so many resemblances to the earliest manners in other points, had
no link to connect it with them in their most vital part.

[5] See Genesis xviii. 1, 20. xx. 1. Heb. xi. 31.

~_The question one of history._~

The general proposition, that we may expect to find the relics of
Scriptural traditions in the heroic age of Greece, though it leads,
if proved, to important practical results, is independent even of a
belief in those traditions, as they stand in the scheme of revealed
truth. They must be admitted to have been facts on earth, even by those
who would deny them to be facts of heavenly origin, in the shape in
which Christendom receives them: and the question immediately before
us is one of pure historical probability. The descent of mankind from
a single pair, the lapse of that pair from original righteousness,
are apart from and ulterior to it. We have traced the Greek nation
to a source, and along a path of migration, which must in all
likelihood have placed its ancestry, at some point or points, in close
local relations with the scenes of the earliest Mosaic records: the
retentiveness of that people equalled its receptiveness, and its close
and fond association with the past made it prone indeed to incorporate
novel matter into its religion, but prone also to keep it there after
its incorporation.

If such traditions existed, and if the laws which guide historical
inquiry require or lead us to suppose that the forefathers of the
Greeks must have lived within their circle, then the burden of proof
must lie not so properly with those who assert that the traces of them
are to be found in the earliest, that is, the Homeric, form of the
Greek mythology, as with those who deny it. What became of those old
traditions? They must have decayed and disappeared, not by a sudden
process, but by a gradual accumulation of the corrupt accretions, in
which at length they were so completely interred as to be invisible
and inaccessible. Some period therefore there must have been, at which
they would remain clearly perceptible, though in conjunction with much
corrupt matter. Such a period might be made the subject of record, and
if such there were, we might naturally expect to find it in the oldest
known work of the ancient literature.

If the poems of Homer do, however, contain a picture, even though a
defaced picture, of the primeval religious traditions, it is obvious
that they afford a most valuable collateral support to the credit of
the Holy Scripture, considered as a document of history. Still we must
not allow the desire of gaining this advantage to bias the mind in an
inquiry, which can only be of value if it is conducted according to the
strictest rules of rational criticism.

~_Invention combined with tradition._~

We may then, in accordance with those rules, be prepared to expect
that the Hellenic religion will prove to have been in part constructed
from traditional knowledge. The question arises next, Of what other
materials in addition was it composed? The answer can be but one;
Such materials would be supplied by invention. But invention cannot
absolutely create; it can only work upon what it finds already provided
to its hand. The provision made in this instance was simply that with
which the experience of man supplied him. It was mediate or immediate:
mediate, where the Greek received matter from abroad, and wrought upon
it: immediate, where he conceived it for himself. That experience lay
in two spheres--the sphere of external nature, and the sphere of life.
Each of these would afford for the purpose the elements of Power,
Grandeur, Pleasure, Beauty, Utility; and such would be the elements
suited to the work of constructing or developing a system that was to
present objects for his worship. We may therefore reasonably expect
to find in the religion features referable to these two departments
for their origin;--first, the powerful forces and attractive forms of
outward nature; secondly, the faculties and propensities of man, and
those relations to his fellow-men, amidst which his lot is cast, and
his character formed.

If this be so, then, in the result thus compounded out of tradition
purporting to be revealed, and out of invention strictly human, we
ought to recognise, so long as both classes of ingredients are in
effective coexistence, not strictly a false theology, but a true
theology falsified: a true religion, into which falsehood has entered,
and in which it is gradually overlaying and absorbing the original
truth, until, when the process has at length reached a certain point,
it is wholly hidden and borne down by countervailing forces, so that
the system has for practical purposes become a false one, and both may
and should be so termed and treated.

I admit that very different modes of representing the case have been
in vogue. Sometimes by those to whom the interest of Christianity
is precious, and sometimes in indifference or hostility to its
fortunes, it is held that the basis of the Greek mythology is laid in
the deification of the powers of nature. The common assumptions have
been such as the following: That the starting-point of the religion
of the heroic age is to be sought only in the facts of the world, in
the ideas and experience of man. That nature-worship, the deification
of elemental and other physical powers, was the original and proper
basis of the system. That this system, presumably self-consistent,
as having been founded on a given principle, was broken up by the
intervention of theogonic revolutions. That the system, of which
Jupiter was at the head, was an imperfect reconstruction of a scheme of
divine rule out of the fragments of an earlier religion, and that it
supplanted the elder gods. In short, the Greek mythology is represented
as a corrupt edition, not of original revealed religion, but of a
Nature-worship which, as it seems to be assumed, was separated by a
gulf never measured, and never passed, from the primitive religious
traditions of our race. Further it seems to be held, that the faults
and imperfections of the pagan religion have their root only in a
radical inability of the human mind to produce pure deity; that they do
not represent the depravation of an ancient and divine gift, but rather
the simple failure of man in a work of invention. Indeed, we need not
wonder that it should fail in a process which, critically considered,
can mean little else than mere exaggeration of itself and from its own
experience[6], and which must be so apt to become positive caricature.

[6] See Nägelsbach, Homerische Theologie, i. 1. ii. 1. Also (if I
understand it rightly), Döllinger’s Heidenthum und Judenthum, ii. 1. §.
1. p. 54.

~_The basis was not in Nature-worship._~

Again, Dean Prideaux, in his Connection of Sacred and Profane History,
gives the following genesis of the Greek mythology. From the beginning,
he says, there was a general notion among men, founded on a sense that
they were impure, of the necessity of a mediator with God. There being
no mediator clearly revealed, man chose mediators for himself, and took
the sun, moon, and stars, as high intelligences well fitted for the
purpose. Hence we find Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, Mercury, Venus,
and Diana, to be first ranked in the polytheism of the ancients: for
they were their first gods[7].

[7] Prideaux, i. 3. vol. i. p. 198.

This theory is not in correspondence with the facts of the heroic age.
There is no sense whatever of an impurity disabling men from access
to God; no clear or general opinion of the necessity of mediation; no
glimpse even of a god superior to Jupiter and the rest with whom they
were on behalf of man to mediate.

And, again, the opinion, that the origin of the religion lay in
Nature-worship, has had the support both of high and also of recent
authorities. The eminent and learned Dr. Döllinger, in his ‘Heidenthum
und Judenthum,’ says, that the deification of Nature, its forces,
or the particular objects it offered to the senses, constituted the
groundwork of the Greek, as well as of the other heathen religions. The
idea of God continued to be powerful even when it had been darkened,
and the godhead was felt as present, and active everywhere in the
physical order. In working out his general rule for each mythological
deity in particular, this author conceives the original form of their
existence to have been that of a Nature-power, even where the vestiges
of such a conception have, under subsequent handling, become faint
or imperceptible. Thus Juno, Minerva, Latona, Diana, and others in
succession, are referred to such an origin[8].

[8] Heidenthum und Judenthum, b. ii. sect. 1, 2. pp. 54-81.

Now in dealing with this hypothesis, I would ask, what then has become
of the old Theistic and Messianic traditions? and how has it happened
they have been amputated by a process so violent as to make them to
leave, even while the state of society continued still primitive, no
trace behind them? But further. I would urge with confidence that the
ample picture of the religion of the heroic ages, as we have it in
Homer, which is strictly for this purpose in the nature of a fact,
cannot be made to harmonize with the hypothesis which refers it to
such a source. The proof of this statement must depend mainly on the
examination which we have to institute in detail: but I am anxious
at once to bring it into view, and to refer briefly to some of the
grounds on which it rests, because it is susceptible of demonstration
by evidence as contradistinguished from theory. On the other hand,
when I proceed farther, evidence and theory must of necessity be mixed
up together; and dissent from a particular mode of tracing out the
association between the traditional and inventive elements of the
system might unawares betray the reader into the conclusion, that no
such distinct traditional elements were to be found, but that all,
or nearly all, was pure fable. I say, then, there is much in the
theo-mythology of Homer, which, if it had been a system founded in
fable, could not have appeared there. It stands before us like one of
our old churches, having different parts of its fabric in the different
styles of architecture, each of which speaks for itself, and which we
know to belong to the several epochs in the history of the art, when
their characteristic combinations were respectively in vogue.

~_Nor is the system from invention only._~

While on the one hand it has deities, such as Latona, without any
attributes at all, on the other hand, we find in it both gods and
goddesses, with an assemblage of such attributes and functions as have
no common link by which invention could have fastened them together.
They are such, likewise, as to bring about cross divisions and cross
purposes, that the Greek force of imagination, and the Greek love of
symmetry, would have alike eschewed. How could invention have set
up Pallas as the goddess at once of peace and its industries, of
wisdom, and of war? Its object would clearly have been to impersonate
attributes; and to associate even distinct, much less conflicting
attributes, in the same deity, would have been simply to confuse them.
How again could it have combined in Apollo, who likewise turns the
courses of rivers by his might, the offices of destruction, music,
poetry, prophecy, archery, and medicine? Again, if he is the god of
medicine, why have we Paieon? if of poetry, why have we the Muses? If
Minerva be (as she is) goddess of war, why have we Mars? if of the work
of the Artificer, why have we also Vulcan? if of prudence and sagacity,
and even craft[9], why Mercury?

[9] Il. xxii. 247.

And again, the theory is, that the chief personages of the mythology
are representatives of the great powers of the physical universe. I
ask, therefore, how it happens that in the Homeric, or, as we may call
it, primitive form of the system, these great powers of the universe
are for the most part very indistinctly and partially personified,
whereas we see in vivid life and constant movement another set of
figures, having either an obscure or partial relation, or no relation
at all, to those powers? Such a state of the evidence surely strikes
at the very root of the hypothesis we are considering: but it is
the state of the evidence which we actually find before us. Take for
instance Time, Ocean, Earth, Sun, Moon, Stars, Air; all these prime
natural objects and agents are either not personified at all in Homer,
or so indistinctly and mutely personified that they are the mere
zoophytes of his supernatural world, of which the gorgeous life and
brilliant movement are sustained by a separate set of characters.
Of these more effective agents, some are such as it is impossible
rationally to set down for mere impersonations of ideas; while others
are plainly constituted as lords over, and not beings derivative from,
those powers or provinces of nature, with which they are placed in
special relations. It cannot for instance rationally be said that the
Homeric Jupiter is a mere impersonation of the air which he rules, or
the Homeric Neptune of the sea, or the Homeric Aidoneus (or Aides) of
the nether world. For to the first of these three, many functions are
assigned having no connection with the air. As for example, when he
gives swiftness of foot to Æneas on Mount Ida, that he might escape
the pursuit of Achilles[10]. In the case of the second, there is a
rival figure, namely, Nereus, who never that we know of leaves the sea,
who is the father of the Sea-nymphs, and who evidently fulfils the
conditions of Sea impersonated far better than does Neptune; Neptune,
who marched upon the battle-field in Troas, and who, with Apollo, had
himself built the walls of Ilium. Besides all this, the sea, to which
Neptune belongs, is itself not one of the great elemental powers of
the universe, but is derived, like rivers, springs, and wells, from
Father Ocean, who fears indeed the thunderbolt of Jupiter, but is not
bound to attendance even in the great chapter of Olympus[11]. As
to Aidoneus, he can hardly impersonate the nether world, because in
Homer he does not represent or govern it, but only has to do with that
portion of it, which is inhabited by the souls of departed men. For,
as far beneath his realm as Earth is beneath Heaven, lies the dark
Tartarus of Homer, peopled with Κρόνος and his Titans. Nor, on the
other hand, do we know that the Elysian fields of the West were subject
to his sway. The elemental powers are in Homer, though not altogether,
yet almost altogether, extrinsic to his grand Olympian system.

[10] Il. xx. 92.

[11] Il. xxi. 195-9. xx. 7.

Without, then, anticipating this or that particular result from
the inquiry into the mode and proportions in which traditional and
inventive elements are combined in the poems of Homer, it may safely
be denied that his picture of the supernatural world could have been
drawn by means of materials exclusively supplied by invention from the
sources of nature and experience.

~_Traditive origin of Sacrifice._~

And indeed there is one particular with respect to which the admission
will be generally made, that the Greek mythological system stood
indebted at least to a primitive tradition, if not to a direct command;
I mean the institution of sacrifice. This can hardly be supposed to
have been an original conception in every country; and it distinctly
points us to one common source. Sacrifice was, according to Dr.
Döllinger[12], an inheritance which descended to the Greeks from the
pristine time before the division of the nations. Without doubt the
transmission of ritual, depending upon outward action, is more easy
than that of ideas. But the fact that there was a transmission of
something proves that there was a channel for it, open and continuous:
and the circumstances might be such as to allow of the passage of
ideas, together with institutions, along it.

[12] Heid. u. Jud. iv. 5. p. 202.

It cannot be necessary to argue on the other side in any detail in
order to show, that for much of his supernatural machinery, Homer
was indebted to invention, whether his own or that of generations,
or nations, which had preceded him. Had his system been one purely
traditional in its basis, had it only broken into many rays the
integral light of one God, it would have presented to us no such deity
as Juno, who is wholly without prototype, either abstract or personal,
in the primitive system, and no such mere reflections of human passions
as are Mars and Venus: not to speak of those large additions, which
we are to consider as belonging not so much to the basis and general
outline of the system, as to the later stages of its development.

Let us now endeavour to inquire what mental, moral, and physical
influences would be likely, in early times, to give form and direction
to that alterative process, which the primitive ideas of religion, when
removed beyond the precinct of Revelation and the knowledge of the
Sacred Records, had to undergo.

This law of decline we may examine, first ideally, according to the
influences likely to operate on the course of thought with respect to
religion: and then with reference to that which is specifically Greek,
by sketching in outline the actual mode of handling the material at
command, which resulted in the creation of the Homeric or Olympian
system. The first belongs to the metaphysical genesis of the system:
the second to its historical formation.

~_Tendency of primitive religion to decay._~

So long as either the Sacred Records, or the Light which supplied
them, remained within reach, there were specific means either in
operation, or at least accessible, which, as far as their range
extended, would serve to check error, whether of practice or
speculation, and to clear up uncertainty, as the sundial verifies
or corrects the watch. But the stream darkened more and more, as it
got farther from the source. The Pagan religion could boast of its
unbroken traditions; like some forms of Christianity, and like the
government of France until 1789. But its uninterrupted course was
really an uninterrupted aberration from the line of truth; and to
boast of the evenness of its motion was in effect to boast of the
deadness of the conscience of mankind, which had not virtue enough even
to disturb progressive degeneracy by occasional reproach. In later
times, the Pagan system had its three aspects: it was one thing for
the populace, another for statesmen, and a third for philosophers.
But in Homer’s time it had suffered no criticism and no analysis: the
human self-consciousness was scarcely awakened; introspection had
not begun its work. Imagination and affection continually exercised
their luxuriant energies in enlarging and developing the system of
preternatural being and action. However copiously the element of
fiction, nay, of falsehood, entered into it, yet for the masses of
mankind it was still subjectively true[13].

[13] Grote, Hist. Greece, vol. i. p. 467.

All was forward movement. Man had not, as it were, had time to ask
himself, is this a lie? or even, whither does it tend? His soul, in
those days of infancy, never questioned, always believed. Logical
inconsistency, even moral solecism, did not repel it, nor slacken the
ardour of its energies in the work of construction: construction of
art, construction of manners, construction of polity, construction of
religion. This is what we see, in glowing heat, throughout the poems of
Homer, and it is perhaps the master key to their highest interest. They
show us, in the province we are now considering, heroes earning their
title to the Olympian life, mute nature everywhere adjusting herself to
the scheme of supernatural impersonations, and religion allied to the
human imagination, as closely as it was afterwards by Mahomet wedded
to the sword. Everywhere we see that which is properly called myth,
in the process of formation. Early mythology is the simple result of
the working of the human mind, in a spirit of belief or of credulity,
upon the material offered to it by prior tradition, by the physical
universe, by the operations of the mind, and by the experience of life.

We may, as follows, accompany the vicious series through which thought
might probably be led, with respect to the theory of religion.

If we begin with the true and pure idea of God, it is the idea of a
Being infinite in power and intelligence, and though perfectly good,
yet good by an unchangeable internal determination of character, and
not by the constraint of an external law.

Such was the starting-point, from which the human mind had to run
its career of religious belief or speculation. But the maintenance
subjectively of the original form of the image in its clearness
depended, of course, upon the condition of the observing organ; and
that organ, again, depended for its health on the healthiness of the
being to whom it belonged. Hence we must look into the nature of man,
in order to know what man would think respecting the nature of God.

~_Downward course of the idea of God._~

Now man, the prey of vicious passions, though he holds deeply rooted
within himself the witness to an extrinsic and objective law of
goodness, which he needs in order to develop what he has of capacity
for good, and to bring into subjection the counteracting and rebellious
elements, is nevertheless prevailingly under the influence of these
last. Hence, in the absence of special and Divine provision for the
remedy of his inward disease, although both conscience and also the
dispensations of Providence shadow forth to him a law of goodness from
without, yet the sense of any internal law of goodness in himself
becomes, with the lapse of time, more and more dim and ineffectual.

Thus, as he reflects back upon his own image conceptions of the Deity,
the picture that he draws first fails in that, wherein he himself is
weakest. Now, the perception of mere power depends upon intellect
and sense: and as neither intellect nor sense have received through
sin the same absolutely mortal wound which has reached his spiritual
being, he can therefore still comprehend with clearness the idea and
the uses of power, both mental and physical. Accordingly, the Godhead
is for him preternaturally endowed with intelligence and force. But
how was he to keep alive from his own resources the moral elements
of the divine ideal? Coercive goodness, goodness by an external law,
goodness dependent upon responsibility, was, by the nature of the case,
inapplicable to Deity as such: while of goodness by an internal law, he
had lost all clear conception, and he could not give what he had not

Of course it is not meant, that this was a conscious operation. Rarely
indeed, in reflective and critical periods, does it happen that man can
keep a log-book of wind, weather, and progress, for the mind, or tell
from what quarter of the heavens have proceeded the gales that impel it
on its course.

But, by this real though unconscious process, goodness would soon
disappear from his conception of the Godhead, while high power and
intelligence might remain. And hence it is not strange, if we find
that Homer’s deities, possessed of power beyond their faculty of moral
direction, are for the most part, when viewed in the sphere of their
personal conduct, on a lower level than his heroes.

When therefore these latter charge, as is not unfrequent with them,
upon the gods the consequences, and even in a degree the facts, of
their own fault or folly, the proceeding is not so entirely illogical
as we might at first suppose. For that great conception of an all-good
and all-wise Being had undergone a miserable transmutation, bringing it
more and more towards the form of an evil power. Hence, perhaps, it is
that we find these reproaches to the Deity put into the mouth even of
Menelaus, one of the noblest and purest characters among the heroes of

[14] Il. iii. 365, and xiii. 631-5.

Again, this degradation of the divine idea was essentially connected
with the parcelling it out into many portions, according to the system
of polytheism. That system at once brought down all the attributes from
their supreme perfection to scales of degree: established finite and
imperfect relations in lieu of the perfect and infinite: carried into
the atmosphere of heaven an earthy element. The disintegration of the
Unity of God prepared the way for the disintegration of His several
attributes, and especially for weakening and effacing those among them,
which man had chiefly lost his capacity to grasp.

When once we have substituted for the absolute that which is in degree,
and for the perfect that which is defective, we have brought the
divine element within the cognizance of the human: the barrier of
separation is broken down, and, without any consciousness of undue
license, we thenceforward insensibly fashion it as we please. Each
corruption, as it takes its place in the scheme of popular ideas, is
consolidated by the action of new forces, over and above those which,
even if alone, were sufficient to engender it: for the classes, who
worked the machinery both of priestly caste, and of civil government,
found their account in accumulating fable up to a mountain mass. Each
new addition found a welcome: but woe to him, who, by shaking the
popular persuasion of any one article, endangered the very foundations
of the whole.

Such is an outline, though a faint and rude one, of what may be called
the _rationale_, or the law of cause and effect, applicable to the
explanation of the progressive and, at length, total corruption of the
primitive religion.

~_Inducements to Nature-worship._~

We may also endeavour to trace the motives which might determine the
downward movement of the human mind in the direction, partially or
wholly according to circumstances, of what is called Nature-worship.

On the one side lay the proposition handed down from the
beginning--there is a God. On the other side arose the question--where
is He? It was felt that on the whole He was not in man, though there
was in man what was of Him. It was obvious to look for Him in the
mighty agencies, and in the sublime objects of Nature, which, though
(so thought might run,) they did not reveal Him entirely, yet disclosed
nothing that was not worthy to belong to Him. Here is a germ of
Nature-worship. Hence it is that we find Aristotle, at a period when
thought was alike acute, deliberate, and refined, declare it to be
beyond all doubt that the heavenly bodies are far more divine than

[15] Καὶ γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἄλλα πολὺ θειότερα τὴν φύσιν, οἷον τὰ φανερώτατά
γε, ἐξ ὧν ὁ κοσμὸς συνέστηκεν. Eth. Nicom. VI. vii. 4.

Now this germ could not be one only. Trains of thought and reasoning,
essentially alike, would, according to diversities of minds and
circumstances, lead one to place the God in one natural sphere or
agency, and another to place him in another. There was no commanding
principle either to confine or to reconcile these variations; thus the
same cause, which brought deity into natural objects, would also tend
to exhibit many gods instead of one.

Such was the path by which man might travel from Theism to
Nature-worship. But other paths, starting from other points, would lead
to the same issue.

Suppose now the case of the mind wholly without the tradition of a
God. To such a mind, the vast and overmastering but usually regulated
forces, and the beautiful and noble forms of nature, would of
themselves suggest the idea of a superior agency; yet, again, not
of one superior agent alone, but of many. Thus some men would build
upwards, while others, so to speak, were building downwards, and they
would meet on the way.

And, again, a third operation could not but assist these two former,
and combine with their results. For the unaided intellect of man seems
not to have had _stamina_ to carry, as it were, the weight of the
transcendent idea of one God, of God infinite in might, in wisdom, and
in love. Again, it was awful as well as ponderous; because it was so
remote from man, and from his actual state. He therefore lightened the
idea, as it were, by dividing it from one into many; and he brought it
nearer to himself, nearer to his sympathies, by humanizing its form and
attributes. By this process he in time destroyed indeed his reverence,
but he also beguiled his fears, and created for himself objects not of
dread, so much as of familiar association.

Yet once again; it may, I think, be shown that a kind of natural
necessity led man to denominate actual powers, which he saw and felt
about him, not through the medium of generalization by abstract names,
but by making them persons.

Thus easy, and almost inevitable, under mental laws, was the road
to Nature-worship. The path, that led into the deeper corruption of
Passion-worship, has been already traced.

~_Progressive deterioration._~

It is then in entire accordance with what has preceded, that, when the
Pagan system has come into its old age, we should find it so wholly
deprived of all the lineaments of original beauty, grandeur, and
goodness, that we can read the destructive philosophy and poetry of the
atheistic schools, and of Lucretius in particular, without the strong
sentiment of horror, which in themselves they are fitted to excite.

Milton, in the First Book of Paradise Lost, treats the Pagan gods as
being, under new names, so many of the fallen angels, who with Satan
had rebelled, and with him had been driven out from heaven, so that the
world of heathen from the first had simply

  ‘devils to adore for deities.’

Whether this sentiment be poetically warrantable or not, (and for my
own part I cannot but think it was one too much connected with a cold
and lowered form of Christian doctrine,) it is not historically sound.
We should distinguish broadly between this assertion, that the Pagan
religion was an original falsehood, and the declaration of St. Paul,
‘I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice
to devils, and not to God[16].’ To the same class as the words of the
Apostle, belong, as I conceive, these (and other) sentences of Saint
Augustine[17]; _non sunt dii, maligni sunt spiritus, quibus æterna
tua felicitas pœna est.... Proinde si ad beatam pervenire desideras
civitatem, devita dæmonum societatem_. For these terrible descriptions
apply not to the infancy, but to the decrepitude of Paganism. The
difference between them was as the difference between the babe in arms,
and the hoary sinner on the threshold of death: and while the one
representation summarily cuts man off from God, the other only shows to
how fearful a distance he had by degrees travelled away. As time went
on, and the _eidola_ of succeeding generations were heaped one upon
another, the truly theistic element in the Pagan mythology was more and
more hidden and overborne, until at length its association with evil
was so inveterate and thorough, that the images, which the citizen or
matron of the Roman empire had before the mind as those of gods, bore
no appreciable resemblance to their divine original, but more and more
amply corresponded with that dark side of our nature, on which we are
accessible to, and finally may assume the likeness of, the evil one.

[16] 1 Cor. x. 20.

[17] De Civ. Dei, ii. 29.

But the critical error that we seem to have committed may be thus
described; we have thrown back upon the Homeric period the moral and
mythological character of the system, such as we find it developed in
later Greece and Rome: forgetful of the long and dim interval, that
separates Homeric religion from almost every subsequent representation,
and not duly appreciating the title of the poems to speak with an
almost exclusive authority for their own insulated epoch.

~_Paganism in its decay._~

Further, it is reasonable to remember that some of the powerful
alteratives, which in subsequent ages told upon the form and substance
of this wonderful mythology, had not begun to act in the time of Homer.
These alteratives were speculative thought, and political interests.
Philosophy, ever dangerous to the popular religion of Greece in the
days of its maturity and prosperity, became its ally in the period of
its decline, when its original vitality had entirely ebbed away, and
when the _Vexilla Regis_, raised aloft throughout the Roman empire,
drove it to seek refuge in holes and corners. Then the wit of man
was set to repair the tottering fabric; to apologize for what was
profligate, to invent reasons for what was void of meaning, to frame
relations between the depraved mythology, and the moral government of
the world. Even that corrupt and wicked system had, as it were, its
epoch of death-bed repentance.

The services thus rendered by philosophers were late and ineffectual;
but it was the civil power, which had been all along the greatest
conservator of the classical mythology. It felt itself to have an
interest in surrounding public authority with a veneration greater
than this world could supply: a commanding interest, with the pursuit
of which its necessities forbade it to dispense. Whatever exercised an
influence in subduing and enthralling the popular mind, answered its
purpose in the view of the civil magistrate. Hence his multifarious
importations into religion, each successively introduced for this
purely subjective and temporal reason, removed it farther and farther
from the ground of truth. Every story that he added to the edifice made
its fall more certain and more terrible. _Numerosa parabat excelsæ
turris tabulata._ But in Homer’s time there is no trace of this
employment of religion by governments, as a means of sheer imposition
upon their subjects.

So likewise in Homer there is no sign that conscious speculation
on these subjects had begun. Indeed, of that kind of thought which
involves a clear mental self-consciousness, we may perhaps say, that
the first beginning, at least for Europe and the West, is marked by the
very curious simile in the Iliad[18]--

[18] Il. xv. 80.

  ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἀΐξῃ νόος ἀνέρος κ.τ.λ.

Homer, then, spoke out in simplicity, and in good faith, the religion
of his day, under those forms of poetry with which all religions have a
well-grounded affinity: for the imagination, which is the fountain-head
of poetic forms, is likewise a genuine, though faint, picture, of that
world which religion realizes, through Faith its groundwork, ‘the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen[19].’

[19] Heb. xi. 1.

And, indeed, he had no other form in which to speak forth his soul.
That which we call the invention of the Greeks at work upon the
subject-matter of religion was, in fact, the voice of human nature,
giving expression in the easiest and simplest manner to its sense
of the great objects and powers amidst which its lot was cast. It
has been well said by Professor M. Müller, in an able Essay[20] on
‘Comparative Mythology,’ that ‘abstract speech is more difficult,
than the fulness of a poet’s sympathy with nature.’ Thus it was not
so much that poetry usurped the office of religion, as that their
respective functions brought them of necessity to a common ground and
a common form of proceeding. Homer saw, heard, or felt the action of
the sun, the moon, the stars, the atmosphere, the winds, the sea, the
rivers, the fountains, the soil; and he knew of family affections, of
governing powers, of a healing art, of a gift and skill of mechanical
construction. Action, in each of these departments, could not but be
referred to a power. How was that power to be expressed?

[20] Oxford Essays, 1856, p. 36.

~_On Impersonation in Homer._~

At least for the Greek mind, less subtle, as Aristotle has observed,
than the Oriental, it was more natural to deal with persons, than
with metaphysical abstractions. It was foreign to the mental habit of
the heroic age to conceive of abstract essences; as it still remains
difficult, more difficult perhaps than, in the looseness of our
mental processes, we suppose, for the men of our own generation. Even
now, in the old age of the world, we have many signs of this natural
difficulty, which formerly was a kind of impossibility. Especially we
have that one which leads all communities, and above all their least
instructed classes, to apply the personal pronouns _he_ or _she_ to a
vast multitude of inanimate objects, both natural, and the products of
human skill and labour. These objects are generally such as stand in a
certain relation to action: they either do, suffer, or contain.

If then the Nature-forces could not be expressed, or at least could
not be understood as abstractions, to express them as persons was the
only other course open to the poet. It was not an effort to follow
this method: it would have required great effort to adopt any other.
How spontaneous was the impulse which thus generated the mythological
system, we may observe from this, that it not only personified in cases
where, an agency being seen, its fountain was concealed from view, but
it likewise went very far towards personification even in cases where
inanimate instruments were wielded by human beings, and where, as the
source of the phenomenon was perceived, there was no occasion to clothe
it with a separate vitality. Hence that copious vivifying power which
Homer has poured like a flood through his verse. Hence his bitter
arrow (πικρὸς), his darts hungry for human blood (λιλαιόμενα χρόος
ἆσαι), his ground laughing in the blaze of the gleaming armour (γέλασσε
δὲ πᾶσα περὶ χθὼν χαλκοῦ ὑπὸ στεροπῆς). Hence again his free use of
sensible imagery to illustrate metaphysical ideas: for example, his
black cloud of grief, his black pains, his purple death[21]. Hence that
singularly beautiful passage on the weeping of the deathless horses of
Achilles for Patroclus[22]. Hence too it is, that he does not scruple
to carry imagery, drawn from the sphere of one sense, into the domain
of another, an operation which later poets have found so difficult and
hazardous. He has an iron din[23], a brazen voice[24], a brazen or iron
heaven[25], a howling or shouting fire, a blaze of lamentation[26].
Hence, by a system of figure bolder perhaps than has been used by
any other poet, he invests the works of high art in metal with the
attributes of life and motion. This daring system reaches its climax
in the damsel satellites[27] of gold, that support the limping gait of
Vulcan: in the dogs of metal, that guard the palace of Alcinous: in the
elastic arms of Achilles, which, so far from being a weight upon him,
themselves lift him from the ground: and in the animated ships of the
Phæacians, which are taught by instinct to speed across the sea, and to
pilot their own course to the points of their destination[28]. On every
side we see a redundance of life, shaping, and even forcing, for itself
new channels: and thus it becomes more easy for us to conceive the
important truth that, when he impersonates, he simply takes what was
for him the easiest and the most effective way to describe. Every where
he is carrying on a double process of action and reaction: on the one
hand bringing Deity down to sensible forms; on the other, adorning and
elevating humanity, and inanimate nature, with every divine endowment.

[21] Il. v. 83. xvii. 591. xviii. 2, 4.

[22] Il. xvii. 426-40.

[23] Il. xvii. 424.

[24] Il. xviii. 222: more strictly, a voice of bronze.

[25] Il. xv. 328. xvii. 425, 565.

[26] Od. xx. 353.

[27] Il. xviii. 417. For the Shield, notice xviii. 539, 599-602. xix.

[28] Od. viii. 556.

~_Nature of the myths of Homer._~

Homer, then, is full of mythical matter. But the word _myth_, of which
in recent controversies the use has been so frequent, is capable of
being viewed under either of two principal aspects.

In one of these, it signifies a story which is not contemporary with
the date of the facts it purports to relate, but is in reality an
after-view of them, which colours its subject, and exaggerates, _ad
libitum_, according to conditions of thought and feeling which have
arisen in the interval.

In the other of these senses, it is an allegory which has simply
lost its counterpart: it was true, but by separation from that which
attached it to fact, it has become untrue: being now of necessity
handled, if handled at all, as a substantive existence, it has passed
into a fable, and is only distinguished from pure fable, in that it
once indicated truths contemporary with itself, though probably truths
lying in a different region from its own.

It is in this last sense that the term myth is chiefly, and most
legitimately, applicable to the religious system of the Homeric poems:
but they may also probably contain more or less of the mythical element
in the former sense.

We, having obtained knowledge of the early derivation and distribution
of mankind, and of the primitive religion, from sources other than
those open to Homer, shall find in this knowledge the lost counterpart
of a great portion of the Homeric myths.

The theological and Messianic traditions which we find recorded in
Scripture, when compared with the Homeric theogony, will be found
to correspond with a large and important part of it: and, moreover,
with a part of it which in the poems themselves carries a cluster of
distinctive marks, not to be explained except by the discovery of this
correspondence. The evidence, therefore, of the meaning of this part of
the Homeric system is like that which is obtained, when, upon applying
a new key to some lock that we have been unable to open, we find it
fits the wards, and puts back the bolt.

In his learned and acute Essay[29] on Comparative Mythology, Professor
Max Müller undertakes to illustrate a doctrine that appears to be the
exact opposite of Mr. Grote’s ‘Past which was never present.’ If I
understand him rightly, there was at some one time a present for every
portion of the reputed past[30]: so that, by a reference to eastern
sources, the nature of that present, and of the original consistent
meaning for what afterwards on becoming unintelligible is justly called
a myth, has in many cases been, and may yet in many more come to be,
unveiled. Originally impersonations of ideas and natural powers, the
heathen gods never represented demons or evil spirits[31], and were
‘masks without an actor,’ ‘names without being:’ while their reality,
consisting in their relation to the facts of the universe, faded and
escaped from perception in the course of time. The myths of the Veda
are still in the stage of growth: Hesiod and Homer too are of the
‘later Greeks,’ and not only the Theogony of Hesiod is ‘a distorted
caricature,’ but the poetry of Homer[32] is extensively founded on
myths fully grown, and in the stage of decay, that is to say, long
severed from their corresponding deities.

[29] Oxford Essays, 1856.

[30] Essays, p. 42.

[31] Ibid. p. 48.

[32] pp. 43, 47, 49, 55, 87.

I do not doubt that in all mythology at its origin, there has been
both a shell and a substance: and that the tendency of the two to part
company, which we see even under the sway of revealed religion, must
have operated with far more power, where ordinarily at least, man was
thrown back, without other aid, upon his reason and his conscience,
beset as they were and are with overpowering foes.

But then, as it seems to me, we must anticipate great changes in the
shell itself. It will not retain, when empty, the identity of the form;
which has lost the support that it had from within when full. On the
contrary, it will become unlike its original self, as well as unlike
its archetype or substance, so that probably much of it must always
remain without a key.

Upon the other hand, as there was already a true religion in the world
when an untrue one began to gather upon and incrust it, there must
arise the question already put; what, according to the theory before
us, became of this true religion? It did not disappear in a day:
there was no wilful renunciation of it by single or specific acts,
no sharp line drawn between it and the false; but the human element
was gradually more and more imported into the divine, operating by
continual and successive disintegrations of the original ideas. If
so, then there seems to be nothing unreasonable in the belief that
the traces of them might long remain discernible in the adulterated
system, even if only as the features of a man are discernible in the
mask of a buffoon.

No doubt it would be unreasonable to look for such traces in Homer,
if he were indeed, in the popular sense of the term, which probably
Professor M. Müller does not intend, a later Greek; a Greek dealing
with a mythological system of which his nation had already had its
use, from which the creative principle had departed, and which was on
the road from ripeness to decay. I am far from saying that there are
no myths in Homer, where the original and interior meaning has ceased
to be discernible: but I shall seek to show that the contrary may be
confidently averred, and fully shown, with respect to the great bulk
of his mythology, and that we see in him two systems, both alive, and
in impact and friction, though with very unequal forces, one upon the
other; the first, that of traditional truth, and the second, of the
inventive impersonation of nature both material and invisible. And
certainly it is very striking that, with one or two very insignificant
exceptions, all those ancient fables, which Professor Müller treats as
having become unintelligible without the key of the Veda, and which he
explains by means of it, are fables unknown to Homer, and drawn from
much later sources.

~_Steps of the downward process._~

The general view, then, which will be given in these pages of the
Homeric Theo-mythology is as follows: That its basis is not to be
found either in any mere human instinct gradually building it up
from the ground, or in the already formed system of any other nation
of antiquity; but that its true point of origin lies in the ancient
Theistic and Messianic traditions, which we know to have subsisted
among the patriarchs, and which their kin and contemporaries must have
carried with them as they dispersed, although their original warmth
and vitality could not but fall into a course of gradual efflux, with
the gradually widening distance from their source. To travel beyond the
reach of the rays proceeding from that source was to make the first
decisive step from religion to mythology.

To this divine tradition, then, were added, in rank abundance, elements
of merely human fabrication, which, while intruding themselves, could
not but also extrude the higher and prior parts of religion. But the
divine tradition, as it was divine, would not admit of the accumulation
of human materials until it had itself been altered. Even before men
could add, it was necessary that they should take away. This impairing
and abstraction of elements from the divine tradition may be called

Before the time of Homer, it had already wrought great havock. Its
first steps, as far as the genesis of the mythology throws light upon
them, would appear to have been as follows: objectively, a fundamental
corruption of the idea of God; who, instead of an Omnipotent wisdom and
holiness, now in the main represented on a large scale, in personal
character, the union of appetite and power; subjectively, the primary
idea of religion was wholly lost. Adam, says Lord Bacon, was not
content with universal obedience to the Divine Will as his rule of
action, but would have another standard. This offence, though not
exaggerated into the hideousness of human depravity in its later forms,
is represented without mitigation in the principles of action current
in the heroic age. Human life, as it is there exhibited, has much in
it that is noble and admirable; but nowhere is it a life of simple
obedience to God.

This disintegration of primitive traditions forms the second stage, a
negative one, in the process which produced the Homeric Theo-mythology.

When the divine idea, and also the idea of the relation between man and
his Maker, had once been fundamentally changed, there was now room for
the introduction without limit of what was merely human into religion.
Instead of man’s being formed in the image of God, God was formed in
the image of man. The ancient traditions were made each to assume a
separate individual form; and these shapes were fashioned by magnifying
and modifying processes from the pattern that human nature afforded.

Again, as man does not exist alone and individually, but in the family,
so the _nexus_ of the family was introduced as the basis of a divine
order. This we may call, resting on the etymology of the word, the
divine Œconomy of the Homeric religion.

But as with man, so with the supernatural world, on which his own
genius was now powerfully reflected, families themselves, when
multiplied, required a political order; and therefore, among the gods
also a State and government are formed, a divine polity. Human care, by
a strange inversion, makes parental provision for the good government
of those deities whom it has called into being.

The propagation, for which a physical provision was made among men,
takes place within the mythological circle also, under the laws of his
intelligent nature. The ranks of the Immortals are filled with persons
metaphysically engendered. These persons they represent concrete
forms given to abstract ideas, or, to state nearly the same thing in
other words, personal modes of existence assigned to powers which
man saw as it were alive and at work in the universe, physical or
intelligent, around him. But here too a distinction is to be observed.
Sometimes the deity was set above the natural power, as its governor
and controller: sometimes he merely signified the power itself put in
action. The former mode commonly points to tradition; the latter always
to invention.

And lastly, when a supernatural κοσμὸς or order had thus been
constructed, the principles of affinity between it and the order here
below exercised a reciprocally attractive force. The gods were more and
more humanized, man was more and more invested with deity: deity was
made cheap and common among men, and the interval from earth to heaven
was bridged over by various means. These means were principally; first,
the translation of men into the company of the immortals; secondly, the
introduction of intermediate races; and, thirdly and most of all, the
deification of heroes.

Subordinate to this general view, there arises another question: how
are we to subdivide the inventive parts of the Homeric mythology? What
general statements can be propounded, or criteria supplied, to show how
much Greece fabricated or moulded for herself, and what she owed to
Egypt, or to Phœnicia, or to other lands in the East, whose traditions
she had either inherited or received?

~_Sources of the inventive portions._~

A deep obscurity hangs over this subject. We do not know all that
was contained in each of the various religions of the East at any
one epoch, much less at all the periods within which they may have
contributed materials to the gorgeous fabric of Homer. Many things
were probably common to several of them: and where this was so,
circumstantial evidence cannot avail for determining the source at
which the Poet or his nation borrowed.

But several propositions may be laid down, which will tend towards
describing the path of our inquiry.

First, the accounts which, transmitted by Herodotus, represent Egypt as
the fountain-head of the Greek religion in its mass, are not sustained
by the evidence of Homer. And even with respect to many points where
the nucleus of the Greek system has something corresponding with it
in the Egyptian, it neither follows that it was originally drawn from
Egypt by the Greeks, nor that those from whom the Greeks received
it had obtained it there. Yet there remains room for very important
communications, such, for example, as the oracle of Dodona, or the
worship of Minerva, which may be an historic token of an Egyptian
colony at Athens.

Secondly, the correspondences between the Homeric system and the
Eastern religions, as we know them, are commonly latent, rather than
broad or palpable. This may, in part, be owing to the circumstance that
our accounts of these religions are in great part so much later than
Homer; and a greater resemblance, than is now to be traced, may have
subsisted in his time.

~_Originality of the Olympian system._~

But, thirdly, the differences are not differences of detail or degree.
A different spirit pervades the Homeric creed and worship, from that
which we find in Egyptian, or Median, or Persian systems. One has
grovelling animalism, another has metaphysical aspirations, that we
do not find in the Greek: but this is not all. If the Homeric scheme
is capable of being described, as to its inventive part, by any one
epithet, it will be this, that it is intensely human. I do not speak
of the later mythology; nor of Hesiod, whose Theogony so marvellously
spoils what it systematizes; but of Homer, in whom the ideal Olympus
attained its perfection at a stroke. In his preternatural κοσμὸς there
is, as far as I can see, much more of what is truly Divine, much more
of the residue of primeval tradition, than we can find collected
elsewhere: but there is also much more of what is human. The moral
form is corrupt: but I am now also speaking of it as a work of human
genius, and certainly as one of the most wonderful and splendid of
its products. The deep sympathy with Nature, the refined perception
of beauty, the freedom, the buoyancy, the elastic movement of every
figure on the scene, the intimate sense of association between the
denizens of Olympus and the generations of mortal men, the imposing
development of a Polity on high, the vivid nationality that riveted
its hold on Greece, the richness and inexhaustible diversity of those
embellishments which a vigorous fancy knows how to provide, combine to
make good the title I have asserted, and, if we are to believe that
Homer, in no small part, made what he described, must place his share
in the formation of the system in the very foremost rank even of his

At any rate, this one thing, I think, is clear; that whatever Greece
borrowed from the East, she fairly made her own. All was thrown
into the crucible; all came out again from the fire recast, in such
combinations, and clothed in such forms and hues, as the specific
exigencies of the Greek mind required. Hence we must beware of all
precipitate identifications. We must take good heed, for example,
not to assume, that because Athene may be Neith by metathesis,
therefore the features of the Homeric Pallas were really gathered
together in the Egyptian prototype of her name[33]. The strong hand
of a transmuting fancy and intelligence passed as a preliminary
condition upon everything foreign, not only to modify, but probably
also to resolve into parts, and then to reconstruct. So that the
preternatural system of Homer is, above all others, both national and
original, and has, by its own vital energies, helped to maintain those
characteristics even in the deteriorated copies which were made from it
by so many after-generations.

[33] Bunsen’s ‘Egypt’s Place in Universal History,’ b. I. s. vi. A.


_The traditive Element of the Homeric Theo-mythology._

The earliest Scriptural narrative presents to our view, with
considerable distinctness, three main objects. These are, respectively,
God, the Redeemer, and the Evil One. Nor do we pass even through the
Book of Genesis without finding, that it shadows forth some mysterious
combination of Unity with Trinity in the Divine Nature.

From the general expectation which prevailed in the East at the
period of the Advent, and from the prophecies collected and carefully
preserved in Rome under the name of the Sibylline books, we are at
once led to presume, that the knowledge of the early promise of a
Deliverer had not been confined to the Jewish nation. Their exclusive
character, and that of their religion; their small significance in the
political system and intellectual movement of the world; and the false
as well as imperfect notions which seem to have prevailed elsewhere
respecting them and their law[34]; all make it highly improbable that
these expectations and predictions should have been drawn from them
and their sacred books exclusively. Further, Holy Scripture distinctly
exhibits to us the existence of channels of traditional knowledge
severed from theirs. Thus much we learn particularly from the cases of
Job, who was a prophet and servant of God, though he lived in a country
where idolatry was practised[35]; and of Balaam, who, not being an
Israelite, nor an upright man, was nevertheless a prophet also. Our
Lord, in his answer respecting God as the God of Abraham[36], points
to a great article of belief, not expressly propounded in the Mosaic
books. And again, there are traditions adopted in the New Testament by
apostolic authority, which prove to us that there were some fragments
at least of early tradition remaining, even at a late date, among the
Jews themselves, over and above what had been committed to writing
in the older Scriptures. Such are those given by St. Jude respecting
Balaam himself, the body of Moses, and the prophecy of Enoch[37]. Such
is the record mentioned by St. Paul[38] of Jannes and Jambres, who are
believed to have been the chief magicians of Pharaoh, referred to in
Exodus, c. vii: and whose names are mentioned by Pliny, and, according
to Eusebius, by Numenius the Philosopher[39]. But it is not necessary,
and it might not be safe, to make any large assumption respecting a
traditional knowledge of any parts of early revelation beyond what
Scripture actually contains.

[34] See for example, in the Apocrypha, Esther xiii. 1-7.

[35] Horsley’s Dissertation, p. 69.

[36] St. Matt. xxii. 32.

[37] St. Jude, ver. 9, 11, 14.

[38] 2 Tim. iii. 8.

[39] Plin. H. N. xxx. 1. Euseb. Præp. Ev. ix. 8. Whitby, _in loc._

Dwelling therefore on what may be gathered from the Sacred Volume, we
have seen that at the very earliest date it has set before men the
ideas of God, the Redeemer, and the Evil One, and that it has spoken
concerning God as in some sense Three in One. When we take the whole
of the older Sacred Records into view, we may add some particulars
respecting the other two great objects.

~_Messianic traditions of Scripture._~

And first, as to the Deliverer of man. The Redeemer promised was to
be human, for He was to be of human birth. As death was the type of
the primeval curse, so it was from death that He was to deliver.
Again, the woman became a portion of the prophecy, for He was to be
the seed of the woman: and while He is thus plainly indicated to us as
incarnate, He is, on the other hand, mysteriously identified with the
Λόγος, the Divine Word or Wisdom, existing before the world and the
race with which He was to be numbered, and invested with the attributes
of supreme Deity. Although from a certain period the Wisdom and the
Deliverer appear to stand visibly identified, yet the earliest forms of
the traditions, as they stand in Holy Writ, are, to a certain extent,
ideally separate or separable; and the personality of the former is
less clearly, or at least less sharply, marked than that of the latter.

It was always the prevailing tendency of the speculative religions of
the East to withdraw the Supreme Being from direct relations with the
world, and to assign its ordinary government to the Wisdom, more or
less directly impersonated. ‘This,’ says Dean Milman, ‘was the doctrine
from the Ganges, or even the shores of the Yellow Sea, to the Ilissus:
it was the fundamental principle of the Indian religion and Indian
philosophy; it was the basis of Zoroastrianism: it was pure Platonism:
it was the Platonic Judaism of the Alexandrian School[40].’

[40] Milman’s Hist. of Christianity, vol. i. p. 72.

Neither were the traditions of the Evil One, more than those respecting
the Messiah, limited to a single aspect. On the contrary, they were
twofold, and they centred round two ideas: the one, that of force; the
other that of fraud: the one, that of a rebellious spirit, whom the
Almighty had cast down, with his abettors, from bliss to torment[41];
and the other, that of a deceiver, who lured man by the promise of what
he desired, and through the medium of his own free will, away from
duty, to his own harm or destruction.

[41] Calmet’s Dict., art. Satan. 2 Pet. ii. 4. St. Jude, ver. 6.

~_Sum of the primitive traditions._~

We may venture rudely to sum up these principal traditions of the first
ages as follows:

First, with respect to the Deity.

1. The Unity and supremacy of the Godhead.

2. A combination with this Unity of a Trinity, in which Trinity the
several Persons, in whatever way their personality be understood, and
whatever distinctions may obtain between them, are in some way of
coequal honour.

Secondly, with respect to the Redeemer, or Messiah.

1. A Redeemer from the curse of death, invested with full humanity,
by whom the divine kingdom was to be vindicated and reestablished, in
despite of its enemies.

2. A Wisdom, which is personal as well as divine, the highest and
first in order, concerned in the foundation and continuing government
of the world[42]. This is the Wisdom which ‘the Lord possessed from
everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was[43].’ ‘I Wisdom
dwell with prudence; and find out knowledge of witty inventions[44].’
‘This is with all flesh according to his gift: and he hath given her to
them that love him[45].’

[42] Proverbs i. 20-33.

[43] Proverbs iii. 19.

[44] See Proverbs viii. _passim_.

[45] Ecclus. i. 8-10. iv. 11-19, _et alibi._ See also Wisdom of
Solomon, i. 6. vi. 12, and seqq. vii.-x. _passim_.

3. The connection of the Redeemer with our race through his descent
from the woman.

Thirdly, with respect to the Evil One.

1. A rebellion of great angels or powers against the Supreme Being; the
defeat of the rebels, and their being cast into the abyss.

2. The going forth among men of a power who tempts them to their

A tradition of minor moment, but clearly declared in the earliest
Scripture, may be added: namely,

The announcement of the rainbow, as a token which was to convey an
assurance or covenant from God to man, with respect to the annual order
of nature; an order on which the continuance of the human race depends.

It is impossible to survey these traditions, in their outline, without
seeing how easy it was to find a way from them, by the aid of ideas on
which they seemed to border, and which they brought within easy reach
of wayward thought, towards the principal corruptions of heathenism.
They shadow forth, as they stand, the great dogmas of the Trinity and
the Incarnation: but from the doctrine of the Trinity, thus shadowed
forth, the next step might be into polytheism; while in the doctrine of
the Incarnation, similarly projected, seemed to be laid the foundation
of the Greek anthropomorphism, or the reflection of humanity upon
the supernatural world. Abstract truth has not been found sufficient
to sustain itself among mankind: and in the dispensations of the
All-Wise the promulgation of it has always been associated with the
establishment of a teaching organ, which should bear living witness to
its authority.

Let us now observe how these traditions severally find their imperfect
and deranged counterparts in the heroic age of Greece.

First, as to the Godhead.

Its unity and supremacy is represented in Jupiter, as the administrator
of sovereign power.

The combination of Trinity with Unity is reproduced in the three
Kronid brothers, Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto or Aidoneus; all born of the
same parents, and having different regions of the material creation
severally assigned to them by lot.

Next as to the Redeemer.

The first form of this tradition is represented chiefly in Apollo.
But neither the various attributes which were conceived as belonging
to the Deliverer, nor the twofold manifestation of his character
as it appears in Holy Writ, could, we must conclude, be held in
combination by the heathen mind. The character, therefore, underwent a
marked disintegration by severance into distinct parts: and while it
continues, in the main, to form the groundwork of the Homeric Apollo,
certain of its qualities are apparently transferred to his sister
Diana, and others of them are, as it were, repeated in her.

The second form of the tradition is that of the Wisdom, or Λόγος, of
the Gospel of Saint John; and this appears to be represented in the
sublime Minerva of the Homeric system.

Lastly, Latona, the mother of the twin deities, Apollo and Diana,
appears to represent the tradition of the woman, from whom the
Deliverer was to descend.

Thirdly, with respect to the Evil One.

As the derivative idea of sin depended upon that of goodness, and as
the shadow ceases to be visible when the object shadowed has become
more dim, we might well expect that the contraction and obscuration of
the true idea of goodness would bring about a more than proportionate
loss of knowledge concerning the true nature of evil. The impersonation
of evil could only be upheld in a lively or effectual manner, as the
opposite of the impersonation of good: and when the moral standard of
godhead had so greatly degenerated, as we find to be the case even in
the works of Homer, the negation of that standard could not but cease
to be either interesting or intelligible.

~_Traditions of the Evil One in Homer._~

Accordingly we find that the process of disintegration, followed
by that of arbitrary reassortment and combination of elements, had
proceeded to a more advanced stage with respect to the tradition of the
Evil One, than in the other cases.

The general form of the disintegration is this: that the idea of a
rebellion, menacing the divine dominion with violence, is now clothed
in a variety of detached and more or less conflicting forms: while
the far more subtle idea of an influence acting immediately on the
spirit of man, and aiming a blow at the glory of the Deity through his
creatures, whose allegiance it seeks by the perversion of their own
spontaneous agency to withdraw, remains in Homer, still indeed both
visible and single, but enfeebled and obscured to such a degree, that
it, as it were, stands on tiptoe, ready for its final flight from the
sphere of the common perceptions of mankind.

The first, the idea of evil acting by violence, is represented, not
indeed exclusively, but most conspicuously, in the Titans and Giants.

The second, or the idea of evil acting by deceit, is represented in the
Ἄτη of Homer.

Lastly: the rainbow of Holy Scripture is represented in the Homeric

These, then, speaking generally, are the principal remnants from
primitive traditions, of which, if of any thing of the kind, we may
expect to find the vestiges within the Olympian Court.

~_Varying degrees of the traditive character._~

In order to throw a fuller light upon the subject, I shall chiefly
examine the characters of the Homeric deities, and of the more
important among them in particular, not as a body but individually.
An opposite practice has for the most part prevailed. It has been
assumed that they are homogeneous; they have been treated as a class,
subject to the same laws; and variations, not to be accounted for
from mythological _data_, have been viewed as mere solecisms in the
conception of the class. This has mainly tended, I believe, to thrust
the truth of the case into dark corners. But the properties which
distinguish the Homeric Immortals in common from men are in reality
less important than those which establish rules of discrimination
within their own body, and which point to the very different sources
that have supplied the materials incorporated into different portions
of the scheme.

In the enumeration which it will be requisite to make, it might be
allowable to treat Neptune and Pluto as traditive divinities, because
in their relation to Jupiter, which abstractedly is one of equal birth
and equal honour, they appear to share in representing the primitive
tradition, which combined a trine personality with unity in the
godhead. Effect was given to this tradition by supposing the existence
of three deities, who were united by the bond of brotherhood, and of
whom each had an important portion of the universe assigned to his
immediate superintendence. But for the assignment of attributes to
these personages, when severally constituted, tradition seems to have
afforded no aid. Jupiter, as the eldest and most powerful, became heir
general, as it were, to whatever ideas were current respecting the one
supreme God: or the point might be otherwise stated, as for instance
thus, that the conception which the Greeks derived from elsewhere of a
supreme God, they, on taking it over, shaped into the Eldest Brother of
their Trinity. But the concentration of ideas of supremacy upon him was
at variance with, and enfeebled the notion of, the trine combination.
The tradition itself, moreover, did not determine provinces for
Neptune or Pluto; and consequently, though these deities may be
considered traditional with regard to their basis, they belonged to
the invented class as respects character and attributes, and it is in
conjunction with that class that I propose to consider them.

Again, Jupiter does not fully represent any one specific tradition: but
he assembles irregularly around him the fragments of such traditions as
belonged to the relation between men and the One Ruler of the universe.
On the one hand he is in competition with other impersonations; on the
other hand, with abstractions, which, if they wanted the life, yet had
not forfeited the purity of godhead.

Latona, again, will be known rather by relative and negative, than by
absolute and positive, signs; except as to the point of her maternity.

So Diana does not equally divide with Apollo, her twin brother, the
substance of the tradition that they jointly represent; but rather is
the figure of a person on whom the residue, consisting of properties
that the Homeric Apollo could not receive, is bestowed. It is mainly in
her ancillary relation to Apollo that she should be viewed.

It will of course be my object to bring out, as clearly and fully as
I can, that portion of the evidence, which proves the presence of a
strong traditive element in the Theomythology of Homer.

But it is not free from difficulty to determine the best mode of
proceeding with this view. The traditive part of the materials is not
separated by a broad and direct line from the inventive; nor has it
been lodged without admixture in any of the members of the Olympian
system. Like the fables of the East, it has undergone the transforming
action of the Greek mind, and it is throughout the scheme variously
mingled and combined with ideas of human manufacture. There is scarcely
any element of the old revelation that is presented to our view under
unaltered conditions: scarcely any personage of the divine order, as
represented by the Poet, stands in the same relation of resemblance
to those primeval traditions, which are to be traced in his figure
and attributes. The ancient truths are not merely imperfect; they
are dislocated, and, with heavy waste of material in the process,
afterwards recast.

On account of this bewildering diversity, it will, I conceive, be most
conducive to my purpose if I commence the inquiry with those deities in
whom the propositions I maintain are best represented: for the present
putting aside others, in whom the representation of tradition, either
from the overpowering presence of other elements, or from the general
insignificance of the character, is less effective.

I have spoken, thus far, of the ancient traditions, as they are
delivered either in the ancient or in the more recent books of the
Bible. And I hope it will not be thought to savour of mere paradox,
if the result of my search into the text of Homer shall be to exhibit
the religion of the Greeks, in the heroic age, as possessed of more
resemblances to a primitive revelation, than those religions of the
East from which they must have borrowed largely, and which we presume
to have stood between them and the fountain-head.

We have doubtless to consider the Greeks, as to their religion, in
three capacities: first, as receivers of the remains of pristine
tradition; secondly, as having imported, along with it, from abroad
the depraved forms of human fable; thirdly, as themselves powerful
inventors, working upon and adding to both descriptions of material.
But, before we conclude that the religion of Homer must needs be
farther from that of the patriarchs than the religions, as we now read
them, of Persia, Assyria, or Egypt, we ought to be assured that the
editions, so to speak, in which we study those religions, are older
than the Homeric poems. Whereas, with respect to the great bulk of the
records at our command, this, I apprehend, is the very reverse of the

~_Messianic traditions of the Hebrews._~

There is, however, one source to which we may legitimately repair, as
next in authority to the Holy Scriptures themselves with respect to the
forms of primitive tradition: I mean the earliest and most authentic
sacred literature of the Hebrews. Not that in kind it can resemble
the sacred records; but that it is at least likely to indicate what
were the earliest forms of development, and the initial tendencies to

Since that nation became unhappily committed, through its chief
traditional authorities, to the repudiation of the Redeemer, a sinister
bias has operated upon its retrospective, as well as upon its present
and prospective theology. There are nevertheless three depositaries
of knowledge from which we may hope to learn what were the views,
entertained by the ancient Hebrews themselves, with regard to the
all-absorbing subject of the Messianic traditions.

In the first place it would appear, from the very nature of the
prophecies of the Old Testament, that there must, in all likelihood,
have existed along with them a system of authoritative contemporary
exposition, in order that holy men might be enabled to derive from them
the consolation and instruction which, apart from their other purposes,
they were divinely intended to convey. The highly figurative character
and frequent obscurity of their language supports, if it does not
require, this belief: and the constant practice, attested by the later
Scriptures, of public explanation of the sacred Books, including the
Prophets, in the synagogues of the Jews, brings it as near as such a
case admits to demonstration.

These expositions of the Sacred Text began, as it appears, to be
committed to writing about the time of the Babylonish captivity;
when the Chaldee tongue became the vernacular, and the old Hebrew
disappeared from common use. They were collected in the Paraphrases
or _Targumim_: and the fragments of the oldest of them, which had
consisted of marginal notes, were consolidated into a continuous Targum
by Onkelos, Jonathan, and others[46].

[46] Schöttgen’s Horæ Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ, vol. ii. De Messiâ, Præf.
ss. 3.4.12. and B. I. c. iii. 2, 3.

Apart from the Targumim, the sacred literature of the Jews appears,
from the time of the captivity onwards, to have run in two main
channels. One class of teachers and writers rested chiefly on the dry
traditionary system condemned by our Saviour in the Gospels, and gave
less and less heed, as time went on, to the doctrine of Scripture, and
of their forefathers, concerning the Messiah. In the second century
after Christ, this traditionary system was reduced by the Rabbi Jehuda
into a volume called the Mischna. And in the sixth or seventh, there
was composed a larger work, the Gemara or Talmud, which purported
in part to comment on the Mischna, and which also presented a more
extensive and more promiscuous collection of Rabbinical traditions. In
the midst of the ordure of this work, says Schöttgen, are to be found
here and there certain pearls[47].

[47] Schöttgen Præf. 17. B. I. c. iii. 7, 8. and Rabbin. Lect. B. I. c.

Parallel with this stream of chiefly spurious learning, there was a
succession of pious writers, who both searched the Scriptures, and
studied to maintain and propagate the Messianic interpretations of
them. Of this succession the Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai was the great
ornament; and by his disciples was compiled, some sixty years after
his death, or about A. D. 170, the work termed the Sohar, which is so
Christian in its sense, as to have convinced Schöttgen that Simeon
was himself a Christian; although, perhaps from not being understood,
he was not repudiated by the Jews[48]. Upon this work was founded the
Cabbalistic or mystical learning.

[48] Schöttgen Præf. 12-15. B. I. and II. c. ii. c. iii. 6, 7. Rabb.
Lect. I. c. vi.

From these sources may be derived many Messianic ideas and
interpretations that were current among the ancient Jews.

Of them I proceed to extract some, from the work of Schöttgen, which
may throw light upon the interior system of the Homeric mythology in
its most important aspects.

1. First and foremost, these traditions appear to bear witness to the
extraordinary elevation of the Messiah, and they fully recognise his
title to the great Tetragrammaton[49].

[49] Schöttgen, I. i. 1.

2. Next, that introduction of the female principle into the sphere
of deity, which the Greeks seem to have adopted, after their
anthropophuistic manner, with a view to the family order among the
Immortals rather than as a mere metaphysical conception, appears to
have its prototype in the Hebrew traditions.

When in the Holy Scriptures we find wisdom personified in the feminine,
we regard this only as a mode of speech, though as one evidently
tending to account for the sex of Minerva. But the Jewish traditions
went far beyond this[50]. The two natures of our Lord would appear
from the Sohar to have been distinguished under the figure of mother
and daughter. The Schechina, or ‘glory of God,’ is of the feminine
gender: and the relation of His divinity to His humanity is set forth
under the figure of a marriage. He is therefore called mother and
matron; _temporibus futuris omnes hostes tradentur in manus Matronæ_,
as Schöttgen renders the Sohar[51].

[50] Schöttgen, I. i. 3.

[51] Ibid. I. i. 12, 18.

The Λόγος, or Word of the Lord, is also shown to have been, according
to the genuine traditions of the Jews, a common expression for the
Messiah. The relation thus exhibited is in marked analogy with that
between Minerva and Jupiter. This expression of the Targums of Jonathan
and Onkelos is also in correspondence with the language of Philo, De
Confusione Linguarum, pp. 255, 267[52].

[52] Ibid. I. i. 2.

4. The ideas of sonship and primogeniture[53] are likewise recognised
among the titles of the Messiah, according to the Sohar and other
Jewish authorities. We shall have to inquire what Homeric deities there
are, who, by the distinction between their mode and time of birth, and
that of others, may appear to represent these characteristics.

[53] Ib. I. i. 5, 9.

5. The Lord of Hosts, or Zebaoth[54], is another title of the Messiah:
and we may therefore expect, in any traditionary remnant found
elsewhere, to discover some strong and commanding martial development.

[54] Ib. I. i. 6.

6. The Messiah was preeminently conceived of by the Jews as being the
Light[55]. This property is in immediate connection with the idea of
the Λόγος. It cannot fail to be observed, how vividly such an idea
is represented in the ancient name Φοῖβος attaching to Apollo, and
probably also in that of Λυκηγένης or ‘light-born.’ The same idea
appears in the characteristic epithet Γλαυκῶπις, as it is now rightly
interpreted, for Minerva. This indeed is not merely an epithet, but it
forms one of her titles: as in Il. viii. 406.

[55] Ibid. II. Loc. Gen. xiii. xciv. _et alibi_, and I. iii. 10, 23.

7. Again, the name Metatron[56] is one of those properly applied to
the Messiah by the Jews. It is supposed to have denoted originally the
sense of the Latin word _metator_, as having reference to the guiding
of the Israelites through the desert, and the marking or measuring out
of their camps there. But it appears to have acquired afterwards the
sense of Mediator, as implying that the Messiah was the organ, through
whom the counsels of the Most High God took effect upon man.

[56] Schöttgen, I. i. 30.

8. The performance of miracles was to be a peculiar mark of the

[57] Ibid. III. Thes. iii. 2.

9. Another was the conquest he was to achieve over Satan, and the
liberation of the dead from the grave and from the power of hell[58].

[58] Ibid. III. Thes. ii.

With these great gifts and powers was associated an assemblage of the
most winning and endearing moral qualities. ‘The Schechina (or Messiah)
is the image of God; as He is gentle, so is She: as He is gracious, so
is She: as He is mighty, so is She mistress over all nations: He is
truth, She is faith: He the prophet, She the prophetess: He the just,
She the just: He the king, She the queen: He wise, She wisdom: He
intelligent, She His intelligence: He the crown, She the diadem[59].’

[59] From the translation of the Sohar by Sommer, in Schöttgen, III.

The central idea of these old traditions, as we conceive it, and as it
stands apart from simple theism, was that of redemption by means of a
person clothed in the attributions of humanity, but also invested with
the nature and powers of Godhead. Of these two sides of the tradition,
one was exhibited in the Word or Wisdom of God, and the other in the
Seed of the woman. The first is appropriated to Minerva, and the second
in the main to Apollo. But as the divine and human could not in the
tradition long continue completely harmonized and united, so neither
are they wholly severed. The Wisdom assumes a human configuration: the
Seed of the woman does not cease to be divine. Now Pallas and Apollo
preserve, relatively to one another, the place of their prototypes in
these two cardinal respects. As the tradition of the Λόγος was more
immediately divine, so Pallas is more copiously invested with the
higher powers, prerogatives, and offices of deity. On the other hand,
as the deliverance was to be wrought out by the immediate agency of the
Seed of the woman, so Apollo is more human, and is invested with the
larger and more varied assemblage of active endowments, appertaining to
the health, welfare, safety, purification, and chastisement of mankind.
And one main reason of the anthropomorphous character of the Greek
mythology as a whole may very probably be found in the fact, that it
was an old and a pure tradition which first gave to men the idea of God
in human form; the idea which, when once more purified, became that of
Emmanuel, God with us[60].

[60] Matt. i. 23.

The personages of the Homeric Theo-mythology who might most reasonably
be distinguished as having their basis in tradition are:

  1. Jupiter.
  2. Minerva.
  3. Apollo.
  4. Diana.
  5. Latona.
  6. Iris.
  7. The Titans and kindred traditions.
  8. Ἄτη, the Temptress.

Of these, Jupiter is so mixed a conception, and has such important
relations to the whole genesis of the Greek mythology, that I place
him in another class, and postpone the attempt to give a view of his
person and offices until we have gone through the deities, in whom the
traditional element is less disguised and also less contaminated.

~_Minerva and Apollo the key._~

And of these I commence with Minerva and Apollo, not only because they
are the most dignified, but also as they are the most characteristic
representatives of the class, and because it is in their persons that
we may best test the amount and quality of the evidence in support of
the assertion, that a traditional basis for the religion of the heroic
age of Greece is still traceable in the poems of Homer.

Again: it is the effect of this evidence in general both to separate
Minerva and Apollo by many important differences from the general mass
of the Olympian deities, and likewise to associate them together in a
great number of common signs and properties.

For these reasons I shall begin by considering them jointly: and I
believe that in a just comprehension of their position lies the key to
the whole Homeric system.

The lines of description for these two deities will, however, cross and
recross one another. Their strong and pervading essential resemblances
do not preclude much diversity of detail; and it will not unfrequently
be found to happen, either that a given sign, perhaps even one of
peculiar elevation, and thus of traditive origin, is found in one of
the two and not in the other, or else that such a sign is developed
more fully in one than in the other, or that the properties of an idea
are divided between them, as if it was felt that, where the one was,
the other must in greater or less measure be.

It will also be remembered that I do not aim at including, even in this
detailed discussion, all that is ascribed by Homer to his Apollo and
his Minerva; but only at exhibiting, with such fulness and clearness as
I can, the distinctive character which on the whole they may be said
to possess in common, and which I believe to constitute both the most
curious, and by far the most important feature of the whole Homeric

The signs which appear to mark these great deities of tradition, and
which accompany them with a deliberate consistency through the poems,
present themselves with various bearings. Some affect their position in
the Olympian system, others their individual characters; and lastly, a
third class appertain to their dealings with man, and to their place
and power in regard to the sphere of nature both animal and inanimate.
Or more briefly, we may regard them in their Olympian relations, their
personal characters, and their terrestrial aspects. We will begin with
the first of these three divisions.

~_Their rank in the Olympian system._~

1. Their position in the Olympian system, if we are to adopt the common
genesis of the Olympian system, is one of hopeless and unaccountable

The gods of Olympus are arranged generally in two generations. If we
put Apollo and Minerva out of view, then, with the exception of a deity
like Dione, introduced to serve as a mere vehicle of maternity, and
inferior in weight, if not in rank, to her own offspring, the majesty
and might of Olympus, following the order of nature, are entirely in
the elder of these generations, and reside with Jupiter, Juno, Neptune,
and Aidoneus or Pluto. The greater spheres have been shared among
these divinities; nothing, except what is secondary, remains for the
rest. But the position of Apollo and Minerva is in no respect inferior
to those of the elder gods, save Jupiter alone: in many points it is
higher; it has approximations to the very summit, which they have
not; nay, in particular points, Jupiter himself is exceeded. It is so
entirely different as a whole from that of the other deities of the
second generation, that we must seek out a cause for the difference.
Now it cannot be made to depend, at least in the case of Apollo, on the
paramount magnitude of any one of his functions, such as the bow, the
lyre, or even the gift of divination. It would have been natural to
anticipate that war, which is the business of Mars, might have made a
greater deity than divination, had both started from the same point. In
later times, perhaps, it did so; but in Homer the inferiority of Mars
is immeasurable. Now if we cannot account for this and other cases of
inferiority to Apollo in the heroic age by function, we must, I think,
of necessity look for it in difference of origin.

2. Although the relation of Apollo and Minerva to Jupiter places them
in the generation next to his, (all the Homeric divinities alike are
subject to the condition of being conceived to have a beginning,) yet
there are marked differences in antiquity between these two, and all
the other deities who, like them, stand as children to Jupiter: while
the simple fact, that they stand as his children, is precisely what the
ancient traditions would have led us to expect, with a difference which
we find represented in the respective modes of their derivation from

Of the other deities of the same generation, there are some so recent,
as Greek deities, that their childhood is made matter of record: there
is not one who bears any mark that will throw him back to the period
when the Pelasgians ruled in Greece, like Jupiter as the father of the
old Hellic houses and the Dodonæan worship, or Neptune as the parent
of Neleus and of Actor; or indeed that in any manner suggests great
antiquity. But now let us look at Minerva and Apollo. That Minerva was
born from the head of Jupiter, is a legend which I apprehend signifies
that, in the oldest mythology, she had no mother: that, even if not in
the Olympian order, yet in the history of her worship she was prior
to Juno. She would otherwise have been the daughter of Juno, or of
some other mother; and the sole parentage of Jupiter is a proof, that
the tradition she represented was in vogue before motherhood among
the Immortals was invented. So strictly is this true, that, as the
constructive process went on, a mother was found for Minerva under
the name of Metis[61]; who was at the same time placed as the oldest
among the wives of Jupiter. In Homer, whether Tritogeneia is to be
interpreted head-born[62] or not, it is indubitable that Minerva has no
mother named, and is not the child of any known female divinity: and
the sole parentage of Jupiter appears to be declared with sufficient
clearness in the expostulation of Mars to Jupiter[63];

[61] See Hes. Theog. 886-900. Apollod. i. 3, 6.

[62] Hes. Theog. 924.

[63] Il. v. 880.

  ἐπεὶ αὐτὸς ἐγείναο παῖδ’ ἀΐδηλον.

This is the only sense, so far as I can see, that can properly be given
to the word αὐτός.

Apollo, on the other hand, is the son of Λήτω or Latona. For her name
there appears to be but one satisfactory meaning, and it is this; that
her origin was before the memory of man, that is, before the period
within which the Greek mythological system had been constructed.

It cannot fail to be remarked, that the relation between the mythical
origin of Apollo and that of Minerva exhibit a difference entirely
analogous to that found in the traditions which they represent
respectively; and which would give to Apollo a mother, but to Minerva
none. In both, however, we may here trace a strong resemblance to the
Messianic traditions of Holy Scripture and of the Jews.

3. These deities have a great variety of functions, of which the
secondary forms, or the executive applications, are delegated to
others, of less power and pre-eminence, but still also in most cases
strictly Olympian gods. These satellite-divinities it may be convenient
to designate by the name of Secondaries.

~_The Secondaries of Minerva._~

The Secondaries of Olympus are so important a class, that they deserve,
as a class, a distinct consideration.

They are as follows:

First, for Minerva, in her great characters as goddess of wisdom, of
war, of polity, and of industrial art.

In the first, Mercury is her Secondary: for both are presiding
divinities or patrons of that calculating faculty applied to conduct,
which, on the side of virtue, reads as prudence, and which in its
degenerate form is craft (κέρδεα or κερδοσύνη).

In treating the god Mercury, with respect to this capital particular,
as a secondary of Minerva, I do not mean that he is nothing else:
but that the traditions about Hermes were found capable of, and were
allowed to bear, such a form, that it is impossible to describe fully
the function of the one deity without including something that is also
annexed to the other, or to draw any clear line between them.

In later times Mercury at Athens was, according to Müller[64], a
Secondary also to Apollo, charged with the exoteric and material parts
of several among his functions. And in Homer it seems probable, that
his office with respect to the dead ought to be viewed as ministerial
to that of Apollo.

[64] Müller’s Dorians, II. vi. 56.

In the next of her great offices, as goddess of war, Mars is a
Secondary to Minerva; and he is absolutely nothing more. It may be
enough in this place to refer to what will be said of him in the next

The Minerva of polity, the λαοσσόος, ἀγελείη, and ἐρυσιπτόλις, is
represented by Themis as a Secondary: whose name betokens her character
as a simple personification of the idea of political and social rights,
reflected from earth upon the Olympian life.

In the last of the four functions, Vulcan is her Secondary. It is
true that the traditions do not exactly square. He is something more,
because he is the element of fire, as well as the workman who operates
by it: and he is also something less, because he has no concern with
tissues, which fire has no share in creating, and which in Greece,
but not in Egypt[65], were exclusively the business of women. But the
relation between the two is indisputable: nor is it less plain that
in that relation he fills, taken generally, the place of Olympian
workman, she of a presiding mind operating upon man. And again, she is
the goddess of construction; he has relations only with one particular
department of it.

[65] See the curious passage in the Œdipus Coloneus, 336-41.

~_The Secondaries of Apollo._~

Next for Apollo, in his characters, first, of the Healer, and secondly,
of the Bard, with that of the Seer or Prophet.

In the first of these he is, so to speak, assisted by a pure Secondary,
Paieon; who disappears from the later and less refined Greek mythology,
and is replaced by an Æsculapius, reflected from the purely human
Asclepius of Homer. Paieon is a simply executive officer, and exercises
his gift, or as we should now say practises, exclusively, as does
Vulcan, except on special occasions, for the benefit of the Olympian
community; while the original possession of the gift, and the power of
distributing it, is with Apollo.

There is a further and more subtle relation between this deity and
Apollo, indicated by the use of the name παιήων for the hymn of
victory[66]. Whatever be the ground of this usage, it supplies another
point, in which Paieon reflects Apollo the god of help, and so far
tends to exhibit Apollo as also the god of victory. Paieon heals by the
use of his hands, like an ordinary surgeon; Apollo without personal
presence, and without the use of second causes, in answer to prayer[67].

[66] Il. xxii. 391.

[67] Il. xvi. 527-9.

In the second of his great offices, the Muses are the derivative
deities, who conjointly form a Secondary divinity to Apollo.

Their relation to him, and the combination in themselves of the plural
with the singular, are very curious. His immediate concern is with
the lyre, theirs with the voice. They sometimes appear as one; for
instance, in the first verse of each of the poems: sometimes as many;
for instance, in the invocation before the Catalogue. Even their action
is so combined, that what at one time they do as one, at others they do
as many. It is the Muses who maim Thamyris: it is the Muse, who greatly
loves Demodocus, who lays upon him the burden of blindness, but endows
him with the gift of song: and again, who instructs and loves the
tribe of Bards in general[68].

[68] Il. ii. 594, and Od. viii. 63 and 480.

The Muses are, with Homer, of Olympian rank; but we can hardly deal
with them as to many distinct impersonations: or at least we must not
follow out that idea to its consequences. And for this reason; they
were not in contact with the popular mind, and formed no part of the
public religion: they were formations of the Poet for his own purposes,
whom he might make and unmake at his will, and the conditions of whose
existence he might modify, without being bound to any further degree
of consistency than might for the occasion answer the purpose of his
art. We must not, then, ask him whether he really means his Muse to be
one or many, and if many, how many (it is, indeed, only in the second
νεκυΐα that he mentions them as nine[69]), but must simply take them as
a poetical, rather than mythological, impersonation of Vocal Music.

[69] Od. xxiv. 60.

And here we at once perceive both the ground of their plurality, and
their ministerial relation to Apollo. The former, probably, lay in the
nature of harmony, or simultaneous combination of tones, requiring,
of course, a combination of different voices, to effect what on the
instrument is done by different strings. And if it did not spring from,
it was at least suited to, that succession of alternate parts, which
was, as we know, used in Israel even more anciently than in Homer’s
time, and which may, though I do not, for one, feel certain that it
must, have been signified by the term ἀμειβόμεναι, a name clearly
relating to part-singing in one sense or another. Their subordinate
relation to Apollo is represented in the combination[70] of the voice
with the instrument. He, as the Original, remains in possession of
the indivisible gift: they assist him in one which is essentially
distributive. And as they share in his music, so also in his knowledge:
but only in that which relates to the past: with the future they have
no concern[71]. But as either Minerva or Vulcan can teach a smith, so
either Apollo or the Muse can inspire a bard[72].

[70] Il. i. 604.

[71] Il. ii. 485.

[72] Od. viii. 488.

~_Argument from the Secondaries._~

Such then are the Olympian Secondaries. None of them, it will be
observed, are properly derivative beings. All of them represent, in
some sense, traditions, or imaginations, distinct from those respecting
their principal deity: nor are they in the same kind of subservience to
them as the Eilithuiæ to Juno, who have no worship paid them, and are
of doubtful personality; or as the metal handmaids to Vulcan himself.
But they are deities, each of whom singly in a particular province
administers a function, which also belongs to a deity of higher
dignity. And though a difference is clearly discernible in the form of
the possession and administration, yet there still remains a clear and
manifest duplication, a lapping over of divinities, which is entirely
at variance with the symmetry that we might reckon upon finding in an
homogeneous conception of the Greeks.

This irregular duplication is kept in some degree out of view, if
we set out with the determination to refer the Homeric deities to a
single origin, to make a regular division of duties among them, and to
pare down this, or enlarge that, till we have brought them and their
supposed gifts into the requisite order. But as it stands in Homer,
free from later admixtures, and from prepossessions of ours, it is
a most curious and significant fact, and raises at once a serious
inquiry as to its cause.

I submit that it may be referred to the joint operation of two
circumstances. First, to the particular form of the early traditions
that were incorporated into the invented or Olympian system. Secondly,
to the principle of economy, or family and social order, reflected back
from the human community upon the divine.

If the primitive tradition, even when disfigured by the lapse of
time, yet on its arrival in Greece still visibly appropriated to one
sublime person, distinguishable from the supreme God, and femininely
conceived, the attributes of sovereign wisdom, strength, and skill;
and to another, in the form of man, the gifts of knowledge, reaching
before and after, and identified in early times with that of Song, as
well as that of healing or deliverance from pain and death; then we
can understand why it is that, when these great personages take their
places as of right in the popular mythology, they continue to keep hold
on certain great functions, in which their attributes are primarily

~_Picture of human society in Olympus._~

But on the other hand, the divine society must be cast into the form of
the human; and this especially must take effect in three great organic
particulars. First, by means of the family, which brings the members
of the body into being: secondly, by political association, involving
the necessity of a head, and of a deliberative organ: thirdly, by the
existence of certain professions, which by the use of intellectual
gifts provide for the exigencies of the community. The merely labouring
classes, in whose place and idea there is nothing of the governing
function, are naturally without representation, in the configuration of
the divine community, as to the forms of their particular employments:
though the people at large bear a rude analogy to the mass of inferior
deities not included in the ordinary meeting of the gods, yet summoned
to the great Chapter or Parliament. Olympus must, in short, have its

Who these were for an ordinary Greek community like that of Ithaca, we
learn from the speech of Eumæus[73].

[73] Od. xvii. 383.

              τῶν οἳ δημιοεργοὶ ἔασιν,
  μάντιν, ἢ ἰητῆρα κακῶν, ἢ τέκτονα δούρων,
  ἢ καὶ θέσπιν ἀοιδόν.

Here, indeed, there is no representation of the principle of gain
or commerce, which does not appear as yet to have formed a class in
Greece, though the Ithacans habitually sacrificed to Mercury[74].
But that formation was on the way; for the class was already known,
doubtless as a Phœnician one, under the name of πρηκτῆρες, men of
business, apt to degenerate into τρωκταὶ, or sharpers. Nor was
there a class of soldiers; but every citizen became a soldier upon
occasion. With these additions, it is curious to observe how faithfully
the Olympian copy is modelled upon the human original. The five
professions, or demioergic functions, are,

[74] Od. xiv. 435, and xvi. 471.

  1. μάντις, the seer.
  2. ἰήτηρ κακῶν, the surgeon.
  3. τέκτων δούρων, the skilled artificer.
  4. ἀοιδὸς, the bard.
  5. πρήκτηρ, the man of business or merchant.

Now all these were actually represented in Apollo and Minerva; the
first, second, and fourth by Apollo, the third and fifth by Minerva,
who was also the highest type of war. But this union of several
human professions in one divine person would have been fatal to
the fidelity and effectiveness of the Olympian picture, to which a
division of labour, analogous to the division existing in actual
society, was essential. Therefore the accumulation was to be reduced.
And in order to make this practicable, there were distinct traditions
ready, on which could be laid the superfluous or most easily separable
attributes of Apollo and Minerva. So Apollo keeps unimpaired his gift
of foreknowledge, and Minerva hers of sublime wisdom. With these no one
is permitted to interfere. But the ἰήτηρ is represented in Paieon: the
τέκτων (into Olympus however no inferior material enters, and all work
is evidently in metal, of which the celestial Smith[75] constructs the
buildings themselves, that on earth would be made of wood) is exhibited
in Vulcan: the ἀοιδὸς in the Muses, the πρήκτηρ in Mercury, and the man
of war in Mars.

[75] Il. xv. 309.

~_Dignity and precedence of Minerva._~

3. Though Minerva cannot contest with Juno the honour of mere
precedence in the Olympian court, yet, as regards substantial dignity,
she by no means yields even to the queen of heaven. Sometimes,
undoubtedly, when she moves in the interest of the Greeks, it is upon
the suggestion of Juno made to herself, as in Il. i. 195; or through
Jupiter, as in Il. iv. 64. But it is probable that this should be
referred, not to greater eminence or authority, but simply to the more
intensely and more narrowly Hellenized character of Juno. There are, at
any rate, beyond all doubt, some arrangements adopted by the poet, with
the special intent, to all appearance, of indicating a full equality,
if not an actual pre-eminence, for Minerva. Twice the two goddesses
descend together from Olympus to the field of battle. Both times it
is in the chariot of Juno. Now Iris, as on one occasion, at least,
she acts at Juno’s bidding, and as on another we find her unyoking the
chariot of Mars, might with propriety have been employed to discharge
this function at a moment when the two greatest goddesses are about
to set out together. It is not so, however. Juno herself yokes the
horses, and also plays the part of driver, while Minerva mounts as the
warrior beside her[76]. To be the charioteer is generally, though not
quite invariably, the note of the inferior. But irrespectively of this
official distinction, Minerva with her Ægis is the conspicuous, and
Juno evidently the subordinate figure in the group.

[76] Il. v. 745-8.

In the Odyssey, again, we have a most striking indication of the
essential superiority of Minerva to the great and powerful Neptune.
Attending, in the disguise of a human form, the sacrifice of Nestor at
Pylos to his divine ancestor, she does not scruple, on the invitation
of the young prince Pisistratus, to offer prayer to that deity, in the
capacity of a courteous guest and a religious Greek. Her petitions
are for Nestor, for his family, for his subjects, and for the errand
on which she, with Telemachus, was engaged. All are included in the
general words with which she concludes[77]:

[77] Od. iii. 55-62. Vide Nitzsch in loc.

                        μηδὲ μεγήρῃς
  ἡμῖν εὐχομένοισι τελευτῆσαι τάδε ἔργα.

But at the close the poet goes on to declare that what she thus sought
in prayer from her uncle Neptune, she forthwith accomplished herself:

  ὣς ἄρ’ ἔπειτ’ ἠρᾶτο, καὶ αὐτὴ πάντα τελεύτα.

Yet once more. The same train of ideas, which explains how Olympus
is fitted with a set of Secondaries, also shows to us why these
Secondaries have only the lower or subsidiary form of their several
gifts. It is because these gifts were already in the possession
of higher personages, before the introduction of the more recent
traditions represented by the Secondaries: traditions, of which the
whole, (except that of Paieon, who is not worshipped at all, and exists
only in and for Olympus,) bear upon them, as received in Greece, the
marks of modernism[78]. They naturally submit to the conditions,
anterior to themselves, of the hierarchy into which they are
introduced. But, on the one hand, their existence, together with the
peculiar relation of their work and attributes, rather than themselves,
to the great deities of tradition, Apollo and Minerva, constitutes
of itself a strong argument for the separate and more ancient origin
of those divinities. On the other hand, they bear powerful testimony
to the force of that principle, which reflected on the Achæan heaven
the experience of earth. For there is not a single dignified and
intellectual occupation known to and in use among the Hellenic tribes,
properly so called, which has not, as far as may be, counterpart on
Olympus. Not even the priesthood is a real exception; especially if
I am right in believing it to be Pelasgian, and not yet to have been
adopted in the time of Homer as one of the Hellenic institutions. But,
even if it had been so adopted, it could not, from the nature of the
case, have been carried into the Olympian system, since there were no
beings above themselves to whom the gods could offer sacrifice, and
since, according to the depraved idea of it which had begun to prevail,
in offering it they would have parted with something that was of value
to themselves.

[78] See the accounts of the several deities, in Sect. iii.

We do not hear a great deal respecting mere ceremonial among the
Olympian divinities. To Jupiter, however, and to Juno, is awarded the
conspicuous honour, that, when either of them enters the assembled
Court, all the other deities rise up[79]. It is plain that Homer
included in the picture before his mental eye ideas relating to that
external order which we term precedence: and it may be shown, that
Minerva had the precedence over the other gods, or what we should term
the seat of honour; that place which was occupied, in the human family,
by the eldest son. Juno we must presume, as the reflection of Jupiter,
would occupy the place of the mother.

[79] Il. i. 533. xv. 85.

When Thetis is summoned to Olympus in the Twenty-fourth Iliad, she
receives on her arrival the honours of a guest, in which is included
this distinguished place beside the chief person, and it is Minerva who
yields it up to her;

  ἡ δ’ ἄρα πὰρ Διῒ πατρὶ καθέζετο, εἶξε δ’ Ἀθήνη[80].

[80] Il. xxiv. 100.

An exactly similar proceeding is recorded in the Third Odyssey. When
Telemachus and the pseudo-Mentor approach the banquet of Nestor,
Pisistratus, the youngest son, first goes to greet them, and then
places them in the seat of honour, between his father and his eldest

[81] Od. iii. 39.

  πάρ τε κασιγνήτῳ Θρασυμήδεϊ καὶ πατέρι ᾧ·

that is, by the side of Nestor; Thrasymedes giving way to make room
for them, and remaining on the other side of them, like Minerva in the
Twenty-Fourth Iliad.

~_Of Apollo._~

Homer has left no express record on this particular point with
reference to Apollo. In the ancient Hymn, however, a part of which
is quoted by Thucydides, this honour is distinctly assigned to that
divinity in these fine lines[82]:

[82] Hymn. ad Apoll. 2-4.

  ὅν τε θεοὶ κατὰ δῶμα Διὸς τρομέουσιν ἰόντα·
  καί ῥάτ’ ἀναΐσσουσιν ἐπισχέδον ἐρχομένοιο
  πάντες ἀφ’ ἑδράων, ὅτε φαίδιμα τόξα τιταίνει.

~_Intimacy of their relations with Jupiter._~

4. More remarkable and important, however, than this precedence of
Minerva in the Olympian Court, are the relations of will and affection
between Jupiter and these two, as compared with his other children.

To these, and these only, does he ever use any term of positive
endearment. Minerva is twice called φίλον τέκος, and Apollo is twice
addressed in the vocative as φίλε Φοῖβε[83]. This is the more worthy of
note, because it might have been expected that other divinities rather
than these, for example, Mercury on account of his youth, or Venus for
her beauty and blandishments, would have been the preferable objects of
these phrases. But there is nothing of the sort in the case of Mercury,
and in that of Venus, the nearest approach is τέκνον ἐμόν (Il. v. 428).
She is only addressed as φίλον τέκος by Juno, who was not her mother,
and this at a moment when it was convenient to pass a gross deception
upon her[84].

[83] Il. viii. 40. xxii. 183. and Il. xv. 221. xvi. 667.

[84] Il. xiv.

Minerva is, indeed, sufficiently forward to place herself in opposition
to Jupiter for purposes of her own: she does not exhibit the principle
of full obedience, but then she is strong in the self-consciousness
of right as well as in power. She goes all lengths in thwarting
Jupiter in the Iliad, excites his wrath, and draws down on herself
his menaces[85]. But her general aim is to give effect to a design
so unequivocally approved in Olympus, that Jupiter himself has been
constrained to give way to it; namely, the vindication of justice by
the fall of Troy. And consequently, upon the slightest indication from
her of a conciliatory disposition, Jupiter shows himself appeased, and
seems to regret his own rigour[86].

[85] Il. viii. 401-6 and 454-6.

[86] Il. viii. 30-40.

The case of Apollo stands alone as an exhibition of entire harmony with
the will of Jupiter. On no single occasion does he act or speak in a
different sense from that of his parent. In the Olympian Council of the
Twenty-Fourth Iliad, having to make a strong remonstrance respecting
the dishonoured condition of the body of Hector, he is careful to
address it not to Jupiter, but to the body of gods present[87];

[87] Il. xxiv. 33.

  σχέτλιοί ἐστε, θεοὶ, δηλήμονες.

And consequently, when Juno follows with a sharp invective aimed at
him, Jupiter immediately checks her[88], and gives effect to the
counsel of Apollo. Generally throughout the poem he is the organ
of Jupiter for all that is about to be effected on behalf of Troy,
but never for any purpose which is to prove abortive. When, under
the divine decree, Hector is about to be slain by Achilles, Apollo
withdraws from the doomed warrior, and Minerva joins the favoured one.

[88] Ibid. 65.

This union of the will of Apollo with that of Jupiter must not be
lightly passed by. It is in truth one of the very strongest arguments
to show the presence of traditionary elements in this great conception.
For wide as is the prevalence of the law of discord upon earth, that
evil is hardly less rife in Olympus. Not only do menaces form the
supreme sanction by which in many cases its government is carried
on, but every kind of personal grudge and quarrel abounds, as well
as a general tendency to intrigue and insubordination. So that it
does not sound strange to us, when Jupiter uses to his son Mars what
nevertheless upon examination we must allow to be an astonishing

  ἔχθιστος δέ μοί ἐσσι θεῶν, οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν[89].

[89] Il. v. 890.

Among all the rest of the prominent divinities, there is no single
instance of a positive harmony of will pervading the whole course of
action, either as between any one of them and Jupiter, or as among
themselves. I therefore take it as a very strong indication that
materials were brought for this tradition, so different in kind from
what Olympus yielded, out of a source higher than Olympus.

5. In the point next to be stated Apollo is chiefly concerned.

~_Apollo the deliverer of heaven._~

It is the remarkable tradition, which makes that god the defender and
deliverer of heaven and the other Immortals.

Otus and Ephialtes, twin grandchildren of Neptune, and the most huge
in stature of all beings reared on earth, as also the most beautiful
after Orion, threaten even in their boyhood war against heaven, and
propose to scale it by piling the mountains. And this they would have
accomplished, had they attained to their proper age and full size
(ἥβη): but Apollo destroyed them first[90].

[90] Od. xi. 307-20.

This is a tradition which cannot properly belong to Greek invention:
for what has Apollo to do, when so regarded, either with the wielding
of vast physical force, or with laying it prostrate? Neither as
physician, harper, poet, prophet, archer, nor angel of Death, does
he appear to have been the person who would have been chosen for
this purpose. The thunderbolt of Jupiter is the weapon we should
have expected to be employed in preference, or the mighty spear and
terrifying Ægis of Minerva, or even the brute bulk of Mars. The gentle
death, which it was Apollo’s mythological office to bring about, is
totally unsuited to the subject.

It is only when we expand that mild conception into the character
of the Avenger, partially exhibited in the First Iliad, that Apollo
becomes the fitting destroyer of Otus and Ephialtes. This tradition in
aftertimes was apparently combined with a larger one relating to the
Giants, at which Homer darkly glances[91].

[91] Od. vii. 56, 60.

Ovid makes Jupiter his own defender[92]: a fine passage in Horace
introduces many divine combatants, but retains a rather prominent place
for Apollo, while it gives another to Minerva; and these two with
Jupiter appear to bear the brunt of the battle[93].

[92] Ov. Met. i. 151.

[93] Hor. Od. III. iv. 42-64.

It admits of but one satisfactory explanation, namely that, coming from
a source higher than the mythology, it does not, so to speak, wear the
livery of that system: and that this performance is assigned to Apollo,
either because he represented the Person to whom all power was to
belong in heaven and earth both for destruction and for deliverance, or
else because tradition actually assigned to that same Person the glory
of having already overcome a rebellion of powerful beings against the
Most High.

There is no precise parallel supplied by Homer, in the case of
Minerva, to the tradition which makes Apollo the destroyer of the
rebels. But though not the defender of the divine order at large, she
is the champion of Hercules, the favourite son of Jupiter, under
circumstances when apparently, but for her, his divinity would have
been at fault. ‘What!’ says Minerva, when thwarted by her parent in
the Eighth Iliad, ‘has he forgotten how many times I saved his son in
the labours imposed upon him by Eurystheus? Had I, at the time when
Hercules was sent by him to fetch Cerberus out of the under-world,
known how he would behave now, never should he have escaped the dread
streams of Styx[94].’ We are left to infer from this curious legend
that Minerva had a power, available in the world below, which tradition
did not assign to Jupiter, and that he found her use of it on this
occasion absolutely indispensable for the fulfilment of his wishes,
even in regard to a favourite son.

[94] Il. viii. 362-9; and also Od. xi. 623-6.

Each of these functions, assigned to Apollo and Minerva respectively,
recalls to memory those Jewish traditions, which set forth the direct
and especial power of the Messiah over the fallen angels and over the

~_These deities are never foiled by others._~

6. The last characteristic of the two peculiarly traditive deities
which will be mentioned under this head is, that they are never foiled,
defeated, or outwitted by any other of the gods. In no single case has
Minerva, where she is in action, to encounter any one of these forms
of dishonour: nor has Apollo, in any instance except only when he is
pitted against Minerva. Of this class there are two cases: one, when
the Greeks are losing ground[95], and he is made to arrange with her
for stopping the general conflict, by prompting the personal challenge
from Hector in its stead: a matter which was certain to end to the
credit of the Greeks. The other is in the Doloneia[96], when he causes
an alarm just in time to find that Diomed and Ulysses, guided by
Minerva, have accomplished the bloody purpose of their errand. Among
men, as among gods, Minerva touches nothing except what is destined to
triumph. She is not, therefore, invoked by the doomed Patroclus: and
she renders him no aid.

[95] Id. vii. 20.

[96] Il. x. 515.

To appreciate the importance of this consideration, we must bear in
mind that there is no one of the purely invented deities, who is not
at one time or another subject in some form to disparagement. Mars is
worsted by Minerva, through Diomed, as well as directly subject to her
control; Vulcan is laughed at by the gods in general; Mercury dares not
encounter Latona; Ceres sees her lover slain by Jupiter; Venus is not
only smitten to the ground by Minerva, but beaten by Diomed without his
having any divine aid to strengthen him, and befooled by Juno; Juno
outwits Jupiter himself; but Juno also, together with Aides, is wounded
sorely by Hercules; and it is also recorded of her, that she had been
subjected by her husband to the ignominious punishment of hanging in
chains, with an anvil at each foot[97].

[97] Il. xv. 18.

Neptune is no where subjected to personal ignominy; but he is baffled
by Laomedon, and is also unable to avenge effectually the mutilation
of his son Polyphemus. Nay, Jupiter himself, besides being deceived by
Juno, was menaced by a formidable combination, who were about to put
him in fetters, when Briareus came to his aid[98].

[98] Il. i. 398-406.

On the other hand, Apollo arrests with sudden shock the victorious
career of Diomed[99], and again of Patroclus[100]. And in the destinies
of Ulysses, Minerva, who protects him, effectually, though after a
struggle, prevails against Neptune, who does his uttermost against him.
In order, however, justly to estimate the weight of this consideration,
we must not omit to notice, that it has cost Homer an elaborate, and
what we might otherwise call a far-fetched contrivance[101], to save
Apollo from dishonour in the Theomachy. He is there matched against
Neptune, a deity of rank equal to that of Jupiter, and in force
inferior to his elder brother alone. It was therefore inadmissible
that such a god should be subjected to defeat. But if Apollo were no
more than one of the ordinary deities of invention, no similar reason
could apply to him. He was junior: he was a son of Jupiter, like Mars
or Mercury: he was on the losing side, that of the Trojans: why should
he not, like Mars, be well thrashed by his antagonist? It could only
be, I think, in consequence of some broad line of demarcation between
them: some severance which determines their characters and positions as
radically and fundamentally, and not by mere accident, divided.

[99] Il. v. 440.

[100] Il. xvi. 707.

[101] Il. xxi. 435.

If we consider the mere birth of these two deities according to the
Olympian order, every consideration derived from that source would tend
to assign to Mars a higher place than Apollo. His function was more
commanding: for in an age of turbulence, and among a people given alike
to freebooting and to open war, what pacific office could compete,
abstractedly, with that of the god of arms? Again, Mars is the son of
Juno, who is the eldest daughter of Saturn, the original and principal
wife of Jupiter, the acknowledged queen of Olympus: the coequal in
birth of the great trine brotherhood, and second in power to none
but Jupiter himself. Why should the child of Latona be placed so far
above the child of one so much his superior in birth, according to the
mythological order? Why is his position so different from that enjoyed
by the child of Dione, or the child of Ceres?

But so studiously does Homer cherish the dignity of Apollo, that he
does not even throw on him the burden of taking the initiative in
proposing the plan by which it is to be saved. This is managed with
great care and art. ‘Let us two fight,’ says Neptune, ‘but do you
begin, as I am the older, and know better.’ And then, by bringing up
their common grudge against Laomedon, he proceeds to show of what
absurdity Apollo would be guilty if he were to follow the ironical
advice, and thus makes it easy, indeed inevitable, for him to echo the
sentiment, and say, let us leave them, hapless mortals, to themselves.

With this we may compare two other arrangements conceived in the same
spirit. In the Fifteenth Iliad, Jupiter takes care that the mission
of Apollo to assist the Trojans shall only begin when Neptune, the
formidable friend of the Greeks, has already quitted the field of
battle[102]. And in the Fifth Odyssey, it is contrived that only when
Neptune withdraws from the persecution of Ulysses, then at length
Minerva shall instantly appear to resume her charge over him[103].

[102] Il. xv. 218-20.

[103] Od. v. 380-2.

When we come to discuss the position of Latona, both generally and in
the Theomachy, further force will, I think, be added to the foregoing
considerations. On the other hand, I admit that the legend of Apollo
with Laomedon, which represents that he and Neptune were deceived by
that king, is not, so far as I see, explained in any manner which
should place it in entire harmony with the general rule we have been
considering, unless we may consider that he had his revenge in the
opportunity afforded him by the Theomachy of refusing to fight for
Troy. But this is a case of treatment by a mortal, not by a god; and it
belongs to a different order.

I now proceed to touch upon the pre-eminence of Minerva and Apollo in
points connected with their terrestrial relations, and with what may be
termed the physical conditions of their existence.

1. It is quite clear from Homer, that these two deities received from
men a special and peculiar honour: though it may be open to question,
whether this retained only the indeterminate form of a sentiment, or
whether it was embodied in some fact or usage.

Pallas and Apollo have the exclusive distinction of being invoked in
conjunction with Jupiter, in the remarkable line

  Αἲ γὰρ, Ζεῦ τε πάτερ καὶ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Ἄπολλον.

This verse meets us, not upon occasions having reference to any
peculiar rite or function, but simply when the speaker desires to
give utterance with a peculiar solemnity or emphasis to some strong
and paramount desire. Thus Agamemnon wishes, with this adjuration,
that he had ten such counsellors as Nestor[104]: and again, that all
his warriors had the same activity of spirit as the two Ajaxes[105].
Nestor with these words wishes himself young again[106]: as does old
Laertes[107]. Achilles prays in this form, when exasperated, for
the destruction of Greeks and Trojans alike[108]: Menelaus for the
appearance of Ulysses among the Suitors[109]; Alcinous thus expresses
the wish that Ulysses could be the husband of Nausicaa[110]: and
lastly, Telemachus, that the Suitors were in a worse condition than the
disabled Irus[111].

[104] Il. ii. 371.

[105] iv. 288.

[106] vii. 132.

[107] Od. xxiv. 376.

[108] Il. xvi. 97.

[109] Od. iv. 341, and xvii. 132.

[110] Od. vii. 311.

[111] Od. xviii. 235.

~_The Trine Invocation._~

The expression never is heard from the mouth of any Trojan; for Homer,
on whatever account, rarely allows them the use of the same formulæ
with the Greeks. But the whole substance of it is contained, and in a
shape even more restrictive, in the line twice spoken by Hector,

  Τιοίμην δ’, ὡς τιέτ’ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Απόλλων.

This language is indeed so pointed, that it suggests the question,
whether there must not have been some peculiar form of external honour,
which in the Heroic age was rendered to these deities, and not to

And, singularly enough, of the temples of the Homeric poems, all
that we can point out as unequivocally named, and in existence, are
temples either to Apollo or to Pallas. But the phrases may also
have pointed towards others of their very numerous distinctions. I
do not, accordingly, venture to assert that this actually was the
exclusive honour of the two deities; but there is nothing absurd in
the supposition that it may have been so. It would not have been
inconsistent with a belief in Jupiter as the highest god, that those,
who were believed to be in a peculiar sense his ministers and organs
for the government of the world, should either have received at the
hands of mankind a larger share of the substantial tributes of worship
than he did, or should have enjoyed it under a peculiar form and

~_Their worship universal._~

2. It would appear to be indubitable, that Apollo and Minerva were
objects not of partial but of universal worship, within the sphere of
the knowledge of Homer.

Even without examination of details, the proof of this proposition
might rest upon their relative positions in regard to the two parties
of Greeks and Trojans. Minerva, the great Hellenizing deity, is the
object of the supplicatory procession of Trojan women in the Sixth
Book. She is the peculiar patroness at once of the highly Pelasgian
Attica[112], and of the characteristic type of Hellenic character
represented in Ulysses. On the other hand, Apollo, the one really
effective champion of the Trojans, is acknowledged by every Greek
chieftain, except Agamemnon, at the very outset of the poem[113].
Agamemnon himself has only been misled by his own avarice and passion,
and he shortly sends a solemn mission to appease the offended

[112] Il. ii. 546.

[113] Il. i. 22.

[114] Ibid. iv. 30.

Setting aside the case of Jupiter, who stands on a different level,
there is nothing attaching to the other deities of the War, which
at all resembles the position of command enjoyed in common by these
two, both among their friends, and with those against whom they are
contending. There is not even a difference of degree to be traced
between the reverence paid them on the one side, and on the other.

When we turn to particulars, we find that Minerva has a temple in Troy,
a temple in Athens, a sacred grove in Scheria. She is worshipped by
Nestor on the sea-shore at Pylos, and, near the Minyeius; by Telemachus
in Ithaca; by Ulysses and Diomed in the Greek camp. She accompanies
Ulysses every where, while he is within the circle of the Greek
traditions; only refrains of her own free will from going beyond it;
and rejoins him when, near Scheria, he has at length again touched upon
the outermost border of the Greek world.

There is no deity, without excepting even Jupiter, with respect to whom
we have such ample evidence in the poems of the development of his
worship in positive and permanent institutions, as is given in the case
of Apollo. He has a priest at Chryse, a temple in Troy, a priest and
grove at Ismarus in Thrace, a grove and festivals in Ithaca, oracles at
Delos and at Delphi.

Besides these positive institutions, there are in Homer innumerable
marks of his influence. He worked for Laomedon, he is worshipped at
Cille; the name of Lycia seems to have been probably derived from him
and his attributes; the Seers, whom he endows with vision, are found
in Peloponnesus, and even among the Cyclops; he feeds the horses of
Admetus either in Pieria or in Pheræ, claims the services of Alcyone,
the daughter of Marpessa, in Ætolia, and slays the children of Niobe
near mount Sipylus. So far as the Homeric signs go, they would lead
us to suppose that he was regarded by the Poet as a deity no less
universal than that Scourge of Death, to which he stands in such a
close and solemn relation.

With the exception of Jupiter, there is no other deity of whom we
can so confidently assert that he receives an universal worship:
and Neptune is the only other, with Minerva, in regard to whom the
indications of the poems render it probable. Of him we may infer it,
from his appearing to be known or to act at places so widely separated
by distance; on the Solyman mountains, in Troas under Laomedon, in
Greece near the Enipeus, in the land of the Cyclops, in the sea far
north of Phæacia. But this is entirely owing to the wide extent of the
θάλασσα, his portion of the great kingdom of external Nature, which,
being as broad as the Phœnician traditions of the Odyssey, at once
gives him a place in them. It is clearly not due to any thing more
divine in the conception of him, for he carries many chief notes of
limitation in common with the divinities of pure invention.

The wide extension of the class of Seers may of itself be taken as a
proof of the equally wide recognition of the influence of Apollo: for
he it was who made Polypheides[115] to be first of that order, on the
death of Amphiaraus. Now these Seers appear to have been found every
where, under the form either of the μάντις, or of the οἰωνίστης. Not in
Greece only and in Troas proper; but in Percote, among the Mysians, and
even among the Cyclops in the Outer Zone[116].

[115] Od. xv. 252.

[116] Il. ii. 831, 859. and Od. ix. 508.

~_Not localized as to abode._~

3. The next distinction I shall note in the traditive deities is,
that they are confined to no one spot or region for their abode; a
limitation, which is imposed, either more or less, upon every other
prominent deity except Jupiter only.

With respect to some of them, this is made quite clear by positive
signs. Except when in Olympus, or else when abroad on a special
occasion, Mars does not quit Thrace, nor Vulcan Lemnos, nor Venus
Paphos. But even upon higher and older deities there are signs of
some kind of local limitation. The rigidly Argeian character of Juno,
though it does not express, yet implies it. Demeter would appear to
have a local abode, probably in Crete. Aidoneus and Persephone are
ordinarily confined to the Shades, where their proper business lies.
Neptune himself, when dismissed from the battle-field, is desired to
repair either to the sea or to Olympus. His regular worship among
the Greeks was, as appears from a speech of Juno, at Helice and Ægæ
in Ægialos; which it is not easy to account for, except upon the
supposition that he resided peculiarly at these places[117]. Now it is
expressly declared that his palace was in Ægæ: from thence he sets out
for the plain of Troy, and thither he repairs when he desists from the
persecution of Ulysses. The name Ægæ is not mentioned in the Catalogue,
and Helice, as it is called εὐρεῖα, was evidently a district; thus
it may have been the district in which Ægæ stood, perhaps as its
seaport[118]. Before the time of Strabo Ægæ[119] had disappeared.

[117] Il. viii. 203.

[118] Il. ii. 575. xiii. 20. Od. v. 381. Strabo, p. 387.

[119] In accordance with the prevailing opinion, I take this to be the
Ægæ of Ægialus, not of Eubœa.

Now Minerva has a peculiar relation to Athens, and is once mentioned
as betaking herself thither[120]. Again, the epithet Λυκηγένης, rarely
given to Apollo, has suggested a connection with Lycia. If, however we
form our judgment from Homer, Lycia may derive its name from Apollo,
but not Apollo from Lycia.

[120] Od. iii. 78-81. I may state, that were I not so fearful of
offending on the side of license, I should be inclined to suspect the
hand of the diaskeuast in this passage more than in almost any other of
the Poems.

But it is plain from the poems that the influence, the activity, and
the virtual, if not positive presence of Apollo and Minerva pervade the
whole Homeric world. This is shown partly by their universal action; in
Troas, in Lycia[121], in Thrace, in Scheria, and all over Greece. It is
also demonstrated by the manner in which prayer is addressed to them:
and neither the one nor the other is ever represented either as having
a palace or residence in any particular spot, or as showing, like Juno,
an exclusive partiality to any particular race or city.

[121] Il. v. 105.

4. Although invocation of divinities is frequent in the poems of
Homer, it does not seem to have been sufficiently observed, that the
Olympian personages, to whom it is ordinarily addressed, are very few
in number.

In the Twentieth Odyssey, Penelope beseeches Diana to put a period
to her mournful existence. I presume that she is here invoked, not
on account of her superiority as a traditive deity, but because the
subject is connected with her especial office in regard to Death.

Neptune again is occasionally addressed by mortals; as by his
descendant Nestor on the sea-shore at Pylus, and in like manner by his
son Polyphemus, on the beach of the country of the Cyclops. So also he
is invoked by the Envoys on their way to the encampment of Achilles:
here again their course lies along the sea-shore. I will assume
accordingly, though with a good deal of doubt, that any Olympian deity
might be made the object of supplication under given circumstances
of time, place, or person. But it is manifest from the poems that
the general rule is the other way. They are ordinarily not made the
subjects of invocation, even in connection with their own peculiar
gifts. There is no invocation addressed in Homer to Venus, Mars,
Mercury, or Vulcan; nor even, which is more remarkable, to Juno.

Prayer however is very usual in the poems: but it is confined to three
divinities only.

~_Objects of habitual prayer._~

Jupiter, Apollo, and Pallas are addressed by persons in difficulty,
not with reference to any peculiar gift or office that they fill, but
quite independently of peculiar rites, and local or personal relations.
Thus Ulysses and Diomed in the Doloneia invoke Minerva[122]. Menelaus,
when about to attack Euphorbus, prays first to Jupiter[123]. Nestor,
too, addresses Jupiter, and not his own ancestor Neptune[124], in
the great straits of the Greek army. Glaucus beseeches Apollo to
heal his wound[125]; and if this address be thought to belong to his
medical function, it is still very remarkable from its containing a
direct assertion, that he is able both to hear and to act at whatever
distance. The same may be said of the prayer of Pandarus[126]. His
priest Chryses offers prayer to him from the plain of Troas (Il. i.
37): but this may be incidental to the office. The cases of prayer
to Jupiter and Minerva are purely private petitions, without notice,
suggested by the circumstances of the moment: and they show that
though Homer had perhaps no abstract idea of omnipresence, he assigned
to these deities its essential characteristic, that is to say, the
possession of powers not limited by space.

[122] Il. x. 278, 284, 462. Comp. 507.

[123] Il. xvii. 19.

[124] Il. iv. 119.

[125] Il. xvi. 514.

[126] Il. iv. 119.

The evidence that Apollo was invoked independently of bodily presence
at a particular spot, and for the general purpose of help and
protection, not simply in the exercise of particular mythological
functions, if it be less diversified is still, I think, not less
conclusive. It is, in the first place, supplied by the trine invocation
repeatedly addressed to him together with Jupiter and Minerva[127]:

[127] Il. ii. 371, _et alibi_.

  αἲ γὰρ, Ζεῦ τε πάτερ, καὶ Ἀθηναίη, καὶ Ἄπολλον.

But the general capacity of Apollo, like Minerva, to receive prayer,
is demonstrated by the language of Diomed to Hector in the Eleventh
Book, when Apollo was not on the battlefield (363, 4); ‘for this time,
Phœbus Apollo has delivered you: and doubtless you took care to pray to
him, when you ventured within the clang of spears:’

            νῦν αὖτέ σ’ ἐρύσσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων,
  ᾧ μέλλεις εὔχεσθαι, ἰὼν ἐς δοῦπον ἀκόντων.

5. We may now pass on to another head of special prerogatives.

~_Exempt from appetite and limitations._~

Both Minerva and Apollo are generally exempt from the physical
limitations, and from the dominion of appetite, to which the deities of
invention are as generally subject. Though, when a certain necessity
is predicated of the gods in general, they may be literally included
within it, we do not find that the Poet had them in his eye apart
from the rest, and the particular liabilities and imperfections are
never imputed to either of them individually. What is said of them
inclusively with others, is in reality not said of them at all, but
only of the prevailing disposition of the body to which they belong:
just as we are told in the Iliad (xi. 78), that all the gods were
incensed with Jupiter because of his bias towards the Trojans, when
we know that it was in reality only some among them, of the greatest
weight and power. Neither Apollo nor Minerva eats, or drinks, or
sleeps, or is wearied, or is wounded, or suffers pain, or is swayed
by passion. Neither of them is ever outwitted or deluded by any deity
of invention, as Venus is, and even as Jupiter is, by Juno in the
Fourteenth Iliad. When Minerva, in the shape of Mentor, receives the
cup in the Pylian festivities, she passes it on to Telemachus, but it
is not stated that she drinks of it[128]. With this compare the meal of
Mercury on the island of Calypso[129], the invitation to Iris to join
in the banquet of the Winds, and her own fear lest she should lose her
share of the Ethiopian hecatombs[130].

[128] Od. iii. 51, 62.

[129] Od. v. 92-6.

[130] Il. xxiii. 207.

Their relations to animal sacrifice are different from those of the
other, at least of the inventive, gods. Apollo, indeed, is charged by
Juno with having attended at the marriage of Thetis together with the
rest of the gods, where they all banqueted[131];

[131] Il. xxiv. 63.

                      ἐν δὲ σὺ τοῖσιν
  δαίνυ’ ἔχων φόρμιγγα·

and in the Third Odyssey Minerva comes to attend the gracious sacrifice
of Nestor offered in her honour[132],

[132] Od. iii. 435.

                      ἦλθε δ’ Ἀθήνη
  ἱρῶν ἀντιόωσα.

Chryses pleads the performance of the sacrificial rites, as one ground
of favour with the god[133]: in which, however, he is, after all, only
showing that he has not failed to discharge the positive obligations
of his office. And of course these two were the objects of sacrifice
like other deities. Had they not been so, the fact would have been in
conflict with their traditional origin, instead of sustaining it. They
stand in the same category with the rest of the Olympian company, in
that sacrifice is acceptable to them all: but first, it is plain that
they are never said to take a sensual pleasure in it; and secondly, it
does not appear that their favour to individuals either was founded
upon it, or when lost could be recovered by it. It is restitution, and
not sacrifice, which is sought and demanded in the case of Chryses. The
moral character of the whole of those proceedings is emphatically and
authoritatively declared by Calchas[134],

[133] Il. i. 40.

[134] Il. i. 93.

  οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ὅγ’ εὐχωλῆς ἐπιμέμφεται, οὔθ’ ἑκατόμβης·

So Diomed and Ulysses have the closest personal relations with
Minerva; but are nowhere said to have acquired their place in her
good-will by sacrifices: though both Apollo for Hector, and Minerva
for Ulysses, plead in the Olympian court, before the other gods, the
sacrificial bounty of those heroes respectively[135]. Nor do we here
rest wholly upon negative evidence. In the First Book, the sacrifice
of the Greeks to Apollo, by the hands of Chryses, is described in the
fullest detail: and the Poet tells us what it was that the god did
take delight in; it was the refined pleasure of the mind and ear,
afforded to him by the songs they chanted before him all the day in
his honour: ὁ δὲ φρένα τέρπετ’ ἀκούων[136]. Further, the contrast may
be drawn not with divinities of their own generation only, but with
the long journeys of Neptune[137] for a feast, and with the marked and
apparently unvarying language of Jupiter himself.

[135] Il. xxiv. 33. and Od. i. 60.

[136] Il. i. 472-4.

[137] Od. i. 22-5.

They receive sacrifice with a dignity, which does not belong to the
other deities. When prayer and offerings are presented to Jupiter by
the Greeks, and he means to refuse the prayer, it is added, that he
notwithstanding took the sacrifices[138]:

[138] Il. ii. 420.

  ἀλλ’ ὅγε δέκτο μὲν ἱρὰ, πόνον δ’ ἀμέγαρτον ὄφελλεν.

In the nearly parallel case of Minerva (Il. vii. 311.), it is simply
stated that she refused the prayer of the Trojans, while no notice
is taken of their promised offerings. Again, when Minerva had been
offended by the Greeks, and Agamemnon sought to appease her with
hecatombs, it is described as a proof of his folly that he could
entertain such an idea[139]:

[139] Od. iii. 143-6.

  οὐ γάρ τ’ αἶψα θεῶν τρέπεται νόος αἰὲν ἐόντων.

With this we may contrast the case of Neptune, who had threatened
to overwhelm the city of the Phæacians with a mountain; but who is
apparently diverted from his purpose simply by the sacrifice which,
under the advice of Alcinous, they offer to him[140].

[140] Od. xiii. 167-83.

Mere attributes of bulk stand at the bottom of the scale of even human
excellence; and it is so that Homer treats them, giving them in the
greatest abundance to his Otus, his Ephialtes, and his Mars. Minerva
has them but indirectly assigned to her; and when arming for war,
Apollo never receives them at all. When his might is described, it
is always described in the loftiest manner, that is to say, in its
effects; and effort or exertion is never attributed to either of them.

Even so with respect to locomotion. The highest picture by far is that
which is most negative. In general, Apollo and Minerva move without the
use of means or instruments, such as wings, chariots, or otherwise.
While Neptune steps, and Juno’s horses spring, so many miles at each
pace, the journeys of Apollo and Minerva are usually undescribed,
undistributed. Minerva is going from Olympus to Ithaca; when she has
departed, then she has arrived:

  βῆ δὲ κατ’ Οὐλύμποιο καρήνων ἀΐξασα·
  στῆ δ’ Ἰθάκης ἐνὶ δήμῳ, ἐπὶ προθύροις Ὀδυσῆος[141].

[141] Od. i. 102, 3.

Only within the last few years have the triumphs of natural philosophy
supplied us with an approximative illustration of these movements over
space, in the more than lightning speed of the electric telegraph.

So Apollo, too, has by personal dignity what the messenger gods have by
office. It is said of him and Iris, when in company, that their journey
began; and that it ended:

                  τὼ δ’ ἀΐξαντε πετέσθην·
  Ἴδην δ’ ἵκανον πολυπίδακα[142].

[142] Il. xv. 150.

On one occasion, however, Minerva is represented, even when unattended
by any other deity, as employing the foot-wings which Mercury commonly
used, and they are said to carry her[143]:

[143] Od. i. 97.

              τά μιν φέρον, ἠμὲν ἐφ’ ὑγρὴν
  ἠδ’ ἐπ’ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν, ἅμα πνοίῃς ἀνέμοιο.

But there are no stages or intermediate points either here or elsewhere
in her journey.

With the movements of Apollo and Minerva, thus conceived by the Poet,
we may do well to compare those of Mercury (Od. v. 50-8), Neptune (Il.
xiii. 17-31), and Juno (Il. xiv. 225-30).

~_Their independent power of punishment._~

6. Again, an important difference prevails between the different
divinities, in regard to the conduct they pursue when offended by
mortals. In general, this is one of the points that prominently
exhibits the sovereignty of Jupiter; for the common course is to appeal
to him, and to obtain retribution either with his permission or by his
agency. Not from greater self-will or a spirit of rebellion, but from
higher dignity and a certain substantiveness of character and position,
Apollo and Minerva always appear as acting for and from themselves, in
vindication of their offended prerogatives.

Even Neptune, when he is incensed at the erection of the unconsecrated
rampart of the Greek camp, and fearful that it will eclipse the renown
of his own handiwork, the wall of Troy, appeals to Jupiter on the
subject, and receives from him the permissive suggestion, that he
should himself destroy it so soon as the war is over[144]. He pursues
a similar course, when he is anxious to chastise the over-boldness
and maritime success of the Phæacians[145]. Venus, wounded by Diomed,
does not even by appeal attempt to obtain redress[146]. Mars, in the
same condition, makes his complaint, both of Diomed and of Minerva,
to Jupiter. It is true that afterwards, on the death of his son, he
proposes to appear on the field of battle: but then he is in a state of
fury[147], and is aware that the act would be one of rebellion against
Jupiter: accordingly, it is rudely stopped by Minerva. Again, when
Dionysus and his nurses are attacked by Lycoorgus, it is Jupiter that
strikes the offender blind, and his life is short because he was become
hateful to the gods[148]. Dionysus had made no appeal; but Jupiter
avenged the insult to his order. The Sun, after his oxen have been
eaten by the companions of Ulysses, lodges his appeal with Jupiter and
the Olympian Council: and in this case Jupiter himself undertakes to
give effect to the wishes of the offended luminary for vengeance[149].
When Aides, or Pluto, repaired to Olympus after the wound he had
received from Hercules, the presumption perhaps arises, that it may
have been not simply to obtain the healing hand of Paieon, but also to
move Jupiter for redress.

[144] Il. vii. 445.

[145] Od. xiii. 125-64.

[146] V. 352. ibid. 871.

[147] Il. xv. 113.

[148] Il. vi. 135-40.

[149] Od. xii. 377 and 387.

There are indeed a certain set of cases in which the rule is probably
different, that is to say, when a deity is thwarted or offended in the
exercise of his or her own special function. Thus Neptune, though he
would not touch the rampart without leave, yet of his own mere motion
destroys Ajax when he is at sea. Venus threatens Helen with her summary
vengeance, in case of prolonged resistance to the expressed command
that she should repair to the chamber of Paris. The Muses, offended by
Thamyris[150], proceed to maim him, probably in voice or hand, the
organs connected with his profession. This power to punish within each
particular province appears to form an exception to the general rule.
It is probably under this exceptional arrangement, that Diana proceeds
towards the Curetes, in the Legend of the Ninth Iliad: but some doubt
may hang over her case on account of the fact, that she partakes
radically of the traditional, as well as of the mythological character.

[150] Il. ii. 594-600. It is common to render πηρὸς blind: but it would
be strange that this should be meant, since blindness is associated in
the case of Demodocus with conferring the gift of song, which here is
taken away (Od. vii. 64). Apollodorus (i. 3. 3.) reports that the Muses
had the power of blinding him by a previous agreement between him and
them. The more natural construction of the passage seems to be such as
I have ventured to point at in the text. For blindness did not maim
Bards, who neither wrote nor read their compositions.

Offended by the omission to include her in the hecatombs offered to
the Immortals, she sends a wild boar to desolate the country. She puts
Ariadne to death on the application of Dionysus, without any notice of
an appeal to Jupiter. In both these cases she may be acting in virtue
of her particular powers. But when she is matched with Juno in the
Theomachy, she appears as utterly unequal to her great antagonist.

When Apollo comes into view, the mode of proceeding is very different
from that of the deities of invention. Apollo and Diana at once destroy
the children of Niobe, to avenge the insult she had offered to their
mother: and this case is the more worthy of note, because Jupiter, at
a later stage, participates in and extends the vengeance[151]. But
the most conspicuous instance of the independent retributive action
of Apollo is in the Plague of the First Book; since here he wastes
the army of the Greeks, to the great peril of the enterprise promoted
by so many powerful divinities, on account of what he esteemed a
moral offence, and an outrage to his priest Chryses. Now it is to be
remembered that the damsel had suffered no peculiar wrongs: the whole
offence consisted in this, that, being the daughter of a priest of
Apollo, at a place apparently insignificant, she had not been on that
account exempted from the common lot of women, but had been treated
just as she would have been treated had she been a king’s daughter. Nor
must we forget, in appreciating this act, that the families of priests
had no priestly privilege: and that Maron paid to Ulysses (Od. ix.
201-5) a very handsome price for his own life, together with that of
his wife and child.

[151] Il. xxiv. 605-9.

It is less easy to bring out the application of the rule now before
us in the case of Minerva, from the paucity of clear instances in the
poems where she personally has received offence.

There is one important case, where her wrath appears; and it is there
described as μῆνις ὀλοὴ, and as δεινὸς χόλος[152]. Her name, and
her interest in this affair, are to some extent mixed with those of
Jupiter. The Poet tells us, that Jupiter designed for the Greeks a
calamitous Return, ‘since they were not all upright, whereupon many
of them miserably perished through the inexorable wrath of Minerva.’
And then the order is inverted: Agamemnon, we are told, projected the
offerings, that he might appease the anger of Minerva, and thereupon
dissension arose, for Jupiter suspended calamity over the host. It is
clear that, so far as Minerva is to be regarded as having received
separate and personal offence in this proceeding, there is no sign
of her referring to Jupiter for aid, or for permission to punish the
offenders. But the case rather appears to be one in which the Poet is
describing the Providential Government of the world, and in which the
intermixture of the names of Jupiter and of his daughter belongs to
their system of concurrent action, under which she shares with Apollo
the office of acting as his habitual organ in administering retributive
justice to mankind. In one clear instance, however, we find it stated,
that when the Greeks offended Minerva, she punished them by a storm
(Od. v. 108).

[152] Od. iii. 135, 145.

~_They use special attributes of Jupiter._~

7. Apollo and Minerva carry this among other notes, that we find them
administering mythological or natural powers, which are otherwise the
special property of Jupiter.

No other Olympian deity, but Juno, stands invested with a similar
honour. We sometimes find the aerial powers of Jupiter wielded by her
hand. But, with the exception of the sort of precedence accorded to her
on Olympus, in virtue of which the gods rise from their seats when she
enters their company, there is no one of the gifts that she exercises,
which would not appear to lie within the range of the offices of
Minerva, if not also of Apollo. In the remarkable case where she
thunders in honour of Agamemnon just after he has armed, it is recorded
that this was the joint act of the two divinities, of whom, on this
occasion, Minerva takes precedence[153]:

[153] Il. xi. 45.

        ἐπὶ δ’ ἐγδούπησαν Ἀθηναίη τε καὶ Ἥρη,
  τιμῶσαι βασιλῆα πολυχρύσοιο Μυκήνης.

This association is to be observed in another passage, where these
goddesses jointly communicate courage to a warrior. But when we find
them associated in administering the powers of atmospheric phenomena,
it is obvious that we must resort to different sources for the means
of explaining the respective agencies. Juno, mythologically related to
Jupiter as a wife, in that capacity may, without exciting surprise,
take in hand what belongs, so to speak, to the _ménage_. Minerva, as a
daughter, has no such claim; and her possession of a standing ground
which enables her to use these powers can only be explained by a prior
and more profound affinity of traditional character, which makes her
the organ of the supreme deity.

But while, in the highest marks of power adhering to Juno, Minerva
seems everywhere to vie with her, there are others, and those among
the most strictly characteristic of the head of Olympus, in which both
Minerva and Apollo share, but which are not in any manner imparted to

One of the high characteristic epithets of Jupiter is αἰγίοχος. And
we never hear of the Ægis out of the hands of Jupiter, except it be
in those of Minerva, or of Apollo. The Ægis is the peculiar arm of
Minerva; apparently, it _belongs_ to her; and from the description
of it in the Fifth Iliad, it appears to be the counterpart, on her
side, of the chariot on the side of Juno[154]. The tunic she puts on,
however, is the tunic of Jupiter, and the Gorgon head upon it is his
sign: while the shield she carries is not to be assailed even by his

[154] Il. v. 735-42.

[155] Il. xxi. 401.

  ἣν οὐδὲ Διὸς δάμνησι κεραυνός.

Again, the Fifteenth Book of the Iliad, Jupiter intrusts Apollo with
his own Ægis, that he may wave it on the field of battle to intimidate
the Greeks[156].

[156] Il. xv. 229.

Partly in the relation of Minerva to Mars, whom she punishes or
controls, but more peculiarly in the use of the magnificent symbol of
the Ægis by Minerva and Apollo, we appear to find that development of
the martial character which has been mentioned above as included among
the Jewish ascriptions to the Messiah.

Proximate to, but extending beyond, the last named distinction,
there is a function mythologically confined to Jupiter throughout
the poems, with two exceptions only. The function is that of giving
indications, palpable to men, of coming events, by the flight of birds
in many instances, but likewise by atmospheric signs. This power is
distinguished, by its connection with the future, from a mere power
over nature.

The exceptions are Apollo and Minerva. The former deity is in general
more largely endowed than Minerva in regard to the future, though a
less conspicuous figure in the direction of the present. Still she
partakes, with him and with Jupiter, of this peculiar honour.

On the return of Telemachus to Ithaca there appears to him the bird
called the wheeling falcon[157],

[157] Od. xv. 526.

  κίρκος, Ἀπόλλωνος ταχὺς ἄγγελος,

sent by Apollo as an omen of success to himself, and of confusion to
the Suitors.

In the final crisis of the Odyssey, which is doubtless meant to exhibit
a normal example of Providential retribution, it seems to have been
the object of the Poet to divide the theurgic action between Minerva
and Apollo, as joint administrators of the general government of the
world. To Minerva, as the goddess of wisdom, falls what may be called
the intellectual share[158], the actual instruction and guidance of
Ulysses, Penelope, and Telemachus, as well as the bewildering and
hardening operations on the minds of the Suitors. Special arrangements
appear, however, to have been introduced, so as to make a corresponding
place for Apollo. Hence it is that Theoclymenus, as the representative
of a great prophetic family, is brought into the company of Telemachus,
that he may become the organ of Apollo in the remaining part of the
drama. This is the more remarkable, because Theoclymenus does not repay
the friendly aid he had received by taking part in the final struggle
on the side of Telemachus; so that his share in the proceeding stands
out the more conspicuously as one altogether theurgic. In cooperation
with this arrangement, it is provided that the crisis shall come to
pass on the festival of the god, and that the manner of trial, by the
Bow, shall place it especially under his auspices.

[158] She has also minor interpositions: see Od. xxii. 205, 256, 273,

In the magnificent passage of the Twentieth Book[159], which describes
the phantasmagoria in the palace of Ulysses, immediately before the
trial of the Bow, there are two parts. First, the minds of the Suitors
are befooled (παρέπλαγξεν δὲ νόημα). Secondly, the hall is filled
with sensible portents: preternatural night envelopes the company,
the walls and beams are blood-bespattered, phantoms glide along with
downward movement, as on their way to Erebus, the very meat they eat is
gory, their eyes are charged with involuntary tears, their lips with
unnatural smiles. Of all this the announcement is made by Theoclymenus,
a trait which I interpret as referring the array of the phenomena to
his master Apollo. To him is thus given that part of the operation
which lies within the domain of sense: while the purely intellectual
one, that of stupefying the Suitors, is expressly assigned to Minerva.

[159] Od. xx. 345-71.

But Minerva has likewise the power over signs, which is enjoyed by
Jupiter and Apollo. As Diomed and Ulysses are setting out on their
nocturnal expedition in the Tenth Iliad, Minerva sends the apparition
of a heron to cheer them[160]: they do not see it, on account of the
darkness; but they hear the flapping of its wings.

[160] Il. x. 274. Minerva’s patronage of the heron was probably
connected with her martial character: for it appears that in Sanscrit
the word _Scandha_ signifies both war and also the heron. (Welsford on
the English Language, p 152.)

It has accordingly attracted the attention of Nägelsbach[161], that
the power of exhibiting signs is confined to Jupiter, Juno, Apollo,
and Minerva: though he has not proceeded to combine this with other
distinctions, at least equally remarkable, enjoyed by the two latter

[161] Hom. Theol. iv. 16, p. 147.

I have not, it will be observed, reckoned as a τέρας, or sign of the
future, the case in which Juno endows the horses of Achilles with
the gift of speech: because it appears that the prediction of their
master’s death is their own; and that she only removes the barrier to
its expression[162]. She stands, therefore, in a different position to
that of Apollo and Minerva.

[162] Il. xix. 404-7. See inf. Sect. iii. on Juno.

~_Their dominion over Nature._~

9. This command, however, over natural portents may be viewed as
part of a general dominion over nature, of which the most varied
manifestation is in Minerva.

It is true that, in common with most of the Olympian deities, she does
not extend her action from the inner, or Greek, into the general range
of the outer, or Phœnician world. Nor does Apollo. But we have clear
proof that this was by a poetical arrangement, and not from a lack
of divine power: since (1) she does act in Scheria, and assists in
bringing Ulysses to the shore of that island: (2) the class of μάντεις
are found among the Cyclops: (3) Calypso is amenable to the command of
the Olympian court, and speaks of herself as belonging to the same wide
class of deities with Aurora and Ceres. (4) Minerva assigns a special
reason, namely, regard towards her uncle Neptune, for not having
accompanied Ulysses all along his voyage (Od. xiii. 341).

The power of Minerva over nature seems to be universal in kind as well
as in place.

1. She and Apollo assume the human form in common with other deities:
but I do not find that the gods in general become visible to one person
without being visible to all. Minerva in the First Iliad (198) reveals
herself only to Achilles. It seems as if, in Il. xvii. 321-34, Homer
meant that Apollo did the same to Æneas. The recognition of Venus by
Helen, I take as most probably a sign of nothing more than that the
case was one of disguise, rather than of transformation[163].

[163] Il. iii. 396.

2. Apollo frames an εἴδωλον, or image of a man, which moves and
fights[164], representing Æneas on the battle field: and Minerva frames
an εἴδωλον of Iphthime, to appear in a dream to her sister Penelope,
and to convey to her a revelation of Minerva’s will[165]. This power is
exercised by the two divinities exclusively.

[164] Il. v. 449.

[165] Od. iv. 796, 826.

3. Minerva on many occasions assumes the shape of a bird[166]:
sometimes in common with Apollo[167]. Ino Leucothee, the marine
goddess, becomes a water-bird, and Ὕπνος takes the form of the bird
Chalcis, when he has to act upon Jupiter. Both these operations may
probably be considered as belonging to the special functions of these
agents: with Apollo and Minerva, the power appears to belong to a
general supremacy over nature, which the other Olympian deities do not

[166] Il. xix. 351. Od. i. 320. _et alibi_.

[167] Il. vii. 59.

4. The transformations and retransformations of Ulysses in Ithaca by
Minerva, appear to indicate some organic power over matter and life. It
is not the appearance but the reality of his person that is stated to
be changed. Not only is the skin wrinkled and the eye darkened, but the
hairs are destroyed. They are afterwards restored, and his stature is
increased. In like manner she gives increased height to Penelope, and
again to Laertes[168].

[168] Od. xiii. 429-38. xvi. 172, 455. xviii. 69, and xxii. 156-62; Od.
xviii. 195. xxiv. 369.

As respects power over inanimate nature, we have seen Minerva joined
with Juno in the act of thundering. She can order out a rattling
zephyr (κελάδοντα), or simply a toward breeze, or again a stiff Boreas
(κραιπνὸν), to speed her friend across the main[169]: and, as Juno
accelerated the setting of the sun before Troy, so Minerva forbids the
dawn to appear in Ithaca, until, when she thinks the proper time has
come, she withdraws the prohibition[170].

[169] Od. ii. 420. xv. 292. v. 385.

[170] Od. xxiii. 243-6.

Nor is the power of Minerva over nature for purposes of wrath less
clear than for purposes of favour: since Mercury tells Calypso that,
inasmuch as the Greeks had offended her, she sent a storm upon

[171] Od. v. 108.

                          Ἀθηναίην ἀλίτοντο,
  ἥ σφιν ἐπῶρσ’ ἄνεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ κύματα μακρά.

On the other hand, when Ulysses and his companions have propitiated
Apollo on behalf of the Greek army, then he sends them a toward breeze
for their return to the camp[172]. But we have a still more notable
instance of miraculous power over nature ascribed to Apollo, over and
above the sublime portents of the Twentieth Odyssey, in the conversion
of the mouths of the eight Idæan rivers for nine whole days to efface
the Greek rampart[173]. To Neptune is left the task of restoring them
to their channels: perhaps on the same principle as the treatment
of Juno, relatively to Minerva, in the preparation and use of the

[172] Il. i. 479.

[173] Il. xii. 24, 32.

[174] Il. v. 7.

We have not yet, however, done with the subject of powers exercised
over nature.

~_Relation of Apollo together with Diana to Death._~

The most prominent and pointed characteristic of Apollo is one shared
with his sister Diana. It is the mysterious relation which these two
deities hold in common to death.

The Messianic tradition, first divided between Apollo and the great
Minerva, is now subdivided between him and his sister Diana, who forms
a kind of supplement to his divinity. The bow and arrows, the symbol
which they bear in common, marks the original union in character, out
of which their twin peculiarities had grown.

Apollo, indeed, as we see in the first Book of the Iliad, could himself
become, like his sister, the immediate agent in the destruction of
animals: but his principal function is with men. Hence the terrible
slaughter of the Plague: hence his extraordinary and otherwise
unsatisfactory participation in the death of Patroclus: hence, above
all, though he is not the patron of Ulysses, and has no special
connection with him, yet the slaughter of the Suitors in the Odyssey
is appointed to take place on his festival, and therefore, as well as
because it is effected by the Bow, under his auspices. But again; his
office is not of a single aspect: he is a saviour from death, as well
as a destroyer. Hence it is he, and not Venus, who saves Æneas[175]:
it is he who carries Hector out of danger[176]. Yet a third, and very
peculiar form of his office do we discover, common to him and to his
sister. She is upon occasion strong enough to exercise the office of
destruction properly so called[177], for sometimes she slays in wrath.
But more usually, as he does for men, so she more especially exercises
for women the mysterious function of administering painless and gentle

[175] Il. v. 445.

[176] Il. xv. 262.

[177] Il. vi. 205, 428. xxi. 484. Od. xi. 324. xv. 478.

This singular and solemn relation of Apollo and Diana to death appears
to have an entirely exclusive character attaching to it. There is a
clear distinction between death inflicted by the symbolical arrows of
these twin deities, which are the symbols of an invisible Power, and
death resulting from physical or any other palpable causes, whether
it be violent, or what we term natural. I do not now speak of the
agency of Apollo the destroyer in (what we call) the Plague, nor of
his slaying Eurytus on account of a personal insult (Od. viii. 227),
but of the much more distinctive and prominent office assigned to him
and to Diana, that of (so to speak) taking the sting from Death. Death
by disease, Death by a broken heart[178], Death by shipwreck, or by
the lightning of heaven[179], or by the fury of Scamander, whirling
warriors to the sea, and burying them in the sand and shingle[180], are
matters altogether distinct from this. Death through second causes,
even man can bring about: Death without second causes is palpably
Divine; and this it is that is assigned to Apollo and Diana only among
the Homeric gods. There is no instance, if I remember rightly, in which
any other among them brings about the death of a mortal, otherwise than
by means of second causes. And there is one curious passage, from which
it would appear that some other deities had to apply to them in order
to set in motion this Divine prerogative. For when Theseus was carrying
Ariadne to Athens, she did not reach her journey’s end:

[178] Od. xi. 198-203.

[179] Od. v. 127.

[180] Il. xxi. 318-21.

                    πάρος δέ μιν Ἄρτεμις ἔκτα
  Δίῃ ἐν ἀμφιρύτῃ, Διονύσου μαρτυρίῃσιν[181].

[181] Od. xi. 324.

A period was put to her life in the island of Dia, by the goddess
Artemis, at the instance of Dionysus. As if the tradition bore, that
Dionysus or Bacchus, desiring her death, and having at his command no
natural agency of mortal effect, was obliged to apply to Artemis or
Diana to bring about this purpose.

The great enemy and scourge of mankind, under the treatment of the twin
deities, is stripped of his terrors; and the very verse of Homer, ever
responsive to his thought, changes to an easy and flowing movement as
he describes this mode of passage from the world[182]:

[182] Cf. Il. xix. 59. Od. xviii. 201. xx. 61.

               τὴν δ’ Ἄρτεμις ἰοχέαιρα
  οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχομένη κατέπεφνεν.

Nor is the expression casual; it is one of the regular Homeric
_formulæ_. Sometimes she discharges this office in actual concurrence
with Apollo. The happy island, where Eumæus passed his childhood, knew
neither famine nor disease: but when its people reached the term of
their old age, then[183]

[183] Od. xv. 407-11.

  ἐλθὼν ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων Ἀρτέμιδι ξὺν
  οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνεν.

Again, when the corpse of Hector is by preternatural agency restored,
after the lacerations it had undergone, to integrity and freshness,
it is said to have become like to the body of him upon whom Apollo
has come, and put him to death with his tender darts[184]. The god
has a sword, indeed, which must appertain to his destroying office.
But his sword, and his only, among all we hear of, is formed of gold,
χρυσάορος. The epithet has probably been chosen from its affinity to

[184] Il. xxiv. 753.

Among the instances in which Diana ministers to death, there are many
where she clearly exercises a mitigating and favouring agency; and
this may probably be signified in nearly all. Even of the children of
Niobe[185] it may be meant, that they were thus gently removed, the
innocent causes of their mother’s pride; while she was reserved for
heavier punishment, and doomed to weep eternally in stone.

[185] Il. xxiv. 606. Laodamia is an exception: see Il. vi. 205.

In considering what may have been the early traditional source of these
remarkable attributes of the children of Latona, we should tread softly
and carefully, for we are on very sacred ground. But we seem to see in
them the traces of the form of One, who, as an all-conquering King, was
to be terrible and destructive to His enemies, but who was also, on
behalf of mankind, to take away the sting from Death, and to change its
iron band for a thread of silken slumber.

The share of Messianic tradition accorded in this particular province
to Minerva appears, as has already been observed, to consist in her
peculiar power within the realm of Aidoneus himself.

~_Independence of second causes._~

10. Lastly, we appear to find, that in the conduct of those operations
in which their power over Nature is exhibited, Minerva and Apollo are
not tied down, or at least are not tied down in the same degree with
the other deities generally, to the use of instruments or symbols.

We find that Neptune, when he has to inspire courage into the two
Ajaxes, strikes them, (Il. xiii. 59.) As an accompanying significant
act, of a nature tending by itself to produce the result, this greatly
weakens the force of the passage in proof of divine or extraordinary
power. In like manner, when the same divinity converts the ship of the
Phæacians into a rock, he drives it downward with his hand[186].

[186] Od. xiii. 164.

But Apollo performs no such outward act when he infuses courage into
Hector, or into Glaucus; or when he heals the wounds of the latter

[187] Il. xv. 262. xvi. 528-9.

So likewise, when Minerva alters the personal appearance of Telemachus,
Ulysses, Laertes, or Penelope, by improving it, she uses no sign or
ministrative act. Only when she effects an organic though partial
transformation in the case of Ulysses[188] does she strike him with
her wand: but then this total transformation is an exercise of power,
of which we have no other example among the Olympian deities. Again,
when Minerva finally endows the hero with heightened beauty of figure
and countenance, it is done without the use of any visible sign

[188] Od. xiii. 429. xvi. 172, 455.

[189] Od. xxiii. 156-63.

This employment of instruments is, in fact, susceptible of two
significations. They may be, like the tokens of Jupiter, intended to
act upon the senses of men. But where they have not this meaning, there
is a decided tendency to convey the conception of the instrument as
being itself the power which the deity merely directs and applies. Thus
it is in the cestus of Venus and the wand of Mercury that the divine
energy resides[190], not less than it is in the herbs of Paieon and in
the fire of Vulcan. So that any exemption from the use of these symbols
is a sign of belonging to a high order of deity.

[190] Nägelsbach, i. 25.

~Superiority of their moral standard.~

We now approach the third and last division of this subject; namely,
those points of distinction which most essentially belong to the moral
tone and personal character of these two great divinities.

Their moral standard is conspicuously raised above that of the Olympian
family in general.

It partakes indeed, as we might expect, of taint. Each has begun to
give way; and each in the way adapted to their several relations with
man and woman’s nature respectively. Apollo’s character has just begun
to be touched by licentiousness: and the character of Minerva is not
above condescension to deceit.

She is nowhere, however, associated either directly or indirectly, in
word or act, with anything impure. The contest of beauty, in which
Paris was the judge, is mentioned by Homer[191]: but the notice, a very
succinct one, though not quite in keeping with her highest dignity,
does not imply any deviation from her elevated chastity. Neither of
Juno, nor of Thetis, can the same virtue be fully predicated: both of
them, though in different modes, are brought into immediate contact
with the subject of sensual passion.

[191] Il. xxiv. 27-30.

Pallas is, in truth, no less chaste than Diana: but her purity is
absorbed in the dazzling splendour of her august prerogatives, while it
is more observed in the Huntress-maid, because it is the most salient
and distinguished point in her character.

In the post-Homeric, but yet early, hymn to Venus, three beings alone
in the wide universe are declared to be exempt from her sway. One of
them is Hestie, who represents the impersonation of the marriage bond
and the family life, and whose exemption therefore testifies directly
to the nature of the dominion from which it frees her. The other two
privileged beings are Pallas and Diana[192].

[192] Hymn. ad Ven. 8, 16.

The character of Apollo in this respect is by some degrees less
elevated: for he is an enjoying spectator of the scene described by
the certainly licentious lay of Demodocus in the Eighth Odyssey, from
which the goddesses in a body absent themselves. In the legend, too,
of the Ninth Iliad we find that Apollo carried off the daughter of
Marpessa, afterwards named by her parents Alcyone: but this passage, we
shall see, is susceptible of an interpretation, which gives it another
construction, and one certainly far more agreeable to the general
character of this divinity. The epithet enjoyed by the Homeric Diana,
expressive of purity, is accorded by Æschylus[193] (whose accuracy and
truthfulness often recall those of Homer) to Apollo;

[193] Æsch. Suppl. 222.

  ἁγνόν τ’ Ἀπόλλω φυγάδ’ ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ θεόν.

And here the question arises, how did it happen that, while the element
of purity was strictly preserved in the tradition of the Wisdom, it was
lost in the twin tradition of the Seed of the woman?

The Wisdom naturally, when impersonated, assumed the feminine form.
Now the character of woman seems to be in itself better fenced against
impurity than that of man. Her comparatively dependent condition,
and the more direct operation of her failure in this respect on the
marriage tie through the disorganization of the family, have had a
further influence in giving an additional stringency to the ideas of
mankind with respect to her observance of this virtue; a stringency
not the less real, because it exemplifies the partial administration
of a law essentially just, nor because it has become rather less
conspicuous since the Gospel laid down with rigour, upon higher
grounds, one law for all. Thus it remained possible to conceive a
woman chaste, after the conditions of that idea had been almost lost
in connection with the standard of excellence in the other sex: and
this virtue, banished from the earth in general, still found here and
there, even down to the fœtid corruption of the time of Martial[194], a
last refuge in individual cases of untainted womanhood. This course of
thought and feeling is exemplified in the Minerva of the Olympian Court.

[194] Epigr. x. 63.

Yet the idea was not simply extinguished in the twin tradition, of
which Apollo is the chief representative. Submerged in him, a home is
found for it in the appropriate form of Diana as his sister. The power
and majesty of this form of the Messianic tradition fall chiefly to his
share: she retains what was then, to the shame of our race, thought
its less precious ingredient, freedom from sensual taint. Apollo would
have been its natural vehicle: but in him, for the reason that he was
a man, it was perhaps to the Greek mind inconceivable: a new vehicle
was either framed, or adapted, in order to carry it: the idea of the
great Deliverer that should be born was thus disintegrated, like other
traditions, and like other historical characters, which men could not
so readily embrace in their integrity.

As this is the first point in the discussion at which we have
encountered an actual instance of this disintegration, it may be well
to explain the meaning I attach to the term.

~_Disintegration of traditions._~

It seems indubitable, that moral combinations, which are intelligible
as well as credible to one age, may become incredible to another.
Just as there are individual men at every epoch, who cannot believe in
generosity and elevation of character, because they have in themselves
no mirror which can reflect such qualities; so a generation ruled
by more debased ideas cannot comprehend what another, influenced by
less impure tendencies, could readily embrace. On the same principle,
the Gospel gives not to the sagacious, but to the ‘pure in heart,’
the greatest triumph of mental vision, namely, that ‘they shall see

[195] St. Matt. v. 8.

Accordingly, when it happens that a tradition becomes unintelligible
to the mind of a given people, it is lost. It may be lost by the
disappearance even of its outward form and shell. Or it may be lost by
the alteration of its meaning while its words are retained. Or the work
of destruction may take another turn: it may be lost by being torn into
pieces; the effect being that one old tradition disappears, and more
than one partial substitute for it is created.

The highest fraud and the highest force appear to have been, according
to original tradition, joined in the Evil One: they were separated in
the Grecian forms of[196] that tradition. The Apollo of Homer was still
one, with a great diversity of gifts; but mythological solecisms were
already apparent in his character, like cracks in a stately building.
This, too, was settled by disintegration; and in the later mythology
there were many Apollos: other causes probably concurring to extend the
multiplying process.

[196] Inf. Sect. iii.

The same operation took effect upon the traditions of human character.
Homer, with the finest powers of light and shade, has represented Helen
as erring, and as penitent. The moral sense of later, less simple,
and more deeply corrupted, times became impervious to a balanced
conception of this kind. Accordingly, the one Helen was torn into two,
and supplied material both for the guilty Helen, or εἴδωλον of Helen,
at Troy, and for the innocent Helen detained in Egypt. In like manner,
it became a question, probably first when Athens had grown great, how
Minos could on the one hand be great and wise, and could on the other
have made war and imposed tribute upon Attica. Hence the fable of two
Minoses[197]: so that those who venerated the ancient traditions of
Crete might still be allowed to cherish their pious sentiment, while,
upon the other hand, the Athenian dramatists might exercise a fertile
imagination in inventing circumstances of horror for the biography of
the piratical enemy of their country.

[197] Höck’s Creta, vol. ii.

It was, I conceive, an early example of this disintegration, which
divided between Apollo and Diana different members of a primitive
Messianic tradition. And, when we again combine the two personalities
of the brother and the sister in one, the tradition resumes its
completeness and roundness.

It is likely that the same mental process, which thus deposited the
element of chastity in the person of the comparatively feeble Diana,
also conferred on her the figure of the Huntress-Queen. For thus she
lived in seclusion from the ways and haunts of man: and it was only by
seclusion that she could be kept in maiden innocence.

But although the logical turn of the Greek mind soon came to place
Apollo in morally disadvantageous contrast, under this particular head,
both with his sister and with Pallas, he may be favourably compared
with the other Homeric gods. There is something in the tradition that
he was unshorn (ἀκερσεκόμης), which is evidently intended to connect
him with the innocence of youth. And in Homer, unless it be by the
legend of the Ninth Iliad, he is unharmed by connection with any of
those relations which assign to Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, and Mercury,
human children as the fruit of their indulgence.

~_Legend of Marpessa._~

The reasons which lead me to suppose that the legend of Marpessa is not
of a sensual character are these. The words used are[198];

[198] Il. ix. 564.

  ὅτε μιν ἑκάεργος ἀνήρπασε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων.

Now none of the numerous intrigues of the mythical deities with women
include violence: they always appear, so far as the language used
gives them a specific character, to have been voluntarily accepted
connections[199]. It was not likely that the case of Apollo should have
been the exception. Again, they are always mentioned as having led
to the birth of children: but there is no such mention in this case,
and Apollo has no human progeny. Lastly, the word used does not mean
_ravished_, but _seized and carried up_. It nearly corresponds with the
expression in the case of Ganymede[200],

[199] Il. ii. 513; xvi. 184, and other cases.

[200] Il. xx. 234.

  τὸν καὶ ἀνηρείψαντο θεοὶ Διὶ οἰνοχοεύειν,

and it may have been either a case of translation, or one in which the
maid was conceived to have been taken for the service of the deity,
perhaps at the neighbouring shrine of Delphi.

After the part which the lay of Demodocus assigns to him, the most,
perhaps the only, discreditable transaction assigned to Apollo in
the poems is the manner in which he disarms and partially disables
Patroclus. Nothing can be more wretched than his operations on this
occasion. The god comes up to the hero enveloped in cloud; strikes him
from behind on the back; and knocks off his armour. I can conceive
but one explanation for this singular passage, which appears alike
unsatisfactory from a poetical and from a mythological point of view.
That explanation I think is to be sought in intense nationality.
The main purpose of the poem required the sacrifice of a principal
Greek hero: but no genuine Greek hero could be killed by fair means,
therefore it was necessary to dispose of him by such as were foul. It
is perhaps also worth remark that the audacity of Patroclus in pushing
on to the city may perhaps have rendered him punishable (Il. xvi.

It is remarkable, however, that the character of each of the two great
traditive deities had begun to give way to corruption, and each in
the point at which, according to the respective sex, its yielding
might have been anticipated. As unchastity is more readily pardoned,
according to social usage, in the man, so is deceit in the woman. And
in this point the standard had already fallen for Minerva.

Of this we have one most clear indication, in her being commissioned
to undertake the charge of inciting Pandarus to a very black act of
treachery, the breach of the Pact. So far from being unwilling in this
matter, she was even eager[201];

[201] Il. iv. 73.

  ὣς εἰπὼν ὤτρυνε πάρος μεμαυῖαν Ἀθήνην.

Besides judgment and industrial skill, she gave κέρδεα to
Penelope[202]: and she describes herself[203] as excelling among the
gods in craft as well as counsel;

[202] Od. ii. 117.

[203] Od. xiii. 299.

  μήτι τε κλέομαι καὶ κέρδεσιν.

With the exception of this initial tendency to degenerate on the side
of craft, we may say with truth that the highest moral tone, both of
speech and action, is reserved for Minerva in particular throughout
the poems, whether in the Olympian Court, or in her intercourse with
men. Alike in the Iliad and the Odyssey, her counsel, which prevails,
undoubtedly also deserves to prevail. She is in both the champion of
the righteous cause. And when she states for the second time the case
of Ulysses before the assembled gods, it is not now as before his
liberality in sacrifice that she pleads, but, as a last resort, she
makes bold to urge the bad moral effect which will result, if they
discourage virtue by permitting the ruin of this excellent man[204].

[204] Od. v. 7.

~_Their place in Providential Government._~

2. It is in conformity with the expectations, which the superior
morality of Apollo and Minerva tends to raise, that we find them
occupying a position such as is accorded to no other deity in the
Providential government both of the human mind and will, and likewise
of the course of events external to it.

The origin of this position may, as I conceive, be found in the
traditions which they inherit, and according to which they would
naturally be exhibited as the administrators of the government of the
world, on behalf, if I may so speak, of the Godhead.

But there were, among the inborn tendencies of polytheism, two at
least which powerfully tended to give to these divinities a position
not only associated with that of Jupiter, but on the one hand more
palpable and practical, and on the other of higher moral elevation.
These were the tendencies which, among the incidents of his supremacy,
on the one hand, blessed him with personal repose, and, on the other,
endowed him with unbounded appetite. The first, by making Apollo and
Minerva, as his organs, the practical governors of the world, tended
to increase their importance at the expense of his, and the second
gave them a moral title as it were to gain ground upon him. In the
time of Homer this process was considerably advanced; so that while
they seem to share with Jupiter the office of general direction, which
they hold subject to his control, it falls to one of them, to Minerva
especially, to conduct the highest of all the divine processes in the
administration of moral discipline, and in the exercise of influence
over the human soul.

In the war before Troy, what is done by Juno or by Neptune is commonly
done in the way of unauthorized, or even of forbidden, interference.
In this, Minerva shares: for she has a less perfect conformity of
will with that of Jupiter than Apollo, though she has a more profound
moral resemblance of character to the ideal, from which the Homeric
Jupiter was a depravation. Of the action before Troy, however, as a
whole, thus much remains true: that, when the will of Jupiter is to be
wrought out in favour of the Greeks, it is done entirely by Minerva,
and when in favour of the Trojans it is done entirely by Apollo. Each
therefore appears as the proper minister of Jupiter, when willing, for
conducting the government of mankind. One of them is always willing:
and though the other is not equally acquiescent, still it is the view
of the case taken by her, in common with other gods more weighty than
numerous, to which Jupiter ultimately gives way. Thus we may discern,
graven as it were upon the relation between themselves and Jupiter,
the mark which shows that it was originally derived from the office
of Him, ‘by whom God made the worlds[205].’ Scarcely ever do we find
Homer deviate from the general rule which exhibits them as the ordinary
Providence of the world for governing the detail of life. There is, I
think, but one part of the Iliad which exhibits to us any considerable
assumption of this function by Jupiter himself. It is during the latter
part of the day which was to be closed by a sunset fatal to Hector,
that, besides sending forth Apollo with the blinding Ægis, he himself
descends to such acts of minute interference as breaking the bowstring
of Teucer[206].

[205] Heb. i. 2.

[206] Il. xv. 463.

~_It is frequently ascribed to them._~

Regarded from without, these two deities appear to us as frequently
receiving from men the ascriptions of Divine Providence.

The idea of Divine Providence is frequently expressed by Homer under
the names θεὸς, θεοὶ, ἀθάνατοι, δαίμων. It is also often conveyed by
the name Jupiter alone, or by such an expression as ‘Jupiter and the
other immortal gods,’ in which he appears at their head. In one place
of the Odyssey, though only one, the day being the festival of Apollo,
this very extraordinary distinction is assigned to him: and the τις of
the Suitors thus places him at the head of the Olympian company[207];

[207] Od. xxi. 364.

                          εἴ κεν Ἀπόλλων
  ἡμῖν ἱλήκῃσι καὶ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.

Sometimes mortal men look to one of these deities for success in
their enterprises, even without naming Jupiter: sometimes that name
is conjoined with one of theirs. Apollo himself, appearing to Hector
in the form of Asius his uncle, exhorts that chieftain to attack
Patroclus, ‘in the hope that Apollo may give him success[208].’
Presently, Patroclus, dying, attributes Hector’s victory to Jupiter and
Apollo, his own death to Apollo and Μοῖρα[209]; Apollo, says Xanthus
the immortal horse, slew Patroclus, and gave glory to Hector[210]. This
cannot well apply to the direct agency of the god in the matter, as he
only disarmed the Greek hero. Again, when Patroclus is slain, Minerva
takes no part in the proceedings. When Hector is about to be vanquished
Apollo retires, and Minerva straightway appears upon the field[211]. In
the Doloneia, Ulysses and Diomed succeed, because Jupiter and Minerva
befriend them[212]. Minerva rejoices, when she finds her name invoked
first of all the gods[213]: and she instructs Laertes to call upon
Jupiter with herself, assuming for her own name the first place;

[208] Il. xvi. 715.

[209] Ibid. 845.

[210] Il. xix. 413.

[211] Il. xxii. 209-14.

[212] Il. x. 552-3. Comp. xi. 736.

[213] Cf. Il. x. 462.

  εὐξάμενος κούρῃ Γλαυκώπιδι καὶ Διὶ πατρί[214].

[214] Od. xxiv. 518.

Agamemnon feels that he is certain to take Troy, if only Jupiter and
Minerva will it[215]. Ulysses expects to slay the Suitors ‘by the
favour of Jupiter and Minerva[216].’ But in fact, the whole scheme of
divine retribution, of which that hero is the organ, was planned by
Minerva and not by Jupiter, as is twice declared to us from his own
lips[217]. I must not, however, omit to notice one passage of peculiar
grandeur, in which Jupiter and Minerva are combined, as joint arbiters
of great events. In the Sixteenth Odyssey, Telemachus exhorts his
father, amid their gloomy and doubtful prospects, to bethink him of
obtaining some ally. He nobly replies as follows: ‘I will tell you, and
do you answer me and say, whether Athene with Zeus her father will not
suffice for us, or whether I shall study to find some other defender.’
The rejoinder of Telemachus is in the same exalted strain. ‘Yes, these
are good, though they be afar off, sitting on high; for they prevail
over all others, whether they be men, or whether they be immortal

[215] Il. viii. 287.

[216] Od. xx. 42.

[217] Od. v. 23. xxiv. 479.

[218] Od. xvi. 256-61, 262-5.

~_Especially in the highest sense to Minerva._~

It should be observed, that they are not the lower and more external
forms of providential action which devolve on Minerva, with a
reservation of the higher parts to Jupiter. On the contrary, in what
we may call external and wholesale Providence, Jupiter is supreme;
and in the conflict between Ulysses and the Ithacan rebels, as well
as in various passages of the Iliad relating to external action,
Jupiter interposes to check her eager spirit. In the last Odyssey she
asks his designs. He recommends a pacification. She thereupon exhorts
and assists old Laertes to begin the battle. At length a thunderbolt
descends from Jupiter, and it falls at Minerva’s feet. She then
interposes to make peace[219].

[219] Od. xxiv. 472-86, 515-41.

Thus it is in battle and matters of the strong hand: but the higher and
deeper forms of providential action appear to be unheeded by Jupiter,
and to fall to the lot of these two deities, more particularly of

In the Odyssey, one of the Suitors, Amphinomus, better minded than
the rest, anticipates evil at an early juncture, and is disposed to
take the advice given him by Ulysses, that he should quit the palace,
and return home. But he did not even now, says the Poet, escape
doom: for Minerva fettered him, that he should fall beneath the hand
of Telemachus[220]. And further, she works inwardly on the minds of
the Suitors, ‘not suffering them,’ such is the remarkable phrase, ‘to
abstain from their biting insolence:’ so that pain might yet more
deeply pierce the soul of Ulysses[221]:

[220] Od. xviii. 151-7.

[221] Od. xviii. 346.

  μνηστῆρας δ’ οὐ πάμπαν ἀγήνορας εἴα Ἀθήνη
  λώβης ἴσχεσθαι θυμαλγέος, ὄφρ’ ἔτι μᾶλλον
  δύη ἄχος κραδίην Λαερτιάδην Ὀδυσῆα.

This passage is subsequently repeated; and it stands as one of those
remarkable Homeric formulæ, which are used with such extraordinary
grandeur of effect in the later books of the Odyssey; returning upon
the ear like the solemn tolling of a funeral bell.

But the sentiments which the passage contains are in themselves most
remarkable, and perhaps only find a parallel in the awful language
of Holy Writ; ‘and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he should
not let the people go[222].’ They describe at once the doctrine of
Providence, and the essential laws of human nature, in their loftiest
and severest form. They show us the hardening power of a long continued
course of offences against the moral law, which at length converts the
most unbounded license into the most absolute slavery, under the iron
yoke of habitual depravity; and they likewise exhibit the figure of
Deity superintending this terrible, but natural as well as judicial
retribution, which is the ultimate and effective sanction of the whole
moral code, alike in the earlier and in the later stages of the Divine
dispensations. Besides all this, the passage exhibits to us pain
administered to the just man, in order to prove his resolution, and
steel him, that he may be the fitting minister of divine vengeance.
Nor does this process of probation cease here: for the conflict with
the Suitors is a prolonged one; and it is prolonged, because Minerva
was still making trial of the constancy of Ulysses and his son[223], as
of metal in the fire.

[222] Exod. x. 20.

[223] Od. xxii. 236.

It is hard to find even approximations to such a picture in the later
heathen literature, particularly after Æschylus: and in Homer no
function of this kind is ever attributed to an ordinary deity; nor even
to Jupiter, whose place in the government of mankind, if estimated
morally, is lower than that of Minerva. I shall have occasion shortly
to glance further at this subject.

The higher powers attaching to the character of the great Deliverer
of man, besides being more or less obscured in each case, are by the
disintegration, with which we may now have become familiar, divided
between Apollo and Minerva; so that while in some, and indeed in most,
points of view, it is a common character which distinguishes and severs
them from the deities of mere invention, in others we must combine the
gifts of one with those of the other, in order to get at the entire
outline of the ancient tradition.

Thus we have seen, that Minerva exercises higher functions in
Providential government, and in the administration of the general
laws of our nature, than are wielded even by the Homeric Jupiter.
We have also partially considered why it is, that she thus attains
a superiority which, undoubtedly, no pristine tradition could while
unaltered accord to her. At present I proceed to observe, that we may
find a counterpart to this paramount prerogative of Minerva in the gift
of fore and after knowledge, possessed most peculiarly and largely by

Calchas, Seer of the Greek army, knew what was, what had been, and what
was to be, by the gift which Phœbus Apollo had conferred on him[224].
It is the business of this order, who are ministers of Apollo, to
interpret all signs and presages to men in virtue of the prerogative
of that deity. In the Fifteenth Book, indeed, Apollo inquires of
Hector the cause of his evil plight: but he has not yet put off his
_incognito_, as we see from the reply of Hector;

[224] Il. i. 69-72.

  τίς δὲ σύ ἐσσι, φέριστε θεῶν[225];

[225] Il. xv. 247.

And, while Jupiter has the single and remote oak of Dodona for the
delivery of oracles to men, Apollo has already his Pythian temple in
the very heart of Greece, and hard by the great highway across the
Corinthian gulf, and has likewise a shrine at Delos for that purpose;
for we must presume that, when Ulysses[226] stopped to visit Delos on
his way home, it was in order to obtain information as to his fate.
Thus Apollo appears to stand first of the gods in regard to knowledge
of events, as Minerva does with respect to the ordinary government
of mankind. Nor does Homer scruple to call this favourite divinity
the first of the gods; an expression, however, which he employs with
latitude, and which must not be too rigidly construed[227]:

[226] Od. vi. 163.

[227] Il. xix. 413.

  θεῶν ὤριστος, ὃν ἠΰκομος τέκε Λητώ.

I have already observed that the abstract words θεὸς and θεοὶ, which
are generally used by Homer to convey the idea of Providence, are when
so used commonly referable in the main to Jupiter, so far as we can
connect them at all with any of the Olympian personages. Sometimes,
however, they are determined by the sense of the passage to signify
Minerva or Apollo; but I think they never, when they relate to
Providential action, mean any other divinity.

It is by no means from any merely national, or even personal
predilection, but it is mainly from the lofty standing ground of a
Providence, that Minerva follows Ulysses: it is in the same general
character that Apollo is made a party in the final crisis of the
Odyssey through the introduction of his festival, and of the Bow.

In the Olympian assemblage, it is Minerva who really represents the
element of mind and its inborn supremacy over all other forces. She
proceeds upon principles, when Juno acts upon partial attachments; and
her superiority is so great, as to be wholly inexplicable under the
hypothesis which would represent the characters and attributes of all
alike as the mere products of invention.

~_Intimacy of Minerva’s personal relations._~

The offices of both these deities, but especially of Minerva, in
relation to the guidance of human conduct, are much higher than those
of any other deity in their kind. Not only do they both act in the
largest and most free manner on the human mind by inward influence,
but, if there is any trace in the Homeric system of what may be called
spiritual religion, of the tender and intimate relations which have
from the first subsisted between the children of faith and their Father
in Heaven, it is in Minerva that we must seek for it. It is indeed but
a faint resemblance that we shall find; the very application of the
word may be disputable. Yet it is something, which appears to show that
it was at any rate not of heathen origin: that it is a flower, sickly,
because transplanted from a better to a less kindly soil; a shadow,
or a wreck of something greater and better, and not a scheme built up
from beneath. The mode in which Minerva cares for Ulysses deserves at
least thus much of honour. It is a contact so close and intimate, a
care so sleepless and so tender, embracing alike the course of events
without, and the state of mind within; so affectionate in relation to
the person, yet so entirely without the least partiality or caprice; so
personal, yet so far from what Holy Scripture calls, with the highest
perfection of phrase, respect of persons; so deeply founded on general
laws of truth and justice, even if some deviations can be detected,
by a jealous eye, in the choice of subsidiary means; that, as it is
without any thing like a parallel in the ruder and meaner relations
of men with the deities of invention, so it makes its own audible and
legitimate claim to a higher origin. The principle at least of inward
and sustained intercourse between the Deity and the soul of man is
perceptibly represented to us by the literature of Greece in a case
like this, and, with the very partial and qualified exception of the
δαίμων of Socrates, in such a case only.

Minerva, again, can affect the mind with a friendly bewilderment;
as when she paralyses for a moment the understanding of the nurse
Euryclea, that she may not give an answer, which would be inconvenient,
to the question of Penelope[228]. To her Ulysses looks for the right
rearing of his son: and she assures him he need have no anxiety[229].
Even as respects the human person, no powers so large are any where
ascribed by Homer to any other deity as those which she exercises,
especially in the transformation and re-transformation of Ulysses.

[228] Od. xviii. 479.

[229] Od. xiii. 359.

~_Form of their relation to their attributes._~

3. Another very remarkable distinction, or rather cluster of
distinctions, attaching to these deities, relates to the manner in
which they bear their attributes. Speaking generally, the deities of
pure invention are the mere impersonations of a passion, or of an
elemental or bodily power, or of a mental gift. They are, in the order
of ideas, posterior and ministerial to their own attributes: the mere
vehicles for carrying them into movement and action, so that in truth
the persons are the embellishments and the attributes of qualities,
and not the qualities attributes of persons. To state it at the very
highest, the inventive divinity is the steward of his own gifts.

Now the traditive god is their proprietor and master. In the case of
the two great traditive deities, Apollo and Minerva, the relation
between function and person exactly reverses that which has been
described. Here the attribute is something attached to, something in
the possession and under the command of, the person; as much so, as
the unerring bow of Apollo, or the invincible spear of Minerva. It is
not Apollo, but it is the bow of Apollo, which stands in the relation
to his office as minister of death, that Vulcan himself bears to the
element of fire and to the metallic art, or Mars to the passions and
the strong hand of war. If we except the single case of the choice
garment of Juno[230], Minerva neither spins nor hammers. Mars always
appears fighting, but Apollo does not always appear prophesying or
playing the lyre, a function which he seems to perform only in the
company of the gods.

[230] Il. xiv. 178.

The difference is strongly marked in Homer, by the fact that the
invented divinities of the second order are identified in common
language with their offices. Ares is a synonym for a spear: fire
is φλὸξ Ἡφαίστοιο, or even simply Ἥφαιστος[231]: the name Ἠέλιος is
absolutely identified with a great natural object: corn is Δημήτερος
ἀκτή. But no analogous phrase is applicable to Apollo or to Minerva in
Homer. As, with the lapse of time, the will and fancy of man did its
work more fully upon the idea of deity, the names of other divinities
fell within the circle; and the remembrance of tradition having become
fainter and fainter, in the time of Horace the word Minerva could be
used for wit (Hor. Sat. II. ii. 3);

[231] Il. ii. 426.

  Rusticus, abnormis sapiens, crassâque Minervâ.

But, as is often the case, in this change, external as it is, and
apparently slight, we have an outward sign of the profound alterative
process, which in Homer’s time had largely begun, and which continued
until the incrustation and absorption of religious truth became entire.

~_Their capacity to attract new ones._~

4. In conformity with the last-named indication is another, which I
have next to notice. The traditive god is capable of receiving new
functions; apparently because he is not the servant of the old ones:
but the deity who is a mere personal expression for a certain idea,
can, as a general rule, have no duty or prerogative beyond its bounds,
more than can a counter beyond the thing which it has been chosen to
signify. Hence Vulcan, Venus, Mars, Ceres, Bacchus, even Mercury,
the god of gain, continue, after as well as in Homer, to be devoted
to and identified with their several functions. Only in the case of
Mercury, as traffic involves motion from place to place, and the
acts of both honest and dishonest persuasion, he is in Homer, and he
afterwards continues to be more generally, a messenger and conductor,
a negotiator and a rhetorician, as well as a thief. But even Juno,
elevated as she is in station, yet, having been called into Olympus as
a vehicle for conveying the idea of maternity, continues to be charged
with that office, and is not specifically invested with any other.
Such attributions as are implied in the Venus Victrix, or other like
dedications, are indeed at variance with these propositions; but they
belong to a later and greatly altered state of the old mythology, when
it had reached to an immeasurable distance from its source, and had
lost the traces even of its own early features. But in the cases of
Apollo and Minerva, we perceive that the traditive deity was not thus
‘cabined, cribbed, confined.’

We find the Apollo of Homer the deity of the following particular

1. The lyre and poetry, Il. i. 603.

2. Divination, Il. i. 72.

3. Healing, Il. xvi. 517.

4. The bow, Il. i. 49. ii. 827.

5. Death, either gentle and painless, or not referable to any known
cause, such as ordinary disease or wounds.

Besides all this, he may be called, with Pallas, the god of Help in
general; and, even within the range of single attributes, he shews an
immense diversity. He was the god at once of the severe and simple
music of the Dorians[232], and of the rabid ecstasy of the Pythoness.

[232] Müller’s Dorians, II. viii. 12.

It is hardly possible that he could have begun his career in the Greek
mythology with such an assemblage of functions, not only not united
by any obvious tie, but some of them in apparent contradiction with
one another. Probably the constitutive ideas of the tradition he
represented were fitted out by a gradual process with this outward
apparatus of prerogatives; each of which, when taken singly, was in
harmony with them. Nor was the operation completed even in the time of
Homer, as we see from the curious case of the Sun.

We may, I apprehend, view that case in either of two aspects. We
may consider what was historically the progress of the traditions
concerning the Sun from their source to their maturity, when they were
incorporated into the comprehensive deity of Apollo: or we may examine
the moral affinities, which determined the direction and conclusion of
their career.

Historically, I presume that the Homeric tradition of the Sun
represents a separate and recent importation from a foreign country,
which had not as yet been fitted into a place of its own in the Greek
mythology. It therefore wanders as it were unappropriated, and hangs in
temporary suspense.

The Apollo had already undergone a formative process, and the ornaments
of fancy had been embroidered upon the tissue of an ancient tradition.
After Homer’s time, the function of animating and governing the Sun was
added to the multifarious offices of that deity. As respects himself,
this is a proof that his receptiveness was not yet exhausted; that he
was independent and disengaged. As respects the Ἠέλιος, this result
shows that there was some sympathy or moral gravitation, which led to
the absorption of this Homeric divinity in Apollo.

The oscillating condition of that conception in the Homeric poems, and
the indeterminate state of its affinities, will be considered in the
next Section.

~_Wide range of their functions._~

In Homer the deities of invention are, without an exception, limited
either to a single function (and this in the great majority of cases),
or to functions which are connected, as in the case of Mercury,
with one common and central idea, itself such as may belong to a
mythological formation. But there is no such idea on which, as on a
string, we can possibly hang all the various attributes of Homer’s
Apollo: and the case becomes stronger when we find that it is this very
god, already (if he be mythological only) quite overstocked, who shows
a yet further capacity to absorb into his own person new powers of
divinity, which in Homer’s time as yet stood apart from him.

As respects mere multiplicity and diversity of function, the case of
Minerva is somewhat less marked than that of Apollo: for it may be
practicable to associate together all her offices as they are described
in Homer, around one grand combination of Power with Wisdom, as their
central point. But even then, when we consider that she supremely
administers political society, personal conduct, war, and skilled
industry, in fact that the whole intelligence of the world, individual
and collective, appears to be under her paramount guidance, besides all
the power she exercises over inanimate and animate nature, and even in
the innermost sphere of personal action, we perceive that, apart from
the elevation and glory of her position, the range of her gifts goes
to an extent which, simply as such, could never have been assigned by
mere human invention to any deity but the supreme one. The idea of
the goddess of Wisdom, conceived as largely as it must be in order to
cover all Minerva’s Homeric attributes, leaves no room for the other
conceptions necessary to fit out a mythology.

For what a range do these attributes include!

Minerva is in heaven armed with such power that to none of the gods,
except Jove only, and to him scarcely, does she succumb. She is supreme
in war, supreme in policy, supreme in art; supreme in prudence and
the practical business of life; supreme in manual skill; supreme in
or over all contests of force: while at the same time the lower and
executory parts of each of these functions, where she drops them, are
taken up, as we have seen, by deities far inferior to her, though still
of the first or Olympian order. Even physical strength, if combined
with skill, is under her supreme management: for it is through her aid
that Tydeus wins in the games at Thebes[233], as well as Mecisteus on
another occasion, and that Nestor conquers Ereuthalion[234].

[233] Il. iv. 327. xxiii. 678.

[234] Il. vii. 154.

When Jupiter admonishes Venus to abandon attempts at war, he adds[235],

[235] Il. v. 430. Compare xvii. 398. xiii. 127. Od. xiv. 216.

  ταῦτα δ’ Ἄρηϊ θοῷ καὶ Ἀθήνῃ πάντα μελήσει.

There can be no doubt which of these two war-divinities was superior
and which subordinate; the exploit of Diomed alone would avail to
settle the question: but more direct evidence is to be found in the
singular passage which describes Minerva as invested with the charge
of chastising Mars, and in the mode after which, in the Fifteenth and
Twenty-first Books, she herself recognises and fulfils the obligation
of her office. (Il. v. 766. xv. 123-42).

Again, her name is connected with that of Vulcan as to his own
special and sole art of working in metals. Twice in the Odyssey the
silversmith is introduced in a simile, and he is called a man educated
by these two[236];

[236] Od. vi. 233. xxiii. 159.

  ἴδρις, ὃν Ἥφαιστος δέδαεν καὶ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη
  τέχνην παντοίην.

Only in the arts of tissue and embroidery she seems to have no
coadjutor. This probably is on account of their purely feminine
character. But generally all the principles and foundations of art are
hers. Thus she even teaches mensuration to the carpenter[237]:

[237] Il. xv. 412.

                            ὅς ῥά τε πάσης
  εὖ εἰδῇ σοφίης, ὑποθημοσύνῃσιν Ἀθήνης.

As some of her distinctive epithets, like ἐρυσίπτολις, φθισίμβροτος
refer especially to war, so she has others which look either mainly
or exclusively to the supreme care of political order. Such are
ἀλαλκομένηις, λαόσσοος, and ἀγελείη (collector or leader of a people).
It is the executory duty that is intrusted to Themis. She is the
messenger, who summons the deities, and she both collects and dissolves
human assemblies[238]: thus discharging a subordinate function, where
Pallas is the presiding goddess. It is probably for this reason that,
notwithstanding the strong political spirit of Homer, we find Themis
act so secondary a part in Olympus.

[238] Od. ii. 69.

~_The central Wisdom of Minerva._~

Thus Wisdom is the centre, and every thing that flows forth from it is
hers, whether in peace or war.

Over and above all these offices, which seem to have a connection with
her ordinary attributes, she appears to share in the most recondite and
peculiar functions of other deities. She enters into Apollo’s knowledge
of the future; for in the Ithacan cave she foretells to Ulysses all
that he has yet to suffer. Her power even descends, as we have seen,
into the nether world. It seems as if this power in the Shades were
the portion falling to her out of the supremacy over death, assigned
by tradition to the Messiah. And she has also, if not the jurisdiction
over death lodged peculiarly in her hands, a faculty yet more wonderful
ascribed to her, that of staying its approach; for Euryclea bids
Penelope in her distress pray to Minerva, who can deliver Telemachus
from death; that is, can raise him up again:

  ἡ γάρ κέν μιν ἔπειτα καὶ ἐκ θανάτοιο σαώσαι[239].

[239] Od. iv. 750-3.

In truth it seems to be the distinctive character of Minerva in the
Homeric theo-mythology, that though she is not the sole deity, yet
the very flower of the whole office and work of deity is every where
reserved for her: and though she is not directly invested with the
external form and body of every gift, yet she has the heart, essence
and virtue of them all; insomuch that, practically, no limit can be
placed upon her powers and functions. The whole conception is therefore
fundamentally at variance with the measured and finite organization of
an invented system of religion, and by its own incongruities with that
system it proves itself to be an exotic element.

By another path, we arrive at the very same conclusion for Apollo. He
too has much of that inwardness and universality of function, which
belongs to Minerva, as well as a diversity of offices peculiarly his
own. But the argument here admits of being presented in a different
form. All his peculiar gifts in Homer are referable to one of three
characters, those of Prophet, Deliverer, and Avenger, or Judge. In the
first, gifted with all knowledge, he is also the God of Song, which was
its vehicle. In the second, he is the hearer of prayer, the healer of
wounds, the champion of Heaven itself against rebellion. In the third,
he punishes the guilty, and especially administers the one grand penal
law of death. All this he does as the organ of one, with whom in will
he is perfectly united. The tangled thread runs out without knot or
break, when we unravel it by primitive Messianic tradition; because it
was fundamental in that tradition, that the person who was the subject
of it, should exhibit this many sided union of character and function.
But could Deliverance and Destruction, there combined, any where else
have been read otherwise than as contradictory to one another, and
incapable of being united in the same being?

~_The conflicting Characters of Apollo._~

I know no other principle, on which we can satisfactorily explain
either the double character of Apollo as Saviour and as Destroyer,
or the apparently miscellaneous character of the attributes which
successively attached to him[240]. How strange in itself, that the
God, who alone has a peculiar office in bringing death, should also
be the God of deliverance from it! The contradiction is harmonized by
the supposition of a traditionary origin, but otherwise it obstinately
remains a contradiction. Again, look at the nature of this peculiar
relation. Death by slow disease was not thought worthy to be referred
to the agency of a god, (Od. xi. 200.): the calm death of old age, the
sharp and agonizing death of a plague, both these were so, and both
are referred to Apollo. How can this be, and what has become of the
fine imaginative discrimination of the Greeks, and of their love for
logical consistency even in that domain, if we suppose that in all
this they were working by pure fancy? Now the difficulty vanishes, if
we suppose them to be the mere utterers of the disjointed fragments of
pristine tradition, when they had lost the key to their common meaning.
For then, He that was to grind his enemies to powder, was likewise
to take the sting from death itself, and to make the king of terrors
gentle and humane. Again, why was Apollo, thus associated with death,
likewise the god of foreknowledge? Why did he, and he only, partake
of this privilege with Jupiter? Nay, he enjoyed knowledge apparently
in a greater degree; for we are not furnished with any case in which
Apollo is grossly deluded like Jupiter by Juno. Why, again, should
the god of foreknowledge be the god of medicine? And why should the
god of medicine also absorb into himself the divinity of the sun,
separate from him in Homer, but afterwards identified with him? Why
does his character, as compared with that of the other gods, approach
to purity? As the dignity of Minerva is explained by our supposing
her to impersonate the ancient traditions of the Wisdom; so in the
case of Apollo, we obtain a thread upon which each and all of these
otherwise incongruous notions may be hung, if we suppose that he, after
a certain severance of those shades of character, which could only find
expression for a Greek in the female order, represented the legendary
anticipations of a person to come, in whom should be combined all the
great offices, in which God the Son is now made known to man as the
Light of our paths, the Physician of our diseases, the Judge of our
misdeeds, and the Conqueror and disarmer, but not yet abolisher, of

[240] The character of Apollo the Destroyer is well represented in a
fragment of Archilochus:

  ὤναξ Ἄπολλον, καί συ μὲν τοὺς αἰτίους
  πήμαινε, καὶ σφᾶς ὄλλυ’, ὥσπερ ὀλλύεις.

  Archil. apud Macrob. Fragm. 79. Ed. Gaisford.

~_They do not harmonize with Olympus._~

Again, as these great deities are anomalies in themselves, so are they
likewise in the Olympian order.

If we were to remove Minerva and Apollo from Olympus, we should
indeed take away the breadth and boldness of its sublimity, but we
should add greatly to its mere symmetry: especially as some other
minor figures would for the same reasons follow. There would then
remain there the polygamous monarch of the skies, with his chief
and secondary wives, the ranks of earth supplying him from time to
time with further satisfaction for his passions; and in his various
children or companions would be represented the various essential
functions, as they were then estimated, of an organized community.
Themis would represent policy, Mercury gain, the Muses song, and with
it all knowledge; Vulcan, manual skill; Mars, the soldier; Paieon, the
surgeon; Venus, that relaxed relation of the sexes to which mankind
has ever leaned. For corn there would be Demeter or Ceres, and for
wine, Dionysus or Bacchus. I grant that there is here inserted one
single ingredient not known to the Homeric Olympus. His Muses are not
stated to have any foreknowledge. But, after allowing for this trifling
exception, I think it remains clear that though the ethics and the
poetry of that region would be fatally damaged by the removal of Apollo
and Minerva, its mere statistics might be visibly improved.

The discussions which have arisen upon the etymology of the name
Apollo, are in themselves significant of the difficulty of accounting
for his origin mythologically. Müller mentions the derivation from the
sun (Ἠϝέλιος, ΑΠέλιος) in order to reject it; as he repudiates (and
very justly) the whole theory, which treats this deity as an elemental
power. Passing over others as unworthy of serious notice, he rejects
ἀπόλλυμι[241], as ‘founded on a partial and occasional attribute of
the god,’ and adopts ἀπέλλων the _averter_ (_sc._ of evil) or defender,
as most expressive of his general function: in other words, though he
does not go on to say so, he is the darkened shadow of the Saviour. But
the really characteristic name of Apollo he conceives to be Φοῖβος,
the bright and clear[242]. Clemens Alexandrinus, in the _Stromata_,
fancifully derives the name from ἀ _privative_, and πόλλων, and
interprets the name as signifying the negation of plurality, and thus
the unity of the Godhead[243].

[241] Which however has the sanction of Euripides as well as
Archilochus, (sup. p. 131 n.);

  ὦ χρυσοφεγγὲς ἥλι’, ὥς μ’ ἀπώλεσας
  ὅθεν σ’ Ἀπόλλων’ ἐμφανῶς κλήσει βροτός.

  Eurip. Phaeth. ap. Macrob. Sat. i. 17.

[242] Dorians, II. vi. 6, 7.

[243] Strom. L. i. p. 349 B.

The name of Athene would appear to be formed by transposition from the
Egyptian Neith[244], to whom, according to ancient inscriptions, very
high and comprehensive dignities were assigned. It does not follow that
we are to regard the Athene of Homer as an Egyptian divinity; though
an Egyptian name may have been the centre, around which gathered the
remarkable and even august fragments of the Messianic traditions that
we have found represented in her.

[244] See Bunsen’s ‘Egypt’s Place,’ I. vi. A. 7.

~_Summary of distinctive traits._~

In quitting a subject of so much importance, I will now endeavour
to sum up, in the most concise form of which it is susceptible, the
evidence to be drawn from Homer of the different position held by
Apollo and Minerva from that of the other Olympian deities.

I. Points of distinction in their relations to the Olympian Court and
its members.

1. The dignity accorded to them is quite out of keeping with their
rank, as belonging to the junior generation of the mythological family,
which was, as such, inferior in rank and power to the senior one[245].

[245] See the observation of Neptune, Il. xv. 195-8.

2. They bear visible marks, even in the mythological order, of an
antiquity greater than that of the other deities in general.

3. The external administration, or subordinate parts of the functions
assigned to them in the mythological system, are commonly devolved upon
another set of deities, here called Secondaries.

4. A peculiar dignity, in the nature of precedence, is accorded
especially to Minerva.

5. We have next noted the singular union of Apollo with Jupiter in
will and affection, and the relation of both to him, as the proper and
regular ministers of the supreme dispensations of heaven, apart from
the partial and individual action of particular gods.

6. The defence of heaven against rebellion is dimly recorded to have
been the act of Apollo; and indispensable assistance was also rendered
on another occasion to Jupiter by Minerva.

7. These great divinities are never baffled, disgraced, or worsted
in any transaction between themselves and any other deity; nor ever
exhibited by the Poet in a disadvantageous or disparaging position.

II. Points of distinction in their terrestrial relations and their
conditions of physical existence.

1. They were known by men to be entitled, either alone, or in common
with Jupiter only, to a peculiar reverence or honour.

2. They were the objects of worship in all parts of the Homeric world.

3. Neither of them are bound to any local residence in particular; and
for Apollo there is no trace of any such residence at all.

4. They are both the objects, Minerva more particularly, of general
invocation and prayer, irrespective of place and circumstances.

5. They are exempted from the chief physical limitations, as of time,
place, and perceptive organs, which are generally imposed upon the
deities of invention.

6. They have a separate and independent power to punish those who
offend them, without any need of an appeal to Jupiter, or to the
Olympian Court.

7. They are admitted, exclusively, or in common with Juno only, to a
share in certain peculiar mythological functions of Jupiter himself.

8. They have a power of making revelations to men, through signs or
portents significant of the future.

9. They have a general power of extraordinary or miraculous action upon
nature, to which scarcely any other deity approaches.

10. The peculiar and mysterious relation of Apollo, with his
sister Diana, to death, cannot be understood or accounted for from
mythological _data_.

11. In the exercise of their power over nature, Minerva and Apollo are,
more than other deities, exempt from the need of resort to symbolic
actions by way of cooperative means.

III. Points of distinction with regard to their personal characters.

1. Their moral tone is far superior to that of the Olympian Court in

2. They are both peculiarly associated with Jupiter in the original
administration of Providential functions, and are particularly
concerned with the highest, most ethical, and most inward parts of

3. Their relation to their mythological attributes is different in kind
from that of the ordinary Olympian divinities.

4. They have a number and range of attributes quite without parallel in
the Olympian system: and yet with this a capacity of receiving new ones.

5. Both in themselves, and in reference to that system, the whole
conception of Apollo and Minerva, if it be viewed mythologically, is
full of inexplicable anomaly: and the only solution to be found is
in the recognition of the traditional basis, on which the Homeric
representations of them must be founded.

Although what I have built upon this evidence may be termed an
hypothesis, the whole of the evidence itself is circumstantial: and
I feel that the effect of it is not only to draw a broad line, but
almost to place an impassable gulf, between such divinities as the
Homeric Minerva and Apollo, on the one hand, and the Homeric Mars,
Venus, Vulcan, and Mercury on the other. The differences between
them are, however, graduated and shaded off by the interposition,
first, of the minor traditive deities, such as Latona and Diana; and,
secondly, of the greatest among the Olympian personages chiefly or
wholly mythological, such as Neptune and Juno: and it is probably this
graduation, running through the Olympian body, which has prevented our
duly appreciating the immense interval that lies between its extremes.

It is to the indefatigable students of Germany that we, the less
laborious English, are, along with the rest of the world, indebted
for what may be called the systematic treatment of the Homeric poems
with respect to the facts they contain. To amass evidence is one
thing; to penetrate into its heart and spirit, is another. The former
without the latter is insufficient; but the former is to the latter an
indispensable preliminary. The works of Homer should be viewed, and
their testimony registered, like the phenomena of a geological period:
so unencumbered is he with speculation or the bias of opinion; so true,
clear, direct, and unmixed is his exhibition of historical and moral
fact. This method of investigation, honestly pursued, carries with it
an adequate and a self-acting provision for the correction of its own

~_Explanation by Friedreich._~

Since I commenced the examination of the question now before us, there
has appeared the second edition of a work, which I believe to be the
latest compendium of what may be called the facts of the Homeric poems,
by J. B. Friedreich. I find that this writer has been struck by the
overpowering evidence of the vestiges of an early revelation in the
characters of the Homeric Minerva and Apollo[246]. He observes the
separate character of their relations both to Jupiter and to mankind;
assigns to them an unbounded power over all events and the whole of
human life; and says, ‘This Triad of Zeus, Athene, and Apollo, bears
an unmistakeable analogy to the Christian Trinity, of Father, Holy
Ghost, and Son: Jupiter answering to God the Father, Athene to the
Holy Ghost, and Apollo to the Son of God, the Declarer of the will of
His Heavenly Father: like as, furthermore, the early Christians have
largely compared Christ with Apollo.’

[246] Die Realien in der Iliade und Odyssee von J. B. Friedreich.
Erlangen, 1856. In three parts. See P. iii. §. 194. p. 635, and §. 198.
p. 689. Mure observes on the sublimity of the Apollo of Homer: but his
account of the deities of the poems is brief and rather slight. B. II.
ch. xii. sect. 4.

In this representation I find a fundamental agreement with the
views expressed in the present work. But I venture to think that
the particular mode of the relation between the Homeric and the
primitive tradition, which has been set forth in this work, is more
natural and probable than that asserted by Friedreich. As it has
been here represented, we are to consider the primitive tradition as
disintegrated and subdivided. First, that of the Redeemer is severed
from that of the Holy Trinity. Next, its two aspects of the Wisdom and
the Messiah, become two impersonations. And then the impersonation
which represents the tradition properly Messianic, is itself again
subjected to duplication. As the result of this threefold operation, we

1. The trine Kronid brotherhood.

2. Minerva and Apollo.

3. Apollo and Diana.

The principle of the severance always being, to get rid of some
difficulty, encountered by the human apprehension in embracing the
integral tradition.

The difficulty at the first step was to reconcile equality, or what
the Christian dogma more profoundly terms consubstantiality, with a
ministerial manifestation.

The difficulty at the second step probably was to combine in one
impersonation two groups of images, the one (the Wisdom), relating to
function that dwells purely in the Godhead; the other, to function
containing the element of humanity; it was, in short, to grasp the
doctrine, ‘One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity
of Person.’

The difficulty at the third step apparently was, as has been stated,
to associate the ideal of a strict and severe chastity with any but a
female nature.

There is no question now before us as to Apollo: the point at issue is,
whether we are to regard the Athene, or Minerva, of Homer as derived
from traditions of the Logos, or from traditions of the Holy Spirit.

I urge the former, for the following reasons:

1. Setting aside what was involved in the doctrine of a Trinity
(which is otherwise represented), we have no evidence that there
was any such substantive body of primitive tradition respecting the
Holy Spirit, as would be likely to form the nucleus of a separate
mythological impersonation, and especially of one endowed with such
comprehensiveness, solidity, and activity of function as Minerva.
Whereas it appears that there was that kind of substantive tradition
with respect to the Λόγος, the Word or Wisdom of God.

2. In the order of primitive tradition, the Son of God would precede
the Holy Spirit, as is the case in the order of the Christian dogma;
and the fragments of such tradition, when carried into mythology, would
preserve and probably exaggerate, at any rate would not invert, the
relation. But in the Homeric mythology, Minerva has a decided practical
precedence over Apollo, and above all, when they come into collision,
it is Apollo that yields, as in the incidents of the Seventh and Tenth
Iliads, and in the general issue of the Trojan war.

3. But this difference is just what might be expected to follow, upon
the natural divergence of the two traditions of the Word and the
Incarnate Messiah respectively. The latter, as more human, would take
rank after the former as more Divine.

4. We have also found a greater tendency on the part of Minerva to
act independently of Jupiter. This is no unnatural diversion from the
tradition of the Λόγος, but it would be hard to connect ideally with
the Holy Spirit, who has not, in the ancient tradition, the same amount
or kind of separate development as the Messiah.

~_Müller’s treatment of Apollo._~

The functions of Apollo, and the nature, extent, and history of his
worship have been investigated at great length by Müller, in the Second
Book of his learned and able History and Antiquities of the Doric race.
He has shown the immense importance of this deity in Greek history
and religion, reaching every where, and embracing every object and
purpose. He recognises the apparent antagonism subsisting among his
infinitely varied functions; which he makes elaborate and ingenious,
but I think necessarily insufficient, efforts to trace ideally to an
union of origin within the mythological system. His hypothesis, that
the worship of Apollo was wholly due to Dorian influence, requires the
support of the most violently strained assumptions; as for example,
that its prevalence, apparently at all points, in Troas is to be
accounted for by Cretan influences there, which, at the most, tradition
would only warrant us in believing to have existed in a very contracted
form, and with influence altogether secondary. Altogether, this sheer
Dorianism of Apollo is at variance with the whole spirit and effect
of the Homeric testimony; for in Homer the Dorians are insignificant
and undeveloped, while the power and worship of Apollo had attained,
as we have seen, to an extraordinary height, and to the very broadest
range. Again, Müller[247] acknowledges the great difficulty of the
dualism presented to us by the figures, concurring as they do in such
remarkable functions, of Apollo and Diana: a difficulty, which he seems
to think incapable of full explanation. While attaching great value
to his treatise, I have the less hesitation in adopting conclusions
that he does not authorize, because his work is based in some degree
upon that (as I presume to think) defective mode of appreciation of the
Homeric as compared with the later traditions, against which I have
ventured to protest, and from the consequences of which it is one of my
main objects to effect at least a partial escape.

[247] B. II. ch. ix. 2. and 9.

It will have appeared from this general account of the traditive
characters of Apollo and Minerva, that the former represented the
tradition of a person, and the latter of an idea. Accordingly, the
original character of Apollo, which he bore during the infancy of the
mythical system, is in many points the more significantly marked;
as for example, by his share in the War with the Giants, and by his
mysterious relation to Death.

But it was natural that, in the course of time, as tradition in general
grew weaker with the increasing distance from its source, and as the
inventive system enlarged its development, those particular traditions,
which were self-explained by having their root in an intelligible idea,
should hold their ground much better than such as had become mythical
and arbitrary by having lost their key. The traditional Minerva had an
anchorage in the great function of Wisdom; the traditional Apollo had
no support equal to this in breadth and depth; and his attributes, the
band of revelation being removed, lost their harmony and could ill be
held together.

Accordingly we find that in the later ages of the mythology Apollo had
lost much of what was transcendant in his importance, but that Minerva
retained her full rank. One and the same Ode of Horace supplies the
proof of both. He places Apollo on a level not only with Diana, but
with Bacchus[248]:

[248] Hor. Od. I. xii. 21.

  Prœliis audax, neque te silebo,
  Liber: et sævis inimica virgo
  Belluis; nec te mutuende certâ,
                  Phœbe, sagittâ.

But, after having described the supreme and transcendant dignity of
Jupiter, he at once proceeds to place Pallas before every other deity
without exception[249]:

[249] Ibid. 17. Compare the passages cited by Nägelsbach, Hom. Theol.
I. ii. 21. Hesiod Theog. 896. Callim. Lav. Pall. 132. Plutarch. Sympos.
ii. p. 617. C. Pind. Fragm. xi. 9. and the Orphic Poet in Düntzer, p.

  Unde nîl majus generatur ipso:
  Nec viget quicquam simile aut secundum;
  Proximos illi tamen occupavit
                  Pallas honores.

I will now pass on to consider the remaining vestiges of original
tradition perceivable in Homer.

~_The Diana of Homer._~

Like the Moon to the Sun, an analogy maintained by their respective
assumption of the two characters in the later mythology, Diana is a
reflection, and in most respects a faint reflection, of Apollo.

She was worshipped, says Müller[250], in the character of ‘as it were a
part of the same deity.’ He collects and reviews, from the whole circle
of Greek history and mythology, the points of coincidence between them:
and notices particularly, that like him she is both λυκεία and οὐλία,
both the destroyer and the preserver; that she administers her office
as angel of Death, sometimes in wrath and sometimes without it; and
that her name Artemis, meaning, as he conceives, healthy and uninjured,
is in close correspondence with those of Phœbus Apollo.

[250] Dorians, ii. ch. 9.

All this is in conformity with what we gather from the poems of Homer:
but those poems have spared us many of the confused and perplexing
phenomena, which are presented by the later mythology.

One side of the divided Messianic tradition, its purity, is best
represented in Diana, through her severe and spotless chastity. Its
force and scope are much more largely developed in Apollo. But this
high purity, and the double aspect of the ministry of Death, appear
to be of themselves sufficient to stamp her beyond mistake with a
traditionary origin. Small resemblances, too, as well as great ones,
are traceable in Homer between her and Apollo, such as her golden
throne and golden distaff, which may be compared to his golden sword,
the sword of primeval light: and even these minor correspondences may
in their own degree bear witness to the original and integral shape of
the tradition.

If she is thus clothed in a sort of lunar light, and is in the main
a reflection of Apollo upon earth, such we may probably consider
Persephone in the Shades[251].

[251] See ‘Persephone’ in section iii.

Let us, however, consider what can be gathered from Homer as to the
attributes of Diana.

This deity would appear to have been, according to him, a deity
of universal worship. We may perhaps safely infer thus much from
the single fact of her ministry of Death. She is also represented
as extending her agency to Troy, where she taught Scamandrius to
hunt[252]; probably to Crete, in the case of the daughters of
Pandareos; she is invoked in Ithaca by Penelope, puts Ariadne to death
in Dia, exercises a similar function for the women in Συρίη, sends the
Calydonian boar for a defect of homage in Ætolia, and is familiarly
mentioned in connection with the Greeks generally, while her place in
the Theomachy may suffice to mark her as also a Pelasgian goddess.
In most points, however, she partakes largely, as might be expected,
of the characteristics of the ordinary deities of invention. Had she
repeated all the chief notes of Apollo, and with any thing like an
equal force, the question of traditional origin would perhaps have been
more doubtful than it now is.

[252] Il. v. 49-52.

When she is invoked by Penelope, it is in connection with her share of
the special ministry of death[253]. She is nowhere else made the object
of prayer.

[253] Od. xx. 61.

It is her deep resentment at the omission of sacrifice which provokes
her to send the Calydonian boar[254]. In the Fifth Iliad, she and
her mother Latona appear as deities purely subsidiary to Apollo. He
deposits Æneas in his temple: there, not in a temple of their own,
Latona and Diana attend upon and heal him[255].

[254] Il. ix. 533-7.

[255] Il. v. 444-7.

In the Theomachy, she is treated with the same ignominy as Mars and
Venus, but by Juno instead of Minerva. Her railing address to Apollo is
conceived in the lower and not in the higher spirit (Il. xxi. 472-7).

She never assumes a general power, either over man in mind or body, or
over outward nature.

She has no share in the general movement of either poem, and is
introduced in the great majority of instances by way of allusion only.

Her near relation to Apollo gives a certain grandeur to her position:
but the inventive elements of the representation greatly obscure and
even partially overbear the traditional.

Her side in the Trojan war is to be explained by her relation to
Apollo. In all other points she seems to be a goddess of associations
more properly Greek, perhaps in consequence of their greater addiction
to hunting.

In treating the Homeric Diana as a personage principally ancillary
to Apollo, and equipped with reflections, or stray fragments, of
prerogatives chiefly belonging to him, I do not attempt to foreclose
the question what may have been the origin of her name, or whether she
may be connected with any mythological original in the religions of the
East or of Egypt.

Döllinger conceives that the union of Diana with Apollo was Greek,
and that they were not originally in relation with one another;
while he justly observes, that this deity, like Apollo, has a great
and inexplicable diversity of function. She, like other deities of
Greece, has been thought to represent the Astarte of the Syrians.
Again, Herodotus[256] has given us most curious information respecting
the gods of the Scythians, whom we have found to be related to the
Pelasgi. They worship, he states, the Celestial Venus under the name
of Artimpasa. This name, it has been ingeniously conjectured[257], is
composed (1) of the name Mitra, which the Persians gave to Venus[258],
and which reversed becomes Artim, and (2) of the Sanscrit _Bhas_,
meaning _shine_, and thus corresponding with the Φοῖβος of Apollo,
and the Γλαυκῶπις of Pallas: all of them being, as it were, shreds of
the tradition fully represented in the Shechinah of the Jews, and the
‘Light’ of Saint John. This also corresponds with the cluster of golden
epithets, the χρυσηλάκατος, χρυσήνιος, and χρυσόθρονος, which Homer
applies to Diana: and the very feebleness of Diana in the Theomachy
suggests that the Eastern prototype of Venus, the Mitra of the
Persians, was originally no more than a degenerate derivation from a
higher tradition, which found a more natural, but still only a partial,
expression in the majestic and chaste, as well as beautiful, Artemis.

[256] Herod, iv. 59.

[257] Welsford on the English Language, chap. iii. p. 78.

[258] Herod, i. 131.

~_The Latona of Homer._~

We have next to consider the Homeric delineation of Latona, the mother
of Apollo and of Diana.

It is scarcely possible to avoid being struck, on turning to this
portraiture, with the contrast between the slightness of the outline
and the real dignity of the features and position. This contrast,
like the greater one relating to Apollo, seems to have its key in the
traditional origin of the representation: and there is no one Homeric
deity, whose case, when fully considered, can afford a more marked
testimony to the hypothesis of a strong element of traditive theology
in the religious system of the Poems.

Why has she a position so different from that of any other wife or
concubine of Jupiter: such, for example, as Dione or Demeter?

Why is it so much elevated above that of any among them, except only

How comes she to have a son so incomparably superior in rank, in power,
and in the affections of his father, to any child of Juno herself, the
πρεσβὰ θεά?

Why, being thus great, is she wholly unfurnished with attributes or
functions, either general or specific?

Why, on the other hand, does so much obscurity hang about her origin,
and what are we to say as to her divinity, in answer to the question,
whether it was original or acquired?

The name of Latona appears to have been a perpetual puzzle to the
expounders of Greek mythology. It is taken to mean Night, which,
combined with Day, produces the Sun[259]; or ‘obscure,’ or ‘concealed,’
as that from which issues the visible deity, the Sun in heaven.
But surely these explanations can have no bearing upon the Homeric
mythology, where it is matter of question even whether Apollo and the
Sun have any mutual relations at all, and where it is quite clear
that the personality of Apollo is far older and riper, as well as far
higher and more comprehensive; which implies of necessity, that Latona
must have been known, and must have held her place, quite apart from
any relation to the Sun. An explanation of this kind is simply an
indication, that the problem has not yet been solved.

[259] Döllinger Heid. u. Jud. p. 71. Smith’s Dict. art. Leto.

But now, if we presume Apollo to be the representative of the Messianic
tradition, that the Seed of the woman should crush the serpent’s head,
the state of the case is entirely changed. And the explanation of
the name in particular, instead of being hopeless, becomes easy, and
even auxiliary to the general hypothesis. For now Latona stands in
the tradition as a person anterior to the whole Olympian mythology:
a person for whose extraction that mythology does not and ought not
to account. Its Jupiter and Juno are referred to a parentage, that of
Κρόνος and Ῥέα, and through these perhaps afresh to Oceanus and Tethys
as their ultimate source. Everything, again, that is connected with the
genesis of the Olympian system, properly so called, is made to conform
to anthropomorphous ideas: but here are two of its deities, one of
them among its very greatest, who have a mother that forms part of the
earliest known tradition respecting them, while that mother is herself
without an origin. What could be more natural, than that a name should
fasten itself upon her, simply importing that, illustrious as was her
motherhood, the fountain-head of her own life and destiny was lost in
oblivion? For it lay beyond the point from which all mythical knowledge
was held to spring. A certain motherhood was known of her, and that was

Again, the mother of the Deliverer was to be a woman. But in the
Greek mythology it could not be, that a woman should stand as the
giver of life to one of its most august divinities. Yet the woman
of the tradition could not be transferred from the tradition as a
great substantive personage into the Greek mythology, because in the
tradition she stood an unembellished figure, wholly without attributes.
Hence invention would, on taking over the tradition, be at fault; and
could not but present to us an ambiguous and inconsistent picture, such
as now stands before us in the Latona of Homer.

Let us next set forth the facts regarding Latona, as they stand in the

In the first place, then, her divinity is beyond all doubt; for she is
one of those deities who take part in the war[260], and this although,
almost alone among them, she has no office whatever to associate
her with it, and no part to play in the conduct of it. She ranges
herself on the side of the Trojans; apparently, like Diana, drawn in
that direction by Apollo, the central and really important figure
of the group. While Venus, who appears in the first enumeration, is
omitted in the array[261] of deities for action, Latona has Mercury
assigned to her for an antagonist. And, when the crisis comes, we
observe in her case a marked instance of that care, with which Homer
preserves her, like the greater traditive deities, from anything like
discredit. Mercury declines the combat, on the ground that it is
hard to fight against the wives of Jupiter; and tells her she is at
liberty to announce that she has vanquished him. Whence has this pale
and colourless figure such very high honour so jealously asserted for

[260] Il. xx. 40.

[261] Ibid. 72.

[262] Il. xx. 497-501.

When Niobe, proud of her numerous offspring, taunts Latona as the
mother of only two children, summary and awful punishment follows: the
children are slain, the unhappy mother is turned to stone. Yet she
herself takes no part in the vengeance, a fact remarkably in harmony
with her place as defined by the primitive tradition of Holy Scripture.
Of the three or four suffering figures in the Shades, only one has the
cause of his punishment stated, and it is much the severest of all. It
is Tityus, whose entrails are continually devoured by vultures, because
he offered violence to Latona as she was going to the Pythian temple of
her son.

When, in the Fourteenth Iliad, Jupiter recites the mothers of certain
of his offspring, beginning with women and ending with goddesses,
Latona appears in the latter category, after Ceres and before Juno:
and, as the scale is an ascending one, she must clearly rank before the
first and next to the last named deity.

There are, however, various indications that this had not always been
so: but that, according to original tradition, she had been of the
human order, and had undergone a sort of translation into the ranks of
the Immortals.

The first of these is the taunt of Niobe. The boast of richer
fecundity is natural in a human mother’s mouth, as against another
mother reputed to be human[263]; but entirely strange and absurd, if
we suppose it directed against a deity. Dione and Demeter have but one
child each. Nor is there a marked difference in this respect between
the Latona and the Juno of Homer; for Juno’s children are but two, or
at most three[264].

[263] Il. xxiv. 608.

[264] I do not reckon the Εἰλιθυῖαι, who appear to be purely poetical
and figurative daughters of Juno, like the Muses of Jupiter; and as
Terror is the son of Mars. Il. xi. 270. 1. ii. 491. xiii. 299.

Next, we can account for the origin and parentage of all the great
Olympian deities of Homer, with the single exception of Latona. She
is no one’s daughter, no one’s sister: but is a wife (that also
equivocally), and a mother only. When, indeed, we part company with
Homer, the scene changes, and a father is found for her in the Hymns:
she is the daughter, according to one reading, of Saturn,

  κυδίστη θύγατερ μεγάλοιο Κρόνοιο[265].

[265] Hymn. ad Apoll. 62.

In Hesiod she is the daughter of a Titan: but even here she retains
this mark of a most ancient tradition, that she is said to have been
married to Jupiter before the great Juno[266]: though she comes after
Metis, or Wisdom, the oldest of all his consorts; an order not at
variance with the traditional ideas.

[266] Theogon. 918-21.

~_Her anomalous position in mythology._~

But there must have been some cause or process that brought her into
the Homeric Olympus, an anomaly alike among mortals and Immortals. What
could it have been, except an illustrious maternity, to account for her
elevation, and at the same time her original womanhood to account for
the blank in the descent and consanguinity, and for her total want of

It must be granted that there is a certain degree of resemblance
between Latona and Dione: turning mainly upon this, that Dione seems
to be in Olympus without either dignity or power, and simply as the
vehicle, through which her daughter Venus was brought into existence.
But then the want of basis is in her case immediately made evident by
results. Even in Homer she is not among the gods of the Theomachy; nor
is she named among the mothers in the Fourteenth Book; and Hesiod,
though she is invoked in the suspected Proem of his Theogony, entirely
passes her over in the body of it, and furnishes Venus with another
origin. She remains all but a cipher ever after.

Again, the epithets attached to Latona are such as to leave her, and
her alone among all deities of such dignity, wholly functionless, and
also wholly inactive. I distinguish the two, because Juno has only a
limited function, but she has power, and an immense activity. Latona
has beauty and majesty, qualities which appertain to every goddess as
such: she is καλλιπάρῃος, εὐπλόκαμος, καλλιπλόκαμος, χρυσοπλόκαμος,
ἠΰκομος, κυδρὴ, πότνια, and ἐρικύδης: and we may observe in the more
personal portion of these epithets how Homer, with his usual skill, has
avoided placing her in any kind of rivalry with Juno, who is usually
praised for her eyes and arms, not her cheeks and hair. But they all
leave her void of purpose; and she must stand as a sheer anomaly,
unless there is some better explanation of her being and place in
mythology, than mythology itself can supply.

~_Her relation to primitive Tradition._~

Even in the later tradition, Latona never gains a definite office: she
remains all along without any meaning or purpose intrinsic to herself:
she shines only in the reflected glory of her offspring, and is
commonly worshipped only in union with them[267]. If therefore it has
been shown, that the mythological character of Apollo is clearly the
vehicle of the ancient tradition, known to us in the Book of Genesis,
respecting the Seed of the woman, it seems plain that in Latona is
represented the woman from whom that Seed was to spring.

[267] Smith’s Dict., art. Leto.

I do not presume to enter into the question whether we ought to
consider that the Latona of Homer represents the Blessed Virgin, who
was divinely elected to be the actual mother of our Lord; or rather our
ancient mother Eve, whose seed He was also in a peculiar sense to be.

So far as personal application is concerned, the same arguments might
be used upon the subject, as upon the interpretation of the original
promise recorded in Scripture: and the question is one rather of the
interpretation of Scripture, than of Homer. The relation which appears
to me to be proved from the text of the poems, is between the deity
called Latona and the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Genesis.
As to all beyond this, I should suppose it perhaps more just to regard
her as a typical person, exhibiting through womanhood the truth of
our Blessed Lord’s humanity, than as the mere representative of any
individual personage.

Backward as is the position of Latona in the practical religion
of Homer, the universal recognition of the deity is sufficiently
established: on the one hand by her place among the deities of the
Trojan party; on the other, by the punishment of Niobe for an offence
against her either in Greece, or at the least in a recognised Greek
legend; by the punishment of Tityus; and by her inclusion in the
Catalogue of the Fourteenth Iliad.

~_Her slightness of action._~

To this very remarkable deity no utterance of any kind is ever ascribed
by Homer, and with, I think, three small exceptions, nothing of
personal and individual action. Even when she takes her place among
the deities in the array of battle, it is not said that she stood up
against Mercury, but simply that Mercury stood up against her[268].

[268] Il. xx. 72.

The three cases are as follows. First, when he makes over to her the
victory in waiving the fight, she offers no reply; but simply picks up
her daughter Diana’s bow and arrows, and goes after her, apparently
with the intention of offering her comfort. The next action[269]
attributed to her is this: that when Apollo[270] has carried the
bruised and stunned Æneas into his temple on Pergamus, Latona and
Diana tend him there. Thus both of these actions exhibit her in strict
ideal subordination, so to speak, to one of her children, as though
by tradition she existed only for them. But the second is especially
remarkable, and alike illustrative of the traditional basis of the
Mother and of the Son.

[269] Il. xxi. 496-504.

[270] Il. v. 445. _et seqq._

In the first place, as it appears to me, there can hardly be a
circumstance more singular, according to the principles of the Greek
mythology, than that any one deity should be introduced as acting, not
in her own temple, but in the temple of another. Such however is here
the case with Latona and Diana in the temple of Apollo.

Next, they are acting as purely ministerial to him. They do not enter
into the fray: it is he who has been there, and who, having deposited
Æneas, immediately prosecutes the affairs of the battle-field, while
they, as his satellites, give effect to his purpose in setting about
the restoration of the disabled warrior.

Lastly, the significance of this action is raised to the highest point,
when we recollect that this is a mother executing the design of her
son. Latona’s action in the Twenty-first Book, like that of Dione with
Venus, can be accounted for by her maternal character. But there is
no case in the Homeric poems besides this, where we see a parent-god
thus acting ministerially in the execution of the plans of his or her
offspring. The primeval tradition, once admitted as the basis of the
mythological group, furnishes us with the key to what would otherwise
be another great anomaly.

The third case is in entire harmony with the other two. Tityus, the son
of Earth, is tortured in the nether world for having offered violence
to Latona, and the crime was committed when she was on her way through
Panopeus to Delphi. This was probably the route from Delos to that
place: so that again the poet seems to represent Latona in close but
subordinate connection with her son, by making her travel between the
seats of his two already famous oracles.

Apollo, then, with Latona and Diana, forms a group; and the origin
of the combination is to be sought in primitive tradition. It is not
necessary to show that the personages thus associated maintained their
association in all the religions of the East. I admit that we are not
to suppose, that the idea of this combination passed direct from the
patriarchs into Greece. The most natural place in which to seek for
traces of it would be, in the religion of the Persians, anterior to
the time of Homer. Unfortunately we have no accounts of it at any
such date. But our failing to find these three deities in a company,
or to find any germ which might have been developed into that company,
in accounts later by probably five or six centuries at least, raises
no presumption whatever against the hypothesis that we may owe the
representation, as it stands in Homer, to historical derivation through
the forefathers of the Hellic tribes, from some such period as that
when, for example, Abraham dwelt in Ur of the Chaldees[271].

[271] Gen. xi. 31. Acts vii. 2.

~_The Iris of Homer._~

Iris, the messenger goddess, the last, and also by much the least
important of the personages to whom I ascribe a traditive origin, is
perhaps not the least clear in her title to it.

Her title to rank as one of the deities of the ordinary Olympian
assemblage is not subject to doubt. It depends partly on the fact that
she is always at hand there. But it is established more distinctly
still by the passage, which represents her as carrying to the palace
of Zephyr the prayer of Achilles. She finds the Winds engaged in a
banquet, and they eagerly solicit her to sit and feast with them.
She answers them, like one desirous to escape from second-rate into
first-rate company, to the effect that she has not time: the Ethiopians
are just about supplying the greater gods with a banquet from their
hecatombs; and she must repair to that quarter accordingly, as
otherwise she will lose her share of the offerings[272].

[272] Il. xxiii. 198-212.

With respect to her position generally, we have no mark of her being
foreign; and all the traditive deities, it may be observed, are
sufficiently, though not exclusively national. Again, we have no mark
of her being recent; on the contrary, she is without parents, and
this, though not conclusive, is a sign to the opposite effect.

Iris has no original action whatever, but is simply a willing servant
of other deities; nor does she disdain spontaneously to officiate
on behalf of a distinguished human object of their favour, like
Achilles[273]. Only once have we an account of her bringing an order
without the name of the sender: it is when she appears to Helen, and
exhorts her to repair to the Wall[274]. She is not, however, said even
in this place to act on her own account; and we ought probably to
understand that, according to the general rule, she comes from Jupiter.
It is added, that she inspired Helen with a longing sentiment towards
her former husband and country, but this, as is most likely, is meant
simply to describe the effect of her words in the ordinary manner of
their operation on the understanding. This ancillary character of
Iris is exactly what she would bear, if her origin really lay in the
primitive tradition of the rainbow.

[273] Il. xxiii. 198-212.

[274] Il. iii. 121.

But what seems decisively to establish her relation to that tradition
is, that she is firmly connected in Homer with two things that have
in themselves no connection whatever, and between which that ancient
tradition is the only link.

In the first place, her identity of name is the witness to her original
connection with the rainbow[275]: which, however, as a standing and
ordinary phenomenon of nature, did not bear, apart from positive
appointment, in any manner the character of a messenger: and hence we
find that by disintegration the two ideas had been entirely separated
before the time of Homer, and the name itself is the only remaining
witness in the poems to their having been at some former period
associated. The function of the messenger was kept in action by the
occasions of the Olympian family and polity. In this manner, as the
stronger of the two ideas, it held its ground, and took possession of
the personal Iris, while the rainbow, though still conceived of as a
sign to mortals[276], appears to have been regarded as separate.

[275] Il. xi. 27.

[276] Il. xi. 29.

Of the character of the messenger we find that Iris had so completely
become the model, that her name, only modified into Iros, is given to
Arnæus, the ribald and burly beggar of the Odyssey, only because he was
a go-between, or errand-carrier:

  οὕνεκ’ ἀπαγγέλλεσκε κιὼν, ὅτε πού τις ἀνώγοι[277].

[277] Od. xviii. 7.

The hypothesis, then, of traditional origin is the key, and the only
key, to the position of the Homeric Iris.

~_The Atè of Homer._~

Before quitting the precinct of the primeval tradition discoverable
in Homer, we have yet one very remarkable group of impersonations to
consider, that in which the goddess Ἄτη is the leading figure. Commonly
regarded as meaning Mischief, the word is not capable of being fully
rendered in English: but Guile is its primary idea, in the train of
which come the sister notions of Folly and Calamity.

Ἄτη both wishes and suggests all ill to mortals; but she does not seem
in Homer to have any power of injuring them, except through channels,
which have been wholly or partially opened to her by their own volition.

The Ἄτη of the later Greeks is Calamity simply, with a shadow of
Destiny hanging in the distance; as in the magnificent figure of the
lion’s cub in Æschylus[278]. But the word never bears in Homer the
sense of calamity coming simply from without. This is evident even
from the large and general description, where she appears in company
with the Λιταί[279]. Vigorous and nimble, she ranges over the whole
earth for mischief. After her, slowly lag the Prayers or Λιταὶ,
honoured however in being, like her, daughters of Jupiter. These are
limping, decrepit, and unable to see straight before them. The leading
idea of Ἄτη is not force, but cunning. She is the power that tempts
and misleads men to their own cost or ruin, as they afterwards find
out. Nay, she tempts the deity also: for she beguiles even Jupiter
himself[280] when Hercules is about to be born, and induces him
thoughtlessly to promise what will, through Juno’s craft, overturn
his own dearly cherished plans. For this excess of daring, however,
she herself suffers. Jupiter seizes her by the hair, and hurls her
from Olympus, apparently her native seat. Thenceforward she can only
exercise her function among men; who, when they have yielded to the
seduction, and tasted the ashes under the golden fruit, at length set
about repentance or prayer:

[278] Æsch. Agam. 696-715.

[279] Il. ix. 499-514.

[280] Il. xix. 95 seqq.

  All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost![281]

[281] Tempest, I. 1.

Now though the impersonation of Atè in Homer is one of the
indeterminate class, it is surely a mistake to treat it as representing
the mere poetical incorporation of an abstract idea. On the contrary,
we seem to find in it the old tradition of the Evil One as the Tempter;
and it may be said that the word Temptress would best represent the
Homeric idea of Ἄτη. In this sense it will supply a consistent meaning
to the fine passage in the speech of Phœnix: for we are swift, so says
the Poet, to fall into temptation, and to offend, ingenious only in
not seeing our fault, and covering it with excuses: but slow, and like
the half-hearted, decrepit Λιταί, when we have to make our entreaties
for pardon, and to think of restitution and amendment. Yet as even the
gods listen to their entreaties, ‘so,’ says Phœnix, ‘shouldst thou, O
Achilles: and if thou dost not, then mayest yet thyself fall.’ But if
Ἄτη meant only misfortune, the passage loses all its harmony, and even
becomes absurd; for surely none will say that men are slow to discern
adversity, or to offer petitions, wherever they have a prospect of
being heard, for relief from it.

There is no passage which appears to me more characteristic of the true
distinctive character of the Homeric Ἄτη, than that in which Dolon
confesses his folly[282]:

[282] Il. x. 390.

  πολλῇσίν μ’ ἄτῃσι παρὲκ νόον ἤγαγεν Ἕκτωρ.

Here we have Hector, the tempter: ἄται, the temptation: νόος, the sound
mind, from which temptation diverted the self-duped simpleton: ἤγαγεν,
expressive of the medium, namely, through volition, and not by force.

The elements combined in the idea of the Homeric Ἄτη, and the
conditions of her action, may be presented together as follows:

1. She takes the reins of the understanding and conduct of a man.

2. She effects this not by force from without, but through the medium
of his own will and inward consent, whether unconscious or express.

3. Under her dominion he commits offences against the moral law, or the
law of prudence.

4. These offences are followed by his retributive sufferings.

The function of the Tempter is here represented with great precision;
but two essential variations have come to be perceptible in the idea
taken as a whole.

The first, that this Ἄτη is herself sometimes prompted or sent by
others, as by Ἐρίνυς, (Od. xv. 234,) or by her with Ζεὺς and Μοῖρα, as
in Il. xix. 87. And accordingly she too is a daughter, nay, the eldest
daughter, of Jupiter himself[283].

[283] Il. xix. 91.

The second variation is this: that offences against the mere law of
prudence find their way into precisely the same category with sins; or,
in other words, the true idea of sin had been lost. Ἄτη the person, and
ἄτη the effect, are, moreover, frequently blended by the Poet.

Among the principal Ἄται of Homer are those,

1. Of Jupiter, Il. xix. 91-129.

2. Of Dolon, Il. x. 391; leading him to accept the proposal of Hector.

3. Of Melampus, Od. xv. 233, 4, causing him to undertake an enterprise
beyond his means on account of the daughter of Neleus.

All of which are against the law of prudence and forethought.

4. Of Agamemnon, Il. xix. 88, 134-8.

5. Of Paris, Il. vi. 356, xxiv. 28.

6. Of Helen, Od. iv. 261. xxiii. 223.

7. Of manslaughter, Il. xxiv. 480.

8. Of the drunken centaur Eurytion, who had his ears and nose cut off
for his excesses, Od. xxi. 296-302.

In one place only of Homer, ἄτη seems to mean calamity not imputable
to the sufferer’s fault, further than by some slight want of vigilance.
This is the ἄτη charged upon Ulysses, when his companions destroy the
oxen of the Sun, Od. xii. 372. At least he had no further share in that
matter than that, by going to sleep, he left his comrades to act for

The long continued misconduct of the Suitors is never described as
their ἄτη: probably because the word properly signifies a particular
temptation followed by a particular act, rather than a continued course
of action.

This, again, serves the more closely to associate Ἄτη with the
primitive tradition of the Fall of Man.

The higher form of human wickedness, which is attended with deliberate
and obstinate persistence in wrong, is not ἄτη but ἀτασθαλίη. Such is
the wickedness of Ægisthus and of the Suitors; such also that of the
Giants. The same phrase is applied to the crew of Ulysses, who devoured
the oxen of the Sun[284]: and this appears to conform to the view taken
of their offence in the poems, however anomalous that view itself may

[284] Od. i. 7.

~_Other traditions of the Evil One._~

I will now gather into one view the dispersed fragments of tradition
concerning the Evil One which seem to be discernible in Homer.

1. Ἄτη is the first, and the one which comes nearest to presenting a
general outline.

2. A second is found in Κρόνος[285], who aims at the destruction of
Godhead in its supreme representatives, and is thrust down to Tartarus
by Jupiter. And we may here observe an important distinction.

[285] Il. xiv. 203. viii. 478. where Iapetus is joined with Κρόνος. Of
him we have no other mention in Homer.

Some persons, like Tityus, offend against a particular person who had
taken a place in the Olympian Court; or else, apparently like Orion,
offend the gods in general by their presumption. They are punished in
the Shades. But those who have aimed at the dethronement or destruction
of Godhead itself are in the far deeper darkness of Tartarus[286].
I suggest this as a possible explanation of the double place of
punishment; which is otherwise apparently a gross solecism in the
Homeric system.

[286] Il. viii. 13-18.

3. To the latter class of offenders belong the Titans, who most
pointedly represent the element of Force in the ancient traditions,
while Ἄτη embodies that of Guile.

These are the θεοὶ ὑποταρτάρεοι, or the ἐνέρτεροι, or ἔνερθε θεοὶ,
who form the infernal court of Κρόνος; Κρόνον ἄμφις ἐόντες (Il.
xiv. 274, 9. xv. 225). They are evidently themselves in a state of
penal suffering; but they must also have the power of inflicting the
severest punishment on some other offenders; for they, and not Aides or
Persephone, seem to be the persons called to be witnesses of the solemn
oath for the avoidance of perjury, taken by Juno in the Fourteenth

[287] Il. xiv. 273, 278.

4. Of these Titans two are apparently named in the persons of Otus and
Ephialtes, children of Neptune.

5. To the same class, in all probability, belong the Giants, led by
Eurymedon, and born of the same mythological father. Od. vii. 58.

6. It is likely that Typhoeus may have been of the same company;
for although he is not stated to be in Tartarus, yet his position
corresponds with it in the essential feature of being under the earth.
(Il. ii. 782. viii. 14). Homer does not indeed expressly say, that Otus
and Ephialtes were Titans, nor that Eurymedon was of the same band; nor
yet that the Titans were rebels against heaven. But his images are so
combined round certain points as to make this matter of safe and clear

For the Titans are in Tartarus, and are with and attached to Κρόνος,
whom Jupiter thrust down thither. And the giants under Eurymedon, for
their mad audacity, are driven to perdition[288]. Lastly, Otus and
Ephialtes, who made war upon heaven, and whom Apollo quelled, not
appearing, like their mother Iphimedea, in the Shades of the Eleventh
Odyssey, can only be in Tartarus[289].

[288] Od. vii. 60.

[289] Od. xi. 305-20.

From the scattered traditions we may collect and combine the essential
points. In Otus and Ephialtes the rebellion is clearly stated, and in
Eurymedon it is manifestly implied. In the Titans, who are called θεοὶ,
and in their association with Κρόνος, as also in the high parentage of
the others, we have the celestial origin of the rebels. In the hurling
down of Κρόνος to Tartarus, we have the punishment which they all are
enduring, immediately associated with an act of supreme retribution.

7. Elsewhere will be found a notice of the singular relation, which
may be traced between Neptune and the tradition of the Evil One. This
relation is mythological in its basis: but it seems to proceed upon the
tradition, that the Evil One was next to the Highest.

8. A more recent form of the tradition concerning the great war in
heaven seems to be found in the revolt of the Immortals of Olympus,
headed by Juno, Neptune, and Minerva, against Jupiter, which was put
down by Briareus or Ægæon of the hundred hands.

Who this Ægæon was, we can only conjecture: he is nowhere else named
in Homer. From his having a double name, one in use among gods, and
the other among mortals, it might be conjectured that the immediate
source of this tradition was either Egypt, or some other country having
like Egypt an hieratic and also a demotic tongue. In its substance, it
can hardly be other than a separate and dislocated form of the same
idea, according to which we see Apollo handed down as the deliverer of
Olympus from rebellion. The expression that _all_ men (Il. i. 403.)
call him Ægæon, tends to universalize him, and thus to connect him with
Apollo. He is also (v. 403.) a son of Jupiter, avowedly superior to him
in strength:

  ὁ γὰρ αὖτε βίῃ οὗ πατρὸς ἀμείνων.

~_Citations from Holy Scripture._~

It is perhaps worth while to notice the coincidence between the
language of Homer as to the Giants, and that of the Books of the
Ancient Scriptures. Homer says of Eurymedon[290],

[290] Od. vii. 59.

  ὅς ποθ’ ὑπερθύμοισι Γιγάντεσσιν βασίλευεν·
  ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ὤλεσε λαὸν ἀτάσθαλον, ὤλετο δ’ αὐτός.

Either the rebellion, or the punishment in hell, of a wicked gang under
the name of Giants is referred to in the following passages of the
Old Testament and the Apocrypha. The allusion is not made evident, as
to the former set of passages, in the Authorized Version; I therefore
quote from the Septuagint or the Vulgate.

1. Job xxvi. 5. _Ecce gigantes gemunt sub aquis, et qui habitant cum
eis._ Vulgate. μὴ γίγαντες μαιωθήσονται ὑποκάτωθεν ὕδατος καὶ τῶν
γειτόνων αὐτοῦ; LXX.

2. Prov. ii. 18. ἔθετο γὰρ παρὰ τῷ θανάτῳ τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς, καὶ παρὰ τῷ
ἅδῃ μετὰ τῶν γηγένων τοὺς ἄξονας αὐτῆς. LXX.

3. Prov. xxi. 16. _Vir, qui erraverit a viâ doctrinæ, in cœtu gigantum
commorabitur._ Vulg. ἀνὴρ πλανώμενος ἐξ ὅδου δικαιοσύνης ἐν συναγωγῇ
γιγάντων ἀναπαύσεται. LXX.

See Gen. vi. 4, 5: in which we perhaps see the original link between
the Giants, and the rebellion of the fallen angels described by St.
Jude, ver. 6: ‘And the angels which kept not their first estate, but
left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under
darkness unto the judgment of the great day.’

We have also the corresponding declaration of St. Peter: ‘God spared
not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered
them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared
not the old world[291].’

[291] St. Pet. ii. 2. 4. 5.

Again, in the Apocryphal Books.

1. Wisdom xiv. 6. ‘In the old time also, when the proud giants
perished, the hope of the world, governed by thy hand, escaped in a
weak vessel.’ Auth. Version.

2. Ecclus. xvi. 7. ‘He was not pacified toward the old giants, who fell
away in the strength of their foolishness.’ Auth. Version.

3. Baruch iii. 26, 8. ‘There were giants famous from the beginning....
But they were destroyed, because they had no wisdom, and perished
through their own foolishness.’ Auth. Version.

We thus appear to find in Homer many displaced fragments of the old
traditions of the Bible with respect to the Evil One. In the later
Greek and the Roman literature, the traditions on the same subject had
almost entirely lost their likeness to their original. The figure of
Ἄτη, and the idea of spiritual danger to man through guile tempting
him extrinsically but inwardly, entirely disappears. There remains
only the recollection of a contest waged by brute force, and a solitary
remnant of forgotten truth in the fame still adhering to Apollo, that
he had been the deliverer and conqueror, who in the critical hour
vindicated the supremacy of heaven. In the time of Horace even this
recollection had become darkened and confused.

From the Homeric traditions of the Evil One and the fallen angels, we
may properly pass to those of a future state, which involves, partially
at least, the idea of retribution.

~_The Future State in Homer._~

The representations of the future state in Homer are perhaps the more
interesting, because it may be doubted whether they are, logically,
quite consistent with one another. For this want of consistency becomes
of itself a negative argument in support of the belief that, as they
are not capable of being referred to any one generative idea or system,
they may be distorted copies or misunderstood portions of primitive

Another reason for referring them to this origin appears to be found in
their gradual deterioration after the time of Homer. In his theology,
future retribution appears as a real sanction of the moral law. In the
later history, and generally in the philosophy of Paganism, it has
lost this place: practically, a phantasmagoria was substituted for
what had been at least a subjective reality: and the most sincere and
penetrating minds thought it absurd to associate anything of substance
with the condition of the dead[292]. The moral ideas connected with it
appear before us in descending series; and thus they point backwards
to the remotest period for their origin and their integrity.

[292] Arist. Eth. I. 10, 11.

Lastly, it would appear that the traditions themselves present to us
features of the unseen world, such, in a certain degree, as Divine
Revelation describes.

That world appears to us, in Homer, in three divisions.

First there is the Elysian plain, apparently under the government of
Rhadamanthus, at which Menelaus, as the favoured son-in-law of Jupiter,
is to arrive. It is, physically at least, furnished with all the
conditions of repose and happiness.

Next there is the region of Aides or Aidoneus, the ordinary receptacle
even of the illustrious dead, such as Achilles, Agamemnon, and the
older Greek heroes of divine extraction. Hither, if we may trust the
Twenty-fourth Odyssey, are carried the Suitors; and here is found the
insignificant Elpenor (Od. xi. 51).

Thirdly, there is the region of Tartarus, where Κρόνος and Ἰάπετος
reign. This is as far below Aides, as the heaven is upwards from the

[293] Il. viii. 16, 479.

There appears to be some want of clearness in the division between the
second region and the third as to their respective offices, and between
the second and the first as to their respective tenants.

The realm of Aides is, in general, not a place of punishment, but of
desolation and of gloom[294]. The shade of Agamemnon weeps aloud with
emotion and desire to clasp Ulysses: and Ulysses in vain attempts
to console Achilles, for having quitted ‘the warm precincts of the
cheerful day.’ But though their state is one of sadness, neither they
nor the dead who are named there are in general under any judicial
infliction. It is stated, indeed, that Minos[295] administers justice
among them; but we are not told whether, as seems most probable, this
is in determining decisively the fate of each, or whether he merely
disposes, as he might have done on earth, of such cases as chanced to
arise between any of them for adjudication.

[294] Od. xi. 391, 488.

[295] V. 569.

The only cases of decided penal infliction in the realm of Aides are
those of Tityus, Sisyphus, and Tantalus. Castor and Pollux, who appear
here, are evident objects of the favour of the gods[296]. Hercules,
like Helen of the later tradition, is curiously disintegrated.

[296] Od. xi. 302-4.

His εἴδωλον meets Ulysses, and speaks as if possessed of his identity:
but he himself (αὐτὸς) is enjoying reward among the Immortals. The
latter of these images represents the laborious and philanthropic side
of the character attributed to him, the former the reckless and brutal
one. Again it might be thought that the reason for the advancement of
Menelaus to Elysium, while Castor and Pollux belong to the under-world,
was the very virtuous character of that prince. He is, however, not
promoted thither for his virtues, but for being the son-in-law of
Jupiter by his marriage with Helen. And thus again, the son-in-law of
Jupiter is, as such, placed higher than his sons.

The proper and main business of Tartarus is to serve as a place of
punishment for deposed and condemned Immortals. There were Iapetos
and Κρόνος, there the Titans[297]: there probably Otus and Ephialtes,
who not only wounded Mars but assaulted Olympus[298]: there too, were
Eurymedon and the Giants, who perished by their ἀτασθάλιαι. Thither
it is that Jupiter threatens to hurl down offensive and refractory
divinities[299]. Direct rebellion against heaven seems to be the
specific offence which draws down the sentence of relegation to
Tartarus. Still in the Third Iliad Agamemnon invokes certain deities,
as the avengers of perjury upon man[300];

[297] Il. xiv. 274, 9.

[298] Il. v. Od. xi. 313.

[299] Il. v. 897, 8. viii. 10-17. 401-6.

[300] Il. iii. 278. cf. xiv. 274, 9.

                          καὶ οἱ ὑπένερθε καμόντας
  ἀνθρώπους τίνυσθον, ὅτις κ’ ἐπίορκον ὀμόσσῃ.

It is not clear whether this passage implies that all perjurors are
punished in Tartarus; or whether Aidoneus, Persephone, and the Erinues
are the subterraneous deities here intended: but as the Titans are
elsewhere only mentioned in express connection with Tartarus, and from
the description of the Erinues in Il. xix. 259, I incline to the latter

On the whole, then, there is some confusion between these compartments,
so to speak, of the invisible world. The realm of Aidoneus seems to
partake, in part, of the character both of Tartarus and of the Elysian
plain. In common with the former, it includes persons who were objects
of especial divine favour. In common with Tartarus, it is for some few,
at least, a scene of positive punishment.

Still, if we take the three according to their leading idea, they are
in substantial correspondence with divine revelation. There is the
place of bliss, the final destination of the good. There is the place
of torment, occupied by the Evil One and his rebellious companions:
and there is an intermediate state, the receptacle of the dead.
Here, as might be expected, the resemblance terminates; for as there
is no selection for entrance into the kingdom of Aides, so there
is no passage onwards from it. We need the less wonder at the too
comprehensive place it occupies, relatively to the places of reward
and punishment proper, in the Homeric scheme, when we remember what
a tendency to develop itself beyond all bounds, the simple primitive
doctrine of the intermediate state has been made to exhibit, in a
portion of the Christian Church.

A further element of indistinctness attaches to the invisible world
of Homer, if we take into view the admission of favoured mortals to
Olympus; a process of which he gives us instances, as in Ganymedes
and Hercules. In a work of pure invention it is unlikely that Heaven,
Elysium, and the under-world would all have been represented as
receptacles of souls in favour with the Deity. But some primitive
tradition of the translation of Enoch may account for what would
otherwise stand as an additional anomaly.

Upon the whole, the Homeric pictures of the prolongation of our
individual existence beyond the grave; the continuance in the nether
world of the habits and propensities acquired or confirmed in this;
and the administration in the infernal regions of penalties for sin;
all these things, though vaguely conceived, stand in marked contrast
with the far more shadowy, impersonal, and, above all, morally neutral
pictures of the invisible and future world, which alone were admitted
into the practical belief of the best among the Greek philosophers. We
are left to presume that the superior picture owed its superiority to
the fact that it was not of man’s devising, as it thus so far exceeded
what his best efforts could produce.

~_Sacrificial tradition in Homer._~

The nature, prevalence, and uniformity of sacrifice, should be regarded
as another portion of the primeval inheritance, which, from various
causes, was perhaps the best preserved of all its parts among nations
that had broken the link of connection with the source.

Of the sabbatical institution, which the Holy Scripture appears to fix
at the creation of man, we find no trace in Homer. But it is easy to
perceive that this highly spiritual ordinance was one little likely to
survive the rude shocks and necessities of earthly life, while it could
not, like sacrifice, derive a sustaining force from appearing to confer
upon the gods an absolute gift, profitable to them, and likely to draw
down their favour in return.

Those who feel inclined to wonder at this disappearance of the sabbath
from the record may do well to remember, that on the shield of
Achilles, which represents the standing occasions of life in all its
departments, there is no one scene which represents any observances
simply religious. The religious element, though corrupted, was far from
being expelled out of common life; on the contrary, the whole tissue
of it was pervaded by that element; but it was in a combined, not in a
separate, and therefore not in a sabbatical form.

And again, in order to appreciate the unlikelihood that such a
tradition as that of the sabbath would long survive the severance from
Divine Revelation in this wintry world, we have only to consider how
rapidly it is forgotten, in our own time, by Christians in heathen
lands, or by those Christian settlers who are severed for the time at
least from civilization, and whose energies are absorbed in a ceaseless
conflict with the yet untamed powers of nature.


_The inventive Element of the Homeric Theo-mythology._

I come now to that mass of Homeric deities, who are either wholly
mythological, or so loaded with mythological features, that their
traditive character is depressed, and of secondary importance.


The character of Jupiter, which commonly occupies the first place in
discussions of the Greek mythology, has been in some degree forestalled
by our prior examination of the position of other figures in the
system, which are both more interesting and more important, from their
bearing more significant resemblances to and traces of the truth of
Divine Revelation.

Nevertheless, this character will well repay attention. To be
understood and appreciated, it must be viewed in a great variety of
aspects. When so viewed, it will be found to range from the sublime
down to the brutal, and almost even down to the ridiculous. Upon the
whole, when we consider that the image which we thus bring before us
was during so many ages, for such multitudes of the most remarkable
portion of mankind, the chief representative of Godhead, it must leave
a deep impression of pain and melancholy on the mind.

  ‘If thou beest He; but Oh! how fall’n, how changed!’

The Jupiter of Homer is to be regarded in these four distinct

1. As the depository of the principal remnants of monotheistic and
providential ideas.

2. As the sovereign lord of meteorological phenomena.

3. As the head of the Olympian community.

4. As the receptacle and butt of the principal part of such earthly,
sensual, and appetitive elements, as, at the time of Homer,
anthropophuism had obtruded into the sphere of deity.

~_Jupiter, as Providence._~

There are three modes in which Homer connects Jupiter with the
functions of Providence.

1. He procures or presides over the settlement, by deliberation in the
Olympian Court, of great questions connected with the course of human
affairs. In the Court of the Fourth Iliad, and in the Assembly of the
Eighth, he himself takes the initiative; in the Seventh and Twentieth
Books he listens to the proposals of Neptune; in the Twenty-fourth,
Apollo introduces the subject; in the First and Fifth Odyssey, Minerva
does the like.

2. He is a kind of synonym for Providence with reference to its common
operations, to the duties and rights of man, and to the whole order
of the world. Perhaps there are an hundred, or more, passages of the
poems, where he appears in this manner. But they are all open to this
observation, that his name seems, in most of them, to be used as a mere
formula, and to be a sort of a _caput mortuum_ without the enlivening
force of the idea that he is really acting in the manner or upon the
principle described.

3. On certain occasions, however, he appears as a supreme God, though
single-handed, and not acting either for or with the Olympian assembly.
The grandest of these occasions is at the close of the Twenty-fourth
Odyssey, where Minerva, stimulated by her own sympathizing keenness,
seems to have winked at the passionate inclination of Ulysses to make
havock among his ungrateful and rebellious subjects. Jupiter, who
had previously counselled moderation, launches his thunderbolt, and
significantly causes it to fall at the feet of Minerva, who thereupon
gives at once the required caution to the exasperated sovereign. Peace
immediately follows[301].

[301] Od. xxiv. 481. 525-41. 546.

Jupiter, with some of the substantial, has all the titular appendages
of a high supremacy. He is habitually denominated the Father of gods
and men. He is much more frequently identified with the general
government of the world, than is any other deity. He is universally
the ταμίης πολέμοιο. He governs the issue of all human toil, and gives
or withholds success. It is on his floor that the caskets rest, which
contain the varying, but, in the main, sorrowful incidents of human
destiny[302]. He has also this one marked and paramount distinction,
that he does not descend to earth to execute his own behests, but in
general either sends other deities as his organs, to give effect to his
will, or else himself operates from afar, by his power as god of air.
If however he is more identified with the general idea of Providence
than are Apollo and Minerva, it is plain, on the other hand, that his
agency is more external, abstract, and remote; theirs more inward and
personal: especially, the function of moral discipline seems, as we
have already found, to belong to Minerva.

[302] Il. v. 91. xix. 223. iv. 34. i. 353, 408.

Nägelsbach[303] considers that Jupiter alone can act from a distance:
but the prayer of Glaucus to Apollo, followed immediately by the
healing of his wounds, seems to prove the reverse conclusively. Again,
Minerva reminds Telemachus that the deity can save even when at a
distance (Od. iii. 231): we have no authority for absolutely confining
this to Jupiter, and none for affixing a limit to the space within
which Apollo or Minerva can act. That Jupiter always acts from far,
may be due in part to his representing the tradition of the one God;
but the argument is also in some degree incidental to the nature of
his special and mythological gifts, as god of the atmosphere and its

[303] Hom. Theol. Abschn. ii.

Upon the whole, the marks of affinity to ancient tradition are stronger
in the Homeric Minerva and Apollo than in Jupiter. He is the ordinary
Providence, but this is an external Providence. He undoubtedly excels
them in force, and in the majesty which accompanies it. But the highest
of the divine prerogatives, of which we have but glimpses indeed in any
of them, are hung more abundantly around these his favoured children,
than around himself. The secret government of the minds of men, the
invisible supremacy over natural laws, the power of unravelling the
future (except perhaps as to the destinies of states), the faculty
of controlling death, are scarcely to be discovered in Jupiter, but
are oftener made clearly legible in Apollo or Minerva. Indeed Minerva
appears always to have latent claims, which Homer himself could not
fully understand or describe, to the very first place. It is only by
supposing the existence of vague traditions to this effect, that we can
explain such passages as that in which she delights, that Menelaus had
prayed to her in preference to any other deity[304];

[304] Il. xvii. 567.

  ὣς φάτο· γήθησεν δὲ θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη,
  ὅττι ῥά οἱ πάμπρωτα θεῶν ἠρήσατο πάντων.

This sentiment may be accounted for in two ways. It may be due to
the vulgar vanity of a merely mythological divinity scuffling for
precedence. It may be a remnant of the tradition of a wisdom that knew
no superior. The former cause would be scarcely suitable even to the
deities of invention in Homer. The latter seems wholly in keeping with
the character and position of his Minerva.

It may be asked, in which of the two capacities does Jupiter chiefly
influence the government of the world? is it as the Supreme Deity,
acting in the main by his own will and power? or is it as the head of
the Olympian community, to whose deliberate decisions he, in a species
of executive capacity, gives effect?

I think there can be no doubt that the activity of Jupiter is
principally made available in the latter capacity. Not that the Poet
had defined for himself the distinction. But there were two processes,
each of which had been actively advancing: the breaking up of Godhead
into fragments, which diminished the relative distance between Jupiter
and the other Immortals: and the reflection of human ideas of polity
upon Olympus, which gave a growing prominence to the element of

Upon the whole, then, I should say that the traditive ideas of
monotheism, and of a personal Providence represented in the Homeric
Jupiter, are on almost all occasions things of the past. They are like
the old jewels of a family, beautiful and imposing for occasions of
state: but they scarcely enter into his everyday life. Indeed, their
chief effect is the negative one of withdrawing him, on the score of
dignity, from immediate contact with mortals and with their concerns;
and, were it not for his atmospheric prerogatives, this isolated
supremacy would carry him into insignificance as compared with a deity
like Minerva, who is ever in the view of man, and ever making herself
felt both in his mind and in his affairs.

There are occasions, but they are not very numerous, when, under
the influence of an unwonted zeal, we find Jupiter himself taking a
part in the detailed action of the Iliad; his interferences being
usually confined to the greater crises or indications, such as the one
mentioned in Il. ii. 353, and such as the occasions when the τάλαντα
are produced. As examples of minor interposition, I may cite his
inspiring Ajax with fear, his launching a thunderbolt in the path of
Diomed, his breaking the bow-string of Teucer, and his advising Hector
to avoid an encounter with Agamemnon[305].

[305] Il. xi. 544. viii. 133-6. xv. 463. xi. 181-94.

~_Jupiter as Lord of Air._~

But the position assigned to him in the mythology of Olympus, which
provides him with the second of his characters, is chosen with great
skill. Although at first sight Sea may appear a more substantive and
awful power than Air, and Earth a more solid and worthy foundation of
dominion than either, yet consideration must readily show, that as
the king of the atmosphere, Jupiter is possessed of far more prompt,
effective, and above all, universal means of acting upon mankind, than
he would have been had the lottery been so arranged as to give him
either of those other provinces.

The tradition of a Trinity in the Godhead evidently leaves its traces
on the Greek mythology in the curious fable of the three Kronid
brothers. For the lottery of the universe, in which they draw on equal
terms, is not founded upon, but is at variance with, Greek ideas. Those
ideas embodied the system, more or less defined, of primogeniture:
and therefore, had the Olympian system been wholly inventive, the very
least it could have assigned to Jupiter would have been a priority
of choice among the different portions of the universe. This lottery
is evidently founded upon the idea of an essential equality in those
who draw. Happily the result is such as to coincide with the order
of natural precedence: and the value and weight of the three charges
is graduated according to the standing of the brothers, though their
abstract equality is so rigidly asserted by Neptune, who declares
himself ἰσόμορον καὶ ὁμῇ πεπρωμένον αἴσῃ (Il. xv. 209).

The exclusion of Earth from the lottery is singular: but it appears
to have a double justification. In the first place, we must bear in
mind the regularity of its operations, combined with the fact that it
sensibly acts on nothing, but is passive under other agencies, such as
those of Sun, Wind, and Sea. This would have rendered the conception
of it as a deity comparatively feeble in the Greek mind. In the second
place, it is probable that when the Olympian mythology took its shape,
that province was preoccupied: that the Eastern religions, observing
its jointly passive and productive character, had personified it as
feminine. But even this did not content the Greek imagination. The
conception of the bride of the chief deity was disengaged from brute
matter, and uplifted into a divinity having for its office the care and
government of a civilized and associated people. The Homeric Juno may
almost be defined as the goddess of Greece. There rose up in her place,
like a low mist of evening, from the ground, the comparatively obscure
Homeric Γαῖα, who has no life or function, except in connection with
the idea of vengeance to be executed upon the wicked; and this she
probably derives from the belief, that the rebel spirits were punished
in the subterranean prisons, of which she was as it were, by physical
laws, the necessary keeper.

As Lord of the air, Jupiter came to be endowed with a multitude of
active powers the most palpable, and the most replete with at least
outward influence for man. The years are his years, the thunder and
lightning his thunder and lightning, the rain his rain; the rivers, or
the most illustrious among them, the Διϊπετεῖς ποταμοὶ, are his: the
clouds and tempests obey his compelling, the winds blow at his command.
The hail and snow come from him[306]: he impels the falling star[307],
and, when he desires a more effective weapon or a more solemn lesson
than usual, he launches the scathing thunderbolt[308]. All signs and
portents whatever, that appear in air, belong primarily to him; as does
the genial sign of the rainbow,

[306] Il. x. 5.

[307] Il. xiii. 242.

[308] Od. xii. 415-17. xxiv. 539.

                        ἅστε Κρονίων
  ἐν νέφεϊ στήριξε, τέρας μερόπων ἀνθρώπων[309].

[309] Il. xi. 27.

And when these or any of them are used by other deities, it is only by
such as have a peculiar relationship, either traditive or mythological,
to him.

But as the tradition of the lottery adorns and strengthens, so
in another view it circumscribes him. His sway is unknown in the
regions of the dead, where his brother holds the sceptre, as the Ζεὺς
καταχθόνιος[310]. Accordingly, when Hercules is sent to fetch Cerberus,
Jupiter obtains for him the aid of Minerva. The more traditive deity
escapes the circumscriptions of the less; the daughter eclipses the

[310] Il. ix. 457.

Much of the higher power exerted by Juno is in fact her use of the
atmospheric prerogatives of her husband.

~_Jupiter as Head of Olympus._~

But the most considerable and characteristic manifestation of the
Homeric Jupiter is that, in which he appears as Head of the Olympian
Family and Polity. Of this let us now consider so much, as is not more
immediately connected with the subject of the divine Polity.

He is carefully marked out as supreme in the mythological prerogatives,
which are for Olympus as the Crown and Sword of State on Earth. He
is the original owner of the Ægis. To him the gods rise up at their
meetings[311]. He is not tied to swear by Styx[312], and invokes no
infernal power to be the sanction of his word, but condescends only to
use the symbol of a nod.

[311] Il. i. 533.

[312] Il. i. 524-30. See however xix. 113.

Of omnipotence, as we understand the word, it would not appear that
Homer had any idea. He had however the idea of a being superior in
force to all other gods separately, or perhaps even when combined. This
being was Jupiter. But the conception in his mind was a wavering one,
so that, though it was present to him, we cannot say that he embraced
it as a truth. If by some parts of the poems it is supported, by others
it is brought into question or overthrown. As respects Briareus, who
was not a god, his superiority in mere force to Jupiter is expressly
declared (Il. i. 404).

In the Assembly of the Eighth Book, Jupiter loudly proclaims his
personal superiority in strength to all the other gods and goddesses
combined; and boasts that, while by a golden chain they could not
unitedly drag him down to earth, he could drag them all, with earth and
sea to boot behind them.

Again, when in the same Book Juno[313] suggests to Neptune the plan of
a combination among all the Hellenizing gods to restrain Jupiter, and
to assist the Greeks in despite of him, Neptune replies that he at
least will have nothing to say to such a proceeding, for Jupiter is far
too strong[314].

[313] viii. 201.

[314] Il. i. 209-11.

But in the First Book we learn that a rebellion headed by Juno,
Neptune, and Minerva, was too much for him. It is, however, clear that
he had not actually been put in chains by these deities; but they were
about to do it, when Briareus came to the rescue, and by his mere
appearance reestablished Jupiter in secure supremacy. This legend has a
mark of antiquity in the fact that Briareus has two names; he is known
as Briareus among the gods, and as Ægæon among all mankind[315].

[315] Il. i. 397-405.

When, in the Fifteenth Book, Jupiter apprehends a stubborn resistance
from Neptune, and the necessity of his personally undertaking the
execution of his own commands, he is far from easy. With the aid of
Juno, his brother can, he thinks, easily be managed[316]. When he finds
Neptune has retired, he frankly owns it is much better for them both;
as to have put him down by force[317] would have been a tough business
(οὔ κεν ἀνιδρωτί γ’ ἐτελέσθη).

[316] Il. xv. 49-52.

[317] Il. xv. 228.

Juno and Minerva, single or combined, he threatens freely, and the
first of these he had once severely punished: but Neptune was stronger,
though in mind inferior; and we have no direct evidence that he was
present in the Assembly of the Eighth Book, when Jupiter bragged of
his being stronger than them all together. Neither he nor Juno obeyed
the command of Jupiter, to observe neutrality until his purpose of
glorifying Hector should have been accomplished.

On the whole, the superiority of Jupiter to any one god is clear,
though not immeasurable. His superiority to the whole is doubtful. The
point in his favour is, that he never was actually coerced. The point
against him is, that his will seems to give place, and this too on
very great occasions, to the sentiments of the weightiest part of the
Olympian Court.

In his government of the other gods, the moral element disappears. He
does not appeal to their sense of right, nor profess to be ruled in his
own proceedings towards them by impartial justice. On the contrary, he
desires the wounded Mars not to sit whining by his side; and, before
ordering Paieon to heal his hurts, makes a distinct declaration,
that had he been the son of any deity other than himself, he should
have been ejected from heaven into a lower place, apparently meaning
the dark and dismal Tartarus, on account of his love of quarrels. A
profound attachment to ease and self-enjoyment lies at the root of his
character. He never disturbs the established order; and he is averse
to movement and innovation, come from whence it may. The spirit of
Juno[318], so restless on behalf of Greece, is vexatious to him in
the highest degree: and his love of Troy, if it has reference to any
thing beyond liberality in sacrifices and the descent of Dardanus,
may perhaps be referred to its representing the stereotyped form of
society. It is probably on account of this indolence of temperament
that, when he has brought Hector and the Trojans as far as the
Ships, he feels he has had enough for the moment of the spectacle of
blood; and accordingly he turns his eyes over Thrace and the country
of the Mysians, the Hippemolgians, and the righteous and therefore
presumably peaceful Abii[319]. Wearied with the perpetual din, he finds
satisfaction in a change of prospect; but at another time, refreshed
as we may suppose, he coolly states that he shall enjoy a sight of the

[318] Il. v. 892.

[319] Il. xiii. 1-6.

  ἔνθ’ ὁρόων φρένα τέρψομαι[320].

[320] Il. xx. 23.

~_His political spirit._~

The political element of Jupiter’s character, reflected more narrowly
and turbulently in Juno, is, however, that which deserves the greatest

It was so deeply implanted in him, that it entered into his personal
conduct even when he was not in immediate contact with the Olympian
body. For example, in the Sixteenth Iliad, Jupiter debates with himself
whether he shall save Sarpedon from death by the hand of Patroclus.
Juno, to whom he had made a sort of appeal for approval, protests
according to the Olympian formula,

  ἔρδ’· ἀτὰρ οὔ τοι πάντες ἐπαινέομεν θεοὶ ἄλλοι.

She suggests in preference a prompt rescue and disposal of the dead
body. Jupiter is not here in actual contact with any one but Juno. She,
however, menaces him with the spleen of the Immortals, and he, averse
to trouble, and fearful of shaking his own seat, acquiesces, though at
the cost of the utmost pain[321].

[321] Il. xvi. 431-61.

Over and above the mere insignia of sovereignty, Jupiter holds some of
his best prerogatives, both terrestrial and Olympian, in the capacity
of head of the community of Immortals.

Hence it is that he is the steward of sovereignty, and the champion of
social rights. All princes and rulers hold from him, and administer
justice under his authority. He gave their sceptre to the family of
Pelops: even the heralds are his agents, Διὸς ἄγγελοι, and act in his

On Olympus it falls to him in this capacity, not only to conduct and
superintend the proceedings of the whole body of Immortals, as a
body, but to exercise a very large influence over their relations
individually with men, and with one another. The Sun carries to Jupiter
in full court, as head of the body, his complaint against the crew
of Ulysses, and Jupiter at once undertakes to avenge it[322]. Juno,
again, appeals to him on the conduct of Mars[323], and he permits her
to let loose Minerva on him. Mars, when wounded, goes to Jupiter with
his complaint[324], and Diana also, when requested, makes him privy to
hers, after she has taken her seat upon his knee[325]. When any two
deities are in any manner at issue or in collision, or when any of the
more dependent gods have a quarrel with men, then Jupiter finds his
place as the natural arbiter, and from this source he obtains great
support for his power. The surest of all its guarantees is indeed found
in the skill with which, by making the will of Olympus his own, he
makes his own will irresistible.

[322] Od. xii. 377.

[323] Il. v. 753.

[324] Il. v. 872.

[325] Il. xxi. 505.

Thus then the Jupiter of Homer has varied elements of grandeur,
traditional, physical, and political. Something also accrues to him
by the sheer necessity of the metaphysical order. Wherever the mind
demands a personal origin or cause, he alone can offer to supply
its want. He still continues to represent, in a certain degree, the
principle of unity; and he derives strength from that principle. Nor
does the solid might of Destiny interfere with his claims to the same
extent in Homer, as it does in the later Greek poetry.

Thus equipped with august prerogatives, the Jupiter of Homer is
evidently, to the popular view, the most sublime object in the Olympian
mythology. His breadth and grandeur of dimension commended him to the
admiring favour of the Greek artist, who made it his supreme effort
to embody the conception of the Sovereign of Olympus: and we may judge
of his elevation in the public apprehension over all other deities, by
the greater sublimity of the material forms, in which the idea of his
divinity has been enshrined.

But the figure of Jupiter, as it is the principal, so it is also the
most anomalous, in the whole Homeric assemblage. Although he is, and
even because he is, the depository of so many among the most primitive
and venerable ideas, he becomes also the butt alike of the infirmity,
and the wantonness, and insolence of human thought, in the alterative
operations which it continually prosecutes upon the ancient and pure
idea of Godhead. Hence not only in his character, as in other cases,
does the inventive power everywhere sap, corrode, invade, and curtail
the ancient traditionary conception of divine truths, but it is in
him that we find both systems culminating at once, both exhibiting
in him, raised to the highest power, their separate and discordant

From one point of view Jupiter is the most sublime of all the deities
of Homer, because he is the first personal source and origin of life,
the father of gods and men, the supreme manifestation of Power and
knowledge, the principal, though imperfect living representation of a
Providence and Governor of the world.

Regarded from another point of view, as we see disclosed the large
intrusion of the human and carnal element into the ethereal sphere, the
character of Jupiter becomes the most repulsive in the whole circle of
Olympian life[326]. The emancipation from truth, the self-abandonment
to gross passion, the constant breach of the laws he administers, are
more conspicuous in the chief god than in any of the subordinate gods,
and are more offensive in proportion to the majesty with which they are
unnaturally associated.

[326] Il. ii. 2, 12-15. xiv. 294-6, _et alibi_.

~_Jupiter as the type of animalism._~

The ungovernable self-indulgence, which even so early as in the time of
Homer has begun to taint through and through the whole human conception
of the Immortals, rises to its climax, as was to be expected, in
Jupiter. The idea of the Supreme, or at least by far the First being
of the universe, had not yet, indeed, descended so low as it did
in after-times, when it was even associated with lusts contrary to
nature. Of these there is no trace in Homer. But the law which governs
the relation of sex, as it exists among men, was utterly relaxed and
disorganized for him. In the first place, monogamy, established for all
Greeks, for the chief god of Greece became polygamy; and in the second,
marriage was no bar against incessant adultery.

A certain distinction between the wives, and the mere paramours, of
Jupiter is clearly traceable in Homer. Latona, for instance, is a wife,
an ἄλοχος of Jupiter. Mercury says of her[327]--

[327] Od. xi. 580. Il. xxi. 498.

                          ἀργαλέον δὲ
  πληκτίζεσθ’ ἀλόχοισι Διὸς νεφεληγερέταο.

But the intrigues with the wife of Ixion, or with the daughter of
Phœnix, who bore to him the great Minos, mark mere adultery, and
involve no kind of permanent relation between Jupiter and this class
of the mothers of his children. Hence we do not find any such person
possessed of an interest in him, like that which led him to take part
in the vengeance inflicted on Niobe and her family by the children of
Latona[328]. Again, as he is not a personal providence, and does not
take charge of the destiny or guide the conduct of individuals, nor
ever touches the depths of human nature, so he has at once the largest
share of the passions and the smallest stock of the sympathies of man.

[328] Il. xxiv. 611.

From an intermediate point between the grandeur and the vileness of
Jupiter, we may observe how unequal the human mind had already proved
to sustain its own idea. He ought to be supreme in knowledge; but he is
thrice deluded by the cunning of Juno[329], who not only outwits him,
but sends Iris down to earth without his knowledge, just as Neptune
moves (λάθρη) on the plain of Troy unseen by him[330]. He ought to be
supreme in force, and he boasts that he could drag with ease all the
deities of Olympus, whom he addressed, but he is, notwithstanding, on
the point of being overpowered by a combination of inferior deities,
when he is saved by the timely arrival of Briareus with the hundred
hands. His faculty of vision does not seem to be limited by space when
he chooses to employ it[331], but it is subject to interruption, both
voluntary and involuntary, from sleep[332].

[329] Il. xiv. xix. 97. xviii. 168.

[330] Il. xiii. 352, 6.

[331] Il. xiii. 1-7.

[332] Il. i. 611. xiv. 352.

Although there is great scenic grandeur in the part which he plays in
the Iliad, in the Odyssey he is until nearly the close practically a
mute, and does little more than assent to the plans and representations
of Minerva.

In the action, however, of the Iliad, the only glimpse of a personal
attachment is to Hector; and this is founded simply on the abundance of
his sacrifices. Jupiter is the great propounder of the animal view of
that subject: and accordingly in the Odyssey[333], Minerva pleads the
case of Ulysses very much on this ground before Jupiter, though, in all
her intercourse with that chief, there is no sign of her valuing the
offerings on her own account. In every point of sensual susceptibility,
Jupiter leads the way for the Immortals.

[333] Od. i. 66.

~_Qualified by his parental instincts._~

In Jupiter, as in the almost brutal Mars, we find remaining that relic
of personal virtue which depends least upon reflection, and flows most
from instinct, namely, parental affection. Mars is wrought up to fury
by learning the death of his son Ascalaphus; and Jupiter, after much
painful rumination on consenting to the fall of Sarpedon, sheds gouts
of blood over the dearest of his children[334]. This is singularly
grand as poetry, and far superior to the sheer mania of Mars. Indeed it
is evident that Homer exerted himself to the utmost in adorning this
majestic figure, as a mere figure, with the richest treasures of his

[334] Il. xvi. 458.

When, in the Twenty-First Iliad, the great battle of the gods begins,
Jupiter has no part to take. He sits aloft in his independent security,
while they contend together, even as he was afterwards supposed to
keep aloof from trouble and responsibility for human affairs. The same
sentiment appears in the determination of Neptune and Apollo not to
quarrel on account of mortals. But in the case of Jupiter, the selfish
principle comes out with greater force: he is not merely indifferent,
but he absolutely rejoices in the strife of the Immortals:

                ἐγέλασσε δέ οἱ φίλον ἦτορ
  γηθοσύνῃ, ὅθ’ ὁρᾶτο θεοὺς ἔριδι ξυνιόντας.

Upon the whole it is certainly the Jupiter of Homer in whom, of all his
greater gods, notwithstanding his abstract attributes, we see, first,
the most complete surrender of personal morality and self-government
to mere appetite; secondly, the most thoroughly selfish groundwork of
character: the germ, and in no small degree the development, of what
was afterwards to afford to speculation the materials for the Epicurean
theory respecting the divine nature, as it is set forth in the verse of
Lucretius, or in the arguments of the Ciceronian Cotta.


~_The Juno of Homer._~

The Juno of the Iliad is by far the most conspicuous and splendid, as
she is also the most evidently national, product of the inventive power
to be found in the entire circle of the theo-mythology.

Not that Greek invention created her out of nothing. On the contrary,
she represented abundant prototypes in the mythologies of the East.
Her Greek name, Ἥρη, is, I apprehend, a form of ἔρα, the earth[335];
and in her first form she probably represented one of its oriental
impersonations. But they all had to pass through the crucible, and they
came out in a form as purely Hellenic as if it had been absolutely

[335] Welsford on the English Language, p. 165.

It is plain from the nature of the case, that she can have had no
place in primitive tradition. But it may be well before discussing her
mythological origin, her dignity and positive functions, to refer to
certain indications from which we may make sure that Homer has handled
the character in the mode observed by him for deities of invention only.

There is, then, about Juno a liability to passion, and a want of moral
elevation, which are among the certain marks of mythological origin.
Jupiter declares his belief that, if she could, she would eat the
Trojans; nor does she resent the imputation[336]. When Vulcan is born,
angry at the mean appearance and lameness of the infant, she pitches
him down into the sea[337]. These representations are entirely at
variance with the constant dignity and self-command, which mark the
deportment of the great traditive deities. Her whole activity in the
Iliad is not merely energetic, but in the highest degree passionate and

[336] Il. iv. 34-6.

[337] Il. xviii. 395-9.

So again, taking into consideration the comparative purity attaching to
her sex, which we see so fully maintained in Diana, her resort to the
use of sensual passion, in Il. xiv., even though only as an instrument
for an end, is a mark that the character is, in its basis, mythological.

Nor do we anywhere find ascribed to her ethical, or what may be
called theistic sentiments: pure power and policy are her delight;
and she nowhere enters individually within the line of the moral and
Providential order at all, nor takes any share in superintending

[338] Hence the Ἐρινύες are in conflict with her in Il. xix. 418. On
this very curious subject see inf. sect. iv.

In the Iliad, of which the martial movement is appropriate to her,
and where the Greek nationality is placed in sharp contrast with a
foreign one, she plays a great part, is ever alert and at work, and
contributes mainly to the progress of the action. But in the Odyssey,
a poem more simply theistic and ethical, and without any opposition
of nationalities, she has no share in the action, and may be said
practically to disappear from view. To appreciate the force of this
circumstance, we must contrast it with Homer’s treatment of another
deity, inferior to her in the Olympian community. The three greatest
deities, among those who embody much of primitive tradition, are
Jupiter, Minerva, and Apollo. Of these, Jupiter, in the character of
Providence, has everywhere a place ready made for him; Minerva, as
the guide and protectress of Ulysses, has ample opportunities for her
activity; but it is not so with Apollo: and in consequence Homer has
been careful to supply in the poem points of contact with him, by the
introduction of Theoclymenus, and of the grand imagery of the second
sight, which is his gift; by fixing the critical day at the new moon,
which was sacred to him, and by causing the crisis to turn upon the
bow, his famous weapon: as though these three, Jupiter, Minerva, and
Apollo, were the universal, permanent, and indispensable deities; but
the others occasional, and to be used according to circumstances. Juno
has no such place or office provided for her in the Odyssey, as they

There is yet another mark adhering to Juno, which clearly separates
between her and the Homeric deities of strongly marked traditional
character: namely, that she was not exempt from the touch of defeat and
dishonour. For, in the course of her long feud with Hercules, that hero
wounded her with an arrow in the left breast, and caused her to suffer
desperate pain[339]. Again, she was ignominiously punished by Jupiter;
who suspended her with her hands in chains, and with anvils hanging
from her feet[340].

[339] Il. v. 392.

[340] Il. xv. 18-21.

~_Her intense nationality._~

Her strong and profound Greek nationality has obtained for her the
name of Argeian Juno. The fervour of this nationality is most signally
exemplified in the passage where Jupiter tells her, that she regards
the Greeks as her children[341]; and again, where she lets us know
that it was she[342] who collected the armament against Troy. She
conducts Agamemnon the head of the Greek nation safely on the sea[343];
and carries Jason through the Πλαγκταί[344]. This is the vivifying
idea of her whole character, and fills it with energy, vigilance,
determination, and perseverance. Her hatred of Hercules cannot have
been owing to conjugal jealousy, with which she is not troubled in
Homer, for Jupiter recites his conquests in addressing her on Ida;
indeed, had she been liable to this emotion, it must, from the frequent
recurrence of its occasions, have supplied the main thread of her
feeling and action. It was her identification in soul with the Perseid
dynasty, the legitimate representative, in its own day, of the Hellenic
race, and in occupation of its sovereign seat, that made her filch, on
behalf of Eurystheus, the effect of the promise intended by Jupiter
for Hercules, and that engaged her afterwards in a constant struggle
to bear down that elastic hero, whose high personal gifts still
threatened to eclipse his royal relative and competitor. So again,
unlike Minerva[345], even while seeking to operate through Trojans,
she studiously avoids contact with them. Minerva is sent as agent to
Pandarus[346]; but this is on the suggestion of Juno. In truth, this
intensely national stamp localizes the divinity of Juno, and, being
counteracted by no other sign, fixes on her the note both of invention,
and of Greek invention.

[341] Il. xviii. 358, 9.

[342] Il. iv. 24.

[343] Od. iv. 513.

[344] Od. xii. 72.

[345] Vid. Il. iv. 94.

[346] Il. iv. 64.

With respect now to her dignity and positive functions, these are of a
very high order.

The Olympian gods rise from their seats to greet her (as they do to
Jupiter) when she comes among them[347].

[347] Il. xv. 85.

She acts immediately upon the thoughts of men: as when, at the outset
of the Iliad, she prompts Achilles to call the first Greek assembly;
τῷ γὰρ ἐπὶ φρεσὶ θῆκε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη[348]. On various occasions,
she suggests action to Minerva, and it follows[349]: in the First Book,
Juno is even said to send her, though by another arrangement the Poet
has provided against attaching inferiority to that goddess[350]. It
may be that in her seeming to employ Minerva, as in so many of her
highest functions, she is reflecting one of the high prerogatives of
Jupiter. Certain it is that by the side of her ceaseless and passionate
activity, even Minerva appears, except on the battle-field, to play,
in the Iliad, a part secondary to hers. She was so powerful[351], not
only as to form one of the great trine rebellion against Jupiter, which
so nearly dethroned him, but as to make him feel greatly relieved and
rejoiced, in his differences with Neptune, when she promises to side
with him[352]: ‘with your aid,’ so thinks Jupiter, ‘he will easily
be kept in order, and will have to act as _we_ could wish.’ She is
certainly the most bold, untiring, zealous, and effective assistant to
the Greeks: while she never bates a hair of her wrath, in compassion or
otherwise, towards any Trojan.

[348] Il. i. 55. Comp. viii. 218.

[349] Il. ii. 156. v. 711. viii. 331.

[350] Vid. supr. p. 66.

[351] Il. i. 195.

[352] Il. xv. 49-52.

~_Her mythological functions._~

Like Neptune and others, she assumes the human form[353], and evokes
a cloud of vapour this way or that: but she does much more. Her power
displays itself in various forms, both over deities, and over animate
and inanimate nature. In some of these particularly, her proceedings
seem to be a reflected image of her husband’s. Iris[354] is not only
his messenger, but her’s. She not only orders the Winds, but she sends
the Sun to his setting[355], in spite of his reluctance. When, in
her indignation at the boast of Hector, she rocks on her throne, she
shakes Olympus[356]. She endows the deathless horses of Achilles with
a voice[357]. And conjoined with Minerva, she thunders in honour of
Agamemnon when just armed. Except the case of the horse, all these
appear to be the reflected uses of the power of Jupiter as god of air.

[353] Il. v. 784-92.

[354] Il. xviii. 168.

[355] Ibid. 239.

[356] Il. viii. 193.

[357] Il. xix. 407.

We find from the speech of Phœnix, that with Minerva she can confer
valour[358]. In a curious passage of the Odyssey, Homer tells us how
the daughters of Pandarus were supplied by various goddesses with
various qualities and gifts. Diana gave them size, Juno gave them εἶδος
καὶ πινυτήν. We should rather have expected the last to come from
Minerva: but she endowed them with ἔργα or industrial skill, so that
her dignity has been in another way provided for. But if the lines are
genuine, then in the capacity of Juno to confer the gift of πινυτὴ
or prudence, we see a point of contact between her powerful but more
limited, and Minerva’s larger character[359].

[358] Il. ix. 254.

[359] Od. xx. 70-2.

The full idea of her mind is in fact contained in the union of great
astuteness with her self-command, force, and courage: which, in effect,
makes it the reflection of the genius of the Greeks when deprived of
its moral element: and places it in very near correspondence with that
of the Phœnicians, who are like Greeks, somewhat seriously maimed in
that one great department. This full idea is exhibited on two great
occasions. Once when she outwits Jupiter, by fastening him with an
oath to his promise, and then, hastening one birth, and by her command
over the Eilithuiæ retarding another, proceeds to make Eurystheus
the recipient of what Jupiter had intended for another less remote
descendant of his own. Again, in the Fourteenth Iliad, by a daring
combination, she hoaxes Venus to obtain her capital charm, induces
Sleep by a bribe to undertake an almost desperate enterprise, and then,
though on account of his sentiments towards Troy she felt disgust (Il.
xiv. 158) as she looked upon Jupiter, enslaves him for the time through
a passion of which she is not herself the slave, but which she uses as
her instrument for a great end of policy. She is, in short, a great,
fervid, unscrupulous, and most able Greek patriot, exhibiting little
of divine ingredients, but gifted with a marked and powerful human

It may be worth while to observe in passing, an indication as to the
limited powers of locomotion which Homer ascribed to his deities. The
horses of Juno, when she drives, cover at each step a space as great
as the human eye can command looking along the sea. But when she has
the two operations to perform on the same day, one upon the mother of
Eurystheus, and the other on the mother of Hercules, she attends to the
first in her own person, and apparently manages the other by command
given to the Eilithuiæ (Il. xix. 119). If so, then she was evidently in
the Poet’s mind subject to the laws of space and corporal presence: and
his figure of the horse’s spring was one on which he would not rely for
the management of an important piece of business.

There are three places, and three only, in the poems, which could
connect Juno with the Trojans. One is the Judgment of Paris (Il. xxiv.
29). The others are no more than verbal only. Hector swears by Jupiter
“the loud thundering husband of Here[360].” And again, he wishes he
had as certainly Jupiter for his father, and Juno for his mother[361],
as he is certain that the day will bring disaster to the Greeks. We
cannot, then, say that she was absolutely unknown to the Trojans in her
Hellenic form, while they may have been more familiar with her eastern
prototypes[362]. It does not, however, follow, that she was a deity of
established worship among them. There is no notice of any institution
or act of religion on the one side, or of care on the other, between
her and any member of their race. In the mention of her among the
Trojans, we may perhaps have an instance of the very common tendency of
the heathen nations to adopt, by sympathy as it were, deities from one
another; independently of all positive causes, such as migration, or
ethnical or political connection.

[360] Il. x. 329.

[361] Il. xiii. 827.

[362] See Il. iii. 104.

~_Her mythological origin._~

The origin of Juno, which would thus on many grounds appear to have
been Hellenic, appears to be referable to the principle, which I have
called œconomy, and under which the relations of deities were thrown
into the known forms of the human family. This process, according to
the symmetrical and logical turn of the Greek mind, began when it was
needed for its purpose, and stopped when it had done its work. Gods,
that were to generate or rear other gods, were coupled; and partners
were supplied by simple reflection of the character of the male,
where there was no Idea or Power ready for impersonation that would
serve the turn. Thus, Ῥέα, Earth or Matter, found a suitable mate
for Κρόνος, or Time. But to make a match for Oceanus, his own mere
reflected image, or feminine, was called into being under the name
of Tethys. Such was, but only after the time of Homer, Amphitrite
for Neptune, and Proserpine for Hades. In Homer the latter is more,
and the former less than this. It was by nothing less than an entire
metamorphosis, that the Greek Juno was educed from, or substituted for,
some old deification of the Earth. She is much more a creation than
an adaptation. What she really represents in Olympus, is supernatural
wifehood; of which the common mark is, the want of positive and
distinct attributes in the goddess. With this may be combined a
negative sign not less pregnant with evidence; namely, the derivation
and secondary handling of the prerogatives of the husband. The case of
Juno is clear and strong under both heads. Her grandeur arises from her
being clothed in the reflected rays of her husband’s supremacy, like
Achilles in the flash of the Ægis. But positive divine function she has
none whatever, except the slender one of presiding over maternity by
her own agency, and by that of her figurative daughters, the Eilithuiæ.
She is, when we contemplate her critically, the goddess of motherhood
and of nothing else. And in truth, as the fire made Vulcan, and war
made Mars, her mythological children, so motherhood made Juno, and is
her type in actual nature. She became a goddess, to give effect to the
principle of œconomy, to bring the children of Jupiter into the world,
to enable man, in short, to construct that Olympian order, which he was
to worship. Having been thus conceived, she assumed high powers and
dignities in right of her husband, whose sister she was fabled to be,
upon becoming also his wife, because either logical instinct, or the
ancient traditions of our race rendered it a necessity for the Greeks
to derive the divine, as well as the human, family from a single pair.

However strictly Hellenic may have been the position of Juno, we must
reckon her as the sister of Jupiter to have been worshipped, in Homer’s
time, from beyond the memory of man. For she carries upon her no token,
which can entitle us to assign to her a recent origin. Recent, I mean,
in her Hellenic form: apart from the fact that she was not conceived
by the Greeks, so to speak, out of nothing; and that she, in common
with many other deities, represents the Greek remodelling, in this
case peculiarly searching and complete, of eastern traditions. The
representation in theology of the female principle was eastern, and,
as we have seen, even Jewish. Had Juno been simply adopted, she would
probably have been an elemental power, corresponding with Earth in the
visible creation. In lieu of this she became Queen of Olympus, and, in
relation to men, goddess of Greece. Earth remains, in Homer, almost
unvivified in consequence. But it may have been on account of this
affinity, as well as of her relation to Jupiter, that she has been so
liberally endowed with power over nature.


~_The Neptune of Homer._~

Neptune is one of three sons of Κρόνος and Ῥέα, and comes next to
Jupiter in order of birth. In the Fifteenth Iliad he claims an equality
of rank, and avers that the distribution of sovereignties among the
three brothers was made by lot. The Sea is his, the Shades are subject
to Aides, Jupiter has the Heaven and Air; Earth and Olympus are
common to them all. Wherefore, says Neptune, I am no mere satellite
of Jupiter: great as he is, let him rest content with his own share;
and if he wants somebody to command, let him command his own sons
and daughters. Perhaps there may here be conveyed a taunt at Jupiter
with respect to the independent and adverse policy of Minerva. This
very curious speech is delivered by Neptune in reply to the command
of Jupiter, that he should leave the field of battle before Troy,
which was backed by threats. Iris, the messenger, who hears him, in
her reply founds the superiority of Jupiter on his seniority only.
To this Neptune yields: but reserves his right of resentment if
Jupiter should spare Troy[363]. Nor does Jupiter send down Apollo to
encourage the Trojans, until Neptune has actually retired: he then
expresses great satisfaction at the withdrawal of Neptune without a
battle between them, which would have been heard and felt in Tartarus;
possibly implying that Neptune would have been hurled into it[364], but
referring distinctly to the certain difficulty of the affair;

[363] Il. xv. 174-217.

[364] Vid. Il. viii. 13.

  ἐπεὶ οὔ κεν ἀνιδρωτί γ’ ἐτελέσθη[365].

[365] Il. xv. 220-35.

We have now clearly enough before us the very singular combination of
ideas that entered into the conception of the Homeric Neptune, and we
may pronounce, with tolerable confidence, upon the manner in which each
one of them acquired its place there. They are these:

1. As one of the trine brotherhood, who are jointly possessed of the
highest power over the regions of creation, he is part-representative
of the primeval tradition respecting the Divine Nature and Persons.

2. As god of the Sea, he provides an impersonation to take charge of
one of the great domains of external nature.

3. As the eldest and strongest, next to Jupiter, of the Immortal
family, he represents the nucleus of rivalry and material, or
main-force, opposition to the head of the Olympian family.

~_His traits chiefly mythological._~

With respect to the first, the proposition itself seems to contain
nearly all that can be said to belong to Neptune in right of primitive
tradition, except indeed as to certain stray relics. One of these
seems to hang about him, in the form of an extraordinary respect
paid to him by the children of Jupiter. Apollo is restrained by
this feeling (αἰδὼς) from coming to blows with him[366]: a similar
sentiment restrains Minerva, not only from appearing to Ulysses in
her own Phæacian ἄλσος[367], but even, as she says, from assisting
him at all during his previous adventures[368]. But this is all. The
prerogatives which are so conspicuous in Apollo and Minerva, and which
establish their origin as something set higher than the lust of pure
human invention, are but rarely and slightly discernible in Neptune. In
simple strength he stands with Homer next to Jupiter, for to no other
deity would Jupiter have paid the compliment of declaring it a serious
matter to coerce him. But there is no sign of intellectual or moral
elevation about him. Of the former we may judge from his speeches; for
the speeches of gods are in Homer nearly as characteristic as those of
heroes. As to the latter, his numerous human children show that he did
not rise above the mythological standard; and his implacable resentment
against Ulysses was occasioned by a retribution that the monster
Polyphemus had received, not only just in itself, but even relatively

[366] Il. xxi. 468.

[367] Od. vi. 329.

[368] Od. xiii. 341.

It does not appear that prayer is addressed to him except in connection
with particular places, or in virtue of special titles; as when
the Neleids, his descendants, offer sacrifice to him on the Pylian
shore[369], or the Phæacians[370] seek to avert threatened disaster, or
when Polyphemus his son roars to him for help[371]. The sacrifices to
him have apparently a local character: at Onchestus is his ἄλσος[372],
and Juno appeals to him in the name of the offerings made to him by the
Greeks at Helice and Ægæ[373]. The Envoys of the Ninth Iliad pray to
him for the success of their enterprise; but it is while their mission
is leading them along the sea-beach[374]. He can assume the form of
a man; can carry off his friends in vapour, or lift them through the
air[375]; can inspire fire and vigour into heroes, yet this is done
only through a sensible medium, namely, by a stroke of his staff[376].
He blunts, too, the point of an hostile spear[377]. But none of these
operations are of the highest order of power. And when Polyphemus
faintly expresses the idea that Neptune can restore his eye, (which
however he does not ask in prayer,) Ulysses taunts him in reply with
it as an undoubted certainty, that the god can do no such thing.
With this we may contrast the remarkable bodily changes operated by
Minerva upon Ulysses: they do not indeed involve the precise point of
restoring a destroyed member; but they are far beyond anything which
Homer has ascribed to his Neptune. Nor does the Poet ever speak of any
operation of this kind as exceeding the power of Minerva; who enjoyed
in a larger form, and by a general title, something like that power of
transformation, which was the special gift and function of Circe and
the Sirens. The discussion of the prerogatives of that half-sorceress,
half-goddess, will throw some further light upon the rank of Neptune.

[369] Il. xi. 728. Od. iii. 5.

[370] Od. xiii. 181.

[371] Od. ix. 526.

[372] Il. ii. 506.

[373] Il. viii. 203.

[374] Il. ix. 183.

[375] Il. xiii. 43, 216. xiv. 135. xi. 752. xx. 321-9.

[376] Il. xiii. 59.

[377] xiii. 562.

Except, then, in his position as brother and copartner, Neptune is
very feebly marked with the traditional character. Again, in no deity
is the mere animal delight in sacrifice more strongly developed.
By offerings, his menaced destruction of the Phæacian city seems
to be averted. His pleasure in the sacrifice of bulls is specially
recorded[378]: and his remarkable fondness for the Solyman mountains,
and the Ethiopian quarter, is perhaps connected with the eminent
liberality of that people at their altars.

[378] Il. xx. 405.

One traditive note, however, we find upon him, when we regard him as
god of the sea: and it is this, that he is provided with a Secondary.
It seems as though it was felt, that he did not wholly satisfy the
demands of the mere element: and accordingly a god simply elemental
has been provided in the person of Nereus, who is the centre of the
submarine court, and who appears never to quit the depths. Nereus is
the element impersonated: Neptune is its sovereign, has not his origin
in it, but comes to it from without.

Neither is his command over the waters quite exclusive. He can of
course raise a storm at sea. He can break off fragments, as the sea
does, from rocks upon the coast[379]: and he threatens to overwhelm
the Phæacian city by this means[380]. In conjunction with his power
over the sea, he can let loose the winds, and darken the sky. On the
other hand, not Jupiter only, but Juno and Minerva, can use the sea
independently of him, as an instrument of their designs.

[379] Od. iv. 506.

[380] Od. xiii. 152.

Again, while not fully developed as the mere elemental sea-god, he has
clinging to him certain traditions which it is very difficult to attach
to any portion whatever of his general character. I do not find any key
to his interest in Æneas, whom he rescues from Achilles: unless it may
possibly be, that the gods, in the absence of any particular motive the
other way, took a common interest in the descendants of their race,
or of Jupiter as its head. Still less is it feasible to explain the
legend of his service under Laomedon in company with Apollo, so as to
place it in any clear relation to the other traditions respecting him.
He has, again, a peculiar relation to the horse, for though a sea-god,
he employs the animal to transport him to Troas; and it was he, who
presented Xanthus and Balius to Peleus[381]. Again, he, in conjunction
with Jupiter[382], conferred the gift of managing the horse on his
descendant Antilochus.

[381] Il. xxiii. 277.

[382] Ibid. 307.

In the legend of the Eighth Odyssey, he does not share the unbecoming
laughter of the other deities at the ridiculous predicament and
disgrace of Mars, but earnestly labours for his release, and actually
becomes his security for the damages due[383]. What was the cause of
this peculiar interest? It is difficult to conceive the aim of the Poet
in this place. Some have suggested the comic effect[384] which he has
produced by putting the petition in the mouth of Neptune, whose mere
opinion that Mars would pay was valueless, inasmuch as he was far too
powerful to be called to account by Vulcan for any thing which he might
have said. It seems to me more likely that, as being, in the possible
absence of Jupiter as well as the goddesses, the senior and gravest of
the deities, he becomes the official guardian of Olympian decorum; and
that he acts here as the proper person to find an escape from a dilemma
which, while ludicrous, is also embarrassing, and requires poetically
a solution.

[383] Od. viii. 344-59.

[384] Nitzsch in loc.

Amphitrite, the wife of Neptune in the later mythology, is not so
named in Homer, by whom she is but doubtfully personified. Yet there
is, as it were, an anticipation of the union, in the passage where he
tells us that she rears monster-fishes to do the will of Neptune. Or it
may be meant here, that she is the wife of Nereus.

~_His relation to the Phœnicians._~

The connection of Neptune with the sea naturally raises the question,
whether the introduction of his worship into Greece can have been owed
to the Phœnicians. For an auxiliary mark, we have the fact that Ino, of
Phœnician extraction, is a strictly maritime deity[385],

[385] Od. v. 335.

  νῦν δ’ ἁλὸς ἐν πελάγεσσι θεῶν ἐξέμμορε τιμῆς.

The very frequent intrigues of Neptune with women may be the mythical
dress of the adventures of Phœnician sailors in this kind: such as
that which is recounted[386] in the story of Eumæus. We may notice,
too, that in the Iliad, he does not particularly love the Greeks,
but simply hates the Trojans. He, with Jupiter, we are told, loved
Antilochus[387]. Jupiter, no doubt, because he had a regard for him as
a Greek: Neptune, plainly, because he was his descendant. And in this
way perhaps we may best explain the connection between Neptune and some
abode in the East, far away from his own domain. He is absent from the
Assembly of the First Odyssey[388], among the Ethiopians: and he sees
Ulysses, on his voyage homewards, from afar, namely off the Solyman
mountains; with which we must suppose he had some permanent tie, as no
special cause is stated for his having been there. It little accords
with his character as a marine god: but it is in harmony with the view
of him as belonging to the circle of the Phœnician traditions, that he
should visit a nation, of which Homer, I believe, conceived as being
but a little beyond Phœnicia.

[386] Od. xv. 420.

[387] Il. xxiii. 277.

[388] Od. i. 22.

But we have still to consider the fragments of information which
concern Neptune, under the third of the heads above given.

~_And to the tradition of the Evil One._~

No ancient tradition appears to have been split and shivered into so
many fragments in the time of Homer, as that which related to the Evil
Principle. This was the natural prelude to its becoming, as it shortly
afterwards did, indiscernible to the human eye[389]. Among these
rivulets of tradition, some of the most curious connect themselves with
the name of Neptune, who was, in his mythological character, prepared
to be its recipient: for in that character he was near to Jupiter
in strength, while his brotherly relation by no means implied any
corresponding tie of affection.

[389] Vid. sup. Sect. ii. p. 44.

With Juno and Minerva, he took part in the dangerous rebellion recorded
in the First Iliad. He refuses to join in a combination of Hellenizing
gods against him, on the ground of its hopelessness: but afterwards,
when all others acquiesce in the prohibition, he alone comes down to
aid and excite the Greeks. The Juno of the Iliad is the active and
astute intriguer against her husband: but it is Neptune, on whom in
effect the burden and responsibility of action chiefly fall. Still, his
principal points of contact with the traditions of resistance to the
Supreme Will are mediate; and the connection is through his offspring.

In his favourite son, the Cyclops, we have the great atheist of the
poems. It is Providence, and not idols only, that he rejects, when

[390] Od. ix. 275.

  οὐ γὰρ Κύκλωπες Διὸς αἰγιόχου ἀλέγουσιν,
  οὐδὲ θεῶν μακάρων· ἐπειὴ πολὺ φέρτεροί εἰμεν.

The whole of this dangerous class, the kindred of the gods, seem
to have sprung from Neptune[391]. The Læstrygones, indeed, are not
expressly said to be his children. But they are called οὐκ ἄνδρεσσιν
ἐοικότες, ἀλλὰ Γίγασιν: and the Giants are expressly declared to be
divinely descended in a speech of Alcinous[392]:

[391] Od. x. 120.

[392] Od. vii. 205.

                ἐπεί σφισιν ἐγγύθεν εἰμὲν,
  ὥσπερ Κύκλωπές τε καὶ ἄγρια φῦλα Γιγάντων.

Neptune was the father of Nausithous and the royal house of Scheria,
through Peribœa: but she was daughter of Eurymedon, and Eurymedon
was king of the Giants, and was the king who led them, with himself,
evidently by rebellion, into ruin[393];

[393] Od. vii. 60.

  ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ὤλεσε λαὸν ἀτάσθαλον, ὤλετο δ’ αὐτός.

Thus we have Neptune placed in the relation of ancestor to the
rebellious race, whom it is scarcely possible to consider as other than
identical with the Titans condemned to Tartarus[394].

[394] Il. xiv. 274, 9.

But we have one yet more pointed passage for the establishment of this
strange relationship. In the νεκυΐα of the Eleventh Odyssey, Ulysses
sees, among other Shades, Iphimedea, the wife of Aloeus, who bore to
Neptune two children[395], Otus and Ephialtes; hugest of all creatures
upon earth, and also most beautiful, after Orion. They, the sons of
Neptune, while yet children, threatened war against Olympus, and
planned the piling of the mountains: but Apollo slew them. Thus this,
the most characteristic of all the traditions in Homer relating to
the Evil One, hangs upon the person of Neptune, doubtless because his
mythological place best fitted him for the point of junction. It must
be observed, that Homer has, in bringing these young giants before
us, used a somewhat artificial arrangement. He does not place them in
the realm of Aides and Persephone, though he describes them to us, in
connection with the figures in that gloomy scene, as the children of
Iphimedea, who appears there in the first or feminine division. That he
does not bring them before us in conjunction with Tityus and the other
sufferers of that region, can only be because he did not intend them to
be understood as belonging to it: and it is clear, therefore, that he
means us to conceive of them as having their abode in Tartarus, among
the Titans, doubtless by the side of Eurymedon and his followers.

[395] Od. xi. 505-20.

We may perceive with peculiar clearness, in the case of Neptune, the
distinction between the elevated prerogatives of such a deity within
his own province, and his comparative insignificance beyond it. When
he traverses the sea, it exults to open a path for him, and the huge
creatures from its depths sport along his wake. Such is its sympathy
with him, that when he is exciting the Greeks to war, it too boils
and foams upon the shore of the Hellespont. And not only is maritime
nature thus at his feet, but he has the gift of vision almost without
limit of space, and of knowledge of coming events, so long as they are
maritime. He who knows nothing of the woes of his son Polyphemus till
he is invoked from the sea-shore, yet can discern Ulysses on his raft
from the far Solyman mountains, and even is aware that he will escape
from his present danger (ὀϊζὺς ἥ μιν ἱκάνει) by reaching the shore of
Scheria. This knowledge is shared by the minor goddess Leucothee: and
doubtless on the same principle, namely, that it is marine knowledge.
So he can predict to Tyro that there will be more than one child born
to her: here, too, he speaks of what is personal to himself. When we
take Neptune out of his province, we find none of these extraordinary
gifts, no sign of a peculiar subjugation of nature or of man to him. He
shares in the government of the world only as a vast force, which it
will cost Jupiter trouble to subdue. Even within his own domain some
stubborn phenomena of nature impose limits on his power: for we are
told he would not be able, even were he willing, to save Ulysses from

[396] Od. xii. 107.

Thus it was that the sublime idea of one Governor of the universe,
omnipotent over all its parts, was shivered into many fragments, and
these high prerogatives, distributed and held in severalty, are the
fragments of a conception too weighty and too comprehensive for the
unassisted human mind to carry in its entireness.

~_His grandeur is material._~

Upon the whole, the intellectual spark in Neptune is feeble, and
the conception is much materialized. Ideally he has the relation
to Jupiter, which the statue of the Nile bears to one of Jupiter’s
statues. Within these limits, his position is grand. The ceaseless
motion, the unconquerable might, the wide extent, of the θάλασσα,
compose for him a noble monarchy. At first sight, when we read of the
lottery of the universe, we are startled at finding the earth left
without an owner. It was not so in the Asiatic religions. But mark here
the influence of external circumstances. The nations of Asia inhabited
a vast continent; for them land was greater by far than sea. The
Greeks knew of nothing but islands and peninsulas of limited extent,
whereas the Sea for them was infinite; since, except round the Ægean,
they knew little or nothing of its farther shores. Thus the sceptre of
Neptune reaches over the whole of the Outer Geography; while Earth, as
commonly understood, had long been left behind upon the course of the
adventurous Ulysses.


~_The Aidoneus of Homer._~

There is a marked contrast between the mere rank of Aides or Aidoneus,
and his want of substance and of activity, in the poems. He is one of
the three Kronid Brothers, of whom Neptune asserts--and we are nowhere
told that it is an unwarrantable boast--that they are of equal dignity
and honour. He bears the lofty title of Ζεὺς καταχθόνιος: and he is the
husband of Persephone the Awful. It is plain that he belonged of right
to the order of Olympian deities, because Dione states that he repaired
to the divine abode, to have the wounds healed there by Paieon, which
he had received from Hercules: but it is very doubtful whether we
ought to understand him to have attended even the great Chapter, or
Assembly, of the Twentieth Iliad. His ordinary residence is exclusively
in the nether world. At the same time there is, in his position, and
in that of Persephone, a remarkable independence. This the very title
of subterranean Jupiter is enough to indicate. Neptune is never called
the Jupiter of the sea. And it is quite plain that the power of Jupiter
over the dead was limited. We cannot say it was null: for Castor and
Pollux after death are still τιμὴν πρὸς Ζῆνος ἔχοντες, and they live
accordingly on alternate days. But it was Minerva who interfered to
carry Hercules safely through the Shades, and bring him back; and it
appears that but for her Jupiter would not have been able to give
effect to his design[397].

[397] Od. xi. 302, 626. Il. viii. 366-9.

But the share of action ascribed to this divinity in any part of the
poems is a very small one. In the Twentieth Iliad, the tramp of the
Immortals, when engaged in fight, and the quaking of the earth under
the might of Neptune, cause him to tremble. And his having received
wounds from Hercules, though he shared this indignity with Juno,
detracts from his mythological greatness.

Love of symmetry has sometimes led writers on the Greek mythology to
find matrimonial arrangements for Jupiter’s brothers similar to his
own, by giving to Neptune Amphitrite, and to Aidoneus Persephone,
for their respective wives. The former of these two unions has no
foundation in Homer; and the latter bears little analogy to that of
Jupiter and Juno. For Proserpine is the real Queen of the Shades below:
all the higher traditions and active duties of the place centre around
her, while he appears there as a sort of King-Consort. There is no
sign whatever of his exercising any influence over her, far less of
her acting in the capacity of his organ. And while she has a cult or
worship on earth, he apparently has none.

Under these circumstances, we do not expect to find her exhibiting
any tokens of derivation from, or ideal dependance on him. They would
appear to be respectively derived from traditions of independent origin.

Homer has not attached marks to Aidoneus which would enable us to
trace him to any particular source beyond the limits of the Olympian
system. It would be natural to seek his prototype among the darkest
and earthiest of the elemental powers. But he appears before us in the
poems rather as an independent and Hellenic creation, metaphysical in
kind, and representing little beyond (1), a place in the trine number
of the Kronid Brothers, which appears to be the Hellenic form of a
great primitive tradition of a Trinity in the Godhead; and (2), the
consciousness that there was a city and a government of the dead, and
that a ruler must be provided for them, while the idea of the Supreme
Deity had not retained enough of force and comprehensiveness to seem
sufficient for the purpose.

As the representative of inexorable death, Aidoneus was the opposite of
the bright and life-giving Apollo: and was naturally the most hateful
to mortals of all the Olympian deities[398]. But the place in which the
idea of punishment centres is the domain of Κρόνος rather than that of
Aides: and he is the ruler over a state of the dead which is generally
neither bliss nor acute suffering, but which is deeply overspread with
chillness and gloom.

[398] Il. ix. 159.

I shall refer hereafter[399] to the peculiar relation which appears to
subsist between Aidoneus, together with Persephone, and the mysterious

[399] Inf. sect. iv.

_Demeter, or Ceres._

~_The Ceres or Demeter of Homer._~

The goddess Demeter, the Ceres of the Latins, though afterwards of
considerable dignity and importance, is but a feeble luminary in the
Homeric heavens. That there are in the Iliad[400] only two distinct
notices of her personality, might of itself be compatible with a
contrary supposition: for in the _Troica_ he introduces his divine
personages on account of their relation to the subject, rather than
for their general importance; and corn, which feeds man, has little
affinity with war, which destroys him. But her weight is, if possible,
even smaller in the Odyssey, where she is noticed but once[401], and
that incidentally.

[400] Il. ii. 696. xiv. 326.

[401] Od. v. 125.

The use of the phrase Δημήτερος ἀκτὴ for corn, like the φλὸξ Ἡφαίστοιο
for Vulcan, and Ἄρης for the spear, or for the battle, tends to
indicate imperfect personality; to show that the deity was indistinctly
realized; that the personal name was either recent or at least
unfamiliar; and that it was used, not so much to designate a being, as
to give life to an idea.

Homer has not asserted any connection between Demeter and Persephone:
and the idea of it in later times may have arisen simply from the
observation that in the poems Demeter stands as a mother without a
child, and Persephone as a daughter without a mother.

Possibly, however, the connection may have been suggested by the name;
which seems manifestly to be equivalent to Γῆ μήτηρ or Mother-Earth.
And though the original reference was to the production of food by
which man lives, the word might be susceptible of another sense,
connecting it with the nether world, which had a material relation to
Earth, and which, even in Homer, Tityus the son of Γαῖα, and in the
later tradition the earth-born race generally, were reputed to inhabit.

The name in its proper sense indicates first the idea, and then the
goddess of agriculture: and points to a Pelasgian, and perhaps farther
back an Egyptian, rather than an Hellenic or a Phœnician connection. In
Egypt, according to the reports collected by Diodorus[402], Isis was
held nearly to correspond with her.

[402] Diod. i. 13.

With this supposition agree the only notices contained in the poems
that tend to attach the goddess Demeter to a particular locality. Her
connection with Iasion was probably in Crete or Cyprus, or at any rate
(from the name) in some country occupied, and ruled too, by Pelasgians.
Her τέμενος[403] or dedicated lands in Thessaly, the Pelasgic Argos,
suggest a similar presumption. In Middle Greece and Peloponnesus we
never hear of her. The very solemn and ancient observance of her
worship in Attica, which was so eminently a Pelasgian state in the time
of Homer, entirely accords with the indications of the Homeric text.

[403] Il. ii. 696.

The slight notice she obtains from Homer, compared with the dignity to
which other tokens would tend to show that she was entitled, may have
been owing to the incomplete amalgamation in his time of Hellenic and
Pelasgian institutions.

Upon this goddess, as upon so many others, sensual passion had laid
hold. This is decidedly confirmatory of her Pelasgian or eastern, as
opposed to properly Hellic associations. We see Venus coming from
the east and worshipped in Pelasgian countries: of the three persons
whom Aurora appropriates, Orion is pretty evidently the subject of a
naturalized eastern tradition, and Tithonus is Asiatic: Calypso and
Circe belong to the east by Phœnicia: it is in Troas and Asia that no
less than three Nymphs appear as the bearers of children, fighting
on the Trojan side, to human fathers[404]. Whereas among the more
Hellenic deities, we have Minerva and Proserpine wholly exempt; and
Juno using sensual passion it is true, but only for a political end.
This assemblage of facts further confirms the supposition, that Ceres
ought to be set down as a Pelasgian deity. Orion and Ino, shining in
the heavens, seem to belong to the more astronomical form of eastern
religion: Ceres to that which was probably transmitted through fertile
and well-cultivated Egypt.

[404] Il. vi. 21, xiv. 444, and xx. 384.

~_Her place in Olympus._~

The title of Demeter to rank with the Olympian deities of Homer is not
so absolutely clear, as that of many among them: but it may on the
whole be sufficiently inferred from the arrangement of the passage in
the Fourteenth Odyssey, where Jupiter recites a list of the various
partners to whom he owed his offspring. The three first are women,
who bore sons never deified, Pirithous, Perseus, and Minos: the two
next are women, of whom one gave birth to Dionysus a god, the other
to the substantially deified Hercules. The sixth and seventh are
Demeter, or Ceres, and Latona; the children of neither are mentioned.
Besides that Demeter is called καλλιπλόκαμος ἄνασσα, the two seem to
be coupled together as goddesses. The structure of the passage is not
chronological, but depends upon dignity advancing regularly towards
a climax; so purposely indeed, that Dionysus, always an immortal,
is mentioned after Hercules, a mortal born, though Semele had been
named before Alcmene. All this appears to require the adoption of the
conclusion, that Demeter was reckoned as an Olympian goddess in the
Homeric system.

There is, however, another and more comprehensive solution of the
question which arises out of the faint notices of Δημήτηρ in Homer.
We ought, perhaps, to consider her as the Pelasgian, and Juno as
the Hellenic, reproduction of those eastern traditions, which gave
mythological impersonation to the female principle. They naturally
centred upon the Earth as the recipient of productive influences, and
as the great nurse and feeder of man, the τραφερὴ, the πολύφορβος,
the πουλυβότειρα, the ζείδωρος. The Pelasgic Demeter may be a very
fair and close copy, in all probability, from these traditions as
they existed in Egypt. But when the same materials were presented to
the Hellenic mind, they could not satisfy its active and idealizing
fancy. For the Hellene, man was greater than nature: so that the
great office of Jupiter as king of air was subordinated to his yet
more august function as the supreme superintendent and controller of
human affairs. As the political idea thus predominated in the chief of
the Hellenic Immortals, it was requisite that a similar predominance
of the intellectual and organizing element should be obtained in
his divine Mate. Traditions, however, that had their root in earth,
were of necessity wholly intractable for such a purpose, although
the lighter and more spirit-like fabric of air was less unsuited to
it. Earth was heavy, inactive; and was the prime representative of
matter as opposed to mind. Hence the personality of the tradition was
severed by the Greeks from its material groundwork; and Earth, the
Nature-power, remained beneath, while the figure of Juno, relieved
from this incumbrance, and invested with majestic and vigorous
attributes, soared aloft and took the place of eldest sister and first
wife of Jupiter. Hence doubtless it is that the Γαῖα of Homer is so
inanimate and weakling: because she was but the exhausted residue of
a tradition, from which the higher life had escaped. But the Ἥρη and
the Γαῖα, according to this hypothesis, made up between them a full
representation of the traditions from the East, relating to the chief
female form of deity. This being so, no legitimate place was left in
the mythology of Homer for Ceres; as she had nothing to represent but
the same tradition in a form far less adapted to the Hellenic mind, a
form indeed which it had probably repudiated. Hence while the Olympian
system was young, and Juno not wholly severed from her Oriental origin,
the Γῆ μήτηρ could not but remain a mere outlier. But as the poetry of
the system was developed, and its philosophy submerged and forgotten,
this difficulty diminished, and the later mythology found an ample
space for Ceres as a great elemental power.

I may, then, observe, in conclusion, that the whole of this hypothesis
is eminently agreeable to the Homeric representation of Ceres in
its four main branches, (1) as Pelasgian, (2) as subject to lustful
passion, (3) as a secondary wife of Jupiter, and (4) as immediately
associated with productive Earth.


~_The Persephone of Homer._~

Although the Persephone of Homer is rarely brought before us, and
our information respecting her is therefore slight, there seems to
be sufficient ground for asserting that she is not the mere female
reflection of Hades or Aidoneus.

It is only for those deities from whom other deities are drawn by
descent, that we find in Homer a regular conjugal connection provided.
Thus Neptune, as we have seen, cannot be said to have a wife in Homer.
Amphitrite appears in the poems with a faint and indeed altogether
doubtful personality, though she afterwards grew into his spouse.
Now Neptune was a deity much more in view than Aides: and it is not
likely that we should have found Persephone more fully developed than
Amphitrite, had she not represented some older and more independent

Again, in cases where the female deity is the mere reflection of
the male, we do not find her invested with a share in his dominion,
although, as in the case of Juno, she may occasionally and
derivatively exercise some of the prerogatives, which in him have a
higher and more unquestionable activity. Thus Tartarus is the region
of Κρόνος, not of Ῥέα; air is the realm of Jupiter, not of Jupiter and
Juno. But Persephone appears by the side of Hades as a substantive
person; she is invoked with him by Althea to slay Meleager, in the
Legend of the Ninth Iliad[405]: and the region in which she dwells is
not less hers than his[406],

[405] Il. ix. 569.

[406] Od. x. 491.

  εἰς Ἀΐδαο δόμους καὶ ἐπαινῆς Περσεφονείης.

Indeed her personality is the better developed of the two: for
no personal act is ascribed in the poems to Aides, except the
indeterminate one of trembling, at the battle of the gods, lest the
crust of earth should be broken through: and the name given him in the
Iliad of Ζεὺς καταχθόνιος, subterranean Jupiter, may possibly suggest
that he was sometimes viewed as hardly more than a form or function of
the highest god: whereas, in the under-world of the Eleventh Odyssey,
all the active functions of sovereignty are placed in her hands. It
is she who gathers the women-shades for Ulysses: and it is she who
disperses them when they have been passed in review. It is by her that
Ulysses apprehends the head of Gorgo may be sent forth to drive him
off, should he linger too long; it is by her that he apprehends he may
have been deluded with an εἴδωλον or shade, instead of a substance;
most of all, it is she who endows Tiresias, alone among the dead, with
the character of the Seer[407]. In fine, the whole of the active duties
of the nether kingdom appear to be in her hands.

[407] Od. xi. 226, 385, 639, 213, and x. 494.

That she was generally worshipped by the Hellenic tribes we must infer
from the cases mentioned in the Ninth Iliad, the one in Ætolia, the
other farther North[408]; as well as from her office in regard to the
thoroughly national region of the Shades.

[408] Il. x. 457, 569.

~_Her marked and substantive character._~

She has her own strongly marked set of epithets. Of these, one is ἁγνὴ,
the severely pure; for with Homer ἁγνὸς is exclusively applicable to
divine womanhood, and is given only to Diana and Persephone: then she
is ἀγαυὴ, the dread: and lastly, she is ἐπαινὴ, an epithet appropriated
to her exclusively, which appears to be Homer’s favourite method for
sharply marking out individuality of character. Buttmann has also well
observed, that she has this epithet only when mentioned along with
Hades, that is, when shown very strictly in her official character; and
that ἀγαυὴ is used when she appears alone. Upon this he observes; ‘this
way of joining the name of Proserpine with that of Pluto was an old
epic formula, handed down even to Homer and our oldest Greek poets from
still earlier times, and which they used unchanged[409].’ He would read
ἐπ’ αἰνὴ, instead of ἐπαινὴ, but this neither affects the sense (awful,
terrible) nor the force of the exclusive appropriation.

[409] Buttmann’s Lexil. p. 62. _in voc._ αἶνος.

There is another sign confirmatory of the belief that the origin of
this mythical person must be sought, not in the necessity of finding a
queen for Aidoneus, but in an anterior and distinct tradition. Namely,
this; that, though she is a daughter of Jupiter[410], she is not
provided with a mother. Thus she seems as if she were older than the
Olympian œconomy. Venus, Mars, Vulcan, Mercury, are all equipped with a
full parentage. The later tradition, which made Persephone the daughter
of Ceres, has no other support from Homer than this, that we are left
to suppose that Ceres had some offspring by Jupiter, while none is

[410] Od. xi. 217.

[411] Il. xiv. 326.

The chain of presumptions appears to me to become complete, when we
take into view two other pieces of evidence supplied by the poems.
In the far East[412], beyond the couch of the morning Sun, some
distance up the stream of the great river Ocean, but to the south of
the point where it is entered, and at a spot where the shore narrows
very much--immediately, in short, before the point of descent--are the
groves of Persephone. According to the general rules of interpretation
applicable to Homer, this appears to convey to us that the seat of her
worship was in the far Southern East, and that her office, as there
understood, was that of the goddess or queen of Death. And if she is
indeed the reflection, in the mirror of the lower world, of any other
known deity, then, both from this great office, and from the peculiar
epithet ἁγνὴ, it is most likely to be of Diana, with whom, in the later
mythology, she was identified; and, again, through Diana, of Apollo,
from whom the light of Diana herself was derived. Or, in other words,
she may be for the lower world that reflection of Apollo, which the
Homeric Diana was for this earth: and it is worth observation, that the
gift of second sight, which she allows to Tiresias, and which therefore
is at her disposal beneath ground[413], is the peculiar and exclusive
property of Apollo.

[412] Od. x. 506 _seqq._ xi. 1 _seqq._ xii. _1 seqq._

[413] Od. x. 492-5.

Let us now lastly consider, what light the etymology of her remarkable
name may afford us. Its meaning appears to be, either destruction by
slaughter; from two roots, one that represented in ἔπερσα, from the
verb πέρθω, and the other φόνη; or else, that of the destruction or
slaughter of Persians. In the former view, the evidence leaves us
where we were, or brings us a point nearer to Diana, whose function
was not that of all death whatever, but of such death as might be
called slaughter, because not due to disease, but brought about at the
moment by a sudden process, though often the mildest of all ways of
dying[414]. But the other etymology may be worth some further attention.

[414] Od. xv. 409.

~_Her connection with the East_.~

Besides that cluster of traditions, relating to remote places, which
the Greeks derived from the Phœnician navigators, and which cannot but
have included some eastward wanderings in the Black Sea, as well as
westward experience in the Mediterranean, they must in all likelihood
have had oriental traditions properly their own, brought by their
Hellic forefathers with them from their cradle. We have already seen
that that cradle was probably Persia; and we have found traces of the
connection in the name of the great pre-Achæan hero, Perseus, and in
the continuing use of that name in the high Achæan family of Nestor,
as well as at much later historic dates. Another link, connecting the
Homeric traditions with this name, and both with the East, is found in
the name of Perse, who was the mother of Circe, an Eastern goddess; and
who was the daughter of Ocean, and the wife of the Sun[415].

[415] Od. x. 135-9.

We must take these circumstances into view along with the force of
the name Persephone, and with the evidence we have already had of the
antiquity of the traditions relating to her. To this we have to add
the absence of any Homeric evidence connecting her with any other
local source. There is no sign of any institution, that belonged to
her worship, except in those groves planted in the far East; and no
sign of any other particular locality marked as her peculiar abode,
which we have found to be a mark of such invented deities generally as
had a well developed personality. There is no note of her whatever in
Troas; and nothing to connect her with Egypt, or with the Pelasgians in
any quarter. It is not likely that she came in with the Phœnicians, as
she would then have had signs of a recent origin, and would not have
attained to so august and mysterious a position as she actually holds.
The two distinct notices of her worship are both in the Homeric Hellas;
not in Southern Greece, nor in the islands.

It seems, therefore, on every ground reasonable to suppose, that the
tradition of Proserpine was an original Hellic tradition brought into
the country from the East, probably by the Hellic tribes, and from
among their Persian forefathers; and that the name of the deity, as we
find it in Homer, affords a new indication of the extraction of the

Accordingly, the unusually substantive aspect of her position in
the nether world, which makes her relation to Aidoneus so different
from that of the other mythological wives, or feminines, to their
respective husbands, is such, that it seems most reasonable, instead of
deriving her from him, as Juno was derived from Jupiter, or Tethys from
Ocean, to consider them as representing the union of two independent
impersonations, associated together primarily by their common subject
matter. For there does not seem to be any thing improbable in the
hypothesis, that Persephone may, in the belief of some country and age,
have served alone for the ruler of the region of the dead. Just as so
many subordinate ministers of Doom, the Fates, the Erinues, and the
Harpies, assumed the female form in the process of impersonation, so
it may have been with their sovereign. And if we are to look farther
for the metaphysical groundwork of such a tradition, we may perhaps
find it as follows. There is a relation of analogy between each
function and its converse: and as in the pure mythology, all that gave
life was feminine, so conversely, all that represented the destroying
agency might assume a similar form.

~_Her relation to Olympus_.~

In her case, as in that of one or two others, it is difficult to
discover whether Homer meant a particular deity to be included, or not,
among the Olympian gods of the ordinary or smaller assembly. There is
no indication in the poems, which directly connects Persephone with
Olympus; and that celestial palace may seem to belong to the government
of the living world, and to be almost incapable of relations with that
of the departed. Nor is she connected specially with the Olympian
system, like Aidoneus, by the position which birth confers. The ἄλσος,
and the worship paid her there, can hardly belong to the departed
spirits on their way to their abode, and more probably indicate an
ancient tradition deriving her worship from the far East. On the other
hand, her dignity and majesty in the poems are unquestionable, and
indeed superior to those of any Olympian deity, after some five or six.
I do not find materials for a confident judgment on the Homeric view
of her place in his theo-mythology, with reference to this particular
point of connection with Olympus.

Founding conjecture upon the facts before us, I venture, however, on
a further extension of these hypotheses with respect to Persephone.
We perceive in Persephone and Diana that kind of likeness which may
be due to their common origin; if, as we suppose, both were images of
Apollo. But it is not likely that two such images should have been
formed by the same race for itself. Can we then, probably refer Diana
and Persephone to different sources ethnically?

It is plain that Diana was worshipped in Troy and Greece. Persephone,
so far as we know, in Greece only. This would agree with the
supposition that Diana was originally Pelasgian, Persephone only Hellic.

Again, Diana was an earthly, Persephone a subterraneous reflection of
Apollo. Now the Hellic tribes were lively believers in a future state:
as we see from the communion of Achilles with the soul of Patroclus,
and from many places in the Odyssey. But we have nowhere in Homer the
slightest allusion among the Trojans to the belief in a future state,
beyond the mere formula of entering the region of Aïdes. Neither the
succinct account of the funeral rites of Hector, nor any one of the
three addresses over his remains, contain the slightest allusion to his
separate existence as a spirit. There is, indeed, mention of wine used
to extinguish the flame of the funeral pile, but none of invocation
along with it, as there is in the case of Patroclus[416]. And as we
have no less than an hundred lines spoken over or otherwise bestowed
upon the dead Hector, the omission is singular. It becomes still more
significant, when we recollect that the Greeks, and their goddess
Juno, invoke the deities of the under-world, and the powers connected
with a future state, in their solemn oaths and imprecations[417]; but
when Hector swears to Dolon, (our only example of a Trojan oath,) he
adjures Jupiter alone[418]. Now it may be that the religion of Troy
did not include so distinct a reference to a future state, as that of
Greece, and that the Trojans knew nothing of Persephone, or of any
deity holding her place. This hypothesis would at once accord with
the features of the Homeric portrait, and with the striking absence
among the Trojans of all pointed reference to a future life, or to
the disembodied spirit. Nor need we consider it to be at all shaken
by slight and formal allusions, or by the words in which Homer on his
own part dismisses to Hades the spirit of the slain Hector[419]. The
hypothesis which the circumstances appear to suggest is, not that
the Trojans disbelieved a future existence, but that they neither
felt keenly respecting it, nor gave a mythological development to the

[416] Il. xxiii. 218-21.

[417] Il. iii. 278. ix. 454. 569. xiv. 271-4. xv. 36-40. xix. 258-60.

[418] Il. x. 329.

[419] Il. xvi. 856, 7, and xxii. 362, 3.


~_The Mars of Homer._~

Even in Homer, Mars is externally the most imposing figure among the
masculine deities of pure invention. The greatest of war-bards could
not but find him a fine subject for poetical amplification. But in the
Roman period he had far outgrown the limits of his Homeric position.
With the lapse of time, the forces and passions, which gave to this
impersonation its hold upon human nature, were sure to prevail in a
considerable degree over the finer elements from which Apollo was
moulded. It requires an effort of mind to liberate ourselves from the
associations of the later mythology, and contract our vision for the
purpose of estimating the Mars of Homer as he really is.

Notwithstanding his stature, beauty, hand and voice, which constitute,
taken together, a proud appearance, it seems as if Mars had stood lower
in the mind of Homer than any Olympian deity who takes part in the
Trojan war, except Venus only.

The Odyssey never once brings Mars before us, even by way of allusion,
except in the licentious lay of Demodocus; and the spirit of that
lay certainly seems to aim at making him ridiculous, especially in
the manner of his release and withdrawal. In the Iliad his part is,
of course, more considerable; but on no occasion whatever does Homer
apparently seek to set him off, or give him a commanding attitude in
comparison with other deities.

We have nowhere any account of any act of reverence or worship done to
him, either in or out of Greece. For instance, he is never, even in the
contingencies of war, the object of prayer. He never shows command over
the powers of nature, or the mind of man; which he nowhere attempts
to influence by suggestion. It is said, indeed, that he entered into
Hector, as that warrior was putting on the armour of Achilles;

                    δῦ δέ μιν Ἄρης
  δεινὸς Ἐνυάλιος[420].

[420] Il. xvii. 210.

But no words could more conclusively fix his place in the Homeric
system as the mere impersonation of a Passion. For with Homer no
greater deity, indeed, no other of the Olympian gods, is ever said to
enter into the mind of a mortal man. In the Fifth Book he stirs up
the warlike passion of Menelaus; having, like Venus, a limited hold
upon a particular propensity. His climax of honour in this department
is his giving θάρσος to the Pseudo-Ulysses; but this he does only in
conjunction with Minerva[421].

[421] Od. xiv. 216.

~_His limited worship and attributes._~

His possession of the attributes of deity appears to have been most
limited. The use of the word Ἄρης not only for the passion of war, but
even for its weapons, shows us that the impersonation was in this case
as yet very partially disengaged from the metaphysical ideas, or the
material objects, in which it took its rise.

His function as god of war was confined to the merely material side
of war, and had nothing to do with that aspect, in which war enlists
and exhausts all the higher faculties of the human mind; so much so,
indeed, that to be a great general is almost necessary in order to
enter the first rank of greatness at all. Even of war in the lower
sense he had not, as a god, exclusive possession, but he administered
his office in partnership with a superior, Minerva. Besides being every
thing else that she was, she presided, along with him, over war. On
the shield of Achilles, he and Minerva lead the opposing hosts[422].
Over the body of Patroclus the struggle was one of which, says the
Poet, neither Mars nor Minerva could think lightly[423]. Achilles, when
pursuing the Trojans, calls for assistance; for, says he, neither Mars
nor Minerva could undertake to dispose of such a multitude[424]. Mars
and Minerva, says Jupiter, will take charge of the concerns of war[425].

[422] Il. xviii. 516.

[423] xvii. 398.

[424] xx. 359.

[425] Il. v. 430.

But that in this partnership he was an inferior, and not an equal, is
clear from the manner in which he is habitually handled by Minerva.
She wounds him through the spear of Diomed, when, unless saved by
flight, he himself apprehends he might have perished[426]. In the
Theomachy, she twice over strikes him powerless to the ground. In the
Olympian meeting of the Fifteenth Book, when his intended visit to
the battlefield menaces the gods with trouble from the displeasure of
Jupiter, Minerva strips his armour off his back, scolds him sharply,
and replaces him in his seat[427]. And she is pointed out by Jupiter
as the person, whose habitual duty it was to keep him in order by the
severest means[428];

[426] Il. v. 885-7.

[427] Il. xv. 110-42.

[428] Il. v. 766.

  ἥ ἑ μάλιστ’ εἴωθε κακῇς ὀδύνῃσι πελάζειν.

In the Fifth Iliad, he stirs up the Trojans, and envelopes the fight
in darkness: but here he is acting under ἐφετμαὶ, or injunctions from
Apollo[429], who thus appears, like Minerva, in the light of a superior
to him, even in his own department.

[429] Il. v. 508.

We learn, again, that he was overcome and imprisoned by the youths Otus
and Ephialtes, whom Apollo subdued: he was in bondage for thirteen
months, and would have perished, had not Mercury released him[430].

[430] Il. v. 385.

He is able to assume the human figure, and, as we have seen, to bring
darkness over contending hosts: but, when in Olympus, he remains
ignorant[431] of the death of his son Ascalaphus, until he receives
the information from Juno; as it was only from his Nymphs that the
Sun learned the slaughter of his oxen. Nay, Minerva even puts on
a particular helmet, in order that it may secure her from being
recognised by Mars when within his view[432].

[431] Il. xiii. 521. xv. 110 _et seqq._

[432] Il. v. 845.

Mars in the Olympian court bears some resemblance to Ajax among the
Grecian heroes. But the intellectual element, which appears to be
simply blunt in Ajax, in Mars seems to be wholly wanting: so that he
represents an animal principle in its crudest form: and is not so much
an Ajax, as a Caliban.

We are not told that he is greedy of sacrifices, for no _cultus_ is
assigned to him: but he is represented as greedy of blood, and as
capable of being satiated with it[433].

[433] Il. v. 289.

Except with Venus for his mere person, he has no favour with any other
Olympian deities[434]. Juno describes him as lawless and as a fool: and
Jupiter tells him that, were he the son of any other deity but himself,
he would long ago have been ejected from his place in heaven[435].

[434] Od. viii. 310.

[435] v. 831, 97.

On one occasion, his name is associated with those of Agamemnon
and Neptune: but the due relation between them is still preserved.
Agamemnon is compared with Jupiter as to his face and head; with
Neptune as to his chest; and with Mars as to his waist. The eyes of
Hector on the field of battle were like the Gorgon, and like Mars[436].

[436] Il. ii. 478, and viii. 349.

From the repeated allusions to contingencies in which he would have
perished, there seems to be something more or less equivocal even about
his title to immortality. If more, he is also much less, than man. He
is perhaps the least human of the Olympian family; and is a compound
between deity and brute.

The exhibitions of Mars, as wounded by Diomed for the Iliad, and in
the lay of Demodocus for the Odyssey, seem to imply that this deity
could not, in the time of Homer, have become an object of general or
established religious worship in Greece.

~_Mars as yet scarcely Greek._~

He is a local deity, and his abode is in Thrace. From thence he issues
forth with his mythical son Terror to make war upon the Ephyri: a
race whose name has a strong Greek savour, and whose hostile relation
to Mars thus exhibited, tends, with other evidence, to place him in
the category of foreign deities, not yet naturalized in the country,
though made available by Homer for his Olympian Court. After the
detection in the palace of Vulcan, it is to Thrace that he again

We are not to consider this paramount Thracian relation as absolutely
separating him from Greece: Thracians, like Pelasgi, had links with
both parties in the war, though the stronger ones are apparently those
which connect them with Troy.

He has among the deities the nickname of ἀλλοπρόσαλλος, or turncoat,
because of his vacillation between the two parties. This singular
epithet, applied to the Thracian god, conveys the idea that Homer,
knowing of the sympathies of the name with both sides, was puzzled as
to placing him decisively on either. Now the Thracians of Homer were
ἀκρόκομοι[437], while the Achæans were καρηκομόωντες. And it is worth
notice that the Germans of Tacitus, among whom we find marked signs of
resemblance to the Hellenic tribes, wore in general flowing hair, but
the Suevi, one particular tribe of them, on the contrary, gathered it
into a knot[438].

[437] Il. iv. 533.

[438] Tac. Germ. c. 38. Il. xx. 413.

Mars, however, incurs the particular wrath of Juno by abandoning the
party of the Greeks, and siding with the Trojans. But in the Fifteenth
Book, where Juno acquaints him of the death of his son, who had fought
in the Greek ranks, she evidently does it in the expectation that grief
and resentment will once more make him a foe to the Trojans. And her
calculation is well founded: for he is setting out with that intention,
when Minerva follows, and roughly brings him back.

He only appears once in a pre-Troic legend. This appearance, too, is
beyond the borders of Greece. In Lycia he, or, it may be, simply
warlike passion which he represents, slays Isander, the son of
Bellerophon and uncle of Glaucus, in battle with the Solymi. Still he
is the father by Astyoche, of Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, somewhere in the
neighbourhood of the Minyeian Orchomenus, or else farther towards the
north of Greece.

The Homeric indications, on the whole, as well as the general
conceptions of the character, represent Mars as neither a deity
indigenous to the country, nor one belonging to the Hellenic
traditions: while the Poet perhaps intends us to understand that he
had points of contact or affinity with Greece, which are represented
in his wavering attitude between the two parties to the war. It is
probable that the Poet himself may have been a principal agent in the
introduction of Mars to Hellenic worship. The machinery of the Iliad
required him to find an array of gods, who should be champions on each
side respectively. It also required that these gods should be united
round a centre, which he provided for them in Olympus and in its Court,
under the presidency of Jupiter. Both Mars and Venus may thus have made
good a title, which before was doubtful and imperfect, through the
place to which they were promoted in the Iliad, combined with the place
which the Iliad itself won for itself in the national understanding and


~_The Mercury of Homer._~

The Homeric signs respecting Mercury are sufficient to fix his
character and origin. The small part, which this deity plays in the
poems, is indeed in remarkable contrast with the extended popularity to
which at a later period he attained: but his character in Homer is one
which accounts in a natural manner for the subsequent increase in his

He is the son of Maias, Od. xiv. 435; and of Jupiter, Od. viii. 335.

He is the man of business for the Olympian deities, διάκτορος. Od.
viii. 335. v. 28[439].

[439] Döllinger, Heid. u. Jud. p. 74.

He is the giver of increase, δῶτορ ἐάων. Od. viii. 335. Il. xiv. 490.

He is the most sociable of deities, Il. xxiv. 334. σοὶ γάρ τε μάλιστά
γε φίλτατόν ἐστιν ἀνδρὶ ἑταίρισσαι.

The extraction of Mercury stands somewhat obscurely in Homer: his
mother Maias is but once mentioned, and then without any clue. But,
in the ancient hymn to Mercury, she is declared to be the daughter of
Atlas: and if this be so, we shall be justified in considering him as
the child of a Phœnician tradition[440]. This is also clear on Homeric
grounds. Although Homer does not expressly connect him with Atlas, he
makes Calypso, the daughter of that personage, address him as αἰδοῖός
τε φίλος τε. These expressions are usually applied by him where there
is some special relation of consanguinity, affinity, or guestship:
as between Jupiter and his adopted child[441] and particular friend
Thetis. It is therefore probable that Homer took Mercury’s mother Maias
to be, as the after-tradition made her, the sister of Calypso, and the
daughter of Atlas. All the other Homeric signs of him are in complete
harmony with this hypothesis of a Phœnician origin for Mercury.

[440] See sup. Ethnology, sect. iv.

[441] Il. xxiv. 111.

We thus understand how he becomes the general agent for the gods:
because the Phœnicians supplied the first and principal means of
communication between the several nations in the heroic age: they were
the men-of-business for the world[442].

[442] Od. ix. 124.

It thus becomes plain, again, how he can with propriety be called the
giver of comforts or blessings; because the basis of commerce is this,
that each person engaged in it parts with something which he does not
want, and receives what he does want in return.

The apparent anomaly, which makes the god of increase also the god of
thievery, is thus explained: because, from its nature, commerce is ever
apt to degenerate partially into fraud; and because, in days of the
strong hand, force as well as intelligence would often make it easy for
the maritime merchants to change their vocation, for the occasion, into
that of plunder[443].

[443] Od. viii. 161-4. and xv. 416.

His proper office in regard to the ἔργα of men seems not to be
industry, nor skill in production or manufacture; but handiness and
tidiness in the performance of services. He, says Ulysses, gives to the
ἔργα, which may mean both the deeds and the industrial productions of
men, their χάρις and κῦδος, their grace and credit or popularity[444].

[444] Od. xiv. 319.

~_Mercury the god of increase._~

This idea of increase forms the common or central element of the
various attributes assigned to Mercury. It takes two principal
forms, one that of increase in material goods, the other that of the
propagation of the race. This latter, which was elsewhere grossly
exhibited, is veiled by Homer with his almost unfailing sense of
delicacy, and may not, indeed, have been fully developed in his time.
It is perhaps however traceable in two passages of the poems: first,
that of the Sixteenth Iliad, where we are told that he corrupted the
virgin Polymele[445], though she belonged to the train of Diana. The
other is in the episode of Venus and Mars, where Apollo selects him as
the deity to whom to put the question, whether he would like to take
the place of the adulterer, and he replies in the affirmative[446].
Each of these incidents seems to appertain to something distinctive in
his character.

[445] Il. xvi. 179-86.

[446] Od. viii. 334-42.

That character, again, imports the extended intercourse with mankind,
and the knowledge of the world, which causes him to be chosen, in the
Twenty-Fourth Iliad, for the difficult office of conducting Priam to
the abode of Ulysses. Moreover, the great balance of material benefit
which commerce brings gives him, its patron, as a general rule, a
genial and philanthropic aspect. In Homer we have nowhere any sign of
his vengeance, anger, or severity. He neither punishes, hates, nor is
incensed with any one. A passionless and prudent deity, he not only
declines actual fighting with Latona, as she is a wife of Jupiter, but
spontaneously gives her leave to boast among the gods that she has
engaged and worsted him.

~_Mercury Hellenic and Phœnician._~

The Phœnician origin of Mercury will also account for his position in
the poems, in relation to the Trojans and Greeks respectively. Not
simply is he one of the five Hellenizing deities: for his talents would
naturally with Homer tend to place him on that side. But he appears
almost wholly unknown to the Trojans. The abundance of the flocks of
Phorbas is indeed referred to his love (Il. xiv. 490): and he reveals
himself to Priam by his name (Il. xxiv. 460): but it is remarkable, and
contrary to the general rule of the poems, that Priam, notwithstanding
his great obligations, takes no notice whatever of his deity, either
upon his first revelation and departure, or when a second time he
appears, and afterwards quits him anew (682-94).

On the other hand, we have abundant signs of his familiarity with the
Greeks. He conveys the sceptre from Jupiter to Pelops: he carries the
warning of the gods to Ægisthus: sacrifice is offered to him in Ithaca:
and he is liberally treated with sacrifices by Autolycus in Parnesus,
where he repays his worshipper by bestowing on him the arts of perjury
and purloining[447].

[447] Od. xiv. 435, and xix. 394-8.

Now it is plain, from many places in the poems, that the Greeks had
much intercourse with the Phœnicians. On the other hand, the Trojans,
wealthy by internal products and home trade, seem to have known little
or nothing of maritime commerce. Their intercourse with Thrace, the
fertile Thrace that furnished a contingent of allies, required no
more than that they should have the means of crossing the Straits of
Gallipoli. We nowhere hear that they had a port or harbour. A Phœnician
deity would therefore, of course, be on the Achæan side during the war.

Independently of such an origin, he might, in his usual capacity of
agent, have been with perfect propriety sent to Calypso: but his
mythical relationship to her as a nephew, and her evident connection
with Phœnician traditions, give a peculiar propriety to his employment
on this errand.

Another passage of the Odyssey seems, however, to place this
relationship beyond doubt. Ulysses, in the Twelfth Book, recounts
to Alcinous the transaction that occurred in the Olympian Assembly
after his crew had slain the oxen of the Sun. On that occasion, the
offended deity declared that, unless he got compensation, he would
go down and shine in the realm of Aides; upon which Jupiter at once
promised to destroy the ship of Ulysses. ‘This,’ adds Ulysses, ‘I
heard from Calypso, and she told me that she had herself heard it from

[448] Od. xii. 389, 90.

Now this was no affair of Calypso’s; none, that is, on which the gods
could make a communication to her in regard to Ulysses: but it was
one in which, from her passion for the hero, she would take a natural
interest, and on which she might well obtain information from a deity
who was her relative. Nor does it appear on what other ground Mercury
should be named, as the person who brought her this extra-official

Again, it is probably on account of his Phœnician connection, that
the intervention of Mercury is employed in the Tenth Odyssey[449], to
supply Ulysses with the instructions that were necessary, in order to
enable him to cope with Circe.

[449] Od. x. 275-307.

For we are here in the midst of a cluster of traditions, which we have
every reason to presume to be wholly Phœnician[450]. It is the cluster,
which occupies the outer circle of the geography of the Odyssey: and
it is severed from the Grecian world and experience, not only by a
geographical line, but by an entire change in mythological relations.
From the time when Ulysses enters that circle in the beginning of the
Ninth Book, until his appearance near Scheria, on the outskirt of the
known familiar sphere, his ancient friend Minerva nowhere attends him:
and there are four whole books without even a mention of the goddess,
who, except for this interval, stands prominently forth in almost
every page of the Odyssey. The divine aid is given to him, during this
period, through Circe and Calypso; while Mercury is appointed to
command the latter, and to enable Ulysses to overcome the former. Both
the company and the traditions, amidst which Mercury is found, thus
invite us to presume that he is a deity of Phœnician importation into

[450] See ‘Achæis, or Ethnology,’ sect. iv.

~_Mercury recent in Greece._~

There is one other point connected with him, which, tending to mark
that he had somewhat recently become known to the Greeks, agrees with
other indications of his introduction from beyond sea. He figures,
indeed, in legends as old as Hercules and Pelops[451]; and we do not
receive any account of his infancy, as we do of the infancy of Dionysus
and of Vulcan. But we may observe that, whenever he assumes human form,
it is the form of one scarcely emerging from boyhood. In the last
Iliad, he is a πρῶτον ὑπηνήτης, in the fairest flower of youth[452].
And in the Tenth Odyssey, where he makes his second and only other
appearance to a mortal, the same line is repeated in order to describe
his appearance, as if it were an established formula for himself, and
not merely adapted to a particular occasion. Indeed it may reasonably
be questioned, whether such adaptation exists at all. A very young
person was not the most appropriate conductor for Priam, on such an
errand as that which he had undertaken: nor the best instructor in the
mode of coping with the formidable Circe. Therefore, without laying
too much stress upon the point, the meaning of the youthful appearance
seems to be, that he was young in the Greek Olympus.

[451] Il. ii. 104. Od. xi. 626.

[452] Il. xxiv. 348. Od. x. 279.

There is yet another sign by which I think we may identify Mercury
as, in the estimation of Homer, a deity known to be of foreign
introduction. The list given by Jupiter in the Fourteenth Iliad of
his intrigues, includes no reference to Maias, the mother of Mercury,
or to Diana the mother of Venus. Yet it is a large and elaborately
constructed list, ending with Juno herself: and the question arises,
on what principle was it constructed? I think the answer must be that,
as it was addressed to Juno, the most Hellenic of all the Olympian
deities, with whom he wished to be on good terms at the moment, so also
it was intended, if not to give a full account of his Greek intrigues,
yet at any rate that no tradition should appear in it, except such as
Homer considered to be either native, or fully naturalized. It contains
no reference, for example, to the mother of Sarpedon, the mother of
Dardanus, the mother of Amphion and Zethus, the mother of Tantalus,
(whom we have however only presumptions for reckoning as by Homeric
tradition a son of Jupiter,) or even the mother of Æolus; whom it is
possible that Homer may have regarded as Hellic, rather than properly
Greek, though the father of illustrious Greek houses. If this be the
rule, under which the Poet has framed the list, then the exclusion of
Maias and her son remarkably coincides with the other evidence that
tends to define his position as a deity of known and remembered foreign

~_His Olympian office and that of Iris._~

It may be convenient to notice in this place the statement which is
commonly made, that Iris is the messenger of the gods in the Iliad,
but that Mercury, except only in the Twenty-fourth Book of that Poem,
is confined in this capacity to the Odyssey: a statement, on which
has been founded a standing popular argument against the unity of
authorship in the two poems, and also against the genuineness of the
Twenty-fourth Iliad itself.

The statement, however, appears to rest upon a pure misapprehension;
for it assumes the identity of the character of Iris and Mercury
respectively as messengers. Whereas there is really a difference,
corresponding with the difference in dignity between the two deities:
and Homer is in regard to them perfectly consistent with himself.

Mercury is sometimes a messenger in the proper sense, and sometimes
an agent, or an agent and messenger combined. It is not true that, so
far as the Iliad is concerned, he only appears in the last Book in
one of these capacities. For in the Second Book[453] we find, that he
carried the Pelopid sceptre from Jupiter to Pelops: which may mean
either simply, that he was the bearer of it, or that by a commission
he assisted Pelops in acquiring, or rather in founding, the Achæan
throne in the Peloponnesus. In the Twenty-fourth Iliad, Mercury is
not really a messenger at all[454]; but he is an agent, intrusted
by Jupiter on the ground of special fitness with the despatch of a
delicate and important business, the bringing Priam in safety to the
presence of Achilles, and afterwards the withdrawing him securely from
a position of the utmost danger. This is an office like that undertaken
by Minerva in the Fourth Book, when, as she was commissioned to bring
about a breach of the Pact by the Trojans, she repaired to Pandarus
for the purpose. But the function of Iris is simply to carry messages,
and chiefly from one deity to another; she is not only ἄγγελος, but
μετάγγελος[455]; she is not intrusted in any case with the conduct of
transactions among men, or responsible for their issue, although in the
Fifteenth Book she spontaneously advises the god Neptune in the sense
of the message she has brought. It is not for Jupiter only that she
acts: she also conveys a message, and a clandestine one, for Juno[456].
Nay, on one occasion, without any divine charge, hearing the prayer
of Achilles to two of the Winds, she spontaneously carries it to the
palace, where they were all feasting together[457].

[453] Il. ii. 104.

[454] Il. xxiv. 334.

[455] Il. xxiii. 199.

[456] Il. xviii. 165-8.

[457] Il. xxiii. 199.

Only in the Odyssey do we find Mercury unquestionably and simply
discharging the duty of a messenger; and this on two occasions: the
first, when he brought to Ægisthus the warning that his crimes, if
committed, would be followed by retribution from the hand of Orestes;
the second, when he communicated to Calypso the command to release

But there is in reality no discrepancy whatever between the two poems:
inasmuch as Mercury and Iris, though both messengers, act in different
characters. Iris is in one case the spontaneous messenger, who carries
a hero’s wish to subordinate deities; but she uniformly has this
mark, that she never rises higher than to be the personal messenger
of Jupiter. On the other hand, Mercury in the Odyssey is the official
messenger, not of Jupiter individually, but in both cases of the
Assembly of the gods: and the care, with which the distinction seems
to be drawn, is very remarkable. It is true, the message to Calypso is
called Ζηνὸς ἀγγελίη: but it became the message of Jupiter, because it
was a proposal made by Minerva in the Olympian Assembly, and made on
the part of all in the plural number, which was then duly adopted by
Jupiter as the executive head of the body[458]:

[458] Od. i. 84.

  Ἑρμείαν μὲν ἔπειτα, διάκτορον Ἀργειφόντην,
  νῆσον ἐς Ὠγυγίην ὀτρύνομεν.

The message in the case of Ægisthus is equally well defined[459]:

[459] Od. i. 38.

                      πρό οἱ εἴπομεν ἡμεῖς
  Ἑρμείαν πέμψαντες.

It would have been out of keeping, therefore, with the character
and rank of the Homeric Iris, to give her the charge of the messages
carried by Mercury. The only case at all analogous in the Iliad is that
of the decision in the Fourth Book: and there not Iris, but Minerva
is employed. It is not, however, true that we have in the Odyssey no
recognition of the character of Iris as a messenger. We find one,
and that the plainest of all, in the etymology of the name of Ἶρος
the beggar. His proper name was Arnæus[460]; and he was called Irus,
because he was a messenger:

[460] Od. xviii. 6.

            Ἶρον δὲ νέοι κίκλησκον ἅπαντες,
  οὕνεκ’ ἀπαγγέλλεσκε κιὼν, ὅτε πού τις ἀνώγοι.

There is yet another illustration of the view which has here been
given. In the Assembly of the Twenty-fourth Iliad, Jupiter, in order
to give effect to the general desire of the gods, has occasion to wish
for the presence of Thetis: and it has at first sight an odd appearance
that he does not, as in other cases where he is acting singly, call
Iris and bid her go: but he says, with a mode of expression not found

  ἀλλ’ εἴ τις καλέσειε θεῶν Θέτιν....

And Iris, hearing him, sets forth without being personally designated.
The peculiar language seems as if it had been employed for the especial
purpose of keeping Iris within her own province, and of preventing the
possibility of the confusion between her office and that of deities
superior in rank, which might have arisen if she had regularly received
an errand in the midst of the Olympian Court.

Thus, then, it would appear, that the apparent discrepancy between the
various parts of the poems, when closely examined, really yields to us
fresh evidence of their harmony. Nor let it be thought unworthy of
Homer thus minutely to preserve the precedence and relative dignity
of his deities. With our views of the Olympian scheme, it may require
an effort to assume his standing-ground: but when he was dealing
with the actual religion of his country, it was just as natural and
needful for him to maintain the ranks and distinctions of the gods,
as of men in their various classes. Mythology might, indeed, afford
ample scope to his fancy for free embellishment and enlargement of the
established traditions; but these processes must always be in the sense
of harmonious development, not of discord.

Another question may indeed be asked: whence came this idea of twofold
messengership, higher and lower? and would it not have been more
natural if the whole of this function had been intrusted to one deity?
This question is, I believe, just, and requires that a special account
should be given of an arrangement apparently anomalous. Such an account
I have endeavoured to supply in treating of Iris, by shewing that she
owes her place to a primeval tradition, while Mercury owes his to an
ideal conformity with the laws of the Olympian system.

And in truth there is no single deity, on whom the stamp of that system
has been more legibly impressed. It might be said of the Homeric
Mercury, that he exceeds in humanism (to coin a word for the purpose)
the other Olympian gods, as much as they excel the divinities of any
other system. His type is wholly and purely inventive, without a trace
of what is traditional. He represents, so to speak, the utilitarian
side of the human mind, which was of small account in the age of Homer,
but has since been more esteemed. In the limitation of his faculties
and powers, in the low standard of his moral habits, in the abundant
activity of his appetites, in his indifference, his ease, his good
nature, in the full-blown exhibition of what Christian Theology would
call conformity to the world, he is, as strictly as the nature of
the case admits, a product of the invention of man. He is the god of
intercourse on earth; and thus he holds in heaven by mythological
title, what came to Iris by primitive tradition. The proof must, I
think, be sufficiently evident, from what has been and will be adduced
piecemeal and by way of contrast, in the accounts of other and, for
that period at least, more important divinities.


~_The Venus of Homer._~

There is no deity, except perhaps Dionysus, of whom the position and
estimation in Homer are so vividly contrasted with those, to which he
or she attained in later paganism, as Venus. The Venus of Virgil, the
Venus of Lucretius, are separated by an immeasurable interval from the
Aphrodite of Homer. And the manner in which she is treated throughout
the Iliad and Odyssey is not only curious, as indicating the nature and
origin of her divinity, but is of very high interest as illustrative of
the great Poet’s tone of mind and feeling.

There is no act of worship or reverence, no sign of awe or deference,
shown to her in any part of either of the poems. Yet her rank is
indisputably elevated. It is beyond doubt that she belongs to the
Olympian family. She appears in Olympus, not as specially sent for, but
as entitled ordinarily to be there: she takes a side in the war: she
makes the birth of Æneas more glorious on the mother’s side than that
of Achilles, who was sprung from Thetis, the daughter of Nereus, and a
deity of inferior dignity to hers. Not only is Jupiter her father, but
her mother Dione is an Olympian goddess. Yet her Olympian rank is ill
sustained by powers and prerogatives: and she probably owed it to the
poetical necessity, which obliged Homer to have an array of divinities
on each side in the war, with some semblance of equality at least
between the rival divisions.

The indications of the poem may lead us to believe that her name and
worship were of recent origin. That a worship of her had begun is
obvious: for in Paphos, a town of Cyprus, and the only one named by
Homer, she had both an altar, and a τέμενος, or dedicated estate;
and she bears the name of Cypris[461]. But we have only the very
slightest mention of her, or of any thing connected with her, in
Greece proper. We have seen much reason to assume that Cyprus was
essentially Pelasgian, and ethnically more akin to Troy than to
Greece. In Troy we find various signs of her influence. She sent to
Andromache the marriage gift of her κρήδεμνον[462]. She made to Paris
the fatal present of his lust[463]. She fell in love with Anchises,
and became the mother of Æneas[464]. She led Helen away from the roof
of Menelaus[465], and was an object of dread to her when in Troy[466].
Minerva, in taunting her bitterly about her wound, supposes she may
have got it by a scratch from a golden buckle, in undressing some
Greek woman that she had persuaded to elope with one of the Trojans
whom she so signally loves[467]. Again, it appears from a speech of
Helen, that she was worshipped in Phrygia and Mæonia[468]. The only
token of her influence in Greece is, that she is twice in the Odyssey
called Κυθέρεια. Thus we see her not strictly within Greece, but rather
advanced some steps on her way to it. And it is easy to suppose that,
in the race of corruption, her worship would run among the fastest.

[461] Il. v. 422 _et alibi_.

[462] Il. xxii. 470.

[463] Il. xxiv. 30.

[464] Il. ii. 820.

[465] Il. iii. 400.

[466] Il. iii. 418; also 395, where ὀρίνω, as most commonly in Homer,
means to excite with fear.

[467] Il. v. 422-5.

[468] Il. iii. 402.

~_Venus as yet scarcely Greek._~

The negative evidence, then, thus far tends to the belief that Venus
was not yet established among the regular deities of the Poet’s
countrymen: and it is supported by positive testimony. For some of
the functions, that must in the post-Homeric view of her office have
belonged to her, Homer studiously makes other provision. Of this
there is a most remarkable case in the Odyssey. He designs that the
Suitors, before they are put to death, shall be made to yield of their
substance to the house of Ulysses, in the form of gifts to Penelope.
For this purpose he arrays her in all her charms, and brings her forth
in appearance like Diana, or golden Venus[469]. It is not a common
practice with Homer to compare a beautiful Greek woman to Venus;
especially when it is one so matronlike as Penelope. On the other hand,
the comparison of Cassandra to Venus[470] is entirely in keeping with
the Asiatic character of the deity. But the intention of the allusion
here is manifest: for when the Suitors see her, it is passion which
prompts them to vie with one another in courting her favour through the
medium of costly gifts. How, then, came the sad Penelope thus to deck
herself? It was not her own thought: it was the suggestion of a deity,
and if Venus had been recognised by Homer as an established object of
worship in Greece, Venus would most properly have made the suggestion:
for she, says Achilles, is supreme in beauty, as Minerva is in industry
and skill[471]. But it is Minerva who instils this suggestion into
the mind of Penelope; though in a form which conveys no taint to her
mind[472]. She goes, however, beyond this: for she sends Penelope to
sleep, and then, to enhance her beauty, applies to her face a wash,
of the kind that Venus herself uses when she goes among the Graces.
Yet this is not procured from Venus, as Juno in the Iliad procures the
_cestus_ from her on Mount Olympus; nor is her agency or aid in any
manner employed. Thus she is not allowed, as it were, to have to do
in any manner with Penelope; a clear indication, I think, that though
known, she was not yet worshipped in Greece proper.

[469] Od. xvii. 37. xix. 54.

[470] Il. xxiv. 699. I think the case of Hermione (Od. iv. 14.) is an

[471] Il. ix. 389.

[472] Od. xviii. 158-68.

She appears, indeed, in the legend of the daughters of Pandareus[473]:
but the scene of this legend is not stated by Homer to be in Greece,
and by general tradition it is placed in Crete or in Asia Minor.

[473] Od. xix. 67, 73.

Again, the predicaments in which she is exhibited in the poems are
of a kind hardly reconcilable with the supposition, that she was an
acknowledged Greek deity at the time. In the lay of Demodocus, the Poet
seems to intend to make the guilty pair ridiculous, from his sending
them off, when released, so rapidly and in silence. It is true that
he exhibits to us in the Iliad the sensual passion of Jupiter: but he
has wreathed the passage where it is described in imagery, both of
wonderful beauty, and rather more elaborate than is his wont[474].
But whatever may be thought of the Eighth Odyssey, the Fifth and
Twenty-first Iliad seem, so far as Venus is concerned, only to permit
one construction. In the former, she is, after being wounded, both
menaced and ridiculed by Diomed[475]. In the latter, for no other
offence than leading the battered Mars off the field, she is followed
by Minerva, and struck to the ground by a blow upon the breast. As
in the case of Mars, so and more decidedly in the case of Venus, it
appears as if the ignominious treatment in the Theomachy was difficult,
and the wounding and treatment by Diomed quite impossible, to reconcile
with the idea that it could have been devised by a Poet, and recited
to audiences, for whom the personages so handled formed a part of the
established objects of religious veneration. Even Helen is permitted
to taunt her bitterly: to recommend her becoming the wife, or even the
slave, of Paris, and her ceasing to make pretensions to play the part
of a deity:

[474] Il. xiv. 346-51.

[475] Il. v. 335, 348.

  ἧσο παρ’ αὐτὸν ἰοῦσα, θεῶν δ’ ἀπόεικε κελεύθου[476].

[476] Il. iii. 406.

~_Her advance from the East._~

In entire harmony with these suppositions is, first, the side taken
by her in the war; and secondly, the geographical indications of her
worship. It appears to have moved from the East along that double
line, by which we have found it probable that the Pelasgians flowed
into Europe: one the way of the islands at the base of the Ægean, the
other by the Hellespont. We know, from other sources, that the East
engendered at a very early date creations of this kind. Under the names
of Astarte, Mylitta, Mitra, and the like, we seem to encounter so many
separate forms or versions of the Greek Venus. We may indeed observe
that Astarte was commonly associated with the Moon, and it would be a
matter of interest to know the original relation between the popular
or promiscuous Venus (πάνδημος), and the celestial one. In Homer we
find them completely severed: we perceive Artemis with many traces of
the older, and Aphrodite fully representing the more recent and carnal
conception. There still remains one sign of correspondence; it is the
standing epithet of χρυσέη for Aphrodite, compared with the cluster
of golden epithets[477] applied to Diana. We may not unreasonably, I
think, take Artemis as the probable prototype; and Aphrodite as the
sensual image, into which the old and pure conception had already
degenerated, before the time when the two fell, as poetic material,
each for its own purpose, into the moulding hand of Homer. While such a
source is every way probable, our reference to it is the more natural,
because it is not very easy to attribute to the Greeks of the heroic
age the original conception of such a divinity as Venus. For though
they were of social and therefore somewhat jovial habits, and though
they were a race of ready hand, given to crimes of violence, yet they
were not, on the whole, by any means a sensual race, in relation to the
standard which seems to have governed the Asiatic nations, whether we
estimate these latter the Trojans, the Assyrians, or the Jews.

[477] Sup. sect. ii. p. 146.

The marriage with Vulcan, and the relation to a mother Dione, invented
apparently for the purpose of maternity, are marks of recency. If I
have rightly referred Vulcan to the Phœnician order, this marriage may
be an indication that Venus likewise had a place in it: and again,
considering her station in Troas, it seems not impossible that the
worship of Vulcan may have been introduced there the more readily,
because of his being reputed to be her husband.

Like Maias the mother of Mercury, Dione, the mother of Venus, is
excluded from the list of Jupiter’s amorous or matrimonial connections
in the Fourteenth Iliad (312-28). This leads to the conclusion, either
that the tradition respecting her was known only as a foreign one, or
else that it was recent, slight, and as yet unauthenticated in popular
belief. In either view it coincides with the other indications as to

~_Her rank and personal character._~

The primary function of Venus, apart from Asia, appears to lie among
the Olympian deities. That she was, as a member of that family,
in actual exercise of her prerogatives, we see plainly from the
application made by Juno to her in order to obtain the grace and
attractiveness, by which she hoped to act upon the mind of Jupiter. As
a mythological conception, she exhibits to us on the page of Homer the
union of the most finished material beauty with strong sensuality, and
the entire absence of all traces of the ethical element. She represents
two things, form and passion; the former refined, the latter not so. In
her character, as conceived by Homer, we see how that which is divine,
when it has ceased to be divine, becomes, not human, but something
much worse and baser: as he that falls from a height cannot stop
half-way down the precipice at his will, but must reach the ground.
Even feminine tenderness does not cling to the character of Venus. She
is effeminate, indeed, for when wounded she lets her son Æneas fall:
but gentle she is not, for in the scene of the Third Iliad with Helen
her conduct is harsh even to brutality, and she drives the reluctant
princess into sensuality only by the cruel threat of violence and

[478] Il. iii. 414-7.

In Venus we see the power of an Immortal reduced to its minimum. Even
the faculty of self-transformation seems to have been in her case but
imperfectly exercised[479]. She does not pretend to give strength or
courage to her son Æneas, but is represented simply as carrying him off
in her arms. It is here worthy of remark, that she has not even the
ability, like the greater deities, to envelop him in cloud: she has
no command over nature, only over the corrupt and rebellious impulses
of man: she has power to carry Æneas away, but he is folded in her
mantle[480]. In fact, her privileges in general appear to be like those
of the inferior orders of deity, held and used for her own enjoyment;
but they do not carry the power of acting upon man or nature, except
in a particular and prescribed function. Her capacity of locomotion
is limited in a peculiar degree. Mars, though no great deity, went,
when wounded, up to heaven on the clouds. But Venus required to borrow
the disengaged chariot of Mars for the purpose, when in the same

[479] Il. iii. 396.

[480] Il. v. 311-18.

[481] Il. v. 355-64. 363.

It is no wonder that the ancient, probably the earliest Greek, account
of her origin which is given by Hesiod[482], should mark her as of
entirely animal extraction.

[482] Theog. 188-98.

Another peculiarity in the case of Venus is, that she already takes
her name, and not only receives mere epithets, from two particular
spots where she is worshipped. Cyprus makes her Κύπρις in the Iliad,
and from Cythera she is also Cytherea in the Odyssey. She thus stands
distinct from Juno: to whom the Argeian name is simply an appendage,
though one of a most characteristic force, and one involving important
inferences as to her origin. Nor is she less distinct from Minerva,
whose name is not derivative in form when she is called Ἀθήνη, and whom
we must consider as the eponymist of Athens, and not its namesake. No
indication could be of greater force, than this marked localism, in
stamping the ideas about Venus as purely human in their origin.

~_Venus unable to confer beauty._~

It would be an error to consider the Venus of Homer as even the goddess
of beauty. She was endowed with it personally, and she possessed the
_cestus_ of fascination and desire: but she had no capacity to make
mortals beautiful, such as Minerva exercised upon Penelope and Ulysses,
and Juno upon the virgin daughters of Pandareus. She is there passed
by in such a manner as to make it plain that she did not possess any
power of imparting this gift. Her δῶρα, in Il. iii. 65, do not appear
to include it; or Paris would not say, ‘no one would spontaneously seek
them.’ For beauty of person was among the recognised and highly valued
gifts of heaven[483].

[483] Od. viii. 167-77.

We are told, in the Twentieth Odyssey, that Venus fed the orphan girls
of Pandareus with cheese, honey, and wine; and, continues the passage,
Juno gave them extraordinary beauty and prudence, Diana lofty stature,
Minerva industrial skill. Afterwards, they being thus equipped, Venus
went up to Olympus to pray Jupiter that he would make arrangements for
their marriage[484]. Thus her operations in a work of good are wholly
ministerial and inferior: and not only does she not confer beauty
herself, but she sees it conferred by Juno. This again shows that the
Venus of Homer, except for evil, has no power to work upon the body or
mind of man.

[484] Od. xx. 66-75.

But we must not omit to mark that sign of the real chastity of Homer’s
mind which he has given us by his method of handling the character of
Venus; a deity whom the nature of his subject in the Iliad would have
led almost any other heathen, and many Christian, poets to magnify.

In not a single instance does Homer exhibit this divinity to us in an
amiable or engaging light, or invest her with the attractions of power,
glory, and success.

When Minerva advises Diomed in the Fifth Iliad[485], she says, Do _not_
attack any of the immortals; but if you happen to see Venus, her you
may wound. We seem to have a clear indication, that Homer introduced
this passage simply in order to throw contempt on Venus; because
afterwards, when Mars is in the field, and Diomed pleads the inhibition
he had received as a reason for his inaction, Minerva at once removes
it, and bids the warrior assail that god without scruple[486].

[485] Il. v. 131. cf. 330.

[486] Il. v. 818, 27.

Again, when Diomed wounds Mars, it is because Minerva invisibly directs
and impels his lance[487]: but he wounds Venus without any aid. In the
Theomachy, she appears upon the list of deities enumerated as taking
the Greek and Trojan side respectively; but when the Poet comes to
match the others for fight, she disappears from his mind; as though it
would have been an insult to any other member of the Olympian family to
be pitted against her effeminacy. Accordingly, no antagonist is named
for her.

[487] Il. v. 856.

She is sometimes made contemptible, as in the foregoing instances. She
is at other times silly and childish, as under the bitter taunt of
Minerva and the admonition of Jupiter[488], and again, when she falls
into the trap cunningly laid by Juno[489]. Odious in the interview with
Helen in the Third Book, she is never better than neutral, and never
once so handled by the Poet as to attract our sympathies.

[488] Il. v. 421-30.

[489] Il. xiv. 190-224.

~_Never made attractive in Homer._~

Again, there is not, throughout the Odyssey or Iliad, a single
description of the beauty of Venus, such as Homer has given us of the
dress of Juno, or the arms of Minerva. It is never, either directly or
indirectly, set off for the purpose of creating interest and favour.
One exception may perhaps be alleged: but, if it is such, at least it
affords the most marked illustration of the rule. Once he does praise
the exceeding beauteous neck, the lovely breast, the sparkling eyes of
Venus; but it is when he has clothed her in the withered form of the
aged spinstress that had attended upon Helen from Sparta, and through
whose uninviting exterior such glimpses of the latent shape of Venus
are caught by Helen as to enable her, but no one else, to recognise the

How different is this from the case of Virgil, who has introduced a
most beautiful and winning description of her in the Second Æneid[490],
just when he brings her into action that she may acquit both Helen
and Paris of all responsibility for the fall of Troy. It would have
been not only natural for Homer, but, unless he was restrained by some
strong reason, we may almost say it would have been inevitable, that he
should have done for Venus what has been done in our own day, with very
high classical effect, by Tennyson in his Œnone:

[490] Æn. ii. 589-93.

  Idalian Aphrodite beautiful,
  Fresh as the foam, new bathed in Paphian wells,
  With rosy slender fingers backward drew
  From her warm brows and bosom her deep hair
  Ambrosial, golden round her lucid throat
  And shoulder: from the violets her light foot
  Shone rosy-white, and o’er her rounded form
  Between the shadows of the vine-branches
  Floated the glowing sun-light as she moved.

Upon the whole, I should confidently cite the treatment of Venus in the
poems as being among the most satisfactory indications of the state of
heroic Greece, and one of the most honourable tokens of the disposition
of her Poet.


~_The Vulcan of Homer._~

Besides Juno and Bacchus, Hephæstus or Vulcan is the only Homeric
deity who bears upon him this unequivocal, or at least significant,
mark of novelty, that we are supplied with a distinct tradition of his
childhood[491]. In his youth he was rickety and lame. His mother Juno
wished to conceal him, and she let him fall into the sea. Here Thetis
and Eurynome received him, and reared him in a submarine cave, not,
however, under the Mediterranean, but the Ocean; and in that cave for
nine years the boy-smith employed himself in making ornaments for women.

[491] Od. viii. 311: and Il. xviii. 395.

He is thus associated by his traditions with the two opposing elements
of water and fire; with water by the history of his childhood, and
with fire as the grand instrument and condition of his art. The latter
was by much the stronger association, for it was continually fed by
the history and progress of the art itself; so that he became the
impersonation of that element itself, and in the phrase φλὸξ Ἡφαίστοιο
it is his name which gives the distinctive force; for φλὸξ in Homer
seems to mean the flame or light of fire[492], and is not used to
signify fire proper, except with some other word in conjunction to it
or near it. But the explanation of the seeming contrariety is probably
to be found in the hypothesis, that his worship was of Phœnician
introduction; as the Phœnicians seem to have made the Greeks acquainted
with the use of fire in working metals. If they made the deity known
to the Greeks, this will account for his association with the idea of
fire: and as accounts and traditions, which they had supplied, were
evidently the source of all the more remote maritime delineations of
Homer, (since they alone frequented Ocean and the distant seas,) this
is the natural and easy explanation for the tradition of his childish
arts in the oceanic cave. That he is thus, like the Phœnicians, for
Homer, the meeting point of fire and water, appears clearly to stamp
him as Phœnician or oriental in his origin, relatively to Greece.

[492] Thus, in Il. xviii. 206, it means that blaze without heat, as
from shining armour, with which Minerva invested Achilles when he went
forth unarmed. The name Ἥφαιστος also stands alone for fire in Il. ii.

Accordingly, true to the association between Phœnician and Hellenic
elements, he is one of the five Hellenizing deities in the Trojan war;
in which, as the element of fire, he opposes and subdues the river
Xanthus. He was not, however, unknown to the Trojans; for Dares, his
priest, had two sons in their army. His introduction to Troas may have
been due to his conjugal connection with Venus; or it may have been
due to the neighbourhood of Lemnos, the island on which, when hurled
from Olympus by Jupiter, he fell, and which thenceforward formed his
favourite earthly habitation. With Lemnos and other isles Troy was in
communication, at least from the time of Laomedon, for that prince
threatened to seize Apollo and to sell him, νήσων ἔπι τηλεδαπάων[493].
A regular commerce was established between Lemnos and the camp during
the Trojan war[494].

[493] Il. xxi. 453.

[494] Il. vii. 467.

Among the deities of Vulcan’s generation we find but one married
couple, and they are a strangely assorted pair, Vulcan himself and
Venus. Neither character nor occupation will account for this singular
union: on the contrary, there is no case in which the extremes of
repugnance must so decidedly be supposed. It is questionable whether
the hypothesis, that Venus represents the beauty which gives perfection
to works of art, is in entire keeping with the tone of the Homeric
system. Indeed Venus with Homer represents absolutely nothing, except
sensual passion in a fine exterior form which can hardly be severed
from it. One explanation, and one only, may suggest itself as more
natural. It is this: that the worship of Vulcan and that of Venus
came in, not distinctly connected with those of any other deity, at
about the same time, and from the same quarter. We have already seen
upon Venus those marks of comparative modernism, and of an eastern
extraction, which we now find in Vulcan; and here probably is to be
found, either wholly or in part, the actuating suggestion of their
ill-starred wedlock.

Though we find the works of Vulcan scattered promiscuously abroad,
there is no notice of his worship, or of any site or endowment
belonging to him in the Greece of Homer. He was available to the Poet
for embellishment, but he probably had not become for the Greek nation
a regular object of adoration.

I think we may trace the tokens of his eastern origin in the legend of
his infancy. It was into the sea that he was thrown: but, as we have
seen, the cave in which he was reared was a cave of Ocean[495].

[495] Il. xviii. 402.

                περὶ δὲ ῥόος Ὠκεανοῖο
  ἀφρῷ μορμύρων ῥέεν ἄσπετος·

Also, by a rather singular arrangement, there are two deities, not one
only, employed in taking him up and watching over his childhood. Nor
are the two naturally associated together: for Thetis is a daughter of
Nereus, and belongs to the Thalassian family; Eurynome is a child of
Ocean. The connection with Thetis and the sea is appropriate enough in
the case of any child of Juno, for the wife of Peleus, as his nurse,
seems to give him an Hellenic character: but it seems hard to explain
the appointment of a colleague belonging to the race of Ocean, and for
the situation of the cave in its bed, except as having been due to the
eastern origin of the divinity, of which the mark had not yet been

~_His marriage with Venus._~

The marriage of Venus and Vulcan, metaphysically interpreted,
represents the union of strength and skill in the production of works
of art: but though this may have been a Greek application of eastern
traditions originally independent, there is no distinct trace of it in
Homer; while it may seem strange that, if the Poet had had such an idea
before his mind, his only picture of their conjugal relation should
have been the one given in the Eighth Odyssey. Still, he may have had
that idea.

Vulcan’s other wife, Charis, represents an exactly similar conception;
and here there is a more obvious probability that the combination was
Greek, and was one intended, or even devised, by Homer.

It is common to treat the handling of this subject in the Iliad as in
contradiction with that of the Odyssey; and to use the assumption of
discrepancy either in support of the doctrine of the Chorizontes, or in
proof that the Olympian lay of Demodocus is spurious.

Without entering into that controversy, I venture to urge that the
proof is insufficient. Why should the Vulcan of Homer be limited to
a single spouse? Jupiter has three, probably four; namely, Juno,
Latona, Dione, and Ceres. No other Olympian deity, until we come down
to Vulcan, has any. The question then arises, Why should the poets,
or even the religion of the day, be limited in this case to monogamy,
which has no place elsewhere in the Olympian family? Why should the
reasons, which induced the framers of the religion to give him a wife
at all, forbid them absolutely from giving him more than one? Nay more;
why, if the original object of the Greek mind in this marriage was to
symbolize the union of manual skill and beauty, and if the materials
of the received mythology were in a state of growth and progress,
might it not happen that in the youth of Homer Charis was, all things
considered, suited to afford the most appropriate means of representing
the idea, and yet that in his later age he might amend his own plan,
and make Venus the wife of Vulcan, without at all troubling himself
to consider what was to become of the slightly sketched image that he
had previously presented in the Iliad? I say this, because the assumed
contradiction of these legends appears to me to proceed upon another
assumption of a false principle; namely, that, though the mythology was
continually changing with the progress of the country, yet each poet
was bound, even in its secondary and in its most poetical parts, to a
rigid uniformity of statement. No one, I think, who considers how the
current of the really theistic and religious ideas runs upon a very
few of the greater gods, can fail to see that with Homer the religious
meaning of his Vulcan, and of the other gods of the second order, was
very slight. A sufficient proof of this may be found in the fact, that
of no one of them, excepting Mercury alone, does he mention the actual
worship in his own country.

Moreover, two things may deserve remark with reference to the variation
which makes Charis the wife of Vulcan in the Iliad, and Venus in the

First, from the plan of the Iliad, which placed Venus and Vulcan in
the sharpest opposition, the conjugal relation between them would have
been, for that poem, inadmissible. The Poet could not have introduced
Venus, where he has introduced Charis: and he must thus have given up a
strikingly poetical picture, and one most descriptive of the works of
high art in metal.

Secondly, it may not be certain, but it is by no means improbable,
that the worship of Venus may have attained to much wider vogue in
Greece when Homer composed the Odyssey, than at the period when he
gave birth to the Iliad. We have seen already the signs that it was a
recent worship. We have seen it in Cyprus and then more advanced in
Cythera, not in continental Greece. Now it was in the Iliad that Venus
had the name of Cypris; in the Odyssey this is exchanged for Cytherea:
that is to say, she was known sometime before as a goddess worshipped
in Cyprus and not properly Greek; but she was now, such is the
probable construction, known also as a goddess worshipped in Cythera,
and therefore become Greek. On this account, as well as because the
opposition between them had disappeared, she might with poetical
propriety be made to bear a character in the Odyssey, which could not
attach to her during the continuance of the great Trojan quarrel.

~_Vulcan in and out of his art._~

Beyond his own function as god of fire, and of metallic art in
connection with it, Vulcan is nobody. But within it he is supreme, and
no deity can rival him in his own kind. His animated works of metal
are among the boldest figures of poetry. Even his lameness is propped
by bronze damsels of his own manufacture. And the lock, which he puts
for Juno on her chamber-door, is one that not even any other deity can
open[496]. But this is not so much an exemplification of the power
and elevation of mythological godhead, as of the skill and exclusive
capacity of a professional person in his own art.

[496] Il. xiv. 168.

Finally, the Vulcan of Homer conforms in all respects to the inventive,
as opposed to the traditional type of deity.

_Ἠέλιος, or the Sun._

~_The Ἠέλιος of Homer._~

In the case of Ἠέλιος, or the Sun, as in various others, we appear to
see the curious process by which the Greek mythology was constructed,
not only in its finished result, but even during the several stages
of its progress. It lies before us like the honeycomb in the glass
beehive; and it tends strongly to the conclusion that the Poet is
himself the queen bee. The Philosopher did not then exist. The Priest,
we know, was not a religious teacher. The Seer or Prophet interpreted
the Divine will only for the particular case, and did not rise to
generalization. Who was it, then, that gathered up the thoughts and
arrested the feelings of the general mind, and that, reducing the crude
material to form and beauty, made it a mythology? The answer can only
be, that for the heroic age it was the Bard.

In some of the varying statements of the poems, where others have
seen the proof of varying authorship, either for the whole or for
particular parts, I cannot but rather see the formative mind exercising
its discretion over a subject-matter where it was as yet supreme:
namely, over that large class of objects which afforded fitting clay
for the hand of the artist, but which had not yet become a stamped and
recognised image for popular veneration. In the Charis, who is the wife
of Hellenizing Vulcan, so long as Venus is at war with the Greeks;
in the Winds, who, according to the Odyssey, inhabit a bag under the
custody of a living person, possibly a mortal, but who in the Iliad
beget children, enjoy banquets, and receive a _cultus_; we find Homer,
as I conceive, following the genial flow of his thought, according
as his subject prompted him, and awarding honour and preferment, or
withholding it, as occasion served. Perhaps Mercury or Vulcan, perhaps
even Juno or Neptune, may owe him some advancement: but, at any rate,
he seems almost as distinctly to show us Ἠέλιος in two different stages
of manufacture, as a sculptor shows a bust in his studio this month in
the clay, and next month in the marble.

In the Iliad we find the Sun personified, though in the faintest
manner, and by inference only. His office of vision, which he enjoys
habitually in the Odyssey, and once in the Iliad[497], is inseparably
wedded to a living intelligence by its combination with the function of
hearing. He is addressed as the

[497] Il. iii. 277.

  Ἠέλιός θ’, ὃς πάντ’ ἐφορᾷς καὶ πάντ’ ἐπακούεις.

Now poetry may, under the shield of custom, make the Sun see, by a
figure which shall not carry the full consequence of impersonation; but
the representation, that he also hears, seems necessarily to involve it.

Again, Jupiter has decreed, that Hector and the Trojans shall prevail
until the setting sun. After that, there was to be no more of light
or hope for them. Juno desires on this account to close the day, and
dismisses the Sun prematurely to his rest. But this, as the Poet adds,
was done against his own will[498]:

[498] Il. xviii. 239.

  Ἠέλιον δ’ ἀκάμαντα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη
  πέμψεν ἐπ’ Ὠκεανοῖο ῥοὰς ἀέκοντα νέεσθαι.

Upon the two words, ἀέκοντα and ἐπακούεις, rests, I think, the whole
case in the Iliad for the Sun’s personality.

But in the Odyssey it is more advanced and developed. In the matter of
the intrigue of Mars with Venus, he acts as informer to the husband,
and subsequently assumes the part of spy[499]. Although thus able,
however, to discern what is passing even in the secret chambers of
Olympus, when set on guard for the purpose, he cannot see so far as to
Thrinacia, any more than he can penetrate the cloud which envelopes
Jupiter and Juno[500].

[499] Od. viii. 270, 302.

[500] Il. xiv. 344.

It is from the Nymphs, Phaethusa and Lampetie, whom he had set to
watch, that he receives the intelligence of the slaughter of his oxen
by the companions of Ulysses in their hunger. He immediately addresses
Jupiter and the assembled gods, in a passage which proves that Homer
meant to represent him as having a place in Olympus, for only if
there could he speak to them without undertaking a journey for the
purpose[501]. He makes his appeal to them for retribution; and he backs
his application with the threat that, unless it is granted, he will go
down to the Shades, and shine there. A menace which to our ears may
sound ludicrous enough; but it is perhaps well conceived in the case of
a chrysalis deity, not yet really worshipped by the Greeks: and there
is a certain propriety in it, when we recollect that on the way to the
descent into the Shades lay his place of rest. He is the father of the
Nymphs, who watch on his behalf in Thrinacia; he is also the father of
Circe and Æetes, and his couch is at Ææa[502].

[501] Od. xii. 374-88.

[502] Od. xii. 4.

During the time when the slaughter of the oxen is effected, Ulysses is
asleep: and it seems just possible that Homer may by this circumstance
have meant to signify that it was night when the catastrophe occurred,
which would save the dignity of this deity in respect to vision.

~_Is of the Olympian Court._~

The Olympian rank of the Sun is clear; but there seem to be ascriptions
made to him, which can only be reconciled by the supposition, in itself
far from improbable, that he was separately known of, as an object
of worship, through two different sets of traditions; one of them
referable to Pelasgian sources, and entailing Trojan sympathies, the
other of an Hellenic, or very probably a Phœnician, cast, and tending
to rank him with the Hellenes. For in the Iliad his unwillingness to
set, when his setting was to bring the glories of the Trojans to an
end, seems very strongly to imply that he had a Pelasgian origin. In
the Odyssey, his siding with Vulcan against Mars and Venus would show,
so far as it goes, a Hellenizing turn; but what is more important is
this, that, as the father of Circe and Æetes, of whom the latter bears
the exclusively Phœnician epithet ὀλοόφρων, and the former has her
abode close by his ἀντολαὶ, or point of rising, he is at once thrown
into the Phœnician or the Persian connection. As the Sun-worship was so
general in the East, it seems quite possible that it might come into
Greece by more channels than one: and as the process of personification
might in one set of traditions be more, and in another less complete,
we may here find a possible clue to Homer’s reason for treating it
differently in the two poems. Particularly as the poem where he is
least personal, the Iliad, is also that where he is most Pelasgian: for
we have found reason to ascribe to the Pelasgians less of lively and
creative power in the realms of the imagination, than to the Hellenes,
and to such races as had stronger affinities with them.

So distinct is the Sun from Apollo in the Odyssey, that they appear
as separate _dramatis personæ_ in the Lay of Demodocus. Yet there are
some latent signs of sympathy between them. Apollo tends the oxen of
Laomedon: the Sun delights, morning and evening, in his own oxen in
Thrinacie. It is difficult to avoid supposing some kind of relation to
be conveyed by Homer between the rays of the sun, and the arrows of
Apollo in the Plague. The extension of his sympathies to both races is
another sign of resemblance. Again, we have a promise from Eurylochus,
one of the crew of Ulysses, to build a temple to the Sun upon his safe
return to Ithaca[503]. Now we have seen that the only instances of
temples, which we can certainly declare to be named in the poems, are
temples either of Minerva or of Apollo. Thus this vow of Eurylochus
looks like another anticipation of the subsequent absorption of the
Sun into the person and deity of Apollo: and on the whole, we are
left to infer that beginnings of that process may have been already
visible. Homer, perhaps, did not care to advance it. At least, it
does not appear to me that either he or his nation were friendly to
the conception of mere elemental gods. Gods who preside over external
nature he presents to us in abundance; but gods, who are the mere
organs of external nature, are alien to the Greek genius as candidates
for the higher posts, and are relegated to subordinate places in the
system. Only Vulcan and Ceres really appear with him to bear decisively
the stamp of this character: and both of them seem as if they were
already in part detached from it, and developing in another direction.
For in Vulcan the human faculty of skill already predominates over
fire, and Ceres impersonates the vegetable product of Earth, and not
the mere dead mass.

[503] Od. xii. 345.

The connection of the Sun with Pelasgian traditions according to the
Egyptian type is, I think, strongly signified by the legend of the oxen
and sheep, in which he takes so much delight.

In the time of Homer he was, as it were, a probationer in the ἄγων of
the Grecian gods. The main facts before us are simply these: first,
his unformed separate state at that epoch; secondly, his absorption in
Apollo. The lesson taught by both is the repugnance of the Greeks to
mere Nature-worship. The signification of the second, in particular,
appears to be this, that as Ἠέλιος could not stand alone, and needed to
be absorbed, so he could find no place for his absorption so fitting
as in that deity, of whom, as well as of the more venerable traditions
that he represented, brightness was an inseparable and original

~_His incorporation with Apollo._~

In this view, the mythological absorption of the Sun in Apollo is a
most striking trait of the ancient mythology: and it even recalls to
mind that sublime representation of the Prophet, ‘The sun shall be no
more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light
unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and
thy God thy glory[504].’

[504] Isaiah lx: compare Rev. xxi. 23.

_Dionysus or Bacchus._

~_The Dionysus of Homer._~

The Dionysus of Homer, or Bacchus, has all the marks of a deity, whose
name and worship were of recent introduction into Greece, and were not
yet fully established there; while in connection with the Trojans we
have no notice of him whatever.

The eastern origin of this god seems in an unusual degree to have been
remembered in the later popular tradition: and from the slight Homeric
notices we may find confirmation for the common idea; inasmuch as the
poems appear both to mark him as not originally Greek nor Pelasgian,
and likewise rather faintly to connect him with the Phœnicians.

His father was Jupiter, and his mother Semele. Her name occurs in a
Catalogue, of which the first part is composed of women, the second
of goddesses; she appears among the women. The lines, in which she is
mentioned may be rendered, ‘nor when (I was enamoured) of Semele, nor
(when) of Alcmene, in Thebes; and Alcmene had stout-hearted Hercules
for her son, but Semele bore Dionysus, joy of men.’ These words appear
probably to mean that Semele, as well as Alcmene, was in Thebes: and
this supports the post-Homeric, but ancient, tradition of the hymn to
Bacchus[505], which makes Semele the daughter of Cadmus. Now, Cadmus,
according to every reasonable presumption, was Phœnician. We have thus
a fixed chronological epoch, to which the god was junior. That is, we
have a period fixed, which may be called historical, when his name and
worship had not yet been brought into Greece.

[505] Ver. 57.

The only note that we possess of the worship of Dionysus, as one
established in Homer’s time among the Greeks, is in the obscure
allusion of the Eleventh Odyssey to Ariadne[506], who was put to death
by Diana in the island of Dia, on her way from Crete to Athens, at
the instance of Dionysus, Διονύσου μαρτυρίῃσιν. The most probable
interpretation of this passage seems to be, that Theseus, when on his
voyage, landed with Ariadne in Dia to consummate the marriage, just as
Paris[507], on his way from Sparta, landed in Cranae with Helen: but
that, since the island was dedicated to Dionysus, this was punished as
a desecration.

[506] Od. xi. 322-5.

[507] Il. iii. 445.

We thus see Dionysus taking root for the first time upon the natural
line of communication, namely that by the islands, between Phœnicia
and Greece: and his possession of this island is in harmony with the
tradition of the Hymn, which represents him as having first been seen
upon the sea-shore[508].

[508] Hymn. ad Bacch. v. 2.

In the Twenty-fourth Odyssey we are told that Thetis supplied the
Greeks with a gilded urn, in which to store the ashes of Achilles,
together with wine and some unguent, probably fat. The passage to which
these verses belong is perhaps the least trustworthy in the poems: nor
is it in complete agreement with the Iliad, which mentions fat only as
used on the occasion. But I refer to it because it is stated there,
that this urn was reported by Thetis to be the work of Vulcan, and also
to be the gift of Dionysus[509]. Her possession of a gift from him is
in harmony with Il. v. 136, which represents her as having sheltered
him, when, through fear, he plunged into the sea: while his possession
of a work of art in metal is best explained by the supposition that
Homer regarded him as a Phœnician deity, since it was from that race
that such productions were commonly, though we cannot say exclusively,

[509] Od. xxiv. 74.

It is not difficult to understand why, as the god of wine and
inebriety, Dionysus does not appear in the theotechny of the Iliad;
but it would seem that the feasts of the dissolute Suitors in the
Odyssey afforded a series of occasions, upon any of which the mention
of his name would have been highly suitable. We may perhaps even say
that it could hardly have been omitted, if his worship had been general
and familiar in the country. Again, Dionysus is nowhere mentioned in
connection with Olympus.

The remaining Homeric notice of this deity which is also the most
curious, sustains what has already been advanced. The Arcadian king,
Lycoorgus, scourged, and pursued over the hill Nyseion, the μαινομένοιο
Διωνύσοιο τιθήνας, the nurses of the frantic Bacchus; they in dismay
cast down their vine branches (θυσθλὰ), while he plunged into the
sea, and Thetis gave him refuge[510]. Jupiter, in retribution, struck
Lycoorgus blind, and cut short his days. Whatever explanation may be
adopted of its details, this legend seems to signify, beyond all doubt,
that some forty or fifty years before the _Troica_ (for Lycoorgus was
contemporary with the youth of Nestor[511]), the introduction of the
drunken worship of Bacchus was resisted by the Pelasgians of Arcadia,
and was for a time, at least, expelled by them. The mention of Dionysus
as a child probably imports a further reference to the recency of his
worship: and there is something remarkable and significant in this
apparent commencement of violent opposition to it at the point when
women were beginning to be corrupted by excess of liquor.

[510] Il. vi. 130-40.

[511] Il. vi. 132.

Even the later tradition of Hesiod, which makes Dionysus the husband of
Ariadne, by thus giving him a Phœnician connection, so far sustains his
Phœnician origin[512].

[512] Hes. Theog. 947.

~_Dionysus is of the lowest inventive type._~

As Dionysus is one of the most recent of the Homeric deities, so
likewise is he one of the most purely heathenish[513]. He has not,
even in Homer, a divine maternity assigned to him, and he is the only
one of the Homeric deities who stands in this predicament[514]. The
anomaly was felt and provided for, in the later traditions at least,
by the deification of Semele after death. But perhaps another mode of
statement may be adopted. As it is evident that the original tradition
made him the son of a woman, and as all those with whom he is classed
in Homer are probably historical personages, it seems possible that
he may have been one of our own race, whose discovery or extension
of the use of wine may, by its rapid and powerful effect upon the
countries which it had reached, have led to his adoption into the
order of the Immortals, by a process more rapid than took place in the
case of Hercules or any other person. Upon this supposition, he stands
altogether alone among the gods of Homer. But, be this as it may, he
is, when considered in the capacity of a deity, the representation of
an animal instinct in its state of gross excess, and of nothing more.
He is the god of drunkenness, as Mars is the god of violence, and Venus
the goddess of lust: and there are no three other deities, from whom
Homer has so remarkably withheld all signs of his reverence.

[513] Döllinger, Heid. u. Jud. p. 80.

[514] See the accounts of Pindar, Pausanias, and Apollodorus.

Though I state this as an historical possibility, I think it is certain
that, according to the Poet, Dionysus was from his birth one of the
Immortals: but it is also very doubtful whether he was one, to whom a
place belonged in the smaller Olympian Assembly. Even in later times,
he was not one of the _Dii Majores_: and his being the son of a mortal
in Homer would tend to make it probable that he was not invested by the
Poet with Olympian dignity. Again, he is only four times mentioned in
the whole of the poems; nor is a single act of his manhood recorded,
except his information against Ariadne. That information seems to
imply, that a known Greek island was sacred to him; and it was followed
by the death of Ariadne under the darts of Diana. These circumstances
may perhaps raise a presumption of his Olympian rank, equal to the
adverse one which has been stated above. So far as this inquiry is
concerned, the question must remain unsolved. But little of interest
can attach to these, the shameful parts of the Greek mythology, which
boast, as if it were our strength, of what can scarcely be excused as
our weakness, and which treat our shame as our joy. The real point of
interest is to learn whether there was a time when man, even though he
had lost the clear view of the guiding hand from above, yet revolted
against, or had not become familiar with, the deification of vicious
passion. And we seem to find the note of such a time in Homer. Only one
laudatory phrase is applied throughout the poems to Dionysus; it is the
χάρμα βροτοῖσιν, and these words are not the sentiment of the Poet, or
of any character that represents his mind; they are put into the mouth
of Jupiter, when he is speaking under a paroxysm of sensual passion.

I have not adverted to the tradition which places the Lycoorgus of
Il. vi. in Thrace, but have simply followed what appears to be the
suggestion of the Homeric text.


_The Composition of the Olympian Court: and the Classification of the
whole Supernatural Order in Homer._

In the full Olympian Assembly, or Great Chapter of the Immortals, we
find a collection of deities, who are respectively the representatives,
in the main, of Elemental Powers, of Human Passions or Ideas, and of
Historical Traditions, either single or intermixed. Among the simple
examples, we may cite the Rivers and Nymphs for the first, Mars and
Venus for the second, the goddess Themis for the third, Latona and Iris
for the last. In Jupiter, the chief of all, these elements are blended

~_Principal cases of exclusion from Olympus._~

But we must also consider those who do not appear in Olympus, and why
they are excluded. If, as is perhaps the case, Aidoneus and Persephone
are not there, it is because of the separateness of their work, and the
remoteness of their kingdom. They had servants, guards, and a judge, in
short, a sort of polity of their own. Atlas, Proteus, Calypso, Circe,
and the other purely local deities, so far as we know, are not there;
probably because they do not enter into the national religion, but
are little more than convenient symbols[515] of geographical points
known or conceived through maritime, that is, without doubt, through
Phœnician report. Again, we do not hear in Olympus of Destiny, Sleep,
Night, Dream, Terror, Panic, Uproar, and the rest; probably because
these had not attained to practical impersonation in the religion
of the people, but were merely objects of the poetical faculty. So
likewise with respect to the Winds, who stand as receivers of worship
and sacrifice in Il. xxiii. 195. The different treatment which they
receive in the Iliad and Odyssey, like their non-appearance in the
Great Chapter[516] of Olympus, unless referable to the peculiarities
of the Outer Geography, shows that they had not a developed and
established godhead, but might be dealt with by the Poet at his will.
In these imperfect impersonations, it has been well observed, sometimes
the mere elemental power, sometimes the superinduced personality
prevails. Again, Ἄτη the temptress, and Ἐρινύες the avengers, might
stand excluded, both on the same ground of inadequate impersonation,
and on other grounds. Nereus and the purely elemental deities of the
sea are not summoned to the Assembly, apparently because he too had
his own submarine palace. It answered to Olympus; and here he sat in
state amidst his numerous Court of Nymphs. Even Thetis was fetched from
thence to attend the last Assembly of the gods in the Twenty-Fourth
Iliad. Κρόνος and Ῥέα are not in the divine meetings, firstly, because
he, probably with her as his reflected image, is penally confined in
Tartarus; but secondly, because, the first representing Time, and
the second Matter, they are the primary ideas in the metaphysical
order, which comprehended all others, and from which all others were
derivative. And as they stood in the metaphysical _nexus_ of ideas, so
stood Oceanus and his feminine, Tethys, in the terrestrial order; where
Oceanus was the all-inclosing, all-containing; the Form, within which
every terrestrial existence was cast, and beyond which even Thought
could not pass. Hence the curious and marked exception of him from the
summons of Themis to the Great Assembly of the Twentieth Book[517].

[515] Nägelsbach, ii. 9.

[516] Il. xx. 4-9.

[517] Il. xx. 7.

  οὔτε τις οὖν Ποταμῶν ἀπέην, νόσφ’ Ὠκεανοῖο,
  οὔτ’ ἄρα Νυμφάων.

He is the father of the rivers, and the feeder of the Sea. Even of
the gods he is the ‘Genesis,’ perhaps as their physical source, or
as affording material for their formation; perhaps as the outer band
of that world to which they belong, as much as we do, and outside of
which there was no attempt to conceive them as existing. Lastly, it is
perhaps because Homer meant to assign to Oceanus and Tethys the actual
first parentage of the gods. This supposition is favoured by the fact
that Juno applies the name μήτηρ[518] to Tethys, in a connection which
may make it equivalent to ‘_our_ Mother Tethys.’

[518] Il. xiv. 201.

It is clearly on a principle that Oceanus is not summoned to Olympus,
and not from mere defect or immaturity of personality. For in
conjunction with his wife Tethys, he took over the infant Juno from
Rhea, at the time when there was trouble between Jupiter and his
father; and afterwards he reared the child in his own domain. He can be
lulled into slumber by Ὕπνος like any other deity: he has a daughter,
Eurynome[519]: and he is capable of conjugal quarrels[520].

[519] Il. xviii. 398.

[520] Il. xiv. 200. seqq. 245.

Again, Ocean is water, and Oceanus is the father of all the Rivers:
but yet he was not included in the great lottery which divided the
world between the Kronid brothers. This shows us afresh, that he is
outside and independent of their rule: he forms the framework of the
visible creation, while they are parts of the picture that is within
the framework.

The same thing is true of Κρόνος and Ῥέα in the metaphysical order.
They represent anterior conditions of thought and of existence to all
other Beings, human and divine. Their personality is established; but
it is, even more than that of Oceanus, in abeyance: for Oceanus is at
least ever-flowing, while Time, and Space, or Matter, are with Homer
wholly passionless, mute, and still. When once the Kronid family has
been brought into existence, and the attempt of Time to impose the law
of death on Deity has been put down by Jupiter, then the impersonations
are virtually withdrawn from him and his partner, and they relapse into
the torpid state of purely abstract ideas.

The Elemental Powers have nowhere what may be called a strong position
in Homer, except in the invocations of solemn swearing; where they give
force to the Oath, because they are the avengers of perjury. Thus their
connection is not with deity in general, but with that nether world,
which the ideas of mankind have always associated with the lower parts
of the Earth[521].

[521] Il. iii. 276-8. xix. 258-60.

Even on grounds larger than those derived from a particular phrase,
it may be probable, that we ought to consider Oceanus as the Homeric
parent of all the deities, Κρόνος and Ῥέα included. To a state of
the human mind not yet familiar with abstractions, Time and Place,
imperfectly conceived, might be more limited, less comprehensive, than
the great all-infolding Ocean, which encircled and wrapped in the
world. And in this conception there may lie hid the embryo of what
afterwards grew into the aquarian cosmogony, a system which appears not
to be without support from other passages of the poem, especially from
the very curious verse (Il. vii. 99),

  ἀλλ’ ὑμεῖς μὲν πάντες ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα γένοισθε.

If, however, this idea was really in the mind of the Poet, still we
should consider it as having been with him an instinct rather than a

~_Dî majores of the later tradition._~

The Olympian deities of Pagan antiquity are commonly represented as
twelve in number; and the names are

  1. Jupiter.
  2. Juno.
  3. Neptune.
  4. Minerva, or Pallas Athene.
  5. Phœbus Apollo.
  6. Diana.
  7. Mercury.
  8. Histie, or Vesta.
  9. Mars.
  10. Venus.
  11. Vulcan.
  12. Ceres.

But Homer knows nothing of this number or arrangement of the gods;
or of the distinction between _Dii majores_ and _Dii minores_. Nor
does he enable us with precision to substitute any other number for
it. He gives us, however, his idea, at least by approximation, of the
number of the Olympian gods. For when Thetis visits Vulcan, to obtain
new armour for Achilles, she finds the deity at work upon twenty
τρίποδες[522], to stand round the wall of the well-built hall, which he
is carefully fitting with wheels, in order that they may automatically
take their places in the assembly of the gods. Whatever these τρίποδες
be, the number is probably meant to correspond with that of the
ordinary Olympian meeting for festivity or deliberation. They are
commonly supposed to be bowls or vessels for wine set on three-legged
stands; but there are two reasons, suggested by the language of the
passage, which seem to recommend our understanding the word to mean
seats, such as that of the priestess of Apollo at Delphi: one is,
their being intended to stand around the apartment, along the wall:
and the other is, that they were to place themselves for the divine

[522] Il. xviii. 373.

[523] Il. xviii. 376.

  ὄφρα οἱ αὐτόματοι θεῖον δυσαίατ’ ἀγῶνα,
  ἠδ’ αὖτις πρὸς δῶμα νεοίατο.

This idea of the great bowls placing themselves, one apparently for
each deity to draw from, does not correspond with the classical
representation of the cupbearer filling the cup of each, as he moves
from the left towards the right. Nor does the word ἄγων seem to be
suitable for a merely convivial meeting: and we ought, I presume, to
consider the meetings on Olympus as in theory political councils for
the government of the world, only relieved by meat and drink. If we
take τρίποδες as signifying the seats, it has of course a reference
to the number of gods who constituted the ordinary Olympian family;
a reference which indeed it may probably have, even if the other
signification be preferred.

And the text of the poems affords sufficient evidence, that twenty was
about the number of the Olympian gods of Jupiter.

~_Deities of Olympian rank in Homer._~

Of the Olympian twelve recognised in later times, all, except Vesta
and Ceres, must at once and indubitably be pronounced Olympian in
Homer. For all take part in the Trojan war, and likewise make their
appearance in Olympus. Thus we have ten Olympian deities of Homer
already ascertained. And there are several others whom we can have no
doubt in adding to the list. These we will proceed to consider:

1. Latona is clearly Olympian; from her great dignity as an
unquestioned wife of Jupiter (ἄλοχος Διὸς, Il. xxi. 499); and from the
fact that her position entitled her to take a side in the Trojan war,
where none but Olympian deities were engaged, with the single exception
of the formidable local power, Xanthus or Scamander. Another reason is,
because the title of Dione, as we shall see, is clear; who is a deity
in some respects similar, but decidedly inferior, to Latona.

2. Dione the mother of Venus is in the same order. For she receives
her child, when she repairs wounded to Olympus, and in her speech of
consolation distinctly describes herself as one of the Ὀλύμπια δώματ’
ἔχοντες, Il. v. 383. She is called in this passage δῖα θεάων: a title
twice given to Minerva, but also, sometimes, to very secondary deities,
such as Calypso and Circe. Either as insignificant, or possibly as
being foreign and not sufficiently naturalized, she finds no place in
the Catalogue of Mothers in the Fourteenth Iliad.

3. Iris, the messenger-goddess. The grounds of her title may be found
among the remarks upon this deity[524].

[524] See sup. p. 156.

4. Themis, although not a party in the war, has the office of
Pursuivant or Summoner to the Olympian Assembly: and her ordinary
presence there is distinctly proved by the Fifteenth Iliad, where she
is the first to welcome Juno on her entrance into the circle.

5. It will be seen from a brief statement elsewhere relating to
Aidoneus or Aides, that he is clearly of Olympian rank and character.

6. Next to Aidoneus, we may take the claim of Hebe. She is not indeed
an important, nor a very prominent, person in the poems: but there is
no room for doubt as to her Olympian dignity. We find her officiating
as cupbearer in the Olympian Court of the Fourth Iliad. Her connection
with Olympus is further established by her assisting Juno in the
preparation of her chariot: and by her assisting Mars in the bath,
when that deity has betaken himself into the presence of Jupiter, to
complain of his wound. Again, her personality is quite clear. Nor can
her divinity be questioned. She is pronounced in the Eleventh Odyssey
to be the daughter of Jupiter and Here. The verse is suspected; but
the suspicion itself may be suspected in its turn. Further, the case
rests not on the particular account given of her parentage, but, in
connection with the context, on her appearing as the wife of Hercules
at all. Nor is she anywhere connected with the idea of a mortal

[525] Il. iv. 2. v. 721, 905. Od. xi. 603.

7. A second divinity of somewhat similar rank is Paieon. On two
occasions, he heals in Olympus the wounds of deities; first of
Aidoneus, then of Mars. He is summoned to the exercise of his function
as a person within call, and habitually present there. After the rebuke
of Jupiter to Mars, the line that follows is[526],

[526] Il. v. 899.

  ὣς φάτο, καὶ Παιήον’ ἀνώγει ἰήσασθαι.

There is no doubt therefore either of his personal, or of his Olympian
character; and none but divine persons are capable of bearing the
Olympian offices. Ganymede, for instance, though carried up to dwell
among the Immortals in order to pour out wine, has no function assigned
to him in the poems. The Egyptians, indeed, are stated to be of the
race of Paieon[527]; but we must probably understand this with respect
to their royal family, just as the same thing is said of the Phæacians
with respect to Neptune, because their kingly house had sprung from
him[528]. In the later mythology he appears to be absorbed, like the
Sun, in Apollo; but in the Homeric poems there is no confusion, or
approach to confusion, of the persons. Paieon has the relation to
Apollo with respect to surgery or medicine, which Vulcan has to Minerva
with respect to manual art: and, apparently by a mixture of distinct
traditions, he is also connected with Apollo, by being the synonyme for
the hymn of victory, of which Apollo is doubtless supposed to be in a
peculiar manner the giver.

[527] Od. iv. 232.

[528] Od. xiii. 130.

To all these deities the poems appear to give a title to seats in
Olympus, unquestionable as well as direct. By a somewhat less clear and
simple process, we may, I think, arrive at a similar conclusion as to
the views of Homer regarding two other deities.

8. The first of these is Demeter, or Ceres, whose Olympian rank is
considered, and I think established, in the remarks elsewhere upon her
individual divinity[529].

[529] See sup. sect. iii. p. 215.

9. The second is Ἠέλιος, the Sun. His share in the episode of Mars and
Venus[530] does not indeed absolutely imply his residing on Olympus.
But this is clearly involved in the account of his receiving the
intelligence, that his oxen had been consumed by the companions of
Ulysses. For, upon hearing it, he instantly proceeds to address the
company of the Immortals assembled there[531], and is answered by
Jupiter. He must therefore unquestionably stand as one of the Olympian
gods of Homer.

[530] Od. viii. 270, 302.

[531] Od. xii. 374-88.

There are but three other personages named in Homer, with respect to
whom there is room for the supposition, that he may have intended
them to rank as Olympian deities. They are Dionysus, Persephone, and
Eris. For Histie, or Vesta, is so entirely wanting in personality,
that she cannot possibly belong to that order. She is invoked indeed
in company with Jupiter; but with these two is likewise combined the
ξενίη τράπεζα, the table of hospitality. In the hymn to Venus[532] she
has become fully personified, and is celebrated as the eldest of the
daughters of Κρόνος. But this imagery probably belongs to a different
stage of Greek society and Greek poetry.

[532] Hymn. v. 22.

1. 2. The case of Dionysus and that of Persephone, very different, but
both on this point doubtful, have been stated elsewhere[533].

[533] See sect. iii. pp. 269, and 223.

~_The Eris of Homer._~

3. The case of Eris is different. She is the sister and also the
mistress of Mars[534]. And in the fierce battle of the Eleventh Book,
Eris alone is present to enjoy it, while all the other deities,
inhibited from action by Jupiter, have betaken themselves to their
several abodes on Olympus.

[534] Il. iv. 440.

Again, Jupiter sends her down to the camp at the beginning of the
Eleventh Iliad, where she stands on the ship of Ulysses, and raises a
mighty shout to stir up the Greeks for the contest[535]. The word is,
indeed, the common and established word for strife in Homer, and it is
applied even to the conflict of the gods[536], θεῶν ἔριδι ξυνιόντων.
But this use of it is probably to be compared with that of Ἄρης for a
spear, and of Ἀφροδίτη (in later Greek) for the sensual function of
that deity. She is, on the whole, less a figure than a person, though
standing upon the border between the two respectively; and though, as
she never actually performs what may be called a personal action, she
is only by a few degrees removed from the family of Terror, Din, Panic,
and the rest. The first of these, Φόβος, as he is the son of Mars[537],
and attends him in fight against the Ephyri, is as distinctly
personified as Eris in one passage; but the effect of it is neutralized
by others, where he passes into sheer figure. She rejoices in seeing
the slaughter[538] wrought in battle: and an intense eagerness is
imputed to her[539], of course meaning an eagerness for blood.

[535] Il. xi. 3.

[536] Il. xx. 66.

[537] Il. xiii. 299.

[538] Il. xi. 74.

[539] Il. iv. 440.

But another form of this deity is probably exhibited to us under
another name, that of the πτολίπορθος Ἐνύω. Enuo is mentioned together
with Pallas as being a warlike deity, in contrast with the effeminate
Venus[540]: and she leads the Trojans to the fight in concert with
Mars: but while he has a huge spear in his hands, she holds or leads,
instead, another form more shadowy than her own, that of Κύδοιμος or
Tumult. Yet the mode in which she is joined with Pallas proves her
impersonation. The fundamental identity of her name with Ἐνυάλιος, the
second name of Mars, and her joining him in leading on the Trojans,
place her in some very close relation to him: and that close relation
cannot well be other than the twofold one of sister and mistress, which
had been assigned to Ἔρις.

[540] Il. v. 333, 592.

When it is said, that ‘she alone of the gods was present, as the others
had retired to their respective mansions on Olympus,’ the most natural
inference certainly is, that she too is meant to be described as
belonging to the Olympian Court.

Upon the whole, it seems pretty clear, that if the Poet intended to
limit absolutely the number of the Olympian Court or Minor Assembly
to the exact figure twenty, then the choice for the twentieth place
will more justly fall on his Eris, than either his Dionysus, or even
his Persephone. It appears to me, however, that so strict a numerical
precision is not in the manner of Homer; that he intended the twenty
tripods to be a general indication of the number of the Court, and
that with this indication the facts of the poems substantially, though
indeterminately, agree.

Such is the composition of the Olympian Court, or smaller Assembly.

~_Classification of the Supernatural Order._~

The Deities who, in virtue of belonging to that Court, may be most
properly called Olympian, may be divided into the following classes:

  I. Deities having their basis, and the general outline of their
  attributes and character, from tradition.

  1. Pallas Athene, or Minerva.
  2. Phœbus Apollo.
  3. Latona.
  4. Iris.

  II. Deities of traditional basis, but with development principally
  mythological or inventive.

  1. Jupiter.
  2. Neptune.
  3. Aidoneus, or Pluto.
  4. Diana.
  5. Persephone.*

  III. Deities of invention, or mythology proper.

  1. Juno.
  2. Mars.
  3. Mercury.
  4. Vulcan.
  5. Venus.
  6. Demeter.
  7. Themis.
  8. Ἠέλιος.
  9. Paieon.
  10. Dione.
  11. Hebe.
  12. Eris, or Enuo.*
  13. Dionysus.*

Those three names, which are marked with an asterisk, appear to have
only a more or less disputable title to a seat in Olympus.

Outside, so to speak, of Olympus and its Court, we may classify the
superhuman intelligences of Homer as follows: observing, however,
that the minor deities who represent natural powers, if thoroughly
personified, give their attendance in Olympus on high occasions, and
help to form its great Chapter or Parliament.

They may be thrown into the six following classes:

1. The greater impersonations of natural powers, and of ideas; with
their reflections, where such have been formed, in the feminine. These

Oceanus and Tethys.

Κρόνος and Ῥέα.

Ouranos and Gaia (not Earth, but rather Land).

Nereus and Amphitrite.

We are not authorized by Homer to associate either of these last
couples as husband and wife. We have to add:

  Destiny, (which also has a place in the fifth class,) Dream, Sleep,
  Death, Terror, Panic, Rumour, Din, Uproar.

The process of impersonation is with some of these fully developed,
with others scarcely begun, and wholly poetical; therefore as yet in
no degree mythological. In one place, Il. xiii. 299, Φόβος is the son
of Mars, in another Φόβος and Δεῖμος are his horses (xiii. 119.); and
in a third they appear along with Ἔρις, in a shape hovering between
personality and allegory. Ἔρις herself, at times fully personified,
in one passage is simply a figure on the Ægis of Minerva, perhaps,
however, as an animated work of art, Il. v. 740. In all these cases we
see the work of poetical fabrication actually going on.

Perhaps the best example of a merely poetical, as distinguished from a
religious or practical impersonation, is to be found in Æschylus, who
makes Dust the brother of Mud[541].

[541] Æsch. Ag. 480.

This class was greatly augmented in the later Theogonies, beginning
with Hesiod.

2. The minor impersonations of natural powers, such as

  (1) The Winds.
  (2) The Rivers.
  (3) The Nymphs of meadows.
  (4) The Nymphs of fountains.
  (5) The Nymphs of groves.
  (6) The Nymphs of hills.
  (7) The Sea Nymphs.

3. I place in a different class all those deities, who appear in Homer
as the subjects of foreign fable not fully naturalized. These are
they who dwell in the Outer sphere of the marvellous Geography in the
Odyssey, and with whom Menelaus and Ulysses are brought into contact.
They are wholly exterior to the system of Homer, and we cannot safely
give them a position implying any defined relation to it. But there
are certain links supplied by the Poet himself, as when he makes Circe
child of the Sun, and Mercury presumptively nephew of Calypso: by these
he shows us the connection of the Greek mythology with Eastern sources,
and the partial assimilation of the materials they supplied.

These deities are:

  1. Proteus.
  2. Leucothee.
  3. Æolus (perhaps).
  4. The Sirens.
  5. Calypso.
  6. Atlas.
  7. Circe.
  8. Œetes.
  9. Maias.
  10. Perse.
  11. Eidothee.
  And several Nymphs[542].

[542] Od. i. 71. xii. 132, 3.

4. Those impersonations which represent, each in its several part,
or its peculiar aspect, the tradition of the Evil One, have been
considered along with the deities of tradition.

5. Of ministers of doom or justice, real or reputed, and less than
divine, yet belonging to the metaphysical or moral order, we have in

  1. The Fates, Κῆρες, who fall within the range of ideas described by
  his Αἶσα and his Μοῖρα.

  2. The Ἁρπυῖαι.

  3. The Ἐρινύες.

6. Besides all these, we have yet another class with subdivisions of
its own, composed of beings who stand within the interval between Deity
and Humanity.

There are some observations to be made on several of these classes.

~_Destiny or Fate in Homer._~

It is much easier to obtain a just perception of the manner in which
Homer handles the subject of Destiny or Fate, than to represent it in a
system. The conflict which it involves, either of ideas, or at least of
the words denoting them, was certain to give occasion to argument and
difference of opinion in a case where a poet is of necessity called to
take his trial at the bar of philosophy[543].

[543] The subject has been treated with great ability by Nägelsbach,
Hom. Theol., Abschnitt iii.

Besides the θέσφατον, on which I shall make a remark hereafter, there
are five forms of speech which are employed by Homer to express the
idea of Destiny; they are, Κατακλῶθες, Κήρ, Μοῖρα, Μόρος, and Αἶσα:
the two last in the singular number only, the two preceding it in the
singular or plural, and the Κατακλῶθες only in the plural.

Of these, the Κῆρες and the Κατακλῶθες have undergone the most
effective process of personification; but, brought more distinctly into
the sphere of life and action, these phrases have a much less profound
root in the order of ideas, and scarcely touch the great questions,
whether destiny is a power separate from the human will, separate from
the Divine will, and superior to either or to both.

The fundamental idea both of Μοῖρα and Αἶσα, traced from their original
source, is not a part merely, but rather a portion or share allotted
according to some rule or law. But, though of similar origin, some
distinctions obtain between the uses of the two words. And first as to

~_Under the form of Αἶσα._~

We have in Il. xviii. 327, ληΐδος αἶσα; in Od. xix. 24, ἐλπίδος αἶσα;
in Il. ix. 378, τίω δέ μιν ἐν καρὸς αἴσῃ. In all these cases it is
plain, that the word means not a mere part, but a part assigned upon
some given principle. Hence it comes to mean either the whole share or
lot assigned to a man, or the law according to which it is assigned,
that is, the law under which the moral government of human life, and
the distribution of good and evil, are conducted. Accordingly, we have
these several senses in which it is employed.

1. The αἶσα, as the entire destiny, of an individual man, Il. i. 416.
Ἐπεί νύ τοι αἶσα μίνυνθά περ, οὔτι μάλα δήν.

2. A notable part of that destiny, as his death: Τῷ οἱ ἀπεμνήσαντο καὶ
ἐν θανάτοιό περ αἴσῃ. Il. xxiv. 428.

3. The moral law for the government of conduct, as in Ἕκτορ, ἐπεί με
κατ’ αἶσαν ἐνίπαπες, οὐδ’ ὑπὲρ αἶσαν. Il. iii. 59.

4. That moral law as it is supposed to proceed from Jupiter; the Διὸς
αἶσα, or dispensation of Jupiter; the δαίμονος αἶσα, or dispensation of

5. That same law, as it is supposed to proceed from some other source,
or to speak more correctly, for Homer, as the power which administers
it is separately personified. This we have in the passage ἅσσα οἱ Αἶσα
γεινομένῳ ἐπένησε λίνῳ, ὅτε μιν τέκε Μήτηρ, Il. xx. 127; or, again, as
in Od. vii. 197; where Αἶσα is assisted in the spinning process by the
Κατακλῶθες βαρεῖαι, as if it was felt that she was not strong enough to
make a Destiny.

Upon the whole it appears to me that there is in the word Αἶσα only the
minutest savour of the proper idea of Fate. For Fate involves these
things: 1. a power dominant over man: 2. a power independent of the
divinity: and 3. a power standing ideally apart from right.

Now αἶσα does not fully answer even to the first of these conceptions,
since αἶσα, even when it is backed by the gods, may be overcome by the
energies of man. Jupiter in the Iliad[544] ordained glory to Hector and
success to the Trojans until the sunset of the day when the battle of
the ships was fought: yet just before the death of Patroclus the Greeks
prevailed, Il. xvi. 780.

[544] Il. xi. 192-4 and xviii. 455.

  καὶ τότε δή ῥ’ ὑπὲρ αἶσαν Ἀχαιοὶ φέρτεροι ἦσαν.

The only instances in which we find αἶσα endowed with any thing in the
nature of an inexorable force are such as that quoted from Il. xx.
127. In this passage it is said by Juno, ‘We will give Achilles glory;
thereafter let him suffer what αἶσα has appointed for him.’ Now this
refers not to a course of life that he was to pass through, but simply
to the crisis of his death. In Od. vii, the speaker is Alcinous; and
his sentiment is, ‘Let us carry our guest safe home and then leave him
to whatever αἶσα and the κατακλῶθες have ordained for him.’ Probably
this is only an euphemism, and means death, as Juno meant it; but,
in any case, proceeding from another mortal, it is a mere form of
speech perfectly compatible in itself with the idea that the gods are
superior to αἶσα, nay, that man may upon occasion surmount it. In the
other case it is not so; we must understand Juno to recognise the
αἶσα or dispensation as absolute; but then it is the dispensation of
death; and it is, I think, the clear doctrine of the poems that that
dispensation cannot be cancelled or averted from mortals, though there
are various modes in which it may be escaped or baffled: one of them,
that of postponement, which is temporary: another, that of translation
out of the mortal state, as in the case of Ganymede: and a third, that
of revival, as in the cases of Castor and Pollux. To Minerva alone is
ascribed a power over death: and this seems to be a power of subsequent
rescue, and not one of absolute exemption. Euryclea comforts Penelope
with the exhortation to pray to Minerva about Ulysses[545], as she can
afterwards deliver him;

[545] Od. iv. 753.

  ἡ γάρ κέν μιν ἔπειτα ἐκ θανάτοιο σαώσαι.

The stress is evidently to be laid upon the word ἔπειτα.

Another passage, which may at first sight present a different
appearance, will, I think, on examination, be found to harmonize
completely with what has been said. When in the Sixteenth Iliad,
Jupiter perceives that his cherished son Sarpedon is about to meet his
death by encountering Patroclus, he laments that it should be the
destiny of one to him the dearest of men, to be slain by that warrior.
Then he proceeds to consider whether he shall remove him from the scene
of danger, though he was fated to die, or whether he shall subdue him
by the hands of Patroclus[546],

[546] Il. xvi. 438.

  ἢ ἤδη ὑπὸ χερσὶ Μενοιτιάδαο δαμάσσω.

Thus, in the space of a few lines, 1. he seems to recognise destiny as
a power superior to his own will; then, 2. he debates whether he shall
overrule this superior power; and lastly, 3. he treats the execution
of its decree as the act of that very will of his. And on this course,
advised by Juno, he finally decides.

He desists from executing this plan, not because it is impossible, but
apparently for two reasons: the first, that it may cause discontent and
spleen among the gods; the second, that by similar interferences, on
behalf each of his own child, they too may trouble the order of nature.
His power, therefore, to execute the scheme is clearly implied. But
what scheme? Not one for repealing the law of death, so far as Sarpedon
is concerned[547]; but simply for adjourning the evil by removing him
to his home, and so putting him far beyond the reach of the chances of
the war.

[547] Il. xvi. 436.

When Vulcan is asked by Thetis to provide arms for Achilles, he
replies, Would that I could hide him from his fated hour, even as I can
and will provide him with arms! Here, indeed, the expression is not to
save, but to hide him; yet even this is beyond his power:

  αἲ γάρ μιν θανάτοιο δυσηχέος ὧδε δυναίμην
  νόσφιν ἀποκρύψαι, ὅτε μιν μόρος αἰνὸς ἱκάνοι[548].

[548] Il. xviii. 464.

Vulcan indeed is a deity of limited powers; but in this case he seems
to express a general law.

~_Death inexorable to Fate or Deity._~

The death, therefore, at some time within a given space, of every
person remaining in the state of a mortal man, was a point settled and
immovable, and so was accordingly the αἶσα of death: but it was that
the αἶσα was fixed, because death was fixed, and not that death was
fixed, because αἶσα ordained it. We must distinguish between a single
incident of a mortal career, an order which nothing can infringe,
unchangeable but uncaused, and the supposition of a power, which causes
that, and likewise all other parts of it, irrespective of personal
will, whether in the gods or in men.

It appears, I think, on the whole, that αἶσα has but a limited and
equivocal connection with the idea of fate; it seems never to mean more
than the fate of a single individual, never to signify the large-handed
destiny that grasps nations and the world. It may be overridden, as by
the Greeks, after the battle of the ships. And the reason of this seems
to be that its meaning has so strong a bias to the side of a moral law,
as opposed to a mere force. This comes out clearly in the sense of the
word αἴσιμος: αἴσιμα εἴδειν is little less or more, than to be a good
man. Its predominating sense is the ordained law of right; and as such,
it is a law very liable to be broken.

~_Destiny under the form of Μοῖρα._~

It is in the Μοῖρα, if anywhere, that we must seek for destiny, in the
sense which approximates to fatalistic ideas. Here, far differently
from αἶσα, the moral idea is subordinate in nearly all cases, and in
some it is wholly suppressed.

Like αἶσα, μοῖρα, properly means a portion or share, a part accruing to
some one under a law. Thus we have οὐδ’ αἰδοῦς μοῖραν ἔχουσιν Od. xx.
171; and παρώχηκεν δὲ πλέων νὺξ τῶν δύο μοιράων, τριτάτη δ’ ἔτι μοῖρα
λέλειπται (Il. x. 252). Thus it appears to pass into the following
senses, which may be usefully compared with those of αἶσα.

The scope of its meaning is far wider: it hardly stoops to signify the
destiny of a single man; Homer could not well have said (see Il. i.
416.) ἐπεί νύ τοι μοῖρα μίνυνθά περ: although he can make μοῖρα as a
power, appoint a destiny _for_ a man, (Il. xxiv. 209.) it is not the
μοῖρα _of_ a man. But it is

1. The appointing power as separate from any thing else. It hovers
between the state of an abstraction and of a person: and it comes
nearer to the latter than αἶσα. Not only have we μοῖρα κραταιὴ
γεινομένῳ ἐπένησε λίνῳ, (Il. xxiv. 209.) but especially,

  τλητὸν γὰρ Μοῖραι θυμὸν θέσαν ἀνθρώποισιν[549].

[549] Il. xxiv. 49.

A passage by which, unless its effect were modified from elsewhere,
the μοῖραι seem in principle to take the whole administration of moral
government into their hands, by fixing dispositions as well as outward

2. Besides being thus personal, μοῖρα reaches to mankind at large, and
expresses a general law, in the passage last quoted.

This may be a law of good fortune, as in Od. xx. 76[550]:

[550] Cf. Il. iii. 182, μοιρηγενές.

  μοῖράν τ’ ἀμμοριήν τε καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων.

3. Or, with an epithet, it may mean ill fortune; as in μοῖρα δυσώνυμος,
Il. xii. 116.

4. It seems very strongly to signify death, when used simply, and
without addition, as τεῒν δ’ ἐπὶ μοῖραν ἔθηκε, in Od. xi. 560.

5. Or when in apposition, as μοῖρα θανάτοιο, Od. ii. 100, or again as
in Il. iii. 101, θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα.

6. Or any thing ordained for mankind at large, as Od. xix. 592, the
μοῖρα ὕπνου. You must sleep, says Penelope; for the gods have so
ordained it, (ἐπὶ γάρ τοι ἑκάστῳ μοῖραν ἔθηκαν ἀθάνατοι θνητοῖσιν ἐπὶ
ζείδωρον ἄρουραν).

7. Μοῖρα, like αἶσα, may be the embodied will, decree, or dispensation
of the gods. Thus we have μοῖρα θεοῦ, Od. xi. 292, where θεὸς is either
Jupiter or possibly Apollo: and μοῖρα θεῶν, Od. iii. 269, and xxii.
413. Now the names θεὸς and θεοὶ seem to be higher with Homer than any
mythological name. They are his most solemn forms for the expression
of the idea of deity. Thus it is remarkable that he never attaches
μοῖρα directly to any Olympian person. This testifies to its signifying
something larger than is conveyed by αἶσα. But it also seems to
indicate that, even if it were capable of being placed in antagonism to
the will of one of the mythological persons, into whose forms theistic
ideas had passed by degeneracy, yet it was not conceived as opposite to
or separate from the divine principle, but rather as a power associated
with it.

8. Though in general μοῖρα means the thing ordained without reference
to moral ideas, yet it is not always so. Μόρσιμος ordinarily means
destined, while αἴσιμος means right. But the ideas of right and might
were not yet wholly parted. In Od. xxii. 413 it is plain that μοῖρα
θεῶν, pronounced by Ulysses over the Suitors, contains a moral element:
for he goes on to say, οὔτινα γὰρ τίεσκον κ.τ.λ.: and so Eurymachus,
when he means to acknowledge that the death of Antinous was morally
just, says,

  νῦν δ’ ὁ μὲν ἐν μοίρῃ πέφαται[551].

[551] Od. xxii. 54.

The presence of the moral element in this word is entirely adverse to
the theory, that it was used in the sense of fatalism. Power apart
from a personal deity has been conceived by the human mind: but moral
power, I think, in such a state of severalty, has never been made the
subject of serious speculation.

9. Μοῖρα has yet another sense, that of κοσμὸς, order. The force of the
term κατὰ μοῖραν is generally ‘with propriety,’ while κατ’ αἶσαν is
‘with right.’

Thus in Il. xix. 256 the Greeks sit still, κατὰ μοῖραν, in order to
hear Agamemnon: and we have an instance of κατὰ μοῖραν meaning ‘with
propriety’ in Il. x. 169. Here Nestor has been chidden by Diomed, not
for a moral offence, but for over-activity: and he replies,

  ναὶ δὴ ταῦτά γε πάντα, φίλος, κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες.

He could not here have said κατ’ αἶσαν.

~_Under the form of μόρος._~

Lastly, we come to the word μόρος. There are several shades of
distinction between it and μοῖρα.

1. It is never personified in Homer, nor even approaches to

2. It draws peculiarly to the dispensation of death, in conformity with
the law by which in Latin it became _mors_. See Il. xviii. 465. xxi. 133:
and, except in this connection, it does not seem to be used to express
individual destiny.

3. Accordingly it is never associated with deity; in conformity with
the fixed character of the dispensation of death. We have no μόρος
θεῶν, μόρος Διός.

4. Yet this is not because μόρος is stronger than μοῖρα. On the
contrary, we have no case in Homer of a thing done ὑπὲρ μοῖραν, though
it is sometimes apprehended. Thus in Il. xx. 335 Neptune warns Æneas to
retire from before Achilles,

  μὴ καὶ ὑπὲρ μοῖραν δόμον Ἄϊδος εἰσαφικήαι.

But μόρος receives the sense of αἶσα as the law of right: a
relationship curiously maintained in _mos_, _moris_, compared with
_mors_, _mortis_. Men bring woe upon themselves ὑπέρμορον, by
obstinate wickedness: and the crimes of Ægisthus (Od. i. 35.) have been
committed ὑπέρμορον.

~_General view of the Homeric Destiny._~

We thus see that, on the whole, the force of destiny, as it appears in
Homer, although it commonly prevails, is not uniformly irresistible.
We never find the deities actually fighting against it, or it against
them. So full and large were Homer’s conceptions of the freedom of the
human will, that fate is sometimes on the point of giving way before
the energy of his heroes, and this even when the strength of some god
is brought in aid of it. Thus Jupiter fears, lest ὑπὲρ μόρον Achilles
should dash the Trojan walls[552] to the ground. Apollo enters the
city[553], lest the Greeks should take it ὑπὲρ μόρον on the day of
the battle with Hector. In the Second Book, after the rush from the
assembly, the Greeks would ὑπέρμορα have returned home, unless Juno had
urged Minerva to bestir herself by influence among them. Many things
are done contrary to αἶσα, or the ordained law of right; whereas,
although μοῖρα is not in the abstract insurmountable, yet in fact it
rarely is surmounted. But then the Fate of Homer, the thing spoken, is
not in conflict with him that speaks it.

[552] Il. xx. 30.

[553] Il. xxi. 517.

We do not find in Homer the curious distinction which the speculative
mind of the Greeks afterwards worked out, between a fate representing
the mere will of the gods, and a fixed fate higher and stronger than

  εἰ δὲ μὴ τεταγμένα
  Μοῖρα τὰν ἐκ θεῶν
  εἶργε μὴ πλέον φέρειν[554].

[554] Æsch. Ag. 993.

And again in Herodotus[555]: τὴν πεπρωμένην μοίρην ἀδύνατά ἐστιν
ἀποφυγέειν καὶ θεῷ.

[555] Herod. i. 91.

While this, on the one side, was the course of speculation, the course
of poetic thought was towards a complete impersonation of Destiny in
the three Fates, representing an image so congenial, as a poetic image
only, to the human mind, that it found its way into the romance poetry
of Christian Italy.

Upon the whole, it appears at any rate most probable, that Homer had
not formed the conception of a law extrinsic to all volition human and
divine, and so powerful as to override it.

It is hardly to be conceived that Homer would have treated a successful
resistance to the laws of Destiny as lying within the possible reach of
mankind, had he deemed it to be a power independent of, and superior
to, the Divine Will; because he always represents the latter as
decisive and supreme over human fortunes.

I think that the primary ideas conveyed in the terms μοῖρα and Fatum
will not be found, when examined, to agree. _Fatum_ is the decree
without reason; the _sic volo sic jubeo_; and the idea of it is the
result of the long, wearisome, despairing experience of bewildered man,
after the world has lost the freshness and the joy of its childhood.
The μοῖρα, or share, is a distribution made according to a law or moral
purpose: it cannot, without parting from its nature, be blind: its
tendency in Homer rather is, as we see in Il. xxiv. 49, to grow into a
sort of rival Providence.

The arguments to an opposite effect are surely inconclusive[556]. The
question raised by the Scales of Jupiter is, not what the springs may
be which determine the movement of the world, but simply what is his
foreknowledge of the direction it will take. These representations
would be perfectly consistent with belief in the supremacy (so to
speak) of Chance: and while we may admit that, inasmuch as they are not
produced for the information of men, they must indicate a limitation in
Jupiter, we should not mistake the nature of that limitation.

[556] Enumerated in Nägelsbach, iii. 7-9.

Again, we must not suppose that because some particular deity deplores
the course of destiny, therefore that course is in opposition to the
general deliberation and decision of Olympus.

And when, as is commonly the case, we find the deities cooperating with
μοῖρα, the assumption that they are its servants, seems to be wholly
unwarranted. It seems much more natural to suppose that the μοῖρα, to
which they are giving effect, is simply the divine will: especially as,
though we find single gods, Neptune or Apollo, for example, cooperating
with μοῖρα, I doubt whether this is ever represented of the gods at
large and their supreme decrees.

In order to solve the general question, what after all can be more
reasonable than to look to the main action of the poems, and inquire
what power or what counsel it is which takes effect through the medium
of their machinery as a whole? If this be the test, there is no room
for doubt upon the issue. In the Iliad it is the Διὸς βουλὴ (Il. i. 5):
the determination of Olympus, into which Jupiter had wisely allowed
his own opposite inclinations to merge. In the Odyssey[557], it is
the decision of the same tribunal, at the instance of Minerva, and
with Neptune alone dissentient. Upon the whole, for the poems and the
day of Homer, I cannot but think that both the supremacy of godhead
as a whole, and the freedom of man remain, if somewhat darkened, yet
certainly unsubverted. The μοῖρα of Homer may, it is probable, be no
more and no less in the main than that θέσφατον, or divinely uttered
decree, which he sometimes uses in such a manner as to admit of the
supposition that they were really synonymous.

[557] Od. i. 20, 45, 77. xxiv. 479.

At the same time we do not find, nor could we expect to find, in Homer
any clear assertion of the majesty of the true Divine Will, as the
mainspring that moves the universe. That is emphatically a Christian
sentiment, which is conveyed in the lofty formula of Dante:

  Così si vuol colà, dove si puote
  Ciò che si vuole.

  So is it willed above, where He, that wills,
  Can what he wills.

The Fate of Homer may indeed logically embrace a germ, which will
afterwards expand into the idea of a power extrinsic to Deity, and
able to overrule it. We may argue to show that the representation,
perseveringly developed, means as much as this. But then such
representations in Homer are not perseveringly, much less are they
unilaterally, developed. They have not been thought through even to
their legitimate consequences, and far less to those which appear
to arise from the following out, not of a full truth, but of some
particular and severed aspect of it. Taken at the worst, Destiny in
Homer broods like a cloud in a distant quarter of the sky, silently
gathering the might which, when ripe, is to engage in obstinate and
unending conflict with deity. But for this work the material is not yet
prepared; and practically neither μοῖρα nor αἶσα much crosses the work
of Divine government, such as it is conceived and exhibited in Homer.
I pass on to the second Class.

~_Minor impersonations from Nature._~

Among the Greeks, and even in Homer, every tree, every fountain, all
things inanimate, that either vegetated or moved, had their indwelling
deity. Homer, however, represents the infancy of that system, and
though he impersonates many other local agencies, he gives to none so
active a personality as to Rivers. Ulysses in his distress addresses
the god of the Scherian river[558]; and is answered by the staying
of the current. Simois is addressed personally by Xanthus[559]; and
Xanthus himself, by virtue of his local power, is promoted to the
honour of contending with Vulcan, the god of fire, a member of the
Olympian Court, and a son of Jupiter and Juno. So the Spercheus[560] is
invoked, and, what is more, invoked so far off as in Troas, by Achilles.

[558] Od. v. 445. 451.

[559] Il. xxi. 308.

[560] Il. xxiii. 144.

The perpetual movement which inheres in the essence of a river,
combined with the visibility which separates it from mere atmospherical
currents, seems to connect it more closely than any other natural
object with the idea of life. It is most interesting to observe how
the sentiment here expressed seems to have worked in ages widely
distant, upon great poets of differing nations, temperaments, and
circumstances, after their differing manners. Homer does not impute
feelings to a River; but he impersonates it with a treatment different
to that which he applies to groves, fountain, or meadow. Now these
personifications though not yet disused (especially in the English
poetry of the last century), have become far less real and effective
for the human mind, since the Gospel opened to us the unseen world
with its crowd of ethereal inhabitants. Observe, accordingly, how a
feeling identical with that of Homer, a tendency to invest outward
nature with vitality and action, in these more recent times takes a
different form. The great Dante, more than two thousand years later in
the line of human descent, without personifying, yet ascribes feeling
to a river; he imagines the Po, after its tumultuous headlong descent
with all its feeders from the mountains, longing for peace, and seeking
it by repairing to the sea. Francesca da Rimini thus describes her

  Siede la Terra, dove nata fui,
  Sulla marina, dove ’l Po discende
  Per aver pace co’ seguaci sui.

And one of lesser indeed, (for who is not less than such as these?) but
yet of both high and honoured poetic name, our own Wordsworth, in his
Sonnet[561] on the River Thames, seen from London Bridge at sunrise,
has the well known line,

[561] Miscellaneous Sonnets, Part II. No. xxix.

  The river wanders at his own sweet will.

He may also be claimed as a witness to what has been said of the truth
and power of these personifications to the ancients. For in another
noble Sonnet, where he complains of the deadening power and weight of
worldly life, and intends to show that a system of shadows, when men
really appropriate and digest the truth it has, is better for them
than to have a system of substances around them, and yet to remain
unpenetrated by it, he describes that system of shadows by recalling
two of its vivid personifications[562].

[562] Ibid. Part I. No. xxxiii:

  ‘The world is too much with us.’

But while Homer brings into action no personifications of this class,
except those of Rivers, he peoples each with its appropriate Genius,
the fountains, the grassy meadows, and the groves. In the Great
Parliament of the supernal world at the beginning of the Twentieth
Iliad, all are represented. Even here, however, the distinction is
preserved: the Rivers attend as it were in person; but the rest by
deputy, that is, by their proper indwelling and presiding Spirits;

  οὔτε τις οὖν Ποταμῶν ἀπέην νόσφ’ Ὠκεανοῖο,
  οὔτ’ ἄρα Νυμφάων, αἵτ’ ἄλσεα καλὰ νέμονται,
  καὶ πηγὰς Ποταμῶν, καὶ πίσεα ποιήεντα[563].

[563] Il. xx. 7-9.

Thus the first are impersonations: the second only residences for
persons to dwell in.

~_The Harpies of Homer._~

The Harpies, Ἁρπυῖαι, of Homer have been, I think, truly described as
‘nothing but personified storm-winds[564].’ They have no connection,
when jointly viewed, with the moral order, except that they may,
as mere carriers, take a subordinate part in the fulfilment of a
moral purpose, which is quite as true of the Winds, personified or
unpersonified. The Harpy Ποδάργη is personified individually, as the
mother who bears to Zephyr the two deathless horses of Achilles,
Xanthus and Balius[565]; but apparently for no other purpose than one
purely relative. The classical passage respecting the Harpies is that
in Od. xx. 61-79, which forms a part of the prayer of Penelope to
Diana. The object of the matron’s petition is that, wearied out with
her sorrows, she may die, and this in one of two modes: either by the
arrows of the goddess; or else, that a hurricane may seize her, and,
driving her along the paths of air, deposit her in the channels of
Ocean, that is to say, the place of the dead. Then she proceeds to
illustrate this last mode of death, of which she has named θύελλα as
the instrument, by the tale of the daughters of Pandareus, who, having
lost their parents, were in an extraordinary manner petted by the
goddesses. Aphrodite fed them, Here gave them sense and beauty, Artemis
stature, Pallas endowed them with skill. And, lastly, Aphrodite went
to Olympus to induce Jupiter to provide for their marriage. But while
she was away on this errand, the Harpies carried off these maidens, and
gave them to the Ἐρινύες, ἀμφιπολεύειν, to be their servants, as it
is sometimes rendered, but, as I should venture to construe it, ‘for
them, i. e. the Ἐρινύες, to deal with.’ It is evident that, in this
curious legend, the Harpies are introduced to exemplify nothing more
than the part which Penelope had previously referred to the θύελλα;
and these powers, who represent Hurricane or Squall, and in whose
agency lies the gist of the story, appear to have been in this matter
the ministers of the Ἐρινύες, beings of a very different order. These
beings are evidently introduced, though entirely beyond the parallel
of the θύελλα, in order to complete the moral. The only other case in
which Homer introduces the Harpies is in a line, twice repeated, where
Penelope supposes that they may have carried Ulysses off (ἀκλειῶς)
ingloriously[566], i. e. so as to rob him in death of his due meed
of fame. And this Friedreich well compares with part of a passage in
the Book of Job, which is as follows, chap. xxvii. 20, 21. ‘A tempest
stealeth him away in the night: the east wind carrieth him away, and he
departeth; and as a storm hurleth him out of his place.’

[564] Smith’s Dict. art. Harpyiæ. On the same subject, see Nägelsbach
Hom. Theol. ii. 12. Friedreich, Realien, p. 667. Crusius on Od. xx. 77;
and Voss as there quoted, whose opinion is, I think, quite erroneous.

[565] Il. xvi. 150. xix. 400.

[566] Od. i. 241. xiv. 371.

~_The Erinues of Homer._~

The Ἐρινύες are of much greater importance; and their position
deserves the more careful inquiry, because it has, I think, been often
misunderstood, perhaps from being appreciated only through the delusive
medium of the later tradition, which appears to me to have let drop
all the finer elements of the conception, by a process similar to that
which it effected upon the great Homeric characters of Achilles, Helen,
and Ulysses.

It is quite insufficient to say of these personages, by way of
description, that they are the avengers of crime[567], or that they
grudge the bliss of mortals, or that they defend the authority of
parents[568]: and it is wholly erroneous, in my opinion, to treat them
as ‘originally nothing but a personification of curses pronounced upon
a guilty criminal[569].’

[567] Friedreich, Realien, (p. 677.) §. 198.

[568] Ibid. (p. 220.) §. 61.

[569] Smith’s Dict. art. Eumenides.

Let us first collect the facts respecting their position in Homer.

1. In the narrative of Phœnix we find that when, at the instigation
of his mother, he had sought the embraces of a παλλακὶς, for whom his
father had a passion, the father, incensed, invoked the Ἐρινύες to make
him childless. ‘This curse,’ he says, ‘the gods (θεοὶ) accomplished,
and the subterranean Jupiter, and awful Persephone,’ Il. ix. 449-57.

2. The mother of Meleager, on account of his having slaughtered her
brother, invoked Aïdes and Persephone, beseeching them to slay that
hero: whereupon the Erinūs, here called ἠεροφοῖτις, ‘that walketh in
darkness,’ heard her from Erebus, and the city was besieged. But here
the Erinūs appears to act, if not wholly in favour of Meleager, yet
against his mother. The city is assaulted, forced, and set on fire.
The family, including the mother who had cursed him, entreat Meleager
to deliver them, and attempt to attract his favour by splendid promises
of a demesne, to be conferred on him by the public. Only when the
palace itself is assailed does he consent. He repels the enemy; the
demesne is not given him: and, on account of his thus relenting only at
the last moment, Phœnix quotes him as a warning example, for Achilles
to avoid. (Il. ix. 565-603.)

3. In Il. xv. 204, when Neptune seems inclined to be refractory, Iris
reminds him that the Erinūs will act with Jupiter, because he is the
elder brother:

  οἶσθ’, ὡς πρεσβυτέροισιν Ἐρινύες αἰὲν ἕπονται.

And upon this hint Neptune at once alters his tone, allows that she has
spoken κατὰ μοῖραν, and complies with the command that she has brought.

4. In Il. xix. Agamemnon, while he admits his ἄτη, (v. 87), throws,
we might say shuffles off, the blame of it upon Jupiter, Destiny, and

                        ἐγὼ δ’ οὐκ αἴτιός εἰμι,
  ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς καὶ Μοῖρα καὶ ἠεροφοῖτις Ἐρινύς.

5. In vv. 258-60 of the same Book, the same personage invokes as
witnesses to his asseveration concerning Briseis, 1. Jupiter, 2. the
Earth, 3. the Sun, 4. the Ἐρινύες, ‘who dwell beneath the earth, and
punish the perjured.’

6. In v. 418 of the same Book, after the horse Xanthus, receiving a
voice by the gift of Juno, has given to Achilles a dark indication
of his coming fate, the Erinues interfere to prevent any further

  ὣς ἄρα φωνήσαντος Ἐρινύες ἔσχεθον αὐδήν.

7. When, in the Theomachy, Minerva has laid Mars prostrate by a blow,
she taunts him by telling him he may in his overthrow recognise the
Ἐρινύες of his mother Juno, invoked upon him for having changed sides
in the contest (Il. xxi. 410-14).

8. In the Odyssey (ii. 135), Telemachus apprehends that, if he
dismisses his mother, he will have to encounter, among other evils, the
Erinuës whom she will invoke upon him.

9. Epicaste, the mother of Œdipus, is speedily removed from the face
of earth for her hapless incest. Œdipus himself lives and reigns: but
suffers many sorrows, which the Erinuës of Epicaste (μητρὸς Ἐρινύες, as
in Il. xx. 412) bring upon him.

10. Melampus, a rich subject of Neleus in Pylos, is imprisoned for a
whole year in the house of Phylacus, and has his property seized or
confiscated, on account of the daughter of Neleus, and of his grievous
ἄτη, which the goddess, the hard-striking[570] Erinūs, brought into his
mind (Od. xv. 233):

[570] From δα and πλήσσω: Liddell and Scott: also Schol. H. _in loc._
Or, μεγάλως ἐμπελάζουσα, Schol. V. The meaning may be close-nearing,
with formidable inward action.

  εἵνεκα Νηλῆος κούρης, ἄτης τε βαρείης,
  τήν οἱ ἐπὶ φρεσὶ θῆκε θεὰ δασπλῆτις Ἐρινύς.

But he escaped from death, and paid, i.e. accomplished, the strange
act that Neleus had imposed as the condition of obtaining the command
over his daughter’s hand. He thus procured it for his brother, termed
in the post-Homeric tradition Bias. This condition was, that he should
bring off to Pylos the cows which were the property of Iphicles (and
apparently of Phylacus). He was caught at Phylace in the attempt: but
after a year Iphicles released him, apparently in consideration of
benefit derived from his prophetic knowledge, Od. xv. 228-38, and xi.

11. In Od. xvii. 475, 6, Ulysses, when Antinous had hurled the stool
at him, invokes upon that Suitor in return the anger of the gods and
Erinuës (εἴ πού γε εἰσὶν, if such there be) of the poor.

12. Lastly, in Od. xx. 78, as we have seen, the Harpies deliver the
daughter of Pandareus into the hands of the Erinuës.

We have thus a very copious supply of information from Homer, in no
less than twelve passages, every one of which represents the action of
these singular beings in a fresh and varied light: and the question is,
what is the one common idea, which is sufficiently comprehensive to
include them all, and is also in harmony with the purport of each?

~_Vindicators of the moral order._~

I answer, that the Erinuës are, in the Homeric system, the
never-failing champions, because they are the practical avengers, of
the natural and moral order, at all times, under all circumstances,
and against all persons whatsoever. They have nothing to do with the
prevention of crime: but they appear to be the principal instruments
for its punishment, especially here, but likewise hereafter. This,
however, is only a part of their function. They are the sworn servants
of a fixed order of the universe, apart from, anterior to, and
independent of, all volition, divine or human: and they avenge the
infraction of that order, not merely as a law of right opposed to
wrong, but as a law of order opposed to disorder; they are goddesses
themselves, but they are wholly apart from the Olympian dispensation,
sometimes put in conjunction with deities of the mythology, sometimes
apart from, sometimes in opposition to them. They are, in short, an
early and poetical expression of that philosophy, which even in
Christian times has seemed to seek a foundation for the supreme laws
more or less dissociated from, and wholly exterior to, the Divine Will:
the philosophy, not of Destiny, but of the ‘Immutable Morality’ of
Cudworth and his school: the philosophy harmonizing with the Ideas of
the Platonists: the philosophy of which we have a distant glimpse in
the words of St. Bernard, _incommutabile est, quod ne ipsi quidem Deo
mutare liberum est_[571]: and which Butler has presented to us in the
mild forms of his admirably balanced wisdom.

[571] De Præcepto et Dispensatione, sect. 8.

I will take first, as the criteria of this proposition, the remarkable
cases in which we find the Erinuës of Homer in qualified conflict
with Deity. It is commonly held, that in the Nineteenth Iliad the
Erinuës interfere to prevent Xanthus from telling too much to Achilles.
No doubt Homer effects this purpose by their means: but they never
interfere with the aim of prevention. It is the natural order which had
been broken by the act of Juno in conferring the gift of speech upon
a horse, and which they by their interposition mean to vindicate and

They play the same part in the case of the daughters of Pandareus.
It is plain that the goddesses of Olympus had vied with one another,
after an unprecedented and abnormal manner, in loading these damsels
with an extraordinary accumulation of gifts. Everything, even food,
came to them by the direct and immediate agency of their Immortal
handmaids: and at last Jupiter was actually besought to find them
husbands. All this lay far beyond, and was therefore in derogation of
the ordinary laws for the government of the world: it left no space for
human volition, effort, or discipline: it thus struck at the root of
the moral order; and on this ground the Erinuës interfere, apparently
employing the Hurricanes as their agents, to remove these maidens from
the earth, and to deposit them upon the Ocean stream, by the place of
the dead.

~_Their operation upon the Immortals._~

I do not know whether, over and above the infraction of natural order
which I have mentioned, there may not have been another cause for their
intervention in the special manner in which the endowments had been
conveyed: for where we find Juno granting to them ‘beauty and sense
beyond all other women[572],’ it appears as if she had travelled into
the province not only of Venus, but of the great Minerva, with whose
prerogatives I doubt whether we ever find any similar interference
allowed by Homer. It is therefore just possible that the Erinuës may
here interpose on behalf of the laws and arrangements of Olympus, as
well as of those belonging to Earth.

[572] Od. xx. 70.

The explanation which I have proposed will entirely fit the warning of
Iris to Neptune. The natural order, which assigns the prerogatives of
government to the elder, in other words, the right of primogeniture,
is a rule for the Immortals, as well as for mankind, since it is taken
to be founded upon a basis more profound than will, which was not,
and could hardly be for Homer, even when divine, either the source or
the master of creation. But while the Erinuës are thus on the side of
Jupiter, and while the recollection of them at once induces Neptune
to succumb, they are not on that account in any sense or degree his

On the same side with him we find them, where they are invoked by
Ulysses, as the Erinuës, together with the gods, of the poor: or as
when Agamemnon lays upon Erinūs, along with Jupiter and Destiny, the
blame of errors, for which notwithstanding the Greeks rightly held
him[573], and even he could not deny himself to be, responsible. Yet
we are never told that the Erinuës move at the bidding of Jupiter, or
of any other Olympian deity. Here we seem to have a glimpse into the
deeper truths of the heroic age. Theology had already wandered from
its orbit: it was fast losing all the severity and majesty of truth;
but the deep roots which God had given to the sense of responsibility,
and the expectation of retribution, in the human mind, had not yet
been wholly plucked up; and Homer’s fine sense of truth forbade him to
connect the most practical, and at the same time, the sternest parts of
his religious system, with the gorgeous glare of his Olympus, and with
the moral delinquencies of many among its inhabitants.

[573] Il. xix. 85, 6.

As the seniority of Jupiter is upheld by the Erinuës, so in like manner
are the parental rights of Juno, which had been infringed by Mars, when
he changed sides in the war. Here again, however, it appears as if
more than the mere wish or influence of Juno had been set aside: for
Mars had given a positive promise to fight for the Greeks, and it is
probable that the breach of this engagement constituted the chief part
of the offence that they were to punish[574].

[574] Il. v. 832-4.

~_Their connection with Aides and Persephone._~

Where the Erinuës touch upon the province of other deities at all,
it is upon that of Persephone and of Aïdes. If Homer associated
Persephone, as I believe he did, with the Eastern nursery of his race,
it was natural enough that, as has been the case, this part of his
theo-mythology should remain comparatively untainted. And certainly
the Homeric relation between the Erinuës and the sovereigns of the
nether world is a close one. When, in the Ninth Iliad, Althea, grasping
the earth in her vehemence, as if to lay the strong hand upon the
object of her prayer, invoked Aidoneus and Persephone to put her son
to death, the Poet proceeds to say that the Erinūs heard her: the
Erinūs who stalks in the darkness heard her, and heard her out of
Erebus[575]. In the case of Phœnix and Amyntor we have exactly the
converse. Here the Erinūs was invoked, and it was Aides with Persephone
that answered the prayer. In both these instances it must moreover be
remembered, that the question is about present and even immediate,
not about posthumous retribution. We cannot, then, refuse to admit,
that in this manner Persephone with Aidoneus is placed in an intimate
relation with the administration of retributive justice on earth, and
during the course of human life there: and if the Erinuës are to be
considered as abstractions, having their basis only in some ulterior
impersonation, Persephone and Aidoneus offer the only objects on whom
we can suppose them to depend. It seems to me, however, that they are
not reciprocally identified, although they are profoundly connected,
and although we read in the connection a very ancient testimony to a
primitive conviction in mankind, that they must look to the powers of
the other world to redress the deranged balances of this.

[575] Il. ix. 569-72.

Conformably to these ideas, we find that, in the Nineteenth Iliad, the
abode of the Erinuës is fixed ὑπὸ γαῖαν: and it is made clear from the
passage (259, 60,) that their avenging office, which is so commonly
exercised in this world, reaches also to the other.

From the character of the Erinuës, as vindicators of an order having
deeper foundations than those which any volition could either lay or
shake, there arises that natural association of them with Destiny,
which we see expressed in the speech of Agamemnon[576]. Both have in
common this idea, that they are not dependent on mere volition. They
differ in these points; that Destiny prescribes and effectuates action,
while the Erinuës only punish transgression; and that Destiny is but
feebly moral, whereas the Erinuës are profoundly charged with ethical
colouring. They represent that side of the idea of Destiny which
alone can, after being resolutely scrutinized, retain a hold upon our

[576] Il. xix. 87.

~_Their operation upon man._~

All the residue of the threads will, I think, run out easily. It
follows from what has been said, that in their aspect towards man, the
Erinuës are not indeed administrators of the moral laws themselves,
but administrators of their sanctions. So they punish the infraction
of the rights inhering in all natural relations: the rights of the
poor, as Ulysses protests to Antinous; of a father, as in the case
of Amyntor; of a mother, as in the case of Penelope. But they do
much more than punish the infraction of the rights of persons; it is
the infraction of right as right, which they resent as a substantive
offence. Let us accordingly notice the function of the Erinūs in those
cases where there has been fault on both sides. An offender is not
therefore secure, because the person who invokes the Erinūs upon him
is an offender too. The father of Phœnix gave the original occasion to
his offence, by an offence of his own: but Phœnix is punished at his
instance notwithstanding, because the thing which he implores is not
a personal favour, but is a vindication of the ὑψίποδες νόμοι[577],
violated by the incest of his son; a thing right to be done, whether
asked or not. The case of Althea and Meleager illustrates this truth
in a manner still more lively. When she obtained the intervention of
the Erinūs, she at once suffered by it. The city of Œneus was all
but subjected to the horrors of capture: she was brought, in bitter
humiliation, to supplicate the aid of the son, on whose head she had
just invoked the stroke of doom. From this we must conclude, which
indeed is not difficult, that the Poet regarded her prayer as in itself
unnatural and cruel; so that the fulfilment of it involved immediate
suffering to herself. But, on the other hand, Meleager had offended
too, in the slaughter of a near relative. Therefore, although his pride
might well be gratified when he saw king, priest, and people, with
his humbled mother, at his feet, and proffering their choicest gift
in order to appease him, yet for that original offence, and for his
obstinately refusing to arm until fire was in the city, he must receive
his punishment likewise, in vindication of the moral laws; accordingly,
after he had repulsed the enemy, he never received the demesne[578].

[577] Soph. Œd. Rex, 866.

[578] Il. ix. 598.

The case of Meleager assists to illustrate that of Œdipus and Epicaste.
Both of these unhappy persons had offended against the moral laws,
though it was unwittingly (ἀϊδρείῃσι νόοιο); one, the mother-bride,
was immediately put out of the way: the survivor was still pursued by
the μητρὸς Ἐρινύες. We see here how insufficient the idea of a curse,
invoked at will, is to explain the action of these remarkable Powers;
for it does not appear that there was any mother’s curse in the case:
but, because the natural laws were broken in a matter where the mother
was the occasion, therefore, while both suffer, the sufferings of the
son are attributed to the Erinuës of the mother; the defenders, because
the avengers, of the sanctity of a mother’s place in relation to her

In the case of Melampus, it appears that his undertaking to obtain
the cows of Iphicles or Phylacus was an ἄτη βαρεῖα, a grave error,
beginning in a temptation suggested to him by the Erinūs, and ending in
calamity. The seizure of these animals would probably be regarded as no
moral offence: and if so, any error that could lie in the engagement
to seize them would be, according to Homeric estimate, in the nature
of folly rather than of crime. We seem to see, then, in this place,
that the range of Erinūs, like that of Atè, embraced at a certain
point the prudential as well as the strictly moral laws: nor is there
involved in this idea any violent departure from the true standard, for
great imprudences are most commonly, and almost invariably, in near
connection with some form of moral defect.

It is however also to be observed, that in this place the Erinūs
suggests the ἄτη. The idea lying at the root of this representation
appears to be the profound one, that the exercise of an evil will is
in itself penal: and that when the mind is already disposed to offend,
retributive justice may take the form of a permission, encouragement,
or incitement, to commit the offence. We have already seen a very
remarkable development of this idea in the hardening agency of Minerva
upon the Suitors[579].

[579] Sup. sect. ii. p. 117-9.

According to the view of them which has here been given, though I could
not class the Erinuës with the traditive deities, it is clear that
they must represent, under metamorphosis, an important association of
ideas belonging to primitive tradition.

Let us now turn to the Sixth Class.

~_The translation of mortals._~

Those for whom it was a mental necessity to animate with deity even the
mute powers of nature, could not but find modes of associating man,
who stood nearer to the Immortals, with them and their conditions of

These modes were chiefly three:

The first, that of translation during life.

The second, that of deification after death.

The third, the conception of races intermediate between deity and

And it was perhaps not the simple working of a fervid imagination, but
also an offshoot from this profound and powerful tendency, which has
filled the pages of Homer with continual efforts to deify what was most
excellent, or most conspicuous, in the mind or in the person of living

The mode of translation during life was early in date, and was rarely
used, for not only are the Homeric examples of it few, but he records
no contemporary instance.

Ganymede[580], the son of Tros, was taken up to heaven by the Immortals
on account of his beauty, that he might live among them. Tithonus, his
grand-nephew, son of Laomedon, was, as we are left to infer, similarly
translated during life, to be the husband of Aurora (in Homer Eos), or
the morning: for Homer makes him known to us in that capacity, though
he does not mention the translation. In like manner, she carried up,
and placed among the Immortals for his beauty, Cleitus, one of the
descendants of Melampus[581]. A similar operation to that which was
performed upon Tithonus may have been designed in the case of Orion,
who was the choice of Aurora, and whose career, in consequence of the
jealousy of the Immortals, was cut short by the arrows of Diana[582].
The course of these legends seems to stop suddenly in the Greek
mythology at the point where they are replaced by deification: and the
connection of Aurora, as the principal agent, with three out of the
four, (the other, too, is Asiatic, as being in the family of Dardanus,)
seems to be an unequivocal sign of their eastern character. Homer
places the dwelling of Ἤως at a distant point of the East, near the
place where θάλασσα communicates with Ocean.

[580] Il. xx. 233.

[581] Od. xv. 250.

[582] Od. v. 120.

~_The deification of mortals._~

In the age of Homer the very first names have hardly been entered
in the class of deified heroes. Ino, the daughter of Cadmus, may be
said to stand at the head of the list, from the distinct assertion of
her translation, and from her being placed, as the ally of Ulysses,
in continued relations with mortal men[583]. Of her also it is said
that she had obtained divine honours; and nearly the same assertion
is made of Castor and Pollux. But they perform no offices towards man
while yet in this life. Of this Ino is the only instance. She appears
to be Phœnician rather than Greek, and thus to belong perhaps to an
older, clearly to a distinct mythology. Hercules, the only one of these
persons who entirely fulfils the conditions of a hero, is admitted to
the banquets of the gods, and united with Hebe[584]: yet he is not
all in Olympus, for his εἴδωλον, endowed with voice and feeling, and
bearing martial accoutrements, is the terror of the Dead. It is not
easy to explain fully this divided state. I cannot but think, however,
that we see here at work that principle of disintegration, which solved
all riddles of character by making one individual into more than one:
beginning, at least for earth, with that Helen in Egypt, who was made
the depository of the better qualities that post-Homeric times could
not recognise in Helen of Troy. Although the son of Jupiter, Hercules
had on earth, through a sheer mistake, been subject to a destiny
of grinding toil. His original extraction and personality stand in
sharp contrast with the restless and painful destiny of his life.
Death severs these one from the other, but Homer, contemplating each
as a whole, endows the last also with personality, and gives it a
reflection in the lower world of its earthly course and aspect: while
the Jove-born Hercules, as it were by a natural spring, mounts up to
heaven[585]. At the same time there is no more conspicuous example than
Hercules, of that counter-principle of accumulation, by which legendary
tradition heaps upon favourite heroes all acts not distinctly otherwise
appropriated, which appear to harmonize with their characters; and
thus often makes an historical personage into one both fabulous and

[583] Od. v. 333, 461.

[584] Od. xi. 601.

[585] I have alluded elsewhere (sect. ii. p. 169) to another possible
explanation: two aspects of character may be exhibited in the two

It must not be forgotten that this passage respecting Hercules was
sharply challenged by the Alexandrian critics. This challenge is
discussed, and its justice affirmed by Nitzsch[586]. Such authorities
must not be defrauded of their weight. But for my own part, I do not
find a proof of spuriousness even in the real inconsistencies of Homer,
where he is dealing with subjects beyond the range of common life and
experience. Still less can it be universally admitted, that what are
called his inconsistencies are really such. They will often be found to
require nothing but the application of a more comprehensive rule for
their adjustment.

[586] ad Odyss. xi. 601-4.

It is more difficult still to understand the case of Orion, who is at
once a noted star in heaven, and a sufferer below in the Shades. There
he appears not wholly unlike the shade of Hercules, a dreamy image
of the sufferings of earth, and at the same time he ranks among the
splendours at least of the material heaven.

Minos, who is placed in the Shades to exercise royal functions there,
and Rhadamanthus, who has his happy dwelling on the Elysian plain, are
approximative examples of deification.

It would be hazardous to build any opinion exclusively on the two
verses Il. ii. 550, 551, relating to the worship of Erechtheus: but
they are not altogether at variance with what we see elsewhere.

~_Growth of material for its extension._~

Such is the rather slender list of personages in Homer, who approximate
in any degree to what was afterwards the order of deified Heroes.
There are, however, some other indications, that belong immediately
to the living, and that point the same way. Such is the promise to
Menelaus[587], that instead of dying he should be translated to
Elysium, because he was the son-in-law of Jupiter. And this suggests
other notes of preparation already found in Homer. Ulysses[588]
promises Nausicaa that, when he has reached his own country, he will
continue to invoke her all his life long, _like a god_. The invocation
of the Dead was common. It was not practised only in illustrious
cases like that of Patroclus. After their battle with the Cicones,
Ulysses[589] and his crews thrice invoked their slaughtered comrades.
A system of divine parentage was the fit, one might almost say the
certain preparation for a scheme of divine honours after death; and of
such parentage many of Homer’s heroes could boast. Again, Peleus was
married to a goddess, and the gods in mass attended the wedding. By
thus bringing the inhabitants of Olympus down to the earth, Homer laid
the ground for bringing the denizens of earth into Olympus.

[587] Od. iv. 561.

[588] Od. viii. 467.

[589] Od. ix. 65.

There is yet a further sign, which, though perhaps the least palpable,
is, when well considered, the most striking of all. It is this; that
sacrifice is offered, in the Odyssey, to the Shades of the departed.
It is not indeed animal sacrifice that is actually offered. The gift
consists of honey and milk, with wine, water, and flour[590]: but
Ulysses distinctly promises that, on his return to Ithaca, he will
supply this defect by offering a heifer in their honour, and a sheep
all black to Tiresias in particular. Moreover, he distinctly recognises
the idea of worshipping them[591];

[590] Od. xi. 26.

[591] Od. xi. 29.

  πολλὰ δὲ γουνούμην νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα.

It does not destroy the force of this proceeding, that they were
supposed to need or to enjoy the thing sacrificed; for the Immortals
of Olympus did the latter at least, and there are even traces of the
former. Together with the mixed offering above described, and the
promise of a regular sacrifice on his return home, Ulysses permitted
the Shades to drink of the blood of the sheep which he immolated on
the spot to Aidoneus and Persephone, after he had fulfilled the main
purpose of his visit by consulting Tiresias[592].

[592] Od. xi. 153, 230.

The dead then have consciousness and activity. They are invoked by
man. They can appear to him. They are capable of having sacrifices
offered to them. They can confer benefit on the living. Here, gathered
out of different cases, were the materials of full deification. All
that was yet wanting was, that they should be put together according to

~_The kindred of the gods._~

We have now, lastly, to consider the kindred of the gods, or races
intermediate between deity and humanity, which Homer has introduced in
the Odyssey exclusively.

These are certainly three, perhaps four;

  1. The Cyclopes.
  2. The Læstrygonians.
  3. The Phæacians.

It may also be probable that we should add

4. Æolus Hippotades and his family.

Among them all, the Cyclopes, children of Neptune, offer, as a work of
art, by far the most successful and satisfactory result. In every point
they are placed at the greatest possible distance from human society
and its conventions. Man is small, the Cyclops huge. Man is weak, the
Cyclops powerful. Man is gregarious, the Cyclops is isolated. Man, for
Homer, is refined; the Cyclops is a cannibal. Man inquires, searches,
designs, constructs, advances, in a word, is progressive: the Cyclops
simply uses the shelter and the food that nature finds for him, and is
thoroughly stationary. Yet, while man is subject to death, the Cyclops
lives on, or vegetates at least, and transmits the privileges of his
race by virtue of its high original. The relaxed morality of the divine
seed, as compared with man, is traceable even in their slight customs.
They are polygamous:

                      θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος
  παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων[593].

[593] Od. ix. 115.

From their personal characters the moral element has been entirely
dismissed. Polyphemus is a huge mass of force, seasoned perhaps with
cunning, certainly with falseness. This union of a superhuman life with
the brutal, that dwells in solitude, and has none of its angles rubbed
down by the mutual contact between members of a race, produces a mixed
result of extreme ferocity, childishness, and a kind of horrible glee,
which as a work of art is most striking and successful. We may justly
think much of Caliban: but Caliban cannot for a moment be compared to
Polyphemus. It is equitable, however, to remember that contrast with
Ariel, which must have been a governing condition in the creation of
Shakespeare, required a nature which should be fatuous and grovelling,
as well as coarse.

To feed Polyphemus, what lies nearest him, namely, the Læstrygonian
adventure, has, perhaps, been starved. Again we are introduced to cruel
Giants and to cannibalism, but with a great scantiness of detail. Their
individuality is scarcely established. Their only marked qualities they
hold in common with the Cyclopes, except as to a single point, namely,
that they live gregariously. We see their city, and are introduced
to their king, their queen, and their princess[594]. But a too great
likeness to the Cyclops still suggests itself; and it is probable that
in both the one and the other Homer set before him, among the materials
of his work, that old tradition of powerful beings, allied to the
deity, and yet rebellious against him, which meets us in so many forms,
dispersed about the Homeric poems, and which the later tradition, by
further multiplication and variety, resolved into a living chaos.

[594] Od. x. 105-15.

The Phæacians appear to stand quite in another category. While the
Cyclops has no trace of deity but in superhuman force, the Phæacians
have no pretensions of this kind. They are not even immortal, nor
are they wholly removed from man, for they are accustomed to carry
passengers by sea; they seem really to be meant in a measure to
represent the θεοὶ ῥεῖα ζώοντες. We must not look too rigidly in them
for notes of the divine character, but rather for the abundance,
opulence, ease, and refinement of the divine condition. Hence Homer
lavishes all the simple wealth of his imagination upon the palace and
garden of Alcinous, which far exceeds any possessions he has assigned
to ordinary men. This additional splendour of itself proves, if proof
were wanted, that the picture is ideal. The same amount of ornament
assigned to the palace of Menelaus would, from the contrast with fact,
probably have been frigid to his hearers.

From the games and athletic exercises of this people all the ruder and
more violent sports are excluded. Navigation, to others so formidable,
for them is conducted by a spontaneous force and intelligence residing
in their ships; which annihilates distance, and at last excites even
the jealousy of Neptune (Od. viii. 555-69). We find in the island and
in its history no poverty, no grief, no care, no want; all is fair to
see and to enjoy. But we feel thankful to Homer that he has not here,
as in the case of the Cyclops, made kin with the gods entail a marked
moral or intellectual inferiority upon the sons of men; no purer or
more graceful piece of humanity is to be found among the creations of
the human brain, than his picture of Nausicaa. She combines in herself
all that earth could suggest of bright, and pure, and fair. Still it
cannot be denied that levity and vanity are rather conspicuous in the
Phæacian men. They shew off, among other sports, their boxing and
wrestling, before they know what Ulysses is made of. When they know
it, Alcinous informs him in an off-hand way that they do not pretend
to excellence in that class of sports[595]. After the dancers have
performed, Ulysses with great tact at once passes a high compliment
upon them. Alcinous, delighted with the praise, cries aloud, ‘Phæacian
chiefs! this stranger appears to me to be an extremely sensible

[595] Od. viii. 102. 246.

[596] Ibid. 378-88.

It appears, however, most likely that, besides the mythical element
in two of them, Homer may have had some basis of maritime report, and
thus of presumed fact, for his delineations of all these three races;
that, with an unlimited license of embellishment, he, nevertheless,
may have intended in each case to keep unbroken the tie between
his own tale, and the voyages of Ulysses, founded upon Phœnician
geography, as reported in his time. I form this opinion partly from
some singularities in the Phæacian character, which, as they are not
in keeping with any poetic idea, may probably have had an historic
aim, though I cannot be persuaded that they afford a foundation broad
enough for the full theory of Mure[597], if he conceives the Phæacians
of the Odyssey to be strictly a portrait of the Phœnicians. Partly I
draw the inference from the want of clear severance in the ideals, on
which the characters of the Cyclops and the Læstrygones are severally
founded. The remarkable natural characteristic of Læstrygonia which he
has given us, its perpetual day, supports the same hypothesis. What
would otherwise amount to poverty in the imagery is sufficiently
accounted for, if we assume that he meant to describe two savage
tribes, that inhabited the latitudes with which he was dealing; and
that, feeling himself bound to brutality in each case, he has, under
these unfavourable circumstances, varied it as much as he could. Unless
it had been to preserve an historical or mythological tradition, the
Læstrygonian adventure might hardly have deserved introduction into the
Odyssey. Plainly, on the other hand, he is not to be held responsible
for all that he has put down while he believed himself to be conforming
to narratives of fact, in the same manner and degree as if he had been
presenting us with a picture in which his fancy had only to work at

[597] Lit. Greece, vol. i. p. 510.

The remaining case is slight, and may speedily be dismissed. Æolus
is φίλος ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι, and is intrusted with the charge of the
winds; and his six sons are married to his six daughters, as αἰδοίαι
ἄλοχοι[598]. The word φίλος may bear the sense of relationship:
immortality seems to be of necessity involved in the charge over
the winds, who are themselves in the Iliad (in this point varying
poetically from the Odyssey) invested with deity[599]: and the marriage
of the sons to the daughters affords another absolute proof: for this,
which would have been incest, μέγα ἔργον, among men, is evidently set
down as in their case a legitimate connection. The great example in the
Kronid family would give it full sanction for the Immortals.

[598] Od. x. 2, 21, 11.

[599] Nägelsbach, Hom. Theol. II. 12, holds the opposite opinion.

The character of Æolus, if he be human, is one kindly to his
fellow-men; and he inquires carefully respecting the fate of the Greeks
and their chieftains. But it is very difficult to understand his place
in the poem, and the reasons of it. The gift of Zephyr, and the folly
of the crew in letting out the whole pack of winds, end only in the
return of Ulysses to Æolia, and in his being dismissed from thence as
one hateful to the gods, which he was not. This Æolus neither seems
to be required for, nor to contribute to, the general purpose of the
poem: nor to represent any ancient tradition: nor can we in any manner
connect him with Æolus, the great national personage whose descendants
were so illustrious, for that Æolus was clearly taken to be the son or
immediate descendant of Jupiter; so that he could not have been called
the son of Hippotas. Perhaps the origin of his place in the Odyssey
was to be found in some Phœnician report about storms in the northern
seas, where Æolia is evidently placed in complete isolation, figured
by the sheer and steep rock of the coast, and by the metal wall which
runs round it. It may have a partial prototype in Stromboli misplaced,
the appearance of which from a distance entirely accords with this
particular of inaccessibility. The whole picture, representing as it
does, first, the ferocity of the winds, and, secondly, the existence
of an efficient control over them, evidently embodies two features
which could not but enter variously and prominently into the tales
of Phœnician mariners; first, the fierceness of the gales prevailing
in those outer latitudes, to deter others from attempting them; and
secondly, their successful contest with the difficulty thus created in
order to glorify themselves.


_The Olympian Community and its Members, considered in themselves._

The substitution of polytheism for the monotheistic principle not
only brought down deity in the measure of its attributes or faculties
towards man, but created a necessity for a divine economy or polity,
which should regulate the relations of the Immortals. This polity could
be no other than human, and no other, as it seems, than a somewhat
deteriorated copy from its earthly original.

~_The family order in Olympus._~

Accordingly, the Olympian Immortals of Homer are combined in a
society. They are not a mere aggregate of beings, classed together by
the mind in virtue of the possession of common properties, but they
live in twofold relations: first, those of the family, or at least of
descent and consanguinity; secondly, those established by a political
organization, which is modelled according to the forms of the Greek
polities subsisting in the Homeric age.

The government of Olympus is, though the use of the word may at first
excite a smile, in principle constitutional. Jupiter is its head. Its
ordinary council or aristocracy is represented by the body of such
deities as have palaces there, constructed for them by Vulcan, who
exercises in the community the double function at once of architect and

[600] Il. i. 606-8.

The immediate relationship of nearly all these divinities to Jupiter is

As his brothers, we have Neptune, and Aidoneus, or Pluto.

As his wives, we have Juno, the chief; Latona, Dione, and probably
Demeter, secondary.

As his children, we have Minerva, Apollo and Diana, Mars and Vulcan,
Venus, Mercury, Hebe.

Of the Nineteen Deities who appear to be certainly Olympian, there are
only four that do not fall at once into the family order: they are
Themis, Ἠέλιος, Iris, and Paieon. There may have been a relationship
credited in these cases also, though it is not recorded. It should be
observed, that Jupiter is expressly invested with the title of Father
of the gods. And perhaps the idea intended to be conveyed is that of
a family which has grown into a sept or clan, having this for its
distinctive character, that all the members of it, great and small,
have either a nearer or a more remote relationship to the head. Of the
minor deities, in various cases it is recorded, that they are daughters
of Jupiter; such as the Muses, the Prayers, and the Nymphs of most
orders. But these have the appearance of belonging to Homer’s poetry,
more than to his mythology. Among male deities, the sons of Jupiter are
all in Olympus: those of Neptune take lower rank.

Whatever be its relation to the family _nucleus_, the community of
Olympus is fully formed. Besides Jupiter the head, and the ordinary
assembly, its Council or Court, which answers to the βουλὴ of the
Greeks, it has its Agorè, a greater Assembly or Parliament called
together upon crises of extraordinary solemnity, such as the decision
by main force of the fate of Troy.

But as we have no example, except the factious and utterly odious
Thersites, of any one of the commonalty who takes an actual part in
debate among men, so the minor deities, too, are mute in heaven.

Nay, the resemblance is even closer than this. The Greek βουλὴ, and
also the ἀγορὴ, have their speaking or leading personages, and they
likewise have each their silent members. The leaders are Agamemnon,
Nestor, Ulysses, and Diomed; the last-named chieftain always with
modesty, as a person lately come to full age. Achilles doubtless would
have had to be added, if the action of the poem had permitted him
to appear throughout its debates. But we never hear of the Ajaxes,
Idomeneus, or chiefs like Eurypylus, as taking any active share in the
proceedings. Even so the discussions of Olympus appear to be conducted
commonly by Jupiter, Juno, Neptune[601], Minerva, and Apollo[602]. Once
Vulcan interposes, in his mother’s interest: possibly he may have been
suggested to the Poet by Thersites[603] as a terrestrial counterpart.
The Sun appeals to the Assembly in the Odyssey, as a party in his own
cause: but neither he nor Venus, nor Mars, nor Mercury, nor any other
subordinate deity, ever appears as taking part in a discussion.

[601] Il. vii. 445.

[602] Il. xxiv. 33.

[603] Il. i. 571.

The term ἀγορὴ, or assembly, is used in Homer for the meetings of the
deities only on certain occasions: namely, at the openings of the
Eighth and Twentieth Books[604]. The other, or ordinary meetings, have
no distinctive name. We may know them by their not depending on any
summons or introduction, and by the frequent mention, either of the
banquet as proceeding, or of the cup as in the hands of the deities.
They were standing assemblages of the deities, the law of whose life
was leisure, with prolonged though not intemperate feasting; and its
ordinary scene Olympus. Their correspondence with the βουλὴ must not
be pressed too far, for they do not, like the Greek βουλὴ, commonly
precede an Assembly. It is to be remembered, that the βουλὴ was an
Hellenic institution, and that the gods were not exclusively Hellenic,
though Olympus was essentially national.

[604] Il. viii. 2. and xx. 4.

~_The political order in Olympus._~

The analogy between the divine and the human ἀγοραὶ is established in
a pointed form by the Poet himself; who makes Themis the pursuivant or
Summoner[605] for the former; and also says of her, with respect to the

[605] Il. xx. 4.

  ἥτ’ ἀνδρῶν ἀγορὰς ἠμὲν λύει, ἠδὲ καθίζει[606].

[606] Od. ii. 69.

The acknowledgment of a rule of right, extrinsic and superior to
ourselves, is general in the Assemblies of men in Homer, when meeting
for business. This there could not be in the Assemblies of the Olympian
gods. Neither does respect for authority and for tradition well
harmonize with the idea of beings, who are possessed of unbounded,
or at the least of greatly extended intelligence. Thus, like the
individual deities, the divine Assemblies, and the entire Polity, are
deprived of the greatest moral safeguards of their counterparts on
earth. The consequence is, that their ethical tone is much lower. Force
is the only effective sanction of authority among the Immortals. This
is curiously exhibited in the Theomachy: for that battle takes place
when the fate of Troy, which formed the matter in dispute, has already
been long ago decided. Whenever a difficulty arises, which will bear
that mode of treatment, Jupiter resorts to the threat of using it, even
against divinities so dignified and powerful as Minerva, Neptune, and
Juno. Sometimes, indeed, he parades it by anticipation, even when no
symptom of disaffection has yet been exhibited.[607] So, on the other
hand, fraud is the resource of the weak, as violence is of the strong.
Juno, unable to organize a combination against her husband, devises a

[607] Il. viii. 10.

The deities, then, are not under any effective ethical restraint; and
the only instances in which the highly moral sentiment of αἰδὼς is
mentioned as governing them in their reciprocal conduct are cases of
the two great traditive divinities, Minerva and Apollo, with reference
to their uncle Neptune, and of Jupiter, in whose case it is a sentiment
of politeness rather than of duty, with reference to Thetis[608].

[608] Il. xxiv. 111.

But, although moral principle and religious reverence are absent, two
principles of considerable value and utility remain. One of them is a
certain courtesy or comity, which prevails in the absence of strong
countervailing causes. Secondly, the power of intelligence is very
visible in the working of their polity. It is not the mere wish of
Jupiter, it is his counsel, which is fulfilled in the Trojan war. And
again, it is not his individual counsel, but it is the decision which
he adopts in compliance with the general sentiment of the gods[609]. He
could be well content to let Troy stand, because of the abundance of
its offerings; but he sees that if he attempts to give effect to such
a plan as he would personally prefer, he must encounter the stubborn
resistance of the three strongest deities, Neptune, Juno, and Minerva.
Perhaps this difference of opinion might issue in the shape of a
war in heaven, and that war might follow the same course as the one
happily arrested by Briareus: therefore he avoids the issue, makes the
concession without letting himself seem to make it, and thus preserves
his general position at the head of the Olympian body.

[609] Il. iv. 43.

~_Courtesy and Intelligence among the Immortals._~

Speaking of mythological deity as such, the difference of celestial
from human intelligence is a difference of degree rather than of kind.
The process of deliberation in the mind of a mortal, and the state of
suspense before decision, are frequent subjects of Homeric description.
And he sometimes places individual deities before us with the same,
or nearly the same, detail, as in cases occurring among men, of doubt
preceding determination. The essence and foundation of the process
are similar, as we see in the case of Juno, and again in the instance
of Jupiter himself. She ponders the question how she shall delude

[610] Il. xiv. 159-61.

  μερμήριξε δ’ ἔπειτα βοῶπις πότνια Ἥρη
  ὅππως ἐξαπάφοιτο Διὸς νόον αἰγιόχοιο.

And then she decides;

  ἥδε δέ οἱ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλὴ, κ.τ.λ.

So he[611], in his turn, considers long, before determining that
Patroclus shall carry the war from the ships to the walls. Again, for
the great decrees which are to have an extensive influence on human
destiny, to argue and consider seem to be a moral necessity among the
gods, as much as important subjects require public debate among men.

[611] Il. xvi. 646-55.

The method of reflecting Earth in the Olympian life is sometimes
carried by the Poet down to the details of social intercourse. Thus
it is a terrestrial custom of the heroic age, that strangers are
entertained before they are called upon to give an account of their
business[612]. And this hospitable practice extends even to the
treatment of those who are charged with important communications; so
that Bellerophon is entertained for nine full days by the king of
Lycia, while he has in his pocket the roll containing a request for
him to be put to death[613]. In exact conformity with this manner of
proceeding, Mercury[614] is feasted by Calypso in Ogygia, before he
delivers the weighty message, with which he had been intrusted by
Jupiter in the name of the whole Olympian court.

[612] Od. iii. 69.

[613] Il. vi. 174.

[614] Od. v. 91-6.

Although we have found it difficult in one or two cases to pronounce
with respect to certain divine personages, whether they are Olympian
or not, yet in principle the line is clearly drawn, which marks off
the superiority of the members of the Olympian Court. We find it in
the express declaration of Calypso[615]. We find it perhaps yet more
clearly noted in the comparison between Venus and Thetis: for we have
seen, as to the former of these deities, her extreme feebleness and
incapacity in everything, except as regards the particular impulse that
she represents. Thetis, on the other hand, is full of activity and
intelligence; and is gifted with bodily powers sufficient to fly like
a hawk from Olympus, when carrying the celestial arms (whose inherent
buoyancy, however, must not be forgotten[616]). Yet, doubtless because
not Olympian, she yields the palm to Venus: for Apollo says to Æneas of

[615] Od. v. 169, 70.

[616] Il. xix. 386.

[617] Il. xx. 105.

        καὶ δέ σέ φασι Διὸς κούρης Ἀφροδίτης
  ἐκγεγάμεν· κεῖνος δὲ χερείονος ἐκ θεοῦ ἐστίν.

~_Their unity imperfect._~

Though the body of θεοὶ serve as an unity to point a moral in the
abstract, there is practically a wonderful want of unity and of common
or corporate feeling among them. This is figured in the Judgment
of Paris: in the love of Neptune for the Cyclops, who renounce the
authority of Jupiter: again in his aversion to the Phæacians, who are
so beloved by the gods in general, that they appear in their proper
shape at the religious festivals of those favoured islanders[618].

[618] Od. vii. 201-3.

But notwithstanding this want of the genuine corporate spirit, and
notwithstanding the prevalence of essentially selfish appetite as the
rule of life with the greater part, at any rate, of the Immortals,
it would not be just to say that the principle of unity in the
Divine Government is wholly destroyed by the Homeric polytheism. The
superiority of Jupiter, though it does not amount to supremacy in the
stricter sense[619], is yet sufficiently decided to place him far above
any other single deity in sheer power. Therefore, when considered
as the executive of the Olympian system, he is upon the whole equal
to his work. He may be deceived, and so baffled for a moment, as by
Juno in the Fourteenth Iliad; but it is for a moment only. Or the
insubordination of some particular divinity may approach to resistance,
like that of Neptune in the Fifteenth: but, upon admonition, conscious
inferiority soon brings the matter to a close. So much for the
execution of divine behests. As to the legislative process, however,
heaven strictly follows earth, with only such exceptions as are
accounted for by the difference in the constituent elements.

[619] Nägelsbach carries it even to this point. Hom. Theol. Abschn. II.

The influence or even the menaces of a powerful leader, the moral force
of persuasion, the comparison of the means of coercive action on this
side and on that, and again the composition of wills and opinions
to obtain a joint result, all these, the leading processes by which
free institutions work on earth, with substantial identity, though
with more awkwardness of form and less of genial freedom, as might be
expected in transplanted ideas, are also the processes by which supreme
and providential decrees are arrived at. Of the degree to which this
principle of free polity prevails, we can have no better criterion than
in the fate of Troy. It fell, not merely from the personal prudence of
Jupiter, but because acting as a βασιλεὺς in heaven, like Agamemnon
upon earth, he yielded to the preponderating influence of that
section in Olympus, which was indeed apparently less numerous, but of
commanding strength, influence, and activity.

Nor would it be just to Homer and his Olympus to forget, that in
yielding to the powerful party led by Juno, Neptune, and Minerva,
Jupiter was also yielding up the vicious, and sealing the triumph of
the virtuous cause.

Thus, then, while we see the spirit of anthropophuism breaking down the
principle of the Unity of God, from its being too feeble and too blind
to maintain the pure traditions in which it was conveyed, it is still
curious to the last degree to observe the order and symmetry of the
Greek mind, even in its destructive processes. For, as we have found,
it arranges its groups of deities around a centre, by the principle
that creates a Family: and then gives them community of counsel, and
unity of action, by the principle that maintains a State. What is this,
but to bring in the resources and expedients, which our human state
supplied, to repair, after a sort, the havock which it had made in the
Divine Idea?

~_The system not uniform._~

But although symmetry was thus far, if not studied, yet spontaneously
produced, we have ample proof that Homer neither inherited nor invented
for his gods any uniform and consistent code of rules, intellectual,
moral, or political. Neither, again, in the region of sense did he
make any general provision to determine the conditions of divine being
and action for his gods as an order, or even for particular classes
of them. The want of such consistency is, indeed, among the striking
proofs of the profound dualism of origin in his Theo-mythology. All
that we can do is to observe his prevailing modes of treatment, and
collect a general meaning from them. Proceeding thus, we shall find
that the class of Immortals enjoys in various ways a marked superiority
to man; but the degrees of this superiority, as they are nowhere
precisely defined, so they vary greatly in the cases of the different
deities: and when, striking off all the particular characteristics of
individual members of the system, we attempt to embody what is common
to them all, we leave but a slight and jejune residuum.

Nor is the classification of the differences a regular one. If we
compare his delineations of some lower with some higher deities,
we must be struck with finding considerable appearances of want of
analogy between them. Some inferior persons of the same order, as we
shall see, may excel in particular gifts, even those who are on the
whole their superiors. Thus Circe, and even the Sirens, have powers
greater apparently than, in the same subject-matter, Mercury or Vulcan.
Heterogeneous origin, and imperfect assimilation, afford the true
explanation of these phenomena.

It may be laid down as a general rule, that the divine life of Olympus,
wherever it reproduces the human, reproduces it in a degraded form.
Enjoyment and indulgence, when carried from earth to heaven, lose that
limit of honourable relation to labour as necessary restoratives, which
alone makes them respectable on earth.

In general, the chief note of deity with Homer is emancipation from
the restraints of the moral law. Though the Homeric gods have not
yet ceased to be the vindicators of morality upon earth, they have
personally ceased to observe its rules either for or among themselves.

As compared with men in conduct, they are generally characterised by
superior force and intellect, but by inferior morality.

They do not appear to have been governed in their relations towards
one another by any motives drawn either from the law of right and
justice, or from that of affection: unless--an exception which confirms
the rule--where the attachment belonging to the human relation of
parent and child is faintly reflected among the Immortals, as when
Jupiter calls Minerva or Diana φίλον τέκος[620], and Venus τέκνον
ἐμόν[621]: again, in the care taken of Venus after she is wounded by
her mother Dione[622], and, more slightly indicated, in that of Diana
by Latona[623]. In the conduct of Mars on the death of Ascalaphus,
the impulse is momentary, and it has a strong animal tinge which
seems to overpower, like a fit of drunkenness, the little reason that
he possesses. The grief of Jupiter for Sarpedon is the only case
of an intense affection among the Immortals. And it is remarkable,
that this is felt towards, not a brother or sister divinity, but a
mortal; towards one of those Lycians, whom Homer regards with such
extraordinary and unvarying favour.

[620] Il. viii. 39. xxi. 509.

[621] Il. v. 428.

[622] Ibid. 370.

[623] Il. xxi. 504.

~_Force and fraud their chief instruments._~

The general principles of government, then, among the Immortals
themselves are simply those of force and terror, on the one hand, or
fraud and wheedling on the other. For example, Terror subdues the
adverse will of Juno[624] in the First Book, of Juno and Minerva in the
Eighth[625], and of Neptune, not without much reluctance on his part,
in the Fifteenth. Thetis wheedles Jupiter in the First Book[626]; Juno
entirely beguiles him, besides outwitting Venus, in the Fourteenth;
Minerva entraps Apollo in the Seventh into the plan of a single combat,
which saves the Greeks from an impending defeat. And the difference
of opinion respecting Troy in the divine Assembly does not at the
last come to effect without a contest of main strength, although the
virtual decision of the Olympian body had long ago been taken. Nay,
these principles of force and fraud are the real principles of action,
even when not altogether on the surface. When Mercury declines battle
with Latona, it is because he fears the consequences of a contest with
a wife of Jupiter[627]. In a manner still more curious, when Apollo
has declined battle with Neptune, professedly on the ground that it is
not worth the while of deities to fight about the affairs of wretched
mortals, the Poet explains his conduct by a sentiment partly of
deference arising out of a relationship recognised among men:

[624] Il. i. 568.

[625] Il. viii. 457.

[626] Il. i. 501.

[627] Il. xxi. 499.

                          αἴδετο γάρ ῥα
  πατροκασιγνήτοιο μιγήμεναι ἐν παλάμῃσιν[628].

[628] Ibid. 468.

But here there may possibly have been some mixture of fear, because, as
he withdraws, he is reproached bitterly by Diana, called a baby for his
cowardice, and reminded, that he had himself volunteered the boast in
heaven, that he was ready to fight against Neptune.

As these moral elements had been almost wholly eliminated from the
general principles which govern the Homeric gods in their relations to
one another, so likewise we look almost in vain for the traces of them
in their individual conduct. They observe, when acting for themselves,
neither courage, justice, nor prudence; but it is in regard to moral
temperance or self-control, that they fall furthest below the standard
even of human virtue. The Mahometan heaven of men was the heaven of
the Homeric gods. Their standing employment, except when troubled by
human affairs, is simply in perpetual, though not drunken or brutal,
feasting; sometimes in grosser indulgences. If, says Vulcan to his
mother, you quarrel about mortals, it will be a pestilent business,
for there will be no pleasure in our banquets[629]. If Neptune in the
Odyssey is gone among the Ethiopians[630], it is for a hecatomb of
bulls and lambs. If Jupiter and all the gods make a journey to the same
quarter in the Iliad, it is for a feast[631], which apparently was to
last for eleven days. If Hercules has earned the reward of his labours
by being taken up to heaven, his life there is described as a life
entitling him to enjoy banquets among the Immortals[632]. If Ganymede
is received into their company, it is that he may discharge for Jupiter
the duty of cup-bearer[633], in which it would appear that both Vulcan
and Hebe were likewise employed. Of all the phrases characteristic of
the Homeric gods and their life, there is none that sits better than
the θεοὶ ῥεῖα ζώοντες.

[629] Il. i. 573-6.

[630] Od. i. 22.

[631] Il. i. 423.

[632] Od. xi. 602.

[633] Il. xx. 234.

~_Their dominant selfishness._~

Deeper, even than their collective devotion to mere enjoyment, lies
their intense and profound selfishness. We cannot fail to note the
absence of those sentiments of justice and self-sacrifice, and those
high enthusiastic emotions, which do so much to ennoble the human life
of the heroic age. There is truth in the assertion that they establish
and administer a one-sided law:

  ὣς γὰρ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι,
  ζώειν ἀχνυμένοις· αὐτοὶ δέ τ’ ἀκηδέες εἰσίν[634].

[634] Il. xxiv. 525.

But beyond this, there lies a deep meaning in the sentiment of an
Italian poet, Guarini[635]:

[635] Pastor Fido.

  Guarda, che nel disumanarti
  Non divenga una fera, anzi che un Dio.

The Greek mythology, departing from the very basis of the Divine idea
in the conception of its gods, converts them, by a moral necessity, not
into man, but into something which is morally beneath man. There is not
among all the deities what we can call one full unbroken development of
noble character. They are, as a general rule, except so far as they are
modified by the traditive element, Titanic creations of intellect or
power, or both, without virtue. Even where, as in the cases of Minerva
and Diana, they are pure, their purity does not inspire or impress
the Poet with half the force and fire which he must have felt when
he drew the matron Andromache, or the maid Nausicaa. But this is not
the common case. With great reservation indeed as to the traditional,
in comparison with the mythical divinities, and likewise as to the
female deities, in comparison with the gods, we must admit that, as a
general rule, the Immortals of Homer, when brought to the bar of a
cool inquiry, are in their own personal conduct impure voluptuaries,
and that the laws, which formed the basis of family life, and which in
Homer’s time still kept human society from total corruption, for them
had no restraining power, indeed no recognised existence.

There is no sense of shame accompanying the excesses of the gods, such
as Homer has marked, not without tenderness, in regard to the trespass
of Astyoche[636];

[636] Il. ii. 514.

  παρθένος αἰδοίη, ὑπερώϊον εἰσαναβᾶσα.

On the contrary, Jupiter refers with marked self-satisfaction to his
affairs of this kind in the Fourteenth Iliad; and shows the very
temper, described by Saint Paul as that of the most advanced depravity,
which not only yields to temptation, but seals its own offence with
habitual and deliberate approval[637]: Οὐ μόνον αὐτὰ ποιοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ
συνευδοκοῦσι τοῖς πράσσουσιν.

[637] Rom. i. 32.

~_Cruelty of Calypso in her love._~

We may take Calypso as no unfair specimen of the ethics of the
Immortals. In the hope of sensual pleasure, she keeps Ulysses a
prisoner in her far island. She sees him pining in wretchedness for his
home and family from day to day; and well knows the distress that his
absence must cause to a virtuous wife and son, as well as the public
evils, sure to arise from the prolonged absence of a wise and able
sovereign. Yet she never relents, but still in her odorous cavern she
sings to the movement of her golden distaff. (Od. v. 59.) When Hermes
makes known to her the decree that she cannot resist for his return,
she complains of the cruelty of the upper gods, but adds, ‘as I cannot
help myself, let him perish if Zeus will.’ She promises, however, to
send him off in safety, and keeps her word; but it is when she has
been well warned by Mercury of the consequences of disobedience, and
firmly bound by Ulysses with the oath which was terrible even to the
Immortals. (Od. v. 146, 184.)

The sentiment of envy, which they had begun to entertain towards men,
appears also to have been felt towards members of the divine order. It
was envy with which the gods viewed the happiness enjoyed by Aurora
in her union with Orion, till it ended with his death; and that moved
Jupiter to destroy Iasion, the object of the choice of Demeter[638].
But this (so says Calypso) was envy of the male towards the female
deities. There is no reciprocal sentiment: and it is curious here to
observe the inequality of the sexes, together with so many other signs
and beginnings of corruption, established among the Immortals in a
manner unknown to human society at the time.

[638] Od. v. 118-29.

Calypso may or may not be justified in the charge she makes against the
gods; but, at least, it seems clear that, though they have some regard
to the prevalence of moral laws as between one man and another, they
by no means impute any moral guilt to her in her cruel detention of
Ulysses, even while they rectify a wrong by their decree.

The inferiority of the moral standard, which marks the order of gods,
is likewise traceable in the various races which are described by
Homer as claiming a special relationship to them; the Cyclopes, the
Læstrygonians, and even perhaps the Phæacians. Against the last of
these we can certainly charge no more than an epicurean and inglorious
ease: but the two former not only do not forfeit, they even prove,
their relationship to the gods by being at once more strong and more
vicious than common men.

And, as it affects the kindred of the Immortals in common with
themselves, so also does it extend from the sphere of morals into that
of manners. While Hephæstus was ministering to them the festal cup,
they laughed ungovernably at his personal deformity[639]. Now, the
Greeks laugh at Thersites[640] when he has been beaten, but it is in
immediate connection with his misconduct, and it has nothing whatever
to do with his ugliness. Laughter at mere deformity is nowhere found in
Homer: and would entirely jar with the tone of feeling that pervades
Homeric manners. The action that offers the nearest approach to it
confirms the spirit of this observation. It is the hurling of the stool
by the Suitor Antinous[641] at the apparently decrepit Ulysses; which
is sternly registered, along with the other outrages of that depraved
company, for the coming day of retribution.

[639] Il. i. 599.

[640] Il. ii. 270-7.

[641] Od. xvii. 465.

~_Olympian as compared with heroic life._~

In a word, still setting aside in some considerable degree the deities
of traditive origin, who enter little into the general picture, but
have their own portraiture apart, there are to be found in Olympus,
as well as in the lower earth, the relations of degree in power and
intelligence; and the gods with whom it is peopled, on the whole,
possess it in large measure; but the law and purpose of their life
is summed up in self-will and self-indulgence. They do not debate
their own duties, or even those of men, to one another: rarely, if
ever, those of men even towards themselves, except with reference to
the quantity of libation poured out, of flesh offered, and of steam
reeking from the altars. There is a mixture in their enjoyments: some
are refined, others sensual, but both are alike selfish, and the latter
are wholly unrestrained. It is said by Heyne, and with much of literal
truth, that the description of the day’s employment in Olympus, which
the first Iliad supplies, is a transcript of hero-life[642]; but it
is of one part of hero-life only; it is of hero-life in its moments
of indulgence and relaxation, which exhibit to us its lower and less
noble side, without any view of its great sentiments and great duties,
its sense of honour, its fine feeling, its reciprocal affections
as developed in the relations of consanguinity and affinity, of
friendship, of guestship, of sovereign and subject, and even of master
and serf. What a wretched spectacle would Hector, Achilles, Diomed,
Nestor, Ulysses, and the rest present to us, were their existence
devoted simply to quaffing goblets and scenting or devouring the
flesh of slain animals, even though with this there were present the
mitigating refinement of perpetual harp and song. And yet such is the
picture offered by the Homeric mythology.

[642] Heyne on Il. i. 603.

Upon the whole, while it remains true that the deification of heroes,
or their promotion to a happy immortality, in Homer’s time, depended
upon virtue and merit; those who thus obtained admission to Olympus
really found themselves introduced to a new and far lower law of life,
upon taking their places there, than that to which they had been
accustomed upon earth. Thus, for example, it is with Hercules; he has
indeed a reward beyond the grave; but it consists simply in a life
divested of the virtues of patience, obedience, valour, and struggle
by which it had itself been earned.

The superiority, however, of the intellectual over the material
element, except in the matter of self-indulgence, is, as we might
have expected, decisively maintained in the Grecian mythology. It
is exhibited most clearly, perhaps, in the triumph of Jupiter and
Olympus over the brute might of the Titans. It is also palpable, when
we find that the strength of Mars, who represents nothing except
fighting force, does not always insure his victory, even in contests
of mere strength, but that he is overthrown by Minerva in the battle
of the gods, corrected at will by her on all other occasions[643], and
wounded, with her aid, by the hero Diomed beneath the walls of Troy.
But when we speak of intellect as opposed to matter, the case stands so
differently with respect to different deities, that it is necessary to
attempt a stricter appreciation than we have yet aimed at obtaining, of
their common character.

[643] Il. x. 765. 6.

~_Their exemption from Death uniform._~

The great and perhaps only essential property by which the Homeric gods
are distinguished, is that expressed in their very common appellation
of ἀθάνατος: they are immortal.

There is something curious in the question, why it is that they are
endowed uniformly and absolutely with this gift, but not with others;
why the limitation of Death is removed from them, and yet other
limitations are allowed in so many respects to remain.

It seems as if we had here an independent and impartial testimony to
the truth of the representation conveyed in Holy Writ, that death has
been the specific punishment ordained for sin: and that therefore in
passing beyond the human order we, as a matter of course, pass beyond
its range.

Had the preternatural system of the Poet exhibited to us only such
divinities as are the representatives of primeval tradition, it would
have been easy to account for the attribute of immortality. But here
are a multitude of deities, the creatures of human invention; why
was this gift bestowed on them, when others were withheld? It may
be, again, because that which came last into man’s condition should,
in the logical and moral order, go first out of it: that in framing
the conception of an existence higher than that of man, the first
step properly was, before dealing with the more positive faults or
imperfections inherent in his nature, to set aside that which did not
belong to it, but had been set upon it as a note of shame for a special
cause, like letters branded on a deserter or a slave.

In Homer it appears that every deity, great and small alike, is exempt
from death. A Fragment of Hesiod[644] proceeds on a basis abstractedly
different, and by an ingenious multiplication, from the term assigned
to man upwards, ascribes to the Nymphs a life of 291,600 years. In
all likelihood the meaning of this passage may be not to curtail
immortality, but to enlarge the practical conception of it, by carrying
life up to a number which would impress the minds of a generation
rude in arithmetic far more, than a merely abstract assertion of
immortality: just as to us the sand of the sea, or even the hairs of
the head, may more impressively convey the idea of unlimited numbers
than does the phrase innumerable, although in reality the effect of
either figure is to limit them.

[644] Fragm. 50. ap. Plut. ii. 415 C.

Calypso is of the lower and of the most earthy order of the Homeric
divinities. She recognises in plain terms her inferiority to the
Olympian gods, by stating that she will send with Ulysses a favourable
breeze, which will carry him safely home, provided _they_ permit it,
who are so far her superiors, both in planning, and in executing what
they plan[645]:

[645] Od. v. 169, 70.

  αἴ κε θεοί γ’ ἐθέλωσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσιν,
  οἵ μευ φέρτεροί εἰσι νοῆσαί τε κρῆναί τε.

Yet she distinctly contrasts herself with Penelope, in the very point
that she is immortal: and the reply of Ulysses recognises this as the
essential difference[646];

[646] Od. v. 213, 218.

  ἡ μὲν γὰρ βροτός ἐστι, σὺ δ’ ἀθάνατος καὶ ἀγήρως.

The only cases, perhaps, in which Homer glances at the possibility
of putting a period to the existence of a god, are two, in which the
semi-brutal Mars is concerned. When Otus and Ephialtes put him in
chains, it seems that, but for Eeriboia, he would have perished[647]:
the expressions are,

[647] Il. v. 388.

  καί νύ κεν ἔνθ’ ἀπόλοιτο Ἄρης ἆτος πολέμοιο.

And again, under the assault of Diomed, though the Poet does not bring
this last extremity into view, he might, had he not fled, perhaps have
been as good as dead (ζὼς ἀμένηνος, Il. v. 887). This is not death, but
it is at any rate the suspension of life, apparently without limit.
A third alternative is opened in the severe reply of Jupiter, who
observes to him, that he might have been thrust down into Tartarus, but
for the fortunate accident of his high parentage; veiling the idea
under the modest words[648],

[648] Il. v. 898.

  καί κεν δὴ πάλαι ἦσθα ἐνέρτερος Οὐρανιώνων.

Thus then the divine life, which, however, certainly with Ares
is lodged in one of its least godlike receptacles, is liable to
degradation, and to abeyance, even possibly to a lingering, though
probably in no case to a rapid, process of extinction. But this last
is rather the limit of calamity only, in the mathematical sense; that
is to say, a limit which is never actually reached, though there is
nothing short of it which may not be reached and even passed.

~_Exemption from other limitations partial._~

So much for the great gift of immortality. With reference to all the
other limitations imposed upon finite being, the position of the
Immortals, infinitely diversified according to the two great classes,
and to individual cases, has this one feature applying to it as a
whole, that it is a position of preference, not of independence.

Every deity has some extension of personal liberties and powers beyond
what men enjoy. But it is in general such as we should conceive to be
rather characteristic of intermediate orders of creation, than properly
attaching to the divine nature. We must however distinguish between
these three things: 1. The personal exemptions of a divinity from the
restraints of time and place, and other limiting conditions; 2. The
general powers capable of being exercised over other gods, over man,
over animal or inanimate nature; 3. The powers enjoyed within the
particular province over which a divinity presides.

Thus for example Calypso, though, as we have seen she is of inferior
rank, yet exercises very high prerogatives. She sends with Ulysses a
favourable breeze: and she predicts calamity, which is to smite him
before he reaches his home. Circe transforms men into beasts, and then
restores them to forms of greater beauty and stature[649]. She is
cognizant of events in the world beneath, and of what will occur on the
arrival of Ulysses there. She then sends a favourable breeze to impel
his vessel[650]; and on his return predicts to him the circumstances
of his homeward voyage[651]. And Proteus delivers a similar prediction
to Menelaus, to which he adds a declaration of his destiny after
death[652]: he also converts himself into a multitude of forms.

[649] Od. x. 396, 490-5, 529.

[650] Od. xi. 7.

[651] Od. xii. 25, 37 _et seqq_.

[652] Od. iv. 475 and 561.

Now no Homeric deities order winds to blow, except Jupiter, Juno,
Apollo, and Minerva; none issue predictions to men except Minerva and
Apollo, the latter mediately, through Seers or through Oracles; of
absolute transformation we have no example; but Minerva, and she alone,
transforms Ulysses from one human form to another. I mean absolute
transformation effected upon others: all the deities, apparently,
can transform themselves at will; for even Venus appears to Helen
disguised, though it would seem imperfectly, in the form of an aged

[653] Il. iii. 386.

This gift of knowledge of the future is the more remarkable, when we
consider that some of the Olympian deities were without knowledge
even of what had just happened; as Mars, on the occasion of the death
of his son Ascalaphus[654]. Even Jupiter, with the rest of the gods,
was wholly unaware of the clandestine mission of Iris by Juno to

[654] Il. xiii. 521.

[655] Il. xviii. 165-8.

~_Cases of minor deities with major powers._~

The great powers of these secondary deities may be accounted for, I
think, by two considerations:

1. These divinities belong to the circle of outer or Phœnician
traditions, and the Poet is not therefore, in treating them, subject
to the same laws as those by which he regulates the Olympian order.
They are brought upon the stage with reference to Ulysses or Menelaus,
and in the Wanderings only; thus they are adopted by Homer for this
special purpose, and endowed with whatever gifts they require for it,
just as strangers, while they remain, are treated more liberally in a
house than the children of the family, for the very reason that they
are strangers, and have no concern with the regular organization and
continuing life of the household.

2. Another principle of the mythology conducts us by another road to
the same end. Every deity is liberally endowed within his own province.
Now the province of Proteus, Calypso, and Circe, is the Outer sphere
of Geography. Within the range of that sphere, the ordinary agency
of the Olympian deities individually is suspended. Homer prefers to
leave it to be governed by the divinities, whom he can frame out of
his Phœnician materials for the purpose. In this way he is enabled to
enlarge the circle of variety, and to draw new and salient lines of
distinction between the two worlds. Neptune indeed is there perforce;
for navigation is the staple of its theme, and the θάλασσα pervades
it, from no portion of which can he possibly be excluded. The Olympian
Court, too, oversee it, and their orders are conveyed thither by
Mercury their agent. But, except Neptune for the reason given, the
ordinary action of the deities individually is suspended[656], not
on account of any limitation of power, for instance in Minerva, but
for a poetical purpose, and with the excuse, that the whole sphere is
removed beyond common life and experience. Hence, just as Vulcan works
professionally the most extraordinary miracles, though he is but a
secondary deity, because they are in the domain of metallic art, so
Circe and the rest are empowered to do the like within a domain of
which they are the rooted zoophytes and exclusive occupants.

[656] See sup. sect. iii. p. 201.

It may be well, before passing to the general limitations upon divine
capacity in Homer, to illustrate a little farther this law of special

Venus is among gods what Nireus was among men: ἄναλκις ἔην θεός[657].
Yet she overcomes the resistance of Helen[658]: and we have also the
express record of her girdle as invincible in its operation[659].
The case of Mars is peculiar: for he is brought upon the stage to be
beaten in his own province, as the exigencies of the poem require
it: but inferior, nay pitiful, as he is in every point of mind and
character, yet as to imposing personal appearance, he is made to
take rank in a comparison with Jupiter and Neptune, between whose
names his is placed[660]. Neptune exhibits vast power, and on his
own domain, the sea, appears even to have an inkling of providential
foreknowledge[661]: he is conscious that Ulysses will reach Scheria.
Except upon the sea, he exhibits no such attributes of intelligence,
though he always remains possessed of huge force. Mercury, again,
shows in locomotion a greater independence of the laws of place, than
some deities who are of a rank higher than his own: and doubtless it
is because he is professionally an agent or messenger. Even so the
journeys of Iris are no sooner begun than they are accomplished.

[657] Il. v. 331.

[658] Il. iii. 418-20.

[659] Il. xiv. 198, 9.

[660] Il. ii. 478, 9.

[661] Od. v. 378.

~_Divine faculties an extension of human._~

But the general rule is, that the divine faculties represent, in regard
to all the conditions of existence, no more than an improvement and
extension of the human[662]. Man is the point of origin: and from
this pattern invention strives to work upward and outward. The great
traditive deities indeed are on a different footing, and appear rather
to be the reductions and depravations of an ideal modelled upon the
infinite. But the general rule holds good, in regard both to bodily and
mental laws, for the mass of the Olympian Court.

[662] Friedreich, Realien 187. p. 599.

Thus deities are subject to sleep, both ordinarily, and under the
special influences of Ὕπνος, the god of sleep. We are furnished with
a reason for Jupiter’s not being asleep at a given moment[663]; it
is the special anxiety which presses on him. He had been asleep just
before. Their bodies are not ethereal, but are capable of constraint by
manacles. They are capable also of wounds; and they suffer pain even
so as to scream under it: but their blood is ichor, and their hurts
heal with great rapidity[664]. They eat ambrosia, and drink nectar.
They also receive a sensible pleasure from the savour of sacrifices
and libations[665]. Nor is this pleasure alone, it is also nourishment
and strength, for Mercury speaks of it as highly desirable for support
on any long journey. He, too, practises according to his precept, for
he seems greatly to relish the meal of ambrosia and nectar, which is
afforded him by the hospitality of Calypso[666].

[663] Il. ii. 1-4, and i. 609-11.

[664] Il. v. 416, 900-4.

[665] Il. xxiv. 69.

[666] Od. v. 100-2.

As regards the percipient organs, the Olympian gods appear to depend
practically on the eye. Minerva alone has a perfect and unfailing
acquaintance with whatever it concerns her to know. For even Jupiter,
as we have seen, is not exempt from limitation in this point[667]. Juno
sends Iris to Achilles in the Eighteenth Iliad without his knowledge,
κρυβδὰ Διὸς ἄλλων τε θεῶν. Apollo does not immediately perceive the
expedition of Ulysses and Diomed in the Doloneia. Being here opposed
to Minerva, he could not but be worsted. Generally, even these great
traditive deities perceive not by a gift of universal vision, but by

[667] Il. xviii. 166-8.

[668] Il. x. 515.

  οὐδ’ ἀλαοσκοπίην εἶχ’ ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων.

Juno, keenly alive with anxiety, perceives from Olympus the slaughter
that Hector and Mars are making on the plain of Troy; and likewise
from the same spot watches Jupiter sitting upon Ida[669]. These four
deities, Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, and Apollo, appear to be endowed with
by far the largest range of vision. Even to Neptune no such powers
are assigned, as to them; for we are never given to understand that
any amount of mere distance is too great for their ken. But Neptune
only sees the state of the battle before Troy by coming to Samothrace,
apparently to bring it within view, and by looking from thence: nor is
the Poet content without adding the reason;

[669] Il. v. 711, and xiv. 157.

            ἔνθεν γὰρ ἐφαίνετο πᾶσα μὲν Ἴδη
  φαίνετο δὲ Πριάμοιο πόλις καὶ νῆες Ἀχαιῶν[670]·

[670] Il. xiii. 13.

a passage which seems to imply, that his vision was much the same as
that of mankind even in degree.

~_General prevalence of limitation._~

In the Odyssey, Ulysses pursues his voyage on the raft without the
knowledge of Neptune, although on the proper domain of the god, until
the eighteenth day. Then he discovers him, but it is only because,
coming up from the Ethiopian country, on reaching the Solyman
mountains, he is supposed to have got within view of the hero. Being
here, without special directions, in the zone of the Outer Geography,
we have no means of measuring the terrestrial distance with precision,
and the Poet has not informed us what interval of space he intended us
to suppose.

The inventive deities of the second order in Olympus are very slightly
gifted in this matter. So much we perceive from the ignorance of Mars
about the death of his son Ascalaphus. When Venus observes, that Æneas
has been wounded, Homer does not name the spot from which she looked;
but the general range of the powers of this divinity is so narrow, that
we must suppose he means to place her immediately over the field of
battle before Troy.

Of the powers of Apollo or Minerva, as hearers of prayer irrespectively
of distance, I have already spoken; but the local idea enters more
freely into the anomalous character of the head of Olympus. In the
First Iliad, Thetis explains to her son that she cannot introduce to
Jupiter the matter of his wrongs, until he returns from the country of
the Ethiopians, whither he has repaired with the other Immortals to a
banquet[671]. This may mean either that he is too far off to attend
to the business, or that he must not be disturbed while inhaling the
odours of a hecatomb.

[671] Il. i. 521-7.

Very great diversity in individual cases, but at the same time
a general and pervading law of restraint, are evident in the
descriptions of the deities with respect to their powers of locomotion.
Facility of movement accrues to them variously according to 1. their
peculiar work and office; 2. their general dignity and freedom from
merely mythological traits; 3. the exigencies of the particular
situation. As to the first, I have noticed that Mercury and Iris have
a rapidity as messenger-gods, which in their simple capacity as gods
they could scarcely possess. Yet even Mercury follows a route: from
Olympus he strikes across Pieria, and next descending skims the surface
of the sea; then at length passes to the beach of the island, and so
onwards to the cave of the Nymph[672]. Minerva, on the other hand,
in virtue not of any special function, but of her general power and
grandeur, is conceived as swifter still. The journeys of Apollo, in
like manner, are conceived of as instantaneous: the rule in both cases
being subject to poetical exceptions only. The chariots of Juno and of
Neptune[673], again, proceed with measured pace. Each step of Juno’s
horses covers the distance over which a man can see[674]. Neptune
himself passes in four steps from Samothrace to Ægæ[675]. The driving
of Jupiter from Olympus to Ida is described in terms before used for
Juno’s journey[676]. Juno travels at another time from Olympus to
Lemnos by Pieria, Emathia, and the tops of the Thracian mountains. Here
Homer seems to supply her with a sort of made road on which to tread:
for the route is a little circuitous[677]. Mars, when wounded, takes
wing to Olympus: but Venus, though only hurt in the wrist, cannot get
thither until she obtains the aid of his chariot, which happily for her
was then waiting on the field[678].

[672] Od. v. 50-57.

[673] Il. xiii. 29.

[674] Il. v. 770.

[675] Il. xiii. 20.

[676] Il. viii. 41-6.

[677] Il. xiv. 226.

[678] Il. v. 864, 355-67.

But poetical utility, so to speak, enters very largely into the
whole subject of Olympian locomotion, and makes it difficult to
draw with rigour the proper mythological conclusions. This may be
sufficiently illustrated by the following cases. We have seen the
majestic march of Juno from one hill top to another, and the measured
though speedy course of her chariot. Yet, under the pressure of
urgent considerations, she flies from Ida to Olympus, as the bearer
of Jupiter’s message, with a rapidity that Homer illustrates by the
remarkable simile of the travelling of Thought[679]. Again, where an
imposing magnificence is the object, measure is introduced into the
movement of Apollo himself by the clang of the darts upon his shoulder
as he goes[680]. And, even more, Venus, whom we have seen so impotent
on the field of Troy, after her exposure in the Eighth Odyssey, flies
at once all the way to Paphos; as does Mars to Thrace[681]. This in
both cases is probably because the occasion did not admit of ornamental
enlargements, such as befitted the journey of a god. And when Vulcan is
represented as actually engaged in falling during the whole day from
Olympus down into Lemnus[682], a poetical allusion to his lameness may
probably be intended.

[679] Il. xv. 79-84.

[680] Il. i. 44-8.

[681] Od. viii. 361-3.

[682] Il. i. 590-3.

~_Chief heads of superiority to mankind._~

Thus we see not the mental only, but also the corporeal existence
of the mythological god hemmed in on every side. A great force of
appetite, and a disposition to give it unbridled indulgence, can hardly
be reckoned among elevating gifts. But if it be asked, wherein does
Homer enlarge and improve for his mythical gods the human conditions of
being, besides,

(1.) The one grand point of immortality, I should answer, in

(2.) An unlimited abundance of the means of corporal enjoyment, and a
general freedom from the interruptions of care.

(3.) A liberal dispensation of the somewhat vulgar commodities of
physical strength and stature; and of the higher gift of absolute
beauty, into which the idea of stature, however, materially enters.

The former of these two we learn from the fact, that the banquet is
the habitual and normal occupation of the Olympian Court. In the First
Book, the fray between Jupiter and Juno passes off naturally, and as a
matter of course, into a feast that lasts all day[683]. And when Juno,
in the Fifteenth Book, reaches Olympus with a message from Jupiter,
Thetis, whom she meets first, salutes her by offering the cup[684].

[683] Il. i. 596-604.

[684] Il. xv. 87.

There is also among the gods a kind of ‘high life below stairs.’ When
Iris repairs on behalf of Achilles to the Winds, she finds them too
banqueting in the palace of Zephyr, probably their chief[685]; but she
hastes away, when her message is delivered, to feast in preference
among divinities of her own rank upon an Ethiopian sacrifice.

[685] Il. xxiii. 300.

~_Their stature and beauty._~

As regards size and stature, these gifts are so freely bestowed as to
be almost without measure: nor does the Poet even care in such cases
to be at strict unity with himself. Mars, who in the Fifth Book, draws
no very peculiar notice on the battle field from his size, in the
Theomachy, when laid prostrate, covers seven acres. Eris, treading on
the earth, strikes heaven with her head. The helmet of Minerva would
suffice for the soldiery of a hundred cities; the golden tassels of
her ægis, a hundred in number, and each worth a hundred oxen, after
every allowance for mere laxity in the use of numbers, would imply vast
weight and bulk. Accordingly, the axle of Juno’s chariot may well groan
beneath the weight of Pallas[686]. Apollo, without the smallest seeming
effort, stops Diomed and Patroclus in mid-career; and overthrows the
Greek wall as easily as a child overthrows his plaything heap of
sand[687]. Other signs might be quoted, such as the tread that shakes
the earth, and the voices of Mars and Neptune, equal to those of nine
or ten thousand[688] mortals.

[686] Il. xxi. 407. iv. 443. v. 744. ii. 448. v. 837.

[687] Il. v. 437. xvi. 774. xv. 361.

[688] Il. v. 860. xiv. 148.

With the one marked exception of Vulcan, beauty is generally indicated
as the characteristic of the Olympian deities. Among the gods, it
extends even to Mars[689]. It is sufficiently indicated for the
goddesses by their habitual epithets. Even Minerva, in whom personal
charms are as it were eclipsed by the sublime gifts of the mind, is
sometimes called ἠΰκομος and ἐϋπλόκαμος (Il. vi. 92. Od. vii. 40): and
Calypso declares the superiority of goddesses to women in beauty, as a
general proposition[690],

[689] Od. viii. 310.

[690] Od. v. 212.

                    ἐπεὶ οὔπως οὐδὲ ἔοικεν
  θνητὰς ἀθανάτῃσι δέμας καὶ εἶδος ἐρίζειν.

The mythological or invented deities generally, but none of the
strictly traditive deities, appear to be tainted with libertinism.
Among the former we may, however, observe degrees. Jupiter and Venus
stand at the head. Neptune, Mars, Mercury, Ceres, Aurora, follow. Juno
evidently treats the passion simply as an instrument for political
ends. Of this Homer has given us a very remarkable indication. For
when she sees Jupiter on Ida, though she is just then conceiving her
design, she views him with disgust: στυγερὸς δέ οἱ ἔπλετο θυμῷ[691].
So careful is the Poet that we shall not imagine her to have been
under the gross influence of a merely sensual passion. Thetis suggests
a remedy of that nature to her son for his grief[692]. In mere
impersonations, not yet endowed with the strong human individuality
of the Greek Olympus, such as Themis and Helios, we do not expect to
find this trait. But of all the fully personified deities of invention,
Vulcan alone, privileged by Labour and Ugliness, appears in Homer to
be exempt. The Hellenic goddesses generally do not, however, like the
more Pelasgian Venus, Ceres, and probably Aurora, debase themselves by
intrigues with mortal men.

[691] Il. xiv. 158.

[692] Il. xxiv. 130.

The chastity of the traditive deities, Minerva, Diana, Latona, and
probably Apollo, I take for one of the noblest and most significant
proofs of the high origin of the materials which they respectively

There is also in the deities of Homer not merely a dependance upon
physical nourishment, but even a passion of gluttony connected with it.
The basis of this idea is laid in the conception which made feasting
the normal occupation of Olympus. It followed that they were not
only bound by something in the nature of necessity to food, but also
enslaved to it by greediness as a rooted habit.

~_Nature of their regard for sacrifice._~

Of this we find traces all through the poems, in the course which
divine favour usually takes. When Homer speaks of the gods in the sense
of Providential governors, it is the just man that they regard, and the
unjust that they visit with wrath. But when he carries us into Olympus,
and we behold them in the living energy of their individualities, it
is sacrifice which they want, and which forms their share in the fruits
of earth and of human labour, as we learn from the emphatic words of
Jupiter himself;

  τὸ γὰρ λάχομεν γέρας ἡμεῖς[693].

[693] Il. iv. 49. xxiv. 70. xxii. 170.

It was the bounty of Autolycus in lambs and kids which induced Mercury
to bestow on him in return the gifts of thievery and perjury[694].

[694] Od. xix. 395-8.

Moral retribution in Homer lags and limps at a great distance behind
the offence, but the omission to sacrifice is visited condignly and at
once. Again, in the case of Troy, liberality in this particular even
seems to create a party in Olympus on behalf of an offending race. On
the erection of the rampart by the Greeks, Neptune immediately urges
the omission of the regular hecatombs against them. It is punished by
Diana in Ætolia, by the gods generally on the departure from Troas; and
Menelaus in like manner is for this offence wind-bound in Pharos[695].

[695] Il. ix. Od. i. iv.

The reason of this preeminence of sacrifices, both as to punishment
and as to reward, may lie partly in the tendency of man (though, as
we shall presently see, the practice had its moral side also) to
substitute positive observances for moral obedience; but partly,
likewise, in the importance of sacrifices to the anthropophuism of the
Olympian deities themselves.

Putting out of view what each deity can do in his particular domain, we
shall find that but little of power over nature--whether human, animal,
or inanimate--attaches to the Homeric gods as such. Juno conveys a
suggestion to the mind of Agamemnon[696], and gives, with Minerva,
courage to a warrior; but this is the whole of her immediate action,
I mean action without a mean, in this department, exhibited by any
passage in the Poems. Indeed, no other mythological deity ascends to
agency of this kind at all.

[696] Il. viii. 218. ix. 254.

Upon animal and inanimate nature Juno exercises the highest powers.
When she thunders with Minerva, sends cloud to impede the flying
Trojans, retards the sunset, and assists the voyage of Jason, we may
consider her as in the reflex use of the atmospheric powers of her
husband: but the gift of a voice to the horse Xanthus, apparently can
lie within her reach only by derivation from the higher or traditive
element in his character, as representing the idea of supreme deity.

Among the deities of invention, the general rule is, with respect
to the exercise of power over nature or the human mind, that it
is confined to matters in immediate connection with their several
specialties. Two extraordinary acts of power over nature appear,
however, to be within the competency of them all. One is the production
of a patch of cloud or vapour at will; the other is that of assuming
the human form for themselves, either generally or in the likeness of
some particular person. I do not, however, recollect any instance in
which this power is exercised by a deity of invention in the manner
in which Minerva employs it in the First Iliad[697], that is, under
the condition of being visible only to one person out of many who are
present. In that image we seem to find a figure, perhaps a traditionary
remnant, of that inward and personal communication between the Almighty
and the individual soul, which constitutes a high distinguishing note
of the true religion.

[697] Il. v. 198.

There would appear to have been certain visible marks which went to
distinguish a god, up to a certain point, from men. Hector in the
Fifteenth Iliad knows Apollo to be a god[698], but does not know what
god. Minerva clears the vision of Diomed, that he may be able to
discriminate between gods and men[699]. Pandarus, eyeing Diomed, is
uncertain whether he is a mortal or a god[700]. The recognition of
Venus by Helen may, indeed, have been due to the imperfectness of her
power of self-transformation[701]; but it may also have been owing
to these general traces of resemblance to the divine order, which
subsisted even under the human disguise.

[698] Il. xv. 246.

[699] Il. v. 128.

[700] Il. v. 183.

[701] Il. iii. 396.

Homer represents Minerva as weighing down the chariot of Diomed, and
making the axle creak[702];

[702] Ibid. 838.

                μέγα δ’ ἔβραχε φήγινος ἄξων
  βριθοσύνῃ· δεινὴν γὰρ ἄγεν θεὸν, ἄνδρα τ’ ἄριστον.

This passage may be taken as a proof, since it applies to the most
spiritual of the Homeric divinities, how far the Poet was from
considering that they were endowed with the properties of pure spirit.

~_Parts of the body, how ascribed._~

Of this he has given us farther proof by his free and constant
reference, wherever occasion serves, to the parts and organs of the
body as appertaining to the gods.

I think that references of this kind in Holy Scripture usually bear
a mark, which yields decisive witness to the fact that their use is
wholly relative and analogical: as, for example, the eye of God,
namely, the instrument by which He watches us, the mouth of God,
by which He instructs us, the hand and the arm of God, by which
He sustains, or delivers, or corrects, or crushes us. It does not
therefore appear that we could justly and fully draw our conclusions
as to the corporeal constitution of an Olympic deity from the mere
circumstance that we are told of the knees or lap of the gods, by which
it might be figuratively expressed, that the disposal of human affairs
rests with them[703]; or because of that gorgeous description, which
the Poet has given us, of the head and nod, meaning the decree of
Jupiter. For all these allusions are capable of explanation on the same
principle with those of Holy Scripture, namely, as being relative and
explanatory to man.

[703] Mure, however, in his History of Greek Literature, refers the
origin of the metaphor to the practice of representation by statues.

But he has a multitude of other references to parts of the body, which
do not at all belong to the use of them as organs for communication
with the imperfect apprehensions of mankind. Thus:

1. Thetis takes hold of the chin of Jupiter, Il. i. 501.

2. Diomed wounds Venus on the wrist, Il. v. 336.

3. And Mars in the abdomen, Il. v. 857; whom Minerva likewise
overthrows by a blow on the neck, Il. xxi. 406.

4. Hercules wounds Juno in the right breast, Il. v. 393; and we have
her hair, flesh, chest, and feet, in the toilette of Il. xiv. 170-86.

5. Helen discovers the neck and breast as well as eyes of Venus, Il.
iii. 396. See Il. xxi. 424.

6. The legs of Vulcan are weak, his neck strong, and his chest shaggy,
Il. xviii. 411-15.

7. Mercury attaches wings to his feet, Od. v.

8. Juno seizes the wrists of Diana, takes the bow and arrows from her
back, and beats her about the ears, Il. xxi. 489-91.

9. The arrows rattle on the shoulder of Apollo, Il. i. 46.

10. The arming of Minerva introduces her shoulders, head, and feet, Il.
v. 738-45.

We need not, however, be surprised at failing to find in Homer any
conception approaching to that of pure spirit, or any thing resembling
that refined discernment, which has led Christian Art to represent the
figure of our Lord alone as self-poised and self-supported in the air,
while all other human forms, even when transfigured, have a ground
beneath their feet, though it be but made of cloud. Even in some of the
very highest among Christian writers, such as Dante and St. Bernard,
the human being, after the soul has gone through dismissal from the
flesh, still appears to be invested with a lighter form and species of
body, apparently on the assumption that the two elements of matter and
spirit are not only essentially, but inseparably wedded in our nature.

~_Examples of miracle in Homer._~

Full as they are of preternatural signs and operations, the poems of
Homer do not, nevertheless, deal much with miracle, with the specific
purpose of which he had no concern.

By miracle I understand, speaking generally, not the mere use of the
common natural powers, accumulated or enlarged, but an operation
involving what, I suppose, would be called medically an organic
departure from her customary laws: an operation too, which must
absolutely be performed, upon man himself or some other object, after
some manner which shall be appreciable in its results by his faculties,
and calculated to satisfy them, when in their greatest vigilance, that
it is a real experience, and not a mere delusion of the senses.

Thus understood, the miracles of Homer are, I think, scarcely more
numerous than the following: for, under this definition, the ambrosia
of Simois and the flowers of Ida are not miracles[704].

[704] Il. v. 777. xiv. 347.

1. The crawling and lowing of the oxen of the Sun after their death,
Od. xii. 395, 6.

2. The acceleration of the Sunset, Il. xviii. 239.

3. The retardation of the dawn, Od. xxiii. 241.

4. The speaking horse, Il. xix. 407.

3. The εἴδωλον of Æneas, Il. v. 449.

6. The portents of the banquet night in Od. xx. 347-62. I feel some
doubt, however, whether this is objective, or whether it is only an
impression on the senses.

7. The transformation and re-transformation of Ulysses[705], Od. xiii.
398, 429, and xxiii. 156-63.

[705] Nägelsbach, i. 10. p. 25.

8. Perhaps, also, the εἴδωλον of Iphthime, Od. ix. 797.

9. The gouts of blood, shed down from the air by Jupiter, Il. xi. 53.

10. The transformation of the serpent into a stone in the sight of all
the Greeks; ἡμεῖς δ’ ἑσταότες θαυμάζομεν οἷον ἐτύχθη, Il. ii. 320.

The first seems due to the divine power as a whole; the second and
fourth to Juno; the third and seventh and eighth to Minerva; the fifth
and sixth are the works of Apollo; the ninth and tenth of Jupiter. I do
not add as an eleventh the conversion of the Phæacian ship into a rock,
by Neptune, in the sight of the people; because this is rather of the
class of marvels which appertained to other, even secondary gods, such
as Vulcan, in their own particular domains, Od. xiii. 159-87.

The buoyant arms of Achilles (Il. xix. 386), and other works of Vulcan,
might at first sight seem to belong to the list, but it is doubtful
whether they are not poetical rather than mythological representations,
and in any case they would appear as gifts strictly professional,
exercised in the ordinary administration of his peculiar function.

Telemachus appears to recognise the existence of miraculous powers in
the passage[706],

[706] Od. xvi. 196.

  οὐ γάρ πως ἂν θνητὸς ἀνὴρ τάδε μηχανόῳτο
  ᾧ αὐτοῦ γε νόῳ, ὅτε μὴ θεὸς αὐτὸς ἐπελθὼν
  ῥηϊδίως ἐθέλων θήσει νεὸν ἠὲ γέροντα.

But this is spoken of the Godhead rather than of any particular deity,
and cannot by Homeric analogy be applied except to those of the highest

~_Their operation on the human mind._~

It will however be observed, that several of these prodigies are not
stated to have challenged human observation when performed: and unless
they submit themselves to the test of the senses they are not properly
miracles at all. Others of them entirely comply with the condition, as
especially that of Il. ii. 320.

The retardation of sunset and sunrise, and the rain of blood, appear
to pass wholly unobserved. Prodigies not setting out from a basis in
nature, such as the tears of blood shed by Jupiter[707], are wholly
beyond the scope of these observations.

[707] Il. xvi. 459.

On the whole, we find stringent limitation prevailing in this province,
as regards the majority of the gods.

Indeed the forces of nature, which the mythological divinities in part
represent, were sometimes too strong for them: for Homer tells us that
Notus and Zephyr[708] sometimes shatter vessels at sea without or
against the will of the gods:

[708] Od. xii. 290.

  θεῶν ἀέκητι ἀνάκτων.

Even man, and that without impiety, can occasionally think of
resistance. When Menelaus, alone in the field, decides on retiring
before Hector (who fights ἐκ θεόφιν), rather than contend πρὸς δαίμονα,
he looks around for Ajax, and observes that, could he but see him, they
two would fight καὶ πρὸς δαίμονά περ, even with the deity opposed to
them, in order to recover the body of Patroclus[709].

[709] Il. xvii. 98-101.

There is, however, I think, another reason, besides feebleness in his
conception of the gods, which prevents the Greek Poet from representing
them as omnipotent in regard to the operations of the human mind; and
that is, his profound sense of the free agency of man. This principle
with him, as it were, confronts the deity on every side; who respects
its dignity, and never really invades its sphere, but pursues his work
by means compatible with its essential character. The idea of the deity
pervading the poems is mainly that of a cooperative power, who helps
us when and as we help ourselves. It is expressed with an unrivalled
simplicity when Telemachus, coming as a young man into the presence of
Nestor, feels oppressed with a nervous shyness; and Minerva encourages
him by telling him that he can of himself find something to say, and
that the divinity will prompt more to him[710],

[710] Od. iii. 26.

          ἄλλα μὲν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ φρεσὶ σῇσι νοήσεις,
  ἄλλα δὲ καὶ δαίμων ὑποθήσεται.

Heavenly influence never overpowers or suppresses the will, but
sometimes suggests thoughts to the mind, and sometimes diverts it,
not perhaps from the thought of an object already perceived, but from
the chance of perceiving it. Thus, when Euryclea, through surprise
on beholding the scar, and so recognising Ulysses, oversets the
foot-bath, Penelope, who is present, might naturally have observed the
miscarriage; but Minerva interposes to abstract her attention from what
was passing, lest she should recognise her husband prematurely:

  ἡ δ’ οὔτ’ ἀθρῆσαι δύνατ’ ἀντίη, οὔτε νοῆσαι,
  τῇ γὰρ Ἀθηναίη νόον ἔτραπεν[711].

[711] Od. xix. 478.

With the exception of Juno, who in some sense reflects the majesty of
Jupiter, and becomes entitled as a wife to handle his prerogatives, it
may be stated generally respecting the deities of invention properly so
called, that, except within the limits of their particular domain or
office, they scarcely at all modify the laws of nature, never set in
motion or direct her greater forces, nor act in an extraordinary manner
on the mind or body of man. Each in his own province can stimulate a
particular animal propensity, or improve a particular gift of mind or
body: and that is all.

While therefore the strength of the Olympian deities lies in knowledge
and in power, we find upon the whole that even in these particularly
they are subject to manifold limitation. They could translate mortals
out of this world in which the rule of Death prevails, as we see in
the cases of Ganymede, and of Tithonus; but it does not appear that,
if we except the traditive ideas represented in Minerva and Apollo,
they could either raise men from the grave, prevent their dying in
the course of nature, heal their wounds or diseases, or set their
broken limbs. When even Latona and Diana heal Æneas[712], they do it
apparently with greater speed indeed, but in other respects much as it
would have been done by Podaleirius or Machaon.

[712] Il. v. 488.

~_They do not discern the thoughts._~

Nor, again, does it appear that even the most exalted of their number
had the knowledge of inward thoughts, otherwise than as they may be
discovered by persons of particular sagacity. When Minerva detects the
false accounts given of himself by Ulysses[713], no more is declared
than the simple fact that she has a sufficient knowledge of his
personal identity. Hence, with respect to the fraud of Laomedon upon
Neptune and Apollo, Saint Augustine sarcastically wonders that even
Apollo the diviner should not have known that Laomedon meant to cheat
him[714]; and that one of such dignity as Neptune should have been
in a like state of ignorance. With this we may compare the taunts of
Elijah[715] against the priests of Baal.

[713] Od. xiii. 291.

[714] De Civ. Dei, iii. 2.

[715] 1 Kings xviii. 27.

While, then, the gift of anything like general foreknowledge appears to
be withheld from all the deities of invention, that of the ‘discerner
of the thoughts and intents of the heart,’ is nowhere found; nor was
it believed of any member of the Olympian community, as it was said of
One greater than they[716]: ‘He knew all men; and needed not that any
should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.’

[716] John ii. 24, 25.

Such, as far as I am able to present it, is the internal view of the
Olympus of Homer: a scheme eminently national, and eminently poetical.
Egypt, Persia, Phœnicia, the old Pelasgians, doubtless contributed
materials towards its formation: but I have a lively conviction that
Homer was (so to speak) the theo-mythologer who moulded these materials
into system, the substitute for unity, invested them with the forms and
colours of brilliant beauty, and gave them their hold in their historic
shape upon the mind of his countrymen; with the sublime Olympus, so
near the old Dodona, of which he probably contrived it as the rival,
for their centre of life and power.


_The Olympian Community and its Members, considered in their influence
on human society and conduct._

We have thus far considered the deities of Homer as they are, or are
represented by him to be, in themselves individually, and in their
mutual relations. We have now to consider the relation which subsisted
between them and the race of man, especially on its human side; the
state of religious sentiment and obligation, and of the moral law,
both as towards heaven and likewise as between man and man, so far as
it is immediately associated with the system of which they are the
representatives. Another large part of morals, which was already in
great part detached from visible relation to religion, will remain for
separate consideration.

And here we may remark, that the Homeric Greeks apparently knew nothing
of any periodical religious observance of commanding authority, such
as to form a centre either for national union, or for the life of
the individual. Had there been such an observance, we must, without
doubt, have found a trace of it on the Shield of Achilles. The only
festival, of which we have clear information, is that of Apollo in the
Odyssey, on the first day of the month. More obscurely, one of Minerva
appears to be indicated in Il. ii. 551. No religious worship, properly
to be so called, accompanied the funeral of Patroclus, or the games
which followed it. The Winds[717] were called in aid for a special
purpose. The invocation of Spercheus[718] is an apology for devoting
to Patroclus the hair which Peleus had, on his son’s behalf, vowed to
that River-god. Neither is there any notice whatever of religion in the
brief summary of the proceedings in Troy after the ransom of the corpse
of Hector[719].

[717] Il. xxiii. 194.

[718] Ibid. 144.

[719] Il. xxiv. 788-800.

But although not sustained or organized by the self-acting machinery
of periodical celebrations, nor by the appropriation of the services
of a particular class of society, the life, thoughts, and actions of
the better Greeks were in a close and pervading proximity, so to speak,
to their religion. I say of the better Greeks; for there is an almost
total absence of reference to the gods in the language, as well as in
the actions, of the profligate Suitors of the Odyssey. When it first
appears, it is ironical[720]: and only in the last distress does it
assume any other character.

[720] Od. xviii. 37.

In general terms, every thing was ascribed to the gods. They know all
things, θεοὶ δέ τε πάντα ἴσασιν[721]: They can do every thing, θεοὶ
δέ τε πάντα δύνανται[722]; and δύναται γὰρ ἅπαντα[723] is said of
Jupiter, in the character of Providence. They are the givers of all
blessings, mental as well as corporal[724]; the disposers of events;
the ordainers, or even authors of calamities. They are said also to
do for us what we ourselves have done for ourselves; as where Ulysses
tells Eumæus, that the gods broke his bonds, and the gods hid him[725];
acts which he himself had performed. Also what they effect, they
commonly effect with ease, as in both the last-mentioned cases.

[721] Od. x. 306.

[722] Od. iv. 379, 468.

[723] Ibid. 237.

[724] Od. xxiii. 11. This is fully set forth in Nägelsbach, i. 33, p.
54 _et seqq._

[725] Od. xiv. 348, 57.

~_The Religion was still a real power._~

However faulty, and however feeble, the religion of the Greeks had not
yet ceased to be a religion; for it was believed in. Men might resent
or fear the communications made to them on the part of the deity; but
they did not venture to repudiate their authority.

In Homer, except with the dissolute Suitors, (Od. ii. 180, 201.)
the Seer stands as the faithful exponent of the will of Heaven; and
Agamemnon, even when smarting under the declarations of Calchas, and
reviling him accordingly in his individual capacity (i. 106), does not
presume to intimate any suspicion that what he has said is of his own
invention. But time passed on: corruption accumulated, and festered
more and more. Accordingly in Euripides, Agamemnon and Menelaus seem
to speak of the whole class of prophets as if they deserved no belief.
See the Iphigenia in Aulis, v. 10, 11. So in the same play, vv. 783-9,
the Chorus speaks of the birth of Helen from Leda and Jupiter, with the
proviso, ‘whether it were true or whether fabulous.’

Again, we have in the same play, vv. 945-7:

                τίς δὲ μάντις ἔστ’; ἀνὴρ
  ὃς ὀλίγ’ ἀληθῆ, πολλὰ δὲ ψευδῆ, λέγει,
  τυχών· ὅταν δὲ μὴ τύχῃ, διοίχεται.

The mind of man had travelled far onward in its career, and great
changes had passed upon his moral tone, before the place of the
Prophet, in the estimation of the public, could be so strikingly
reversed as we find from these quotations.

In the Homeric age, religion was a real power; and the veneration paid
to deity extended so far, at least, to the persons of its ministers,
that scarce any human thought could conceive the possibility of their
falsifying the awful communications of which they were the vehicles.

But it will be replied, if religion was a power, if whatever it covered
with its mantle was accepted and held in honour, then what a deluge
of corruption must have spread over Greece from a religion of which
Jupiter was the head, and which had Venus for one of its recognised

Now the age of Homer shows us the religion of Olympus in a state, in
which it had not yet become sufficiently the object of scrutiny to
suggest, on a large scale, either the depraved imitation which was to
be its too speedy result, or the unbelief which formed, in the moral
chain of cause and effect, its necessary consummation.

~_Corruptions of the gods not yet fully felt._~

In fact, we do not find that the corrupting influence of the Greek
mythology on manners had been fully felt in the time of Homer. Though
vices are in particular cases represented as the gifts of particular
deities to particular individuals, it does not appear that these were
yet regarded as examples for general imitation[726]. But the beginnings
of mischief, so vigorous and abundant, did not fail in time to produce
their fruit: and in the historic ages of Greece, the models supplied by
the conduct of deities were freely pleaded in defence of debauchery and

[726] Nägelsbach, Hom. Theol. on the case of Autolycus.

[727] Döllinger, Heid. u. Jud. v. i. p. 255. Plato Legg. i. p. 636.

This is in conformity with ordinary experience. The vices of the great
are first passed by, as if it were profane to suffer the eye to rest
upon them; then they are regarded for a time with depraved admiration;
and when the last stage is reached, they are too faithfully copied by
the small.

It was hardly possible that men could be effectually swayed for
a length of time by the moral government of deities, themselves
privileged by human invention for unbounded immorality: but it was
naturally the first stage of the destructive process to vitiate the
character of the gods, and the next and later one to break down the
credit of their administration of human affairs, which only became
incredible even to the enlightened part of the community after their
moral worthlessness had been fully and long developed.

The Homeric poems expose to our view two standards not mutually
accordant, the objective and the subjective. If we pay attention to
the impressions current among men respecting the gods, they are the
guardians of some moral and social principles of the highest order.
But if we take their own word for it, the mere Olympian deities seem
ordinarily to appreciate no quality or conduct, except the practice
of offering up numerous and well fed animals in sacrifice, each with
the accompanying tribute of the appointed portion; that so they may
draw, not a moral but a physical, though a comparatively refined,
gratification from the savour and the taste[728].

[728] Vid. Il. iv. 48. xxii. 170. xxiv. 69. and 33.

The protection, too, which the deities usually accord to man, is
not only given on selfish principles, but is liable to be withdrawn
for causes wholly independent of his deserts. Quarrels about men
are settled, not by each foregoing his animosities, but by each
surrendering and abandoning his clients. ‘I will give up Troy to
you,’ says Jupiter; ‘but mind that I shall be at liberty to destroy
the cities which you love, when I may be so minded[729].’ ‘You are
quite welcome,’ answers Juno, ‘and indeed I could not prevent you: but
let me have Troy destroyed.’ Why, says even Apollo to Neptune, should
we quarrel about miserable mortals? It is not worth our while: let us
leave them to themselves[730]. No Homeric deity ever will be found to
make a personal sacrifice on behalf of a human client.

[729] Il. iv. 39. and seqq.

[730] Il. xxi. 461-7.

In the next Section, I shall endeavour to show that the practice of
sacrifice was not so entirely disconnected from morality, as we are
perhaps too apt to suppose. I think we may, on the contrary, find in it
at least a witness to the essential harmony between morality and divine
worship, and to the difficulty of tearing them asunder.

We are here met, indeed, by the case of Autolycus, which proves to us
that the better elements of this practice were already on their way
to corruption, inasmuch as in that instance they had reached it. It
was a case, let it be remembered, of sacrifices, not to the gods in
general, nor to the higher or the better deities, but to Mercury, a
purely mythical divinity; and therefore what we see in it is, a false
religion in a state of ripeness at one particular point. Now the
worship of Mercury, the god of gain, was perhaps the first point at
which the morality of the system might be expected to give way: and
it is therefore quite in the natural course that a case like that of
Autolycus should be presented to us without any corresponding case for
any other deity[731]. As it stands in Homer, it represents what was
then the exception, though it was gradually to become the rule.

[731] Od. xxiv. 514.

~_A moral tone occasionally perceptible._~

There are, however, in particular connection with one of the great
traditive deities, glimpses of better things, even in Olympus. When
urged by Minerva on behalf of Ulysses in the Odyssey, Jupiter half
rebukes her for having insinuated a doubt, by replying, ‘How could I
forget Ulysses, who excels others both in his intellect, and in the
sacrifices which he offers to the gods?’[732]

[732] Od. i. 65.

It may indeed be said that in this passage, if it be construed
strictly, it is mental power or intelligence, and not any moral
quality, which, as second to liberality in sacrifice, is recognised as
fit to be taken into account by the gods.

Still it is, I think, manifest that Homer, like the Holy Scripture,
includes a moral element in the idea of wisdom, which is represented by
the word νόος, commonly or always used of men in a good sense.

And in the second divine Council of the Odyssey, the moral tone rises
higher. Minerva, grown more daring, pleads plainly the discouraging
effect which the indifference of the gods, if continued, will have upon
the moral conduct of sovereigns. ‘Let them,’ she says, ‘cast away all
moral restraint: for the virtuous Ulysses is forgotten by his people,
and is detained in great affliction by Calypso[733].’

[733] Od. v. 7. and seqq.

For us, in the present inquiry, the main question evidently is, not
what are the sentiments which the Poet has represented as proceeding
from his divinities on Olympus, but what are those which the people at
large believed them to entertain. There is a considerable difference
between these two standards: and it is the latter one by which we have
now to abide.

~_Prevalent belief concerning them._~

The deities of Homer, thus measured, are susceptible of various forms
of sentiment in contemplating the fortunes and deeds of men.

1. In general, they regard virtue and obedience with approbation.

2. They regard crime with dissatisfaction and a disposition to punish

3. But they also observe any excess, or marked continuity, of good
fortune in the virtuous man with a kind of envy: as if they could not
permit the human race, on any conditions, to attain to a prosperity or
abundance which should have any semblance of rivalling their own.

As respects the first, it is indeed a pale and feeble sentiment; but
still it exists. They listen readily to those who obey them[734].
Prayer appeases them, as well as sacrifice[735]. They love not
perverse deeds like those of the Suitors, but they honour justice and
righteousness[736]. Upon the whole it may be observed, that much more
just and elevated sentiments are predicated of the gods as a body, than
when they appear as individuals. For it is as a body that they still
retain a certain relation to true Godhead.

[734] Il. i. 218.

[735] Il. ix. 497.

[736] Od. xiv. 83.

As respects the second proposition, they wander in disguise to examine
the conduct of men[737]. A man who is hardly used may become to
his oppressor a θεῶν μήνιμα, an occasion of divine vengeance. They
view iniquity with a sentiment sometimes called by Homer ὄπις, an
after-regard that remembers and avenges it. For this ὄπις the wicked
do not care[738], and such indifference is a chief sign of their
depravity. Especially they watch, backed by the Ἐρινύες, over wrongs
done to the poor[739]; and Jupiter interferes by storm and flood to
testify his displeasure at unrighteous governors, who administer
crooked judgments[740]. Ægisthus is warned and punished by them. It
is Minerva who plans the vengeance upon the Suitors[741]. At the same
time, revenge for affronts is a much more powerful and common motive
with them, than zeal for the administration of justice. The latter is
lazy and doubtful; but their sentiments in regard to the former are of
keen edge, and have an irrepressible promptitude and activity.

[737] Od. xvi. 485.

[738] Il. xvi. 388. Od. xiv. 82. xx. 215. xxii. 39. ii. 66, 134. iii.

[739] Od. xvii. 475.

[740] Il. xvi. 384-9.

[741] Od. xxiv. 479.

As respects the third point, the gods grudged to Ulysses and Penelope
an unbroken continuance of the blessings of their domestic life[742].
It is in like manner, as it would seem, that, after a long course of
prosperity, the gallant and good Bellerophon became odious, on account
of his good fortune only, to the gods[743]. And this same idea is
perhaps the groundwork of the alternative destinies of Achilles, either
a long life without great glory, or transcendent glory and a short

[742] Od. xxiii. 211.

[743] Il. vi. 200.

[744] Il. ix. 410-16.

While in the later stages of heathen religion the former and nobler
ideas gradually lost ground, this less worthy one became more and more
pronounced; and Solon, in Herodotus, describes himself as knowing τὸ
θεῖον πᾶν ἐὸν φθονερόν τε καὶ ταραχῶδες[745].

[745] Herod. i. 32.

In vague and general terms, the gods of Homer are represented as
givers of blessings, particularly of external goods. Sometimes they
are rashly and wildly charged as the authors of calamities[746], which
the folly of man himself has caused. But according to the more grave
and serious teaching of the day, they were conceived to enforce, as
against mortals, laws from which they were certainly themselves exempt;
and allow to mankind no alternative, except that of mixed good or else
unmixed evil. Two caskets stand upon the floor by Jupiter: one of
them is filled with wretchedness and shame; the other is vicissitude,
which oscillates incessantly between prosperity and sorrow. And there
rankles in the mind of mankind a sentiment, which tells them that the
gods, while they thus dispense afflictions upon earth which are neither
sweetened by love, nor elevated by a distinct disciplinary purpose,
take care to keep themselves beyond all touch of grief or care[747]:

[746] Od. i. 32.

[747] Il. xxiv. 525.

  ὣς γὰρ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι,
  ζώειν ἀχνυμένοις· αὐτοὶ δέ τ’ ἀκηδέες εἰσίν.

~_It lent considerable support to virtue._~

The best thing that can be said for their fainthearted encouragement
to virtue is, that the good man is certainly understood in most cases,
though not always, to prosper in the end: let us take, for example,
Nestor, Menelaus, or Ulysses. Ajax and Agamemnon meet unhappy ends;
but Ajax was stern and sullen, while Agamemnon cannot be acquitted of
cupidity and selfishness. On the other hand, as punishers of wrong,
the gods of Olympus do not visit all wrongs and all vices alike.
Especially they take little notice, in their moral government as in
their lives, of the law of purity: there is no express notice of their
displeasure against the crime of Paris; and Jupiter, the guardian
of the judgment seat, the friend of the suppliant, the stranger, and
the poor, makes no pretension to defend the marriage bed from the
contamination he had himself so often wrought. However, in a very
aggravated instance, namely, that of Ægisthus, his adulterous marriage
with Clytemnestra[748] is noticed explicitly in the Olympian Council,
as contributing to the enormity of his offence. But in such a case many
other elements, besides that of purity, are involved: the whole social
and political order of the world is at stake.

[748] Od. i. 37-40.

Thus upon the whole there was but little more in the sentiments than
in the conduct of the Immortals, to maintain among men a sense of
piety towards Heaven. Yet a good deal of authority and support were
lent to important principles of relative duty, by the belief that the
deities would or might avenge its infraction. We must in short fully
embrace the fact that man, as represented in Homer, was inconsistent
with respect to his religion, in the sense opposite to that in which
inconsistency commonly affects that relation. He had more still
remaining in him of ancient and natural morality, than his belief could
either adequately account for in theory, or permanently sustain in

It should at the same time be borne in mind, that, while the vices
of Olympus appertain to the individual deities, its obscure and
qualified virtues, in the championship of duty, and the avenging of
crime upon earth, are not the properties of this or that mythological
impersonation, but either of the deities considered as a whole with
one united will, or else of those among them in whose characters Homer
still enables us to read the vestiges of primitive tradition.

~_Their course with respect to Troy._~

Saint Augustine observes[749], that some defenders of the Pagan
mythology in later times quoted the fall of Troy as an instance of
Divine retribution coming upon the descendants of Laomedon for his
perjury, and some, to the same effect, as a punishment of the adultery
committed by Paris. To which he replies truly, that the heathen deities
had no right to punish in Paris an act which had the sanction of Venus,
as she bore Æneas to Anchises, and of Mars as the father of Romulus:
Æneas and Romulus being the two great reputed fountain-heads of the
highest Roman lineage.

[749] De Civ. Dei, iii. 3.

Now, though Homer has practically represented the gods as avenging the
pollution of the nuptial bed, it may be observed that he nowhere seems
to put prominently forward the adultery of Paris as the main gist of
his offence. In fact, the idea of adultery is very much absorbed, as we
shall see, according to the poems, in the act of violent abduction. The
Greeks on their side, with the single exception of Menelaus himself,
treat Paris as a robber, or else a coward; not as one who had, like
Ægisthus with Clytemnestra, corrupted the wife of one of their princes.
And so Hector is, I think, not quite accurately criticized by Mure[750]
for failing to find fault with Paris on the ground of adultery. Hector
does reproach his brother for having abused the friendly intercourse of
life to carry off another man’s wife, and then not having the courage
to meet the husband in the field. This seems to me in perfect keeping
with the ideas of the time, especially if I am right in the view, which
I shall endeavour to sustain by argument, that Hector himself is not
the elder, but the younger brother of the two. What did the Greeks
aim at avenging? Not, we shall find, the wrong done to Menelaus in
his conjugal character, but the sorrows and sufferings of Helen were
evidently the prominent and conspicuous idea in the mind of the Poet,
and in the mind, as he represents it, of the Greeks. So that, while
Menelaus himself is the only person who in the Iliad shows a resentment
of his own conjugal wrongs, the Greeks appear to think partly of Helen,
partly of their nation’s honour, partly of their allegiance to the
Pelopids; and partly, perhaps chiefly, of the booty which, in requital
of their arduous labours, they are to gain upon the sack of Troy[751].

[750] Mure’s Lit. Greece, vol. i. on the character of Hector, Il. iii.

[751] Il. ii. 355.

The defence, therefore, of the heathen deities which St. Augustine
notices as having been put forward, was a late afterthought. The Poet
appears indeed to treat the lustful effeminacy of Paris in general
with a grave and marked contempt; but this is rather his own personal
sentiment, than a result directly connected with his religious belief
or system. And, more at large, I do not find it clear that in any place
of the Poems any deity appears, either as the guardian of purity, or as
the avenger of its infraction. Under these circumstances we shall have
the more cause to wonder, that that virtue could still have been held,
as it was held, by Homer and the Greeks, in partial but evidently real

Although retribution was limited to public and social sins, and did not
touch the inner and finer parts of human conduct, it is not difficult
to trace the advantages which flowed from that sensible remainder of
religion which still subsisted in the Heroic age; not from those parts
of the system which were due to human invention, but from the elements
which it still contained of the ancient theism, and which invention had
not yet wholly smothered.

Thus, for example, it was thought that the anger of the gods might be
brought down upon a country by the misconduct of its governors[752];

  οἳ βίῃ εἰν ἀγορῇ σκολιὰς κρίνωσι θέμιστας·

and the fear of the temporal calamities thus to be incurred would,
naturally, tend to the maintenance of integrity in the administration
of justice.

[752] Il. xvi. 387.

As between governors and governed, so between rich and poor. We cannot
doubt that the worthy Eumæus expresses the general sentiment of his
age, when, having been reproached by the haughty Suitor Antinous
with having invited a beggar into the palace of Ulysses, he answers,
not by denial, but by showing that the idea is self-condemned by its
absurdity. Those indeed, he replies, may be solicited to come to a
house who exercise the agreeable or the useful professions; the Seer,
the Doctor, the Artificer, the Bard, these are the people who get
invited all over the world;

  πτωχὸν δ’ οὐκ ἄν τις καλέοι, τρύξοντα ἓ αὐτόν;

  Who would be such a fool as to invite a beggar?[753]

[753] Od. xvii. 382-7.

With this standard of sentiment, not peculiar to that age, except in
the simple frankness with which it is avowed, it was surely of the
utmost importance for the needy and afflicted, that they should be
placed by the popular belief in the special charge of the deity;

                    πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες
  ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε.

So that, though none would invite them, yet few would take the
responsibility of rejecting their supplications for what was needful to
supply their wants.

And the standing distinction in the Odyssey between a virtuous
and a vicious people is, that the former is insolent, fierce, and
unrighteous, while the latter is kind to strangers and of god-fearing

[754] Od. vi. 120. viii. 576. ix. 176. xiii. 202.

  ἦ ῥ’ οἵγ’ ὑβρισταί τε καὶ ἄγριοι, οὐδὲ δίκαιοι,
  ἠὲ φιλόξεινοι, καί σφιν νόος ἐστὶ θεουδής;

~_Bearing of the religion on social ties._~

It was thus a clear fact in the heroic age, that religious belief was
a foundation and support to the exercise of charitable offices between
man and man. I think we may further assert, that it is a fact of all
time; that in all ages and countries the strength and liveliness of
belief in God is a measure which determines the aggregate amount and
activity of mutual love. Hence, as the Olympian religion became more
and more hollow, public oppression increased, and private charity
and hospitality declined. Yet, even in its most corrupt and decrepit
period, it was on the steps of temples that the congregations of
mendicants assembled; spontaneous and unconscious witnesses to the
fact that, next to God their Friend in heaven, the reflection of God,
however faint, in the mind of man, is their best friend on earth. And
of the many great social results of Christianity, one standing in the
very foremost rank has been, that it has for the first time made the
rights of the poor a social axiom, which, though it may in practice be
evaded, none are hardy enough to deny. Perhaps the very strongest of
all the proofs of the connection between religious belief, and duties
to the needy, is to be found in the instinctive horror which is created
in the minds of men, when a prominent profession of the first is
accidentally and occasionally exhibited by persons, who show a palpable
disregard of the second.

Side by side with the powerful obligation, of the indeterminate
species, which binds man to man in the name of charity or brotherly
kindness, stands the corresponding determinate principle of truth
and justice, which aims at preserving entire to each individual the
definite rights to which he is entitled.

An important part of these definite rights belongs immediately to
the relations between the private person and the civil power. But
the capacity of any human authority to do justice, even where the
will cannot be found fault with, is of necessity defective: and no
government can do its duties for a day, irrespective of the aid which
each private person renders to it in reference to every other. Nor is
this enough; it wants, and cannot dispense with, the assistance of an
auxiliary within the breast, in order to guard itself against delusion,
and to secure the requisite conformity between thought, word, and act.
In other words, the state wants an instrument by which to induce men to
speak the truth.

No such end can be reached by force. Force, in the shape of torture,
will doubtless in the long run avail to make men asseverate that, be
it what it may, by which they may obtain release from an intolerable
suffering. But the first effect of torture is to make the sufferer
indifferent to the truth or falsehood of his confessions, so he can but
obtain relief by means of them. The second, and still more detrimental
effect, must be to undermine the very basis of inward truthfulness, and
to create a mental habit of indifference as between what is true and
what is false.

~_And on political relations._~

Hence, the _desideratum_ for the state can only be found in some power
which works in and with the will of the private person.

It has indeed been argued, and I believe with justice, that the atheist
ought on his own principles to speak the truth; that is, if he does not
shut his eyes to the testimony borne by the daily experience of life
to the existence of a moral government in the world, even on this side
of the grave. But this supposes, at any rate, some degree of mental
culture; and it is essential to public order to find the means of
operating upon those who have received no such training.

The question is how to obtain the voluntary disclosure of truth,
in cases where neither interest or inclination are of themselves
sufficient to secure it.

To this question the experience of the world, up to this time, renders
one and but one answer. The requisite influence may be found, and
can only be found, in an appeal to the Majesty on high, and to the
sanctions of a future life.

Here, then, does the Venerable Oath stand forth in all its majesty. The
act of calling the Deity in the most solemn of its various forms to
witness, has been found at once to make the word of a man the stoutest
bond of human society: for the perjurer strips himself of all divine

[755] Il. iv. 235.

  οὐ γὰρ ἐπὶ ψευδέσσι πατὴρ Ζεὺς ἔσσετ’ ἀρωγὸς,

and exposes himself to the most terrible penalties[756];

[756] Il. xix. 264.

  εἰ δέ τι τῶνδ’ ἐπίορκον, ἐμοὶ θεοὶ ἄλγεα δοῖεν
  πολλὰ μάλ’, ὅσσα διδοῦσιν, ὅτις σφ’ ἀλίτηται ὀμόσσας.

Under the operation of the oath, the chances, so to speak, are doubled
in favour of the veracity of the witness: first, he may not be wicked
enough to forswear himself; and secondly, if he is wicked enough, yet
he may not have the requisite amount of daring in his wickedness.

These views will, I think, receive material confirmation when we come
to consider the relative positions of the oath in Greece and in Troy.
For the present, I leave the subject with the observation, that four
short words describe the props of human society: they are, γάμος,
ὅρκος, θέμις, θεός.

All these sanctions, however partial and remote, thus given to human
duty by belief in the gods, could not but be of great practical value.

And indeed it may with truth be said, that the mere idea of the
presence of an overruling power in the world was of inestimable
advantage in repressing human passion, in moderating desire, and in
limiting the excesses of caprice, wilfulness, and violence.

But it is obvious that these beneficial results from belief in the
gods belonged not to the particular development, but to the theistical
principle which lay within and under it. The idea of a moral Governor
of the universe was, and ever will be, an unfailing seed of good
wherever it may exist. The Pagan mythology, at every step of its
unfolding into detail, enfeebled and degraded that great idea, but it
could not be destroyed all at once. _Nemo repente fuit turpissimus_;
and a system, like a man, requires time to reach the extreme of
depravation. As, among men, a judge is not supposed to lose all regard
for justice, because it may be that in some particular of private life
he has transgressed, so the Olympian divinities might have credit
as administrators of moral government, even after they had begun to
be charged with instances of immorality. But an unscrupulous order
and succession of judges, would in time put an end to the idea of
public justice; and so the continuing and growing degradation of the
Immortals, in time put an end to the sense of religion, and made even
its fanes[757] smoky, and its pomps contemptible.

[757] Propertius, El. II. v. 27. Hor. Od. III. vi. 3, 4. Sat. II. ii.

And certainly, when we look at the evils, of which the mythological
system was the source, we cannot but be struck with their overwhelming
magnitude, and with the highly instructive fact, that in every case
they so manifestly belong, not to the original principle of belief and
worship due from man to his Creator, but to the departure from a pure,
and the lapse into an impure belief.

~_Moral bearing of the Religion on the poems._~

The credit for moral results, which has thus been allowed to the
probable operation of the Homeric Theo-mythology in the world, must
be steadily denied to its influence upon the poems, where it appears
before us as in the main a lowering and corrupting agency. In fact,
the religion and the morality of the Homeric poems appear to separate,
and to run in opposite directions. The rights of the question at
issue, in an ethical point of view, are plainly with the Greeks: they
vindicate by arms not one only, but two principles, both of them vital
to the order of society, and to individual happiness and virtue: the
sanctity, first, of the family and of marriage ties; secondly, of the
relation created by the rites of hospitality. And with the rights go
the fortunes of the cause. The capture and fall of Troy constitute a
great triumph of justice over wrong.

But the mythological elements of the question are cast in a mould
entirely different. The royal family of Troy has been all along
in singular favour with the deities, notwithstanding the perjury
of Laomedon; and that favour does not appear to be in any degree
diminished by the gross and shameful crimes that stand against Paris
in the poem, or by the unfailing and extraordinary obtuseness of his
moral sense. Ganymede, Tithonus, Anchises, as well as Paris, have all
been especial objects of divine regard. Not only did a full half of
the other deities take part with the Trojans in the war, but Jupiter
himself, apart from his concession to Thetis, was concerned for them,
and says[758], ‘They interest me even while they perish’ (μέλουσί μοι
ὀλλύμενοί περ).

[758] Il. xx. 21.

Again, in the meeting of the gods, he describes Hector[759] as dear to
them for his regular and abundant sacrifices, taking no note whatever
of his personal virtues. Of the three deities who were actively hostile
to Troy, Neptune, Juno, and Minerva, all had personal causes of
offence: the first, the fraud of Laomedon, which, however, was also an
offence against the moral law; both the others had the _spretæ injuria
formæ_, and Juno had also special predilections to gratify. The fall
of Ilios, and the death of Hector, are just: but the wonder is, with
the favourable relations that subsisted between the Trojans and the
father of gods, as well as men, which were in no respect impaired by
crime, how Hector came to die, or Troy to fall. While the fall of Troy
is justice, it does not seem to come about because it is agreeable to
justice, but rather as the result of the balance of force among the
gods, and of their remembrance of personal injuries. It appears all
along, as though it were the right-mindedness of the Poet which keeps
the wheels of the machine going, while those who should be the drivers
are at fault.

[759] Il. xxiv. 66. xxii. 170.

Again, in the Odyssey, the Providence of the poem, if we may so speak,
is on the side of Virtue; and a prosperous remainder of life, with
a happy death, is promised to the hero. Of this providence Minerva,
with the approval of Jupiter, is the wise and indefatigable organ. But
while the general idea of providence moves in the right direction,
the polytheistic formations work powerfully in a wrong one. David and
his companions ate the show-bread in the temple, and were blameless,
because it was to relieve a hunger that they had no other means of
satisfying: but even impending famine does not excuse or palliate the
offence of the companions of Ulysses, who use for food a portion of
the oxen of the Sun. The jealousy and cruelty of Neptune, the gifts
of Mercury to Autolycus, the savage crimes of Polyphemus, which do
not detract from his relation to a deity of the highest rank, the
disparagement of the highest human virtues in Calypso, the hostility
to human peace and happiness in Circe and the Sirens, place the divine
life of the Odyssey on a much lower level than the human and heroic,
and to a certain extent depress by their admixture the sound ethical
tone of the poem. All along, while Homer luxuriates, poetically, in the
abundance and brilliancy of his materials, he has morally to repair
their deficiencies, and to contend with and overrule their bias.

I cannot therefore but differ greatly from Nitzsch, who, in his Essay
on the Anger of Neptune[760], seems to elevate it to the dignity of a
providential resentment, and to conceive of the sufferings of Ulysses
as a punishment for a moral offence in the treatment of Polyphemus.
In this way I grant that a sort of parallel is established between
his case and the chastisements which Achilles receives in the Iliad,
through the death of Patroclus, and the surrender of the body of
Hector. Both heroes seem thus to stand upon a level: both favoured
children of the gods, honoured in the main, but chastised for their
faults. But even this seeming parallelism fails when we remember the
respective sequels. The curtain of the Iliad falls on the eve of the
premature death of Achilles: as that of the Odyssey is dropping over
the head of Ulysses, we perceive, in perspective, the picture of his
serene old age.

[760] Nitzsch, Odyssee, Vol. III. p. xiv.

As regards the important question of purity, the impression made on
my own mind in reading the poems of Homer is this: that, but for his
mythology, they would have been unimpeachable, at least in one point of
virtue; they would have been absolutely pure. Whatever is dissolute in
their moral tendency as regards this particular subject, evidently and
directly flows from that source. We rarely meet a sentiment that can
arouse anything like revulsion: the worst by far that has struck me is
the advice given to Achilles by his mother Thetis (Il. xxiv. 130), as
a mode of solace for his grief. The narrative of the Net of Vulcan in
the Odyssey is one, that Homer would have been far too modest to recite
with reference to human beings: and the only other passage, which seems
to be marked with a tinge of grossness, is that which relates to the
stratagem of Juno in the Fourteenth Iliad.

~_Its bearing as to poetic effect._~

We may, however, justly distinguish between the influence of mythology
on the morality of the Poems, and its operation with regard to poetic
effect. In this view the consequences of its introduction, though
mixed, are upon the whole highly favourable. There is indeed more or
less of descent from the usual grandeur of Homer, when we find his
deities mingling in actual conflict: because they never sustain in
the field of battle a part at all corresponding to their celestial
dignity and presumed power. Nor is the Theomachy proper, in the
Twenty-first book of the Iliad, among the most successful parts of
the poem. But the principal portion of their agency takes effect upon
the elements or other material objects, or upon animals, or upon the
human mind by way of influence and suggestion: and its tendency is in
general to impart interest and variety, as well as poetic elevation,
to the scenery and narrative. The plot of each epic is worked out
simultaneously in two different forms upon two different arenas: in
Olympus by divine counsel, and on earth by human effort and execution.
Yet no confusion results from the double action, while the play and
counterplay of the divine and human elements communicate a remarkable
elasticity to the movement of the poems. Their value is particularly
felt in the Iliad, which, from its limited scene and subject, lies in
danger of the sameness which, by this means among others, it on the
whole escapes. In particular, the relation between the assisting or
patron deities, and the hero or protagonist of each poem, is conducted
with great consistency and effect: but the most sublime uses of
supernatural machinery to be found throughout the poems are those in
which the traces of it are the most shadowy and faintly drawn. Take
for example the manner in which Achilles is sent out unarmed to the
field, and again, to the manner of his arming, in the Iliad: in the
Odyssey, the wonderful picture of divine displeasure and incumbent
malediction seeming to gather around and hem in the Suitors of
Penelope, concurrently with the preparations for human vengeance: as if
the scene were too dark for eyes like theirs to catch the true meaning
of these lowering signals, which give a gloomy but majestic sanction to
the terrible swoop of retributive justice alighting upon crime.

~_Its earliest and latest forms._~

It would be most interesting to pursue the comparison between the
believing or credulous infancy of Paganism as we see it in Homer, and
its cold and jealous decrepitude as we find it in the writers of its
latest period, when the light of the lamp was fading before the already
risen Sun.

In Homer we find the gods offering in their conduct every sort of
example of weakness, passion, and fraud. But they take an active
share in the government of the world, and men look up to them,
collectively or individually, with more or less of confusion indeed,
both intellectual and moral, but still truly and actually as exercising
some sort of providential government over the world. The mythology of
the time of Homer is a weak, faulty, and corrupt religion, I admit, but
still it is a religion, a bond which associates man with the unseen
world, and brings some, at least, of its influences to bear upon his
conduct and character. And if the Greeks of Homer were not shocked by
those immoralities of the Immortals which afterwards came to be thought
intolerable, it was not because they were more impure than their
posterity, for they were far purer: but the principle of belief in the
invisible was in them alike lively and inconsequent; and it was not yet
even conscious of a load which, in later times, with enfeebled force,
and an augmented critical activity, it could not carry.

In the time of Plutarch, about one hundred years after our Lord’s
nativity, we find the change complete. There was now no principle of
belief in men’s minds which could endure either the good or the evil
of the ancient system: and a quickened intelligence, as well as the
streaming in of rays from Revelation, had made the human intellect
more painfully alive to its moral solecisms, without rendering it
able to suggest a remedy. Accordingly, Plutarch relieves the Homeric
deities from the faults imputed to them by saying, that the Poet has
made use of these fictions to excite the fancy[761]: ἐκεῖνα πέπλασται
πρὸς ἐκπλῆξιν ἀνθρώπων. Or, again, it was, he says[762], because
the name of Τύχη, Fortune or Chance, was not yet in use, that men
referred to the gods what they did not know how to account for in
any other manner. Alas for mankind! sad is the state of those, who
must reckon the invention of that name among their blessings. In the
fact, however, that Homer and his age knew nothing of the word or the
idea, he discloses to us one of the many points in which infancy is
practically wiser than old age. Let us, Plutarch goes on to say, cure
these errors by other passages of the Poet in which he gives us the
truth, the ὑγιαίνουσαι περὶ θεῶν δόξαι καὶ ἀληθεῖς: but the passages,
which he cites with this view, are not passages where the deities are
represented as in any active relations of good towards the world: they
are simply those which exhibit them as living in a repose undisturbed
by care, while they leave for us a destiny of trouble: they are those
which relate to the θεοὶ ῥεῖα ζώοντες, the αὐτοὶ δέ τ’ ἀκηδέες εἰσίν.
Stripped of active vice, but yet not adorned with virtue, they become
merely cold and selfish, hopeless and inaccessible abstractions.

[761] De Aud. Poet. 20.

[762] Ibid. 23.

There is in all this a certain logical sequence. The starting point is
that of belief in a moral Governor of the universe, good himself, and
enjoining goodness upon others. But his own goodness fails, and his
agency among men for the original purpose becomes more and more feeble
and equivocal, while the human intellect, sharpened by discussion,
and puffed up with knowledge, or with the supposition and phantasm
of it, becomes more and more exacting: so that the abstract gods in
Cicero are (without doubt) far more elevated than the personal gods of
Homer. But they are mere works of art: and, after all, the personal
gods of Homer were the only ones that had been really worshipped by
men: and when their case becomes so bad that they can no longer be
exhibited to the people as rulers of the world, a refuge is found in
the Epicurean theory, which relegates them to a heaven of enjoyment and
abundance, and on pretence of mental ease denies them any prerogative
of intervention in human affairs[763]. The gain of more careful and
comprehensive theory is much more than counterbalanced by the practical
loss of the personal element, and therefore of the belief in a real
Providence, overseeing the affairs of men. So the next onward step
is to the doctrine of the Academicians. In the _De Naturâ Deorum_,
where that sect is represented by Cotta in the discussion with the
champions of the Epicureans and the Stoics, Cicero himself, and the
ruling tendency, if not opinion, of his day, are evidently exhibited
to us under Cotta’s name. The transition now made is from gods with a
sinecure to no gods at all: and Paganism ends in nullity, just as a
moving mass finds its final equilibrium in repose.

[763] Lucret. i. 57-62.

~_Its gloomy view of human destiny._~

Even while heroic Greece and its great Poet existed, the deepest
problems of our being were far too dark for man to penetrate. The
picture which I have rudely drawn, and which is not wholly a joyless
picture, was liable to be blackened, even for this world, by many a
storm of crime and of calamity; at the very best it was a picture for
this world only, for the mortality and not the immortality of man. But
that scene has its close: and most touching it is to see that, with
all his creative power, with all his imaginative brightness, with all
the advantage he derived from living in the youth of the world, before
mankind had fully sounded the depth of their own fall, or had begun to
accumulate the sad records of their miseries and crimes; even Homer
could not solve the enigma of our condition, or disperse the clouds
that gathered round our destiny. There are two profoundly memorable
passages in the poems, which have set their double seal on this truth.
One of them is in the Odyssey: it is a confession from the mouth
of that Achilles, in whose mind and person, as they are delineated
by Homer, our humanity has been carried perhaps to a higher point
of grandeur, than it has ever since attained. ‘Do not, illustrious
Ulysses, do not palter with me about death,’ says the mournful shade.
‘Rather would I serve for hire under a master, aye and a needy master,
upon the face of earth, than be lord of the whole world of the

[764] Od. xi. 488.

  μὴ δή μοι θάνατόν γε παραύδα, φαίδιμ’ Ὀδυσσεῦ·
  βουλοίμην κ’ ἐπάρουρος ἐὼν θητευέμεν ἄλλῳ
  ἀνδρὶ παρ’ ἀκλήρῳ, ᾧ μὴ βίοτος πολὺς εἴη,
  ἢ πᾶσιν νεκύεσσι καταφθιμένοισιν ἀνάσσειν.

A trail of heavenly light indeed so far played upon the heroic world,
that we hear of those few who had already been translated to the skies;
and of two more, one a son of Jupiter, already in the peaceful Elysian
plains, and the other Menelaus, who, as his daughter’s husband, was
likewise to be carried thither on his decease. But it is the mouth of
Achilles, the illustrious, the godlike Achilles, which here utters, in
tones so deeply mournful, the common voice of the children of Adam.

It was the very same conclusion which, as we find in another
place[765], this favoured mortal had formed on earth.

[765] Il. xxiv. 525.

The second passage is one spoken by Jupiter himself. As the commonest
epithets used by Homer for βροτοὶ, mortals, are δειλοὶ and οἰζυροὶ, so
the highest god lays down the law of their condition, describing it as
that than which there is nothing more wretched among all that live and
move upon the earth[766]:

[766] Il. xvii. 446. Compare Od. xvii. 129, where ἀκιδνότερον is

  οὐ μὲν γάρ τί πού ἐστιν ὀϊζυρώτερον ἀνδρὸς
  πάντων, ὅσσα τε γαῖαν ἔπι πνείει τε καὶ ἕρπει.

Such as we have seen, and so glorious, was the wisdom, and the valour,
and the beauty, and the power, that dwelt in man; but only that through
life he might, upon the whole, be paramount in woe above all meaner
creatures, and then that he might die in a gloom unrelieved by hope.
None have illustrated this piercing truth by contrasts so sharp as
Homer, between the chill and dismal tone of the general destiny of man
on the one hand, and on the other, the joy and cheerfulness which the
effort of an elastic spirit can for a time create. But the woe which he
could only exhibit, it was reserved for One greater than he, yet only
by sorrow and suffering, to remove.

~_The personal belief of Homer._~

I have forborne in this Essay from entering at large into the often
agitated question, whether Homer believed in the deities of whom he
speaks so largely. He may express his own childlike creed; and such
a creed by no means requires for its support in the individual mind,
that it should have been visibly represented by facts within its own
experience. Or he may use as the material of poetry that which, without
approving itself to his own heart, was, nevertheless, to his hearers
in general, a real and substantial system of religion. Nay, he might
even be dealing with what had ceased to be believed in his day, but
had still a retrospective life, because it had been the hearty, and
was still the conventional, worship of the people. The truth may lie
in, or it may lie between, any of these suppositions. The one thing
of which I feel most assured is, that he was not, as to his religion,
a mere allegorist when speaking of his Jupiter and Minerva, any more
than he was a mere hypocrite, when he ascribed occurrences in human
life to Providence under the name of ‘the deity,’ or ‘the deities.’ He
represents what either was or had been, for his people, a belief in the
unseen under particular forms, and what still in some way represented
a reality for them and for himself. It is this belief of which I have
spoken throughout, and which, under any of the suppositions I have
made, seems to me to warrant all the stress I have laid upon it.

To attempt a formal solution of the question, whether he believed or
not in the dress of his religion, as well as in the religion itself,
would, I fear, be frivolous. It is a case in some degree parallel to
the disputes whether Shakspeare adhered, in the controversies of the
sixteenth century, to the side of the Romish or the Reformed. Neither
Shakspeare nor Homer ought to be judged as if they had been theologians
_ex professo_. Both followed the law of their sublime art, and
represented in forms of beauty and delight, or of majesty and gloom, as
the case required, such materials as they found ready to hand. Critical
analysis, nice equipoises, strict definitions, were for neither the
one nor the other. But in the works of neither do the cold tones of
scepticism find an echo: and probably the mental frame of both with
reference to the substance of their religion may have been not very
different from that of the poor, the maidens, and the children of their


_On the traces of an origin abroad for the Olympian Religion._

Let me now attempt to divide the principal deities of Homer with
reference to their origin, or to the channel of their introduction into
Greece; premising, however, that all such classification of them is
admitted to be founded upon evidence, at best presumptive, and often
also slight.

The classes will be as follows:

1. Of those who were worshipped by the Hellenic and Pelasgian races,
and probably by all others known in the inner Homeric world.

These were,

  1. Jupiter.
  2. Minerva.
  3. Apollo.
  4. Latona.
  5. Diana.
  6. Neptune.

The three first of these may be considered as deities of immemorial and
universal worship. Neptune was far more Hellenic than Pelasgian: and
indeed his place in the list is doubtful.

2. Of immemorial Hellenic worship.

  1. Juno.
  2. Persephone.
  3. Pluto or Aidoneus.

3. Of established Pelasgian worship.

  1. Demeter or Ceres.
  2. Venus, more recent than the former.

4. Of worship introduced to the Greek races within the memory of man.

_a._ Brought in from Phœnicia, or through the channel of the Phœnicians.

  1. Hermes, or Mercury.
  2. Hephæstus, or Vulcan.
  3. Dionysus, or Bacchus.

_b._ From Thrace.


_c._ Paieon has no note of country, except in so far as he may be
connected with Egypt by the declaration that the Egyptians were of his

Ἠέλιος, the Sun, appears to be placed in connection, by the various
notes he bears, both with Egypt and with the Persian name.

All these deities were, with some others, more or less naturalized
among the Greeks within Homer’s lifetime. Themis was probably a pure
Hellenic creation, as Vesta seems to have been Pelasgian: the latter
exhibiting the genius of domestic order, the former, its fuller
development in political society. But Vesta is, though an Homeric idea,
not an Homeric goddess.

Now while Homer fails, or more probably avoids, to give us any direct
information about the derivation of the Greek races or deities, he
notwithstanding establishes by partial and incidental notices many
traces of exterior affinity, not always the less secure and trustworthy
because they are negative.

While going through the divinities in detail, I have remarked upon such
traits of their character, history, or worship, as appeared to connect
them with any particular origin; but the question remains, can we find,
through however rude a resemblance, any general model abroad for the
Olympian system, or, in the absence of such a model, any presumptive
evidence from Homer, which may serve to connect it with any national or
local root or roots in particular?

~_The Olympian Gods and the Ethiopians._~

It is well worthy of remark, that he has associated the body of the
Greek deities, as a body, with one, and one only, point, exterior to
the Greek nation. That point is the country of the Ethiopians.

Homer has shown a peculiar interest in these Ethiopians. They are
ἀμύμονες: an epithet which he appears to connect especially with purity
of blood. In the First Iliad, the whole body of the gods are absent
from Olympus for eleven days, to enjoy the sacrifices offered by that
people. In the Twenty-second Iliad, the statement is less express as
to time; but again they are apparently enjoying themselves in the same
quarter, during the funeral rites of Patroclus, and Iris is in haste
to go thither, that she may not lose her share. In the First Odyssey,
Neptune is among the same people for the same purpose, while the other
deities are in Olympus. In the Fifth Odyssey, he is coming from among
them, when he espies Ulysses on his raft. The time intervening is so
considerable, that we must presume the two last-mentioned passages to
refer to two separate visits.

The following points may be considered as established:

1. The Ethiopians, visited as above, must be supposed by Homer in the
main to worship the same body of deities as the Greeks.

2. The Ethiopians extend from the rising to the setting sun; but those
Ethiopians of whom Homer speaks particularly, are in connection with
sacrifices in the East; for the Solyman mountains[767], as conceived by
him, probably border upon Lycia, and they are on Neptune’s route[768],
from the Ethiopian country back to the sea, which, as I hope to show
elsewhere, runs along the double line of the Mediterranean and the

[767] Il. vi. 184.

[768] Od. v. 282.

3. They are further fixed in a southern country by their name, which
indicates darkness or swarthiness of countenance, and by the visit of
Menelaus to them in the course of his adventures, which lay exclusively
to the southward.

4. They are evidently distinguished by great liberality or high favour
in the sacrificial service of the gods.

5. They are defined to be by the Ocean, and thus in the farthest
situation to the South-east that was conceived of by Homer and the

6. At the same time, although they are the farthest men in that
direction[769], they are nowhere described as lying at a very great
absolute distance. They are simply τηλόθ’ ἐόντες.

[769] Od. i. 23.

Now it is not only possible, but on every ground likely, that in his
conception of the South-eastern Ethiopians, Homer mixed up together
various traditions, belonging to different places and nations. Even as,
in his conception of the Mouth of Ocean, which is with him always one
single mouth, he seems to have blended and amalgamated geographical
reports founded upon more than one original, or prototype, in nature.

The Solyman name has suggested to some critics a connection with the
Salem of the Hebrews. But the name is much more likely to be derived
from the Soliman Koh, a ridge of mountains running to the south-west
from Caubul, and sometimes defined as extending into Persia. The
liberality in sacrifice ill accords with the early Persian religion,
but finds a probable original in that of the Medes with their order
of Magians. But upon the whole, it would seem that Homer must have
had a reason for the peculiar prominence he has given to these
South-eastern Ethiopians, in connection with the gods of Olympus; for
the association, unless suggested by a reason, is neither natural, nor
in the manner of the Poet. Could it have been any other than this,
that he regarded their country, however indeterminate its place in his
imagination, as the original seat of the religion of his own, and that
he therefore referred it thither bodily without notice of details?
Now this would mean as the original seat, also, of the ancestors of
the Hellenic tribes. We are not, in the event of accepting such a
supposition, to imagine that he intended to make the assertion that the
Olympian system had been derived from Persia and Media as it stood,
but only to imply that there, according to national tradition, lay its
root. The Trojans, it will be remembered, have their not Olympian but
Idæan Jove: and the Ethiopians are the only foreign race, with whom he
associates Olympus and its band of Immortals.

I have already stated elsewhere grounds for supposing that the Achæans,
as they were immediately an Hellenic, were also primarily, as well as
the other Hellenes, a Persian race. We have seen the existence of the
Persian name in Greece, and its connection, according to Homer, with
what Homer thought the remotest East, by the shore of Ocean. We have
also seen its connection with the Sun, the prime deity of the Persians.
This visible head of creation, standing next to the Supreme Being, we
find that the Greeks speedily identify with their Apollo, who is so
prominent as the son of Jupiter, in dignity, in obedience, and in his
father’s favour, as to stand in a class entirely distinct from that of
his other sons.

On the one hand, we seem to find here matter confirmatory of the
Persian origin of the Hellenic tribes; and on the other, a general
indication of the derivation of the earliest Greek religion from a
certain part of the East. But still we must beware of any over-broad
inference. The religion, it is likely, grew largely as it travelled,
and was developed freely after it had reached its home in the Greek
peninsula. And it would be contrary to all reason to suppose that
Homer was in a condition to refer back to each of the Eastern races
their proper contribution towards the aggregate, though we may justly
suppose him able to draw some kind of line between the system as it
was flourishing in Greece, with all its additions, elaborations and
refinements, and the crude undigested materials as they had been
imported from abroad; perhaps we might say, between the system as he
found it, and the same system as he left it.

Considering, however, that Homer had a quasi-geographical knowledge
of Egypt, I do not suppose that that country enters at all into his
conception of the Ethiopians. If so, then the representation of
an unity of religion with the Ethiopians, affords a presumption,
conformable undoubtedly to such other presumptions as we have been
able to gather from the poems, that Homer did not regard Egypt as the
principal source of the religious system of Greece.

~_Herodotus on the Scythian religion._~

I do not pretend to find, in any ancient system handed down to us,
even a skeleton of the Olympian scheme; and I conclude it to be most
probable, that the Greeks had to form, or to reform, various members of
it, as well as merely to clothe and embellish them. Yet it appears well
worth while to refer to the account of the Scythian religion given by
Herodotus, whose works form the great depository of knowledge of this
kind beyond the borders of Greece.

The ordinary Scythians, it will be remembered, seem to be of the same
race with the Medes, and to form the stock from which the Pelasgians
separated to turn towards the south of Europe for settlements. They
lived in that pastoral state, anterior to tillage, which Mommsen
observes, through the forms of the Latin language, to have marked the
point before the severance[770]. From the sign of feeding on milk, the
Glactophagi and Hippemolgi of Il. xiii. 5, 6, would appear to belong to
them, and the peaceful habits of the Pelasgians are also represented
in the character that Homer gives, in the same passage, to their
neighbours the Abians.

[770] Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, vol. I. ch. ii.

The gods of the Scythians, according to Herodotus[771], were:

[771] Herod. iv. 59.

  1. Vesta.
  2. Jupiter.
  3. Earth, the supposed wife of Jupiter.
  4. Apollo.
  5. Celestial Venus.
  6. Hercules.
  7. Mars.

Even in this very late picture, we find a strong resemblance to what,
from the Homeric text, would appear to have been the primitive cluster
of the Pelasgian divinities. Earth is represented in Demeter, (Γῆ
μήτηρ,) who appears in Il. xiv. 326 as one of the wives of Jupiter. The
Celestial Venus may include traditions of Minerva, and of Artemis,--for
the Scythians called her Artimpasa,--along with those which came to be
represented in the Greek Ἀφροδίτη. All the deities, which from Homer’s
text have appeared to be especially Hellenic, are also, it will be
observed, absent from this list: Juno, Neptune, Aidoneus, Persephone,
Vulcan, and Mercury.

But there were among these Scythians a tribe, called the Βασιλήϊοι
Σκύθαι. It would seem plain from the name, that these must have held
among the Scythians a position, in great measure analogous to that of
the Hellenic tribes among the mass of the Pelasgian population. And
certainly it is not a little curious, that these kingly Scythians added
to the list of properly Pelasgian deities the worship of Thamimasidas,
a god of the sea, apparently equivalent to the Hellenic Poseidon.

Again, let us take the account given by Herodotus of the information
he obtained in Egypt about the Greek mythology. He states to us that,
with certain exceptions, the names of the Greek deities had been known
in Egypt from time immemorial. His exceptions are, Neptune and Juno,
the Dioscuri, Vesta, Themis, the Graces and the Nereids. The statement
may at least be accepted as good to this extent, that the deities here
named were not drawn from Egypt. They include, as will be seen, only
one personification of an idea which we have found cause to consider
Pelasgian, namely, Ἱστίη or _home_; with this Neptune and Juno, who
were Hellic deities; the Dioscouroi, representing in an early stage
the deification of national heroes; the Graces, or the impersonations
of ideas; and the Nereids, or the personification of natural objects.
All of these persons and processes we have already referred to the
influence of the Hellic tribes.

Upon the whole, we appear to have in these accounts a much clearer
representation of the contribution made by the Pelasgian part of the
nation to the Olympian system than we can find gathered elsewhere.
The Egyptian resemblances are chiefly isolated, though it may have
been from that quarter that Pelasgian Attica learned the name and
worship of the deity, which was afterwards developed into the Homeric
Pallas-Athene: but among these Scythians we appear to find a group, who
exhibit to us in combination nearly all that we have reason to believe
specially Pelasgian, and, with the obscure exception of Hercules,
nothing besides. While this group, as being Scythian, would have the
Arian country for its point of origin, it may still be probable that
other parts of the Olympian religion, besides the worship of Neptune,
such as the Juno and the Persephone in particular, had come from the
‘Kingly’ Arians of the hills.

Thus far as to the relation between the Homeric theo-mythology and
any religious system or combination to be found elsewhere. Let us
now consider how it stands with reference to each of the principal
elements, out of which the religions of the world were habitually

~_Four several bases of religious systems._~

There appear to be four leading forms in which, either single or
combined, religion has attracted, and more or less commanded, the
mind of man. It is scarcely needful to add that one alone of these
is genuine, and that the three others are essentially depraved, and
finally self-destructive.

The first is the worship of the Divine Being: of which the Holy
Scriptures form, down to the period with which they close, the
principal record.

The second is the worship of man; founded, of course, upon his
deification. Of this the Greek mythology affords the most conspicuous
and weighty instance.

The third is the worship of external and inanimate nature, which I
mention next, not because of its place in the order of ideas, but
because of its great extension and influence over races of vast
numerical strength, antiquity, and importance.

The fourth is the worship of the inferior creation, or of animate
nature in its lower ranks.

We have considered, in a former section, how far the Greek mythology
was indebted to the first of these sources, the true and pure one.

The second, or anthropophuism, appears to have formed its most proper
and distinctive characteristic. Further, it was the intellectual
rather than the carnal nature of man, which originally determined a
law for the construction of the Olympian system. The great traditive
deities were remodelled according to what Scripture calls the ‘lust of
the mind,’ long before the ‘lust of the flesh’ had touched them. We
see, too, that, of the deities of invention, those which were purely
Hellenic, such as Juno and Themis in particular, represent either noble
and commanding, or else pure, ideas, connected with the development
of human life and society; while it is generally in deities that have
not undergone a full Hellenic remodelling, that we see animal passion
prevail; such as Mars, Venus, Ceres, and Aurora.


The third basis of religion is admirably described, together with its
apology, and its condemnation, in the Book entitled the Wisdom of

[772] Wisdom xiii. 1-9.

  ‘Neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the
  workmaster; but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the
  circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven,
  to be the gods which govern the world. With whose beauty if they
  being delighted took them to be gods; let them know how much better
  the Lord of them is: for the first author of beauty hath created
  them. But if they were astonished at their power and virtue, let them
  understand by them, how much mightier he is that made them. For, by
  the greatness and beauty of the creatures, proportionably the maker
  of them is seen. But yet for this they are the less to be blamed;
  for they peradventure err, seeking God, and desirous to find him.
  For, being conversant in his works, they search him diligently, and
  believe their sight: because the things are beautiful that are seen.
  Howbeit, neither are they to be pardoned. For if they were able to
  know so much, that they could aim at the world; how did they not
  sooner find out the Lord thereof?’

And then the Wise Man proceeds to show, that far inferior, again, to
this, is the worship of mere images as gods.

The worship of the elemental powers enters, I think, only as a very
secondary ingredient into the Homeric or Olympian system: it is
everywhere surmounted and circumscribed by developments drawn from
tradition or from the principle of anthropophuism.

It is true that most of the great physical agents are either
personified by him, or else are in immediate connection with some
one of his deities: but there is every appearance that the Greeks
sometimes expelled, sometimes reduced and depressed the principle of
Nature-worship, in their adaptation of foreign materials to Hellenic

1. Jupiter and Neptune, as we have seen, preside over elements, but
they are not elemental. Their relations to air and sea are entirely
different from those of Vulcan to fire, and yet even he very greatly
transcends the dimensions of a merely elemental god. Their brotherhood
with Aidoneus, who is not elemental at all, indicates, together
with all other signs, that the air and sea are their respective
territories, and are not the basis of their divinity.

2. It seems quite impossible but that, if Nature-worship had been the
basis of the system, the Sun, as the visible king of nature, must
have had a prominent and commanding position in the system; whereas
his place in Homer is even less than secondary. Looking at the realm
of nature, to search out a varied organism, which would supply a
powerful apparatus of instruments operative upon man to a presiding
intelligence, the Greek naturally made Ζεὺς the king of Air. But had he
merely wanted a symbol by which nature itself was to speak, how could
he have forborne to choose the Sun?

3. There is, indeed, an extended use in Homer of the imagery of
Nature-Powers. But however prominent as poetry, this is altogether
subordinate as religion. His Nymphs and River-gods people the unseen,
adorn his verse, and even supply a kind of drapery to the scheme
of religious observances; but it is not by them that the world is
governed. And with them may very well be classed, as far as the present
argument is concerned, the crowd of Homer’s metaphysical impersonations.

4. That Neptune in particular is not properly an elemental power, seems
to be made clear by three things at the least:

a. He can act by land as well as sea; witness his building the wall of
Troy, and appearing as a warrior on the battle-field.

b. The θάλασσα, with which he is connected, is decidedly inferior, in
its merely elemental character, to Oceanus; yet Oceanus has no share in
the government of the world, and no moral personality, while Neptune
has equal dignity with Jupiter, and is not far behind him in strength.

c. The true elemental gods of the θάλασσα, it is plain, according to
Homer, are Nereus and Amphitrite; of whom the first is locally confined
to the depths of the sea, and the other is scarcely a person, and
cannot ideally be disengaged from the curly-headed billows.

5. In the Olympian Court, which is the real centre, according to Homer,
of the government of the world, there is scarcely to be found a pure
example of a Nature-power; there is no one leading deity, in whom that
idea is not wholly subordinate; and in many of the leading deities,
such as Minerva, Apollo, and even Juno, it is hardly to be perceived at

6. As to Juno in particular. When we compare the Greek with the
Eastern religions, it appears that, if the former had been conceived
in the same spirit as the latter, Juno ought to have been the earth,
continually impregnated by the heaven, and yielding those fruits which
would then stand as the proper results of her maternity.

But instead of this, in the great lottery of the universe, earth is
actually left out, and remains undisposed of. It never appears in
Homer, except in a formula of adjuration, in which we may naturally
enough look to find antique ideas; and this seems like a stray vestige
of another system, really founded on Nature-worship. But there Γαῖα
remains, so far as the Greeks are concerned, isolated and undeveloped.

Meantime, for the vegetative life of Earth, wedded to the Heavens, and
bearing herbs and fruits, the Greek mind substitutes the intelligent
life of a Queen-divinity, who with her husband becomes the nucleus of
the Olympian order, and marks the transition from elemental religion to

~_Secondary in the Olympian religion._~

There is then a greatly qualified sense, in which assent may be given
to the proposition, that the Olympian dynasty of Homer sits enthroned
upon the ruins of a more ancient Nature-worship, and the sense is
this: that, before Hellenism had an historical existence, there were
systems founded on Nature-worship in the east; that these systems were
tributary to the religion of Olympus, and that its framers made such
use of them as they found convenient.

But from Homer we are not authorized to believe that such a system of
Nature-worship ever preceded in Greece the Olympian system. On the
contrary, the Κρόνος and Ῥέα, the Oceanus and Tethys of Homer, appear
to be younger and not older than his chief Olympian gods; that is, they
appear to be metaphysical creations, called into being to supply an
ideal basis, a _matrix_ or mould, walled in with time and space, for
Jupiter and his wife and brothers to be cast in.

It is not before, but after the time of Homer, namely, in Hesiod, that
we see such development given to this pseudo-archaic system as can
alone allow it to be taken for the image of something that had really
existed as a religion. For example, it would be quite out of keeping
with the tone of Homer were we to find in him the sentiment which is
contained in a fragment of Euripides[773];

[773] Eurip. Fr. i.

  ὁρᾶς τὸν ὑψοῦ τόνδ’ ἄπειρον αἰθέρα;
  τοῦτον νόμιζε Ζῆνα.


We have still to consider the relation of the Olympian scheme to the
last of the four στοιχεῖα. The principle of brute-worship was so marked
a characteristic of the Egyptian idolatry, that it seems to lie at
the very foundation of the system. Perhaps we should be justified in
associating with this principle the inability of the Egyptians to
attain to any high conceptions of beauty. They scarcely could soar
in this respect above the standard of that which they regarded as a
tabernacle meet for divinity to dwell in.

The same principle appears to have found its way into Persia probably
at a late date, and from the Median, not the Eteo-persian, source
of the religious traditions of the country. Malcolm[774] has given
us the copies, from remains found in the country, of the Persian
representations, probably however late ones, of their divinities,
exhibiting strange mixtures of human form with that of the brute.

[774] Malcolm’s Hist. of Persia, vol. i.

It would therefore be wonderful if we failed to find in the Greek
mythology some traces, however faint, of an element that not only
existed in Asia, but displayed so much vigour there, as to have entered
deeply into the religion that even now sways a considerable portion
of its population, if not, indeed, to form the one really capital and
operative article of that religion.

Döllinger[775] has noted the points connected with the state and being
of animals, which might suggest ideas capable of being developed into
this repulsive system. Such are the unity and tranquillity of animal
life--it being borne in mind that domesticated animals were those
which supplied the chief type of deity. Such, again, is the instinct
of the future, bearing a nearer outward resemblance to foreknowledge
than would any anticipations founded on forethought, reasoning, and
experience. Above all, there seems to be force in the remark that man,
by his marked individuality, and by the freedom of the will, is, as it
were, disabled from becoming the mere organ of another existence. The
gods in assuming human form, assumed in a great degree human nature
also. But the passive and neutral nature of animals offered itself as
a medium without taste or colour, such as needed not in any manner to
alter or modify the powers of which it was to be the vehicle.

[775] Döllinger, Heid. u. Jud. b. vi. 130. p. 424.

Had the idea been in its origin that of an inherent sacredness of
animals as such, it is not probable that we should have seen such
extraordinary anomalies in its development as those which permitted the
same animal to be adored in one province of Egypt, and immolated in the

[776] Döllinger, ibid. 132.

~_Its vestiges in the Olympian religion._~

The grossness of brute-worship was completely refined away by the
Greeks during the process of transfer to their own mythology. The
vestiges of the system, and they are no more than vestiges, still
traceable in the Homeric poems, are apparently as follows:

1. I find the chief note of it in the extraordinary sacredness of the
oxen of the Sun: a sacredness inconsistent and inexplicable, if it be
tried only by the circumjacent incidents of the Odyssey, and by the
laws of the Greek mythology.

The offence of the crew of Ulysses consisted simply in this; that[777],
after exhausting every effort to maintain themselves, when they have
at length no alternative before them except that of starving, they
consumed some of the best among these oxen for food. They observed,
as far as they could, all the proper religious rites, but they used
leaves instead of barley, and water for wine, inasmuch as neither of
the usual requisites were forthcoming. They promised a temple also to
the Sun, to be built on their return, and to be enriched with abundant
votive offerings. Lastly, I think, any one who reads the manly and
just speech of Eurylochus, in which he proposes the sacrilege, will
judge that the sympathies of the Poet are with him. In this speech, he
states the necessity; he next proceeds to vow the erection of a temple,
and dedication of its ornaments in the event of safe return. Then he
concludes by declaring, that if vengeance is, notwithstanding, to be
taken on them, he for his part would far rather die once for all like
a man than famish in the solitary island. There is not in the tone of
the speech the slightest indication of impiety[778].

[777] Od. xii. 352-65.

[778] Od. xii. 339-51.

The terrible punishment inflicted was prefigured by extraordinary
portents. The empty hides of the animals crawled about[779], and the
flesh lowed on the very spits. Here we see at its climax the fine Greek
imagination, working upon the foundation supplied by the Egyptian
superstition, and extracting from the coarsest earthy matter the means
of true poetical sublimity.

[779] 394-6.

It is impossible to conceive a case, in which the offence committed is
more exclusively of the kind termed positive, or more entirely severed
from moral guilt, until we include the element to which the poems do
not expressly refer, of the elevated sanctity attaching to the animal
itself. The Homeric fiction is[780], that they were the playthings of
the Sun in his leisure hours. But to forbid the use of any of these
animals for food, even under the direst necessity, would have been
simply to caricature the nature of positive commands, in the very same
spirit as that which would have had, not the sabbath made for man, but
man made for the sabbath. Still, when once we let in the assumption
that these animals had essentially sacred lives, which might not
be taken away, then the offence becomes a moral one of frightful
profanation, and the vengeance so rigorously exacted is intelligible.

[780] 379-81.

I do not mean that Homer recognises that dogma which the Egyptians then
affirmed, and which at this present epoch, after the lapse of three
thousand years, has wrought myriads of Hindoos to madness. The religion
of Greece included no such idea, and the religious practice of the
Greeks wholly precluded it. But in this instance we see a part of the
Egyptian religion _in transitu_, in the very process of transmutation
that it was to undergo when passing into the Greek mythology, which
utterly repudiated its substance, but strove to retain an image of
it under poetic forms, betraying by their inconsistency their exotic

The consummation of the whole tale lies in this: that the vengeance
is not the mere personal act of the Sun, but is inflicted by Jupiter
himself on behalf of the whole Olympian Court, to which the appeal had
been already made[781].

[781] Od. xii. 377, 405, 415.

2. Another instance, confirmatory of the statement of Döllinger as to
the _rationale_ of brute-worship, is to be found in the curious passage
of the Iliad where Xanthus, the horse of Achilles, is endowed with
speech. The gift is from Juno, but the limit of the gift is carefully

[782] Il. xix. 407.

  αὐδήεντα δ’ ἔθηκε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη.

It was utterance that Juno gave, not intelligence. The matter to be
spoken was not a gift. The horse proceeds, evidently by a native
insight into the future, to intimate to Achilles his coming fate; at
first more darkly (v. 409); but when he comes nearer the point and
glances at a man as the ordained instrument of doom (416),

                            ἀλλὰ σοὶ αὐτῷ
  μόρσιμόν ἐστι θεῷ τε καὶ ἀνέρι ἶφι δαμῆναι·

then, I suppose lest the animal should proceed to particularize, and,
though prophetic yet unwise, should break the current of the hero’s
thought and action at the critical moment by naming Paris--the Ἐρινύες
are made to interfere; they restore the order of nature, and stay the
exercise of Juno’s irregular and abnormal gift.

3. The immortality of these horses is probably conceived in the same
spirit. We may the more easily understand it to be a poetical rendering
of the Egyptian belief in the divinity of many animals, when we
recollect that exemption from death is, with Homer, the one and perhaps
only essential characteristic of deity, so that his gods are ordinarily
defined by it as ἀθάνατοι.

4. We have another indication of relation to the same ideas, in the
assumption by deities of the forms of various birds: namely, by
Minerva, as Od. i. 320; iii. 372; Il. vii. 59; Od. xxii. 240; by
Apollo, Il. vii. 59; by Sleep, Il. xiv. 290; and by Ino Leucothee, Od.
v. 353. In this instance we again see the refining power of the Greek
imagination. It is only the forms of birds which are assumed by Homeric
deities: creatures more ethereal, though not more intellectual, than
the other brute races; and whose figure, when assumed, at once bestows
in visible form an attribute of high superiority to man, namely, the
increased facility and speed of locomotion.

5. One or two other traces may be suggested, but they are slighter
and more dubious. It is possible that Homer drew from this source the
Olympian horses of Juno (Il. v. 720, 768-72) and the sea-horses of
Neptune (Il. xiii. 23). A similar notion may be involved, when the
Poet makes Apollo stoop to feed the horses of Admetus in Pieria, and
the oxen of Laomedon on Ida (Il. ii. 766, and xxi. 448). The serpent
(δρακὼν) appears in Homeric portents as a symbol, but without peculiar

The horse was not one of the sacred animals of Egypt; and when Homer
placed it in such near relations with deity, as he has done in these
places and elsewhere, he may not only have indulged a personal
predilection, but he also may have been converting the crudity of
Egyptian material to the form and uses of the Greek religion, in the
normal exercise of his vocation.

One concluding word may be said in extenuation of the indignity which,
according to our ideas, attaches to the worship of the inferior
animals. In the worship of the elemental powers we see error, but in
the worship of beasts we see shame, and even brutality. Perhaps this
distinction may be due as much to pride as to pious susceptibility.

Over animals, man has thoroughly obtained the mastery; but Elemental
powers are still in many cases masters over us, and we lie like babes
in the lap of their strength and vastness. It does not appear clear why
we should consider the worship of that which is more highly organized,
and which comes half-way to intelligence, as essentially more shameful
than the worship of inferior organizations without life or instinct
of any kind. If it be said that, by its negations, inanimate Nature
becomes a fitter shrine of deity than the brutes, the same argument
applied to the brutes, compared with man, might equally avail to give
claims to brute-worship as compared with anthropophuism, against which,
notwithstanding, nature summarily revolts.


_The Morals of the Homeric Age._

We have now considered at some length the state and tendencies of
religion, both objective and subjective, among the Greeks of the heroic
age: let us proceed to attempt a sketch of their morality; which rested
in part upon acknowledged relations to the Olympian deities, but which,
it is clear, had likewise other supports and sanctions.

In general outline it may be thus summed up. An high spirited,
energetic, adventurous, and daring people, they show themselves prone
to acts of hasty violence, and their splendid courage occasionally even
degenerates, under the influence of strong passion, into ferocity,
while their acuteness and sagacity sometimes, though more rarely, take
a decided tinge of cunning. Yet they are neither selfish, cruel, nor
implacable. At the same time, self-command is scarcely less conspicuous
among them than strong, and deep, and quick emotion. They are in the
main a people of warm affections and high honour, commonly tender,
never morbid: they respect the weak and the helpless; they hold
authority in reverence; domestic purity too is cherished and esteemed
among them more than elsewhere, and they have not yet fallen into the
depths of sensual excess.

The Greek thanks the gods in his prosperity; witness Laertes. In his
adversity he appeals to them for aid; or, if he is discontented, he
complains of them; for he harbours no concealed dissatisfaction. Ready
enough to take from those who have, he is at least as ready to give to
those who need. He represents to the life the sentiment which another
great master of manners has given to his Duke of Argyle, in the ‘Heart
of Midlothian;’ ‘It is our Highland privilege to take from all what
_we_ want, and to give to all what _they_ want[783].’ Distinctions
of class are recognised, but they are mild and genial: there is no
arrogance on the one side, nor any servility on the other. Reverence is
paid to those in authority; and yet the Greek thinks in the spirit, and
moves in the sphere, of habitual freedom. Over and above his warmth and
tenacity in domestic affections, he prizes highly those other special
relations between man and man, which mitigate and restrain the law of
force in societies as yet imperfectly organized. He thoroughly admires
the intelligence displayed in stratagem; whether among the resources of
self-defence, or by way of jest upon a friend, or for the hurt or ruin
of an enemy; but life in a mask he cannot away with, and holds it a
prime article of his creed, that the tongue should habitually represent
the man[784].

[783] Scott’s Novels and Tales, 8vo Ed., x. 238.

[784] Il. ix. 312.

~_The moral sense in the heroic age._~

Before proceeding, however, to examine the morality of the Greek heroic
age, as to its particular sanctions, or in any of its applications to
the regulation of human conduct, we are met by a preliminary question:
had the Greeks any idea of a fixed and substantive rule of morals at
all? were they believers in goodness as apart from strength? did they
recognise a law of right as between man and man, or were their notions
of relative duty entirely founded on a more or less far-sighted
self-love, and on a prudential calculation of the consequences which
would follow to society, and to each individual, if the rights of
others were to be held in universal or in general disregard?

When we consider how hard it is to keep the moral standard high, even
after religion has placed before our view a Divine pattern for man to
follow, and how among the Greeks religion, first corrupted itself, had
already begun to pour out its own corruption upon morals, we shall not
venture to pitch our expectations very high: optimism and pessimism are
here alike out of place: we want the clear, dispassionate, and direct
discernment of the facts. And when we observe how, down to this day,
the epithets which ought to designate virtue only, and in particular
the word _good_, tend irresistibly to attach themselves to other gifts,
such as genius, rank, wealth, skill, and power, we must not hastily
conclude, from finding a similar use in Homer, that there was no idea
or standard of goodness except that belonging to preeminence in the
particular kind, according to which a clever thief is a good thief;
good, that is, by doing effectually what he professes to do, or good,
like the unjust steward of the parable, in respect of the intelligence
he displays, though evil in respect of the direction which he gives to

[785] Luke xvi. 1-9.

Homer, in speaking of different classes of society, uses the line[786],

[786] Od. xv. 323.

  οἷά τε τοῖς ἀγαθοῖσι παραδρώωσι χέρηες.

But after all we can translate this, without much verbal change, or any
departure from our own idiom, ‘such services as the lower orders render
to good society,’ or ‘to the better classes.’

Mr. Grote[787] says, that ‘the primitive import’ of the words ἀγαθὸς,
ἐσθλὸς, and κακὸς relates ‘to power and not to worth;’ and that the
ethical meaning of them is a later growth, which ‘hardly appears until
the discussions raised by Socrates, and prosecuted by his disciples.’
I ask permission to protest against whatever savours of the idea that
any Socrates whatever was the patentee of that sentiment of right and
wrong, which is the most precious part of the patrimony of mankind. The
movement of Greek morality with the lapse of time was chiefly downward,
and not upward. It is admitted, that what we may call the dynamical
sense of the epithets has held its ground in later times along with
their ethical signification: the important question to be determined
is, whether the latter signification was an improvement introduced by
civilization into the code of barbarism, or whether it indicates a
principle of human nature on its better, which is also its weaker side,
and one which we see, all along the course of history, struggling to
assert itself against the tyrannous invasion of other propensities and

[787] Grote’s Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 88 n.

The word ἐσθλὸς is found in combination with what is absolutely
vicious, in the remarkable case of Autolycus:

  μητρὸς ἑῆς πατέρ’ ἐσθλὸν, ὃς ἀνθρώπους ἐκέκαστο
  κλεπτοσύνῃ θ’ ὅρκῳ τε[788].

[788] Od. xix. 395.

But the meaning of ἐσθλὸς appears to be, one who excels; the
application of it to Autolycus is not at all unlike the commendation of
the unjust steward; and the epithet did not in the later Greek acquire
any essentially different force, or any exclusive appropriation to
moral excellence. Its use in Homer may be compared with his application
of δῖα to Clytemnestra. Yet it leans peculiarly to moral excellence.
For the ἀμύμων is opposed to the ἀπηνὴς, who is certainly a moral
delinquent; and the highest honour of the ἀμύμων is, that men proclaim
him ἐσθλός (Od. xix. 329-34).

Again, with respect to χείρων and its opposite κρείσσων, with other
words similar to both. In searching for the signs of a standard in its
own nature absolute, we can expect little from a class of terms, which
by their very structure bear witness that they are simply comparative.
Especially the etymology of χείρων, directing us to the word χεὶρ as
its root, exhibits force as its most commanding and essential idea.
Yet, when the aristocracy of Ithaca are called (Od. xxi. 325) πολὺ
χείρονες ἄνδρες, must we not admit that even in this word there inheres
a strong moral element?

~_Use of the words ἀγαθὸς and κακός._~

But as to the words ἀγαθὸς and κακὸς, the case is far more clear: and
here I ask, can it be shown that Homer ever applies the word ἀγαθὸς to
that which is morally bad? or the word κακὸς to that which is morally
good? If it can, _cadit quæstio_; if it cannot, then we have advanced
a considerable way in proving the ethical signification. For it is on
all hands admitted, that besides their proper sense, ἀγαθὸς and κακὸς,
like our _good_ and _bad_, have a derivative meaning, in which they
are employed to denote what is agreeable, or what is preeminent in its
kind, and the reverse respectively; qualities which bear an analogy
to goodness on the one hand, and to badness on the other, according
to the universal testimony of human speech. Now, if the use of this
derivative sense stops short, in the case of ἀγαθὸς, when it comes to
border on what is positively bad, and in the case of κακὸς, when it
comes to touch upon what is positively good, there must be a reason
for the abrupt cessation, at that point, of the function of the words;
and it can be none other than that nature herself revolts from a
contradiction in terms; as we never say a good villain, or a bad saint.
But the contradiction would not exist, unless the ethical sense were
inherent in the words.

Now, I venture to state, with as much confidence as can well exist in
the case of a negative embracing such a number of instances, that we do
find this limitation throughout the poems of Homer, in the secondary
use both of ἀγαθὸς and of κακός. In one passage there is at first sight
some obscurity in the meaning of the latter term, κακὸς δ’ αἰδοῖος
ἀλήτης[789]. Here however the context plainly shows it to be, ‘it will
not do for a mendicant to be shy.’

[789] Od. xvii. 578.

But the positive sense of both words can be clearly and indisputably
made out from a number of passages, of which I will quote a portion.

Although it is true, that in Homer the word ἀγαθὸς very often refers
more to the ideas of particular excellences and of power, than to that
of moral worth; yet in some passages we find a latent bias, as it were,
towards the last named idea, and in others we have a clear and full
expression of it.

As an example of the first, I quote the description of Agamemnon[790],
ἀμφότερον, βασιλεύς τ’ ἀγαθὸς κρατερός τ’ αἰχμητής, ‘A good king, and
a brave warrior.’ Now the word ἀγαθὸς here evidently has a special
regard to the moral element. Homer surely intends to describe, by
the epithets he applies to each of the two substantives, a special
excellence suitable to each character respectively. The goodness, so
to speak, of a warrior consisted in bravery: the goodness of a king,
partly indeed in prudence, but chiefly in justice, in mildness, and in
liberality. If ἀγαθὸς in this place meant merely ‘good in the virtue of
its kind,’ then it might as well stand with αἰχμητής as with βασιλεὺς,
and therefore the antithesis would be a bad and pointless one.

[790] Il. iii. 179.

In other cases the moral colouring of the term is full and indubitable.
Bellerophon[791], when he resists the seduction of the wife of Prœtus,
is ἀγαθὰ φρονέων. Jupiter, when incensed, is described by Minerva
thus, φρεσὶ μαίνεται οὐκ ἀγαθῇσιν[792]. To follow good advice is ὁ
δὲ πείσεται εἰς ἀγαθόν περ[793]. A man who is ἀγαθὸς καὶ ἐχέφρων,
is also the one who must necessarily have regard and affection for
his wife[794]. And Clytemnestra, before she was corrupted, had good
dispositions; φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν[795].

[791] Il. vi. 162.

[792] Il. viii. 360.

[793] Il. xi. 788.

[794] Il. ix. 341.

[795] Od. iii. 266.

The word κακὸς again, in a majority of cases, refers to defect or
calamity in things, or to poltroonery, or other baseness of that kind,
in persons: but it directly indicates moral badness in such passages
as the following. Leiodes pleads that he tried to keep the Suitors
from doing wrong, κακῶν ἄπο χεῖρας ἔχεσθαι[796]. Telemachus warns the
Suitors that the gods will turn upon them in wrath, ἀγασσάμενοι κακὰ
ἔργα[797]. Jupiter views such deeds with indignation, νεμεσσᾷται κακὰ
ἔργα[798]. And Juno reproaches Apollo for giving countenance to the
Trojans, as κακῶν ἕταρ’ αἰὲν ἄπιστε, where our finding faithlessness in
the immediate context, points to moral depravity as the signification
of the word κακῶν[799].

[796] Od. xxii. 316.

[797] Od. ii. 67.

[798] Od. xiv. 284.

[799] Il. xxiv. 63.

~_Use of the word δίκαιος._~

In the word δίκαιος, however, we have an instance of an epithet never
employed except in order to signify a moral or a religious idea. Like
the word _righteous_ among ourselves, it is derived from a source which
would make it immediately designate duty as between man and man, and
also as it arises out of civil relations. But it is applied in Homer to
both the great branches of duty. And surely there cannot be a stronger
proof of the existence of definite moral ideas among a people, than the
very fact that they employ a word founded on the observance of relative
rights to describe also the religious character. It is when religion
and morality are torn asunder, that the existence of moral ideas is

Minerva, in the form of Mentor, is pleased with Telemachus for handing
the cup first to her at the festival in Pylos, because it is a tribute
of reverence to superior age. For this he is called πεπνυμένος
ἀνὴρ[800] δίκαιος, and the idea is that of relative duty. Again, when
she advises him for a while to let the Suitors alone, it is ἐπεὶ οὔτι
νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι[801]; and they do not know the retribution that
hangs over them. In this case the meaning must be either ‘just’ or

[800] Od. iii. 52.

[801] Od. ii. 282.

In another case, where the very same phrase is employed, δίκαιος can
only mean ‘pious.’ ‘Jupiter,’ says Nestor, ‘ordained calamities for the
Greeks on their return, because they were not all either intelligent or

[802] Od. iii. 132-6.

            ἐπεὶ οὔτι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι
  πάντες ἔσαν.

‘Wherefore many of them perished’ (he continues) ‘through the wrath of
Minerva, who set the two Atridæ at variance.’ Now here it appears that
the original offence of the Greeks could only have consisted in the
omission of the usual sacrifices, while the passage has no reference
whatever to relative duties: δίκαιος therefore must refer simply to
duty towards the gods. And, however imperfect may be that notion of
divine duty which made it consist in sacrifice wholly or mainly, yet
plainly the neglect to sacrifice was for the Greeks of the heroic age
a moral offence, although it consisted only in the breach of a law
of the class termed positive. A passage yet more fatally adverse to
the position of Mr. Grote is, I think, that where Homer describes the
Ἄβιοι[803] as δικαιότατοι ἀνθρώπων. For there he appears to be speaking
of persons clearly less advanced in civilization, more rude, less
wealthy and intelligent, than the Greeks; and yet he applies to them an
epithet which proclaims them to have been, in his opinion, either the
most just, or the most pious of mankind.

[803] Il. xiii. 6.

~_Religion and morals not dissociated._~

Moreover, it does not appear that anywhere among the Greeks were
religion and morals as yet effectually dissociated. It is true that
the language of mere mythology treats the religious character of man
as established by bounty in sacrifice. But this is one of the points,
and a very vital one, in which the theistic system of the Greeks was
worse than their ethical instinct, and became, therefore, a positive
source of corruption. While the Scriptures of the Old Testament rigidly
controlled the propensity of man to substitute perfunctory observances
for the service of the heart, by saying, ‘to obey is better than
sacrifice,’ the Jupiter of the Greeks tells them, that to sacrifice
is better than to obey. And it is only in the mouth of a traditive
deity that we find any more elevated sentiment. To a certain extent,
indeed, yet not effectually, this representation may be qualified, if
we recollect that in these passages the deities of Olympus, conceived
according to the laws of anthropophuism, when they have occasion to
speak of human piety, speak of it in that aspect under which it was
peculiarly beneficial to themselves, but do not on that account intend
wholly to set aside its other parts, while they undoubtedly disturb
the scale of relative importance in the moral order.

But man, the handiwork of God, was less depraved than the idols which
were the handiwork of man. Among the Greeks, the pious man is nowhere
separated from the just or moral man. Not in words, for the question
of a stranger always is, whether men are, on the one hand, insolent,
fierce, _and_ unrighteous, or, on the other, hospitable _and_ pious to
the gods[804];

[804] Od. vi. 120.

  ἦ ῥ’ οἵγ’ ὑβρισταί τε καὶ ἄγριοι οὐδὲ δίκαιοι,
  ἠὲ φιλόξεινοι, καί σφιν νόος ἐστὶ θεουδής;

Nor are they in any instance separated in deeds. We hear of no
religious observances by the Suitors in Ithaca; but Nestor and Menelaus
are both found engaged in them. The wicked Ægisthus, having corrupted
Clytemnestra and gained the throne, then offered many sacrifices to the
gods in the hope of keeping it, and suspended many decorations in their
honour[805]; but he is not on this account spoken of with less horror,
nor indeed did this extorted profession save him from divine vengeance,
sent by the hand of Orestes. Nor does it appear that he had ever been
liberal in sacrifice before. The persons who are extolled, obviously
or expressly, on this ground in the Odyssey are, the illustrious
Ulysses[806], and the trusty Eumæus in his humble cottage[807]. So
that on the whole, as between Greek and Greek, regularity in divine
worship by sacrifice was neither taken for the substance of morality,
nor allowed as a substitute for it, but was a test of it, and was
habitually found in union with it. The connection is clearly set out in
the case of Eumæus[808]:

[805] Od. iii. 272-5.

[806] Od. i. 65-7.

[807] Od. xiv. 420.

[808] Ibid.

                                          οὐδὲ συβώτης
  λήθετ’ ἄρ’ ἀθανάτων· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν.

~_Moral elements in Sacrifice._~

Nor must we forget that, had it been otherwise, a constant moral
profanation, abhorred by the feeling of the time, would have been
involved. For sacrifice, as ought to be the case with all ritual, had a
moral character and adjuncts. It was either ordinary, as at the common
meal, or solemn. In the former case the surrender by man of a portion
of his food was a witness to God as the giver, and an expression of
thankfulness intelligible to an unsophisticated age. In the latter
case, and even in the former[809], prayer or thanksgiving were commonly
combined with the rite. The spirit of man, when he approached the
altar, was bowed down before the powers of heaven; and though it was a
heavy sin in nations who had a clear knowledge of God to lapse into the
practices of those who could but feebly grope (to use the language of
saint Paul[810]) for Him, yet the use of religious observances, when
it is ordinarily combined, as we find it combined in Greece, with the
possession in other respects of virtuous character, is in effect one of
the strongest testimonies to the existence of a substantive standard
of morals, which it associates at once with the unseen world, and not
with any mere reckoning of results, drawn from the life and experience
of man.

[809] Od. xiv. 423.

[810] Acts xvii. 27.

If then the Greeks of the heroic age recognised a real type of good and
evil in human action, the next question is, what were the motive powers
by which they were drawn towards the practice of virtue?

These powers proceeded from three sources.

One was a regard to the gods; to their rewarding the good, and
punishing the bad. Of this we have already treated in regard to some
of the most important points. The general proof rests upon almost every
page of the poems, especially as regards the punishment of the unkind,
unjust, and cruel. The Homeric representations of a future state
obscurely, but sensibly, add strength to the same class of sanctions.

The second was the voice of conscience, speaking for each man within
his own breast[811].

[811] Nägelsbach Hom. Theol. vi. 15.

The third was a sentiment ranging between reverence and fear, which
led to the performance of duty, and to the avoidance of crime, in
consideration of the general authority and established opinion of

We may consider those examples from bygone days, which are so often
adduced either for warning or for imitation, as belonging to this third
division of moral powers.

The finer forms of this third class of sentiments pass by imperceptible
shades into the second.

~_The principle of conscience._~

After his conquest of Hypoplacian Thebes, Achilles would not despoil
the body of the slain Eetion, σεβάσσατο γὰρ τόγε θυμῷ: accordingly
he burnt him, with his precious armour on. Now it would have been no
crime to strip him of this valuable booty, and therefore would have
drawn down no vengeance: but the high standard of his own chivalrous
feelings would not suffer the act. We have no reason to suppose that in
this instance he had any regard to the general opinion of the Greeks.
For as when they gathered round the corpse of Hector, every one of
them inflicted a wound upon it, and as it was the common custom of
the war to strip the dead of their arms, nothing can be more unlikely
than that the army would have resented a similar proceeding on the
part of Achilles towards Eetion. It was therefore to his own mind that
he deferred. Here there was a conscience not only taking notice of
the broader and, so to speak, coarser, outlines of duty, but likewise
exhibiting a refined and tender sense of it.

Again, Telemachus says, by way of appeal to the good feeling of the
Suitors themselves (Od. ii. 138.),

  ὑμέτερος δ’ εἰ μὲν θυμὸς νεμεσίζεται αὐτῶν,
  ἔξιτέ μοι μεγάρων.

In this place he seems to refer to the sense of right within each man,
and by no means to their regard for appearances as before each other;
while that, from which he exhorts them to abstain, is a purely moral
wrong. So Glaucus appears to aim at the individual conscience, when he
impresses on Hector and the Trojans the duty of recovering the body
of Sarpedon, lest the Myrmidons should deface his remains (Il. xvi.
544-6). Again, Menelaus addresses a similar exhortation to the Greeks,
and here expressly exhorts each person to feel and act for himself (Il.
xvii. 254),

  ἀλλά τις αὐτὸς ἴτω, νεμεσιζέσθω δ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
  Πάτροκλον Τρωῇσι κυσὶν μέλπηθρα γενέσθαι.

In one passage particularly, Telemachus distinguishes with great
clearness the three kinds of motive by the terms proper to them
respectively (Od. ii. 64-7);

                            (1) νεμεσσήθητε καὶ αὐτοὶ,
  (2) ἄλλους τ’ αἰδεσθῆτε περικτίονας ἀνθρώπους,
  οἳ περιναιετάουσι· (3) θεῶν δ’ ὑποδείσατε μῆνιν.

That is νέμεσις, for the self-judging conscience: αἰδὼς, for human
opinion: and lastly, fear, in regard to the divine wrath.

The existence of the moral standard within a man is also, I think,
very strongly implied in the word ἀτασθαλίη, which is applied to deep,
deliberate, habitual, or audacious wickedness. For when it is intended
to let in any allowance for mere weakness, or for solicitation from
without, or for a foolish blindness, then the word ἄτη is used. And
I doubt whether, in any one instance throughout the poems, these two
designations are ever applied to one and the same misconduct. It is
certainly contrary to the general and almost universal rule. The
ἀτασθαλίη is something done with clear sight and knowledge, with the
full and conscious action of the will: it is something regarded as
wholly without excuse, as tending to an entire moral deadness, and as
entailing final punishment alike without notice and without mercy.
Nothing can account for the introduction into a moral code of a form
of offence conceived with such intensity, and ranked so high, except
the belief that the man committing it had deliberately set aside that
inward witness to truth and righteousness, supplied by the law of our
nature, in the repudiation of which the universal and consentient
voice of mankind has always placed the most awful responsibility, the
extremest degree of guilt that the human being can incur.

~_Regard for general opinion._~

The high place assigned throughout the poems to public opinion as a
moral check is visible at every turn. And this check applies variously
to various classes. With the most abandoned, like the Suitors, it is
feeble; and is only invoked on special occasions, as when Telemachus
combines it, in the passage lately cited, with the other moral
sanctions. Even Paris is represented as quite beyond the reach of it:
and Helen meekly wishes, that if the gods had determined she should
live, she could have been the husband of a man more open to the
influence of the public sentiment[812]:

[812] Il. vi. 349-51.

  ὃς ῥ’ ᾔδη νέμεσίν τε καὶ αἴσχεα πόλλ’ ἀνθρώπων.

But upon characters less frivolous and less corrupt, this power acts
with great efficacy: so much so, that Phœnix says he was restrained,
when in his passion, from killing his father by some benevolent deity,
whose mode of proceeding was, we shall perceive, very remarkable: for
the suggestion he made to Phœnix with such good effect was, not that he
would be punished by the gods for the offence, but that he would become
an offence and scandal among men[813]:

[813] Il. ix. 459-61.

  ἀλλά τις ἀθανάτων παῦσεν χόλον, ὅς ῥ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
  δήμου θῆκε φάτιν, καὶ ὀνείδεα πόλλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
  ὡς μὴ πατροφόνος μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν καλεοίμην.

The δήμου φάτις, or public opinion, weighs even with the matron
Penelope among the motives to her virtuous and heroic conduct; and the
maid Nausicaa, no less circumspect than artless, finds in the φῆμις
ἀδευκὴς, the bitter gossip, of Scheria, an apology for desiring Ulysses
not to enter the city in her company[814].

[814] Od. vi. 273-7.

But the sentiment of regard to general opinion comes out in other and
yet finer forms as a practical regulator of conduct in the heroic age.

Perhaps we might venture to rely upon the uses of the single word
αἰδὼς, with the cognate verb and adjective, in Homer, for proof
that the condition of the Greeks of his age was a condition of high
civilization, in that which constitutes its most essential part,
namely, that which relates to the affections and passions of man; the
expansion by moral forces of the one, and the compression of the other.

Shame, in all its many forms, has more than one pervading
characteristic to mark it as an agent alike powerful and delicate in
its influence upon human conduct.

First, it essentially involves this idea: that while it refers to an
external standard, independent of ourselves though able to act upon
us, still the power thus invoked is one altogether distinct from the
idea of force. So sensitive indeed is the feeling of shame, that at
the first moment when force comes into view, it alters its nature,
and passes into fear. That which it apprehends is something, which
dwells only in the ethereal region of opinion; and yet this, by the
fineness of its appreciation, it converts into an agent effective both
to excite and to restrain. Thus it exhibits to us the human spirit
guided by silken reins, and in this way bears emphatic witness to the
high training, by which alone it can become susceptible of so gentle a

Secondly, it embraces not only the character of acts as they are
in themselves or appear to us, but also the aspect which they will
naturally present to others. It therefore essentially involves the
recognition of a high form of relative duty: it obliges us, in
regulating the whole tenour of our conduct, to make the feelings of
others an element in our own decisions. This principle of a mutual
regard, not confined to certain positive acts of relative duty, but
pervading the whole course of moral action, lies at the root of all
genuine and high civilization.

Shame must have reference to some standard exterior to ourselves, and
it therefore tends towards uprooting the law of selfishness. In one
of its highest forms, the one perhaps most familiar to us in Homer,
it is termed self-respect. But self-respect does not mean a regard to
self: it means a virtuous regard to a standard established by adequate
consent and authority, and owned, not set up, by the individual
conscience; together with a determination that ‘self’ shall be made to
conform to it.

The φθορὰ of this sentiment is what we term false shame: which does
evil, or refrains from good, in submission to a depraved standard of
opinion external to us, and in defiance of our own knowledge of right.
This kind of shame is treated with no respect in Homer: for examples
of it we must look to Amphimachus and Leiodes, two better-minded but
complying Suitors, who end by perishing with the rest.

~_The force and forms of αἰδώς._~

The numerous forms of the sentiment of αἰδὼς in the heroic age are
a proof of the large and varied development to which it had already

How fine a feeling is that according to which, as with Homer, the bold
men are also the shamefaced ones! as in his line,

  αἰδομένων δ’ ἀνδρῶν πλέονες σόοι ἠὲ πέφανται.

This line, as it is repeated, seems to have the character of a γνώμη in
the poems[815].

[815] Il. v. 531. xv. 563.

The most marked and frequent use of αἰδὼς is in the sense of
self-respect as applied to military honour and bravery. The words
αἰδὼς, Ἀργεῖοι, which are employed as an exhortation to fight,
constitute one of the Homeric formulæ. Homer does not permit this use
of the word to the Trojans: but once it is employed for his gallant
favourites, the Lycians. (Il. xvi. 422. xvii. 336.)

Once, indeed, the term is applied to Trojans, but this is in the
converse of the usual sense. It would be αἰδὼς, a disgrace, says Æneas,
were we to let Troy be taken through our want of manhood. This is a
lower signification. And again, as we shall see, the established
formula of military incitement for the Trojans is different and less

[816] Il. vi. 112 et alibi.

Sometimes αἰδὼς is an excess of deference, or what we might call
scrupulosity; the feeling which carries the fastidious observance of
some right sentiment towards others up to the point where it threatens
to interfere with a public or other clear duty. So Telemachus begs of
Nestor, ‘tell me the truth,’

  μηδέ τί μ’ αἰδόμενος μειλίσσεο, μηδ’ ἐλεαίρων[817].

[817] Od. iii. 96.

In the Doloneia, Agamemnon, fearful that Diomed will choose Menelaus as
a companion out of deference, says, ‘Do not let αἰδὼς influence you:
choose the best man.’ Sometimes it is compassion, or ruth; as when
Achilles, before the ransom, is said to show no αἰδὼς towards the body
of Hector. But here αἰδὼς includes the idea of shame and self-respect.
Sometimes it is reverence towards a superior, as in Od. xiv. 505, and
in αἰδοῖος applied by Helen to Priam in Il. iii. 172. In this manner it
becomes applicable to the sentiments a man should entertain towards the

  ἀλλ’ αἰδεῖο θεοὺς, Ἀχιλεῦ[818].

[818] Il. xxiv. 503.

And this is a very remarkable use of the term, because Priam certainly
does not mean to urge upon Achilles a dread of the gods, but something
quite distinct. Sometimes it is applied by a superior to an inferior;
and means ‘his or her dues,’ as among the Immortals, where Jupiter says
to Thetis, that he reserves the honour of the ransom for Achilles,

  αἰδῶ καὶ φιλότητα τεὴν μετόπισθε φυλάσσων[819].

[819] Ibid. 111.

It may also be felt towards an inferior among men: Agamemnon is
exhorted to feel it towards Chryses[820], for it is not a personal
sentiment, but implies an object, outside the mere person who is the
immediate occasion of it. So Achilles is intreated to revere (αἴδεσθαι)
Lycaon, a vanquished and suppliant enemy[821].

[820] Il. i. 23. 377.

[821] Il. xxi. 74.

Sometimes it signifies the constitution of a special relation, over and
above the general bond between man and man. A person’s αἰδοῖοι are his
relations, friends, guests, and the like. Even so a wanderer is αἰδοῖος
to the gods (Od. v. 447). Sometimes it means purely mental modesty, as
in Od. viii. 171, ὁ δ’ ἀσφαλέως ἀγορεύει αἰδοῖ μειλιχίῃ; he speaks with
that engaging bashfulness and careful indication of respect for his
audience, which forms a principal grace of the orator. Sometimes the
physical, as well as mental, quality of modesty; as when αἰδὼς kept the
goddesses at home (Od. viii. 324). Sometimes, again, simply shyness; as
when Telemachus is exhorted by Minerva to put away αἰδὼς in Od. iii.
14; or as in the phrase κακὸς δ’ αἰδοῖος ἀλήτης; ‘it will never do for
a beggar to be shy.’

No finer shading of sentiment, I think, can be found in the language of
the most civilized nations, nor any case so remarkable of a high and
tender, and at the same time largely developed state of feeling at a
time when material progress was so partial, rude, and slight. And of
the vital importance of this element of the Greek moral code, we find a
proof in the representation of Hesiod, who gives it as a characteristic
of his iron, or post-Homeric, age, that αἰδὼς along with νέμεσις had
fled from the earth.

~_Other cognate terms._~

There are other words, the use of which in Homer approximates
occasionally to the sense of αἰδώς. The nearest of them is σέβας (as
in Il. xviii. 178), with its verb σέβομαι; which, as we have seen, is
sometimes applied simply to an internal standard recognised by the
conscience. But in Il. iv. 242, οὔ νυ σέβεσθε; seems to be equivalent
to οὐκ αἰδεῖσθε; or ‘for shame.’

The word νέμεσις, too, is sometimes used in a sense akin to that of
αἰδώς: as when Neptune exhorts the Greeks, ἐν φρεσὶ θέσθε ἕκαστος αἰδῶ
καὶ νέμεσιν (Il. xiii. 121): compare vi. 351. Again, in Od. i. 263, ii.
136, xxii. 40. But this sentiment is usually half way between αἰδὼς
and fear, because what it apprehends, though it is not force, yet
neither is it simple disapproval; rather it is disapproval with heat,
disapproval into which passion enters. It contributes, however, to
complete a very remarkable picture of the human mind.

The comparison between Greeks and Trojans, or Europeans and Asiatics,
will prove, we shall find, greatly in favour of the former as to most
parts of their morality. We have now to touch upon a feature in Greek
manners which is unfavourable.

~_Homicide in the heroic age._~

With regard to the practice of homicide, the ordinary Greek morality
was extremely loose; while we have no evidence of a similar readiness
for bloodshedding among the Trojans: and enough is told us of Trojan
life and manners to have probably brought out this characteristic, had
it existed.

Among the Greeks, to have killed a man was considered in the light
of a misfortune, or at most a prudential error, an ἄτη πυκινὴ[822],
when the perpetrator of the act had come among strangers as a fugitive
for protection and hospitality. On the spot, therefore, where the
crime occurred, it could stand only as in the nature of a private
and civil wrong, and the fine payable was regarded, not (which it
might have been) as a mode, however defective, of marking any guilt
in the culprit, but as, on the whole, an equitable satisfaction to
the wounded feelings of the relatives and friends, or as an actual
compensation for the lost services of the dead man. The religion of the
age takes no notice of the act whatever[823].

[822] Il. xxiv. 480.

[823] Friedreich, Realien, sect. 139.

The ordinary practice, we learn from the blunt speech of Ajax to
Achilles[824], was to accept the established fine upon the loss even
of a brother or a son, if offered, and then to let the slayer remain
unharmed. If he would not pay, or if the relations would not accept
the payment, the alternative was flight: but it does not appear that
this entailed any loss of character, perhaps rather otherwise. It
was, however, the most common issue of such an affair, and, as such,
it furnishes Homer with a simile. Priam, appearing before Achilles by
surprise, is compared to a man who, having had the misfortune to kill
somebody, appears unexpectedly in a strange place[825].

[824] Il. ix. 632-6.

[825] Il. xxiv. 480-2.

~_Eight instances in the poems._~

We will proceed to examine the cases of homicide recorded in the poems,
which are alike numerous and remarkable.

I. Medon[826], the illegitimate brother of Oilean Ajax, migrates from
Locris to Phylace, having, in the usual phrase, killed a man, ἄνδρα
κατακτάς. This man was a kinsman, not improbably a brother, (for
γνωτὸς may mean brother, as in Il. iii. 174, and xxii. 234), of his
‘stepmother,’ as she is called; that is, of Eriopis, the lawful wife of
his father. And yet he retains or improves his position in Phylace, and
appears, in the Thirteenth Iliad, as the commander of all the Phthians
except the Myrmidons.

[826] Il. xiii. 659-7. xv. 333-6.

II. Theoclymenus[827], of the prophetic family of Melampus, suddenly
makes his appearance before Telemachus, when he is about to embark
from the Peloponnesus for Ithaca. He inquires of Telemachus who he
is[828]; and, on finding that the youth is not in his own country, but
a stranger, he says, ‘So am I: I have killed a man, and am flying from
the vengeance of his family: they are powerful, and I am in fear lest
they should take my life.’ Telemachus immediately promises to take
him on board, and entertain him hospitably. He does not seem at all
shocked at the intimation he has received. He does not think it worth
while to ask the fugitive, whether he killed the man wantonly, or under
provocation. But he forthwith assigns to him the place of honour[829]:

                      πὰρ δὲ οἷ αὐτῷ
  εἷσε Θεοκλύμενον.

[827] Od. xv. 220 _et seqq._

[828] Od. xv. 260.

[829] Ibid. 285.

III. The next is an instance not less remarkable than the one last
named. Tlepolemus, the son of Hercules and Astyoche, kills Licymnius
the maternal uncle of his father, and his own grand-uncle. The sufferer
is, moreover, in his old age, or he could hardly be the grand-uncle
of an adult person; and no plea or palliation is mentioned for the
act. The children and grandchildren of Hercules prepare to levy war
upon him: but so far is he from having suffered in character for what
hardly can have been other than a barbarous and brutal action, that he
is enabled to raise a large body of emigrants, who accompany him to
Rhodes. When distributed there in three settlements, they are blessed
by the peculiar favour of Jupiter; and Tlepolemus appears before Troy
as the commander of the Rhodian contingent[830].

[830] Il. ii. 658-70.

IV. Again, the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus had its origin
in the circumstance that Menœtius delivered over his son into the
protection of Peleus, because, being a youth, he had quarrelled with
another youth, the son of Amphidamas, over a game of dice, and had
slain him, νήπιος, οὐκ ἐθέλων, as the Poet says; that is, of course,
without malice prepense[831]. This is the more worthy of notice,
because it is evident that the character of Patroclus, partly perhaps
for the sake of contrast with that of Achilles, and therefore of relief
to it, is meant to be represented as one of peculiar gentleness[832]; a
quality in which no one of the great Greek chieftains, except Menelaus,
can compete with him.

[831] Il. xxiii. 86.

[832] Il. xix. 282-300.

V. In the Fifteenth Iliad, Hector slays Lycophron, son of Mastor, when
he is aiming at Ajax. This was an inhabitant of Cythera who had quitted
his country for homicide, ‘but whom,’ says Ajax to Teucer, ‘we honoured
as if he had been a beloved parent[833].’

[833] Il. xv. 429-40.

VI. Again, the case of Epeigeus is remarkable; for he had been lord of

  ὅς ῥ’ ἐν Βουδείῳ εὐναιομένῳ ἤνασσεν
  τὸ πρίν·

But having slain a cousin, apparently also of the higher order, he had
to fly to Peleus and Thetis for protection[834].

[834] Il. xvi. 571.

VII. In the Thirteenth Odyssey, Ulysses, after being deposited in
Ithaca, gives a fabulous account of himself to the disguised Minerva,
in which we may be sure that he includes nothing which was deemed
essentially dishonourable. In this account he represents himself as
a fugitive from Crete on account of homicide. Orsilochus, the son of
Idomeneus, had endeavoured, as he says, to deprive him of his share
of the Trojan booty: for this cause he waylaid him by night, took
away his life without being perceived by any one as he was returning
from the country, and then embarked, to avoid the consequences, in a
Phœnician ship[835].

[835] Od. xiii. 256-75.

VIII. An anonymous Ætolian, having slain a man, fled to Ithaca, visited
Eumæus, and as a matter of course was entertained, nay petted, by him;
ἐγὼ δέ μιν ἀμφαγάπαζον (Od. xiv. 379-81).

Even this great number of instances do not so fully illustrate the
familiarity of the practice, and its thorough disconnection from the
idea of moral turpitude, as the mode in which it furnishes the material
of general illustration or remark. When Homer desires to represent
on the shield of Achilles the ordinary form of public business in an
assembly, he chooses a trial for homicide[836]. And so Ulysses, when
explaining to Telemachus the formidable difficulties with which, after
the slaughter of the Suitors, he has to contend, observes that those
whom he has slain were the very flower of the community; whereas, in
ordinary cases, a man flies his country after having put but a single
person to death, and this even though he be one who has few to take up
his quarrel[837].

[836] Il. xviii. 479.

[837] Od. xxiii. 118-22.

Now if we knew these facts concerning the Greeks of the heroic age,
and knew nothing else, we should at once conclude that they were an
inhuman and savage people, who did not appreciate the value of human
life. But this is not so. They are not a cruel people. There is no
wanton infliction of pain throughout the whole operations of the Iliad,
no delight in the sufferings of others. The only needless wounds are
wounds given to the dead[838]; a mode of action which imputed nothing
brutal or degrading, in times when mankind had not yet learned from the
Christian Revelation the honour due to the human body.

[838] Il. xxii, 371.

It is not then mere savageness, and the low estimate put upon life,
which determines the view of the heroic age with respect to homicide.
And if not, then it can only be an unbalanced appreciation of some
other quality, such as courage, which was commonly implied and
exhibited in such cases.

~_Why viewed with little disfavour._~

It seems as though the display of force and spirit of daring, which
accompany crimes of violence in a rude age, had such a value in the
estimation of the early Greeks, as to excuse proceedings which would
otherwise have been visited with the severest censure. We shall find
reason to believe that Paris may have had a certain credit in their
eyes for carrying off Helen by the strong hand, which went to redeem
or mitigate his adultery, and breach of hospitable rights. This idea,
which is undoubtedly startling, is supported by the strange narrative
of Hercules and Iphitus. Iphitus was the possessor of certain fine
mares. Hercules, determined to possess them, visited him, received his
hospitality, slew him, and carried off the animals. Now it may indeed
be the mixed character of Hercules, which places his εἴδωλον in the
Shades, while he is himself among the Immortals; but still the scale
is cast on the whole in his favour. Yet surely the story of Iphitus
exhibits a crime of the blackest dye; and the only palliation of it
that is conceivable seems to lie in this, that he probably did not use
stratagem, but proceeded by main force. The crime of Ægisthus, the
blackest in the poems, appears to derive its highest intensity from the
fact, that he slew Agamemnon like an ox at the stall, in the friendly
feast itself, without notice or the opportunity of defence, and by a
plot deliberately laid. Such is the effect of all the three passages in
which this outrage is described[839]. The most favourable supposition
which the case of Hercules admits is, that he came for plunder, and put
the possessor of the horses to death, without premeditation, upon his
refusal to yield them up; and that such an act, though a proper object
of divine resentment, was yet not black enough to destroy his title to
honour and a celestial abode[840].

[839] Od. i. 35-7. iv. 524-35. xi. 409-20.

[840] Od. xxi. 22-38. xi. 601-4.

We will now pass on to a kindred subject.

~_Piracy in the heroic age._~

Thucydides has stated that in the earlier ages of Greece the practice
of piracy was alike widespread and honourable: οὐκ ἔχοντός πω αἰσχύνην
τούτου τοῦ ἔργου, φέροντος δέ τι καὶ δόξης μᾶλλον[841]. In support
of this opinion he refers to the questions then usually addressed to
strangers on their arrival in a country; such as that by Nestor to the
pseudo-Mentor and Telemachus, in order to learn what their business
was, or whether they were pirates[842];

[841] Thuc. i. 5.

[842] Od. iii. 72.

                      ἢ μαψιδίως ἀλάλησθε,
  οἷά τε ληϊστῆρες, ὑπεὶρ ἅλα, τοίτ’ ἀλόωνται
  ψυχὰς παρθέμενοι, κακὸν ἀλλοδαποῖσι φέροντες;

Now I think that the last line seems to explain the favourable view
which was taken by the Greeks of the practice of piracy. For it
combined with the hazards of navigation, then so much more serious than
at present, the chance of desperate encounters. It appealed, in the
very highest degree, to the spirit of adventure; a spirit congenial
especially to the earliest youth of a people full of unsatisfied and,
so to speak, hungry energies. The mischief inflicted was inflicted
on ἀλλόδαποι, on those with whom there was no close tie, either as
compatriots or as ξεῖνοι. Now we must bear in mind that the law which,
even in the time of Thucydides, governed the relations of the Greek
tribes among themselves, during the period of their high civilization,
was a permanent or ordinary state of hostility suspended from time
to time by conventions for so many or so many years[843]. The same
principle, applied to a period when political organization was less
mature, and when men lived rather in knots and companies than in
states, involves the Homeric view of piracy. And that view, entertained
in such times, should occasion far less surprise, than our finding
Thucydides inform us that the same system continued throughout whole
divisions of Greece in his day; καὶ μέχρι τοῦδε πολλὰ τῆς Ἑλλάδος
τῷ παλαιῷ τρόπῳ νέμεται, περί τε Λοκροὺς τοὺς Ὀζόλας, καὶ Αἰτώλους,
καὶ Ἀκαρνᾶνας, καὶ τὴν ταύτῃ ἤπειρον[844]. The gains of the pirate’s
life were in some sense fairly balanced by its dangers. The piracy
of that age was not like piracy in ours, the strong and well-armed
waiting for the feeble and defenceless; it was a game of more even
chances, and the real resemblance for it is to be found, not among the
Algerine corsairs, not even in the Highland clans sweeping down from
the mountains upon the Lowland Scots, but most properly in the more
even-handed forays of the border warfare between England and Scotland.

[843] It seems, however, possible that the sense of the ἑκατονταετεῖς
σπονδαὶ might be the same as that which we attach to a lease for nine
hundred and ninety-nine years.

[844] Thuc. i. 5.

There is indeed yet a higher authority for this kind of piracy, than
that to which Thucydides has referred. Ulysses, when he has destroyed
the Suitors, considers, in conversation with his wife, not only how he
is to preserve his remaining property in live stock, but how he is to
replace what his enemies have destroyed. Part he thinks his subjects
will make up to him by presents, but great part he will himself obtain
by freebooting[845];

[845] Od. xxiii. 357.

  πολλὰ μὲν αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ληΐσσομαι.

We can hardly, I think, restrain the meaning of the word to the booty
of legitimate and successful war. Sometimes, as in the case of the
Cicones, piracy is scarcely distinguishable from war; but Ulysses
fairly relates of himself a piratical attack upon Egypt, which can
leave us no room for scruple in supposing, that he might without
hesitation think of doing again what he thought it worth while to
pretend that he had done before. Both these last-named instances may
serve, however, to show that, in times when preparedness for war was
habitual, the pirate took no great advantage in such attacks as these.
For with the Cicones Ulysses had the worst of it at last[846]; and in
the case of Egypt, according to his fable, the whole party were taken
prisoners or slain. Kidnapping, however, such as that of Eumæus stolen
in his childhood, is not, I presume, to be regarded as equal in honour
to freebooting with the strong hand, thus apparently stamped with the
sanction of Ulysses.

[846] Od. ix. 59.

And yet this model-man had been stung to the very quick by Euryalus
in Phæacia, who said to him, ‘You do not look like a man to compete
in athletic games; but rather like one of the captains of merchant
vessels, who looks after the cargo and makes rapacious profits[847]!’

[847] Od. viii. 159-64.

Nor, after all, is this so strange as at first sight it might appear;
for the Phœnicians, the merchants of those days, were also kidnappers
and slave-dealers: and if their transactions were not, like those of
the pirates, uniformly bad, they were, when exceptionable, double-dyed
in guilt, because they involved fraud as well as robbery.

~_Mixed view of it in the poems._~

Again, as to piracy, it by no means appears that it was attended with
respect, nor is the language of the poems quite uniform regarding it.
In the νεκυία of the Twenty-fourth Odyssey, and also in that of the
Eleventh, the shade of Agamemnon calls freebooters of this description
ἀνάρσιοι ἄνδρες[848]. The Cretan piracy of the pseudo-Ulysses in Egypt
is mentioned as an act of ὕβρις, an outrage deservedly punished by
Jupiter[849]. On the other hand, Greek trade, like Phœnician, embraced
kidnapping. At least the Taphians carried away from her country the
Phœnician nurse, who in her turn carried off the young Eumæus.

[848] Od. xxiv. 111.

[849] Od. xiv. 262.

Upon the whole, after allowing liberally for the masculine character
and redundant energies of the Hellenic people, we shall best explain
their favourable view of piracy by remembering the near relation it
then bore both to war, which we know may be just and honourable, as
well as to trade, which we regard as in itself both innocent and
beneficial. Since Homer’s time the character of war has been softened,
and that of trade has been elevated, almost immeasurably; while that of
piracy has been lowered; hence there is now a wide gulf, where there
was then scarcely even a seam discernible; and Homer might have sung
the expressive words of Goëthe in Faust,

  Krieg, Handel, und Piraterie
  Dreieinig sind sie, nicht zu trennen.

We may also, I think, find among the Greeks a tendency to family
feuds, beyond certain limits, of which the poems do not afford any
instance on the Trojan side.

Of these, two have already been noticed among the homicides. Medon
kills his father’s wife’s kinsman. Tlepolemus kills his grand-uncle.
But also Phœnix for a quarrel flies from his father’s home and settles
in Dolopia. Phyleus, the father of Meges, for a similar reason migrates
to Dulichium[850]. Eurystheus, as the great grandson of Jupiter, is of
reputed kin to Hercules his son; but persecutes him through life with
the imposition of cruel and endless toils. Meleager has a fierce feud
with his family, which is recited by Phœnix as a warning to Achilles.
Bellerophon is expelled from Greece by a family quarrel. Ægisthus
himself is the cousin of Agamemnon.

[850] Il. ii. 629.

As with families, so with communities. The pre-Troic legends are almost
invariably legends of the internal raids and wars of Greece. They were
a people of the strong and the red hand, marvellously combined with
high refinement, true love of art and song, and an unexampled political

But although the Homeric age had not ceased to be as yet an age of
violence, it was as far as possible from being one marked by a general
sway either of unbridled appetite, or of ungovernable passion; and if
it is sometimes mistakenly supposed to have borne this character, the
appearances which produce the illusion are due only to the fact, that
vice of all kinds then went straight forward to its work, and had not
yet learned, in the school of the wisdom of this world, how much it
might gain from method, order, and reserve.

~_Temperance in the heroic age._~

We have ample signs of that regard for temperance, bodily as well as
mental, which Homer united with his thoroughly convivial spirit. By
the mouth of Ulysses, he reprehends even that mild form of excess in
wine which does no more than promote garrulity (Od. xiv. 463-6). When
the Greeks were about to suffer great calamities on their return, he
makes them proceed in a state of drunkenness to the Assembly[851].
When Elpenor dies by an accidental fall, he assigns drunkenness as
the cause, and takes care to inform us that he was young, and neither
valiant nor sensible[852]. Ulysses encourages the brutal Polyphemus
to drink, with a view to his own liberation. And the proceedings of
the monster, when intoxicated, are certainly more revolting than
those of Stephano, if not than those of Caliban, in the Tempest.
Again, though it is certainly true, that the most vivid denunciation
of excess in liquor to be found throughout the poems is put into the
mouth of the Suitor Antinous[853], yet I think it was plainly meant
to be accepted as spoken in earnest, and as expressing the sense of
Homer. Wine, we thus learn, caused the Centaur Eurytion to lose his
ears and nose. In no single case does the Poet permit liquor to act
in the slightest degree upon the self-possession of his heroes, or
of any character whom he esteems; or represent them as either doing,
or leaving undone, any act through excess in drink[854]. The only
allusion to its influence, in connection with a practical result, is
one very faint, and perfectly innocent. It is when, dissatisfaction
having prevailed among the Grecian kings and army, as we see from the
speech of Diomed, Nestor recommends Agamemnon to treat his Council to a
supper, before proceeding to obtain their advice; and observes to him,
that he can readily do it, for he has wine and all other provision in
abundance. The intention apparently is to lay the ground for concord,
not in excess, nor even here in hilarity, but at least in amicable
humour[855]. To the Immortals, indeed, it is conceded to abide at the
banquet for the livelong day, but not to men; for the pseudo-Mentor
observes to Nestor in the Third Odyssey, that it is not seemly to sit
long at the sacred (that is, regular and public) feast[856].

[851] Od. iii. 139.

[852] Od. x. 552-60. xi. 61.

[853] Od. xxi. 293-304.

[854] Even Scott, one of the most refined, as well as greatest, among
imaginative writers, once allows his hero to commit himself grossly in
point of manners, under the influence of intoxication. It is in Rob Roy
(chap. xii.), at Osbaldiston House.

[855] Il. ix. 69.

[856] Od. iii. 335.

It is much to be regretted that Horace, who in many cases has shown
himself an accurate reader of Homer, has in this point grossly mistaken

  Laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus[857].

[857] Hor. Ep. i. 19, 6.

And this summary character, unfortunately false, has saved men the
trouble of collecting the true one from the works of the Poet himself.

~_Self-control in the heroic age._~

When we turn to another form of temperance or self-government, namely,
that which we call self-control, we find it eminently exemplified
among Greeks. It appears as a pervading and national quality in that
silence on the field of battle, which they combined with such an inward
energy of determination. In Ulysses it is carried up to its perfection.
Perhaps the only occasions on which he even seems to relax it are those
of the answer to Euryalus in the Eighth Odyssey, and the reply to
Agamemnon in the Fourth Iliad.

So much, however, of emotion as he suffers to escape him in those
passages, only serves to heighten the effect of his words, not to make
him deflect by one jot or tittle, though in undoubted warmth, from
the true rule of reason. But we find this quality not only developed
powerfully in a pattern-man like Ulysses; it is also strongly infused
into such a warrior as Diomed. This is proved by the manner in which
he bears[858] the chiding of Agamemnon on his rounds, and rebukes
Sthenelus for having been provoked into a petulant answer. At the
same time it is highly illustrative of the national character, that
this young and ardent warrior, who could thus bear a reprimand on
the field, stored up the recollection of it within his breast: and
when, at the beginning of the Ninth Book, Agamemnon showed his own
faint-heartedness by advising the abandonment of the enterprise, then
Diomed, having watched his opportunity, recalled the circumstances, and
quietly but effectively replied upon Agamemnon[859]. Nay more, perhaps
the most striking proof of the abundance of this high quality among
the Greeks is in the very case where it is on the whole outmatched by
the passion that it ought to master, namely, in the case of Achilles.
There is something indeed sublime in the manner in which, many times
over, when he feels the tide of wrath rising within him, he eyes his
own passion, even as a tiger is eyed by its keeper, and puts a spell
upon it, so that it dare not spring. Thus it is, when he parleys with
himself on the question, whether he shall end the strife with Agamemnon
by slaying him, in the Assembly of the First Book. And thus again,
when he feels that the words which Priam has incautiously let drop
are kindling a flame which, if further fed, would consume the aged
and sorrowing suppliant, he is conscious of the rising tempest, and
before it has swollen to such force as to disturb his self-command, he
sternly, but yet not unkindly, bids him to desist. It is by trying them
in mental conflicts like these, that Homer shows us of what mettle his
Greek kings were made. It would be curious to draw out a list of the
multitude of words in which he describes, under every possible aspect,
the power and habit of self-control. But perhaps one of his slightest
is also one of his most effective touches. The applause of the Greeks
in their Assembly is always described by a word different from that
employed to describe the very same indication of feeling by the
Trojans. He usually says ἐπὶ δ’ ἴαχον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν for the Greeks: for
the Trojans it is ἐπὶ δὲ Τρῶες κελάδησαν. The Greeks shout forth their
energetic approval: the Trojans clatter, as if their tongues could not
bear restraint.

[858] Il. iv. 411-18.

[859] Il. ix. 32-49.

Yet we must not suppose, either on account of the self-command of
the Greeks that they were apathetic, or on account of their frequent
homicides that they were inhuman, and savagely indifferent to the
infliction of pain on their fellow-creatures.

Neither the Greeks nor the Trojans appear to have been ferocious in
the treatment of enemies. The extreme point to which they go is that
of giving no quarter: but they never, even in the exasperation of
battle, inflict torture with their weapons. The immolation of twelve
Trojan youths over the dead Patroclus is doubtless cruel: but it falls
far short of what the passions of war have produced in other times and
countries. With the manner of inflicting death, passion never has to do.

~_Savage ideas occasionally expressed._~

An inquiry, however, which seems to be most curious, is suggested by
the passages in which Hecuba wishes that she could eat Achilles[860],
Achilles that he could find it in his heart to devour Hector[861];
and again in which Jupiter[862] suggests to Juno, that nothing could
satiate her spite against Troy so well as if she were to eat up Priam
and his whole family. For the question arises, how is it that we find
these remains of the wildest savagery in company with a refinement of
manners and feeling, which the poems very frequently exhibit, and which
even reaches in some important points to a degree never exceeded in any
country or any period of the world?

[860] Il. xxiv. 212.

[861] Il. xxii. 345-8.

[862] Il. iv. 35.

The answer I presume to be this: that the civilization of the Greeks
in the heroic age, though as to the mind it was really a very high,
was yet also a very young civilisation. Its path was marked and
decided, but it had not had time to travel far from barbarism. It was
not safe by distance, nor defended by the ramparts of long tradition,
nor strengthened by the force of continuing bent, and consolidated
immemorial habit. The Homeric gentleman, with his civilization, stood,
in respect to barbarism, like him who voyages by sea,

                  digitis a morte remotus
  Quatuor aut septem;

only the thickness of the plank is between him and the wilderness which
he has left: and if passion makes a breach, the mood of the wild beast
reappears. We may account for the cannibalish observation of Jupiter by
the fact that he has no self-control in Homer: but that of Hecuba is to
be accounted for on the principle I have endeavoured to describe. So
it is with Achilles: and so, too, when the wise Ulysses, slaughtering
the wretched women of his household who had erred, seems tinged for
once with a flush of barbarism. When _we_ let loose the tiger within
us, his range is limited not by any force springing from our own will
or choice, but by the strong dikes and barriers of social wont, and by
habits of thought as well as action, which have been accumulated by the
long labours of many successive generations of mankind.

We have already[863] noticed something that will well bear comparison
with this state of things in the reports which are made to us
respecting modern Persia, the cradle in all likelihood of the family of

[863] Achæis or Ethnology, sect. x. p. 570.

At the same time it is to be borne in mind that this cannibalism,
of which we have glimpses in Homer, in the first place was limited,
even in speculation, to enemies; and in the second place, existed in
speculation only. Of this we have pretty strong proof from the case
of the crew of Ulysses in the Twelfth Odyssey. They did not touch the
oxen of the Sun, until death from hunger stared them in the face. Then
Eurylochus made a manful speech on the subject of the option before
them, between dying on the one side, and the slaughter of some of the
animals on the other. But those circumstances of the last extremity,
to which they were reduced, were the very circumstances in which the
fortitude even of Christians[864] has given way, and with respect to
which no prudent man dares to pronounce a judgment upon persons that so
succumb. Yet there is not in the case before us the slightest hint at
a resort to this most horrible remedy.

[864] The awful ‘Ugolino’ of Dante ends with the line

  Poscia più che ’l dolor potè ’l digiuno.

I am free to own that I cannot dismiss from my mind the suspicion that
what the poet means to convey to us in these darkly veiled expressions
is the devouring of the wretched children by their parent. (Inferno,
xxxiii. 75.)

~_Not unfamiliar to later Greece._~

Besides the circumstance, that in Homer the cannibal _dicta_,
abstractedly so shocking, are the mere words of phrensied passion, and
that there are no corresponding acts, we have to observe that the Poet
is never found exhibiting the sentiment of joy in connection with the
positive infliction of suffering upon an enemy. It was by no means so
among the later Greeks. Too many instances might, indeed, be supplied
of the increase of cruelty with the lapse of time.

Homer, again, has nowhere made woman to be even the sorrowing minister
of justice: as if he felt that there was a radical incompatibility
between the proper gentleness of her nature, and the use of the sword
of punishment. But in the Hecuba of Euripides, after the aged matron,
exasperated by the treacherous murder of her son Polydorus, has put to
death the two children of the assassin Polymestor, and has likewise put
out his eyes, he addresses to her these words (v. 1233),

  χαίρεις ὑβρίζουσ’ εἰς ἔμ’, ὦ πανοῦργε σύ·

and she, no way shrinking from the imputation, replies

  οὐ γάρ με χαίρειν χρὴ, σὲ τιμωρουμένην;

In one place Homer has taken an opportunity of showing us, what he
thinks of the principle of exultation over fallen enemies. When
Euryclea is about to shout over the fallen Suitors, Ulysses, though he
has not yet ended the bloody work of retribution, gravely checks her.
‘It is wrong,’ he says, ‘to exult over the slain. These men have been
overtaken by divine providence, and by their own perverse deeds: for
they regarded no human being, noble or vile, with whom they had to do:
wherefore they have miserably perished in their wickedness.’ The whole
tone and language of this rebuke, so grave and earnest as it is, and
more sad even than it is stern, is worthy of any moral code that the
world has known.

~_Wrath in Ulysses and in Achilles._~

There is indeed a terrible severity in the proceedings of Ulysses
against the Suitors, the women, and his rebellious subjects. But
it is plain that the case, which Homer had to represent, was one
that required the hero to effect something like a reconquest of the
country. It is also plain that Homer felt that these stern measures
would require a very strong warrant. Hence without doubt it is, that
the preparations for the crisis are so elaborate; the insults offered
to the disguised master of the palace so aggravated; and the direct
agency of Minerva introduced to deepen his sufferings. Hence, again,
when the incensed warrior is about to pursue with martial ardour the
flying insurgents, his eagerness is mildly marked as excessive, and
is effectually checked by the friendly but decisive intervention of
Jupiter. Some critics have objected to this passage, and have argued
that it could not be genuine. They surely must forget, that Homer does
not seek to present us in his protagonists with a faultlessness which
would have carried them out of the sphere, such as it was conceived
by him and by his age, of life either divine or human. Both Ulysses
and Achilles may err. But where they err, it is in measure and degree.
Ulysses is the minister of public justice, and of divine retribution.
But he is composed, like ourselves, of flesh and blood, and he carries
his righteous office, in a natural heat, to the verge of cruelty. Then
the warning voice is vouchsafed to him, and he at once dutifully obeys.
And is, then, a thing like this so new and strange to us? And has
neither our philosophy nor our experience of life taught us that there
are no circumstances, in which a good and just man runs so serious a
risk of becoming harsh and cruel unawares, as when he is hurried along
by the torrent of an originally righteous indignation?

Even so with Achilles. He is, no more than Ulysses, merely vengeful,
but he resents a wrong done to justice, to decency, and to love, in
his person. Upon the stream of this resentment he is carried, until
it threatens to become a torrent. Then, by an admirable design, he is
chastised in the yet deeper passion of his soul, his friendship for
Patroclus; and so is recalled within the bounds of his duty to his
suffering countrymen.

But in both cases the foundation of conduct is just and sound: by
neither is any sanction given to the principle which the Gospel
rebukes, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ For a wrong done
to principles of public morality and justice is in each case alike the
thing chiefly resented, although in each case the person who resents it
is also a person that had greatly suffered by it.

Again, we should misunderstand Homer’s picture of the Greek character,
if we conceived that he left no room in it for those accesses of
emotion, with respect to which it may be difficult to say whether they
contributed most to its strength or its weakness, while it seems clear
that they are in near association with both.

The Poet’s intention does not oblige him to place his protagonists
beyond the reach of human infirmity, as we see in the stubborn wrath
of Achilles, and in the awakened keenness of Ulysses for the blood of
his rebellious subjects[865]. And though he never exhibits them as
vicious, still, in the case of Ulysses, as well as in that of Achilles,
he has introduced into his picture great quickness of temper, which is
indeed nearly, though not necessarily, connected with sensitiveness
of honour. On two occasions in particular is this observable: in the
sharp answers namely of Ulysses, first to Agamemnon, who on his circuit
accuses him of remissness in military duty[866]; and secondly to the
θυμοδακὴς μῦθος of Euryalus[867], who has taken him for a πρήκτηρ or
merchant, and a rogue to boot.

[865] Od. xxiv. 526, 37.

[866] Il. iv. 350.

[867] Od. viii. 185, 162.

~_The Domestic affections._~

The point in which the ethical tone of the heroic age stands highest of
all is, perhaps, the strength of the domestic affections.

A marked indication of the power of this principle among mankind is
to be found in its prevalence even among the Olympian deities. For
its appearance there has no relation to divine attributes properly so
called; it is strictly a part of the mythology; a sentiment copied
from the human heart and life, and transferred to these inventive or
idealized formations. Indeed we always find it in connection with that
in which they are most human, namely, the indulgence of their sensual
passions, and the results of that indulgence in their human progeny. It
is not, therefore, among the higher or traditive deities that we find
the sentiment; it does not exist in Apollo or Minerva, whose love is
always of a different kind, and is grounded in the gifts or character
of the person who is the object of it, as for instance, the great
Ulysses[868], or, in a smaller sphere, the skilful Phereclus, who built
the ships of Paris[869]. It is in Jupiter over Sarpedon, in Neptune for
the blindness of his brutal son Polyphemus, in Mars over Ascalaphus,
in Venus about Æneas; and these two last are the two deities whose
ethical and intellectual standard is the lowest of all[870].

[868] Od. iii. 221.

[869] Il. v. 59.

[870] Il. xvi. 431, 59. Od. i. 68-71. Il. xv. 115; and Il. v. 311-17.

When we come down to earth, we find the sentiment strong everywhere.
Among the Trojan royal family, where there is but little sense of the
higher parts of morality, this feeling is intense alike with Priam
and with Hecuba. The latter is not passionate, she is ἠπιόδωρος[871].
Yet on the death of Hector we see her become a tigress, and wish she
could devour the conqueror[872]. Ulysses chooses for the title by which
he would be known that of the Father of Telemachus[873]. It is true
indeed that, then as now, the imperiousness of bodily wants made itself
felt; and it was then more ingenuously acknowledged. Hence Telemachus,
attached to his father, when he explained the double cause of his grief
and care to the Ithacan assembly, first named the death or absence of
his father, but then proclaimed as the chief matter, the continuing
waste and threatened destruction of his property[874]:

[871] Il. vi. 251.

[872] Il. xxiv. 212.

[873] Il. ii. 260.

[874] Od. ii. 48.

  νῦν δ’ αὖ καὶ πολὺ μεῖζον ὃ δὴ τάχα οἶκον ἅπαντα
  πάγχυ διαρραίσει, βίοτον δ’ ἀπὸ πάμπαν ὀλέσσει.

And the gist of his complaint against the Suitors was, not their
urging Penelope to marry, but their living upon him while prosecuting
the suit[875]. But then this is a father, whom he has never known or
consciously seen. The Shade of Achilles in the nether world is anxious
upon one subject: it is that he may know if old Peleus is still held
in honour. In another he is also deeply interested; it is the valour
of his son: and the gloom of his chill existence is brightened into an
exulting joy, when he learns that Neoptolemus is great in fight[876].
The mother of Ulysses died neither of disease nor of old age, but of
a broken heart for the absence of her son[877]. But the most signal
proof of the power of the instinct is in its hold upon the self-centred
character of Agamemnon, which, as a general rule, leaves no room in
his thoughts for anything, except policy alone, that lies beyond the
range of his personal propensities and especially his appetite for
wealth. But when the gallant Menelaus, ashamed of the silence of his
countrymen, accepts the challenge of Hector[878], Agamemnon seizes
him by the hand, and beseeches him not to run so terrible a hazard.
And again, in the Δολώνεια, when Diomed has to select a companion,
Agamemnon, in dread lest his choice should fall on Menelaus, desires
him to take not the man of highest rank, but the most valiant and
effective companion for an enterprise of so critical a kind. His motive
was apprehension for the safety of his brother[879]:

[875] Ibid. 50 and seqq.

[876] Od. xi. 494, 538.

[877] Od. xi. 198-203.

[878] Il. vii. 92-119.

[879] Il. x. 234-40.

  ὣς ἔφατ’, ἔδδεισεν δὲ περὶ ξανθῷ Μενελάῳ.

The war too is full of the most pleasing instances of attachment
between brothers; Ajax and Teucer, Glaucus and Sarpedon, and many
other instances less illustrious, might be quoted. It is the sad end
of Polydorus which at the last works up Hector into the most daring
heroism; and again in the Odyssey, the advantage is set forth of having
brothers, who defend a man while he is living, and avenge him when he
is dead[880].

[880] Od. viii. 585, xxiv. 434, and xvi. 97, 115-21.

And hence it is that, even though Greeks were hot of head and ready
of hand, we find no instance where, in consequence of a broil, one
member of a family inflicts violence or death upon another of the same
household. The horrible idea of parricide, and the execration with
which public opinion would brand such a crime, restrain Phœnix at the
very height of his passion from laying hands upon his father[881]:

[881] Il. ix. 461.

  ὡς μὴ πατροφόνος μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν καλεοίμην.

Directly that we pass beyond the household and its affections
intertwined by habit, the aspect of the case alters. Out of six
instances of unpremeditated homicide in Homer, three[882] are committed
upon relations by blood or by affinity, though not very near ones.
Medon, the bastard of Oileus, kills a relation of the lawful wife.
Tlepolemus the son of Hercules kills his grand-uncle Licymnius.
Epeigeus of Budeum kills his cousin.

[882] Il. xiii. 695-7. ii. 658-70. xvi. 57.

~_Relationships close, not wide._~

This marked line of distinction, between the homicides of crime
and the homicides of misfortune, illustrates another point in the
structure of Greek society. Relationships do not appear to have been
reckoned by them as subsisting beyond a rather narrow range. We cannot
trace any defined idea of kin more remote than the first cousin. The
lexicographers treat the term ἀνέψιος as capable of a wider sense; but
the only individuals named as ἀνέψιοι by Homer, whose relationships
we can follow, are first cousins: namely, Caletor son of Clytius, and
Dolops son of Lampus, both first cousins of Hector[883]. There are also
persons named in the poems, whose consanguinity we can trace, while it
is nowhere noticed by the Poet: for instance, Eumelus is first cousin,
once removed, to Nestor. Priam and Anchises are second cousins: Æneas
and Hector third. These relationships are never referred to. Thus
then society is not arranged in clans, but in tribes, united by the
general sense of a common name, a common abode, a common history, a
common religion, and a remote sense of a common tribal stock, without
any sense of personal affinity in each individual case. Again, it is
curious to observe that the xenial relation was not less vivacious
than that of blood. The tie of blood subsists in the second generation
from the common ancestor; and Diomed and Glaucus similarly own one
another as ξεῖνοι, because two generations before Œneus had entertained

[883] Il. xv. 419, 22; 525, 54.

[884] Il. vi. 215.

~_Purity in the heroic age._~

The elevated and free social position of womankind in the Homeric
times of itself implies a great purity of ideas respecting them. This
subject, however, will receive a separate discussion.

There is a passage of Athenæus which conveys to us a tradition of
no ordinary beauty, and effectually severs for us ideas and objects
which only a corrupt bias has associated. He tells us that Zeno of
Citium[885], whatever the practice of the Stoic leader may have been,
conceived of Ἔρως, the God of Love, as a deity of friendship, liberty,
concord, and public happiness, and of nothing else. So likewise his
antecessors in philosophy taught that this deity was as a being
perfectly pure: σεμνόν τινα καὶ παντὸς αἰσχροῦ κεχωρισμένον. This idea
took refuge in the Venus Οὐρανία, the opposite one in the Πάνδημος, or
promiscuous[886]. In the later ages of Greece, the distinction of these
two characters one from the other feebly lived on: but there was no
subjective basis for the separate existence of the former, and it was
practically eclipsed, if not absorbed. The true severance of the ideas
probably was effected before the time of Homer; and they were lodged
in separate impersonations. The effective form of the Celestial Venus
is to be sought most probably in Diana, though it was natural for Plato
and the philosophers to keep alive the memory of the distinction by
way of apology for the popular religion. The traces of this unstained
conception were in later times only to be found in the sphere of art,
and were even there not always visible: but in the Homeric poems, and
probably in the Homeric period, this purity of admiring sentiment
towards beautiful form appears to have been a living reality.

[885] Athen. b. xiii. c. xii. p. 56.

[886] Döllinger, Heid. u. Jud. II. ii. 41. Plato Sympos. 8. (180 C.)

Our inquiry on this subject must have reference partly to the Poet,
and partly to his period and nation. I will first deal with the points
which have a bearing upon the age as well as the bard: and will
thereafter subjoin what appears to touch Homer only.

~_Lay of the Net of Vulcan._~

Let us commence, then, by considering that one and only case, in the
whole compass of twenty-eight thousand lines, which might lead to an
opposite conclusion: the case of the second Lay of Demodocus, or the
adultery of Mars and Venus[887].

[887] Od. viii. 266-366.

Of course it is impossible to justify this single passage upon its
own merits: but there are many circumstances that ought to be borne
in mind by those who wish to form an accurate judgment upon it in its
connection with the morals either of the Poet himself, or of the age to
which he belonged.

Of these the most important, in my view, is the tendency which the
Pagan religion already powerfully showed to become itself the positive
corrupter of morality, or, to speak perhaps more accurately, to
afford the medium, through which the forces of evil and the downward
inclination would principally act for the purpose of depraving it.
Even in Homer’s time, the existing mythology contained ample warrant
for the scene of indulgence here laid bare; and we see the remaining
modesty and delicacy of mankind feebly resisting the torrent of
passion, which ought to have been counteracted, but which, on the
contrary, was principally swollen and impelled, by the agency of the
acknowledged religion of the country.

It was impossible for Homer to be altogether above the operation of
influences so closely allied with an origin believed to be celestial:
nor could it be easy for the popular Poet wholly to disregard the
tastes of his hearers: the Poet, whose strains swept over the whole
height and depth of life and nature, both human and divine, could
not absolutely shut out from his encyclopædic survey so marked a
characteristic of Olympian habits. He has not omitted to mark as
peculiar, in more ways than one, the licence he has assumed. The lay
is sung in an assembly attended by men only: and it purports also to
describe a scene, from which the goddesses intentionally kept away.
The amusement of the deities present is not universal: Neptune, the
senior one among them, does not laugh[888], but takes the matter
gravely, and desires to put an end to the scandal, by promising to
make to the injured husband a pecuniary reparation[889]. He evidently
appears to act under an impulse of offended dignity at least, though
not of modesty. Again, the Poet endeavours to give a ridiculous air,
not only a laughable one, to the whole proceeding, through the extreme
mortification of the guilty persons; who, when released, are made
to disappear in real dismay and discomfiture[890]. In this point he
altogether differs, undoubtedly, from the generality of the writers of
licentious pieces, as materially as he does in the simplicity of his
details; and that supposition of a partially moral aim on which some
have ventured, is not so extravagant as to deserve total and absolute

[888] The translation in Pope’s Odyssey, which in the most material
parts has a more highly charged colouring than the Greek original, here
reverses the sense. Homer says Neptune did not laugh, οὐδὲ Ποσειδάωνα
γέλως ἔχε: Pope says, ‘even Neptune laughs aloud.’ Pope’s work is a
great work: but it is not a good rendering, nor a bad rendering, of
Homer: it is no rendering at all. Od. viii. 244.

[889] Od. viii. 347, 356.

[890] Od. viii. 361, 2.

It has been common to employ, in vindication of Homer, the supposition
that the passage is spurious. There is something rather more marked
in the personal agency of the Sun than the poems elsewhere present;
and undoubtedly Apollo is made to assume a tone wholly singular, and
unsupported by what is told of him in the rest of the poems. These
are arguments, so far as they go, against it. But I do not venture
to adopt this alluring expedient: for the general character of the
colouring, diction, and incidents, appears to be Homeric enough. And
again, if licentiousness was to come in, this was exactly the way
for its entrance, because it was after a banquet; because it was
among men exclusively, and not in the presence of women; because of
the connection with mythology; and because the tale is thoroughly in
keeping with the mythological character of the personages chiefly

The direct reference however of the evil to the influence of a
perverted religion can be supported by distinct evidence from other
parts of the poems. In the Iliad there appear to be but two passages,
which can fairly be termed indelicate. One is the account of the
proceeding of Juno, with the accompanying speech of Jupiter, in the
Fourteenth Book[891]. This relation belongs strictly to the mythology
of the poem, and it is evidently handled in an historical manner; for
Jupiter’s details, at least as it seems to me, are introduced for the
purpose of fixing ancient national legends, as much as the stories of
Nestor and Phœnix. The other passage is that, which in a few words
contains the sensual advice given by Thetis, as a mother, to her son
Achilles in his grief, by way of comfort;

[891] Il. xiv. 312-28. 346-53.

          ἀγαθὸν δὲ γυναικί περ ἐν φιλότητι

[892] Il. xxiv. 130.

This precisely exemplifies the relation of which I speak. The deity
teaches the debased lesson: the human hero passes by the recommendation
in silence. Homer would have put no such language as this into the
mouth of one of his matrons.

When we come to pass sentence upon Homer, we must remember that, since
in the Odyssey he represents the comic as well as the serious side of
life, he ought in justice to be first compared with his successors.
And here we not only shall find he gains by the comparison with
Aristophanes or with Horace, but that he gains yet much more when tried
by the standard of the other great school of poets which followed him
in associating heroic subjects with wit and with amusement, namely,
the poets of the Italian romance. There is hardly, perhaps, one of
that whole school of Christian writers, who has not descended to
licentiousness of far more malignant type. Nor let it be supposed that
the Æneid shows in this respect any superiority in Virgil or in his
hearers. As to Virgil, and as to his poems, if we take the whole of
them into view, I am afraid that whatever the veil of words may do,
the case was in reality bad enough: as to the hearers of the Æneid,
we must remember that they were not a people, but a court: we must
compare his Roman auditors with the hearers of Homer, not as to that
particular only of their public amusements, but as to the whole; that
is, we must compare the Homeric poems not with the Æneid alone, but
with the Æneid and the Floralia. In Homer’s time, men had not learned
to screen their vices behind walls which also serve to fortify them.
And it still remains more than doubtful whether the appetite of Homeric
Greece would have endured the garbage on which Christian Florence was
content to feed, during its carnivals, in the period of its most famous

~_Evidence of comparative purity._~

From this scene let us turn to consider the evidence for asserting the
comparative purity of Homer’s age, and the peculiar purity of his mind.

2. We find in Homer no trace whatever of the existence of those
unnatural vices, which appear to have deeply tainted the lives of
many of the most eminent Greeks of later days[893]; which drew down
the blasting sentence of St. Paul[894]; which in early times had been
visited on the Cities of the plain; and which, it is no less strange
than horrible to think, have left their mark upon more than one period
or portion even of the literature of Christendom, in a manner and
degree such as must excite scarcely less of surprise than shame.

[893] Athenæus, b. xiii. c. 77-84.

[894] Rom. i. 24-7.

The seizure of Ganymedes became in later times the basis of a tradition
of this kind: but there is not a trace of it in Homer. The intense love
and admiration of beauty to which his pages bear constant witness is
wholly disconnected from animal passions, and in its simplicity and
earnestness is, for its combined purity and strength, really nearer the
feeling of some of the early Italian painters, and of Dante, than any
thing else I can recall.

This is the more remarkable when we bear in mind what had already, and
long before his time, happened in the East, and is recorded for us in
the Book of Genesis.

Homer most rarely alludes to what is unbecoming in the human form: in
the case of woman not once, and in the case of men only where he has
a legitimate and sufficient purpose. Thus when Ulysses[895] threatens
to strip Thersites to the skin in the event of his repeating his
turbulence and insolence, it is plainly with an honest view to inflict
upon him the last extremity of shame, and to make him an object of
general and wholly unmixed disgust. Again, when Priam refers to the
likelihood that his own body may be stripped naked, and then mangled
by animals after his death, every one feels that the insult to natural
decency, which he anticipates, contributes only to enhance the agony
of his feelings. And the scene in the Odyssey, where Ulysses emerges
from the sea upon the coast of Scheria, will always be regarded as one
of the most careful, and yet most simple and unaffected, examples of
true modesty contained in the whole circle of literature. Now these
appear to be, not peculiarities, but samples of the general manners. We
should look in vain for the proofs of an equal truth and fineness of
perception among the Hebrews or among their forefathers, unless it be
among a very few individuals, who, under a direct teaching from above,
became select examples of virtue.

[895] Il. ii. 262. See also on this subject, Il. v. 429. vi. 357. Od.
v. 149-59, 227.

Many other indications in the poems converge upon the same point.
The horror with which incest was regarded is one. The deep grief and
humility stamped on the character of Helen is a second. The manner
in which the chastity of Bellerophon is held up to admiration, and
followed by reward, is a third[896]. The high-toned living widowhood of
Penelope is of itself conclusive on the point before us.

[896] Il. vi. 161, 2.

Homer’s subject in the Iliad was one, which tempted and almost forced
him into indecency, where he had to refer to the original crime of
Paris or to describe his private life. The manner in which he has
handled it is deserving of all praise. He treats as an evil gift the
original promise and temptation to Paris. The scene in the end of the
Third Book was necessary in order to complete the view of the character
of that bad prince: and it could not have been drawn in a manner
less calculated to seduce the mind, whether by the management of its
details, or by the sentiments of loathing which it raises against the
principal actor.

Undoubtedly we must, as regards the whole morality of the poems,
ascribe much to the praise of Homer personally: yet it is plain that he
represented his age in no small degree. First, because, as a popular
and famous minstrel, he could not have been in sharp or general
contrast with the feeling of his contemporaries. Secondly, because we
perceive remains of this seriousness and purity in the older Greek
writers junior to Homer. Thirdly, because we find from Thucydides
that, at the time when the original Olympian games were instituted,
it was still the custom carefully to avoid the exposure of the human
form, and that a different practice was introduced afterwards by the
Lacedæmonians, probably without evil intention, and for gymnastic ends
alone (Thuc. i. 6).

And now, if we contemplate the belief, ideas, and institutions of
the heroic period, as they would work upon an individual, we shall,
perhaps, find that they fully justify the outline with which this
section began. We may, indeed, see in the Homeric pictures of that age
much to condemn or to deplore; but we may also be led to believe that
if, through God’s mercy, there have been happier, there also have been
less happy forms, for human destiny to be cast in.

~_Life of the high-born Greek._~

The youth of high birth, not then so widely as now separated from
the low, is educated under tutors in reverence for his parents, and
in desire to emulate their fame: he shares in manly and in graceful
sports, acquires the use of arms, hardens himself in the pursuit,
then, of all others the most indispensable, the hunting down of wild
beasts, gains the knowledge of medicine, probably also of the lyre.
Sometimes, with many-sided intelligence, he even sets himself to
learn how to build his own house or ship, or how to drive the plough
firm and straight down the furrow, as well as to reap the standing
corn[897]. And when scarcely a man, he bears arms for his country or
his tribe, takes part in its government, learns by direct instruction
and by practice how to rule mankind through the use of reasoning and
persuasive power in political assemblies, attends and assists in
sacrifices to the gods. For all this time he has been in kindly and
free relations, not only with his parents, his family, his equals of
his own age, but with the attendants, although they are but serfs, who
have known him from infancy on his father’s domain.

[897] Od. xviii. 366-75.

He is indeed mistaught with reference to the use of the strong hand.
Human life is cheap; so cheap that even a mild and gentle youth may
be betrayed, upon a casual quarrel over some childish game with his
friend, into taking it away. And even so throughout his life, should
some occasion come that stirs up his passions from their depths, a wild
beast, as it were, awakes within him, and he loses his humanity for
the time until reason has re-established her control. Short, however,
of such a desperate crisis, though he could not for the world rob his
friend or his neighbour, yet he might be not unwilling to triumph over
him to his cost, for the sake of some exercise of signal ingenuity:
while, from a hostile tribe or a foreign shore, or from the individual
who has become his enemy, he will acquire by main force what he
can, nor will he scruple to inflict on him by stratagem even deadly
injury[898]. He must, however, give liberally to those who are in need;
to the wayfarer, the poor, the suppliant who begs from him shelter and
protection. On the other hand, should his own goods be wasted, the
liberal and open-handed contributions of his neighbours will not be
wanting to replace them.

[898] Od. xiii. 259-70.

His early youth is not solicited into vice by finding sensual excess in
vogue, or the opportunities of it staring in his eye and sounding in
his ear. Gluttony is hardly known; drunkenness is marked only by its
degrading character and the evil consequences that flow so straight
from it, and is abhorred. But he loves the genial use of meals, and
rejoices in the hour when the guests, gathered in his father’s hall,
enjoy a liberal hospitality, and the wine mantles in the cup[899].
For then they listen to the strains of the minstrel, who celebrates
before them the newest and the dearest of the heroic tales that stir
their blood, and rouse their manly resolution to be worthy, in their
turn, of their country and their country’s heroes. He joins the dance
in the festivals of religion; the maiden’s hand upon his wrist, and
the gilded knife glancing from his belt, as they course from point to
point, or wheel in round on round[900]. That maiden, some Nausicaa or
some Hermione of a neighbouring district, in due time he weds, amidst
the rejoicings of their families, and brings her home to cherish her,
‘from the flower to the ripeness of the grape,’ with respect, fidelity,
and love.

[899] Od. viii. 5-11. xiv. 193-8.

[900] Il. xviii. 594-602.

Whether as a governor or as governed, politics bring him, in ordinary
circumstances, no great share of trouble. Government is a machine, of
which the wheels move easily; for they are well oiled by simplicity
of usages, ideas, and desires; by unity of interest; by respect for
authority, and for those in whose hands it is reposed; by love of the
common country, the common altar, the common festivals and games, to
which already there is large resort. In peace he settles the disputes
of his people, in war he lends them the precious example of heroic
daring. He consults them, and advises with them, on all grave affairs;
and his wakeful care for their interests is rewarded by the ample
domains which are set apart for the prince by the people[901]. Finally,
he closes his eyes, delivering over the sceptre to his son, and leaving
much peace and happiness around him[902].

[901] Il. ix. 578. xii. 313.

[902] Od. xxiii. 281-4.

Such was, probably, the state of society amidst the concluding phase of
which Homer’s youth, at least, was passed. But a dark and deep social
revolution seems to have followed the Trojan war: we have its workings
already become visible in the Odyssey. Scarcely could even Ulysses cope
with it, contracted though it was for him within the narrow bounds of
Ithaca. On the mainland, the bands of the elder society are soon wholly
broken. The Pelopid, Neleid, Œneid houses are a wreck: disorganization
invites the entry of new forces to control it: the Dorian lances
bristle on the Ætolian beach, and the primitive Greece, the patriarchal
Greece, the Greece of Homer, is no more.

~_Ethics of earlier and later Paganism._~

When we take a general survey of the practical morality of the Heroic
age, and compare it with that of later times, we must at once be struck
with the great superiority of the former, in all that most nearly
touches the moral being of man. The mere police of society, indeed,
improves with the advance of civilization. The law of determinate
rights to property, which we rather dangerously call the law of _meum_
and _tuum_, whereas it is but a limited part of that great ordinance,
comes to be better understood in later times, and better defended by
penal sanctions. A clearer ideal, as well as actual, distinction, is
gradually established between force and civil right. But who will
venture to say that the duties of man to the Deity, or the larger
claims of man upon man, were better understood in the age of Pericles
or Alexander, of Sylla or of Augustus, than in the days of Homer?

It is to be expected that, when the elements of wealth are for the
most part such as nature offers, when man has hardly left the mark
of his hand upon the earth, when little has been appropriated, and
that little indeterminately, then the description of right which is
least understood should also be least respected; namely, the law which
withdraws things from original community of use into individual
dominion. To this day we dispute, what was the pristine foundation of
the law of property. Why do we not perceive that this is equivalent
to an admission, that in the first periods of political society, the
whole idea of property must of necessity have been more or less vague?
And consequently, that even plunder in primitive times is a different
thing from plunder in later times, not only as to public estimation,
but as to the moral colour of the act, and that it should be judged

~_Points of superiority in the former._~

Let us then consider the notes of moral superiority which the Heroic
age of Greece presents to us.

Human sacrifices were not then offered upon bloody altars to the gods.
Not even the direst extremity of suffering suggested the thought of
cannibalism as an alternative of escape from death[903]. Wailing
infants were not then exposed to avoid the burden of their nurture.
The grey hairs of parents were treated with reverence and care; and if
their weakness brought down insult upon them, it stung the souls of
their children, even after death. To age in general a deep and hearty
reverence was paid by the young. Woman, the grand refining element of
society, had not then been put down in the estimation of any man, far
less of the wisest men, to the level of persons degraded by the habits
of captivity, and was not held to be a ζῶον ἔμψυχον. Slavery itself was
mild and almost genial. It implied the law of labour, and possibly,
in ordinary cases, a prohibition to rise in life: but of positive
oppression, and of suffering in connection with it, or of any penal
system directed to its maintenance, we have no trace whatever. Marriage
was the honourable and single tie between man and his helpmate[904].
Connections with very near relations were regarded with horror; the
wife was the representative, the intelligent companion and friend, of
her husband; adultery was held in aversion, a crime rarer then than in
most after-periods: and the sacred bond between husband and wife was
not liable to be broken by the poor invention of divorce.

[903] Od. xii. 327-51.

[904] On this and the kindred points, see inf. sect. ix.

Organized unchastity had not then become a kind of devil’s law for
society. The very name and nature of unnatural lusts appear to have
been unknown in Greece, centuries after Sodom had been smitten for
its crimes. The detestable invention, which set gladiators to kill
one another for the amusement of enraptured spectators, was reserved
for times more vain of their philosophy and their artificial culture.
The rights of the poor were acknowledged in the form of an unlimited
obligation to relieve them, under pain of the divine displeasure: and
no stranger or suppliant could be repelled from the door of any one,
who regarded either the fear of God or the fear of man.

As respects the gods, the remains of ancient piety still in some degree
checked the activity of the critical faculty, and the reverence for the
Power that disposes events and hates the wicked was not yet derided
by speculation, nor wholly buried beneath fable and corruption. True,
sacrifice was regarded as the indispensable and effective basis of
religion: but in general, as between Greek and Greek, those who were
most careful of virtue were also most regular in their offerings. Men
were believers in prayer: they thought that, if in need they humbly
betook themselves to supplication, they would be heard and helped.
In short, they kept their hold upon a higher power, which we see
to have been real, because they resorted to it at those times when
human nature eschews illusion, and cries out for reality. Ulysses, in
affliction or in need, addresses himself to the gods: even Ægisthus,
when alarmed, begins to think much of them: but Cicero or Quintilian,
when the arrow of grief has touched them to the quick, seek for comfort
in philosophical calculations on the great woe and little weal of life.

Yet, even while all this was so, there lay in the accumulating
mythology the thickly scattered seeds of destruction, both for belief
and for duty. How could marriage continue single, pure, or permanent,
in the face of the promiscuous lusts of Jupiter? Why should not
helpless infants be exposed, when Juno, disgusted with the form of
Vulcan, threw him down into the sea? Why should not man make a joyous
spectacle of blood and wounds, when they were already beheld with
amusement by the highest of the gods? The examples of rebellion, of
discord, of luxury and selfish ease, were all of them ready to forward
the process of corruption among men; and this armoury of curses was
prepared too in the very quarter, where his eye should behold nothing
but what is august and pure.

Again. In all descriptions of tender feelings the Greeks of the Homeric
age are much nearer than those of later times to the standard of truth
and nature.

The heroes of Homer weep freely; but, says the Agamemnon of
Euripides[905], while he complains of the restriction, weeping is the
recognised privilege of humble life only;

[905] Iph. in Aul. 446.

  ἡ δυσγένεια τ’ ὡς ἔχει τι χρήσιμον·
  καὶ γὰρ δακρύσαι ῥᾳδίως αὐτοῖς ἔχει
  ἐγὼ γὰρ ἐκβαλεῖν μὲν αἰδοῦμαι δάκρυ.

And Aristotle thought, as is thought now, that weeping was unfit for
men. The wise man, he conceives[906], cannot incite others to mourn
with him, διὰ τὸ μηδ’ αὐτὸς εἶναι θρηνητικός: but women, and woman-like
men, γύναια καὶ οἱ τοιοῦτοι ἄνδρες, are glad of such companionship in

[906] Aristot. Eth. IX. xi. 4.

There are indeed three most important points of the Homeric poems, in
which it would appear that the Greek character greatly hardened, and
greatly sank, as the nation advanced in its career. One of them is the
principle of sympathy. Another is that of placability, which Homer has
very powerfully exhibited in Achilles. The third is that of humility,
of which we have an example in Helen, in the Helen of Troy and the
Helen of Sparta, such as heathenism nowhere else, I believe, presents
to us.

It has thus appeared that if we take the state of morality as it
appears among mankind in the poems of Homer, and compare it with that
of Greece in its highest civilization, we find before us two grand
differences. Those offences against the moral law, which constitute
crimes of violence, were more justly appreciated at the later period;
but as to those which constitute, in the language of Christianity, the
lusts of the mind and of the flesh, a great preference is due to the

We are naturally led to inquire, Whence these two movements in opposite
directions? That mankind should either lose ground or gain it, in
morality as a whole, is far less startling at first sight, than that,
at one and the same time, with respect to one great portion of the
moral law there should be progress, and with respect to another,

In reality, however, this was the condition of man: retrogression as to
his spiritual life, but advance and development, up to a certain point,
with regard to the intellectual and the social career. Sins of the
flesh lay chiefly between God and the individual conscience: the social
results did not palpably and immediately reach beyond the persons
immediately concerned. But crimes of violence struck directly at the
fabric of society by destroying security of person and property; and
robbed mankind, especially the ruling part of mankind, of the immense
advantages and enjoyments which they reaped from civilized life. Thus,
the moral sense was quick, and even grew quicker with the lapse of
time, when it was fed and prompted by such motives of self-interest
as lay within its appreciation, like those which the desire to enjoy
the commodities of life supplied. But it languished and all but died,
when its business was to maintain those virtues which involve severe
self-denial, and of which the reward never can be fully appreciated
except by those who are so favoured as to practise them in the highest

Nor must we overlook some special bearings of the institution of
slavery upon this question. As it grew and was consolidated, it of
course entailed an increased necessity for laws to defend life and
goods against violence. But as regarded the other class of offences,
its influence was all in the sense of more and more relaxation. For
beauty and defencelessness, when they were combined in slaves, at once
wrought up attraction to the uttermost, and removed all obstacles to
enjoyment. While at the same time the partial indulgence, which at all
periods has commonly attended such commerce between slaves and their
masters, operated as a safety valve to let off the political dangers
of that system: so that, on the one hand, slavery was a feeder to lust,
and, on the other, lust was a buttress to slavery.

That it was not on moral grounds that in the later times of Greece life
and property were better defended than in the former, we may partly
judge from finding that, though it is in the nature of all society that
a nation should rather incline to gild the days of its forefathers
with ornaments beyond the truth, the later Greek traditions crammed
the heroic age with a mass of crimes of which Homer knows nothing.
He sets Minos and Rhadamanthus before us as characters positively
good: Thyestes and others are at worst neutral in character: but all
these, according to the later tradition, were either accessory to, or
contaminated with, the most horrible enormities.

~_Notes in the Poems of commencing decline._~

It seems, indeed, as if Homer had himself lived to note the signs
of moral degeneracy. In part, we may perhaps say, it is inseparably
associated with that deterioration in the character and idea of
government, which begins to be traceable in the Odyssey. But in that
poem he has given us another indication of it, unlike any thing in the
Iliad, where he never contrasts the present unfavourably with the past,
except as to mere corporal strength. For he makes Minerva as Mentor
deliver to Telemachus the sentiment, that among sons a small number
only are equal to their fathers[907], a very few indeed excelling them,
but the greater part falling short of them. In later times, we have
come to associate threnodies of this kind with the notion that they
are complaints of course, formulæ taken up and reiterated successively
from generation to generation. It may or may not be just thus to view
them: but whether it be just or not for later times, I think that we
ought not so to limit the force of the idea when it meets us in the
age of Homer: the world was then young, and human society had not so
learned its ‘ancient saws or modern instances,’ as to separate them
from the truths of experience and of observation. The greatest ornament
of the poems of Hesiod, the series of the Ages declining from gold to
iron, probably expresses the actual state of the facts, as it seems to
move on the same line with the narrative of the early Scriptures: and
Homer’s lamentation on degeneracy in all likelihood may belong to a
real portion of the same descending process.

[907] Od. ii. 276.


_Woman in the Homeric age._

No view of a peculiar civilization can on its ethical side be
satisfactory, unless it include a distinct consideration of the place
held in it by woman. And, besides, the position of the Greek woman of
the heroic age is in itself so remarkable, as even on special grounds
to require separate and detailed notice. It is likewise so elevated,
both absolutely and in comparison with what it became in the historic
ages of Greece and Rome amidst their elaborate civilization, as to form
in itself a sufficient confutation of the theories of those writers
who can see in the history of mankind only the development of a law
of continual progress from intellectual darkness into light, and from
moral degradation up to virtue.

The idea and place of woman have been slowly and laboriously elevated
by the Gospel: and their full development has constituted the purest
and most perfect protest, that the world has ever seen, against the
sovereignty of force. For it is not alone against merely physical, but
also against merely intellectual strength, that this protest has been
lodged. To the very highest range of intellectual strength known among
the children of Adam, woman seems never to have ascended, but in every
or almost every case to have fallen somewhat short of it. But when we
look to the virtues, it seems probable both that her average is higher,
and that she also attains in the highest instances to loftier summits.
Certainly there is no proof here of her inferiority to man. Now it is
nowhere written in Holy Scripture that God is knowledge, or that God is
power; while it is written that God is love: words which appear to set
forth love as the central essence, and all besides as attributes. Woman
then holds of God, and finds her own principal development in that
which is most God-like. Thus, therefore, when Christianity wrought out
for woman, not a social identity, but a social equality, not a rivalry
with the function of man, but an elevation in her own function reaching
as high as his, it made the world and human life in this respect also
a true image of the Godhead.

Within the pale of that civilization which has grown up under the
combined influence of the Christian religion as paramount, and of what
may be called the Teutonic manners as secondary, we find the idea of
woman and her social position raised to a point even higher than in the
poems of Homer. But it would be hard to discover any period of history
or country of the world, not being Christian, in which they stood so
high as with the Greeks of the heroic age.

There are various heads under which we may inquire into the subject
before us.

One is the law of marriage in the heroic age, and the state of the
specific relation between the sexes.

A second is the employments assigned to women; how high did they reach,
and how low did they descend?

A third is the social footing on which they stood, as tested by

A fourth is the general outline of the woman’s character, as it is to
be estimated from the varied specimens which Homer has set before us.

~_Law and custom of marriage._~

Firstly; a main criterion of the general condition of woman in a given
state of society is to be found in the view which it may exhibit of
the great institution of marriage. In proportion as that institution
is purified and elevated by just restraint, the condition of woman
is honourable, free, and happy. In proportion as it is relaxed, in
accommodation to human infirmity or appetite, the condition of woman
is degraded and servile; for where desire is the law, strength is its
appropriate and only sanction, and the cause of the weaker fails. Just
as a strict and efficient police is most important to the unprotected,
so a strict law of marriage is most for the interest of the woman.

The general position of womankind in the Homeric age is high on both
sides of the Archipelago; but, as respects marriage, its chiefest
pillar, it is perceptibly even higher among the Greeks than among
the Trojans. Among the multitude of cases, that either directly or
incidentally come before us in the poems, there is nothing that at
all resembles the Asiatic household of Priam, or that seems to favour
polygamy. Nor have we any instance where a wife is divorced or taken
away from her husband, and then made the wife of another man during
his lifetime. The froward Suitors, who urge Penelope to choose a new
husband from among them, do it upon the plea that Ulysses must be
dead, and that there is no hope of his return: a plea not irrational,
if we presume that the real term of his absence came to even half the
number of years which Homer has assigned to it. The ancient law of
England, while it repudiated the principle of divorce, recognised the
presumption of the husband’s death, when brought near to certainty by
a long term of absence, as equivalent to death itself for the purpose
of exempting the wife from civil penalty in case of her marriage.
Ægisthus, again, finds it extremely difficult to corrupt Clytemnestra:
and his success in inducing her to marry him entails, as if a matter
of course, the murder of her former husband. The crime is mentioned
by Jupiter, in the Olympian Court, as consisting of the two parts, of
which he by no means specifies the latter as the more atrocious[908];

[908] Od. i. 36.

  (1) γῆμ’ ἄλοχον μνηστὴν, (2) τὸν δ’ ἔκτανε νοστήσαντα.

The law of marriage differs from most other human laws in a very
important particular. It is their excellence to impose the _minimum_
of restraint, which will satisfy the absolute wants of society: but
the aim and the criterion of a good law of marriage is to impose the
_maximum_ of restraint that human nature can be induced _bonâ fide_ to
accept. Doubtless there is here also a conceivable excess: but it would
be and has been indicated by the general withholding of submission,
or evasion of obedience. Up to that point, the restrictions of the
marriage law are not evils to be endured for the sake of a greater
good, but are good in themselves.

In order that this great institution may thoroughly fulfil its ends, it
is especially requisite,

1. That it should not be contracted between more than one man and one

2. That it should on both sides be, in the main and as a general rule,
deliberate and spontaneous.

3. That the contract, once made, should not be dissolved.

And closely allied to these there is yet a fourth negative:

4. That nuptials should not be contracted between persons who stand
within certain near degrees of relationship.

5. It is always requisite that this engagement should exclude not only
the possibility of marriage for either partner with a third person, but
also any other fleshly connection without marriage.

Of these propositions, the first, third, and fourth, are heads of
restraint on marriage. Every one of the three was acknowledged by the
Greeks of the heroic age.

~_Marriage always single._~

The rule of conjugal fidelity was admitted, though not wholly without
relaxation, to be as applicable to men as to their wives. This, and
all the other restrictions, were applied to women with undeviating

1. As regards the first, it is plain, from a mass of evidence so large
as to amount, in spite of its being negative, to demonstration, that
the uniform practice of the Greeks required the marriage union to be
single. This, however, of itself, is saying little; but it imports much
besides what is on the surface: it implies, that, with due allowances,
the spirit of the marriage contract is a spirit of equity and of well
adjusted rights, as between those who enter into it.

2. This relation was also conceived by the Greeks in a spirit of

It held a central place in life thoroughly European, as opposed to
the Oriental ideas. Nay, it approximated very much to the ideas
prevailing in our own country as well as age. We do not find in the
poems any instance of a marriage enforced against the will of a young
maiden, or contracted when she was of years too tender to exercise a
judgment. Nausicaa fears that if she is seen with Ulysses, censorious
tongues will immediately put it about that she is going to be married
to him. They will say, ‘Who is this tall and handsome stranger with
Nausicaa?’[909] Surely she is going to become his bride. Truly she
has picked up some gallant from afar, who has strayed from his ship:
or some god has come down to wed her. Better it were if she found a
husband from abroad, since, forsooth, she looks down upon her Phæacian
suitors, though they are many and noble. Then continues this model of
maidens; ‘Thus I shall come into disgrace; and indeed I myself should
be indignant with any one who should so act, and who, against the will
of her parents, frequented the company of men before being publicly
married.’ In this remarkable passage we have such an exhibition of
woman’s freedom, as scarcely any age has exceeded. For it clearly shows
that the marriage of a damsel was her own affair, and that, subject to
a due regard freely rendered to authority and opinion, she had, when of
due age, a main share in determining it. That is to say, to the extent
of choosing a mate among the competitors. The expression of giving
away or promising a daughter, by parents, is often used[910], but we
perceive the limits of its meaning from the passage just quoted. The
more so, because similar expressions as to the proceedings of parents
are applied in Homer to the marriages of sons[911]. I do not suppose it
would have been open to any maiden to remain single. That all should
marry, that there should be no class living in celibacy, was a kind
of law for society in its infant state, even as now it may be said to
be almost a law for the most numerous classes of society. Above all I
suppose it to be clear that a marriageable widow could not ordinarily
remain in widowhood. No reproach arises to Helen, on account of the
renewal of her irregular union with Deiphobus; and when Penelope,
or others in her behalf, contemplate the death of Ulysses, and her
consequent release from the marriage state, that change is always
treated as the immediate preface to another crisis, namely, the choice
of a second husband.

[909] Od. vi. 275-88.

[910] Il. xi. 296. xix. 29. ix. 141. vi. 191. Od. vii. 311. iv. 6.

[911] Il. ix. 394. Od. iv. 10.

Although social intercourse with man might not, as Nausicaa says, be
sought by damsels, it might innocently come on occasions such as those
afforded by public festivities, or by an ordinary calling[912].

[912] Il. xviii. 567, 593, and xxii. 126.

~_Freedom of the woman._~

But again, the persecution of Penelope by the Suitors bears emphatic
testimony to the freedom of woman within the limits I have described.
The utmost of their aim is to coerce her into marrying some one; even
as their sin lies in bringing this pressure to bear upon her before
the death of Ulysses has been ascertained. On the other hand, the
pressure is a moral one: her violent removal is never thought of; and
the absolute silence of the poem on the subject proves that it would
have been at variance with the prevailing manners, had any cabal been
formed, in order even to constrain her choice towards a particular
person. The very presents, by which the profligate Suitors endeavoured
to ingratiate themselves with the women of the household of Ulysses,
speak favourably of the free condition of the sex, and seem to show,
that it descended even into lower stations.

For the Greek in the heroic age, marriage was the pivot of life. It
took place in the bloom of age: hence[913] the beautiful expression,
θαλερὸς γάμος, Od. vi. 66, xx. 74. It even marks of itself the age of
persons; Alcinous has five sons, three ἠΐθεοι, and two ὀπυίοντες, (Od.
vi. 63): three youths or bachelors, and two married.

[913] Friedreich, Realien, §. 57. p. 200.

Presents were usually brought by the bridegroom, and dowries sometimes
given with the bride. Where the two concurred, the presents may have
been either in the nature of compliments, or intended to meet the
expense of the wedding festivities. The absence of the former, and the
occurrence of the latter, seem each to be more or less in the nature of
an exception. With a wife returning to her parents, the dowry returned
also[914]. On the other hand, to judge from the story of Vulcan and
Venus, wherever adultery was committed, the guilty man was bound to pay
a fine[915]. The poems give us several instances where personal gifts
and energy served instead of wealth, as recommendations in suing for a
wife[916]. The drawing of the Bow affords a conspicuous example of the
prevailing ideas.

[914] Od. ii. 132.

[915] Od. viii. 329.

[916] Od. xi. 287. xiv. 210. Il. xiii. 363.

Upon the whole, then, in all that related to forming engagements by
marriage, there seems to have been preserved a large regard to the
freedom and dignity of woman[917]. War was doubtless in this respect
her great enemy; she then became the prey of the strongest, and it
is probable that this may have been the most powerful instrument in
promoting the extensive introduction of concubinage into Greece.

[917] Friedreich, Realien, c. III. ii. p. 204.

With respect to the ceremonial of marriage, and the nature of its
formal engagement, the Homeric poems furnish us with scanty evidence.
There is no mention, in fact, of any promise or vow attending it. The
expression δαινύναι γάμον, in Od. iv. 3, seems to contain all that
would be included by us when we speak of celebrating marriage. Not
that it was the mere banquet that created the conjugal relation: it
was doubtless the ἀμφάδιος γάμος, the solemn public acknowledgment, to
which relatives and friends, and, in such a case as that of Hermione,
the public or people of the state, thus became witnesses. This subject
will be further considered in connection with the case of Briseis.

~_Perpetuity of the tie of marriage._~

3. If the mode of entry into the obligations of married life was
as simple and indeterminate as we have supposed, such a want of
formalities greatly enhances the strength of the testimony borne by the
facts of the heroic age to what may be called the natural perpetuity of
the marriage contract.

It is a very remarkable circumstance, that, of the two great poems
of Homer, each should in its own way bear emphatic testimony to this
great, and, for all countries that can bear it, this most precious law.

Neither poem presents us with any case of a divorced wife; of a couple
between whom the marriage tie, after having once been duly formed,
had ceased to subsist. And each poem in its own way raises this
negative evidence to a form of the greatest cogency, from its happening
to present the very circumstances under which, if under any, the
dissolution of the bond would have been acknowledged.

In the Iliad, the wife of Menelaus, his κουριδίη ἄλοχος, has been
living for many years in _de facto_ adultery with Paris. The line
between marriage on the one hand, and continued cohabitation together
with public recognition on the other, being faintly drawn, Helen is
familiarly known in Troy as the wife of Paris; so she is called by the
Poet, and so she calls herself[918]. Menelaus, too, is described as
her former husband[919]. Whether this was a mere acquiescence in a
certain state of facts, or the regular result of more relaxed usages
respecting marriage in Troy, may be doubtful. But it is clear that the
view of the Greeks was directly opposite. They never speak of Paris as
the husband of Helen. In their estimation, all the rights of Menelaus
remained entire; and, as we shall see, it appears that, even while
the possession of them was withheld from him, he acknowledged the
reciprocal obligations. Nay, Hector himself seems to describe Helen
as still the wife of Menelaus; γνοίης χ’ οἵου φωτὸς ἔχεις θαλερὴν
παράκοιτιν[920]. The war was (so to speak) juridically founded on the
fact, that the lawful marriage was not dissolved by adultery, even
with the addition of all that followed: that the relation of Helen to
her ancient husband was unchanged. Accordingly, Agamemnon recollects
with pain, that if his brother should die, he will no longer be in a
condition to demand her restoration, and to enforce it by arms, for his
soldiers will forthwith return home[921].

[918] Il. iii. 427. xxiv. 763.

[919] Il. iii. 140. Of Deiphobus, we are never told that he was Helen’s
husband: and he could only for a very short time have had possession of
her. The only trace of the connection is that, when Helen went down to
the horse, Deiphobus followed her. Od. iv 276.

[920] Il. iii. 53.

[921] Il. iv. 169-75.

The result is in full conformity with this view. When the war ends,
Helen resumes her place as a matter of course in the house of Menelaus.
She bears it with unconstrained and perfect dignity; and her relations
to her husband carry no mark of the woful interval, except that its
traces indelibly remain in her own penitential shame.

It is plain that the Greeks heartily detested the crime of adultery:
for one of the three great chapters of accusation against the Suitors
is, that they wooed the wife of Ulysses in his lifetime[922]. But it
is not less plain that they knew nothing of the idea, that by that
crime it was placed in the power of any person to obtain or to confer
a release from the obligations of marriage.

[922] Od. xxii. 38.

Next to adultery, desertion or prolonged absence has afforded the most
favoured plea for the destruction, so far as human law can destroy it,
of the marriage bond. And indeed it is hardly possible to push the
opposite doctrine to its extreme, and to say that no married person
may remarry, except with demonstrative evidence of the death of the
original husband or wife respectively. Probably, however, no period of
the world has exhibited a more stringent application of the doctrine
of indissolubility to the case of desertion, than that on which the
plot of the Odyssey is founded; where, after an absence of the husband
prolonged to the twentieth year, Penelope still waits his return; prays
that death may relieve her from the dread necessity of making a new
choice; and, thus directed by her own conscience and right feeling,
likewise apprehends condemnation by the public judgment in the event of
her proceeding to contract a new engagement[923].

[923] Od. xvi. 75.

The Heroic age has left no more comely monument, than its informal, but
instinctive, and most emphatic sense, thus recorded for our benefit,
of the sanctity of marriage, of the closeness of the union it creates,
and of the necessity of perpetuity as an element of its capacity to
attain its chief ends, and to administer a real discipline to the human

~_Greek ideas of incest._~

4. A further proof of the elevated estimate of marriage among the
Greeks is afforded by their views, so far as they can be traced, of the
offence termed incest.

The Homeric deities, indeed, were released in this respect, as in
others, from all restraint. Eris, or Enuo[924], was both the sister
and the concubine of Mars: Juno, the sister and the wife of Jupiter.
Æolus[925], though called φίλος ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν, must have been more
than man; because Jupiter had made him warden of the Winds, which it
was his prerogative to confine or to let loose[926]. And in virtue,
I suppose, of belonging to the class of superior beings, his six
daughters were, without any consciousness of offence, the wives, the
αἰδοῖαι ἄλοχοι, of his six sons[927].

[924] Il. iv. 441.

[925] Od. x. 2.

[926] Od. x. 20.

[927] Od. x. 7.

In Troy, Helen apparently becomes the wife of two brothers in
succession. We must not overrate the force of merely negative evidence,
but it will be observed that Homer does not furnish us with any trace
of this usage among the Greeks. The story of Phœnix probably implies,
that the connection of the same woman with a father and a son was
incestuous; for the full efficacy of the remedy proposed by his mother
turns on the supposition, that there would remain to his father no
alternative but incest after Phœnix had gained his object, and that
such an alternative would at once deter him from the love of the

In Scheria, Alcinous is married to Arete, the daughter of his elder
brother Rhexenor[928]. Tyro was the wife of Cretheus, and was
apparently also his niece[929]. Again, we appear to find in the Iliad
an example of a marriage, by one shade yet less desirable, that of
a man with his aunt. Tydeus, the father of Diomed, was married to a
daughter of Adrastus: and Ægialeia the wife of Diomed, as she is called
Ἀδρηστίνη, was probably his aunt likewise[930].

[928] Od. vii. 65, 6.

[929] See Achæis, sect. ix. Od. xi. 235-7.

[930] Il. iv. 121.

We have also among the Trojans an example of a man’s marriage with his
aunt. Iphidamas, son of Antenor[931], was brought up in the house of
Cisses his maternal grandfather; and he contracted a marriage with his
mother’s sister just before proceeding to the war.

[931] Il. xi. 220-6.

At the same time, the law of incest is clearly a progressive one from
the infancy of mankind onwards, and what we have to consider is not
so much its precise extent, as the degree of genuine aversion with
which the violation of it is regarded. Upon this subject there can be
no doubt, when we read the passage in the Eleventh Odyssey respecting
the μέγα ἔργον of Œdipus and Epicaste, and the fearful consequences
which, though it was done in ignorance, it entailed upon them[932]. In
principle, then, that restriction of the field of choice, which adds
so greatly to the intimacy and firmness of the marriage tie, was fully
recognised in Greece.

[932] Od. xi. 271-80.

Neither do we want traces in Homer of that remarkable effect of the
unifying power of marriage, which confers upon each partner in the
union an equal and common relation to the family of the other, by a
convention which has so much of the moral strength of fact. The most
remarkable of all the indications upon this subject in the poems is
that, which relates to the future life of Menelaus. He is said to
be elected to the honour of a place in the region of Elysium after
this life, not in virtue of his own merits, but as being, through his
marriage with Helen, the son-in-law of Jupiter.

The recognition of relationships through the wife or husband to the
husband or wife respectively, and the existence of names to describe
them, is a sign of the completeness of the union effected by the
marriage tie. That these terms were not merely formal and ceremonious,
we may judge from the speech of Alcinous:

  ἦ τίς τοι καὶ πηὸς ἀπέφθιτο Ἰλιόθι πρὸ
  ἐσθλὸς ἐὼν, γαμβρὸς ἢ πενθερὸς, οἵτε μάλιστα
  κήδιστοι τελέθουσι, μεθ’ αἷμά τε καὶ γένος αὐτῶν[933].

[933] Od. viii. 581-3.

Now of these words we have the following;

πηὸς, for any relative by affinity;

ἐκυρὸς, πενθερὸς, father-in-law;

ἐκυρὴ, mother-in-law;

δαὴρ, brother-in-law;

γαλοὼς, sister-in-law;

γαμβρὸς, son-in-law;

νυὸς, daughter-in-law;

μητρυίη, stepmother; or the lawful wife, in relation to a spurious son.
There is but one real example, Eeribœa, of a stepmother in Homer (Il.
v. 389).

And, lastly, we have εἰνατεὶρ, husband’s sister-in-law, a relationship
not expressed by any word in the English and many other languages. The
εἰνατέρες are always separate from the γαλόῳ.

The formation of this large circle of relationships by affinity is the
correlative to a well-defined strictness in the marriage law. For these
relationships would mean nothing, but would simply betoken and even
breed confusion, unless marriage were perpetual and incest eschewed.

Friedreich[934] truly observes, that the law of incest, instead of
being tightened, was relaxed at a later period in Greece; a very
decided mark of moral retrogression, which cannot be cancelled by all
the splendours of her history.

[934] Realien, c. III. ii.

~_Fidelity in married life._~

5. We come now to the remaining question; how was this great
obligation practically observed in the Greece of the heroic age?

Part, at least, of the answer is easy to give. By women it was observed
admirably. Except only in the case of Anteia, two generations old,
there is no instance in Homer of a woman who seeks the breach of
it. The forcible or half forcible seduction[935], and progressive
contamination, of a part of the unmarried women who belong to the
household of Ulysses, is one of the three great crimes which draw
down from Heaven such fearful vengeance upon the Suitors. Of the
παλλακὶς, we hear but twice in the poems; nor can we say that this word
meant more than a concubine[936]. Among the Greek chieftains, cases
of homicide are more frequent than those of bastardy. And when such
instances are mentioned, it is not in the hardened manner of later

[935] Od. xxii. 37, κατευνάζεσθε βιαίως.

[936] Il. ix. 449. Od. xiv. 203.

It is something at least that, in such matters, a nation should be
alive to shame. We have various signs that this was so in Greece. One
of them is the tender expression[937]:

[937] Il. ii. 514, cf. xvi 184.

  παρθένος αἰδοίη, ὑπερώϊον εἰσαναβᾶσα.

It must be remembered, when we touch upon these morbid parts in human
life and nature, that the society of that period did not avail itself
of the expedient of the professional corruption of a part of womankind
in order to relieve the virtue of the residue from assault.

Among the Greek chieftains and their families, Polydore, a sister of
Achilles, had a spurious son[938]. Nestor[939] sprang from a father of
spurious birth. Each Ajax had a spurious brother. Only Menelaus of all
the chiefs is mentioned as having himself had an illegitimate son. This
son, who has the touching name of Megapenthes, was born to him by a
slave, evidently after the rape of Helen; he was apparently recognised
in part; his marriage was celebrated at the same time with that of his
legitimate sister Hermione, but it was contracted with a person of
lower station. He was τηλύγετος, the last as well as the first; though
Helen, owing, as the Poet intimates, to a divine decree, had no more
children, with whom to console her husband, after her return from the

[938] Il. xvi. 175.

[939] Od. xi. 254.

The superior rank conferred by lawful birth is in every case strongly
marked; and this perhaps is the reason why we never find the succession
to sovereignty in Greece disturbed by illegitimate offspring.

The great majority of illegitimate births in Homer are those ascribed
to the paternity of deities. It is probable that this extraction
may be pleaded to cover sometimes marriages which were conceived to
be beneath the station of the woman; sometimes instances like that
of Astyoche[940], when war had both excited passion, and provided
opportunities and victims for its gratification[941]. Setting these
cases aside, the cases of illegitimacy in heroic Greece appear to be

[940] Il. ii. 658-60.

[941] Achæis, or Ethnology, Sect. ix. p. 534.

At the same time, instances are found[942] in which a spurious
child (only, however, I think in the case of a son) is brought up
in a manner approaching to that of the legitimate offspring: and a
certain relationship is acknowledged to exist, for the wife is said
to be μητρυίη, or step-mother, to the illegitimate son. In the case
of Pedæus, it was Theano, Antenor’s wife, who herself educated the
bastard: but it is plain that in Troas concubinage was far more fully
recognised, than in Greece.

[942] Il. v. 69-71. Od. xiv. 203.

Agamemnon in the First Iliad, as we have seen, when announcing his
attention to make Chryseis a partner of his bed, by no means treats
this concubinage as being what it would have been with Priam, a matter
of course and requiring no apology, but founds it upon his preferring
her to his wife Clytemnestra[943].

[943] Il. i. 112.

In the camp before the walls of Troy it certainly appears as if by
the use of the word γέρας, prize, Homer might, as it is commonly
assumed, mean to indicate, for most of the principal chiefs, that they
had captives taken in war for concubines. But the point is far from
clear; and at any rate Menelaus, as is observed by Athenæus, forms
an exception[944]. This circumstance affords rather a marked proof
of Greek ideas with respect to the durability of the marriage tie;
for that author is probably right in ascribing it to his being, as it
were, in the presence of his wife Helen. This concubinage, however,
appears to have been single in each case where it prevailed; or, if it
was otherwise, Homer has at least deemed the circumstance unfit to be
recorded. There is no sign that the seven Lesbian damsels of Il. ix.
128 were concubines.

[944] Athen. xiii. 3. ὅτι οὐδαμῶς τῆς Ἰλιάδος Ὅμηρος ἐποίησε Μενελάῳ
συγκοιμωμένην παλλακίδα, πᾶσι δοὺς γυναῖκας.

Achilles, after the removal of Briseis, had Diomede[945] for the
companion of his couch. But Briseis appears to have had his attachment
in a peculiar degree. He calls her his ἄλοχον θυμάρεα[946]. It is said
that the word ἄλοχος may mean a concubine[947]. I do not find any
passage in Homer, except this of Il. ix., where it may not with the
most obvious propriety be translated ‘wife.’ It has its highest force,
no doubt, in such expressions as μνηστὴ ἄλοχος and κουριδίη ἄλοχος:
even as we say intensively ‘wedded wife.’ But the term is the standing
phrase for wife, as much as τέκνα for children; and it is impossible,
consistently with what we see of the usages of marriage among the
Greeks, to suppose that the same term was alike applicable to wives
and concubines. Nor is it necessary to draw such a conclusion from
this passage. We might be tempted to suppose, that Achilles here puts
a strain as it were upon the use of the word, and for the moment calls
Briseis his wife, in order to prepare the way for the tremendous and
piercing sarcasm which immediately follows[948]:

[945] Il. ix. 664.

[946] Ibid. 336.

[947] Damm, Liddell and Scott. In Od. iv. 623, Nitzsch considers that
ἄλοχοι must mean wives of the δαιτύμονες. In Od. ix. 115, I find no
reason for departing from the plain meaning of wives. It would be
giving too much credit to the Cyclopes for civilization, were we to
suppose that they recognised a distinction between wife and concubine.

[948] Il. ix. 340.

  ἦ μοῦνοι φιλέουσ’ ἀλόχους μερόπων ἀνθρώπων

But we may, I think, more justly, and without any resort to figure,
observe, that the whole argument of this passage turns upon and
requires us to suppose his having treated Briseis as he would have
treated a wife. So likewise his declaration, that every good man loves
and cares for his wife, becomes insipid, and the whole comparison with
the case of Menelaus senseless, unless we are to give the force of wife
to the name ἄλοχος.

Probably the explanation may be, that she was designated for marriage
with him; for in the Nineteenth Book, where she utters a lamentation
over Patroclus, she declares how that chief kindly encouraged her to
bear up in her widowhood and captivity, promising that she should
be the wife of Achilles, and that the banquets, which, with their
attendant sacrifices, seem to have constituted for the Homeric Greeks
the ceremonial of marriage, should be celebrated on their return to
Phthia[949]. I should therefore suppose that we might with strict
justice render ἄλοχος, in Il. ix. 336, ‘my bride;’ always remembering
that we are dealing with a relation that was not governed by rules, and
that might virtually inure by usage only.

[949] Il. xix. 295-9.

The subsequent passage[950], in which the hero speaks of marrying some
damsel of Hellas or Phthia, is quite consistent with this construction,
for, as it is plain that no actual marriage had been concluded between
them, his relation to Briseis terminated with her removal _de facto_.
The same passage, as well as the custom of Greece, makes it reasonable
to understand that the mother of Neoptolemus, whoever she may have
been, was now dead.

[950] Il. ix. 395-7.

~_Mode of contracting marriage._~

Indeed it is to be remembered all along, that we are speaking of
a state, rather than an act. We know nothing of a ceremonial of
Homeric marriage beyond the exchange of gifts and the celebration of
festivities in connection with the domicile, neither of which could
ordinarily have place in the case of a captive while continuing such.
She would grow into a wife in virtue of intention on the part of her
lord, confirmed by habit, and sealed by a full recognition when the
circumstances, that would alone admit of it, should have arrived.

The concubinage of the Greek chiefs, practised as it was during a long
absence from home, bears an entirely different domestic and social
character from that of Priam. It clearly constitutes, especially if the
connections were single, the mildest and least licentious of all the
forms in which the obligations of the marriage tie could be relaxed.

The presence of a concubine within the precinct of the family seems to
have been differently viewed by the Greeks; for here, and here only,
do we find the disparaging word παλλακὶς (whence the Latin _pellex_)
applied to a person in that position. The two cases of it are as
follows. In one of them Ulysses feigns a story of his having been a
son of the Cretan Castor, born of a παλλακὶς, but (which he mentions
as a departure from the general rule) regarded by his father as much
as were his legitimate children[951]. The other is the instance of
Phœnix in the Ninth Iliad. Amyntor his father had an intended or actual
concubine; and, bestowing his affections on her, slighted the mother
of his child. She, in resentment or self-defence, entreated her son
Phœnix to cross or anticipate his father[952], and win the woman to his
own embraces[953]. He complied; and thus drew down upon himself the
dire wrath and curses of his father, which kindled his own anger in
return; but he restrained himself from the act of parricide, and became
a fugitive instead. This legend is somewhat obscure; but it appears
to indicate plainly that concubinage was not a recognised institution
among the Greeks, as it seems to have been among the Trojans.

[951] Od. xiv. 199-204.

[952] The expression is παλλακίδι προμιγῆναι.

[953] Il. ix. 447, and seqq.

So again, when Laertes had purchased Euryclea[954], we are told that he
never attempted to make her his concubine, anticipating the resentment
of his wife. It is plain, therefore, that this would have been an
admitted offence on his part; and accordingly, that concubinage was
contrary to the ideas of Greece respecting conjugal obligation.

[954] Od. i. 433.

~_Dignity of conjugal manners._~

Within the precinct of the Greek marriages, which was secured and
fenced in the manner we have seen, there prevailed that tenderness,
freedom, and elevation of manners, which was the natural offspring
of a system in the main so sound and strict. The general tone of the
relations of husband and wife in the Homeric poems is thoroughly
natural; it is full of dignity and warmth; a sort of noble deference,
reciprocally adjusted according to the position of the giver and
the receiver, prevails on either side. I will venture to add, it is
full also of delicacy, though we must be content to distinguish,
in considering this point, between what is essential and what is
conventional, and must make some allowance for the directness and
simplicity of expression that characterized an artless age[955].

[955] See Friedreich, Realien, c. ii. §. 56. pp. 196-200, where this
subject is excellently treated.

With this delicacy was combined a not less remarkable freedom in the
Greek manners with respect to women. We find Penelope appearing in
her palace at will, on all ordinary occasions, before the Suitors;
although, on the other hand, no woman would be present where any thing
like license was to be exhibited, as we may judge from the case of the
lay of Demodocus in the Eighth Odyssey. The general freedom of woman is
however most fully exhibited in the case of Nausicaa. She goes forth
into the country with her maidens unattended. When Ulysses appears
there is no fear of him as a man, or even as a stranger, but only from
his condition at the moment. This difficulty she surmounts with a
dignity which she could not have possessed by virtue of her personal
character only, nor except in a case where great liberty was habitually
and traditionally enjoyed by women.

Her arrangement of the manner in which he is to enter the city apart
from her, and her regard in this matter to opinion, both rest upon the
same presumption of her freedom from petty control, as does her playful
demand upon Ulysses for ζωάγρια, or salvage.

Again, how remarkable it is that Alcinous, far from being surprised
that his maiden daughter should have entered into conversation with
a stranger, is actually on the point of finding fault with her for
not having shown a greater forwardness, and brought him home in
her own company: a reproach, from which Ulysses saves her by his

[956] Od. vii. 298, 307.

~_Social position of the wife._~

It is not only from this or that particular, but it is from the whole
tone of the intercourse maintained between men and women, that we are
really to judge what is the social position of the latter.

And this tone it is which supplies such conclusive evidence with
respect to the age of Homer. Achilles observes, that love and care[957]
towards a wife are a matter of course with every right-minded man.
Love and care, indeed, may be shown to a pet animal. It is not on the
mere words, therefore, that we must rest our conclusions; but upon
the spirit in which they are spoken, and the whole circle of signs
with which they are associated. It is on the reciprocity of all those
sentiments between man and wife, father and daughter, son and mother,
which are connected with the moral dignity of the human being. It is
on the confidence exchanged between them, and the loving liberty of
advice and exhortation from the one to the other. The social equality
of man and woman is of course to be understood with reserves, as is
that other equality, which nevertheless indicates a political truth of
the utmost importance, the equality of all classes in the eye of the
law. There are differences in the nature and constitution of the two
great divisions of the race, to be met by adaptations of treatment
and of occupation; without such adaptations, the seeming equality
would be partiality alike dangerous and irrational. But, subject to
those reserves, we find in Homer the fulness of moral and intelligent
being alike consummate, alike acknowledged, on the one side and on the
other. The conversation of Hector and Andromache in the Sixth Iliad,
of Ulysses and Penelope in the Twenty-third Odyssey, the position of
Arete at the court of Alcinous, and that of Helen in the palace of
Menelaus, all tell one and the same tale. Ulysses, for example, where
he wishes to convey his supplication in Scheria to the King, does it by
falling at the Queen’s feet: but she does not supplicate her husband:
the address to her seems to have sufficed. And Helen appears, in the
palace of Menelaus, on such a footing relatively to her husband, as
would perfectly befit the present relations of man and woman. Nay, we
may take the speech of Helen in the Sixth Iliad, addressed to Hector,
where she touches on the character of Paris, as equal to any of them
by way of social indication. What we there read is not the sagacity or
intelligence of the speaker, but it is the right of the wife (so to
call her) to speak about the character of her husband and its failings,
her acknowledged possession of the standing ground from which she can
so speak, and speak with firmness, nay, even with an authority of her

[957] Il. ix. 341.

When we see Briseis, the widow of a prince, sharing the bed of
Achilles, and delivered over as a slave into the hands of Agamemnon,
when we find Hector anticipating that Andromache might be required to
perform menial offices for a Greek mistress, and Nestor encouraging
the army not to quit Troy until they had forced the Trojan matrons
into their embraces, we are struck with pity and horror. But we must
separate between the danger and suffering which uniformly dogs the weak
in times of violence, most of all, too, after the sack of a city, and
what belongs to the age of Homer in particular. After this separation
has been effected, there remains nothing which ought to depress our
views of the position of woman in the heroic age. The sons of Priam,
princes of Troy, were sold into captivity by Achilles as he took
them[958]: of course the purchasers put them to menial employments.
Not only so, but Eumæus, the faithful swineherd and slave of Ulysses,
was by birth royal: his father Ctesios was king of two wealthy and
happy cities[959]. From the name Εὐρυμέδουσα, it would appear probable
that she also, the chamber-woman of the palace of Alcinous, though a
captive, was of noble birth[960].

[958] Il. xxi. 40.

[959] Od. xv. 413.

[960] Od. vii. 8.

There is not in the whole of the poems an instance of rude or abusive
manners towards woman as such, or of liberties taken with them in
the course of daily life. If Melantho gets hard words, it is not as
a woman, but for her vice and insolence. The conduct of the Ithacan
Suitors to Penelope, as it is represented in the Odyssey, affords the
strongest evidence of the respect in which women were held. Her son had
been a child: there was no strong party of adherents to the family; yet
the highflown insolence of the Suitors, demanding that she should marry
again, is kept at bay for years, and never proceeds to violence.

~_Force of conjugal attachments._~

We find throughout the poems those signs of the overpowering force
of conjugal attachments which, from all that has preceded, we might
expect. While admitting the superior beauty of Calypso as an Immortal,
Ulysses frankly owns to her that his heart is pining every day for
Penelope[961]. It is the highest honour of a hero to die fighting
on behalf of his wife and children. The continuance of domestic
happiness, and the concord of man and wife, is a blessing so great,
that it excites the envy of the gods, and they interrupt it by some
adverse dispensation[962]. And no wonder; for nothing has earth to
offer better, than when man and wife dwell together in unity of spirit:
their friends rejoice, their foes repine: the human heart has nothing
more to desire[963]. There is here apparently involved that great and
characteristic idea of the conjugal relation, that it includes and
concentrates in itself all other loves. And this very idea is expressed
by Andromache, where, after relating the slaughter of her family by
Achilles, she tells Hector, ‘Hector, nay but thou art for me a father,
and a mother, and a brother, as well as the husband of my youth[964].’
To which he in the same spirit of enlarged attachment replies, by
saying that neither the fate of Troy, which he sees approaching, nor of
Hecuba, nor of Priam, nor of his brothers, can move his soul like the
thought, that Andromache will as a captive weave the web, and bear the
pitcher, for some dame of Messe or of Hypereia[965].

[961] Od. v. 215.

[962] Od. xxiii. 210.

[963] Od. vi. 180-5.

[964] Il. vi. 429, 30. Compare the following: _Domino suo, imò Patri;
conjugi suo, imò Fratri; ancilla sua, imò filia: ipsius uxor, imò
soror; Abælardo, Heloissa_. Abæl. Opp.

[965] Il. vi. 450-7.

~_Woman-characters of Homer._~

With the pictures which we thus find largely scattered over the poems,
of the relations of woman to others, the characters which Homer has
given us of woman herself are in thorough harmony. Among his living
characters we do not find the viragos, the termagants, the incarnate
fiends, of the later legends. Nay, the woman of Homer never dreams
of using violence, even as a protection against wrong. It must be
admitted, that he does not even present to us the heroine in any more
pronounced form, than that of the moral endurance of Penelope. The
heroine proper, the Joan of Arc, is certainly a noble creation: but
yet one perhaps implying a state of things more abnormal, than that
which had been reached by the Greeks of the Homeric age. The pictures
of women, which Homer presents to us, are perfect pictures; but they
are pictures simply of mothers, matrons, sisters, daughters, maidens,
wives. The description which the Poet has given us of the violence
and depravity of Clytemnestra, is the genuine counterpart of his high
conception of the nature of woman[966]:

[966] Od. xi. 427.

  ὣς οὐκ αἰνότερον καὶ κύντερον ἄλλο γυναικὸς,
  ἥτις δὴ τοιαῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶν ἔργα βάληται.

For, in proportion as that nature is elevated and pure, does it become
more shameful and degraded when, by a total suppression of its better
instincts, it has been given over to wickedness.

Of the minor infirmities of our nature, as well as of its grosser
faults, the women of Homer betray much less than the men. Nowhere has
he introduced into a prominent position the character of a vicious
woman. The only instance of the kind is among a portion of the female
attendants in the palace of Ulysses, where, out of fifty, no more
than twelve were at last the willing tools, having at first[967]
been the reluctant victims, of the lust of the proud and rapacious
band of Suitors. Clytemnestra, indeed, appears as a lofty criminal
in the perspective of the poem, but her wickedness, too, is wholly
derivative. Ægisthus corrupts her by a long course of effort, for,
as Homer informs us, she had been a right-minded person; φρεσὶ γὰρ
κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσι[968]. On the one side we have only to place her and
the saucy slut Melantho; on the other, we have Andromache, Hecuba, and
Briseis in the Iliad; in the Odyssey, Penelope and Euryclea, Arete
and Nausicaa; the slightly drawn figures, such as that of the mother
of Ulysses in the Eleventh Odyssey, are in the same spirit as the
more full delineations. There is not a single case in the poems to
qualify the observation, first, that the woman of Homer is profoundly
feminine: secondly, that she is commonly the prop of virtue, rarely the
instrument, and (in this reversing the order of the first temptation)
never the source, of corruption.

[967] Od. xxii. 37.

[968] Od. iii. 266.

In company with all that we have seen, we likewise find that the
limits of the position of woman are carefully marked, and that she
fully comprehends them. There is nowhere throughout the poems a single
effort at self-assertion: the ground that she holds, she holds without
dispute. If at any point a stumblingblock could be likely to be found,
it would be between a mother just parting with her authority, and
a son newly come of age. Yet Penelope and Telemachus never clash,
and thoroughly understand one another. Again, the Homeric man, even
the Homeric good man, is sometimes the subject of hasty, vehement,
and tumultuous passions; the woman never. She finds her power in
gentleness; she rules with a silken thread; she is eminent for the
uniformity of her self-command, and for the observance of measure in
all the relations of life. The misogynism which marked Euripides and
other later writers has, and could have, no place in Homer: the moral
standard of his women is higher than that of his men; their office,
which they perform without fault, is to love and to minister, and their
reward to lean on those whom they serve.

The lower aspect of the relation between the two sexes is in the poems
wholly secondary. All that tends to sensualize it is commonly repelled
or hidden, and, when brought into mention at all, is yet carefully and
anxiously depressed. Even the cases of exception, which lie beyond the
pale of marriage, are kept in a certain analogy with it, and are as
far as possible removed from the promiscuous and brutal indulgence,
which marked the later Pagan ages, including those of the greatest
pride and splendour, and which still so deeply taints the societies of

We may find, if it be needed, some further evidence of the high
position of woman upon earth in the relation subsisting between the
Homeric gods and goddesses respectively. For that relation approaches
as nearly as may be to equality in force and intelligence, while in
purity the latter are on the whole superior. After Jupiter, the deities
most elevated in Homer are, Juno and Minerva, Neptune and Apollo; and
of all these, I think, we must consider Minerva to have stood first in
his estimation. This arrangement could not but harmonize with, while it
also serves to measure, his ideas of the earthly place and character of

A similar inference is suggested by the tendency of the Greeks to
enshrine many ideas, sometimes great, and occasionally both great and
good, in feminine impersonations.

We will, lastly, inquire into the employments of women in the heroic
age; both to ascertain how nearly they could approach to the summits
of society, and also what was their general share in the division of

~_Women were admitted to sovereignty._~

Among nations where war, homicide, and piracy so extensively prevailed,
it is certainly deserving of peculiar consideration, that we should
find any traces of the exercise of sovereignty by a woman. There are
however three cases in the poems, which in a greater or less degree
serve to imply that it was neither unknown nor wholly unfamiliar.

1. Andromache states, that her mother was queen in Hypoplacian Thebes.
The word is βασίλευεν[969]. It implies more than being the mere wife of
a king; though, as it was during the life time of her husband Eetion,
we cannot justly infer from it that there was here any exercise of
independent sovereign power. It is the only instance in the Iliad,
where we have any word, that has βασιλεὺς for its basis, applied to a

[969] Il. vi. 425.

2. The common tradition is, that Jason acquired possession of Lemnos
by marriage with Hypsipyle its queen. This is so far supported by
Homer that, while Jason clearly appears in the poems as a Greek,
we notwithstanding find his son sovereign of Lemnos, without any
indication of a conquest or regular migration, and Hypsipyle is
mentioned as his mother. The simple fact that the mother, contrary
to Homer’s usual practice, is in this case named as well as the
father, raises a presumption that it is because she had reigned in the

[970] Il. vii. 468, 9.

In the Eleventh Odyssey we are told that Neleus, the younger of the two
illegitimate sons of Tyro, came to dwell in Pylos, and that he married
Chloris, the youngest daughter of Amphion an Iasid, giving large
presents to obtain her hand[971]. The text proceeds,

[971] Od. xi. 254-7, 281-5.

  ἡ δὲ Πύλου βασίλευε, τέκεν δέ οἱ ἀγλαὰ τέκνα.

This may mean that she became his queen when he was king of Pylos: or
it may mean that he became her husband when she was already queen there.

The Odyssey discloses to us the manner in which, under circumstances
like those of the Trojan war, sovereign power would naturally pass into
female hands otherwise than by inheritance.

It would appear that, when Agamemnon set sail for Troy, he left
Clytemnestra in charge of his affairs as well as of his young son
Orestes, only taking the precaution to provide her with a trustworthy
counsellor in the person of his Bard[972]. As it was by inveigling
Clytemnestra that Ægisthus obtained the sovereign power, she must
evidently have been its depository.

[972] Od. iii. 263-8.

In like manner it would appear, that Penelope was left in charge
of Telemachus by Ulysses when he went to Troy, and that Mentor was
appointed to perform for her some such friendly office, as that which
the Bard undertook for Clytemnestra. The statement here is, that
Ulysses committed to him authority over his whole household[973].
But it is plain that Penelope had the indoor management; since
Telemachus speaks of the mode in which she regulated the reception of
strangers[974], and we hear of her rule in other matters[975]. Here we
see openings for the natural formation of the word βασίλισσα, which
seems originally to have meant, not a king’s wife merely, but a woman
in the actual exercise of royal authority; and which first appears in
the Odyssey.

[973] Od. ii. 225-7.

[974] Od. xx. 129-33. comp. xix, 317. sqq.

[975] Od. xxii. 426, 7.

The ordinary occupation of women of the highest rank in the poems is
undoubtedly to sit engaged, along with their maidens of the household,
in spinning, weaving, or embroidery. Thus we find it with Helen,
Penelope, and Andromache. But when Hector bids Andromache retire to
these duties, he speaks of them in contradistinction not to all other
duties, but to war, which, as he says, is the affair of men. Even this
rule, however, was subject to exception. The Bellerophon of Homer
fights with the Amazons[976]; and the part taken by the goddesses in
the Theomachy shows, that the idea of women-soldiers was not wholly
strange to his mind; as it is in fact to this day, I believe, less
attractively exemplified in the African kingdom of Dahomey. But manual
employments, taken alone, would not afford a just criterion. The
dialogues of the speeches clearly show that then, as now, the woman was
concerned in all that concerned her husband.

[976] Il. vi. 186.

~_And to the service of the gods._~

Next to political supremacy, we may naturally inquire how far women
were qualified for the service of the gods.

We have various signs, more or less clear, of their sharing in it. The
reference to the Nurses of Dionysus cannot be wholly without force in
this direction. The abstraction of Alcyone by Apollo has probably a
more positive connection with female ministry. But we are provided,
as far as Troy at least is concerned, with one clear and conclusive
instance. The Sixth Iliad affords us a glimpse of a female priesthood,
and a worship confined to women, that subsisted among the Trojans.
Helenus, alarmed at the feats of Diomed, urges Hector to desire Hecuba
to collect the aged women for a procession to the temple of Athene,
with a robe for a gift, and with the promise of a hecatomb (Il. vi.
75-101). Hector then acquaints the troops, that he was going to
desire the old counsellors and the matrons of the city to supplicate
the deities, and to promise hecatombs (iii. 15). There seems to be
something of policy in the way in which he thus generalizes, for the
army, his account of the design: perhaps afraid of the effect that
might be produced by its peculiar character. When he finds Hecuba, he
lays upon her precisely the injunction that Helenus had recommended.
She sends her female servants to collect the aged women through the
city (286, 7). She leads them to the temple of Athene in the citadel.
They are there received by Theano, who had been appointed, apparently
by the Trojan public[977], priestess to that deity. Theano takes the
robe from Hecuba, and herself offers it and prays. Her prayer is for
the city, and not for the men by name, but for the wives and infants:
and her promise is, _we_ will sacrifice, ἱερεύσομεν, twelve, not oxen,
but heifers, yearlings, untouched by the goad (Il. vi. 296-310). Thus
the feminine element runs apart through the whole.

[977] Eustath. in loc.

We have no reason to conclude that this order of things was
exceptional; for though the time was one of peculiar danger and
emergency, the temple, the worship, and the priesthood stand before us
as belonging to the regular institutions of Troy.

We have no case like that of Theano among the Greeks. It could, indeed,
hardly be expected; as priesthood had not yet grown to be an Hellenic
institution. Yet, while the direct force of the narrative speaks for
Troy alone, we are justified in giving it a more general significance,
because the Greek woman is apparently rather before than behind the
Trojan one in influence, and in the substantiveness of her position.

In the Trojan genealogy[978] no notice is taken of women; nor have
we any means of judging whether they were regarded as capable of
succession to the throne, or what was their political and historical
importance. But among the Greek races this was clearly great. The large
number of women whom Homer has introduced in the realm of Aides, and
the parts assigned to them, are plain indications of their important
share in the movement of Greek history.

[978] Il. xx. 215-40.

~_Their household employments._~

The apportionment of the ordinary employments of women appears to have
been managed in general accordance with the suppositions, towards which
all the foregoing facts would lead us.

We have them indicated in a great variety of passages of the poems,
from among which we may select two in particular.

The first relates to Circe and her attendant Nymphs; but we may take it
as an exact copy of the arrangements of a prince’s household.

Circe has four female servants, who are called δρήστειραι. The first
provides the seats with the proper coverings; the second prepares and
lays the tables; the third mixes the wine and brings the goblets; the
fourth carries water, and lights the fire to boil it[979].

[979] Od. x. 348-59.

The second passage exhibits to us the household of Ulysses at the break
of day, when the in-door and out-door servants are setting about their
morning duties.

There were fifty women servants. Of these twelve were employed as
flour-grinders (ἀλετρίες); and this appears to have been the most
laborious employment among all those assigned to women. Eleven of
the twelve have finished their task and retired to rest; the twelfth
remains till the morning at her work, and curses the Suitors who cause
her such fatigue[980].

[980] Od. xx. 105. Cf. xxii. 421.

It is now dawn[981]. Part of the maid-servants are lighting the fire.
The old but active Euryclea is up betimes, and has[982] the place of
housekeeper. She desires a part of them to set smartly about sweeping
the house, and putting the proper covers on the furniture; another part
are to wipe the tables and the cups; a third bevy, no fewer than twenty
in number, are dispatched for water[983].

[981] Od. xx. 122.

[982] Od. xxii. 425.

[983] Ibid. 149-56, 158.

Meantime the men-servants (δρηστῆρες or θεράποντες)[984] of the Suitors
have made their appearance, and they set about preparing logs for the
fire. Then come in from the country the swineherd with his swine, the
goatherd with his goats; and, from over the water, the cowherd with his
cow, and with more goats.

[984] Od. xvi. 248, 53. xx. 160.

Taking the general evidence of the poems, it stands thus. Of
agricultural operations, we find women sharing only in the lighter
labours of the vintage[985]; or perhaps acting as shepherdesses[986].
The men plough, sow, reap, tend cattle and live stock generally; they
hunt and they fish; and they carry to the farm the manure that is
accumulated about the house[987].

[985] Il. xviii. 567.

[986] Such seems to be the most probable meaning of Il. xxii. 126-8.

[987] Od. xvii. 299.

Within doors, the women seem to have the whole duty in their hands,
except the preparation of firewood and of animal food. The men kill,
cut up, dress, and carve the animals that are to be eaten. The women,
on the other hand, spin, weave, wash the clothes, clean the house,
grind the corn, bake the bread and serve it[988], with all the
vegetable or mixed food, or what may be called made dishes[989] (εἴδατα
πολλά). They also prepare the table, and hand the ewer with the basin
for washing. And a portion of them act as immediate attendants to the
mistress of the palace, Andromache, Penelope, or Helen.

[988] Od. iv. 623.

[989] Od. vii. 172-6, et alibi.

~_Their service about the bath._~

Thus far all is easy and becoming; but an apparent difficulty confronts
us when we find, that it was the usage for women to undertake certain
duties connected with the bathing of men. Sometimes this was done by
servants; thus it was managed for Telemachus and Pisistratus in the
palace of Menelaus, and for Ulysses in that of the Phæacian king. On
the other hand, it was sometimes an office of hospitality rendered by
women, and even by young damsels, of the highest rank, to distinguished
strangers of their own age or otherwise. Polycaste, the young and fair
daughter of Nestor, (as the text is commonly interpreted,) bathed
and anointed Telemachus, and put on him a cloak and vest[990]. Helen
herself, when she was living in Troy, performed the like offices for
Ulysses, on the occasion of his mission thither in the disguise of a

[990] Od. iii. 464-8.

[991] Od. iv. 252.

  ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή μιν ἐγὼ λόεον καὶ χρῖον ἐλαίῳ,
  ἀμφὶ δὲ εἵματα ἕσσα....

And lastly, the goddess Circe discharged the very same function, with
some addition to the description, on behalf of Ulysses her visitor. For
here it is explicitly stated, that she poured water over his head and

[992] Od. x. 361.

  ἔς ῥ’ ἀσάμινθον ἕσασα λό’ ἐκ τρίποδος μεγάλοιο,
  θυμῆρες κεράσασα, κατὰ κρατός τε καὶ ὤμων.

This usage has given occasion, as was perhaps to be expected, to much
criticism[993] upon the immodest habits of Homer and his age. Pains
have also been taken in their defence[994]. And certainly, if there be
need of a defence, Eustathius does not supply one by pleading, that
it was the custom of the time, and that the Pylian princess doubtless
acted by the command of her father[995]. What is wanted appears to me
not to be defence, but simply the clearing away of misapprehensions as
to the facts.

[993] See Pope on Od. iii. 464-8.

[994] Nägelsbach, Hom. Theol. v. 34.

[995] Eustath. in loc. 1477.

It would assuredly be strange, were we to detect real immodesty
among such women of the heroic age as Homer has described to us; or
even among such men. At a period when the exposure, among men only,
of the person of a man constituted the last extremity of shameful
punishment[996], and when even in circumstances of the utmost necessity
Ulysses exhibited so much care to avoid anything of the kind[997], it
is almost of itself incredible that habitually, among persons of the
highest rank and character, and without any necessity at all, such
things should take place. And, as it is not credible, so neither, I
think, is it true.

[996] Il. ii. 260-4.

[997] Od. vi. 126-8.

It may be observed, that there is no case of ablution thus performed
in the Iliad. But this appears to be only for the same reason, as that
which makes the meals of the camp more simple, than those which were
served in the tranquillity of peace and home.

~_Explanations of the presumed difficulty._~

The words commonly employed by Homer in this matter refer to two
separate parts of the operation: first, the bathing and anointing, then
the dressing. They are commonly for the first λούω and χρίω: for the
second βάλλω, with the names of the proper vestments added (Od. iii.

  ἀμφὶ δέ μιν φᾶρος[998] καλὸν βάλεν ἠδὲ χιτῶνα.

[998] Or χλαῖναν, as in Od. x. 365.

But the whole question, in my view, really depends upon this: whether
the verbs used mean the performance of a particular operation, or the
giving to the person concerned the means of doing it for himself.
Just as by feeding the poor, we mean giving them wherewithal to feed
themselves. This is the suggestion of Wakefield[999], and I believe it
to be the satisfactory and conclusive solution of the whole question.
We might be prevailed upon to travel a good way in company with Heroic
simplicity, and yet not quite be able to reach the point which the
opposite interpretation would require.

[999] On Pope, Od. iii. 464-8.

I think that the construction, which I have indicated as the proper
one, is conclusively made good, first by the general rules for the
sense of the words λούω, λούομαι, and kindred words in Homer: and
secondly, by the detailed evidence of facts.

When the guests at a feast wash their hands, the standard expression
is in the middle voice, χερνίψαντο δ’ ἔπειτα. When Ulysses and Diomed
washed in the sea, the expression is ἱδρῶ ἀπενίζοντο: when they
afterwards bathed and anointed themselves, it is λούσαντο, λοεσσαμένω,
ἀλειψαμένω[1000]. To smear arrows with poison is ἰοὺς χρίεσθαι
χαλκήρεας[1001]. For the maidens of Nausicaa, when they bathe and are
anointed, we have λοεσσάμεναι and χρισάμεναι[1002]. In fact the usage
is general.

[1000] Il. x. 572-7.

[1001] Od. i. 262.

[1002] Od. vi. 96; cf. 219, 20.

The case stands rather differently with βάλλω. Here the active usage
is, I believe, the common one. But there is ample authority for the
converse or active use of the middle voice, which corresponds with the
middle use of the active. As for instance,

  αὐτίκα δ’ ἀμφ’ ὤμοισιν ἐβάλλετο κάμπυλα τόξα[1003].

[1003] Il. x. 333. Cf. Od. xi. 427.

There can therefore surely be no reason to doubt that βάλλειν in this
place follows the inclination of the leading words of the passages,
and signifies, that as the water and the oil, so likewise the fresh
clothing to put on, were given by the damsel for the purpose, but by no
means that the operations, or any of them, were actually performed by

If the word βάλλειν meant ‘to put on,’ there would be, as
Eustathius[1004] observes, an ὑστερολογία, for the χίτων was as a
matter of course put on before the φᾶρος. But if it means ‘to give for
the purpose of putting on,’ then there is no solecism in the mode of

[1004] On Od. iii. 467.

We must not, however, pass by the case of Circe in the Tenth Odyssey,
where, as we have seen, it is stated that the water was actually poured
by the Sorceress over the head and shoulders of Ulysses. It is also
true that the old word λοέω, equivalent to λούω, is used there in the
active voice.

Upon this I observe three things:

1. The statement that the water was poured over his head and shoulders,
as he sat in the bath, evidently implies that what may be called
essential decency was preserved.

2. Even if it were not so, we could not in this point argue from the
manners or morals of a Phœnician goddess to those of a Greek damsel.

3. The meaning probably of λοέω is middle, in this as well as in the
other cases: she gave him water to wash with, pouring it over his head
and shoulders, and then leaving to him the substance of the operation,
which was not completed by this mere act of affusion.

~_Case of Ulysses landed in Scheria._~

Finally, let us consider the evidence from the case of Ulysses in
Scheria, which appears of itself conclusive.

1. In Od. vii. 296. Ulysses says that Nausicaa (according to the
popular construction of the term) bathed him: καὶ λοῦσ’ ἐν ποταμῷ.

2. But from Od. vi. 210, we find that what she did was not to
bathe him, but to give orders to her attendants that he should be
bathed,--that is, should be provided with the requisites for bathing.
Her words were, λούσατέ τ’ ἐν ποταμῷ, ὅθ’ ἐπὶ σκέπας ἔστ’ ἀνέμοιο.

3. Upon this they took him to a recess, gave him clothing and oil,
and bid him bathe himself, ἤνωγον δ’ ἄρα μιν λοῦσθαι: upon which he
requested them to stand off, as otherwise he could not proceed: ἄντην
δ’ οὐκ ἂν ἐγώγε λοέσσομαι (ibid. 218-22).

It would appear therefore, that the statements of Homer give no ground
whatever for sinister or disparaging imputation. His pictures do not
entirely correspond with modern ideas: but they may well leave on our
minds the impression that, in the period he described, if the standard
of appearances in this department was lower, that of positive thought
and action was higher, as well as simpler, than in our own day.

We have now concluded what it seemed needful to say on the employments
of women.

~_Subsequent declension of the place of woman._~

It was, however, little likely that a state of things, such as has been
described, should last.

The idea of marriage was in aftertimes greatly lowered, together with
the moral tone in general; and the very name of γάμος, with its kindred
words, underwent a change of sense, and was made applicable to such a
relation as that established between the Greek chieftains in the war of
Troy and their captives in cases where they had wives already[1005].

[1005] The case of Achilles, who calls Briseis his wife, and who had no
other, has been already discussed.

Thus, in the Hecuba of Euripides, as the mother of Cassandra, she
intercedes with Agamemnon to avenge the murder of her son Polydorus,
on the ground that the youth had become a κηδεστὴς, or relation by
affinity to Agamemnon, who had a wife already[1006]:

[1006] Hecuba, 817.

  τοῦτον καλῶς δρῶν ὄντα κηδεστὴν σέθεν

And, in the Troades, Cassandra has with Agamemnon certain σκότια
νυμφευτήρια (258); and again,

  γαμεῖ βιαίως σκότιον Ἀγαμέμνων λέχος[1007].

[1007] Ibid. 44. cf. ver. 358.

Similar language is used in the case of Andromache[1008]. The ideas of
the heroic age would have admitted no such depravation of marriage.

[1008] Ibid. 724.

In truth it would seem not only as if, before Christianity appeared,
notwithstanding the advance of civilization, the idea and place of
woman were below what they should have been, but actually as if, with
respect to all that was most essential, they sank with the lapse of

The contrast between the views of the marriage state entertained in
the heroic age, and at the period which we regard as the acmè of the
Greek civilization, will, perhaps, be best conceived by referring to
the passage ascribed to Demosthenes, as it is quoted by Athenæus,
which explains succinctly the several uses of prostitutes, concubines,
and wives, apparently as classes all alike recognised, and without
any note of a moral difference in their social position and repute
respectively. The first are for pleasure, the second for daily use, the
last for legitimate offspring, and for good housekeeping[1009].

[1009] Athenæus xiii. 31. Döllinger Heid. u. Jud. ix. 31.

And yet it continued to be, in the time of Aristotle, a favourable
distinction of Greece as compared with the barbarians, that the woman
was not with them equivalent to the slave. Throughout their history
they continued to be a nation of monogamists, except where they became
locally tainted with oriental manners[1010].

[1010] Arist. Pol. I. ii. 4. Döllinger ix. 25.

Again, Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, taking a general survey
of the relation between man and wife, describes it as a government
indeed, but as analogous to that natural and perfect form of government
which he terms aristocracy. It is founded on merit and fitness. The man
leaves to the woman all for which she is best suited, and each kind
contributes its particular gifts to make up the common stock.

There was much, then, of solidity, and permanence in the ground secured
for the Greek woman by the heroic age. But the philosopher, sagacious
and dispassionate as he is, had still a much less elevated view of her
position than Homer had exhibited.

There may[1011], he says, be in a tragedy a good or bad woman, a good
or a bad slave; there is room for variety even in these; καί τοίγε ἴσως
τούτων τὸ μὲν χεῖρον τὸ δὲ ὅλως φαῦλόν ἐστι. No such classification,
no such comparison, could have found place in the heroic age. Yet more
remarkable is the little postscript assigned to the widows of the
dead in the funeral oration assigned by Thucydides to Pericles: “If I
must also say a few words, for you that are now widows, concerning
what constitutes the merit of a woman, I will sum up all in one short
admonition. It will be much for your character not to sink beneath your
own actual nature (τῆς ὑπαρχούσης φύσεως μὴ χείροσι γένεσθαι); and to
be as little talked about as possible among men, whether for praise or
for dispraise[1012].”

[1011] Aristot. Poet. c. 28.

[1012] Thuc. ii. 45.


_The office of the Homeric Poems in relation to that of the early Books
of Holy Scripture._

Even if they are regarded in no other light than as literary treasures,
the position, both of the oldest books among the Sacred Scriptures,
and, next to them, of the Homeric poems, is so remarkable, as not
only to invite, but to command the attention of every inquirer into
the early condition of mankind. Each of them opens to us a scene, of
which we have no other literary knowledge. Each of them is, either
wholly or in a great degree, isolated; and cut off from the domain of
history, as it is commonly understood. Each of them was preserved with
the most jealous care by the nation to which they severally belonged.
By far the oldest of known compositions, and with conclusive proof
upon the face of them that their respective origins were perfectly
distinct and independent, they, notwithstanding, seem to be in no
point contradictory, while in many they are highly confirmatory
of each other’s genuineness and antiquity. Still, as historical
representations, and in a purely human aspect, they are greatly
different. The Holy Scriptures are like a thin stream, beginning from
the very fountain-head of our race, and gradually, but continuously
finding their way through an extended solitude, into times otherwise
known, and into the general current of the fortunes of mankind. The
Homeric poems are like a broad lake outstretched in the distance, which
provides us with a mirror of one particular age and people, alike full
and marvellous, but which is entirely dissociated by an interval of
many generations from any other records, except such as are of the
most partial and fragmentary kind. In respect of the influence which
they have respectively exercised upon mankind, it might appear almost
profane to compare them. In this point of view, the Scriptures stand
so far apart from every other production, on account of their great
offices in relation to the coming of the Redeemer, and to the spiritual
training of mankind, that there can be nothing either like or second to

But undoubtedly, after however wide an interval, the Homeric poems thus
far at least stand in a certain relation to the Scriptures, that no
other work of man can be compared to them. Their immediate influence
has been great; but that influence which they have mediately exercised
through their share in shaping the mind and nationality of Greece,
and again, through Greece upon the world, cannot readily be reduced
to measure: _Les vraies origines de l’esprit humain sont là; tous les
nobles de l’intelligence y retrouvent la patrie de leurs pères_[1013].
Insomuch that, passing over the vast interval between those purposes
which concern salvation, and every other purpose connected with man,
this remains to be admitted, that there is a relative parallelism
between the oldest Holy Scriptures and the works of Homer. For each
of them stands at the head of the class of powers to which they
respectively belong; and the minor seems to present to our view, as
well as the major one, the indications of a distinct Providential aim
that was to be attained through its means.

[1013] Renan, Études d’Histoire Religieuse, p. 40.

The relation, however, of the Homeric poems to the earlier portion of
the Sacred Scriptures, appears to me to be capable of being represented
in a more determinate form than it assumes when they are merely
compared as being respectively the oldest known compositions, and as
each confirming the testimony of the other by numerous coincidences of

~_Providential functions of Greece and Rome._~

For the Eastern world, it is, I suppose, generally acknowledged that
we ought to regard Mahometanism as having had, no less than Judaism,
a place, though doubtless a very different place, in the determinate
counsels of God. So in the West, we must view the extraordinary
developments, which human nature received, both individually and in
its social forms, among the Greeks and Romans, as having been intended
to fulfil high Providential purposes. They supplied materials for the
intellectual and social portions of that European civilization, which
derives its spiritual substance from the Christian Faith. And they
wrought out solutions apparently conclusive for the questions which
absolutely required an answer, as to the capacity or incapacity of man,
when without the aid of especial divine light and guidance, to work out
his own happiness and peace. That Divine Word, which tells us that the
Redeemer came in the fulness of time, indirectly points to the great
transactions which filled the space of ages since the Fall, when time
was not yet full; and the greatest of all those great transactions
surely were the parts played by Greece and Rome, as the representatives
of humanity at large in its most vigorous developments. They too, as
well as the discipline of the Jewish people, doubtless belonged to the
Divine plan. All these varied manifestations may differ much in their
character and rank, but yet, like the body, soul, and spirit of a man,
they are to be referred to one origin, and they are integrants to one

Just in the same manner with the parallel currents of historical
events, it would appear that the early Scriptures and the Homeric
poems combine to make up for us a sufficiently complete form of the
primitive records of our race. The Scriptures of the Old Testament give
us the history of the line, in which the promise of the Messiah was
handed down. But the intellectual and social developments of man are
there represented in the simplest and the slightest, nay, even in the
narrowest forms. With the exception of Solomon, who, in spite of his
wisdom, was enticed away from God by lust, and of the two illustrious
specimens of uncorrupted piety in the midst of dangerous power, Joseph
and Daniel, I know not whether we can, on the authority of Holy
Scripture, point to any character of the Mosaic or Judaic history as
great in any other sense, than as the organs of that Almighty One,
with whom nothing human is either great or small. It is plain that if
we bring the leading characters of that history into contrast with the
Achilles or the Ulysses of Homer, and with his other marked personages,
these latter undoubtedly give us a representation and development of
human nature, and of man in his social relations, that Scripture from
its very nature could not supply. Each has its own function to perform,
so that there is no room for competition between them, and it is
better to avoid comparison altogether; and to decline to consider the
legislation of Moses as a work to be compared either with the heroic
institutions, or with systems like those of Lycurgus or of Solon. We
then obtain a clear view of it as a scheme evidently constructed not
alone with human but with superhuman wisdom, if only we measure it in
reference to its very peculiar end. That end was not to give political
lessons to mankind, which are more aptly supplied elsewhere. It was to
fence in, with the ruder materials of the ceremonial and municipal law,
a home, within which the succession of true piety and enlightened faith
might be preserved; a garden wherein the Lord God might, so to speak,
still walk as He had walked of old, and take His delight with the sons
of men. But this high calling had reference only to chosen persons,
a few among the few. Over and above this interior work, there was a
national vocation also. The aim of that vocation seems to have been
to isolate the people, so as to stop the influences from without that
might tend in the direction of change; and so far to crystallize, as it
were, its institutions within, that they might preserve in untainted
purity the tradition and the expectation of Him that was to come.

When the Almighty placed his seal upon Abraham by the covenant of
circumcision, and when He developed that covenant in the Mosaic
institutions, in setting the Jewish people apart for a purpose the most
profound of all His wise designs, He removed it, for the time of its
career, out of the family of nations.

~_Sacred Books not mere literary records._~

Should we, like some writers of the present day, cite the Pentateuch
before the tribunal of the mere literary critic, we may strain our
generosity at the cost of justice, and still only be able to accord
to it a secondary place. The mistake surely is to bring it there at
all, or to view its author otherwise than as the vehicle of a Divine
purpose, which uses all instruments, great, insignificant, or middling,
according to the end in view, but of which all the instruments are
perfect, by reason not of what is intrinsic to themselves, but, simply
and solely, of their exact adaptation to that end[1014].

[1014] To show with what jealousy believers in revelation may justly
regard the mere literary handling of the Older Scriptures, I would
refer to the remarkable work of M. Ernest Renan, ‘_Études d’Histoire
Religieuse_.’ This eloquent and elastic writer treats the idea of a
revealed religion as wholly inadmissible; highly extols the Bible as a
literary treasure; but denies that the general reading of the Bible is
a good, except in so far as _il vaut beaucoup mieux voir le peuple lire
la Bible que ne rien lire_ (pp. 75, 385).

If, however, we ought to decline to try the Judaic code by its merely
political merits, much more ought we to apply the same principle to the
sublimity of the Prophecies, and to the deep spiritual experiences of
the Psalms. In the first, we have a voice speaking from God, with the
marks that it is of God so visibly imprinted upon it, that the mind
utterly refuses to place the prophetical books in the scale against any
production of human genius. And all that is peculiar in our conception
of Isaiah, or of Jeremiah, does not tend so much to make them eminent
among men, as to separate them from men. Homer, on the other hand, is
emphatically and above all things human: he sings by the spontaneous
and the unconscious indwelling energies of nature; whereas these are as
the trumpet of unearthly sounds, and cannot, more than Balaam could,
depart from that which is breathed into them, to utter either less or

But most of all does the Book of Psalms refuse the challenge of
philosophical or poetical competition. In that Book, for well nigh
three thousand years, the piety of saints has found its most refined
and choicest food; to such a degree indeed, that the rank and quality
of the religious frame may in general be tested, at least negatively,
by the height of its relish for them. There is the whole music of the
human heart, when touched by the hand of the Maker, in all its tones
that whisper or that swell, for every hope and fear, for every joy and
pang, for every form of strength and languor, of disquietude and rest.
There are developed all the innermost relations of the human soul to
God, built upon the platform of a covenant of love and sonship that had
its foundations in the Messiah, while in this particular and privileged
Book it was permitted to anticipate His coming.

We can no more then compare Isaiah and the Psalms with Homer, than
we can compare David’s heroism with Diomed’s, or the prowess of the
Israelites when they drove Philistia before them with the valour of the
Greeks at Marathon or Platæa, at Issus or Arbela. We shall most nearly
do justice to each by observing carefully the boundary lines of their
respective provinces.

~_Providential uses of the Homeric poems._~

It appears to be to a certain extent agreed that Rome has given us the
most extraordinary example among all those put upon record by history,
of political organization; and has bequeathed to mankind the firmest
and most durable tissue of law, the bond of social man. Greece, on the
other hand, has had for its share the development of the individual;
and each has shown in its own kind the rarest specimen that has been
known to the world, apart from Divine revelation. The seeds of both
these, and of all that they involved, would appear to be contained in
the Homeric poems[1015]. The condition of arts, manners, character,
and institutions, which they represent, is alike in itself entire, and
without any full parallel elsewhere. It is for the bodily and mental
faculties of man, that which the patriarchal and early Hebrew histories
are for his spiritual life.

[1015] In the Roman History of Mommsen is contained a masterly
comparison between those two rival developments of human life, the
collective and the individual, which are represented by Rome, and by
later or historic Greece, respectively. (Mommsen Röm. Gesch. I. 2. pp.
18-21.) Both of them are open to criticism. In the one we may notice
and brand the characteristic of an iron repression, in the other that
of a lawless freedom. But the age which ended with the war of Troy, and
cast the reflection of its dying beams upon its noble but chequered
epilogue in the Odyssey, appears to make no fundamental deviation
from the mean of wisdom in either direction: on the whole, it united
reverence with independence, the restraint of discipline with the
expansion of freedom: and it stood alike removed, in the plenitude of
its natural elasticity, from those extremes which in modern religion
have, on the one side, absorbed the individual, and on the other (so to
speak) excommunicated him by isolation.

Of the personal and inward relations of man with God, of the kingdom
of grace in the world, Homer can tell us nothing: but of the kingdom
of Providence much, and of the opening powers and capabilities of
human nature, apart from divine revelation, everything. The moral law,
written on the tables of stone, was in one sense a schoolmaster to
bring us to Christ, because it demonstrated our inability to tread the
way of righteousness and pardon without the Redeemer. And perhaps that
ceremonial law, which indulged some things to the hardness of heart
that prevailed among the Jews, was by its permissions, as some have
construed a very remarkable passage in Ezekiel[1016], a schoolmaster in
another sense; because it witnessed to the fact that they had greatly
fallen below the high capacities of their nature. And again, in yet
a third sense, we may say with reverence that these primeval records
are likewise another schoolmaster, teaching us, although with another
voice, the very same lesson: because they show us the total inability
of our race, even when at its maximum of power, to solve for ourselves
the problems of our destiny; to extract for ourselves the sting from
care, from sorrow, and above all, from death; or even to retain without
waste the vital heat of the knowledge of God, when we have become
separate from the source that imparts it.

[1016] Ezek. xx. 25.

~_They complete the code of primitive instruction._~

It seems impossible not to be struck, at this point, with the contrast
between the times preceding the Advent, and those which have followed
it. Since the Advent, Christianity has marched for fifteen hundred
years at the head of human civilization; and has driven, harnessed to
its chariot as the horses of a triumphal car, the chief intellectual
and material forces of the world. Its learning has been the learning of
the world, its art the art of the world, its genius the genius of the
world, its greatness, glory, grandeur, and majesty have been almost,
though not absolutely, all that in these respects the world has had to
boast of. That which is to come, I do not presume to portend: but of
the past we may speak with confidence. He who hereafter, in even the
remotest age, with the colourless impartiality of mere intelligence,
may seek to know what durable results mankind has for the last fifteen
hundred years achieved, what capital of the mind it has accumulated and
transmitted, will find his investigations perforce concentrated upon,
and almost confined to that part, that minor part, of mankind which has
been Christian.

Before the Advent, it was quite otherwise. The treasure of Divine
Revelation was then hidden in a napkin: it was given to a people who
were almost forbidden to impart it; at least of whom it was simply
required, that they should preserve it without variation. They had
no world-wide vocation committed to them; they lay ensconced in a
country which was narrow and obscure; obscure, not only with reference
to the surpassing splendour of Greece and Rome, but in comparison with
Assyria, or Persia, or Egypt. They have not supplied the Christian
ages with laws and institutions, arts and sciences, with the chief
models of greatness in genius or in character. The Providence of
God committed this work to others; and to Homer seems to have been
intrusted the first, which was perhaps, all things considered, also the
most remarkable stage of it[1017].

[1017] I must frankly own that, for one, I can never read without pain
the disparaging account of the Greek mind and its achievements which,
in the Fourth Book of the Paradise Regained, so great a man as Milton
has too boldly put into the mouth of our Blessed Lord. We there find
our sympathies divided, in an indescribable and most unhappy manner,
between the person of the All-wise, and the language and ideas, on
the whole not less just, which are given to Satan. In particular, I
lament the claim, really no better than a childish one, made on the
part of the Jews, to be considered as the fountainhead of the Greek
arts and letters, and the assumption for them of higher attainments in
political science. This is a sacrifice of truth, reason, and history to
prejudice, by which, as by all such proceedings, religion is sure to be
in the end the loser.

~_Christianity supplied a centre to history._~

Without bearing fully in mind this contrast between the providential
function of the Jews and that of other nations, we can hardly embrace
as we ought the importance of the part assigned, before the Advent of
our Lord, to nations and persons who lived beyond the immediate and
narrow pale of Divine Revelation. The relation of the old dispensation
to those who were not Jews, was essentially different from that of
Christendom to those who are not Christians. Only the fall of man
and his recovery are the universal facts with which Revelation is
concerned; all others are limited and partial. The interval between
the occurrence of the first, and the provision for the second, was
occupied by a variety of preparations in severalty for the revelation
of the kingdom of God. Until the Incarnation, the world’s history was
without a centre. When the Incarnation came, it showed itself to be the
centre of all that had preceded, as well as of all that was to follow:
and since the withdrawal of the visible Messiah, the history of man has
been grouped around His Word, and around the Church in which the effect
and virtue of His Incarnation are still by His unseen power prolonged.

The picture thus offered to our view is a very remarkable one. We see
the glories of the world, and that greatest marvel of God’s earthly
creation, the mind of man, become like little children, and yield
themselves to be led by the hand of the Good Shepherd: but it seems as
though the ancient promise of His coming, while just strong enough to
live in this wayward sphere, was not strong enough to make the conquest
of it; as if nothing but His own actual manifestation in the strength
of lowliness and of sorrow, and crowned by the extremity of contempt
and shame, was sufficient to restore for the world at large that symbol
of the universal duty of individual obedience and conformity, which is
afforded by the establishment of the authority of the spiritual King
over all the functions of our nature, and all the spheres, however
manifold and remote they may seem to be, in which they find their
exercise. Nor is this lesson the less striking because this, like other
parts of the divine dispensations, has been marred by the perversity of
man, ever striving to escape from that inward control wherein lies the
true hope and safety of his race.

But, even after the Advent, it was not at once that the Sovereign
of the new kingdom put in His claim for all the wealth that it
contained. As, in the day of His humiliation, He rode into Jerusalem,
foreshadowing his royal dominion to come, so Saint Paul was forthwith
consecrated to God as a kind of first fruits of the learning and
intellect of man. Yet for many generations after Christ, it was still
the Supreme will to lay in human weakness the foundations of divine
strength. Not the Apostles only, but the martyrs, and not the martyrs
only, but the first fathers and doctors of the Church, were men of whom
none could suspect that they drew the weapons of their warfare from the
armouries of human cultivation: nor of them could it be said, that by
virtue of their human endowments they had achieved the triumphs of the
cross; as it might perhaps have been said, had they brought to their
work the immense popular powers of St. Chrysostom, or the masculine
energy of St. Athanasius, or the varied and comprehensive genius of St.

Nor, again, if we are right in the belief that we are not to look
for the early development of humanity in the pages of Jewish and
patriarchal history, but rather to believe that it was given to
another people, and the office of recording it to the father, not only
of poetry, but of letters, does it seem difficult to read in this
arrangement the purpose of the Most High, and herewith the wisdom of
that purpose. Had the Scriptures been preserved, had the Messiah been
Incarnate, among a people who were in political sagacity, in martial
energy, in soaring and diving intellect, in vivid imagination, in the
graces of art and civilized life, the flower of their time, then the
divine origin of Christianity would have stood far less clear and
disembarrassed than it now does. The eagle that mounted upon high,
bearing on his wings the Everlasting Gospel, would have made his first
spring from a great eminence, erected by the wit and skill of man;
and the elevation of that eminence, measured upward from the plain
of common humanity, would have been so much to be deducted from the
triumph of the Redeemer.

~_Purpose served by the design._~

Thus the destructive theories of those, who teach us to regard
Christianity as no more than a new stage, added to stages that had
been previously achieved in the march of human advancement, would have
been clothed in a plausibility which they must now for ever want. ‘God
hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and
God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things
which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are
despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to
nought things that are[1018].’ An unhonoured undistinguished race,
simply elected to be the receivers of the Divine Word, and having
remained its always stiffnecked and almost reluctant guardians, may
best have suited the aim of Almighty Wisdom; because the medium,
through which the most precious gifts were conveyed, was pale and
colourless, instead of being one flushed with the splendours of Empire,
Intellect, and Fame.

[1018] 1 Cor. i. 27, 8.

Transcriber's Note

Page headers in the printed book have been converted to headings, and
are marked with ~swung dashes~.

The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. xiv "sovereignity" changed to "sovereignty"

p. 42 (note) "vii-x." changed to "vii.-x."

p. 79 "unequivocially" changed to "unequivocally"

p. 118 "insolence:" changed to "insolence:’"

p. 165 "ὤλετό" changed to "ὤλετο"

p. 173 "attention," changed to "attention."

p. 192 "exemplfied" changed to "exemplified"

p. 277 "order" changed to "order."

p. 285 "Hom Theol." changed to "Hom. Theol."

p. 288 "Ganymed" changed to "Ganymede"

p. 291 "ἀῖσα" changed to "αἶσα"

p. 299 "peoples," changed to "peoples"

p. 320 "ῥεία" changed to "ῥεῖα"

p. 328 in "disaffection has yet been exhibited.[607]", the footnote
anchor has been added to the text.

p. 336 "ῥεία" changed to "ῥεῖα"

p. 352 "subject so" changed to "subject to"

p. 354 "2." changed to "(2.)"

p. 356 "δὲ" changed to "δέ"

p. 364 "it sessential" changed to "its essential"

p. 365 in "νόον ἔτραπεν[711].", the footnote anchor has been added to
the text.

p. 377 "purity, of" changed to "of purity,"

p. 383 (note) "264" changed to "264."

p. 403 (note) "Romische" changed to "Römische"

p. 404 "elswehere" changed to "elsewhere"

p. 410 "devolopment" changed to "development"

p. 420 "ἔσθλος" changed to "ἐσθλὸς"

p. 426 "morality." changed to "morality,"

p. 436 "ἀτὴ" changed to "ἄτη"

p. 460 "Ἕρως" changed to "Ἔρως"

p. 474 "ἔγω" changed to "ἐγὼ"

p. 494 in "Ajax had a spurious brother", a footnote anchor has been
removed from the text.

p. 499 (note) "in excellently" changed to "is excellently"

p. 505 "φρέσι" changed to "φρεσὶ"

p. 517 "ἔγωγε" changed to "ἐγώγε"

The following are used inconsistently in the book:

aftertimes and after-times

battlefield and battle-field

bowstring and bow-string

cupbearer and cup-bearer

dependence and dependance

Dî and Dii

Dioscuri and Dioscouroi

Erinuës and Erinues

fountainhead and fountain-head

Histie and Hestie

i. e. and i.e.

indoor and in-door

preeminence and pre-eminence

reestablished and re-established

stepmother and step-mother

synonym and synonyme

Theomythology and Theo-mythology

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