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Title: Anthropology and the Classics - Six Lectures Delivered Before the University of Oxford
Author: Evans, Sir Arthur, Jevons, F. B. (Frank Byron), Myres, Sir John Linton, Murray, Gilbert, Lang, Andrew, Fowler, W. Warde (William Warde)
Language: English
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Six Lectures Delivered Before
the University of Oxford



Edited by


Secretary to the Committee for Anthropology

At the Clarendon Press

Henry Frowde, M.A.
Publisher to the University of Oxford
London, Edinburgh, New York
Toronto and Melbourne


Anthropology and the Humanities--on verbal grounds one might suppose
them coextensive; yet in practice they divide the domain of human
culture between them. The types of human culture are, in fact,
reducible to two, a simpler and a more complex, or, as we are wont to
say (valuing our own achievements, I doubt not, rightly), a lower and a
higher. By established convention Anthropology occupies itself solely
with culture of the simpler or lower kind. The Humanities, on the other
hand--those humanizing studies that, for us at all events, have their
parent source in the literatures of Greece and Rome--concentrate on
whatever is most constitutive and characteristic of the higher life of

What, then, of phenomena of transition? Are they to be suffered to
form a no-man’s-land, a buffer-tract left purposely undeveloped,
lest, forsooth, the associates of barbarism should fall foul of the
friends of civilization? Plainly, in the cause of science, a pacific
penetration must be tolerated, nay, encouraged, from both sides at
once. Anthropology must cast forwards, the Humanities cast back. And
there is not the slightest reason (unless prejudice be accounted
reason) why conflict should arise between the interests thus led to

Indeed, how can there be conflict, when, as in the case of each
contributor to the present volume, the two interests in question,
Anthropology on this side and Classical Archaeology and Scholarship
on that, are the joint concern of one and the same man? Dr. Evans
both is a leading authority on prehistoric Europe, and likewise, by
restoring the Minoan age to the light of day, has set Greek history
in a new and juster perspective. Dr. Lang is an anthropologist of
renown, and no one, even amongst his peers, has enriched the science
with so many original and fertile hypotheses; nevertheless he has found
time (and for how much else has he found time as well!) not only to
translate Homer, but also to vindicate his very existence. Professor
Murray can turn his rare faculty of sympathetic insight now to the
reinterpretation of the music of Euripides, and now to the analysis of
the elemental forces that combine and crystallize in the Greek epic.
Principal Jevons is famous for his brilliant suggestions in regard
to the early history of religion; but he has also laboured in the
cause of European archaeology, and his edition of Plutarch’s _Romane
Questions_ is very precious to the student of classical antiquities.
Professor Myres, whilst he teaches Greek language and literature as the
modern man would have them taught, and is a learned archaeologist to
boot, yet can have no greater title to our respect than that, of many
devoted helpers, he did the most to organize an effective school of
Anthropology in the University of Oxford. Finally, Mr. Warde Fowler,
living embodiment as he is in the eyes of all his friends of the
Humaner Letters, both is the historian of the Graeco-Roman city-state,
and can wield the comparative method so as to extort human meaning from
ancient Rome’s stately, but somewhat soulless, rites. Unless, then,
dual personality of some dissociated and morbid type is to be
attributed to these distinguished men, they can scarcely fail, being
anthropologists and humanists at once, to carry on nicely concerted
operations from both sides of their subject, just as the clever
engineer can set to work on his tunnel from both sides of the mountain.

It is but fair to add, however, that in the present case the first move
has been made from the anthropological side. The six lectures composing
this volume were delivered during the Michaelmas Term of 1908, at the
instance of the Committee for Anthropology, which from the outset of
its career has kept steadily in view the need of inducing classical
scholars to study the lower culture as it bears upon the higher.
Anthropology, to be sure, must often divert its attention to lines of
development branching off in many a direction from the track of advance
that leads past Athens and Rome. For us, however, and consequently
for our science, the latter remains the central and decisive path of
social evolution. In short, the general orientation of Anthropology, it
would seem, must always be towards the dawn of what Lecky so happily
describes as ‘the European epoch of the human mind’.

Lastly, a word may be said in explanation of the title chosen.
‘Anthropology and the Classics’ is exactly suited to express that
conjunction of interests of which mention has already been made--the
conjunction so perfectly exemplified by the life-work of each
contributor to the volume. But some myopic critic might contend that,
however well fitted to indicate the scope of the work as a whole, the
title hardly applies to this or that essay taken by itself. It surely
matters little if this be so; yet is it so? Dr. Evans’s lecture is
introductory. To gather impetus for our imaginative leap into the
classical period we start, it is true, from the cave-man, but have
already crossed the threshold in arriving at the Cretan. Homer, Hesiod,
Herodotus--the claims of these to rank as classics are not likely to
be assailed. There remain the Roman subjects, magic and lustration. In
what sense are they classical? Now, to use the language of biology,
whereas Greek literature is congenital, Roman literature is in large
part acquired. Therefore it includes no ‘songs before sunrise’; for
it the ‘father of history’ cannot be born again. Spirit no less than
form is an importation. In particular, the magico-religious beliefs
of Latium have lost their hold on the imitator of Greece and the
Orient. Yet primal nature will out; and the Romans, moreover, were a
pious people who loved to dwell on their _origines_. To appreciate the
greatest of Latin classics, Virgil--to glance no further afield--one
must at least have gained the right to greet him as fellow-antiquary.
For the rest, these essays profess to be no more than _vindemiatio
prima_, a first gleaning. When the harvest has been fully gathered in,
it will then be time to say, in regard to the classics both of Greece
and of Rome, how far the old lives on in the new, how far what the
student in his haste is apt to label ‘survival’ stands for a force
still tugging at the heart-strings of even the most sophisticated and
lordly heir of the ages.

                                                R. R. MARETT.


                LECTURE I                           PAGE
      BY A. J. EVANS                                  9

                LECTURE II
  HOMER AND ANTHROPOLOGY. BY A. LANG                 44

                LECTURE III

                LECTURE IV

                LECTURE V

                LECTURE VI
  LUSTRATIO. BY W. W. FOWLER                        169



The idea, formerly prevalent among classical scholars, that, before
the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet, there was no developed
system of written communication in Ancient Greece, has now fairly
broken down. In itself such an assumption shows not only a curious lack
of imagination, but a deliberate shutting of the eyes on the evidence
supplied by primitive races all over the world.

Was it possible, in view of these analogies, to believe that a form of
early culture which reached the stage revealed to us by Schliemann’s
discoveries at Mycenae was, from the point of view of written
communication, below that of the Red Indians? To myself, at least, it
was clear that the apparent lacuna in our knowledge must eventually
be supplied. It was with this instinctive assurance that I approached
the field of Cretan investigation, and the results of the discoveries
in the source and seminary of the Mycenaean culture of Greece have now
placed the matter beyond the range of controversy. The clay archives
found in the Palace of Knossos and elsewhere have proved that the
prehistoric Cretan had already, a thousand years before the appearance
of the first written record of Classical Greece, passed through every
stage in the evolution of a highly developed system of script.

There is evidence of a simple pictographic stage, and a
conventionalized hieroglyphic system growing out of it. And there is
evidence in them of the evolution out of these earlier elements of a
singularly advanced type of linear script of which two inter-related
forms are known.

A detailed account of these fully equipped forms of writing that thus
arose in the Minoan world will be given elsewhere.[1] For the moment I
would rather have you regard these first-fruits of literary produce in
European soil in their relation to the tree of very ancient growth and
of spreading roots and branches that thus, in the fullness of time, put
them forth. I refer to the primitive picture- and sign-writing that was
diffused throughout the European area and the bordering Mediterranean
region from immemorial antiquity.

In attempting a general survey of the various provinces--if we may
use the word--in which the remains of this ancient pictography are
distributed, it is necessary in the first instance to direct attention
to one so remote in time and circumstances that it may almost be
legitimately regarded as belonging to an older world.

I refer to the remarkable evidence of the employment of pictographic
figures and signs, and even of some so worn by use that they can
only be described as ‘alphabetiform’, among the wall-paintings and
engravings of the ‘Reindeer Period’--to use the term in its widest
general signification.

The whole cycle of designs by the cave-dwellers of the late
Palaeolithic periods may, to a very large extent, be described as
‘picture-writing’ in the more general sense of the word. The drawings
and carvings of reindeer and bisons, or more dangerous animals, such as
the mammoth, the cave bear, and lion, doubtless commemorated personal
experiences. In one case, at any rate, the naked man stalking an
aurochs, engraved on a reindeer horn, we have an actual record of the

[Illustration: FIG. 1. Stalking Aurochs.]

But over and above this more elaborate kind of picture story, the mass
of new materials--due in a principal degree to the patient researches
of Messieurs Cartailhac, Capitan, the Abbé Breuil, and the late M.
Piette--have thrown quite a new light on the development of pictography
among the late Palaeolithic peoples. Such a series of polychrome
wall-paintings as have been discovered in the great Cave of Altamira
near Santander, in Spain--paralleled by those found in the Grotte
de Marsoulas and elsewhere on the French side of the Pyrenees, with
their brilliant colouring and chiaroscuro, present this primaeval art
under quite new aspects. Moreover the superposition of one painting or
engraving over another on the walls of the caverns has supplied fresh
and valuable evidence as to the succession of the various phases
of this ‘parietal’ art. We have to deal with almost inexhaustible

What is of special interest, however, in the present connexion, is
that, side by side with the larger or more complete representations,
there appear, in the lowest layer of these rock palimpsests,
abbreviated figures and linear signs which already at times present a
truly alphabetiform character.

Here we have the evidence of a gradual advance from simpler to more
elaborate forms. On the other hand, the _converse process_, the
gradual degeneration of more pictorial forms into their shorthand,
linearized equivalents, can often be traced in the series of these
representations. The Abbé Breuil, for instance, has recently published
a series of tables showing the progressive degeneration and stylization
of the heads of horses, goats, deer and oxen.[2] Without subscribing
to his views in all their details, it is evident that this derivative
series, as a whole, can be clearly made out. The abbreviation of the
oxheads in Fig. 2 is fairly clear up to No. 12, though whether the
further procession is to be traced in the spiraliform signs that follow
may be more open to doubt. It is worth noting that a curious parallel
to these very ancient examples of the degeneration of the ox’s head
is to be found among the Cretan and Cypriote signs of the Minoan and
Mycenaean Age.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.]

But the course followed by evolution of figured representations during
the ‘Reindeer Period’ leads to another result, which also has parallels
in the history of later art, but which does not seem to be so generally
recognized. The degeneration, illustrated by Fig. 2, of more or less
complete figures into mere linear reminiscences, is very familiar
to us. It is well illustrated, for instance, in the relation of the
demotic and hieratic Egyptian signs to the hieroglyphic. But what is
sometimes forgotten is that the simple linear forms are sometimes the
older, and that, even as, I think, can be shown in the case of some of
the Egyptian hieroglyphs, the linearization of the pictorial form was
merely a going back to what had really been the original form of the
figure. I have also been struck with the same phenomenon in tracing
the genesis of some of the hieroglyphic characters of Minoan Crete. We
have only to look at the rude attempts of children to depict objects to
see that simple linear forms of what may perhaps be called the ‘slate
pencil’ style precedes the more elaborate stage of drawing. Art begins
with skeletons, and it is only a gradual proficiency that clothes them
with flesh and blood.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

So it seems to have been with the Reindeer men. It has already been
noticed that the stratigraphy of the paintings and engravings on the
Cairoan walls, as investigated by the Abbé Breuil, shows that those of
the earliest phase were line sketches of the simplest kind.[3] They
are just such as a child might draw. They seem often to have been left
incomplete from mere laziness, just so much of the figure being given
as to enable its identification. No. 9, for instance, in the table
given in Fig. 3, is a mere outline of the front of a mammoth’s head,
even the tusks and eye being omitted. No. 2 shows only a little more
of a bison’s head. The eye at the beginning of the table seems to be
human, and may be the ideograph of the individual who drew it. Besides
these recognizable sketches there are other linear representations of
the slightest kind, but which, there can be little doubt, conveyed a
definite meaning to those who drew them. Of these a certain number,
moreover, are purely alphabetiform in character. There is an X, an L, a
T upside down, and they have learned to dot their _i_’s.

It is strange, indeed, that in the very infancy of its art mankind
should have produced the elemental figures which the most perfected
alphabetic systems have simply repeated. The elements of advanced
writing were indeed there, but the time had not yet come when their
real value could be recognized. It has only been after the lapse of
whole aeons of time, through the gradual decay and conventionalization
of a much more elaborate pictography, that civilized mankind reverted
to these ‘beggarly elements’, and literature was born. Yet it is
well to remember that the pre-existence of this old family of linear
figures, and their survival or re-birth, the world over, as simple
signs and marks, were always thus at hand to exercise a formative
influence. There may well have been a tendency for the decayed elements
of pictographic or hieroglyphic writing to assimilate themselves with
such standard linear types.

It is certain that groups of singularly alphabetiform figures appear at
times associated with the handiwork of the ‘Reindeer Period’. A good
example of such a group is seen on the flank of a bison, painted in red
and black on a wall of the Marsoulas Cave[4] (Fig. 4). Another curious
group shows examples of the constantly recurring pectiform or
comb-shaped figure. Others have been taken to represent the roof of
some kind of hut. The only human sign is an open hand, which may be
regarded as identical with the prototype of the Phoenician ‘kaph’, the
‘palus’ sign--our k. In its pictographic form it is found among the
Cretan hieroglyphs, and a linearized version identical with ‘kaph’
recurs among the Minoan linear characters.

In Fig. 5[5] are collected some specimens of signs or symbolic figures
from the Cave of Castillo, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, showing
amongst others the ‘hand’ and some figures which may represent hats.
A remarkable group of three alphabetiform signs occurs on a fragment
of reindeer-horn discovered by M. Piette in the Cave of Gourdan.[6]
One of these shows a great resemblance to an A or Aleph. A harpoon of
reindeer-horn, again, from La Madeleine,[7] shows a group of eight
linear signs, among which we may detect, however, several repetitions.

In the face of these and similar examples, are we to conclude with the
late M. Piette[8] that there was a regular alphabetic script during the
Pleistocene period, which in turn had been preceded by a hieroglyphic

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

The artistic achievements of the men of the Reindeer Period attained
such a high level that even such a conclusion could hardly excite
surprise. In their portrayal of animal forms--in their power of seizing
the characteristic attitude of the creature represented--they show
themselves on a level with those later ‘Minoan’ artists of prehistoric
Crete and Greece who produced such masterpieces as the wild goat and
kids or the bull-hunt on the Vaphio Cups. We now know that the Minoan
race had also a highly developed form of linear script. Might not their
remote predecessors on European soil have evolved the same?

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

That they had sufficient intellectual capacity to evolve a system of
writing, can hardly be doubted. There were, no doubt, some inferior
elements among the population of the Reindeer Period. It is possible
that certain low cranial types of the Neanderthal class may have
survived till late Pleistocene times; and the stratified remains, for
instance, of the Grotte des Enfants at Grimaldi, near Mentone, show
that its occupation by scions of a fine proto-European race--akin
to the ‘men of Cro-Magnon’--alternated during a certain time with
occupation by a race of negroid intruders presenting characteristics as
low as those of the Australian black men.[9] But the prevailing type
of skull associated with the interments in the Mentone Caves--those
of men with upright jaw and finely cut nose--struck no less competent
an observer than Sir E. Ray Lankester as exhibiting a perfection of
development and a cranial capacity worthy to be compared with those of
civilized Europeans of the present day.

We must, however, still remember that, whatever the intellectual
capacity of these archaic people, they did not possess that heirloom
of the Ages, the accumulated experience of the later races of mankind.
Art, indeed, seems to have come to them by nature, and they had other
germs of civilization--an incipient cult of the dead, some taste
for personal ornament. They were possessed of a variety of arms and
implements of stone and bone and other materials. They could kindle
fire and even mitigate the darkness of their subterranean vaults with
primitive stone lamps. They seem to have been skilful trappers, and
had even learned to bridle the horse. Yet many of the most simple
acquirements of primitive culture were still unknown to them. They knew
neither the potter’s nor the weaver’s, nor the husbandman’s craft. They
went mother-naked, and their principal dwellings were the caves and
dens of the earth.

This is emphatically not a people to be credited with an advanced form
of script. It seems more probable that the groups of linear signs that
occur should rather be regarded as mnemonic symbols, and the mere
isolated characters perhaps as individual marks. Some, it may be, had
acquired a magical value. A mnemonic series may be paralleled by the
well-known example of a mnemonic song of an Ojibway medicine-man, in
which every sign suggests a whole order of ideas.

It is noteworthy that among the more abbreviated representations
from the hands of the men of the Reindeer Period the human figure
is little brought into play, though the eye and hand do occur. In
general, moreover, we see little of the reaction of gesture language on
their pictorial records. In a scene from the walls of the Cave of Les
Combarelles,[10] however, a male figure is depicted with a hand raised,
and the other held straight out--evidently representing some expressive
utterance of gesture language (Fig. 7).

Another good instance of a gesture occurs among the strange anthropoid
figures with animal profiles, which, nevertheless, Messieurs
Cartailhac and Breuil consider to represent human subjects masked or
travestied.[11] On the roof of the hall of the Altamira Cave is one of
these quasi-human subjects, with the arms raised, with open palms in
front of its head, an attitude on which its discoverers justly remark:
‘It is impossible to overlook the analogy of this gesture with that
which throughout all antiquity and amongst nearly all peoples indicates
supplication or prayer.’[12] As a sign of adoration it has given rise to
the Egyptian hieroglyphic _Ka_.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

Had the men of the Reindeer Period a fully developed speech in addition
to this gesture language? That they had the elements of such, of
course, stands to reason. Mere animal cries and what may be called
‘voice signs’ might have carried them far, nor would it be possible to
say at what point the transition from such primitive methods of oral
communication to what might legitimately be called articulate speech
was overpassed.

But there are at least some weighty reasons for doubting whether this
higher stage was really attained by Palaeolithic man. In North America,
which, like other parts of that continent, seems to have received
its first human settlers at a comparatively late geological date, a
considerable amount of physical conformity is perceptible among the
Red Indian tribes. But we are confronted by the significant fact that
this racial unity is nevertheless compatible with the existence of a
multiplicity of native tongues. It has been observed that the number
of known stocks or families of Indian languages in the United States
amounts to over three score, differing among themselves ‘as radically
as each differs from Hebrew, Chinese, or English’.[13] In each of these
linguistic families, again, there are several--sometimes as many as
twenty--separate languages, which differ again from each other as much
as do the various divisions of the ‘Aryan’ group.

But if the original forefathers of these tribes had brought with them a
fully developed articulate speech, is it conceivable that the languages
of their descendants should be so radically different? This phenomenon,
moreover, is thrown into further relief by the fact that when we turn
to the signs and gestures current among the Red Indian tribes we find a
large common element.

It may be that the very deficiencies in articulate speech which we may
justly assume to have existed during the Reindeer Period gave a spur to
other means of personal intercommunication. Not only would the infancy
of speech promote the use of gestures, but it may have powerfully
contributed towards diffusing the practice of making pictorial
records.[14] The possibility, therefore, does not seem to be excluded
that men drew before they talked.

Nothing in itself is more baseless than the idea that oral language
is necessary for the expression of abstract ideas. The case of
deaf-mutes, who without the aid of speech can give expression to the
most complicated ideas, affords an example of this in the midst of a
civilized society. The study of gesture-language enables us to see how
easy and natural is the process by which the expression of abstract
ideas grows out of the imitation of concrete objects. Take the very
word to ‘grow’. An Indian expresses the notion of a tree by holding
the right hand before his body, back forwards, with the fingers spread
out--the fingers, as it were, representing branches, and his wrist the
trunk; to show that it is high he pushes it slightly upwards. For grass
he holds his hand with the fingers upwards in the sense of blades, near
the ground. In order to express the general idea ‘to grow’ he begins as
in the sign for grass, but instead of keeping his hand near the ground,
pushes it upward in an uninterrupted manner.[15] So, too, to express
falsehood he places his index and second fingers so that they separate
in front of his mouth, in order to indicate a double tongue. For truth
he places his index finger only in front, to show, if we may use the
expression, that he is ‘single-tongued’.

Root elements of gesture language, which as a means of communication
preceded the development of articulate language as opposed to
mere emotional cries, seem themselves to be almost universal. And
picture-writing--the sister mode of expression--has also, as we see
from the example of the American Continent, even in some of its more
conventional developments, an immeasurably wider currency than the
comparatively recent growths of oral communication. In China, amongst
a great variety of mutually unintelligible languages and dialects, the
ideographic characters, which are really conventionalized pictures, and
independent of oral equivalents, supply to a great extent the place
both of gesture and spoken language. The Red Indian world, as we have
seen, is a Babel of disconnected languages, but the old sign-language
is the same, and the picture-language of one tribe is generally
intelligible to another.

The great uniformity of simple gestures in all countries of the world
is thus a cause predisposing to a considerable amount of uniformity
among the pictorial signs into which this element enters. If we take,
for instance, that pathetic monument of picture writing, the well-known
rock-painting of the Tule River in California, we see a series of
human figures with outstretched hands, signifying, in the American
gesture-language, ‘Nothing here.’ Two outstretched arms, by
themselves, appear in the sense of negation among the conventionalized
Maya pictographs of Yucatan,[16] and the sign reappears in the
same abbreviated form, and with the same meaning, among Egyptian
hieroglyphs. So, too, the ideograph of a child or son--an infant
sucking its thumb--is found alike in ancient Egypt, China, and North

Gesture language, in fact, is constantly reacting on the pictographic
method of expression, and may be said to supply it with moods and
tenses even without the aid of words.

It must, nevertheless, be borne in mind that simple pictography,
whether or not aided by gesture language, is one thing. The evolution
of a regular script is quite another matter.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

A conventionalized system of writing can only be thought of in
connexion with a highly developed articulate speech. And this was
certainly the achievement of a later world than that of these old
Palaeolithic hunters. The physical condition now changes. The
characteristic fauna of the Reindeer Period disappears, and with it
the remarkable race to whom were due the first known products of high
art. The close of the Pleistocene Age and the beginning of the New Era
is marked in France by a curious deposit in the Cave of Mas d’Azil, on
the left bank of the Arize, in which its explorer, M. Piette, found
a number of flat oblong pebbles marked with red stripes and simple
figures by means of peroxide of iron.[17] M. Piette has endeavoured
to trace in some of these a definite system of numeration by means
of lines and circles, and even particular signs for a thousand, ten
thousand, and a million. That some of these represent simple numerical
markings is possible, but beyond this point it is impossible to follow
M. Piette. Among the other markings are several, sometimes repeated
on the same pebble, of curiously alphabetiform aspect. Among these
are signs resembling our E, F, and L, a Gothic M, the Greek _Theta_,
_Gamma_, _Epsilon_, _Xi_ and _Sigma_, the Phoenician _Cheth_, and some
terms that occur in the Minoan and Cypriote series.

The occurrence of this series of geometrical marks must be regarded as
another proof of how early such alphabetic prototypes originated. The
Mas d’Azil series has no particular connexion with the linear signs
associated with the handiwork of the Reindeer Period. Their meaning is
obscure. Some may be degraded pictographs, often perhaps of animals
or their parts, with a traditional meaning attached to them. Some may
be of purely individual and arbitrary invention. The numbers on the
pebbles have suggested the view that they may have served for games.
On the other hand, it is by no means improbable that the figures had a
magic value, and Mr. A. B. Cook[18] has called attention to the parallel
presented by the Australian deposits of pebbles called _Churingas_,
connected with the departed spirits of a tribe, and having designs of
a totemic character. It is certain that the people who produced these
coloured pebbles were in a rude state of barbarism far below the gifted
race who had preceded them in the same sheltering cavern. Few will
probably be able to follow M. Piette in discerning in these rudely
executed marks actual letters--at any rate with a syllabic value--and
the true ancestors of the Greek and Phoenician alphabets, or in
regarding the Cave of Mas d’Azil ‘as one vast school where the scholars
learnt to read, to reckon, to write, and to know the religious symbols
of the solar god’.

The deposit of Mas d’Azil containing the coloured pebbles belongs
already to the modern world, the fauna associated with it all belonging
to existing species inhabiting the temperate regions. The rude culture
then exhibited heralds the beginning of the Neolithic Period. This
later Stone Age is not characterized by any of the artistic genius
displayed by the men of the Reindeer Period. Figured representations
are now rare. The caves, moreover, which preserved the earlier records,
were now used more for sepulture than habitation. Yet the analogy of
all primitive races at the present day shows that it would be a mistake
to suppose that, though the act may have been rude, the practice of
picture-writing was not still universally in vogue throughout the
European area. We have to bear in mind how many of such records are
consigned to perishable materials--such as bark or hides, or in the
case of tattooing the human body itself.

During the later prehistoric times, and notably during the Early Metal
Age, many abiding records, in the shape of rock-sculptures, paintings,
and engravings, and at times graffiti on pottery, are found diffused
throughout the whole of our Continent and the adjoining Mediterranean
area; and in outlying regions, such as Lapland, the practice of
picture-writing can be traced down to modern times.

Though a large amount of isolated materials exists on this subject,
the evidence, so far as I am aware, has never been put together in
a systematic manner. Yet it seems possible that, by means of a due
co-ordination of the materials and the application of the comparative
method, the European area may eventually be divided into distinct zones
or provinces, each characterized by its certain typical pictographic
feature. Primitive lines of intercommunication may with great
probability be made out, and evidences of early racial extension come
to light by this method of investigation.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

It is interesting to observe that it is in the extreme north of Europe,
where the conditions most approach those of the Reindeer Period,
that purely pictographic methods have remained the longest. The Lapp
troll drums, used as a means of divination by the native shamans,
show a variety of linear figures and symbols which had a traditional
interpretation. Thus in the simple example given in Fig. 9, taken from
Scheffer’s _Lapponia_,[19] we see, in the upper compartment, according
to the interpretation preserved by Scheffer, four Lapp gods, with rayed
heads, one of them identified with the Norsk Thor, above which are the
crescent moon, twelve stars, indicated by crossed lines, and seven
flying birds--resembling the simplification of the same figures seen in
the Cretan linear script.

On another base are three more sacred figures with rayed heads,
signifying Christ and two apostles, taken into the Lapp Pantheon at a
somewhat lower level. The centre of this compartment is occupied by the
sun, and about the field are depicted a reindeer, wolf, bear, ox, fox,
squirrel, and snake. To the right are three wavy lines representing a
lake and exactly reproducing the Egyptian hieroglyph of ‘water’.

Fig. 10 shows a more elaborate example,[20] of which the interpretation
has not been supplied. The variation of gesture displayed, somewhat
rudely it is true, by the various figures on this drum illustrates
the intimate and ever-recurring connexion between pictography and

These Lapp troll drums must have been generally in use till the end
of the seventeenth century. It was not, indeed, till the middle
of the succeeding century that Christianity took a real hold on
the population. That there has been a considerable survival of
surreptitious heathenism among the Lapps, I myself was able to
ascertain during two journeys undertaken with that object through
Finnish and Russian Lapland in 1874, and again in 1876. It was
specially interesting to observe that some of the traditional figures
seen on the old troll drums are still engraved on the reindeer-horn
spoons of that region.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

The troll drums of the Lapps find their analogy in those of the
kindred Samojed tribes to the East, which present figures of the
same class. But the pictographs on these will be found to fit on
to the rock-carvings or petroglyphs of Siberia, first described by
Strahlenberg, of which a specimen is given in Fig. 12.[21] Similar rock
carvings may be traced through a vast Finno-Ugrian or Mongolian region
to the borders of China, and the Chinese characters themselves must
have arisen from a branch of the same great Northern family.

This Finno-Tataric province of primitive pictography touches the
Atlantic in Northern Norway. In the south of the Scandinavian
Peninsula we have numerous examples of picture-writing in the shape of
carving,[22] mainly belonging to the Bronze Age, either on rocks or on
the slabs of sepulchral barrows. Of the latter class are the well-known
examples from the Cairn of Kivik, on the east coast of Scania, and the
rock-carvings extend through Southern Norway and Denmark. The most
remarkable of all are probably those of Bohuslan, of which an example,
in which ships figure largely, is shown in Fig. 13.[23]

[Illustration: FIG. 12.]

In our own islands there is also evidence during the Bronze Age of
the practice of engraving signs and pictographic figures on rocks and
the slabs of sepulchral cists and chambers. Those found in England
and Scotland consist for the most part of mere geometrical figures,
such as concentric circles with connecting lines, the more elaborate
figures found in the Fife Caves,[24] for example, certainly belonging to
the Late Celtic Period. But in Ireland, then raised, by its abundant
output of gold, to the position of a Western Eldorado, the field of
primitive pictography is richer. The slabs of the chambered tumuli
of Sleive-na-Calligha present groups of elaborate figures;[25] but a
special interest attaches to those discernible in the great chambered
barrow of New Grange. As was pointed out by Mr. Coffey,[26] one of the
principal figures here carved represents in a degraded form a ship with
its crew analogous to those so constantly repeated in the Scandinavian
group (Fig. 14). This coincidence becomes the more suggestive when we
recall the existence of a whole series of finds showing a connexion
between Ireland and Denmark and its neighbour-lands during the
Bronze Age.

These parallels extend to Brittany. The rocks and sepulchral slabs of
the old Armoric region also present, as is well known, a considerable
pictographic material, dating from Neolithic and Early Metal Ages.
Among recently discovered remains of this class may be mentioned a
group of curious inscribed rocks near Saint-Aubin in Vendée,[27] the
carvings on which seem to show some analogy with the menhirs of the
Aveyron, the dolmens of the Gard, and the caves of the Marne. On
these, besides conventionalized linear figures of men and animals,
occur a variety of unexplained signs, some of them of a remarkably
alphabetiform character.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.]

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]

[Illustration: FIG. 15.]

It is among the sculptured slabs of the Morbihan dolmens that we find
the immediate pendant to the ship signs of Ireland and Scandinavia.
On slabs of the chambered barrow of Manné Lud, near Locmariaker,
there appears--beside stone axes, hafted and unhafted, and other
figures--what is evidently the same ship sign as that of New Grange, in
various stages of degeneration, finally resulting in simple crescents
with recurved ends (Fig. 16).[28] It is true that the associations of
these Breton dolmens end with the close of the Neolithic period, but
the archaeological evidence shows that this was overlapped by the Early
Metal Age of Ireland.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

South of the Pyrenees similar records of primitive pictography
largely associated again in this case with the builders of dolmens
and chambered barrows extend through a large part of the Iberian
Peninsula. Some stir was recently made by the reported discovery of
characters on the slabs and content of certain Portuguese dolmens
of Traz-os-Montes,[29] which were supposed to constitute a kind of
alphabet or syllabary. The accounts of these discoveries, however,
lack scientific precision, and though many of the characters found
are certainly of alphabetiform type, there can be no doubt that
these, together with the rude zoomorphic figures with which they are
associated, belong to a much simpler stage of graphic expression.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

In the south of Spain the chain of evidence is continued by the
‘Written Stones’ of Andalusia. The signs here are often painted in red,
in a rude manner, on the slabs of megalithic structures, such as the
Piedra Escrita near Fuencaliente,[30] (Figs. 17, 18). The signs include
a variety of men and animals, symbols of the heavenly bodies, trees,
arms, and implements, and other objects. Amongst some curious analogies
that they present with the contemporary pictographs of Northern and
North-Western Europe, may be noticed certain figures that resemble
linear degenerations of the Ship and Crew sign (see Fig. 17).

The Andalusian pictographs find their continuation beyond the straits
in another widely diffused group of ‘Written Stones’, the _Hadjrat
Mektoubat_[31] of the Arabs, extending through Algeria and Morocco into
the Saharan region and along the Atlantic littoral to the Canaries.[32]

[Illustration: FIG. 18.]

[Illustration: FIG. 19.]

To return to the European shores of the Mediterranean, a remarkable
group of prehistoric rock-carvings already known in mediaeval times as
the Maraviglie, or ‘Marivels’,[33] is found near the Col di Tenda in the
Maritime Alps--in the neighbourhood, that is, of a very old line of
communication between Provence and the Po Valley. The earliest known
groups of these figures lay at an elevation of between 7,000 and 8,000
feet about the Laghi delle Maraviglie, in the heart of Monte Bego.[34]
More recently a still more extensive series has been discovered by
Mr. Clarence Bicknell, cut like the others in the glaciated schist
rocks and at a similar lofty elevation in the neighbouring Val di
Fontanalba.[35] I have myself visited a more outlying group at Orco
Feglino[36] in the Finalese, only a few miles from the Ligurian coast.

These figures, of which examples are given in Figs. 19 and 20,
represent oxen, often engaged in ploughing, and men in various
positions, sometimes brandishing weapons and apparently signalling, and
a variety of arms, implements, and other objects. Among the weapons,
the halberds and daggers are characteristic of the earlier part of the
Bronze Age,[37] and it is noteworthy that the sword which characterized
the later phase of that culture is entirely absent. The figures of
the oxen ploughing are depicted as if seen from above--a circumstance
explained by the way in which these rock terraces look down on the
cultivated lands below.[38] Many of these oxen are conventionalized to
such an extent that they have rather the appearance of rude figures of
scorpions or beetles with tails.

The same figures are often repeated in the schist slopes, and we
have not here such connected groups as we see, for instance, on the
sculptured slabs of Scandinavia. The picture-signs of the Maraviglie
had perhaps a votive intention. It seems to me that some of the figures
may represent packs, and that merchants as well as warriors and tillers
of the soil took part in their representations.

The records of primitive pictography extend to the Vosges and Jura,
and reappear east of the Adriatic. In a fiord of the Bocche di
Cattaro, not far from the site of Rhisinium, the capital of the old
Illyrian kingdom, my own explorations were rewarded by the discovery
of a curious group of painted signs on a rock-face above a sacred
grotto, and in a somewhat inaccessible position. They consisted
mainly of animals and varieties of the swastika sign. That they
were of pre-Christian date may be regarded as certain, but a fuller
investigation of them at my own hands was cut short by _force majeure_.

Up to the present the old pictography of the lands between the Adriatic
and the Black Sea and the lower Danubian basin is best illustrated
by the linear incised figures found on the primitive pottery of that
region. The best collection of such signs is due to the researches of
Fräulein Torma, at Broos, in Transylvania. In view of the ethnic and
archaeological connexions which are shown to have existed between the
lower Danubian regions and the western part of Asia, it is specially
interesting to note the analogies that these Transylvanian graffiti
present with those noted by Schliemann on the whorls and pottery of
Hissarlik (Fig. 21).[39] Both groups, moreover, belong approximately
to the same epoch, marked by the transition from the Neolithic to the
Early Metal Age.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

[Illustration: FIG. 21.]

That many of these signs are linearistic degenerations of animal and
other figures is clear, and such figures may be reasonably considered
to have an ideographic sense. But from this to investing the marks on a
primitive whorl or pot with a definite phonetic value, and proceeding
to read them off by the aid of the Cypriote syllabary of the Greek
language as it existed some two thousand years later, can only be
described as a far cry. Linearized signs of altogether alphabetic
appearance belong, as already shown, to the very beginnings of human
culture. In the case of the whorls, moreover, many of the linear
figures are really repetitions of similar marks due to the decay of
a border pattern--a phenomenon already paralleled by some of the
engraved groups of the Reindeer Period. A recurring decorative fragment
of this kind somewhat resembles, according to the progressive stages
of its decadence, the Cypriote _go_, _ti_, or _re_--a circumstance
productive of readings by eminent scholars[40] containing vain
repetitions of _go go_, _ti ti_, and _re re_.

If we turn to Crete, the source of the developed pre-Phoenician scripts
of Greece and the Aegean world, we find evidence of the same primitive
stratum of linearized pictography. But the true hieroglyphic script, in
which the phonetic element is apparently already present, in addition
to the ideographic, displays other features which lie beyond the scope
of our present theme. In the advanced linear scripts which grow out
of this, and which certainly have a largely phonetic basis, we mark a
regularity of arrangement and a definite setting forth of word-groups
altogether different from the phenomena presented by the elemental
figures of primitive pictography. The Phoenician and later Greek
alphabet carries us a step further.

But the conventionalized pictography of Crete, if it does not give us
the actual source of the later Phoenician letters, at least supplies
the best illustration of the elements out of which it was evolved.
And it will be seen, from what has been already said, that the more
primitive field of pictography, out of which this conventionalized
Cretan system arose, is itself only a branch of a widely diffused
European family of picture-writing, of which the records can be traced
from Lapland to the Straits of Gibraltar, and from the Atlantic to the
Aegean, and which finds again its continuation on the African and the
Asiatic side.

There seems to be a kind of hazy notion that though an elaborate system
of pictography may have been current among the American Indians, for
example, the alphabet, or for that matter the Cretan script, came
to Greece as a kind of gift of the gods, and was taken over by a
population that had no graphic means of communication. It is true that
the earlier records of such, owing to their having been largely on
perishable materials, such as bark or hides, may in many cases be
irrecoverable. But we may be sure that they existed throughout the
Aegean lands, as elsewhere. Nay, it was because they not only existed,
but had already reached a comparatively advanced stage, that the
acceptation of such a highly developed system of writing as that of
the Phoenician alphabet was rendered possible. Even the forms of the
letters must themselves have been largely familiar, since, as we have
seen, the use of the linearized signs of the purest alphabetiform
character goes back to what in many respects must be regarded as
another world, and to a time, it may be, when articulate language was
itself but imperfectly developed.


[1] I may refer to my forthcoming publication, _Scripta Minoa_,
Clarendon Press, Oxford.

[2] ‘Exemples de figures dégénérées et stylisées à l’époque du
Renne.’ (_Congrès International d’Anthropologie et d’Archéologie
préhistoriques_, 1906. Compte Rendu, t. i, pp. 394 seqq.)

[3] ‘L’Évolution de l’Art Pariétal des Cavernes de l’Âge du Renne.’
(_C.r. du Congrès d’Anthropologie, etc._, 1906, t. i, pp. 367 seqq.)
Fig. 3 is taken from this (p. 370, Fig. 120).

[4] E. Cartailhac et l’Abbé H. Breuil, ‘Les peintures et gravures
murales des Cavernes Pyrénéennes, II. Marsoulas.’ _Anthropologie_, xvi
(1905), pp. 431 seqq. Fig. 4 is taken from p. 438, Fig. 8.

[5] Alcalde del Rio, _Las Pinturas y Grabados de las Cavernas
prehistóricas de la Provincia de Santander_, 1906. Fig. 5 is taken from
_Anthropologie_, xvii (1906), p. 145, Fig. 3.

[6] E. Piette, ‘Les Écritures de l’Âge glyptique.’ _Anthropologie_,
xvi, p. 8, Fig. 9.

[7] _Reliquiae Aquitanicae_, B, Pl. XXVI, Fig. 10.

[8] Op. cit., p. 9.

[9] See R. Verneau, ‘L’Anthropologie des Grottes de Grimaldi.’
(_Congrès International d’Anthropologie, etc._, 1906, pp. 114 seqq.)

[10] Capitan, Breuil et Peyrony, ‘Figures anthropomorphes ou humaines
de la Caverne des Combarelles.’ _Congrès International d’Anthropologie,
etc._, 1906, pp. 408 seqq. (See p. 411, Fig. 149.)

[11] It is perhaps worth making the suggestion that these
anthropomorphic figures with their animal snouts may in some cases
be caricatures, at the hands of the ‘Men of Cro-Magnon’, of the low
negroid element of the population--the ‘Men of Grimaldi’ of Dr.
Verneau--with their markedly prognathous jaws and broad nostrils.

[12] _Anthropologie_, xv (1904), p. 638.

[13] _Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology_, 1879-80, p. 312.

[14] Cf. Lucretius, v. 1030, 1031 ‘ipsa videtur Protrahere ad gestum
pueros infantia linguae’.

[15] For smoke the same, but undulating. The sign is also used for fire.

[16] Garrick Mallery.

[17] E. Piette, ‘Les Galets Coloris de Mas d’Azil’ (_Anthropologie_,
vii, pp. 386 seqq.), and ‘Les Écritures de l’Âge glyptique’ (op. cit.,
xvi, pp. 1 seqq.).

[18] _Anthropologie_, t. xiv (1905), pp. 655 seqq.

[19] Ed. 1672, p. 125. A.

[20] Scheffer, op. cit. p. 129--see Fig.

[21] P. J. von Strahlenberg, _Description of the North and Eastern
Parts of Europe and Asia_ (English Edition, 1738, Table VII).

[22] Cf., _inter alia_, A. E. Holmberg, _Scandinaviens Hällristningar_
(1848) (who wrongly referred them to the Viking Period); Hildebrand,
‘Forsök till Förklaring ofver Hällristningar’ (_Antiquarisk Tiskscrift
för Sverige_, ii); Montelius, ‘Sur les Sculptures de Rochers de la
Suède,’ _Compte rendu du Congrès d’Anthropologie et d’Archéologie
préhistoriques_, Stockholm, 1874, pp. 453 seqq.; N. G. Bruzelius, ‘Sur
les rochers sculptés découverts en Scanie’ (_ibid._, pp. 475 seqq.).

[23] _C.r. Congrès, etc._, Stockholm, vol. i, p. 466, Fig. 22.

[24] Sir J. G. Simpson, _British Archaic Sculpturing_, Plates XXXIV,

[25] Op. cit., Pl. XXVII.

[26] ‘On the Tumuli and Inscribed Stones at New Grange,’ Dowth and
Knowth, pp. 32 seqq. (_Trans. of R. I. Academy_, 1892.)

[27] Capitan, Breuil et Charbonneau-Lassay, ‘Les Rochers gravés
de Vendée’ (_Bull._, 1904, _Acad. Inscript. Paris_); and see E.
Cartailhac, _Anthropologie_, xvi, pp. 192, 193, who inclines to refer
the group of monuments with which the authors compare the Vendée rocks
to the Neolithic Period.

[28] See Coffey (op. cit., p. 33, Fig. 24), who first pointed out the
analogy with New Grange. Compare another sculptured slab of the same
dolmen reproduced by D. A. Mauricet (_Étude sur le Manné Lud_, Vannes,
1864, Plates VII-IX). Similar ‘ship’ signs occur on the slabs of Mein

[29] Ricardo Severo, ‘As Necropoles Dolmenicas di Traz-os-Montes’
(_Portugalia_ t. i. Oporto, 1903).

[30] Don Manuel de Góngora y Martinez, _Antigüedades prehistóricas de
Andalucía_, pp. 64 seqq.

[31] Among recent contributions to our knowledge of this North
African group may be mentioned G. B. M. Flamand, ‘Les Pierres Écrites
(Hadjrat Mektoubat) du Nord d’Afrique et spécialement de la région
d’In-Salah’ (_Congrès International d’Anthropologie et d’Archéologie
préhistoriques_, Paris, 1900).

[32] S. Berthelot, _Bull. de la Soc. Géogr. de Paris_, 1875.

[33] They were first mentioned about 1650 by P. Gioffredo, _Storia
delle Alpi Marittime_.

[34] The _Maraviglie_ were first scientifically described by Mr. F. G.
S. Moggridge (_Trans. of Congress of Preh. Arch._ 1868, pp. 309 seqq.).
See, too, L. Clugnet, _Matériaux_, xii. 1877, pp. 379 seqq.; Issel,
_Bull. di Pal. It._, 1901.

[35] C. Bicknell, _The Prehistoric Rock Engravings of the Italian
Maritime Alps_, Bordighera, 1902 and 1903.

[36] I visited the spot in 1893 under the guidance of Padre Amerano of

[37] See my remarks in the _Athenaeum_, December 18, 1897.

[38] C. Bicknell, op. cit., pp. 38, 39.

[39] _Ilios_, Whorl No. 1983.

[40] Professor Sayce, however, _Ilios_, p. 696, takes note of the
possibility that such inscriptions as _go-go-ti-re_ ‘may be intended
for ornament’.



In B. R.’s Elizabethan translation of the two first books of Herodotus
a marginal note to a startling statement about Egyptian manners begs
us to ‘Observe ye Beastly Devices of ye Heathen’. Though Anthropology,
as its name indicates, takes all that is human for its province, it
certainly pays most attention to ‘Ye Devices’--beastly or not--of the
savage or barbarian, and to their survival in civilized societies,
ancient and modern. Now, as far as these primaeval devices go, Homer
has wonderfully little to tell us. Though he is by far the most ancient
Greek author extant, it is in all the literature which follows after
him that we find most survivals of the barbarian and the savage.
Even in the few fragments of the so-called Cyclic poets (800-650
B.C.?), and in the sketches of the plots of the Cyclic poems
which have reached us, there are survivals of barbaric customs--for
example, of human sacrifice, and the belief in phantasms of the dead,
even when the dead have been properly burned and buried--which do not
appear in the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_. The tragedians, the lyric
poets, and the rest, all allude to vices which Homer never mentions--to
amours of the gods in bestial forms (in all probability a survival
of Totemism in myth), to a revolting rite of sanguinary purification
from the guilt of homicide, and to many other distressing vestiges of
savagery and barbarism in the society of ancient Greece. We do not find
these things in the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_.

It is not easily conceivable that Homer was ignorant of any of these
things; probably they existed in certain strata of society in his age.
But he ignores them. They are not to be mentioned to his audience.
No incest or cannibalism, in _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_, is reported
concerning ‘Atreus’ line’, though later poets do not hesitate to
use the traditional materials from the fossiliferous strata of myth
wherein these survivals were plentiful. Pindar knew tales of divine
cannibalism, but merely referred to them as unworthy of his verse.
Homer must have been familiar with the savage cosmogonic legends,
almost identical with those of the Maori of New Zealand, which Hesiod
does not scruple to state openly; but about such things Homer is silent.

Here I must explain that though to ‘Homer’ early historic Greece
attributed the great body of ancient epic poetry, I am speaking only
of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. I wish I could keep clear of the complex
‘Homeric Question’, but this is hardly possible. Everybody knows that,
since the appearance of Wolf’s famous Prolegomena to the _Iliad_, at
the end of the eighteenth century, the world has been of opposite
opinions as to the origin of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. Poets, and
almost all who read the poems, as other literature is read, ‘for human
pleasure,’ hold that at least the mass of these epics is by one hand,
and, of course, is of one age. On the other side, the immense majority
of scholars and special students who have written on the subject
maintain (with endless differences in points of detail) that the
_Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ had their beginning in a brief early ‘kernel’,
and are now a mosaic of added lays and interpolations, contributed
by many hands, in many places, through at least four changeful
centuries of various cultures. How the poems came to have what even
Wolf recognized as their _unus color_, the harmony of their picture
of institutions, customs, rites, costume, and belief, is variously
explained. By some critics the harmony is denied. They try to pick out
proofs of many various stages in institutions, customs, beliefs, arms,
and armour, and so forth. As a rule these critics, however scholarly,
have not been, and are not, comparative students of early literature,
of anthropology, archaeology, and mythology. Their microscopic research
finds but few and minute variations from the normal in such things as
burial, bride-price, houses, armour, and so forth. If they studied
other early poetic literature--say the Icelandic sagas and the oldest
Irish romances--they would learn that minute variations in such matters
of life occur in every stage of civilization; that every house, every
funeral, every detail of marriage laws and other laws, is not precisely
on the pattern of every other, and that mythology and ideas about the
future life are especially various and even self-contradictory, at any
given period. For these reasons I agree with Wolf that harmony, _unus
color_, prevails in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_, which must therefore be
the product of one age.

But to this some adverse critics reply that harmony, indeed, there may
be, but that it results, first from the influence of tradition--each
new poet adhered to the old formulae without conscious effort--and,
next, that the later poets deliberately and learnedly _archaized_,
consciously studied the descriptions, and maintained the tone of their
predecessors, while at the same time they as deliberately introduced
the novelties of their own time. This is their logic. Their double
theory is untenable--first, because it is self-contradictory; next,
because in all known early art and literature the poet or painter,
treating ancient themes, dresses the past in the costume of the present
with which he is familiar. To archaize is a very modern effort in art,
as all early literature and every large picture-gallery prove. As for
unconscious adherence to tradition, it leads to the repetition of epic
formulae and standing epithets; but later poets, and uncritical ages,
when they describe a more ancient life, always copy the life of their
own time. We see too that late learned poets who archaized--Apollonius
Rhodius, Virgil, even Quintus Smyrnaeus--while they do their best to
imitate Homer, cannot keep up the _unus color_, but betray themselves
in a myriad details: for example, Virgil arms his Greeks and Trojans
with iron weapons, and Apollonius introduces the ritual purification of
blood with blood, ignored by Homer.

Even in the Cyclic poems, of which only a few fragments and prose
synopses remain, Helbig, and Monro, and every reader, find what Helbig
calls ‘data absolutely opposed to the conventional style of the Epics’,
of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_. We find hero-worship, human sacrifice,
gods making love in bestial forms, conspicuous ghosts of men duly
burned, and so on. Now, if we believe with Mr. Verrall that ‘Homer’,
so called, was a nebulous mass of old poetry, reduced into distinct
bodies, such as _Iliad_, _Odyssey_, _Cypria_, _Aethiopis_, _Little
Iliad_, _Nostoi_, and so on, for educational purposes, by learned
Athenians, about 600-500 B.C., or if we suppose, with others,
that the Ionians, for educational purposes, Bowdlerized _Iliad_ and
_Odyssey_, at an earlier date, we ask, Why were _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_
expurgated; why were many ‘devices of the heathen’ cut out of them by
‘educationists’ who permitted these things to remain in the Cyclic
poems? Was it because the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ alone were cut out
of the mass, and selected for public recitation? If so, why was the
selection made, and the expurgation done, in these two cases only? And
do we know that the Cyclics were not recited? If so, why not? What
was the use of them? Again, why was Hesiod not Bowdlerized? Hesiod
certainly entered into public knowledge no less than Homer. Finally, if
the taste of the seventh and sixth centuries were so pure and austere,
why were the poets of the seventh and sixth centuries so rich in
matters which the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ omit? In no Greek literature
of any age do we find the clean austerity of Homer, for example, as
regards sins against nature, the permanent blot on the civilization of
historic Greece. The theory of educational expurgation in the eighth to
the sixth centuries is impossible on all sides. The Cyclics and Hesiod
were generally known, yet were not expurgated into harmony with the
Homeric tone; the contemporary poets of these educational ages did not
conform to the Homeric tone. Moreover, there is no ‘record’ evidence,
with Mr. Verrall’s pardon, for all this editing by educationists. There
is no inscription bearing witness to it--_that_, and that alone, would
be ‘record’--there is only a late and shifting tradition that, about
the time between the ages of Solon and the Pisistratidae, something
indefinite was done at Athens for ‘Homer’. For how much of ‘Homer’? For
all old epic poetry, or only for the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_? If for them
alone, why for them alone?

I am thus constrained to suppose that the _Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_, on
the whole, are the fruit of a single age, a peculiar age, an age prior
to the earliest period of Greek life as historically known to us. If it
be not so, if these epics are mosaics of life in four or five centuries
of change, compiled for purposes of education by learned Athenians,
it seems that they are worthless to the anthropologist and to the
historical student of manners and institutions. If the poems contain
scores of archaized passages, in which the poets deliberately neglect
the life which they know (while at the same time in other passages they
deliberately innovate), then the poems are of no anthropological value.
The statements of the critics are self-contradictory, which I still
think proves them to be illogical; and in speaking of Homer I shall
treat him as a witness to a genuine stage of society in prehistoric
Greece and Asia.

As to date, the poems quite undeniably are derived from that late
stage of Mycenaean or Minoan civilization which has been revealed by
the excavations of Mr. Arthur Evans in Crete, and Dr. Schliemann at
Mycenae, and of many other explorers of Homeric sites. The decoration
of the palaces of Alcinous and Menelaus; the art of the goldsmith, the
use of chariots in war, the shape and size of the huge Homeric shield;
the cuirass, _zoster_, and _mitrê_ of the warriors, the weapons
of bronze described in Homer, all correspond with objects discovered
or delineated in works of art of the late Minoan period in Greece and
Crete. But Homeric customs of all sorts also vary much from the facts
of the Minoan archaeologist. The monuments of the late Minoan Age
reveal modes of burial wholly unlike the Homeric practice of cremation
and interment of the bones in lofty tumuli or barrows. They prove the
existence of sacrifice to the dead, which Homer ignores. They display
fashions of costume quite alien to the Homeric world. They yield none
of the iron tools of peaceful purpose with which Homer is perfectly
familiar. They furnish abundance of stone arrowheads, which are never
mentioned in the Epics.

The conclusion suggested is that Homer knew a people living on the
ancient Minoan sites, and retaining much of the Minoan art, much of
the military material, but advanced into a peculiar form of the Early
Bronze Age; clad in quite a new fashion, practising another form of
burial, entertaining other beliefs about death and the dead, but still
retaining the flowing locks often represented in pictures of men in
Minoan art.

The use of body armour too is in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ universal
in regular war; from the rarity of delineation thereof in Minoan art
this appears to be another innovation. Homer is quite conscious that
he is singing of events gathered from legends of a time long before
his day, a time with which he is in touch, which has bequeathed much
to his age, but which, we see, is in some respects less advanced
than and in many ways different from his own. He attributes to the
old legendary heroes, however, the institutions with which he
is familiar--institutions that are not those of any known period
of historic Greece. They are no figments of fancy. They closely
correspond, as far as form of government is concerned, with the
early feudalism described in the oldest Irish epical romances, and
in the French _chansons de geste_ of the eleventh to the thirteenth
century A.D. We find an Over Lord, like the Celtic _Ardrigh_, or the
_Bretwalda_ in early England, ruling over Princes (_Ri_), with an
acknowledged sway, limited by unwritten conventions. He holds, as Mr.
Freeman says of the Bretwalda, ‘an acknowledged, though probably not
very well defined, supremacy.’ His rule is hereditary; the sceptre is
handed down through the male line. Zeus has given him the sceptre, and
he confessedly rules, like Charlemagne even in the later _chansons de
geste_, by right divine. He has the Zeus-given sceptre, and he has the
_θέμιστες_, a knowledge of ‘a recognized body of principles and customs
which had grown up in practice’ (_Iliad_ ix. 99).

The origin of the Over Lord, as of all kingship, may be traced
to a combination of sagacity, courage, and experience in war, in
an individual, and to his consequent acquirement of property and
influence, _plus_ the survival of the prestige of the medicine man, to
whom the ruling supernormal Being of the tribe is supposed to speak.
A very low example is the Dieri medicine man inspired by Kutchi; an
elevated example is the Homeric Minos, who converses with Zeus. Even
the dream of Agamemnon is worthy of respect, says Nestor, ‘because
he has seen it who boasts himself to be the best of the Achaeans’;
another man’s dream might be disregarded (_Iliad_ ii. 80-83). However,
Agamemnon does not lay stress on such communications; Calchas is the
regular interpreter of omens and the will of the gods. A divinity doth
hedge Agamemnon, though Achilles half draws his sword against him. He
has the right to summon the whole host, and to exact fines for absence;
he has the lion’s share of all spoils of war; he is war leader, but
always consults his peers, the paladins of Charlemagne. From him much
that is not easily tolerable is endured, but, if he goes too far in his
arrogance, a prince or peer has the recognized right, like Achilles, to
throw up his allegiance. By due gifts of atonement, of which the rules
are ceremonially minute (_Iliad_ xix. 215-75), the Over Lord may place
himself within his right again, and he who refuses the atonement is
recognized to be in his wrong. The whole passage about the minutiae of
atonement in _Iliad_ xix delays the action, and is censured by critics
as ‘late’. But it cannot be late, it could only have been composed for
a noble audience keenly interested in the customary laws under which
they lived, laws unknown to historic Greece. We are accustomed to
similar prolixity and minuteness about points of law in the Icelandic

It has been said that Homer, an Asiatic poet of the ninth century
B.C., lived imaginatively in, say, the thirteenth century, B.C. as Mr.
William Morris imaginatively ‘lived in’ the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries A.D. But Morris came after Sir Walter Scott, who introduced
the imaginative archaeological reconstruction of past ages by poets and
artists. Shakespeare did not ‘live in’ any age but his own. His Hamlet
fights with the Elizabethan long rapier, not with short sword and axe.
Homer, too, lives in his own sub-Minoan age, and in that alone.

The poets of this age of loose feudalism are always partial to the
princes rather than to the Over Lord. The Irish romance writers much
prefer the chivalrous Diarmaid, or Oscar, to Fionn, the Over Lord, and
the later writers of _chansons de geste_ in France utterly degrade
Charlemagne in favour of his paladins.

Greek, Irish, or French, the poets have a professional motive: there
are many courts of princes wherein they may sing, but only one court
of the Over Lord. In this partisanship Homer is relatively moderate;
his Agamemnon is perhaps the most subtle of all his portraits;
unsympathetic as is the Over Lord, his Zeus-given supremacy always
wins for him respect. The whole picture of Over Lord and princes is a
genuine historical document, a thing of a single age of culture, far
behind the condition of the Ionian colonists. The princes themselves
owe their position to birth, wealth, and courage. Except Aias and
Odysseus, chiefs of rocky isles, all own abundance of chariots. They
are surrounded by a class of gentry (the Irish _Flaith_) who are also
fighters from chariots, and stand out above the nameless members of the
host. It is they (_Iliad_ ix. 574) who promise to Meleager a demesne
out of the common land. I conceive that such a τέμενος, or demesne, was
much more than a κλῆρος, or ‘lot’; he was a very poor man who had no
lot (_Odyssey_ xi. 490). Probably the gentry, or γέροντες, had their
gift of a τέμενος, or demesne, ratified in the popular assembly, which,
I think, did no more than ratify their decisions.

The gentry held rich fields, ‘very remote from any town’ (_Iliad_
xxiii. 832-5). Society was feudal or chivalrous, not democratic. It is
true, as Mr. Ridgeway says (_J. H. S._, vi. 319-39) that we do not hear
of land in the lists of a man’s possessions, but of livestock, gold,
iron, and chariots and arms. On the other hand, the gentry certainly
held rich fields remote from the cities.

We have no clear light on Homeric land-tenure, but land was held by
individuals, in firm possession, if not in property; a prince like
Menelaus has whole cities to give away. If a prince lent stock to the
owner of a lot, and if the owner became bankrupt, the lot, legally or
illegally, would glide into the possession of the prince.

The people were free, like the lotless man who employs
labourers--_their_ situation is not clear--and like the
artisans--smiths, carpenters, workers in gold--and the slaves, men and
women, were captives in war, or persons kidnapped by pirates--though
they may have been of high rank at home, like the swineherd Eumaeus. In
war it was open to a man to kill a prisoner or to set him at ransom, as
in the Middle Ages. The various crafts had their regular professors,
though it pleased Odysseus to be a master of all of them, from
ploughing to shipbuilding.

It was a very tolerable state of society; slaves were well treated;
women, of course, held a position high above what was theirs in
historic Greece. True, they were usually purchased with a bride-price;
but the lofty level of their morality, infinitely above that of Europe
in the age of chivalry, suggests that men allowed a free choice to
their daughters.

No woman sells herself; there is not a harlot in Homer, common as they
are in the earliest records of Israel. No doubt they existed, but the
poet eschews mention of them. Here, as everywhere, the austerity of
his tone, though he is not a Puritan, makes him far from an exhaustive
authority on manners and customs. To him, as Mr. Gissing well observes,
the stability of the home, typified by the wedding bed of Odysseus,
made fast to a pillar of a living tree, is very sacred. In camp, and
in wanderings, the men live as they will; at home, as we learn from
the cases of Laertes and the father of Phoenix, a good man keeps no
mistress, and the wife soon gives a worse man cause to rue his laxity.
All this is very unlike the morals of historic Greece. The bride-price
is, indeed, a barbaric survival; but the purity of the morals of the
married women proves that it was modified in practice by the benignity
of fathers to ‘well-loved daughters’. The highest tender was not
necessarily accepted. We hear of no amours of maids and bachelors; the
girls do not sleep, like the young men and like fair Margaret of the
ballad of Clerk Saunders, in bowers in the court, but in rooms of the
upper story, where only a god can come unnoticed. Nausicaa is most
careful not to compromise herself by being seen in the company of a

Naturally, in a society that carries arms always, the tone of courtesy,
where deliberate insult is not intended, is very high, and rude speech,
like that of Euryalus to Odysseus in Phaeacia, is atoned for with
an apology and the gift of a sword. Except the Over Lord, no man is
habitually rude.

As to warfare, as in the _Tain Bo Cualgne_, the Irish romance based
on the manners of the late Celtic period (200 B.C. to 200 A.D.), the
gentry fight from chariots, dismounting at will, while the host,
with spears, or with slings, bows and arrows, follows or exercises
its artillery from the flanks. Except when the rain of arrows does
execution, we hear next to nothing of the plebeian infantry. The age
of hoplites was as remote as the age of cavalry, and the phalanxes
are only mentioned when they are broken. The chariot age is familiar
in Assyrian, Egyptian, and Minoan art, as among the Britons and
Caledonians who fought with Rome. The chariot was extremely light; a
man could lift a chariot and carry it away (_Iliad_ x. 505). Probably
the chariot came into use for war, as Mr. Ridgeway supposes, in an
age when a pony was unequal to the weight of a man in armour; the
Highlanders, with their Celtic ponies, used chariots in Roman times;
never did they acquire a breed of horses fit for chargers, hence
they lost the battle of Harlaw. To judge by Homer’s description of
horses, the chariot survived the cause of its origin; steeds were
tall and strong enough for cavalry purposes, but human conservatism
retained the chariot. A speech of Nestor, in _Iliad_, Book iv. 303-9,
shows that Homer knew by tradition the Egyptian custom of charging
in serried squadrons of chariotry, while in his own day the lords of
chariots usually fought dismounted, and in the loosest order, or no
order. Nestor naturally prefers ‘the old way’; no late poet could have
made this interpolation, for, in the Greek age of cavalry, he could
have known nothing of chariotry tactics. The Egyptian chariotry used
the bow, while their adversaries, the Khita charioteers, fought with
spears, in loose order, as in Homer--and had the worst of the fight.

The Homeric retention of the huge body-covering shield, familiar in
Minoan art, was more or less of a survival of a time when archery was
all-important. The shield, as among the Iroquois and in mediaeval
Europe, was suspended by a belt. The same shields, among the Red
Indians, and in the Middle Ages (eleventh and twelfth centuries), were,
so to speak, umbrellas against a rain of arrows; as the bow became
more and more despised, the historic Greeks adopted the round parrying
buckler, good against spear- and sword-strokes. The body armour, as far
as greaves are concerned, was an advance on Minoan practice. In Minoan
art the warriors are usually naked under the huge shields; happily, one
or two seals found in Crete, and a pair of greaves in Cyprus, prove
that greaves, cuirass, _zoster_, and _mitrê_, the mailed kirtle of
Homer, were not unknown even before the earliest age at which one could
venture to place the Epic (see Note).


The use of the metals, in war, is peculiar, but not unexampled. Weapons
are, when the metal is specified, always of bronze, save one arrow-head
of primitive form (_Iliad_ iv. 123), and a unique iron mace (_Iliad_
vii. 141). Implements, including knives, which were not used in war,
were of iron, as a rule, of bronze occasionally. The only battle-axe
mentioned is of bronze (_Iliad_ xiii. 611); axes, as implements, are
usually of iron, so are the implements of the ploughman and shepherd.
No man in Homer is said to be ‘smitten with the iron’, it is always
‘with the bronze’; but trees are felled ‘with the iron’ (_Iliad_ iv.

Odysseus shoots ‘through the iron’, that is, through the open work of
the iron axe-heads, which were tools. This curious overlap of bronze
and iron, the iron being used for implements before it is used for
weapons, has no analogy, as far as I am aware, in Central and Northern
Europe. But Mr. Macalister has found it perfectly exemplified in
Palestine, in certain strata of the great mound of Gezer. Here all
weapons are of bronze, all tools of iron (_Palestine Exploration Fund_,
1903, p. 190).

This state of affairs--obviously caused by military distrust of iron
while ill-manufactured, when bronze was admirably tempered--is proved
by Mr. Macalister to have been an actual stage in culture, ‘about
the borders of the Grecian sea.’ We find no archaeological evidence
for this state of things in tombs of the period of overlap of bronze
and iron in Greek soil. But then we have never excavated a tumulus
of the kind described by Homer, and, if we did, the tumulus (which
necessarily attracts grave-robbers) is likely to have been plundered.
This is unlucky; we have only the poet’s evidence, in Greece, for the
uses of bronze and iron as they existed in Palestine. But I think it
improbable that the poet invented this rare stage of culture. Again, if
we believe, with most critics, that late poets introduced the iron, it
is to me inconceivable that they could abstain, in rigorous archaism,
or unconscious adherence to tradition, from occasionally making a
warrior ‘smite with the iron’, or from occasional mention of an iron
sword or iron-headed spear, while they did not archaize or follow
tradition when they spoke of iron knives, axes, tools, and so on.

In tradition of the bronze age, the tools, no less than the weapons,
must have been of bronze. Why, then, did late archaizing poets make
them of iron, while they never made the weapons of anything but bronze?

The great objection to my opinion is _Odyssey_ xvi. 294, xix. 13, the
repeated line in which occurs the proverbial saying, ‘iron of himself
draws a man to him.’ Here iron is synonymous with ‘weapon’, the weapons
in the hall of Odysseus are to be removed, on the pretence that ‘iron’
draws a man’s hands, and may draw those of the intoxicated wooers in
their cups.

I am opposed to regarding a line as ‘late’ merely because it
contradicts one’s theory. The critics have no such scruples, they
excise capriciously. But this line not only contradicts my theory, it
contradicts the uniform unbroken tenor of both epics. It is a saying
of the Iron Age, when ‘iron’ has become a synonym for ‘weapon’, as
in Thucydides and Shakespeare. But everywhere else in the epics the
metallic synonym for ‘weapon’ is ‘bronze’. The metallic synonym for
‘tool’ is ‘iron’. Men are ‘smitten with the bronze’, trees are ‘felled
with the iron’.

I think that, in these circumstances, it is not inconsistent to doubt
the line’s antiquity. If we accept it, we must suppose that one
solitary late minstrel out of hundreds (on the separatist theory) let
the cat out of the bag and enabled us to be sure that an indefinite
amount of the epics was composed in the full-blown Age of Iron, though
all the other later poets firmly kept the secret by invariably giving
to the heroes weapons of bronze. Mr. Ridgeway is against me. He writes:
‘The Homeric warrior ... has regularly, as we have seen, spear and
sword of iron.’ He may see it so, but Homer saw it otherwise, and never
gives a warrior an iron sword or spear (_Early Age of Greece_, vol. i,
p. 301).

No early poet, perhaps no poet, can avoid, in religion and myth,
barbaric and savage survivals, owing to the nature of the legendary
materials on which his works are based. Nobody, we may almost say,
invents a plot: all borrow from the huge store of world-wide primaeval
_Märchen_, or folk-tales. In the _Odyssey_, _Marmion_, and _Ivanhoe_,
the plot rests on the return of the husband or lover from unknown
wanderings, unrecognized, except in _Ivanhoe_ and the _Odyssey_, by
the faithful swineherd. This is a plot of _Märchen_ all over the
world. Gerland, and, recently, Mr. Crooke and others, have studied the
_Märchen_ embedded in Homer. One such story is that of the Shifty Lad
in Dasent’s _Tales from the Norse_, and the Shifty Lad is only a human
representative of the shifty beast, Brer Rabbit or another, who is so
common in savage folklore. Now Homer, in the character of Odysseus,
merely combines the Returned Husband with the Shifty Lad. It would
not be hard to show that Odysseus is really the hero of the _Iliad_,
as well as of the _Odyssey_, the man whom the poet admires most, and
_he_ is the real ‘stormer of the city’ of Ilios. He is the type of
sagacious, resolute, indomitable courage; the thoroughly well-balanced
man, the most tenacious in war. But, in the _Odyssey_, the nature of
the original _Märchen_, as in the encounter with the Cyclops, and the
necessity for preserving his disguise, when he returns to Ithaca,
compel the poet to make Odysseus foolhardy and an ingenious liar.
The sentiment of Homer’s audience and of Homer is with Achilles when
he says that he ‘hates a lie like the gates of hell’. But the given
material does not permit Odysseus to cherish this chivalrous disdain
of falsehood, and Athene, the most ethical of the Olympians, applauds
his craft. The materials of legend also yield the cruelty of Achilles;
like a hero of the Irish epic, the _Tain Bo Cualgne_, he drags a dead
man behind his chariot; and, ‘with evil in his heart, he slays twelve
Trojan prisoners with the bronze,’ at the funeral of Patroclus. This is
not, to the poet’s mind, a case of human sacrifice, nor does Achilles
intend the souls of the men to be thralls of Patroclus.

Homer regards Achilles as slaying the captives merely to glut his fury
with revenge, ‘anger for thy slaying’ (_Iliad_ xxiii. 23). This is the
explanation which he gives to himself of an incident which he finds
in his traditional materials, probably a memory of human sacrifice.
Historic Greece was familiar enough with such ritual; but it is a
marvel of evil to Homer; he clearly fails to understand it. He is most
embarrassed by his materials in matters of religion. Unlike Hesiod he
does not love to speak of what the gods did ‘in the morning of time’,
things derived from a remote past of savage mythology; the incest, the
amours in animal form, the cannibalism, the outrage of Cronos on his
father, the swallowing of Zeus. But he cannot get rid of the ancient
mythological element in the Olympians. Though the Zeus of Eumaeus is
ethical, just, benignant, a truly religious conception; though Homer
has almost a bitter sense of the dependence of men on the gods; though
‘all men yearn after the gods’; the Olympians, as they appear in the
story, are the freakish beings of myth, capricious partisans, amorous,
above all undignified. Only among the gods has married life its sad, if
humorous, aspect, as in the bickerings of Zeus and Hera; only among the
gods is adultery a joke. Among men it is the direst outrage of sanctity
of the home. So alien to Homer is the mythology which he inherits that
he finds it easiest to treat the gods humorously, save where they guard
the sacredness of the oath (_Iliad_ iii. 275), and are protectors of
strangers, suppliants, and of the poor. The mythological survivals are,
to Homer, inevitable, but distasteful. As to a belief in a future life,
in Homer there is a prevailing idea, but it is mixed with the other
ideas which, however contradictory, always exist in this mysterious
matter. The prevailing idea is that the dead, if they receive their due
rites of fire and interment, abide, powerless for good or evil, in a
shadowy _sheol_ in the House of Hades. If they do not get their dues
of fire they wander disconsolate, and may become ‘a cause of wrath’ to
men, may appear to them in dreams, or in

                  the margin grey,
    ’Twixt the soul’s night and day.

In the House of Hades is neither reward nor punishment (if we take
_Odyssey_ xi. 570-600 for a late interpolation), but mere lack of
vigour and of the sun. Only the prophet Tiresias, like Samuel in
_Sheol_, ‘keeps his wits’ and his faculty of precognition.

Yet, in the scene of the Oaths (_Iliad_ iii. 278-9), certain powers
are appealed to which ‘beneath the earth punish men outworn’. I do
not think this a late interpolation, because the formula of the
sacrifices connected with the oath is likely to be very ancient, to be
pre-Homeric, and to reflect an old belief no longer popular. In these
matters all contradictory notions may coexist, as when the hymn of the
Euahlayi tribe of New South Wales prays Baiame to admit the soul of
Erin into his paradise, Bullimah, while the myth says that Erin is now
incarnate in a little bird. Many of the lowest savages believe in a
future of rewards and punishments, but the doctrine of the efficacy of
fire has all but driven this faith out of Homer’s ken.

Cremation is the great _crux_ of Homeric anthropology, cremation,
and the consequent absence of ghost-feeding, and of hero-worship.
Archaeology shows that these practices went on unbroken in Greece,
and archaeology cannot show us a single example of the Homeric barrow
and method of interment. Yet the method is a genuine historic method
in Northern Europe of the Age of Bronze. Homer did not invent it; he
mentions no other mode of disposing of the dead, but we have never
found its traces in Greece. The shaft graves and tholos graves of
late Minoan times have left no vestige of tradition in the Epics,
and the cremation and barrow are equally absent from the view of the
archaeologist. I cannot venture on any guess at an explanation. We are
precluded from supposing that cremation arose in the wanderings after
the Dorian invasion, for the purpose of concealing the remains of the
dead from desecration by alien foes. The shaft grave might conceal
them, the tumulus and pillar above only advertise their whereabouts to
the ruthless foe.

It is plain that, on many points, Homer, with his austere taste, is
not a very rich source for the anthropologist in search of savage
survivals. In Homer no human beings work magic; a witch, like a
harlot, is not to be found in the Epics. Both are familiar in the
Old Testament. There is a second-sighted man, but his was a natural
faculty. Homer never alludes to the humbler necessities of our animal
nature; unlike Shakespeare, he never makes old Nestor cough and spit,
when roused, as in the _Doloneia_, by a night alarm. Nobody coughs in
Homer. He sings for an audience that has lived down the ape, though
the tiger has not wholly died. He knows nothing of our instruments of
torture, rack and boot and thumbscrews, which, in Scotland, outlasted
the seventeenth century. Historic Greece was not very successful in
expelling the beast from human nature. The poets of historical Greece
were never so successful as Homer. I infer that the _Iliad_ and the
_Odyssey_ are prehistoric, the flowers of a brief age of Achaean
civilization, an age when the society of princes and ladies had a
taste extraordinarily pure and noble. The poems were framed for an
aristocratic, not for a popular audience, though I am perfectly ready
to grant that the popular audience to which our best ballad minstrels
sang also desired a tone of singular purity in the serious romantic
lays. It is the nature of the highest objective art, whether in epic or
ballad, to be clean: the Muses are maidens.


Page 47. The reference to Mr. Verrall refers to his article on Homer
in _The Quarterly Review_, July, 1908. I myself suppose that some
editorial work was done for the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ at Athens, before
the Persian war. There is plenty of smoke in literary tradition, and
‘where there is smoke there is fire’. But the smoke-wreaths are vague
and multiform as the misty ghosts in Ossian, and I cannot, with Mr.
Verrall, regard the words of a fourth-century orator.

Page 48. Lycurgus is not ‘record’. By ‘record evidence’ for Greece I
understand inscriptions, nothing more and nothing less.

Page 57. ‘cuirass, _zoster_, and _mitrê_.’ See figure, a copy of a
clay seal, of which nearly a hundred impressions have been published in
_Monumenti Antichi_. See for further particulars my article on Homer in
_Blackwood’s Magazine_ for January, 1908, also Mackenzie, _Annual of
the British School at Athens_ (1905-6, p. 241).

Page 59. _Odyssey_ xvi. 294, xix. 13, for

    αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐφέλκεται ἄνδρα σίδηρος

a friend suggests

    αὒτως γὰρ ἐφέλκεται ἀνδράσι δῆρις.

This emendation I leave at the mercy of the learned.



In the remains of the earliest Greek poetry we are met by a
striking contrast. As Mr. Lang has told us, ‘Homer presents to the
anthropologist the spectacle of a society which will have nothing to
do with anthropology.’ By Homer of course Mr. Lang means the _Iliad_
and the _Odyssey_; and we may add to those poems a stream of heroic
tradition which runs more or less clearly through most of our later
literature, and whose spirit is what we call classic, Homeric, or

But there is also in the earliest epic tradition another stratum,
of which this Olympian character does not hold. A stratum full of
the remains, and at times even betraying the actuality, of those
‘beastly devices of the heathen’ which are dear to the heart of
us anthropologists--if a mere Greek scholar may venture to class
himself among even amateur anthropologists: ceremonies of magic and
purification, beast-worship, stone-worship, ghosts and anthropomorphic
gods, traces of the peculiar powers of women both as ‘good medicine’
and as titular heads of the family, and especially a most pervading and
almost ubiquitous memory of Human Sacrifice.

This stratum is represented by Hesiod and the Rejected Epics--I mean
those products of the primitive saga-poetry which were not selected for
recitation at the Panathenaea (or the unknown Ionian archetype of the
Panathenaea), and which consequently fell into neglect--by the Orphic
literature, by a large element in tragedy, most richly perhaps by the
antiquarian traditions preserved in Pausanias, and in the hostile
comments of certain Christian writers, such as Clement and Eusebius.

Now the first thing for the historian to observe about this non-Homeric
stratum is this: that non-Homeric is by no means the same thing as
post-Homeric. We used to be taught that it was. We used to be taught
that Homer was, practically speaking, primitive: that we started
from a pure epic atmosphere and then passed into an age of romantic
degradation. The extant remains of the non-Homeric poems frequently
show in their form, and sometimes even in their content, definite
signs of presupposing the _Iliad_, just as the _Iliad_ here and there
shows signs of presupposing them; and it is not until recently that
we have been able to understand properly the nature and the method of
composition of an ancient Traditional Book. I will not go into that
point in detail here. Even supposing that the _Cypria_, as a poem,
could definitely be called ‘later’ than the _Iliad_, it is enough to
say that a later literary whole may often contain an older kernel or
a more primitive mass of material, and in the case of the non-Homeric
saga-poems it is fairly clear that they do so.

Two arguments will suffice. First the argument from analogy. Few
anthropologists, with the knowledge now at our command, will regard the
high, austere, knightly atmosphere of the _Iliad_ as primitive
when compared with that of Hesiod. In the second place, a great
proportion of our anthropological material is already to be found in
prehistoric Crete. The an-iconic worship, the stones, the beasts, the
pillars, and the ouranian birds: the great mother goddess of Anatolia,
the human sacrifices, and the royal and divine bull. I speak under
correction from those who know the Cretan finds better than I; but to
me it seems that there are many bridges visible from Crete to Hesiod or
Eumelus or even Pausanias; but the gulf between Crete and Homer seems,
in certain places, to have no bridge.

Thus the later literary whole contains the more primitive modes of
thought, the earlier religion.

Now this fact in itself, though it may be stated in different ways, is
not much disputed among scholars. But the explanations of the fact are
various. That which seems to me much the most probable is the theory
of Expurgation. As Mr. Lang seems not quite to have understood what I
tried to say about this in my _Rise of the Greek Epic_, I will restate
it in this way: We know that the great mass of saga-poetry began to be
left on one side and neglected from about the eighth century on; and we
find, to judge from our fragments, that it remained in its semi-savage
state. Two poems, on the contrary, were selected at some early time for
public recitation at the solemn four-yearly meeting of ‘all Ionians’,
and afterwards of ‘all Athenians’. The poems were demonstrably still in
a fluid condition; and the intellect of Greece was focussed upon them.
This process lasted on through the period of that great movement which
raised the shores of the Aegean from a land of semi-savages to the
Hellas of Thales, of Aeschylus, and of Euripides. And we find,
naturally, that amid all the colour of an ideal past, in which these
two epics, like all other epics, have steeped their story, there has
been a gradual but drastic rejection of all the uglier and uncleaner
elements. That is a very broad statement; it omits both the evidence
and the additional causes and qualifications. But it serves to explain
why I treat the non-Homeric sagas as representing more faithfully the
primitive pre-Hellenic habits of thought, the mere slough out of which
Hellas rose.

Now to one lecturing on Anthropology in Homer, the difficulty is to
find enough material. In the case of the early saga outside Homer, the
difficulty is only what to choose and where to stop.

One might begin by discussing the remnants of primitive secret
societies. The remains are fairly rich. Mr. Webster, in his instructive
book,[41] has traced the normal genesis of these bodies which exercise
such an enormous influence over savage life. The first stage he takes
to be the ordinary system of ordeals and puberty rites through which
all males of the tribe have to pass before they can be admitted as full
men. The ordeals of the Arunta and of the various Red Indian tribes
are familiar to most of us. These ceremonies are often involved in a
good deal both of mystery and of charlatanry. The youths initiated,
for instance, sometimes are supposed to die and be born again. The
process is secret. The women of the tribe are kept carefully away. The
neighbourhood is filled with the warning sound of the Rhombos or
Bull-roarer--that ‘whirring of immortal things’ which Hesiod perhaps
means when he speaks of the air resounding ῥιπᾖ ὑπ’ ἀθανάτων.[42]
The next stage begins when this initiation ceremony ceases to be
compulsory. This sometimes depends on the separation of the War Chief
from the medicine-man or the elders. For of course the initiation
ceremonies are specially the department of the last named. In the
third stage we find a full-flown Secret Society. The initiated form a
definite body and work together for the maintenance of such conduct as
is pleasing to the gods and themselves.

Take the case of Dukduk, a powerful society in the Bismarck
Archipelago, north-east of New Guinea. I will not dwell on its power
nor on the advantages which accrue to its worshippers. But I cite from
Mr. Webster an eyewitness’s account of an epiphany of Dukduk.

Dukduk arrives about six times a year, and always on the day of the new
moon. His arrival is announced a month beforehand by the Old Men--the
Gerontes. During that month great quantities of food are made ready for
Dukduk, and are ‘taken care of’ by the Old Men, his votaries. The day
before the epiphany all women disappear from sight. It is death to them
to look on the divine being. Before daybreak all the males of the tribe
assemble on the beach, most of the young men looking frightened. At
the first streak of dawn singing and drum-beating is heard out at sea,
and as soon as there is enough light five or six canoes are seen at a
distance, lashed together and with a platform built over them. On this
platform are two Dukduks, dancing and uttering shrill cries. They are
got up like gigantic cassowaries, some ten feet high, surmounted by a
grotesque human mask. At least, says Mr. Romilly, the witness whom I
cite, the body looks much like the body of the cassowary, but the head
is like nothing but the head of a Dukduk. The canoes make the beach.
The natives fall back in apprehension, for if Dukduk is touched he
frequently tomahawks the offender on the spot. They proceed through the
settlement, always dancing and screaming, to the secret house which
has been prepared for them in the bush. They stay about a fortnight.
They beat people a good deal, and exact money from suitable sources,
especially plundering the women; if any one has shown disrespect of
any sort to any member of the Dukduk society, not to speak of Dukduk
himself, the punishment is swift and terrible.

Now Dukduk, like Egbo and Mumbo-Jumbo, is an anti-feminist, whereas
Dionysus was essentially worshipped by women. There are several West
African parallels to this. The Bundu of the Mendi country is a very
powerful woman‘s society.[43] But otherwise is not the whole of this
story curiously reminiscent of the Dionysus myths, as they occur, for
instance, in the early Corinthian epos attributed to Eumelos? In his
native Thrace, very possibly, everybody was initiated to Dionysus; but
in Greece his worshippers form a special society. Dionysus arrives in
a ship from unknown seas: when he moves inland this ship is set bodily
upon a wagon.[44] He makes his epiphany at various places, claiming
worship for himself and honours for his worshippers. In the regular
propagandist legend that comes down to us, Lycurgus perished for wrongs
done to the Bacchic society and the god himself. He ‘sought to stay the
women possessed of god and the Bacchic fire’.[45] He smote or drove into
the sea Dionysus himself and his Nurses.[46] The same with Pentheus. In
the actual ritual, we can have little doubt, a man personated Dionysus,
exactly as a man personates the Dukduk or Egbo or Mumbo-Jumbo. And
presumably, in just the same way, the uninitiated, as Mungo Park says,
‘were so ignorant, or at least were obliged to pretend to be so,’ as to
take the figure on the ship for a divine being.

The Mysteries are all intimately connected with Secret Societies. The
Demeter mystery has an epiphany in it; it has the arrival of Demeter
at Eleusis; it has the Rhombos or Bull-roarer and the exclusion of the
uninitiated. And, a sign perhaps of declining influence in this actual
world, it professes, like many of these societies, to do wonderful
things in the next.

There are, to my mind, traces in prehistoric Greece of another kind of
secret society, resembling the Human Leopards or Human Lions of West
Africa. I must refer here to the long expected book of my friend Mr.
Penmorlan Maine on Werewolves. But, to give the mere outlines of the
subject, the members of these societies are apt to turn, at certain
seasons, into leopards or lions, and then kill human beings in a
leopard-like or lion-like way. Their object is partly to obtain human
fat for ‘medicine’, partly to remove or discourage their enemies. Sir
H. H. Johnston[47] tells of a series of murders committed by an old
man, who concealed himself in long grass and leaped out on solitary
travellers. He killed them and then mutilated the bodies. He confessed
the murders freely, but explained that he at times turned into a
lion, and had to act as such.[48] The leopard societies have special
three-pronged forks or gloves with knives at the end to imitate the
wound of a leopard’s claw. And I have seen a long club ending in
claws like a wild beast’s, which I suspect had the same purpose. My
father-in-law bought it in Khartoum from a negro from the south, who
professed not to know what it was. He said it was a ‘fantasia’--as no
doubt it was.

To take a particular instance, the mode of initiation in the Sherbro
leopard society strongly recalls certain pre-Hellenic myths. The
society chooses some stranger and asks him to a dinner at which human
flesh is secretly mixed among the other food. At the end of the meal
they reveal to him what he has eaten, and in proof (I think) show him
the hands, and sometimes the head, of the murdered human being. He has
shared the leopard feast, and is now a leopard.[49]

Was it not exactly like this that Atreus kept the hands and feet of the
murdered children apart, hidden with a cloth, and at the end of the
feast removed the cloth to show Thyestes what he had eaten? Lykaon too,
though his name can scarcely be derived from λύκος, turned into a wolf
because he had ‘sacrificed a child on the altar of Zeus Lykaios’. As
he himself can scarcely be different from Zeus Lykaios, this must
originally have implied some cannibal act. And you will remember that
ever afterwards in the ritual of Zeus Lykaios legend said that one
piece of human flesh was mixed up with the rest of the sacrificial
meat, and the man who unknowingly tasted that bit was doomed to turn
into a wolf.[50]

There are the burning questions of totems and of matriarchy; there is
Earth-magic, there is Purification, there is Fetichism: there are many
other marks of ‘the Religions of the Lower Culture’ to be found in the
ancient pre-Hellenic myths. But I must turn to the special point which
I wish to illustrate in the remainder of this lecture.

I wish to deal with a most familiar part of the subject, the Divine
King, or, as I prefer to call him, the Medicine-King, and then to apply
the results which we reach to the most obvious remnant of non-Homeric
poetry that has come down to us, the Theogony of Hesiod.

We all know about this medicine-king. If we like we can call him
divine. On his force and his _mana_--what Hesiod, I venture to suggest,
calls his κράτος τε βία τε--depends the welfare of his people, in the
way of rain and thunderstorms, of abundance of game, of crops, of
success in war. He also affects floods, earthquake, and pestilence. If
he suffers in any way, if his _mana_ is weakened, his whole people
suffers and is weakened too. Consequently he is encouraged and kept
strong as long as possible; if he shows any weakness, he must be got
rid of and a better man found to take his place. There seem to be three
main methods. Either he is set aside periodically, at the end of five
years, or nine years, or the like; or he is quietly deposed when he
shows signs of age, like Peleus, Oineus, Aison, in the legends; or,
and this is our main subject to-day, when some one else shows superior
_mana_ by killing him. At present my _mana_ is supreme; I am king;
my will carries itself out. But if your _mana_, your Kratos and Bia,
conquer mine, then you are king. If you can also get my _mana_ into
you, so much the better. For κράτος and βία are tricky things and may
desert any one of us, or, according to Hesiod, any except Zeus: ‘No
house of Zeus is without them, no seat of Zeus, there is no going forth
of the god where they do not follow him, and they sit for ever beside
the Thunderer.’[51] Already, in Hesiod, these _mana_ qualities have
become half anthropomorphic; much more so, of course, in Aeschylus’

Now in anthropology we are always making fresh efforts at the
imaginative understanding of men far removed from us, and naturally,
therefore, we are always slightly correcting and modifying our
conceptions. I want here to suggest that with regard to this Divine
King the ordinary classical conception is slightly wrong. We speak of
deification; and this deification always remains rather a puzzle for
us. It may be all very well for the mysterious Minos: but when applied
to Julius Caesar or to Hadrian, in the full light and plain prose of
history, it seems such an absurd and gratuitous blasphemy. I think
the mistake lies in applying our highly abstract conception ‘God’,
a conception rarefied and ennobled during many centuries by the
philosophic and religious thought of the highest of mankind, to a
stratum of human ideas to which it does not belong. In one of the
presidential addresses delivered to the recent Congress of Religions,
Mr. Hartland dwelt on a significant fact with regard to this idea of
God, viz. that whenever this word is used our best witnesses tend to
contradict one another. Among the most competent observers of the
Arunta tribes, for instance, some hold that they had no conception of a
God, others that they were constantly thinking about God. Much may be
said about this; but one thing, I think, emerges with some clearness:
that this idea of a god far away in the sky--I do not say merely a god
who is ‘without body, parts, or passions’, but even a god who is very
remote and is a cause behind the regular phenomena of the world--this
idea is one which practically does not enter their minds at all, or,
if by an effort they can reach and accept it, it has little working
value and is soon forgotten. For most primitive races, I suspect, the
medicine-chief, the βασιλεύς, with his immense _mana_, is Theos, and
equally the Theos is the medicine-chief. The rainmaker, the bringer of
game, the possessor of the power to make dead and to make alive--there
he is, the visible doer of all those things which later races have
delegated to higher and more shadowy beings, walking palpably before
you with his medicine and perhaps his pipe, his grand manner, his fits,
and his terrific dress.

The Basileus, the possessor of great _mana_, wants people to obey him,
and by will-power, by force of character, aided by impressive ritual,
he makes them. In the same way he makes rain; he says so vehemently
‘It shall rain’ that it cannot help itself. It does. This lies at the
back of what we somewhat erroneously call mimetic magic. For the real
rainmaker does not imitate rain, he just makes it. One must bear in
mind always the extreme sensitiveness of savages to suggestion--to
hocus-pocus, to bullying, to paroxysms of rage. When Kyknos-Ares,
who presumably belonged to this class of Basileus, was waiting for
Heracles to attack him in his _temenos_, he did not simply make
suitable arrangements and stay on guard; no, περιμαίνετο, he ‘raged
round’, working up his _mana_ and inspiring all the terror possible.
Think of the scolding priests of the Middle Ages. Think even of the
Bull ‘Ausculta Fili’. Think of the rages that are characteristic of
ancient prophets, such as Tiresias, just as they are of modern yogis
and Maroccan saints.

In the first place, then, on sociological grounds, I think we should
not conceive this primitive king as a man deified, but rather as a
pre-deistic medicine-man possessed of those powers which more cultured
ages have relegated to the gods. In the second place, though I know
that etymological arguments are often like broken reeds and pierce
the hand of him who leans thereon, I cannot but remember that Curtius
derived θεός from the root _thes-_ which appears in πολύθεστος,
ἀπόθεστος, θέσσασθαι, perhaps θεσμός, the Latin _festus_ and _feriae_,
and which has the special connotation of ‘spell’ or ‘magic prayer’.
Professor Conway, who prefers another derivation (Lith. dvãse, ‘spirit,
breath,’ MHG. ge-twas, ‘ghost,’ see Brugmann, _Gr. Gr._ s.v.), writes
to me that the fatal objection to the _thes-_ derivation is that θεσός
could not mean God; it could only mean ‘prayer’ or ‘one who prays’.
Now, except that the word suggests ‘spell’ rather than ‘prayer’, that
is exactly what I want it to mean. If the word θεός was originally
neuter it meant magic or medicine, like φάρμακον. If masculine, it was
the medicine-man or magic-man--not very far from φαρμακός.

The process of thought, if I may over-simplify it a little, seems to be
like this. First the Theos or Rainmaker on earth makes his rain. Then
it is found that he does not always or unconditionally make the rain,
and you reach the hypothesis that a greater rainmaker lives far away,
on some remote mountain, or perhaps in the sky. That is the true Theos.
The Theos on earth only knows his ways, belongs to him, partly controls
him; sometimes indeed he can only humbly pray to him. The so-called
Theos on earth, in fact, is not Theos at all. Here comes one of the
strongest antitheses between Homeric and non-Homeric, between the
reformed Olympian religion and the old savage stuff from which it was
made. Homer drew clear the line between mortal and immortal, between
God in Olympus and man here. And most early Greek poetry rings with the
antithesis. Μὴ μάτευε Ζεὺς γενέσθαι. θνητὸν ὄντα θνητὰ χρὴ φρονεῖν.
By the fifth century the time was long past when ‘gods and mortal men
strove in Mêkônê’, and the gods had carried the day. Yet even Sophocles
makes his Thebans go with prayer and supplication to a Basileus, to stop
the plague; and it seems significant that he makes the priest explain

    θεοῖσι μέν νυν οὐκ ἱσούμενόν σ’ ἑγὼ
    οὑδ’ οἴδε παῖδες ἑζόμεσθ’ ἑφέστιοι
    ἁνδρῶν δὲ πρῶτον ἔν τε συμφοραῖς βίου
    κρίνοντες ἒν τε δαιμόνων συναλλαγαῖς (_O.T._ 31 ff.).

The suppliant comes to him not exactly as a God, but as the first of
men and as holding some special intercourse with the δαίμονες.

A great collection of these medicine-kings, especially of rain and
thunder-makers, is to be found in Mr. A. B. Cook’s very remarkable
articles on ‘Zeus, Jupiter and the Oak’, published in the _Classical
Review_ for 1903, and again in his ‘European Sky God’ in _Folk Lore_,
xv, pp. 371-90. I will run briefly through a few of them.

The clearest of all is Salmoneus. His nature was explained, I believe,
partly by M. Salomon Reinach and partly by Miss Jane Harrison. ‘He
declared that he was Zeus,’ says Apollodorus (i. 9, 7), ‘and depriving
Zeus of his sacrifices bade men offer them to himself. He attached to
a chariot leather thongs with bronze caldrons and, trailing them after
him, said he was thundering; he tossed blazing torches into the air and
said he was lightening.’--So he was; at least, he was doing his best.
Mr. Cook shows that he had also some justification for saying that he
was Zeus. For he was an Olympian victor; and thereby became Basileus,
or Zeus, of Olympia, and had the thunder-making as part of his official

Almost exactly similar is Remulus Silvius, _Remulus ... imitator
fulminis_, as Ovid calls him. ‘In contempt of the gods he contrived
mock thunderbolts and noises like thunder, wherewith he thought to
frighten men as though he were a god. But a storm fraught with rain
and lightning falling upon his house, and the lake near which it
stood swelling in an unusual manner, he was drowned with his whole
family.’[52] As with Salmoneus, amid his mock thunder-storms came the
real thunder-storm and slew him.

More modest and more in accord with later beliefs was Numa. No impiety
was to be found in his thunder-making.[53] ‘Picus and Faunus taught Numa
many things, including a charm for thunder and lightning, composed
of onions, hair, and pilchards, which is used to this day.’ You may
remember the story told by Livy, Ovid, and others, how Numa cheated
Jupiter of his human sacrifice. He conjured Jupiter by a spell to come
to him and reveal a charm for thunder. The god came, but was angry at
being brought, and meant to have blood. ‘I want heads’ ... ‘Of onions,’
said Numa. ‘I want human’ ... ‘Hairs,’ said Numa. ‘I want living’ ...
‘Pilchards,’ put in the pious king, and Jupiter gave the matter up.

Minos in much the same way had the power to thunder, but only had it by
means of a prayer to his father Zeus.

Now observe that most of these early Roman heroes appear both as men
and as gods. The explanation is, I think, that when the celestial
gods were introduced the old _Theoi_ or _Basilêes_ had to be either
condemned, like Mezentius, Remulus Silvius, Salmoneus, or else deified.
Numa and Romulus suggest themselves at once. Aeneas, too, while engaged
in battle with Turnus, or some say Mezentius, vanished and became
Jupiter Indiges. Latinus vanished while fighting Mezentius, and became
Jupiter Latiaris. In later times there were numbers of these ‘_Humani
Ioves_’. It is one of the most important social facts to remember about
antiquity, that the spread of education was very difficult and slow,
and in consequence it was almost impossible for a whole nation at once
ever to rise entirely above that primitive state of superstition which
Preuss describes by the pleasant word ‘Urdummheit’.

Julius Caesar was worshipped as Jupiter, with M. Antonius for his
Flamen Dialis. Caligula was worshipped as Optimus Maximus and also as
Jupiter Latiaris; it was perhaps in this capacity that he put to death
his rival the Rex Nemorensis at Nemi. Domitian is constantly referred
to as Jupiter in the poets. Coins are found inscribed =ΛΙΒΙΑ ΗΡΑ=,

We have further the somewhat mysterious statement of Macrobius (_Sat._
iii. 7. 6) that ‘the souls of consecrated men were called by the
Greeks Zânes’, and the express and frequently repeated statement of
Tzetzes ‘that the ancients called all their kings Zeus and their queens
goddesses’. Οἱ γὰρ πρίν τε Δίας πάντας κάλεον βασιλῆας.[54]

I will not dwell on Zeus-Agamemnon or on Zeus-Minos; nor on the number
of priests of Zeus at Corycus who bear the name Zâs. But I will just
draw attention to one fact. Two classes of people who are not kings,
and I believe two only, are found bearing the title of Zeus. They are
prophets--like Zeus-Amphiaraos and Zeus-Trophonios; and doctors--like
the celebrated Menekrates, who called himself Zeus and his various
attendants by other divine names. That is to say the old conception of
medicine-chief has split up into those three channels, king, prophet,
and doctor; and to all three the name of Zeus occasionally belongs. It
was for a medical miracle at Lystra that Barnabas was hailed as Zeus
and Paul as Hermes (Acts xiv. 12).

Now, as has been observed before now, the history of these _Humani
Ioves_ is written in blood, and that for two special reasons. First,
it is by blood that they come to the throne and by blood that they
leave it. Secondly, they are always appealed to in times of great
strait or danger, when ‘strong medicine’ is wanted. And the strongest
and most favourite medicine in such cases is human blood, of one sort
or another. The main object of the Leopard Societies is said to be
the wish to obtain human fat as ‘medicine’. The same motive leads to
murders in Australia.[55]

We should perhaps add a third cause for the stain of blood which lies
so deep on these primitive medicine-kings. I mean, the mere wish to
inspire terror and obedience and to keep off as long as possible that
inevitable successor who filled their days with dread. Kyknos, Phorbas,
Oinomaos, Kerkyon, Amykos, Philomeleides, Sinis, and Procrustes, all
those ogres of Greek myth who race or wrestle with all comers and,
having defeated them, hang their heads on trees or tear their bodies
asunder or fling them to wild beasts or the like, have their parallel
in many an African king, whose hut is ringed by heads stuck
on poles.[56]

Now I wish to apply these conceptions, as I said, to the most
obvious piece of Greek Epic poetry outside Homer, and illustrate
anthropologically the main legend of the Theogony. You will remember
the outlines of the story. The first possessor of the kingly
office--βασιληίδα τιμήν--is Ouranos. He is afraid of his children,
and ‘hides’ or imprisons them. At last his son Kronos conquers and
mutilates him, and he passes out of sight. Kronos becomes king and is
equally afraid of his children; he ‘swallows’ them one after another;
eventually Zeus conquers and ‘binds’ him. Zeus now reigns; but Zeus
took the precaution of swallowing Metis, when Metis was about to give
birth to Athena.

I omit details for the moment. I refrain also from discussing the Maori
parallel, first pointed out, I believe, in Mr. Lang’s _Custom and
Myth_. This series of conflicts has been explained as referring to a
change of religion, an early Pelasgian worship being ousted by that of
the incoming Achaeans. There may be that in it: but such an explanation
obviously does not explain the whole series of swallowings. There were
not three, certainly not four, different religions in question.

Analysing the story I find in it the following elements.

First, the medicine-king, or Theos, is afraid of his successor. In this
case the possible successors are represented as his children. That
may be a mere piece of convenience in story-telling; it may be the
influence of a time when kingship was hereditary.

In all three cases the motive assigned by Hesiod seems to be the fear
of a successor. The motive of Ouranos, indeed, is not very clearly
stated. He began by hiding his children in the earth because they were
‘the most dangerous of sons’ (155). They ‘were hated of their father’,
and ‘he rejoiced in the evil work’.

Kronos arose and conquered him: the exact meaning of the mutilation I
leave aside. Kronos proceeded to swallow his children ‘intending that
none other of the proud sons of Ouranos should have king’s rank among
the immortals; for he had heard from Gaia and Ouranos that he was
destined to be vanquished by his son’ (461 ff.). Here the motive is
clearly given.

As for Zeus and his strange act in swallowing Metis when she was about
to give birth to Athena, two quite distinct motives are attributed to
him. First, that which we have met with before. ‘He was determined that
none but himself should have the king’s rank, βασιληίδα τιμήν, over the
immortals. He had heard an oracle that Metis was destined to give birth
to’--one expects the motive of the Marriage of Thetis--‘a child who
should be mightier than his father.’ But it is not quite so simple; for
Athena was the child of Metis, and she was obviously not mightier than
Zeus. The oracle takes the curious form that Metis is to bear ‘first
Athena, and secondly a child who shall be mightier than his father.’
Zeus seems to have swallowed her rather prematurely. But he had a
second motive also. He swallowed Metis ‘that the goddess being inside
him should tell him of good and evil’. The name Μῆτις of course means
‘Counsel’ or ‘Wisdom’.

Leaving this last detail aside for the present, I suggest that the
main motive in this strange story of the swallowing or hiding of the
successive possible pretenders to the crown is the dread which each
king naturally felt of him who was coming after. But this still leaves
much unexplained; the second main element which I find is the worship
of sacred flints or thunder-stones.

When Kronos set about swallowing Zeus, you will remember, Gaia put a
big stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to great Kronos. And he ‘put
it inside his belly’, ἑὴν ἑσκάτθετο νηδύν (487). Then, ‘in the passing
of the years’--whatever that exactly means--‘beguiled by the counsels
of Gaia, great crooked-hearted Kronos spewed up his brood again, being
conquered by the craft and force of his son’. (Two reasons there,
belonging probably to different stories--in one he was overcome by the
craft of Gaia, in the other by the _mana_ of his son.) ‘And the first
thing he vomited up was the stone, which he had swallowed last.... Then
straightway Zeus set loose his father’s brothers, the Titanes. They
were grateful, and gave him three gifts, thunder and thunder-bolt and
lightning; formerly vast Earth had hidden them away: and it is by them
that Zeus rules over mortals and immortals.’[57]

That is to say Zeus in this story is a thunder-god. The thunder
or lightning is his _mana_. And not only a thunder-god, he is a
thunder-stone. The identity has been, of course, disguised in our
present version of the myth. It is muddled, like everything else in
Hesiod.[58] But it shows through. When Kronos sets about swallowing
Zeus, it is the stone he swallows. And it is only when ‘by the counsels
of Earth’ Cronos vomits up the stone that Zeus can take any action;
and that action takes the form of thunder and lightning, the special
property of a thunder-stone. In the word ‘thunder-stone’, or κεραυνία,
the ancients seem to have mixed, and perhaps confused, two ideas: that
of a meteorite, which seemed to be the actual bolt which fell in the
thunder, and that of an ordinary flint, nephrite, jade, or the like,
which has its mysterious fire inside it. The fire is the soul, or
indwelling _mana_, of the flint.

A careful reading of Hesiod’s story will, I think, convince most
anthropologists that Zeus _is_ the stone. And as a matter of fact it
is not uncommon for both Zeus and Jupiter to appear as stones. In the
temple of Jupiter Feretrius, the oldest temple of Jupiter in Rome,
founded by Romulus, there was a sacred flint which was called _Jupiter
Lapis_--it was not _Jovis Lapis_. It was used for killing the victim
in solemn treaties. It must have been one of those ‘thunder-stones
resembling axes’ of which Pliny speaks; what we should call neolithic
axe-heads. There seems to have been more than one _Jupiter Lapis_; for
in 201 B.C. the Senate sent several such with the _fetiales_
to Africa. I need not dwell on other cases; the Zeus Kappôtas at
Gythîum, apparently a bigger stone, as Orestes could sit upon it; the
Zeus Kasios or Keraunios at Seleucîa; the stone of Zeus Sthenios, on
the road from Trozên to Hermione; or the thunder-stone on Mount Ida, in
Crete, with which Pythagoras was purified by the Idaean Dactyls, the
attendants of Zeus. They are all in De Visser’s book.

The best known of these stones is perhaps that which was believed to
be--not to belong to, but actually to be--the Mother of the Gods. Livy
(xxix. II) tells of the embassy sent from Rome to Attalus to
fetch the Great Mother; and how the king took the legates to Pessinûs
in Phrygia and handed over to them the sacred stone which the natives
affirmed to be the Mother of the Gods. Arnobius describes its
appearance: ‘a stone not large, which could be carried in a man’s hand
without noticeable weight, in colour black and _furvus_, in shape more
or less round with projecting corners, which is now to be seen in
the mouth of the image of the Great Mother.’ Superstitious Rome was
ready to accept and to worship the Mother in the form of a stone; but
common-sense Rome did at least demand that the Great Mother should have
a decently anthropomorphic image, and the stone was then placed in the
image’s mouth.

So far, then, we are clear. But there remain some difficult questions.
Why was the stone in Hesiod wrapped in swaddling clothes? I do not
understand this. But the ritual practice is well attested. Pausanias
tells how this Kronos stone was anointed and wrapped in wool.[59] A coin
in Macdonald’s Hunter Catalogue (ii. 68. 145) represents the Great
Mother stone covered with a goat-skin. This may be merely because of
the _hagos_ or taboo, just as the omphalos on vases is commonly covered
with an ἄγρηνον and Semitic betyls are wrapped in cloths. The actual
body of a god would be dangerous to touch; but it looks as if there
was some special connexion between stones and infants. The Orphic poem
called Lithica is, of course, full of magic stones, which might be
cited here. But take one in especial, the ‘Live Siderite’. This stone
has to be prayed to, like a god; it has also to be washed daily for ten
days and nursed and wrapped in clean robes, like a baby. At the end of
that time it will reward its benefactor by uttering the scream of a
young baby when hungry; then, the poet remarks, the great thing is not
to drop it.[60]

In some Mexican dances, Preuss tells us, the souls of infants come
through the air in the likeness of five stones. Among the Kaitish
and the Arunta there are stones inhabited by infant souls, which are
induced in one way or another to come out of the stones and be born.
And we all remember the stones flung by Deucalion and Pyrrha, and the
race of man which is--or is not--sprung ἀπὸ δρυὸς ἡδ’ ἁπὸ πέτρης.[61]

But again, why were the stones swallowed? What does all this swallowing
mean? Zeus of course swallowed Metis in order to have her _mana_ inside
him. That is sensible enough. Do medicine men or Theoi ever actually
swallow smooth stones in order to get the fire-power or other magic
inside them? In Mexico the devils which are sucked out of the body in
curing diseases are usually in the form of stones. For instance, in
the ceremony of the Huichol tribe, where the gods are healed of their
weariness by the Dawn-Star, Kaiumari, sucking ‘stones and the like’ out
of them.[62] The same practice is common among Australian blacks.

Mr. Marett refers me to a still better case. Among the Yuin of New
South Wales the word _joïa_, which is almost like _mana_ and is used to
denote the immaterial force in sacred animals, is actually the name of
certain stones like these. They are commonly quartz-crystals or bits
of glass, but also we hear of Kunambrun, a black stone, apparently
lydianite. A black stone probably means thunder. The medicine man often
carries these stones in his mouth, and when he sends out a curse or
a blessing he projects them out of himself into his victim ‘like the
wind,’ that is, invisibly and impalpably.[63]

The actual swallowing seems strange, unless it was a mere fraud. But I
used to know an Australian blackfellow--I never thought of asking his
tribe--who used to put stones in his mouth and give or sell them to the
boys of the neighbourhood as bearing a charm in consequence. They were
sure to hit what they were aimed at, unless the aim was very bad. I
suppose he put a lot of his _mana_ into them. One of the ways in which
a Papuan chief causes death, according to the report of Dr. Bellamy
in the White Book for 1907, is to send to a man a present of a smooth
stone. The man recognizes the meaning of the stone, and wastes away.
Dr. Bellamy cured some by the application of strong smelling salts,
which drove away the devils. Presumably the chief had put his _mana_ on
the stone in some very strong way.

Lastly, there is another element in this story which calls for
explanation from better anthropologists than myself; I mean the
constant reference to ‘hiding’ or ‘concealment’. Ouranos (157) _hid_
all his children in a secret place of the Earth; this gave pain to
Earth, and she groaned, being squeezed by them. Earth again (482) took
Zeus and _hid_ him in a cave. Kronos _put the stone inside_ him--surely
a form of hiding. The Titans _were hidden away_--κεκρύφατο, by Kronos
(729) till Zeus brought them again to light. Lastly and most important,
Zeus _hid away fire_ from man, κρύψε δὲ πῦρ.

This last case is pretty clear. Zeus had the fire hidden away in the
heart of the flint or in the veins of Earth; Prometheus, or Pramanthas,
the Fire-Stick, introduced the more open visible fire. But the other
cases seem different. In them it is always a king or a would-be king, a
deposed Theos or a conquered aspirant, who is made to disappear. We are
reminded of Aeneas and Latinus who vanished in battles, of Romulus and
Numa who vanished in thunderstorms.

In one case we find that the hiding was in a ‘monstrous cave’, and a
cave in Crete, too. We know from other sources something about the
kind of hiding which took place in that particular cave. At the end of
the fatal nine years, if we are to believe the authors quoted by me
in the _Rise of the Greek Epic_, p. 127, and much more completely by
Mr. A. B. Cook in the articles mentioned above, the divine king Minos
in his mask, as a god, went up into the Idaean cave to converse with
Zeus. Doubtless the divine mask covered his head. A masked Minos went
in, and a masked Minos came out; but one strongly suspects that it was
not the same man beneath the mask. My friend Mr. Gordon, an education
officer in Lower Nigeria, informs me that there is there a great oracle
or ordeal in a cave called the Long Juju. It decides cases between
litigants, or persons who have some dispute. And the method is that
both go up into the cave, and only one returns. The other, presumably
the guilty one, has vanished; he is hidden; κέκρυπται.

All through this pre-Hellenic realm of saga and half-history we find
ourselves in contact with these god-kings, or medicine-chiefs, these
βασιλῆες or, if I am right, Theoi. And we cannot but wonder whether we
have not here the explanation of Herodotus’ famous statement about the
origins of Greek Religion (Herod. ii. 52). The Pelasgians, he tells us,
did not originally know the names of the Olympian gods; ‘they brought
offerings and prayed to the Theoi.’ It was only at a later time that
they sent to Dodona to ask if they should worship those definite gods
with special names and attributes and ‘Olympian Houses’ which had
come into Greece but were still in some sense foreign. And the oracle
said ‘Yes’. I am quite aware that the passage may be differently
interpreted; and I do not suggest that Herodotus knew all that lay
behind his words when he spoke of the nameless Theoi of the Pelasgians
in contrast to the Olympians of Homer and Hesiod. But I do suspect that
the contrast between these medicine-chiefs and the Homeric gods is one
of the cardinal differences between Hellenic and pre-Hellenic religion;
and, further, that some reminiscence of this difference has shaped the
tradition which Herodotus repeats. Clearer evidence will, no doubt, be
forthcoming from some better-equipped anthropologist.


[41] _Primitive Secret Societies_, Macmillan, 1908.

[42] _Theog._ 681.

[43] Wallis, _The Advance of our West African Empire_, p. 239.

[44] Cf. Dieterich, _Archiv für Relig. Wiss._, xi, p. 173.

[45] Soph. _Ant._ 965.

[46] Eumelus, cp. Schol. _Il. Z._ 131.

[47] _British Central Africa_, p. 439.

[48] Cf. Du Chaillu, _A Journey to Ashongo Land_, p. 52.

[49] Alldridge, _The Sherbro and its Hinterland_, pp. 153 ff.

[50] Plat. (_Rep._ 565 d). Cf. De Visser, _Nicht-menschengestaltige
Götter_, p. 46.

[51] _Theog._ 386 ff.

[52] Dionys. Hal. _Antiq._ i. 71.

[53] Plut. _Num._ 15.

[54] See _Folklore_, xv. 304.

[55] According to the White Book of Papua for 1907, containing the
governor’s report to the Federal Government, the only murder of a white
man committed during last year was due to a wish for this medicine.
A native called Hariki had built a new house and wished to make it
strong and paint it with a mixture of red-clay and coconut-oil. For
this purpose, it seems, special medicine was necessary, and in order to
have it as strong as possible, Hariki determined to get it from a white
man. He obtained it by killing a market-gardener called Weaver, with
whom he was on quite friendly terms. Indeed, when the medicine had been
obtained, Hariki and his friends ‘proceeded, under the guidance of one
of the party who was skilled in charms,’ to bring Weaver back to life.
They began at the feet, and succeeded, so they said, in reviving all
the lower part of the body; but there was a great wound in the chest
which they could not pass. So at last they hid the corpse away, and
arranged that it should seem to have been eaten by alligators.

[56] Phorbas, being the strongest of the Phlegyai, was chosen their
king. He lived under an oak, wrestled with all comers, and hung their
heads on the oak. Kerkyon (et. _quercus_?) of Eleusis did much the
same. So did Oinomaos. His daughter’s suitors had to challenge him to a
chariot race; he hung up the heads of those whom he defeated. Pelops,
having defeated him, slew him and took the kingdom. Apparently the
daughter’s hand carried the kingdom with it, as the daughter of Zeus in
the _Birds_ is Basileia, ‘Royalty.’ Kyknos made a pyramid of skulls.
The others killed their rivals in various ways.

[57] _Theog._ 485 ff. Cf. 690, where Zeus fights with the thunder as
his weapon; also 853 ff., where he crushes Typhoeus, who ‘would have
become king over mortals and immortals, but that Zeus saw him and used
the thunder’.

[58] Thus in our present version of the _Theogony_ Zeus is not
swallowed at all: only the stone is swallowed. And when it reappears
Zeus sets it to be a sign at Pytho. Comment is hardly needed. No one
supposes that we have the stories of the _Theogony_ in their original
state. There is ‘contamination’ and ‘conciliation’ visible throughout
the book.

[59] Paus. x. 24, 5; cp. ix. 2, 7 and Frazer’s note.

              ὄρσει νεογιλοῦ παιδὸς ἁυτὴν
    μαίης ἑν κόλπῳ κεκληγότος ἁμφὶ γάλακτι (_Lithica_, 360-99).

[61] Cp. Spencer and Gillen, _Central Australia_, p. 337. Several cases
are given in Dieterich, _Muttererde_, pp. 20 f. The belief is very

[62] Preuss, in _Archiv für Rel. Wiss._, xi. 576.

[63] Howitt, _Native Tribes of South-East Australia_, pp. 371, 533 ff.,



The Greek words for magic and magician, μαγεία and μάγος, are
admittedly of Persian origin, and in all probability did not find
their way into Greece before the Persian War, that is, before about
480 B.C. It was therefore an obvious inference, which was drawn in
1863 by O. Hirschfeld (_de incantationibus et devinctionibus amatoriis
apud Graecos Romanosque_), that as the name magic was not known in
Greece before the Persian Wars, neither was the thing. The inference is
indeed obvious, but it is not necessarily correct: magic is practised
by tribes who have not developed any general term for magic. It is
therefore conceivable, at least, that the Greeks and Italians also
before 480 B.C. practised magical rites, even though they then had no
word for magic in general. The question is one of facts and not merely
of words. What do we know of the facts before 480 B.C.? Unfortunately,
according to M. Mauss, in his article on magic in Daremberg and
Saglio’s _Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines_, ‘we are in
almost complete ignorance of the primitive and original forms of magic
in Italy and Greece.’ In view, then, of our almost complete ignorance,
it may perhaps be allowable to start from a hypothesis--the hypothesis
that the primitive and original forms of magic amongst the Greeks and
Romans were much the same as they are amongst the undeveloped peoples
who possess them at the present day, and, like the Greeks and Romans of
the earliest times, have no general term for magic.

Amongst the tribes of Central Australia, the person who employs magic
to cause sickness or death to his enemy does not omit to use what the
natives call ‘singing’. This ‘singing’ is conducted ‘in a low voice’
(Frazer, _Golden Bough_^2, i. 13); and the sort of thing the magician
‘in muttered tones hisses out’ is ‘May your heart be rent asunder’, or,
‘May your head and throat be split open’ (Spencer and Gillen, _Native
Tribes_, 534 ff.; _Northern Tribes_, 456 ff.).

In the Torres Straits the sorcerer points a spear in the direction of
his victim and ‘sings’ similarly, ‘Into body, go, go. Into hands, go,
go. Into head, go, go’ (_Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits_, vi.
228, 229). The ‘singing’ assists, Mr. Haddon says (ib., p. 231), ‘in
furthering the injury he wishes to inflict.’ Now, was ‘singing’, of
this magical nature, a sort of rhythmical muttering in a low voice,
known to the Greeks and Romans? In the first place, we have the Latin
words _incantare_, _incantator_, _incantamentum_, all implying a
singing which is magical in its intention and effects--incantation
or enchantment. Next, we have _carmen_, which means not only song in
general but ‘singing’ in the magical sense, in Tibullus (i. 8. 17),
Ovid (_Met._ vii. 167, 203, 253; xiv. 57, 20, 34, 44, 366, 387; _Fasti_
iv. 551, 552), Horace (_Ep._ v. 72; xvii. 4, 5, 28; _Sat._ i. 8. 19,
20), Virgil (_Ecl._ viii. 69; _Aen._ iv. 487), Juvenal (_Sat._ vi.
133), Pliny (_Nat. Hist._ xxviii. 10, 18), Tacitus (_Annals_, iv. 22),
and in other passages for which I may refer to Adam Abt (_Die Apologie
des Apuleius_, 22) and L. Fahz (_De Poetarum Romanorum Doctrina
Magica_, 138, 139). In Greek we have the same magical singing expressed
by the words ἑπάδειν, ἑπωδνή, ἑπῳδὁς; in Euripides (_Bacchae_ 234,
_Hippolytus_ 478, 1038, _Phoenissae_ 1260), Sosiphanes (_Fr._ 1),
Aristophanes (_Amphiaraus_, _Fr._ 29), Anaxandrides (_Fr._ 33. 31),
Antiphanes (_Fr._ 17. 15), Xenophon (_Mem._ iii. 11. 16, 17), Lucian
and Heliodorus, and other passages to be found in Abt (ib., p. 43).

It may, however, be objected that all these quotations are of course
later than 480 B.C.; and therefore prove nothing as to ‘the primitive
and original forms of magic in Italy and Greece’. Indeed, in the
_Bacchae_, for instance, and in Plato, _Rep._ ii. 364 A, the magic
referred to may reasonably be regarded as exotic and not native to
Greece. But fortunately we find the word ἑπαοιδή, in the magical
sense, in Homer (_Od._ xix. 457), which takes this group of words
in this sense far back beyond 480 B.C. The Homeric use of the word
in this sense, however, will not avail against any one who chooses
to maintain--though it is impossible to prove, and difficult to
believe--that the Greeks originally knew no magic, and borrowed it
in Homeric or pre-Homeric times from some neighbouring people. And
though the fact that the Twelve Tables ordained punishment for the
man ‘qui malum carmen incantassit’ in all reasonable probability
indicates that ‘singing’ in the evil sense was a practice already at
the time rooted in Italy and not newly imported from abroad; still in
this case, as in the case of the Homeric ἑπαοιδή, the objection may
be made--though it cannot be supported by anything approaching proof
or even probability--that the Italians, as well as the Romans, alone
amongst early peoples were incapable of developing the belief for
themselves. As against this objection we can only fall back on the
evidence of comparative philology. And that evidence is particularly
interesting, because, as interpreted by O. Schrader (_Reallexikon der
Indogermanischen Altertumskunde_, ii. 974), it shows that amongst
the Indo-European peoples much the most common expression for doing
magic is ‘singing’. The presumption that ‘singing’ of the magical kind
goes back to Indo-European times is as strong as any that linguistic
evidence can produce. For the Slavonian, Lithuanian, and Teutonic words
I will refer to Schrader’s _Reallexikon_, ii. 975. Of the Greek and
Latin words I may mention βασκαίνω and βασκανία, which are connected
with βάζω, ‘speak’; γόης and γοητεύω with γόος, ‘howling’; _fascinum_
and _fascinare_ with _fari_.

If, then, we may with some plausibility illustrate the _carmen_, the
_incantatio_, and the ἑπαοιδή of the Greeks and the Romans, with the
‘singing’ of the Torres Straits and Central Australia, the question
arises, What exactly is it that the magician ‘sings’? In the Torres
Straits it apparently is the spear which is ‘sung’, for the words used
are, ‘Into body, go, go’; and Messrs. Spencer and Gillen say that in
Central Australia also it is the stick or the bone which is ‘sung’.
But when we examine the words of the ‘singing’ or charm, as given by
Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, we find that they do not refer to the
stick or the bone which is used in the magical rite, but to the person
against whom the rite is directed: ‘May your heart be rent asunder, may
your head and throat be split open.’ The inference, therefore, seems
to be that it is the victim that the ‘singing’ or spell is originally
directed against; and only later that the stick or bone itself comes
to be bewitched, just as money, which is valuable for what it will
purchase, comes to be regarded by the miser as an end in itself.

If this is so, it opens up another possibility of interest which I must
be content merely to suggest for consideration and investigation. It
is that the earliest form of ‘singing’ or spell may be connected with
cursing. Some forms of cursing or imprecation invoke the assistance of
the gods, but not all; and it may be that those are the earliest which
operate directly and without reference to gods. Caliban invokes no gods
when he cries:

    All the infections that the sun sucks up
    From bogs, fens, flats, on Prosper fall, and make him
    By inch-meal a disease!


                  a south-west blow on ye,
    And blister you all o’er.

And, generally speaking, we may say that what makes cursing terrible
and appalling to the ears on which it falls is not any reference to
the gods that it may contain--for such references maybe absent--but
the fear or horror the man inspires. If he inspires none, his curses
go unregarded. If they do terrify, it is because they are felt to have
some power. Precisely the same difference, and for precisely the same
reason, obtains in the case of witchcraft and magic. Some who practise
it are feared, others are not; and the reason is that some are believed
to have the power to do the mischief, and others not. But if witchcraft
and cursing are both terrible because of the fear they inspire and
the power they imply, and if so far they resemble each other, or even
possibly have a common psychological origin, they soon begin to follow
different lines of evolution. The essence of cursing is that it
is open and loud; and, except when taken up into religion, is not
ceremonialized or formalized; whereas the essence of magic is that
it is secret in what it does, and its ‘singing’ is a repeated or
rhythmical muttering in a low voice. The mere words, ‘May your heart
be rent asunder,’ may be a curse or a spell; and, in either case, if
they are feared, power is attributed to the person who utters them.
Psychologically, it is probable that belief in the power is due to the
fear that is felt. But when the belief has been established that a
certain person possesses the power, then the belief in the power in its
turn engenders fear.

The belief is that the magician or witch has the power to do things.
In _Macbeth_ the first witch says:

    But in a sieve I’ll thither sail;
    And, like a rat without a tail,
    I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.

In the Romance languages there is a series of words for magic and
witchcraft, going back to the Latin _facio_, all expressing this idea
of ‘I’ll do, and I’ll do’, and implying that the witch has the power
to do--the Middle Latin _factura_, Italian _fattura_, Old French
_faiture_, &c. And in the Indo-European languages there are several
sets of words for magic and witchcraft, all expressing this same idea,
and indicating that it goes back to the earliest Indo-European times.
One set running through Sanskrit, Lithuanian, and Old Slavonic implies,
as the Sanskrit _kṛtyâ_ shows, that magic is ‘action’ or ‘doing’.
The Old Norse _görningar_, ‘sorceries or witchcraft,’ literally means
‘doing’; and in Old Slavonic the word for magic (_po-tvorü_) is derived
from a verb meaning ‘to do’. As illustrating the belief that the witch
has power, I may refer to Canidia’s words in the _Epodes_ (xvii. 77):

                          et polo
    deripere Lunam vocibus possim meis,
    possim crematos excitare mortuos;

or to Medea’s in Ovid (_Met._ vii. 206):

    et mugire solum, manesque exire sepulcris;

and (_Rem. Am._ 253):

    tumulo prodire iubebitur umbra.

Still more clearly does Plato in the _Laws_ (933 A) testify to
the belief in the power of the witch or magician: those who dare to do
injury by ἐπῳδαῖς, or ‘singing’, are encouraged to do so by the belief
that they have the power to do so--ὡς δύνανται τὸ τοιοῦτον--and their
victims are thoroughly convinced that they are injured because those
who practise on them have the power to bewitch them, ὡς παντὸς μᾶλλον
ὑπὸ τούτων δυναμένων γοητεύειν βλάπτονται.

To sum up then, thus far, a magician is a person feared, and having
power, which power he exercises in secret, muttering in a low voice,
‘May your heart be rent asunder,’ or ‘your head be split open’, and so
on. And this muttering is the _carmen_, the _incantatio_, the ἑπαοιδή,
the βασκανία and the γοητεία of the Greeks and Romans; the ‘singing’ of
the Australian black fellows. That this magical ‘singing’ continued,
down to late classical and post-classical times, to be a whispering or
a murmuring in a low voice, is easily shown. A _lex Cornelia_ condemned
those ‘qui susurris magicis homines occiderunt’ (Just. _Inst._ iv. 18.
5). In Ovid we have ‘carmen magico demurmurat ore’ (_Met._ xiv.
57), and ‘placavit precibusque et murmure longo’ (ib. vii. 251); in
Tibullus (i. 2. 47) ‘iam tenet infernas magico stridore catervas’
(where _stridor_ = _murmur_, as in Sil. Ital. viii. 562); in Apuleius
(_Metamorph._ i. 3), ‘magico susurramine amnes ... reverti,’ and (_de
Magia_, c. 47) ‘et carminibus murmurata’; and in Aristaenetus (_Ep._
ii. 18), ὑποφθεγγόμενος ἑπικλήσεις καὶ ψιθυρίζων ἁπατηλῶν γοητευμάτων
λόγους φρικώδεις, and in the Greek magical papyri ποππυσμός, στεναγμός
and συριγμός have the same meaning and use (Wessely, _Pap._ CXXI,

I have next to note that in Australia and the Torres Straits the
magician not only mutters words but points in the direction of his
victim with a stick, bone, or spear. This gesture seems to be as
essential to the desired effect as the ‘singing’ itself. The fact seems
to be that the pointing of the stick is a piece of gesture-language
conveying the same idea as the words that are sung; in both the power
of the magician goes forth and strikes the victim, rending his heart
or splitting his head. The question then arises whether we have in
Graeco-Italian magic anything that corresponds to this ‘pointing’, as
it is termed in Australia, and to the stick thus pointed at the person
to be bewitched or enchanted. I can only suggest that the ῥάβδος,
or _virga_, with which, in the _Odyssey_ (x. 238, 319, &c.), Circe
works witchcraft, or Hermes, both in the _Iliad_ (xxiv. 343) and the
_Odyssey_ (v. 47), entrances men, or Athene transforms Ulysses (xvi.
172), may possibly be a literary version or survival of the primitive
pointing-stick become a magic wand. A wand is a common part of a
magician‘s outfit.

The blow or thrust which the magician executes with his pointing-stick
or staff is supposed to inflict the injury on his victim; and nothing
more may be required or done. But usually the magician is not content
merely to point his stick in the direction of his victim. To make
sure that the blow reaches the head or the heart, he makes a rough
image of his victim out of clay or wax or wood, and stabs that in the
appropriate place. In doing so, the savage confuses--and even civilized
man does not yet always satisfactorily discriminate between--the
categories of likeness and identity. The blow which the magician
intends to inflict, and the thrust which he actually deals with his
pointing-stick, are like and are meant to be identical, and are
believed to be so, and, if he has power, they prove to be identical.
The image, also, is, to the mind of the believer, not merely like, but
in some manner identical with, the victim who suffers and is consumed,
like as and to the same degree as the image, and at the very same
moment. The Ojibway Indian believes ‘that wherever the needle pierces
or the arrow strikes the image, his foe will the same instant be seized
with a sharp pain in the corresponding part of his body’ (Frazer, _G.
B._^2 i. 10). I need not quote instances from Australia or Africa to
corroborate this, but, as indicating that the practice goes back to
Indo-European times, I may refer to the _Rigveda_ (iii. 523) and the
_Atharva-Veda_ (i. 7. 2); and for a Latin parallel to the Indian image
pierced by a needle I need only refer to Ovid (_Heroides_ vi. 91, 92):

            simulacraque cerea fingit,
    et miserum tenuis in iecur urget acus.

For the Greek use of waxen images I may refer to Plato, who in the
_Laws_ (933 B) speaks of the alarm felt by men ἄν ποτε ἄρα
ἴδωρί που κήρινα μιμήματα πεπλασμένα, and for other instances to O.
Kehr, _Quaest. Mag. Spec._ 12 f. In Theocritus the wax which is spoken
of, καρόν, is not indeed described as an image, but it doubtless was;
and the mention of it may serve as an excuse for remarking that, though
the details into which magic is worked out by different peoples vary
considerably, and though the applications which different peoples make
of it are far from uniform, still amongst all peoples there are two
matters with which magic always, without exception, deals--Love and
Death. Thus far it is with the latter that I have dealt. I now, for the
moment, turn to the former, and I propose to indicate briefly that the
magical methods of procuring Love are precisely the same as those for
procuring Death. The power which is used for the one end is equally
potent for the other.

For Death-magic, as we have seen, it is essential that the person
working magic should believe that he has the power, and that others
also should believe him to have it; and all that is necessary is that
the magician should put forth the power that he possesses; and this he
does by means of words and gesture-language. So too in Love-magic, in
the Torres Straits, the essential thing is that the young man should
anoint himself on the temples with a paste made from certain plants,
and ‘think as intently as possible about the girl’ (_Expedition to
Torres Straits_, vi. 221), saying to himself, ‘You come! you come! you
come!’ for, Mr. Haddon tells us, ‘the power of words and the projection
of the will were greatly believed in by the natives’ (220); and when a
young man performed the foregoing operations, at a dance or any meeting
at which women would be present, ‘the girl could not resist, but was
bound to go with him’ (221). In Rome there was the same belief in the
power of words: Virgil, in _Eclogue_ viii, imitates Theocritus, but
deviates in details, and one such deviation shows the Roman’s belief in
the power of words, of the _carmen_. Whereas Theocritus says:

    ἴυγξ, ἔλκε τὺ τῆνον ἑμὸν ποτὶ δῶμα τὸν ἄνδρα,

Virgil says:

    Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnin.

So, too, the power of the spell is attested by Propertius (iv. 4. 51):

    O! utinam magicae nossem cantamina Musae,

and Ovid (_Her._ vi. 83):

    Nec facie meritisve placet, sed carmina novit,

and Seneca (_Herc. Oet._ 464):

    Flectemus illum, carmina invenient iter,

and Lucan (vi. 452):

    Carmine Thessalidum dura in praecordia fluxit
    Non fatis addictus amor.

and Tibullus (i. 8. 23):

    Quid queror heu misero carmen nocuisse, quid herbas?

In the next place, as Death-magic was considered to gain in efficiency
if the magician did not merely ‘point’ with his stick in the direction
of his foe, but made an image and wounded it; so Love-magic used a
waxen image, and by melting it consumed with love the person imaged:

                            Haec ut cera liquescit
    Uno eodemque igni, sic nostro Daphnis amore.
                               _Ecl._ viii. 80.

And in Horace the waxen image is thrown into the
flames and consumed:

                    imagine cerea
    Largior arserit ignis.
                            _Sat._ i. 8. 43.

Where sickness, and deaths following on sickness, are ascribed to the
action of some malevolent person possessing and exercising mysterious
power, that is to say, are explained as being due to magic, the
assumption evidently made is that death from sickness is an occurrence
which would not take place in the ordinary course of nature, and which
therefore must be due to some person who has the power and the art to
disturb the ordinary course of nature. This conception of magic is of
course not confined to the lower stages of culture; we find it in the
definition of the magician given by Quintilian, ‘cuius ars est ire
contra naturam’ (_Declamationes_ x. sub fin.). The cure for sickness
naturally presents itself as consisting in counteracting the power of
the person who produced it. Some one must be procured who possesses
power equally great, or greater; and he employs his power in the same
way as the person who produced the sickness, but to the opposite end.
The author of the sickness ‘sings’ his victim, that is, rhythmically
mutters in a low voice, ‘May your heart be rent asunder,’ &c., and, as
Mr. Haddon tells us of the Torres Straits natives, ‘thinks as intently
as possible’ (221), or ‘projects his will’. Now, amongst the
Indo-European peoples, the person who cured the sickness proceeded in
exactly the same way; he too had a _carmen_, an ἐπῳδή, with which to
‘sing’ his patient. According to the _Atharva-Veda_ (iv. 12) he sang:

    Let marrow join to marrow, and let limb to limb be joined.
    Grow flesh that erst had pined away, and now grow every bone also.
    Marrow now unite with marrow, and let hide on hide increase.

And the well-known Merseburg charm employs much the same formulae: ‘Let
bone to bone and blood to blood and limb to limb be joined.’ Probably
Cato’s charm, or _carmen auxiliare_--good for _luxatis membris_--was of
this kind (Pliny, _Nat. Hist._ xxviii. 21). In the _Avesta_, healing
by singing has a special word for its designation--mᾳθrò-baêšaza. In
the _Odyssey_ (xix. 457) the ἑπαοιδή by which the flow of blood from
Odysseus’s wound was stayed was a ‘singing’ of the same kind. Amongst
the Romans, Pliny says (_Hist. Nat._ xxviii. 29) ‘carmina quaedam
exstant contra grandines contraque morborum genera’. And the Greek word
φάρμακον bears double evidence to the same effect; its etymological
connexion with Lithuanian words meaning ‘to sing’, in this sense, shows
that it was originally an ἑπαοιδή, a charm or a counter-charm; and it
is used throughout Greek literature to connote both bane and antidote:

    φάρμακα πολλὰ μὲν ἑσθλά ... πολλὰ δὲ λυγρά.
                                 _Od._ iv. 230.

The Latin _mederi_, _medicus_, _medicina_, like the corresponding term
(_vi-maδay_) in the _Avesta_, go back to a root meaning wisdom--the
wisdom of the ‘wise’ woman. The name ‘Medea’ belongs to the same stock
and means ‘wise’ woman; and the wisdom presumably consisted originally
in the knowledge of the charms (or ‘carmina contra morborum genera’)
and simples, just as the ἱατρός or ἱητήρ may have got his name from ἱός
and the fact that he dealt in drugs which might, according as they were
used, be either the bane or the antidote. That in Greece the ἱατρὄς
originally effected his cures by means of spells, soothing spells, is
indicated by Pindar (_Pyth._ iii. 55), who is doubtless reproducing the
popular belief when he says that Chiron loosed and rescued his patients
from divers pangs,

                   τοὺς μὲν μαλακαῖς ἑπαοιδαῖς ἁμφέπων,
    τοὺς δὲ προσανέα πίνοντας, ἣ γυίοις περάπτων πάντοθεν

In all ages ‘suggestion’ has operated for good in medical treatment;
but it operates only so far as the patient believes that his healer
has power and exercises that power to do him good. The medicine-man
in early times exercises that power either by gestures which indicate
that power is going from him, or by the words with which he banishes or
overcomes the sickness. And in either case he effects his faith-healing
in exactly the same way as the evil-minded possessor of magical power
causes sickness and death by word and gesture, by ‘singing’ and

To the mind of the believer in magic the image of a man is not merely
like him but is in a mysterious way identical with him, so that blows
dealt on the image are felt by the man, and the man and his image are
as closely related to one another as is the exterior of a curve to the
interior; and so, to the mind of the believer in magic, the relation
of a man’s name to the man himself is equally intimate and close.
Hence, by way of precaution, the name of a man is often kept a profound
secret. The same secrecy too may be observed about the name of a god,
or of a city. It would not be surprising, therefore, if the name of a
man were put by the magician to the same use as his image, for the name
is, if anything, even more intimately identified with the man than any
likeness of him can be; and, as a matter of fact, the secrecy, which is
often observed about the name of a man or a god, is observed because
control of the name is assumed and believed to involve control over the
person. If, therefore, the image of a man can be used for malevolent
purposes by a magician, so too may his name. The savage’s objection
to being photographed, as is well known, is due to the feeling that
with his likeness he himself passes into the power of the possessor. I
need hardly point out that pictorial signs and writing and runes are
regarded, at first, by those who do not understand them, as mysterious
and magical, as σήματα λυγρά. The written name of a person is as
intimately bound up with the person’s identity as his likeness or a
waxen image of him. The name may therefore be used by the magician for
the same purposes and in the same way as the image. If the magician
can, as the aborigines of Victoria do, ‘draw on the ground a rude
likeness of the victim’ (Frazer, _G. B._^2 i. 12), if ‘in Eastern Java
an enemy may be killed by means of a likeness of him drawn on a piece
of paper which is then incensed or buried in the ground’ (ib., 11), it
is obvious that his name, which is identical with him, may be treated
in the same way and with the same result. It may be written down and
stabbed or incensed or buried in the ground, and the desired result
will be produced. Now, just as the Ojibway Indian pierces the image of
his enemy with a needle, so the Greek or the Roman wrote down the name
of his enemy, drove a nail into it, and then buried it in the ground.
This proceeding was called κατάδεσις or _defixio_. ‘Nailed him’ was
doubtless the comforting reflection which accompanied the final blow of
the hammer. That it was the name which was nailed, just as the image
was pierced by the needle, is not a matter of inference: one of the
tablets of this kind, which have come down to us (_C. I. A._, _Appendix
continens defixionum tabellas_ 57), expressly says (line 20) ὄνομα
καταδῶ. And, to leave no room for doubting that to nail the name of the
enemy was to nail the enemy himself, just as piercing his image with
a needle was to pierce the enemy himself, the inscription says ὄνομα
καταδῶ καὶ αὐτόν, ‘I nail his name, that is himself.’ The identity
of name and person is thus expressly proclaimed; and it is precisely
parallel to the identity of the person and his image, or likeness,
which we find to be assumed wherever magic is found to exist.

Perhaps I should remark in passing that other things besides a person’s
name or image may be ‘nailed’ or ‘defixed’. His footprints may be, and
are, thus treated both by savages and by European peasants. In the same
way, we learn from Pliny (_Nat. Hist._ xxviii. 63), the epilepsy which
had attacked a man might be ‘nailed down’ and the patient cured by
driving an iron nail into the spot touched by the head of the patient
when he fell (‘clavum ferreum defigere in quo locum primum caput
fixerit corruens morbo comitiali absolutorium eius mali dicitur’). And
there can be little doubt that this kind of ‘defixion’ goes back to
very early Italian times, for, from of old when a pestilence raged,
a consul might drive a nail into the wall of the Celia Iovis, and so
the pestilence was stayed. Perhaps the _clavus trabalis_ which was an
attribute of _dira Necessitas_ (Horace, _Odes_ i. 35. 17, iii. 24. 5)
belongs to the same range of ideas (cf. Kuhnert’s article on _Defixio_
in Pauly’s _Real-Encyclopädie_).

Here too I should perhaps say that, as the _defixionum tabellae_ have
nails driven through them, there can be little doubt that the verb
καταδέω and the substantives κατάδεσις and κατάδεσμος must be used in
the sense of hammering a nail in, or fastening with a nail (as Pindar
uses the simple verb δέω, in δῆησεν ἄλοις, _Pyth._ iv. 71), and are not
used in this connexion to mean simply ‘tying up’. So too in _D. T.
A._, 96, 97 ἓδησα τὴν γλῶτταν is shown by the convertible expression
κέντησον αὐτοῦ τὴν γλῶτταν to mean ‘pierce’ or ‘nail’, and not ‘tie up’.

As then the Ojibway Indian, or the Australian black fellow, or the
native of the Torres Straits, does his magic without calling in any
god to his assistance, so too the Greek could ‘nail’ his man without
applying to the gods; and we have ample inscriptional evidence that he
did so. Nearly one-third of the Attic tablets contain merely proper
names with a nail driven into them; and about one-third more contain
the statement καταδῶ or καταδίδημι, without any reference to gods of
any sort or kind. The Latin tablets of the same kind, which like the
Attic tablets are of lead and have nails driven through them, also
frequently contain merely proper names and nothing more. Of this kind
evidently were those mentioned by Tacitus (_Ann._ ii. 69), ‘carmina et
devotiones et nomen Germanici plumbeis tabulis insculptum.’ It is true
that the tablets which have been discovered have mostly been found in
tombs. But if we were to seek to found on this fact an argument that
the tablets--where they mention no gods--were addressed to the dead,
we should have first to show that such tablets were never deposited
elsewhere than in tombs. As a matter of fact, a magical papyrus (CXXI,
vs. 458) gives instructions as to where a tablet of this kind should be
deposited, viz. ἢ ποταμὸν ἢ γῆν ἢ θάλασσαν ἤγουν ἢ θήκην ἢ εἰς φρέαρ.
We see therefore a plain reason why most of the tablets that have been
preserved have been found in tombs: many, possibly most, were thrown
into rivers, or the sea, or disused wells (εἱς φρέαρ ἁχρημάτιστον,
_Pap. Anast._ 351), as in Scotland the clay figure of your enemy is, or
was, placed in a burn (_Albany Review_, iii. 17, p. 532), and therefore
have not been preserved to us.

They have been rarely discovered by us, for the simple reason that the
person who hid them away was particularly anxious that they should not
be discovered. It was important that the person ‘defixed’ should not
know by whom or in what way he had been ‘defixed’, for, if he knew,
he might undo the spell and retaliate on its worker. The tablet was
concealed--often enough in tombs, for graves are avoided--for the same
reason that the authors of these tablets often take care not to put
their own names to them, viz. in order that the spell might not be
frustrated. But though we cannot attach any great importance to the
fact that most of our tablets have been found in tombs, still it is
true that many of the Attic tablets, and perhaps most of the Latin
tablets, contain a direct and explicit appeal to the gods. Hence it
is possible to maintain, and indeed it is usually maintained, as by
Wuensch, in the _Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum_, that in all cases
these tablets are addressed to the gods; and that, where no gods are
mentioned, we must yet suppose that the gods, or some gods, were prayed
to fulfil the evil wishes of the person who wrote the name of his
victim and pierced it with the nail. The alternative which I venture
to suggest is that originally the _defixio_ or κατάδεσμος was purely
magical; that, later, an appeal to the gods was added to the original
spell; and, last of all, the magical element was overpowered by the
religious, or the religious by the magical. In order to decide between
these two alternative explanations, what we have to do is to inquire
who it is that is supposed by the writer of a tablet of this kind to
nail or ‘defix’ or pierce the person who is to suffer. Is it the writer
of the tablet, or is it a god? If it is the writer, the proceeding is
magical in its nature; if a god, it is religious in its nature. From
this point of view we may go so far as to concede that the absence of
any mention of the gods on the tablet does not of itself suffice to
prove that no thought of them was present in the mind of the writer of
the tablet. The decisive question is, Who does the nailing or defixing?
Has the writer the power to do it, or must he get a god to do it? The
question is perfectly simple, and the answer is perfectly plain; in
many or most of the Attic tablets it is the writer who has the power,
and he exercises it. He says, τούτους ἄπαντας καταδῶ (43), τούτους
ἑγὼ καταδίδημι ἄπαντας (55); and he exercises his power with no more
reference to the gods, and no more thought of them, than the Australian
magician when he ‘points’ his stick, or the German peasant girl when
she ‘sticht um Mitternacht in eine unter Beschwörungen angezündete
Kerze einige Nadeln und spricht: “ich stech das Licht, ich stech das
Licht, ich stech das Herz, das ich liebe”’ (Schönwerth, _Aus der
Oberpfalz: Sitten und Sagen_, i, p. 127).

On the other hand are the tablets in which the writer does not profess
to ‘defix’ his adversary, and does not claim to be able to ‘defix’ him,
but prays to a god to do it, and uses an imperative, κέντησον αὐτοῦ
τὴν γλῶσσαν (97), ἄξον καὶ κατάδησον (xxiii).

In such tablets the _modus operandi_ is no longer magical, it is wholly
religious; the power to punish lies wholly with the gods, and they are
called upon to exercise it. And we are able to trace the process by
which the one kind of tablet passed into the other, or by which the
one kind came to supersede the other. The first step in the process
is illustrated by tablets in which the writer begins by announcing in
the traditional magical style, ‘I nail or bind my enemies,’ but goes
on--in order to make assurance doubly sure--to add an appeal to a god
or gods. Thus in 81 he says καταδέω τοὺς ἑμοὶ ἑχθροὺς πρὸς τὸν Ἐρμῆν.
One of these inscriptions (87) can be dated back to the fourth century
B.C. When Hermes is thus adjured he is nearly always decorated
with the epithet κάτοχον, as in 87 τούτους πάντας καταδῶ πρὸς τὸν
κάτοχον Ὲρμῆν. The epithet is not an idle one, as is shown by the fact
that the corresponding verb, κατέχω, is used in these tablets in the
imperative in the same sense as κατάδησον. Thus in 88 the prayer to
Hermes runs, Ἑρμῆ κάτοχε, κάτεχε φρένας γλῶτταν τοῦ Καλλίου. Hermes,
however, is not the only deity to whom the epithet is applied, and
this imperative addressed. In 101 Gê is termed Γῆ κάτοχος, and in 98
the prayer is φίλη Γῆ, κάτεχε Εὑρυπτόλεμον. It so happens that in
the tablets that have come down to us Hermes and Gê are the only two
deities of whom the epithet κάτοχος and the verb κατέχω are used; and
Boeckh was probably right in saying (_C. I. G._ 539) that the earth and
Hermes were originally (and, we may add, without any reference to magic
at all) called κάτοχοι, because they kept down the dead and prevented
them from returning. Then, when the magical practice of nailing down
or binding your living foe developed, by an easy transition of ideas
the deities, whose business it had originally been to hold down the
dead alone, were invoked to hold down and restrain the living also:
‘vocis vis ad καταδέσμων rationem translata videtur, ut iam κάτοχοι
θεοί essent ii, qui defixos a magis homines detinerent.’ Thus Earth
and Hermes were called in to reinforce the magician’s κατάδεσμος. This
is indeed expressly stated on a leaden tablet discovered in Alexandria
(Wuensch, p. xv): πότνια Γῆ ὁρκίζω σε κατὰ σοῦ ὁνόματος ποιῆσαι τὴν
πρᾶξιν ταύτην καὶ τηρῆσαί μοι τὸν κατάδεσμον τοῦτον καὶ ποιῆσαι αὑτὸν
ἑνεργῆ. That the gods are called in to give effect to a magical rite
which has been performed is shown by inscriptions 96 and 97, where the
tablet begins by saying that the magical rite has been performed, ἑγὼ
ἕλαβον καὶ ἔδησα τὴν γλῶτταν καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν κτλ., and then goes on to
pray to the god, κέντησον αὑτοῦ τὴν γλῶτταν κτλ. Here the prayer to
the gods is in effect a postscript to the magical rite. So, too, in
Ovid (_Fasti_ ii. 575) a ceremony of this kind, which is performed
as part of the worship of the Dea Muta, ends up with the declaration
that we--viz. the old woman who has performed the rite--we, ‘hostiles
linguas inimicaque vinximus ora’; she has used an iron nail and driven
it through the head of a _maena_. But the tendency which manifests
itself in the evolution of the Attic tablets is for the postscript
to grow in importance and size, until the magic dwindles and almost
disappears. For instance, 98 does indeed begin by saying formally
Εὑρυπτόλεμον καταδῶ, but the whole of the rest of the inscription is a
genuine prayer, φίλη Γῆ κάτεχε, φίλη Γῆ βοήθει μοι. While recognizing
however, that this is the tendency in the genuine Attic tablets, it
is desirable to notice that in the Roman empire generally the magical
element swells until it entirely drives out the religious. All kinds
of deity, from religions of every sort, are indeed invoked in these
later inscriptions, both Greek and Latin. But they are invoked only
to receive commands from the magician and to do his will: in the
Hadrumetan tablet of the third century A.D. the deity adjured
is just told to go off and fetch Urbanus, ἄπελθε πρὸς τὸν Οὑρβανὸν
καὶ ἅξον αὑτόν (_Wuensch_, p. xvii), and the lady who thus addresses
him has the power to order him about because she knows--and bids him
hearken to--an ὀνόματος ἑντείμου καὶ φοβεροῦ καὶ μεγάλοῦ. And he is to
lose no time about it: the inscription ends, ἥδη ἥδη ταχὺ ταχύ.

Thus the history of these _defixionum tabellae_ shows how a ceremony,
in its origin purely magical, may in the course of its evolution run
out in either of two directions: it may either end in what is in effect
a prayer, or it may develop into that form of magic in which the
magician undertakes boldly to constrain the gods. In the earliest, and
purely magical, form of ‘defixion’, the witch or wizard drives a nail
or a needle through the written name of the victim, just as he would
through a waxen image of the victim. From _Ovid_ (_Amores_ iii. 7. 29)
we learn that the witch wrote the victim’s name on wax and then pierced
it: ‘sagave poenicea defixit nomina cera.’ In the Parisian Papyrus
316 it is τὸ ὄνομα τῆς ἀγομένης which is thus treated; and in a Latin
‘defixion’ the expression is ‘neca illa nomina’ (Fahz, _de poetarum
Romanorum doctrina magica_, p. 127, n. 4). Then, as the worker of magic
drove nails through the head of the waxen image, and is instructed,
in the Parisian Papyrus (_Rhein. Mus._ xlix. 45 ff.), to say, as he
does so, περονῶ σου τὸν ἐγκέφαλον, so in the Attic tablets he says
(54) τὴν γλῶτταν καταδῶ χεῖρα αὑτοῦ καταδῶ, and drives a nail or nails
through the leaden tablet bearing the words. Again, as in course of
time the piercing or melting of the waxen image comes to be regarded
not as effective in itself but as merely symbolical of the effect which
is to be produced, and the words come to be ‘haec ut cera liquescit,
sic nostro Daphnis amore’, so in the ‘defixionum tabellae’ (e. g. _C.
I. L._ viii, suppl. n. 12511), after the gods have been adjured, and
the order given κατάδησον αὑτῶν τὰ σκέλη κτλ., then, to make it quite
clear, it is explained that the legs and hands and head of the victim
are to be ‘defixed’ or nailed down in the same way as the feet and
hands and head of this fowl: ὡς οὗτος ὁ ἀλέκτωρ καταδέδεται τοῖς
ποσὶ καὶ ταῖς χερσὶ καὶ τῇ κεφαλῇ, οὔτως καταδήσατε τὰ σκέλη καὶ τὰς
χεῖρας καὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ τὴν καρδίαν Βικτωρικοῦ τοῦ ἡνιόχου. This
tablet, which was found in Carthage, is late, and the adjuration is
made in the name of the god of heaven that sits upon the Cherubim, τοῦ
καθημένου ἐπὶ τῶν Χερουβί. What is noticeable in this tablet and some
others of similar date and style is that they contain no allegation
that the person on whose behalf the magic is worked and constraint is
put upon the gods has been wronged. On the other hand, in the earlier
and Attic tablets, especially those which tend in effect to become
prayers, the ground of appeal to the gods is some wrong that has been
done. Thus 98 ends with the words, φίλη Γῆ βοήθει μοι’ ἀδικούμενος γὰρ
ὑπὸ Εὐρυπτολέμου καὶ Ξενοφῶντος καταδῶ αὐτούς. Or it may be some injury
that is feared: εἴ τι μέλλειε ὑπὲρ Φίλωνος ῥῆμα μοχθηρὸν φθέγγεσθαι,
then τὴν γλῶσσαν καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτῶν κέντησον (97). In Cyprus if what
an adversary might say is feared, then the powers invoked are adjured
to muzzle him: φιμώσουσιν τὸν ἀντίδικον ἐμοῦ, and the exorcism is
termed a φιμωτικοῦ καταθέματος, or a παραθήκην φιμωτικήν. It is, of
course, probable, we may even venture to say certain, that in these
tablets the appeal to the justice of the gods is essentially religious
in its character. And in that case the combination, in these tablets,
of magic with religion shows that in the minds of some worshippers
of the gods there was no irreconcilable opposition between magic and
religion. On the contrary, the feeling evidently was that the gods
might properly be invoked to favour and bless a magical rite, just as
they might be prayed to assist any other steps of a more ordinary
nature that might be taken. Magic is but one way or means of effecting
your end; and it is a means which is just as efficacious for a good
end as it is for an evil purpose. The magician is a person who has
power, which he may use for evil, or may use for good. He may use his
power to cause sickness or to bring misfortune. But he may use it to
avert sickness and to muzzle the mouth of the evil-doer. He may use it
to make rain, and, while doing so, may pray to the gods for the same
purpose. Such a man may have, as he is certainly often believed to
have, extraordinary personal power; and there is no obvious reason why
he should not pray to the gods to exercise that power in accordance
with their will. But he can only pray to the gods if there are gods to
whom he can pray. On the other hand, even where there are such gods,
he may prefer--and if his purpose be such as the gods condemn, he
must prefer--to disregard the gods or, if needs be, to put constraint
upon them. That is to say, the extraordinary personal power which
he possesses, or is believed to possess, is not in itself either
necessarily religious or necessarily irreligious. It may become, or
come to be regarded as, either the one or the other. If it is regarded,
or rather so far as it is regarded, as irreligious it is condemned:
‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ is exactly paralleled by the
Athenian law quoted by Demosthenes, φαρμακέα καὶ φαρμακίδα, καὶ αὐτοὺς
καὶ τὸ γένος ἅπαν ἀποκτεῖναι (_c. Aristogit._ i. 793). If we start
from this point of view nothing seems more reasonable than to assert a
fundamental opposition between magic and religion. On the other hand,
if we consider the beneficent use which is made of magic and the fact
that, as in the defixion tablets already quoted, magic and religion may
and do work harmoniously together, the relation between them does not
seem to be fundamentally one of opposition. The fact would seem to be
that this extraordinary personal power, as it is in itself neither good
nor bad, but becomes the one or the other according as it is used for
good ends or for bad, so it is in itself neither magical nor religious
but comes to be regarded as religious if used in the service of the
gods, and as magic if used otherwise. But it is not until gods are
believed in that this power can be used in their service or regarded
as their gift: only when belief in the gods has arisen can the person
possessing power be regarded as having derived his power from them, or
believe himself so to have derived it. It may well be that his power
confirms his belief and strengthens it; it may perhaps even be that
his power is the first thing to awaken him to belief in gods and to
the possibility of communing with them in his heart. But the belief
that there are superior beings, with whom it is possible to commune in
one’s heart, is not the same thing as the extraordinary personal power
which some men exert over others. Such belief and such power may indeed
go together, but they do not by any means always go together; and
accordingly the power cannot be regarded as the cause of the belief.

Again, it is not until men come to believe that there are gods, who
have the interests of their worshippers at heart, that the man who
possesses this power and uses it for evil purposes can be condemned by
the opinion of the community as one who works against the community,
and therefore against the god who protects the community. In other
words, we may say that this extraordinary personal power does not
come to be regarded as magic--indeed, that magic does not come into
existence--until religion has come into existence. When exercised
by ‘a man of God’, it is religious; when exerted by any one else
it is magical. The magician may use, and more often than not, does
use his power in a way injurious to other members of the community,
and therefore offensive to the god under whose protection they are.
From this point of view, therefore, we may justifiably speak of a
fundamental opposition between magic and religion. On the other hand,
though the magician ordinarily uses his power to injure people, he is
not restricted to this use of it. His power may be used to recall an
errant lover, as it is by the lady in the Hadrumetan tablet already
quoted, or for the recovery of lost or stolen property. One of the
‘defixion’ tablets is directed to the recovery of τὸ ἱμάτιον τὸ πελλόν,
τὸ ἔλαβεν ὁ δεῖνα καὶ οὐκ ἀποδίδωτι καὶ ἀρνεῖται καὶ χρῆται (_I. G.
S. I._ 644), another seeks to recover τὰ ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ καταλίφθεντα ἱμάτια
καὶ ἔνδυμα (Bechtel, 3537) or τὴν σπατάλην ἢν ἀπώλεσα ἐν τοῖς κήποις
τοῖε Ῥοδοκλεῦς (Bechtel, 3541). The magician, that is to say, may use
his power for innocent and even laudable purposes. Hence it is that
magic is not wholly condemned by any community in which it flourishes;
and hence it is that we find magic reinforced by religion not only
in the _defixionum tabellae_, as has already been pointed out, but
in numerous rites of uncultured peoples, and from time to time, as
survivals, in the religious ceremonies of civilized nations. If we
dwell upon this set of facts exclusively, we shall be in danger of
inferring, not a fundamental opposition but a fundamental identity
between magic and religion. Yet, as we have seen, the opposition is
quite as marked as the similarity; and this seems to indicate that the
extraordinary personal power which some men possess, or are believed to
possess, is fundamentally the same, whether it is, or whether it is not,
exercised in the service of the gods of the community; but the spirit
in which it is used, when employed in the one way, is fundamentally
opposed to that in which it is used in the other. Such power may in the
course of evolution come to be regarded, or come to manifest itself,
either as religious or as magical. But in itself, and at the start,
inasmuch as it may become either hereafter, it is at the beginning
neither. It is the power--whether of ‘suggestion’ or of actual
control--which some exceptional men exercise over others.



Earlier lectures of this course have dealt with topics suggested by
the first civilization of the Aegean, by the first literature of the
Greeks, and by the survival in Graeco-Roman culture of traces of a
quite unhellenic barbarism.

To-day we come to the fifth century and to the work of the man who
stands next after Homer as exponent, on a generous scale, of his
country’s thought and life. Homer has shown us Aegean life in a lull
between the storms of the Age of Wanderings, between the Achaean and
the Dorian Migrations. Herodotus shows us adolescent Greece, the child
of Earth and Planet, strangling, like Heracles, the snakes about its
cradle, and rising thence to strike down Giants and Monsters, and to
enter into its kingdom. This kingdom, for him, is nothing less than
the περίοδος γῆς, the _orbis terrarum_, a rim of convergent coastlands
encircling the Midland Sea, which is ‘Our Sea’.

But there is this difference between Homer and Herodotus, when we see
them from our present point of view. Homer, and to a great extent the
post-Homeric Epic, sang of the world in sheer delight of its objective
goodness. Their contribution to anthropological science is the picture
which they have given of the world as they saw it and lived in it. The
contribution of anthropology to them is an interpretation of that
picture based on comparative study of other worlds than theirs. With
Herodotus, too, what first strikes the eye of the anthropological
reader is the wealth of detail about the manners and customs of Greeks
and their neighbours, a collection unrivalled in Greek literature
before the Roman Age in extent and variety, and quite unique in its
quality. And for Herodotus, too, the first duty of anthropology is to
interpret his picture of mankind; to illustrate by parallel cases;
to extract by comparison the genuine observation from the blundered
folk-tale commentary; to fill the blanks in the picture itself with
such fragments of fifth-century knowledge as have been preserved
in other hands than his. To do this adequately would require many
lectures, even were his picture of ancient life far more complete than
it is; and in the fragmentary state in which Herodotus has transmitted
our share of his knowledge, the commentator’s difficulty is increased
manifold. A sketch of a single custom, a casual footnote to a footnote
of apparently disjointed matter, may well need a monograph to itself. I
need only instance, for an Oxford public, the two Herodotean papers in
last year’s _Anthropological Essays presented to Edward Burnett Tylor_.

To this extent Herodotus falls into line with Homer as the subject
of lectures like these; but in proportion as he is regarded so, he
falls for this practical reason wholly beyond their scope. But there
is another aspect of Herodotean anthropology, which is almost wholly
absent from Homeric, and is only partially present even in Hesiodic.
Between Homer and Herodotus, Greek Reason has come into the world.
After Homer, Greek literature, whether poetry or prose, has its
subjective, its reflective side. Man has become the measure of all
things; and things are worth observing and recording--they become
ἀξιαπήγητα, θέας ἄξια or the reverse, according as they do, or do not,
amplify human knowledge already acquired, or prompt or guide human
attempts to classify and interpret them. In this high meaning of the
word all Greek thought and records are utilitarian, relative to an end
in view: and this end is ever anthropocentric, it is nothing less, but
it is also nothing more, than the Good Life, the Wellbeing of Mankind.
On this broad ground, pre-Socratic and Socratic thought are at one,
alike Hellenic in spirit, because alike utilitarian. ‘It is not for
this that I speculate,’ said Thales, when he ‘struck oil’. It was
precisely for this, to make philosophy useful, that Socrates brought it
from heaven down to earth.

So what is proposed, in this lecture, is to attempt an answer to the
question, How far was a science of anthropology, in the sense in which
we understand it, contemplated as possible in the Great Age of Greece?
What were the principles on which it rested? How far had Herodotus and
his contemporaries gone in the way of realizing their conceptions of
such a science? And what were the causes, external to the study itself,
which helped or hindered their realization of it?

It will be clear, I think, from the outset, that this inquiry has
nothing to do with the question whether this or that observation on
the part of Herodotus was accurately made or not. The only way in
which Herodotean error or ‘malignity’ will concern us at all is if the
sources of an error can be so far exposed as to betray what he
was thinking about when he made it. For there are two kinds of
anthropologists, as there are two kinds of workers in every department
of knowledge. But in a science which is still in so infantile a stage
as ours, there is more than common distinctness between them.

There is an anthropologist to whom we go for our facts: the painful
accurate observer of data, the storehouse of infinite detail; sometimes
himself the traveller and explorer, by cunning speech or wiser silence
opening the secrets of aboriginal hearts; sometimes the middleman,
the broker of traveller’s winnings, insatiate after some new thing,
unerring by instinct rather than by experience, to detect false coin,
to disinter the pearl of great price, βιβλιοθήκη τις ἔμψυχος καὶ
περιπατοῦν μουσεῖον. To him we go for our facts. His views may matter
little; his great book may be put together upon whatever ephemeral
hypothesis he may choose. We learn his doctrine as we master the method
of an index; it will guide us, more or less securely, to the data we
want; but it is the document in the footnote that we are looking for,
and the compiler’s voucher (express or implicit) that in his judgement
‘this is evidence’.

And there is an anthropologist to whom we look for our light. His
learning may be fragmentary, as some men count learning; his memory
faulty; his inaccuracy beyond dispute; his inconsistency the one
consistent thing about him. But with shattered and rickety instruments
he attains results; heedless of epicycles, disrespectful to the
equator, he bequeaths his paradoxes to be demonstrated by another
generation of men. He may not know, or reason, perhaps; but he has
learnt to see; and what he sees he says. For he too is a μουσεῖον--only
in another sense--a Walking Tabernacle of the Nine.[64]

There have been anthropologists, in our own time and before, who have
come near to combine both excellences: and in none perhaps are they
wholly severed. Least of all do we expect to find both wholly present
or wholly absent, in one who has in a sense fallen into anthropology
by an accident; and created one science, while he pursued another art.
In the Greek compiler who made this ‘the plan of his researches, to
procure that human acts should not be obliterated by time, and that
great deeds, wrought some by the Greeks, some by men of other speech,
should not come to lose their fame’, we cannot but see a man who
_meant_--with good or ill success--to be in the best sense ‘a mine of
information’. But it is the same Herodotus who put it before him in his
title-page ‘to discover, besides, the reason why they fought with one
another’; and that is why we hail him Father of Anthropology, no less
than the Father of History.

Either Herodotus knew himself to be hewing out a new avenue of
knowledge, a new vista across the world; or he knew himself to be
speaking to an audience of men who themselves were ἀνθρωπολόγοι. That
is the alternative, for those who are moved to deny his originality. If
Herodotus was not in advance of his age, then his age was abreast of
Herodotus. It becomes, therefore, our first duty to ask what evidence
we possess as to the phase in which the fifth century held in mind the
problems which for us are anthropological. Now apart from the
Tragedians and Pindar, Herodotus, as we know to our discomfiture, is
the only pre-Socratic _thinker_ whose works have been preserved in
bulk: and even his, as we are well assured, are preserved only in
_bulk_, not in their entirety. So even the sceptic is driven back upon
the alternative, either of arguing from silence and _lacunae_, or of
disproving the originality of Herodotus from his very proficiency in
the subject.

But what can we learn of the state of anthropological knowledge in the
days before Herodotus wrote?

The task of the anthropologist is, in its essence, to find an answer to
these principal questions:--What is Man? What kinds of Men are there?
and how and by what agencies are they formed, and distributed over the
lands, as we find them? How is human life propagated under parental
sanction, maintained by social institutions, and made tolerable by
useful arts? And what part, if any, do either ἀνάγκη or λόγος or τύχη
play in defining these processes, and the general career of Mankind as
an animal species?

Problems such as these were bound to present themselves sooner or
later to so reasonable a people as the Greeks. There is no doubt that
they were already so familiar, in the fourth century, as to be almost
obsolete _as problems_. Otherwise we should find more importance
attached to them in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The question
before us now is rather, how early did they present themselves; what
methods were applied to deal with them; and how far had Greek thought
gone towards a solution, when Socrates stepped down from his
Cloud-basket, and substituted psychology as the proper study of Mankind?

To those who are familiar with the early phases of Greek physical
inquiry, it is needless to repeat in detail how closely this movement
was bound up, in its origin, with that great exploratory movement which
littered the shores of the Mediterranean, from Tarsus to Tartessus,
and from the Tanais to the Nile, with Greek factories and settlements,
and brought all climates, lands, and varieties of men within the
scope of one encyclopaedic vision; how the compilers of ‘Circuits
of the World’ had surveyed all shores of ‘their own Sea’; how the
specialists had treated ‘Air, Water, and Places’ (if I may antedate
the later catch-title) in accordance with the principles of their
respective sciences; and how, on the other limit of knowledge, Milesian
chronologers and astronomers--the latter with no small glimpses into
the storehouse of Babylonian observation--had begun to make just
such maps of all time human and geological as Milesian cartographers
were making of ‘all the sea and all the rivers’. Can we doubt that,
in a movement of national inquiry, of this intensity and scope, the
question was raised of the origin, the distribution, and the modes of
subsistence of Man?

Direct evidence of the existence of an Ionian anthropology has evaded
us for the most part. Yet, earlier still, we have the proof that
something of the kind was stirring. Hesiod presents us already with
a standard scheme of archaeology in which Ages of Gold, Silver, and
Bronze succeed each other, classified by their respective artefacts,
and succeeded, first by an Age of Heroes--an anomaly, partly of Homeric
authority, partly genuine tradition of the Sea Raids and the Minoan
_débâcle_--and then by an Age of Iron. More than this, the observation
that primitive Man was a forest-dweller, who grew no corn, and
subsisted on acorns and beech mast, presumes observation, and inference
besides, which were perhaps obvious enough among men of the Balkan
fringe, ancient and modern; but at the same time betrays a reasonable
interest, and an eye for essentials, which are far beyond the average
of archaic or barbarian speculation as to human origins.

Some fragments indeed of this pre-Socratic anthropology have come
down to us directly; and, wherever they have done so, they show the
same curious combination of folk-lore with mature insight, as do the
views about non-human nature which are assigned to the same school.
The belief, for example,[65] that human beings originated not by animal
procreation, but by the operation of trees and rocks on women passing
by, hardly differs in kind from the beliefs imputed to the Arunta; and
the Hesiodic belief[66] that the men of Aegina were descended from ants,
or men in general from stones dropped by Deucalion and Pyrrha,[67] to
totemic beliefs or survivals. But the views ascribed to Anaximander,
and later to Archelaus, both of Miletus, show something very far in
advance of mere folk-lore. The lower animals were commonly believed to
have been produced by spontaneous generation, the effect of the sun’s
heat on moist earth, slime, or sea water. Anaximander added the
descriptive generalization,[68] based on observations on the shores of
the sea about Miletus and the Maeander silt, that these lower forms
began their cycle of existence ‘encysted in prickly integuments, and
then at maturity came out upon drier ground and shed their shells;
but still went on living for a short while’. The older belief, as we
have seen, was that men too originated in this way, either directly or
from some invertebrate form, like the ants of Aegina. But Anaximander
pointed out an obvious difficulty, and supplied also a solution of it.
‘Man,’ he said,[69] ‘was produced in the first instance from animals of
a different sort’; and this he argued ‘from the fact that the other
animals soon get their food for themselves, and Man alone needs a long
period of nursing: for which very reason, a creature of this sort could
not possibly have survived’. Here we must note first that a special
creation of human beings ready made and mature, as Hebrew thinkers
conjectured, and Greek poets had devised in the case of Pandora, was
unthinkable to an Ionian naturalist, and merely does not come into
question; secondly, that a special creation of human beings in infancy
is equally ruled out by the fact of the long helplessness of the human
infant; thirdly, that the inevitable alternative is accepted without a
hint of hesitation, namely, that Mankind must have developed from some
other kind of animal, which, though not human, could and did fend for
its young during such an infancy as Man’s. Only unacquaintance with the
great apes of the tropical world, and very imperfect acquaintance even
with imported monkeys, can have prevented Anaximander from assigning
to Man his proper place in an evolutionary Order of _Primates_. The
other half of our knowledge of Anaximander’s anthropology is even more
instructive. ‘It is clear,’ he says,[70] ‘that men were first produced
within fishes, and nourished like the “mud fish”--τραφέντας ὤσπερ
οἱ πηλαῖοι; and, when they were competent to fend for themselves,
were thereupon cast on shore (or perhaps “hatched out”) and took to
the land.’ Our knowledge of the πηλαῖοι is limited; but the parallel
passage throws some light on Anaximander’s theory. ‘The animals came
into existence by a process of evaporation by the sun; but man came
into existence in the likeness of another animal, namely, a fish, to
begin with.’ Here the theory is, clearly, that there was a stage in
the evolution of Man when he ceased to conform to the type even of the
highest of marine animals; and it was in the guise of some kind of
fish that he took to the land. It is not so clear whether we have here
merely the conjecture that at some stage marine vertebrates took the
crucial step and invaded the dry land; or whether, also, the similitude
of the ‘mud-fish’ is used to report observations which are familiar
enough to embryologists now, and in the fifth century were no less
familiar to Hippocrates.[71] In any case the views in points of detail
which are reported as characteristic of Anaximander presuppose an
almost Darwinian outlook on the animal kingdom, and an understanding
of comparative anatomy, which hardly becomes possible again before the

No less striking is the testimony of the fragment of Archelaus,[72] one
of the immediate teachers of Socrates, to the same evolutionary view.
‘Concerning animals he said that when the earth became warm in the
beginning in its lower part, where the hot and the cold were mixed,
there came to light the rest of the animals, of many dissimilar kinds,
but all with the same mode of life, maintained of the slime; and they
were short-lived. But, afterwards, interbreeding occurred among these,
and men were separated off from the rest, and they constituted leaders
and customs and arts and cities and so forth. And, he says, reason
is implanted in all animals alike; for each uses it according to his
bodily frame, one more tardily, another more promptly.’ Here again
we have the biological theory of evolution in a most explicit form,
with the same distinction as in Anaximander between the short-lived,
infusorian, almost amorphous fauna of sun-warmed water or slime, and
the higher orders of thinking vertebrates, among whom Man stands merely
as an exceptionally rational species.

After this, it is almost needless to note that the physical
anthropology of the Greeks was quite unimpeded by those literary
misconceptions which so long retarded the study of Man in the modern
world. Hecataeus, indeed, had at one time been misled by the shortness
of Greek pedigrees; but his Egyptian researches gave him in good time
the larger perspective,[73] as even his critic Herodotus admits. And
the first reporter of the fact that Egypt is the ‘gift of the Nile’
can hardly have failed to see the bearing of this piece of geology
upon the question of the antiquity of Man. Herodotus, at all events,
has no illusions.[74] Achelous and other rivers are there to show that
the Nile is no freak of nature; time future can be postulated to the
extent of twenty thousand years; and time past may be measured on the
same scale, for the perfecting of the Nile’s gift, not to mention the
further periods required for the deposit of the shells in the Pyramid
limestone.[75] More explicitly still, he is prepared to allow indefinite
time for the development and dissemination of human varieties. _How_
the Danubian Sigynnae came to be colonists of the Medes, he is not
prepared to say; but the thing itself is not in his view impossible.
γένοιτο δ’ ἂν πᾶν ἐν τῷ μακρῷ χρόνῳ.[76]

It is at this point in our story that we must look at the evidence of
Aeschylus. Small as is that portion of his works which has come down to
us, it is of high value, both as a record of current knowledge, and as
an indication of the contemporary phases of theory. Already we have the
elements of the later threefold division of the anthropological horizon
corresponding essentially with the tri-continental scheme of the
geographers, with which we know from a fragment of _Prometheus Solutus_
that Aeschylus was acquainted at a stage of its development, which the
quotation fixes for us precisely.[77] Ethnologically, the ἐσχατιαί are
as follows:--Northwards, are found the Hyperboreans.[78] Eastwards,
lie the Indians; they are camel-riding nomads, and live next to the
Aethiopians.[79] Southward come the Aethiopians proper,[80] with Egypt,
the gift of the Nile,[81] and Libya. The black skin of the Aethiopians
is sun-tanned.[82] Aethiopia embraces everything from the φοινικόπεδον
ἐρυθρᾶς ἲερὸν χεῦμα θαλάσσης to the χαλκοκέραυνον παρ’ Ὠκεανῷ λίμναν
παντοτρόφον Αἰθιόπων where the Sun rests his horses;[83] that is,
from the southern margin of Asia (where the Indians live) to the far
South-West. In front of the Aethiopians lie the Libyans; in front of
the Indians the Empire of Persia (for there are no Indians in the
_Persae_, and Bactria is the remotest province); in front of the
Hyperboreans, the Scythians, the Abioi of Homer, and the Arimaspi; all
nomad pastoral peoples.

At the margin of ethnological Man, sometimes merely unisexual,
sometimes misanthrope, stand the Amazons: in the _Supplices_ they
seem to stand for the North,[84] and they lie beyond Caucasus in
the _Prometheus_;[85] beyond that margin, there are the one-eyed,
breast-eyed, and dog-headed tribes of Hesiod and of common report.

Hesiodic too, in its main outlines, is the sketch of primitive Man in
the _Prometheus_, with its hint of spontaneous generation[86] and its
fourfold scheme of useful metals.

But for Aeschylus the tribes of men are sundered rather by culture than
by race. The two women in Atossa’s dream are like sisters in form and
figure; it is by their dress that she knows one of them to be Persian,
the other Greek.[87] So, too, the king in the _Supplices_[88] knows the
Danaid chorus for foreign women by their dress. They might be Amazons,
for there are no men with them; but no! they carry no bows.[89] Stay!
they _do_ carry κλάδοι: that surely is Greek.[90] μόνον τὁδ’ Ὲλλὰς χθὼν
συνοίσεται στόχῳ. Only in the second place comes language, to decide in
a case where dress and accessories are indecisive;[91] and only when the
Danaids assure him that they are really Argive, and of his own kin, are
new doubts raised by their build and complexion,[92] and he questions
again whether they are Libyans (with the Nile and the Κύπριος χαρακτήρ
thrown in, for the aesthetic types of Egyptian and Graeco-Assyrian
art), or Indians, or Amazons; outlanders, that is, of the South, the
East, or the North, as we have seen.

These preliminary notes have been designed to give such retrospect over
the course of Greek anthropological theory as our fragmentary sources
allow: but they have been enough, I hope, to show where matters stood
in the lifetime of Herodotus, and also to some degree what the burning
questions--or some of them--were. Now we come to Herodotus himself, to
take the elements of his anthropology in similar order, and put them
into their respective places.

First then, Herodotus gives us for the first time a reasoned scheme
of ethnological criteria; and it marks at once an advance on that of
Aeschylus, and an important modification of it. In the famous passage
where the Athenians reject the proposals of Alexander of Macedon,
and against immense inducements refuse to desert the Greek cause,
they state as their inducement the fourfold bond which holds a nation
together. ‘Greece,’ they reply,[93] ‘is of one blood; and of one speech;
and has dwelling-places of gods in common, and sacrifices to them; and
habits of similar customs’: and that is why the Athenians cannot betray
their nation. Common descent, common language, common religion, and
common culture: these are the four things which make a nation one; and,
conversely, the things which, if unconformable, hold nations apart. To
this analysis, modern ethnology has little or nothing to add. It might
be said, as Professor Flinders Petrie has suggested,[94] that identity
of religious beliefs is in the last resort only a peculiarly refined
test of conformity of behaviour between man and man; and that community
of culture, beyond dumb interchange of artefacts, is inconceivable
without community of speech. But the mode of propagation, both of
language and of religious observance, differs so greatly in kind
from that of the transmission of material culture, that the forcible
reduction of the four criteria of Herodotus to the two major criteria
of Physique and Culture fails us in practice almost as soon as it
is made. So far as Herodotus presents us with an ordered scheme of
anthropological thought--with a science of anthropology, in fact--he is
little, if at all, behind the best thought of our own day.

It is not, I think, pressing his language too far, if we regard him as
stating these four criteria in what he regarded as the order of their
relative importance. First, for scientific as for political purposes,
comes community of descent; next, community of language; then community
of religion; and general community of observance, in daily life, only
at the end of all. Contrast with this the method of inquiry in the
_Supplices_, where, as we saw, dress and equipment come first, then
religious observance, then language; and physique is postponed to all
three. That this is not accidental will be seen, I think, from an
example of the Herodotean anthropology when applied, so to speak, ‘in
the field,’ to the description of the northern Argippaei where each
successive criterion is introduced by δὲ which is adversative to the
preceding clause.[95] Here the physical anthropology is given first;
then the language, which distinguishes these Argippaei from _all_ other
men, and so forms a cross division athwart the criterion of physique;
then, _though_ they have a language of their own, yet, till they speak
to you, you would not think it, for their dress is Scythian; but after
all, Scythians they cannot be, because no Scythian lives on tree-fruit.
He is a pastoral nomad, or at best an ἀροτὴρ ἐπὶ πρήσι. Here ἤθεα
ὁμότροπα hold the last and lowest place; and the cause of this is
plain: for their witness agrees not together.

There is a reason for this new emphasis on community of blood and of
language in the anthropology of Herodotus. If the Persian War had shown
nothing else, it had shown the superior efficiency of an army which was
mutually intelligible, over one which might have met, not in Kritalla,
but in Shinar; and even more forcibly it had impressed the belief,
that what mattered was not equipment, nor language, but breed. It was
the Persians who could survey and mark a sea channel like a modern
Admiralty,[96] and amazed their captive by those unfamiliar drugs and
‘shield-straps made of silky linen’ which we call surgical bandages;[97]
but it was their prisoner Pytheus who amazed them by the physique and
the training which brought him through, when he was literally ‘mangled
to butcher’s meat’.

And there is another reason for this emphasis. Right in sight of
Halicarnassus, and hardly two hours’ sail, lies the town of Cos, and
in its _agora_ to-day stands the great plane-tree of Hippocrates; and
during the lifetime of Herodotus there was growing up there that latest
and fairest flower of pre-Socratic knowledge, the Coan medical school,
with an anatomy, a physiology, and an anthropology of its own, superior
by far to anything which succeeded it until the seventeenth century.

In what relation the professional science of Hippocrates stood to
the penumbral knowledge of Herodotus, and also to the learning and
speculations of their predecessors, may be illustrated from their
respective treatment of the phenomenon of beardlessness in Man.

All Mediterranean peoples, and all sedentary peoples of the European
mainland, agree in this, that their adult males have copious hair upon
the face. Herodotus and his contemporaries had no means of foreseeing
that this was really the exception rather than the rule among human
varieties; that neither the yellow- nor the black-skinned races have
this appendage except in a rudimentary degree, and in circumstances
which suggest contamination more or less direct with the white men
of the north-western quadrant of the Old World. Only the fact that
the Australians are hairier in face and person even than the whites
saves us from the temptation to adopt into anthropology the popular
superstition that the long beard is correlated with the superior brain.
But for Herodotus and the Greek world, beards on men were the rule, and
beardlessness an abnormality to be explained.

Now from Homeric times, and before, the Nearer East had been startled
by the raids of a warrior people governed and defended by beardless
creatures of wondrous horsemanship and archery, their bows in
particular such as no mere man could use; inspired, moreover, with a
fury like the fury of a woman, against everything that showed a beard.
Beyond the Caucasus they ate their prisoners; in Tauris they killed
all men, at the bidding of beardless leaders;[98] one band of them
penetrated into free Scythia, and were actually taken for women; among
their Sarmatian descendants men and women hunted and fought side by
side. But they were not confined to the trans-Euxine grassland. In Asia
Minor, when King Priam was a lad, they had occupied the plateau, and
were resisting the Thraco-Phrygian invasion. Further to the South-East,
another body of them had harried all Assyria in the seventh century,
and at Askalon their beardless descendants survived. τοῖσι τούτων
αἰεὶ ἐκγόνοισι ἐνέσκηψε ὁ θεὸς vήλεαν vοῦσον. The same defect was
observable in one element in the male population of Scythia in the
fifth century.[99] Here we detect three stages of discovery. First,
the beardless people are assumed to be women. Next it is discovered,
both in Scythia and in Palestine, that though beardless (and indeed
otherwise hairless) they are really men. Thirdly, the collateral
discovery that _some_ mounted archers were actually women, as in
Sarmatia, is held to reaffirm the legends of Amazons; in spite of
the fact that their Sarmatian descendants were known to belong to a
bisexual society, and talked a dialect of Scythian. Thus Herodotus
and his predecessors were put, after all, on a wrong track, in their
inquiry why some Scythians are beardless, and some are not. The test
case is at Askalon; where the Scythians who remained were admittedly
beardless; and the guess was loosely accepted, that all the bearded
ones had escaped the curse and gone away. The outstanding fact is the
presence of similar ἀνδρόγυνοι in Scythia itself; and at this point,
candid as ever, Herodotus throws the outstanding fact into his reader’s
lap, and passes on to other things.

At this point we turn to Hippocrates. Here we are at once in the full
current of Ionic rationalism. The theological explanation of the
phenomena is rejected at the outset. ‘For my own part, I think these
ailments are from God, and all the other ailments too; and no one of
them more divine than another, or more human either, but all alike from
God. Each of such things has a process of growth, and nothing comes
into being without a process of growth.’[100]

The ground thus cleared, Hippocrates notes four points. In the first
place beardlessness, and its reputed concomitants, were limited to
Scythians of wealth, which he explains to be synonymous with hereditary
rank; or at least were most common among these. Hippocrates, it is
true, puts this down to their equestrian habit, not to a difference
of race. Yet it is clear, from Herodotus’ account, that the Scythian
aristocracy were the result of a quite recent irruption of a purely
nomad people from beyond the Tanais, which had displaced, though not
wholly, the former population of Scythia. Secondly, he observes that
the Scythians in general differ wholly in physique from the rest of the
peoples of Europe; but he does not on that ground raise the question of
an immigrant origin. The reason for this omission, however, is clear
from his third point, that the abnormality in question is such as might
be predicted from a consideration of the climate and mode of life of
any human inhabitants of Scythia. After this, his fourth point brings
him right up to the brink of discovery, though it is not pressed to its
logical conclusion by further research; for he is clear both that the
beardlessness could exist without further disabilities, and also that,
in addition to climate and customs conducive to this bodily habit, the
Scythians were naturally inclined to be beardless. But the first of
these facts he ascribes, not without professional excuse, to successful
preventive treatment; and the latter was clearly regarded by him as
the incipient effect of climate and the like upon persons who were
congenitally normal. It is curious, meanwhile, that he does not make
use of the crucial instance of the beardless Scythians at Askalon, to
test his conclusion that beardlessness and the like are the effect
of climate; for the climate of Askalon differs from that of Scythia
in almost every important particular. It is permissible, however,
to suggest that we have here one of the numerous instances in which
important statements are recorded by Herodotus, which, whether true or
false in themselves, failed for some reason to become assimilated by
the learned world of the fourth century.

Herodotus, however, was still anything but satisfied as to the
paramount value of the physical criterion of kinship. In the majority
of cases it proved either too much or too little. A good instance is
his comparison of the Colchians with the Egyptians. Here he bases his
argument for their affinity on their common physical characters, dark
skin and woolly hair. But this proves too much: there are other peoples
with dark skin and woolly hair, who are certainly _not_ of Egyptian
origin. On the other hand it proves too little; for what he proposes
to establish here is not a general community of origin, but direct
Egyptian colonization within historic times. For this proof, he prefers
to rely on the evidence of a ceremonial custom which he regards as
typically African; for it is both Egyptian and Aethiopian; and, as it
happens to be a custom involving mutilation of the person, it belongs,
as we shall see presently, to a class of observances which were
regarded by Greek anthropology as competent to effect real changes of
physique in course of time. The merely external evidence of a common
industry, such as the linen-weaving which he adduces here, clearly
stands for Herodotus on a lower plane, along with their general
similarity of culture and language.

Clearly Herodotus was not quite satisfied as to the value of racial
types in anthropology. And there were several reasons for this. On
the one hand, the Greeks themselves held family tradition to be good
evidence of common descent; and as a matter of fact, the professional
genealogist had been beforehand with the anthropologist at nearly all
points within the Greek-speaking world. Traditions of common descent,
in fact, were too deeply fixed already in popular belief, and involved
too many practical questions, such as the rights to real property, or
to political privilege, to be treated as anything but valid evidence
of kinship. Consequently a people’s own account of their origin, or
whatever story was accepted as such, was held to be evidence of a high
order. Such price did Greek science pay for the actual solidarity of
Greek phylic institutions.

For example, the Sigynnae of the Middle Danube ‘say that they are a
colony of Medes. How they have come to be a colony of Medes, I for my
part cannot say for certain: yet anything might happen if you give it
long enough’.[101] Herodotus is prepared, that is, to allow infinite
time to accomplish an almost impossible migration, rather than give
up what he accepts as a people’s own account of their origin. But
obviously this principle of ethnography was likely to lead to great
difficulties. The Sigynnae, it is true, wore ‘Median dress’, presumably
trousers of some kind, and perhaps a shaped cap with ear-guards, no
less suitable to a Danubian than to a Median winter. But what of their
physique? In this instance Herodotus gives no details; but clearly
if conflict were to occur between the evidence for descent and for
physique--if, that is, a people claimed descent from another people of
a different physical type--it might be the difference of physique which
would stand in need of explanation.

There was another reason, besides, why traditions of common descent
should seem to deserve tender treatment, even when geographical
probability was against them. The whole Eastern Mediterranean was
still but imperfectly recovering itself after one of those periods
of prolonged and intense ethnic stress to which it is exposed by the
permeability of its northern frontier. From Thrace to Crete there
were fragmentary patches of Pelasgians; Phrygians from Macedon to
Peloponnese, far up the Adriatic, and in Western Sicily; Thracians in
Naxos and Attica; and Lydians at Askalon. The Ionian merchant, like the
Venetian of a later time, found everywhere before him the tracks of the
crusading Achaean. The Dorian Spartan in Cyprus, at Soli and Kerynia,
found Kurion already the colony of an earlier Argos; at Tarentum he
merely filled a vacant niche in an Achaean, almost a Homeric Italy. If
things like these could happen within four or five hundred years,
γένοιτο δ’ ἂν πᾶν ἐν τῷ μακρῷ χρόνῷ. Outside the Greek world it was
the same. Where Sesostris had been, the Scythian and Kimmerian had
followed, leaving their trail at Sinope and Askalon, as he in Colchis.
Nebuchadnezzar had set the Jews by the waters of Babylon. Darius was
but following the rule when he moved Paeonians to Asia Minor, and
transplanted Eretrians to Ardericca.

There was another reason also why racial type should be held liable
to easy change. The Greeks themselves, and most of their neighbours,
were mongrel peoples, for reasons which we have just seen; and there
is no doubt that climate and mode of life were actually resulting in
ruthless and rapid elimination of intrusive types, wherever these
were intolerant of Mediterranean conditions. Now in most of the
states of Ionia the blood of the citizens was mixed beyond hope of
disentanglement, even by family tradition; for family tradition, as
Professor Murray has shown us,[102] was for the most part shattered in
the migrations. Yet the external conditions were the same for all; and
men saw their blonder kinsmen and townsmen fade and cease out of the
land, without fully realizing that what needed explanation was not
their failure to survive, but their presence in those latitudes at
all. The result, for ethnology, was to encourage a belief that mankind
in itself was a pure-bred species, one and indivisible like any other
natural kind; and that the marked variations between white and black,
straight-haired and woolly-haired peoples, were exclusively the result
of climatic, if not human, selection.

Yet another consideration drove men’s thoughts inevitably in the same
connexion. One of the best inheritances of Greece from the Minoan
world was an elaborate apparatus of cultivated plants and animals: our
evidence from dogs, and olive-kernels, begins, I think, to justify this
view.[103] And in so minutely subdivided a region, special breeds of
local origin were bound to result at an early phase of industry; and
to be compared and discussed in the markets and on the quays. Every
one knew, in fact, that domesticated animals and plants, under human
direction, were tolerant of almost infinite and very rapid alteration:
and Man himself is the most highly domesticated of all. It is no wonder
then that in the fourth century Socrates is represented as arguing
habitually as if Man were a domesticated animal, whose breed could be
improved at will, and in any direction, physical or psychological. For
even psychological breeding had long been reduced to an art, both with
horses and with dogs.

Demonstrable migrations of men, therefore, and demonstrable mutations
both of men and of animals, offered evidence of a kind which it was
difficult to overlook, that natural characters were variable, and
also that acquired ones could become hereditary. It was, in fact, not
because the Greeks knew so little, but because on certain crucial
points they already knew so much, that they formed the views they did
as to the instability of human varieties. How far these views were
pressed to their conclusions will be seen best, I think, from a glance
at the teaching of Hippocrates, which we may safely take to be near the
highwater-mark of fifth-century thought on immediately pre-Socratic

A good example of the doctrine of Hippocrates is contained in his
anthropology of the Phasis valley, a region which falls sufficiently
within the same limits as the Colchis of Herodotus to be worth
comparing with his description of the Colchians. Indeed there is some
reason to believe that, for reasons both of geographical theory and of
popular ideas of utility, this corner of Hither Asia was attracting
a good deal of learned attention from the physicists of Greece. This
is what Hippocrates[104] has to say about the Phasis and its people.
‘That country is marshy and warm and well watered and thickly clothed
with vegetation, and there is heavy and violent rainfall there at all
seasons, and the habitat of its men is in the marshes, and their houses
are of wood and rushes ingeniously erected in the water, and they do
but little walking to and from town and market, but they sail to and
fro in dug-out canoes. For there are numerous artificial canals. The
waters they drink are warm and stagnant and putrefied by the sun, and
replenished by the rains. The Phasis itself too is the most stagnant
of all rivers, and of the gentlest current. And the fruits which grow
there are all unwholesome, for they are effeminated [he is thinking
of the abundance of fleshy pulpy fruit, like the stone fruits--plums,
apricots, and nectarines--which were characteristic of this region in
antiquity] and flabby by reason of the abundance of water. And that is
why they do not ripen fully. And much mist envelops the country as a
result of the water. For just these reasons the Phasians have their
bodily forms different from those of all other men. For in stature they
are tall, in breadth they are excessively broad, and no joint or vein
is to be seen upon them. Their complexion is yellow as if they had
the jaundice. Their voice is the deepest of all men’s, because their
atmosphere is not clear but foggy and moist. And for bodily exertion
they are naturally somewhat disinclined.’

Here we see an unqualified doctrine of the plasticity of human nature,
physical and mental, under the influence of climate and geographical
environment, such as his description of the Scythians has led us to
suspect already. An adjacent passage adds the further theoretical
point, that even acquired variations of wholly artificial character
may become hereditary in time. The case is that of the Macrocephali,
whose haunts unfortunately are not specified.[105] ‘In the beginning
it was their custom which was chiefly responsible for the length of
their head, but now, their mode of growth too reinforces their custom.
For they regard as best bred those who have the longest head.’ Then
he describes how the heads are remodelled in infancy by massage and
bandaging; and proceeds: ‘At the beginning the practice itself had the
result that their mode of growth was of this kind. But as time went on,
it came to be inbred so that their law was no longer compulsory:’ ἐν
φύσει ἐγένετο, ὤστε τὸν νόμον μηκέτι ἀναγκάζειν. He then explains that
just as baldness and grey eyes and physical deformities are hereditary
(for he makes no distinction between natural and acquired varieties),
‘now similarly they do not grow at all as they did before: for the
practice has no longer any force, through the people’s own neglect of

The bearing of this passage, and the doctrine which it expounds, on
Herodotus’ account of the Colchi, will be obvious at once. Clearly, if
the proportions of the head can be affected by artificial pressure,
reinforced by social selection of the most successfully deformed--that
is to say, of the individuals with the softest skulls; and if, as
Hippocrates clearly thought, the colour of the eyes, and presence or
absence of hair, were characters of the same order of transmissibility;
and if, further, as in the case of the Phasians, skin-colour and bodily
proportions resulted from climate and occupation; then clearly it
mattered comparatively little to Herodotus whether the Colchians were
woolly-haired or not. Woolly hair, like baldness, could be inherited
indeed; but it could also be superinduced, like macrocephaly, by
assiduous curling, or, as every barber knows, by the subtler influence
of atmospheric moisture. It is consequently not only because, as
suggested above, there were other woolly-haired people, besides the
Egyptians and Colchians who were in question, that Herodotus has
recourse to other evidence than that of physique to prove their
identity: it is because, for fifth-century anthropology, the evidence
of physique itself did not justify conclusions of appreciably higher
validity than those which resulted from the comparison of industries or

It will be seen from all this that in questions relating to the
evolution of Man, Herodotus exhibits--and shares with the whole thought
of his time--precisely the opposite weakness to that of the pioneers
of modern anthropology. His mistakes arise, not because he is unable
to allow time enough for evolutionary changes, but because he tries to
crowd too great an amplitude of change into the liberal allowance of
time which he is prepared to grant. Ten thousand years, or even twenty
thousand, would be a short allowance, in modern geology, for even so
active a river as the Nile to fill up the whole Red Sea; but it is more
than double the whole length allotted to ‘geological time’ within the
memory of men still living.

It will also be clear how deep was the impression created on the Greek
mind by the minor changes of the seasons and of history. The formula of
Heracleitus, πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει, had indeed its application to
metaphysic; but its origin was in physical science, as a generalization
from experience. It had its negative interest as an implement of
sceptical destruction. But it had also a high positive value, for it
formulated the present as transitional from the past to the future;
it emphasized the kinetic and physiological aspect of nature and of
science, which has ever been of so far higher value, in research, as in
life, than the static and morphological; it substituted an analysis of
processes for classification of the qualities of things.

Now it is to this phase of scientific theory that we must assign the
first intrusion into scientific terminology of the twin words φύσις and
νόμος; in their primitive sense they denote nothing else than precisely
such natural processes in themselves, on the one hand, and man’s
formulation of such processes, on the other.

It is the more important to keep in mind this fundamental conception
of Greek physical anthropology when we go on to consider either the
treatment of the evidence of language and culture, which we find in
Herodotus, or the applications of physical classification to the
purposes of logic and metaphysic. To take the latter first: a doctrine
of the real existence of natural kinds, corresponding each, as
Hippocrates would put it, to a process of growth peculiar to itself,
was clearly easier to understand, if not to discover and formulate,
when the men who were to discuss it were already brought up to regard
the animal world, for example, as consisting of a comparatively small
number of fundamental types, and the infinite variety of individual
and regional forms as the effect of external forces upon them. Each
actual example of horse or dog, for example, was to be regarded on the
one hand as the embodiment of a true equine or canine nature, which
reason might hope to detect and isolate; but on the other, it lay like
the god Glaucus, encrusted with accidental qualities, the effects of
its exposure to a particular environment. Seen in the light of their
pre-Socratic history, as elements in the terminology of a great school
of naturalists, the catch-words φύσις, γένος, εἶδος, and συμβεβηκὸς
gain something, I think, in significance. In particular, it becomes
clearer why the word εἶδος, which continued to be used among the
naturalists for the specific outcome of συμβεβηκότα upon a member or
members of a γένος, came among the philosophers to supersede the word
γἑνος in proportion as the centre of reflective interest shifted from
the objective exponent of a φύσις to the subjective standpoint of the
philosophic observer.

For Herodotus, meanwhile, language and culture can change under stress
of circumstances in just the same way as physique; and therefrom
follows the possibility of the transmission of culture. Whether any
particular custom was to be regarded as innate in the φύσις of those
who practised it, or as their response to the stresses of their
present environment, or as the result, whether conformable to the
environment or not, of intercourse with another variety of Man, was a
question to be settled on the merits of each case. It was, in fact,
partly the laxness of interest in such matters which resulted from the
prevalent theory, and only partly the admitted incompleteness of the
observations, that kept ethnographical speculation in so backward a
state as we find it in Herodotus’ time. Until the belief in stronger
specific characters could be supplemented by some doctrine of cultural
momentum, the conception of progress in civilization was hardly
attainable at all. This is where the treatment of Hellenic civilization
by Herodotus stands in so marked a contrast with his treatment of the
civilizations of Egypt and Outland. Egyptian civilization, like Egypt
itself, is the gift of the Nile; the φύσις of an Indian attains its
τέλος when he has ridden his camels and rescued his gold; the men
are black, or tall, or longlived as the effect of natural causes;
and as long as these causes persist, so long will there be Indians
or Aethiopians with those qualities. Only in Greece is there mastery
of man over nature, and that not because nature is less strong, but
because Greek man is strong enough to dominate it.

This is how it comes about that barriers of language and of culture, no
less than barriers of descent, are powerless in face of a well-defined
γένος with a potent φύσις of its own. Such a γἑνος can add to the
number of individuals which compose it. Pelasgians and Lelegians can
_become_ Hellenes. For Herodotus, as I have explained more in detail
elsewhere, the process of conversion of barbarians to the Hellenic
φύσις is not clear: the verbs which he employs, μετέβαλον, μετέμαθον,
are intransitive; the general impression which is conveyed is of a
kind of spontaneous generation: and the same language is used when τὸ
Ἐλληνικόν is described as ἀποσχισθὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ βαρβἀρου, in the earliest
phase of all. For Thucydides, on the other hand--as was natural to
an Athenian who had seen Atticism triumphant in Hellas--Hellenism is
acquired by contact with, and imitation of, the φύσις of a genuine
Hellene. Of course this explanation of Pelasgian conversion only pushes
the problem itself one stage further back; but it marks a distinct
advance in analysis beyond the point reached by Herodotus; and it
is an advance in precisely the opposite direction to that in which
naturalists like Hippocrates were being led through their greater
insistence on the external factors, which were the main subject of
their study. Thucydides in fact stands already on the Socratic side of
the line. The explanation of the transmissibility of culture is to be
sought for him not in physiology, but in psychology--not in spontaneous
or coercive adjustment to inexorable nature, but in intercourse with
enlightened minds.

Among the many different classes of information which Herodotus
inclines to give about foreign peoples, two kinds of data are more
insistently recorded than the others. There are the marriage customs,
and the principal source of food. These will be admitted to be obvious
points to note; but there was a special motive in the fifth century
for collecting each of them; and the history of thought in the century
which followed allows us to trace this motive forward into a maturer

The problem of the status of the sexes in society was not a new one
in fourth-century Greece. As far back, indeed, as we can trace social
institutions directly at all, society in Greece had been constituted on
patriarchal lines. But patriarchal institutions had far less undisputed
acceptance in the Greek world than they had for example in Italy.
It was not merely that Attic rules of inheritance gave a definite,
though at all times secondary, status to the mother’s kindred; or
that in Sparta, Thebes, and some other states, the women enjoyed in
many respects a social equality with the men which has been explained
in more ways than one. An Ionian Greek had only to travel down his
own coast as far as Lycia to find men reckoning descent through the
mother, or to travel back in imagination to the legendary origins of
his own people, to find that their pedigrees went often up, not to a
god, but to a woman. Olympian society was the same. The consort of Zeus
held a very different position from that of the wife in a patriarchal
household; and on the Asiatic shore, at least, the gods themselves were
traced back to a Mother, not to a Father, of them all.

Hints, too, were not wanting as to the recent arrival, and un-Aegean
origin, of the patriarchal system, which had now prevailed, with its
proprietary view of women; and, no less, of the loose hold which this
set of customs had upon the popular belief and opinion. In the
opening chapters of his history, Herodotus states, and allows his
Περσέων λὁγιοι to criticize freely, what might be summarized as a
_cherchez-la-femme_ theory of the Eastern Question: and the criticism
which he records amounts essentially to the question, ‘Does the
position of women in society, as we know it, justify the attempts which
have been made to explain the great quarrel by incidents such as those
of Io, Medea, and Helen?’ Now this criticism is not merely Persian,
nor even Herodotean; the problem whether the Trojan War was really
fought about Helen was at least as old as Stesichorus. No sooner did
the wakening mind of Hellas cease merely to believe Homer, and begin to
think about him, than it struck at once upon this very paradox:--‘Homer
says, and insists throughout, that all the war was wrought for Helen’s
sake; but do we Greeks ever dream of doing anything of the kind? are
our women the least worth fighting about? If they run away with a
foreigner, do we not, as a matter of fact, say “good riddance”, and go
about our business?’ How this paradox presented itself to Stesichorus
and to other literary thinkers of early Greece, and how Herodotus has
chosen to handle their solution of it, is a thrice-told tale. All that
I am concerned to suggest, at present, is that, at every point where we
can test it, opinion in Greece was in flux as to the rightful position
of woman in civilized society.

The rapid extension of the field of Greek knowledge of other peoples’
customs, which resulted from the voyages and settlements of the seventh
century, no less than the severe strain which the economic evolution in
that century and the next put upon the very framework of society in
Greek states, led inevitably, as we know, to very reasonable scepticism
as to the naturalness of patriarchal institutions in themselves: and
this not only among the Physicists. We have hints of it in the Lyric,
and explicit discussion in the Drama. ‘Is a man nearer akin to his
father or to his mother?’ that is the point on which for Aeschylus the
fate of Orestes turns in the last resort. The Apollo of Aeschylus,
Λητοίδης though he be, is on the side of the angels, but his proof
belongs to a phase of observation which, while it conforms precisely to
the patriarchal jurisprudence, was obsolete already for Hippocrates.
The _Andromache_ and the _Medea_ of Euripides mark in due course the
turn of the tide, even in Drama; and, with the feminist plays of
Aristophanes, we are in full course for the _Republic_ of Plato, the
fine flower, on this side of the subject, of the conviction (which is
really pre-Socratic) that social organization, like any other, is at
bottom a matter of the adaptation of natural means to ends.

Of this controversy Herodotus is no mere spectator. It can hardly be a
chance that every one of the strange marriage customs which he mentions
happens to be typical of a widespread type of observance; and that the
series of them taken together forms an analysis of such types which
is almost complete between the extremes of promiscuous union with
classificatory relationship on the one hand, and normal patriarchal
monogamy on the other.

Herodotus is of course not writing a history of Human Marriage, or of
Woman’s Rights; it is only as a current topic of controversy that such
matters come into his story at all; but, when they do, I think we can
see that his contribution to them is not quite a casual one; that he
is not simply emptying an ill-filled notebook on to the margins of
his history; but that where he digresses he does so to fill a gap in
current knowledge, with materials which, if not new, are at all events
well authenticated; and that these materials have partly been elicited
by his own interest in specific problems which were burning questions
at the moment.

The question of social organization, and provision for orderly descent,
was for Herodotus a matter of pure science. But for some of his
contemporaries it was different. Archelaus, in particular, the last,
and in some respects the most advanced, of the Physicists, has the
reputation of having applied physicist methods to politics and morals:
καὶ γὰρ περὶ νόμων πεφιλοσόφηκε καὶ καλῶν καὶ δικαίων.[106] Two points
in the account given of him by Diogenes have usually been put on one
side; that he came from Miletus and had sat at the feet of Anaxagoras,
beyond whose physics, however, he failed to advance appreciably;[107]
and that Socrates had borrowed from him much of what commonly passed
as Socratic. But the two statements go together. An Ionian Physicist,
who had passed on to ‘philosophize about customs, their goodness and
justice’, was certainly a pendent portrait to that of the Socrates of
the _Clouds_ and of the _Memorabilia_, with his earlier interest (which
his enemies never forgot) in τὰ μετέωρα, and his invincible habit of
treating Man as an animal species about which it was permissible to
argue by the analogy of other ‘rational animals’ like horses and dogs.
Indeed the predominant interest which the next generation took in the
later phases of Socrates the Moralist, have obscured, perhaps unduly,
the significance of these glimpses of his immaturer thought.

The same Archelaus is credited--or discredited--with another saying,
characteristic of the Milesian way of looking at Mankind:--‘Justice
and injustice,’ he said, ‘exist not in nature but in custom.’ Here
again, the practice of Herodotus is instructive. Repeatedly he notes of
distant peoples either that they are the ‘justest of Mankind’, or that
they have this or that ‘custom’ which is praiseworthy or the reverse;
and, even among the highest of civilized beings, ‘Custom is King.’

This is not perhaps the place to enter at length on a discussion of the
Herodotean usage of νόμος, or its relation with its correlative φύσις.
But it can hardly be passed by without the remark that the varying
use of the word in Herodotus--and his uses do vary in detail--are all
included in that earlier, and characteristically Ionian sense, in which
the word is used to denote the formal expression of _what actually
happens_, among the people, and in the circumstances, which are in
question. This is of course a quite immediate, and very early sense of
the word; it connects itself directly with the primary signification
of a _pasture_ within which a flock may roam unchecked and unharmed,
but beyond which it strays at its peril or not at all. Νόμος has thus
exactly the force of the Roman conception of a _provincia_, except
that where provincia _prescribed_ the limits and the character of
appropriate acts, νόμος merely _described_ them. In so far then as νὁμος
answered originally to our word _law_, it answered exclusively to that
sense of it in which we speak of a _law of nature_, meaning thereby our
more or less accurate formulation, in a descriptive way, of the actual
course of events of the given type.

In this sense obviously there is no contrast or antagonism conceivable
between νόμος and φύσις. Let the φύσις of an oak, for example--the
growth-process of that kind of tree--be to put forth branches, leaves,
and fruit of a specific sort: this is no less the νόμος of that oak;
the way it normally behaves. So, too, with Man. The normal, natural
behaviour of the Egyptian is to teach his son a trade, this is one of
his νόμοι, as seen and described by an observer from outside; but this
is also what he and his ancestors have done φύσει for generations, till
an Egyptian who does otherwise is hardly conceivable. We have already
seen in the case of Hippocrates the mode of procedure whereby what
began as a νόμος was conceived as modifying the φύσις by incorporation
in it.

What was the outcome of these observations on the family structure
of savages, and of the speculations as to their ‘naturalness’ or the
reverse? The answer is given, I think, when we look into the fourth
century, and find Socrates, the last of the pre-Socratics, propounding
in the _Republic_, and justifying by chapter and verse in the _Laws_,
the unnaturalness, because the uselessness or inexpediency, of
patriarchal society as the Greeks knew it. From Athenian politics
patriarchal considerations had been eliminated in theory a century
before, by that amazing revolutionary, Cleisthenes; but socially the
father still owned and ruled his children; and children paid
divided allegiance to their father and to the state. As presented
in the _Republic_ the Socratic argument has little about it that
is anthropological; the appeal is to horses and dogs, not to
Sarmatians; but the actual institutions of the Ideal State, the annual
mating-festivals, the κομψοὶ κλῆροι by which status is allotted to each
infant after inspection by the governors, the whole classificatory
system of relationship, are one and all to be found among the curious
νόμοι which we know to have been recorded by the anthropologists of
the century before; and recorded, too, with the definite intention of
discovering what their causes were, and what were the reasons assigned
for those customs by the people who practised and understood them.

It is against such speculations as these, of course, and in particular
against the Socratic attempt to make Amazons and Nasamonians rise up
in judgement against this generation, that Aristotle was moved to
restate in the first section of the _Politics_ the orthodox sociology
of patriarchal Greece. That in the middle of the fourth it should
have been possible for a serious person to maintain the paradox
φύσει ἀρχικὸς πατὴρ υἱῶν without instant refutation by the members
of his classroom, is a measure of the extent to which the followers
of Socrates (though, as we have seen, not Socrates himself) had
broken with the fifth-century naturalists, and perhaps even ceased to
read them. But it is a measure also of the extent to which an able
dialectician could make play with words like φύσις and νόμος, till it
almost appeared as if any one who had any νόμοι to speak of represented
a παρέκβασις from the φύσει ἄνθρωπος. No amount of _a priori_ argument
as to the superior strength, or intelligence, or sheer ‘superiority’ of
the human male, could obliterate the fact that here women ruled, there
they fought, elsewhere they did the work instead of the man, or, bar
the reflection, that it was the business of an editor of συνηγμέναι
πολιτεῖαι to collect these human institutions too, before generalizing;
and, in general, to distinguish τὸ παρὰ φύσιν from τὸ παράδοξον.

Alongside of the problem of family organization, lay the other problem
of the means of subsistence. Some men live wholly on the fruit of a
tree; others eat corn, or milk, or monkeys, or their elderly relatives.
And here again the evidence falls into two classes. There are customs
in which the eating appears to us as a ritual act designed by those
who observed or initiated it to secure some ultimately useful end:
they frequently belong to the kind of acts which we class together
as Sympathetic Magic. There are also customs in respect of food,
which to us appear to have only an economic interest; or if they have
wider interest at all, acquire it from another consideration. Current
anthropology--French anthropology in particular--and our own economic
surroundings combine to bring home to us keenly the thought that the
way in which a people gets its daily bread, not to mention the previous
question how it is to get anything to eat at all (except, perhaps, its
own unemployables), has a direct and profound influence on its social
structure. A late stage of Greek thought on this subject is represented
by the section in the first book of the _Politics_ which classifies the
principal βίοι which are open to mankind, and hints (though the subject
is not pursued) that the Good Life will be pursued with a very different
equipment of customs and institutions according as it is pursued by
the pastoral nomad ‘farming his migratory field’, or by the miner,
or by the merchant seaman. A little earlier in thought as well as in
time comes the sketch in the _Republic_, a glimpse of the earlier
Socrates who had dabbled in geography and improved the ‘inventions’
of Archelaus. The later Socrates, wise in his own failures, takes his
pupils hurriedly past this avenue of inquiry into the structure of
society; the disciples, for the credit of the Master’s originality,
omit all allusion to Archelaus and his work. But the Milesian who
began with Physics, and went on to show what nowadays we should call
‘the applicability of biological laws to Man’, cannot have been
without weight in the political thought of his time; and it is again
to Herodotus that we must turn for indications of the extent to which
this inquiry was already being followed in Greece in the generation of
Archelaus, and before it.

Already in Homer imagination had been caught by the total distinctness
of the mode of life which was followed by the nomads of the North; and
a vague connexion had been felt between the purely pastoral existence
and a peculiarly orderly habit of life and behaviour. A fragment of
Choerilus, whom those who had access to his work felt to stand in some
peculiarly close relation to Herodotus, connects these two qualities
explicitly;[108] and the same thought recurs twice over in that
storehouse of anthropological learning, the _Prometheus Solutus_ of
Aeschylus.[109] In the latter passage it would be forcing the literal
sense of the words unduly, to insist that the Gabii are to be pictured
as living on wild corn, especially as Greek theory was at all other
points unanimous that corn, like the olive and the vine, came to man by
special providence as something ἡμερον φύσει. The Aeschylean picture
clearly is that of the virgin soil of the trans-Euxine grassland,
where the spring vegetation will endure comparison with any merely
Aegean cornland.

There is enough in this single example to show that the men of the
early fifth century were already aware of the inter-dependence of
environment, economy, and institutions. For the generation of Socrates,
we have the treatise of Hippocrates already mentioned, ‘On Air, Water,
and Places’; of which the whole burden is, as we have seen, that not
only men’s social organization, but their very physique, is the result
of ‘acquired variations’ initiated by the climate and economic régime.

I hinted, a little earlier, that there is another reason why Herodotus
should pay close attention to the peculiar food of strange peoples.
That different kinds of food-quest should lead to different manners
and institutions was probably, even in the fifth century, a less
familiar conception than that the personal qualities of the individual
depended directly on the food which he ate. This is of course a matter
of elementary knowledge to most savages; it is an explicit principle
of the medical doctrine of Hippocrates; it has had the profoundest
influence on the vocabulary and ritual of great religions, and it
has by no means disappeared from the current thought of mankind; it
is still believed, by otherwise intelligent people, that the morals
of nations may be mended, by defining the quality of their food and
the quantity of their drink. With this conception in mind, we shall
cease to be surprised that Herodotus devotes so much time and care to
describe the preparation of plum-cake, or kirschwasser, or beer. Man
might not live by bread alone; but if you once were certain that a man
did live on bread, and not on monkeys, or on lice, you knew already a
good deal about the habits and the value of that man.

It was probably the circumstance that this magical interpretation was
so commonly attached to food-supply that prevented Greek observers,
such as Herodotus and Hippocrates, from pressing home their analysis
of the food-quest as an index of the general economic régime. And the
same ambiguity envelops also, unfortunately, the next recorded attempt
at such analysis. It can hardly be accident that, in the sketch of the
ἀναγκαιοτάτη πόλις in the _Republic_,[110] the diet of the citizens is
wholly vegetarian, and almost wholly cereal. And when Glaucon
interrupts, and asks what has happened to the meat, Socrates wilfully
misunderstands his question, and prescribes once more only salt,
cheese, and _vegetable_ relishes--olives, and bulbous roots, and wild
herbs, with figs, lentils, and beans, myrtle-berries and forest nuts to
follow. Glaucon’s comment on this is precise and contemptuous: ‘If you
had been planning a city of pigs, Socrates, what other fodder than this
would you have given them?’ And on being pressed for an alternative, he
stipulates expressly for the _customary_ food of civilized men, ‘and
meat dishes such as people have nowadays.’ It is entirely in keeping
with all this,[111] that ὄψα recur further on, along with tables,
chairs, and unguents, as signs of a corrupted state; that hunters and
cooks appear among the ministers of luxury; and swineherds last of all,
for the pig alone among cattle gives neither milk or cheese, but is
useful only for meat diet.

Here three distinct lines of argument are inextricably confused. In the
first place, we have seen already that it was the regular Greek belief
that man began existence as a forest animal, living on the hazel-nuts
and acorns characteristic of the Balkan and Anatolian regions; and only
acquired the knowledge of corn, wine, and oil by special providence,
and at a later time: in this sense, therefore, Socrates is proposing
a return to primitive diet. In the second place, the diet which he
suggests is the only one possible for people who should try to live a
life independent and at the same time inoffensive. But, thirdly, this
diet is precisely that which a fourth-century doctor would have been
expected to prescribe for a patient τρυφῶντὶ καὶ φλεγμαίνοντι. But
there is enough of common motive in all three considerations, to make
it clear that even one of the least anthropological among his pupils
could represent Socrates as starting from a conception of man and
his place in the world which is precisely that of a fifth-century

I conclude with a well-known Herodotean episode, in which much true
history has been remodelled clearly in the light of a definite
classification of βίοι, and a definite theory of their relative values
and economic interactions. In the story of the rise of Peisistratus, as
told by Herodotus,[113] the _motif_ of the action throughout the first
phase of his career is that of three contrasted βίοι: the life of the
shore, of the sea, and of the men from over the hills. In form the
division is geographical, but the phrase which is used, τῷ λόγῳ τῶν
ὑπερακρίων προστάς, suggests that it is not a district but a region
which is in question; and that what differentiated this region from
the others was this, that it lay above corn level. Any one who will
go in spring-time and look round from the Acropolis upon Attica, will
recognize that abrupt change from the emerald green to the purple and
brown, which tells where πεδίον and cornland end, and the goats of the
ὑπεράκρια begin. And I have seen along the base of Taygetus, along the
same economic frontier, where a track like a coastguard’s path has been
worn by the police patrols, in their attempt, not always successful, to
prevent στάσις from bursting into πόλεμος. We should note in passing
that the question whether the pastoral highlanders of Attica exhausted
the whole content of the λόγος τῶν ὐπερακρίων--whether, that is, the
party of Peisistratus included the mining interests of the district
of Laureion, as suggested by Mr. Ure,[114] is totally distinct from
the question now before us, which is simply what the word conveyed
to the mind of Herodotus the Halicarnassian. And if this distinction
be granted, the suggestion, which is after all the conventional one,
that the ground of division between the Attic factions was regarded by
Herodotus as an economic one, receives much support from the perennial
state of Balkan lands, with their oases of corn-growers amid a highland
wilderness of Vlachs.

In these circumstances, the fact that Peisistratus, whatever his
real character may have been, is described as the leader of the most
_backward_ section of the population, is entirely in agreement with the
rest of the picture. For throughout, in Herodotus’ presentation of him,
Peisistratus is the man of paradoxes. His father, before his birth, had
accepted the omen of the cauldron spontaneously boiling; the son was to
kindle a great fire where there was no light--but only plenty of fuel.
So again, Peisistratus, unlike the Sibyl, at each rejection offers
Athens more. The rejected party-leader becomes Athena’s man, the man of
an united Attica; and Athena’s man, whom Athena’s people expelled,
rests not till he can offer, of his own, every corner stone of an
Athenian Empire in its greatest days. And so here, again, there is
_stasis_ between rich and poor, between primitive and advanced, between
sedentary and nomad--so far as nomadism was practicable in Attica; and
it is the λεπτὰ τῶν προβάτων, as with Perdiccas and with David, which
produce, in due time, the great man. It is a miniature, of course,
this sketch of the sixth-century Attica, as befits its modest part in
the scheme of the Herodotean drama; but the handling of it is none the
less significant, on that account, of the way in which the idea of
conflicting νὁμοι is allowed to model and interpret the materials.

I have tried, in brief space, to indicate some ways in which our
knowledge of the Greek world, fragmentary as it is, enables us to
recover some at least of the broad lines of method by which the early
history of Man, and the causes of his variations and of his social
states, were being investigated in the fifth century and before: and
to interpret some of the results which were reached, in the light of
the reasoning which led to them, and the principles by which they
were interpreted in antiquity. We have seen that in some points Greek
anthropology had gone surprisingly far, in speculation, and in acute
observation too; and we have seen it baffled, in other directions, by
puzzles and mistakes which seem trivial to us. And we have seen, in the
particular instance of one who was at the same time a great historian
and an alert observer of anthropological fact, something of the way in
which pre-Socratic stages of theory worked out when they were applied
to research in the hands of an ordinary man. Above all, I have ventured
to suggest--what I hope it may be for others to carry forward--an
inquiry into the anthropological basis of the political doctrine of
Socrates; and so to link him, on this side of his thought, with that
great body of naturalist work, which I would gladly believe that he
came not to destroy but to fulfil.


[64] The Muses were the daughters of Mnemosyne: but who was their

[65] Schol. _Od._ xix. 163.

[66] _Fr._ 64 (Didot).

[67] _Fr._ 25 (Didot).

[68] Plut. _De Plac. Phil._ v. 19 (Ritter and Preller, 7th ed., 16).

[69] Euseb. _Praep. Ev._ i. 8 (R. P. 16).

[70] Plut. _Symp. Quaest._ viii. 8. 4 (R. P. 16).

[71] Hippocrates, περἱ φύσιος παιδίου (ed. Kuhn, Leipzig, 1825, p. 391).

[72] Hippolytus, _Ref. Haer._ i. 9 (R. P. 171).

[73] Herodotus ii. 143.

[74] Herodotus ii. 10-11.

[75] Herodotus ii. 12.

[76] Herodotus v. 9.

[77] Aeschylus, _Fr._ 177.

[78] _Fr._ 183.

[79] _Suppl._ 286.

[80] _Fr._ 303.

[81] _Fr._ 290.

[82] _P. V._ 808.

[83] _Fr._ 178.

[84] _Suppl._ 287.

[85] _P. V._ 723.

[86] Compare μύρμηκες in _P. V._ 453 with Hes. _Fr._ 64, about the
aborigines of Aegina, and with Lucretius v. 790 ff.

[87] _Persae_, 181 ff.

[88] _Suppl._ 234 ff.

[89] _Suppl._ 287-8.

[90] _Suppl._ 241-3.

[91] _Suppl._ 244-5.

[92] _Suppl._ 279 ff.

[93] viii. 144 αὖτις δὲ τὸ Ἑλληνικόν, ἐὸν ὅμαιμόν τε καὶ ὁμόγλωσσον,
καὶ θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινά καὶ θυσίαι ἤθεά τε ὁμότροπα, τῶν προδότας
γενέσθαι Ἀφηναίους οὐκ ἂν εὖ ἔχοι.

[94] _Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt_, pp. 18-20.

[95] Herodotus iv. 23 ἄνθρωποι λεγόμενοι εἶναι (1) πάντες φαλακροὶ ἐκ
γενετῆς γινόμενοι, καὶ ἔρσενες καὶ φήλεαι ὁμοίως, καὶ γένεια
ἔχροντες μεγάλα, (2) φονὴν δὲ ἰδίης ἱέντες, (3) ἐσθῆτι δὲ
χρεώμενοι Σκυθικῇ, (4) ζῆντες δὲ ἀπο δενδρέον. An exactly
similar series of adversatives follows in the very next sentence, about
the _Pontikon_ tree.

[96] Herodotus vii. 183.

[97] Herodotus vii. 181.

[98] Herodotus iv. 110.

[99] The phrase of Herodotus i. 105, if interpreted strictly, means
that the Scythians of _Scythia_ themselves suffered from this defect,
and gave as the reason for it the story which he relates.

[100] Hippocrates, περι ἱερῆς vούσου (ed. Kuhn, Leipzig, p. 561), ἐμοὶ
δὲ καὶ αὐτέῳ δοκεῖ ταῦτα τὰ πάθεα θεῖα εἶναι καὶ τἆλλα πάντα, καὶ οὐδὲν
ἕτερος ἑτέρου θειότερος οὐδὲ ἀντθρωπίνωτερον, ἀλλὰ πάντα θεῖα· ἕκαστον
καὶ ἔχει φύσιν τῶν τοιουτέων, καὶ οὐδὲν ἄνευ φύσιος γίγνεται.

[101] Herodotus v. 9.

[102] Murray, _The Rise of the Greek Epic_, p. 69.

[103] Egypt, of course, had done great things in this direction under
the earliest dynasties.

[104] Hippocrates, περὶ Ἀέρων (ed. Kuhn), p. 551.

[105] Hippocrates, περὶ Ἀέρων (ed. Kuhn), p. 550.

[106] Diogenes Laertius ii. 16 (R. P. 169).

[107] Simpl. _in Arist. Phys._ fol. 6 (R. P. 170).

[108] Choerilus is the only early authority for the theory, criticized
by Hdt. iii. 115, that the Eridanus is in Germany. Serv. ad Virg. _G._
i. 482 ‘Thesias (Ctesias) hunc (Eridanum) in Media esse, Choerilus
in Germania, in quo flumine Edion (Phaethon) extinctus est.’ Fr. 13
(Didot). Choerilus fr. 3 (Didot):

    μηλονόμοι δὲ Σάκαι, γενεῇ Σκύθαι, αὐτὰρ ἔναιον
    Ἀσίδα πυροφόρον, νομάδων γε μὲν ἦσαν ἄποικοι
    ἀνθρὠπων νομίμων.

[109] Fragment 189 ἀλλ’ ἱππάκης βρωτῆρες εὔνομιοι Σκύται. Fragment 184:

    ἔπειτα δ’ ἥξει δῆμον ἐνδικώτατον
    ... ἁπάντων καὶ φιλοξενώτατον
    Γαβίους, ἵν οὔτ’ ἄροτρον οὔτε γατόμος
    τέμνει δίκελλ’ ἄρουραν, ἀλλ’ αὐτόσποροι
    γύαι φέρουσι βίοτον ἄφθονον βρότοις.

[110] Plato, _Rep._ 370-2.

[111] Plato, _Rep._ 373.

[112] Far more explicit and detailed is the comparative study of
foreign customs which _underlies_ Socratic doctrine in the _Laws_. The
stock examples of the fifth century, Sarmatians (804 E), Amazons (806
A), Thracians (805 D), and the like, are all there, side by side with
the Spartans and the Cretans, the Persians, the Egyptians, and the
Phoenicians (750 C). But the anthropological basis of fourth-century
thought is a distinct subject, and would require a whole chapter to

[113] Hdt. i. 59.

[114] P. Ure, _Journ. Hell. Studies_, xxvi. pp. 134 ff.



The practice which is the subject of this lecture was a comparatively
late growth in the religious history of ancient Italy. We commonly
and vaguely translate _lustratio_ by ‘purification’, _lustrare_ by
‘purify’; but in Latin literature there is another sense of the word,
which shows well how one particular kind of purification had become
associated with it--I mean the sense of a slow ordered movement in
procession. This stately processional movement, so characteristic of
the old Roman character, so characteristic still of the grandeur and
discipline of the Roman Church in Italy, impressed itself for ever
on the Latin language in the word _lustrare_. Let me quote a single
beautiful example of it. When Aeneas first sees and addresses Dido he

    In freta dum fluvii current, _dum montibus umbrae
    Lustrabunt convexa_, polus dum sidera pascet,
    Semper honos nomenque tuum laudesque manebunt,
    Quae me cumque vocant terrae.[115]

‘So long as the cloud-shadows move slowly over the hollows on the
hills.’ Long ago, when fishing in Wales, I watched this procession of
the shadows, and ever since then it has been associated in my mind with
the many ancient Italian processions which I have had to study. Such is
the magical power of a great poet of nature.

But before we go on to examine the nature and meaning of these
processions it is necessary to go much further back, in order to get
some idea of the primitive Italian ideas of ‘purification’ out of
which they were developed. We know them only in the farm and the city
of historical times; they belong at the earliest to the comparatively
settled and civilized life of the Italian agricultural community, and
reached their highest development in the highly organized City-State.
But there is much to be said--much more than I have time to say
now--about the ideas to which they owe their origin.

There are certain words in Latin bearing the sense of purification,
which are older, if I am not mistaken, than _lustrare_ and _lustratio_,
and which belong, I should be inclined to believe, to a ‘pre-animistic’
period: to a period, that is, when the thing to be got rid of by what
we call purification was not so much evil influences in the form of
spirits as some mysterious miasmatic contamination. These words are
_februum_, _februare_, _februatio_, from which the name of our second
month, the month of purification, is derived. _Februum_ is a material
object with magical purifying power, which the late Romans might call
_piamen_, or _purgamen_ (Ovid, _Fast._ ii. 19 foll.), using a word
belonging to the priestly ritual of the fully developed State. A number
of such objects were in use at Rome on particular occasions, all called
generically by this name _februum_--water, fire, sulphur, laurel, wool,
pine-twigs, cakes made of certain ‘holy’ ingredients, and at the
Lupercalia, strips of the skin of a victim. These belong to the region
of magic, and are intimately connected with charms and amulets, which
were and still are so popular and universal in Italy. They belong
to the same category, psychologically considered, as the _bulla_ of
children, the _apex_ of the _flamines_, a pointed twig fixed on the
head or head-dress, and the _galerus_, the cap of the Flamen Dialis,
made of the skin of a white victim which had been sacrificed to
Jupiter. These are all survivals from an older stratum of religious
thought than the processional rites which we are going to study: they
date from a period when magical processes were the rule and religious
processes the exception.

I am not going to let myself be drawn here into the vexed question of
the relation of religion to magic--two words which, simply by virtue of
their being words with constantly shifting connotation--are very apt
to mislead us. But putting aside this controversy, it is helpful, I
think, to suggest that _februum_ and _februare_ belong to an age when
material contamination, e. g. of a corpse or of blood--in other words,
of things ‘taboo’--could be got rid of by magical means, _lustrare_
and _lustratio_ to an age when the thing to be driven and kept away is
spiritual mischief--the influence of spirits that may be hostile--and
when the means used are sacrifices and prayer, with processional
movement. To draw the line clearly, however, between a magical period
and a religious period is in Roman history quite impossible, as indeed
it is and must be everywhere. Magical and quasi-magical processes are
taken up into the processes of a period which may be called religious,
and survive in an amphibious condition for which it is difficult to
find a name. The Flamen Dialis, for example, was priest of Jupiter,
and as such in all his duties was an official of a highly organized
religious system, yet he was afflicted with an extraordinary number
of taboos--now familiar to all readers of _The Golden Bough_--which
survived from a period long anterior to that of religion in the true
sense of the word. The purification of new-born children on the _dies
lustricus_ is an essential part of the religion of the family, and the
word _lustricus_ is itself, in my view, a mark of a period of religion;
but the original meaning of the ceremony is probably to be found in
pre-animistic ideas. So too with the purification of the family after a
funeral, where the original horror of a corpse common to all primitive
peoples is still just discernible in the religious ritual of historical
times.[116] And, as we shall presently see, the belief that he who has
shed blood, even of an enemy, needs purification, is still to be found
lurking in the form of one of those acts of _lustratio_ with which we
are about to occupy ourselves.

But on the whole it may be said of the Romans, as Dr. Farnell has said
of our Teutonic ancestors (_Evolution of Religion_, p. 108), that
cathartic ritual did not weigh heavily on their consciences. Assuredly
it may be so said of the Romans of historical times, subjected to the
quieting influences of priestly law and ritual, which found infallible
remedies for the conscience of the individual, for his fear of evil
powers material or spiritual--expedients to emancipate him from the
bondage of taboo[117]--in the religious action of the State as a whole.
It may perhaps be guessed that even in an age long before the State
arose the conscience of the Latin was never ‘intensified’ as regards
purification from bloodshed or other mischance or misdeed. The impurity
or holiness of blood, as conceived by all primitive peoples, has left
no obvious trace in Roman ideas, legends, or literature; it is to be
found, but it does not attract our attention as it does in Greece. I
believe that the explanation of this lies in the genius of the Roman
for law, and in his early and very distinct conception of the State and
of the authority of its officials. It may, indeed, be also due to the
invasion of Latium by a people of advanced culture, who had but little
to say to the grosser material ideas of an aboriginal population;
but this is still merely speculation, into which I cannot enter now.
Whatever the cause, the religion of the Romans as we know it shows
no horror, no fear, so long as the worship of the gods is performed
exactly and correctly according to the rules of the State priesthoods:
there is no sense of sin or of pollution, of taboo irremediably broken,
haunting the mind of the individual: all is cheerfully serious,
regular, ordered, ritualistic; and nowhere can we see this better than
in the public and private lustral processions of the Roman people.

A word, however, in the first place about the original meaning of the
word _lustratio_. _Lustrare_ is a strong form of _luere_: and _luere_
is explained by Varro as equivalent to _solvere_ (De Ling. Lat. vi.
11): ‘Lustrum nominatum tempus quinquennale a luendo, id est solvendo;
quod quinto quoque anno vectigalia et ultro tributa per censores
persolvebantur.’ He is followed by Servius, who explains such
expressions as ‘paena commissa luere’, ‘peccata luere’, ‘supplicium
luere’,[118] on the same principle. We might, therefore, be tempted to
think that the root-meaning of _lustrare_ is to perform a duty or an
obligation, and so to rid oneself of it--to go through a religious
rite as due to a deity. But this would be to misconceive the original
meaning of the word as completely as Varro did when he explained
_luere_ by reference to the payment of taxes. We have not yet arrived
at a period in Roman thought when we can speak of a sense of religious
duty: it is not a money obligation or a ritualistic one that has to be
got ‘rid of’, in the earliest ages of the Latin farm or City-State, but
those ubiquitous spirits, presumably hostile until they are reclaimed,
which haunt the life of man in the animistic stage. Varro and his
successors do, however, give us the right clue; they see that the
idea lurking in the word is that of purging yourself or getting rid
of something, but they understand that something in the light, not of
primitive man’s intelligence, but of the relation of man to man in a
civilized state.

If, then, _lustrare_ originally embodies this sense of ridding
oneself of something, we can now go on to examine the oldest forms
of _lustratio_. I will not here go into the further question whether
_lues_, a pest, and the shadowy deity _Lua_ Mater, who was the consort
or companion in some antique sense of Saturnus, are words belonging to
the same group and explicable on the same principle.

Now, in order to understand clearly how this necessity of getting rid
of hostile spirits came to suggest those solemn processional rites
which we associate with the word _lustratio_, we must fully appreciate
the fact that the earliest settlers in Italy who had any knowledge
of agriculture found it a country of forest-clad hills; the river
valleys were marshy and unhealthy, and the earliest settlements were
in clearings made in the woodland. This fact was dimly appreciated by
the Romans themselves, and is proved by the archaeological evidence
available to-day. The first thing, then, to be done was to make a
clearing; and this was a most perilous task, for when you cut down
trees and dug up the soil, how were you to tell what unknown spirits
you might be disturbing and aggravating? They might be in the trees and
the plants, they might be in the animals whose homes were in the trees
and the ground, the rocks and the springs. In the later Roman ritual we
can still see traces of this old feeling of peril. Cato has preserved
for us the formula used by the farmer in historical times when making
a new clearing; the prayer accompanying his sacrifice began with ‘Si
deus, si dea’--for how was he to know the name or sex of the spirit of
the wood he was invading? When digging up the soil he had to offer an
expiatory sacrifice; and the ancient gild of the Fratres Arvales had to
offer special _piacula_ for the falling of a bough in their grove, or
for any injury to a tree in it.[119]

And when your clearing was complete, and you had settled down with your
own household spirits, e. g. of the hearth-fire and the store-cupboard
(Vesta and Penates), or had induced some of the native spirits to
be friendly and serviceable to you--those especially of the land
and the springs,--there was yet another difficulty of the greatest
importance, viz. to keep those wild ones still dwelling in the woodland
around you from encroaching on your clearing or annoying you in your
dwelling. That they really could be thus annoying is proved by a
curious bit of folklore of which Varro knew, and which has luckily been
preserved by St. Augustine, a student of Varro’s works, as an example
of Pagan absurdity (_Civ. Dei_, vi. 9). After the birth of a child,
three spirits were invoked--Intercidona, Pilumnus, and Deverra--to
prevent Silvanus (the later representative of the woodland spirits
generally) from coming into the house and making mischief by night.
These three spirits, as their names show, represented the life of
settled agriculture: the cutting and pruning of trees (Intercidona),
the pounding of corn for the daily meal (Pilumnus), and the raking
and sweeping up of the grain (Deverra); and Varro says that they were
represented by three men, who imitated the action of axe, pestle, and
broom. The real significance of this delightful bit of mummery has
never, I think, been correctly understood, simply because the vital
difference to the earliest settler between the benevolent spirits of
the reclaimed clearing and the hostile spirits of the wild woodland has
never been quite fully appreciated.

But this device was one to which you need only have recourse on a
particular occasion; the permanent difficulty was to mark off your
cultivated land from the forest and its dangerous spiritual population,
in some way by which the latter might be prevented from making itself
unpleasant. You must draw a definite line between good spirits and bad,
between white spirits and black. Here it is that we find the origin of
a practice which lasted all through Roman history, passed on into the
ritual of the Church, and still survives, as at Oxford on Ascension
Day, in the beating of parish bounds. The boundary of the cultivated
land was marked out in some material way, perhaps by stones placed
at intervals, like the _cippi_ of the old Roman _pomerium_, from the
woodland lying around it; and this boundary-line was made sacred by the
passage round it (_lustratio_) at some fixed time of the year--in May
as a rule, when the crops were ripening and especially liable to be
attacked by hostile influences--of a procession occupied with sacrifice
and prayer. I must dwell for a moment on this procession as it is
described by old Cato; but at this point I may just interpolate the
remark that the object of its mysterious influence was the arable land
only and the crops.[120] The sheep and cattle were otherwise protected,
when, after their seclusion within the boundary during the winter, they
were driven out in April to pasture beyond it, where they would be in
far greater peril from enemies spiritual and other. If you wish to see
how this was done, read Ovid’s account of the Parilia in the fourth
book of his _Fasti_, and Dr. Frazer’s illuminating commentary on it
(St. George and the Parilia) in the _Revue des Études Ethnographiques
et Sociologiques_ for 1908, p. 1 foll.

Cato in his treatise on agriculture has left us, in the form of
instructions to a real or imaginary bailiff, the formula of the
lustratio as it was used in the second century B.C. It is obviously
applicable in detail rather to the estate of that period than to a farm
of primitive Latium: there are, for example, words which suggest that
it was not necessary in those days to go in procession round the whole
of the boundary; as was the case afterwards with the lustratio of the
ager Romanus, the form survived accommodated to the great increase
of the land concerned. But the two main features of the whole rite
are no doubt identical with those of the earliest form of it--i. e.
the procession of the victims, ox, sheep, and pig, the farmer’s most
valuable property, with the sacrificer and his helps, in this case the
bailiff and his assistants: and secondly the prayer to Mars pater,
after libations to Janus and Jupiter, asking for his kindly protection
of the whole _familia_ of the farm, together with the crops of every
kind, and the cattle within the boundary-line. Though it is not
explicitly told us, we can hardly doubt that originally the procession
followed the boundary-line, and thus served to keep it clear in the
memory as well as to preserve everything within it from hostile spirits
outside of it. In Cato’s formula it is disease, calamity, dearth, and
infertility, that the farmer seeks to ward off--that is the language
of the second century B.C.: and it is Mars pater who is invoked, i.
e. a great god who has long ago emerged from the crowd of impersonal
spirits; but we need not doubt that the primitive farmer used language
of a different kind, and addressed the spirits of disease and dearth
themselves, of whom one survived into historic times--Robigus, the
spirit of mildew. In the ritual of the Arval Brethren, who perhaps
retained some details more antique than those of Cato’s instructions,
it is a nameless deity, the Dea Dia, who is the chief object of
petition (_Acta Fratr. Arv._, p. 48).

At this point it may be well to ask what was the original idea of the
virtue conveyed by going round a piece of land with victims to be
sacrificed at the end of the circuit. Such circuitous processions,
with or without victims, are to be found in all countries: perhaps
the instance most familiar to all of us is that round the walls of
Jericho, repeated seven times--the mystic number--in order to destroy
their defensive power. But Roman folklore itself, preserved in great
abundance by Pliny, supplies an example which goes some way, I think,
to show the original nature of the process. Pliny tells us that if
a woman in a certain condition, with bare feet and streaming hair,
walked round a field, it was completely protected against insects.[121]
The act of passing round a crop served as a charm to keep off noxious
things--live insects in historical times, noxious spirits, if I am
right, in the dawn of agriculture. The charm lay in the condition of
the woman, as Dr. Frazer has abundantly shown in _The Golden Bough_
(iii, ed. 2, p. 232 foll.), where he has quoted this passage of
Pliny and others from the Roman writers on agriculture. Some power
of a similar kind there must have been also in the victims about to
be slain; they were chosen according to rule, and under favourable
auspices (if we may argue back from the ritual of the city to that of
the farm): they were therefore holy, and their blood was about to be
shed at one point in the line of circuit. We have here, indeed, passed
beyond the region of magic, but we are still in that early stage of
religion when a magical idea is at the bottom of the ceremony, though
fast losing itself in ideas more advanced and rational.

This religious process, the fencing out of hostile spirits by a
boundary-line, and the discovery of the proper formulae for preserving
it and all within it, may and indeed must have been the work of ages.
But once discovered, the principle of it could be applied to any land
or other property of man, and also to man himself. Let us now take some
examples of such extensions of the simple practice of the farm.

The farms and homesteads of the early Latins were grouped together
in associations called _pagi_; and these were subjected to the same
process of lustratio as the farms themselves. So at least we can hardly
doubt, though we have no explicit account of the processional character
of the _lustratio pagi_. When Ovid, under date of the Paganalia (Jan.
24-6), describes the lustratio, he writes:

    Pagus agat festum: pagum lustrate, coloni,
      Et date paganis annua liba focis:

but does not make it clear that he uses _lustrare_ in the sense of
a procession with the suovetaurilia. Nor can we be sure that the
beautiful passage in the first _Georgic_ (338 foll.), beginning, ‘In
primis venerare deos,’ refers to a _lustratio pagi_, though Wissowa
seems to imply it,[122] and the lines

    Terque novas circum felix eat hostia fruges,
    Omnis quam chorus et socii comitentur ovantes
    Et Cererem clamore vocent in tecta ...

give a charming picture of a lustratio of this kind, without enabling
us to decide whether he has the farm or the pagus in his mind. Let
us go on to the beginnings of the city, where we shall find the same
principle and process applied in most striking fashion.

Just as it was necessary to keep hostile spirits out of the homestead
and its land, so it was necessary to keep them out of the city and its
land. The walls of the Italian city were sacred, and so was a certain
space outside them, called the _pomerium_. This is well illustrated in
the rite used in the foundation of a city even in historical times,
as described by Varro, Servius, and Plutarch:[123] it was believed to
be of Etruscan origin, like so many other Roman rites, but it is now
generally considered to be old Italian in a general sense. A white ox
and a white cow were harnessed to a plough, of which the share must be
made of bronze, and (on an auspicious day) drew a rectangular furrow
where the walls of the city were to be: the earth was turned inwards to
indicate the line of the wall, and the furrow represented the future
pomerium. When the plough came to the place where there was to be a
gate, it was lifted over it and the ploughing resumed beyond it. This
meant that though the walls were sacred, the gates were profane; for,
as Plutarch says, had the gates been holy, scruple would have been
felt about the passage in and out of them of unholy things. The result
of this religious process was to keep outside the sacred boundary of
the wall all evil and strange spirits (or, as we may now say, seeing
that we are entering an era of higher civilization, strange _gods_);
and inside it there dwelt only those who belonged to the place and its
inhabitants (_indigetes_), and whose alliance and protection had become
assured. Inside it, too, and only within its limits, could the auspicia
of the city be taken.

We might naturally expect that this sacred wall and boundary would have
its holiness and efficacy secured by an annual lustratio of the same
kind as that of the farm and pagus; and so it was. We know that there
was at Rome a lustral rite called Amburbium, which probably took place
at the beginning of the month of purification (February); but it is
for us unluckily little more than a name. Later on in the same month
we find the extraordinary rite of the Lupercalia (15th), in which the
pomerium is so far concerned as that the Luperci, or young men who
served as priests on the occasion, ran round the ancient boundary of
the Palatine settlement, girt with the skins of the victims, striking
at all women who came near them with strips cut from these same skins,
in order to produce fertility. But was this really a _lustratio urbis_?
In my _Roman Festivals_ I treated it as such (p. 319), on the ground
that Varro uses the word lustrare in alluding to it. I am now, however,
disposed to think that Varro was here using the word in a general and
not a technical sense, and that the object of it was not, as in the
rites we have been discussing, to keep evil spirits away from the
city as a whole. It seems to be a survival of some very primitive
magico-religious ideas, into which I will not enter now. Certain it
is that the leading feature of the true lustratio is absent from it;
instead of a slow and stately procession of worshippers and victims, we
have the wild running of almost naked youths, apparently personating or
embodying a deity.

Fortunately we can illustrate the real lustratio of a city from a
different source, and in this case most luckily a documentary one, but
from an Umbrian city instead of a Latin one. The town of Gubbio, the
modern form of Iguvium, still preserves the priestly instructions,
drawn up from older sources probably at the beginning of the last
century B. C., for the lustratio of its citadel, the arx (_ocris
Fisia_), by a guild of priests called the Fratres Attiedii.[124] Here
the ceremony has been developed under priestly influence into a series
of ritualistic acts of the highest exactness and complexity; but the
main features of the lustratio stand out quite clearly. The procession
goes solemnly round the arx, with the victims, which are the same
as those of the Latin lustratio; at each gate it stops, and offers
sacrifice and prayer on behalf of the citadel, the city, and the whole
people of Iguvium. The gates, three in number, are the scene of the
actual sacrifice and prayer, because they are the weak points in the
wall, as we have seen, and they need to be spiritually strengthened
by annual religious operations, though not such as would make them
permanently sacred like the wall itself. Doubtless the Fratres Attiedii
would have been unable to explain this as I am explaining it; the
sense of a hostile spiritual world outside the sacred boundary had
vanished from the Italian mind when these elaborate liturgical formulae
were drawn up. The prayers are cast in language that hardly differs
from those of a Church of to-day which asks for a blessing on a
community. The deities of the city are asked to preserve the name, the
magistrates, rites, men, cattle, land, and crops--a list in which the
_name_ is the only item which carries us clearly back to pre-Christian
times. The ideas and the deities have been developed into a religious
system of considerable complexity, but the actual proceedings, the
procession and the prayers at the gates, still remind us of the rock
whence all this ritual was hewn.

I said that human beings might be subjected to the lustral process
_en masse_, as well as land and city. Before we return from Iguvium
to Rome, I may mention that the Iguvian documents also contain
instructions for the lustratio of the people.[125] So far as we can
gather from the Umbrian text, the people was brought together in a
particular spot in its military divisions, and round them a procession
went three times; at the end of each circuit there was sacrifice and
prayer (the former not apparently with the usual suovetaurilia), and
Mars and two female consorts or representatives of his power were
entreated to confound and frighten certain enemies of the city, in
language which reminds me of the prayer in time of war, now happily
abandoned, which I can remember as a child being read in the days
of the Crimean war--‘abate their pride, assuage their malice, and
confound their devices’. Then followed of course a prayer for blessing
on the Iguvini. This may conveniently bring us back to Rome; for in
the account of the census and lustrum in the Campus Martius given by
Dionysius of Halicarnassus (iv. 22), we find the suovetaurilia driven
three times round the assembled host with sacrifice to Mars. This was
no doubt really the early form of the census, which had a military
meaning and origin.

The explanation of this lustration of the host, the male population
in arms, of a community, is not quite the same as that of the rite as
applied to a city; yet it takes us back to the same animistic period
and the same class of ideas. These armies were likely to have to march
against enemies living far beyond the pale of the _ager Romanus_, and
therefore among spirits with whom the Romans or Iguvians, as the case
might be, had no peaceful relations, and of whose ways and freaks they
were in fact entirely ignorant. They must, therefore, be protected
against such evil influences by some special device and ritual. Of this
kind of practice Dr. Frazer has collected some examples in _Golden
Bough_, i. 304 foll., both from savage tribes and from Greek usage. As
we are dealing here with Rome only, we may content ourselves with a
parallel from the pen of a Roman historian, which, as it happens, Dr.
Frazer has not mentioned. Livy tells us that the method in Macedonia
was to march the whole host in spring before a campaign between the
severed limbs of a dog (xl. 6 init.). This only differs from the
Italian plan in method, not in principle: the object in each case is to
subject the whole army without exception to the salutary influence of
the victim: but in Macedonia it is made to pass between the two parts
of a slain victim, while in Italy the live victims are made to pass
round the army, and afterwards sacrificed. That each Roman army was
thus lustrated is almost certain (_Dict. Ant._, vol. ii. 102): in fact
the word lustratio came to mean a review of troops for this reason,
without religious signification: so at least we are used to take such
expressions as Cicero uses of his army in Cilicia, ‘exercitum lustravi’
(_Att._ v. 20. 2). Even the fleets were subjected to the same process:
and in Livy xxix. 27 we have a prayer addressed by Scipio to the
deities of the sea before sailing for Africa, which may remind us of
those used during the lustration of the people at Iguvium.

Further, at this same time, in spring, before the season of arms,
all the appurtenances of the army were ‘purified’--the horses, the
arms, and the trumpets. So at least we may gather from the fact that
there was a festival in the oldest religious calendar at the end of
February called Equirria, and another of the same name on March 14
following; though the real meaning of the word was lost in later times,
this explanation is strongly suggested by the dates, and also by the
place, i. e. the Campus Martius. (If this was flooded it took place
on the Caelian hill.) The details of the festival, which must have
included horse racing, are unfortunately lost. The Equirria of March
14 seems to correspond to a curious rite, of which the date is October
15, i.e. after the season of arms; on that day there was a two-horse
chariot-race in the Campus Martius, and the near horse of the winning
chariot was sacrificed to Mars, with peculiar ritual following the
slaughter. It is tempting to refer this rite to a lustratio of the
horses after their return from a campaign: but here again the details
of a true lustratio are not forthcoming. It may have originally been,
as Wissowa suggests, a cathartic rite purifying the army from the taint
of bloodshed (cf. _G. B._ i. 332 foll.); the blood of the sacrificed
horse was allowed to drip upon the sacred hearth of the Regia, and it
is probable that it was used in the making of certain sacred cakes
(_mola salsa_) of great cathartic value. But it is remarkable that
this rite was not included in the festivals of the ancient calendar:
we know of it only from other sources. I am inclined to hazard a guess
that it belonged to a type of ceremony which the earliest pontifical
legislators were unwilling to recognize; their efforts, as it seems to
me, must have been directed to make the worship of the people as pure
and orderly as possible.[126]

The old calendar also supplies strong evidence that the arms and the
trumpets of the host were lustrated, both before and after a campaign.
On March 19, called _Quinquatrus_, because it was the fifth day after
the Ides, the _ancilia_, or shields of the war-priests of Mars, were
thus purified; and it is a good guess that they stood for the arms of
the fighting men generally. For on October 19 we find the festival
Armilustrium, which tells its own tale. On that day it seems clear
that both arma and ancilia were lustrated, and that the Salii for this
purpose went round the armed host in a place called by the same name as
the rite, in or near the Circus maximus (Varro, _L.L._ 6. 22: cf. 5.
153). Again, we have March 23 marked in the calendar as Tubilustrium;
and though the old explanations confine these _tubae_ to such as were
used _in sacris_, I believe, with Wissowa, that included in these were
the trumpets of the host.[127]

Lastly, we may believe that the army was purified from the taint of
bloodshed after its return from a campaign, just as the Hebrew warriors
and their captives were purified before re-entering the camp after a
battle (Num. xxi. 19). I have just now suggested that the sacrifice of
the October horse may have originally had this object. But in Roman
pontifical law the idea of the taint of bloodshed is only faintly
discernible, as is also the case in the Homeric poems (Farnell,
_Evolution_, p. 133); and the only distinct trace of it that I can find
in regard to the army is a statement of Festus that the soldiers who
followed the general’s car in a triumph wore laurel wreaths ‘ut quasi
purgati a caede humana intrarent urbem’ (_Fest._ 117). Laurel was a
powerful purgative of such taint.

I have now given some brief account of the most remarkable examples of
the characteristic type of lustration in Italy, and more especially at
Rome; and it only remains for me to sum up in outline what I have been
saying. We began with the ideas of purification which were common to
the Italians and other primitive peoples, and which have left traces
here and there in the public and private ritual of the Romans, but
without showing any great vital force, such as might enable them to
develop into matters of religious or ethical importance in Roman life.
We then saw how the nature of the Italian peninsula as it was in the
dawn of civilization, and the universal belief in a world of spirits
haunting mountain and woodland, compelled the early Latin farmer to
draw a well-defined boundary line between the land he had reclaimed and
the forest beyond it, within which he and his familia and his friendly
spirits or deities might be at peace; and how he sought to render this
boundary impermeable to the hostile spirits outside it by a yearly
ceremony consisting of a procession around it of victims for sacrifice.
Then we saw how this same practice was retained in the service of the
State, and applied to the foundation of a city, to its land, to the
circuit of its walls, to its people in the form of the men capable of
carrying arms, to the horses, the arms, and the trumpets of this host.

In conclusion, I must ask the question whether this impressive ritual
of lustratio ever came to have any religious or moral import for the
Roman people. Undoubtedly the idea which lay at the root of it, the
protection of the city and its inhabitants from hostile spirits or
strange gods, disappeared from the Roman mind at an early period among
the governing and better educated classes. In one point only, so far as
I know, can we detect a survival of it,--namely, in the persistence of
the pontifices in refusing to admit new gods within the sacred circle
of the pomerium; they might be taken into the Society of Roman deities,
but they must be settled in temples placed _outside_ that boundary
line. But as early as the second Punic war this old rule began to be
broken, and in 205 B.C. even the mystic stone of the Magna Mater of the
Phrygians was brought within the pomerium and settled in the heart of
the city on the Palatine. And from that time onwards, whatever may have
been the notions about such things of the ignorant Latin population,
the old ideas assuredly vanished utterly from the minds of those who
were in charge of the State and its religion.

Was there any transmutation of those ideas into religious beliefs which
might help State or individual in the changes and chances of this
mortal life? The answer to this question is a most emphatic negative.
What spiritual help they needed they sought and obtained in new and
foreign rites; their own solemn processions were sights to see and
nothing more. Lustratio never really, in pagan Italy, developed an
ethical meaning, as catharsis did to some extent in Greece.[128] And the
explanation of this is a simple one; at a very early stage the State
overpowered the individual, and the State religion obliterated all
the germs of an individual religious conscience. Even in the cult of
Jupiter, where, if anywhere, we might look for an ethical significance,
this was so; ‘we do not pray to Jupiter,’ says Cicero, ‘to make us
good, but to give us material benefits.’[129]

But, meaningless as they were, the stately processions remained, and
could be watched with pride by the patriotic Roman all through the
period of the Empire. Then the Roman Church, with characteristic
adroitness, adapted them to its own ritual, and gave them a new
meaning; and the Catholic priest still leads his flock round the
fields with the prayers of the Litania major in Rogation week, not
only beating the bounds as we still do in Oxford on Ascension Day, but
begging a blessing on the crops and herds, and deprecating the anger of
the Almighty.


                         BY HORACE HART, M.A.
                       PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY


[115] _Aen._ i. 607 foll. Cp. _Aen._ iii. 429--

    Praestat Trinacrii metas lustrare Pachyni
    Cessantem, longos et circumflectere cursus:

where the slow movement and circuitous course of a _lustratio_ are in
the poet’s mind.

[116] Marquardt, _Staatsverwaltung_, iii. p. 175. Cp. Serv. _Aen._ iii.
67, and Virg. _Aen._ vi. 229.

[117] Iron was taboo in the grove of Dea Dia: but the Fratres Arvales
had a system of _piacula_ enabling them to use it for pruning, &c.,
when necessary.--Henzen, _Acta Fratr. Arv._ 22.

[118] Serv. _Aen._ i. 136, x. 32, xi. 842.

[119] Cato R. R. 139, 140; Henzen, _Acta Fratr. Arv._ 136 foll.: cp.
Ovid, _Fasti_ iv. 749 foll.

[120] This is my own inference from the language of Cato in chapters 83
and 141. When the cattle are in the forest, there is a special formula
of prayer for them: see ch. 83. The word _ager_ could hardly, I think,
be taken as including the woodland in which the flocks fed in summer;
and in May, when the _lustratio agri_ took place, they would be already
off the winter pasture. In the formula for this _lustratio_ (141) Cato
does include the _pastores_ and _pecua_; but they are not the most
conspicuous objects of the prayer, and I am inclined to think that they
are mentioned only as belonging to the farm, though not at the moment
within its sacred boundary.

[121] Plin. _N. H._ xvii. 266, xxviii. 78.

[122] _Relig. u. Kultus_, p. 130.

[123] Varro, _L. L._ v. 143; Serv. _Aen._ v. 755 (from Cato); Plut.
_Romulus_ x.

[124] Bücheler, _Umbrica_, p. 42 foll.

[125] Bücheler, _Umbrica_, p. 84 foll.

[126] Perhaps, too, the scramble for the horse’s head between two
divisions of the population was objectionable in their eyes.

[127] _Relig. u. Kultus_, p. 131. On the same day there was a sacrifice
to that fortis dea, Nerio without doubt, who was in some unknown sense
the consort of Mars (Ovid, _Fasti_ iii. 849).

[128] Farnell, _Evolution of Religion_, p. 136.

[129] _De Nat. Deorum_, ii. 36. 82.


_The author of the first lecture, being out of England, could not
correct the proof; the following corrections should be made_:--

     Page  10, line  11, _for_ produce in _read_ produce on
       "   14, line   6, _for_ Cairoan _read_ cavern
       "   16, line   7, _for_ palus _read_ palm
       "   27, line  24, _for_ act _read_ art
       "   28, lines 11, 13, _for_ by its ... feature
                                _read_ by ... features
       "   40, line   1, _for_ in _read_ on

_Anthropology and the Classics._

      *      *      *      *      *      *

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  Old or antiquated spellings have been preserved.

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    in spelling and punctuation remain unaltered.

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    they occur.

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