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Title: A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume 1 (of 2): During the First Thirteen Centuries of Our Era
Author: Thorndike, Lynn
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
in hyphenation and accents have been standardised but all other
spelling and punctuation remains unchanged.

On Chapter 52 page 313 “sees no reason why divination in darkness, in a wall, or
in sunlight, or by potions and incantations,” while well seems more
likely than wall the original text is unchanged.

Footnote 1477: century, fols. 156-74 has been replaced by 56-74.

The table of contents lists the contents of volume 2 as well as volume

The footnotes have been placed at the end of the book.

Italics are represented thus _italic_, and superscripts thus y^{en}.

                         HISTORY OF MAGIC AND
                         EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE

                              _VOLUME I_

                         HISTORY OF MAGIC AND
                         EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE

                       DURING THE FIRST THIRTEEN
                         CENTURIES OF OUR ERA

                           BY LYNN THORNDIKE

                               VOLUME I

                       COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON

               Copyright 1923 Columbia University Press
             First published by The Macmillan Company 1923

  ISBN 0-231-08794-2
  Manufactured in the United States of America
  10 9 8 7



  PREFACE                                                             ix

  ABBREVIATIONS                                                     xiii

  DESIGNATION OF MANUSCRIPTS                                          xv

  PUBLICATION OR BRIEF TITLE                                        xvii


  1. INTRODUCTION                                                      1


  FOREWORD                                                            39

  2. PLINY’S NATURAL HISTORY                                          41

  I. Its Place in the History of Science                              42
  II. Its Experimental Tendency                                       53
  III. Pliny’s Account of Magic                                       58
  IV. The Science of the Magi                                         64
  V. Pliny’s Magical Science                                          72


  4. GALEN                                                           117

  I. The Man and His Times                                           119
  II. His Medicine and Experimental Science                          139
  III. His Attitude Toward Magic                                     165

  HERO, AND THE GREEK ALCHEMISTS                                     182

  6. PLUTARCH’S ESSAYS                                               200

  7. APULEIUS OF MADAURA                                             221

  8. PHILOSTRATUS’S LIFE OF APOLLONIUS OF TYANA                      242

  CICERO, FAVORINUS, SEXTUS EMPIRICUS, LUCIAN                        268

  ZOROASTER                                                          287

  THEURGY                                                            298

  12. AELIAN, SOLINUS, AND HORAPOLLO                                 322


  FOREWORD                                                           337

  13. THE BOOK OF ENOCH                                              340

  14. PHILO JUDAEUS                                                  348

  15. THE GNOSTICS                                                   360

  16. THE CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA                                        385



  19. ORIGEN AND CELSUS                                              436


  AND THE PHYSIOLOGUS                                               480

  22. AUGUSTINE ON MAGIC AND ASTROLOGY                               504

  THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES                                     523


  IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES                                           551

  25. POST-CLASSICAL MEDICINE                                        566

  26. PSEUDO-LITERATURE IN NATURAL SCIENCE                           594

  BEDE, GREGORY                                                      616

  28. ARABIC OCCULT SCIENCE OF THE NINTH CENTURY                     641

  NINTH, TENTH, AND ELEVENTH CENTURIES                               672



  32. CONSTANTINUS AFRICANUS (c. 1015-1087)                          742

  ARABIC ALCHEMY                                                     760

  34. MARBOD                                                         775


  General                                                            783
  Bibliographical                                                    811
  Manuscripts                                                        831


  OF ST. VICTOR                                                        3

  36. ADELARD OF BATH                                                 14

  37. WILLIAM OF CONCHES                                              50

  ASTROLOGY FROM THE ARABIC                                           66

  39. BERNARD SILVESTER; ASTROLOGY AND GEOMANCY                       99

  40. SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN                                      124

  41. JOHN OF SALISBURY                                              155

  42. DANIEL OF MORLEY AND ROGER OF HEREFORD                         171

  43. ALEXANDER NECKAM ON THE NATURES OF THINGS                      188

  44. MOSES MAIMONIDES                                               205

  45. HERMETIC BOOKS IN THE MIDDLE AGES                              214

  46. KIRANIDES                                                      229

  47. PRESTER JOHN AND THE MARVELS OF INDIA                          236

  48. THE PSEUDO-ARISTOTLE                                           246

  49. SOLOMON AND THE ARS NOTORIA                                    279

  50. ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL DREAM-BOOKS                               290


  FOREWORD                                                           305

  51. MICHAEL SCOT                                                   307

  52. WILLIAM OF AUVERGNE                                            338

  53. THOMAS OF CANTIMPRÉ                                            372

  54. BARTHOLOMEW OF ENGLAND                                         401

  55. ROBERT GROSSETESTE                                             436

  56. VINCENT OF BEAUVAIS                                            457

  ENGLAND AND WILLIAM OF ENGLAND                                     477

  58. PETRUS HISPANUS                                                488

  59. ALBERTUS MAGNUS                                                517

  I. Life                                                            521
  II. As a Scientist                                                 528
  III. His Allusions to Magic                                        548
  IV. Marvelous Virtues in Nature                                    560
  V. Attitude Toward Astrology                                       577

  60. THOMAS AQUINAS                                                 593

  61. ROGER BACON                                                    616

  I. Life                                                            619
  II. Criticism of and Part in Medieval Learning                     630
  III. Experimental Science                                          649
  IV. Attitude Toward Magic and Astrology                            659

  62. THE SPECULUM ASTRONOMIAE                                       692

  63. THREE TREATISES ASCRIBED TO ALBERT                             720



  66. PICATRIX                                                       813

  67. GUIDO BONATTI AND BARTHOLOMEW OF PARMA                         825

  68. ARNALD OF VILLANOVA                                            841

  69. RAYMOND LULL                                                   862

  70. PETER OF ABANO                                                 874

  71. CECCO D’ASCOLI                                                 948

  72. CONCLUSION                                                     969


  General                                                            985
  Bibliographical                                                   1007
  Manuscripts                                                       1027


This work has been long in preparation—ever since in 1902-1903
Professor James Harvey Robinson, when my mind was still in the making,
suggested the study of magic in medieval universities as the subject
of my thesis for the master’s degree at Columbia University—and has
been foreshadowed by other publications, some of which are listed
under my name in the preliminary bibliography. Since this was set up
in type there have also appeared: “Galen: the Man and His Times,”
in _The Scientific Monthly_, January, 1922; “Early Christianity and
Natural Science,” in _The Biblical Review_, July, 1922; “The Latin
Pseudo-Aristotle and Medieval Occult Science,” in _The Journal of
English and Germanic Philology_, April, 1922; and notes on Daniel
of Morley and Gundissalinus in _The English Historical Review_. For
permission to make use of these previous publications in the present
work I am indebted to the editors of the periodicals just mentioned,
and also to the editors of _The Columbia University Studies in
History, Economics, and Public Law_, _The American Historical Review_,
_Classical Philology_, _The Monist_, _Nature_, _The Philosophical
Review_, and _Science_. The form, however, of these previous
publications has often been altered in embodying them in this book,
and, taken together, they constitute but a fraction of it. Book I
greatly amplifies the account of magic in the Roman Empire contained
in my doctoral dissertation. Over ten years ago I prepared an account
of magic and science in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries based on
material available in print in libraries of this country and arranged
topically, but I did not publish it, as it seemed advisable to
supplement it by study abroad and of the manuscript material, and to
adopt an arrangement by authors. The result is Books IV and V of the
present work.

My examination of manuscripts has been done especially at the British
Museum, whose rich collections, perhaps because somewhat inaccessibly
catalogued, have been less used by students of medieval learning than
such libraries as the Bodleian and Bibliothèque Nationale. I have
worked also, however, at both Oxford and Paris, at Munich, Florence,
Bologna, and elsewhere; but it has of course been impossible to examine
all the thousands of manuscripts bearing upon the subject, and the
war prevented me from visiting some libraries, such as the important
medieval collection of Amplonius at Erfurt. However, a fairly wide
survey of the catalogues of collections of manuscripts has convinced
me that I have read a representative selection. Such classified lists
of medieval manuscripts as Mrs. Dorothea Singer has undertaken for
the British Isles should greatly facilitate the future labors of
investigators in this field.

Although working in a rather new field, I have been aided by editions
of medieval writers produced by modern scholarship, and by various
series, books, and articles tending, at least, in the same direction
as mine. Some such publications have appeared or come to my notice
too late for use or even for mention in the text: for instance,
another edition of the _De medicamentis_ of Marcellus Empiricus by M.
Niedermann; the printing of the _Twelve Experiments with Snakeskin_
of John Paulinus by J. W. S. Johnsson in _Bull. d. l. société franç.
d’hist. d. l. méd._, XII, 257-67; the detailed studies of Sante Ferrari
on Peter of Abano; and A. Franz, _Die kirchlichen Benediktionen im
Mittelalter_, 1909, 2 vols. The breeding place of the eel (to which I
allude at I, 491) is now, as a result of recent investigation by Dr. J.
Schmidt, placed “about 2500 miles from the mouth of the English Channel
and 500 miles north-east of the Leeward Islands” (_Discovery_, Oct.,
1922, p. 256) instead of in the Mediterranean.

A man who once wrote in Dublin[1] complained of the difficulty of
composing a learned work so far from the Bodleian and British Museum,
and I have often felt the same way. When able to visit foreign
collections or the largest libraries in this country, or when books
have been sent for my use for a limited period, I have spent all
the available time in the collection of material, which has been
written up later as opportunity offered. Naturally one then finds
many small and some important points which require verification or
further investigation, but which must be postponed until one’s next
vacation or trip abroad, by which time some of the smaller points are
apt to be forgotten. Of such loose threads I fear that more remain
than could be desired. And I have so often caught myself in the act
of misinterpretation, misplaced emphasis, and other mistakes, that
I have no doubt there are other errors as well as omissions which
other scholars will be able to point out and which I trust they will.
Despite this prospect, I have been bold in affirming my independent
opinion on any point where I have one, even if it conflicts with that
of specialists or puts me in the position of criticizing my betters.
Constant questioning, criticism, new points of view, and conflict of
opinion are essential in the pursuit of truth.

After some hesitation I decided, because of the expense, the length of
the work, and the increasing unfamiliarity of readers with Greek and
Latin, as a rule not to give in the footnotes the original language
of passages used in the text. I have, however, usually supplied the
Latin or Greek when I have made a free translation or one with which I
felt that others might not agree. But in such cases I advise critics
not to reject my rendering utterly without some further examination of
the context and line of thought of the author or treatise in question,
since the wording of particular passages in texts and manuscripts
is liable to be corrupt, and since my purpose in quoting particular
passages is to illustrate the general attitude of the author or
treatise. In describing manuscripts I have employed quotation marks
when I knew from personal examination or otherwise that the Latin was
that of the manuscript itself, and have omitted quotation marks where
the Latin seemed rather to be that of the description in the catalogue.
Usually I have let the faulty spelling and syntax of medieval copyists
stand without comment. But as I am not an expert in palaeography
and have examined a large number of manuscripts primarily for their
substance, the reader should not regard my Latin quotations from them
as exact transliterations or carefully considered texts. He should also
remember that there is little uniformity in the manuscripts themselves.
I have tried to reduce the bulk of the footnotes by the briefest forms
of reference consistent with clearness—consult lists of abbreviations
and of works frequently cited by author and date of publication—and by
use of appendices at the close of certain chapters.

Within the limits of a preface I may not enumerate all the libraries
where I have been permitted to work or which have generously sent
books—sometimes rare volumes—to Cleveland for my use, or all the
librarians who have personally assisted my researches or courteously
and carefully answered my written inquiries, or the other scholars
who have aided or encouraged the preparation of this work, but I hope
they may feel that their kindness has not been in vain. In library
matters I have perhaps most frequently imposed upon the good nature
of Mr. Frederic C. Erb of the Columbia University Library, Mr. Gordon
W. Thayer, in charge of the John G. White collection in the Cleveland
Public Library, and Mr. George F. Strong, librarian of Adelbert
College, Western Reserve University; and I cannot forbear to mention
the interest shown in my work by Dr. R. L. Poole at the Bodleian. For
letters facilitating my studies abroad before the war or application
for a passport immediately after the war I am indebted to the Hon.
Philander C. Knox, then Secretary of State, to Frederick P. Keppel,
then Assistant Secretary of War, to Drs. J. Franklin Jameson and
Charles F. Thwing, and to Professors Henry E. Bourne and Henry Crew.
Professors C. H. Haskins,[2] L. C. Karpinski, W. G. Leutner, W. A.
Locy, D. B. Macdonald, L. J. Paetow, S. B. Platner, E. C. Richardson,
James Harvey Robinson, David Eugene Smith, D’Arcy W. Thompson, A. H.
Thorndike, E. L. Thorndike, T. Wingate Todd, and Hutton Webster, and
Drs. Charles Singer and Se Boyar have kindly read various chapters
in manuscript or proof and offered helpful suggestions. The burden
of proof-reading has been generously shared with me by Professors B.
P. Bourland, C. D. Lamberton, and Walter Libby, and especially by
Professor Harold North Fowler who has corrected proof for practically
the entire work. After receiving such expert aid and sound counsel I
must assume all the deeper guilt for such faults and indiscretions as
the book may display.


  Abhandl.    Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Mathematischen
                Wissenschaften, begründet von M.
                Cantor, Teubner, Leipzig.

  Addit.      Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum.

  Amplon.     Manuscript collection of Amplonius Ratinck at

  AN          Ante-Nicene Fathers, American Reprint of the
                Edinburgh edition, in 9 vols., 1913.

  AS          Acta sanctorum.

  Beiträge    Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des
                Mittelalters, ed. by C. Baeumker, G. v. Hertling,
                M. Baumgartner, et al., Münster, 1891-.

  BL          Bodleian Library, Oxford.

  BM          British Museum, London.

  BN          Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

  Borgnet     Augustus Borgnet, ed. B. Alberti Magni Opera
                omnia, Paris, 1890-1899, in 38 vols.

  Brewer      Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quaedam hactenus inedita,
                ed. J. S. Brewer, London, 1859, in RS,

  Bridges     The Opus Maius of Roger Bacon, ed. J. H.
                Bridges, I-II, Oxford, 1897; III, 1900.

  CCAG        Catalogus codicum astrologorum Graecorum, ed.
                F. Cumont, W. Kroll, F. Boll, et al., 1898.

  CE          Catholic Encyclopedia.

  CFCB        Census of Fifteenth Century Books Owned in
                America, compiled by a committee of the Bibliographical
                Society of America, New York,

  CLM         Codex Latinus Monacensis (Latin MS at Munich).

  CSEL        Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum,
                Vienna, 1866-.

  CU          Cambridge University (used to distinguish MSS
                in colleges having the same names as those at

  CUL         Cambridge University Library.

  DNB         Dictionary of National Biography.

  EB          Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition.

  EETS        Early English Text Society Publications.

  EHR         English Historical Review.

  ERE         Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. J.
                Hastings et al., 1908-.

  HL          Histoire Littéraire de la France.

  HZ          Historische Zeitschrift, Munich, 1859-.

  Kühn        Medici Graeci, ed. C. J. Kühn, Leipzig, 1829,
                containing the works of Galen, Dioscorides,

  MG          Monumenta Germaniae.

  MS          Manuscript.

  MSS         Manuscripts.

  Muratori    Rerum Italicarum scriptores ab anno aerae christianae
                500 ad 1500, ed. L. A. Muratori, 1723-1751.

  NH          C. Plinii Secundi Naturalis Historia (Pliny’s
                Natural History).

  PG          Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series

  PL          Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series

  PN          The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second
                Series, ed. Wace and Schaff, 1890-1900, 14

  PW          Pauly and Wissowa, Realencyclopädie der classischen

  RS          “Rolls Series,” or Rerum Britannicarum medii
                aevi scriptores, 99 works in 244 vols., London,

  TU          Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der
                altchristlichen Literatur, ed. Gebhardt und


Individual manuscripts are usually briefly designated in the ensuing
notes and appendices by a single word indicating the place or
collection where the MS is found and the number or shelf-mark of the
individual MS. So many of the catalogues of MSS collections which I
consulted were undated and without name of author that I have decided
to attempt no catalogue of them. The brief designations that I give
will be sufficient for anyone who is interested in MSS. In giving Latin
titles, _Incipits_, and the like of MSS I employ quotation marks when
I know from personal examination or otherwise that the wording is that
of the MS itself, and omit the marks where the Latin seems rather to
be that of the description in the manuscript catalogue or other source
of information. In the following _List of Works Frequently Cited_ are
included a few MSS catalogues whose authors I shall have occasion to
refer to by name.

                              BRIEF TITLE

For more detailed bibliography on specific topics and for editions
or manuscripts of the texts used see the bibliographies, references,
and appendices to individual chapters. I also include here some works
of general interest or of rather cursory character which I have not
had occasion to mention elsewhere; and I usually add, for purposes
of differentiation, other works in our field by an author than those
works by him which are frequently cited. Of the many histories of the
sciences, medicine, and magic that have appeared since the invention
of printing I have included but a small selection. Almost without
exception they have to be used with the greatest caution.

Abano, Peter of, Conciliator differentiarum philosophorum et praecipue
 medicorum, 1472, 1476, 1521, 1526, etc. De venenis, 1472, 1476, 1484,
 1490, 1515, 1521, etc.

Abel, ed. Orphica, 1885.

Abelard, Peter. Opera hactenus seorsim edita, ed. V. Cousin, Paris,
 1849-1859, 2 vols.

Ouvrages inédits, ed. V. Cousin, 1835.

Abt, Die Apologie des Apuleius von Madaura und die antike Zauberei,
 Giessen, 1908.

Achmetis Oneirocriticon, ed. Rigaltius, Paris, 1603.

Adelard of Bath, Quaestiones naturales, 1480, 1485, etc. De eodem et
 diverso, ed. H. Willner, Münster, 1903.

Ahrens, K. Das Buch der Naturgegenstände, 1892.
 Zur Geschichte des sogenannten Physiologus, 1885.

Ailly, Pierre d’, Tractatus de ymagine mundi (and other works), 1480

Albertus Magnus, Opera omnia, ed. A. Borgnet, Paris, 1890-1899, 38

Allbutt, Sir T. Clifford. The Historical Relations of Medicine and
 Surgery to the End of the Sixteenth Century, London, 1905, 122 pp.; an
 address delivered at the St. Louis Congress in 1904.
 The Rise of the Experimental Method in Oxford, London, 1902, 53 pp.,
 from Journal of the Oxford University Junior Scientific Club, May,
 1902, being the ninth Robert Boyle Lecture.
 Science and Medieval Thought, London, 1901, 116 brief pages. The
 Harveian Oration delivered before the Royal College of Physicians.

Allendy, R. F. L’Alchimie et la Médecine; Étude sur les théories
 hermétiques dans l’histoire de la médecine, Paris, 1912, 155 pp.

Anz, W. Zur Frage nach dem Ursprung des Gnostizismus, Leipzig, 1897.

Aquinas, Thomas. Opera omnia, ed. E. Fretté et P. Maré, Paris,
 1871-1880, 34 vols.

Aristotle, De animalibus historia, ed. Dittmeyer, 1907; English
 translations by R. Creswell, 1848, and D’Arcy W. Thompson, Oxford,

Pseudo-Aristotle. Lapidarius, Merszborg, 1473.
 Secretum secretorum, Latin translation from the Arabic by Philip of
 Tripoli in many editions; and see Gaster.

Arnald of Villanova, Opera, Lyons, 1532.

Artemidori Daldiani et Achmetis Sereimi F. Oneirocritica; Astrampsychi
 et Nicephori versus etiam Oneirocritici; Nicolai Rigaltii ad
 Artemidorum Notae, Paris, 1603.

Ashmole, Elias, Theatrum chemicum Britannicum, 1652.

Astruc, Jean. Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la Faculté de
 Médecine de Montpellier, Paris, 1767.

Auriferae artis quam chemiam vocant antiquissimi auctores, Basel, 1572.

Barach et Wrobel, Bibliotheca Philosophorum Mediae Aetatis, 1876-1878,
 2 vols.

Bartholomew of England, De proprietatibus rerum, Lingelbach,
 Heidelberg, 1488, and other editions.

Bauhin, De plantis a divis sanctisve nomen habentibus, Basel, 1591.

Baur, Ludwig, ed. Gundissalinus De divisione philosophiae, Münster,
 Die Philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Münster, 1912.

Beazley, C. R. The Dawn of Modern Geography, London, 1897-1906, 3 vols.

Bernard, E. Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae in
 unum collecti (The old catalogue of the Bodleian MSS), Tom. I, Pars 1,
 Oxford, 1697.

Berthelot, P. E. M. Archéologie et histoire des sciences avec
 publication nouvelle du papyrus grec chimique de Leyde et impression
 originale du Liber de septuaginta de Geber, Paris, 1906.
 Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs, 1887-1888, 3 vols.
 Introduction à l’étude de la chimie des anciens et du moyen âge, 1889.
 La chimie au moyen âge, 1893, 3 vols.
 Les origines de l’alchimie, 1885.
 Sur les voyages de Galien et de Zosime dans l’Archipel et en Asie,
 et sur la matière médicale dans l’antiquité, in Journal des Savants,
 1895, pp. 382-7.

Bezold, F. von, Astrologische Geschichtsconstruction im Mittelalter,
 in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, VIII (1892) 29ff.

Bibliotheca Chemica. See Borel and Manget.

Björnbo, A. A. und Vogl, S. Alkindi, Tideus, und Pseudo-Euklid; drei
 optische Werke, Leipzig, 1911.

Black, W. H. Catalogue of the Ashmolean Manuscripts, Oxford, 1845.

Boffito, P. G. Il Commento di Cecco d’Ascoli all’Alcabizzo, Florence,
 Il De principiis astrologiae di Cecco d’Ascoli, in Giornale Storico
 della Letteratura Italiana, Suppl. 6, Turin, 1903.
 Perchè fu condannato al fuoco l’astrologo Cecco d’Ascoli, in Studi e
 Documenti di Storia e Diritto, Publicazione periodica dell’accademia
 de conferenza Storico-Giuridiche, Rome, XX (1899).

Boll, Franz. Die Erforschung der antiken Astrologie, in Neue Jahrb. f.
 d. klass. Altert., XI (1908) 103-26.
 Eine arabisch-byzantische Quelle des Dialogs Hermippus, in Sitzb.
 Heidelberg Akad., Philos. Hist. Classe (1912) No. 18, 28 pp.
 Sphaera, Leipzig, 1903.
 Studien über Claudius Ptolemaeus, in Jahrb. f. klass. Philol., Suppl.
 Bd. XXI.
 Zur Ueberlieferungsgeschichte d. griech. Astrologie u. Astronomie, in
 Münch. Akad. Sitzb., 1899.

Boll und Bezold, Sternglauben, Leipzig, 1918; I have not seen.

Bonatti, Guido. Liber astronomicus, Ratdolt, Augsburg, 1491.

Boncompagni, B. Della vita e delle Opere di Gherardo Cremonese
 traduttore del secolo duodecimo e di Gherardo da Sabbionetta astronomo
 del secolo decimoterzo, Rome, 1851.
 Della vita e delle opere di Guido Bonatti astrologo ed astronomo del
 secolo decimoterzo, Rome, 1851.
 Estratte dal Giornale Arcadico, Tomo CXXIII-CXXIV. Della vita e delle
 opere di Leonardo Pisano, Rome, 1852.
 Intorno ad alcune opere di Leonardo Pisano, Rome, 1854.

Borel, P. Bibliotheca Chimica seu catalogus librorum philosophicorum
 hermeticorum usque ad annum 1653, Paris, 1654.

Bostock, J. and Riley, H. T. The Natural History of Pliny, translated
 with copious notes, London, 1855; reprinted 1887.

Bouché-Leclercq, A. L’astrologie dans le monde romain, in Revue
 Historique, vol. 65 (1897) 241-99.
 L’astrologie grecque, Paris, 1899, 658 pp.
 Histoire de la divination dans l’antiquité, 1879-1882, 4 vols.

Breasted, J. H. Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt,
 New York, 1912.
 A History of Egypt, 1905; second ed., 1909.

Brehaut, E. An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages; Isidore of Seville, in
 Columbia University Studies in History, etc., vol. 48 (1912) 1-274.

Brewer, J. S. Monumenta Franciscana (RS IV, 1), London, 1858.

Brown, J. Wood. An inquiry into the life and legend of Michael Scot,
 Edinburgh, 1897.

Browne, Edward G. Arabian Medicine (the Fitzpatrick Lectures of 1919
 and 1920), Cambridge University Press, 1921.

Browne, Sir Thomas. Pseudodoxia Epidemica, 1650.

Bubnov, N. ed. Gerberti opera mathematica, Berlin, 1899.

Budge, E. A. W. Egyptian Magic, London, 1899.
 Ethiopic Histories of Alexander by the Pseudo-Callisthenes and other
 writers, Cambridge University Press, 1896.
 Syriac Version of Pseudo-Callisthenes, Cambridge, 1889.
 Syrian Anatomy, Pathology, and Therapeutics, London, 1913, 2 vols.

Bunbury, E. H. A History of Ancient Geography, London, 1879, 2 vols.

Cahier et Martin, Mélanges d’archéologie, d’histoire et de
 littérature, Paris, 1847-1856, 4 folio vols.

Cajori, F. History of Mathematics; second edition, revised and
 enlarged, 1919.

Cantor, M. Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mathematik, 3rd edition,
 Leipzig, 1899-1908, 4 vols. Reprint of vol. II in 1913.

Carini, S. I. Sulle Scienze Occulte nel Medio Evo, Palermo, 1872; I
 have not seen.

Cauzons, Th. de. La magie et la sorcellerie en France, 1910, 4 vols.;
 largely compiled from secondary sources.

Charles, E. Roger Bacon: sa vie, ses ouvrages, ses doctrines,
 Bordeaux, 1861.

Charles, R. H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament,
 English translation with introductions and critical and explanatory
 notes in conjunction with many scholars, Oxford, 1913, 2 large vols.
 Ascension of Isaiah, 1900, and reprinted in 1917.
 The Book of Enoch, Oxford, 1893; translated anew, 1912.

Charles, R. H. and Morfill, W. R. The Book of the Secrets of Enoch,
 Oxford, 1896.

Charterius, Renatus ed. Galeni opera, Paris, 1679, 13 vols.

Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, see Denifle et Chatelain.

Chassang, A. Le merveilleux dans l’antiquité, 1882; I have not seen.

Choulant, Ludwig. Albertus Magnus in seiner Bedeutung für die
 Naturwissenschaften historisch und bibliographisch dargestellt, in
 Janus, I (1846) 152ff.
 Die Anfänge wissenschaftlicher Naturgeschichte und naturhistorischer
 Abbildung, Dresden, 1856.
 Handbuch der Bücherkunde für die ältere Medicin, 2nd edition, Leipzig,
 1841; like the foregoing, slighter than the title leads one to hope.
 ed. Macer Floridus de viribus herbarum una cum Walafridi Strabonis,
 Othonis Cremonensis et Ioannis Folcz carminibus similis argumenti,

Christ, W. Geschichte der Griechischen Litteratur; see W. Schmid.

Chwolson, D. Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, Petrograd, 1856, 2 vols.

Clément-Mullet, J. J. Essai sur la minéralogie arabe, Paris, 1868, in
 Journal asiatique, Tome XI, Sèrie VI.
 Traité des poisons de Maimonide, 1865.

Clerval, Hermann le Dalmate, Paris, 1891, eleven pp.
 Les écoles de Chartres au moyen âge, Chartres, 1895.

Cockayne, O. Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England,
 in RS XXXV, London, 1864-1866, 3 vols.
 Narratiunculae anglice conscriptae, 1861.

Congrès Périodique International des Sciences Médicales, 17th Session,
 London, Section XXIII, History of Medicine, 1913.

Cousin, V. See Abelard.

Coxe, H. O. Catalogi Codicum Manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae
 Pars Secunda Codices Latinos et Miscellaneos Laudianos complectens,
 Oxford, 1858-1885.
 Catalogi Codicum Manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae Pars Tertia
 Codices Graecos et Latinos Canonicianos complectens, Oxford, 1854.
 Catalogus Codicum Manuscriptorum qui in collegiis aulisque
 Oxoniensibus hodie adservantur, 1852, 2 vols.

Cumont, F. Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and Romans, 1912, 2
 vols. And see CCAG under Abbreviations.

Daremberg, Ch. V. Exposition des connaissances de Galien sur
 l’anatomie, la physiologie, et la pathologie du système nerveux,
 Paris, 1841.
 Histoire des sciences médicales, Paris, 1870, 2 vols.
 La médecine; histoire et doctrines, Paris, 1865.
 Notices et extraits des manuscrits médicaux, 1853.

Delambre, J. B. J. Histoire de l’astronomie du moyen âge, Paris, 1819.

Delisle, L. Inventaire des manuscrits latins conservés à la
 bibliothèque nationale sous les numéros 8823-18613 et faisant suite à
 la série dont la catalogue a été publié en 1744, Paris, 1863-1871.

Denifle, H. Quellen zur Gelehrtengeschichte des Predigerordens
 im 13 und 14 Jahrhundert, in Archiv f. Lit. u. Kirchengesch. d.
 Mittelalters, Berlin, II (1886) 165-248.

Denifle et Chatelain, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Paris,
 1889-1891, 2 vols.

Denis, F. Le monde enchanté, cosmographie et histoire naturelles
 fantastiques du moyen âge, Paris, 1843. A curious little volume with a
 bibliography of works now forgotten.

Doutté, E. Magie et religion dans l’Afrique du Nord, Alger, 1909.

Duhem, Pierre. Le Système du Monde: Histoire des Doctrines
 Cosmologiques de Platon à Copernic, 5 vols., Paris, 1913-1917.

Du Prel, C. Die Magie als Naturwissenschaft, 1899, 2 vols. Occult
 speculation, not historical treatment; the author seems to have no
 direct acquaintance with sources earlier than Agrippa in the sixteenth

Easter, D. B. A Study of the Magic Elements in the romans d’aventure
 and the romans bretons, Johns Hopkins, 1906.

Ennemoser, J. History of Magic, London, 1854.

Enoch, Book of. See Charles.

Epiphanius. Opera ed. G. Dindorf, Leipzig, 1859-1862, 5 vols.

Evans, H. R. The Old and New Magic, Chicago, 1906.

Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, 1711.
 Bibliotheca Latina Mediae et Infimae Aetatis, 1734-1746, 6 vols.
 Codex Pseudepigraphus Veteris Testamenti, 1713-1733.

Farnell, L. R. Greece and Babylon; a comparative sketch of
 Mesopotamian, Anatolian, and Hellenic Religions, Edinburgh, 1911.
 The Higher Aspects of Greek Religion, New York, 1912.

Ferckel, C. Die Gynäkologie des Thomas von Brabants, ausgewählte
 Kapitel aus Buch I de naturis rerum beendet um 1240, Munich, 1912, in
 G. Klein, Alte Meister d. Medizin u. Naturkunde.

Ferguson, John. Bibliotheca Chemica, a catalogue of alchemical,
 chemical and pharmaceutical books in the collection of the late James
 Young, Glasgow, 1906.

Fort, G. F. Medical Economy; a contribution to the history of European
 morals from the Roman Empire to 1400, New York, 1883.

Fossi, F. Catalogus codicum saeculo XV impressorum qui in publica
 Bibliotheca Magliabechiana Florentiae adservantur, 1793-1795.

Frazer, Sir J. G. Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, 3 vols., 1918.
 Golden Bough, edition of 1894, 2 vols.
 Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, 2 vols., 1911.
 Some Popular Superstitions of the Ancients, in Folk-Lore, 1890.
 Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, 2 vols., 1912.

Garinet. Histoire de la Magie en France.

Garrison, F. H. An Introduction to the History of Medicine, 2nd
 edition, Philadelphia, 1917.

Gaster, M. A Hebrew Version of the Secretum secretorum, published for
 the first time, in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1907,
 pp. 879-913; 1908, pp. 111-62, 1065-84.

Gerland, E. Geschichte der Physik von den ältesten Zeiten bis zum
 Ausgange des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts, in Königl. Akad. d. Wiss., XXIV
 (1913) Munich and Berlin.

Gerland und Traumüller, Geschichte der Physikalischen
 Experimentierkunst, Leipzig, 1899.

Giacosa, P. Magistri Salernitani nondum editi, Turin, 1901.

Gilbert of England, Compendium medicinae, Lyons, 1510.

Gloria, Andrea. Monumenti della Università di Padova, 1222-1318, in
 Memorie del Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, XXII
 Monumenti della Università di Padova, 1318-1405, 1888.

Gordon, Bernard. Lilium medicinae, Venice, 1496, etc.
 Practica (and other treatises), 1521.

Grabmann, Martin. Forschungen über die lateinischen
 Aristoteles-Uebersetzungen des XIII Jahrhunderts, Münster, 1916.
 Die Geschichte der Scholastischen Methode, Freiburg, 1909-1911, 2 vols.

Graesse, J. G. T. Bibliotheca magica, 1843; of little service to me.

Grenfell, B. P. The Present Position of Papyrology, in Bulletin of
 John Rylands Library, Manchester, VI (1921) 142-62.

Haeser, H. Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Medicin und der
 Volkskrankheiten, Dritte Bearbeitung, 1875-1882.

Halle, J. Zur Geschichte der Medizin von Hippokrates bis zum
 XVIII Jahrhundert, Munich, 1909, 199 pp.; too brief, but suggests
 interesting topics.

Halliwell, J. O. Rara Mathematica, 1839.

Hammer-Jensen. Das sogennannte IV Buch der Meteorologie des
 Aristoteles, in Hermes, L (1915) 113-36.
 Ptolemaios und Heron, Ibid., XLVIII (1913), 224ff.

Hansen, J. Zauberwahn, Inquisition, und Hexenprozess im Mittelalter,
 Munich and Leipzig, 1900.

Haskins, C. H. Adelard of Bath, in EHR XXVI (1911) 491-8; XXVIII
 (1913), 515-6.
 Leo Tuscus, in EHR XXXIII (1918), 492-6.
 The “De Arte Venandi cum Avibus” of the Emperor Frederick II, EHR
 XXXVI (1921) 334-55.
 The Reception of Arabic Science in England, EHR XXX (1915), 56-69.
 The Greek Element in the Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, in
 American Historical Review, XXV (1920) 603-15.
 The Translations of Hugo Sanctelliensis, in Romanic Review, II (1911)
 Nimrod the Astronomer, Ibid., V (1914) 203-12.
 A List of Text-books from the Close of the Twelfth Century, in Harvard
 Studies in Classical Philology, XX (1909) 75-94.

Haskins and Lockwood. The Sicilian Translators of the Twelfth Century
 and the First Latin Versions of Ptolemy’s Almagest, Ibid., XXI (1910),

Hauréau, B. Bernard Délicieux et l’inquisition albigeoise, Paris, 1887.
 Histoire de la philosophie scolastique, 1872-1880.
 Le Mathematicus de Bernard Silvestris, Paris, 1895.
 Les œuvres de Hugues de Saint Victor, essai critique, nouvelle
 édition, Paris, 1886.
 Mélanges poétiques d’Hildebert de Lavardin.
 Notices et extraits de quelques mss latins de la bibliothèque
 nationale, 1890-1893, 6 vols.
 Singularités historiques et littéraires, Paris, 1861.

Hearnshaw, F. J. C. Medieval Contributions to Modern Civilization, 1921.

Heilbronner, J. C. Historia Matheseos universae praecipuorum
 mathematicorum vitas dogmata scripta et manuscripta complexa, Leipzig,

Heim, R. De rebus magicis Marcelli medici, in Schedae philol. Hermanno
 Usener oblatae, 1891, pp. 119-37.
 Incantamenta magica graeca latina, in Jahrb. f. cl. Philol., 19 suppl.
 bd., Leipzig, 1893, pp. 463-576.

Heller, A. Geschichte der Physik von Aristoteles bis auf die neueste
 Zeit, Stuttgart, 1882-1884, 2 vols.

Hendrie, R. Theophili Libri III de diversis artibus, translated by,
 London, 1847.

Hengstenberg, E. W. Die Geschichte Bileams und seine Weissagungen,
 Berlin, 1842.

Henry, V. La magie dans l’Inde antique, 1904.

Henslow, G. Medical Works of the Fourteenth Century, London, 1899.

Hercher, ed. Aeliani opera, 1864.
 ed. Artemidori Oneirocritica, Leipzig, 1864.
 ed. Astrampsychi oculorum decades, Berlin, 1863.

Hertling, G. von, Albertus Magnus; Beiträge zu seiner Würdigung,
 revised edition with help of Baeumker and Endres, Münster, 1914.

Hubert, H. Magia, in Daremberg-Saglio.

Hubert et Mauss, Esquisse d’une Théorie Générale de la Magie, in Année
 Sociologique, 1902-1903, pp. 1-146.

Husik, I. A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy, 1916.

Ishak ibn Sulaiman, Opera, 1515.

James, M. R. A Descriptive Catalogue of the McClean Collection of MSS
 in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1912.
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1895.
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of Corpus Christi
 College, Cambridge, 1912, 2 vols.
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of Gonville and
 Caius College, 1907-1908, 2 vols.
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of Pembroke College,
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of Peterhouse, 1899.
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of St. John’s
 College, Cambridge, 1913.
 A Descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in the Library of Sidney Sussex
 College, Cambridge, 1895.
 The Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and Dover, 1903.
 The Western MSS in the Library of Emmanuel College, 1904.
 The Western MSS in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge,
 1900-1904, 4 vols.

Janus, Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Literatur der Medizin, 1846-.

Jenaer medizin-historische Beiträge, herausg. von T. M. Steineg, 1912-.

Joël, D. Der Aberglaube und die Stellung des Judenthums zu demselben,

John of Salisbury, Metalogicus, in Migne PL vol. 199.
 Polycraticus sive de nugis curialium et vestigiis philosophorum, Ibid.
 and also ed. C. C. I. Webb, Oxford, 1909.

Joret, Les plantes dans l’antiquité et au moyen âge, 2 vols., Paris,
 1897 and 1904.

Jourdain, A. Recherches critiques sur l’âge et l’origine des
 traductions latines d’Aristote, Paris, 1819; 2nd edition, 1843.

Jourdain, C. Dissertation sur l’état de la philosophie naturelle en
 occident et principalement en France pendant la première moitié du
 XIIe siècle, Paris, 1838.
 Excursions historiques et philosophiques à travers le moyen âge,
 Paris, 1888.

Karpinski, L. C. Hindu Science, in American Mathematical Monthly, XXVI
 (1919) pp. 298-300.
 Robert of Chester’s Latin translation of the Algebra of al-Khowarizmi,
 with introduction, critical notes, and an English version, New York,
 The “Quadripartitum numerorum” of John of Meurs, in Bibliotheca
 Mathematica, III Folge, XIII Bd. (1913) 99-114.

Kaufmann, A. Thomas von Chantimpré, Cologne, 1899.

King, C. W. The Gnostics and their Remains, ancient and medieval,
 London, 1887.

The Natural History, ancient and modern, of Precious Stones and Gems,
 London, 1855.

Kopp, H. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Chemie, Brunswick, 1869-1875.
 Ueber den Zustand der Naturwissenschaften im Mittelalter, 1869.

Kretschmer, C. Die physische Erdkunde im christlichen Mittelalter, 1889.

Krumbacher, K. Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur, 527-1453 A. D.,
2nd edition, Munich, 1897.

Kunz, G. F. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, Philadelphia, 1913.
 Magic of Jewels and Charms, Philadelphia, 1915.

Langlois, Ch. V. La connaissance de la nature et du monde au moyen âge
 d’après quelques écrits français à l’usage des laïcs, Paris, 1911.
 Maître Bernard, in Bibl. de l’École des Chartes, LIV (1893) 225-50,

Lauchert, F. Geschichte des Physiologus, Strassburg, 1889.

Lea, H. C. A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, New York,
 1883, 3 vols.

Le Brun. Histoire critique des pratiques superstitieuses, Amsterdam,

Lecky, W. E. H. History of European Morals from Augustus to
 Charlemagne, 1870, 2 vols.
 History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in
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Lehmann, A. Aberglaube und Zauberei von den ältesten Zeiten an bis in
 die Gegenwart; deutsche autorisierte Uebersetzung von I. Petersen,
 Stuttgart, 1908. The historical treatment is scanty.

Leminne, J. Les quatre éléments, in Mémoires couronnés par l’Académie
 Royale de Belgique, vol. 65, Brussels, 1903.

Lévy, L. G. Maimonide, 1911.

Liechty, R. de. Albert le Grand et saint Thomas d’Aquin, ou la science
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Lippmann, E. O. von. Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie, 1919.

Little, A. G. Initia operum Latinorum quae saeculis XIII, XIV, XV,
 attribuuntur, Manchester, 1904.
 ed. Roger Bacon Essays, contributed by various writers on the occasion
 of the commemoration of the seventh centenary of his birth, Oxford,
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 printed for the first time, Aberdeen, 1912, in British Society of
 Franciscan Studies, IV.

Loisy. Magie, science et religion, in À propos d’histoire des
 religions, 1911, p. 166ff.

Macdonald, D. B. The Religious Attitude and Life in Islam, Chicago,

Macray, Catalogus codicum MSS Bibliothecae Bodleianae,
 V, Codices Rawlinsonianae, 1862-1900, 5 fascs.; IX, Codices
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Mai, A. Classici Auctores, 1835.

Mâle, E. Religious Art in France in the Thirteenth Century, translated
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Mandonnet, P. Des écrits authentiques de S. Thomas d’Aquin, Fribourg,
 Roger Bacon et la composition des trois Opus, in Revue
 Néo-Scolastique, Louvain, 1913, pp. 52-68, 164-80.
 Roger Bacon et la Speculum astronomiae, Ibid., XVII (1910) 313-35.
 Siger de Brabant et l’averroïsme latin au XIIIme siècle, Fribourg,
 1899; 2nd edition, Louvain, 1908-1910, 2 vols.

Manget, J. J. Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa, Geneva, 1702, 2 vols.

Manitius, Max. Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters,
 Erster Teil, Von Justinian bis zur Mitte des zehnten Jahrhunderts,
 Munich, 1911, in Müller’s Handbuch d. kl. Alt. Wiss. IX, 2, i.

Mann, M. F. Der Bestiaire Divin des Guillaume le Clerc, 1888.
 Der Physiologus des Philipp von Thaon und seine Quellen, 1884.

Mappae clavicula, ed. M. A. Way in Archaeologia, London, XXXII (1847)

Maury, Alfred. La magie et l’astrologie dans l’antiquité et au moyen
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Mead, G. R. S. Apollonius of Tyana; a critical study of the only
 existing record of his life, 1901.
 Echoes from the Gnosis, 1906, eleven vols.
 Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, 1900.
 Pistis-Sophia, now for the first time Englished, 1896.
 Plotinus, Select Works of, with preface and bibliography, 1909.
 Simon Magus, 1892.
 Thrice Great Hermes, London, 1906, 3 vols.

Medicae artis principes post Hippocratem et Galenum Graeci Latinitate
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Medici antiqui omnes qui latinis litteris ... Aldus, Venice, 1547.

Mély, F. de et Ruelle, C. E. Les lapidaires de l’antiquité et du moyen
 âge, Paris, 1896. Mély has published many other works on gems and
 lapidaries of the past.

Merrifield, Mrs. M. P. Ancient Practice of Painting, or Original
 Treatises dating from the XIIth to XVIIIth centuries on the arts of
 painting, London, 1849.

Meyer, E. Albertus Magnus, ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Botanik im
 XIII Jahrhundert, in Linnaea, X (1836) 641-741, XI (1837) 545.

Meyer, Karl. Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters und der nächstfolgenden
 Jahrhunderte, Basel, 1856.

Migne, Dictionnaire des Apocryphes, Paris, 1856.
 See also under Abbreviations.

Millot-Carpentier, La Médecine au XIIIe siècle, in Annales
 Internationales d’Histoire, Congrès de Paris, 1900, 5e Section,
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 which the author’s death unfortunately kept him from completing.

Milward, E. A Letter to the Honourable Sir Hans Sloane, Bart., in
 vindication of the character of those Greek writers in physick that
 flourished after Galen ... particularly that of Alexander Trallian,
 1733; reprinted as Trallianus Reviviscens, 1734.

Mommsen, Th. ed. C. Iulii Solini Collectanea rerum memorabilium, 1895.

Moore, Sir Norman, History of the Study of Medicine in the British
 Isles, 1908.
 The History of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, 1918, 2 vols.
 The Physician in English History, 1913. A popular lecture.

Muratori, L. A. Antiquitates Italicae medii aevi, Milan,
 1738-1742, 6 vols. Edition of 1778 in more vols. Index, Turin, 1885.
 See also under Abbreviations.

Naudé, Gabriel. Apologie pour tous les grands personnages qui ont esté
 faussement soupçonnez de Magie, Paris, 1625.

Neckam, Alexander. De naturis rerum, ed. T. Wright, in RS vol. 34, 1863.

Omont, H. Nouvelles acquisitions du départment des manuscrits pendant
 les années 1891-1910, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Orr, M. A. (Mrs. John Evershed) Dante and the Early Astronomers,
 London, 1913.

Paetow, L. J. Guide to the Study of Medieval History, University of
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Pagel, J. L. Die Concordanciae des Joannes de Sancto Amando, 1894.
 Geschichte der Medizin im Mittelalter, in Puschmann’s Handbuch der
 Geschichte der Medizin, ed. Neuburger u. Pagel, I (1902) 622-752.
 Neue litterarische Beiträge zur mittelalterlichen Medicin, Berlin,

Pangerl, A. Studien über Albert den Grossen, in Zeitschrift für
 katholische Theologie, XXII (1912) 304-46, 512-49, 784-800.

Pannier, L. Les lapidaires français du moyen âge, Paris, 1882.

Payne, J. F. English Medicine in Anglo-Saxon Times, 1904.
 The Relation of Harvey to his Predecessors and especially to Galen:
 Harveian oration of 1896, in The Lancet, Oct. 24, 1896, 1136ff.

Perna. Artis quam chemiam vocant antiquissimi auctores, Basel, 1572.

Perrier, T. La médecine astrologique, Lyons, 1905, 88 pp. Slight.

Petrus de Prussia. Vita B. Alberti Magni, 1621.

Petrus Hispanus. Summa experimentorum sive thesaurus pauperum,
 Antwerp, 1497.

Philips, H. Medicine and Astrology, 1867.

Picavet, F. Esquisse d’une histoire comparée des philosophies
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Pico della Mirandola. Opera omnia, 1519.

Pistis-Sophia, ed. Schwartze und Petermann, Coptic and Latin, 1851.
 Now for the first time Englished, by G. R. S. Mead, 1896.

Pitra, J. B. Analecta novissima, 1885-1888.
 Analecta sacra, 1876-1882.
 Spicilegium solesmense, 1852-1858.

Poisson, Théories et symboles des Alchimistes, Paris, 1891.

Poole, R. L. Illustrations of the History of Medieval Thought in the
 Departments of Theology and Ecclesiastical Politics, 1884; revised
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 The Masters of the Schools at Paris and Chartres in John of
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Pouchet, F. A. Histoire des sciences naturelles au moyen âge, ou Albert
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Ptolemy. Quadripartitum, 1484, and other editions.
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Puccinotti, F. Storia della Medicina, 1850-1870, 3 vols.

Puschmann, Th. Alexander von Tralles, Originaltext und Uebersetzung
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 Handbuch der Geschichte der Medizin, Jena, 1902-1905, 3 vols. Really
 a cooperative work under the editorship of Max Neuburger and Julius
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 A History of Medical Education from the most remote to the most recent
 times, London, 1891, English translation.

Quetif, J. et Echard J. Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum, Paris, 1719.

Rambosson, A. Histoire et légendes des plantes, Paris, 1887.

Rashdall, H. ed. Fratris Rogeri Bacon Compendium Studii Theologiae,
 The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, Oxford, 1895, 3 vols.
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Rasis (Muhammad ibn Zakariya) Opera, Milan, 1481, and Bergamo, 1497.

Regnault, J. La sorcellerie: ses rapports avec les sciences
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Reitzenstein, R. Poimandres, Leipzig, 1904.

Renzi, S. de. Collectio Salernitana, 1852-1859, 5 vols.

Rose, Valentin. Anecdota graeca et graeco-latina, Berlin, 1864.
 Aristoteles De lapidibus und Arnoldus Saxo, in Zeitschrift für
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 Ptolemaeus und die Schule von Toledo, in Hermes, VIII (1874) 327-49.
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 Ueber die Medicina Plinii, in Hermes, VIII (1874) 19-66.
 Verzeichnis der lateinischen Handschriften der K. Bibliothek zu
 Berlin, Band XII (1893), XIII (1902-1903-1905).

Ruska, J. Das Steinbuch des Aristoteles ... nach der arabischen
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 Der diamant in der Medizin, in Deutsche Gesell. f. Gesch. d. Mediz. u.
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 Zur älteren arabischen Algebra und Rechenkunst, Heidelberg, 1917.

Rydberg, V. The Magic of the Middle Ages, 1879, translated from the
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Salverte, E. Des sciences occultes, ou essai sur la magie, Paris, 1843.

Sánchez Pérez, J. A. Biografías de Matemáticos Árabes que florecieron
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Schanz, M. Geschichte der Römischen Litteratur, Dritter Teil, Munich,
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 d. klass. Alt. Wiss., VIII, 3.

Schepss, G. ed. Priscilliani quae supersunt, 1889.

Schindler. Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters, Breslau, 1858.

Schmid, W. Die Nachklassiche Periode der Griechischen Litteratur,
 1913, in Müller’s Handb. d. kl. Alt. Wiss., VII, ii, 2.

Schum, W. Beschriebendes Verzeichnis der Amplonianischen
 Handschriften-Sammlung zu Erfurt, Berlin, 1887.

Sighart, J. Albertus Magnus: sein Leben und seine Wissenschaft,
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Singer, Charles. Early English Magic and Medicine, 1920, 34 pp.

“Science,” pp. 106-48 in “Medieval Contributions to Modern
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Studies in the History and Method of Science, Oxford, 1917; a second
 volume appeared in May, 1921.

Stapper, Richard. Papst Johannes XXI, Münster, 1898, in Kirchengesch.
 Studien herausg. v. Dr. Knöpfler, IV, 4.

Steele, R. Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri Baconi, 1905-1920.

Steinschneider, Moritz. Abraham ibn Ezra, in Abhandl., (1880) 57-128.
 Apollonius von Thyana (oder Balinas) bei den Arabern, in Zeitschrift
 d. deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, XLV (1891) 439-46.
 Arabische Lapidarien, Ibid., XLIX (1895).
 Constantinus Africanus und seine arabischen Quellen, in Virchow’s
 Archiv für pathologische Anatomie, etc., Berlin, XXXVII (1866) 351-410.
 Der Aberglaube, Hamburg, 1900, 34 pp.
 Die europäischen Uebersetzungen aus dem Arabischen bis Mitte des 17
 Jahrhunderts, in Sitzungsberichte d. kaiserl. Akad. d. Wiss., Philos.
 Hist. Klasse, Vienna, CXLIX, 4 (1905); CLI, 1 (1906).
 Lapidarien, ein culturgeschichtlicher Versuch, in Semitic Studies in
 memory of Rev. Dr. Alexander Kohut, Berlin, 1897, pp. 42-72.
 Maschallah, in Zeitsch. d. deut. morgenl. Gesell., LIII (1899), 434-40.
 Zum Speculum astronomicum des Albertus Magnus über die darin
 angeführten Schriftsteller und Schriften, in Zeitschrift für
 Mathematik und Physik, Leipzig, XVI (1871) 357-96.
 Zur alchimistischen Literatur der Araber, in Zeitsch. d. deut.
 morgenl. Gesell., LVIII (1904) 299-315.
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 Wissenschaften des Mittelalters; aus hebräischen und arabischen
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Stephanus, H. Medicae artis principes post Hippocratem et Galenum
 Graeci Latinitate donati, et Latini, 1567.

Strunz, Franz. Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften im Mittelalter,
 Stuttgart, 1910, 120 pp. Without index or references.

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 Puschmann-Stiftung an der Universität Leipzig, 1907-.

Sudhoff, Karl. His various articles in the foregoing publication
 and other periodicals of which he is an editor lie in large measure
 just outside our period and field, but some will be noted later in
 particular chapters.

Suter, H. Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber, in Abhandl., X
 (1900) 1-277; XIV (1902) 257-85.
 Die astronomischen Tafeln des Muhammed ibn Musa-al-Khwarizmi,
 Copenhagen, 1914.

Tanner, T. Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica, London, 1748. Still much
 cited but largely antiquated and unreliable.

Tavenner, E. Studies in Magic from Latin Literature, New York, 1916.

Taylor, H. O. The Classical Heritage, 1901.
 The Medieval Mind, 2nd edition, 1914, 2 vols; 3rd edition, 1919.

Theatrum chemicum. See Zetzner.

Theatrum chemicum Britannicum. See Ashmole.

Theophilus Presbyter, Schedula diversarum artium, ed. A. Ilg, Vienna,
 1874; English translation by R. Hendrie, London, 1847.

Thomas of Cantimpré, Bonum universale de apibus, 1516.

Thompson, D’Arcy W. Aristotle as a Biologist, 1913.
 Glossary of Greek Birds, Oxford, 1895.
 Historia animalium, Oxford, 1910; vol. IV in the English translation
 of The Works of Aristotle edited by J. A. Smith and W. D. Ross.

Thorndike, Lynn. Adelard of Bath and the Continuity of Universal
 Nature, in Nature, XCIV (1915) 616-7.
 A Roman Astrologer as a Historical Source: Julius Firmicus Maternus,
 in Classical Philology, VIII (1913) 415-35.
 Natural Science in the Middle Ages, in Popular Science Monthly (now
 The Scientific Monthly), LXXXVII (1915) 271-91.
 Roger Bacon and Gunpowder, in Science, XLII (1915), 799-800.
 Roger Bacon and Experimental Method in the Middle Ages, in The
 Philosophical Review, XXIII (1914), 271-98.
 Some Medieval Conceptions of Magic, in The Monist, XXV (1915), 107-39.
 The Attitude of Origen and Augustine toward Magic, in The Monist, XIX
 (1908), 46-66.
 The Place of Magic in the Intellectual History of Europe, Columbia
 University Press, 1905.
 The True Roger Bacon, in American Historical Review, XXI (1916),
 237-57, 468-80.

Tiraboschi. Storia della Letteratura Italiana, Modena, 1772-1795.

Tischendorf, C. Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, Leipzig, 1851.
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Unger, F. Die Pflanze als Zaubermittel, Vienna, 1859.

Vacant, A. et Mangenot, E. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Paris,

Valentinelli, J. Bibliotheca manuscripta ad S. Marci Venetiarum,
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Valois, Noël. Guillaume d’Auvergne, évêque de Paris, 1228-1249. Sa vie
 et ses ouvrages, Paris, 1880.

Vincent of Beauvais. Speculum doctrinale, 1472 (?).
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Vossius, G. J. De Universae Matheseos natura et constitutione liber,
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Walsh, J. J. Medieval Medicine, 1920, 221 pp.
 Old Time Makers of Medicine; the story of the students and teachers
 of the sciences related to medicine during the middle ages, New York,
 1911. Popular.
 The Popes and Science, 1908.

Webb, C. C. I. See John of Salisbury.

Webster, Hutton. Rest Days, 1916.

Wedel, T. C. The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology particularly in
 England, Yale University Press, 1920.

Wellmann, Max. ed. Dioscorides de materia medica, 1907, 1906.
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White, A. D. A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in
 Christendom, New York, 1896, 2 vols.

Wickersheimer, Ernest. Figures médico-astrologiques des neuvième,
 dixième et onzième siècles, in Transactions of the Seventeenth
 International Congress of Medicine,
 Section XXIII, History of Medicine, London, 1913, p. 313 ff.

William of Auvergne. Opera omnia, Venice, 1591.

Withington, E. T. Medical History from the Earliest Times, London,

Wright, Thomas. Popular Treatises on Science written during the middle
 ages in Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, and English, London, 1841.
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Wulf, M. de. History of Medieval Philosophy, 1909, English translation.

Wüstenfeld, F. Geschichte der Arabischen Aerzte und Naturforscher,
 Göttingen, 1840.

Yule, Sir Henry. The Book of Ser Marco Polo, third edition revised by
 Henri Cordier, 2 vols., London, 1903.

Zarncke, F. Der Priester Johannes, in Abhandl. d. philol.-hist. Classe,
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Zetzner, L. Theatrum chemicum, 1613-1622, 6 vols.


                              _VOLUME I_


                               CHAPTER I


 Aim of this book—Period covered—How to study the history of
 thought—Definition of magic—Magic of primitive man; does civilization
 originate in magic?—Divination in early China—Magic in ancient
 Egypt—Magic and Egyptian religion—Mortuary magic—Magic in daily
 life—Power of words, images, amulets—Magic in Egyptian medicine—Demons
 and disease—Magic and science—Magic and industry—Alchemy—Divination
 and astrology—The sources for Assyrian and Babylonian magic—Was
 astrology Sumerian or Chaldean?—The number seven in early
 Babylonia—Incantation texts older than astrological—Other divination
 than astrology—Incantations against sorcery and demons—A specimen
 incantation—Materials and devices of magic—Greek culture not free from
 magic—Magic in myth, literature, and history—Simultaneous increase
 of learning and occult science—Magic origin urged for Greek religion
 and drama—Magic in Greek philosophy—Plato’s attitude toward magic and
 astrology—Aristotle on stars and spirits—Folk-lore in the _History
 of Animals_—Differing modes of transmission of ancient oriental and
 Greek literature—More magical character of directly transmitted
 Greek remains—Progress of science among the Greeks—Archimedes and
 Aristotle—Exaggerated view of the scientific achievement of the
 Hellenistic age—Appendix I. Some works on Magic, Religion, and
 Astronomy in Babylonia and Assyria.

 “_Magic has existed among all peoples and at every

[Sidenote: Aim of this book.]

This book aims to treat the history of magic and experimental science
and their relations to Christian thought during the first thirteen
centuries of our era, with especial emphasis upon the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries. No adequate survey of the history of either
magic or experimental science exists for this period, and considerable
use of manuscript material has been necessary for the medieval period.
Magic is here understood in the broadest sense of the word, as
including all occult arts and sciences, superstitions, and folk-lore.
I shall endeavor to justify this use of the word from the sources as
I proceed. My idea is that magic and experimental science have been
connected in their development; that magicians were perhaps the first
to experiment; and that the history of both magic and experimental
science can be better understood by studying them together. I also
desire to make clearer than it has been to most scholars the Latin
learning of the medieval period, whose leading personalities even
are generally inaccurately known, and on perhaps no one point is
illumination more needed than on that covered by our investigation.
The subject of laws against magic, popular practice of magic, the
witchcraft delusion and persecution lie outside of the scope of this

[Sidenote: Period covered.]

At first my plan was to limit this investigation to the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, the time of greatest medieval productivity, but I
became convinced that this period could be best understood by viewing
it in the setting of the Greek, Latin, and early Christian writers to
whom it owed so much. If the student of the Byzantine Empire needs
to know old Rome, the student of the medieval church to comprehend
early Christianity, the student of Romance languages to understand
Latin, still more must the reader of Constantinus Africanus, Vincent
of Beauvais, Guido Bonatti, and Thomas Aquinas be familiar with the
Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy, the Origen and Augustine, the Alkindi and
Albumasar from whom they drew. It would indeed be difficult to draw a
line anywhere between them. The ancient authors are generally extant
only in their medieval form; in some cases there is reason to suspect
that they have undergone alteration or addition; sometimes new works
were fathered upon them. In any case they have been preserved to us
because the middle ages studied and cherished them, and to a great
extent made them their own. I begin with the first century of our
era, because Christian thought begins then, and then appeared Pliny’s
_Natural History_ which seems to me the best starting point of a
survey of ancient science and magic.[5] I close with the thirteenth
century, or, more strictly speaking, in the course of the fourteenth,
because by then the medieval revival of learning had spent its force.
Attention is centred on magic and experimental science in western Latin
literature and learning, Greek and Arabic works being considered as
they contributed thereto, and vernacular literature being omitted as
either derived from Latin works or unlearned and unscientific.

[Sidenote: How to study the history of thought.]

Very probably I have tried to cover too much ground and have made
serious omissions. It is probably true that for the history of thought
as for the history of art the evidence and source material is more
abundant than for political or economic history. But fortunately it is
more reliable, since the pursuit of truth or beauty does not encourage
deception and prejudice as does the pursuit of wealth or power. Also
the history of thought is more unified and consistent, steadier and
more regular, than the fluctuations and diversities of political
history; and for this reason its general outlines can be discerned
with reasonable sureness by the examination of even a limited number
of examples, provided they are properly selected from a period of
sufficient duration. Moreover, it seems to me that in the present stage
of research into and knowledge of our subject sounder conclusions and
even more novel ones can be drawn by a wide comparative survey than by
a minutely intensive and exhaustive study of one man or of a few years.
The danger is of writing from too narrow a viewpoint, magnifying unduly
the importance of some one man or theory, and failing to evaluate the
facts in their full historical setting. No medieval writer whether on
science or magic can be understood by himself, but must be measured in
respect to his surroundings and antecedents.

[Sidenote: Definition of magic.]

Some may think it strange that I associate magic so closely with the
history of thought, but the word comes from the _Magi_ or wise men of
Persia or Babylon, to whose lore and practices the name was applied
by the Greeks and Romans, or possibly we may trace its etymology a
little farther back to the Sumerian or Turanian word _imga_ or _unga_,
meaning deep or profound. The exact meaning of the word, “magic,” was
a matter of much uncertainty even in classical and medieval times,
as we shall see. There can be no doubt, however, that it was then
applied not merely to an operative art, but also to a mass of ideas or
doctrine, and that it represented a way of looking at the world. This
side of magic has sometimes been lost sight of in hasty or assumed
modern definitions which seem to regard magic as merely a collection
of rites and feats. In the case of primitive men and savages it is
possible that little thought accompanies their actions. But until these
acts are based upon or related to some imaginative, purposive, and
rational thinking, the doings of early man cannot be distinguished as
either religious or scientific or magical. Beavers build dams, birds
build nests, ants excavate, but they have no magic just as they have
no science or religion. Magic implies a mental state and so may be
viewed from the standpoint of the history of thought. In process of
time, as the learned and educated lost faith in magic, it was degraded
to the low practices and beliefs of the ignorant and vulgar. It was
this use of the term that was taken up by anthropologists and by them
applied to analogous doings and notions of primitive men and savages.
But we may go too far in regarding magic as a purely social product
of tribal society: magicians may be, in Sir James Frazer’s words,[6]
“the only professional class” among the lowest savages, but note that
they rank as a learned profession from the start. It will be chiefly
through the writings of learned men that something of their later
history and of the growth of interest in experimental science will be
traced in this work. Let me add that in this investigation all arts of
divination, including astrology, will be reckoned as magic; I have been
quite unable to separate the two either in fact or logic, as I shall
illustrate repeatedly by particular cases.[7]

[Sidenote: Magic of primitive man: does civilization originate in

Magic is very old, and it will perhaps be well in this introductory
chapter to present it to the reader, if not in its infancy—for its
origins are much disputed and perhaps antecede all record and escape
all observation—at least some centuries before its Roman and medieval
days. Sir J. G. Frazer, in a passage of _The Golden Bough_ to which
we have already referred, remarks that “sorcerers are found in every
savage tribe known to us; and among the lowest savages ... they are
the only professional class that exists.”[8] Lenormant affirmed in his
_Chaldean Magic and Sorcery_[9] that “all magic rests upon a system
of religious belief,” but recent sociologists and anthropologists
have inclined to regard magic as older than a belief in gods. At any
rate some of the most primitive features of historical religions seem
to have originated from magic. Moreover, religious cults, rites, and
priesthoods are not the only things that have been declared inferior
in antiquity to magic and largely indebted to it for their origins.
Combarieu in his _Music and Magic_[10] asserts that the incantation
is universally employed in all the circumstances of primitive life
and that from it, by the medium it is true of religious poetry, all
modern music has developed. The magic incantation is, in short,
“the oldest fact in the history of civilization.” Although the
magician chants without thought of æsthetic form or an artistically
appreciative audience, yet his spell contains in embryo all that later
constitutes the art of music.[11] M. Paul Huvelin, after asserting with
similar confidence that poetry,[12] the plastic arts,[13] medicine,
mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry “have easily discernable magic
sources,” states that he will demonstrate that the same is true of
law.[14] Very recently, however, there has been something of a reaction
against this tendency to regard the life of primitive man as made up
entirely of magic and to trace back every phase of civilization to a
magical origin. But R. R. Marett still sees a higher standard of value
in primitive man’s magic than in his warfare and brutal exploitation of
his fellows and believes that the “higher plane of experience for which
_mana_ stands is one in which spiritual enlargement is appreciated for
its own sake.”[15]

[Sidenote: Divination in early China.]

Of the five classics included in the Confucian Canon, _The Book of
Changes_ (_I Ching_ or _Yi-King_), regarded by some as the oldest work
in Chinese literature and dated back as early as 3000 B.C., in its
rudimentary form appears to have been a method of divination by means
of eight possible combinations in triplets of a line and a broken line.
Thus, if _a_ be a line and _b_ a broken line, we may have _aaa_, _bbb_,
_aab_, _bba_, _abb_, _baa_, _aba_, and _bab_. Possibly there is a
connection with the use of knotted cords which, Chinese writers state,
preceded written characters, like the method used in ancient Peru. More
certain would seem the resemblance to the medieval method of divination
known as geomancy, which we shall encounter later in our Latin authors.
Magic and astrology might, of course, be traced all through Chinese
history and literature. But, contenting ourselves with this single
example of the antiquity of such arts in the civilization of the far
east, let us turn to other ancient cultures which had a closer and more
unmistakable influence upon the western world.

[Sidenote: Magic in ancient Egypt.]

Of the ancient Egyptians Budge writes, “The belief in magic influenced
their minds ... from the earliest to the latest period of their history
... in a manner which, at this stage in the history of the world, is
very difficult to understand.”[16] To the ordinary historical student
the evidence for this assertion does not seem quite so overwhelming
as the Egyptologists would have us think. It looks thinner when we
begin to spread it out over a stretch of four thousand years, and it
scarcely seems scientific to adduce details from medieval Arabic tales
or from the late Greek fiction of the Pseudo-Callisthenes or from
papyri of the Christian era concerning the magic of early Egypt. And it
may be questioned whether two stories preserved in the Westcar papyrus,
written many centuries afterwards, are alone “sufficient to prove that
already in the Fourth Dynasty the working of magic was a recognized art
among the Egyptians.”[17]

[Sidenote: Magic and Egyptian religion.]

At any rate we are told that the belief in magic not only was
predynastic and prehistoric, but was “older in Egypt than the belief
in God.”[18] In the later religion of the Egyptians, along with more
lofty and intellectual conceptions, magic was still a principal
ingredient.[19] Their mythology was affected by it[20] and they not
only combated demons with magical formulae but believed that they could
terrify and coerce the very gods by the same method, compelling them to
appear, to violate the course of nature by miracles, or to admit the
human soul to an equality with themselves.[21]

[Sidenote: Mortuary magic.]

Magic was as essential in the future life as here on earth among the
living. Many, if not most, of the observances and objects connected
with embalming and burial had a magic purpose or mode of operation; for
instance, the “magic eyes placed over the opening in the side of the
body through which the embalmer removed the intestines,”[22] or the
mannikins and models of houses buried with the dead. In the process of
embalming the wrapping of each bandage was accompanied by the utterance
of magic words.[23] In “the oldest chapter of human thought extant”—the
Pyramid Texts written in hieroglyphic at the tombs at Sakkara of
Pharaohs of the fifth and sixth dynasties (c. 2625-2475 B.C.), magic
is so manifest that some have averred “that the whole body of Pyramid
Texts is simply a collection of magical charms.”[24] The scenes and
objects painted on the walls of the tombs, such as those of nobles in
the fifth and sixth dynasties, were employed with magic intent and were
meant to be realized in the future life; and with the twelfth dynasty
the Egyptians began to paint on the insides of the coffins the objects
that were formerly actually placed within.[25] Under the Empire the
famous _Book of the Dead_ is a collection of magic pictures, charms,
and incantations for the use of the deceased in the hereafter,[26] and
while it is not of the early period, we hear that “a book with words of
magic power” was buried with a pharaoh of the Old Kingdom. Budge has
“no doubt that the object of every religious text ever written on tomb,
stele, amulet, coffin, papyrus, etc., was to bring the gods under the
power of the deceased, so that he might be able to compel them to do
his will.”[27] Breasted, on the other hand, thinks that the amount and
complexity of this mortuary magic increased greatly in the later period
under popular and priestly influence.[28]

[Sidenote: Magic in daily life.]

Breasted nevertheless believes that magic had played a great part in
daily life throughout the whole course of Egyptian history. He writes,
“It is difficult for the modern mind to understand how completely the
belief in magic penetrated the whole substance of life, dominating
popular custom and constantly appearing in the simplest acts of the
daily household routine, as much a matter of course as sleep or the
preparation of food. It constituted the very atmosphere in which the
men of the early oriental world lived. Without the saving and salutary
influence of such magical agencies constantly invoked, the life of an
ancient household in the East was unthinkable.”[29]

[Sidenote: Power of words, images, amulets.]

Most of the main features and varieties of magic known to us at
other times and places appear somewhere in the course of Egypt’s
long history. For one thing we find the ascription of magic power to
words and names. The power of words, says Budge, was thought to be
practically unlimited, and “the Egyptians invoked their aid in the
smallest as well as in the greatest events of their life.”[30] Words
might be spoken, in which case they “must be uttered in a proper
tone of voice by a duly qualified man,” or they might be written,
in which case the material upon which they were written might be of
importance.[31] In speaking of mortuary magic we have already noted the
employment of pictures, models, mannikins, and other images, figures,
and objects. Wax figures were also used in sorcery,[32] and amulets
are found from the first, although their particular forms seem to have
altered with different periods.[33] Scarabs are of course the most
familiar example.

[Sidenote: Magic in Egyptian medicine.]

Egyptian medicine was full of magic and ritual and its therapeusis
consisted mainly of “collections of incantations and weird random
mixtures of roots and refuse.”[34] Already we find the recipe and
the occult virtue conceptions, the elaborate polypharmacy and the
accompanying hocus-pocus which we shall meet in Pliny and the middle
ages. The Egyptian doctors used herbs from other countries and
preferred compound medicines containing a dozen ingredients to simple
medicines.[35] Already we find such magic logic as that the hair of
a black calf will keep one from growing gray.[36] Already the parts
of animals are a favorite ingredient in medical compounds, especially
those connected with the organs of generation, on which account they
were presumably looked upon as life-giving, or those which were
recommended mainly by their nastiness and were probably thought to
expel the demons of disease by their disagreeable properties.

[Sidenote: Demons and disease.]

In ancient Egypt, however, disease seems not to have been identified
with possession by demons to the extent that it was in ancient Assyria
and Babylonia. While Breasted asserts that “disease was due to hostile
spirits and against these only magic could avail,”[37] Budge contents
himself with the more cautious statement that there is “good reason
for thinking that some diseases were attributed to ... evil spirits
... entering ... human bodies ... but the texts do not afford much
information”[38] on this point. Certainly the beliefs in evil spirits
and in magic do not always have to go together, and magic might be
employed against disease whether or not it was ascribed to a demon.

[Sidenote: Magic and science.]

In the case of medicine as in that of religion Breasted takes the view
that the amount of magic became greater in the Middle and New Kingdoms
than in the Old Kingdom. This is true so far as the amount of space
occupied by it in extant records is concerned. But it would be rash to
assume that this marks a decline from a more rational and scientific
attitude in the Old Kingdom. Yet Breasted rather gives this impression
when he writes concerning the Old Kingdom that many of its recipes
were useful and rational, that “medicine was already in the possession
of much empirical wisdom, displaying close and accurate observation,”
and that what “precluded any progress toward real science was the
belief in magic, which later began to dominate all the practice of the
physician.”[39] Berthelot probably places the emphasis more correctly
when he states that the later medical papyri “include traditional
recipes, founded on an empiricism which is not always correct, mystic
remedies, based upon the most bizarre analogies, and magic practices
that date back to the remotest antiquity.”[40] The recent efforts of
Sethe and Wilcken, of Elliot Smith, Müller, and Hooten to show that the
ancient Egyptians possessed a considerable amount of medical knowledge
and of surgical and dental skill, have been held by Todd to rest on
slight and dubious evidence. Indeed, some of this evidence seems rather
to suggest the ritualistic practices still employed by uncivilized
African tribes. Certainly the evidence for any real scientific
development in ancient Egypt has been very meager compared with the
abundant indications of the prevalence of magic.[41]

[Sidenote: Magic and industry.]

Early Egypt was the home of many arts and industries, but not in so
advanced a stage as has sometimes been suggested. Blown glass, for
example, was unknown until late Greek and Roman times, and the supposed
glass-blowers depicted on the early monuments are really smiths engaged
in stirring their fires by blowing through reeds tipped with clay.[42]
On the other hand, Professor Breasted informs me that there is no basis
for Berthelot’s statement that “every sort of chemical process as well
as medical treatment was executed with an accompaniment of religious
formulae, of prayers and incantations, regarded as essential to the
success of operations as well as the cure of maladies.”[43]

[Sidenote: Alchemy.]

Alchemy perhaps originated on the one hand from the practices of
Egyptian goldsmiths and workers in metals, who experimented with
alloys,[44] and on the other hand from the theories of the Greek
philosophers concerning world-grounds, first matter, and the
elements.[45] The words, alchemy and chemistry, are derived ultimately
from the name of Egypt itself, Kamt or Qemt, meaning literally black,
and applied to the Nile mud. The word was also applied to the black
powder produced by quicksilver in Egyptian metallurgical processes.
This powder, Budge says, was supposed to be the ground of all metals
and to possess marvelous virtue, “and was mystically identified with
the body which Osiris possessed in the underworld, and both were
thought to be sources of life and power.”[46] The analogy to the
sacrament of the mass and the marvelous powers ascribed to the host
by medieval preachers like Stephen of Bourbon scarcely needs remark.
The later writers on alchemy in Greek appear to have borrowed signs
and phraseology from the Egyptian priests, and are fond of speaking
of their art as the monopoly of Egyptian kings and priests who carved
its secrets on ancient steles and obelisks. In a treatise dating from
the twelfth dynasty a scribe recommends to his son a work entitled
_Chemi_, but there is no proof that it was concerned with chemistry
or alchemy.[47] The papyri containing treatises of alchemy are of the
third century of the Christian era.

[Sidenote: Divination and astrology.]

Evidences of divination in general and of astrology in particular do
not appear as early in Egyptian records as examples of other varieties
of magic. Yet the early date at which Egypt had a calendar suggests
astronomical interest, and even those who deny that seven planets were
distinguished in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley until the last millennium
before Christ, admit that they were known in Egypt as far back as
the Old Kingdom, although they deny the existence of a science of
astronomy or an art of astrology then.[48] A dream of Thotmes IV is
preserved from 1450 B.C. or thereabouts, and the incantations employed
by magicians in order to procure divining dreams for their customers
attest the close connection of divination and magic.[49] Belief in
lucky and unlucky days is shown in a papyrus calendar of about 1300
B.C.,[50] and we shall see later that “Egyptian Days” continued to be
a favorite superstition of the middle ages. Tables of the risings of
stars which may have an astrological significance have been found in
graves, and there were gods for every month, every day of the month,
and every hour of the day.[51] Such numbers as seven and twelve are
frequently emphasized in the tombs and elsewhere, and if the vaulted
ceiling in the tenth chamber of the tomb of Sethos is really of his
time, we seem to find the signs of the zodiac under the nineteenth
dynasty. If Boll is correct in suggesting that the zodiac originated in
the transfer of animal gods to the sky,[52] no fitter place than Egypt
could be found for the transfer. But there have not yet been discovered
in Egypt lists of omens and appearances of constellations on days of
disaster such as are found in the literature of the Tigris-Euphrates
valley and in the Roman historians. Budge speaks of the seven Hathor
goddesses who predict the death that the infant must some time die, and
affirms that “the Egyptians believed that a man’s fate ... was decided
before he was born, and that he had no power to alter it.”[53] But I
cannot agree that “we have good reason for assigning the birthplace of
the horoscope to Egypt,”[54] since the evidence seems to be limited to
the almost medieval Pseudo-Callisthenes and a Greek horoscope in the
British Museum to which is attached the letter of an astrologer urging
his pupil to study the ancient Egyptians carefully. The later Greek and
Latin tradition that astrology was the invention of the divine men of
Egypt and Babylon probably has a basis of fact, but more contemporary
evidence is needed if Egypt is to contest the claim of Babylon to
precedence in that art.

[Sidenote: The sources for Assyrian and Babylonian magic.]

In the written remains of Babylonian and Assyrian civilization[55] the
magic cuneiform tablets play a large part and give us the impression
that fear of demons was a leading feature of Assyrian and Babylonian
religion and that daily thought and life were constantly affected by
magic. The bulk of the religious and magical texts are preserved in
the library of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria from 668 to 626 B.C.
But he collected his library from the ancient temple cities, the
scribes tell us that they are copying very ancient texts, and the
Sumerian language is still largely employed.[56] Eridu, one of the
main centers of early Sumerian culture, “was an immemorial home of
ancient wisdom, that is to say, magic.”[57] It is, however, difficult
in the library of Assurbanipal to distinguish what is Babylonian from
what is Assyrian or what is Sumerian from what is Semitic. Thus we are
told that “with the exception of some very ancient texts, the Sumerian
literature, consisting largely of religious material such as hymns
and incantations, shows a number of Semitic loanwords and grammatical
Semitisms, and in many cases, although not always, is quite patently
a translation of Semitic ideas by Semitic priests into the formal
religious Sumerian language.”[58]

[Sidenote: Was astrology Sumerian or Chaldean?]

The chief point in dispute, over which great controversy has taken
place recently among German scholars, is as to the antiquity of both
astronomical knowledge and astrological doctrine, including astral
theology, among the dwellers in the Tigris-Euphrates region. Briefly,
such writers as Winckler, Stücken, and Jeremias held that the religion
of the early Babylonians was largely based on astrology and that all
their thought was permeated by it, and that they had probably by an
early date made astronomical observations and acquired astronomical
knowledge which was lost in the decline of their culture. Opposing
this view, such scholars as Kugler, Bezold, Boll, and Schiaparelli
have shown the lack of certain evidence for either any considerable
astronomical knowledge or astrological theory in the Tigris-Euphrates
Valley until the late appearance of the Chaldeans. It is even denied
that the seven planets were distinguished in the early period, much
less the signs of the zodiac or the planetary week,[59] which last,
together with any real advance in astronomy, is reserved for the
Hellenistic period.

[Sidenote: The number seven in early Babylonia.]

Yet the prominence of the number seven in myth, religion, and magic
is indisputable in the third millennium before our era. For instance,
in the old Babylonian epic of creation there are seven winds, seven
spirits of storms, seven evil diseases, seven divisions of the
underworld closed by seven doors, seven zones of the upper world
and sky, and so on. We are told, however, that the staged towers of
Babylonia, which are said to have symbolized for millenniums the
sacred Hebdomad, did not always have seven stages.[60] But the number
seven was undoubtedly of frequent occurrence, of a sacred and mystic
character, and virtue and perfection were ascribed to it. And no one
has succeeded in giving any satisfactory explanation for this other
than the rule of the seven planets over our world. This also applies
to the sanctity of the number seven in the Old Testament[61] and
the emphasis upon it in Hesiod, the Odyssey, and other early Greek

[Sidenote: Incantation texts older than the astrological.]

However that may be, the tendency prevailing at present is to regard
astrology as a relatively late development introduced by the Semitic
Chaldeans. Lenormant held that writing and magic were a Turanian or
Sumerian (Accadian) contribution to Babylonian civilization, but that
astronomy and astrology were Semitic innovations. Jastrow thinks that
there was slight difference between the religion of Assyria and that of
Babylonia, and that astral theology played a great part in both; but
he grants that the older incantation texts are less influenced by this
astral theology. L. W. King says, “Magic and divination bulk largely in
the texts recovered, and in their case there is nothing to suggest an
underlying astrological element.”[63]

[Sidenote: Other divination than astrology.]

Whatever its date and origin, the magic literature may be classified
in three main groups. There are the astrological texts in which the
stars are looked upon as gods and predictions are made especially for
the king.[64] Then there are the tablets connected with other methods
of foretelling the future, especially liver divination, although
interpretation of dreams, augury, and divination by mixing oil and
water were also practiced.[65] Fossey has further noted the close
connection of operative magic with divination among the Assyrians,
and calls divination “the indispensable auxiliary of magic.” Many
feats of magic imply a precedent knowledge of the future or begin by
consultation of a diviner, or a favorable day and hour should be chosen
for the magic rite.[66]

[Sidenote: Incantations against sorcery and demons.]

Third, there are the collections of incantations, not however those
employed by the sorcerers, which were presumably illicit and hence
not publicly preserved—in an incantation which we shall soon quote
sorcery is called evil and is said to employ “impure things”—but rather
defensive measures against them and exorcisms of evil demons.[67] But
doubtless this counter magic reflects the original procedure to a great
extent. Inasmuch as diseases generally were regarded as due to demons,
who had to be exorcized by incantations, medicine was simply a branch
of magic. Evil spirits were also held responsible for disturbances in
nature, and frequent incantations were thought necessary to keep them
from upsetting the natural order entirely.[68] The various incantations
are arranged in series of tablets: the _Maklu_ or burning, _Ti’i_ or
headaches, _Asakki marsûti_ or fever, _Labartu_ or hag-demon, and _Nis
kati_ or raising of the hand. Besides these tablets there are numerous
ceremonial and medical texts which contain magical practice.[69] Also
hymns of praise and religious epics which at first sight one would
not classify as incantations seem to have had their magical uses, and
Farnell suggests that “a magic origin for the practice of theological
exegesis may be obscurely traced.”[70] Good spirits are represented
as employing magic and exorcisms against the demons.[71] As a last
resort when good spirits as well as human magic had failed to check the
demons, the aid might be requisitioned of the god Ea, regarded as the
repository of all science and who “alone was possessed of the magic
secrets by means of which they could be conquered and repulsed.”[72]

[Sidenote: A specimen incantation.]

The incantations themselves show that other factors than the power of
words entered into the magic, as may be illustrated by quoting one of

    “Arise ye great gods, hear my complaint,
    Grant me justice, take cognizance of my condition.
    I have made an image of my sorcerer and sorceress;
    I have humbled myself before you and bring to you my cause,
    Because of the evil they have done,
    Of the impure things which they have handled.
    May she die! Let me live!
    May her charm, her witchcraft, her sorcery be broken.
    May the plucked sprig of the _binu_ tree purify me;
    May it release me; may the evil odor of my mouth be scattered to
      the winds.
    May the _mashtakal_ herb which fills the earth cleanse me.
    Before you let me shine like the _kankal_ herb,
    Let me be brilliant and pure as the _lardu_ herb.
    The charm of the sorceress is evil;
    May her words return to her mouth, her tongue be cut off.
    Because of her witchcraft may the gods of night smite her,
    The three watches of the night break her evil charm.
    May her mouth be wax; her tongue, honey.
    May the word causing my misfortune that she has spoken dissolve
      like wax.
    May the charm she had wound up melt like honey,
    So that her magic knot be cut in twain, her work destroyed.”[73]

[Sidenote: Materials and devices employed in the magic.]

It is evident from this incantation that use was made of magic images
and knots, and of the properties of trees and herbs. Magic images were
made of clay, wax, tallow, and other substances and were employed in
various ways. Thus directions are given for making a tallow image of
an enemy of the king and binding its face with a cord in order to
deprive the person whom it represents of speech and willpower.[74]
Images were also constructed in order that disease demons might be
magically transferred into them,[75] and sometimes the images are
slain and buried.[76] In the above incantation the magic knot was
employed only by the sorceress, but Fossey states that knots were
also used as counter-charms against the demons.[77] In the above
incantation the names of herbs were left untranslated and it is not
possible to say much concerning the pharmacy of the Assyrians and
Babylonians because of our lack of a lexicon for their botanical
and mineralogical terminology.[78] However, from what scholars have
been able to translate it appears that common rather than rare and
outlandish substances were the ones most employed. Wine and oil, salt
and dates, and onions and saliva are the sort of things used. There
is also evidence of the employment of a magic wand.[79] Gems and
animal substances were used as well as herbs; all sorts of philters
were concocted; and varied rites and ceremonies were employed such as
ablutions and fumigations. In the account of the ark of the Babylonian
Noah we are told of the magic significance of its various parts; thus
the mast and cabin ceiling were made of cedar, a wood that counteracts

[Sidenote: Greek culture not free from magic.]

One remarkable corollary of the so-called Italian Renaissance or
Humanistic movement at the close of the middle ages with its too
exclusive glorification of ancient Greece and Rome has been the
strange notion that the ancient Hellenes were unusually free from
magic compared with other periods and peoples. It would have been
too much to claim any such immunity for the primitive Romans, whose
entire religion was originally little else than magic and whose daily
life, public and private, was hedged in by superstitious observances
and fears. But they, too, were supposed to have risen later under the
influence of Hellenic culture to a more enlightened stage,[81] only to
relapse again into magic in the declining empire and middle ages under
oriental influence. Incidentally let me add that this notion that in
_the past_ orientals were more superstitious and fond of marvels than
westerners in the same stage of civilization and that the orient must
needs be the source of every superstitious cult and romantic tale is a
glib assumption which I do not intend to make and which our subsequent
investigation will scarcely substantiate. But to return to the supposed
immunity of the Hellenes from magic; so far has this hypothesis been
carried that textual critics have repeatedly rejected passages as later
interpolations or even called entire treatises spurious for no other
reason than that they seemed to them too superstitious for a reputable
classical author. Even so specialized and recent a student of ancient
astrology, superstition, and religion as Cumont still clings to this
dubious generalization and affirms that “the limpid Hellenic genius
always turned away from the misty speculations of magic.”[82] But, as
I suggested some sixteen years since, “the fantasticalness of medieval
science was due to ‘the clear light of Hellas’ as well as to the gloom
of the ‘dark ages.’”[83]

[Sidenote: Magic in myth, literature, and history.]

It is not difficult to call to mind evidence of the presence of magic
in Hellenic religion, literature, and history. One has only to think
of the many marvelous metamorphoses in Greek mythology and of its
countless other absurdities; of the witches, Circe and Medea, and the
necromancy of Odysseus; or the priest-magician of Apollo in the _Iliad_
who could stop the plague, if he wished; of the lucky and unlucky
days and other agricultural magic in Hesiod.[84] Then there were
the Spartans, whose so-called constitution and method of education,
much admired by the Greek philosophers, were largely a retention of
the life of the primitive tribe with its ritual and taboos. Or we
remember Herodotus and his childish delight in ambiguous oracles or
his tale of seceders from Gela brought back by Telines single-handed
because he “was possessed of certain mysterious visible symbols of the
powers beneath the earth which were deemed to be of wonder-working
power.”[85] We recall Xenophon’s punctilious records of sacrifices,
divinations, sneezes, and dreams; Nicias, as afraid of eclipses as
if he had been a Spartan; and the matter-of-fact mentions of charms,
philters, and incantations in even such enlightened writers as
Euripides and Plato. Among the titles of ancient Greek comedies magic
is represented by the _Goetes_ of Aristophanes, the _Mandragorizomene_
of Alexis, the _Pharmacomantis_ of Anaxandrides, the _Circe_ of
Anaxilas, and the _Thettale_ of Menander.[86] When we candidly estimate
the significance of such evidence as this, we realize that the Hellenes
were not much less inclined to magic than other peoples and periods,
and that we need not wait for Theocritus and the Greek romances or for
the magical papyri for proof of the existence of magic in ancient Greek

[Sidenote: Simultaneous increase of learning and occult science.]

If astrology and some other occult sciences do not appear in a
developed form until the Hellenistic period, it is not because the
earlier period was more enlightened, but because it was less learned.
And the magic which Osthanes is said to have introduced to the Greek
world about the time of the Persian wars was not so much an innovation
as an improvement upon their coarse and ancient rites of _Goetia_.[88]

[Sidenote: Magic origin urged for Greek religion and drama.]

This magic element which existed from the start in Greek culture is
now being traced out by students of anthropology and early religion as
well as of the classics. Miss Jane E. Harrison, in _Themis, a study of
the social origins of Greek religion_, suggests a magical explanation
for many a myth and festival, and even for the Olympic games and Greek
drama.[89] The last point has been developed in more detail by F.
M. Cornford’s _Origin of Attic Comedy_, where much magic is detected
masquerading in the comedies of Aristophanes.[90] And Mr. A. B. Cook
sees the magician in Zeus, who transforms himself to pursue his amours,
and contends that “the real prototype of the heavenly weather-king
was the earthly” magician or rain-maker, that the pre-Homeric “fixed
epithets” of Zeus retained in the Homeric poems “are simply redolent
of the magician,” and that the cult of Zeus Lykaios was connected
with the belief in werwolves.[91] In still more recent publications
Dr. Rendel Harris[92] has connected Greek gods in their origins with
the woodpecker and mistletoe, associated the cult of Apollo with the
medicinal virtues of mice and snakes, and in other ways emphasized the
importance in early Greek religion and culture of the magic properties
of animals and herbs.

These writers have probably pressed their point too far, but at
least their work serves as a reaction against the old attitude of
intellectual idolatry of the classics. Their views may be offset by
those of Mr. Farnell, who states that “while the knowledge of early
Babylonian magic is beginning to be considerable, we cannot say that
we know anything definite concerning the practices in this department
of the Hellenic and adjacent peoples in the early period with which we
are dealing.” And again, “But while Babylonian magic proclaims itself
loudly in the great religious literature and highest temple ritual,
Greek magic is barely mentioned in the older literature of Greece,
plays no part at all in the hymns, and can only with difficulty be
discovered as latent in the higher ritual. Again, Babylonian magic
is essentially demoniac; but we have no evidence that the pre-Homeric
Greek was demon-ridden, or that demonology and exorcism were leading
factors in his consciousness and practice.” Even Mr. Farnell admits,
however, that “the earliest Hellene, as the later, was fully sensitive
to the magico-divine efficacy of names.”[93] Now to believe in the
power of names before one believes in the existence of demons is the
best possible evidence of the antiquity of magic in a society, since it
indicates that the speaker has confidence in the operative power of his
own words without any spiritual or divine assistance.

[Sidenote: Magic in Greek philosophy.]

Moreover, in one sense the advocates of Greek magic have not gone far
enough. They hold that magic lies back of the comedies of Aristophanes;
what they might contend is that it was also contemporary with them.[94]
They hold that classical Greek religion had its origins in magic; what
they might argue is that Greek philosophy never freed itself from
magic. “That Empedocles believed himself capable of magical powers
is,” says Zeller, “proved by his own writings.” He himself “declares
that he possesses the power to heal old age and sickness, to raise and
calm the winds, to summon rain and drought, and to recall the dead to
life.”[95] If the pre-Homeric fixed epithets of Zeus are redolent of
magic, Plato’s _Timaeus_ is equally redolent of occult science and
astrology; and if we see the weather-making magician in the Olympian
Zeus of Phidias, we cannot explain away the vagaries of the _Timaeus_
as flights of poetic imagination or try to make out Aristotle a modern
scientist by mutilating the text of the _History of Animals_.

[Sidenote: Plato’s attitude toward magic and astrology.]

Toward magic so-called Plato’s attitude in his _Laws_ is cautious.
He maintains that medical men and prophets and diviners can alone
understand the nature of poisons (or spells) which work naturally,
and of such things as incantations, magic knots, and wax images; and
that since other men have no certain knowledge of such matters, they
ought not to fear but to despise them. He admits nevertheless that
there is no use in trying to convince most men of this and that it
is necessary to legislate against sorcery.[96] Yet his own view of
nature seems impregnated, if not actually with doctrines borrowed
from the _Magi_ of the east, at least with notions cognate to those
of magic rather than of modern science and with doctrines favorable
to astrology. He humanized material objects and confused material and
spiritual characteristics. He also, like authors of whom we shall
treat later, attempted to give a natural or rational explanation for
magic, accounting, for example, for liver divination on the ground
that the liver was a sort of mirror on which the thoughts of the mind
fell and in which the images of the soul were reflected; but that
they ceased after death.[97] He spoke of harmonious love between the
elements as the source of health and plenty for vegetation, beasts, and
men, and their “wanton love” as the cause of pestilence and disease.
To understand both varieties of love “in relation to the revolutions
of the heavenly bodies and the seasons of the year is termed
astronomy,”[98] or, as we should say, astrology, whose fundamental law
is the control of inferior creation by the motion of the stars. Plato
spoke of the stars as “divine and eternal animals, ever abiding,”[99]
an expression which we shall hear reiterated in the middle ages. “The
lower gods,” whom he largely identified with the heavenly bodies,
form men, who, if they live good lives, return after death each to
a happy existence in his proper star.[100] Such a doctrine is not
identical with that of nativities and the horoscope, but like it
exalts the importance of the stars and suggests their control of
human life. And when at the close of his _Republic_ Plato speaks of
the harmony or music of the spheres of the seven planets and the
eighth sphere of the fixed stars, and of “the spindle of Necessity on
which all the revolutions turn,” he suggests that when once the human
soul has entered upon this life, its destiny is henceforth subject
to the courses of the stars. When in the _Timaeus_ he says, “There
is no difficulty in seeing that the perfect number of time fulfills
the perfect year when all the eight revolutions ... are accomplished
together and attain their completion at the same time,”[101] he seems
to suggest the astrological doctrine of the _magnus annus_, that
history begins to repeat itself in every detail when the heavenly
bodies have all regained their original positions.

[Sidenote: Aristotle on stars and spirits.]

For Aristotle, too, the stars were “beings of superhuman intelligence,
incorporate deities. They appeared to him as the purer forms, those
more like the deity, and from them a purposive rational influence upon
the lower life of the earth seemed to proceed,—a thought which became
the root of medieval astrology.”[102] Moreover, “his theory of the
subordinate gods of the spheres of the planets ... provided for a later

[Sidenote: Folk-lore in the _History of Animals_.]

Aside from bits of physiognomy and of Pythagorean superstition, or
mysticism, Aristotle’s _History of Animals_ contains much on the
influence of the stars on animal life, the medicines employed by
animals, and their friendships and enmities, and other folk-lore and
pseudo-science.[104] But the oldest extant manuscript of that work
dates only from the twelfth or thirteenth century and lacks the tenth
book. Editors of the text have also rejected books seven and nine, the
latter part of book eight, and have questioned various other passages.
However, these expurgations save the face of Aristotle rather than of
Hellenic science or philosophy generally, as the spurious seventh book
is held to be drawn largely from Hippocratic writings and the ninth
from Theophrastus.[105]

[Sidenote: Differing modes of transmission of ancient oriental and
Greek literature.]

There is another point to be kept in mind in any comparison of Egypt
and Babylon or Assyria with Greece in the matter of magic. Our evidence
proving the great part played by magic in the ancient oriental
civilizations comes directly from them to us without intervening
tampering or alteration except in the case of the early periods. But
classical literature and philosophy come to us as edited by Alexandrian
librarians[106] and philologers, as censored and selected by Christian
and Byzantine readers, as copied or translated by medieval monks and
Italian humanists. And the question is not merely, what have they
added? but also, what have they altered? what have they rejected?
Instead of questioning superstitious passages in extant works on the
ground that they are later interpolations, it would very likely be more
to the point to insert a goodly number on the ground that they have
been omitted as pagan or idolatrous superstitions.

[Sidenote: More magical character of directly transmitted Greek

Suppose we turn to those writings which have been unearthed just as
they were in ancient Greek; to the papyri, the lead tablets, the
so-called Gnostic gems. How does the proportion of magic in these
compare with that in the indirectly transmitted literary remains? If
it is objected that the magic papyri[107] are mainly of late date and
that they are found in Egypt, it may be replied that they are as old
as or older than any other manuscripts we have of classical literature
and that its chief storehouse, too, was in Egypt at Alexandria. As for
the magical curses written on lead tablets,[108] they date from the
fourth century before our era to the sixth after, and fourteen come
from Athens and sixteen from Cnidus as against one from Alexandria and
eleven from Carthage. And although some display extreme illiteracy,
others are written by persons of rank and education. And what a wealth
of astrological manuscripts in the Greek language has been unearthed in
European libraries by the editors of the _Catalogus Codicum Graecorum
Astrologorum_![109] And occasionally archaeologists report the
discovery of magical apparatus[110] or of representations of magic in
works of art.

[Sidenote: Progress of science among the Greeks.]

In thus contending that Hellenic culture was not free from magic
and that even the philosophy and science of the ancient Greeks show
traces of superstition, I would not, however, obscure the fact that
of extant literary remains the Greek are the first to present us with
any very considerable body either of systematic rational speculation
or of classified collection of observed facts concerning nature.
Despite the rapid progress in recent years in knowledge of prehistoric
man and Egyptian and Babylonian civilization, the Hellenic title
to the primacy in philosophy and science has hardly been called in
question, and no earlier works have been discovered that can compare
in medicine with those ascribed to Hippocrates, in biology with those
of Aristotle and Theophrastus, or in mathematics and physics with
those of Euclid and Archimedes. Undoubtedly such men and writings had
their predecessors, probably they owed something to ancient oriental
civilization, but, taking them as we have them, they seem to be marked
by great original power. Whatever may lie concealed beneath the surface
of the past, or whatever signs or hints of scientific investigation and
knowledge we may think we can detect and read between the lines, as
it were, in other phases of older civilizations, in these works solid
beginnings of experimental and mathematical science stand unmistakably

[Sidenote: Archimedes and Aristotle.]

“An extraordinarily large proportion of the subject matter of the
writings of Archimedes,” says Heath, “represents entirely new
discoveries of his own. Though his range of subjects was almost
encyclopædic, embracing geometry (plane and solid), arithmetic,
mechanics, hydrostatics and astronomy, he was no compiler, no writer of
text-books.... His objective is always some new thing, some definite
addition to the sum of knowledge, and his complete originality cannot
fail to strike anyone who reads his works intelligently, without any
corroborative evidence such as is found in the introductory letters
prefixed to most of them.... In some of his subjects Archimedes had
no forerunners, _e. g._, in hydrostatics, where he invented the whole
science, and (so far as mathematical demonstration was concerned) in
his mechanical investigations.”[111] Aristotle’s _History of Animals_
is still highly esteemed by historians of biology[112] and often
evidences “a large amount of personal observations,”[113] “great
accuracy,” and “minute inquiry,” as in his account of the vascular
system[114] or observations on the embryology of the chick.[115] “Most
wonderful of all, perhaps, are those portions of his book in which he
speaks of fishes, their diversities, their structure, their wanderings,
and their food. Here we may read of fishes that have only recently
been rediscovered, of structures only lately reinvestigated, of habits
only of late made known.”[116] But of the achievements of Hellenic
philosophy and Hellenistic science the reader may be safely assumed
already to have some notion.

[Sidenote: Exaggerated view of the scientific achievement of the
Hellenistic age.]

But in closing this brief preliminary sketch of the period before our
investigation proper begins, I would take exception to the tendency,
prevalent especially among German scholars, to center in and confine
to Aristotle and the Hellenistic age almost all progress in natural
science made before modern times. The contributions of the Egyptians
and Babylonians are reduced to a minimum on the one hand, while on the
other the scientific writings of the Roman Empire, which are extant
in far greater abundance than those of the Hellenistic period, are
regarded as inferior imitations of great authors whose works are not
extant; Posidonius, for example, to whom it has been the fashion of
the writers of German dissertations to attribute this, that, and every
theory in later writers. But it is contrary to the law of gradual
and painful acquisition of scientific knowledge and improvement of
scientific method that one period of a few centuries should thus have
discovered everything. We have disputed the similar notion of a golden
age of early Egyptian science from which the Middle and New Kingdoms
declined, and have not held that either the Egyptians or Babylonians
had made great advances in science before the Greeks. But that is not
saying that they had not made some advance. As Professor Karpinski has
recently written:

“To deny to Babylon, to Egypt, and to India, their part in the
development of science and scientific thinking is to defy the
testimony of the ancients, supported by the discoveries of the modern
authorities. The efforts which have been made to ascribe to Greek
influence the science of Egypt, of later Babylon, of India, and that
of the Arabs do not add to the glory that was Greece. How could the
Babylonians of the golden age of Greece or the Hindus, a little later,
have taken over the developments of Greek astronomy? This would only
have been possible if they had arrived at a state of development in
astronomy which would have enabled them properly to estimate and
appreciate the work which was to be absorbed.... The admission that the
Greek astronomy immediately affected the astronomical theories of India
carries with it the implication that this science had attained somewhat
the same level in India as in Greece. Without serious questioning we
may assume that a fundamental part of the science of Babylon and Egypt
and India, developed during the times which we think of as Greek, was
indigenous science.”[117]

Nor am I ready to admit that the great scientists of the early Roman
Empire merely copied from, or were distinctly inferior to, their
Hellenistic predecessors. Aristarchus may have held the heliocentric
theory[118] but Ptolemy must have been an abler scientist and have
supported his incorrect hypothesis with more accurate measurements
and calculations or the ancients would have adopted the sounder view.
And if Herophilus had really demonstrated the circulation of the
blood, so keen an intelligence as Galen’s would not have cast his
discovery aside. And if Ptolemy copied Hipparchus, are we to imagine
that Hipparchus copied from no one? But of the incessant tradition
from authority to authority and yet of the gradual accumulation of new
matter from personal observation and experience our ensuing survey of
thirteen centuries of thought and writing will afford more detailed

                              APPENDIX I

                              AND ASSYRIA

The following books deal expressly with the magic of Assyria and

 Fossey, C. La magie assyrienne; étude suivie de textes magiques,
 Paris, 1902.

 King, L. W. Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, being “The Prayers of the
 Lifting of the Hand,” London, 1896.

 Laurent, A. La magie et la divination chez les Chaldéo-Assyriens,
 Paris, 1894.

 Lenormant, F. Chaldean Magic and Sorcery, English translation, London,

 Schwab, M., in Proc. Bibl. Archæology (1890), pp. 292-342, on magic
 bowls from Assyria and Babylonia.

 Tallquist, K. L. Die Assyrische Beschwörungsserie Maqlû, Leipzig, 1895.

 Thompson, R. C. The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of
 Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum, London, 1900. Texts and
 translations—all but three are astrological.

 The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, London, 1904.

 Semitic Magic, London, 1908.

 Weber, O. Dämonenbeschwörung bei den Babyloniern und Assyrern, 1906.
 Eine Skizze (37 pp.), in Der Alte Orient.

 Zimmern. Die Beschwörungstafeln Surpu.

Much concerning magic will also be found in works on Babylonian and
Assyrian religion.

 Craig, J. A. Assyrian and Babylonian Religious Texts, Leipzig, 1895-7.

 Curtiss, S. I. Primitive Semitic Religion Today, 1902.

 Dhorme, P. Choix des textes religieux Assyriens Babyloniens, 1907.

 La religion Assyro-Babylonienne, Paris, 1910.

 Gray, C. D. The Samas Religious Texts.

 Jastrow, Morris. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, Boston, 1898.
 Revised and enlarged as Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens, Giessen,

 Jeremias. Babylon. Assyr. Vorstellungen von dem Leben nach Tode,
 Leipzig, 1887.

 Hölle und Paradies, and other works.

 Knudtzon, J. A. Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott, Leipzig, 1893.

 Lagrange, M. J. Études sur les religions sémitiques, Paris, 1905.

 Langdon, S. Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, Paris, 1909.

 Reisner, G. A. Sumerisch-Babylonische Hymnen, Berlin, 1896.

 Robertson Smith, W. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, London,

 Roscher, Lexicon, for various articles.

 Zimmern. Babylonische Hymnen und Gebete in Auswahl, 32 pp., 1905 (Der
 Alte Orient).

 Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Babyl. Religion, Leipzig, 1901.

 On the astronomy and astrology of the Babylonians one may consult:

 Bezold, C. Astronomie, Himmelschau und Astrallehre bei den
 Babyloniern. (Sitzb. Akad. Heidelberg, 1911, Abh. 2).

 Boissier, A. Documents assyriens relatifs aux présages, Paris,

 Choix de textes relatifs à la divination assyro-babylonienne, Geneva,

 Craig, J. A. Astrological-Astronomical Texts, Leipzig, 1892.

 Cumont, F. Babylon und die griechische Astrologie. (Neue Jahrb. für das
 klass. Altertum, XXVII, 1911).

 Epping, J., and Strassmeier, J. N. Astronomisches aus Babylon, 1889.

 Ginzel, F. K. Die astronomischen Kentnisse der Babylonier, 1901.

 Hehn, J. Siebenzahl und Sabbat bei den Babyloniern und im Alten
 Testament, 1907.

 Jensen, P. Kosmologie der Babylonier, 1890.

 Jeremias. Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie, 1908.

 Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur, 1913.

 Kugler, F. X. Die Babylonische Mondrechnung, 1900.

 Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Freiburg, 1907-1913. To be
 completed in four vols.

 Im Bannkreis Babels, 1910.

 Oppert, J. Die astronomischen Angaben der assyrischen Keilinschriften,
 in Sitzb. d. Wien. Akad. Math.-Nat. Classe, 1885, pp. 894-906.

 Un texte Babylonien astronomique et sa traduction grecque par Cl.
 Ptolémeé, in Zeitsch. f. Assyriol. VI (1891), pp. 103-23.

 Sayce, A. H. The astronomy and astrology of the Babylonians, with
 translations of the tablets relating to the subject, in Transactions of
 the Society of Biblical Archaeology, III (1874), 145-339; the first and
 until recently the best guide to the subject.

 Schiaparelli, G. V. I Primordi ed i Progressi dell’ Astronomia presso i
 Babilonesi, Bologna, 1908.

 Astronomy in the Old Testament, 1905.

 Stücken, Astralmythen, 1896-1907.

 Virolleaud, Ch. L’Astrologie chaldéenne, Paris, 1905-; to be completed
 in eight parts, texts and translations.

 Winckler, Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier als Grundlage der
 Weltanschauung und Mythologie aller Völker, in Der alte Orient, III,

                       BOOK I. THE ROMAN EMPIRE


  Chapter 2.  Pliny’s Natural History.
              I.   Its place in the history of science.
              II.  Its experimental tendency.
              III. Pliny’s account of magic.
              IV.  The science of the _Magi_.
              V.   Pliny’s magical science.

     ”    3.  Seneca and Ptolemy: Natural Divination and Astrology.

     ”    4.  Galen.
              I.   The man and his times.
              II.  His medicine and experimental science.
              III. His attitude toward magic.

     ”    5.  Ancient Applied Science and Magic.

     ”    6.  Plutarch’s Essays.

     ”    7.  Apuleius of Madaura.

     ”    8.  Philostratus’s _Life of Apollonius of Tyana_.

     ”    9.  Literary and Philosophical Attacks upon Superstition.

     ”   10.  The Spurious Mystic Writings of Hermes, Orpheus, and

     ”   11.  Neo-Platonism and its Relations to Astrology and Theurgy.

     ”   12.  Aelian, Solinus, and Horapollo.

                       BOOK I. THE ROMAN EMPIRE


[Sidenote: A trio of great names.]

A trio of great names, Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy, stand out above all
others in the history of science under the Roman Empire. In the use
or criticism which they make of earlier writers and investigators
they are also our chief sources for the science of the preceding
Hellenistic period. By their voluminousness, their generous scope in
ground covered, and their broad, liberal, personal outlooks, they have
painted, in colors for the most part imperishable, extensive canvasses
of the scientific spirit and acquisitions of their own time. Pliny
pursued politics and literature as well as natural science; Ptolemy
was at once mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and geographer;
Galen knew philosophy as well as medicine. The two latter men,
moreover, made original contributions of their own of the very first
order to scientific knowledge and method. It is characteristic of the
homogeneous and widespread culture of the Roman Empire that these three
representatives of different, although overlapping, fields of science
were natives of the three continents that enclose the Mediterranean
Sea. Pliny was born at Como where Italy verges on transalpine lands;
Ptolemy, born somewhere in Egypt, did his work at Alexandria; Galen
came from Pergamum in Asia Minor. Finally, these men were, after
Aristotle, the three ancient scientists who directly or indirectly
most powerfully influenced the middle ages. Thus they illuminate past,
present, and future.

[Sidenote: Plan of this section.]

We shall therefore open the present section of our investigation
by considering in turn chronologically, Pliny, Ptolemy, and Galen,
coupling, however, with our consideration of Ptolemy the work of
Seneca on _Natural Questions_ which shows the same combination of
natural science and natural divination. Next we shall consider some
representatives of ancient applied science and its relations to
magic, and the more miscellaneous writings of Plutarch, Apuleius, and
Philostratus’s _Life of Apollonius of Tyana_. From the hospitable
attitude toward magic and occult science displayed by these last
writers we shall then turn back again to consider some examples of
literary and philosophical attacks upon superstition, before proceeding
lastly to spurious mystic writings of the Roman Empire, Neo-Platonism
and its relations to astrology and theurgy, and the works of Aelian,
Solinus, and Horapollo.

                              CHAPTER II

                        PLINY’S NATURAL HISTORY

I. _Its Place in the History of Science_

Its importance in our investigation—As a collection of miscellaneous
information—As a repository of ancient natural science—As a source for
magic—Pliny’s career—His writings—His own description of the _Natural
History_—His devotion to science—Conflict of science and religion—Pliny
not a trained naturalist—His use of authorities—His lack of arrangement
and classification—His scepticism and credulity—A guide to ancient
science—His medieval influence—Early printed editions.

II. _Its Experimental Tendency_

Importance of observation and experience—Use of the word
_experimentum_—Experiments due to scientific curiosity—Medical
experimentation—Chance experience and divine revelation—Marvels proved
by experience.

III. _Pliny’s Account of Magic_

Oriental origin of magic—Its spread to the Greeks—Its spread outside
the Graeco-Roman world—Failure to understand its true origin—Magic
and divination—Magic and religion—Magic and medicine—Magic and
philosophy—Falseness of magic—Crimes of magic—Pliny’s censure of magic
is mainly intellectual—Vagueness of Pliny’s scepticism—Magic and
science indistinguishable.

IV. _The Science of the Magi_

Magicians as investigators of nature—The _Magi_ on herbs—Marvelous
virtues of herbs—Animals and parts of animals—Further instances—Magic
rites with animals and parts of animals—Marvels wrought with parts
of animals—The _Magi_ on stones—Other magical recipes—Summary of the
statements of the _Magi_.

V. _Pliny’s Magical Science_

From the _Magi_ to Pliny’s magic—Habits of animals—Remedies discovered
by animals—Jealousy of animals—Occult virtues of animals—The virtues of
herbs—Plucking herbs—Agricultural magic—Virtue of stones—Other minerals
and metals—Virtues of human parts—Virtues of human saliva—The human
operator—Absence of medical compounds—Sympathetic magic—Antipathies
between animals—Love and hatred between inanimate objects—Sympathy
between animate and inanimate objects—Like cures like—The principle of
association—Magic transfer of disease—Amulets—Position or direction—The
time element—Observance of number—Relation between operator and
patient—Incantations—Attitude towards love-charms and birth
control—Pliny and astrology—Celestial portents—The stars and the world
of nature—Astrological medicine—Conclusion: magic unity of Pliny’s

 “_Salve, parens rerum omnium Natura, teque nobis Quiritium solis
 celebratam esse numeris omnibus tuis fave!_”
     —_Closing words of the Natural History._[119]

I. _Its Place in the History of Science_

[Sidenote: Important in our investigation.]

We should have to search long before finding a better starting-point
for the consideration of the union of magic with the science of the
Roman Empire, and of the way in which that union influenced the middle
ages, than Pliny’s _Natural History_.[120] The foregoing sentence, with
which years ago I opened a chapter on the _Natural History_ of Pliny
the Elder in my briefer preliminary study of magic in the intellectual
history of the Roman Empire, seems as true as ever; and although I
there considered his confusion of magic and science at some length, I
do not see how I can make the present work well-rounded and complete
without including in it a yet more detailed analysis of the contents of
Pliny’s book.

[Sidenote: As a collection of miscellaneous information.]

Pliny’s _Natural History_, which appeared about 77 A. D. and is
dedicated to the Emperor Titus, is perhaps the most important single
source extant for the history of ancient civilization. Its thirty-seven
books, written in a very compact style, constitute a vast collection
of the most miscellaneous information. Whether one is investigating
ancient painting, sculpture, and other fine arts; or the geography
of the Roman Empire; or Roman triumphs, gladiatorial contests, and
theatrical exhibitions; or the industrial processes of antiquity; or
Mediterranean trade; or Italian agriculture; or mining in ancient
Spain; or the history of Roman coinage; or the fluctuation of prices
in antiquity; or the Roman attitude towards usury; or the pagan
attitude towards immortality; or the nature of ancient beverages; or
the religious usages of the ancient Romans; or any of a number of other
topics; one will find something concerning all of them in Pliny. He is
apt both to depict such conditions in his own time and to trace them
back to their origins. Furthermore he repeats many detailed incidents
of interest to the political or narrative historian of Rome as well as
to the student of the economic, social, artistic, and religious life of
antiquity. Probably there is no place where an isolated point is more
likely to be run down by the investigator, and it is regrettable that
exhaustive analytical indices of the work are not available. We may
add that, although the work is supposedly a collection of facts, Pliny
contrives to introduce many moral reflections and sharp comments on the
luxury, vice, and unintellectual character of his times, suggesting
Juvenal’s picture of degenerate Roman society and his own lofty moral

[Sidenote: As a repository of ancient natural science.]

Indeed, Pliny’s title, _Naturalis Historia_, or at least the common
English translation of it, “Natural History,” has been criticized as
too limited in scope, and the work has been described as “rather a vast
encyclopedia of ancient knowledge and belief upon almost every known
subject.”[121] Pliny himself mentions in his preface the Greek word
“encyclopedia” as indicative of his scope. Nevertheless, his work is
primarily an account of nature rather than of civilization, and much
of its information concerning such matters as the arts and business
is incidental. Most of its books bear such titles as Aquatic Animals,
Exotic Trees, Medicines from Forest Trees, The Natures of Metals. After
an introductory book containing the preface and a table of contents and
lists of authorities for each of the subsequent books, the second book
treats of the universe, heavenly bodies, meteorology, and the chief
changes, such as earthquakes and tides, in the land and water forming
the earth’s surface. After four books devoted to geography, the seventh
deals with man and human inventions. Four more follow on terrestrial
and aquatic animals, birds, and insects. Sixteen more are concerned
with plants, trees, vines, and other vegetation, and the medicinal
simples derived from them. Five books discuss the medicinal simples
derived from animals, including the human body; and the last five books
treat of metals and minerals and the arts in which they are employed.
It is thus evident that in the main Pliny is concerned with natural
science, and that, if his work is a mine of miscellaneous historical
information, it should even more prove a rich treasure-house—“_quoniam,
ut ait Domitius Piso, thesauros oportet esse non libros_”[122]—for an
investigation concerned as intimately as is ours with the history of

[Sidenote: As a source for magic.]

The _Natural History_ is a great storehouse of misinformation as well
as of information, for Pliny’s credulity and lack of discrimination
harvested the tares of legend and magic along with the wheat of
historical fact and ancient science in his voluminous granary. This may
put other historical investigators upon their guard in accepting its
statements, but only increases its value for our purpose. Perhaps it is
even more valuable as a collection of ancient errors than it is as a
repository of ancient science. It touches upon many of the varieties,
and illustrates most of the characteristics, of magic. Moreover, Pliny
often mentions the _Magi_ or magicians and discusses “magic” expressly
at some length in the opening chapters of his thirtieth book—one of
the most important passages on the theme in any ancient writer.

[Sidenote: Pliny’s career.]

Pliny the Elder, as we learn from his own statements in the _Natural
History_ and from one or two letters concerning him written by his
nephew, Pliny the Younger, whom he adopted, went through the usual
military, forensic, and official career of the Roman of good family,
and spent his life largely in the service of the emperors. He visited
various Mediterranean lands, such as Spain, Africa, Greece, and Egypt,
and fought in Germany. He was in charge of the Roman fleet on the
west coast of Italy when he met his death at the age of fifty-six by
suffocation as he was trying to rescue others from the fumes and vapors
from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

[Sidenote: His writings.]

Of Pliny’s writings the _Natural History_ is alone extant, but other
titles have been preserved which serve to show his great literary
industry and the extent of his interests. He wrote on the use of
the javelin by cavalry, a life of his friend Pomponius, an account
in twenty books of all the wars waged by the Romans in Germany, a
rather long work on oratory called _The Student_, a grammatical or
philological work in eight books entitled _De dubio sermone_, and a
continuation of the _History_ of Aufidius Bassus in thirty-one books.
Yet in the dedication of the _Natural History_ to the emperor Titus
he states that his days were taken up with official business and only
his nights were free for literary labor. This statement is supported
by a letter of his nephew telling how he used to study by candle-light
both late at night and before daybreak. Pliny the Younger narrates
several incidents to illustrate how jealous and economical of every
spare moment his uncle was. He would dictate or have books read to him
while lying down or in the bath, and on journeys a secretary was always
by his side with books and tablets. If the weather was very cold, the
amanuensis wore gloves so that his hands might not become too numb to
write. Pliny always took notes on what he read, and at his death left
his nephew one hundred and sixty notebooks written in a small hand on
both sides.

[Sidenote: His own description of the _Natural History_.]

Such were the conditions under which, and the methods by which, Pliny
compiled his encyclopedia on nature. No single writer either Greek or
Latin, he tells us, had ever before attempted so extensive a task. He
adds that he treats of some twenty thousand topics gleaned from the
perusal of about two thousand volumes by one hundred authors.[123]
Judging from his bibliographies and citations, however, he would
seem to have utilized more than one hundred authors. But possibly
he had not read all the writers mentioned in his bibliographies. He
affirms that previous students have had access to but few of the
volumes which he has used, and that he adds many things unknown to his
ancient authorities and recently discovered. Occasionally he shows an
acquaintance with beliefs and practices of the Gauls and Druids. Thus
his work assumes to be something more than a compilation from other
books. He says, however, that no doubt he has omitted much, since he
is only human and has had many other demands upon his time. He admits
that his subject is dry (_sterilis materia_) and does not lend itself
to literary exhibitions, nor include matters stimulating to write about
and pleasant to read about, like speeches and marvelous occurrences and
varied incidents. Nor does it permit purity and elegance of diction,
since one must at times employ the terminology of rustics, foreigners,
and even barbarians. Furthermore, “it is an arduous task to give
novelty to what is ancient, authority to what is new, interest to what
is obsolete, light to what is obscure, charm to what is loathsome”—as
many of his medicinal simples undoubtedly are—“credit to what is

[Sidenote: His devotion to science.]

It is a great comfort to Pliny, however, in his immense task, when
many laugh at him as wasting his time over worthless trifles, to
reflect that he is being spurned along with Nature.[124] In another
passage[125] he contrasts the blood and slaughter of military history
with the benefits bestowed upon mankind by astronomers. In a third
passage[126] he looks back regretfully at the widespread interest
in science among the Greeks, although those were times of political
disunion and strife and although communication between different lands
was interrupted by piracy as well as war, whereas now, with the whole
empire at peace, not only is no new scientific inquiry undertaken, but
men do not even thoroughly study the works of the ancients, and are
intent on the acquisition of lucre rather than learning. These and
other passages which might be cited attest Pliny’s devotion to science.

[Sidenote: Conflict of science and religion.]

In Pliny we also detect signs of the conflict between science and
religion. In a single chapter on God he says pretty much all that the
church fathers later repeated at much greater length against paganism
and polytheism. But his discussion would hardly satisfy a Christian.
He asserts that “it is God for man to aid his fellow man,[127] and
this is the path to eternal glory,” but he turns this noble sentiment
to justify deification of the emperors who have done so much for
mankind. He questions whether God is concerned with human affairs;
slyly suggests that if so, God must be too busy to punish all crimes
promptly; and points out that there are some things which God cannot
do. He cannot commit suicide as men can, nor alter past events, nor
make twice ten anything else than twenty. Pliny then concludes: “By
which is revealed in no uncertain wise the power of Nature, and that
is what we call God.” In many other passages he exclaims at Nature’s
benignity or providence. He believed that the soul had no separate
existence from the body,[128] and that after death there was no more
sense left in body or soul than was there before birth. The hope of
personal immortality he scorned as “puerile ravings” produced by the
fear of death, and he believed still less in the possibility of any
resurrection of the body. In short, natural law, mechanical force, and
facts capable of scientific investigation would seem to be all that
he will admit and to suffice to satisfy his strong intellect. Yet we
shall later find him having the greatest difficulty in distinguishing
between science and magic, and giving credence to many details in
science which seem to us quite as superstitious as the pagan beliefs
concerning the gods which he rejected. But if any reader is inclined to
belittle Pliny for this, let him first stop and think how Pliny would
ridicule some modern scientists for their religious beliefs, or for
their spiritualism or psychic research.

[Sidenote: Pliny not a trained naturalist.]

It is desirable, however, to form some estimate of Pliny’s fitness for
his task in order to judge how accurate a picture of ancient science
his work is. He does not seem to have had much detailed training
or experience in the natural sciences himself. He writes not as a
naturalist who has observed widely and profoundly the phenomena and
operations of nature, but as an omnivorous reader and voluminous
note-taker who owes his knowledge largely to books or hearsay, although
occasionally he says “I know” instead of “they say,” or gives the
results of his own observation and experience. In the main he is not
a scientist himself but only a historian of science or nature; after
all, his title, _Natural History_, is a very fitting one. The question,
of course, arises whether he has sufficient scientific training to
evaluate properly the work of the past. Has he read the best authors,
has he noted their best passages, has he understood their meaning?
Does he repeat inferior theories and omit the correcter views of
certain Alexandrian scientists? These questions are hard to answer.
On his behalf it may be said that he deals little with abstruse
scientific theory and mainly with simple substances and geographical
places, matters in which it seems difficult for him to go far astray.
Scientific specialists were not numerous in those days, anyway, and
science had not yet so far advanced and ramified that one man might not
hope to cover the entire field and do it substantial justice. Pliny the
Younger was perhaps a partial judge, but he described the _Natural
History_ as “a work remarkable for its comprehensiveness and erudition,
and not less varied than Nature herself.”[129]

[Sidenote: His use of authorities.]

One thing in Pliny’s favor as a compiler, besides his personal
industry, unflagging interest, and apparently abundant supply
of clerical assistance, is his full and honest statement of his
authorities, although he adds that he has caught many authors
transcribing others verbatim without acknowledgment. He has, however,
great admiration for many of his authorities, exclaiming more than once
at the care and diligence of the men of the past who have left nothing
untried or unexperienced, from trackless mountain tops to the roots
of herbs.[130] Sometimes, nevertheless, he disputes their assertions.
For instance, Hippocrates said that the appearance of jaundice on the
seventh day in fever is a fatal sign, “but we know some who have lived
even after this.”[131] Pliny also scolds Sophocles for his falsehoods
concerning amber.[132] It may seem surprising that he should expect
strict scientific truth from a dramatic poet, but Pliny, like many
medieval writers, seems to regard poets as good scientific authorities.
In another passage he accepts Sophocles’ statement that a certain
plant is poisonous, rather than the contrary view of other writers,
saying “the authority of so prominent a man moves me against their
opinions.”[133] He also cites Menander concerning fish and, like almost
all the ancients, regards Homer as an authority on all matters.[134]
Pliny sometimes cites the works of King Juba of Numidia, than whom
there hardly seems to have been a greater liar in antiquity.[135] He
stated among other things in a work which he wrote for Gaius Caesar,
the son of Augustus, that a whale six hundred feet long and three
hundred and sixty feet broad had entered a river in Arabia.[136] But
where should Pliny turn for sober truth? The Stoic Chrysippus prated of
amulets;[137] treatises ascribed to the great philosophers Democritus
and Pythagoras[138] were full of magic; and in the works of Cicero
he read of a man who could see for a distance of one hundred and
thirty-five miles, and in Varro that this man, standing on a Sicilian
promontory, could count the number of ships sailing out of the harbor
of Carthage.[139]

[Sidenote: His lack of arrangement and classification.]

The _Natural History_ has been criticized as poorly arranged and
lacking in scientific classification, but this is a criticism which can
be made of many works of the classical period. Their presentation is
apt to be rambling and discursive rather than logical and systematic.
Even Aristotle’s _History of Animals_ is described by Lewes[140] as
unclassified in its arrangement and careless in its selection of
material. I have often thought that the scholastic centuries did
mankind at least one service, that of teaching lecturers and writers
how to arrange their material. Pliny seems rather in advance of his
times in supplying full tables of contents for the busy emperor’s
convenience. Valerius Soranus seems to have been the only previous
Roman writer to do this. One indication of haste in composition and
failure to sift and compare his material is the fact that Pliny
sometimes makes or includes contradictory statements, probably taken
from different authorities. On the other hand, he not infrequently
alludes to previous passages in his own work, thus showing that he has
his material fairly well in hand.

[Sidenote: His scepticism and credulity.]

Pliny once said that there was no book so bad but what some good
might be got from it,[141] and to the modern reader he seems almost
incredibly credulous and indiscriminate in his selection of material,
and to lack any standard of judgment between the true and the false.
Yet he often assumes an air of scepticism and censures others sharply
for their credulity or exaggeration. “’Tis strange,” he remarks _à
propos_ of some tales of men transformed into wolves for nine or ten
years, “how far Greek credulity has gone. No lie is so impudent that it
lacks a voucher.”[142] Once he expresses his determination to include
only those points on which his authorities are in agreement.[143]

[Sidenote: A guide to ancient science.]

On the whole, while to us to-day the _Natural History_ seems a
disorderly and indiscriminate conglomeration of fact and fiction,
its defects are probably to a great extent those of its age and of
the writers from whom it has borrowed. If it does not reflect the
highest achievements and clearest thinking of the best scientists of
antiquity—and be it said that there are a number of the Hellenistic
age of whom we should know less than we do but for Pliny—it probably
is a fairly faithful epitome of science and error concerning nature in
his own time and the centuries preceding. At any rate it is the best
portrayal that has reached us. From it we can get our background of the
confusion of magic and science in the Hellenistic age, and then reveal
against this setting the development of them both in the course of
the Roman Empire and middle ages. Pliny gives so many items upon each
point, and is so much fuller than the average ancient or medieval book
of science, that he serves as a reference book, being the likeliest
place to look to find duplicated some statement concerning nature by
a later writer. This of course shows that such a statement did not
originate with the later writer, but is not a sure sign that he copied
from Pliny; they may both have used the same authorities, as seems the
case with Greek authors later in the empire who probably did not know
of Pliny’s work.

[Sidenote: His medieval influence.]

In the middle ages, however, Pliny had an undoubted direct
influence.[144] Manuscripts of the _Natural History_ are numerous,
although in a scarcely legible condition owing to corrections and
emendations which enhance the obscurity of the text and perhaps do
Pliny grave injustice in other respects.[145] Also many manuscripts
contain only a few books or fragments of the text, so that it is
possible that many medieval scholars knew their Pliny only in
part.[146] This, however, can scarcely be argued from their failure
to include more from him in their own works; for that might be due to
their knowing the _Natural History_ so well that they took its contents
for granted and tried to include other material in their own works. In
a later chapter we shall treat of _The Medicine of Pliny_, a treatise
derived from the _Natural History_. Pliny’s phrase _rerum natura_
figures as the title of several medieval encyclopedias of somewhat
similar scope. And his own name was too well known in the middle
ages to escape having a work on the philosopher’s stone ascribed to

[Sidenote: Early printed edition.]

That the _Natural History_ was well known as a whole at least by
the close of the middle ages is shown by the numerous editions,
some of them magnificently printed, which were turned off from the
Italian presses immediately after the invention of printing. In the
Magliabechian Library of Florence alone are editions printed at
Venice in 1469 and 1472, at Rome in 1473 and Parma in 1481, again at
Venice in 1487, 1491, and 1499, not to mention Italian translations
which appeared at Venice in 1476 and 1489.[148] These editions were
accompanied by some published criticism of Pliny’s statements, since in
1492 appeared at Ferrara a treatise _On the Errors of Pliny and Others
in Medicine_ by Nicholas Leonicenus of Vicenza with a dedication to
Politian.[149] But two years later Pliny found a defender in Pandulph

But Pliny’s future influence will come out repeatedly in later
chapters. We shall now inquire, first, what signs of experimental
science he shows, either derived from the past or added by himself.
Second, what he defines as magic and what he has to say about it.
Third, how much of what he supposes to be natural science must we
regard as essentially magic?

II. Its Experimental Tendency

[Sidenote: Importance of observation and experience.]

It is probably only a coincidence that two medieval manuscripts close
the _Natural History_ in the midst of the seventy-sixth chapter of the
last book with the words, “_Experimenta pluribus modis constant....
Primum pondere._”[151] But although from the very nature of his work
Pliny makes extensive use of authorities, he not infrequently manifests
a realization, as one dealing with the facts of nature should, of the
importance of observation and experience as means of reaching the
truth. The claims of many Romans of high rank to have carried their
arms as far as Mount Atlas, which Pliny declares has been repeatedly
shown by experience to be most fallacious, leads him to the further
reflection that nowhere is a lapse of one’s credulity easier than where
a dignified author supports a false statement.[152] In other passages
he calls experience the best teacher in all things,[153] and contrasts
unfavorably garrulity of words and sitting in schools with going to
solitudes and seeking herbs at their appropriate seasons. That upon our
globe the land is entirely surrounded by water does not require, he
says, investigation by arguments, but is now known by experience.[154]
And if the salamander really extinguished fire, it would have been
tried at Rome long ago.[155] On the other hand, we find some assertions
in the _Natural History_ which Pliny might easily have tested himself
and found false, such as his statement that an egg-shell cannot be
broken by force or any weight unless it is tipped a little to one
side.[156] Sometimes he gives his personal experience,[157] but also
mentions experience in many other connections.

[Sidenote: Use of the word _experimentum_.]

The word employed most of the time by Pliny to denote experience is
_experimentum_.[158] In many passages the word does not indicate
anything like a purposive, prearranged, scientific experiment in
our sense of that word, but simply the ordinary experience of daily
life.[159] We are also told what _experti_,[160] or men of experience,
advise. In a number of passages, however, _experimentum_ is used in
a sense somewhat more closely approaching our “experiment.” These
are cases where something is being tested. For instance, a method of
determining whether an egg is fresh or rotten by putting it in water
and watching if it floats or sinks is called an _experimentum_.[161]
That horses would whinny at no other painting of a horse than that by
Apelles is spoken of as _illius experimentum artis_, a test of, or
testimony to, his art.[162] The expression _religionis experimento_
is applied to a religious test or ordeal by which the virginity of
Claudia was vindicated.[163] The word is also used of ways of telling
if unguents are good[164] and if wine is beginning to turn;[165]
and of various tests of the genuineness of drugs, gems, earths, and
metals.[166] It is also twice used of letting down a lighted lamp
into a huge wine cask or into wells to discover if there is danger at
the bottom from noxious vapors.[167] If the lamp was extinguished, it
was a sign of peril to human life. Pliny further suggests purposive
experimentation in speaking of _experimenta_ to discover water under
ground[168] and in grafting trees.[169]

[Sidenote: Experiments due to scientific curiosity.]

Most of the tests and experiences thus far mentioned have been
practical operations connected with husbandry and industry. But
Pliny recounts one or two others which seem to have been dictated
solely by scientific curiosity. He classifies the following as
_experimenta_:[170] the sinking of a well to prove by its complete
illumination that the sun casts no shadow at noon of the summer
solstice; the marking of a dolphin’s tail in order to throw some light
upon its length of life, should it ever be captured again, as it was
three hundred years later—perhaps the experiment of longest duration on
record;[171] and the casting of a man into a pit of serpents at Rome
to determine if he was really immune from their stings.[172]

[Sidenote: Medical experimentation.]

_Experimentum_ is employed by Pliny in a medical sense which becomes
very common in the middle ages. He calls some remedies for toothache
and inflamed eyes _certa experimenta_—sure experiences.[173] Later
_experimentum_ came to be applied to almost any recipe or remedy.
Pliny, indeed, speaks of the doctors as learning at our risk and
getting experience through our deaths.[174] In another passage he
states more favorably that “there is no end to experimenting with
everything so that even poisons are forced to cure us.”[175] He also
briefly mentions the medical sect of Empirics, of whom we shall
hear more from Galen. He says that they so name themselves from
experiences[176] and originated at Agrigentum in Sicily under Acron and

[Sidenote: Chance experience and divine revelation.]

Pliny is puzzled how some things which he finds stated in “authors
famous for wisdom” were ever learned by experience, for example,
that the star-fish has such fiery fervor that it burns everything in
the sea which it touches, and digests its food instantly.[177] That
adamant can be broken only by goat’s blood he thinks must have been
divinely revealed, for it would hardly have been discovered by chance,
and he cannot imagine that anyone would ever have thought of testing
a substance of immense value in a fluid of one of the foulest of
animals.[178] In several other passages he suggests chance, accident,
dreams,[179] or divine revelation as the ways in which the medicinal
virtues of certain simples were discovered. Recently, for example,
it was discovered that the root of the wild rose is a remedy for
hydrophobia by the mother of a soldier in the praetorian guard, who was
warned in a dream to send her son this root, which cured him and many
others who have tried it since.[180] And a soldier in Pompey’s time
accidentally discovered a cure for elephantiasis when he hid his face
for shame in some wild mint leaves.[181] Another herb was accidentally
found to be a cure for disorders of the spleen when the entrails of a
sacrificial victim happened to be thrown on it and it entirely consumed
the milt.[182] The healing properties of vinegar for the sting of
the asp were discovered by chance in this wise. A man who was stung
by an asp while carrying a leather bottle of vinegar noticed that he
felt the sting only when he set the bottle down.[183] He therefore
decided to try the effects of a drink of the liquid and was thereby
fully cured.[184] Other remedies are learned through the experience of
rustics and illiterate persons, and yet others may be discovered by
observing animals who cure their ills by them.[185] Pliny’s opinion is
that the animals have hit upon them by chance.

[Sidenote: Marvels proved by experience.]

Pliny represents a number of marvelous and to us incredible things
as proved by experience. Divination from thunder, for instance, is
supported by innumerable experiences, public and private. In two
passages out of the three mentioning _experti_ which I cited above,
those experienced persons recommended a decidedly magical sort of
procedure.[186] In another passage “the experience of many” supports
“a strange observance” in plucking a bud.[187] A fourth bit of magical
procedure is called “marvelous but easily tested.”[188] Thus the
transition is an easy one from signs of experimental science in the
_Natural History_ to our next topic, Pliny’s account of magic.

III. _Pliny’s Account of Magic._

[Sidenote: Oriental origin of magic.]

Pliny supplies some account of the origin and spread of magic[189]
but a rather confused and possibly unreliable one, as he mentions two
Zoroasters separated by an interval of five or six thousand years,
and two Osthaneses, one of whom accompanied Xerxes, and the other
Alexander, in their respective expeditions. He says, indeed, that it is
not clear whether one or two Zoroasters existed. In any case magic has
flourished greatly the world over for many centuries, and was founded
in Persia by Zoroaster. Some other magicians of Media, Babylonia,
and Assyria are mere names to Pliny; later he mentions others like
Apollobeches and Dardanus. Although he thus derives magic from the
orient, he appears to make no distinction, as we shall find other
writers doing, between the _Magi_ of Persia and ordinary magicians,
nor does he employ the word magic in two senses. He makes it evident,
however, that there have been other men who have regarded magic more
favorably than he does.

[Sidenote: Its spread to the Greeks.]

Pliny next traces the spread of magic among the Greeks. He marvels at
the lack of it in the Iliad and the abundance of it in the Odyssey.
He is uncertain whether to class Orpheus as a magician, and mentions
Thessaly as famous for its witches at least as early as the time of
Menander who named one of his comedies after them. But he regards the
Osthanes who accompanied Xerxes as the prime introducer of magic to the
Greek-speaking world, which straightway went mad over it. In order to
learn more of it, the philosophers Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus,
and Plato went into distant exile and on their return disseminated
their lore. Pliny regards the works of Democritus as the greatest
single factor in that dissemination of the doctrines of magic which
occurred at about the same time that medicine was being developed by
the works of Hippocrates. Some regarded the books on magic ascribed to
Democritus as spurious, but Pliny insists that they are genuine.[190]

[Sidenote: Its spread outside the Graeco-Roman world.]

Outside of the Greek-speaking world, whence of course magic spread to
Rome, Pliny mentions Jewish magic, represented by such names as Moses,
Jannes, and Lotapes. But he holds that magic did not originate among
the Hebrews until long after Zoroaster. He also speaks of the magic of
Cyprus; of the Druids, who were the magicians, diviners, and medicine
men of Gaul until the emperor Tiberius suppressed them; and of distant
Britain.[191] Thus discordant nations and even those ignorant of one
another’s existence agree the world over in their devotion to magic.
From what Pliny tells us elsewhere of the Scythians we can see that the
nomads of the Russian steppes and Turkestan were devoted to magic too.

[Sidenote: Failure to understand its true origin.]

It has been shown that Pliny regarded magic as a mass of doctrines
formulated by a single founder and not as a gradual social evolution,
just as the Greeks and Romans ascribed their laws and customs to some
single legislator. He admits in a way, however, the great antiquity
claimed by magic for itself, although he questions how the bulky dicta
of Zoroaster and Dardanus could have been handed down by memory during
so long a period. This remark again shows how little he thinks of magic
as a set of social customs and attitudes perpetuated through constant
and universal practice from generation to generation. Yet what he says
of its widespread prevalence among unconnected peoples goes to prove

[Sidenote: Magic and divination.]

Pliny has a clearer comprehension of the extensive scope of magic and
of its essential characteristics, at least as it was in his day. “No
one should wonder,” he says, “that its authority has been very great,
since alone of the arts it has embraced and united with itself the
three other subjects which make the greatest appeal to the human mind,”
namely, medicine, religion, and the arts of divination, especially
astrology. That his phrase _artes mathematicas_ has reference to
astrology is shown by his immediately continuing, “since there is no
one who is not eager to learn the future about himself and who does not
think that this is most truly revealed by the sky.” But magic further
“promises to reveal the future by water and spheres and air and stars
and lamps and basins and the blades of axes and by many other methods,
besides conferences with shades from the infernal regions.” There can
therefore be no doubt that Pliny regards the various arts of divination
as parts of magic.

[Sidenote: Magic and religion.]

While we have heard Pliny assert in general the close connection
between magic and religion, the character of the _Natural History_,
which deals with natural rather than religious matters, does not lead
him to enter into much further detail upon this point. His occasional
mention of religious usages in his own day, however, supports our
information from other sources that the original Roman religion was
very largely composed of magic forces, rules, and ceremonial.

[Sidenote: Magic and medicine.]

Nearly half the books of the _Natural History_ deal in whole or in
part with remedies for diseases, and it is therefore of the relations
between magic and natural science, and more particularly between magic
and medicine, that Pliny gives us the most detailed information.
Indeed, he asserts that “no one doubts” that magic “originally sprang
from medicine and crept in under the show of promoting health as a
loftier and more sacred medicine.” Magic and medicine have developed
together, and the latter is now in imminent danger of being overwhelmed
by the follies of magic, which have made men doubt whether plants
possess any medicinal properties.

[Sidenote: Magic and philosophy.]

In the opinion of many, however, magic is sound and beneficial
learning. In antiquity, and for that matter at almost all times,
the height of literary fame and glory has been sought from that
science.[192] Eudoxus would have it the most noted and useful of all
schools of philosophy. Empedocles and Plato studied it; Pythagoras and
Democritus perpetuated it in their writings.

[Sidenote: Falseness of magic.]

But Pliny himself feels that the assertions of the books of magic are
fantastic, exaggerated, and untrue. He repeatedly brands the _magi_
or magicians as fools or impostors, and their statements as absurd
and impudent tissues of lies.[193] _Vanitas_, or “nonsense,” is his
stock-word for their beliefs.[194] Some of their writings must, in his
opinion, have been dictated by a feeling of contempt and derision for
humanity.[195] Nero proved the falseness of the art, for although he
studied magic eagerly and with his unlimited wealth and power had every
opportunity to become a skilful practitioner, he was unable to work any
marvels and abandoned the attempt.[196] Pliny therefore comes to the
conclusion that magic is “invalid and empty, yet has some shadows of
truth, which however are due more to poisons than to magic.”[197]

[Sidenote: Crimes of magic.]

The last remark brings us to charges of evil practices made against the
magicians. Besides poisons, they specialize in love-potions and drugs
to produce abortions;[198] and some of their operations are inhuman or
obscene and abominable. They attempt baleful sorcery or the transfer of
disease from one person to another.[199] Osthanes and even Democritus
propound such remedies as drinking human blood or utilizing in magic
compounds and ceremonies parts of the corpses of men who have been
violently slain.[200] Pliny thinks that humanity owes a great debt to
the Roman government for abolishing those monstrous rites of human
sacrifice, “in which to slay a man was thought most pious; nay more, to
eat men was thought most wholesome.”[201]

[Sidenote: Pliny’s censure of magic is mainly intellectual.]

Pliny nevertheless lays less stress upon the moral argument against
magic as criminal or indecent than he does upon the intellectual
objection to it as untrue and unscientific. Indeed, so far as decency
is concerned, his own medicine will be seen to be far from prudish,
while he elsewhere gives instances of magicians guarding against
defilement.[202] Moreover, among the methods employed and the results
sought by magic which he frequently mentions there are comparatively
few that are morally objectionable, although they seem without
exception false. But many of their recipes aim at the cure of disease
and other worthy, or at least admissible, objects. Possibly Pliny has
somewhat censored their lore and tried to exclude all criminal secrets,
but his censure seems more intellectual than moral. For instance, he
fills a long chapter with extracts from a treatise on the virtues of
the chameleon and its parts by Democritus, whom he regards as a leading
purveyor of magic lore.[203] In opening the chapter Pliny hails “with
great pleasure” the opportunity to expose “the lies of Greek vanity,”
but at its close he expresses a wish that Democritus himself had been
touched with the branch of a palm which he said prevents immoderate
loquacity. Pliny then adds more charitably, “It is evident that this
man, who in other respects was a wise and most useful member of
society, has erred from too great zeal in serving humanity.”

[Sidenote: Vagueness of Pliny’s scepticism.]

Pliny himself fails to maintain a consistently sceptical attitude
towards magic. His exact attitude is often hard to determine. Often it
is difficult to say whether he is speaking in sober earnest or in a
tone of light and easy pleasantry and sarcasm, as in the passage just
cited concerning Democritus. Another puzzling point is his frequent
excuse that he will list certain assertions of the magicians in order
to expose or confute them. But really he usually simply sets them
forth, apparently expecting that their inherent and patent absurdity
will prove a sufficient refutation of them. On the rare occasions
when he undertakes to indicate in what the absurdity consists his
reasoning is scarcely scientific or convincing. Thus he affirms that
“it is a peculiar proof of the vanity of the magicians that of all
animals they most admire moles who are condemned by nature in so
many ways, to perpetual blindness and to dig in the darkness as if
they were buried.”[204] And he assails the belief of the _magi_[205]
that an owl’s egg is good for diseases of the scalp by asking, “Who,
I beg, could ever have seen an owl’s egg, since it is a prodigy to
see the bird itself?” Moreover, he sometimes cites assertions of the
magicians without any censure, apology, or expression of disbelief;
and there are many other passages where it is practically impossible
to tell whether he is citing the magicians or not. Sometimes he will
apparently continue to refer to them by a pronoun in chapters where
they have not been mentioned by name at all.[206] In other places he
will imperceptibly cease to quote the _magi_ and after an interval
perhaps as imperceptibly resume citation of their doctrines.[207] It
is also difficult to determine just when writers like Democritus and
Pythagoras are to be regarded as representatives of magic and when
their statements are accepted by Pliny as those of sound philosophers.

[Sidenote: Magic and science indistinguishable.]

Perhaps, despite Pliny’s occasional brave efforts to withstand and even
ridicule the assertions of the magicians, he could not free himself
from a secret liking for them and more than half believed them. At
any rate he believed very similar things. Even more likely is it that
previous works on nature were so full of such material and the readers
of his own day so interested in it, that he could not but include
much of it. Once he explains[208] that certain statements are scarcely
to be taken seriously, yet should not be omitted, because they have
been transmitted from the past. Again he begs the reader’s indulgence
for similar “vanities of the Greeks,” “because this too has its value
that we should know whatever marvels they have transmitted.”[209] The
truth of the matter probably is that Pliny rejected some assertions of
the magicians but found others acceptable; that he gets his occasional
attitude of scepticism and ridicule of their doctrines from one set
of authorities, and his moments of unquestioning acceptance of their
statements from other authors on whom he relies. Very likely in the
books which he used it often was no clearer than it is in the _Natural
History_ whether a statement was to be ascribed to the _magi_ or not.
Very possibly Pliny was as confused in his own mind concerning the
entire business as he seems to be to us. He could no more keep magic
out of his _Natural History_ than poor Mr. Dick could keep Charles the
First’s head out of his book. One fact at any rate stands out clearly,
the prominence of magic in his encyclopedia and in the learning of his

IV. _The Science of the Magi_

[Sidenote: Magicians as investigators of nature.]

Let us now further examine Pliny’s picture of magic, not as he
expressly defines or censures it, but as he reflects its own assertions
and purposes in his fairly numerous citations from its literature and
perhaps its practice. Here I shall rather strictly limit my survey
to those statements which Pliny definitely ascribes by name to the
_magi_ or magic art. The most striking fact is that the magicians are
cited again and again concerning the supposed properties, virtues, and
effects of things in nature—herbs, animals, and stones. These virtues
are, it is true, often employed in an effort to produce wonderful
results, and often too they are combined with some fantastic rite or
superstitious ceremonial performed by a human agent. But in many cases
either no rite at all is suggested or merely some simple medicinal
application; and in a few cases there is no mention of any particular
operation or result, the magicians are cited simply as authorities
concerning the great but unspecified virtues of natural objects.
Indeed, they stand out in Pliny’s pages not as mere sorcerers or
enchanters or wonder-workers, but as those who have gone the farthest
and in most detail—too far and too curiously in Pliny’s opinion—into
the study of medicine and of nature. Sometimes their statements,
cited without censure, supplement others concerning the species under
discussion;[210] sometimes they are his sole source of information on
the subject in hand.[211]

[Sidenote: The _magi_ on herbs.]

Pliny connects the origin of botany rather closely with magic,
mentioning Medea and Circe as early investigators of plants and Orpheus
among the first writers on the subject.[212] Moreover, Pythagoras and
Democritus borrowed from the _magi_ of the orient in their works on the
properties of plants.[213] There would be little profit in repeating
the names of the herbs concerning which Pliny gives opinions of the
magicians, inasmuch as few of them can be associated with any plants
known to-day.[214] Suffice it to say that Pliny makes no objection to
the herbs which they employed. Nor does he criticize their methods of
employing them, although some seem superstitious enough to the modern
reader. A chaplet is worn of one herb,[215] others are plucked with the
left hand and with a statement of what they are to be used for, and in
one case without looking backward.[216] The anemone is to be plucked
when it first appears that year with a statement of its intended use,
and then is to be wrapped in a red cloth and kept in the shade, and,
whenever anyone falls sick of tertian or quartan fever, is to be bound
on the patient’s body.[217] The heliotrope is not to be plucked at all
but tied in three or four knots with a prayer that the patient may
recover to untie the knots.[218]

[Sidenote: Marvelous virtues of herbs.]

Pliny does not even object to the marvelous results which the
_magi_ think can be gained by use of herbs until towards the close
of his twenty-fourth book, although already in his twentieth and
twenty-first books such powers have been claimed for herbs as to
make one well-favored and enable one to attain one’s desires,[219]
or to give one grace and glory.[220] At the end of his twenty-fourth
book[221] he states that Pythagoras and Democritus, following the
_magi_, ascribe to herbs unusually marvelous virtues such as to freeze
water, invoke spirits, force the guilty to confess by frightening them
with apparitions, and impart the gift of divination. Early in his
twenty-fifth book[222] Pliny suggests that some incredible effects have
been attributed to herbs by the _magi_ and their disciples, and in a
later chapter[223] he describes the _magi_ as so mad about vervain
that they think that if they are anointed with it, they can gain their
wishes, drive away fevers and other diseases, and make friendships. The
herb should be plucked about the rising of the dog-star when there is
neither sun nor moon. Honey and honeycomb should be offered to appease
the earth; then the plant should be dug around with iron with the left
hand and raised aloft. By the time he reaches his twenty-sixth book
Pliny’s courage has risen, so to speak, enough to cause him at last to
enter upon quite a tirade against “magical vanities which have been
carried so far that they might destroy faith in herbs entirely.”[224]
As examples he mentions herbs supposed to dry up rivers and swamps,
open barred doors at their touch, turn hostile armies to flight, and
supply all the needs of the ambassadors of the Persian kings. He
wonders why such herbs have never been employed in Roman warfare or
Italian drainage. Pliny’s only objection to magic herbs therefore
seems to be the excessive powers which are claimed for some of them.
He adds that it would be strange that the credulity which arose from
such wholesome beginnings had reached such a pitch, if human ingenuity
observed moderation in anything and if the much more recent system of
medicine which Asclepiades founded could not be shown to have been
carried even beyond the magicians. Here again we see Pliny failing
to recognize magic as a primitive social product and regarding it
as a degeneration from ancient science rather than science as a
comparatively modern development from it. But he may well be right in
thinking that many particular far-fetched recipes and rites were the
late, artificial product of over-scholarly magicians. Thus he brands as
false and magical the assertion of a recent grammarian, Apion, that the
herb cynocephalia is divine and a safeguard against poison, but kills
the man who uproots it entirely.[225]

[Sidenote: Animals and parts of animals.]

In a few cases Pliny objects to the animals or parts of animals
employed by the _magi_, as in the passage already cited where he
complains that they admire moles more than any other animals.[226] But
his assertion is inconsistent, since he has already affirmed that they
hold the hyena in most admiration of all animals on the ground that it
works magic upon men.[227] Their promise of readier favor with peoples
and kings to those who anoint themselves with lion’s fat, especially
that between the eyebrows, he criticizes by declaring that no fat
can be found there.[228] He also twits the _magi_ for magnifying the
importance of so nasty a creature as the tick.[229] They are attracted
to it by the fact that it has no outlet to its body and can live
only seven days even if it fasts. Whether there is any astrological
significance in the number seven here Pliny does not say. He does
inform us, however, that the cricket is employed in magic because it
moves backward.[230] A very bizarre object employed by the Druids
and other magicians is a sort of egg produced by the hissing or foam
of snakes.[231] The blood of the basilisk may also be classed as a
rarity. Apparently animals in some way unusual are preferred in magic,
like a black sheep,[232] but the logic in the reasons given by Pliny
for their selection is not clear in every instance. In some other cases
not criticized by Pliny[233] we have plainly enough sympathetic magic
or the principle of like cures like, as when the milt of a calf or
sheep is used to cure diseases of the human spleen.

[Sidenote: Further instances.]

The magicians, however, do not scorn to use familiar and easily
obtainable animals like the goat and dog and cat. The liver and dung
of a cat, a puppy’s brains, the blood and genitals of a dog, and the
gall of a black male dog are among the animal substances employed.[234]
Such substances as those just named are equally in demand from other
animals.[235] Minute parts of animals are frequently employed by the
magicians, such as the toe of an owl, the liver of a mouse given in
a fig, the tooth of a live mole, the stones from young swallows’
gizzards, the eyes of river crabs.[236] Sometimes the part employed
is reduced to ashes, perhaps a relic of sacrificial custom. Thus for
toothache the _magi_ inject into the ear nearer the tooth the ashes
of the head of a mad dog and oil of Cyprus, while they prescribe for
affections of the sinews the ashes of an owl’s head in honied wine
with lily root.[237] Other living creatures which Pliny mentions as
used by the _magi_ are the salamander, earthworm, bat, scarab with
reflex horns, lizard, tortoise, bed-bug, frog, and sea-urchin.[238] The
dragon’s tail wrapped in a gazelle’s skin and bound on with deer-sinews
cures epilepsy,[239] and a mixture of the dragon’s tongue, eyes, gall,
and intestines, boiled in oil, cooled in the night air, and rubbed on
morning and evening, frees one from nocturnal apparitions.[240]

[Sidenote: Magic rites with animals and parts of animals.]

Sometimes the parts of animals are bound on outside the patient’s
body, sometimes the injured portion of his body is merely touched
with them. Once the whole house is to be fumigated with the substance
in question;[241] once the walls are to be sprinkled with it; once it
is to be buried under the threshold. Some instances follow of more
elaborate magic ritual connected with the use of animals or parts of
animals. The hyena is more easily captured by a hunter who ties seven
knots in his girdle and horsewhip, and it should be captured when
the moon is in the sign of Gemini and without the loss of a single
hair.[242] Another bit of astrology dispensed by the _magi_ is that the
cat, whose salted liver is taken with wine for quartan fever, should
have been killed under a waning moon.[243] To cure incontinence of
urine one not only drinks ashes of a boar’s genitals in sweet wine, but
afterwards urinates in a dog kennel and repeats the formula, “That I
may not urinate like a dog in its kennel.”[244] The magicians insist
that the sex of the patient be observed in administering burnt cow-dung
or bull-dung in honied wine for cases of dropsy.[245] For infantile
ailments the brains of a she-goat should be passed through a gold ring
and dropped in the baby’s mouth before it is given its milk.[246] After
the fresh milt of a sheep has been applied to the patient with the
words, “This I do for the cure of the spleen,” it should be plastered
into the bedroom wall and sealed with a ring, while the charm should
be repeated twenty-seven times.[247] In treating sciatica[248] an
earthworm should be placed in a broken wooden dish mended with an
iron band, the dish should be filled with water, the worm should
be buried again where it was dug up, and the water should be drunk
by the patient. The eyes of river crabs are to be attached to the
patient’s person before sunrise and the blinded crabs put back into the
water.[249] After it has been carried around the house thrice a bat may
be nailed head down outside a window as an amulet.[250] For epilepsy
goat’s flesh should be given which has been roasted on a funeral pyre,
and the animal’s gall should not be allowed to touch the ground.[251]

[Sidenote: Marvels wrought with parts of animals.]

Pliny occasionally speaks in a vague general way of his citations
from the _magi_ concerning the virtues of parts of animals as lies
or nonsense or “portentous,” but he does not specifically criticize
their procedure any more than he did their methods of employing herbs,
and he does not criticize their promised results as much as he did
before. Indeed, as we have already indicated, the object in a majority
of cases is purely medicinal. The purpose of others is pastoral or
agricultural, such as preventing goats from straying or causing swine
to follow you.[252] The blood of the basilisk, however, is said to
procure answers to petitions made to the powerful and prayers addressed
to the gods, and to act as a safeguard against poison or sorcery
(_veneficiorum amuleta_).[253] Invincibility is promised the wearer of
the head and tail of a dragon, hairs from a lion’s forehead, a lion’s
marrow, the foam of a winning horse, a dog’s claw bound in deer-skin,
and the muscles alternately of a deer and a gazelle.[254] A woman will
tell secrets in her sleep if the heart of an owl is applied to her
right breast, and power of divination is gained by eating the still
palpitating heart of a mole.[255]

[Sidenote: The _magi_ on stones.]

In the case of stones the names are again, as in the case of herbs, of
little significance for us.[256] The accompanying ritual is slight.
There are one or two suspensions from the neck or elsewhere by such
means as a lion’s mane—the hair of the hyena will not do at all—nor
the hair of the cynocephalus and swallows’ feathers.[257] There is
some use of incantations with the stones, a setting of iron for one
stone, burial of another beneath a tree that it may not dull the axe,
and placing another on the tongue after rinsing the mouth with honey
at certain days and hours of the moon in order to acquire the gift
of divination.[258] Indeed, the results promised are all marvelous.
The stones benefit public speakers, admit to the presence of royalty,
counteract fascination and sorcery, avert hail, thunderbolts, storms,
locusts, and scorpions; chill boiling water, produce family discord,
render athletes invincible, quench anger and violence, make one
invisible, evoke images of the gods and shades from the infernal

[Sidenote: Other magical recipes.]

We have yet to mention a group of magical recipes and remedies which
Pliny for some reason collects in one chapter[259] but which hardly
fall under any one head. A whetstone on which iron tools are sharpened,
if placed without his knowledge under the pillow of a man who has been
poisoned, will cause him to reveal all the circumstances of the crime.
If you turn a man who has been struck by lightning over on his injured
side, he will speak at once. To cure tumors in the groin, tie seven
or nine knots in the remnant of a weaver’s web, naming some widow as
each knot is tied. The pain is assuaged by binding to the body the nail
that has been trod on. To get rid of warts, on the twentieth day of the
moon lie flat in a path gazing at the moon, stretch the hands above the
head and rub the warts with anything that comes to hand. A corn may
be extracted successfully at the moment a star shoots. Headache may
be relieved by a liniment made by pouring vinegar on door hinges or
by binding a hangman’s noose about the patient’s temples. To dislodge
a fish-bone stuck in the throat, plunge the feet into cold water; to
dislodge some other sort of bone, place bones on the head; to dislodge
a morsel of bread, stuff bits of bread into both ears. We may add from
a neighboring chapter a very magical remedy for fevers, although Pliny
calls it “the most modest of their promises.”[260] Toe and finger
nail parings mixed with wax are to be attached ere sunrise to another
person’s door in order to transfer the disease from the patient to him.
Or they may be placed near an ant-hill, in which case the first ant who
tries to drag one inside the hill should be captured and suspended
from the patient’s neck.

[Sidenote: Summary of the statements of the _magi_.]

Such is the picture we derive from numerous passages in the _Natural
History_ of the magic art, its materials and rites, the effects it
seeks to produce, and its general attitude towards nature. Besides
the natural materials employed and the marvelous results sought, we
have noted the frequent use of ligatures, suspensions, and amulets,
the observance of astrological conditions, of certain times and
numbers, rules for plucking herbs and tying knots, stress on the use
of the right or left hand—in other words, on position or direction,
some employment of incantations, some sacrifice and fumigation, some
specimens of sympathetic magic, of the theory that “like cures like,”
and of other types of magic logic.

V. _Pliny’s Magical Science_

[Sidenote: From the _magi_ to Pliny’s magic.]

We may now turn to the still more numerous passages of the _Natural
History_ where the _magi_ are not cited and compare the virtues there
ascribed to the things of nature and the methods employed in medicine
and agriculture with those of the magicians. We shall find many
striking resemblances and shall soon come to a realization that there
is more magic in the _Natural History_ which is not attributed to
the _magi_ than there is that is. Pliny did not need to warn us that
medicine had been corrupted by magic; his own medicine proves it. It
is this fact, that virtually his entire work is crammed with marvelous
properties and fantastic ceremonial, which makes it so difficult in
some places to tell when he begins to draw material from the _magi_ and
when he leaves off. By a detailed analysis of this remaining material
we shall now attempt to classify the substances of which Pliny makes
use and the virtues which he ascribes to them, the rites and methods
of procedure by which they are employed, and certain superstitious
doctrines and notions which are involved. We shall thus find that
almost precisely the same factors are present in his science as in the
lore of the magicians.

[Sidenote: Habits of animals.]

Of substances we may begin with animals,[261] and, before we note the
human use of their virtues with its strong suggestion of magic, may
remark another unscientific and superstitious feature which was very
common both in ancient and medieval times. This is the tendency to
humanize animals, ascribing to them conscious motives, habits, and
ruses, or even moral standards and religious veneration. We shall have
occasion to note the same thing in other authors and so will give but
a few specimens from the many in the _Natural History_. Such qualities
are attributed by Pliny especially to elephants, whom he ranks next to
man in intelligence, and whom he represents as worshiping the stars,
learning difficult tricks, and as having a sense of justice, feeling
of mercy, and so on.[262] Similarly the lion has noble courage and a
sense of gratitude, while the lioness is wily in the devices by which
she conceals her amours with the pard.[263] A number of the devices
of fishes to escape hooks and nets are repeated by Pliny from Ovid’s
_Halieuticon_, extant only in fragments.[264] The crocodile opens
its jaws to have its teeth picked by a friendly bird; but sometimes
while this operation is being performed the ichneumon “darts down its
throat like a javelin and eats away its intestines.”[265] Pliny also
marvels at the cleverness displayed by the dragon and the elephant in
their combats with one another,[266] which, however, almost invariably
terminate fatally to both combatants, the elephant falling exhausted in
the dragon’s coils and crushing the serpent by its weight. Others say
that in the hot summer the dragons thirst for the blood of the elephant
which is very cold; in their combat the elephant falls drained of its
blood and crushes the dragon who is intoxicated by the same.

[Sidenote: Remedies discovered by animals.]

The dragon’s apparent knowledge that the elephant is cold-blooded
leads us to a kindred topic, the remedies used by animals and often
discovered by men only by seeing animals use them. This notion
continued in the middle ages, as we shall see, and of course it did not
originate with Pliny. As he says himself, “The ancients have recorded
the remedies of wild beasts and shown how they are healed even when
poisoned.”[267] Against aconite the scorpion eats white hellebore as
an antidote, while the panther employs human excrement.[268] Animals
prepare themselves for combats with poisonous snakes by eating certain
herbs; the weasel eats rue, the tortoise and deer use two other plants,
while field mice who have been stung by snakes eat _condrion_.[269]
The hawk tears open the hawkweed and sprinkles its eyes with the
juice.[270] The serpent tastes fennel when it sheds its old skin.[271]
Sick bears cure themselves by a diet of ants.[272] Swallows restore
the sight of their young with chelidonia or swallow-wort,[273] and the
historian Xanthus says that the dragon restores its dead offspring
to life with an herb called _balis_.[274] The hippopotamus was the
original discoverer of bleeding,[275] opening a vein in his leg by
wounding himself on sharp reeds along the shore, and afterwards
checking the flow of blood by plastering the place with mud.[276]
Pliny, however, states in one passage that animals hit upon all these
remedies by chance and even have to rediscover them by accident in
each new case, “since,” he continues in conformity with recent animal
psychologists, “reason and practice cannot be transmitted between wild

[Sidenote: Jealousy of animals.]

Yet in another passage Pliny deplores the spitefulness of the dog
which, while men are looking, will not pluck the herb by which it
cures itself of snake-bite.[278] Probably Pliny is using different
authorities in the two passages. Theophrastus, the pupil of Aristotle,
had written a work on _Jealous Animals_. More excusable than the
spitefulness of the dog is the attitude of the dragon, from whose
brain the gem _draconitis_ must be taken while the dragon is alive and
preferably asleep. For if the dragon feels that it is mortally wounded,
it takes revenge by spoiling the gem.[279] Elephants know that men hunt
them only for their tusks, and so bury these when they fall off.[280]

[Sidenote: Occult virtues of animals.]

Animals have marvelous virtues of their own other than the medicinal
uses to which men have put them. For instance, the mere glance of
the basilisk is fatal, and its breath burns up vegetation and breaks
rocks.[281] But the medicinal effects which Pliny ascribes to animals
and parts of animals are well nigh infinite. Many animal substances
will have to be introduced in other connections so that we need
mention now but a very few: the heads and blood of flies, honey in
which bees have died, _cinere genitalis asini_, chicks in the egg,
and thrice seven centipedes diluted with Attic honey,[282]—this last
a prescription for asthma and to be taken through a reed because it
blackens every dish by its contact. Another passage advises eating
a rat or shrew-mouse in order to bear a baby with black eyes.[283]
These items are enough to convince us that the animals and parts of
animals employed by the magicians were not one whit more bizarre and
nauseating than the others found in the _Natural History_, nor were the
cures which they were expected to work any more improbable. In order
to illustrate, however, the delicate distinctions which were imagined
to exist not only between the virtues of different parts of the same
animal, but also between slightly varied uses of the same part, we may
note that scales scraped from the topmost part of a tortoise’s shell
and administered in drink check sexual desire, considering which, it
is, as Pliny remarks, the more marvelous that a powder made of the
entire shell is reported to arouse lust.[284] But love turns readily to
hatred in magic as well as in romance, and it is nothing very unusual,
as we shall find in other authors, for the same thing on slight
provocation to work in exactly opposite ways.

[Sidenote: The virtues of herbs.]

Pig grease, Pliny somewhere informs us, possesses especially strong
virtue, “because that animal feeds on the roots of herbs.”[285] From
the virtues of animals, therefore, let us turn to those of herbs.[286]
Pliny met on every hand assertion of their wonderful powers. The
empire-builders of Rome employed the sacred herbs _sagmina_ and
_verbenae_ in their embassies and legations. The Gauls, too, use the
verbena in lot-casting and prophetic responses.[287] Pliny also states
more sceptically that there is another root which diviners take in
drink in order to feign inspiration.[288] The Scythians know of a plant
which prevents hunger and thirst if held in the mouth, and of another
which has the same effect upon their horses, so that they can go for
twelve days without meat or drink,[289]—an exaggerated estimate of
the hardihood of the mounted Asiatic nomads and their steeds. Musaeus
and Hesiod say that one anointed with _polion_ will attain fame and

Pliny perhaps did not intend to subscribe fully to such statements,
although he cannot be said to call many of them into question. He did
complain that some writers had asserted incredible powers of herbs,
such as to restore dragons or men to life or withdraw wedges from
trees,[291] yet he seems on the whole in sympathy with the opinion of
the majority that there is practically nothing which the force of herbs
cannot accomplish. Herophilus, illustrious in medicine, had said that
certain herbs were beneficial if merely trod upon, and Pliny himself
says the same of more than one plant. He tells us further that binding
the wild fig tree about their necks makes the fiercest bulls stand
immobile;[292] that another plant subjects fractious beasts of burden
to the yoke;[293] while cows who eat _buprestis_ burst asunder.[294]
Another herb _contacto genitali_ kills any female animal.[295] Betony
is considered an amulet for houses,[296] and fishermen in Pliny’s
neighborhood mix a plant with chalk and scatter it on the waves.[297]
“The fish dart towards it with marvelous desire and straightway float
lifeless on the surface.” Dogs will not bark at persons carrying
_peristereos_.[298] The “impious plant” prevents any human being who
tastes it from having quinsy, while swine are sure to have that disease
if they do not eat it. Some place it in birds’ nests to prevent the
voracious nestlings from strangling. Bitter almonds provide another
amusing combination of effects. Eating five of them permits one to
drink without experiencing intoxication, but if foxes eat them they
will die unless they find water near by to drink.[299] There are some
herbs which have a medicinal effect, if one merely looks at them.[300]
In two cases the masculine or feminine variety of a herb is used to
secure the birth of a child of the desired sex.[301]

[Sidenote: Plucking herbs.]

That the plucking of herbs and digging up of roots was a process very
apt to be attended by magical procedure we find abundant evidence
in the _Natural History_. Often plants should be plucked before
sunrise.[302] Twice Pliny tells us that the peony should be uprooted
by night lest the woodpecker of Mars try to pick the digger’s eyes
out.[303] The state of the moon is another point to be observed,[304]
and once an herb is to be gathered before thunder is heard.[305] A
common instruction is to pick the plant with the left hand,[306] and
once with the thumb and fourth finger of the left hand.[307] Once
the right hand should be stretched covertly after the fashion of a
pickpocket through the left sleeve in order to pluck the plant.[308]
Sometimes one faces east in plucking herbs; sometimes, west; again one
is careful not to face the wind.[309] Sometimes the gatherer must not
glance behind him. Sometimes he must fast before he takes the plant
from the ground;[310] again he must observe a state of chastity.[311]
Sometimes he should be barefoot and clothed in white; again he should
remove every stitch of clothing and even his rings.[312] Sometimes the
use of iron implements is forbidden; again gold or some other material
is prescribed;[313] once the herb is to be dug with a nail.[314]
Sometimes circles are traced about the plant with the point of a
sword.[315] Often the plant must not touch the ground again after it is
picked,[316] presumably from a fear that its virtue would run off like
an electric current. Pliny alludes at least three times[317] to the
practice of herbalists of retaining portions of the herbs they sell,
and then, if they are not paid in full, replanting the herb in the same
spot with the idea that thereby the disease will return to plague the
delinquent patient. Frequently one is directed to state why one plucks
the herb or for whom it is intended.[318] In one case the digger says,
“This is the herb Argemon which Minerva discovered was a remedy for
swine who taste it.”[319] In another case one should salute the plant
and extract its juice before saying a word; thus its virtue will be
much greater.[320] In other cases, as an offering to appease the earth,
the soil about the plant is soaked with hydromel three months before
plucking it, or the hole left by pulling it up is filled with different
kinds of grain.[321] Sometimes one sacrifices beforehand with bread
and wine or prays to the gods for permission to gather the herb.[322]
The customs of the Druids in gathering herbs are mentioned more than
once.[323] In gathering the sacred mistletoe on the sixth day of the
moon they hold sacrifices and a banquet beneath the tree.[324] Two
white bulls are the victims; a priest clad in white cuts the mistletoe
with a golden sickle and receives it in a white cloak.[325]

[Sidenote: Agricultural magic.]

To Pliny’s discussion of herbs we may append some specimens of the
employment of magic procedure in agriculture and of the superstitions
of the peasantry in which his pages abound. To guard against diseases
of grain the seeds before planting should be steeped in wine, the
juice of a certain herb, the gall of a cow, or human urine, or should
be touched with the shoulders of a mole[326]—the animal whose use
by the _magi_ we heard Pliny ridicule. One should sow at the moon’s
conjunction. Before the field is hoed, a frog should be carried around
it and then buried in the center in an earthen vessel. But it should be
disinterred before harvest lest the millet be bitter. Birds may be kept
away from the grain by planting in the four corners of the field an
herb whose name is unfortunately unknown to Pliny.[327] Mice are kept
out by the ashes of a weasel, mildew by laurel branches, caterpillars
by placing the skull of a female beast of burden upon a stick in the
garden.[328] To ward off fogs and storms from orchards and vineyards
a frog may be buried as directed above, or live crabs may be burnt
in the trees, or a painted grape may be consecrated.[329] Suspending
a frog in the granary preserves the corn stored there.[330] To keep
wolves away catch one, break its legs, attach it to the ploughshare,
and thus scatter its blood about the boundaries of the field; then bury
the carcass at the starting-point.[331] Or consecrate at the altar of
the Lar the ploughshare with which the first furrow was traced. Foxes
will not touch poultry who have eaten the dried liver of a fox or who
wear a bit of its skin about their necks. Fern will not spring up again
if it is mowed with the edge of a reed or uprooted by a ploughshare
upon which a reed has been placed.[332] Of the use of incantations in
agriculture we shall treat later.

[Sidenote: Virtues of stones.]

Pliny appears to have much less faith in the possession of marvelous
virtues by gems than by herbs and parts of animals. He not only
characterizes the powers attributed to gems by the _magi_ and
Democritus and Pythagoras as “terrible lies” and “unspeakable
nonsense”;[333] but refrains from mentioning many such himself or
inserts a cautious “if we believe it” or “if they tell the truth.”[334]
Of the gem supposed to be produced from the urine of the lynx he
says, “I think that this is quite false and no gem of that name has
been seen in our time. What is stated concerning its medicinal virtue
is also false.”[335] To other stones, however, he ascribes various
medicinal virtues, either when taken pulverized in drink or when worn
as amulets.[336] A few other occult properties are stated without
reservation, as that _amiantus_ resists all sorceries,[337] that
adamant expels idle fears from the mind, that _sideritis_ produces
discord and litigation, and that _eumeces_, placed beneath one’s pillow
at night, causes oracular visions.[338] Magnets are said to differ
in sex, and the belief of Theophrastus and Mucianus is repeated that
certain stones bear offspring.[339]

[Sidenote: Other minerals and metals.]

Of the metals iron sometimes figures in Pliny’s magical procedure, as
when he either prescribes or taboos the use of it in cutting herbs or
killing animals. In Arcadia the yew-tree is a fatal poison to persons
sleeping beneath it, but driving a copper nail into the tree makes
it harmless.[340] Pliny says that gold is medicinal in many ways
and in particular is applied to wounded persons and to infants as a
safeguard against witchcraft.[341] Earth itself is often used to work
marvels, but usually some particular portion, such as that between
cart ruts or that thrown up by ants, beetles, and moles, or in the
right footprint where one first heard a cuckoo sing.[342] However,
the rule that an object should not touch the ground is enforced in
many other connections[343] than the plucking of herbs, and Pliny
twice states that the earth will not permit a serpent who has stung
a human being to re-enter its hole.[344] In his discussion of metals
Pliny does not allude to transmutation or alchemy, unless it be in his
accounts of various fraudulent practices of workers in metal and how
Caligula extracted gold from orpiment. But the following directions
for preparing antimony show how closely akin to magic the procedure
in ancient metallurgy might be. The antimony should be coated with
cow-flap and burnt in furnaces, then quenched in woman’s milk and
pounded in mortars with an admixture of rain-water.[345]

[Sidenote: Virtues of human parts.]

Various parts and products of the human body are credited with
remarkable virtues as the mention just made of woman’s milk suggests.
Other passages recommend more especially the milk of a woman just
delivered of a male child, but most of all that of the mother
of twins.[346] _Sed nihil facile reperiatur mulierum profluvio
magis monstrificum_, as Pliny proceeds to illustrate by numerous
examples.[347] Great virtues are also attributed to the urine,
particularly of a chaste boy.[348] A few other instances of remedies
drawn from the human body are ear-wax or a powdered tooth against
stings of scorpions and bites of snakes,[349] a man’s hair for the bite
of a dog, the first hairs from a boy’s head for gout.[350] Diseases
of women are prevented by wearing constantly in a bracelet the first
tooth a boy loses, provided it has not touched the ground. Simply tying
two fingers or toes together is recommended for tumors in the groin,
catarrh, and sore eyes.[351] Or the eyes may be touched thrice with
water in which the feet have been washed. Scrofula and throat diseases
may be cured by the touch of the hand of one who has died an early
death, although some authorities do not insist upon the circumstance
of early death but direct that the corpse be of the same sex as the
patient and that the diseased spot be touched with the back of the left
dead hand.

[Sidenote: Virtues of human saliva.]

Of all fluids and excretions of the human body the saliva is
perhaps used most often in ancient and medieval medicine, as the
custom of spitting once or thrice in administering other remedies
or performing ceremonies goes to prove. The spittle of a fasting
person is the more efficacious. In a chapter devoted particularly to
the properties of human saliva Pliny lists many diseases and woes
which it alleviates.[352] In this connection he makes the following
absurd assertion which he nevertheless declares is easily tested by
experiment. “If a person repents of a blow given from a distance or
hand-to-hand, let him spit into the palm of the hand with which he
struck, and the person who has been struck will feel no resentment.
This is often proved by beasts of burden who are induced to mend their
pace by this method after the use of the whip has failed.” Pliny
adds, however, that some persons try to increase the force of their
blows by thus spitting on the hands beforehand. He also mentions as
counter-charms against sorcery the practices of spitting into one’s
urine or right shoe, or when crossing a dangerous spot.

[Sidenote: The human operator.]

The importance of the human operator as a factor in the performance
of marvels, be they medical or magical, is attested by the frequent
injunctions of chastity, virginity, nudity, or a state of fasting
upon persons concerned in Pliny’s procedure. Sometimes they are not
to glance behind them, sometimes they are to speak to no one during
the operation. Pliny also mentions men who have a special capacity for
wonder-working, such as Pyrrhus, the touch of whose toe had healing
power,[353] those whose eyes exert strong fascination, whole tribes
of serpent-charmers and venom-curers, and others whose mere presence
addles the eggs beneath a setting hen.[354] The power of words spoken
by men will be considered separately under the head of incantations.

[Sidenote: Absence of medical compounds.]

While Pliny attributes the most extreme medicinal virtues to simples,
he excludes from his _Natural History_ the strange and elaborate
compounds which were nevertheless so popular in the pharmacy of his
age. Of one simple, _laser_, he says that it would be an immense
task to attempt to list all the uses that it is supposed to have
in compounds.[355] His position is that the simple remedies alone
are the direct work of nature, while the mixtures, tablets, pills,
plasters, washes are artificial inventions of the apothecaries. Once
when he describes a compound called “Hermesias” which aids in the
generation of good and beautiful children, it seems to be borrowed
by Democritus from the _magi_.[356] Furthermore, Pliny thinks that
health can be sufficiently preserved or restored by nature’s simple
remedies. Compounds are the invention of human conjecture, avarice,
and impudence. Such conjecture is often false, not sufficiently taking
into account the natural sympathies and antipathies of the numerous
ingredients. Often compounds are inexplicable. Pliny also deplores
resort to imported drugs from India, Arabia, and the Red Sea, when
there are homely remedies at hand for the poorest man.[357]

[Sidenote: Sympathetic magic.]

We have just heard Pliny refer to the sympathies and antipathies
of natural simples, and he often explains the marvelous effects of
natural objects upon one another by this relation of love and hatred,
friendship or repugnance, discord or concord which exists between them,
which the Greeks call sympathy or antipathy, and which Heracleitus was
perhaps the first philosopher to insist upon.[358] Some modern students
of magic have tried to account for all magic on this theory, and Pliny
states that medicine and medicines originated from it.[359]

[Sidenote: Antipathies between animals.]

This relationship exists between animals,—deer and snakes, for
example. So great a force is it that stags track snakes to their
holes and extract them thence despite all resistance by the power
of their breath. This antipathy continues after death, for the
sovereign remedy for snake-bite is the rennet of a fawn killed in its
mother’s womb, while serpents flee from a man who wears the tooth of
a deer. But antipathy may change to sympathy, for Pliny adds that
in some cases certain parts of deer treated in certain ways attract
serpents.[360] This force of antipathy is indeed capable of taking
the strangest turn. Bed-bugs, foul and disgusting as they are, heal
the bite of snakes, especially asps, and sows can eat the poisonous
salamander.[361] The antipathy between goats and snakes would seem
almost as potent as that between deer and snakes,[362] since we are
told that snake-bitten persons recover more quickly, if they frequent
the stalls where goats are kept or wear as an amulet the paunch of a

[Sidenote: Love and hatred between inanimate objects.]

There is also “the hatred and friendship of deaf and insensible
things.”[363] Instances are the magnet’s attraction for iron and the
fact that adamant can be broken only by the blood of a he-goat, two
stock examples of occult influence and natural marvels which continued
classic in the medieval period.[364] Pliny indeed regards this last
as the clearest illustration possible of the potency of sympathy and
antipathy, since a substance which defies iron and fire, nature’s two
most violent agents, yields to the blood of a foul animal.[365]

[Sidenote: Sympathy between animate and inanimate objects.]

There is furthermore sympathy and antipathy between animate and
inanimate objects. So marvelous is the antipathy of the tamarisk tree
for the spleen alone of internal organs, that pigs who drink from
troughs of this wood are found when slaughtered to be without spleen,
and hence splenetic patients are fed from vessels of tamarisk.[366]
The spleenless pig, it may be interpolated, is another commonplace of
ancient and medieval science. Smearing the hives with cow dung kills
other insects but stimulates the bees who have an affinity for it
(_cognatum hoc iis_),[367] probably, although Pliny does not say so,
on the theory that they are spontaneously generated from it. That
the wild cabbage is hostile to dogs is evidenced by the statement of
Epicharmus that it cures the bite of a mad dog but kills a dog if he
eats it when given to him with meat.[368] Snakes hate the ash-tree
so, that if they are hemmed in by its foliage on one side and fire on
the other, they flee by preference into the flames.[369] Betony, too,
is so antipathetic to snakes that they lash themselves to death when
a circle of it is drawn about them.[370] Scorpions cannot survive in
the air of Sicily.[371] Perhaps antipathy is also the explanation of
Pliny’s absurd statement that loads of apples and pears, even if there
are only a few of them, are very heavy for beasts of burden.[372] Here,
however, the condition may be remedied and perhaps a relationship of
sympathy established by showing the beasts how few fruit there really
are or by giving them some to eat. That sympathy may even attach to
places or religious circumstances Pliny infers from the belief that the
priestess of the earth at Aegira, when about to descend into the cave
and predict, drinks without injury bull’s blood which is supposed to be
a fatal poison.[373]

[Sidenote: Like cures like.]

That like cures like, or more precisely and paradoxically that the
cause of the disease will cure its own result, is another notion which
Pliny’s medicine shares with magic. This is seen in the use of parts
of the mad dog to cure its bite,[374] or in rubbing thighs chafed by
horse-back riding with the foam from a horse’s mouth.[375] The bite of
the shrew-mouse, too, is best healed by imposition of the very animal
which bit you, but another shrew-mouse will do and they are kept ready
in oil and mud for this purpose.[376] The sting of the _phalangium_ may
be cured by merely looking at another insect of that species, whether
it be dead or alive.

From cases in which the cure for the disease is identical with its
cause it is but a short step to remedies similar to or in some way
associated with the ailment. It seems obvious to Pliny that stone in
the bladder can be broken by the herb on which grow what look exactly
like pearls. “In the case of no other herb is it so evident for what
medicine it is intended; its species is such that it can be recognized
at once by sight without book knowledge.”[377] Similarly _ophites_,
a marble with serpentine streaks, is used as an amulet against
snake-bite.[378] Mithridates discovered that the blood of Pontic
ducks should be mixed in antidotes because they live on poison.[379]
Heliotrope seed looks like a scorpion’s tail; if scorpions are touched
with a sprig of heliotrope they die, and they will not enter ground
which has been circumscribed by it.[380] To accelerate a woman’s
delivery her lover should take off his belt and gird her with it, then
untie it, saying that he has bound her and will unloose her, and then
he should go away.[381] An epileptic may be cured by driving an iron
nail into the spot where his head rested when he fell in the fit.[382]

[Sidenote: The principle of association.]

Other instances of association are when the remedy employed is
some part of an animal who is free from the disease in question or
marked by an opposite state of health. Goats and gazelles never have
ophthalmia, hence various portions of their bodies are prescribed for
eye diseases.[383] Eagles can gaze at the sun, therefore their gall is
efficacious in eye-salves.[384] The bird called ossifrage has a single
intestine which digests anything; the end of this intestine serves as
an amulet against colic, and indigestion may be cured by merely holding
the crop of the bird in one hand.[385] But do not hold it too long or
your flesh will waste away. The virus of mares is an ingredient in a
candle which makes heads of horses seem to appear when it burns;[386]
while ink of the _sepia_ is used in a candle which causes Ethiopians
to be seen when it is lighted.[387] These magic candles are borrowed
by Pliny from the works of Anaxilaus, and we shall find them a feature
of medieval collections of experiments. Earth from a cart-wheel rut
is thought a remedy against the bite of the shrew-mouse because that
creature is too torpid to cross such a rut;[388] and Pliny believes
that none of the virtues attributed to moles by the magicians is
more probable than that they are an antidote to the bite of the
shrew-mouse, which shuns even ruts, whereas moles burrow freely through
the soil.[389] Pliny finds incredible the assertion made by some that
a ship will move more slowly if it has the right foot of a tortoise
aboard,[390] but the logic of the magic seems evident enough.

[Sidenote: Magic transfer of disease.]

In Pliny’s medicine there are a number of examples of what may be
called magic transfer, in which the aim of the procedure is not to
cure the disease outright but to rid the patient of it by transferring
it from him to some other animal or object. Intestinal disease may be
transferred to puppies who have not yet opened their eyes by pressing
them to the body and giving them milk from the patient’s mouth. They
will die of the disease, when its cause and exact nature may be
determined by dissecting them. But finally they must be buried.[391]
Griping pains in the bowels will also pass to a duck that is held
against the abdomen. One may be rid of a cough by spitting in a frog’s
mouth or cure catarrh by kissing a mule,[392] although in these cases
we are left uninformed whether the disease passes to the animal. But if
a person who has been stung by a scorpion whispers the news in the ear
of an ass, the ill will be transferred to the ass.[393] A boil may be
removed by rubbing nine grains of barley around it, each grain thrice
with the left hand, and then throwing them all into the fire.[394]
Warts are banished by touching each with a grain of the chickpea and
then tying the grains up in a linen cloth and throwing them behind
one.[395] If a root of asphodel is applied to sores and then hung
up in smoke, the sores will dry up along with the root.[396] To cure
scrofulous sores some bind on as many earthworms as there are sores
and let them dry up together.[397] A tooth will cease aching if the
herb _erigeron_ is dug up with iron and the patient thrice alternately
touches the tooth with the root and spits, and if he then replaces
the herb in the same spot and it lives.[398] If this last is a case
of magic transfer, perhaps we may trace the same notion in some of
the numerous instances in which Pliny directs that an animal shall be
released alive after some part of it has been removed or some other
medicinal use made of it.

[Sidenote: Amulets.]

A common characteristic of magic force and occult virtue is that it
will often act at a distance or without any physical contact or direct
application. This is manifested in the practice of carrying or wearing
amulets, or, what is the same thing, of ligatures and suspensions, in
which objects are hung from the neck or bound to some part of the body
in order to ward off danger from without or cure internal disease.
Instances of such practices in the _Natural History_ are well nigh
innumerable. Roots are suspended from the neck by a thread;[399] the
tongue of a fox is worn in a bracelet;[400] for quinsy the throat
is wound thrice with a thong of dog-skin and catarrh is relieved by
winding the same about the fingers.[401] A tooth stops aching when
worms are taken from a certain prickly plant, put with some bread
in a pill-box, and bound to the arm on the same side of the body as
the aching tooth.[402] Two bed-bugs bound to the left arm in wool
stolen from shepherds are a charm against nocturnal fevers; against
diurnal fevers, if wrapped in russet cloth instead.[403] The heart
of a vulture is an amulet against snakes, wild beasts, robbers, and
royal wrath.[404] The traveler who carries the herb _artemisia_ feels
no fatigue.[405] Injurious drugs cannot cross one’s threshold and
do injury in one’s household, if a sea-star is smeared with the
blood of a fox and attached to the lintel or door-post with a copper
nail.[406] Not only is a wreath of herbs worn for headache,[407]
but a sprig of poplar held in the hand prevents chafing between the
thighs.[408] Often objects are placed under one’s pillow, especially
for insomnia,[409] but any psychological effect is precluded in the
case where this is to be done without the patient’s knowledge.[410] All
sorts of specifications are given as to the color and kind of string,
cloth, skin, box, nail, ring, bracelet, and the like in which should be
placed, or with which should be bound on, the various gems, herbs, and
parts of animals which serve as amulets. But when we are told that a
remedy for headache which always helps many consists of a little bone
from a snail found between two cart ruts, passed through gold, silver,
and ivory, and attached to the body with dog-skin; or that one may bind
on the head with a linen cloth the head of a snail decapitated with a
reed when feeding in the morning especially at full moon;[411] we feel
that we have passed beyond mere amulets, ligatures, and suspensions to
more elaborate minutiae of magic procedure.

[Sidenote: Position or direction.]

Position or direction is often an important matter in Pliny’s, as
in magic, ceremonial. It perhaps comes out most frequently in his
specification of right or left. An aching tooth should be scarified
with the left eye-tooth of a dog; a spider which is placed with oil
in the ear should be caught with the left hand;[412] epilepsy may be
cured if a virgin touches the sufferer with her right thumb;[413] for
ophthalmia of the right eye suspend the right eye of a frog from the
patient’s neck, and the left eye for the left eye;[414] for lumbago
tear off an eagle’s feet away from the joint, and use the right foot
for the right side and the left for pain in the left side.[415] But
we have met other examples already, and also cases of the use of the
upper or lower part of this or that according to the corresponding
location of an aching tooth in the upper or lower jaw.[416] Tracing
circles with and about objects, facing towards this or that point
of the compass, the prohibition against glancing behind one, and
the stress laid upon finding things or killing animals between the
ruts of cart wheels, are other examples of taking into consideration
position and direction which we have already met with incidentally
to the treatment of other topics. The prescription of a plant which
has grown on the head of a statue and of another which has taken root
in a sieve thrown into a hedge[417] also seem to take mere position
largely into account, more so than the accompanying recommendation of
an herb growing on the banks of a stream and of another growing upon a

[Sidenote: The time element.]

The element of time is also important. Operations should be performed
before sunrise, early in the morning, at night, and so on. The moon is
especially regarded in such directions.[419] When we are informed that
sufferers from quartan fever should be rubbed all over with the fat of
a tortoise, we are also told that the tortoise will be fattest on the
fifteenth day of the moon and that the patient should be anointed on
the sixteenth.[420] But this waxing and waning of the tortoise with the
moon is primarily a matter of astrology and planetary influence, under
which heading we shall also later speak of Pliny’s observance of the
rising of the dog-star.

[Sidenote: Observance of number.]

Observance of number is another feature in Pliny’s ceremonial, of
which we have already met instances. He also alludes to the writings
of Pythagoras on the subject and ascribes to Democritus a work on the
number four. Pliny’s recipes frequently recommend that the operation be
thrice repeated. In the case of curing scrofula by the ashes of vipers
he prescribes three fingers thereof taken in drink for thrice seven
days.[421] In another application of a Gallic herb with old axle-grease
which has not touched iron, not only must the patient spit thrice to
the right, but the remedy is more efficacious if three men representing
three different nations anoint the right side with it.[422] The virtue
of the number one is not, however, entirely slighted. Importance is
attached to the death of a stag from a single wound.[423] Sometimes
three and one are joined in the same operation, as when child-birth is
aided by hurling through the house a stone or weapon by which three
animals, a man, a boar, and a bear, have been killed with single
blows. One of the discoveries of Pythagoras which seldom fails is that
an odd number of vowels in a child’s given name portends lameness,
blindness, and like incapacitation on the right side of its body, and
an even number, injuries on the left side.[424] In a crown of smilax
for headache there should be an odd number of leaves,[425] and in a
diet of snails prescribed for stomach trouble an odd number are to
be eaten.[426] For a head-wash ten green lizards are boiled in ten
_sextarii_ of oil,[427] and for an application to prevent eyelashes
from growing again when they have been pulled out fifteen frogs are
impaled on fifteen bulrushes.[428] The person who has tied on a certain
amulet is thereafter excluded from the patient’s sight for five
days.[429] And so on.

[Sidenote: Relation between operator and patient.]

This last item suggests a further intangible factor in Pliny’s
procedure, the doing of things to or for the patient without his
knowledge. But this and any other incorporeal relationships existing
between operator and patient should perhaps be classed under the head
of sympathy and antipathy.

[Sidenote: Incantations.]

Closely akin to the power of numbers is that of words. Pliny once
says of an incantation employed to avert hail-storms that he would
not dare in seriousness to insert its words, although Cato in his
work on agriculture prescribed a similar formula of meaningless words
for the cure of fractured limbs.[430] But Pliny does not object to
the repetition of incantations or prayers if the words spoken have
some meaning. He informs us that _ocimum_ is sown with curses and
maledictions and that when cummin seed is rammed down into the soil,
the sowers pray it not to come up.[431] In another case the sower is
to be naked and to pray for himself and his neighbors.[432] In a third
case in which a poultice is to be applied to an inflammatory tumor,
Pliny says that persons of experience regard it as very important
that the poultice be put on by a naked virgin and that both she and
the patient be fasting. Touching the sufferer with the back of her
hand she is to say, “Apollo forbids a disease to increase which a
naked virgin restrains.” Then, withdrawing her hand, she is to repeat
the same words thrice and to join with the patient in spitting on
the ground each time.[433] Indeed, in another passage Pliny states
that it is the universal custom in medicine to spit three times
with incantations.[434] Perhaps the power of the words is thought
to be increased or renewed by clearing the throat. Words were also
occasionally spoken in plucking herbs. Ring-worm or tetter is treated
by spitting upon and rubbing together two stones covered with a
dry white moss, and by repeating a Greek incantation which may be
translated, “Flee, Cantharides, a wild wolf seeks your blood.”[435]
Abscesses and inflammations are treated with the herb _reseda_ and a
Latin translation which seems irrelevant, if not quite senseless, and
which may be translated, “Reseda, make disease recede. Don’t you know,
don’t you know what chick has dug up these roots? May they have neither
head nor feet.”[436] In the book following this passage Pliny raises
the general question of the power of words to heal diseases.[437]
He gives many instances of belief in incantations from contemporary
popular superstition, from Roman religion, and from the annals of
history. He does not doubt that Romans in the past have believed in the
power of words, and thinks that if we accept set forms of prayer and
religious formulae, we must also admit the force of incantations. But
he adds that the wisest individuals believe in neither.

[Sidenote: Attitude to love-charms and birth-control.]

Pliny’s recipes and operations are mainly connected with either
medicine or agriculture, but he also introduces as we have seen
magical procedure employed in child-birth, safeguards against poisons
and reptiles, and counter-charms against sorcery. He more than once
avers that love-charms (_amatoria_) lie outside his province,[438]
in one passage alleging as a reason that the illustrious general
Lucullus was killed by one,[439] but he includes a great many of them
nevertheless.[440] Some herbs are so employed because of a resemblance
in shape to the sexual organs,[441] another instance of association
by similarity. Pliny declared against abortive drugs as well as
love-charms,[442] but cited from the _Commentaries_ of Caecilius
one recipe for birth-control for the benefit of over-fecund women,
consisting of a ligature of two little worms found in the body of a
certain species of spider and bound on in deer-skin before sunrise.
After a year the virtue of this charm expires.[443]

[Sidenote: Pliny and astrology.]

Pliny devotes but a small fraction of his work to the stars and heavens
as against terrestrial phenomena, and therefore has less occasion to
speak of astrology than of magic. However, had he been a great believer
in astrology he doubtless would have devoted more space to the stars
and their influence on terrestrial phenomena. He recognizes none
the less, as we have seen, that magic and astrology are intimately
related and that “there is no one who is not eager to learn his own
future and who does not think that this is shown most truly by the
heavens.”[444] Parenthetically it may be remarked that the general
literature of the time only confirms this assertion of the widespread
prevalence of astrology; allusions of poets imply a technical knowledge
of the art on their readers’ part; the very emperors who occasionally
banished astrologers from Rome themselves consulted other adepts. In
another passage Pliny speaks of men who “assign events each to its star
according to the rules of nativities and believe that God decreed the
future once for all and has never interfered with the course of events
since.”[445] This way of thinking has caught learned and vulgar alike
in its current and has led to such further methods of divination as
those by lightning, oracles, haruspices, and even such petty auguries
as from sneezes and shifting of the feet. Furthermore in Pliny’s list
of men prominent in the various arts and sciences we find Berosus of
whom a statue was erected by the Athenians in honor of his skill in
astrological prognostication.[446] In another place where he speaks for
a moment of “the science of the stars” Pliny disputes the theories of
Berosus, Nechepso, and Petosiris that length of human life is ordered
by the stars, and also makes the trite objection to the doctrine of
nativities that masters and slaves, kings and beggars are born at the
same moment.[447] He also is rather inclined to ridicule the enormous
figures of 720,000 or 490,000 years set by Epigenes and Berosus and
Critodemus for the duration of astronomical observations recorded
by the Babylonians.[448] From such passages we get the impression
that astrology is widely accepted as a science but that the art of
nativities at least is not regarded by Pliny with favor. But it
would not be safe to say that he denies the control of the stars over
human destiny. Indeed, in one chapter he declares that the astronomer
Hipparchus can never be praised enough because more than any other man
he proved the relationship of man with the stars and that our souls
are part of the sky.[449] When Pliny disputes the vulgar notion that
each man has a star varying in brightness according to his fortune,
rising when he is born, and fading or falling when he dies, he is not
attacking even the doctrine of nativities; he is denying that the stars
are controlled by man’s fate rather than that man’s life is ordered by
the stars.[450]

[Sidenote: Celestial portents.]

If Pliny thus leaves us uncertain as to the relation of man to the
stars, we also receive conflicting impressions from his discussion
of various celestial phenomena regarded as portentous. In one
passage he speaks of the debt of gratitude owed by mankind to those
great astronomical geniuses who have freed men from their former
superstitious fear of eclipses.[451] But he explains thunderbolts as
celestial fire vomited forth from the planet Venus and “bearing omens
of the future.”[452] He also gives instances from Roman history of
comets which signaled disaster, and he expounds the theory of their
signifying the future.[453] What they portend may be determined from
the direction in which they move and the heavenly body whose power they
receive, and more particularly from the shapes they assume and their
position in relation to the signs of the zodiac. Indeed, Pliny even
gives examples of ominous eclipses of the sun, although it is true that
they were also of unusual length.[454] He also tells us that many of
the common people still believed that women could produce eclipses “by
sorceries and herbs.”[455]

[Sidenote: The stars and the world of nature.]

Aside from the question of the control of human destiny by the
constellations at birth, Pliny’s general theories of the universe and
of the influence of the stars upon terrestrial nature are roughly
similar to those of astrology. For him the universe itself is God,
“holy, eternal, vast, all in all, nay, in truth itself all;”[456]
and the sun is the mind and soul of the whole world and the chief
governor of nature.[457] The planets affect one another. A cold
star renders another approaching it pale; a hot star causes its
neighbor to redden; a windy planet gives those near it a lowering
appearance.[458] At certain points in their orbits the planets are
deflected from their regular course by the rays of the sun,—an
unwitting concession to heliocentric theory.[459] Pliny ascribes the
usual astrological qualities to the planets.[460] Saturn is cold
and rigid; Mars, a flaming fire; Jupiter, located between them, is
temperate and salubrious. Besides their effects upon one another, the
planets especially influence the earth.[461] Venus, for instance,
rules the process of generation in all terrestrial beings.[462]
Following the _Georgics_ of Vergil somewhat, Pliny asserts that the
stars give indubitable signs of the weather and expounds the utility
of the constellations to farmers.[463] He tells how Democritus by
his knowledge of astronomy was able to corner the olive crop and put
to shame business men who had been decrying philosophy;[464] and
how on another occasion he gave his brother timely warning of an
impending storm.[465] But Pliny does not accept all the theories of
the astrologers as to control of the stars over terrestrial nature. He
repeats, but without definitely accepting it, the ascription by the
Babylonians of earthquakes to three of the planets in particular,[466]
and the notion that the gem _sandastros_ or _garamantica_, employed
by Chaldeans in their ceremonies, is intimately connected with the
stars.[467] He is openly incredulous about the gem _glossopetra_,
shaped like a human tongue and supposed to fall from the sky during an
eclipse of the moon and to be invaluable in selenomancy.[468]

[Sidenote: Astrological medicine.]

Pliny tells how the physician Crinas of Marseilles made a fortune by
regulating diet and observing hours according to the motion of the
stars.[469] But he does not show much faith in astrological medicine
himself, rejecting entirely the elaborate classification of diseases
and remedies which the astrologers had by his time already worked out
for the revolutions of the sun and moon in the twelve signs of the
zodiac.[470] In his own recipes, however, astrological considerations
are sometimes observed, as we have already seen, especially the rising
of the dog-star and the phases of the moon. Pliny, indeed, states
that the dog-star exerts an extensive influence upon the earth.[471]
As for the moon, the blood in the human body augments and decreases
with its waxing and waning as shell-fish and other things in nature
do.[472] Indeed, painstaking men of research had discovered that even
the entrails of the field-mouse corresponded in number to the days of
the moon, that the ant stopped working during the interlunar days, and
that diseases of the eyes of certain beasts of burden also increased
and decreased with the moon.[473] But on the whole Pliny’s medicine and
science do not seem nearly so immersed in and saturated with astrology
as with other forms of magic. This gap was for the middle ages amply
filled by the authority of Ptolemy, of whose belief in astrology we
shall treat in the next chapter.

[Sidenote: Conclusion: magic unity of Pliny’s superstitions.]

We have tried to analyze the contents of the _Natural History_,
bringing out certain main divisions and underlying principles of
magic in Pliny’s agriculture, medicine, and natural science. This
is, however, an artificial and difficult task, since it is not easy
to sever materials from ceremonial or the virtues of objects from
the relations of sympathy or antipathy between them. Often the same
passage might serve to illustrate several points. Take for example
the following sentence: “Thrasyllus is authority that nothing is so
hostile to serpents as crabs; swine who are stung cure themselves by
this food, and when the sun is in Cancer, serpents are in pain.”[474]
Here we have at once antipathy, the remedies used by animals, the
reasoning, characteristic of magic, from association and similarity,
and the belief in astrology. And this confusion, to illustrate which a
hundred other examples might be collected from the _Natural History_,
demonstrates how indissolubly interwoven are all the varied threads
that we have been tracing. They all go naturally together, they belong
to the same long period of thought, they represent the same stage in
mental development, they all are parts of magic.

                              CHAPTER III


 Seneca’s _Natural Questions_—Nature study as an ethical substitute
 for existing religion—Limited field of Seneca’s work—Marvels
 accepted, questioned, or denied—Belief in natural divination
 and astrology—Divination from thunder—Ptolemy—His two chief
 works—His mathematical method—Attitude towards authority and
 observation—The _Optics_—Medieval translations of _Almagest_—_Tetrabiblos_
 or _Quadripartitum_—A genuine reflection of Ptolemy’s approval
 of astrology—Validity of Astrology—Influence of the stars
 not inevitable—Astrology as natural science—Properties
 of the planets—Remaining contents of Book One—Book Two:
 regions—Nativities—Future influence of the _Tetrabiblos_.

 “_When the stars twinkle through the loops of time._”

[Sidenote: Seneca’s _Natural Questions_.]

In this chapter we shall preface the main theme of Ptolemy and his
sanction of astrology by a consideration of another and earlier ancient
writer on natural science who was very favorable to divination of the
future, namely, the famous philosopher, statesman, man of letters, and
tutor of Nero, Lucius Annaeus Seneca. In point of time his _Natural
Questions_, or _Problems of Nature_, is a work slightly antedating even
the _Natural History_ of Pliny, but it is hardly of such importance
in the history of science as the more voluminous works of the three
great representatives of ancient science, Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy.
Nevertheless Seneca was well known and much cited in the middle ages as
an ethical or moral philosopher, and the title, _Natural Questions_,
was to be employed by one of the first medieval pioneers of natural
science, Adelard of Bath. Seneca in any case is a name of which ancient
science need not be ashamed. He tells us that in his youth he had
already written a treatise on earthquakes;[475] and in the present
treatise his aim is to inquire into the natural causes of phenomena; he
wants to know why things are so. He is aware that his own age has only
entered the vestibule of the knowledge of natural phenomena and forces,
that it has but just begun to know five of the many stars, that “there
will come a time when our descendants will wonder that we were ignorant
of matters so evident.”[476]

[Sidenote: Study of nature as an ethical substitute for existing

In one passage Seneca perhaps expresses his consciousness of the very
imperfect scientific knowledge of his own age a little too mystically.
“There are sacred things which are not revealed all at once. Eleusis
reserves sights for those who revisit her. Nature does not disclose her
mysteries in a moment. We think ourselves initiated; we stand but at
her portal. Those secrets open not promiscuously nor to every comer.
They are remote of access, enshrined in the inner sanctuary.”[477]
Indeed, he shows a tendency to regard scientific research as a sort of
religious exercise or perhaps as a substitute for existing religion
and a basis for moral philosophy. He relates physics to ethics. His
enthusiasm in the study of natural forces appears largely due to the
fact that he believes them to be of a sublime and divine character
and above the petty affairs of men. He also as constantly and more
fulsomely than Pliny inveighs against the luxury, vice, and immorality
of his own day, and moralizes as to the beneficent influence which
natural law and phenomena should exert upon human conduct. It is
interesting to note that this habit of drawing moral lessons from the
facts of nature was not peculiar to medieval or Christian writers.

[Sidenote: Limited field of Seneca’s work.]

With such subjects as zoology, botany, and mineralogy Seneca’s work has
little to do; it does not, like Pliny’s _Natural History_, include
medicine and the industrial arts; neither does he, like Pliny, cite
the lore of the _magi_. The phenomena of which he treats are mainly
meteorological manifestations, such as winds, rain, hail, snow, comets,
rainbows, and what he regards as allied subjects, earthquakes, springs,
and rivers. Perhaps he would not have regarded the study of vegetables,
animals, and minerals as so lofty and sublime a pursuit. At any rate,
in consequence of the restricted field which Seneca covers we find very
little of the marvelous medicinal and magical properties of plants,
animals, and other objects, or the superstitious procedure which fill
the pages of Pliny.

[Sidenote: Marvels accepted, questioned, or denied.]

Seneca nevertheless has occasion to repeat some tall stories, such as
that the river Alpheus of Greece reappears as the Arethusa in Sicily
and there every four years casts up filth from its depths on the very
days when victims are slaughtered at the Olympic games.[478] He also
affirms that living beings are generated in fire; he believes in
such effects of lightning as removing the venom from snakes which it
strikes; and he recounts the old stories of floating islands and of
waters with the virtue of turning white sheep black.[479] On the other
hand, he qualifies by the phrases, “it is believed” and “they say,” the
assertions that certain waters produce foul skin-diseases and that dew
in particular, if collected in any quantity, has this evil property;
and he doubts whether bathing in the Nile would enable a woman to bear
more children.[480] He ridicules the custom of the city which had
public watchmen appointed to warn the inhabitants of the approach of
hail-storms, so that they might avert the danger by timely sacrifice
or simply by pricking their own fingers so that they bled a trifle. He
adds that some suggest that blood may possess some occult property of
repelling storm-clouds, but he does not see how there can be such force
in a drop or two and thinks it simpler to regard the whole thing as
false. In the same chapter he states that uncivilized antiquity used to
believe that rain could be brought on or driven off by incantations,
but that now-a-days no one needs a philosopher to teach him that this
is impossible.[481]

[Sidenote: Belief in natural divination and astrology.]

But while he thus rejects incantations and is practically silent
on the subject of natural magic, Seneca accepts natural divination
in well-nigh all its branches: sacrificial, augury, astrology, and
divination from thunder. He believes that whatever is caused is a
sign of some future event.[482] Only Seneca holds that every flight
of a bird is not caused by a direct act of God, nor the vitals of the
victim altered under the axe by divine interference, but that all has
been prearranged in a fatal and causal series.[483] He believes that
all unusual celestial phenomena are to be looked upon as prodigies
and portents. A meteor “as big as the moon appeared when Paulus was
engaged in the war against Perseus”; similar portents marked the death
of Augustus and execution of Sejanus, and gave warning of the death of
Germanicus.[484] But no less truly do the planets in their unvarying
courses signify the future. The stars are of divine nature, and we
ought to approach the discussion of them with as reverent an air as
when with lowered countenance we enter the temples for worship.[485]
Not only do the stars influence the upper atmosphere as earth’s
exhalations affect the lower, but they announce what is to occur.[486]
Seneca employs the statement of Aristotle that comets signify the
coming of storms and winds and foul weather to prove that they are
stars; and declares that a comet is a portent of bad weather during
the ensuing year in the same way that the Chaldeans or astrologers say
that a man’s natal star determines the whole course of his life.[487]
In fact, Seneca’s chief, if not sole, objection to the Chaldeans or
astrologers would seem to be that in their predictions they take only
five stars[488] into account. “What? Think you so many thousand
stars shine on in vain? What else, indeed, is it which causes those
skilled in nativities to err than that they assign us to a few stars,
although all those that are above us have a share in the control of our
fate? Perhaps those which are nearer direct their influence upon us
more closely; perhaps those of more rapid motion look down on us and
other animals from more varied aspects. But even those stars that are
motionless, or because of their speed keep equal pace with the rest of
the universe and seem not to move, are not without rule and dominion
over us.”[489] Seneca accepts the theory of Berosus that whenever all
the stars are in conjunction in the sign of Cancer there will be a
universal conflagration, and a second deluge when they all unite in

[Sidenote: Divination from thunder.]

It is on thunderbolts as portents of the future that Seneca dwells
longest, however.[491] “They give,” he declares, “not signs of this or
that event merely, but often announce a whole series of events destined
to occur, and that by manifest decrees and ones far clearer than if
they were set down in writing.”[492] He will not accept, however,
the theory that lightning has such great power that its intervention
nullifies any previous and contradictory portents. He insists that
divination by other methods is of equal truth, though possibly of
minor importance and significance. Next he attempts to explain how the
dangers of which we are warned by divination may be averted by prayer,
expiation, or sacrifice, and yet the chain of events wrought by destiny
not be broken. He maintains that just as we employ the services of
doctors to preserve our health, despite any belief we may have in fate,
so it is useful to consult a _haruspex_. Then he goes on to speak of
various classifications of thunderbolts according to the nature of the
warnings or encouragements which they bring.

[Sidenote: Ptolemy.]

We pass on from Seneca to a later and greater exponent of natural
science and divination, Ptolemy, in the following century. He was
perhaps born at Ptolemaïs in Egypt but lived at Alexandria. The exact
years of his birth and death are unknown, and very little is recorded
of his life or personality. The time when he flourished is sufficiently
indicated, however, by the fact that his first recorded astronomical
observation was in 127 and his last in 151 A. D. Thus most of his
work was probably done during the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus
Pius, but he appears to have lived on into the reign of Marcus
Aurelius. His strictly scientific style scorns rhetorical devices and
literary felicities, and while it is clear and correct, is dry and

[Sidenote: His two chief works.]

Ptolemy’s two chief works, the _Geography_ in eight books, and ἡ
μαθηματικὴ σύνταξις, or _Almagest_ (al-μεγίστη) as the Arabs called
it, in thirteen books, have been so often described in histories of
mathematics, astronomy, geography, and discovery that such outline
of their contents need not be repeated here. The erroneous Ptolemaic
theories of a geocentric universe and of an earth’s surface on which
dry land preponderated are equally well known. What is more to the
point at present is to note that one of these theories was so well
fitted to actual scientific observations and the other was thought to
be so similarly based, that they stood the test of theory, criticism,
and practice for over a thousand years.[494] It should, however, be
said that the _Geography_ does not seem to have been translated into
Latin until the opening of the fifteenth century,[495] when Jacobus
Angelus made a translation for Pope Alexander V, (1409-1410), which is
extant in many manuscripts[496] as well as in print.[497] It therefore
did not have the influence and fame in the Latin middle ages that
the _Almagest_ did or the briefer astrological writings, genuine and
spurious, current under Ptolemy’s name.

[Sidenote: His mathematical method.]

We may briefly state one or two of Ptolemy’s greatest contributions
to mathematical and natural science and his probable position in the
history of experimental method. Perhaps of greater consequence in the
history of science than any one specific thing he did was his continual
reliance upon mathematical method both in his astronomy and his
geography. In particular may be noted his important contribution to
trigonometry in his table of chords, which modern scholars have found
correct to five decimal places, and his contribution to the science of
cartography by his successful projection of spherical surfaces upon
flat maps.

[Sidenote: Attitude towards authority and observation.]

Ptolemy based his two great works partly upon the results already
attained by earlier scientists, following Hipparchus especially in
astronomy and Marinus in geography. He duly acknowledged his debts
to these and other writers; praised Hipparchus and recounted his
discoveries; and where he corrected Marinus, did so with reason. But
while Ptolemy used previous authorities, he was far from relying upon
them solely. In the _Geography_ he adds a good deal concerning the
orient and northern lands from the reports of Roman merchants and
soldiers. His intention was to repeat briefly what the ancients had
already made clear, and to devote his works chiefly to points which had
remained obscure. His ideal was to rest his conclusions upon the surest
possible observation; and where such materials were meager, as in the
case of the _Geography_, he says so at the start. He also recognized
that delicate observations should be repeated at long intervals in
order to minimize the possibility of error. He devised and described
some scientific instruments and conducted a long series of astronomical
observations. He anteceded Comte in holding that one should adopt the
simplest possible hypothesis consistent with the facts to be explained.

[Sidenote: The _Optics_.]

Besides some minor astronomical works and a treatise on music which
seems to be largely a compilation an important work on optics is
ascribed to Ptolemy.[498] It is the most experimental in method of his
writings, although Alexander von Humboldt’s characterization of it as
the only work in ancient literature which reveals an investigator of
nature in the act of physical experimentation[499] must be regarded
as an exaggeration in view of our knowledge of the writings of other
Alexandrines such as Hero and Ctesibius. As in the case of some of
Ptolemy’s other minor works, the Greek original is lost and also
the Arabic text from which was presumably made the medieval Latin
version which alone has come down to us. Yet there are at least
sixteen manuscripts of this Latin version still in existence.[500]
The translation was made in the twelfth century by Eugene of Palermo,
admiral of Sicily, whose name is attached to other translations and
who was also the author of a number of Greek poems.[501] Heller
states that the _Optics_ was lost at the beginning of the seventeenth
century but that manuscripts of it were rediscovered by Laplace and
Delambre.[502] At any rate the first of the five books is no longer
extant, although Bridges thinks that Roger Bacon was acquainted with
it in the thirteenth century.[503] It dealt with the relations between
the eye and light. In the second book conditions of visibility are
discussed and the dependence of the apparent size of bodies upon the
angle of vision. The third and fourth books deal with different kinds
of mirrors, plane, convex, concave, conical, and pyramidical. Most
important of all is the fifth and last book, in which dioptrics and
refraction are discussed for the first and only time in any extant
work of antiquity,[504] provided the _Optics_ has really come down in
its present form from the time of Ptolemy. His authorship has been
questioned because the subject of refraction is not mentioned in the
_Almagest_, although even astronomical refraction is discussed in the
_Optics_.[505] De Morgan also objects that the author of the _Optics_
is inferior to Ptolemy in knowledge of geometry.[506] Possibly a work
by Ptolemy has received medieval additions, either Arabic or Latin,
in the version now extant; maybe the entire fifth book is such a
supplement. That works which were not Ptolemy’s might be attributed to
him in the middle ages is seen from the case of Hero’s _Catoptrica_,
the Latin translation of which from the Greek is entitled in the
manuscripts _Ptolemaei de speculis_.[507]

[Sidenote: Medieval translations of _Almagest_.]

If there is, as in other parallel cases, the possibility that the
medieval period passed off recent discoveries of its own under the
authoritative name of Ptolemy, there also is the certainty that it made
Ptolemy’s genuine works very much its own. This may be illustrated
by the case of the _Almagest_. On the verge of the medieval period
the work was commented upon by Pappus and Theon at Alexandria in the
fourth, and by Proclus in the fifth century. The Latin translation
by Boethius is not extant, but the book was in great repute among
the Arabs, was translated at Bagdad early in the ninth century and
revised later in the same century by Tabit ben Corra. During the
twelfth century it was translated into Latin both from the Greek and
the Arabic. The translation most familiar in the middle ages was
that completed at Toledo in 1175 by the famous translator, Gerard of
Cremona. There has recently been discovered, however, by Professors
Haskins and Lockwood[508] a Sicilian translation made direct from the
Greek text some ten or twelve years before Gerard’s translation. There
are two manuscripts of this Sicilian translation in the Vatican and
one at Florence, showing that it had at least some Italian currency.
Gerard’s reputation and his many other astronomical and astrological
translations probably account for the greater prevalence of his
version, or possibly the theological opposition to natural science of
which the anonymous Sicilian translator speaks in his preface had some
effect in preventing the spread of his version.

[Sidenote: The _Tetrabiblos_ or _Quadripartitum_.]

Of Ptolemy’s genuine works the most germane to and significant for
our investigation is his _Tetrabiblos_, _Quadripartitum_, or four
books on the control of human life by the stars. It seems to have
been translated into Latin by Plato of Tivoli in the first half of
the twelfth century[509] before _Almagest_ or _Geography_ appeared in
Latin. In the middle of the thirteenth century Egidius de Tebaldis,
a Lombard of the city of Parma, further translated the commentary of
Haly Heben Rodan upon the _Quadripartitum_.[510] In the early Latin
editions[511] the text is that of the medieval translation; in the
few editions giving a Greek text there is a different Latin version
translated directly from this Greek text.[512]

[Sidenote: A genuine reflection of Ptolemy’s approval of astrology.]

In the _Tetrabiblos_ the art of astrology receives sanction and
exposition from perhaps the ablest mathematician and closest scientific
observer of the day or at least from one who seemed so to succeeding
generations. Hence from that time on astrology was able to take
shelter from any criticism under the aegis of his authority. Not that
it lacked other exponents and defenders of great name and ability.
Naturally the authenticity of the _Tetrabiblos_ has been questioned
by modern admirers of Hellenic philosophy and science who would keep
the reputations of the great men of the past free from all smudge of
superstition. But Franz Boll has shown that it is by Ptolemy by a
close comparison of it with his other works.[513] The astrological
_Centiloquium_ or _Karpos_, and other treatises on divination and
astrological images ascribed to Ptolemy in medieval Latin manuscripts
are probably spurious, but there is no doubt of his belief in
astrology. German research as usual regards its favorite Posidonius as
the ultimate source of much of the _Tetrabiblos_, but this is not a
matter of much consequence for our present investigation.

[Sidenote: Validity of astrology.]

In the _Tetrabiblos_ Ptolemy first engages in argument as to the
validity of the art of judicial astrology. If his remarks in this
connection were not already trite contentions, they soon came to be
regarded as truisms. The laws of astronomy are beyond dispute, says
Ptolemy, but the art of prediction of human affairs from the courses
of the stars may be assailed with more show of reason. Opponents of
astrology object that the art is uncertain, and that it is useless
since the events decreed by the force of the stars are inevitable.
Ptolemy opens his argument in favor of the art by assuming as evident
that a certain force is diffused from the heavens over all things
on earth. If ignorant sailors are able to judge the future weather
from the sky, a highly trained astronomer should be able to predict
concerning its influence on man. The art itself should not be rejected
because impostors frequently abuse it, and Ptolemy admits that it has
not yet been brought to the point of perfection and that even the
skilful investigator often makes mistakes owing to the incomplete
state of human science. For one thing, Ptolemy regards the doctrine
of the nature of matter held in his time as hypothetical rather than
certain. Another difficulty is that old configurations of the stars
cannot safely be used as the basis of present day predictions. Indeed,
so manifold are the different possible positions of the stars and the
different possible arrangements of terrestrial matter in relation to
the stars that it is difficult to collect enough observations on which
to base rules of general judgment. Moreover, such considerations as
diversity of place, of custom, and of education must be taken into
account in foretelling the future of different persons born under the
same stars. But although for these reasons predictions frequently fail,
yet the art is not to be condemned any more than one rejects the art of
navigation because of frequent shipwrecks.

[Sidenote: Influence of the stars not inevitable.]

Nor is it true that the art is useless because the decrees of the stars
are inevitable. It is often an advantage to have previous knowledge
even of what cannot be avoided. Even the prediction of disaster serves
to break the news gently. But not all predictions are inevitable and
immutable; this is true only of the motion of the sky itself and events
in which it is exclusively concerned. “But other events which do not
arise solely from the sky’s motion, are easily altered by application
of opposite remedies,” just as we can in part remedy the hurt of wounds
and diseases or counteract the heat of summer by use of cooling things.
The Egyptians have always found astrology useful in the practice of

[Sidenote: Astrology as natural science.]

Ptolemy next proceeds to set forth the natures and powers of the
stars “according to the observations of the ancients and conformably
to natural science.” Later, when he comes to the prediction of
particulars, he still professes “to follow everywhere the law of
natural causation,” and in a third passage he states that he “will omit
all those things which do not have a probable natural cause, which many
nevertheless scrutinize curiously and to excess: nor will I pile up
divinations by lot-castings or from numbers, which are unscientific,
but I will treat of those which have an investigated certainty
based on the positions of the stars and the properties of places.”
Connecting the positions of the stars with earthly regions,—it
is an art that fits in well with Ptolemy’s other occupations of
astronomer and geographer! The _Tetrabiblos_ has been called “Science’s
surrender,”[514] but was it not more truly divination purified and made

[Sidenote: Properties of the planets.]

Taking up first the properties of the seven planets, Ptolemy associates
with each one or more of the four elemental qualities, hot, cold, dry,
and moist. Thus the sun warms and to some extent dries, for the nearer
it comes to our pole the more heat and drought it produces. The moon
is moist, since it is close to the earth and is affected by the vapors
from the latter, while its influence renders other bodies soft and
causes putrefaction. But it also warms a little owing to the rays it
receives from the sun. Saturn chills and to some extent dries, for it
is remote from the sun’s heat and earth’s damp vapors. Mars emits a
parching heat, as its color and proximity to the sun indicate. Jupiter,
situated between cold Saturn and burning Mars, is of a rather lukewarm
nature but tends more to warmth and moisture than to their opposites.
So does Venus, but conversely, for it warms less than Jupiter does
but moistens more, its large surface catching many vapors from the
neighboring earth. In Mercury, situated near sun, moon, and earth
alike, neither drought nor dampness predominates, but the velocity of
that planet makes it a potent cause of sudden changes. In general, the
planets exert a good or evil influence as they abound in the two rich
and vivifying qualities, heat and moisture, or in the detrimental ones,
cold and drought. Wet stars like the moon and Venus, are feminine;
Mercury is neuter; the other planets are masculine. The sex of a planet
may also, however, be reckoned according to its position in relation
to the sun and the horizon; and changes in the influences exerted
by the planets are noted according to their position or relation to
the sun. This discussion of the properties of the planets is neither
convincing nor scientific. It seems arguing in a circle to make their
effects upon the earth depend to such an extent upon themselves being
affected by vapors from the earth. Indeed we are rather surprised that
an astronomer like Ptolemy should represent vapors from the earth
as affecting the planets at all. But his discussion is at least an
effort, albeit a feeble one, to express the potencies of the planets in
physical terms.

[Sidenote: Remaining contents of Book One.]

Ptolemy goes on to discuss the powers of the fixed stars which seem to
depend upon their positions in constellations and their relations to
the planets. Then he treats of the influence of the four seasons of
the year and four cardinal points, each of which he relates to one of
the four qualities, hot, cold, dry, and moist. With a discussion of
the signs of the zodiac and their division into Houses and relation in
_Trigones_ or _Triplicitates_ or groups of three connected with the
four qualities, of the exaltation of the planets in the signs and of
other divisions of the signs and relations of the planets to them, the
first book ends.

[Sidenote: Book Two: Regions.]

The second book begins by distinguishing prediction of events for whole
regions or countries, such as wars, pestilences, famines, earthquakes,
winds, drought, and weather, from the prediction of events in the lives
of individuals. Ptolemy holds that events which affect large areas or
whole peoples and cities are produced by greater and more valid causes
than are the acts of individual men, and also that in order to predict
aright concerning the individual it is necessary to know his region
and nationality. He characterizes the inhabitants of the three great
climatic zones,[515] quarters the inhabited world into Europe, Libya,
and two parts for Asia in the style of the T maps, and subdivides these
into different countries whose peoples are described, including such
races as the Amazons. The effects of the stars vary according to time
as well as place, so that the period in which any individual lives is
as important to take into account as his nationality. Ptolemy also
discusses how the heavenly bodies influence the _genus_ of events, a
matter which depends largely upon the signs of the zodiac, and also
how they determine their quality, good or bad, and species, which
depends on the dominant stars and their conjunctions. Consequently he
gives a list of the things which belong under the rule of each planet.
The remainder of the second book is concerned chiefly with prediction
of wind and weather through the year and with other meteorological
phenomena such as comets.

[Sidenote: Nativities.]

The last two books take up the prediction of events in the lives of
individuals from the stars, in other words the science of nativities
or genethlialogy. The third book discusses conception and birth,
how to take the horoscope—Ptolemy insists that the astrolabe is the
only reliable instrument for determining the exact time; sun-dials
or water-clocks will not do—and how to predict concerning parents,
brothers and sisters, sex, twins, monstrous births, length of life, the
physical constitution of the child born and what accidents and diseases
may befall it, and finally concerning mental traits and defects. The
fourth book deals less with the nature of the individual and more with
the prediction of external events which befall the individual: honors,
office, marriage, offspring, slaves, travel, and the sort of death that
he will die. Ptolemy in opening the fourth book makes the distinction
that, while in the third book he treated of matters antecedent to birth
or immediately related to birth or which concern the temperament of the
individual, now he will deal with those external to the body and which
happen to the individual from without. But of course it is difficult to
maintain such a distinction with entire consistency.

[Sidenote: Future influence of the _Tetrabiblos_.]

The great influence of the _Tetrabiblos_ is shown not only in medieval
Arabic commentaries and Latin translations, but more immediately in
the astrological writings of the declining Roman Empire, when such
astrologers as Hephaestion of Thebes,[516] Paul of Alexandria, and
Julius Firmicus Maternus cite it as a leading authoritative work. Only
the opponents of astrology appear to have remained ignorant of the
_Tetrabiblos_, continuing to make criticisms of the art which do not
apply to Ptolemy’s presentation of it or which had been specifically
answered by him. Thus Sextus Empiricus, attacking astrology about
200 A. D., does not mention the _Tetrabiblos_ and some of the
Christian critics of astrology apparently had not read it. Whether the
Neo-Platonists, Porphyry and Proclus, wrote an introduction to and
commentary upon it is disputed.

                              CHAPTER IV


I. _The Man and His Times_

 Recent ignorance of Galen—His voluminous works—The manuscript
 tradition of his works—His vivid personality—Birth and
 parentage—Education in philosophy and medicine—First visit to
 Rome—Relations with the emperors; later life—His unfavorable picture
 of the learned world—Corruption of the medical profession—Lack of real
 search for truth—Poor doctors and medical students—Medical discovery
 in his time—The drug trade—The imperial stores—Galen’s private
 supply of drugs—Mediterranean commerce—Frauds of dealers in wild
 beasts—Galen’s ideal of anonymity—The ancient book trade—Falsification
 and mistakes in manuscripts—Galen as a historical source—Ancient
 slavery—Social life; food and wine—Allusions to Judaism and
 Christianity—Galen’s monotheism—Christian readers of Galen.

II. _His Medicine and Experimental Science_

 Four elements and four qualities—His criticism of atomism—Application
 of the theory of four qualities in medicine—His therapeutics
 obsolete—Some of his medical notions—Two of his cases—His power of
 rapid observation and inference—His happy guesses—Tendency toward
 scientific measurement—Psychological tests with the pulse—Galen’s
 anatomy and physiology—Experiments in dissection—Did he ever dissect
 human bodies?—Dissection of animals—Surgical operations—Galen’s
 argument from design—Queries concerning the soul—No supernatural
 force in medicine—Galen’s experimental instinct—His attitude
 toward authorities—Adverse criticism of past writers—His estimate
 of Dioscorides—Galen’s dogmatism; logic and experience—His
 account of the Empirics—How the Empirics might have criticized
 Galen—Galen’s standard of reason and experience—Simples knowable
 only through experience—Experience and food science—Experience and
 compounds—Suggestions of experimental method—Difficulty of medical
 experiment—Empirical remedies—Galen’s influence upon medieval
 experiment—His more general medieval influence.

III. _His Attitude Toward Magic_

 Accusations of magic against Galen—His charges of magic against
 others—Charms and wonder-workers—Animal substances inadmissible
 in medicine—Nastiness of ancient medicine—Parts of animals—Some
 scepticism—Doctrine of occult virtue—Virtue of the flesh of
 vipers—Theriac—Magical compounds—Amulets—Incantations and
 characters—Belief in magic dies hard—_On Easily Procurable
 Remedies_—Specimens of its superstitious contents—External signs of
 the temperaments of internal organs—Marvelous statements repeated
 by Maimonides—Dreams—Absence of astrology in most of Galen’s
 medicine—_The Prognostication of Disease by Astrology_—Critical
 days—_On the History of Philosophy_—Divination and demons—Celestial

 ἀλλ’ εἴ τις καταγνῷ μου τόδε, ὁμολογῶ τὸ πάθος τοὐμὸν ὃ παρ’ ὅλον
 ἐμαυτοῦ τὸν βίον ἔπαθον, οὐδενὶ πιστεύσας τῶν διηγουμένων τὰ τοιαῦτα,
 πρὶν πειραθῆναι καὶ αὐτὸς ὧν δυνατὸν ἦν εἰς πεῖραν ἐλθεῖν με.
                                                     Kühn, IV, 513.

 διὸ κᾂν μετ’ ἐμέ τις ὁμοίως ἐμοὶ φιλόπονός τε καὶ ξηλωτικὸς ἀληθείας
 γένηται, μὴ προπετῶς ἐκ δυοῖν ἢ τριῶν χρήσεων ἀποφαινέσθω. πολλάκις
 γὰρ αὐτῷ φανεῖται διὰ τῆς μακρᾶς πείρας ὥσπερ ἐφάνη κᾀμοὶ ...
                                                     Kühn, XIII, 96-1.

 χρὴ γὰρ τὸν μέλλοντα γνώσεσθαί τι τῶν πολλῶν ἄμεινον εὐθὺς μὲν καὶ
 τῇ φύσει καὶ τῇ πρώτῃ διδασκαλίᾳ πολὺ τῶν ἄλλων διενεγκεῖν ἐπειδὰν
 δὲ γένηται μειράκιον ἀληθείας τινὸς ἔχειν ἐρωτικὴν μανίαν ὥσπερ
 ἐνθουσιῶντα, καὶ μήθ’ ἡμέρας μήτε νυκτὸς διαλείπειν σπεύδοντά τε καὶ
 συντεταμένον ἐκμαθεῖν, ὅσα τοῖς ἐνδοξοτάτοις εἴρηται τῶν παλαιῶν·
 ἐπειδὰν δ’ ἐκμάθη, κρίνειν αὐτὰ καὶ βασανίζειν χρόνῳ παμπόλλῳ καὶ
 σκοπεῖν πόσα μὲν ὁμολογεῖ τοῖς ἐναργῶς φαινομένοις πόσα δὲ διαφέρεται
 καὶ οὕτως τὰ μὲν αἱρεῖσθαι τὰ δ’ ἀποστρέφεσθαι.
                                                        Kühn, II, 179.

 “But if anyone charges me therewith, I confess my disease from which I
 have suffered all my life long, to trust none of those who make such
 statements until I have tested them for myself in so far as it has
 been possible for me to put them to the test.”

 “So if anyone after me becomes like me fond of work and zealous for
 truth, let him not conclude hastily from two or three cases. For often
 he will be enlightened through long experience, just as I have been.”
 (It is remarkable that Ptolemy spoke similarly of his predecessor,
 Hipparchus, as a “lover of toil and truth”—φιλόπονον καὶ φιλαλήθεα,
 quoted by Orr (1913), 122.)

 “For one who is to understand any matter better than most men do must
 straightway differ much from other persons in his nature and earliest
 education. And when he becomes a lad he must be madly in love with the
 truth and carried away by enthusiasm for it, and not let up by day
 or by night but press on and stretch every nerve to learn whatever
 the ancients of most repute have said. But having learned it, he
 must judge the same and put it to the test for a long, long time and
 observe what agrees with visible phenomena and what disagrees, and so
 accept the one and reject the other.”

I. _The Man and His Times_

[Sidenote: Recent ignorance of Galen.]

At the close of the nineteenth century one English student of the
history of medicine said, “Galen is so inaccessible to English readers
that it is difficult to learn about him at first hand.”[517] Another
wrote, “There is, perhaps, no other instance of a man of equal
intellectual rank who has been so persistently misunderstood and even
misinterpreted.”[518] A third obstacle to the ready comprehension of
Galen has been that while more critical editions of some single works
have been published by Helmreich and others in recent times,[519] no
complete edition of his works has appeared since that of Kühn a century
ago,[520] which is now regarded as very faulty.[521] A fourth reason
for neglect or misunderstanding of Galen is probably that there is so
much by him to be read.

[Sidenote: His voluminous works.]

Athenaeus stated that Galen wrote more treatises than any other Greek,
and although many are now lost, more particularly of his logical and
philosophical writings, his collected extant works in Greek text and
Latin translation fill some twenty volumes averaging a thousand pages
each. When we add that often there are no chapter headings or other
brief clues to the contents,[522] which must be ploughed through slowly
and thoroughly, since some of the most valuable bits of information
come in quite incidentally or by way of unlooked-for digression; that
errors in the printed text, and the technical vocabulary with numerous
words not found in most classical dictionaries increase the reader’s
difficulties;[523] and that little if any of the text possesses any
present medical value, while much of it is dreary enough reading
even for one animated by historical interest, especially if one has
no technical knowledge of medicine and surgery:—when we consider all
these deterrents, we are not surprised that Galen is little known. “Few
physicians or even scholars in the present day,” continues the English
historian of medicine quoted above, “can claim to have read through
this vast collection; I certainly least of all. I can only pretend to
have touched the fringe, especially of the anatomical and physiological

[Sidenote: The manuscript tradition of Galen’s works.]

Although the works of Galen are so voluminous, they have reached us
for the most part in comparatively late manuscripts,[525] and to some
extent perhaps only in their medieval form. The extant manuscripts
of the Greek text are mostly of the fifteenth century and represent
the enthusiasm of humanists who hoped by reviving the study of Galen
in the original to get something new and better out of him than the
schoolmen had. In this expectation they seem to have been for the most
part disappointed; the middle ages had already absorbed Galen too
thoroughly. If it be true, as Dr. Payne contends,[526] that the chief
original contributions to medical science of the Renaissance period
were the work of men trained in Greek scholarship, this was because,
when they failed to get any new ideas from the Greek texts, they turned
to the more promising path of experimental research which both Galen
and the middle ages had already advocated. The bulky medieval Latin
translations[527] of Galen are older than most of the extant Greek
texts; there are also versions in Arabic and Syriac.[528] For the last
five books of the _Anatomical Exercises_ the only extant text is an
Arabic manuscript not yet published.[529]

[Sidenote: Galen’s vivid personality.]

If so comparatively little is generally known about Galen, it is not
because he had an unattractive personality. Nor is it difficult to make
out the main events of his life. His works supply an unusual amount
of personal information, and throughout his writings, unless he is
merely transcribing past prescriptions, he talks like a living man,
detailing incidents of daily life and making upon the reader a vivid
and unaffected impression of reality. Daremberg asserts[530] that the
exuberance of his imagination and his vanity frequently make us smile.
It is true that his pharmacology and therapeutics often strike us as
ridiculous, but he did not imagine them, they were the medicine of his
age. It is true that he mentions cases which he has cured and those in
which other physicians have been at fault, but official war despatches
do the same with their own victories and the enemy’s defeats. _Vae
victis!_ In Galen’s case, at least, posterity long confirmed his own
verdict. And dull or obsolete as his medicine now is, his scholarly
and intellectual ideals and love of hard work at his art are still
a living force, while the reader of his pages often feels himself
carried back to the Roman world of the second century. Thus “the magic
of literature,” to quote a fine sentence by Payne, “brings together
thinkers widely separated in space and time.”[531]

[Sidenote: Birth and parentage.]

Galen—he does not seem to have been called Claudius until the time
of the Renaissance—was born about 129 A. D.[532] at Pergamum in Asia
Minor. His father, Nikon, was an architect and mathematician, trained
in arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. Much of this education he
transmitted to his son, but even more valuable, in Galen’s opinion,
were his precepts to follow no one sect or party but to hear and judge
them all, to despise honor and glory, and to magnify truth alone. To
this teaching Galen attributes his own peaceful and painless passage
through life. He has never grieved over losses of property but managed
to get along somehow. He has not minded much when some have vituperated
him, thinking instead of those who praise him. In later life Galen
looked back with great affection upon his father and spoke of his own
great good fortune in having as a parent that gentlest, justest, most
honest and humane of men. On the other hand, the chief thing that he
learned from his mother was to avoid her failings of a sharp temper and
tongue, with which she made life miserable for their household slaves
and scolded his father worse than Xanthippe ever did Socrates.[533]

[Sidenote: Education in philosophy and medicine.]

In one of his works Galen speaks of the passionate love and enthusiasm
for truth which has possessed him since boyhood, so that he has not
stopped either by day or by night from quest of it.[534] He realized
that to become a true scholar required both high natural qualifications
and a superior type of education from the start. After his fourteenth
year he heard the lectures of various philosophers, Platonist and
Peripatetic, Stoic and Epicurean; but when about seventeen, warned by
a dream of his father,[535] he turned to the study of medicine. This
incident of the dream shows that neither Galen nor his father, despite
their education and intellectual standards, were free from the current
belief in occult influences, of which we shall find many more instances
in Galen’s works. Galen first studied medicine for four years under
Satyrus in his native city of Pergamum, then under Pelops at Smyrna,
later under Numisianus at Corinth and Alexandria.[536] This was about
the time that the great mathematician and astronomer, Ptolemy, was
completing his observations[537] in the neighborhood of Alexandria, but
Galen does not mention him, despite his own belief that a first-rate
physician should also know such subjects as geometry and astronomy,
music and rhetoric.[538] Galen’s interest in philosophy continued,
however, and he wrote many logical and philosophical treatises, most
of which are lost.[539] His father died when he was twenty, and it was
after this that he went to other cities to study.

[Sidenote: First visit to Rome.]

Galen returned to Pergamum to practice and was, when but twenty-nine,
made the doctor for the gladiators by five successive pontiffs.[540]
During his thirties came his first residence at Rome.[541] The article
on Galen in Pauly-Wissowa states that he was driven away from Rome by
the plague, and in _De libris propriis_ he does say that, “when the
great plague broke out there, I hurriedly departed from the city for
my native land.”[542] But in _De prognosticatione ad Epigenem_ his
explanation is that he became disgusted with the malice of the envious
physicians of the capital, and determined to return home as soon as the
sedition there was over.[543] Meanwhile he stayed on and gained great
fame by his cures but their jealousy and opposition multiplied, so that
presently, when he learned that the sedition was over, he went back to

[Sidenote: Relations with the emperors: later life.]

His fame, however, had come to the imperial ears and he was soon
summoned to Aquileia to meet the emperors on their way north against
the invading Germans. An outbreak of the plague there prevented their
proceeding with the campaign immediately,[544] and Galen states that
the emperors fled for Rome with a few troops, leaving the rest to
suffer from the plague and cold winter. On the way Lucius Verus died,
and when Marcus Aurelius finally returned to the front, he allowed
Galen to go back to Rome as court physician to Commodus.[545] The
prevalence of the plague at this time is illustrated by a third
encounter which Galen had with it in Asia, when he claims to have
saved himself and others by thorough venesection.[546] The war lasted
much longer than had been anticipated and meanwhile Galen was occupied
chiefly in literary labors, completing a number of works. In 192 some
of his writings and other treasures were lost in a fire which destroyed
the Temple of Peace on the Sacred Way. Of some of the works which thus
perished he had no other copy himself. In one of his works on compound
medicines he explains that some persons may possess the first two books
which had already been published, but that these had perished with
others in a shop on the Sacra Via when the whole shrine of peace and
the great libraries on the Palatine hill were consumed, and that his
friends, none of whom possessed copies, had besought him to begin the
work all over again.[547] Galen was still alive and writing during the
early years of the dynasty of the Severi, and probably died about 200.

[Sidenote: His unfavorable picture of the learned world.]

Although the envy of other physicians at Rome and their accusing him of
resort to magic arts and divination in his marvelous prognostications
and cures were perhaps neither the sole nor the true reason for Galen’s
temporary withdrawal from the capital, there probably is a great
deal of truth in the picture he paints of the medical profession and
learned world of his day. There are too many other ancient witnesses,
from the encyclopedist Pliny and the satirist Juvenal to the fourth
century lawyer and astrologer, Firmicus, who substantiate his charges
to permit us to explain them away as the product of personal bitterness
or pessimism. We feel that these men lived in an intellectual society
where faction and villainy, superstition and petty-mindedness and
personal enmity, were more manifest than in the quieter and, let
us hope, more tolerant learned world of our time. Selfishness and
pretense, personal likes and dislikes, undoubtedly still play their
part, but there is not passionate animosity and open war to the knife
on every hand. The _status belli_ may still be characteristic of
politics and the business world, but scholars seem able to live in
substantial peace. Perhaps it is because there is less prospect of
worldly gain for members of the learned professions than in Galen’s
day. Perhaps it is due to the growth of the impartial scientific
spirit, of unwritten codes of courtesy and ethics within the leading
learned professions, and of state laws concerning such matters as
patents, copyright, professional degrees, pure food, and pure drugs.
Perhaps, in the unsatisfactory relations between those who should have
been the best educated and most enlightened men of that time we may see
an important symptom of the intellectual and ethical decline of the
ancient world.

[Sidenote: Corruption of the medical profession.]

Galen states that many tire of the long struggle with crafty and wicked
men which they have tried to carry on, relying upon their erudition
and honest toil alone, and withdraw disgusted from the madding crowd
to save themselves in dignified retirement. He especially marvels at
the evil-mindedness of physicians of reputation at Rome. Though they
live in the city, they are a band of robbers as truly as the brigands
of the mountains. He is inclined to account for the roguery of Roman
physicians compared to those of a smaller city by the facts that
elsewhere men are not so tempted by the magnitude of possible gain
and that in a smaller town everyone is known by everyone else and
questionable practices cannot escape general notice. The rich men of
Rome fall easy prey to these unscrupulous practitioners who are ready
to flatter them and play up to their weaknesses. These rich men can see
the use of arithmetic and geometry, which enable them to keep their
books straight and to build houses for their domestic comfort, and of
divination and astrology, from which they seek to learn whose heirs
they will be, but they have no appreciation of pure philosophy apart
from rhetorical sophistry.[548]

[Sidenote: Lack of real search for truth.]

Galen more than once complains that there are no real seekers after
truth in his time, but that all are intent upon money, political power,
or pleasure. You know very well, he says to one of his friends in the
_De methodo medendi_, that not five men of all those whom we have met
prefer to be rather than to seem wise.[549] Many make a great outward
display and pretense in medicine and other arts who have no real
knowledge.[550] Galen several times expresses his scorn for those who
spend their mornings in going about saluting their friends, and their
evenings in drinking bouts or in dining with the rich and powerful.
Yet even his friends have reproached him for studying too much and not
going out more. But while they have wasted their hours thus, he has
spent his, first in learning all that the ancients have discovered
that is of value, then in testing and practicing the same.[551]
Moreover, now-a-days many are trying to teach others what they have
never accomplished themselves.[552] Thessalus not only toadied to the
rich but secured many pupils by offering to teach them medicine in
six months.[553] Hence it is that tailors and dyers and smiths are
abandoning their arts to become physicians. Thessalus himself, Galen
ungenerously taunts, was educated by a father who plucked wool badly
in the women’s apartments.[554] Indeed, Galen himself, by the violence
of his invective and the occasional passionateness of his animosity
in his controversies with other individuals or schools of medicine,
illustrates that state of war in the intellectual world of his age to
which we have adverted.

[Sidenote: Poor doctors and medical students.]

We suggested the possibility that learning compared to other
occupations was more remunerative in Galen’s day than in our own, but
there were poor physicians and medical students then, as well as those
greedy for gain or who associated with the rich. Many doctors could
not afford to use the rarer or stronger simples and limited themselves
to easily procured, inexpensive, and homely medicaments.[555] Many of
his fellow-students regarded as a counsel of perfection unattainable
by them Galen’s plan of hearing all the different medical sects and
comparing their merits and testing their validity.[556] They said
tearfully that this course was all very well for him with his acute
genius and his wealthy father behind him, but that they lacked the
money to pursue an advanced education, perhaps had already lost
valuable time under unsatisfactory teachers, or felt that they did not
possess the discrimination to select for themselves what was profitable
from several conflicting schools.

[Sidenote: Medical discovery in Galen’s time.]

Galen was, it has already been made apparent, an intellectual
aristocrat, and possessed little patience with those stupid men who
never learn anything for themselves, though they see a myriad cures
worked before their eyes. But that, apart from his own work, the
medical profession was not entirely stagnant in his time, he admits
when he asserts that many things are known to-day which had not been
discovered before, and when he mentions some curative methods recently
invented at Rome.[557]

[Sidenote: The drug trade.]

Galen supplies considerable information concerning the drug trade
in Rome itself and throughout the empire. He often complains of
adulteration and fraud. The physician must know the medicinal simples
and their properties himself and be able to detect adulterated
medicines, or the merchants, perfumers, and _herbarii_ will deceive
him.[558] Galen refuses to reveal the methods employed in adulterating
opobalsam, which he had investigated personally, lest the evil
practice spread further.[559] At Rome at least there were dealers in
unguents who corresponded roughly to our druggists. Galen says there
is not an unguent-dealer in Rome who is unacquainted with herbs from
Crete, but he asserts that there are equally good medicinal plants
growing in the very suburbs of Rome of which they are totally ignorant,
and he taxes even those who prepare drugs for the emperors with the
same oversight. He tells how the herbs from Crete come wrapped in
cartons with the name of the herb written on the outside and sometimes
the further statement that it is _campestris_.[560] These Roman drug
stores seem not to have kept open at night, for Galen in describing a
case speaks of the impossibility of procuring the medicines needed at
once because “the lamps were already lighted.”[561]

[Sidenote: The imperial stores.]

The emperors kept a special store of drugs of their own and had
botanists in Sicily, Crete, and Africa who supplied not only them
with medicinal herbs, but also the city of Rome as well, Galen says.
However, the emperors appear to have reserved a large supply of the
finest and rarest simples for their own use. Galen mentions a large
amount of Hymettus honey in the imperial stores—ἐν ταῖς αὐτοκρατορικαῖς
ἀποθήκαις,[562] whence our word “apothecary.”[563] He proves that
cinnamon[564] loses its potency with time by his own experience as
imperial physician. An assignment of the spice sent to Marcus Aurelius
from the land of the barbarians (ἐκ τῆς βαρβάρου) was superior to what
had stood stored in wooden jars from the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian,
and Antoninus Pius. Commodus exhausted all the recent supply, and when
Galen was forced to turn to what had been on hand in preparing an
antidote for Severus, he found it much weaker than before, although not
thirty years had elapsed. That cinnamon was a commodity little known to
the populace is indicated by Galen’s mentioning his loss in the fire of
192 of a few precious bits of bark he had stored away in a chest with
other treasures.[565] He praises the Severi, however, for permitting
others to use theriac, a noted medicine and antidote of which we
shall have more to say presently. Thus, he says, not only have they
as emperors received power from the gods, but in sharing their goods
freely they are like the gods, who rejoice the more, the more people
they save.[566]

[Sidenote: Galen’s private supply of drugs: _terra sigillata_.]

Galen himself, and apparently other physicians, were not content to
rely for medicines either upon the unguent-sellers or the bounty of
the imperial stores. Galen stored away oil and fat and left them
to age until he had enough to last for a hundred years, including
some from his father’s lifetime. He used some forty years old in one
prescription.[567] He also traveled to many parts of the Roman Empire
and procured rare drugs in the places where they were produced. Very
interesting is his account of going out of his way in journeying
back and forth between Rome and Pergamum in order to stop at Lemnos
and procure a supply of the famous _terra sigillata_, a reddish clay
stamped into pellets with the sacred seal of Diana.[568] On the way
to Rome, instead of journeying on foot through Thrace and Macedonia,
he took ship from the Troad to Thessalonica; but the vessel stopped
in Lemnos at Myrine on the wrong side of the island, which Galen had
not realized possessed more than one port, and the captain would not
delay the voyage long enough to enable him to cross the island to the
spot where the _terra sigillata_ was to be found. Upon his return from
Rome through Macedonia, however, he took pains to visit the right port,
and for the benefit of future travelers gives careful instructions
concerning the route to follow and the distances between stated points.
He describes the solemn procedure by which the priestess from the
neighboring city gathered the red earth from the hill where it was
found, sacrificing no animals, but wheat and barley to the earth. He
brought away with him some twenty thousand of the little discs or
seals which were supposed to cure even lethal poisons and the bite of
mad dogs. The inhabitants laughed, however, at the assertion which
Galen had read in Dioscorides that the seals were made by mixing the
blood of a goat with the earth. Berthelot, the historian of chemistry,
believed that this earth was “an oxide of iron more or less hydrated
and impure.”[569] In another passage Galen advises his readers,
if they are ever in Pamphylia, to lay in a good supply of the drug
_carpesium_.[570] In the ninth book of his work on medicinal simples he
tells of three strata of sory, chalcite, and misy, which he had seen
in a mine in Cyprus thirty years before and from which he had brought
away a supply, and of the surprising chemical change which the misy
underwent in the course of these years.[571]

[Sidenote: Mediterranean commerce.]

Galen speaks of receiving other drugs from Great Syria, Palestine,
Egypt, Cappadocia, Pontus, Macedonia, Gaul, Spain, and Mauretania,
from the Celts, and even from India.[572] He names other places in
Greece and Asia Minor than Mount Hymettus where good honey may be
had, and states that much so-called Attic honey is really from the
Cyclades, although it is brought to Athens and there sold or reshipped.
Similarly, genuine Falernian wine is produced only in a small part of
Italy, but other wines like it are prepared by those who are skilled
in such knavery. As the best iris is that of Illyricum and the best
asphalt is from Judea, so the best _petroselinon_ is that of Macedonia,
and merchants export it to almost the entire world just as they do
Attic honey and Falernian wine. But the _petroselinon_ crop of Epirus
is sent to Thessalonica and there passed off for Macedonian. The best
turpentine is that of Chios but a good variety may be obtained from
Libya or Pontus. The manufacture of drugs has spread recently as well
as the commerce in them. The best form of unguent was formerly made
only in Laodicea, but now it is similarly compounded in many other
cities of Asia Minor.[573]

[Sidenote: Frauds of dealers in wild beasts.]

We are reminded that parts of animals as well as herbs and minerals
were important constituents in ancient pharmacy by Galen’s invective
against the frauds of hunters and dealers in wild beasts as well as
of unguent-sellers. They do not hunt them at the proper season for
securing their medicinal virtues, but when they are no longer in
their prime or just after their long period of hibernation, when they
are emaciated. Then they fatten them upon improper food, feed them
barley cakes to stuff up and dull their teeth, or force them to bite
frequently so that virus will run out of their mouths.[574]

[Sidenote: Galen’s ideal of anonymity.]

Besides the ancient drug trade, Galen gives us some interesting
glimpses of the publishing trade, if we may so term it, of his time.
Writing in old age in the _De methodo medendi_,[575] he says that he
has never attached his name to one of his works, never written for the
popular ear or for fame, but fired by zeal for science and truth, or
at the urgent request of friends, or as a useful exercise for himself,
or, as now, in order to forget his old age. Popular fame is only an
impediment to those who desire to live tranquilly and enjoy the fruits
of philosophy. He asks Eugenianus, whom he addresses in this passage,
not to praise him immoderately before men, as he has been wont to do,
and not to inscribe his name in his works. His friends nevertheless
prevailed upon him to write two treatises listing his works,[576] and
he also is free enough in many of his books in mentioning others which
are essential to read before perusing the present volume.[577] Perhaps
he felt differently at different times on the question of fame and
anonymity. He also objected to those who read his works, not to learn
anything from them, but only in order to calumniate them.[578]

[Sidenote: The ancient book trade.]

It was in a shop on the Sacra Via that most of the copies of some of
Galen’s works were stored when they, together with the great libraries
upon the Palatine, were consumed in the fire of 192. But in another
passage Galen states that the street of the Sandal-makers is where
most of the bookstores in Rome are located.[579] There he saw some men
disputing whether a certain treatise was his. It was duly inscribed
_Galenus medicus_ and one man, because the title was unfamiliar to him,
bought it as a new work by Galen. But another man who was something
of a philologer asked to see the introduction, and, after reading a
few lines, declared that the book was not one of Galen’s works. When
Galen was still young, he wrote three commentaries on the throat and
lungs for a fellow student who wished to have something to pass off
as his own work upon his return home. This friend died, however, and
the books got into circulation.[580] Galen also complains that notes
of his lectures which he has not intended for publication have got
abroad,[581] that his servants have stolen and published some of
his manuscripts, and that others have been altered, corrupted, and
mutilated by those into whose possession they have come, or have been
passed off by them in other lands as their own productions.[582] On the
other hand, some of his pupils keep his teachings to themselves and are
unwilling to give others the benefit of them, so that if they should
die suddenly, his doctrines would be lost.[583] But his own ideal has
always been to share his knowledge freely with those who sought it,
and if possible with all mankind. At least one of Galen’s works was
taken down from his dictation by short-hand writers, when, after his
convincing demonstration by dissection concerning respiration and the
voice, Boëthus asked him for commentaries on the subject and sent for
stenographers.[584] Although Galen in his travels often purchased and
carried home with him large quantities of drugs, when he made his first
trip to Rome he left all his books in Asia.[585]

[Sidenote: Falsification and mistakes in manuscripts.]

Galen dates the falsification of title pages and contents of books
back to the time when kings Ptolemy of Egypt and Attalus of Pergamum
were bidding against each other for volumes for their respective
libraries.[586] Works were often interpolated then in order to make
them larger and so bring a better price. Galen speaks more than once of
the deplorable ease with which numbers, signs, and other abbreviations
are altered in manuscripts.[587] A single stroke of the pen or slight
erasure will completely change the meaning of a medical prescription.
He thinks that such alterations are sometimes malicious and not mere
mistakes. So common were they that Menecrates composed a medical
work written out entirely in complete words and entitled _Autocrator
Hologrammatos_ because it was also dedicated to the emperor. Another
writer, Damocrates, from whom Galen often quotes long passages,
composed his book of medicaments in metrical form so that there might
be no mistake made even in complete words.

[Sidenote: Galen as a historical source.]

Galen’s works contain occasional historical information concerning many
other matters than books and drugs. Clinton in his _Fasti Romani_ made
much use of Galen for the chronology of the period in which he lived.
His allusions to several of the emperors with whom he had personal
relations are valuable bits of source-material. Trajan was, of course,
before his time, but he testifies to the great improvement of the
roads in Italy which that emperor had effected.[588] Galen sheds a
little light on the vexed question of the population of the empire, if
Pergamum is the place he refers to in his estimate of forty thousand
citizens or one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants, including
women and slaves but perhaps not children.[589]

[Sidenote: Ancient slavery.]

Galen illustrates for us the evils of ancient slavery in an incident
which he relates to show the inadvisability of giving way to one’s
passions, especially anger.[590] Returning from Rome, Galen fell in
with a traveler from Gortyna in Crete. When they reached Corinth,
the Cretan sent his baggage and slaves from Cenchrea[591] to Athens
by boat, but himself with a hired vehicle and two slaves went by
land with Galen through Megara, Eleusis, and Thriasa. On the way the
Cretan became so angry at the two slaves that he hit them with his
sheathed sword so hard that the sheath broke and they were badly
wounded. Fearing that they would die, he then made off to escape the
consequences of his act, leaving Galen to look after the wounded.
But later he rejoined Galen in penitent mood and insisted that Galen
administer a beating to him for his cruelty. Galen adds that he
himself, like his father, had never struck a slave with his own hand
and had reproved friends who had broken their slaves’ teeth with blows
of their fists. Others go farther and kick their slaves or gouge their
eyes out. The emperor Hadrian in a moment of anger is said to have
blinded a slave with a stylus which he had in his hand. He, too, was
sorry afterwards and offered the slave money, but the latter refused
it, telling the emperor that nothing could compensate him for the loss
of an eye. In another passage Galen discusses how many slaves and
“clothes” one really needs.[592]

[Sidenote: Social life: food and wine.]

Galen also depicts the easy-going, sociable, and pleasure-loving
society of his time. Not only physicians but men generally begin
the day with salutations and calls, then separate again, some to
the market-place and law courts, others to watch the dancers or
charioteers.[593] Others play at dice or pursue love affairs, or pass
the hours at the baths or in eating and drinking or some other bodily
pleasure. In the evening they all come together again at symposia which
bear no resemblance to the intellectual feasts of Socrates and Plato
but are mere drinking bouts. Galen had no objection, however, to the
use of wine in moderation and mentions the varieties from different
parts of the Mediterranean world which were especially noted for their
medicinal properties.[594] He believed that drinking wine discreetly
relieved the mind from all worry and melancholy and refreshed it. “For
we use it every day.”[595] He affirmed that taken in moderation wine
aided digestion and the blood.[596] He classed wine with such boons
to humanity as medicines, “a sober and decent mode of life,” and “the
study of literature and liberal disciplines.”[597] Galen’s treatise in
three books on food values (_De alimentorum facultatibus_) supplies
information concerning the ancient table and dietary science.

[Sidenote: Allusions to Judaism and Christianity.]

Galen’s allusions to Judaism and Christianity are of considerable
interest. He scarcely seems to have distinguished between them. In
two passages in his treatise on differences in the pulse he makes
incidental allusion to the followers of Moses and Christ, in both
cases speaking of them rather lightly, not to say contemptuously. In
criticizing Archigenes for using vague and unintelligible language
and not giving a sufficient explanation of the point in question,
Galen says that it is “as if one had come to a school of Moses and
Christ and had heard undemonstrated laws.”[598] And in criticizing
opposing sects for their obstinacy he remarks that it would be easier
to win over the followers of Moses and Christ.[599] Later we shall
speak more fully of a third passage in _De usu partium_[600] where
Galen criticizes the Mosaic view of the relation of God to nature,
representing it as the opposite extreme to the Epicurean doctrine of
a purely mechanistic and materialistic universe. This suggests that
Galen had read some of the Old Testament, but he might have learned
from other sources of the Dead Sea and of salts of Sodom, of which he
speaks in yet another context.[601] According to a thirteenth century
Arabian biographer of Galen, he spoke more favorably of Christians in
a lost commentary upon Plato’s _Republic_, admiring their morals and
admitting their miracles.[602] This last, as we shall see, is unlikely,
since Galen believed in a supreme Being who worked only through natural
law. “A confection of Ioachos, the martyr or metropolitan,” and “A
remedy for headache of the monk Barlama” occur in the third book of
the _De remediis parabilibus_ ascribed to Galen, but this third book
is greatly interpolated or entirely spurious, citing Galen himself as
well as Alexander of Tralles, the sixth century writer, and mentioning
the Saracens. Wellmann regards it as composed between the seventh and
eleventh centuries of our era.[603]

[Sidenote: Galen’s monotheism.]

Like most thoughtful men of his time, Galen tended to believe in one
supreme deity, but he appears to have derived this conception from
Greek rather than Hebraic sources. It was to philosophy and the Greek
mysteries that he turned for revelation of the deity, as we shall
see. Hopeless criminals were for him those whom neither the Muses
nor Socrates could reform.[604] It is Plato, not Christ, whom in
another treatise he cites as describing the first and greatest God as
ungenerated and good. “And we all naturally love Him, being such as He
is from eternity.”[605]

[Sidenote: Galen’s Christian readers.]

But while Galen’s monotheism cannot be regarded as of Christian or
Jewish origin, it is possible that his argument from design and
supporting theology by anatomy made him more acceptable to both
Mohammedan and Christian readers. At any rate he had Christian
readers at Rome at the opening of the third century, when a hostile
controversialist complains that some of them even worship Galen.[606]
These early Christian enthusiasts for natural science, who also devoted
much time to Aristotle and Euclid, were finally excommunicated; but
Aristotle, Euclid, and Galen were to return in triumph in medieval

II. _His Medicine and Experimental Science_

[Sidenote: Four elements and four qualities.]

Galen held as his fundamental theory of nature the view which was
to prevail through the middle ages, that all natural objects upon
this globe are composed of four elements, earth, air, fire, and
water,[607] and the cognate view, which he says Hippocrates first
introduced and Aristotle later demonstrated, that all natural objects
are characterized by four qualities, hot, cold, dry, and moist.
From the combinations of these four are produced various secondary
qualities.[608] Neither hypothesis was as yet universally accepted,
however, and Galen felt it incumbent upon him to argue against those
who contended that the human body and world of nature were made from
but one element.[609] There were others who ridiculed the four quality
hypothesis, saying that hot and cold were words for bath-keepers, not
for physicians to deal with.[610] Galen explains that philosophers
do not regard any particular variety of earth or any other mineral
substance as representing the pure element earth, which in the
philosophical sense is an extremely cold and dry substance to which
adamant and rocks make perhaps the closest approach. But the earths
that we see are all compound bodies.[611]

[Sidenote: Criticism of atomism.]

Galen rejected the atomism of Democritus and Epicurus, in which the
atoms were indivisible particles differing in shape and size, but not
differing in quality as chemical atoms are supposed to do. He credits
Democritus with the view that such qualities as color and taste are
sensed by us from the concourse of atoms, but do not reside in the
atoms themselves.[612] Galen also makes the criticism that the mere
regrouping of “impassive and immutable” atoms is not enough to account
for the new properties of the compound, which are often very different
from those of the constituents, as when “we alter the qualities of
medicines in artificial mixtures.”[613] Thus he virtually says that the
purely physical atomism of Democritus will not account for what to-day
we call chemical change. He also, as we shall see, rejected Epicurus’
theory of a world of nature ruled by blind chance.

[Sidenote: Application of the theory of four qualities in medicine.]

Galen of course thought that a dry medicine was good for a moist
disease, and that in a compound medicine, by mixing a very cold with
a slightly cold drug in varying proportions a medicine of any desired
degree of coldness might be obtained.[614] In general he regarded
solids like stones and metals as dry and cold, while he thought that
hot and moist objects tended to evaporate rapidly into air.[615] So he
declared that dryness of solid bodies was incurable, while he believed
that children’s bodies were more easily dissolved than adults’ because
moister and warmer.[616] The Stoics and many physicians believed that
heat prolonged life, but Asclepiades pointed out that the Ethiopians
are old at thirty because the hot sun dries up their bodies so, while
the inhabitants of Britain sometimes live to be one hundred and twenty
years old. This last, however, was regarded as probably due to the fact
that their thicker skins conserved their innate heat longer.[617]

[Sidenote: Galen’s therapeutics obsolete.]

As an offset to the evidence which will be presented later of the
traces of occult virtues, magic, and astrology in Galen’s therapeutics
I should like to be able to indicate the good points in it. But his
entire system, like the four quality theory upon which it is largely
based, seems now obsolete, and what evidenced his superiority to other
physicians in his own day would probably strike the modern reader
only as a token of his distinct inferiority to present practice.
Eighty odd years of modern medical progress since have added further
emphasis to Daremberg’s declaration that we have had to throw overboard
“much of his physiology, nearly all of his pathology and general

[Sidenote: Some of his medical notions.]

Nevertheless, we may note a few specimens which perhaps represent
his ordinary theory and practice as distinguished from passages in
which the influence of magic enters. He holds that bleeding and
cold drink are the two chief remedies for fever.[619] He notes that
children occasionally resemble their grandparents rather than their
parents.[620] He disputes the assertion of Epicurus—one by which some
of his followers failed to be guided—that there is no benefit to health
in Aphrodite, and contends that at certain intervals and in certain
individuals and circumstances sexual intercourse is beneficial.[621]
His discussion of anodynes and stupor or sleep-producing medicines
shows that the ancients had anaesthetics of a sort.[622] He recognized
the importance of breathing plenty of fresh, invigorating, and
unpolluted air, free from any intermixture of impurity from mines,
pits, or ovens, or of putridity from decaying vegetable or animal
matter, or of noxious vapors from stagnant water, swamps, and
rivers.[623] As was usual in ancient and medieval times, he attributes
plagues to the corruption of the air, which poisons men breathing
it, and tells how Hippocrates tried to allay a plague at Athens by
purifying the air by fumigation with fires, odors, and unguents.[624]

[Sidenote: Two of Galen’s cases.]

Two specimens may be given of Galen’s accounts of his own cases. In
the first, some cheese, which he had told his servants to take away as
too sharp, when mixed with boiled salt pork and applied to the joints,
proved very helpful to a gouty patient and to several others whom he
induced to try it.[625] In the second case Galen administered the
following heroic treatment to a woman at Rome who was afflicted with
catarrh to the point of throwing up blood.[626] He did not deem it wise
to bleed her, since for four days past she had gone almost without
food. Instead he ordered a sharp clyster, rubbed and bound her hands
and feet with a hot drug, shaved her head and put on it a medicament
made of doves’ dung. After three hours she was bathed, care being taken
that nothing oily touched her head, which was then covered up. At first
he fed her only gruel, afterwards some bitter autumn fruit, and as she
was about to go to sleep he administered a medicament made from vipers
four months before. On the second day came more rubbing and binding
except the head, and at evening a somewhat smaller dose of the viper
remedy. Again she slept well and in the morning he gave her a large
dose of cooked honey. Again her body was well rubbed and she was given
barley water and a little bread to eat. On the fourth day an older and
therefore stronger variety of viper-remedy was administered and her
head was covered with the same medicament as before. Its properties,
Galen explains, are vehemently drying and heating. Again she was given
a bath and a little food. On the fifth day Galen ventured to purge her
lungs, but he returned at intervals to the imposition upon her head.
Meanwhile he continued the process of rubbing, bathing, and dieting,
until finally the patient was well again,—a truly remarkable cure!

[Sidenote: His power of rapid observation and inference.]

These two cases, however, do not give us a just comprehension of
Galen’s abilities at their best. In his medical practice he could be as
quick and comprehensive an observer and as shrewd in drawing inferences
from what he observed as the famous Sherlock Holmes, so that some of
his slower-witted contemporaries accused him of possessing the gift
of divination. His immediate diagnosis of the case of the Sicilian
physician by noting as he entered the house the excrements in a vessel
which a servant was carrying out to the dungheap, and as he entered the
sick-room a medicine set on the window-sill which the patient-physician
had been preparing for himself, amazed the patient and the philosopher
Glaucon[627] more than, let us hope in this case in view of his
profession, they would have amazed the estimable Dr. Watson.

[Sidenote: His happy guesses.]

Puschmann has pointed out that Galen employs certain expressions
which seem happy guesses at later discoveries. He writes: “Galen was
supported in his researches by an extremely happy imaginative faculty
which put the proper word in his mouth even in cases where he could not
possibly arrive at a full understanding of the matter,—where he could
only conjecture the truth. When, for instance, he declares that sound
is carried ‘like a wave’ (Kühn, III, 644), or expresses the conjecture
that the constituent of the atmosphere which is important for breathing
also acts by burning (IV, 687), he expresses thoughts which startle us,
for it was only possible nearly two thousand years later to understand
their full significance.”[628]

[Sidenote: Tendency towards scientific measurement.]

Galen was keenly alive to the need of exactness in weights and
measurements. He often criticizes past writers for not stating
precisely what ailment the medicament recommended is good for, and in
what proportions the ingredients are to be mixed. He also frequently
complains because they do not specify whether they are using the
Greek or Roman system of weights, or the Attic, Alexandrine, or
Ephesian variety of a certain measure.[629] Moreover, he saw the
desirability of more accurate means of measuring the passage of
time.[630] When he states that even some illustrious physicians of his
acquaintance mistake the speed of the pulse and are unable to tell
whether it is slow, fast, or normal, we begin to realize something
of the difficulties under which medical practice and any sort of
experimentation labored before watches were invented, and how much
depended upon the accuracy of human machinery and judgment. Yet Galen
estimates that the chief progress made in medical prognostication since
Hippocrates is the gradual development of the art of inferring from the
pulse.[631] Galen tried to improve the time-pieces in use in his age.
He states that in any city the inhabitants want to know the time of
day accurately, not merely conjecturally; and he gives directions how
to divide the day into twelve hours by a combination of a sun-dial and
a _clepsydra_, and how on the water clock to mark the duration of the
longest, shortest, and equinoctial days of the year.[632]

[Sidenote: Psychological tests with the pulse.]

Delicate and difficult as was the task of measuring the pulse in
Galen’s time, he was clever enough to anticipate by seventeen centuries
some of the tests which modern psychologists have urged should be
applied in criminal trials. He detected the fact that a female patient
was not ill but in love by the quickening of her pulse when someone
came in from the theater and announced that he had just seen Pylades
dance. When she came again the next day, Galen had purposely arranged
that someone should enter and say that he had seen Morphus dancing.
This and a similar test on the third day produced no perceptible
quickening in the woman’s pulse. But it bounded again when on the
fourth day Pylades’ name was again spoken. After recounting another
analogous incident where he had been able to read the patient’s mind,
Galen asks why former physicians have never availed themselves of
these methods. He thinks that they must have had no conception of
how the bodily health in general and the pulse in particular can be
affected by the “psyche’s” suffering.[633] We might then call Galen the
first experimental psychologist as well as the first to elaborate the
physiology of the nervous system.

[Sidenote: Galen’s anatomy and physiology.]

It would scarcely be fair to discuss Galen’s science at all without
saying something of his remarkable work in anatomy and physiology.
Daremberg went so far as to hold that all there is good or bad in his
writings comes from good or bad physiology, and regarded his discussion
of the bones and muscles as especially good.[634] He is generally
considered the greatest anatomist of antiquity, but it is barely
possible that he may have owed more to predecessors and contemporaries
and less to personal research than is apparent from his own writings,
which are the most complete anatomical treatises that have reached us
from antiquity. Herophilus, for example, who was born at Chalcedon in
the closing fourth century B. C. and flourished at Alexandria under
the first Ptolemy, discovered the nerves and distinguished them from
the sinews, and thought the brain the center of the nervous system, so
that it is perhaps questionable whether Payne is justified in calling
Galen “the founder of the physiology of the nervous system,” and in
declaring that “in physiological diagnosis he stands alone among the
ancients.”[635] However, if Galen owed something to Herophilus, we owe
much of our knowledge of the earlier physiologist to Galen.[636]

[Sidenote: Experiments in dissection.]

Aristotle had held that the heart was the seat of the sensitive
soul[637] and the source of nervous action, “while the brain was of
secondary importance, being the coldest part of the body, devoid of
blood, and having for its chief or only function to cool the heart.”
Galen attacked this theory by showing experimentally that “all the
nerves originated in the brain, either directly or by means of the
spinal cord, which he thought to be a conducting organ merely, not
a center.” “A thousand times,” he says, “I have demonstrated by
dissection that the cords in the heart called nerves by Aristotle
are not nerves and have no connection with nerves.” He found that
sensation and movement were stopped and even the voice and breathing
were affected by injuries to the brain, and that an injury to one
side of the brain affected the opposite side of the body. His
public demonstration by dissection, performed in the presence of
various philosophers and medical men, of the connection between
the brain and voice and respiration and the commentaries which he
immediately afterwards dictated on this point were so convincing,
he tells us fifteen years later, that no one has ventured openly to
dispute them.[638] His “experimental investigation of the spinal
cord by sections at different levels and by half sections was still
more remarkable.”[639] Galen opposed these experimental proofs to
such unscientific arguments on the part of the Stoic philosopher,
Chrysippus, and others, as that the heart must be the chief organ
because it is in the center of the body, or because one lays one’s
hand on one’s heart to indicate oneself, or because the lips are
moved in a certain way in saying “I” (ἐγώ).[640] Another noteworthy
experiment by Galen was that in which, by binding up a section of the
femoral artery he proved that the arteries contain blood and not air
or _spiritus_ as had been generally supposed.[641] He failed, however,
to perform any experiments with the pulmonary veins, and so the notion
persisted that these conveyed “spirit” and not blood from the lungs to
the heart.[642]

[Sidenote: Did Galen ever dissect human bodies?]

It has usually been stated that Galen never dissected the human body
and that his inferences by analogy from his dissection of animals
involved him in serious error concerning human anatomy and physiology.
Certainly he speaks as if opportunities to secure human cadavers or
even skeletons were rare.[643] He mentions, however, the possibility
of obtaining the bodies of criminals condemned to death or cast to
beasts in the arena, or the corpses of robbers which lie unburied in
the mountains, or the bodies of infants exposed by their parents.[644]
It is not sufficient, he states in another passage,[645] to read books
about human bones; one should have them before one’s eyes. Alexandria
is the best place for the student to go to see actual exhibitions of
this sort made by the teachers.[646] But even if one cannot go there,
one may be able to procure human bones for oneself, as Galen did from a
skeleton which had been washed out of a grave by a flooded stream and
from the corpse of a robber slain in the mountains. If one cannot get
to see a human skeleton by these means or some other, he should dissect
monkeys and apes.

[Sidenote: Dissection of animals.]

Indeed Galen advises the student to dissect apes in any case, in order
to prepare himself for intelligent dissection of the human body, should
he ever have the opportunity. From lack of such previous experience the
doctors with the army of Marcus Aurelius, who dissected the body of a
dead German, learned nothing except the position of the entrails. Galen
at any rate dissected a great many animals. Tiny animals and insects
he let alone, for the microscope was not yet discovered, but besides
apes and quadrupeds he cut up many reptiles, mice, weasels, birds, and
fish.[647] He also gives an amusing account of the medical men at Rome
gathering to observe the dissection of an elephant in order to discover
whether the heart had one or two vertices and two or three ventricles.
Galen assured them beforehand that it would be found similar to the
heart of any other breathing animal. This particular dissection was
not, however, performed exclusively in the interests of science, since
it was scarcely accomplished when the heart was carried off, not to
a scientific museum, but by the imperial cooks to their master’s
table.[648] Galen sometimes dissected animals the moment he killed
them. Thus he observed that the lungs always sensibly shrank from the
diaphragm in a dying animal, whether he killed it by suffocation in
water, or strangling with a noose, or severing the spinal medulla near
the first vertebrae, or cutting the large arteries or veins.[649]

[Sidenote: Surgical operations.]

Surgical operations and medical practice were a third way of learning
the human anatomy, and Galen complains of the carelessness of those
physicians and surgeons who do not take pains to observe it before
performing an operation or cure. He himself had had one case where
the human heart was laid bare and yet the patient recovered.[650]
As a young practitioner before he came to Rome Galen worked out so
successful a method of treating wounds of the sinews that the care
of the health of the gladiators in his native city of Pergamum was
entrusted to him by several successive pontifices[651] and he hardly
lost a life. In the same passage he again speaks contemptuously of
the doctors in the war with the Germans who were allowed to cut open
the bodies of the barbarians but learned no more thereby than a cook
would. When Galen came from Pergamum to Rome he found the professions
of physicians and surgeons distinct and left cases to the latter which
he before had attended to himself.[652] We may note finally that he
invented a new form of surgical knife.[653]

[Sidenote: Galen’s argument from design.]

In Galen’s opinion the study of anatomy was important for the
philosopher as well as for the physician. An understanding of the
use of the parts of the body is helpful to the doctor, he says, but
much more so to “the philosopher of medicine who strives to obtain
knowledge of all nature.”[654] In the _De usu partium_[655] he came to
the conclusion that in the structure of any animal we have the mark
of a wise workman or demiurge, and of a celestial mind; and that “the
investigation of the use of the parts of the body lays the foundation
of a truly scientific theology which is much greater and more precious
than all medicine,” and which reveals the divinity more clearly than
even the Eleusinian mysteries or Samothracian orgies. Thus Galen adopts
the argument from design for the existence of God. The modern doctrine
of evolution is of course subversive of his premise that the parts of
the body are so well constructed for and marvelously adapted to their
functions that nothing better is possible, and consequently of his
conclusion that this necessitates a divine maker and planner.

In the treatise _De foetuum formatione_ Galen displays a similar
inclination but more tentatively and timidly. He thinks that the human
body attests the wisdom and power of its maker,[656] whom he wishes the
philosophers would reveal to him more clearly and tell him “whether he
is some wise and powerful god.”[657] The process of the formation of
the child in the womb, the complex human muscular system, the human
tongue alone, seem to him so wonderful that he will not subscribe to
the Epicurean denial of any all-ruling providence.[658] He thinks that
nature alone cannot show such wisdom. He has, however, sought vainly
from philosopher after philosopher for a satisfactory demonstration of
the existence of God, and is by no means certain himself.[659]

[Sidenote: Queries concerning the soul.]

Galen is also at a loss concerning the existence and substance of the
soul. He points out that puppies try to bite before their teeth come
and that calves try to hook before their horns grow, as if the soul
knew the use of these parts beforehand. It might be argued that the
soul itself causes the parts to grow,[660] but Galen questions this,
nor is he ready to accept the Platonic world-soul theory of a divine
force permeating all nature.[661] It offends his instinctive piety and
sense of fitness to think of the world-soul in such things as reptiles,
vermin, and putrefying corpses. On the other hand, he disagrees with
those who deny any innate knowledge or standards to the soul and
attribute everything to sense perception and certain imaginations and
memories based thereon. Some even deny the existence of the reasoning
faculty, he says, and affirm that we are led by the affections of
the senses like cattle. For these men courage, prudence, temperance,
continence are mere names.[662]

[Sidenote: No supernatural force in medicine.]

In commenting upon the works of Hippocrates, Galen insists that in
speaking of “something divine” in diseases Hippocrates could not have
meant supernatural influence, which he never admits into medicine in
other passages. Galen tries to explain away the expression as having
reference to the effect of the surrounding air.[663] Thus while Galen
might look upon nature or certain things in nature as a divine work,
he would not admit any supernatural force in science or medicine, or
anything bordering upon special providence. In the _De usu partium_
Galen states that he agrees with Moses that “the beginning of genesis
in all things generated” was “from the demiurge,” but that he does not
agree with him that anything is possible with God and that God can
suddenly turn a stone into a man or make a horse or cow from ashes.
“In this matter our opinion and that of Plato and of others among the
Greeks who have written correctly concerning natural science differs
from the view of Moses.” In Galen’s view God attempts nothing contrary
to nature but of all possible natural courses invariably chooses the
best. Thus Galen expresses his admiration at nature’s providence in
keeping the eyebrows and eyelashes of the same length and not letting
them grow long like the beard or hair, but this is because a harder
cartilaginous flesh is provided for them to grow in, and the mere will
of God would not keep hairs from growing in soft flesh. If God had not
provided the cartilaginous substance for the eyelashes, “he would have
been more careless, not merely than Moses but than a worthless general
who builds a wall in a swamp.”[664] As between the views on God of
Moses and Epicurus, Galen prefers to steer a middle course.

[Sidenote: Galen’s experimental instinct.]

Already in describing Galen’s dissections and tests with the pulse
we have seen evidence of the accurate observation and experimental
instincts which accompanied his zest for hard work and zeal for truth.
In one of his treatises he confesses that it was a passion of his
always to test everything for himself. “And if anyone accuses me of
this, I will confess my disease, from which I have suffered all my
life long, that I have trusted no one of those who narrate such things
until I have tested it myself, if it was possible for me to have
experience of it.”[665] Galen also recognized that general theories
were not sufficient for exact knowledge and that specific examples
seen with one’s own eyes were indispensable.[666] He maintains that,
if all teachers and writers would realize and observe this, they
would make comparatively few false statements. He saw the danger of
making absolute assertions and the need of noting the particular
circumstances of each individual case.[667] Galen more than once
declared that things, not names, were important and refused to waste
time in disputing about terminology and definitions which might be
spent in “pursuing the knowledge of things themselves.”[668] Thus we
see in Galen a pragmatic scientist intent upon concrete facts and exact
knowledge; but at the same time it must be recognized that he accepted
some universal theorems and general views.

[Sidenote: Attitude towards authorities.]

Galen did not believe in merely repeating in new books the statements
of previous authorities. Ever since boyhood, he writes in his
_Anatomical Administrations_, it has seemed to him that one should
record in writing only one’s new discoveries and not repeat what
has been said already.[669] Nevertheless in some of his writings he
collects the prescriptions of past physicians at great length, and
a previous treatise by Archigenes is practically embodied in one of
Galen’s works on compound medicines. On another occasion, however,
after stating that Crito had combined previous treatises upon
cosmetics, including the work of Cleopatra, into four books of his
own which constitute a well-nigh exhaustive treatment of the subject,
Galen says that he sees no profit in copying Crito’s work again and
merely reproduces its table of contents.[670] On the other hand, as
this passage shows, Galen thought that the ancients had stated many
things admirably and he had little patience with contemporaries who
would learn nothing from them but were always ambitiously weaving new
and complicated dogmas, or misinterpreting and perverting the teachings
of the ancients.[671] His method was rather first to “make haste and
stretch every nerve to learn what the most celebrated of the ancients
have said;”[672] then, having mastered this teaching, to judge it and
put it to the test for a long time and determine by observation how
much of it agrees and how much disagrees with actual phenomena, and
then embrace the former portion and reject the latter.

[Sidenote: Adverse criticism of past writers.]

This critical employment of past authorities is frequently illustrated
in Galen’s works. He mentions a great many names of past physicians
and writers, thereby shedding some light upon the history of Greek
medicine; but at times he criticizes his predecessors, not sparing
even Empedocles and Aristotle. Although he cites Aristotle a great
deal, he declares that it is not surprising that Aristotle made many
errors in the anatomy of animals, since he thought that the heart
in large animals had a third ventricle.[673] As we have already
seen in discussing the topic of weights and measurements, Galen
especially objects to the vagueness and inaccuracy of many past
medical writers,[674] or praises individuals like Heras who give
specific information.[675] He also shows a preference for writers who
give first-hand information, commending Heraclides of Tarentum as a
trustworthy man, if there ever was one, who set down only those things
proved by his own experience.[676] Galen declares that one could
spend a lifetime in reading the books that have already been written
upon medicinal simples. He urges his readers, however, to abstain
from Andreas and other liars of that stamp, and above all to eschew
Pamphilus who never saw even in a dream the herbs which he describes.

[Sidenote: Galen’s estimate of Dioscorides.]

Of all previous writers upon _materia medica_ Galen preferred
Dioscorides. He writes, “But Anazarbensis Dioscorides in five books
discussed all useful material not only of herbs but of trees and fruits
and juices and liquors, treating besides both all metals and the
parts of animals.”[677] Yet he does not hesitate to criticize certain
statements of Dioscorides, such as the story of mixing goat’s blood
with the _terra sigillata_ of Lemnos. Dioscorides had also attributed
marvelous virtues to the stone Gagates which he said came from a river
of that name in Lycia; Galen’s comment is that he has skirted the
entire coast of Lycia in a small boat and found no such stream.[678]
He also wonders that Dioscorides described butter as made of the milk
of sheep and goats, and correctly states that “this drug” is made from
cows’ milk.[679] Galen does not mention its use as a food in his work
on medicinal simples, and in his treatise upon food values he alludes
to butter rather incidentally in the chapter on milk, stating that it
is a fatty substance and easily recognized by tasting it, that it has
many of the properties of oil, and in cold countries is sometimes used
in baths in place of oil.[680] Galen further criticizes Dioscorides for
his unfamiliarity with the Greek language and consequent failure to
grasp the significance of many Greek names.

[Sidenote: Galen’s dogmatism: logic and experience.]

Daremberg said of Galen that he represented at the same time the most
exaggerated dogmatism and the most advanced experimental school. There
is some justification for the paradox, though the latter part seems to
me the truer. But Galen was proud of his training in philosophy and
logic and mathematics; he stood fast by many Hippocratic dogmas such
as the four qualities theory, he thought[681] that in medicine as in
geometry there were a certain number of self-evident maxims upon which
reason, conforming to the rules of logic, might build up a scientific
structure. In the _De methodo medendi_[682] he makes a distinction
between the discovery of drugs and medicines, simple or compound, by
experience and the methodical treatment of disease which he now sets
forth and which should proceed logically and independently of mere
empiricism, and he wishes that other medical writers would make it
clear when they are relying merely on experience and when exclusively
upon reason.[683] At the same time he expresses his dislike for mere
dogmatizers who shout their _ipse dixits_ like tyrants without the
support either of reason or experience.[684] He also grants that the
ordinary man, taught by nature alone, often instinctively pursues a
better course of action for his health than “the sophists” are able
to advise.[685] Indeed, he is of the opinion that some doctors would
do well to stick to experience alone and not try to mix in reasoning,
since they are not trained in logic, and when they endeavor to divide
or analyze a theme, perform like unskilled carvers who fail to find the
joints and mutilate the roast.[686] Later on in the same work[687] he
again affirms that persons who will not read and profit by the books of
medical authorities and whose own reasoning is defective, should limit
themselves to experience.

[Sidenote: Galen’s account of the Empirics.]

Normally, however, Galen upholds both reason and experience as
criteria of truth against the opposing schools of Dogmatics and
Empirics. The former attacked experience as uncertain and impossible
to regulate, slow and unmethodical. The latter replied that experience
was consistent, adaptable to art, and proof enough.[688] Galen’s
chief objection to the Empirics is that they reject reason as a
criterion of truth and wish the medical art to be irrational.[689]
“The Empirics say that all things are discovered by experience, but
we say that some are found by experience and some by reason.”[690]
Galen also objects to Herodotus’s explanation of the medical art as
originating in the conversation of patients exposed at crossroads who
told one another of their complaints and recoveries and thus evolved
a fund of common experience.[691] Galen criticizes such experience
as irrational and not yet put into scientific form (οὔπω λογική). Of
the Empirics he tells us further that they regard phenomena only and
ignore causes and put no trust in reasoning. They hold that there is
no system or necessary order in medical discovery or doctrine, and
that some remedies have been discovered by dreams, others by chance.
They also accepted written accounts of past experiences and thus to
a certain extent trusted in tradition. Galen argues that they should
test these statements of past authorities by reason.[692] His further
contention that, if they test them by experience, they might as well
reject all writings and trust only to present experience from the
start, is a sophistical quibble unworthy of him. He adds, however,
that the Empirics themselves say that past tradition or “history”
(ἱστορία) should not be judged by experience, but it is unlikely that
he represents their view correctly in this particular. In another
passage[693] he says that they distinguish three kinds of experience,
chance or accidental, offhand or impromptu, and imitative or the
repetition of the same thing. In a third passage[694] he repeats that
they held that observation of one or two instances was not enough,
but that oft-repeated observation was needed with all conditions the
same each time. In yet another place[695] he says that the Empirics
observe coincidences in things joined by experience. He himself defines
experience as the comprehending and remembering of something seen
often and in the same condition,[696] and makes the good point that
one cannot observe satisfactorily without use of reason.[697] He also
admits in one place that some Empirics are ready to employ reason as
well as experience.[698]

[Sidenote: How the Empirics might have criticized Galen.]

Having noted Galen’s criticism of the Empirics, we may imagine what
their attitude would be towards his medicine. They would probably
reject all his theories—which we, too, have finally discarded—of
four elements and four qualities and the like, and would accept only
his specific recommendations for the cure of disease based upon
his medical experience; except that they would also be credulous
concerning anything which he assured them was based upon his own
or another’s experience, whether it truly was or not. They would,
however, have probably questioned much of his anatomical inference
from the dissection of the lower animals, since he tells us that they
“have written whole books against anatomy.”[699] Considering the
state of knowledge in their time, their refusal to attempt any large
generalizations or to hazard any scientific hypotheses or to build any
risky medical system was in a way commendable, but their credulity as
to particulars was a weakness.

[Sidenote: Galen’s standard of reason and experience.]

On the whole Galen’s attitude towards experience seems an improvement
upon theirs. He was apparently more critical towards the “experiences”
of past writers than the average Empiric, and in his combination of
reason and experience he came a little nearer to modern experimental
method. Reason alone, he says, discovers some things, experience alone
discovers some, but to find others requires use of both experience and
reason.[700] In his treatise upon critical days he keeps reiterating
that their existence is proved both by reason and experience. These
two instruments in judging things given us by nature supplement each
other.[701] “Logical methods have force in finding what is sought, but
in believing what has been well found there are two criteria for all
men, reason and experience.”[702] “What can you do with men who cannot
be persuaded either by reason or by practice?”[703] Galen also speaks
of discovering a truth by logic and being thereby encouraged to try it
in practice and of then verifying it by experience.[704] This, however,
is not quite the same thing as saying that the scientist should aim to
discover new truth by purposive experiments, or that from a number of
experiences reason may infer some general law of nature.

[Sidenote: Simples knowable only from experience.]

It is perhaps in his work on medicinal simples that Galen lays most
stress upon the importance of experience. Indeed he sees no other way
to learn the properties of natural objects than through the experience
of the senses.[705] “For by the gods,” he exclaims, “how is it that
we know that fire is hot? Are we taught it by some syllogism or
persuaded of it by some demonstration? And how do we learn that ice
is cold except from the senses?”[706] And Galen sees no advantage
in spending further time in arguments and hair-splitting where one
can learn the truth at once from the senses. This thought he keeps
repeating through the treatise, saying, for example, “The surest judge
of all will be experience alone, and those who abandon it and reason
on any other basis not only are deceived but destroy the value of
the treatise.”[707] Moreover, he restricts his account of medicinal
simples to those with which he is personally acquainted. In the three
books treating of plants he does not mention all those found in all
parts of the world, but only as many as it has been his privilege to
know by experience.[708] He proposes to follow the same rule in the
ensuing discussion of animals and to say nothing of virtues which he
has not tested or of substances mentioned in the writings of past
physicians but unknown to him. He dares not trust their statements when
he reflects how some have lied in such matters. In the middle ages
Albertus Magnus talks in much the same strain in his works on animals,
plants, and minerals, and perhaps he was stimulated to such ideals,
consciously or unconsciously, directly by reading Galen or indirectly
through Arabic works, by Galen’s earlier expression of them. Galen
mentions some virtues ascribed to substances which he has tested by
experience and found false, such as the medicinal properties attributed
to the belly of a seagull[709] and some of those claimed for the marine
animal called torpedo.[710] Anointing the place with frog’s blood or
dog’s milk will not prevent eyebrows that have been plucked out from
growing again, nor will bat’s blood and viper’s fat remove hair from
the arm-pits.[711] Also the brain of a hare is only fairly good for
boys’ teeth.[712]

[Sidenote: Experience and food science.]

In beginning his work on food values[713] Galen states that many have
discussed the properties of aliments, some on the basis of reason
alone, some on the basis of experience alone, but that their statements
do not agree. On the whole, since reasoning is not easy for everyone,
requiring natural sagacity and training from childhood, he thinks it
better to start from experience, especially since not a few physicians
are of the opinion that only thus can the properties of foods be

[Sidenote: Experience and compounds.]

The Empirics contended that most compound medicines had been hit upon
by chance, and Galen grants that the Dogmatics usually are unable to
give reasons for the ingredients of their doses and find difficulty
in reproducing a lost prescription.[714] But he holds that reasons
can be given for the constituents of the compound and that the
logical discovery of such remedies differs from the empirical.[715]
His own method was to learn the nature of each disease and the
varied properties of simples, and then prepare a compound suited
to the disease and to the patient.[716] On the other hand, we see
how much depends upon experience from his confession that sometimes
he has hastily prepared a compound from a few simples, sometimes
from more, sometimes from a great variety. If the compound worked
well, he would continue to use it, sometimes making it stronger
and sometimes weaker.[717] For as you cannot put together compounds
without rational method, so you cannot tell their strength certainly
and accurately without experience.[718] He admits that no one can
tell the exact quantity of each ingredient to employ without the
aid of experience,[719] and says, “The proper proportions in the
mixture we shall find conjecturally before experience, scientifically
after experience.”[720] In these treatises upon compound medicines,
unlike that on medicinal simples, Galen gives the prescriptions of
former physicians as well as some tested by his own experience.[721]
Sometimes, however, he expresses a preference for the medicines of
those writers who were “most experienced”; and once says that he will
give some compounds of the more recent writers, who in their turn had
selected the best from older writers of long experience and added later
discoveries.[722] We suspect, however, that some of these prescriptions
had not been tested for centuries.

[Sidenote: Suggestions of experimental method.]

Galen gives a few directions how to regulate medical observation and
experience, although they cannot be said to carry us very far on
the road to modern laboratory research. He saw the value of “long
experience,” a phrase which he often employs.[723] He states that one
experience is enough to learn how to prepare a drug, but to learn to
know the best medicines in each kind and in different places many
experiences are required.[724] Medicinal simples should be frequently
inspected, “since the knowledge of things perceived by the senses is
strengthened by careful examination.”[725] Galen advises the student
of medicine to study herbs, trees, and fruit as they grow, to find
out when it is best to pluck them, how to preserve them, and so on.
But elsewhere he states that it is possible to estimate the general
virtue of the simple from one or two experiences.[726] However, he
suggests that their effect be noted in the three cases of a perfectly
healthy person, a slightly ailing patient, and a really sick man.[727]
In the last case one should further note their varying effects as the
disease is marked by any excess of heat, cold, dryness, or moisture.
Care should be taken that the simples themselves are pure and free
from any admixture of a foreign substance.[728] “It is also essential
to test the relation to the nature of the patient of all those things
of which great use is made in the medical art.”[729] One condition
to be observed in experimental investigation of critical days is to
count no cases where any slip has been made by physician or patient
or bystanders or where any other foreign factor has done harm.[730]
Galen was acquainted with physical experiments in siphoning, for he
says that, if one withdraws the air from a vessel containing sand and
water, the sand will follow before the water, which is the heavier

[Sidenote: Difficulty of medical experiment.]

Galen also points out some of the difficulties of medical
experimentation. One is the extreme unlikelihood of ever being able
to observe in even two cases the same combination of symptoms and
circumstances.[732] The other is the danger to the life of the patient
from rash experimenting.[733] Thus Galen more than once tells us of
abstaining from testing some remedy because he had others of whose
effects he was surer.

[Sidenote: Empirical remedies.]

In the treatise on easily procurable remedies ascribed to Galen,[734]
in which we have already seen evidence of later interpolation or
authorship, some recipes are concluded by such expressions as,
“This has been experienced; it works unceasingly,”[735] or “Another
remedy tested by us in many cases.”[736] This became a custom in many
subsequent medical works, including those of the middle ages. One
recipe is introduced by the caution, “But don’t cure anybody unless you
have been paid first, for this has been tested in many cases.”[737] But
we are left in some doubt whether we should infer that remedies tested
by experience are so superior that they call for cash payment rather
than credit, or so uncertain that it is advisable that the physician
secure his fee before the outcome is known. In the middle ages the
word _experimentum_ was used a great deal as a synonym for any medical
treatment, recipe, or prescription. Galen approaches this usage, which
we have already noticed in Pliny’s _Natural History_, when he describes
“a very important experiment” in bleeding performed by certain doctors
at Rome.[738]

[Sidenote: Galen’s influence upon medieval experiment.]

Indeed Galen appears to have exerted a great influence in the middle
ages by his passages concerning experience in particular as well as by
his medicine in general. Medieval writers cite him as an authority for
the recognition of experience and reason as criteria of truth.[739]
Gilbert of England cites “experiences from the book of experiments
experienced by Galen,”[740] and we shall find more than one such
apocryphal work ascribed to Galen in the middle ages. John of St.
Amand seems to have developed seven rules[741] which he gives for
discovering experimentally the properties of medicinal simples from
what we have heard Galen say on the subject, and in another work, the
_Concordances_, John collects a number of passages about experience
from the works of Galen.[742] Peter of Spain, who died as Pope John
XXI in 1277, cites Galen in his discussion of “the way of experience”
and “the way of reason” in his _Commentaries on Isaac on Diets_.[743]
We have already suggested Galen’s possible influence upon Albertus
Magnus, and we might add Roger Bacon who wrote some treatises on
medicine. But it is hardly possible to tell whether such ideas were in
the air, or were due to Galen individually either in their origin or
their transmission. But he made a rather close approach to the medieval
attitude in his equal regard for logic and for experimentation.

[Sidenote: His more general medieval influence.]

The more general influence of Galen upon all sides of the medicine
of the following fifteen centuries has often been stated in sweeping
terms, but is difficult to exaggerate. His general theories, his
particular cures, his occasional marvelous stories, were often repeated
or paraphrased. Oribasius has been called “the ape of Galen,” and we
shall see that the epithet might with equal reason be applied to Aëtius
of Amida. Indeed, as in the case of Pliny, we shall find plenty of
instances of Galen’s influence in our later chapters. Perhaps as good
a single instance of medieval study of Galen as could be given is from
the _Concordances_ of John of St. Amand already mentioned, which bear
the alternative title, “Recalled to Mind” (_Revocativum memoriae_),
since they were written to “relieve from toil and worry scholars who
often spend sleepless nights in searching for points in the books of
Galen.”[744] Or we may note how the associates of the twelfth century
translator from the Arabic, Gerard of Cremona, added a list of his
works at the close of his translation of Galen’s _Tegni_, “imitating
Galen in the commemoration of his books at the end of the same
treatise,” as they themselves state.[745]

Not that medieval men did not make additions of their own to Galen.
For instance, the noted Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, in adding
his collection of medical _Aphorisms_ to the many previous compilations
of this sort by Hippocrates, Rasis (Muhammad ibn Zakariya), Mesuë
(Yuhanna ibn Masawaih), and others, states that he has drawn them
mainly from the works of Galen, but that he supplements these with some
in his own name and some by other “moderns.”[746] Not that Galen was
not sometimes criticized or questioned. A later Greek writer, Symeon
Seth, ventured to devote a special treatise to a refutation of some
of Galen’s physiological views. In it, addressing himself to those
“persons who regard you, O Galen, as a god,” he endeavored to make
them realize that no human being is infallible.[747] Among the medical
treatises of Gentile da Foligno, who was papal physician and performed
a public dissection at Padua in 1341,[748] is found a brief argument
against Galen’s fifth aphorism.[749] But such criticism or opposition
only shows how generally Galen was accepted as an authority.

III. _His Attitude Towards Magic_

From Galen’s habits of critical estimation rather than blind
acceptation of authority, of scientific observation, careful
measurement, and personal experiment, from his brilliant demonstrations
by dissection, and his medical prognostication and therapeutics, sane
and shrewd for his time,—from these we have now to turn to the other
side of the picture, and examine what information his works afford us
concerning the magic and astrology in ancient medicine, concerning the
belief in occult virtues, suspensions, characters, incantations, and
the like. We may first consider what he has to say concerning magic and
divination as he understands those words, and then take up his attitude
to those other matters which we look upon as almost equally deserving
classification under those heads.

[Sidenote: Accusations of magic against Galen.]

Apollonius of Tyana and Apuleius of Madaura were not the only
celebrated men of learning in the early Roman Empire to be accused of
magic; we have already alluded to the charges of magic made against
Galen by the envious physicians of Rome during his first residence
in that city. It is hard to escape the conviction that at that time
learned men were very liable to be suspected or accused of magic.
Indeed, Galen makes the general assertion that when a physician
prognosticates aright concerning the future course of a malady, this
seems so marvelous to most men that they would receive him with great
affection, if they did not often regard him as a wizard.[750] Soon
after saying this, Galen begins the story of the prognostications
he made and the cure he wrought, when all the other doctors took an
opposite view of the case.[751] One of them then jealously suggested
that Galen’s diagnosis was due to divination.[752] When asked by what
kind of divination, he gave different answers at different times
and to different persons, sometimes saying by dreams, sometimes by
sacrificing, again by symbols, or by astrology. Afterwards such charges
against Galen kept multiplying.[753] As a result, Galen says that
since then he has not gone about advertising his prognostications
like a herald, lest the physicians and philosophers hate him the more
and slander him as a wizard and diviner, but that he now reveals his
discoveries only to his friends.[754] In another treatise he represents
Hippocrates as saying that a proficient doctor should be able to
prognosticate the course of diseases, but adds that contemporary
physicians call such a doctor a sorcerer and wonder-worker (γόητά τε
καὶ παραδοξολόγον).[755] Again in his work on medicinal simples[756]
he states that he abstained from testing the supposed virtue of
crocodile’s blood in sharpening the vision, and the blood of house mice
in removing warts, partly because he had other reliable eye-medicines
and cures for warts—such as _myrmecia_, a gem with wart-like lumps,
partly because by employing such substances he feared to incur the
reputation of a sorcerer, since jealous physicians were already
slandering his medical prognostications as divination. This last
passage affords a good illustration of the close connection with magic
of certain natural substances supposed to possess marvelous virtues,
while Galen’s wart stone also seems magical to the modern reader.

[Sidenote: His charges of magic against others.]

Galen himself sometimes calls other physicians magicians. Certain men
with whom he does not agree are called by him “liars or wizards or I
don’t know what to say,”[757] and another man who used mouse dung to
excess he calls superstitious and a sorcerer.[758] In the same work
on simples[759] he says that he will list herbs in alphabetical order
as Pamphilus did, but that he will not like him descend to old wives’
tales, Egyptian sorceries and incantations, amulets and other magical
devices, which not only do not belong in the medical art but are
utterly false. Pamphilus never saw most of the herbs he mentioned,
much less tested their virtues, but copied anything he found, piling
up names, incantations, and wizardry. Galen accuses Xenocrates
Aphrodisiensis also of not having eschewed sorcery, and he notes
that medical writers have either said nothing about sweat or what is
superstitious and bordering upon magic.[760]

[Sidenote: Charms and wonder-workers.]

Philters, love-charms, dream-draughts, and imprecations Galen regards
as impossible or injurious, and intends to have nothing to do with
them. He thinks it ridiculous to believe that by such spells one can
bewitch one’s adversaries so that they cannot plead in court, or
conceive or bear children. He considers it worse to advertise and
perpetuate such false or criminal notions in writings than to practice
such a crime but once.[761] In one passage,[762] however, to illustrate
his theory that the gods prepare the sperms of plants and animals, and
set them going as it were, and afterwards leave them to themselves,
Galen compares them to the wonder-workers—who were perhaps not
magicians but men similar to our sidewalk fakirs who exhibit mechanical
toys—who start things moving and then go away themselves while what
they have prepared moves on artificially for a time.

[Sidenote: Animal substance inadmissible in medicine.]

Galen’s own works are not entirely free from the magical devices of
which he accuses others. We may begin with animal substances, since
he himself has testified that the use of sweat, crocodile’s blood,
and mouse’s dung is suggestive of magic. Moreover, he attributes more
bizarre virtues to the parts of animals than to herbs or stones. In
a passage somewhat similar to that in which Pliny[763] expressed his
horror at the use of human blood, entrails, and skulls as medicines,
Galen declares that he will not mention the abominable and detestable,
as Xenocrates and some others have done. The Roman law has long
forbidden eating human flesh, while Galen regards even the mention of
certain secretions and excrements of the human body as offensive to
modest ears.[764] Nevertheless, before long he offends against his
own standard and describes how he administered to patients the very
substance which he had before characterized as most unmentionable.[765]
It may also be noted that he repeats unquestioningly such a tale as
that the cubs of the bear are born unformed and licked into shape by
their mother.[766]

[Sidenote: Nastiness of ancient medicine.]

Further milder illustrations of the fact that such nasty substances
were then not merely recommended in books but freely employed in actual
medical practice, are seen in the frequent use by one of Galen’s
teachers of the dung of dogs who for two days before had eaten nothing
but bones,[767] in Galen’s own wonderfully successful treatment of a
tumor on a rustic’s knee with goat dung—which is, however, too sharp
for the skins of children or city ladies,[768] and in his discovery by
repeated experience that the dung of doves who take little exercise
is less potent than that of those who take much,[769] Galen also says
that he has known of doctors who have cured many persons by giving them
burnt human bones in drink without their knowledge.[770]

[Sidenote: Parts of animals.]

Galen’s medicinal simples include the bile of bulls, hyenas, cocks,
partridges, and other animals.[771] A digestive oil can be manufactured
by cooking foxes and hyenas, some alive and some dead, whole in
oil.[772] Galen discusses with perfect seriousness the relative
strength of various animal fats, those of the goose, hen, hyena, goat,
pig, and so forth.[773] He decides that lion’s fat is by far the
most potent, with that of the pard next. Among his simples are also
found the slough of a snake, a sheepskin, the lichens of horses, a
spider’s web,[774] and burnt young swallows, for whose introduction
into medicine he gives Asclepiades credit.[775] Of Archigenes’
prescriptions for toothache he repeats that which recommended holding
for some time in the mouth a frog boiled in water and vinegar, or a
dog’s tooth, burnt, pulverized, and boiled in vinegar.[776] Cavities
may be filled with toasted earthworms or spiders’ eggs diluted with
unguent of nard. Teething infants are benefited, if their gums are
moistened with dog’s milk or anointed with hare’s brains.[777] For
colic he recommends dried cicadas with three, five, or seven grains of

[Sidenote: Some scepticism.]

Galen is less confident as to the efficacy for earache of the
multipedes which roll themselves up into a ball, and which, cooked in
oil, are employed especially by rural doctors.[779] He is still more
sceptical whether the liver of a mad dog will cure its bite.[780] Many
say so, and he knows of some who have tried it and survived, but they
took other remedies too.[781] Galen has heard that some who trusted to
it alone died. In one treatise[782] Galen discusses the strange virtues
of the basilisk in much the usual way, but in his work on simples[783]
he remarks drily that it is obviously impossible to employ it in
pharmacy, since, if the tales about it be true, men cannot see it and
live or even approach it without danger. He therefore will not include
it or elephants or Nile horses (hippopotamuses?) or any other animals
of which he has had no personal experience.

[Sidenote: Doctrine of occult virtue.]

Galen tries to find some satisfactory explanation of the strange
properties which he believes exist in so many things. The attractive
power of the magnet and of drugs suggests to him that nature in us is
divine, as Homer says, and leads like to like and thus shows its divine
virtues.[784] Galen rejects Epicurus’s explanation of the magnet’s
attractive power.[785] It was that the atoms flowing off from both the
magnet and iron fit one another so closely that the two substances
are drawn together. Galen objects that this does not explain how a
whole series of rings can be suspended in a row from a magnet. Galen’s
teacher Pelops, who claimed to be able to tell the cause of everything,
explained why ashes of river crabs are used for the bite of a mad dog
as follows.[786] The crab is efficacious against hydrophobia because it
is an aquatic animal. River crabs are better for this purpose than salt
water crabs because salt dries up moisture. He also thought the ashes
of crabs very potent in absorbing the venom. But this type of reasoning
is unsatisfactory to Galen, who finds the best explanation of all such
action in the peculiar property, or occult virtue, of the substance
as a whole. Upon this subject[787] he proposes to write a separate
treatise, and in the fragment _De substantia facultatum naturalium_
(περὶ οὐσίας τῶν φυσικῶν δυνάμεων) he again discusses the matter.[788]

[Sidenote: Virtue of the flesh of vipers.]

Among parts of animals Galen regarded the flesh of vipers as especially
medicinal, particularly as an antidote to poisons. Of the following
cures wrought by vipers’ flesh which Galen narrates[789] two were
repeated without giving him credit by Aëtius of Amida in the sixth,
and Bartholomew of England in the thirteenth century, and doubtless by
other writers. When Galen was a youth in Asia, some reapers found a
dead viper in their jug of wine and so were afraid to drink any of it.
Instead they gave it to a man near by who suffered from the terrible
skin disease elephantiasis and whom they thought it would be a mercy to
put quietly out of his misery. He drank the wine but instead of dying
recovered from his disease. A similarly unexpected cure was effected
when a slave wife in Mysia tried to kill her husband by offering him
a like drink. A third case was that of a patient whom Galen told of
these two previous cures. After resorting to augury to learn if he too
should try it and receiving a favorable response, the patient drank
wine infected by venom with the result that his elephantiasis changed
into leprosy, which Galen cured a little later with the usual drugs.
A fourth man, while hunting vipers, was stung by one. Galen bled him,
extracted black bile with a drug, and then made him eat the vipers
which he had caught and which were prepared in oil like eels. A fifth
man, warned by a dream, came from Thrace to Pergamum. Another dream
instructed him both to drink, and to anoint himself with, a concoction
of vipers. This changed his disease into leprosy which in its turn was
cured by drugs which the god prescribed.

[Sidenote: Theriac.]

The flesh of vipers was an important ingredient in the famous antidote
and remedy called theriac, concerning which Galen wrote two special
treatises[790] besides discussing it in his works on simples and
antidotes. Mithridates, like King Attalus in Galen’s native land,
had tested the effects of various drugs upon condemned criminals,
and had thus discovered antidotes against spiders, scorpions,
sea-hares, aconite, and other poisons. He then combined the results
of his research into one grand compound which should be an antidote
against any and every poison. But he did not include the flesh of the
viper, which was added with some other changes by Andromachus, chief
physician to Nero.[791] The divine Marcus Aurelius used to take a dose
of theriac daily and it had since come into general use.[792] Galen
gives a long list of ills which it will cure, including the plague
and hydrophobia,[793] and adds that it is beneficial in keeping a man
in good health.[794] He advises its use when traveling or in wintry
weather, and tells Piso that it will prolong his life.[795] He explains
more than once[796] how to prepare the viper’s flesh, why the head
and tail must be cut off, how it is cleaned and boiled until the flesh
falls from the backbone, how it is mixed with pounded bread into pills,
how the flesh of the viper is best in early summer. Galen also accepts
the legend,[797] quoting six lines of verse from Nicander to that
effect, that the viper conceives in the mouth and then bites off the
male’s head, and that the young viper avenges its father’s death by
gnawing its way out of its mother’s vitals. The _Marsi_ at Rome denied
the existence of the _dipsas_ or snake whose bite causes one to die of
thirst, but Galen is not quite sure whether to agree with them.

[Sidenote: Magical compounds.]

Already we have had occasion to refer to Galen’s two works on compound
medicines which occupy the better part of two bulky volumes in Kühn’s
edition and contain a vast number of prescriptions. It is not uncommon
for one of these to contain as many as twenty-five ingredients.
It seems unlikely that such elaborate concoctions would have been
discovered by chance, as the Empirics held, but the modern reader is
ready to agree that it was chance, if anyone was ever cured of anything
by one of them. Yet Galen, as we have seen, believes that reasons can
be given for the ingredients and would not for a moment admit that they
are no better than the messes of witches’ cauldrons. He argues that, if
all diseases could be cured by simples, no one would use compounds, but
that they are essential for some diseases, especially such as require
the simultaneous application of contrary virtues.[798] Also where a
simple is too strong or weak, it can be toned up or down to just the
right strength in a compound. Plasters and poultices seem always to be
compounds. Of panaceas Galen is somewhat more chary, except in the case
of theriac; he opines that a medicine which is good for a number of
ills cannot be very good for any one of them.[799]

[Sidenote: Amulets.]

Procedure as well as substances suggestive of magic is found to some
extent in Galen’s works. He instructs, for example, to pluck an
herb with the left hand before sunrise.[800] He also recommends the
suspension of a peony to cure epilepsy.[801] He saw a boy who wore this
root remain free from that disease for eight months, when the root
happened to drop off and the boy soon fell in a fit. When another peony
root was hung about his neck, he remained in good health until Galen
for the sake of experiment removed it a second time, whereupon another
epileptic fit ensued as before. In this case Galen suggests that
perhaps some particles from the root were drawn in by the patient’s
breathing or altered the surrounding air. In another passage he holds
that there is no medical reason to account for the virtues of amulets,
but that those who have tested them by experience say that they act by
some marvelous antipathy unknown to man.[802] A ligature recommended by
Galen is to bind about the neck of the patient a viper which has been
suffocated by tying several strings, preferably of marine purple, about
its neck.[803] Galen marvels that _stercus lupinum_, even when simply
suspended from the neck, “sometimes evidently is beneficial.”[804] It
should not have touched the ground but should have been taken from
trees or bushes. It also works better, as Galen has found in his own
practice, if suspended by the wool of a sheep who has been torn by a

[Sidenote: Incantations and characters.]

While Galen thus employs ligatures and suspensions and sanctions
magic logic, he draws the line at use of images, characters, and
incantations. In the passage just cited he goes on to say that he has
found other suspended substances efficacious, but not the barbarous
names such as wizards use. Some say that the gem jasper comforts the
stomach if bound about the abdomen,[805] and some wear it in a ring
engraved with a dragon and rays,[806] as King Nechepso directs in his
fourteenth book. Galen has employed it suspended about the neck without
any engraving upon it and found it equally beneficial. In illustrating
the virtue of human saliva, especially that of a fasting man, Galen
tells of a man who promised him to kill a scorpion by means of an
incantation which he repeated thrice. But at each repetition he spat
on the scorpion and Galen afterwards killed one by the same procedure
without any incantation, and more quickly with the spittle of a fasting
than of a full man.[807]

[Sidenote: Belief in magic dies hard.]

The preceding paragraph gives a good illustration of the slow
progress of human thought away from magic and towards science. Men
are discovering that marvels can be worked as well without characters
and incantations. Similar passages may be found in Arabic and Latin
medieval writers. But while Galen questions images and incantations,
he still clings to the notions of marvelous virtue in a fasting man’s
spittle or in a gem suspended about the neck. And these and other
passages in which he clung to old superstitions were unfortunately
equally influential upon succeeding writers, who sometimes, we fear,
took them as an excuse for further indulgence in magic. Indeed, we
shall find Alexander of Tralles in the sixth century arguing that Galen
finally became a believer in the efficacy of incantations. Thus the old
notions and practices die hard.

[Sidenote: _On easily procurable remedies._]

In the treatise on easily procurable remedies, where popular and rustic
remedies enter rather more largely than in Galen’s other writings,
superstitious recipes are also met with more frequently, and, if that
be possible, the doses become even more calculated to make one’s
gorge rise, it being felt that the unfastidious tastes and crude
constitutions of peasants and the poorer classes can stand more than
daintier city patients. Another reason for separate consideration of
the contents of this treatise is the possibility, already mentioned,
that it is interpolated and misarranged, and the fact that it is in
part of much later date than Galen.

[Sidenote: Specimens of its superstitious contents.]

We must limit ourselves to a hasty survey of a few specimens of its
prescriptions. Following Archigenes, ligatures and crowns are employed
for headaches.[808] In contrast to Galen’s previous scepticism
concerning depilatories for eyebrows we now find a number mentioned,
including the blood of a bed-bug.[809] To cure lumbago,[810] if the
pain is in the right foot, reduce to powder with your right hand the
wings of a swallow. Then make an incision in the swallow’s leg and draw
off all its blood. Skin it and roast it and eat it entire. Then anoint
yourself all over with the oil for three days and you will marvel at
the result. “This has been often proved by experience.” To prevent
hair from falling out take many bees and burn them and mix with oil
and use as an ointment.[811] For a sty in the eye catch flies, cut
off their heads, and rub the sty with the rest of their bodies.[812]
A cooked black chameleon performs the double duty of curing toothache
and killing mice.[813] To extract a tooth in the upper jaw surround it
with the worms found in the tops of cabbages; for a lower tooth use the
worms on the lower parts of the leaves.[814] Pain in the intestines
will vanish, if the patient drinks water in which his feet have been
washed.[815] A net transferred from a woman’s hair to the patient’s
head acts as a laxative, especially if the net is first heated.[816]
Various superstitious devices are suggested to insure the birth of a
child of the sex desired.[817] Bituminous trefoil,[818] boiled and
applied hot, cures snake or spider bite, but let no one use it who
is not so afflicted or it will make him feel as if he was.[819] For
cataract is recommended a mixture of equal parts of mouse’s blood,
cock’s gall, and woman’s milk, dried.[820] For pain on one side of
the head or face smear with fifteen earthworms and fifteen grains of
pepper powdered in vinegar.[821] To stop a cough wear the tongue of
an eagle as an amulet.[822] Wearing a root of rhododendron makes one
fearless of dogs and would cure a mad dog itself, if it could be tied
on the animal.[823] A “confection” covering three pages is said to
prolong life, to have been used by the emperors, and to have enabled
Pythagoras, its inventor, who began to make use of it at the age of
fifty, to live to be one hundred and seventeen without disease. “And he
was a philosopher and unable to lie about it.”[824]

[Sidenote: External signs of the temperaments of internal organs.]

It remains to note what there is in Galen’s works in the way of
divination and astrology. We are not entirely surprised that
contemporary doctors confused his medical prognostic with divination,
when we read what he has to say concerning the outward signs of hot
or cold internal organs. In the treatise, entitled _The Healing Art_
(τέχνη ἰατρική),[825] which Mewaldt says was the most studied of
Galen’s works and spread in a vast number of medieval Latin manuscript
translations,[826] he devotes a number of chapters to such subjects
as signs of a hot and dry heart, signs of a hot liver, and signs of a
cold lung. Among the signs of a cold brain are excessive excrements
from the head, stiff straight red hair, a late birth, mal-nutrition,
susceptibility to injury from cold causes and to catarrh, and

[Sidenote: Marvelous statements repeated by Maimonides.]

In his commentary on the _Aphorisms_ of Hippocrates Galen adds
other signs by which it may be foretold whether the child will be a
boy or girl to those signs already mentioned by Hippocrates.[828]
Some of these seem superstitious enough to us. And it was a case of
the evil that men do living after them, for Moses Maimonides, the
noted Jewish physician of Cordova in the twelfth century, in his
collection of _Aphorisms_, drawn chiefly from the works of Galen,
repeats the following method of prognostication: _Puerum cum primo
spermatizat perscrutare, quem si invenis habere testiculum dextrum
maiorem sinistro_, you will know that his first child will be a male,
otherwise female. The same may be determined in the case of a girl
by a comparison of the size of her breasts. Maimonides also repeats,
from Galen’s work to Caesar on theriac,[829] the story of the ugly man
who secured a beautiful son by having a beautiful boy painted on the
wall and making his wife keep her eyes fixed upon it. Maimonides also
repeats from Galen[830] the story of the bear’s licking its unformed
cubs into shape.[831]

[Sidenote: Dreams.]

In another treatise on _Diagnosis from Dreams_ Galen makes a closer
approach to the arts of divination.[832] He states that dreams
are affected by our daily life and thought, and describes a few
corresponding to bodily states or caused by them. He thinks that if
you dream you see fire, you are troubled by yellow bile, and if you
dream of vapor or darkness, by black bile. In diagnosing dreams one
should note when they occurred and what had been eaten. But Galen also
believes that to some extent the future can be predicted from dreams,
as has been testified, he says, by experience.[833] We have already
mentioned the effect of his father’s dream upon Galen’s career. In
the Hippocratic commentaries[834] he says that some scorn dreams and
omens and signs, but that he has often learned from dreams how to
prognosticate or cure diseases. Once a dream instructed him to let
blood between the index and great fingers of the right hand until
the flow of blood stopped of its own accord. “It is necessary,” he
concludes, “to observe dreams accurately both as to what is seen and
what is done in sleep in order that you may prognosticate and heal
satisfactorily.” Perhaps he had a dim idea along Freudian lines.

[Sidenote: Lack of astrology in most of Galen’s medicine.]

In the ordinary run of Galen’s pharmacy and therapeutics there is very
little mention or observance of astrological conditions, although
Hippocrates is cited as having said that a study of geometry and
astronomy—which may well mean astrology—is essential in medicine.[835]
In the _De methodo medendi_ he often urges the importance of the time
of year, the region, and the state of the sky.[836] But this expression
seems to refer to the weather rather than to the position of the
constellations. The dog-star is also occasionally mentioned,[837] and
one passage[838] tells how “Aeschrion the Empiric, ... an old man most
experienced in drugs and our fellow citizen and teacher,” burned live
river crabs on a plate of red bronze after the rise of the dog-star
when the sun entered Leo and on the eighteenth day of the moon. We are
also informed that many Romans are in the habit of taking theriac on
the first or fourth day of the moon.[839] But Galen ridicules Pamphilus
for his thirty-six sacred herbs of the horoscope—or decans, taken from
an Egyptian Hermes book.[840] On the other hand, one of his objections
to the atomists is that “they despise augury, dreams, portents, and all
astrology,” as well as that they deny a divine artificer of the world
and an innate moral law to the soul.[841] Thus atheism and disbelief in
astrology are put on much the same plane.

[Sidenote: _The Prognostication of Disease by Astrology._]

Whereas there is so little to suggest a belief in astrology in most
of Galen’s works, we find among them two devoted especially to
astrological medicine, namely, a treatise on critical days in which the
influence of the moon upon disease is assumed, and the _Prognostication
of Disease by Astrology_. In the latter he states that the Stoics
favored astrology, that Diodes Carystius represented the ancients as
employing the course of the moon in prognostications, and that, if
Hippocrates said that physicians should know physiognomy, they ought
much more to learn astrology, of which physiognomy is but a part.[842]
There follows a statement of the influence of the moon in each sign
of the zodiac and in its relations to the other planets.[843] On this
basis is foretold what diseases a man will have, what medical treatment
to apply, whether the patient will die or not, and if so in how many
days. This treatise is the same as that ascribed in many medieval
manuscripts to Hippocrates and translated into Latin by both William of
Moerbeke and Peter of Abano.

[Sidenote: Critical days.]

The treatise on critical days discusses them not by reason or dogma,
lest sophists befog the plain facts, but solely, we are told, upon the
basis of clear experience.[844] Having premised that “we receive the
force of all the stars above,”[845] the author presents indications of
the especially great influence of sun and moon. The latter he regards
not as superior to the other planets in power, but as especially
governing the earth because of its nearness.[846] He then discusses
the moon’s phases, holding that it causes great changes in the air,
rules conceptions and birth, and “all beginnings of actions.”[847] Its
relations to the other planets and to the signs of the zodiac are also
considered and much astrological technical detail is introduced.[848]
But the Pythagorean theory that the numbers of the critical days are
themselves the cause of their significance in medicine is ridiculed,
as is the doctrine that odd numbers are masculine and even numbers
feminine.[849] Later the author also ridicules those who talk of seven
Pleiades and seven stars in either Bear and the seven gates of Thebes
or seven mouths of the Nile.[850] Thus he will not accept the doctrine
of perfect or magic numbers along with his astrological theory. Much
of this rather long treatise is devoted to a discussion of the
duration of a moon, and it is shown that one of the moon’s quarters
is not exactly seven days in length and that the fractions affect the
incidence of the critical days.

[Sidenote: _On the history of philosophy._]

A treatise on the history of philosophy, which is marked “spurious” in
Kühn’s edition, I have also discovered among the essays of Plutarch
where, too, it is classed as spurious.[851] In some ways it is
suggestive of the middle ages. After an account of the history of Greek
philosophy somewhat in the style of the brief reviews of the same to
be found in the church fathers, it adds a sketch of the universe and
natural phenomena not dissimilar to some medieval treatises of like
scope. There are chapters on the universe, God, the sky, the stars, the
sun, the moon, the _magnus annus_, the earth, the sea, the Nile, the
senses, vision and mirrors, hearing, smell and taste, the voice, the
soul, breathing, the processes of generation, and so on.

[Sidenote: Divination and demons.]

In discussing divination[852] the treatise states that Plato and the
Stoics attributed it to God and to divinity of the spirit in ecstasy,
or to interpretation of dreams or astrology or augury. Xenophanes and
Epicurus denied it entirely. Pythagoras admitted only divination by
_haruspices_ or by sacrifice. Aristotle and Dicaearchus admit only
divination by enthusiasm and by dreams. For although they deny that
the human soul is immortal, they think that there is something divine
about it. Herophilus said that dreams sent by God must come true.
Other dreams are natural, when the mind forms images of things useful
to it or about to happen to it. Still others are fortuitous or mere
reflections of our desires. The treatise also takes up the subject of
heroes and demons.[853] Epicurus denied the existence of either, but
Thales, Plato, Pythagoras, and the Stoics agree that demons are natural
substances, while heroes are souls separate from bodies, and are good
or bad according to the lives of the men who lived in those bodies.

[Sidenote: Celestial bodies.]

The treatise also gives the opinions of various Greek philosophers on
the question whether the universe or its component spheres are either
animals or animated. Fate is defined on the authority of Heracleitus
as “the heavenly body, the seed of the genesis of all things.”[854]
The question is asked why babies born after seven months live, while
those born after eight months die.[855] On the other hand, a very brief
discussion of how the stars prognosticate does not go into particulars
beyond their indication of seasons and weather, and even this
Anaximenes ascribed to the effect of the sun alone.[856] Philolaus the
Pythagorean is quoted concerning some lunar water about the stars[857]
which reminds one of the waters above the firmament in the first
chapter of Genesis.

                               CHAPTER V


 The sources—Vitruvius depicts architecture as free from magic—But
 himself believes in occult virtues and perfect numbers—Also
 in astrology—Divergence between theory and practice, learning
 and art—Evils in contemporary learning—Authorities and
 inventions—Machines and Ctesibius—Hero of Alexandria—Medieval working
 over of the texts—Hero’s thaumaturgy—Instances of experimental
 proof—Magic jugs and drinking animals—Various automatons and
 devices—Magic mirrors—Astrology and occult virtue—Date of extant
 Greek alchemy—Legend that Diocletian burned the books of the
 alchemists—Alchemists’ own accounts of the history of their
 art—Close association of Greek alchemy with magic—Mystery and
 allegory—Experiment: relation to science and philosophy.

 “_doctum ex omnibus solum neque in alienis locis peregrinum ... sed in
 omni civitate esse civem._”
  —_Vitruvius, VI, Introd. 2._

[Sidenote: The sources.]

This chapter will examine what may be called ancient applied science
and its relations to magic, taking observations at three different
points, the ten books of Vitruvius on architecture, the collection
of writings which pass under the name of Hero of Alexandria, and the
compositions of the Greek alchemists. The remains of Greek and Roman
literature in the field of applied science are scanty, not because
they were not treasured, and even added to, by the periods following,
but apparently because there had thus far been so little development
in the way of machinery or of power other than manual and animal. So
we must make the best of what we have. The writings to be considered
are none of them earlier than the period of the Roman Empire but like
other writings of that time they more or less reflect the scientific
achievements or the occult lore of the preceding Hellenistic period.

[Sidenote: Vitruvius depicts architecture as free from magic.]

Vitruvius lived just at the beginning of the Empire under Julius and
Augustus Caesar. He is not much of a writer, but architecture as
set forth in his book appears sane, straightforward, and solid. The
architect is represented as going about his business with scarcely any
admixture of magical procedure or striving after marvelous results.
The combined guidance of practical utility and of high standards of
art—Vitruvius stresses reality and propriety now and again, and has
little patience with mere show—perhaps accounts for this high degree
of freedom from superstition. Perhaps permanent building is an honest,
downright, open, constructive art where error is at once apparent and
superstition finds little hold. If so, one wonders how there came to be
so much mystery enveloping Free-Masonry. At any rate, not only in his
building directions, but even in his instructions for the preparation
of lime, stucco, and bricks, or his discussion of colors, natural and
artificial, Vitruvius seldom or never embodies anything that can be
called magical.[858]

[Sidenote: Occult virtue and number.]

This is the more noteworthy because passages in the very same work show
him to have accepted some of the theories which we have associated
with magic. Thus he appears to believe in occult virtues and marvelous
properties of things in nature, since he affirms that, while Africa in
general abounds in serpents, no snake can live within the boundaries
of the African city of Ismuc, and that this is a property of the soil
of that locality which it retains when exported.[859] Vitruvius also
mentions some marvelous waters. One breaks every metallic receptacle
and can be retained only in a mule’s hoof. Some springs intoxicate;
others take away the taste for wine. Others produce fine singing
voices.[860] Vitruvius furthermore speaks of six and ten as perfect
numbers and contends that the human body is symmetrical in the sense
that the distances between the different parts are exact fractions of
the whole.[861] He also tells how the Pythagoreans composed books on
the analogy of the cube, allowing in any one treatise no more than
three books of 216 lines each.[862]

[Sidenote: Astrology.]

Vitruvius also more than once implies his confidence in the art of
astrology. In mapping out the ground-plan of his theater he advises
inscribing four equilateral triangles within the circumference of
a circle, “as the astrologers do in a figure of the twelve signs
of the zodiac, when they are making computations from the musical
harmony of the stars.”[863] I cannot make out that there is any
astrological significance or magical virtue in this so far as the
arrangement of the theater is concerned, but it shows that Vitruvius
and his readers are familiar with the technique of astrology and the
_trigona_ of the signs. In another passage, comparing the physical
characteristics and temperaments of northern and southern races, which
astrologers generally interpreted as evidence of the influence of the
constellations upon mankind, Vitruvius patriotically contends that the
inhabitants of Italy, and especially the Romans, represent a happy
medium between north and south, combining the greater courage of the
northerners with the keener intellects of the southerners, just as
the planet Jupiter is a golden mean between the extreme influences of
Mars and Saturn. So the Romans are fitted for world rule, overcoming
barbarian valor by their superior intelligence and the devices of
the southerners by their valor.[864] In a third passage Vitruvius
says more expressly of the art of astrology: “As for the branch of
astronomy which concerns the influences of the twelve signs, the five
stars, the sun, and the moon upon human life, we must leave all this
to the calculations of the Chaldeans, to whom belongs the art of
casting nativities, which enables them to declare the past and the
future by means of calculations based on the stars. These discoveries
have been transmitted by men of genius and great acuteness who sprang
directly from the nations of the Chaldeans; first of all, by Berosus,
who settled in the island state of Cos, and there opened a school.
Afterwards Antipater pursued the subject; then there was Archinapolus,
who also left rules for casting nativities, based not on the moment
of birth but on that of conception.” After listing a number of
natural philosophers and other astronomers and astrologers, Vitruvius
concludes: “Their learning deserves the admiration of mankind; for they
were so solicitous as even to be able to predict, long beforehand, with
divining mind, the signs of the weather which was to follow in the

[Sidenote: Divergence between theory and practice, learning and art.]

Such a passage demonstrates plainly enough Vitruvius’ full confidence
in the art of casting nativities and of weather prediction, but it has
no integral connection with his practical architecture or even any
necessary connection with the construction of a sun-dial, which is what
he is actually driving at. But Vitruvius believed that an architect
should not be a mere craftsman but broadly educated in history,
medicine, and philosophy, geometry, music, and astronomy, in order
to understand the origin and significance of details inherited from
the art of the past, to assure a healthy building, proper acoustics,
and the like. It is in an attempt to air his learning and in the
theoretical portions of his work that he is prone to occult science.
But the practical processes of architecture and military engineering
are free from it.

[Sidenote: Evils in contemporary learning.]

The attitude of Vitruvius towards other architects of his own age,
to past authorities, and to personal experimentation is of interest
to note, and roughly parallels the attitude of Galen in the field of
medicine. Like Galen he complains that the artist must plunge into
the social life of the day in order to gain professional success and
recognition.[866] “And since I observe that the unlearned rather than
the learned are held in high favor, deeming it beneath me to struggle
for honors with the unlearned, I will rather demonstrate the virtue
of our science by this publication.”[867] He also objects to the
self-assertion and advertising of themselves in which many architects
of his time indulge.[868] He recognizes, however, that the state of
affairs was much the same in time past, since he tells a story how the
Macedonian architect, Dinocrates, forced himself upon the attention of
Alexander the Great solely by his handsome and stately appearance,[869]
and since he asserts that the most famous artists of the past owe their
celebrity to their good fortune in working for great states or men,
while other artists of equal merit are seldom heard of.[870] He also
speaks of those who plagiarize the writings of others, especially of
the men of the past.[871] But all this does not lead him to despair of
art and learning; rather it confirms him in the conviction that they
alone are really worth while, and he quotes several philosophers to
that effect, including the saying of Theophrastus that “the learned man
alone of all others is no stranger even in foreign lands ... but is a
citizen in every city.”[872]

[Sidenote: Authorities and inventions.]

In contradistinction to the plagiarists Vitruvius expresses his
deep gratitude to the men of the past who have written books, and
gives lists of his authorities,[873] and declares that “the opinions
of learned authors ... gain strength as time goes on.”[874]
“Relying upon such authorities, we venture to produce new systems
of instruction.”[875] Or, as he says in discussing the properties
of waters, “Some of these things I have seen for myself, others I
have found written in Greek books.”[876] But in describing sun-dials
he frankly remarks, “I will state by whom the different classes and
designs of dials have been invented. For I cannot invent new kinds
myself at this late day, nor do I think that I ought to display the
inventions of others as my own.”[877] He also gives an account of a
number of notable miscellaneous discoveries and experiments by past
mathematicians and physicists.[878] Also he sometimes repeats the
instruction which he had received from his teachers. Like Pliny a
little later he thinks that in some respects artistic standards have
been lowered in his own time, notably in fresco-painting.[879] But
also, like Galen, he once admits that there are still good men in his
own profession besides himself, affirming that “our architects in the
old days, and a good many even in our own times, have been as great as
those of the Greeks.”[880] He describes a basilica which he himself had
built at Fano.[881]

[Sidenote: Machines and Ctesibius.]

Vitruvius’s last book is devoted to machines and military engines.
Here he makes a feeble effort to introduce the factor of astrological
influence, asserting that “all machinery is derived from nature, and
is founded on the teaching and instruction of the revolution of the
firmament.”[882] Among the devices described is the pump of Ctesibius
of Alexandria, the son of a barber.[883] He had already been mentioned
in the preceding book[884] for the improvements which he introduced
in water-clocks, especially regulating their flow according to the
changing length of the hours of the day in summer and winter. Vitruvius
also asserts that he constructed the first water organs, that he
“discovered the natural pressure of the air and pneumatic principles,
... devised methods of raising water, automatic contrivances, and
amusing things of many kinds, ... blackbirds singing by means of
waterworks, and _angobatae_, and figures that drink and move, and
other things that have been found to be pleasing to the eye and the
ear.”[885] Vitruvius states that of these he has selected those that
seemed most useful and necessary and that the reader may turn to
Ctesibius’s own works for those which are merely amusing. Pliny more
briefly mentions the invention of pneumatics and water organs by

[Sidenote: Hero of Alexandria.]

This characterization by Vitruvius of the writings of Ctesibius
also applies with astonishing fitness to some of the works current
under the name of Hero of Alexandria,[887] who is indeed in a Vienna
manuscript of the _Belopoiika_ spoken of as the disciple or follower
of Ctesibius.[888] Hero, however, is not mentioned either by Vitruvius
or Pliny, and it is now generally agreed as a result of recent studies
that he belongs to the second century of our era.[889] His writings
are objective and impersonal and tell us much less about himself than
Vitruvius’s introductions to the ten books of _De architectura_. The
similarity in content of his writings to those of the much earlier
Ctesibius as well as the character of his terminology suggest that
he stands at the end of a long development. He speaks of his own
discoveries, but perhaps in the main simply continues and works over
the previous principles and mechanisms of men like Ctesibius. As things
stand, however, his works constitute our most important, and often our
only, source for the history of exact science and of technology in

[Sidenote: Medieval working over of the texts.]

Not only does Hero seem to have been in large measure a compiler
and continuer of previous science, his works also have evidently
been worked over and added to in subsequent periods and bear marks
of the Byzantine, Arabian, and medieval Latin periods as well as of
the Hellenistic and Roman. Indeed Heiberg regards the _Geometry_ and
_De stereometricis_ and _De mensuris_ as later Byzantine collections
which have perhaps made some use of the works of Hero, while the
_De geodaesia_ is an epitome of, or extract from, a pseudo-Heronic
collection. The _Catoptrica_ is known only from the Latin translation
of 1269, probably by William of Moerbeke, and long known as _Ptolemy on
Mirrors_. It appears, however, to be directly translated from the Greek
and not from the Arabic. The _Mechanics_, on the other hand, is known
only from the Arabic translation by Costa ben Luca. Of the _Pneumatics_
we have Greek, Arabic, and Latin versions. It was apparently known to
the author of the thirteenth century _Summa philosophiae_ ascribed to
Robert Grosseteste, since he speaks of the investigations of vacuums
made by “Hero, that eminent philosopher, with the aid of water-clocks,
siphons, and other instruments.”[891] Scholars are of the opinion that
the Arabic adaptation, which is of popular character and limited to
the entertaining side, comes closer to the original Greek version of
Hero’s time than does the Latin version which devotes more attention to
experimental physics. The _Automatic Theater_, for which there is the
same chief manuscript as for the _Pneumatics_, also seems to have been
worked over and added to a great deal.

[Sidenote: Hero’s thaumaturgy.]

From Vitruvius’s allusions to the works of Ctesibius and from a
survey of those works current under Hero’s name which are chiefly
concerned with mechanical contrivances and devices, the modern reader
gets the impression that, aside from military engines and lifting
appliances, the science of antiquity was applied largely to purposes
of entertainment rather than practical usefulness. However, in Hero’s
case at least there is something more than this. His apparatus and
experiments are not intended so much to divert as to deceive the
spectator, and not so much to amuse as to astound him. The mechanism is
usually concealed; the cause acts indirectly, intermediately, or from
a distance to produce an apparently marvelous result. It is a case of
thaumaturgy, as Hero himself says,[892] of apparent magic. In fine,
the experimental and applied scientist is largely interested in vying
with the feats of the magicians or supplying the temples and altars of
religion with pseudo-miracles.

[Sidenote: Instances of experimental proof.]

The introduction or proemium to the _Pneumatics_ is rather more truly
scientific and has been called an unusual instance in antiquity of the
use as proof of purposive observation of nature and experiment. Thus
the existence of air is demonstrated by the experiment of pressing an
inverted vessel, kept carefully upright, into water, which will not
enter the vessel because of the resistance offered by the air already
within the vessel. Or the elasticity of air and the existence of empty
spaces between its particles is shown by the experiment of blowing
more air into a globe through a siphon, and then holding one’s finger
over the orifice. As soon as the finger is removed the surplus air
rushes out with a loud report. Along with such admirable experimental
proof, however, the introduction contains some astonishingly erroneous
assertions, such as that “slime and mud are transformations of water
into earth,” and that air released from a vessel under water “is
transformed so as to become water.” Hero believes that heat and light
rays are particles of matter which penetrate the interstices between
the particles composing air and water.

[Sidenote: Magic jugs and drinking animals.]

The _Pneumatics_ consist of some seventy-eight theorems or experiments
or tricks, call them what you will, which in different manuscripts
and editions are variously grouped in a single book or two books.
The same idea or method, however, is often repeated in the different
chapters. Thus we encounter over half a dozen times the magic water-jar
or drinking horn from which either wine or water or a mixture of both
can be poured, or a choice of other liquids. And in all these cases
the explanation of the trick is the same. When the air-hole in the top
of the vessel is closed so that no air can enter, the liquid will not
flow out through the narrow orifice in the bottom. Changes are rung on
this principle by means of inner compartments and connecting tubes.
Different kinds of siphons, the bent, the enclosed, and the uniform
discharge, are described in the opening chapters and are utilized in
working the ensuing wonders, such as statues of animals which drink
water offered to them, inexhaustible goblets or those that will not
overflow, and harmonious jars. By this last expression is meant pairs
of vessels, secretly connected by tubes and so arranged that nothing
will flow from one until the other is filled, when wine will pour from
one jar and water from the other. Or when water is poured into one jar,
wine or mixed wine and water flows from the other. Or, when water is
drawn off from one jar, wine flows from the other. Other vessels are
made to commence or cease to pour out wine or water, when a little
water is poured in. Others will receive no more water once you have
ceased pouring it in, no matter how little may have been poured in, or,
when you cease for a moment to pour water in and then begin again, will
not resume their outpour until half full. In another case the water
will not flow out of a hole in the bottom of the vessel at all until
the vessel is entirely filled. Others are made to flow by dropping
a coin in a slot or working a lever, or turning a wheel. In the last
case the vessel of water is concealed behind the entrance column of a
temple. In one magic drinking horn the flow of water from the bottom is
checked by putting a cover over the open top. When another pitcher is
tipped up, the same amount of liquid will always flow out.

[Sidenote: Various automatons and devices.]

In half a dozen chapters mechanical birds are made to sing by driving
air through a pipe by the pressure of flowing water. In other chapters
a dragon is made to hiss and a thyrsus to whistle by similar methods.
By the force of compressed air water is made to spurt forth and
automatons to sound trumpets. The heat of the sun’s rays is used to
warm air which expands and causes water to trickle out. In a number of
cases as long as a fire burns on an altar the expansion of enclosed
air caused thereby opens temple doors by the aid of pulleys, or causes
statues to pour libations, dancing figures to revolve, and a serpent to
hiss. The force of steam is used to support a ball in mid-air, revolve
a sphere, and make a bird sing or a statue blow a horn. Inexhaustible
lamps are described as well as inexhaustible goblets, and a
self-trimmed lamp in which a float resting on the oil turns a cog-wheel
which pushes up the wick as it and the oil are consumed. Floats and
cog-wheels are also used in some of the tricks already mentioned. In
another the flow of a liquid from a vessel is regulated by a float and
a lever. Cog-wheels are also employed in constructing the neck of an
automaton so that it can be cut completely through with a knife and
yet the head not be severed from the body. A cupping glass, a syringe,
a fire engine pump with valves and pistons, a hydraulic organ and one
worked by wind pretty much exhaust the contents of the _Pneumatics_.
In its introduction Hero alludes to his treatise in four books on
water-clocks, but this is not extant. Hero’s water-organ is regarded as
more primitive than that described by Vitruvius.[893]

[Sidenote: Magic mirrors.]

If magic jugs and marvelous automatons make up most of the contents
of the _Pneumatics_ and _Automatic Theater_, comic and magic mirrors
play a prominent part in the _Catoptrics_. The spectator sees himself
upside down, with three eyes, two noses, or an otherwise distorted
countenance. By means of two rectangular mirrors which open and
close on a common axis Pallas is made to spring from the head of
Zeus. Instructions are given how to place mirrors so that the person
approaching will see no reflection of himself but only whatever
apparition you select for him to see. Thus a divinity can be made
suddenly to appear in a temple. Clocks are also described where figures
appear to announce the hours.

[Sidenote: Astrology and occult virtue.]

Hero displays a slight tendency in the direction of astrology,
discussing the music of the spheres in the first chapters of the
_Catoptrics_, and in the _Pneumatics_ describing an absurdly simple
representation of the cosmos by means of a small sphere placed in a
circular hole in the partition between two halves of a transparent
sphere of glass. One hemisphere is to be filled with water, probably
in order to support the ball in the center.[894] The marvelous virtues
of animals other than automatons are rather out of his line, but he
alludes to the virtue of the marine torpedo which can penetrate bronze,
iron, and other bodies.

[Sidenote: Date of extant Greek alchemy.]

Although we have seen some indications of its earlier existence in
Egypt, alchemy seems to have made its appearance in the ancient
Greek-speaking and Latin world only at a late date. There seems to be
no allusion to the subject in classical literature before the Christian
era, the first mention being Pliny’s statement that Caligula made gold
from orpiment.[895] The papyri containing alchemistic texts are of the
third century, and the manuscripts containing Greek works of alchemy,
of which the oldest is one of the eleventh century in the Library of
St. Mark’s, seem to consist of works or remnants of works written
in the third century and later, many being Byzantine compilations,
excerpts, or additions. Also Syncellus, the polygraph of the eighth
century, gives some extracts from the alchemists.

[Sidenote: Legend that Diocletian burned the books of the alchemists.]

Syncellus and other late writers[896] are our only extant sources
for the statement that Diocletian burned the books of the alchemists
in Egypt, so that they might not finance future revolts against him.
If the report be true, one would fancy that the imperial edict would
be more effective as a testimonial to the truth of transmutation in
encouraging the art than it would be in discouraging it by destroying
a certain amount of its literature. Thus the edict would resemble the
occasional laws of earlier emperors banishing the astrologers—except
their own—from Rome or Italy because they had been too free in
predicting the death of the emperor, which only serve to show what
a hold astrology had both on emperors and people. But the report
concerning Diocletian sounds improbable on the face of it and must
be doubted for want of contemporary evidence. Certainly we are not
justified in explaining the air of secrecy so often assumed by writers
on alchemy as due to the fear of persecution which this action of
Diocletian[897] or the fear of being accused of magic aroused in them.
Persons who wish to keep matters secret do not rush into publication,
and the air of secrecy of the alchemists is too often evidently assumed
for purposes of show and to impress the reader with the idea that they
really have something to hide. Sometimes the alchemists themselves
realize that this adoption of an air of secrecy has been overdone.
Thus Olympiodorus wrote in the early fifth century, “The ancients were
accustomed to hide the truth, to veil or obscure by allegories what
is clear and evident to everybody.”[898] Nor can we accept the story
of Diocletian’s burning the books of alchemy as the reason why none
have reached us which can be certainly dated as earlier than the third

[Sidenote: Alchemists’ own accounts of the history of their art.]

The alchemists themselves, of course, claimed for their art the highest
antiquity. Zosimus of Panopolis, who seems to have written in the third
century, says that the fallen angels instructed men in alchemy as
well as in the other arts, and that it was the divine and sacred art
of the priests and kings of Egypt, who kept it secret. We also have
an address of Isis to her son Horus repeating the revelation made by
Amnael, the first of the angels and prophets. To Moses are ascribed
treatises on domestic chemistry and doubling the weight of gold.[899]
The manuscripts of the Byzantine period discuss what “the ancients”
meant by this or that, or purport to repeat what someone else said of
some other person. Zosimus seems fond of citing himself in the texts
reproduced by Berthelot, so that it may be questioned how much of
his original works has been preserved. Hermes is often cited by the
alchemists, although no work of alchemy ascribed to him has reached us
from this early period. To Agathodaemon is ascribed a commentary on
the oracle of Orpheus addressed to Osiris, dealing with the whitening
and yellowing of metals and other alchemical recipes. Other favorite
authorities are Ostanes, whom we have elsewhere heard represented as
the introducer of magic into the Greek world, and the philosopher
Democritus, whom the alchemists represent as the pupil of Ostanes
and whom we have already heard Pliny charge with devotion to magic.
Seneca says in one of his letters that Democritus discovered a process
to soften ivory, that he prepared artificial emerald, and colored
vitrified substances. Diogenes Laertius ascribes to him a work on the
juices of plants, on stones, minerals, metals, colors, and coloring
glass. This was possibly the same as the four books on coloring gold,
silver, stones, and purple ascribed to Democritus by Synesius in the
fifth, and Syncellus in the eighth, century. More recent presumably
than Ostanes and Democritus are the female alchemists, Cleopatra
and Mary the Jewess, although one text represents Ostanes and his
companions as conversing with Cleopatra. A few of the spurious works
ascribed to these authors may have come into existence as early as
the Hellenistic period, but those which have reached us, at least in
their present form, seem to bear the marks of the Christian era and
later centuries of the Roman Empire, if not of the early medieval and
Byzantine periods. And those authors whose names seem genuine: Zosimus,
Synesius, Olympiodorus, Stephanus, are of the third, fourth and fifth
centuries, at the earliest.

[Sidenote: Close association of Greek alchemy with magic.]

The associations of the names above cited and the fact that
pseudo-literature forms so large a part of the early literature of
alchemy suggest its close connection at that time with magic. Whereas
Vitruvius, although not personally inhospitable to occult theory,
showed us the art of architecture free from magic, and Hero told how
to perform apparent magic by means of mechanical devices and deceits,
the Greek alchemists display entire faith in magic procedure with
which their art is indissolubly intermingled. Indeed the papyri in
which works of alchemy occur are primarily magic papyri, so that
alchemy may be said to spring from the brow of magic. The same is
only somewhat less true of the manuscripts. In the earliest one of
the eleventh century the alchemy is in the company of a treatise
on the interpretation of dreams, a sphere of divination of life or
death, and magic alphabets. The treatises of alchemy themselves are
equally impregnated with magic detail. Cleopatra’s art of making gold
employs concentric circles, a serpent, an eight-rayed star, and other
magic figures. _Physica et mystica_, ascribed to Democritus, after a
purely technical fragment on purple dye, invokes his master Ostanes
from Hades, and then plunges into alchemical recipes. There are also
frequent bits of astrology and suggestions of Gnostic influence.
Often the encircling serpent Ouroboros, who bites or swallows his
tail, is referred to.[900] Sometimes the alchemist puts a little gold
into his mixture to act as a sort of nest egg, or mother of gold, and
encourage the remaining substance to become gold too.[901] Or we read
in a work ascribed to Ostanes of “a divine water” which “revives the
dead and kills the living, enlightens obscurity and obscures what
is clear, calms the sea and quenches fire. A few drops of it give
lead the appearance of gold with the aid of God, the invisible and

[Sidenote: Mystery and allegory.]

These early alchemists are also greatly given to mystery and allegory.
“Touch not the philosopher’s stone with your hands,” warns Mary
the Jewess, “you are not of our race, you are not of the race of
Abraham.”[903] In a tract concerning the serpent Ouroboros we read, “A
serpent is stretched out guarding the temple. Let his conqueror begin
by sacrifice, then skin him, and after having removed his flesh to the
very bones, make a stepping-stone of it to enter the temple. Mount
upon it and you will find the object sought. For the priest, at first
a man of copper, has changed his color and nature and become a man of
silver; a few days later, if you wish, you will find him changed into
a man of gold.”[904] Or in the preparation of the aforesaid divine
water Ostanes tells us to take the eggs of the serpent of oak who
dwells in the month of August in the mountains of Olympus, Libya, and
the Taurus.[905] Synesius tells that Democritus was initiated in Egypt
at the temple of Memphis by Ostanes, and Zosimus cites the instruction
of Ostanes, “Go towards the stream of the Nile; you’ll find there a
stone; cut it in two, put in your hand, and take out its heart, for its
soul is in its heart.”[906] Zosimus himself often resorts to symbolic
jargon to obscure his meaning, as in the description of the vision of
a priest who was torn to pieces and who mutilated himself.[907] He,
too, personifies the metals and talks of a man of gold, a tin man,
and so on.[908] A brief example of his style will have to suffice, as
these allegories of the alchemists are insufferably tedious reading.
“Finally I had the longing to mount the seven steps and see the seven
chastisements, and one day, as it chanced, I hit upon the path up.
After several attempts I traversed the path, but on my return I lost
my way and, profoundly discouraged, seeing no way out, I fell asleep.
In my dream I saw a little man, a barber, clothed in purple robe and
royal raiment, standing outside the place of punishment, and he said to
me....”[909] When Zosimus was not dreaming dreams and seeing visions,
he was usually citing ancient authorities.

[Sidenote: Experimentation in alchemy: relation to science and

At the same time even these early alchemists cannot be denied a certain
scientific character, or at least a connection with natural science.
Behind alchemy existed a constant experimental progress. “Alchemy,”
said Berthelot, “rested upon a certain mass of practical facts that
were known in antiquity and that had to do with the preparation
of metals, their alloys, and that of artificial precious stones;
it had there an experimental side which did not cease to progress
during the entire medieval period until positive modern chemistry
emerged from it.”[910] The various treatises of the Greek alchemists
describe apparatus and experiments which are real but with which they
associated results which were impossible and visionary. Their theories
of matter seem indebted to the earlier Greek philosophers, while in the
description of nature Berthelot noted a “direct and intimate” relation
between them and the works of Dioscorides, Vitruvius, and Pliny.[911]

                              CHAPTER VI

                           PLUTARCH’S ESSAYS

 Themes of ensuing chapters—Life of Plutarch—Superstition in Plutarch’s
 _Lives_—His _Morals_ or _Essays_—Question of their authenticity—Magic
 in Plutarch—_Essay on Superstition_—Plutarch hospitable toward some
 superstitions—The oracles of Delphi and of Trophonius—Divination
 justified—Demons as mediators between gods and men—Demons in the moon:
 migration of the soul—Demons mortal: some evil—Men and demons—Relation
 of Plutarch’s to other conceptions of demons—The astrologer
 Tarrutius—_De fato_—Other bits of astrology—Cosmic mysticism—Number
 mysticism—Occult virtues in nature—Asbestos—_On Rivers and
 Mountains_—Magic herbs—Stones found in plants and fish—Virtues of
 other stones—Fascination—Animal sagacity and remedies—Theories and
 queries about nature—The Antipodes.

[Sidenote: Themes of ensuing chapters.]

Having noted the presence of magic in works so especially devoted to
natural science as those of Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy, we have now to
illustrate the prominence both of natural science and of magic in the
life and thought of the Roman Empire by a consideration of some writers
of a more miscellaneous character, who should reflect for us something
of the interests of the average cultured reader of that time. Of this
type are Plutarch, Apuleius and Philostratus, whom we shall consider in
the coming chapters in the order named, which also roughly corresponds
to their chronological sequence.

[Sidenote: Life of Plutarch.]

Plutarch flourished during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian at the turn
of the first and second centuries, but _The Letter on the Education of
a Prince to Trajan_[912] probably is not by him, and the legend that
Hadrian was his pupil is a medieval invention. He was born in Boeotia
about 46-48 A. D. and was educated in rhetoric and philosophy, science
and mathematics, at Athens, where he was a student when Nero visited
Greece in 66 A. D. He also made several visits to Rome and resided
there for some time. He held various public positions in the province
of Achaea and in his small native town of Chaeronea, and had official
connections with the Delphic oracle and amphictyony. Artemidorus in the
_Oneirocriticon_ states that Plutarch’s death was foreshadowed in a

[Sidenote: Superstition in Plutarch’s _Lives_.]

With Plutarch’s celebrated _Lives of Illustrious Men_, as with
narrative histories in general, we shall not be much concerned,
although they of course abound in omens and portents, in bits of
pseudo-science which details in his narrative bring to the mind of the
biographer, and in cases of divination and magic. Thus theories are
advanced to explain why birds dropped dead from mid-air at the shout
set up by the Greeks at the Isthmian games when Flamininus proclaimed
their freedom. Or we are told how Sulla received from the Chaldeans
predictions of his future greatness, how in the dedication to his
_Memoirs_ he admonished Lucullus to trust in dreams, and how Lucullus’s
mind was deranged by a love philter administered by his freedman in
the hope of increasing his master’s affection towards him.[914] Such
allusions and incidents abound also of course in Dio Cassius, Tacitus,
and other Roman historians.

[Sidenote: His _Morals_ or _Essays_.]

But we shall be concerned rather with Plutarch’s other writings, which
are usually grouped together under the title of _Morals_, or, more
appropriately, _Miscellanies and Essays_. Not only is there great
variety in their titles, but in any given essay the attention is
usually not strictly held to one theme or problem but the discussion
diverges to other points. Some are by their very titles and form
rambling dialogues, symposiacs, and table-talk, where the conversation
lightly flits from one topic to other entirely different ones, never
dwelling for long upon any one point and never returning to its
starting-point. This dinner-table and drinking-bout type of cultured
and semi-learned discourse has other extant ancient examples such
as the _Attic Nights_ of Aulus Gellius and the _Deipnosophists_ of
Athenaeus, but Plutarch will have to serve as our main illustration
of it. His _Essays_ reflect in motley guise and disordered array
the fruits of extensive reading and a retentive memory in ancient
philosophy, science, history, and literature.

[Sidenote: Question of their authenticity.]

The authenticity of some of the essays attributed to him has been
questioned, and very likely with propriety, but for our purpose it is
not important that they should all be by the same author so long as
they represent approximately the same period and type of literature.
The spurious treatise, _De placitis philosophorum_, we have already
considered in the chapter on Galen, to whom it has also been ascribed.
The essay _On Rivers and Mountains_ we shall treat by itself in the
present chapter. The _De fato_ has also been called spurious.[915]
Superstitious content is not a sufficient reason for denying that a
treatise is by Plutarch,[916] since he is superstitious in writings of
undoubted genuineness and since we have found the leading scientists
of the time unable to exclude superstition from their works entirely.
Moreover, many of the essays are in the form of conversations
expressing the divergent views of different speakers, and it is not
always possible to tell which shade of opinion Plutarch himself favors.
Suffice it that the views expressed are those of men of education.

[Sidenote: Magic in Plutarch.]

Plutarch does not specifically discuss magic under that name at any
length in any of his essays, but does treat of such subjects as
superstition in general, dreams, oracles, demons, number, fate, the
craftiness of animals, and other “natural questions.” Certain vulgar
forms of magic, at least, were regarded by him with disapproval or
incredulity.[917] He rejects as a fiction the statement that the women
of Thessaly can draw down the moon by their spells, but thinks that the
notion perhaps originated in the fact or story that Aglaonice, daughter
of Hegetor, was so skilful in astrology or astronomy as to be able to
foresee the occurrence of lunar eclipses, and that she deluded the
people into believing that at such times she brought down the moon from
heaven by charms and enchantments.[918] Thus we have one more instance
of the union of magic and science, this time of pseudo-magic with real
science as at other times of magic with pseudo-science.

[Sidenote: Essay on superstition.]

The essay entitled περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας deals with superstition in the
usual Greek sense of dread or excessive fear of demons and gods. We
are accustomed to think of Hellenic paganism as a cheerful faith, full
of naturalism, in which the gods were humanized and made familiar.
Plutarch apparently regards normal religion as of this sort, and
attacks the superstitious dread of the supernatural. He contends that
such fear is worse, if anything, than atheism, for it makes men more
unhappy and is an equal offense against the divinity, since it is at
least as bad to believe ill of the gods as not to believe in them at
all. Nothing indeed encourages the growth of atheism so much as the
absurd practices and beliefs of such superstitious persons, “their
words and motions, their sorceries and magics, their runnings to and
fro and beatings of drums, their impure rites and their purifications,
their filthiness and chastity, their barbarian and illegal
chastisements and abuse.”[919] Plutarch seems to be in part animated by
the common prejudice against all other religions than one’s own, and
speaks twice with distaste of Jewish Sabbaths. He also, however, as the
passage just quoted shows, is opposed to the more extreme and debasing
forms of magic, and declares that the superstitious man becomes a mere
peg or post upon which all the old-wives hang any amulets and ligatures
upon which they may chance.[920] He further condemns such historic
instances of superstition as Nicias’s suspension of military operations
during a lunar eclipse on the Sicilian expedition.[921] There was
nothing terrible, says Plutarch, with his usual felicity of antithesis,
in the periodic recurrence of the earth’s shadow upon the moon; but it
was a terrible calamity that the shadow of superstition should thus
darken the mind of a general at the very moment when a great crisis
required the fullest use of his reason.

In the essay upon the demon of Socrates one of the speakers, attacking
faith in dreams and apparitions, commends Socrates as one who did not
reject the worship of the gods but who did purify philosophy, which
he had received from Pythagoras and Empedocles full of phantasms and
myths and the dread of demons, and reeling like a Bacchanal, and
reduced it to facts and reason and truth.[922] Another of the company,
however, objects that the demon of Socrates outdid the divination
of Pythagoras.[923] These conflicting opinions may be applied in
some measure to Plutarch himself. His censure of dread of demons and
excessive superstition is not to be taken as a sign of scepticism on
his part in oracles, dreams, or the demons themselves. To these matters
we next turn.

[Sidenote: The oracles of Delphi and of Trophonius.]

Plutarch’s faith and interest in oracles in general and in the Delphian
oracle of Apollo in particular are attested by three of his essays,
the _De defectu oraculorum_, _De Pythiae oraculis_ and _De Ei apud
Delphos_. At the same time these essays attest the decline of the
oracles from their earlier popularity and greatness. The oracular cave
of Trophonius, of which we shall hear again in the _Life of Apollonius
of Tyana_, also comes into Plutarch’s works, and the prophetic and
apocalyptic vision is described of a youth who spent two nights
and a day there in an endeavor to learn the nature of the demon of

[Sidenote: Divination justified.]

Plutarch further had faith in divination in general, whether by
dreams, sneezes or other omens: but he attempted to give a dignified
philosophical and theological explanation of it. Few men receive direct
divine revelation, in his opinion, but to many signs are given on which
divination may be based.[925] He held that the human soul had a natural
faculty of divination which might be exercised at favorable times and
when the bodily state was not unfavorable.[926] A speaker in one of
his dialogues justifies divination even from sneezes and like trivial
occurrences upon the ground that as the faint beat of the pulse has
meaning for the physician and a small cloud in the sky is for a skilful
pilot a sign of impending storm, so the least thing may be a clue to
the truly prophetic soul.[927] The extent of Plutarch’s faith in dreams
may be inferred from his discussion of the problem, Why are dreams in
autumn the least reliable?[928] First there is Aristotle’s suggestion
that eating autumn fruit so disturbs the digestion that the soul is
left little opportunity to exercise its prophetic faculty undistracted.
If we accept the doctrine of Democritus that dreams are caused by
images from other bodies and even minds or souls, which enter the body
of the sleeper through the open pores and affect the mind, revealing
to it the present passions and future designs of others,—if we accept
this theory, it may be that the falling leaves in autumn disturb the
air and ruffle these extremely thin and film-like emanations. A third
explanation offered is that in the declining months of the year all
our faculties, including that of natural divination, are in a state of
decline. In the case of oracles like that at Delphi it is suggested
that the Pythia’s natural faculty of divination is stimulated by
“the prophetical exhalations from the earth” which induce a bodily
state favorable to divination.[929] The god or demon, however, is the
underlying and directing cause of the oracle.[930]

[Sidenote: Demons as mediators between gods and men.]

To the demons and their relations to the gods and to men we therefore
next come. Plutarch’s view is that they are essential mediators between
the gods and men. Just as one who should remove the air from between
the earth and moon would destroy the continuity of the universe, so
those who deny that there is a race of demons break off all intercourse
between gods and men.[931] On the other hand, the theory of demons
solves many doubts and difficulties.[932] When and where this doctrine
originated is uncertain, whether among the _magi_ about Zoroaster, or
in Thrace with Orpheus, or in Egypt or Phrygia. Plutarch likens the
gods to an equilateral, the demons to an isosceles, and human beings to
a scalene triangle; and again compares the gods to sun and stars, the
demons to the moon, and men to comets and meteors.[933] In the youth’s
vision in the cave of Trophonius the moon appeared to belong to earthly
demons, while those stars which have a regular motion were the demons
of sages, and the wandering and falling stars the demons of men who
have yielded to irrational passions.[934]

[Sidenote: Demons in the moon: migration of the soul.]

These suggestions that the moon and the air between earth and moon are
the abode of the demons and this reminiscence of the Platonic doctrine
of the soul and its migrations receive further confirmation in a
discussion whether the moon is inhabited in the essay, _On the Face in
the Moon_. A story is there told[935] of a man who visited islands five
days’ sail west of Britain, where Saturn is imprisoned and where there
are demons serving him. This man who acquired great skill in astrology
during his stay there stated upon his return to Europe that every
soul after leaving the human body wanders for a time between earth
and moon, but finally reaches the latter planet, where the Elysian
fields are located, and there becomes a demon.[936] The demons do not
always remain in the moon, however, but may come to earth to care for
oracles or be imprisoned in a human body again for some crime.[937]
The man who repeats the stranger’s story leaves it to his hearers,
however, to believe it or not. But the struggle upward of human souls
to the estate of demons is again described in the essay on the demon
of Socrates,[938] where it is explained that those souls which have
succeeded in freeing themselves from all union with the flesh become
guardian demons and help those of their fellows whom they can reach,
just as men on shore wade out as far as they can into the waves to
rescue those sea-tossed, ship-wrecked mariners who have succeeded in
struggling almost to land. The soul is plunged into the body, the
uncorrupted mind or demon remains without.[939]

[Sidenote: Demons mortal: some evil.]

The demons differ from the gods in that they are mortal, though much
longer-lived than men. Hesiod said that crows live nine times as long
as men, stags four times as long as crows, ravens three times as long
as stags, a phoenix nine times as long as a raven, and the nymphs ten
times as long as the phoenix.[940] There are storms in the isles off
Britain whenever one of the demons residing there dies.[941] Some
demons are good spirits and others are evil; some are more passive and
irrational than others; some delight in gloomy festivals, foul words,
and even human sacrifice.[942]

[Sidenote: Men and demons.]

Once a year in the neighborhood of the Red Sea a man is seen who spends
the remainder of his time among “nymphs, nomads and demons.”[943] At
his annual appearance many princes and great men come to consult him
concerning the future. He also has the gift of tongues to the extent of
understanding several languages perfectly. His speech is like sweetest
music, his breath sweet and fragrant, his person the most graceful that
his interlocutor had ever seen. He also was never afflicted with any
disease, for once a month he ate the bitter fruit of a medicinal herb.
As to the exact nature of Socrates’ demon there is some diversity of
opinion. One man suggests that it was merely the sneezing of himself
or others, sneezes on the left hand warning him to desist from his
intended course of action, while a sneeze in any other quarter was
interpreted by him as a favorable sign.[944] The weight of opinion,
however, inclines towards the view that his demon did not appear to
him as an apparition or phantasm, or even communicate with him as an
audible voice, but by immediate impression upon his mind.[945]

[Sidenote: Relation of Plutarch’s to other conceptions of demons.]

Plutarch’s account of demons is the first of a number which we shall
have occasion to note. As the discussion of them by Apuleius in
the next chapter and the rather crude representation of them given
in Philostratus’s _Life of Apollonius of Tyana_ will show, there
was as yet among non-Christian writers no unanimity of opinion
concerning demons. On the other hand there are several conceptions in
Plutarch’s essays which were to be continued later by Christians and
Neo-Platonists: namely, the conception of a mediate class of beings
between God and men, the hypothesis of a world of spirits in close
touch with human life, the association of divination and oracles with
demons, and the location of spirits in the sphere of the moon or the
air between earth and moon,—although Plutarch sometimes connected
demons with the stars above the moon. This occasional association of
stars with spirits and of sinning souls with falling stars bears some
resemblance to the depiction of certain stars as sinners in the Hebraic
_Book of Enoch_, which was written before Plutarch’s time and which we
shall consider in our next book as an influence upon the development of
early Christian thought.

[Sidenote: The astrologer Tarrutius.]

As for the stars apart from demons, Plutarch discusses the art of
astrology as little as he does “magic” by that name. Mentions of
individuals as skilled in “astrology” may simply mean that they were
trained astronomers. When a veritable astrologer in our sense of the
word is mentioned in one of Plutarch’s _Lives_,[946] he is described
as a μαθηματικός—a word often used for a caster of horoscopes and
predicter of the future. Here, however, it carries no reproach of
charlatanism, since in the same phrase he is called a philosopher.
This Tarrutius was a friend of Varro, who asked him to work out the
horoscope of Romulus backward from what was known of the later life and
character of the founder of Rome. “For it was possible for the same
science which predicted man’s life from the time of his birth to infer
the time of his birth from the events of his life.” Tarrutius set to
work and from the data at his disposal figured out that Romulus was
conceived in the first year of the second Olympiad, on the twenty-third
day of the Egyptian month Khoeak at the third hour when there was a
total eclipse of the sun; and that he was born on the twenty-first
day of the month Thoth about sunrise. He further estimated that Rome
was founded by him on the ninth day of the month Pharmuthi between
the second and third hour. For, adds Plutarch, they think that the
fortunes of cities are also controlled by the hour of their genesis.
Plutarch, however, seems to look upon such doctrines as rather strange
and fabulous.[947] Varro, on the other hand, may have regarded it as
the most scientific method possible of settling disputed questions of
historical chronology

[Sidenote: The _De fato_.]

A favorable attitude towards astrology is found mainly in those essays
by Plutarch which are suspected of being spurious, the _De fato_ and
_De placitis philosophorum_. Of the latter we have already treated
under Galen. In the former fate is described as “the soul of the
universe,” and the three main divisions of the universe, namely, the
immovable heaven, the moving spheres and heavenly bodies, and the
region about the earth, are associated with the three Fates, Clotho,
Atropos, and Lachesis.[948] It is similarly stated in the essay on
the demon of Socrates[949] that of the four principles of all things,
life, motion, genesis or generation, and corruption, the first two
are joined by the One indivisibly, the second and third Mind unites
through the sun; the third and fourth Nature joins through the moon.
And over each of these three bonds presides one of the three Fates,
Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis. In other words, the one God or first
cause, invisible and unmoved, in whom is life, sets in motion the
heavenly spheres and bodies, through whose instrumentality generation
and corruption upon earth are produced and regulated,—which is
substantially the Aristotelian view of the universe. Returning to the
_De fato_ we may note that it repeats the Stoic theory of the _magnus
annus_ when the heavenly bodies resume their rounds and all history
repeats itself.[950] Despite this apparent admission that human life
is subject to the movements of the stars, the author of the _De fato_
seems to think that accident, fortune or chance, the contingent, and
“what is in us” or free-will, can all co-exist with fate, which he
practically identifies with the motion of the heavenly bodies.[951]
Fate is also comprehended by divine Providence but this fact does not
militate against astrology, since Providence itself divides into that
of the first God, that of the secondary gods or stars “who move through
the heavens regulating mortal affairs, and that of the demons who act
as guardians of men.”[952]

[Sidenote: Other bits of astrology.]

One or two bits of astrology may be noted in Plutarch’s other essays.
The man who learned “astrology” among demons in the isle beyond Britain
affirmed that in human generation earth supplies the body, the moon
furnishes the soul, and the sun provides the intellect.[953] In the
_Symposiacs_[954] the opinion of the mythographers is repeated that
monstrous animals were produced during the war with the giants because
the moon turned from its course then and rose in unaccustomed quarters.
Plutarch was, by the way, inclined to distinguish the moon from other
heavenly bodies as passive and imperfect, a sort of celestial earth
or terrestrial star. Such a separation of the moon from the other
stars and planets would have, however, no necessary contrariety with
astrological theory, which usually ascribed a peculiar place to the
moon and represented it as the medium through which the more distant
planets exerted their effects upon the earth.

[Sidenote: Cosmic mysticism.]

Sometimes Plutarch’s cosmology carries Platonism to the verge of
Gnosticism, a subject of which we shall treat in a later chapter. The
diviner who had communed with demons, nomads, and nymphs in the desert
asserted that there was not one world, but one hundred and eighty-three
worlds arranged in the form of a triangle with sixty to each side and
one at each angle. Within this triangle of worlds lay the plain of
truth where were the ideas and models of all things that had been or
were to be, and about these was eternity from which time flowed off
like a river to the one hundred and eighty-three worlds. The vision
delectable of those ideas is granted to men only once in a myriad of
years, if they live well, and is the goal toward which all philosophy
strives. The stranger, we are informed, told this tale artlessly, like
one in the mysteries, and produced no demonstration or proof of what
he said. We have already heard Plutarch liken gods, demons, and men to
different kinds of triangles; he also repeats Plato’s association of
the five regular solids with the elements, earth, air, fire, water,
and ether.[955] He states that the nature of fire is quite apparent
in the pyramid from “the slenderness of its decreasing sides and the
sharpness of its angles,”[956] and that fire is engendered from air
when the octahedron is dissolved into pyramids, and air produced from
fire when the pyramids are compressed into an octahedron.[957]

[Sidenote: Number mysticism.]

These geometrical fancies are naturally accompanied by considerable
number mysticism. In this particular passage the merits of the number
five are enlarged upon and a long list is given of things that are
five in number.[958] Five is again extolled in the essay on _The Ei at
Delphi_,[959] but there one of the company remarks with much reason
that it is possible to praise any number in many ways, but that he
prefers to five “the sacred seven of Apollo.”[960] Platonic geometrical
reveries and Pythagorean number mysticism are indulged in even more
extensively in the essay _On the Procreation of the Soul in Timaeus_.
The number and proportion existing in planets, stars and spheres are
touched on,[961] and it is stated that the divine demiurge produced
the marvelous virtues of drugs and organs by employing harmonies and
numbers.[962] Thus in the potency of number and numerical relations is
suggested a possible explanation of astrology and magic force in nature.

[Sidenote: Occult virtues in nature.]

Plutarch, indeed, shows the same faith in the existence of occult
virtues in natural objects and in what may be called natural magic as
most of his contemporaries. At his symposium when one man avers that he
saw the tiny fish _echeneïs_ stop the ship upon which he was sailing
until the lookout man picked it off,[963] some laugh at his credulity
but others narrate other cases of strange antipathies in nature. Mad
elephants are quieted by the sight of a ram; vipers will not move if
touched with a leaf from a beech tree; wild bulls become tame when tied
to a fig tree;[964] if light objects are oiled, amber fails to attract
them as usual; and iron rubbed with garlic does not respond to the
magnet. “These things are proved by experience but it is difficult if
not quite impossible to learn their cause.” At the Symposium[965] the
question also is raised why salt is called divine, and it is suggested
that it may be because it preserves bodies from decay after the soul
has left them, or because mice conceive without sexual intercourse by
merely licking salt. In _The Delay of the Deity_ Plutarch again treats
of occult virtues.[966] They pass from body to body with incredible
swiftness or to an incredible distance. He wonders why it is that if
a goat takes a piece of sea-holly in her mouth, the entire herd will
stand still until the goatherd removes it. We see once more how closely
such notions are associated with magical practices, when in the same
paragraph he mentions the custom of making the children of those who
have died of consumption or dropsy sit soaking their feet in water
until the corpse has been buried so that they may not catch their
parent’s disease.

[Sidenote: Asbestos.]

On the other hand, how difficult it must have been with the limited
scientific knowledge of that time to distinguish true from false
marvelous properties may be inferred from Plutarch’s description[967]
of a certain soft and pliable stone that used to be produced at
Carystus and from which handkerchiefs and hair-nets were made which
could not be burnt and were cleaned by exposure to fire,—a description,
it would seem, of our asbestos, although Plutarch does not give the
stone any name. Strabo also ascribes similar properties to a stone
from Carystus without naming it.[968] Dioscorides and other Greek
authors, we are told,[969] apply the word “asbestos” to quick-lime, but
Pliny in the _Natural History_[970] describes what he says the Greeks
call ἀσβέστινον much as Plutarch does. He adds that it is employed in
making shrouds for royal funerals to separate the ashes of the corpse
from those of the pyre.[971] But he seems to regard it as a plant,
not a stone, listing it as a variety of linen in one of his books on
vegetation. He also states incorrectly that it is found but rarely
and in desert and arid regions of India where there is no rain and a
hot sun and amid terrible serpents[972]. Probably Pliny or his source
argued that anything which resisted the action of fire must have been
inured by growth under fiery suns and among serpents. Furthermore it
obviously should possess other marvelous properties, so we are not
surprised to find Anaxilaus cited to the effect that if this “linen”
is tied around a tree trunk, the blows with which the tree is felled
cannot be heard. It was thus that imaginations inured to magic enlarged
upon unusual natural properties.

[Sidenote: _On rivers and mountains._]

A treatise upon rivers and mountains in which the marvelous virtues of
herbs and stones figure very prominently has sometimes been included
among the works of Plutarch, but also has been omitted entirely from
some editions.[973] Some have ascribed it to Parthenius of the time of
Nero. It is made up of some thirty-five chapters in each of which a
river and a mountain are mentioned. Usually some myth or tragic history
is recounted, from which the river took its name or with which it was
otherwise intimately connected. A similar procedure is followed in
the case of the mountain. The writer, whoever he may be, makes a show
of extensive reading, citing over forty authorities, most of whom are
Greek and not mentioned in the full bibliographies of Pliny’s _Natural
History_. The titles cited have to do largely with stones, rivers, and
different countries. It has been questioned, however, whether these
citations are not bogus.[974]

[Sidenote: Magic herbs.]

The properties attributed to herbs and stones in this treatise are to
a large extent magical. A white reed found in the river Phasis while
one is sacrificing at dawn to Hecate, if strewn in a wife’s bedroom,
drives mad any adulterer who enters and makes him confess his sin.[975]
Another herb mentioned in the same chapter was used by Medea to protect
Jason from her father. In a later chapter[976] we are told how Hera
called upon Selene to aid her in securing her revenge upon Heracles,
and how the moon goddess filled a large chest with froth and foam by
her magic spells until presently a huge lion leaped out of the chest.
Returning from such sorceresses as Hecate, Medea, and Selene to herbs
alone, in other rivers are plants which test the purity of gold, aid
dim sight or blind one, wither at the mention of the word “step-mother”
or burst into flames whenever a step-mother has evil designs against
her step-son, free their bearers from fear of apparitions, operate as
charms in love-making and childbirth, cure madmen of their frenzy,
check quartan agues if applied to the breasts, protect virginity
or wither at a virgin’s touch, turn wine into water except that it
retains its bouquet, or preserve persons anointed with their juice from
sickness to their dying day.

[Sidenote: Stones found in plants and fish.]

An easy transition from the theme of magic herbs to that of stones
is afforded by a sort of poppy which grows in a river of Mysia and
bears black, harp-shaped stones which the natives gather and scatter
over their ploughed fields.[977] If these stones then lie still where
they have fallen, it is taken as a sign of a barren year; but if they
fly away like locusts, this prognosticates a plentiful harvest. Other
marvelous stones are found in the head of a fish in the river Arar, a
tributary of the Rhone. The fish is itself quite wonderful since it is
white while the moon waxes and black when it wanes.[978] Presumably
for this reason the stone cures quartan agues, if applied to the left
side of the body while the moon is waning. There is another stone
which must be sought after under a waxing moon with pipers playing

[Sidenote: Virtues of other stones.]

Other stones guard treasuries by sounding a trumpet-like alarm at
the approach of thieves; or change color four times a day and are
ordinarily visible only to young girls. But if a virgin of marriageable
age chances to see this stone, she is safe from attempts upon her
chastity henceforth.[980] Some stones drive men mad and are connected
with the Mother of the Gods or are found only during the celebration of
the mysteries.[981] Others stop dogs from barking, expel demons, grow
black in the hands of false witnesses, protect from wild beasts, and
have varied medicinal powers or other effects similar to those already
mentioned in the case of herbs.[982] In a river where the Spartans
were defeated is a stone which leaps towards the bank, if it hears a
trumpet, but sinks at the mention of the Athenians.[983] Certainly a
marvelous stone, capable of both hearing and motion!

[Sidenote: Fascination.]

Leaving the treatise on rivers and mountains, for the occult virtue
of human beings we may turn to a discussion of fascination in the
_Symposiacs_.[984] Some of the company ridiculed the idea, but their
host asserted that a myriad of events went to prove it and that if you
reject a thing simply because you cannot give a reason for it, you
“take away the marvelous from all things.” He pointed out that some men
hurt little and tender children by looking at them, and argued that,
as the plumes of other birds are ruined when mixed with those of the
eagle, so men may injure by their touch or mere glance. Plutarch, who
was of the company, suggested effluvia or emanations from the body as
a possible explanation, pointing out that love begins with glances,
that no disease is more contagious than sore eyes, and that gazing upon
the curlew cures jaundice. The bird appears to attract the disease to
itself, and averts its head and closes its eyes, not, as some think,
because it is jealous of the remedy sought from it, but because it
feels wounded as if from a blow. Others of the company contended that
the passions and affections of the soul may have a powerful effect
through the eyes and glance upon other persons, and argued that the
sufferings of the soul strengthen the powers of the body, and that
the same counter-charms are efficacious against envy as against
fascination. The emanations which Democritus believed that envious
and malicious persons sent forth are also mentioned; fathers have
fascinated their own children, and it is even possible that one might
injure oneself by reflection of one’s gaze. It is suggested that young
children may sometimes be fascinated in this manner rather than by the
glance of others.

[Sidenote: Animal sagacity and remedies.]

Plutarch devotes two essays to the familiar theme of the craftiness and
sagacity of animals and the remedies used by them. In one essay[985] a
companion of Odysseus refuses to allow Circe to turn him back from a
pig to human form. He boasts among other things that beasts know how
to cure themselves. Without ever having been taught swine when sick
run to rivers to search for craw-fish; tortoises physic themselves
with origanum after eating vipers; and Cretan goats devour dittany
to extract arrows and darts which have been shot into their bodies.
In the other essay[986] on the cleverness of animals we find many
familiar stories repeated, including some of the inevitable excerpts
from Juba on elephants. We meet again the dolphins with their love for
mankind,[987] the bird who picks the crocodile’s teeth and warns him
of the ichneumon,[988] the fish who rescue one another by biting the
line or dragging one another by the tail out of nets,[989] the trained
elephant who was slow to learn and was beaten for it and was afterwards
seen practicing his exercises by himself in the moonlight,[990] the
sentinel cranes who stand on one foot and hold a stone in the other to
awaken them if they let it drop.[991] More novel perhaps is the story
how herons open oysters by first swallowing them, shells and all, until
they are relaxed by the internal heat of the bird, which then vomits
them up and eats them out of the shells. Or the account of the tunny
fish who needs no astrological canons and is familiar with arithmetic,
“Yes, by Zeus, and with optics, too.”[992]

[Sidenote: Theories and queries about nature.]

Plutarch’s essays bring out yet other interests and defects of
the science of the time. One on _The Principle of Cold_ is a good
illustration of the failings of the ancient hypothesis of four elements
and four qualities and of the silly, limited arguing which usually
and almost of necessity accompanied it. He denies that cold is mere
privation of heat, since it seems to act positively upon fluids and
solids and exists in different degrees. After considering various
assertions such as that air becomes cold when it becomes dark; that
air whitens things and water blackens them; that cold objects are
always heavy; he finally associates the element earth especially with
the quality cold. In another essay[993] he states that there are no
females of a certain type of beetle which was engraved as a charm upon
the rings warriors wore to battle, but that the males begat offspring
by rolling up balls of earth. He declares that “diseases do not have
distinct germs” in a discussion in the _Symposiacs_ whether there can
be new diseases.[994] Other natural questions discussed in the treatise
of that name and the _Symposiacs_ are: Why a man who often passes near
dewy trees contracts leprosy in those limbs which touch the wood? Why
the Dorians pray for bad hay-making? Why bears’ paws are the sweetest
and most palatable food? Why the tracks of wild beasts smell worse at
the full of the moon? Why bees are more apt to sting fornicators than
other persons?[995] Why the flesh of sheep bitten by wolves is sweeter
than that of other sheep? Why mushrooms are thought to be produced by
thunder? Why flesh decays sooner in moonlight than sunlight? Whether
Jews abstain from pork because they worship the pig or because they
have an antipathy towards it?[996]

[Sidenote: The Antipodes.]

Plutarch sometimes shows evidence of considerable astronomical
knowledge. For instance, he knows that the mathematicians figure
that the distance from sun to earth is immense, and that Aristarchus
demonstrated the sun to be eighteen or twenty times as far off as the
moon, which is distant fifty-six times the earth’s radius at the lowest
estimate.[997] Yet in the same essay[998] Plutarch has scoffed at the
idea of a spherical earth and of antipodes, and at the assertion that
bars weighing a thousand talents would stop falling at the earth’s
center, if a hole were opened up through the earth, or that two men
with their feet in opposite directions at the center of the earth
might nevertheless both be right side up, or that one man whose middle
was at the center might be half right side up and half upside down.
He admits, however, that the philosophers think so. Thus we see that
Christian fathers like Lactantius were not the first to ridicule the
notion of the Antipodes; apparently as well educated and omnivorous a
pagan reader as Plutarch could do the same.

                              CHAPTER VII

                          APULEIUS OF MADAURA

I. _Life and Works_

 Magic and the man—Stylistic reasons for regarding the _Metamorphoses_
 as his first work—Biographical reasons—No mention of the
 _Metamorphoses_ in the _Apology_.

II. _Magic in the Metamorphoses_

 Powers claimed for magic—Its actual performances—Its
 limitations—The crimes of witches—Male magicians—Magic as an art
 and discipline—Materials employed—Incantations and rites—Quacks and
 charlatans—Various superstitions—Bits of science and religion—Magic in
 other Greek romances.

III. _Magic in the Apology_

 Form of the _Apologia_—Philosophy and magic—Magic defined—Good and
 bad magic—Magic and religion—Magic and science—Medical and scientific
 knowledge of Apuleius—He repeats familiar errors—Apparent ignorance of
 magic and occult virtue—Despite an assumption of knowledge—Attitude
 toward astronomy—His theory of demons—Apuleius in the middle ages.

I. _His Life and Works_

[Sidenote: Magic and the man as reflected in his works.]

One of the fullest and most vivid pictures of magic in the ancient
Mediterranean world which has reached us is provided by the writings
of Apuleius. He lived in the second century of our era and was not
merely a rhetorician of great note in his day and the writer of a
romance which has ever since fascinated men, but also a Platonic
philosopher, an initiate into many religious cults and mysteries, and
a student of natural science and medicine. To him has been ascribed
the Latin version of _Asclepius_, a supposititious dialogue of Hermes
Trismegistus. No author perhaps ever more readily and complacently
talked of himself than Apuleius, yet it is no easy task to make out
the precise facts of his life, partly because in his romance, _The
Metamorphoses_, or _The Golden Ass_, he has hopelessly confused himself
with the hero Lucius and introduced an autobiographical element of
uncertain extent into what is in the main a work of fiction; partly
because his _Apology_, or defense when tried on the charge of magic at
Oea in Africa, is more in the nature of special pleading intended to
refute and confound his accusers than of a frank confession or accurate
history of his career. However, he appears to have been born at Madaura
in North Africa, to have studied first at Carthage and then at Athens,
to have visited Rome and wandered rather widely about the Mediterranean
world, but to have spent more time altogether at Carthage than at any
other one place.

[Sidenote: Stylistic reasons for regarding the _Metamorphoses_ as his
first work.]

Besides the _Metamorphoses_ and _Apologia_, with which we shall be
chiefly concerned, four other works are extant which are regarded
as genuine, _The God of Socrates_, _The Dogma of Plato_, _Florida_,
and _On the Universe_. The order in which these works were written
is uncertain, but it seems almost sure that the _Metamorphoses_ was
the first. In it Apuleius not only more or less identifies himself
with the hero Lucius, who is represented as quite a young man, he
also apologizes for his Latin and speaks of the difficulty with which
he had acquired that language at Rome. But in the _Florida_[999] we
find him repeating a hymn and a dialogue in both Latin and Greek, or,
after delivering half an address in Greek, finishing it in Latin, or
boasting that he writes poems, satires, riddles, histories, scientific
treatises, orations, and philosophical dialogues with equal facility in
either language.[1000] Instead now of craving pardon if he offends by
his rude, exotic, and forensic speech, he feels that his reputation for
literary refinement and elegance has become such that his audience will
not pardon him a solitary solecism or a single syllable pronounced with
a barbarous accent.[1001] It therefore looks as if the _Metamorphoses_
was his first published effort in Latin and as if his peculiar style
had proved so popular that he did not find it necessary to apologize
for it again. In the _Apology_ he seems supremely confident of his
rhetorical powers in the Latin language, and even the accusers describe
him as a philosopher of great eloquence both in Greek and Latin.[1002]
Three years before in the same town his first public discourse had been
greeted with shouts of “Insigniter,” and many in the audience at the
time of his trial can still repeat a passage from it on the greatness
of Aesculapius.[1003] In the _Apology_, too, he displays a more
extensive learning than in the _Metamorphoses_ and has written already
poems and scientific treatises as well as orations. Indeed, practically
all the doctrines set forth in his other philosophical works may be
found in brief in the _Apology_.

[Sidenote: Biographical reasons.]

Moreover, while in the _Metamorphoses_ Apuleius ends the narrative
with what seems to be his own comparatively recent initiation into
the mysteries of Isis in Greece and of Osiris at Rome, in the
_Apology_[1004] he speaks of having been initiated in the past into
all sorts of sacred rites, although he does not mention Rome or Isis
and Osiris specifically. It is implied, however, that he has been at
Rome in more than one passage of the _Apology_. Pontianus, his future
step-son, with whom Apuleius had become acquainted at Athens “not so
many years ago,” was “an adult at Rome” before Apuleius came to Oea.
After they had met again at Oea and had both married there, Apuleius
gave Pontianus a letter of introduction to the proconsul Lollianus
Avitus at Carthage, of whom he says, “I have known intimately many
cultured men of Roman name in the course of my life, but have never
admired anyone as much as him.” Perhaps Apuleius may have met Lollianus
at Carthage, but in the _Florida_,[1005] in a panegyric on Scipio
Orfitus, proconsul of Africa in 163-164 A. D., he alludes to the time
“when I moved among your friends in Rome.” All this fits in nicely
with the statements in the closing chapters of the _Metamorphoses_
concerning his rising fame as an orator in the courts of law and “the
laborious doctrine of my studies” at Rome. We may therefore reconstruct
the course of events as follows. After meeting Pontianus at Athens
and concluding his studies in Greece, Apuleius came to Rome, where
he remained for some time, perfecting his Latin style, engaging in
forensic oratory, and publishing the _Metamorphoses_. Pontianus, who
was younger than Apuleius, either accompanied or followed his friend to
Rome, in which city he was still residing after Apuleius had returned
to Africa. But Pontianus, too, had left Rome and come back to his
African city of Oea to settle the question of his mother’s proposed
second marriage, before Apuleius, who had probably revisited Carthage
in the meantime and was now traveling east again with the intention of
visiting Alexandria, arrived at Oea and was induced to wed the widow,
who was considerably older than he. On the delicate question of this
lady’s exact age depends our dating of the birth of Apuleius and the
chronology of his entire career. At the trial of Apuleius for magic
Aemilianus, the accuser, declared that she was sixty when she married
Apuleius, and he had previously proposed to marry her to his brother,
Clarus, whom Apuleius calls “a decrepit old man.”[1006] On the other
hand, Apuleius asserts that the records, which he produces in court, of
her being accepted in infancy by her father as his child show that she
is “not much over forty,”[1007]—a tactful ambiguity which, inasmuch as
we no longer have the records, it would probably be idle to attempt to

[Sidenote: No mention of the _Metamorphoses_ in the _Apology_.]

The chief, if not the only, objection to dating the _Metamorphoses_
before the _Apology_ is that nothing is said of it in the latter.[1008]
But obviously Apuleius, when on trial for magic, would not mention
the _Metamorphoses_ unless his accusers forced him to do so. They
may not have yet heard of it or it may at first have been published
anonymously, although the probability is that Apuleius would not
have spent three years at Oea without bringing it to his admirers’
attention. Or they may know of it, but the judge may not have admitted
it as evidence on the ground that they must prove that Apuleius has
practiced magic. The _Metamorphoses_ does not recount any personal
participation of Apuleius himself in magic arts, unless one identifies
him throughout with the hero Lucius; it purports to be a Latin
rendition of Milesian tales[1009] and does not seem to have been taken
very seriously until the church fathers began to cite it. Or the
accusers may have dwelt upon it and Apuleius simply have failed to
take notice of their charge. All these suppositions may not seem very
plausible, but on the other hand we may ask, how would Apuleius dare
to write a work like the _Metamorphoses_ after he had been accused and
tried of magic? One would expect him then to drop the subject rather
than to display an increasing interest in it. But let us turn to his
treatment of that theme in both those works, and first consider the

II. _Magic in the Metamorphoses_

[Sidenote: Powers claimed for magic.]

Vast power over nature and spirits is attributed to magic and its
practitioners in the opening chapters of the _Metamorphoses_. “By
magic’s mutterings swift streams are reversed, the sea is calmed, the
sun stopped, foam drawn from the moon, the stars torn from the sky,
and day turned into night.”[1010] While such assertions are received
with some scepticism by one listener, they are largely borne out by
the subsequent experiences of the characters in the story and by the
feats which witches are made to perform. These are sometimes humorously
and extravagantly presented, but as crime and ferocious cruelty are
treated in the same spirit, this light vein cannot be regarded as an
admission of magic’s unreality. On the contrary, the magic of Thessaly
is celebrated with one accord the world over.[1011] Meroë the witch
can “displace the sky, elevate the earth, freeze fountains, melt
mountains, raise ghosts, bring down the gods, extinguish the stars, and
illuminate the bottomless pit.”[1012] Submerging the light of starry
heaven to the lowest depths of hell is a power also attributed to
the witch Pamphile.[1013] “By her marvelous secrets she makes ghosts
and elements obey and serve her, disturbs the stars and coerces the

[Sidenote: Its actual performances.]

In none of the episodes recorded in _The Golden Ass_, however, do
the witches find it necessary or advisable to go to quite so great
lengths as these, although Pamphile once threatens the sun with eternal
darkness because he is so slow in yielding to night when she may ply
her sorcery and amours.[1015] The witches content themselves with such
accomplishments as carrying on love affairs with inhabitants of distant
India, Ethopia, and even the Antipodes,—“trifles of the art these and
mere bagatelles”;[1016] with transforming their enemies into animal
forms or imprisoning them helpless in their homes, or transporting them
house and all to a spot a hundred miles off;[1017] and, on the other
hand, with breaking down bolted doors to murder their victims,[1018] or
assuming themselves the shape of weasels, birds, dogs, mice, and even
insects in order to work their mischief unobserved;[1019] they then
cast their victims into a deep sleep and cut their throats or hang them
or mutilate them.[1020] They often know what is being said about them
when apparently absent, and they sometimes indulge in divination of the
future.[1021] But to whatever fields of activity they may extend or
confine themselves, their violent power is irresistible, and we are
given to understand that it is useless to try to fight against it or
to escape it. Its secret and occult character is also emphasized, and
the adjective _caeca_ or noun _latebrae_ are more than once employed to
describe it.[1022]

[Sidenote: Its limitations.]

Yet there are also suggested certain limitations to the power of
magic. The witches seem to break down the bolted doors, but these
resume their former place when the hags have departed, and are to all
appearances as intact as before. The man, too, whose throat they have
cut, whose blood they have drained off, and whose heart they have
removed, awakes apparently alive the next morning and resumes his
journey. All the events of the preceding night seem to have been merely
an unpleasant dream. The witches had stuffed a sponge into the wound
of his throat[1023] with the adjuration, “Oh you sponge, born in the
sea, beware of crossing running water.” In the morning his traveling
companion can see no sign of wound or sponge on his friend’s throat.
But when he stoops to drink from a brook, out falls the sponge and he
drops dead. The inference, although Apuleius draws none, is obvious;
witches can make a corpse seem alive for a while but not for long, and
magic ceases to work when you cross running water. We also get the
impression that there is something deceptive and illusive about the
magic of the witches, and that only the lusts and crimes are real which
their magic enables them or their employers to commit and gratify.
They may seem to draw down the sun, but it is found shining next day
as usual. When Lucius is transformed into an ass, he retains his human
appetite and tenderness of skin,[1024]—a deplorable state of mind and
body which must be attributed to the imperfections of the magic art as
well as to the humorous cruelty of the author.

[Sidenote: The crimes of witches.]

In _The Golden Ass_ the practitioners of magic are usually witches and
old and repulsive. We have to deal with wonders worked by old-wives
and not by _Magi_ of Persia or Babylon. As we have seen and shall see
yet further, their deeds are regarded as illicit and criminal. They
are “most wicked women” (_nequissimae mulieres_),[1025] intent upon
lust and crime. They practice _devotiones_, injurious imprecations and

[Sidenote: Male magicians.]

Male practitioners of magic are represented in a less unfavorable
light. An Egyptian, who in return for a large sum of money engages to
invoke the spirit of a dead man and restore the corpse momentarily to
life, is called a prophet and a priest, though he seems a manifest
necromancer and is himself adjured to lend his aid and to “have pity
by the stars of heaven, by the infernal deities, by the elements of
nature, and by the silence of night,”[1027]—expressions which are
certainly suggestive of the magic powers elsewhere ascribed to witches.
The hero of the story, Lucius, is animated in his dabblings in the
magic art by idle curiosity combined with thirst for learning, but not
by any criminal motive.[1028] Yet after he has been transformed into
an ass by magic, he fears to resume his human form suddenly in public,
lest he be put to death on suspicion of practicing the magic art.[1029]

[Sidenote: Magic as an art and discipline.]

Magic is depicted not merely as irresistible or occult or criminal
or fallacious; it is also regularly called an art and a discipline.
Even the practices of the witches are so dignified. Pamphile has
nothing less than a laboratory on the roof of her house,—a wooden
shelter, concealed from view but open to the winds of heaven and to
the four points of the compass,—where she may ply her secret arts
and where she spreads out her “customary apparatus.”[1030] This
consists of all sorts of aromatic herbs, of metal plates inscribed
with cryptic characters, a chest filled with little boxes containing
various ointments,[1031] and portions of human corpses obtained from
sepulchers, shipwrecks (or birds of prey, according as the reading
is _navium_ or _avium_), public executions, and the victims of wild
beasts.[1032] It will be recalled that Galen represented medical
students as most likely to secure human skeletons or bodies to dissect
from somewhat similar sources; and possibly they might incur suspicion
of magic thereby.

[Sidenote: Materials employed.]

All this makes it clear that to work magic one must have materials.
The witches seem especially avid for parts of the human body. Pamphile
sends her maid, Fotis, to the barber’s shop to try to steal some
cuttings of the hair of a youth of whom she is enamoured;[1033] and
another story is told of witches who by mistake cut off and replaced
with wax the nose and ears of a man guarding the corpse instead
of those of the dead body.[1034] Other witches who murdered a man
carefully collected his blood in a bladder and took it away with
them.[1035] But parts of other animals are also employed in their
magic, and stones as well as varied herbs and twigs.[1036] In trying
to entice the beloved Boeotian youth Pamphile used still quivering
entrails and poured libations of spring water, milk, and honey, as well
as placing the hairs—which she supposed were his—with many kinds of
incense upon live coals.[1037] To turn herself into an owl she anointed
herself from top to toe with ointment from one of her little boxes,
and also made much use of a lamp.[1038] To regain her human form she
has only to drink, and bathe in, spring water mixed with anise and
laurel leaf,—“See how great a result is attained by such small and
insignificant herbs!”[1039]—while Lucius is told that eating roses will
restore him from asinine to human form.[1040] The Egyptian prophet
makes use of herbs in his necromancy, placing one on the face and
another on the breast of the corpse; and he himself wears linen robes
and sandals of palm leaves.[1041]

[Sidenote: Incantations and rites.]

Besides materials, incantations are much employed,[1042] while the
Egyptian prophet turns towards the east and “silently imprecates” the
rising sun. As this last suggests, careful observance of rite and
ceremony also play their part, and Pamphile’s painstaking procedure is
described in precise detail. Divine aid is once mentioned[1043] and is
perhaps another essential for success. More than one witch is called
_divina_,[1044] and magic is termed a divine discipline.[1045] But we
have also heard the witches spoken of as coercing the gods rather than
depending upon them for assistance. Their magic seems to be performed
mainly by using things and words in the right ways.

[Sidenote: Quacks and charlatans.]

Besides the witches (_magae_ or _sagae_) and what Apuleius calls
magic by name, a number of other charlatans and superstitions of a
kindred nature are mentioned in _The Golden Ass_. Such a one is the
Egyptian “prophet” already described. Such was the Chaldean who for
a time astounded Corinth by his wonderful predictions, but had been
unable to foresee his own shipwreck.[1046] On learning this last fact,
a business man who was about to pay him one hundred _denarii_ for a
prognostication snatched up his money again and made off. Such were
the painted disreputable crew of the Syrian goddess who went about
answering all inquiries concerning the future with the same ambiguous
couplet.[1047] Such were the jugglers whom Lucius saw at Athens
swallowing swords or balancing a spear in the throat while a boy
climbed to the top of it.[1048] Such were the physicians who turned

[Sidenote: Various superstitions.]

Other passages allude to astrology[1050] besides that already cited
concerning the Chaldean. Divination from dreams is also discussed. In
the fourth book the old female servant tells the captive maiden not
to be terrified “by the idle figments of dreams” and explains that
they often go by contraries; but in the last book the hero is several
times guided or forewarned by dreams. Omens are believed in. Starting
left foot first loses a man a business opportunity,[1051] and another
is kicked out of a house for his ill-omened words.[1052] The violent
deaths of all three sons of the owner of another house are presaged by
the following remarkable conglomeration of untoward portents: a hen
lays a chick instead of an egg; blood spurts up from under the table; a
servant rushes in to announce that the wine is boiling in all the jars
in the cellar; a weasel is seen dragging a dead snake out-of-doors; a
green frog leaps from the sheep-dog’s mouth and then a ram tears open
the dog’s throat at one bite.[1053]

[Sidenote: Some bits of science and religion.]

Of scientific discussion or information there is little in the
_Metamorphoses_. When Pamphile foretells the weather for the next day
by inspection of her lamp, Lucius suggests that this artificial flame
may retain some properties from its heavenly original.[1054] The herb
mandragora is described as inducing a sleep similar to death, but
as not fatal; and the beaver is said to emasculate itself in order
to escape its hunters.[1055] We should feel lost without mention of
a dragon in a book of this sort, and one is introduced who is large
enough to devour a man.[1056] It is interesting to note for purposes
of comparison,—inasmuch as we shall presently take up the _Life of
Apollonius of Tyana_, a Neo-Pythagorean, and later shall learn from
the _Recognitions of Clement_ that the apostle Peter was accustomed to
bathe at dawn in the sea,—that Lucius, while still in the form of an
ass, in his zeal for purification plunged into the sea and submerged
his head beneath the wave seven times, because the divine Pythagoras
had proclaimed that number as especially appropriate to religious
rites.[1057] “It has been said that _The Golden Ass_ is the first book
in European literature showing piety in the modern sense, and the
most disreputable adventures of Lucius lead, it is true, in the end
to a religious climax.” But, adds Professor Duncan B. Macdonald, “Few
books, in spite of fantastic gleams of color and light, move under such
leaden-weighted skies as _The Golden Ass_. There is no real God in that
world; all things are in the hands of enchanters; man is without hope
for here and hereafter; full of yearnings he struggles and takes refuge
in strange cults.”[1058]

[Sidenote: Magic in other Greek romances.]

While magic plays a larger part in _The Golden Ass_ than in any other
extant Greek romance, it is not unusual in the others to find the hero
and heroine exposed to perils from magicians, or themselves falsely
charged with magic, as in the _Aethiopica_ of Heliodorus, where
Charicles is “condemned to be burned on a charge of poisoning.”[1059]
In the Christian romances, too, as the _Recognitions_ will show us
later, there are plenty of allusions to magic and demons. Meanwhile we
are reminded that in the Roman Empire accusations of magic were made
not merely in story books but in real life by the trial for magic of
the author of the _Metamorphoses_ himself, and we next turn to the
_Apology_ which he delivered upon that occasion.

III. _Magic in the Apology_

[Sidenote: Form of the _Apologia_.]

The _Apologia_ has every appearance of being preserved just as it was
delivered and perhaps as it was taken down by short-hand writers;
it does not seem to have undergone the subsequent revision to which
Cicero subjected some of his orations. It must have been hastily
composed, since Apuleius states that it has been only five or six
days since the charges were suddenly brought against him, while he was
occupied in defending another lawsuit brought against his wife.[1060]
There also are numerous apparently extempore passages in the oration,
notably those where Apuleius alludes to the effect which his statements
produce, now upon his accusers, now upon the proconsul sitting in
judgment. From the _Florida_ we know that Apuleius was accustomed to
improvise.[1061] Moreover, in the _Apology_ certain statements are made
by Apuleius which might be turned against him with damaging effect and
which he probably would have omitted, had he had the leisure to go over
his speech carefully before the trial. For instance, in denying the
charge that he had caused to be made for himself secretly out of the
finest wood a horrible magic figure in the form of a ghost or skeleton,
he declares that it is only a little image of Mercury made openly by a
well-known artisan of the town.[1062] But he has earlier stated that
“Mercury, carrier of incantations,” is one of the deities invoked in
magic rites;[1063] and in another passage[1064] has recounted how the
outcome of the Mithridatic war was investigated at Tralles by magic,
and how a boy, gazing at an image of Mercury in water, had predicted
the future in one hundred and sixty verses. But this is not all. In a
third passage[1065] he actually quotes Pythagoras to the effect that
Mercury ought not to be carved out of every kind of wood.

[Sidenote: Philosophy and magic.]

If in the _Metamorphoses_ the practice of magic is imputed chiefly to
old-wives, in the _Apology_ a main concern of Apuleius is to defend
philosophers in general[1066] and himself in particular from “the
calumny of magic.”[1067] Epimenides, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Ostanes,
Empedocles, Socrates, and Plato have been so suspected, and it
consoles Apuleius in his own trial to reflect that he is but sharing
the undeserved fate of “so many and such great men.”[1068] In this
connection he states that those philosophers who have taken an especial
interest in theology, “who investigate the providence of the universe
too curiously and celebrate the gods too enthusiastically,” are the
ones to be suspected of magic; while those who devote themselves
to natural science pure and simple are more liable to be called
irreligious atheists.

[Sidenote: Magic defined.]

But what is it to be a magician, Apuleius asks the accusers,[1069]
and therewith we face again the question of the definition of magic,
and Apuleius gradually answers his own query in the course of the
oration. Magic, in the ordinary use of the word, is described in
much the same way as in the _Metamorphoses_. It has been proscribed
by Roman law since the Twelve Tables; it is hideous and horrible; it
is secret and solitary; it murmurs its incantations in the darkness
of the night.[1070] It is an art of ill repute, of illicit evil
deeds, of crimes and enormities.[1071] Instead of simply calling it
_magia_, Apuleius often applies to it the double expression, _magica
maleficia_.[1072] Perhaps he does this intentionally. In one passage
he states that he will refute certain charges which the accusers have
brought against him, first, by showing that the things he has been
charged with have nothing to do with magic; and second, by proving
that, even if he were a magician, there was no cause or occasion for
his having committed any _maleficium_ in this connection.[1073] That
is to say, _maleficium_, literally “an evil deed,” means an injury done
another by means of magic art. The proconsul sitting in judgment takes
a similar view and has asked the accusers, Apuleius tells us,[1074]
when they asserted that a woman had fallen into an epileptic fit in his
presence and that this was due to his having bewitched her, whether
the woman died or what good her having a fit did Apuleius. This is
significant as hinting that Roman law did not condemn a man for magic
unless he were proved to have committed some crime or made some unjust
gain thereby.

[Sidenote: Good and bad magic.]

Does Apuleius for his part mean to suggest a distinction between
_magia_ and _magica maleficia_, and to hint, as he did not do in the
_Metamorphoses_, that there is a good as well as a bad magic? He
cannot be said to maintain any such distinction consistently; often
in the _Apology_ _magia_ alone as well as _maleficium_ is used in a bad
sense. But he does suggest such a thought and once voices it quite
explicitly.[1075] “If,” he says, “as I have read in many authors,
_magus_ in the Persian language corresponds to the word _sacerdos_
in ours, what crime, pray, is it to be a priest and duly know and
understand and cherish the rules of ceremonial, the sacred customs,
the laws of religion?” Plato describes magic as part of the education
of the young Persian prince by the four wisest and best men of the
realm, one of whom instructs him in the magic of Zoroaster which is
the worship of the gods. “Do you hear, you who rashly charge me with
magic, that this art is acceptable to the immortal gods, consists in
celebrating and reverencing them, is pious and prophetic, and long
since was held by Zoroaster and Oromazes, its authors, to be noble and
divine?”[1076] In common speech, however, Apuleius recognizes that
a magician is one “who by his power of addressing the immortal gods
is able to accomplish whatever he will by an almost incredible force
of incantations.” But anyone who believes that another man possesses
such a power as this should be afraid to accuse him, says Apuleius,
who thinks by this ingenious dilemma to prove the insincerity of his
accusers. Nevertheless he presently mentions that Mercury, Venus, Luna,
and Trivia are the deities usually summoned in the ceremonies of the

[Sidenote: Magic and religion.]

It will be noted that Apuleius connects magic with the gods and
religion more in the _Apology_ than in the _Metamorphoses_. There
his emphasis was on the natural materials employed by the witches
and their almost scientific laboratories. But in the _Apology_ both
Persian _Magi_ and common magicians are associated with the worship
or invocation of the gods, and it is theologians rather than natural
philosophers who incur suspicion of magic.

[Sidenote: Magic and science.]

But it may be that the reason why Apuleius abstains in the _Apology_
from suggesting any connection or confusion between magic and natural
science is that the accusers have already laid far too much stress upon
this point for his liking. He has been charged with the composition of
a tooth-powder,[1078] with use of a mirror,[1079] with the purchase
of a sea-hare, a poisonous mollusc, and two other fish appropriate
from their obscene shapes and names for use as love-charms.[1080]
He is said to have had a horrible wooden image or seal constructed
secretly for use in his magic,[1081] to keep other instruments of his
art mysteriously wrapped in a handkerchief in the house,[1082] and
to have left in the vestibule of another house where he lodged “many
feathers of birds” and much soot on the walls.[1083] All these charges
make it evident that natural and artificial objects are, as in the
_Metamorphoses_, considered essential or at least usual in performing
magic. Moreover, so ready have the accusers shown themselves to
interpret the interest of Apuleius in natural science as an evidence of
the practice of magic by him, that he sarcastically remarks[1084] that
he is glad that they were unaware that he had read Theophrastus _On
beasts that bite and sting_ and Nicander _On the bites of wild beasts_
(usually called _Theriaca_),[1085] or they would have accused him of
being a poisoner as well as a magician.

[Sidenote: Medical and scientific knowledge of Apuleius.]

Apuleius shows that he really is a student, if not an authority,
in medicine and natural science. The gift of the tooth-powder and
the falling of the woman in a fit were incidents of his occasional
practice of medicine, and he also sees no harm in his seeking
certain remedies from fish.[1086] He repeats Plato’s theory of
disease from the _Timaeus_ and cites Theophrastus’s admirable work
_On Epileptics_.[1087] Mention of the mirror starts him off upon an
optical disquisition in which he remarks upon theories of vision and
reflection, upon liquid and solid, flat and convex and concave mirrors,
and cites the _Catoptrica_ of Archimedes.[1088] He also regards himself
as an experimental zoologist and has conducted all his researches
publicly.[1089] He procures fish in order to study them scientifically
as Aristotle, Theophrastus, Eudemus, Lycon, and other pupils of Plato
did.[1090] He has read innumerable books of this sort and sees no harm
in testing by experience what has been written. Indeed he is himself
writing in both Greek and Latin a work on _Natural Questions_ in
which he hopes to add what has been omitted in earlier books and to
remedy some of their defects and to arrange all in a handier and more
systematic fashion. He has passages from the section on fishes in this
work read aloud in court.

[Sidenote: He repeats familiar errors.]

Throughout the _Apology_ Apuleius occasionally airs his scientific
attainments by specific statements and illustrations from the
zoological and other scientific fields. Indeed the presence of such
allusions is as noticeable in the _Apology_ as was their absence from
the _Metamorphoses_. But they go to show that his knowledge was greater
than his discretion, since for the most part they repeat familiar
errors of contemporary science. We are told—the story is also in
Aristotle, Pliny, and Aelian—how the crocodile opens its jaws to have
its teeth picked by a friendly bird,[1091] that the viper gnaws its way
out of its mother’s womb,[1092] that fish are spontaneously generated
from slime,[1093] and that burning the stone _gagates_ will cause an
epileptic to have a fit.[1094] On the other hand, the skin shed by a
spotted lizard is a remedy for epilepsy, but you must snatch it up
speedily or the lizard will turn and devour it, either from natural
appetite or just because he knows that you want it.[1095] This tale, so
characteristic of the virtues attributed to parts of animals and the
human motives ascribed to the animals themselves, is taken by Apuleius
from a treatise by Theophrastus entitled _Jealous Animals_.

[Sidenote: Apparent ignorance of magic and occult virtue.]

In defending what he terms his scientific investigations from the
aspersion of magic Apuleius is at times either a trifle disingenuous
and inclined to trade upon the ignorance of his judge and accusers,
or else not as well informed himself as he might be in matters of
natural science and of occult science. He contends that fish are not
employed in magic arts, asks mockingly if fish alone possess some
property hidden from other men and known to magicians, and affirms that
if the accuser knows of any such he must be a magician rather than
Apuleius.[1096] He insists that he did not make use of a sea-hare and
describes the “fish” in question in detail,[1097] but this description,
as is pointed out in Butler and Owen’s edition of the _Apology_,[1098]
tends to convince us that it really was a sea-hare. In the case of the
two fish with obscene names, he ridicules the arguing from similarity
of names to similarity of powers in the things so designated, as if
that were not what magicians and astrologers and believers in sympathy
and antipathy were always doing. You might as well say, he declares,
that a pebble is good for the stone and a crab for an ulcer,[1099] as
if precisely these remedies for those diseases were not found in the
Pseudo-Dioscorides and in Pliny’s _Natural History_.[1100]

[Sidenote: Despite an assumption of knowledge.]

It is hardly probable that in the passages just cited Apuleius
was pretending to be ignorant of matters with which he was really
acquainted, since as a rule he is eager to show off his knowledge even
of magic itself. Thus the accusers affirmed that he had bewitched a boy
by incantations in a secret place with an altar and a lamp; Apuleius
criticizes their story by saying that they should have added that he
employed the boy for purposes of divination, citing tales which he
has read to this effect in Varro and many other authors.[1101] And he
himself is ready to believe that the human soul, especially in one
who is still young and innocent, may, if soothed and distracted by
incantations and odors, forget the present, return to its divine and
immortal nature, and predict the future. When he reads some technical
Greek names from his treatise on fishes, he suspects that the accuser
will protest that he is uttering magic names in some Egyptian or
Babylonian rite.[1102] And as a matter of fact, when later he mentioned
the names of a number of celebrated magicians,[1103] the accusers
appear to have raised such a tumult that Apuleius deemed it prudent
to assure the judge that he had simply read them in reputable books
in public libraries, and that to know such names was one thing, to
practice the magic art quite another matter.

[Sidenote: Attitude toward astrology.]

Apuleius affirms that one of his accusers had consulted he knows not
what Chaldeans how he might profitably marry off his daughter, and that
they had prophesied truthfully that her first husband would die within
a few months. “As for what she would inherit from him, they fixed that
up, as they usually do, to suit the person consulting them.”[1104] But
in this respect their prediction turned out to be quite incorrect. We
are left in some doubt, however, whether their failure in the second
case is not regarded as due merely to their knavery, and their first
successful prediction to the rule of the stars. Elsewhere, however,
Apuleius does state that belief in fate and in magic are incompatible,
since there is no place left for the force of spells and incantations,
if everything is ruled by fate.[1105] But in other extant works[1106]
he speaks of the heavenly bodies as visible gods, and Laurentius Lydus
attributes astrological treatises to him.[1107]

[Sidenote: His theory of demons.]

In one passage of the _Apology_ Apuleius affirms his belief with Plato
in the existence of certain intermediate beings or powers between
gods and men, who govern all divinations and the miracles of the
magicians.[1108] In the treatise on the god or demon of Socrates[1109]
he repeats this thought and tells us more of these mediators or demons.
Their native element is the air, which Apuleius thought extended as far
as the moon,[1110] just as Aristotle[1111] tells of animals who live in
fire and are extinguished with it, and just as the fifth element, that
“divine and inviolable” ether, contains the divine bodies of the stars.
With the superior gods the demons have immortality in common, but like
mortals they are subject to passions and to feeling and capable of
reason.[1112] But their bodies are very light and like clouds, a point
peculiar to themselves.[1113] Since both Plutarch and Apuleius wrote
essays on the demon of Socrates and both derived, or thought that they
derived, their theories concerning demons from Plato, it is interesting
to note some divergences between their accounts. Apuleius confines them
to the atmosphere beneath the moon more exclusively than Plutarch does;
unlike Plutarch he represents them as immortal, not merely long-lived;
and he has more to say about the substance of their bodies and less
concerning their relations with disembodied souls.

[Sidenote: Apuleius in the middle ages.]

Apuleius would have been a well-known name in the middle ages, if only
indirectly through the use made by Augustine in _The City of God_[1114]
of the _Metamorphoses_ in describing magic and of the _De deo Socratis_
in discussing demons.[1115] He also speaks of Apuleius in three of
his letters,[1116] declaring that for all his magic arts he could win
neither a throne nor judicial power. Augustine was not quite sure
whether Apuleius had actually been transformed into an ass or not. A
century earlier Lactantius[1117] spoke of the many marvels remembered
of Apuleius. That manuscripts of the _Metamorphoses_, _Apology_ and
_Florida_ were not numerous until after the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries may be inferred from the fact that all the extant manuscripts
seem to be derived from a single one of the later eleventh century,
written in a Lombard hand and perhaps from Monte Cassino.[1118]
The article on Apuleius in Pauly and Wissowa states that the best
manuscripts of his other works are an eleventh century codex at
Brussels and a twelfth century manuscript at Munich,[1119] but does not
mention a twelfth century manuscript of the _De deo Socratis_ in the
British Museum.[1120] Another indication that in the twelfth century
there were manuscripts of Apuleius in England or at Chartres and Paris
is that John of Salisbury borrows from the _De dogmate Platonis_ in
his _De nugis curialium_.[1121] In the earlier middle ages there was
ascribed to Apuleius a work on herbs of which we shall treat later.

                             CHAPTER VIII


 Compared with Apuleius—Philostratus’s sources—Time and space
 covered—Philostratus’s audience—Object of the _Life_—Apollonius
 charged with magic—A confusion of terms—The _Magi_ and
 magic—Apollonius and the _Magi_—Philostratus on wizards—Apollonius
 and wizards—Quacks and old-wives—The Brahmans—Marvels of the
 Brahmans—Magical methods of the Brahmans—Medicine of the
 Brahmans—Some signs of astrology—Interest in natural science—Natural
 law or special providence?—Cases of scepticism—Anecdotes of
 animals—Dragons of India—Occult virtues of gems—Absence of
 number mysticism—_Mantike_ or the art of divination—Divining
 power of Apollonius—Dreams—Interpretation of omens—Animals and
 divination—Divination by fire—Other so-called predictions—Apollonius
 and the demons—Not all demons are evil—Philostratus’s faith in
 demons—The ghost of Achilles—Healing the sick and raising the
 dead—Other marvels—Golden wrynecks and the _iunx_—Why named
 _iunx_?—Apollonius in the middle ages.

[Sidenote: Compared with Apuleius.]

Some fifty years after the birth of Apuleius occurred that of
Philostratus, whose career and interests were somewhat similar,
although he came from the Aegean island of Lemnos instead of the
neighborhood of Carthage and wrote in Greek rather than Latin. But
like Apuleius he was a student of rhetoric and went first to Athens
and then to Rome. The resemblance is perhaps closer between Apuleius
and Apollonius of Tyana, whose life Philostratus wrote and of whom
we know more than of his biographer. Like Apuleius Apollonius had
to defend himself in court against the accusation of magic, and
Philostratus gives us what purports to be his apology on that occasion.
Two centuries afterwards Augustine in one of his letters[1122] names
Apollonius and Apuleius as examples of men who were addicted to the
magic art and who, the pagans said, performed greater miracles than
Christ did. A century before Augustine Lactantius states[1123] that a
certain philosopher who had “vomited forth” three books “against the
Christian religion and name” had compared the miracles of Apollonius
favorably with those of Christ; Lactantius marvels that he did not
mention Apuleius as well. Like Apuleius, Apollonius was a man of broad
learning who traveled widely and sought initiation into mysteries and
cults. Apuleius was a Platonist; Apollonius, a Pythagorean. We may
also note a resemblance between the _Metamorphoses_ and the _Life of
Apollonius_. Both seem to elaborate earlier writings and both have
much to say of transformations, wizards, demons, and the occult. The
_Life of Apollonius of Tyana_, however, must be taken more seriously
than the _Metamorphoses_. If the African’s work is a rhetorical
romance embodying a certain autobiographical element, a Milesian tale
to which personal religious experiences are annexed, then the work by
Philostratus is a rhetorical biography with a tinge of romance and a
good deal of sermonizing.

[Sidenote: Philostratus’s sources.]

Philostratus[1124] composed the _Life of Apollonius_ about 217 A. D. at
the request of the learned wife of the emperor Septimius Severus, to
whose literary circle he belonged. The empress had come into possession
of some hitherto unknown memoirs of Apollonius by a certain Damis of
Nineveh, who had been his disciple and had accompanied him upon many of
his travels. Some member of Damis’s family had brought these documents
to the empress’s attention. Some scholars incline to the view that she
was deceived by an impostor, but it hardly seems that there would be
sufficient profit in the venture to induce anyone to take the pains
to forge such memoirs. Also I can see no reason why a contemporary
of Apollonius should not have said and believed everything which
Philostratus represents Damis as saying; on the contrary it seems to me
just what would be said by a naïf, gullible, and devoted disciple, who
was inclined to exaggerate the abilities and achievements of his master
and to take literally everything that Apollonius uttered ironically or
figuratively. Other accounts of Apollonius were already in existence
by a Maximus of Aegae, where Apollonius had spent part of his life,
and by Moeragenes, but the memoirs of Damis seem to have offered much
new material. Philostratus accordingly wrote a new life based largely
upon Damis, but also making use of the will and epistles of Apollonius,
many of which the emperor Hadrian had earlier collected, and of the
traditions still current in the cities and temples which Apollonius had
frequented and which Philostratus now took the trouble to visit. It
has sometimes been suggested, chiefly by Christian writers intent upon
discrediting the career of Apollonius, that Philostratus invented Damis
and his memoirs. But Philostratus seems straightforward in describing
the pains he has been to in preparing the _Life_, and certainly is
more explicit and systematic in stating his sources than other ancient
biographers like Plutarch and Suetonius are. He appears to follow his
sources rather closely and not to invent new incidents, although he
may, like Thucydides and other ancient historians, have taken liberties
with the speeches and arguments put into his characters’ mouths. And
through the work, despite his belief in demons and marvels, he now and
then gives evidence of a moderate and sceptical mind, at least for his

[Sidenote: Time and space covered.]

Apollonius lived in the first century of our era and died during the
reign of Nerva well advanced in years. It is therefore of a period
over a century before his own that Philostratus writes. He is said to
commit a number of errors in history and geography,[1125] but we must
remember that mistakes in geography were a failing of the best ancient
historians such as Polybius, and the general picture drawn of the
emperors and politics of Apollonius’s time is not far wrong. It is
true that Philostratus also makes use of tradition which has gradually
formed since the death of Apollonius, and introduces explanations or
comments of his own on various matters. It is, however, not the facts
either of Apollonius’s career or of his times that concern us but the
beliefs and superstitions which we find in Philostratus’s _Life_ of
him. Whether these are of the first, second, or early third century is
scarcely necessary or possible for us to distinguish. If Damis records
them, Philostratus accepts them, and the probability is that they
apply not only to all three centuries but to a long period before and
after. The territory covered in the _Life_ is almost as extensive; it
ranges all over the Roman Empire, alludes occasionally to the Celts
and Scythians, and opens up Ethiopia and India[1126] to our gaze.
Apollonius was a great traveler and there are many interesting and
informing passages concerning ships, sailing, pilots, merchants and

[Sidenote: Philostratus’s audience.]

If we ask further, for what class of readers was the _Life_ intended,
the answer is, for the intellectual and learned. Apollonius himself
was distinctly a Hellene. Philostratus represents him as often quoting
Homer and other bygone Greek authors, or mentioning names from early
Greek history such as Lycurgus and Aristides. One of his aims was to
restore the degenerate Greek cities of his own day to their ancient
morality. Furthermore, Apollonius never cared for many disciples, and
neither required them to observe all the rules of life which he himself
followed, nor admitted them to all his interviews with other sages and
his initiations into sacred mysteries. This aloofness of the sage is
somewhat reflected in his biographer. The _Life_ is an attempt not to
popularize the teachings of Apollonius but to justify him before the
learned world.

[Sidenote: Object of the _Life_.]

The charge had been frequently made that Apollonius came illegitimately
by his wisdom and acquired it violently by magic. Philostratus would
restore him to the ranks of true philosophers who gained wisdom by
worthy and licit methods. He declares that he was not a wizard, as
many suppose, but a notable Pythagorean, a man of broad culture, an
intellectual and moral teacher, a religious ascetic and reformer,
probably even a prophet of divine and superhuman nature. It is not
now so generally held by Christian writers as it used to be that
Philostratus wrote the _Life_ with the Gospel story of Christ in
mind, and that his purpose was to imitate or to parody or to oppose
a rival narrative to the Christian story and teaching. At no point
in the _Life_ does Philostratus betray unmistakably even a passing
acquaintance with the Gospels, much less display any sign of animus
against them. Moreover, the Christian historian and apologist,
Eusebius, who lived in the century following Philostratus and was
familiar with his _Life_ of Apollonius, in writing a reply to a
treatise in which Hierocles, a provincial governor under Diocletian,
had compared Apollonius with Jesus, distinctly states that Hierocles
was the first to suggest such an idea.[1128] Such similarities then as
may exist between the _Life_ and the Gospels must be taken as examples
of beliefs common to that age.

[Sidenote: Apollonius charged with magic.]

Apollonius was accused of sorcery or magic during his lifetime by the
rival philosopher Euphrates. The four books on Apollonius written
by Moeragenes also portrayed him as a wizard;[1129] and Eusebius in
his reply to Hierocles ascribed the miracles wrought by Apollonius
to sorcery and the aid of evil demons.[1130] Earlier the satirist
Lucian described Alexander the pseudo-prophet as having been in his
youth an apprentice to “one of the charlatans who deal in magic and
mystic incantations, ... a native of Tyana, an associate of the great
Apollonius, and acquainted with all his heroics.”[1131]

[Sidenote: A confusion of terms]

In defending his hero against these charges Philostratus is guilty
himself both of some ambiguous use of terms and of some loose thinking.
The same ambiguous terminology, however, will be found in other
discussions of magic. In a few passages Philostratus denies that
Apollonius was a μάγος but much oftener exculpates him from the charge
of being a γόης or γοήτης. With the latter word or words there is no
difficulty. It means a wizard, sorcerer, or enchanter, and is always
employed in a sinister or disreputable sense. With the term μάγος the
case is different, as with the Latin _magus_. It may signify an evil
magician, or it may refer to one of the Magi of the East, who are
generally regarded as wise and good men. This delicate distinction,
however, is not easy to maintain and Philostratus fails to do so,
while Mr. Conybeare in his English translation[1132] makes confusion
worse confounded not only by translating μάγος as “wizard” instead
of “magician,” but by sometimes doing this when it really should be
rendered as “one of the Magi.” It may also be noted that Philostratus
locates the Magi in Babylonia as well as in Persia.

[Sidenote: The Magi and magic]

To begin with, in his second chapter Philostratus says that some
consider Apollonius a magician “because he consorted with the
Magi of the Babylonians, and the Brahmans of the Indians, and the
Gymnosophists in Egypt.” But they are wrong in this. “For Empedocles
and Pythagoras himself and Democritus, although they associated with
the Magi and spake many divine utterances, yet did not stoop to the
art” (of magic). Plato, too, he goes on to say, although he visited
Egypt and its priests and prophets, was never regarded as a magician.
In this passage, then, Philostratus closely associates the Magi with
the magic art, and I am not sure whether the last “Magi” should not
be “magicians.” On the other hand his acquittal of Democritus and
Pythagoras from the charge of magic does not agree with Pliny, who
ascribed a large amount of magic to them both.

[Sidenote: Apollonius and the Magi.]

Apollonius himself evidently did not regard the Magi whom he met in
Babylon and Susa as evil magicians. One of the chief aims of his scheme
of oriental travel “was to acquaint himself thoroughly with their
lore.” He wished to discover whether they were wise in divine things,
as they were said to be[1133]. Sacrifices and religious rites were
performed under their supervision[1134]. Apollonius did not permit
Damis to accompany him when he visited the Magi at noon and again about
midnight and conversed with them[1135]. But Apollonius himself said
that he learned some things from them and taught them some things;
he told Damis that they were “wise men, but not in all respects”; on
leaving their country he asked the king to give the presents which
the monarch had intended for Apollonius himself to the Magi, whom
he described then as “men who both are wise and wholly devoted to

[Sidenote: Philostratus on wizards.]

Quite different is the attitude towards witchcraft and wizards of both
Apollonius and his biographer. In the opinion of Philostratus wizards
are of all men most wretched[1137]. They try to violate nature and
to overcome fate by such methods as inquisition of spirits, barbaric
sacrifices, incantations and besmearings. Simple-minded folk attribute
great powers to them; and athletes desirous of winning victories,
shopkeepers intent upon success in business ventures, and lovers in
especial are continually resorting to them and apparently never lose
faith in them despite repeated failures, despite occasional exposure
or ridicule of their methods in books and writing, and despite the
condemnation of witchcraft both by law and nature.[1138] Apollonius
was certainly no wizard, argues Philostratus, for he never opposed the
Fates but only predicted what they would bring to pass, and he acquired
this foreknowledge not by sorcery but by divine revelation.[1139]

[Sidenote: Apollonius and wizards.]

Nevertheless Apollonius is frequently accused of being a wizard
by others in the pages of Philostratus. At Athens he was refused
initiation into the mysteries on this ground,[1140] and at Lebadea the
priests wished to exclude him from the oracular cave of Trophonius for
the same reason.[1141] When the dogs guarding the temple of Dictynna
in Crete fawned upon him instead of barking at his approach, the
guardians of the shrine arrested him as a wizard and would-be temple
robber who had bewitched the dogs by something that he had given
them to eat.[1142] Apollonius also had to defend himself against the
accusation of witchcraft in his hearing or trial before Domitian.[1143]
He then denied that one is a wizard merely because one has prescience,
or that wearing linen garments proves one a sorcerer. Wizards shun the
shrines and temples of the gods; they make use of trenches dug in the
earth and invoke the gods of the lower world. They are greedy for gain
and pseudo-philosophers. They possess no true science, depending for
success in their art upon the stupidity of their dupes and devotees.
They imagine what does not exist and disbelieve the truth. They work
their sorcery by night and in darkness when those employing them
cannot see or hear well. Apollonius himself was accused to Domitian
of having sacrificed an Arcadian boy at night and consulted his
entrails with Nerva in order to determine the latter’s prospects of
becoming emperor.[1144] When before his trial Domitian was about to
put Apollonius in fetters, the sage proposed the dilemma that if he
were a wizard he could not be kept in bonds, or that if Domitian were
able to fetter him, he was obviously no wizard.[1145] This need not
imply, however, that Apollonius believed that wizards really could free
themselves, for he was at times ironical. If so, Domitian replied in
kind by assuring him that he would at least keep him in fetters until
he transformed himself into water or a wild beast or a tree.

[Sidenote: Quacks and old-wives.]

Closely akin to the _goëtes_ or wizards are the old hags and
quack-doctors who offer one Indian spices or boxes supposed to contain
bits of stone taken from the moon, stars, or depths of earth.[1146]
Likewise the divining old-wives who go about with sieves in their hands
and pretend by means of their divination to heal sick animals for
shepherds and cowherds.[1147] We also read that Apollonius expelled
from the cities along the Hellespont various Egyptians and Chaldeans
who were collecting money on the pretense of offering sacrifices to
avert the earthquakes which were then occurring.[1148]

[Sidenote: The Brahmans.]

We have heard Philostratus mention the Brahmans of India in the same
breath with the Magi of Persia and imply that Apollonius’s association
with them contributed to his reputation as a magician.[1149] In another
passage[1150] Philostratus places _goëtes_ and Brahmans in unfortunate
juxtaposition, and, immediately after condemning the wizards and
defending Apollonius from the charge of sorcery, goes on to say that
when he saw the automatic tripods and cup-bearers of the Indians, he
did not ask how they were operated. “He applauded them, it is true, but
did not think fit to imitate them.” But of course Apollonius should not
even have applauded these automatons, which set food and poured wine
before the guests of the Brahmans, if they were the contrivances of
wizards. And in another passage,[1151] where he defends the signs and
wonders wrought by the Brahmans against the aspersions cast upon them
by the Gymnosophists of Ethiopia, Apollonius explains their practice of
levitation as an act of worship and communion with the sun god, and
hence far removed from the rites performed in deep trenches and hollows
of the earth to the gods of the lower world which we have heard him
mention before as a practice characteristic of wizards.

[Sidenote: Marvels of the Brahmans.]

Nevertheless the feats ascribed to the Brahmans are certainly
sufficiently akin to magic to excuse Philostratus for mentioning them
along with the Magi and wizards and to justify us in considering them.
Indeed, modern scholarship informs us that in the Vedic texts the word
“bráhman” in the neuter means a “charm, rite, formulary, prayer,”
and “that the caste of the Brahmans is nothing but the men who have
_bráhman_ or magic power.”[1152] In marked contrast to the taciturnity
of Apollonius as to his interviews with the Magi of Babylon and Susa
is the long account repeated by Philostratus from Damis of the sayings
and doings of the sages of India. As for Apollonius himself, “he was
always recounting to everyone what the Indians said and did.”[1153]
They knew that he was approaching when he was yet afar off and sent a
messenger who greeted him by name.[1154] Iarchas, their chief, also
knew that Apollonius had a letter for him and that a delta was missing
in it, and he told Apollonius many events of his past life. “We see, O
Apollonius,” he said, “the signs of the soul, tracing them by a myriad
symbols.”[1155] The Brahmans lived in a castle concealed by clouds,
where they rendered themselves invisible at will. The rocks along the
path up to their abode were still marked by the cloven feet, beards,
faces, and backs of the Pans who had tried to scale the height under
the leadership of Dionysus and Heracles, but had been hurled down
headlong.[1156] Here too was a well for testing oaths, a purifying
fire, and the jars in which the winds and rain were bottled up.

[Sidenote: Magical methods of the Brahmans.]

When the messenger of the Brahmans greeted Apollonius by name, the
latter remarked to the astounded Damis, “We have come to men who
are wise without art (ἀτεχνῶς), for they seem to have the gift of
foreknowledge.”[1157] As a matter of fact, however, most of the
subsequent wonders wrought by the Brahmans were not performed without
the use of paraphernalia and rites very similar to those of magic.
Each Brahman carries a staff—or magic wand—and wears a ring, which
are both prized for their occult virtue by which the Brahmans can
accomplish anything they wish.[1158] They clothe themselves in sacred
garments made of “a wool that springs wild from the ground” (cotton?)
and which the earth will not permit anyone else to pluck. Iarchas also
showed Apollonius and Damis a marvelous stone called _Pantarbe_, which
attracted and bound other stones to itself and which, although only
the size of his finger-nail and formed in earth four fathoms deep, had
such virtue that it broke the earth open.[1159] But it required great
skill to secure this gem. “We only,” said the Brahman, “can obtain this
_pantarbe_, partly by doing things and partly by saying things,” in
other words by incantations and magical operations. Before performing
their rite of levitation they bathed and anointed themselves with a
certain drug. “Then they stood like a chorus with Iarchas as leader
and with their rods uplifted struck the earth, which heaving like the
sea-wave raised them up in the air two cubits high.”[1160] The metallic
tripods and cup-bearers which served the king of the country when he
came to visit the Brahmans appeared from nowhere laden with food and
wine exactly as if by magic.[1161]

[Sidenote: Medicine of the Brahmans.]

The medical practice, if we may so call it, of the Brahmans was tinged,
to say the least, with magic. A dislocated hip, indeed, they appear to
have cured by massage, and a blind man and a paralytic are healed by
unspecified methods.[1162] But a boy is cured of inherited alcoholism
by chewing owl’s eggs that have been boiled; a woman who complains
that her sixteen-year-old son has for two years been vexed by a demon
is sent away with a letter full of threats or incantations to employ
against the spirit; and another woman’s sufferings in childbirth are
prevented by directing her husband to enter her chamber with a live
hare concealed in his bosom and to release the hare after he has
walked around his wife once. Iarchas, indeed, attributed the origin
of medicine to divination or divine revelation.[1163] His theory was
that Asclepius, as the son of Apollo, learned by oracles what drugs to
employ for the different diseases, in what amounts to mix the drugs,
what the antidotes for poisons were, and how to use even poisons as
remedies. This last especially he affirmed that no one would dare
attempt without foreknowledge.

[Sidenote: Some signs of astrology.]

The Brahmans seem to have made some use of astrology in working their
feats of magic. Damis at any rate said that when Apollonius bade
farewell to the sages, Iarchas made him a present of seven rings named
after the planets, which he wore in turn upon the appropriate days of
the week.[1164] Perhaps, too, the seven swords of adamant which Iarchas
had rediscovered as a child had some connection with the planets.[1165]
Moeragenes ascribed four books on foretelling the future by the
stars to Apollonius himself, but Philostratus was unable to find any
such work by Apollonius extant in his day.[1166] And unless it be an
allusion to Chaldeans which we have already noted, there is no further
mention of astrology in Philostratus’s _Life_—a rather remarkable fact
considering that he wrote for the court of Septimius Severus, the
builder of the Septizonium.

[Sidenote: Interest in natural science.]

The philosopher Euphrates, who is represented by Philostratus as
jealous of Apollonius, once advised the emperor Vespasian, when
Apollonius was present, to embrace natural philosophy—or a philosophy
in accordance with natural law—but to beware of philosophers who
pretended to have secret intercourse with the gods.[1167] There was
justification in the latter charge against Apollonius, but it should
not be assumed that his mysticism rendered him unfavorable to natural
science. On the contrary he is frequently represented by Philostratus
as whiling away the time along the road by discussing with Damis such
natural problems as the delta of the Nile or the tides at the mouth
of the Guadalquivir. He was especially interested in the habits of
animals and the properties of gems. Vespasian was fond of listening
to “his graphic stories of the rivers of India and the animals” of
that country, as well as to “his statements of what the gods revealed
concerning the empire.”[1168] Some of the questions which Apollonius
put to the Brahmans concerned nature.[1169] He asked of what the world
was composed, and when they said, “Of elements,” he asked if there were
four. They believed, however, in a fifth element, ether, from which the
gods had been generated and which they breathe as men breathe air. They
also regarded the universe as a living animal. He further inquired of
them whether land or sea predominated on the earth’s surface,[1170] and
this same attitude of scientific inquiry and of curiosity about natural
forces and objects is frequently met in the _Life_.

[Sidenote: Natural law or special providence?]

Apollonius believed, as we shall see, in omens and portents, and
interpreted an earthquake at Antioch as a divine warning to the
inhabitants.[1171] The Brahman sages, moreover, regarded prolonged
drought as a punishment visited by the world soul upon human
sinfulness.[1172] On the other hand, Apollonius gave a natural
explanation of volcanoes and denied the myths concerning Enceladus
being imprisoned under Mount Aetna and the battle of the gods and
giants.[1173] And in the case of the earthquake the people had already
accepted it as a portent and were praying in terror, when Apollonius
took the opportunity to warn them to cease from their civil factions.
As a matter of fact, both Apollonius and Philostratus appear to regard
portents as an extraordinary sort of natural phenomena. A knowledge of
natural science helps in recognizing them and in interpreting them.
When a lioness of enormous size with eight whelps in her is slain
by hunters, Apollonius at once recognizes the event as portentous
because as a rule lionesses have whelps only thrice and only three
of them on the first occasion, two in the second litter, and finally
but a single whelp, “but I believe a very big one and preternaturally
fierce.”[1174] Here Apollonius is not in strict agreement with Pliny
and Aristotle[1175] who say that the lioness produces five whelps at
the first birth and one less every succeeding year.

[Sidenote: Cases of scepticism]

The scepticism of Apollonius concerning the Aetna myth is not an
isolated instance. At Sardis he ridiculed the notion that trees
could be older than earth,[1176] and he was one of the few ancients
to question the swan’s song.[1177] He denied “the silly story that
the young of vipers are brought into the world without mothers” as
“consistent neither with nature nor experience,”[1178] and also the
tale that the whelps of the lioness claw their way out into the
world.[1179] In India Apollonius saw a wild ass or unicorn from whose
single horn a magic drinking horn was made.[1180] A draught from this
horn was supposed to protect one for that day from disease, wounds,
fire, or poison, and on that account the king alone was permitted to
hunt the animal and to drink from the horn. When Damis asked Apollonius
if he credited this story, the sage ironically replied that he would
believe it if he found the king of the country to be immortal. Either,
however, the scepticism of Apollonius, as was the case with so many
other ancients and medieval men, was sporadic and inconsistent, or
it came to be overlaid with the credulity of Damis and Philostratus,
as the following example suggests. Iarchas told Damis and Apollonius
flatly that the races described by Scylax of men with long heads or
huge feet with which they were said to shade themselves did not exist
in India or anywhere else; yet in a later book Philostratus states that
the shadow-footed people are a tribe in Ethiopia.[1181]

[Sidenote: Anecdotes of animals.]

At any rate the marvels of India are more frequently credited than
criticized in the _Life_ by Philostratus, and the same holds true of
the extraordinary conduct and well-nigh human intelligence attributed
to animals. Especially delightful reading are six chapters on the
remarkable sagacity of elephants and their love for mankind.[1182]
On this point, as by Pliny, use is made of the work of Juba. We read
again of sick lions eating apes, of the lioness’s love affair with
the panther, of the fondness of leopards for the fragrant gum of a
certain tree and of goats for the cinnamon tree; of apes who are made
to collect pepper for men by appealing to their instinct towards
mimicry;[1183] and of the tiger, whose loins alone are eaten by the
Indians. “For they decline to eat the other parts of this animal,
because they say that as soon as it is born it lifts up its front paws
to the rising sun.”[1184] In the river Hyphasis is a creature like a
white worm which yields when melted down a fat or oil that once set
afire cannot be extinguished and which the king uses to burn walls and
capture cities.[1185] In India are griffins who quarry gold with their
powerful beaks, and the luminous phoenix with its nest of spices and
swan-like funeral song.[1186]

[Sidenote: Dragons of India.]

Especially remarkable are the snakes or dragons with which all India
is filled and which often are of enormous size, thirty or even seventy
cubits long.[1187] Those found in the marshes are sluggish and have
no crests; but those on the hills and ridges move faster than the
swiftest rivers and have both beards and crests.[1188] Those in the
plain engage in combats with elephants which terminate fatally for
both parties as we have already learned from Pliny.[1189] The mountain
dragons have bushy beards, fiery crests, golden scales, and a ferocious
glance.[1190] They burrow into the earth, making a noise like clashing
brass, or go hissing down to the shore and swim far out to sea.
Terrifying as they are, the Indians charm them by showing them golden
characters embroidered on a cloak of scarlet and by incantations of a
secret wisdom. They eat the dragon’s heart and liver in order to be
able to understand the language and thoughts of animals.[1191]

[Sidenote: Occult virtues of gems.]

The dragons, however, are prized more for the precious stones in their
heads, which the Indians quickly cut off as soon as they have bewitched
them. The pupils of the eyes of the hill dragons are a fiery stone
possessing irresistible virtue for many occult purposes,[1192] while in
the heads of the mountain dragons are many brilliant stones of flashing
colors which exert occult virtue if set in a ring, “and they say that
Gyges had such a ring.”[1193] But there are many marvelous stones
outside the heads of dragons. “Who does not know the habits of birds,”
says Apollonius to Damis in one of his disquisitions upon natural
phenomena,[1194] “and that eagles and storks will not build their nests
without placing in them, the one the stone _aetites_, and the other the
_lychnites_, as aids in hatching and to drive snakes away?” On parting
from the Indian king Phraotes, Apollonius as usual refused to accept
money presents but picked up one of the gems that were offered him with
the exclamation, “O rare stone, how opportunely and providentially have
I found you!”[1195] Philostratus supposes that he detected some occult
and divine power in this particular stone. The Brahmans had gems so
huge that from one of them a goblet could be carved large enough to
slake the thirst of four men in midsummer, but in this case nothing is
said of occult virtue.[1196] The Brahman Iarchas felt sure that he was
the reincarnation of the hero Ganges, son of the river Ganges, because
as a mere child he knew where to dig for the seven swords of adamant
which Ganges had fixed in the earth.[1197] Presumably these were magic
swords and their virtue in part due to the stone adamant of which they
were made. Less is said in the _Life_ of the virtues of herbs than of
gems, but the Indians made a nuptial ointment or love-charm from balm
distilled from trees,[1198] and drugs and poisons are mentioned more
than once, mandragora being described as a soporific drug rather than a
deadly poison.[1199]

[Sidenote: Absence of number mysticism.]

Considering that Apollonius was a Pythagorean, there is surprisingly
little said concerning perfect numbers and their mystic significance.
Aside from the seven rings and seven swords already mentioned, about
the only instance is the question asked by Apollonius whether eighteen,
the number of the Brahman sages at the time of his visit, had any
especial importance.[1200] He remarked that eighteen was not a square,
nor a number usually held in esteem and honor like ten, twelve, and
sixteen. The Brahmans agreed that there was no particular significance
in eighteen, and further informed him that they maintained no fixed
number of members but had varied from only one to as many as seventy
according to the available supply of worthy men.

[Sidenote: _Mantike_ or the art of divination.]

If Philostratus denies that Apollonius was a magician, he does depict
him as endowed with prophetic gifts, with power over demons, and with
“secret wisdom.” He rather likes to give the impression that the sage
foretold things by innate prophetic gift or divine inspiration, but
even μαντική or the art of divination is not condemned as γοητεία
or witchcraft was. Iarchas the Brahman says that those who delight
in _mantike_ become divine thereby and contribute to the safety
of mankind.[1201] Apollonius himself, when condemning wizards as
pseudo-wise, made the reservation that _mantike_, if true in its
predictions, was not a pseudo-science, although he professed ignorance
whether it could be called an art or not.[1202] He denied that he
practiced it, when he was examined by Tigellinus, the favorite of Nero,
who was persecuting philosophers on the ground that they were addicted
to _mantike_.[1203] His accusers before Domitian again adduced his
alleged practice of divination as evidence that he was a wizard.[1204]

[Sidenote: Divining power of Apollonius.]

If Apollonius practiced neither wizardry nor _mantike_, the question
arises how he was able to foretell the future. In his trial before
Domitian he did not attempt to deny that he had predicted the plague
at Ephesus, but attributed his “sense of the coming disaster” to his
abstemious diet, which kept his senses clear and enabled him to see as
in an unclouded mirror “all that is happening or about to occur.”[1205]
For he was credited with knowledge of distant events the moment they
occurred as well as with foreknowledge of the future. Thus at Ephesus
he was aware of the assassination of Domitian at Rome; and at Tarsus,
although he arrived after the incident had occurred, he was able to
describe and to find the mad dog by whom a boy had been bitten.[1206]
Iarchas told Apollonius that health and purity were requisite for
divination;[1207] and Apollonius in turn, in recounting his life story
to the naked sages of Egypt, represented the Pythagorean philosophy
as appearing before him and promising, “And when you are pure, I will
grant you the faculty of foreknowledge.”[1208]

[Sidenote: Dreams.]

Apollonius often was warned by dreams. When he dreamt of fish who were
cast gasping upon dry land and who appealed for succour to a dolphin
swimming by, he knew that he ought to visit and restore the graves and
assist the descendants of the Eretrians whom Darius had taken captive
to the Persian kingdom over five centuries before.[1209] Another dream
he interpreted as a command to visit Crete.[1210] In defending his
linen apparel before Domitian he declared, “It is a pure substance
under which to sleep at night, for to those who live as I do dreams
bring the truest of their revelations.”[1211] He was not the only
dreamer of the time, however, and when some of his followers were
afraid to accompany him to Rome in Nero’s reign, they made warning
dreams their excuse for deserting him.[1212]

[Sidenote: Interpretation of omens.]

It has been seen that Apollonius not only had prophetic dreams but was
skilful in interpreting them. He was equally adept in explaining the
meaning of omens. The dead lion with her eight unborn whelps he took as
a sign that Damis and he would remain a year and eight months in that
land.[1213] When Damis objected that Homer interpreted the sparrow and
her eight nestlings whom the snake devoured as nine years’ duration of
the Trojan war, Apollonius retorted that the birds had been hatched but
that the whelps, being yet unborn, could not signify complete years. On
another occasion he interpreted the birth of a three-headed child as a
sign of the year of the three emperors.[1214]

[Sidenote: Animals and divination.]

Such interpretation of dreams and omens suggests an art or arts of
divination rather than foreknowledge by direct divine inspiration. So
does the passage in which Apollonius informs Domitian, when accused
before him of having divined the future by sacrificing a boy, that
human entrails are inferior to those of animals for purposes of
divination, since the beasts are less perturbed by knowledge of their
approaching death.[1215] Apollonius himself would not sacrifice even
animal victims, but he enlarged his powers of divination during his
sojourn among the Arab tribes by learning to understand the language of
animals and to listen to the birds as these predict the future.[1216]
The Arabs acquire this power by eating, some say the heart, others the
liver, of dragons,—a fact which gave the church historian Eusebius an
opportunity to charge Apollonius with having broken his taboo of animal

[Sidenote: Divination by fire.]

Although he did not sacrifice animals and divine from their entrails,
Apollonius appears to have employed practices akin to those of the
art of pyromancy when he threw a handful of frankincense into the
sacrificial fire with a prayer to the sun, “and watched to see how
the smoke of it curled upwards, and how it grew turbid, and in how
many points it shot up; and in a manner he caught the meaning of the
fire, and observed how it appeared of good omen and pure.”[1217] Again
he visited an Egyptian temple and sacrificed an image of a bull made
of frankincense and told the priest that if he really understood the
science of divination by fire (ἐμπύρου σοφίας), he would see many
things revealed in the circle of the rising sun.[1218]

[Sidenote: Other so-called predictions.]

It should be added that only a very ardent admirer of Apollonius or an
equally ardent seeker after prophecies would see anything prophetic
in some of the apparently chance remarks of the sage which have been
perverted into predictions. At Ephesus he did not actually predict the
plague, which had already begun to spread judging from the account
of Philostratus, but rather warned the heedless population to take
measures to prevent its becoming general.[1219] When visiting the
isthmus of Corinth he began to say that it would be cut through, an
idea which had doubtless occurred again and again to many; but then
said that it would not be cut through.[1220] This sane, if somewhat
vacillating, state of mind received confirmation soon afterwards when
Nero attempted an Isthmian canal but left it uncompleted. Another
similarly ambiguous utterance was elicited from Apollonius by an
eclipse of the sun accompanied by thunder: “There shall be some great
event and there shall not be.”[1221] This was believed to receive
miraculous fulfillment three days later when a thunderbolt dashed
the cup out of which Nero was drinking from his hands but left him
unharmed. Once Apollonius saved his life by changing from a ship which
sank soon afterwards to another vessel.[1222] An instance of more
specific prophecy is the case of the consul Aelian, who testified that
when he was but a tribune under Vespasian, Apollonius took him aside
and told him his name and country and parentage, “and you foretold
to me that I should hold this high office which is accounted by the
multitude the highest of all.”[1223] But Aelian may have exaggerated
the accuracy of Apollonius’s prediction, or the latter may have made a
shrewd guess that Aelian was likely to rise to high office.

[Sidenote: Apollonius and the demons.]

The divining faculty of Apollonius enabled him to detect the presence
and influence of demons, phantoms, and goblins, whose ways he
understood as well as the language of the birds. At Ephesus he detected
the true cause of the plague in a ragged old beggar whom he ordered
the people to stone to death.[1224] At this command the blinking eyes
of the aged mendicant suddenly shot forth malevolent and fiery gleams
and revealed his demon character. Afterwards, when the people removed
the stones, they found underneath, pounded to a pulp, an enormous hound
still vomiting foam as mad dogs do. Later, when accused of magic
before Domitian, Apollonius requested that the emperor question him
in private about the causes of this pestilence at Ephesus, which he
said were too deep to be discussed publicly.[1225] And earlier in the
reign of Nero, when asked by Tigellinus how he got the better of demons
and phantasms, he evaded the question by a saucy retort.[1226] On one
occasion, however, we are told that he got rid of a ghostly apparition
by heaping abuse upon it;[1227] and a satyr, who remained invisible
but created annoyance by running amuck through the camp, he disposed
of by the expedient of filling a trough with wine and letting the
spirit get drunk on it. When the wine had all disappeared, Apollonius
led his companions to the cave of the nymphs where the satyr was now
visible in a drunken sleep.[1228] He also reformed the character of a
licentious youth by expelling a demon from him,[1229] and at Corinth
exposed a lamia who, under the disguise of a dainty and wealthy lady,
was fattening up a beautiful youth named Menippus with the intention of
eventually devouring his blood.[1230] On his return by sea from India
Apollonius passed a sacred island where lived a sea nymph or female
demon who was as destructive to mariners as Scylla or the Sirens were
of old.

[Sidenote: Not all demons are evil]

But the word “demon” is not always employed by Philostratus in the
sense of an evil spirit. The annunciation of the birth of Apollonius
was made to his mother by Proteus in the form of an Egyptian
demon.[1231] Damis looked upon Apollonius himself as a demon and
worshiped him as such, when he heard him say that he comprehended not
only all human languages but also those things concerning which men
maintain silence.[1232] In a letter to Euphrates[1233] Apollonius
affirms that the all-wise Pythagoras should be classed among demons.
But when Domitian, on first meeting Apollonius said that he looked
like a demon, the sage replied that the emperor was confusing demons
and human beings.[1234]

[Sidenote: Philostratus’s faith in demons.]

Philostratus adds his own bit of personal testimony to the existence of
demons, although it cannot be said to be very convincing. After telling
the satyr story he warns his readers not to be incredulous as to the
existence of satyrs or to doubt that they make love. For they should
not mistrust what is supported by experience and by Philostratus’s own
word. For he knew in Lemnos a youth of his own age whose mother was
said to be visited by a satyr, and such he probably was, since he wore
a fawn skin tied around his neck by the two front paws.[1235]

[Sidenote: The ghost of Achilles.]

Apollonius had an interview with the ghost of Achilles which strongly
suggests necromancy. He sent his companions on board ship and passed
the night alone at the hero’s tomb. Nor did he allude to what had
happened until questioned by the curious Damis. He then averred that
his method of invoking the dead had not been that of Odysseus, but
that he had prayed to Achilles much as the Indians do to their heroes.
A slight earthquake then occurred and Achilles appeared. At first he
was five cubits tall but gradually increased to some twelve cubits in
height. At cock-crow he vanished in a flash of summer lightning.[1236]

[Sidenote: Healing the sick and raising the dead.]

Apollonius, as well as the Brahmans, wrought some cures. One was of a
boy who had been bitten by a mad dog and consequently “behaved exactly
like a dog, for he barked and howled and went on all fours.”[1237]
Apollonius first found and quieted the dog, and then made it lick
the wound, a homeopathic treatment which cured the boy. It now only
remained to cure the dog, too, and this the philosopher effected by
praying to the river which was near by and then making the dog swim
across it. “For,” concludes Philostratus, “a drink of water will cure a
mad dog if he only can be induced to take it.” The modern reader will
suspect that the dog was not mad to begin with and that Apollonius
cleverly cured the boy’s complaint by the same force that had induced
it—suggestion. Apollonius once revived a maiden who was being borne to
the grave by touching her and saying something to her, but Philostratus
honestly admits that he is not sure whether he restored her to life
or detected signs of life in the body which had escaped the notice of
everyone else.[1238]

[Sidenote: Other marvels.]

When Apollonius was brought before Tigellinus, the scroll on which
the charges against him had been written was found to have become
quite blank when Tigellinus unrolled it.[1239] Upon that occasion
and again before Domitian he intimated that his body could not be
bound or slain against his will.[1240] The former contention he
proved to the satisfaction of Damis, who visited him in prison, by
suddenly removing his leg from the fetters and then inserting it
again.[1241] Damis regarded this exhibition as a divine miracle, since
Apollonius performed it without magical ceremony or incantations. He
is also represented as escaping from his bonds at about midnight when
imprisoned later in life in Crete.[1242] Philostratus, too, implies
that he vanished miraculously from the courtroom of Domitian and that
he sometimes passed from one place to another in an incredibly short
time, and is somewhat doubtful whether he ever died. But we have seen
that even on the testimony of Damis and Philostratus themselves many
of the marvels and predictions of Apollonius were not “artless” but
involved a knowledge of contemporary natural science and medicine,
or of arts of divination, or the employment, in a way not unlike the
procedure of magic, of forces and materials outside himself, namely,
the occult virtues of things in nature or incantations, rites, and

[Sidenote: Golden wrynecks and the _iunx_.]

So much for Apollonius and his magic, but the _Life_ contains some
interesting allusions to the ἴυγξ or wryneck, which throw light upon
the use of that bird in Greek magic, but which have seldom been
noted and then not correctly interpreted.[1243] The wryneck was so
much employed in Greek magic, as references to it from Pindar to
Theocritus show, that the word _iunx_ was sometimes used as a synonym
or figurative expression for spells or charms in general. Philostratus,
too, employs it in this sense, representing the Gymnosophists
as accusing the Brahmans of “appealing to the crowd with varied
enchantments (or _iunges_).”[1244] But in other passages he makes it
clear that the wryneck is still employed as a magic bird. Describing
the royal palace at Babylon[1245] he states that the Magi have hung
four golden wrynecks, which they themselves attune and which they
call the tongues of the gods, from the ceiling of the judgment hall
to remind the king of divine judgment and not to set himself above
mankind. Golden wrynecks were also suspended in the Pythian temple at
Delphi, and in this connection they are said to possess some of the
virtue of the Sirens,[1246] or, as Mr. Cook translates it, “to echo
the persuasive note of siren voices.” These two passages seem to point
clearly to the employment of mechanical metal birds which sang and
moved as if by magic. The Greek mathematician Hero in his explanation
of mechanical devices employed in temples tells how to make a bird turn
itself about and whistle by turning a wheel.[1247]

[Sidenote: Why named _iunx_?]

Now this is precisely what the wryneck does in its “wonderful way
of writhing its head and neck” and emitting hissing sounds. The
bird’s “unmistakable note” is “que, que, que, repeated many times
in succession, at first rapidly, but gradually slowing and in a
continually falling key.”[1248] I would therefore suggest that as the
English name for the bird is derived from its writhing its neck, so the
Greek name comes from its cry, for “que” and the root ἰυγ, if repeated
rapidly many times in succession, sound much alike.[1249]

[Sidenote: Apollonius in the middle ages.]

The name, Apollonius, continued to be associated with magic in the
middle ages, when the _Golden Flowers_ of Apollonius, a work on the
notory art or theurgy,[1250] is found in the manuscripts. And we shall
find Cecco d’Ascoli[1251] in the early fourteenth century citing a
“book of magic art” by Apollonius and also a treatise on spirits, _De
angelica factione_. In 1412 Amplonius listed in the catalogue of his
manuscripts a “book of Apollonius the magician or philosopher which is
called Elizinus.”[1252] Works on the causes and properties of things
are also ascribed to Apollonius in medieval manuscripts,[1253] and
a Balenus or Belenus to whom works on astrological images and seals
are ascribed in the manuscripts[1254] is perhaps a corruption for

                              CHAPTER IX


 Authors to be considered—Their standpoint—_De divinatione_; argument
 of Quintus—Cicero attacks past authority—Divination distinct from
 natural science—Unreasonable in method—Requires violation of natural
 law—Cicero and astrology—His crude historical criticism—Favorinus
 against astrologers—Sextus Empiricus—_Lucius_, or _The Ass_: is it
 by Lucian?—Career of Lucian—_Alexander the pseudo-prophet_—Magical
 procedure in medicine satirized—Snake-charming—A Hyperborean
 magician—Some ghost stories—Pancrates, the magician—Credulity and
 scepticism—_Menippus_, or _Necromancy_—Astrological interpretation
 of Greek myth—History and defense of astrology—Lucian not always
 sceptical—Lucian and medicine—Inevitable intermingling of scepticism
 and superstition—Lucian on writing history.

[Sidenote: Authors to be considered.]

Having noted the large amount of magic that still existed both in the
leading works of natural science of the early Roman empire and in
the more general literature of that period, it is only fair that we
should note such extremes of scepticism towards the superstitions then
current as can be found during the same period. They are, however,
few and far between, and we shall have to go back to the close of
the Republican period for the best instance in the _De divinatione_
of Cicero. As Pliny’s _Natural History_ was mainly a compilation of
earlier Greek science, so Cicero’s arguments against divination were
not entirely original with him. As his other philosophical writings
are largely indebted to the Greeks, so his attack upon divination
is supposed to be under considerable obligations to Clitomachus and
Panaetius,[1256] philosophers of the New Academy and the Stoic school
who flourished respectively at Carthage and Athens and at Rhodes and
Rome in the second century before our era. We shall next briefly
note the criticisms of astrologers and astrology made by Favorinus,
a rhetorician from Gaul who resided at Rome under Hadrian and was a
friend of Plutarch but whose argument against the astrologers has been
preserved only in the _Attic Nights_ of Aulus Gellius,[1257] and by
Sextus Empiricus,[1258] a sceptical philosopher who wrote about 200.
Finally we shall consider Lucian’s satirical depiction of various
superstitions of his time.

[Sidenote: Their standpoint.]

It will be noticed that no one of these critics of magic, if we may so
designate them, is primarily a natural scientist. Cicero and Lucian and
Favorinus are primarily men of letters and rhetoricians. And all four
of our critics write to a greater or less extent from the professed
standpoint of a general sceptical attitude in all matters of philosophy
and not merely in the matter of superstition. Thus the attack of
Sextus Empiricus upon astrology occurs in a work which is directed
against learning in general, and in which he assails grammarians,
rhetoricians, geometricians, arithmeticians, students of music,
logicians, physicists, and students of ethics, as well as the casters
of horoscopes. Aulus Gellius did not know whether to take the arguments
of Favorinus against the astrologers seriously or not. He says that he
heard Favorinus make the speech the substance of which he repeats, but
that he is unable to state whether the philosopher really meant what he
said or argued merely in order to exercise and to display his genius.
There was reason for this perplexity of Aulus Gellius, since Favorinus
was inclined to such _tours de force_ as eulogies of Thersites or of
Quartan Fever.

[Sidenote: _De divinatione_: argument of Quintus.]

_De divinatione_ takes the form of a supposititious conversation, or
better, informal debate, between the author and his brother Quintus.
In the first book Quintus, in a rather rambling and leisurely fashion
and with occasional repetition of ideas, upholds divination to the
best of his ability, citing many reported instances of successful
recourse to it in antiquity. In the second book Tully proceeds with a
somewhat patronizing air to pull entirely to pieces the arguments of
his brother who assents with cheerful readiness to their demolition.
On the whole the appeal to the past is the main point in the argument
of Quintus. What race or state, he asks, has not believed in some form
of divination? “For before the revelation of philosophy, which was
discovered but recently, public opinion had no doubt of the truth of
this art; and after philosophy emerged no philosopher of authority
thought otherwise. I have mentioned Pythagoras, Democritus, Socrates.
I have left out no one of the ancients save Xenophanes. I have
added the Old Academy, the Peripatetics, the Stoics. Epicurus alone
dissented.”[1259] Quintus closes his long argument in favor of the
truth of divination by solemnly asserting that he does not approve of
sorcerers, nor of those who prophesy for the sake of gain, nor of the
practice of questioning the spirits of the dead—which nevertheless, he
says, was a custom of his brother’s friend Appius.[1260]

[Sidenote: Cicero attacks past authority.]

When Tully’s turn to speak comes, he rudely disturbs his brother’s
reliance upon tradition. “I think it not the part of a philosopher
to employ witnesses, who are only haply true and often purposely
false and deceiving. He ought to show why a thing is so by arguments
and reasons, not by events, especially those I cannot credit.”[1261]
“Antiquity,” Cicero declares later, “has erred in many respects.”[1262]
The existence of the art of divination in every age and nation has
little effect upon him. There is nothing, he asserts, so widespread as

[Sidenote: Divination distinct from natural science.]

Both brothers distinguish divination as a separate subject from the
natural or even the applied sciences. Quintus says that medical men,
pilots, and farmers foresee many things, yet their arts are not
divination. “Not even Pherecydes, that famous Pythagorean master, who
predicted an earthquake when he saw that the water had disappeared from
a well which usually was well filled, should be regarded as a diviner
rather than a physicist.”[1264] Tully carries the distinction a step
further and asserts that the sick seek a doctor, not a soothsayer; that
diviners cannot instruct us in astronomy; that no one consults them
concerning philosophic problems or ethical questions; that they can
give us no light on the problems of the natural universe; and that they
are of no service in logic, dialectic, or political science.[1265] An
admirable declaration of independence of natural science and medicine
and other arts and constructive forms of thought from the methods
of divination! But also one more easy to state in general terms of
theory than to enforce in details of practice, as Pliny, Galen, and
Ptolemy have already shown us. None the less it is indeed a noteworthy
restriction of the field of divination when Cicero remarks to his
brother, “For those things which can be perceived beforehand either by
art or reason or experience or conjecture you regard as not the affair
of diviners but of scientists.”[1266] But the question remains whether
too large powers of prediction may not be claimed by “science.”

[Sidenote: Unreasonable in method.]

Cicero proceeds to attack the methods and assumptions of divination as
neither reasonable nor scientific. Why, he asks, did Calchas deduce
from the devoured sparrows that the Trojan war would last ten years
rather than ten weeks or ten months?[1267] He points out that the art
is conducted in different places according to quite different rules of
procedure, even to the extent that a favorable omen in one locality
is a sinister warning elsewhere.[1268] He refuses to believe in any
extraordinary bonds of sympathy between things which, in so far as
our daily experience and our knowledge of the workings of nature can
inform us, have no causal connection. What intimate connection, he
asks, what bond of natural causality can there be between the liver
or heart or lung of a fat bull and the divine eternal cause of all
which rules the universe?[1269] “That anything certain is signified
by uncertain things, is not this the last thing a scientist should
admit?”[1270] He refuses to accept dreams as fit channels either of
natural divination or divine revelation.[1271] The Sibylline Books,
like most oracles, are vague and the evident product of labored

[Sidenote: Requires violation of natural law.]

Moreover, divination asserts the existence of phenomena which science
denies. Such a figment, Cicero scornfully affirms, as that the heart
will vanish from the carcass of a victim is not believed even by
old-wives now-a-days. How can the heart vanish from the body? Surely
it must be there as long as life lasts, and how can it disappear
in an instant? “Believe me, you are abandoning the citadel of
philosophy while you defend its outposts. For in your effort to prove
soothsaying true you utterly pervert physiology.... For there will be
something which either springs from nothing or suddenly vanishes into
nothingness. What scientist ever said that? The soothsayers say so? Are
they then, do you think, to be trusted rather than scientists?”[1273]
Cicero makes other arguments against divination such as the stock
contentions that it is useless to know predetermined events beforehand
since they cannot be avoided, and that even if we can learn the future,
we shall be happier not to do it, but his outstanding argument is that
it is unscientific.

[Sidenote: Cicero and astrology.]

Cicero’s attack upon divination is mainly directed against liver
divination and analogous methods of predicting the future, but he
devotes a few chapters[1274] to the doctrines of the Chaldeans. They
postulate a certain force in the constellations called the zodiac and
hold that between man and the position of the stars and planets at
the moment of his birth there exists a relation of sympathy so that
his personality and all the events of his life are thereby determined.
Diogenes the Stoic limited this influence to the determination of one’s
aptitude and vocation, but Cicero regards even this much as going too
far. The immense spaces intervening between the different planets seem
to him a reason for rejecting the contentions of the Chaldeans. His
further criticism that they insist that all men born at the same moment
are alike in character regardless of horizons and different aspects
of the sky in different places is one that at least did not hold good
permanently against astrology and is not true of Ptolemy. He asks if
all the men who perished at Cannae were born beneath the same star and
how it came about that there was only one Homer if several men are
born every instant. He also adduces the stock argument from twins. He
attacks the practice, which we shall find continued in the middle ages,
of astrological prediction of the fate of cities. He says that if all
animals are to be subjected to the stars, then inanimate things must
be, too, than which nothing can be more absurd. This suggests that he
hardly conceives of the fundamental hypothesis of medieval science that
all inferior nature is under the influence of the celestial bodies and
their motion and light. At any rate his arguments are directed against
the casting of horoscopes or genethlialogy. And in the matter of the
influence of the planets upon man he was not entirely antagonistic, at
least in other writings than the _De divinatione_, for in the _Dream
of Scipio_ he speaks of Jupiter as a star wholesome and favorable to
the human race, of Mars as most unfavorable. He further calls seven
and eight perfect numbers and speaks of their product, fifty-six, as
signifying the fatal year in Scipio’s life. Incidentally, as another
instance that Cicero was not always sceptical, it may be recalled that
it was in Cicero that Pliny read of a man who could see one hundred and
thirty-five miles.[1275]

[Sidenote: His crude historical criticism.]

Such apparent inconsistency is perhaps a sign of somewhat
indiscriminating eclecticism on Cicero’s part. We experience something
of a shock, although perhaps we should not be surprised, to find
him in his _Republic_[1276] arguing as seriously in favor of the
ascension or apotheosis of Romulus as a historic fact as a professor
of natural science in a denominational college might argue in favor
of the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. Although in the _De
divinatione_ he impatiently brushed aside the testimony of so great a
cloud of witnesses and of most philosophers in favor of divination, he
now argues that the opinion that Romulus had become a god “could not
have prevailed so universally unless there had been some extraordinary
manifestation of power,” and that “this is the more remarkable because
other men, said to have become gods, lived in less learned times when
the mind was prone to invent and the inexperienced were easily led to
believe,” whereas Romulus lived only six centuries ago when literature
and learning had already made great progress in removing error, when
“Greece was already full of poets and musicians, and little faith was
placed in legends unless they concerned remote antiquity.” Yet a few
chapters later Cicero notes that Numa could not have been a pupil of
Pythagoras, since the latter did not come to Italy until 140 years
after his death;[1277] and in a third chapter[1278] when Laelius
remarks, “That king is indeed praised but Roman History is obscure,
for although we know the mother of this king, we are ignorant of his
father,” Scipio replies, “That is so; but in those times it was almost
enough if only the names of the kings were recorded.” We can only add,
“Consistency, thou art a jewel!”

[Sidenote: Favorinus against astrologers.]

Favorinus denied that the doctrine of nativities was the work of
the Chaldeans and regarded it as the more recent invention of
marvel-mongers, tricksters, and mountebanks. He regards the inference
from the effect of the moon on tides to that of the stars on every
incident of our daily life as unwarranted. He further objects that if
the Chaldeans did record astronomical observations these would apply
only to their own region and that observations extended over a vast
lapse of time would be necessary to establish any system of astrology,
since it requires ages before the stars return to their previous
positions. Like Cicero, Favorinus probably manifests his ignorance of
the technique of astrology in complaining that astrologers do not allow
for the different influence of different constellations in different
parts of the earth. More cogent is his suggestion that there may be
other stars equal in power to the planets which men cannot see either
for their excess of splendor or because of their position. He also
objects that the position of the stars is not the same at the time of
conception and the time of birth, and that, if the different fate of
twins may be explained by the fact that after all they are not born at
precisely the same moment, the time of birth and the position of the
stars must be measured with an exactness practically impossible. He
also contends that it is not for human beings to predict the future
and that the subjection of man not merely in matters of external
fortune but in his own acts of will to the stars is not to be borne.
These two arguments of the divine prerogative and of human free will
became Christian favorites. He complains that the astrologers predict
great events like battles but cannot predict small ones, and declares
that they may congratulate themselves that he does not propose such a
question to them as that of astral influence on minute animals. This
and his further question why, out of all the grand works of nature, the
astrologers limit their attention to petty human fortune, suggest that
like Cicero he did not realize that astrology was or would become a
theory of all nature and not mere genethlialogy.

[Sidenote: Sextus Empiricus.]

To the arguments against nativities that men die the same death who
were not born at the same time and that men who are born at the same
time are not identical in character or fortune Sextus Empiricus adds
the derisive question whether a man and an ass born in the same
instant would suffer exactly the same destiny. Ptolemy would of course
reply that while the influence of the stars is constant in both cases
it is variably received by men and donkeys; and Sextus’s query does
not show him very well versed in astrology. He mentions the obstacle
of free will to astrological theory but does not make very much of
it. The chief point which he makes is that even if the stars do rule
human destiny, their effect cannot be accurately measured. He lays
stress on the difficulty of exactly determining the date of birth or of
conception, or the precise moment when a star passes into a new sign of
the zodiac. He notes the variability and unreliability of water-clocks.
He calls attention to the fact that observers at varying altitudes as
well as in different localities would arrive at different conclusions.
Differences in eyesight would also affect results, and it is difficult
to tell just when the sun sets or any sign of the zodiac drops below
the horizon owing to reflection and refraction of rays. Sextus thus
leaves us somewhat in doubt whether his objections are to be taken
as indicative of a spirit of captious criticism towards an art, the
fundamental principles of which he tacitly recognizes as well-nigh
incontestable, or whether he is simply trying to make his case doubly
sure by showing astrology to be impracticable as well as unreasonable.
In any case we shall find his argument that the influence of the stars
cannot be measured accurately repeated by Christian writers.

[Sidenote: _Lucius_ or _The Ass_: is it by Lucian?]

The main plot of the _Metamorphoses_ of Apuleius appears, shorn
of the many additional stories, the religious mysticism, and the
autobiographical element which characterize his narrative, in a brief
and perhaps epitomized Greek version, entitled _Lucius_ or _The Ass_,
among the works of Lucian of Samosata, the contemporary of Apuleius and
noted satirist. The work is now commonly regarded as spurious, since
the style seems different from that of Lucian and the Attic Greek less
pure. The narrative, too, is bare, at least compared with the exuberant
fancy of Apuleius, and seems to avoid the marvelous and romantic
details in which he abounds. Photius, patriarch of Constantinople in
the ninth century, who regarded the work as Lucian’s, said that he
wrote in it as one deriding the extravagance of superstition. Whether
this be true of _The Ass_ or not, it is true of other satires by Lucian
of undisputed genuineness, in which he ridicules the impostures of the
magic and pseudo-science of his day. In place of the genial humor and
fantastic imagination with which his African contemporary credulously
welcomed the magic and occult science of his time, the Syrian satirist
probes the same with the cool mockery of his keen and sceptical wit.

[Sidenote: Career of Lucian.]

Lucian was born at Samosata near Antioch about 120 or 125 A. D. and
after an unsuccessful beginning as a sculptor’s apprentice turned to
literature and philosophy. He practiced in the law courts at Antioch
for some time and also wrote speeches for others. For a considerable
period of his life he roamed about the Mediterranean world from
Paphlagonia to Gaul as a rhetorician, and like Apuleius resided both at
Athens and Rome. After forty he ceased teaching rhetoric and devoted
himself to literary production, living at Athens. Towards the close
of his life, “when he already had one foot in Charon’s boat,”[1279]
he was holding a well paid and important legal position in Egypt.
His death occurred perhaps about 200 A. D. Some ascribe it to gout,
probably because he wrote two satires on that disease. Suidas states
that Lucian was torn to pieces by dogs as a punishment for his attacks
upon Christianity, which again is probably a perversion of Lucian’s own
statement in _Peregrinus_ that he narrowly escaped being torn to pieces
by the Cynics.

[Sidenote: _Alexander the pseudo-prophet._]

It was at the request of that same adversary of Christianity against
whom Origen composed the _Reply to Celsus_ that Lucian wrote his
account of the impostor, Alexander of Abonutichus, a pseudo-prophet of
Paphlagonia. This Alexander pretended to discover the god Asclepius
in the form of a small viper which he had sealed up in a goose egg.
He then replaced the tiny viper by a huge tame serpent which he had
purchased at Pella in Macedon and which was trained to hide its head
in Alexander’s armpit, while to the crowd, who were also permitted to
touch the tail and body of the real snake, was shown a false serpent’s
head made of linen with human features and a mouth that opened and
shut and a tongue that could be made to dart in and out. Having thus
convinced the people that the viper had really been a god and had
miraculously increased in size, Alexander proceeded to sell oracular
responses as from the god. Inquirers submitted their questions in
sealed packages which were later returned to them with appropriate
answers and with the seals unbroken and apparently untouched.
Similarly Plutarch tells of a sceptical opponent of oracles who became
converted into their ardent supporter by receiving such an answer
to a sealed letter.[1280] Lucian, however, explains that Alexander
sometimes used a hot needle to melt the seal and then restore it to
practically its original shape, or employed other methods by which he
took exact impressions of the seal, then boldly broke it, read the
question, and afterwards replaced the seal by an exact replica of the
original made in the mould. Lucian adds that there are plenty of other
devices of this sort which he does not need to repeat to Celsus who
has already made a sufficient collection of them in his “excellent
treatises against the magicians.” Lucian tells later, however, how
Alexander made his god seem to speak by attaching a tube made of the
windpipes of cranes to the artificial head and having an assistant
outside speak through this concealed tube. In our later discussion of
the church father Hippolytus we shall find that he apparently made
use of this exposé of magic by Lucian as well as of the arguments of
Sextus Empiricus against astrology. Lucian’s personal experiences with
this Alexander were quite interesting but are less germane to our

[Sidenote: Magical procedure in medicine satirized.]

We must not fail, however, to note another essay, _Philopseudes_ or
_Apiston_, in which the superstition and pseudo-science of antiquity
are sharply satirized in what purports to be a conversation of several
philosophers, including a Stoic, a Peripatetic, and a Platonist, and
a representative of ancient medicine in the person of Antigonus, a
doctor. Some of the magical procedure then employed in curing diseases
is first satirized. Cleodemus the Peripatetic advises as a remedy for
gout to take in the left hand the tooth of a field mouse which has
been killed in a prescribed manner, to wrap it in the skin of a lion
freshly-flayed, and thus to bind it about the ailing foot. He affirms
that it will give instant relief. Dinomachus the Stoic admits that
the occult virtue of the lion is very great and that its fat or right
fore-paw or the bristles of its beard, if combined with the proper
incantations, have wonderful efficacy. But he holds that for the cure
of gout the skin of a virgin hind would be superior on the ground that
the hind is speedier than the lion and so more beneficial to the feet.
Cleodemus retorts that he used to think the same, but that a Libyan has
convinced him that the lion can run faster than the hind or it would
never catch one. The sceptical reporter of this conversation states
that he vainly attempted to convince them that an internal disease
could not be cured by external attachments or by incantations, methods
which he regards as the veriest sorcery (_goetia_).

[Sidenote: Snake-charming.]

His protests, however, merely lead Ion the Platonist to recount how a
Magus, a Chaldean of Babylonia, cured his father’s gardener who had
been stung by an adder on the great toe and was already all swollen up
and nearly dead. The magician’s method was to apply a splinter of stone
from the statue of a virgin to the toe, uttering at the same time an
incantation. He then led the way to the field where the gardener had
been stung; pronounced seven sacred names from an ancient volume, and
fumigated the place thrice with torches and sulphur. All the snakes in
the field then came forth from their holes with the exception of one
very aged and decrepit serpent, whom the magician sent a young snake
back to fetch. Having thus assembled every last serpent, he blew upon
them, and they all vanished into thin air.

[Sidenote: A Hyperborean magician.]

This tale reminds the Stoic of another magician, a barbarian and
Hyperborean, who could walk through fire or upon water and even fly
through the air. He could also “make people fall in love, call up
spirits, resuscitate corpses, bring down the moon, and show you Hecate
herself as large as life.”[1281] More specific illustration of the
exercise of these powers is given in an account of a love spell which
he performed for a young man for a big fee. Digging a trench, he raised
the ghost of the youth’s father and also summoned Hecate, Cerberus,
and the Moon. The last named appeared in three successive forms of a
woman, an ox, and a puppy. The sorcerer then constructed a clay image
of the god of love and sent it to fetch the girl, who came and stayed
until cock-crow, when all the apparitions vanished with her. In vain
the sceptic argues that the girl in question would have come willingly
enough without any magic. The Platonist matches the previous story with
one of a Syrian from Palestine who cast out demons.

[Sidenote: Some ghost stories.]

The discussion then further degenerates into ghost stories and tales
of statuettes that leave their pedestals after the household has
retired for the night. One speaker says that he no longer has any
fear of ghosts since an Arab gave him a magic ring made of nails from
crosses and taught him an incantation to use against spooks. At this
juncture a Pythagorean philosopher of great repute enters and adds his
testimony in the form of an account of how he laid a ghost at Corinth
by employing an Egyptian incantation.

[Sidenote: Pancrates, the magician.]

Eucrates, the host, then tells of Pancrates, whom he had met in Egypt
and who “had spent twenty-three years underground learning magic from
Isis,” and whom crocodiles would allow to ride on their backs. They
traveled a time together without a servant, since Pancrates was able
to dress up the door-bar or a broom or pestle, turn it into human
form, and make it wait upon them. There follows the familiar story
of Eucrates’ overhearing the incantation of three syllables which
Pancrates employed and of trying it out himself when the magician was
absent. The pestle turned into human form all right enough and obeyed
his order to bring in water, but then he discovered that he could not
make it stop, and when he seized an axe and chopped it in two, the only
effect was to produce two water-carriers in place of one.

[Sidenote: Credulity and scepticism.]

The conversation is turning to the subject of oracles when the sceptic
can stand it no longer and retires in disgust. As he tells what he has
heard to a friend, he remarks upon the childish credulity of “these
admired teachers from whom our youth are to learn wisdom.” At the same
time, the stories seem to have made a considerable impression even upon
him, and he wishes that he had some lethal drug to make him forget all
these monsters, demons, and Hecates that he seems still to see before
him. His friend, too, declares that he has filled him with demons.
Their dialogue then concludes with the consoling reflection that truth
and sound reason are the best drugs for the cure of such empty lies.

[Sidenote: _Menippus_, or _Necromancy_.]

The _Menippus_ or _Necromancy_, while an obvious imitation and parody
of Odysseus’ mode of descent to the underworld to consult Teiresias,
also throws some light on the magic of Lucian’s time. In order to reach
the other world Menippus went to Babylon and consulted Mithrobarzanes,
one of the Magi and followers of Zoroaster. He is also called one of
the Chaldeans. Besides a final sacrifice similar to that of Odysseus,
the procedure by which the magician procured their passage to the other
world included on his part muttered incantations and invocations,
for the most part unintelligible to Menippus, spitting thrice in the
latter’s face, waving torches about, drawing a magic circle, and
wearing a magic robe. As for Menippus, he had to bathe in the Euphrates
at sunrise every morning for the full twenty-nine days of a moon, after
which he was purified at midnight in the Tigris and by fumigation. He
had to sleep out-of-doors and observe a special diet, not look anyone
in the eye on his way home, walk backwards, and so on. The ultimate
result of all these preparations was that the earth was burst asunder
by the final incantation and the way to the underworld laid open. When
it came time to return Menippus crawled up with difficulty, like Dante
going from the Inferno to Purgatory, through a narrow tunnel which
opened on the shrine of Trophonius.

[Sidenote: Astrological interpretation of Greek myth.]

An essay on astrology ascribed to Lucian is usually regarded as
spurious.[1282] Denial of its authenticity, however, should rest on
such grounds as its literary style and the manuscript history of the
work rather than upon its—to modern eyes—superstitious character. In
antiquity a man might be sceptical about most superstitions and yet
believe in astrology as a science. Lucian’s sceptical friend Celsus,
for example, as we shall see in our chapter on Origen’s _Reply to
Celsus_, believed that the future could be foretold from the stars.
And whether the present essay is genuine or spurious, it is certainly
noteworthy that for all his mockery of other superstition Lucian does
not attack astrology in any of his essays. Moreover, this essay on
astrology is very sceptical in one way, since it denies the literal
truth of various Greek myths and gives an astrological interpretation
of them, as in the case of Zeus and Kronos and the so-called adultery
of Mars. This is not inconsistent with Lucian’s ridicule elsewhere of
the anthropomorphic Olympian divinities. What Orpheus taught the Greeks
was astrology, and the planets were signified by the seven strings of
his lyre. Teiresias taught them further to distinguish which stars
were masculine and which feminine in character and influence. A proper
interpretation of the myth of Atreus and Thyestes also shows the Greeks
at an early date acquainted with astrological doctrine. Bellerophon
soared to the sky, not on a horse but by the scientific power of his
mind. Daedalus taught Icarus astrology and the fable of Phaëthon is to
be similarly interpreted. Aeneas was not really the son of the goddess
Venus, nor Minos of Jupiter, nor Aesculapius of Mars, nor Autolycus of
Mercury. These are to be taken simply as the planets under whose rule
they were born. The author also connects Egyptian animal worship with
the signs of the zodiac.

[Sidenote: History and defense of astrology.]

The author of the essay also delves into the history of astrology,
to which he assigns a high antiquity. The Ethiopians were the first
to cultivate it and handed it on in a still imperfect stage to the
Egyptians who developed it. The Babylonians claim to have studied it
before other peoples, but our author thinks that they did so long
after the Ethiopians and Egyptians. The Greeks were instructed in
the art neither by the Ethiopians nor the Egyptians, but, as we have
seen, by Orpheus. Our author not only states that the ancient Greeks
never built towns or walls or got married without first resorting to
divination, but even asserts that astrology was their sole method of
divination, that the Pythia at Delphi was the type of celestial purity
and that the snake under the tripod represented the dragon among the
constellations. Lycurgus taught his Lacedaemonians to observe the moon,
and only the uncultured Arcadians held themselves aloof from astrology.
Yet at the present day some oppose the art, declaring either that the
stars have naught to do with human affairs or that astrology is useless
since what is fated cannot be avoided. To the latter objection our
author makes the usual retort that forewarned is forearmed; as for the
former denial, if a horse stirs the stones in the road as it runs,
if a passing breath of wind moves straws to and fro, if a tiny flame
burns the finger, will not the courses and deflexions of the brilliant
celestial bodies have their influence upon earth and mankind?

[Sidenote: Lucian not always sceptical.]

The manner of the essay does not seem like Lucian’s usual style, and
the astrological interpretation of religious myth was characteristic of
the Stoic philosophy, whereas Lucian’s philosophical affinities, if he
can be said to have any, are perhaps rather with the Epicureans. But
Celsus was an Epicurean and yet believed in astrology. It must not be
thought, however, that Lucian in his other essays is always sceptical
in regard to what we should classify as superstition. He tells us how
his career was determined by a dream in the autobiographical essay of
that title. In the _Dialogues of the Gods_ magic is mentioned as a
matter-of-course, Zeus complaining that he has to resort to magic in
order to win women and Athene warning Paris to have Aphrodite remove
her girdle, since it is drugged or enchanted and may bewitch him.

[Sidenote: Lucian and medicine.]

The writings of Lucian contain many allusions to the doctors, diseases,
and medicines of his time.[1283] On the whole he confirms Galen’s
picture. Numerous passages show that the medical profession was held in
high esteem, and Lucian himself first went to Rome in order to consult
an oculist. At the same time Lucian satirizes the quacks and medical
superstition of the time, as we have already seen, and describes
several statues which were believed to possess healing powers. In
the burlesque tragedy on gout, _Tragodopodagra_, whose authenticity,
however, is questioned, the disease personified is triumphant, and the
moral seems to be that all the remedies which men have tried are of no
avail. On the other hand, Lucian wrote seriously of the African snake
whose bite causes one to die of thirst (_De dipsadibus_). He admits
that he has never seen anyone in this condition and has not even been
in Libya where these snakes are found, but a friend has assured him
that he has seen the tombstone epitaph of a man who had died thus, a
rather indirect mode of proof which we are surprised should satisfy the
author of _How to Write History_. Lucian also repeats the common notion
that persons bitten by a mad dog can be cured only by a hair or other
portion of the same animal.[1284]

[Sidenote: Inevitable intermingling of scepticism and superstition.]

Our chapter which set out to note cases of scepticism in regard to
superstition has ended by including a great deal of such superstition.
The sceptics themselves seem credulous on some points, and Lucian’s
satire perhaps more reveals than refutes the prevalence of superstition
among even the highly educated. The same is true of other literary
satirists of the Roman Empire whose jibes against the astrologers and
their devotees only attest the popularity of the art and who themselves
very probably meant only to ridicule its more extreme pretensions
and were perhaps at bottom themselves believers in the fundamentals
of the art. Our authors to some extent, as we have pointed out,
provided an arsenal of arguments from which later Christian writers
took weapons for their assaults upon pagan magic and astrology. But
sometimes subsequent writers confused scepticism with credulity, and
the influence of our authors upon them became just the opposite of
what they intended. Thus Ammianus Marcellinus, the soldier-historian
of the falling Roman Empire upon whom Gibbon placed so much reliance,
was so attached to divination that he even quoted its arch-opponent,
Cicero, in support of it. For he actually concludes his discussion of
the subject in these words: “Wherefore in this as in other matters
Tully says most admirably,‘Signs of future events are shown by the

[Sidenote: Lucian on writing history.]

But in order to conclude our chapter on scepticism with a less
obscurantist passage, let us return to Lucian. His essay, _How to
Write History_, gives serious expression to those ideals of truth and
impartiality which also lie behind his mockery of impostors and the
over-credulous. “The historian’s one task,” in his estimation, “is to
tell the thing as it happened.” He should be “fearless, incorruptible,
independent, a believer in frankness, ... an impartial judge, kind
to all but too kind to none.” “He has to make of his brain a mirror,
unclouded, bright, and true of surface.” “Facts are not to be collected
at haphazard but with careful, laborious, repeated investigation.”
“Prefer the disinterested account.”[1286] Such sentences and phrases as
these reveal a scientific and critical spirit of high order and seem a
vast improvement upon the frailty of Cicero’s historical criticism. But
how far Lucian would have been able to follow his own advice is perhaps
another matter.

                               CHAPTER X


 Mystic works of revelation—The Hermetic books—_Poimandres_ and the
 Hermetic _Corpus_—Astrological treatises ascribed to Hermes—Hermetic
 works of alchemy—Nechepso and Petosiris—Manetho—The _Lithica_ of
 Orpheus—Argument of the poem—Magic powers of stones—Magic rites to
 gain powers of divination—Power of gems compared with herbs—Magic
 herbs and demons in Orphic rites—Books ascribed to Zoroaster—_The
 Chaldean Oracles_.

[Sidenote: Mystic works of revelation.]

There were in circulation in the Roman Empire many writings which
purported to be of divine origin and authorship, or at least the work
of ancient culture-heroes and founders of religions who were of divine
descent and divinely inspired. These oracular and mystic compositions
usually pretend to great antiquity and often claim as their home such
hoary lands as Egypt and Chaldea, although in the Hellenic past Apollo
and in the Roman past the Sibylline books[1287] also afford convenient
centers about which forgeries cluster. Assuming as these writings do
to disclose the secrets of ancient priesthoods and to publish what
should not be revealed to the vulgar crowd, they may be confidently
expected to embody a great deal of superstition and magic along with
their expositions of mystic theologies. Also the authors, editors, or
publishers of astrological, alchemistic, and other pseudo-scientific
treatises could not be expected to resist the temptation of claiming a
venerable and cryptic origin for some of their books. Moreover, such
pseudo-literature was not entirely unjustified in its affirmation of
high antiquity. Few things in intellectual history antedate magic,
and these spurious compositions are not especially distinguished by
new ideas, although they to some extent reflect the progress made in
learning, occult as well as scientific, in the Hellenistic age. It must
be added that much of their contents depends for its effect entirely
upon its claim to eminent authorship and great antiquity and upon
the impressionability of its public. To-day most of it seems trivial
commonplace or marked by the empty vagueness characteristic of oracular
utterances. I shall attempt no complete exposition or exhaustive
treatment of such writings[1288] but touch upon a few examples which
bear upon the relations of science and magic.

[Sidenote: The Hermetic books.]

Chief among these are the Hermetic books or writings attributed
to Hermes the Egyptian or Trismegistus. “Under this name,” wrote
Steinschneider in 1906, “there exists in many languages a literature,
for the most part superstitious, which seems to have not yet been
treated in its totality.”[1289] The Egyptian god Thoth or Tehuti,
known in Greek as Θωύθ, Θώθ, and Τάτ, was identified with Hermes,
and the epithet “thrice-great” is also derived from the Egyptian _aā
aā_, “the great Great.” Citations of works ascribed to this Hermes
Trismegistus can be traced back as early as the first century of our
era.[1290] He is also mentioned or quoted by various church fathers
from Athenagoras to Augustine and often figures in the magical papyri.
The historian Ammianus Marcellinus[1291] in the fourth century ranks
him with the great sages of the past such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and
Apollonius of Tyana. Our two chief descriptions of the Hermetic books
from the period of the Roman Empire are found in the _Stromata_[1292]
of the Christian Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 220 A. D.) and in the
_De mysteriis_[1293] ascribed to the Neo-Platonist Iamblichus (died
about 330 A. D.). Clement speaks of forty-two books by Hermes which
are regarded as “indispensable.” Of these ten are called “Hieratic”
and deal with the laws, the gods, and the training of the priests. Ten
others detail the sacrifices, prayers, processions, festivals, and
other rites of Egyptian worship. Two contain hymns to the gods and
rules for the king. Six are medical, “treating of the structure of
the body and of diseases and instruments and medicines and about the
eyes and the last about women.” Four are astronomical or astrological,
and the remaining ten deal with cosmography and geography or with the
equipment of the priests and the paraphernalia of the sacred rites.
Clement does not say so, but from his brief summary one can imagine
how full these volumes probably were of occult virtues of natural
substances, of magical procedure, and of intimate relations and
interactions between nature, stars, and spirits. Iamblichus repeats
the statement of Seleucus that Hermes wrote twenty thousand volumes
and the assertion of Manetho that there were 36,525 books, a number
doubtless connected with the supposed length of the year, three hundred
and sixty-five and one-quarter days.[1294] Iamblichus adds that Hermes
wrote one hundred treatises on the ethereal gods and one thousand
concerning the celestial gods.[1295] He is aware, however, that most
books attributed to Hermes were not really composed by him, since in
other passages he speaks of “the books which are circulated under the
name of Hermes,”[1296] and explains that “our ancestors ... inscribed
all their own writings with the name of Hermes,”[1297] thus dedicating
them to him as the patron deity of language and theology. By the time
of Iamblichus these books had been translated from the Egyptian tongue
into Greek.

[Sidenote: _Poimandres_ and the Hermetic _Corpus_.]

There has come down to us under the name of Hermes a collection of
seventeen or eighteen fragments which is generally known as the
Hermetic _Corpus_. Of the fragments the first and chief is entitled
_Poimandres_ (Ποιμάνδρης), a name which is sometimes applied to the
entire _Corpus_. Another fragment entitled _Asclepius_, since it is
in the form of a dialogue between him and “Mercurius Trismegistus,”
exists in a Latin form which has been ascribed probably incorrectly to
Apuleius of Madaura as translator (_Asclepius ... Mercurii trismegisti
dialogus Lucio Apuleio Madaurensi philosopho Platonico interprete_).
None of the Greek manuscripts of the _Corpus_ seems older than the
fourteenth century, although Reitzenstein thinks that they may all be
derived from the version which Michael Psellus had before him in the
eleventh century.[1298] But the concluding prayer of the _Poimandres_
exists in a third century papyrus, and the alchemist Zosimus in the
fourth century seems acquainted with the entire collection. The
treatises in this _Corpus_ are concerned primarily with religious
philosophy or theosophy, with doctrines similar to those of Plato
concerning the soul and to the teachings of the Gnostics. The moral
and religious instruction is associated, however, with a physics and
cosmology very favorable to astrology and magic. Of magic in the
narrow sense there is little in the _Corpus_, but a Hermetic fragment
preserved by Stobaeus affirms that “philosophy and magic nourish the
soul.” Astrology plays a much more prominent part, and the stars are
ranked as visible gods, of whom the sun is by far the greatest. All
seven planets nevertheless control the changes in the world of nature;
there are seven human types corresponding to them; and the twelve
signs of the zodiac also govern the human body. Only the chosen few
who possess _gnosis_ or are capable of receiving _nous_ can escape the
decrees of fate as administered by the stars and ultimately return to
the spiritual world, passing through “choruses of demons” and “courses
of stars” and reaching the Ogdoad or eighth heaven above and beyond
the spheres of the seven planets.[1299] Such Gnostic cosmology and
demonology, especially the location of demons amid the planetary
spheres, provides favorable ground for the development of astrological

[Sidenote: Astrological treatises ascribed to Hermes.]

Not only is a belief in astrology implied throughout the _Poimandres_,
but a number of separate astrological treatises are extant in whole or
part under the name of Hermes Trismegistus,[1300] and he is frequently
cited as an authority in other Greek astrological manuscripts.[1301]
The treatises attributed to him comprise one upon general method,[1302]
one on the names and powers of the twelve signs, one on astrological
medicine addressed to Ammon the Egyptian,[1303] one on thunder and
lightning, and some hexameters on the relation of earthquakes to the
signs of the zodiac. This last is also ascribed to Orpheus.[1304]
There are various allusions to and versions of tracts concerning the
relation of herbs to the planets or signs of the zodiac or thirty-six
decans.[1305] These treatises attribute magic virtues to plants,
include a prayer to be repeated when plucking each herb, and tell how
to use the astrological figures of the decans, engraved on stones, as
healing amulets.

[Sidenote: Hermetic works of alchemy.]

Works under the name of Hermes Trismegistus are cited by Greek
alchemists of the closing Roman Empire, such as Zosimus, Stephanus, and
Olympiodorus, but those Hermetic treatises of alchemy which are extant
are of late date and much altered.[1306] Some treatises are preserved
only in Arabic; others are medieval Latin fabrications. The Greek
alchemists, however, seem to have recited the mystic hymn of Hermes
from the _Poimandres_.[1307]

[Sidenote: Nechepso and Petosiris.]

Hellenistic and Roman astrology sought to extend its roots far back
into Egyptian antiquity by putting forth spurious treatises under
the names, not only of Hermes Trismegistus, but also of Nechepso
and Petosiris,[1308] who were regarded respectively as an Egyptian
king and an Egyptian priest who had lived at least seven centuries
before Christ. Indeed, they were held to be the recipients of divine
revelation from Hermes and Asclepius. A lengthy astrological treatise,
which Pliny[1309] is the first to cite and from a fourteenth book of
which Galen[1310] mentions a magic ring of jasper engraved with a
dragon and rays, seems to have appeared in their names probably at
Alexandria in the Hellenistic period. Only fragments and citations
ascribed to Nechepso and Petosiris are now extant.[1311]

[Sidenote: Manetho.]

Yet another astrological work which claims to be drawn from the secret
sacred books and cryptic monuments of ancient Egypt is ascribed to
Manetho. It is a compilation in verse of prognostications from the
various constellations and is regarded as the work of several writers,
of whom the oldest is placed in the reign of Alexander Severus in the
third century.[1312]

[Sidenote: The _Lithica_ of Orpheus.]

Orpheus is another author more cited than preserved by classical
antiquity. Pliny called him the first writer on herbs and suspected
him of magic. Ernest Riess affirms that Rohde (_Psyche_, p. 398)
“has abundantly proved that Orpheus’ followers were among the chief
promulgators of purifications and charms against evil spirits.”[1313]
Among poems of some length extant under Orpheus’ name the one of most
interest to us is the _Lithica_, where in 770 lines the virtues of some
thirty gems are set forth with considerable allusion to magic.[1314]
The authorship is uncertain, but the verse is supposed to follow the
prose treatise by Damigeron who lived in the second century B. C. The
date of the poem is now generally fixed in the fourth century of our
era, although King[1315] argued for an earlier date. I agree with him
that the allusion in lines 71-74 to decapitation on the charge of
magic is, taken alone, too vague and blind to be associated with any
particular event or time; editors since Tyrwhitt have connected it with
the law of Constantius against magic and the persecution of magicians
in 371 A. D. But King’s contention that the _Lithica_ is by the same
author as the _Argonautica_, also ascribed to Orpheus, and is therefore
of early date, falls to the ground since the _Argonautica_, too, is now
dated in the fourth century.

[Sidenote: Argument of the poem.]

The _Lithica_ opens by representing Hermes as bestowing upon mankind
the precious lore of the marvelous virtues of gems. In his cave are
stored stones which banish ghosts, robbers, and snakes, which bring
health, happiness, victory in war and games, honor at courts and
success in love, and which insure safety on journeys, the favor of
the gods, and enable one to read the hidden thoughts of others and to
understand the language of the birds as they predict the future. Few
persons, however, avail themselves of this mystic lore, and those who
do so are liable to be executed on the charge of magic. After this
introduction, which may be regarded as a piquant appetizer to whet the
reader’s taste for further details, the virtues of individual stones
are described, first in the words of Theodamas, a wise and divine
man[1316] whom the author meets on his way to perform annual sacrifice
at an altar of the Sun, where as a child he narrowly escaped from a
deadly snake, and then in a speech of the seer Helenus to Philoctetes
which Theodamas quotes. Greek gods are often mentioned; as the poem
proceeds the virtues of a number of gems are attributed to Apollo
rather than Hermes; and there are allusions to Greek mythology and the
Trojan war. Some gems are found in animals, for instance, in the viper
or the brain of the stag.

[Sidenote: Magic powers of stones.]

Let us turn to some examples of the marvelous virtues of particular
stones. The crystal wins favorable answers from the gods to prayers;
kindles fire, if held over sticks, yet itself remains cold; as a
ligature benefits kidney trouble. Sacrifices in which the adamant is
employed win the favor of the gods; it is also called Lethaean because
it makes one forget worries, or the milk-stone (_galactis_) because it
renews the milk of sheep or goats when powdered in brine and sprinkled
over them. Worn as an amulet it counteracts the evil eye and gains
royal favor for its bearer. The agate is an agricultural amulet and
should be attached to the plowman’s arm and the horns of the oxen.
Other stones help vineyards, bring rain or avert hail and pests from
the crops. _Lychnis_ prevents a pot from boiling on a fire and makes
it boil when the fire is dead. The magnet was used by the witches Circe
and Medea in their spells; an unchaste wife is unable to remain in the
bed where this stone has been placed with an incantation. Other stones
cure snake-bite and various diseases, serve as love-charms or aids in
child-birth, or counteract incantations and enchantments.

[Sidenote: Magic rites to gain powers of divination.]

To make the gem _sideritis_ or _oreites_ utter vocal oracles the
operator must abstain for three weeks from animal food, the public
baths, and the marriage bed; he is then to wash and clothe the gem
like an infant and employ various sacrifices, incantations, and
illuminations. The gem _Liparaios_, known to the learned Magi of
Assyria, when burnt on a bloodless altar with hymns to the Sun and
Earth attracts snakes from their holes to the flame. Three youths
robed in white and carrying two-edged swords should cut up the snake
who comes nearest the fire into nine pieces, three for the Sun, three
for the earth, three for the wise and prophetic maiden. These pieces
are then to be cooked with wine, salt, and spices and eaten by those
who wish to learn the language of birds and beasts. But further the
gods must be invoked by their secret names and libations poured of
milk, wine, oil, and honey. What is not eaten must be buried, and the
participants in the feast are then to return home wearing chaplets but
otherwise naked and speaking to no one whom they may meet. On their
arrival home they are to sacrifice mixed spices. It will be recalled
that Apollonius of Tyana and the Arabs also learned the language of the
birds by eating snake-flesh.

[Sidenote: Powers of gems compared with herbs.]

Thus gems are potent in religion and divination, love-charms and
child-birth, medicine and agriculture. The poem fails, however, to
touch upon their uses in alchemy or relations to the stars, nor does
it contain much of anything that can be called necromancy. But the
author ranks the virtues of stones above those of herbs, whose powers
disappear with age. Moreover, some plants are injurious, whereas the
marvelous virtues of stones are almost all beneficial as well as
permanent. “There is great force in herbs,” he says, “but far greater
in stones,”[1317] an observation often repeated in the middle ages.

[Sidenote: Magic herbs and demons in Orphic rites.]

More stress is laid upon the power of demons and herbs in a description
which has been left us by Saint Cyprian,[1318] bishop of Antioch in
the third century, of some pagan mysteries upon Mount Olympus into
which he was initiated when a boy of fifteen and which have been
explained as Orphic rites. His initiation was under the charge of seven
hierophants, lasted for forty days, and included instruction in the
virtues of magic herbs and visions of the operations of demons. He was
also taught the meaning of musical notes and harmonies, and saw how
times and seasons were governed by good and evil spirits. In short,
magic, pseudo-science, occult virtue, and perhaps astrology formed an
important part of Orphic lore.

[Sidenote: Books ascribed to Zoroaster.]

Cumont states in his _Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism_ that
“towards the end of the Alexandrine period the books ascribed to the
half-mythical masters of the Persian science, Zoroaster, Hosthanes and
Hystaspes, were translated into Greek, and until the end of paganism
those names enjoyed a prodigious authority.”[1319] Pliny regarded
Zoroaster as the founder of magic and we have met other examples of his
reputation as a magician. Later we shall find him cited several times
in the Byzantine _Geoponica_ which seems to use a book ascribed to him
on the sympathy and antipathy existing between natural objects.[1320]
Naturally a number of pseudo-Zoroastrian books were in circulation,
some of which Porphyry, the Neo-Platonist, is said to have suppressed.
At least he tells us in his _Life of Plotinus_[1321] that certain
Christians and other men claimed to possess certain revelations of
Zoroaster, but that he advanced many arguments to show that their book
was not written by Zoroaster but was a recent composition.

[Sidenote: _The Chaldean Oracles._]

There has been preserved, however, in the writings of the
Neo-Platonists a collection of passages known as the Zoroastrian Logia
or Chaldean Oracles[1322] and which “present ... a heterogeneous mass,
now obscure and again bombastic, of commingled Platonic, Pythagorean,
Stoic, Gnostic, and Persian tenets.”[1323] Not only are these often
cited by the Neo-Platonists, but Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus
composed commentaries upon them.[1324] Some think that these citations
and commentaries have reference to a single work put together by
Julian the Chaldean in the period of the Antonines. This “mass of
oriental superstitions, a medley of magic, theurgy, and delirious
metaphysics,”[1325] was reverenced by the Neo-Platonists of the
following centuries as a sacred authority equal to the _Timaeus_ of
Plato. Our next chapter will therefore deal with the writings of the
Neo-Platonists upon whom this spurious mystic literature had so much

                              CHAPTER XI


 Neo-Platonism and the occult—Plotinus on magic—The life of reason is
 alone free from magic—Plotinus unharmed by magic—Invoking the demon of
 Plotinus—Rite of strangling birds—Plotinus and astrology—The stars as
 signs—The divine star-souls—How do the stars cause and signify?—Other
 causes and signs than the stars—Stars not the cause of evil—Against
 the astrology of the Gnostics—Fate and free-will—Summary of the
 attitude of Plotinus to astrology—Porphyry’s _Letter to Anebo_—Its
 main argument—Questions concerning divine natures—Orders of spiritual
 beings—Nature of demons—The art of theurgy—Invocations and the power
 of words—Magic a human art: theurgy divine—Magic’s abuse of nature’s
 forces—Its evil character—Its deceit and unreality—Porphyry on modes
 of divination—Iamblichus on divination—Are the stars gods?—Is there an
 art of astrology?—Porphyry and astrology—Astrological images—Number
 mysticism—Porphyry as reported by Eusebius—The emperor Julian on
 theurgy and astrology—Julian and divination—Scientific divination
 according to Ammianus Marcellinus—Proclus on theurgy—Neo-Platonic
 account of magic borrowed by Christians—Neo-Platonists and alchemy.

[Sidenote: Neo-Platonism and the occult.]

That the Neo-Platonists were much given to the occult has been a
common impression among those who have written upon the period of the
decline of the Roman Empire, of the end of paganism, and the passing
of classical philosophy. This is perhaps in some measure the result
of Christian viewpoint and hostility; probably the Christians of the
period would seem equally superstitious to a modern Neo-Platonist. If
the lives of the philosophers by Eunapius sound like fairy tales,[1326]
what do the lives of the saints of the same period sound like? If
the Neo-Platonists were like our mediums, what were the Christian
exorcists like? But let us turn to the writings of the leading
Neo-Platonists themselves, the only accurate mirror of their views.

[Sidenote: Plotinus on magic.]

Plotinus,[1327] who lived from about 204 to 270 A. D. and is generally
regarded as the founder of Neo-Platonism, was apparently less given to
occult sciences than some of his successors.[1328] One of his charges
against the Gnostics[1329] is that they believe that they can move the
higher and incorporeal powers by writing incantations and by spoken
words and various other vocal utterances, all which he censures as
mere magic and sorcery. He also attacks their belief that diseases
are demons and can be expelled by words. This wins them a following
among the crowd who are wont to marvel at the powers of magicians, but
Plotinus insists that diseases are due to natural causes.[1330] Even
he, however, accepted incantations and the charms of sorcerers and
magicians as valid, and accounted for their potency by the sympathy
or love and hatred which he said existed between different objects in
nature, which operates even at a distance, and which is an expression
of one world-soul animating the universe.[1331]

[Sidenote: The life of reason is alone free from magic.]

Plotinus held further, however, that only the physical and irrational
side of man’s nature was affected by drugs and sorcery, just as “even
demons are not impassive in their irrational part,”[1332] and so
are to some extent subject to magic. But the rational soul may free
itself from all influence of magic.[1333] Moreover, remorselessly adds
the clear-headed Plotinus with a burst of insight that may well be
attributed to Hellenic genius, he who yields to the charms of love and
family affection or seeks political power or aught else than Truth and
true beauty, or even he who searches for beauty in inferior things; he
who is deceived by appearances, he who follows irrational inclinations,
is as truly bewitched as if he were the victim of magic and _goetia_
so-called. The life of reason is alone free from magic.[1334] Whereat
one is tempted to paraphrase a remark of Aelian[1335] and exclaim,
“What do you think of that definition of magic, my dear anthropologists
and sociologists and modern students of folk-lore?”

[Sidenote: Plotinus unharmed by magic.]

This immunity of the true philosopher and sincere follower of truth
from magic received illustration, according to Porphyry,[1336] in the
case of Plotinus himself, who suffered no harm from the magic arts
which his enemy, Alexandrinus Olympius, directed against him. Instead
the baleful defluxions from the stars which Olympius had tried to draw
down upon Plotinus were turned upon himself. Porphyry also states[1337]
that Plotinus was aware at the time of the “sidereal enchantments” of
Olympius against him. Incidentally the episode provides one more proof
of the essential unity of astrology and magic.

[Sidenote: Invoking the demon of Plotinus.]

Plotinus, indeed, was regarded by his admirers as divinely inspired,
as another incident from the _Life_ by Porphyry will illustrate.[1338]
An Egyptian priest had little difficulty in persuading Plotinus, who
although of Roman parentage had been born in Egypt, to allow him to try
to invoke his familiar demon. Plotinus was then teaching in Rome where
he resided for twenty-six years, and the temple of Isis was the only
pure place in the city which the priest could find for the ceremony.
When the invocation had been duly performed, there appeared not a
mere demon but a god. The apparition was not long enduring, however,
nor would the priest permit them to question it, on the ground that
one of the friends of Plotinus present had marred the success of the
operation. This man had feared he might suffer some injury when the
demon appeared and as a counter-charm had brought some birds which he
held in his hands, apparently by the necks, for at the critical moment
when the apparition appeared he suffocated them, whether from fright or
from envy of Plotinus Porphyry declares himself unable to state.

[Sidenote: The rite of strangling birds.]

This practice of grasping birds by the necks in both hands is shown
by a number of works of art to have been a custom of great antiquity.
We may see a winged Gorgon strangling a goose in either hand upon
a plate of the seventh century B.C. from Rhodes now in the British
Museum.[1339] A gold pendant of the ninth century B.C. from Aegina, now
also in the British Museum, consists of a figure holding a water-bird
by the neck in either hand, while from its thighs pairs of serpents
issue on whose folds the birds stand with their bills touching the
fangs of the snakes.[1340] There also is a figure of a winged goddess
grasping two water-birds by the necks upon an ivory fibula excavated at

[Sidenote: Plotinus and astrology.]

Porphyry also tells us in the _Life_ that Plotinus devoted considerable
attention to the stars and refuted in his writings the unwarrantable
claims of the casters of horoscopes.[1342] Such passages are found
in the treatises on fate and on the soul, while one of his treatises
is devoted entirely to the question, “Whether the stars effect
anything?”[1343] This was one of four treatises which Plotinus a little
before his death sent to Porphyry, and which are regarded as rather
inferior to those composed by him when in the prime of life. In the
next century the astrologer, Julius Firmicus Maternus, regards Plotinus
as an enemy of astrology and represents him as dying a horrible and
loathsome death from gangrene.[1344]

[Sidenote: The stars as signs.]

As a matter of fact the criticisms made by Plotinus were not
necessarily destructive to the art of astrology, but rather suggested a
series of amendments by which it might be made more compatible with a
Platonic view of the universe, deity, and human soul. These amendments
also tended to meet Christian objections to the art. His criticisms
were not new; Philo Judaeus had made similar ones over two centuries
before.[1345] But the great influence of Plotinus gave added emphasis
to these criticisms. For instance, the point made by him several times
that the motion of the stars “does not cause everything but signifies
the future concerning each”[1346] man and thing, is noted by Macrobius
both in the _Saturnalia_[1347] and the _Dream of Scipio_;[1348] while
in the twelfth century John of Salisbury, arguing against astrology,
fears that its devotees will take refuge in the authority of Plotinus
and say that they detract nothing from the Creator’s power, since
He established once for all an unalterable natural law and disposed
all future events as He foresaw them. Thus the stars are merely His

[Sidenote: The divine star-souls.]

But let us see what Plotinus says himself rather than what others took
to be his meaning. Like Plato, who regarded the stars as happy, divine,
and eternal animals, Plotinus not only believes that the stars have
souls but that their intellectual processes are far above the frailties
of the human mind and nearer the omniscience of the world-soul. Memory,
for example, is of no use to them,[1350] nor do they hear the prayers
which men address to them.[1351] Plotinus often calls them gods. They
are, however, parts of the universe, subordinate to the world-soul,
and they cannot alter the fundamental principles of the universe, nor
deprive other beings of their individuality, although they are able to
make other beings better or worse.[1352]

[Sidenote: How do the stars cause and signify?]

In his discussion of problems concerning the soul Plotinus says that
“it is abundantly evident ... that the motion of the heavens affects
things on earth and not only in bodies but also the dispositions of
the soul,”[1353] and that each part of the heavens affects terrestrial
and inferior objects. He does not, however, think that all this
influence can be accounted for “exclusively by heat or cold,”—perhaps
a dig at Ptolemy’s _Tetrabiblos_.[1354] He also objects to ascribing
the crimes of men to the will of the stars or every human act to a
sidereal decision,[1355] and to speaking of friendships and enmities
as existing between the planets according as they are in this or that
aspect towards one another.[1356] If then the admittedly vast influence
of the stars cannot be satisfactorily accounted for either as material
effects caused by them as bodies or as voluntary action taken by them,
how is it to be explained? Plotinus accounts for it by the relation of
sympathy which exists between all parts of the universe, that single
living animal, and by the fact that the universe expresses itself in
the figures formed by the movements of the celestial bodies, which
“exert what influence they do exert on things here below through
contemplation of the intelligible world.”[1357] These figures, or
constellations in the astrological sense, have other powers than those
of the bodies which participate in them, just as many plants and
stones “among us” have marvelous occult powers for which heat and cold
will not account.[1358] They both exert influence effectively and are
signs of the future through their relation to the universal whole. In
many things they are both causes and signs, in others they are signs

[Sidenote: Other causes and signs than the stars.]

For Plotinus, however, the universe is not a mechanical one where
but one force prevails, namely, that produced by or represented by
the constellations. The universe is full of variety with countless
different powers, and the whole would not be a living animal unless
each living thing in it lived its own life, and unless life were
latent even in inanimate objects. It is true that some powers are more
effective than others, and that those of the sky are more so than those
of earth, and that many things lie under their power. Nevertheless
Plotinus sees in the reproduction of life and species in the universe a
force independent of the stars. In the generation of any animal, for
example, the stars contribute something, but the species must follow
that of its forebears.[1360] And after they have been produced or
begotten, terrestrial beings add something of their own. Nor are the
stars the sole signs of the future. Plotinus holds that “all things are
full of signs,” and that the sage can not merely predict from stars or
birds, but infer one thing from another by virtue of the harmony and
sympathy existing between all parts of the universe.[1361]

[Sidenote: Stars not the cause of evil.]

Nor can the gods or stars be said to cause evil on earth, since their
influence is affected by other forces which mingle with it. Like the
earlier Jewish Platonist, Philo, Plotinus denies that the planets are
the cause of evil or change their own natures from good to evil as
they enter new signs of the zodiac or take up different positions in
relation to one another. He argues that they are not changeable beings,
that they would not willingly injure men, or, if it is contended that
they are mere bodies and have no wills, he replies that then they can
produce only corporeal effects. He then solves the problem of evil in
the usual manner by ascribing it to matter, in which reason and the
celestial force are received unevenly, as light is broken and refracted
in passing through water.[1362]

[Sidenote: Against the astrology of the Gnostics.]

Plotinus repeats much the same line of argument in his book against the
Gnostics, where he protests against “the tragedy of terrors which they
think exists in the spheres of the universe,”[1363] and the tyranny
they ascribe to the heavenly bodies. His belief is that the celestial
spheres are in perfect harmony both with the universe as a whole and
with our globe, completing the whole and constituting a great part of
it, supplying beauty and order. And often they are to be regarded as
signs rather than causes of the future. Their natures are constant,
but the sequence of events may be varied by chance circumstances,
such as different hours of nativities, place of residence, and the
dispositions of individual souls. Amid all this diversity one must also
expect both good and evil, but not on that account call nature or the
stars either evil themselves or the cause of evil.

[Sidenote: Fate and free-will.]

As the allusion just made in the preceding paragraph to “the
dispositions of individual souls” shows, Plotinus made a distinction
between the extent of the control exercised by the stars over
inanimate, animate, and rational beings. The stars signify all things
in the sensible world but the soul is free unless it slips and is
stained by the body and so comes under their control. Fate or the force
of the stars is like a wind which shakes and tosses the ship of the
body in which the soul makes its passage. Man as a part of the world
does some things and suffers many things in accordance with destiny.
Some men become slaves to this world and to external influences, as
if they were bewitched. Others look to their inner souls and strive
to free themselves from the sensible world and to rise above demonic
nature and all fate of nativities and all necessity of this world, and
to live in the intelligible world above[1364].

[Sidenote: Summary of the attitude of Plotinus to astrology.]

Thus Plotinus arrives at practically what was to be the usual Christian
position in the middle ages regarding the influence of the stars,
maintaining the freedom of the human will and yet allowing a large
field to astrological prediction. He is evidently more concerned to
combat the notion that the stars cause evil or are to be feared as
evil powers than he is to combat the belief in their influence and
significations. His speaking of the stars both as signs and causes in
a way doubles the possibility of prediction from them. If he attacked
the language used by astrologers of the planets, and perhaps to a
certain extent the technique of their art, he supported astrology by
reconciling the existence of evil and of human freedom with a great
influence of the stars and by his emphasis upon the importance of
the figures made by the movements of the heavenly bodies above any
purely physical effects of their bodies as such. Thus he reinforced
the conception of occult virtue, always one of the chief pillars, if
not the chief support, of occult science and magic. On the other hand,
men were not likely to reform a language and technique sanctioned
by as great an astronomer as Ptolemy merely because a Neo-Platonist
questioned its propriety.

[Sidenote: Porphyry’s _Letter to Anebo_.]

Although Plotinus denied that diseases were due to demons, we once
heard him speak of “demonic nature,” and one of the _Enneads_ discusses
_Each man’s own demon_. Here, however, the discussion is limited to
the power presiding in each human soul, and nothing is said of magic.
For the connection of demons with magic and for the art of theurgy we
must turn to the writings of Porphyry and Iamblichus, and especially
to _The Letter to Anebo_ of Porphyry, who lived from about 233 to 305,
and the reply thereto of the master Abammon, a work which is otherwise
known as _Liber de mysteriis_[1365]. The attribution of the latter
work to Iamblichus, who died about 330, is based upon an anonymous
assertion prefixed to an ancient manuscript of Proclus and upon the
fact that Proclus himself quotes a passage from the _De mysteriis_ as
the words of Iamblichus. This attribution has been questioned, but if
not by Iamblichus, the work seems to be at least by some disciple of
his with similar views[1366]. Other works of Iamblichus are largely
philosophical and mathematical; among the chief works of Porphyry,
apart from his literary work in connection with Plotinus, were his
commentaries on Aristotle and fifteen books against the Christians.

[Sidenote: Its main argument.]

The _Letter to Anebo_ inquires concerning the nature of the gods,
the demons, and the stars; asks for an explanation of divination and
astrology, of the power of names and incantations; and questions the
employment of invocations and sacrifice. Other topics brought up are
the rule of spirits over the world of nature, partitioned out among
them for this purpose; the divine inspiration or demoniacal possession
of human beings; and the occult sympathy between different things in
the material universe. In especial the art of theurgy, a word said to
be used now for the first time by Porphyry,[1367] is discussed. It
may be roughly defined for the moment as a sort of pious necromancy
or magical cult of the gods. Porphyry raises various objections to
the procedure and logic of the theurgists, diviners, enchanters, and
astrologers, which Iamblichus, as we shall henceforth call the author
of the _De mysteriis_ as a matter of convenience if not of certainty,
endeavors to answer, and to justify the art of theurgy.

[Sidenote: Questions concerning divine natures.]

We may first note the theory of demons which is elicited from
Iamblichus in response to Porphyry’s trenchant and searching questions.
The latter, declaring that ignorance and disingenuousness concerning
divine natures are no less reprehensible than impiety and impurity,
demands a scientific discussion of the gods as a holy and beneficial
act. He asks why, if the divine power is infinite, indivisible, and
incomprehensible, different places and different parts of the body
are allotted to different gods. Why, if the gods are pure intellects,
they are represented as having passions, are worshiped with phallic
ritual, and are tempted with invocations and sacred offerings? Why
boastful speech and fantastic action are taken as indications of the
divine presence; and why, if the gods dwell in the heavens, theurgists
invoke only terrestrial and subterranean deities? How superior beings
can be invoked with commands by their inferiors, why the Sun and Moon
are threatened, why the man must be just and chaste who invokes spirits
in order to secure unjust ends or gratify lust, and why the worshiper
must abstain from animal food and not touch a corpse when sacrifices
to the gods consist of the bodies of dead victims? Porphyry wishes
further an explanation of the various _genera_ of gods, visible and
invisible, corporeal and incorporeal, beneficent and malicious, aquatic
and aerial. He wants to know whether the stars are not gods, how gods
differ from demons, and what the distinction is between souls and

[Sidenote: Orders of spiritual beings.]

Iamblichus in reply states that as heroes are elevated above souls,
so demons are inferior and subservient to the gods and translate
the infinite, ineffable, and invisible divine transcendent goodness
into terms of visible forms, energy, and reason.[1368] He further
distinguishes “the etherial, empyrean, and celestial gods,” and angels,
archangels, and archons.[1369] As for corporeal, visible, aerial, and
aquatic gods, he affirms that the gods have no bodies and no particular
allotments of space, but that natural objects participate in or are
related to the gods etherially or aerially or aquatically, each
according to its nature.[1370] “The celestial divinities,” for example,
“are not comprehended by bodies but contain bodies in their divine
lives and energies. They are not themselves converted to body, but
they have a body which is converted to its divine cause, and that body
does not impede their intellectual and incorporeal perfection.”[1371]
Iamblichus denies that there are any maleficent gods, saying that “it
is much better to acknowledge our inability to explain the occurrence
of evil than to admit anything impossible and false concerning the
gods.”[1372] But he admits the existence of both good and evil demons
and makes of the latter a convenient scapegoat upon whom to saddle any
inconsistencies or impurities in religious rites and magical ceremony.

[Sidenote: Nature of demons.]

Iamblichus does not, however, hold the view of Apuleius that demons
are subject to passions. They are impassive and incapable of
suffering.[1373] He scorns the notion that even the worst demons can
be allured by the vapors of animal sacrifice or that petty mortals can
supply such beings with anything;[1374] it is rather in the consumption
of foul matter by pure fire in the act of sacrifice that they take
delight. Demons are not, however, like the gods entirely separated
from bodies. The world is divided up into prefectures among them and
they are more or less inseparable from and identified with the natural
objects which they govern.[1375] Thus they may serve to enmesh the
soul in the bonds of matter and of fate, and to afflict the body with
disease.[1376] Also the evil demons “are surrounded by certain noxious,
blood-devouring, and fierce wild beasts,” probably of the type of
vampires and _empousas_.[1377] Iamblichus further holds that there is
a class of demons who are without judgment and reason, each of whom
has some one function to perform and is not adapted to do anything
else.[1378] Such demons or forces in nature men may well address as
superiors in invoking them, since they are superior to men in their
one special function; but when they have once been invoked, man as a
rational being may also well issue commands to them as his irrational

[Sidenote: The art of theurgy.]

Iamblichus also undertakes the defense of theurgy and carefully
distinguishes it from magic, as we shall soon see. It is also different
from science, since it does not merely employ the physical forces of
the natural universe,[1380] and from philosophy, since its ineffable
works are beyond the reach of mere intelligence, and those who
merely philosophize theoretically cannot hope for a theurgic union
or communion with the gods.[1381] Even theurgists cannot as a rule
endure the light of spiritual beings higher than heroes, demons, and
angels,[1382] and it is an exceedingly rare occurrence for one of them
to be united with the supramundane gods.[1383] This theurgy, or “the
art of divine works,” operates by means of “arcane signatures” and
“the power of inexplicable symbols.”[1384] It is thus that Iamblichus
explains away most of the details in sacred rites and sacrifices to
which Porphyry had objected as obscene or material and as implying
that the gods themselves were passive and passionate. They are mystic
symbols, “consecrated from eternity” for some hidden reason “which
is more excellent than reason.”[1385] Occult virtues indeed! We have
already heard Iamblichus state that natural objects participate in
or are related to the gods etherially or aerially or aquatically;
theurgists therefore quite properly employ in their art certain stones,
herbs, aromatics, and sacred animals.[1386] By employing such potent
symbols mere man takes on such a sacred character himself that he is
able to command many spiritual powers.[1387]

[Sidenote: Invocations and the power of words.]

Invocations and prayers are also much used in theurgical operations.
But such invocations do not draw down the impassive and pure gods
to this world; rather they purify those who employ them from their
passions and impurity and exalt them to union with the pure and the
divine.[1388] These prayers are symbolic, too. They do not appeal to
human passions or reason, “for they are perfectly unknown and arcane
and are alone known to the God whom they invoke.”[1389] In another
passage[1390] Iamblichus replies to Porphyry’s objection that such
prayers are often composed of meaningless words and names without
signification by declaring—somewhat inconsistently with his previous
assertion that these invocations are “perfectly unknown”—that some of
the names “which we can scientifically analyze” comprehend “the whole
divine essence, power and order.” Moreover, if translated into another
language, they do not have exactly the same meaning, and even if they
do, they no longer retain the same power as in the original tongue.
We shall meet a similar passage concerning the power of words and
divine names in the church father Origen who lived earlier in the third
century than Porphyry and Iamblichus. Iamblichus concludes that “it is
necessary that ancient prayers ... should be preserved invariably the

[Sidenote: Magic a human art: theurgy divine.]

Neither Porphyry nor Iamblichus, I believe, employs the word, “magic,”
but they both often allude to its practitioners and methods by such
expressions as “jugglers” and “enchanters” or by contrasting what is
done “artificially” or by means of art with theurgical operations.
In the last case the distinction is between what on the one hand is
regarded as a divine mystery or revelation and what on the other hand
is looked upon as a mere human art and contrivance. And “nothing ...
which is fashioned by human art is genuine and pure.”[1392] Christian
writers drew a like distinction between prophecy or miracle and
divination or magic. Sometimes, however, Iamblichus speaks of theurgy
itself as an art, an involuntary admission of the close resemblance
between its methods and those of magic. We are also told that if the
theurgist makes a slip in his procedure, he thereby reduces it to the
level of magic.[1393]

[Sidenote: Magic’s abuse of nature’s forces.]

Another distinction is that theurgy aims at communion with the
gods while magic has to do rather with “the physical or corporeal
powers of the universe.”[1394] Both Porphyry and Iamblichus believed
that harmony, sympathy, and mutual attraction existed between the
various objects in the universe, which Iamblichus asserted was one
animal.[1395] Thus it is possible for man to draw distant things to
himself or to unite them to, or separate them from, one another.[1396]
But art may also use this force of sympathy between objects in an
extreme and unseemly manner, and this disorderly forcing of nature, we
are left to infer, constitutes an essential feature of magic, whose
procedure is not truly natural or scientific.

[Sidenote: Its evil character.]

Magic not only disorders the law and harmony, and makes a perverse and
contrary use of natural forces. Its practitioners are also represented
as aiming at evil ends and as themselves of evil character.[1397]
They may try by their illicit and impure procedure to have intercourse
with the gods or with pure spirits, but they are unable to accomplish
this. All that they succeed in doing is to secure the alliance of
evil demons by associating with whom they become more depraved than
ever. Such wicked demons may pose as angels of light by requiring that
those who invoke them should be just or chaste, but afterwards they
show their true colors by assisting in crimes and the gratification
of lusts.[1398] It is they, too, who assuming the guise of superior
spirits are responsible for the boastful and arrogant utterances
of which Porphyry complained in persons supposed to be divinely

[Sidenote: Its deceit and unreality.]

Finally magic is unstable and fantastic. “The imaginations artificially
produced by enchantment” are not real objects. Those who foretell the
future by “standing on characters” are no theurgists, but employ a
superficial, false, and deceptive procedure which can attract only
evil demons.[1400] These demons are themselves deceitful and produce
“fictitious images.”[1401] Porphyry in the _Letter to Anebo_ also
alluded to the frauds of “jugglers.” Although the attitude both of
Porphyry and Iamblichus is thus professedly unfavorable to the magic
arts, we find that one of Iamblichus’s disciples, named Sopater,
was executed under Constantine on a charge of having charmed the

[Sidenote: Porphyry on modes of divination.]

How is divination to be placed in reference to magic and theurgy?
Porphyry had inquired concerning various methods of divination: in
sleep, in trances, and when fully conscious; in ecstasy, in disease,
and in states of mental aberration or enchantment. He mentioned
divination on hearing drums and cymbals, by drinking water and other
potions, by inhaling vapor; divination in darkness, in a wall, in the
open air or in the sunlight; by observing entrails or the flight of
birds or the motion of the stars, or even by means of meal. Yet other
modes of determining the future which he lists are by characters,
images, incantations, and invocations, with which the use of stones and
herbs is often combined. These details make it evident how impossible
it is to draw any dividing line between the methods of magic and
divination, and Porphyry himself states that those who invoke the gods
concerning the future not only “have about them stones and herbs,”
but are able to bind and to free from bonds, to open closed doors,
and to change men’s intentions. Among the virtues of parts of animals
mentioned in his treatise upon abstinence from animal food are the
powers of divination which may be obtained by eating the heart of a
hawk or crow.[1403]

[Sidenote: Iamblichus on divination.]

Porphyry states that all diviners attribute their predictions to gods
or demons, but that he wonders if foreknowledge may not be a power of
the human soul or perhaps accountable for by the sympathy which exists
between different parts of the universe. Iamblichus holds, however,
that divination is neither a human art nor the work of nature but
of divine origin.[1404] He perhaps regards it as little more than a
branch of theurgy. He distinguishes between human dreams which are
sometimes true, sometimes false, and dreams and visions divinely
sent.[1405] If one is able to predict the future by drinking water,
it is because the water has been divinely illuminated.[1406] That
we can predict when the mind is diseased and disordered, and that
stupid or simple-minded men are often better able to prophesy than the
wise and learned, are for him but further proofs that foreknowledge
is a divine gift and not a human science, while divination by such
means as rods, pebbles, grains of corn and wheat simply excites the
more his pious admiration at the greatness of divine power.[1407] He
disapproves of divination by standing on characters,[1408] but sees no
reason why divination in darkness, in a wall, or in sunlight, or by
potions and incantations, may not be divinely directed. He will not,
however, connect the disordered imaginations excited by disease with
divine presentiments.[1409] From true divination he also separates
the “natural prescience” of certain animals whose acuteness of sense
or occult sympathy with other parts and forces of nature enables them
to perceive some coming events before men do. Their power resembles
prophecy, “yet falls short of it in stability and truth.”[1410] Augury
is an art whose conjectures have great probability, but they are based
upon divine signs or portents effected in nature by the agency of

[Sidenote: Are the stars gods?]

The stars are on a totally different plane from the other substances
employed in divination. To Porphyry’s question whether they are not
gods Iamblichus is not content to reply that the celestial divinities
comprehend these heavenly bodies and that the bodies in no way impede
“their intellectual and incorporeal perfection.”[1412] He must needs go
on to argue that the stars themselves, as simple indivisible bodies,
unchanging in quality and uniform in movement, closely approach to “the
incorporeal essence of the gods.” He then triumphantly if illogically
concludes, “Thus therefore the visible celestials are all of them gods
and after a certain manner incorporeal.” We may add the opinion of
Chaeremon and others, noted by Porphyry, that the only gods were the
physical ones of the Egyptians and the planets, signs of the zodiac,
decans, and horoscope; all religious myths were explained by Chaeremon
as astrological allegories.

[Sidenote: Is there an art of astrology?]

Porphyry objected that those who thus reduce religion to astrology
submit everything to fate and leave the human soul no freedom, and
furthermore that in any case astrology is an unattainable science.
Iamblichus defends it against these objections, insisting that the
universe is divided under the rule of planets, signs, and decans;[1413]
that the Egyptians do not make everything physical but ascribe
two souls to man, one of which obeys the revolutions of the stars,
while the other is intellectual and free;[1414] and that there is a
systematic art of astrology based on divine revelation and the long
observations of the Chaldeans, although like any other science it may
at times degenerate and become contaminated by error.[1415] Iamblichus
further regards as ridiculous the contention of those “who ascribe
depravity to the celestial bodies because their participants sometimes
produce evil.”[1416] In the brief separate treatise, _De fato_,[1417]
he again holds that all things are bound by the indissoluble chain of
necessity which men call fate, but that the gods can loose the bonds
of fate, and that the human mind, too, has power to rise above nature,
unite with the gods, and enjoy eternal life.

[Sidenote: Porphyry and astrology.]

Whether Porphyry in his other extant works evidences a belief
in astrology or not, and whether he wrote an _Introduction to
the Tetrabiblos_ or astrological handbook of Ptolemy, has been
disputed.[1418] This _Introduction_ ascribed to Porphyry was much cited
by subsequent astrologers[1419] and was printed in 1559 together with
a much longer anonymous commentary on the _Tetrabiblos_ which some
ascribe to Proclus.[1420]

[Sidenote: Astrological images.]

Towards astrological images at least, Porphyry shows himself in the
_Letter to Anebo_ more favorable than Iamblichus, saying, “Nor are the
artificers of efficacious images to be despised, for they observe the
motion of celestial bodies.” Iamblichus, on the other hand, rather
grudgingly admits that “the image-making art attracts a certain very
obscure genesiurgic portion from the celestial effluxions.”[1421] He
seems to have the same feeling against images as against characters,
perhaps regarding both as bordering upon idolatry.[1422]

[Sidenote: Number mysticism.]

Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus were all given to number mysticism.
The sixth book of the sixth _Ennead_ is entirely devoted to this
subject, while Porphyry and Iamblichus both wrote _Lives_ of Pythagoras
and treatises upon his doctrine of number.

[Sidenote: Porphyry as reported by Eusebius.]

Other works by Porphyry than the _Letter to Anebo_ are cited or quoted
a good deal by Eusebius in _Praeparatio evangelica_, especially
his Περὶ τῆς ἐκ λογίων φιλοσοφίας, but the extracts are made for
Eusebius’s own purposes, which are to discredit pagan religion,
and neither express Porphyry’s complete thought nor probably even
tend to prove his original point. Besides showing that Porphyry was
inconsistent in distinguishing the different victims to be sacrificed
to terrestrial and subterranean, aerial, celestial, and sea gods in the
above-mentioned work, when in his _De abstinentia a rebus animatis_ he
held that beings who delighted in animal sacrifice were no gods but
mere demons, Eusebius quotes him a good deal to show that the pagan
gods were nothing but demons, that they themselves might be called
magicians and astrologers, that they loved characters, and that they
made their predictions of the future not from their own foreknowledge
but from the stars by the art of astrology, and that like men they
could not even always read the decrees of the stars aright. The belief
is also mentioned that the fate foretold from the stars may be avoided
by resort to magic.[1423]

[Sidenote: The Emperor Julian on theurgy and astrology.]

The Emperor Julian was an enthusiastic follower of Iamblichus whom
he praises[1424] in his _Hymn to the Sovereign Sun_ delivered at the
Saturnalia of 361 A. D. He also describes “the blessed theurgists” as
able to comprehend unspeakable mysteries which are hidden from the
crowd, such as Julian the Chaldean prophesied concerning the god of
the seven rays.[1425] The emperor tells us that from his youth he was
regarded as over-curious (περιεργότερον, a word which almost implies
the practice of magic) and as a diviner by the stars (ἀστρόμαντιν). His
_Hymn to the Sun_ contains a good deal of astrological detail, speaks
of the universe as eternal and divine, and regards planets, signs, and
decans as “the visible gods.” In short, “there is in the heavens a
great multitude of gods.”[1426] The Sun, however, is superior to the
other planets, and as Aristotle has pointed out “makes the simplest
movement of all the heavenly bodies that travel in a direction opposite
to the whole.”[1427] The Sun is also the link between the visible
universe and the intelligible world, and Julian infers from his middle
station among the planets that he is also king among the intellectual
gods.[1428] For behind his visible self is the great Invisible. He
frees our souls entirely from the power of “Genesis,” or the force of
the stars exercised at nativity, and lifts them to the world of the
pure intellect.[1429]

[Sidenote: Julian and divination.]

Julian believed in almost every form of pagan divination as well as
in astrology. To the oracles of Apollo he ascribed the civilizing of
the greater part of the world through the foundation of Greek colonies
and the revelation of religious and political law.[1430] The historian
Ammianus Marcellinus[1431] tells us that Julian was continually
inspecting entrails of victims and interpreting dreams and omens, and
that he even proposed to re-open a prophetic fountain whose predictions
were supposed to have enabled Hadrian to become emperor, after which
that emperor blocked it up from fear that someone else might supplant
him through its instrumentality. In another passage[1432] he defends
Julian from the charge of magic, saying, “Inasmuch as malicious persons
have attributed the use of evil arts to learn the future to this ruler
who was a learned inquirer into all branches of knowledge, we shall
briefly indicate how a wise man is able to acquire this by no means
trivial variety of learning. The spirit behind all the elements, seeing
that it is incessantly and everywhere active in the prophetic movement
of perennial bodies, bestows upon us the gift of divination by the
different arts which we employ; and the forces of nature, propitiated
by varied rites, as from exhaustless springs provide mankind with
prophetic utterances.”

[Sidenote: Scientific divination.]

Ammianus thus regards the arts of divination as serious sciences
based upon natural forces, although of course in the characteristic
Neo-Platonic way of thinking he confuses the spiritual and physical and
substitutes propitiatory rites for scientific experiments. His phrase,
“the prophetic movement of perennial bodies” almost certainly means
the stars and shows his belief in astrology. In another passage[1433]
he indicates the widespread trust in astrology among the Roman nobles
of his time, the later fourth century, by saying that even those “who
deny that there are superior powers in the sky,” nevertheless think it
imprudent to appear in public or dine or bathe without having first
consulted an almanac as to the whereabouts of Mercury or the exact
position of the moon in Cancer. The passage is satirical, no doubt, but
Ammianus probably objects quite as much to their disbelief in superior
powers in the sky as he does to the excess of their superstition.
That astrology and divination may be studied scientifically he again
indicates in a description of learning at Alexandria. Besides praising
the medical training to be had there, and mentioning the study of
geometry, music, astronomy, and arithmetic, he says, “In addition to
these subjects they cultivate the science which reveals the ways of the

[Sidenote: Proclus on theurgy.]

Iamblichus’s account of theurgy is repeated in more condensed form by
Proclus (412-485) in a brief treatise or fragment which is extant only
in its Latin translation by the Florentine humanist Ficinus, entitled
_De sacrificio et magia_.[1435] Neither magic nor theurgy, however, is
mentioned by name in the Latin text. Proclus states that the priests
of old built up their sacred science by observing the sympathy existing
between natural objects and by arguing from manifest to occult powers.
They saw how things on earth were associated with things in the heavens
and further discovered how to bring down divine virtue to this lower
world by the force of likeness which binds things together. Proclus
gives several examples of plants, stones, and animals which evidence
such association. The cock, for instance, is reverenced by the lion
because both are under the same planet, the sun, but the cock even
more so than the lion. Therefore demons who appear with the heads of
lions (_leonina fronte_) vanish suddenly at the sight of a cock unless
they chance to be demons of the solar order. After thus indicating
the importance of astrology as well as occult virtue in theurgy or
magic, Proclus tells how demons are invoked. Sometimes a single herb
or stone “suffices for the divine work”; sometimes several substances
and rites must be combined “to summon that divinity.” When they had
secured the presence of the demons, the priests proceeded, partly under
the instruction of the demons and partly by their own industrious
interpretation of symbols, to a study of the gods. “Finally, leaving
behind natural objects and forces and even to a great extent the
demons, they won communion with the gods.”

[Sidenote: Neo-Platonic account of magic borrowed by Christians.]

Despite the writings of Porphyry and other Neo-Platonists against
Christianity, much use was made by Christian theologians of the fourth
and fifth centuries of the Neo-Platonic accounts of magic, astrology,
and divination, especially of Porphyry’s _Letter to Anebo_. Eusebius
in his _Praeparatio Evangelica_[1436] made large extracts from it on
these themes and also from Porphyry’s work on the Chaldean oracles.
Augustine in _The City of God_[1437] accepted Porphyry as an authority
on the subjects of theurgy and magic. On the other hand, we do not find
the Christian writers repeating the attitude of Plotinus that the life
of reason is alone free from magic, except as they substitute the word
“Christianity” for “the life of reason.”

[Sidenote: Neo-Platonists and alchemy.]

The Neo-Platonists showed some interest in alchemy as well as in
theurgy and astrology. Berthelot published in his _Collection des
Alchimistes Grecs_ “a little tract of positive chemistry” which is
extant under the name of Iamblichus; and Proclus treated of the
relations between the metals and planets and the generation of the
metals under the influence of the stars.[1438] Of Synesius, who was
both a Neo-Platonist and a Christian bishop, and who seems to have
written works of alchemy, we shall treat in a later chapter.

                              CHAPTER XII

                     AELIAN, SOLINUS AND HORAPOLLO

 Aelian _On the Nature of Animals_—General character of the work—Its
 hodge-podge of unclassified detail—Solinus in the middle ages—His
 date—General character of his work; its relation to Pliny—Animals
 and gems—Occult medicine—Democritus and Zoroaster not regarded
 as magicians—Some bits of astrology—Alexander the Great—The
 _Hieroglyphics_ of Horapollo—Marvels of animals—Animals and
 astrology—The cynocephalus—Horapollo the cosmopolitan.

[Sidenote: Aelian _On the Nature of Animals_.]

From mystic and theurgic compositions we return to works of the
declining Roman Empire which deal more directly with nature but,
it must be confessed, in a manner somewhat fantastic. About the
beginning of the third century, Aelian of Praeneste, who is included
by Philostratus in his _Lives of the Sophists_, wrote _On the Nature
of Animals_.[1439] Its seventeen books, written in Greek, which Aelian
used fluently despite his Latin birth, are believed to have reached us
partly in interpolated form through two families of manuscripts, of
which the older and less interpolated text is found in a thirteenth
century manuscript at Paris and a somewhat earlier Vatican codex.[1440]
A number of its chapters are similar to and perhaps borrowed from
Pliny’s _Natural History_; at any rate they are commonplaces of ancient
science; but the work also has a marked individuality. Parallels have
also been noted between this work and the later _Hexaemeron_ of the
church father Basil. Aelian was much cited in Byzantine literature and
learning, and if he was not directly used in the Latin west, at least
the attitude toward animals which he displays and his selection of
material concerning them are as apt precursors of medieval Latin as of
medieval Greek scientific literature.

[Sidenote: General character of the work.]

In preface and epilogue Aelian himself adequately indicates
the character of his work. He is impressed by the customs and
characteristics of animals, and marvels at their wisdom and native
shrewdness, their justice and modesty, their affection and piety, which
should put human beings to blush. Thus Aelian’s work is marked by that
tendency which runs through ancient and medieval literature to admire
actions in the irrational brutes which seem to indicate almost human
intelligence and virtue on their part, and to moralize therefrom at the
expense of human beings. Another striking feature of his work is its
utterly whimsical and haphazard order. He mentions things simply as
they happen to occur to him. This fact, too, he recognizes, but refuses
to apologize for, stating that it suits him, if it does not suit anyone
else, and that he regards a mixed-up order as more motley, variegated,
and pleasing. Not only does he attempt no classification whatever of
his animals and mention snakes and quadrupeds and birds in the same
breath; he also does not complete the treatment of a given animal in
one passage but may scatter detached items about it throughout his
work. There is, for instance, probably at least one chapter concerning
elephants in each of his seventeen books.

[Sidenote: Its hodge-podge of unclassified detail.]

It would therefore be absurd for us to attempt any logical arrangement
in discussing his contents; we may do justice to him most adequately by
adopting his own lack of method and noting a few items and topics taken
more or less at random from his work. Ants never go out in the new
moon. Yet they neither gaze at the sky, nor count the number of days
on their fingers, like the learned Babylonians and Chaldeans, but have
this marvelous gift from nature.[1441] In sexual intercourse the female
viper conceives through the mouth and bites off the head of the male;
afterwards her young gnaw their way out of her vitals. “What have your
Oresteses and Alcmaeons to say to that, my dear tragedians?”[1442]
Doves put laurel boughs in their nests to guard against fascination and
the evil eye, and the hoopoe similarly employs ἀδίαvτον or καλλίτριχον
as an amulet;[1443] and other unreasoning animals guard against sorcery
by some mystic and marvelous natural power. Another chapter treats
of divinations from the crow and how hairs are dyed black with its
eggs.[1444] Others tell us of the generation of serpents from the
marrow of a dead man’s spine,[1445] and of venomous women like Medea
and Circe who are worse than the asp with its incurable sting, since
they kill by mere touch.[1446]

We go on to read of swift little beasts called _Pyrigoni_ who are
generated from fire and live in it, of salamanders who extinguish
flames, of the remedies used by the tortoise against snakes, of the
chastity of doves whose marriages never result in divorce, and of the
incontinence of the partridge.[1447] Also of the jealousies of certain
animals like the stag which hides its right horn, the lizard who
devours its cast-off skin, and the mare who eats the hippomanes from
its colt, lest men obtain these precious substances.[1448] Of the care
taken by storks, herons, and pelicans of their aged parents.[1449] How
the swallow by the virtue of an herb gives sight to its young who are
born blind, and how a hoopoe found an herb whose virtue dissolved the
mud with which the caretaker of a building had plugged up the hole in
the wall which it used for its nest.[1450] How the lion and basilisk
fear the cock, and of a lake without fish in a place where the cocks do
not crow.[1451]

How elephants venerate the waxing moon; how the weasel eats rue when
about to fight the snake; and of the jealousy of the hedgehog and
lynx, the latter concealing his precious urine, the other watering
his own hide when he is captured in order to spoil it.[1452] How
the Indians fight griffins when collecting gold.[1453] How the
presence of a cock aids a woman’s delivery.[1454] Of unnamed beasts
in Libya who know how to count and leave an eleventh part of their
prey untouched.[1455] That the sea dragon is easily captured with
the left hand but not with the right.[1456] Dragons know the force
of herbs and cure themselves with some and increase their venom with
others.[1457] How dogs, cows, and other animals sense a famine or
plague beforehand.[1458] How the Egyptians by their magic charm birds
from the sky and snakes from their holes.[1459] When it rains in Egypt,
mice are born from the small drops and plague the country. Traps and
fences and ditches are of no avail against them, as they can leap over
trenches and walls. Consequently the Egyptians are forced to pray God
to end the calamity,[1460]—an interesting variant on the Old Testament
account of the plagues of Egypt.

In dogs there exists a certain dialectical faculty of
ratiocination.[1461] The weather may be predicted from birds,
quadrupeds, and flies.[1462] The she-goat can cure suffusion of its
eyes.[1463] Eagles drop tortoises on rocks to break their shells
and the bald-headed poet Aeschylus met his death by having his pate
mistaken thus for a smooth round stone.[1464] Some predict the future
by birds, others by entrails, or by grains, sieves, and cheeses; the
Lycians practice divination by fish.[1465] A stork whom a widow of
Tarentum helped when it was too young to fly brought her a luminous
precious stone the following year.[1466] Solon did not have to enact
a law ordering children to support their aged parents in the case
of lions, whose cubs are taught by nature filial piety toward their
elders.[1467] Only the horn of the Scythian ass can hold the water of
the Arcadian river Styx; Alexander the Great sent a sample of it to
Delphi with some accompanying verses which Aelian quotes.[1468] In
Epirus dragons sacred to Apollo are employed in divination, and in the
Lavinian Grove dragons spit out again the frumenty offered them by
unchaste virgins.[1469] By flying beneath it an eagle saved the life of
its young one who had been thrown down from a tower.[1470] Different
fish eat different sea herbs.[1471] There are fish who live in boiling
water.[1472] There are scattered mentions of the marvels of India
throughout Aelian’s work, and in his sixteenth book the first fourteen
chapters are almost exclusively concerned with the animals of that land.

[Sidenote: Solinus in the middle ages.]

A well-known work in the middle ages dating from the period of the
Roman Empire was the _Collectanea rerum memorabilium_ or _Polyhistor_
of Solinus. Mommsen’s edition lists 153 manuscripts from 32
places,[1473] and we shall find many citations of Solinus in our later
medieval authors. Martianus Capella and Isidore were the first to make
extensive use of his work. In the thirteenth century Albertus Magnus
had little respect for Solinus as an authority and expressed more
than once the quite accurate opinion that his work was full of lies.
Nevertheless copies of it continued to abound in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, and by 1554 five printed editions had appeared.
“From it directly come most of the fables in works of object so
different as those of Dicuil, Isidore, Capella, and Priscian.”[1474]

[Sidenote: His date.]

The first extant author to make use of Solinus is Augustine in
_The City of God_, while he is first named in the _Genealogus_ of
455 A. D. None of the manuscripts of the work antedate the ninth
century, but many of them have copied an earlier subscription from a
manuscript written “by the zeal and diligence of our lord Theodosius,
the unconquered prince.” This is taken to refer to the emperor
Theodosius II, 401-450. The work itself, however, has no Christian
characteristics; on the contrary it is very fond of mentioning places
famed in pagan religion and Greek mythology and of recounting miracles
and marvels connected with heathen shrines and rites. Indeed, Solinus
seldom, if ever, mentions anything later than the first century of
our era. He speaks of Byzantium, not of Constantinople, and makes no
mention of the Roman provinces as divided in the system of Diocletian.
His book, however, is a compilation from earlier writings so that we
need not expect allusions to his own age. The Latin style and general
literary make-up of the work are characteristic of the declining empire
and early medieval period. Mommsen was inclined to date Solinus in the
third rather than the fourth century, but the work seems to have been
revised about the sixth century, after which date it became customary
to call it the _Polyhistor_ rather than the _Collectanea rerum
memorabilium_. It is also referred to, however, as _De mirabilibus
mundi_, or _Wonders of the World_.

[Sidenote: General character of his work: its relation to Pliny.]

The work is primarily a geography and is arranged by countries and
places, beginning with Rome and Italy. As each locality is considered,
Solinus sometimes tells a little of its history, but is especially
inclined to recount miraculous religious events or natural marvels
associated with that particular region. Thus in describing two lakes
he rather apologizes for mentioning the first at all because it
can scarcely be called miraculous, but assures us that the second
“is regarded as very extraordinary.”[1475] Sometimes he digresses
to other topics such as calendar reform.[1476] Solinus draws both
his geographical data and further details very largely from Pliny’s
_Natural History_; but inasmuch as Pliny treated of these matters
in separate books, Solinus has to re-organize the material. He
also selects simply a few particulars from Pliny’s wealth of detail
on any given subject, and furthermore considerably alters Pliny’s
wording, sometimes condensing the thought, sometimes amplifying the
phraseology—apparently in an effort to make the point clearer and
easier reading. Of Pliny’s thirty-seven books only those from the third
to the thirteenth inclusive and the last book are used to any extent
by Solinus. That is to say, he either was acquainted with only, or
confined himself to, those books dealing with geography, man and other
animals, and gems, omitting almost entirely, except for the twelfth
and thirteenth books, Pliny’s elaborate treatment of vegetation and of
medicinal simples[1477] and discussion of metals and the fine arts.
Solinus does not acknowledge his great debt to Pliny in particular,
although he keeps alluding to the fulness with which everything has
already been discussed by past authors, and although he cites other
writers who are almost unknown to us. Of his known sources Pomponius
Mela is the chief after Pliny but is used much less. On the other hand,
the number of passages for which Mommsen was unable to give any source
is not inconsiderable. As may have been already inferred, the work
of Solinus is brief; the text alone would scarcely fill one hundred

[Sidenote: Animals and gems.]

It would perhaps be rash to conjecture which quality commended the
book most to the following period: its handy size, or its easy style
and fairly systematic arrangement, or its emphasis upon marvels. The
last characteristic is at least the most germane to our investigation.
Solinus rendered the service, if we may so term it, of reducing Pliny’s
treatment of animals and precious stones in particular to a few common
examples, which either were already the best known or became so as
a result of his selection. Indeed, King was of the opinion that the
descriptions of gems in Solinus were more precise, technical, and
systematic than those in Pliny, and found his notices “often extremely
useful.”[1479] Solinus describes such animals as the wolf, lynx, bear,
lion, hyena, _onager_ or wild ass, basilisk, crocodile, hippopotamus,
phoenix, dolphin, and chameleon; and recounts the marvelous properties
of such gems as _achates_ or agate, _galactites_, _catochites_,
crystal, _gagates_, adamant, heliotrope, hyacinth, and _paeanites_.
The dragons of India and Ethiopia also occupy his attention, as they
did that of Philostratus in the _Life of Apollonius of Tyana_; indeed,
he repeats in different words the statement found in Philostratus that
they swim far out to sea.[1480] In Sardinia, on the contrary, there are
no snakes, but a poisonous ant exists there. Fortunately there are also
healing waters there with which to counteract its venom, but there is
also native to Sardinia an herb called _Sardonia_ which causes those
who eat it to die of laughter.[1481]

[Sidenote: Occult medicine.]

Although Solinus makes no use of Pliny’s medical books, he shows
considerable interest in the healing properties of simples and in
medicine. He tells us that those who slept in the shrine of Aesculapius
at Epidaurus were warned in dreams how to heal their diseases,[1482]
and that the third daughter of Aeetes, named Angitia, devoted herself
“to resisting disease by the salubrious science” of medicine.[1483]
According to Solinus Circe as well as Medea was a daughter of Aeetes,
but usually in Greek mythology she is represented as his sister.

[Sidenote: Democritus and Zoroaster not regarded as magicians.]

This allusion to Circe and Medea shows that magic, to which medicine
and pharmacy are apparently akin, does not pass unnoticed in Solinus’s
page. He copies from Mela the account of the periodical transformation
of the _Neuri_ into wolves.[1484] But instead of accusing Democritus
of having employed magic, as Pliny does, Solinus represents him as
engaging in contests with the _Magi_, in which he made frequent use
of the stone _catochites_ in order to demonstrate the occult power
of nature.[1485] That is to say, Democritus was apparently opposing
science to magic and showing that all the latter’s feats could be
duplicated or improved upon by employing natural forces. In two other
passages[1486] Solinus calls Democritus _physicus_, or scientist, and
affirms that his birth in Abdera did more to make that town famous than
any other thing connected with it, despite the fact that it was founded
by and named after the sister of Diomedes. Zoroaster, too, whom Pliny
called the founder of the magic art, is not spoken of as a magician by
Solinus, although he is mentioned three times and is described as “most
skilled in the best arts,” and is cited concerning the power of coral
and of the gem _aetites_.[1487]

[Sidenote: Some bits of astrology.]

It is not part of Solinus’s plan to describe the heavens, but he
occasionally alludes to “the discipline of the stars,”[1488] as he
calls astronomy or astrology. On the authority of L. Tarrutius, “most
renowned of astrologers,”[1489] he tells us that the foundations of the
walls of Rome were laid by Romulus in his twenty-second year on the
eleventh day of the kalends of May between the second and third hours,
when Jupiter was in Pisces, the sun in Taurus, the moon in Libra, and
the other four planets in the sign of the scorpion. He also speaks of
the star Arcturus destroying the Argive fleet off Euboea on its return
from Ilium.[1490]

[Sidenote: Alexander the Great.]

Alexander the Great figures prominently in the pages of Alexander
Solinus, being mentioned a score of times, and this too corresponds to
the medieval interest in the Macedonian conqueror. Stories concerning
him are repeated from Pliny, but Solinus also displays further
information. He insists that Philip was truly his father, although he
adds that Olympias strove to acquire a nobler father for him, when
she affirmed that she had had intercourse with a dragon, and that
Alexander tried to have himself considered of divine descent.[1491]
The statement concerning Olympias suggests the story of Nectanebus,
of which a later chapter will treat, but that individual is not
mentioned, although Aristotle and Callisthenes are spoken of as
Alexander’s tutors, so that it is doubtful if Solinus was acquainted
with the _Pseudo-Callisthenes_. He describes Alexander’s line of march
with fair accuracy and not in the totally incorrect manner of the

[Sidenote: The _Hieroglyphics_ of Horapollo.]

In seeking a third text and author of the same type as Aelian and
Solinus to round out the present chapter, our choice unhesitatingly
falls upon the _Hieroglyphics_ of Horapollo, a work which pretends to
explain the meaning of the written symbols employed by the ancient
Egyptian priests, but which is really principally concerned with
the same marvelous habits and properties of animals of which Aelian
treated. In brief the idea is that these characteristics of animals
must be known in order to comprehend the significance of the animal
figures in the ancient hieroglyphic writing. Horapollo is supposed to
have written in the Egyptian language in perhaps the fourth or fifth
century of our era,[1492] but his work is extant only in the Greek
translation of it made by a Philip who lived a century or two later and
who seems to have made some additions of his own.[1493]

[Sidenote: Marvels of animals.]

The zoology of Horapollo is for the most part not novel, but repeats
the same erroneous notions that may be found in Aristotle’s _History
of Animals_, Pliny’s _Natural History_, Aelian, and other ancient
authors. Again we hear of the basilisk’s fatal breath, of the beaver’s
discarded testicles, of the unnatural methods of conception of the
weasel and viper, of the bear’s licking its cubs into shape, of the
kindness of storks to their parents, of wasps generated from a dead
horse, of the phoenix, of the swan’s song, of the sick lion’s eating
an ape to cure himself, of the bull tamed by tying it to the branch of
a wild fig tree, of the elephant’s fear of a ram or a dog and how it
buries its tusks.[1494] Less familiar perhaps are the assertions that
the mare miscarries, if she merely treads on a wolf’s tracks;[1495]
that the pigeon cures itself by placing laurel in its nest;[1496] that
putting the wings of a bat on an ant-hill will prevent the ants from
coming out.[1497] The statement that if the hyena, when hunted, turns
to the right, it will slay its pursuer, while if it turns to the left,
it will be slain by him, is also found in Pliny.[1498] But his long
enumeration of virtues ascribed to parts of the hyena by the _Magi_
does not include the assertion in Horapollo’s next chapter[1499] that a
man girded with a hyena skin can pass through the ranks of his enemies
without injury, although it ascribes somewhat similar virtues to the
animal’s skin. In Horapollo it is the hawk rather than the eagle which
surpasses other winged creatures in its ability to gaze at the sun;
hence physicians use the hawkweed in eye-cures.[1500]

[Sidenote: Animals and astrology.]

Animals also serve as astronomical or astrological symbols in the
system of hieroglyphic writing as interpreted by Horapollo. Not only
does a palm tree represent the year because it puts forth a new branch
every new moon,[1501] but the phoenix denotes the _magnus annus_ in the
course of which the heavenly bodies complete their revolutions.[1502]
The scarab rolls his ball of dung from east to west and gives it
the shape of the universe.[1503] He buries it for twenty-eight days
conformably to the course of the moon through the zodiac, but he
has thirty toes to correspond to the days of the month. As there is
no female scarab, so there is no male vulture. The female vulture
symbolizes the Egyptian year by spending five days in conceiving by
the wind, one hundred and twenty in pregnancy, the same period in
rearing its young, and the remaining one hundred and twenty days in
preparing itself to repeat the process.[1504] The vulture also visits
battlefields seven days in advance and by the direction of its glance
indicates which army will be defeated.

[Sidenote: The cynocephalus.]

The cynocephalus, dog-headed ape, or baboon, was mentioned several
times by Pliny, but Horapollo gives more specific information
concerning it, chiefly of an astrological character. It is born
circumcised and is reared in temples in order to learn from it the
exact hour of lunar eclipses, at which times it neither sees nor
eats, while the female _ex genitalibus sanguinem emittit_. The
cynocephalus represents the inhabitable world which has seventy-two
primitive parts, because the animal dies and is buried piecemeal by
the priests during a period of as many days, until at the end of the
seventy-second day life has entirely departed from the last remnant of
its carcass.[1505] The cynocephalus not only marks the time of eclipses
but at the equinoxes makes water twelve times by day and by night,
marking off the hours; hence a figure of it is carved by the Egyptians
on their water-clocks.[1506] Horapollo associates together the god of
the universe and fate and the stars which are five in number, for he
believes that five planets carry out the economy of the universe and
that they are subject to God’s government.[1507]

[Sidenote: Horapollo the cosmopolitan.]

Horapollo cannot be given high rank either as a zoologist and
astronomer, or a philologer and archaeologist; but at least he was no
narrow nationalist and had some respect for history. The Egyptians,
he says, “denote a man who has never left his own country by a human
figure with the head of an ass, because he neither hears any history
nor knows of what is going on abroad.”[1508]


  Chapter 13.  The Book of Enoch.
     ”    14.  Philo Judaeus.
     ”    15.  The Gnostics.
     ”    16.  The Christian Apocrypha.
     ”    17.  The Recognitions of Clement and Simon Magus.
     ”    18.  The Confession of Cyprian and some similar stories.
     ”    19.  Origen and Celsus.
     ”    20.  Other Christian Discussion of Magic before Augustine.
     ”    21.  Christianity and Natural Science; Basil, Epiphanius, and the
     ”    22.  Augustine on Magic and Astrology.
     ”    23.  The Fusion of Pagan and Christian Thought in the Fourth
               and Fifth Centuries.



We now turn back chronologically to the point from which we started
in our survey of classical science and magic in order to trace the
development of Christian thought in regard to the same subjects. How
far did Christianity break with ancient science and superstition? To
what extent did it borrow from them?

[Sidenote: Magic and religion.]

It has often been remarked that, as a new religion comes to prevail in
a society, the old rites are discredited and prohibited as magic. The
faith and ceremonies of the majority, performed publicly, are called
religion: the discarded cult, now practiced only privately and covertly
by a minority, is stigmatized as magic and contrary to the general
good. Thus we shall hear Christian writers condemn the pagan oracles
and auguries as arts of divination, and classify the ancient gods as
demons of the same sort as those invoked in the magic arts. Conversely,
when a new religion is being introduced, is as yet regarded as a
foreign faith, and is still only the private worship of a minority,
the majority regard it as outlandish magic. And this we shall find
illustrated by the accusations of sorcery and magic heaped upon Jesus
by the Jews, and upon the Jews and the early Christians by a world long
accustomed to pagan rites. The same bandying back and forth of the
charge of magic occurred between Mohammed and the Meccans.[1509]

[Sidenote: Relation between early Christian and medieval literature.]

It is perhaps generally assumed that the men of the middle ages were
widely read in and deeply influenced by the fathers of the early
church, but at least for our subject this influence has hardly been
treated either broadly or in detail. Indeed, the predilection of the
humanists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for anything written
in Greek and their aversion to medieval Latin has too long operated
as a bar to the study of medieval literature in general. And scholars
who have edited or studied the Greek, Syriac, and other ancient texts
connected with early Christianity have perhaps too often neglected the
Latin versions preserved in medieval manuscripts, or, while treasuring
up every hint that Photius lets fall, have failed to note the citations
and allusions in medieval Latin encyclopedists. Yet it is often the
case that the manuscripts containing the Latin versions are of earlier
date than those which seem to preserve the Greek original text.

[Sidenote: Method of presenting early Christian thought.]

There is so much repetition and resemblance between the numerous
Christian writers in Greek and Latin of the Roman Empire that I have
even less than in the case of their classical contemporaries attempted
a complete presentation of them, but, while not intending to omit any
account of the first importance in the history of magic or experimental
science, have aimed to make a selection of representative persons
and typical passages. At the same time, in the case of those authors
and works which are discussed, the aim is to present their thought
in sufficiently specific detail to enable the reader to estimate for
himself their scientific or superstitious character and their relations
to classical thought on the one hand and medieval thought on the other.

Before we treat of Christian writings themselves it is essential to
notice some related lines of thought and groups of writings which
either preceded or accompanied the development of Christian thought
and literature, and which either influenced even orthodox thought
powerfully, or illustrate foreign elements, aberrations, side-currents,
and undertows which none the less cannot be disregarded in tracing
the main current of Christian belief. We therefore shall successively
treat of the literature extant under the name of Enoch, of the works
of Philo Judaeus, of the doctrines of the Gnostics, of the Christian
_Apocrypha_, of the _Pseudo-Clementines_ and Simon Magus, and of the
_Confession_ of Cyprian and some similar stories. We shall then make
Origen’s _Reply to Celsus_, in which the conflict of classical and
Christian conceptions is well illustrated, our point of departure in
an examination of the attitude of the early fathers towards magic and
science. Succeeding chapters will treat of the attitude toward magic
of other fathers before Augustine, of Christianity and natural science
as shown in Basil’s _Hexaemeron_, Epiphanius’ _Panarion_, and the
_Physiologus_, and of Augustine himself. A final chapter on the fusion
of paganism and Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries will
terminate this second division of our investigation and also serve as a
supplement to the preceding division and an introduction to the third
book on the early middle ages. Our arrangement is thus in part topical
rather than strictly chronological. The dates of many authors and works
are too dubious, there is too much of the apocryphal and interpolated,
and we have to rely too much upon later writers for the views of
earlier ones, to make a strictly or even primarily chronological
arrangement either advisable or feasible.

                             CHAPTER XIII

                           THE BOOK OF ENOCH

 Enoch’s reputation as an astrologer in the middle ages—Date and
 influence of the literature ascribed to Enoch—Angels governing the
 universe; stars and angels—The fallen angels teach men magic and
 other arts—The stars as sinners—Effect of sin upon nature—Celestial
 phenomena—Mountains and metals—Strange animals.

[Sidenote: Enoch’s reputation as an astrologer in the middle ages.]

In collections of medieval manuscripts there often is found a treatise
on fifteen stars, fifteen herbs, fifteen stones, and fifteen figures
engraved upon them, which is attributed sometimes to Hermes, presumably
Trismegistus, and sometimes to Enoch, the patriarch, who “walked with
God and was not.”[1510] Indeed in the prologue to a Hermetic work on
astrology in a medieval manuscript we are told that Enoch and the
first of the three Hermeses or Mercuries are identical.[1511] This
treatise probably has no direct relation to the _Book of Enoch_,
which we shall discuss in this chapter and which was composed in the
pre-Christian period. But it is interesting to observe that the same
reputation for astrology, which led the middle ages sometimes to
ascribe this treatise to Enoch, is likewise found in “the first notice
of a book of Enoch,” which “appears to be due to a Jewish or Samaritan
Hellenist,” which “has come down to us successively through Alexander
Polyhistor and Eusebius,” and which states that Enoch was the founder
of astrology.[1512] The statement in Genesis that Enoch lived three
hundred and sixty-five years would also lead men to associate him with
the solar year and stars.

[Sidenote: Date and influence of the literature ascribed to Enoch.]

The _Book of Enoch_ is “the precipitate of a literature, once very
active, which revolved ... round Enoch,” and in the form which has
come down to us is a patchwork from “several originally independent
books.”[1513] It is extant in the form of Greek fragments preserved in
the _Chronography_ of G. Syncellus,[1514] or but lately discovered in
(Upper) Egypt, and in more complete but also more recent manuscripts
giving an Ethiopic and a Slavonic version.[1515] These last two
versions are quite different both in language and content, while some
of the citations of Enoch in ancient writers apply to neither of these
versions. While “Ethiopic did not exist as a literary language before
350 A. D.,”[1516] and none of the extant manuscripts of the Ethiopic
version is earlier than the fifteenth century,[1517] Charles believes
that they are based upon a Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic
original, and that even the interpolations in this were made by an
editor living before the Christian era. He asserts that “nearly all the
writers of the New Testament were familiar with it,” and influenced by
it,—in fact that its influence on the New Testament was greater than
that of all the other apocrypha together, and that it “had all the
weight of a canonical book” with the early church fathers.[1518] After
300 A. D., however, it became discredited, except as we have seen among
Ethiopic and Slavonic Christians. Before 300 Origen in his _Reply to
Celsus_[1519] accuses his opponent of quoting the _Book of Enoch_ as
a Christian authority concerning the fallen angels. Origen objects
that “the books which bear the name Enoch do not at all circulate
in the Churches as divine.” Augustine, in the _City of God_,[1520]
written between 413 and 426, admits that Enoch “left some divine
writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical
epistle.” But he doubts if any of the writings current in his own day
are genuine and thinks that they have been wisely excluded from the
course of Scripture. Lods writes that after the ninth century in the
east and from a much earlier date in the west, the _Book of Enoch_ is
not mentioned, “At the most some medieval rabbis seem still to know of
it.”[1521] Yet Alexander Neckam, in the twelfth century, speaks as if
Latin Christendom of that date had some acquaintance with the Enoch
literature. We shall note some passages in Saint Hildegard which seem
parallel to others in the _Book of Enoch_, while Vincent of Beauvais
in his _Speculum naturale_ in the thirteenth century, in justifying a
certain discriminating use of the apocryphal books, points out that
Jude quotes Enoch whose book is now called apocryphal.[1522]

[Sidenote: Angels governing the universe: stars and angels.]

The Enoch literature has much to say concerning angels, and implies
their control of nature, man, and the future. We hear of Raphael,
“who is set over all the diseases and wounds of the children of men”;
Gabriel, “who is set over all the powers”; Phanuel, “who is set over
the repentance and hope of those who inherit eternal life.”[1523] The
revolution of the stars is described as “according to the number of
the angels,” and in the Slavonic version the number of those angels
is stated as two hundred.[1524] Indeed the stars themselves are often
personified and we read “how they keep faith with each other” and even
of “all the stars whose privy members are like those of horses.”[1525]
The Ethiopic version also speaks of the angels or spirits of
hoar-frost, dew, hail, snow and so forth.[1526] In the Slavonic version
Enoch finds in the sixth heaven the angels who attend to the phases of
the moon and the revolutions of stars and sun and who superintend the
good or evil condition of the world. He finds angels set over the years
and seasons, the rivers and sea, the fruits of the earth, and even an
angel over every herb.[1527]

[Sidenote: The fallen angels teach men magic and other arts.]

The fallen angels in particular are mentioned in the _Book of Enoch_.
Two hundred angels lusted after the comely daughters of men and bound
themselves by oaths to marry them.[1528] After having thus taken
unto themselves wives, they instructed the human race in the art of
magic and the science of botany—or to be more exact, “charms and
enchantments” and “the cutting of roots and of woods.” In another
chapter various individual angels are named who taught respectively
the enchanters and botanists, the breaking of charms, astrology, and
various branches thereof.[1529] In the Greek fragment preserved by
Syncellus there are further mentioned pharmacy, and what probably
denote geomancy (“sign of the earth”) and aeromancy (_aeroskopia_).
Through this revelation of mysteries which should have been kept hid
we are told that men “know all the secrets of the angels, and all the
violence of the Satans, and all their occult power, and all the power
of those who practice sorcery, and the power of witchcraft, and the
power of those who make molten images for the whole earth.”[1530]
The revelation included, moreover, not only magic arts, witchcraft,
divination, and astrology, but also natural sciences, such as botany
and pharmacy—which, however, are apparently regarded as closely akin
to magic—and useful arts such as mining metals, manufacturing armor
and weapons, and “writing with ink and paper”—“and thereby many sinned
from eternity to eternity and until this day.”[1531] As the preceding
remark indicates, the author is decidedly of the opinion that men were
not created to the end that they should write with pen and ink. “For
man was created exactly like the angels to the intent that he should
continue righteous and pure, ... but through this their knowledge men
are perishing.”[1532] Perhaps the writer means to censure writing as
magical and thinks of it only as mystic signs and characters. Magic
is always regarded as evil in the Enoch literature, and witchcraft,
enchantments, and “devilish magic” are given a prominent place in a
list in the Slavonic version[1533] of evil deeds done upon earth.

[Sidenote: The stars as sinners.]

In connection with the fallen angels we find the stars regarded as
capable of sin as well as personified. In the Ethiopic version there
is more than one mention of seven stars that transgressed the command
of God and are bound against the day of judgment or for the space of
ten thousand years.[1534] One passage tells how “judgment was held
first over the stars, and they were judged and found guilty, and went
to the place of condemnation, and they were cast into an abyss.”[1535]
A similar identification of the stars with the fallen angels is found
in one of the visions of Saint Hildegard in the twelfth century. She
writes, “I saw a great star most splendid and beautiful, and with it
an exceeding multitude of falling sparks which with the star followed
southward. And they examined Him upon His throne almost as something
hostile, and turning from Him, they sought rather the north. And
suddenly they were all annihilated, being turned into black coals ...
and cast into the abyss that I could see them no more.”[1536] She then
interprets the vision as signifying the fall of the angels.

[Sidenote: Effect of sin upon nature.]

An idea which we shall find a number of times in other ancient and
medieval writers appears also in the _Book of Enoch_. It is that human
sin upsets the world of nature, and in this particular case, even the
period of the moon and the orbits of the stars.[1537] Hildegard again
roughly parallels the Enoch literature by holding that the original
harmony of the four elements upon this earth was changed into a
confused and disorderly mixture after the fall of man.[1538]

[Sidenote: Celestial phenomena]

The natural world, although intimately associated with the spiritual
world and hardly distinguished from it in the Enoch literature,
receives considerable attention, and much of the discussion in both
the Ethiopic and Slavonic versions is of a scientific rather than
ethical or apocalyptic character. One section of the Ethiopic version
is described by Charles[1539] as the _Book of Celestial Physics_ and
upholds a calendar based upon the lunar year. The Slavonic version,
on the other hand, while mentioning the lunar year of 354 days and
the solar year of 365 and ¼ days, seems to prefer the latter, since
the years of Enoch’s life are given as 365, and he writes 366 books
concerning what he has seen in his visions and voyages.[1540] The
_Book of Enoch_ supposes a plurality of heavens.[1541] In the Slavonic
version Enoch is taken through the seven heavens, or ten heavens
in one manuscript, with the signs of the zodiac in the eighth and
ninth. An account is also given of the creation, and the waters above
the firmament, which were to give the early Christian apologists and
medieval clerical scientists so much difficulty, are described as
follows: “And thus I made firm the waters, that is, the depths, and I
surrounded the waters with light, and I created seven circles, and I
fashioned them like crystal, moist and dry, that is to say, like glass
and ice, and as for the waters and also the other elements I showed
each of them their paths, (viz.) to the seven stars, each of them in
their heaven, how they should go.”[1542] The order of the seven planets
in their circles is given as follows: in the first and highest circle
the star Kruno, then Aphrodite or Venus, Ares (Mars), the sun, Zeus
(Jupiter), Hermes (Mercury), and the moon.[1543] God also tells Enoch
that the duration of the world will be for a week of years, that is,
seven thousand, after which “let there be at the beginning of the
eighth thousand a time when there is no computation and no end; neither
years nor months nor weeks nor days nor hours.”[1544]

[Sidenote: Mountains and metals.]

Turning from celestial physics to terrestrial phenomena, we may note a
few allusions to minerals, vegetation, and animals. “Seven mountains
of magnificent stones” are more than once mentioned in the Ethiopic
version and are described as each different from the other.[1545]
Another passage speaks of “seven mountains full of choice nard and
aromatic trees and cinnamon and pepper.”[1546] But whether these
groups of seven mountains are to be astrologically related to the seven
planets is not definitely stated. We are also left in doubt whether
the following passage may have some astrological or even alchemical
significance, or whether it is merely a figurative prophecy like that
in the Book of Daniel concerning the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in
his dream. “There mine eyes saw all the hidden things of heaven that
shall be, an iron mountain, and one of copper, and one of silver, and
one of gold, and one of soft metal, and one of lead.”[1547] At any rate
Enoch has come very near to listing the seven metals usually associated
with the seven planets. In another passage we are informed that while
silver and “soft metal” come from the earth, lead and tin are produced
by a fountain in which an eminent angel stands.[1548]

[Sidenote: Strange animals.]

As for animals we are informed that Behemoth is male and Leviathan
female.[1549] When Enoch went to the ends of the earth he saw there
great beasts and birds who differed in appearance, beauty, and
voice.[1550] In the Slavonic version we hear a good deal of phoenixes
and _chalkydri_, who seem to be flying dragons. These creatures are
described as “strange in appearance with the feet and tails of lions
and the heads of crocodiles. Their appearance was of a purple color
like the rainbow; their size, nine hundred measures. Their wings were
like those of angels, each with twelve, and they attend the chariot of
the sun, and go with him, bringing heat and dew as they are ordered by

                              CHAPTER XIV

                             PHILO JUDAEUS

 Bibliographical note—Philo the mediator between Hellenistic and
 Jewish-Christian thought—His influence upon the middle ages was
 indirect—Good and bad magic—Stars not gods nor first causes—But
 rational and virtuous animals, and God’s viceroys over inferiors—They
 do not cause evil; but it is possible to predict the future from
 their motions—Jewish astrology—Perfection of the number seven—And
 of fifty—Also of four and six—Spirits of the air—Interpretation
 of dreams—Politics are akin to magic—A thought repeated by Moses
 Maimonides and Albertus Magnus.

 “_But since every city in which laws are properly established has a
 regular constitution, it became necessary for this citizen of the
 world to adopt the same constitution as that which prevailed in the
 universal world. And this constitution is the right reason of nature._”
                                               —_On Creation_, cap. 50.

[Sidenote: Philo the mediator between Hellenistic and Jewish-Christian

There probably is no other man who marks so well the fusion of
Hellenic and Hebrew ideas and the transition from them to Christian
thought as Philo Judaeus.[1552] He flourished at Alexandria in the
first years of our era—the exact dates both of his birth and of his
death are uncertain—and speaks of himself as an old man at the time
of his participation in the embassy of Jews to the Emperor Gaius or
Caligula in 40 A. D. He repeats the doctrines of the Greek philosophers
and anticipates much that the church fathers discuss. Before the
Neo-Platonists he regards matter as the source of all evil and feels
the necessity of mediators, angels or demons, between God and man.
Before the medieval revival of Aristotle and natural philosophy he
tries to reconcile the Mosaic account of creation with belief in a
world soul, and monotheism with astrology. Before the rise of Christian
monasticism he describes in his treatise _On the Contemplative Life_
an ascetic community of _Therapeutae_ at Lake Maerotis.[1553] After
Pythagoras he enlarges upon the mystic significance of numbers. After
Plato he repeats the conception of an ideal city of God which was to
gain such a hold upon Christian imagination.[1554] After the Stoics he
proclaims the doctrine of the law of nature, holds that the institution
of human slavery is absolutely contrary to it, and writes “a treatise
to prove that every virtuous man is free” and that to be virtuous is to
live in conformity to nature.[1555] He had previously written another
treatise designed to show that “every wicked man was a slave,”[1556]
and he held a theory which we met in the Enoch literature and shall
meet again in a number of subsequent writers that sin was punished
naturally by forces of nature such as floods and thunderbolts. He did
not originate the practice of allegorical interpretation of the Bible
but he is our first great extant example thereof. He even went so far
as to regard the tree of life and the story of the serpent tempting
Eve as purely symbolical, an attitude which found little favor with
Christian writers.[1557] His effort by means of the allegorical method
to find in the books of the Pentateuch all the attractive concepts
and theories which he had learned from the Greeks became later in
the Christian apologists an assertion that Plato and Pythagoras had
borrowed their doctrines from Abraham and Moses. His doctrine of the
_logos_ had a powerful influence upon the writers of the New Testament
and the theology of the early church.[1558] Yet Philo affirms that no
more perfect good than philosophy exists in human life and in both
literary style and erudition he is a Hellene to his very finger tips.
The recent tendency, seen especially in German scholarship, to deny the
writers of the Roman Empire any capacity for original thought and to
trace back their ideas to unextant authors of a supposedly much more
productive Hellenistic age has perhaps been carried too far. But if we
may not regard Philo as a great originator, and it is evident that he
borrowed many of his ideas, he was at any rate a great transmitter of
thought, a mediator after his own heart between Jews and Greeks, and
between them both and the Christian writers to come. Standing at the
close of the Hellenistic age and at the opening of the Roman period,
he occupies in the history of speculative and theological thought an
analogous position to that of Pliny the Elder in the history of natural
science, gathering up the lore of the past, perhaps improving it with
some additions of his own, and exercising a profound influence upon the
age to come.

[Sidenote: His influence upon the middle ages was indirect.]

Philo’s medieval influence, however, was probably more indirect than
Pliny’s and passed itself on through yet other mediators to the more
remote times. Comparatively speaking, the _Natural History_ of Pliny
probably was more important in the middle ages than in the early Roman
Empire when other authorities prevailed in the Greek-speaking world.
Philo’s influence on the other hand must soon be transmitted through
Christian, and then again through Latin, mediums. This is indicated by
the fact that to-day many of his works are wholly lost or extant only
in fragments[1559] or in Armenian versions,[1560] and that we have no
sure information as to the order in which they were composed.[1561] But
his initial force is none the less of the greatest moment, and seems
amply sufficient to justify us in selecting his writings as one of our
starting points. The extent to which one is apt to find in the writings
of Philo passages which are forerunners of the statements of subsequent
writers, may be illustrated by the familiar story of King Canute and
the tide. Philo in his work _On Dreams_[1562] speaks of the custom of
the Germans of charging the incoming tide with their drawn swords. But
what especially concern us are Philo’s statements concerning magic,
astrology, the stars, the perfection and power of numbers, demons, and
the interpretation of dreams.

[Sidenote: Good and bad magic.]

Philo draws a distinction between magic in the good and bad sense.
The former and true magical art is the lore of learned Persians
called _Magi_ who investigate nature more minutely and deeply than is
usual and explain divine virtues clearly.[1563] The latter magic is a
spurious imitation of the other, practised by quacks and impostors,
old-wives and slaves, who by means of incantations and the like
procedure profess to change men from love to hatred or vice versa and
who “deceive unsuspecting persons and waste whole families away by
degrees and without making any noise.” It is to this adulterated and
evil magic that Philo again refers when he likens political life to
Joseph’s coat of many colors, stained with the blood of wars, and in
which a very little truth is mixed up with a great deal of sophistry
akin to that of the augurs, ventriloquists, sorcerers, jugglers and
enchanters, “from whose treacherous arts it is very difficult to
escape.”[1564] This distinction between a magic of the wise and of
nature and that of vulgar impostors is one which we shall find in
many subsequent writers, although it was not recognized by Pliny.
Philo also antecedes numerous Christian commentators upon the Book of
Numbers[1565] in considering the vexed question whether Balaam was an
evil enchanter and diviner, or a divine prophet, or whether he combined
magic and prophecy, and thus indicated that the former art is not evil
but has divine approval. Philo’s conclusion is the more usual one that
Balaam was a celebrated diviner and magician, and that it is impossible
that “holy inspiration should be combined with magic,” but that in the
particular case of his blessing Israel the spirit of divine prophecy
took possession of him and “drove all his artificial system of cunning
divination out of his soul.”[1566]

[Sidenote: Stars not gods nor first causes.]

Philo has considerably more to say upon the subject of astrology than
upon that of magic. He was especially concerned to deny that the stars
were first causes or independent gods. He chided the Chaldean adepts
in genethlialogy for recognizing no other god than the universe and no
other causes than those apparent to the senses, and for regarding fate
and necessity as gods and the periodical revolutions of the heavenly
bodies as the cause of all good and evil.[1567] Philo more than once
exhorts the reader to follow Abraham’s example in leaving Chaldea and
the science of genethlialogy and coming to Charran to a comprehension
of the true nature of God.[1568] He agreed with Moses that the stars
should not be worshiped and that they had been created by God, and more
than that, not created until the fourth day, in order that it might
be perfectly clear to men that they were not the primary causes of

[Sidenote: But rational and virtuous animals: and God’s viceroys over

Philo, nevertheless, despite his attack on the Chaldeans, believed
in much which we should call astrological. The stars, although not
independent gods, are nevertheless divine images of surpassing beauty
and possess divine natures, although they are not incorporeal beings.
Philo distinguishes between the stars, men, and other animals as
follows. The beasts are capable of neither virtue nor vice; human
beings are capable of both; the stars are intelligent animals, but
incapable of any evil and wholly virtuous.[1570] They were native-born
citizens of the world long before its first human citizen had been
naturalized.[1571] God, moreover, did not postpone their creation
until the fourth day because superiors are subject to inferiors. On
the contrary they are the viceroys of the Father of all and in the
vast city of this universe the ruling class is made up of the planets
and fixed stars, and the subject class consists of all the natures
beneath the moon.[1572] A relation of natural sympathy exists between
the different parts of the universe, and all things upon the earth are
dependent upon the stars.[1573]

[Sidenote: They do not cause evil: but it is possible to predict the
future from their motions.]

Philo of course will not admit that evil is caused either by the
virtuous stars or by God working through them. As has been said,
he attributed evil to matter or to “the natural changes of the
elements,”[1574] drawing a line between God and nature in much the
fashion of the church fathers later. But he granted that “before now
some men have conjecturally predicted disturbances and commotions of
the earth from the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and innumerable
other events which have turned out most exactly true.”[1575] Philo’s
interest in astronomy and astrology is further suggested by his
interpretation of the eleven stars of Joseph’s dream as referring to
the signs of the zodiac,[1576] Joseph himself making the twelfth; and
by his interpreting the ladder in Jacob’s dream which stretched between
earth and heaven as referring to the air,[1577] into which earth’s
evaporations dissolve, while the moon is not pure ether like the other
stars but itself contains some air. This accounts, Philo thinks, for
the spots upon the moon—an explanation which I do not remember having
met in subsequent writers.

[Sidenote: Jewish astrology.]

Josephus[1578] and the Jews in general of Philo’s time were equally
devoted to astrology according to Münter, who says: “Only their
astrology was subordinated to theism. The one God always appeared as
the master of the host of heaven. But they regarded the stars as living
divine beings and powers of heaven.”[1579] In the Talmud later we read
that the hour of Abraham’s birth was announced by the stars and that
he feared from his observations of the constellations that he would go
childless. Münter also gives examples of the belief of the rabbis in
the influence of the stars upon the destiny of the Jewish people and
upon the fate of individual men, and of their belief that a star would
announce the coming of the Messiah.[1580]

[Sidenote: Perfection of the number seven.]

From Philo’s astrology it is an easy step to his frequent reveries
concerning the perfection and mystic significance of certain numbers,—a
train of thought which was continued by many of the church fathers,
and is also found in various pagan writers of the Roman Empire.[1581]
Thomas Browne in his enquiry into “Vulgar Errors”[1582] was inclined
to hold Philo even more responsible than Pythagoras or Plato for
the dissemination of such doctrines. Philo himself recognizes the
close connection between astrology and number mysticism, when, after
affirming the dependence of all earthly things upon the heavenly
bodies, he adds: “It is in heaven, too, that the ratio of the number
seven began.”[1583] Philo doubts if it is possible to express
adequately the glories of the number seven, but he feels that he
ought at least to attempt it and devotes a dozen chapters of his
treatise on the creation of the world to it,[1584] to say nothing of
other passages. He notes that there are seven planets, seven circles
of heaven, four quarters of the moon of seven days each, that such
constellations as the Pleiades and Ursa Major consist of seven stars,
and that children born at the end of seven months live, while those
who see the light in the eighth month die. In diseases the seventh
is a critical day. Also there are either seven ages of man’s life,
as Hippocrates says, or, in accordance with Solon’s lines, man’s
three-score years and ten may be subdivided into ten periods of seven
years each. The lyre of seven strings corresponds to the seven planets,
and in speech there are seven vowels. There are seven divisions of the
head—eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouth, seven divisions of the body,
seven kinds of motion, seven things seen, and even the senses are seven
rather than five if we add the vocal and generative organs.[1585]

[Sidenote: And of fifty.]

Philo’s ideal sect, the _Therapeutae_, are wont to assemble as a
prelude to their greatest feast at the end of seven weeks, “venerating
not only the simple week of seven days but also its multiplied
power,”[1586] but the chief festival itself occurs on the fiftieth day,
“the most holy and natural of numbers, being compounded of the power of
the right-angled triangle, which is the principle of the origination
and condition of the whole.”[1587]

[Sidenote: Also of four and six.]

The numbers four and six, however, yield little to seven and fifty in
the matter of perfection. It was the fourth day that God chose for
the creation of the heavenly bodies, and He did not need six days for
the entire work of creation, but it was fitting that that perfect
work should be accomplished in a perfect number of days. Six is the
product of the first female number, two, and the first male number,
three. Indeed, the first three numbers, one, two, and three, whether
added or multiplied, give six.[1588] As for four, there are that many
elements and seasons; it is the only number produced by the same
number—two—whether added to itself or multiplied by itself; it is the
first square and as such the emblem of justice and equality; it also
represents the cube or solid, as the number one stands for a point,
two for a line, and three for a surface.[1589] Furthermore four is
the source of “the all-perfect decade,” since one and two and three
and four make ten. At this we begin to suspect, and with considerable
justification, as the writings of other devotees of the philosophy of
numbers would show, that the number of perfect numbers is legion. We
may not, however, follow Philo much farther on this topic. Suffice it
to add that he finds the fifth day fitting for the creation of animals
possessed of five senses,[1590] while he divides the ten plagues of
Egypt into three dealing with the more solid elements, earth and water,
and performed by Aaron; three dealing with air and fire which were
entrusted to Moses; the seventh was committed to both Aaron and Moses;
while the other three God reserved for Himself.[1591]

[Sidenote: Spirits of the air.]

Philo believed in a world of spirits, both the angels of the Jews and
the demons of the Greeks. When God said: “Let us make man,” Philo
believed that He was addressing those assistant spirits who should be
held responsible for the viciousness to which man alone of all creation
is liable.[1592] Of the divine rational natures Philo regarded some as
incorporeal, others like the stars as possessed of bodies.[1593] He
also believed that there were spirits in the air as well as afar off in
heaven. He could not see why the air should not be inhabited when there
were stars in the ether and fish in the sea as well as other animals
upon land.[1594] Indeed he argued that it would be absurd that the
element which was essential for the vitality even of land and aquatic
animals should have no living beings of its own. That these spirits of
the air must be invisible did not trouble him, since the human soul is
also invisible.

[Sidenote: Interpretation of dreams.]

Of Philo’s five books on dreams only two are extant. They suffice to
show, however, that he accepted the art of divination from dreams. Of
dreams he distinguished three varieties: those direct from God which
require no interpretation; those in which the dreamer’s mind moves
in unison with the world soul, and which are neither entirely clear
nor yet very obscure—an instance is Jacob’s vision of the ladder; and
third, those in which the mind is moved by a prophetic frenzy of its
own, and which require the science of interpretation—such dreams were
Joseph’s concerning his brothers, and those of the butler and the baker
at Pharaoh’s court.[1595]

[Sidenote: Politics akin to magic.]

The recent war and its accompaniments and sequels have brought home
to some the conviction that our modern civilization is after all
not vastly superior to that of some preceding ages. To those who
still imagine that because modern science has freed us from much
past superstition concerning nature, we are therefore free from
political fakirs, from social absurdities, and from fallacious
procedure and reasoning in many departments of life, the reading may
be recommended of a passage in Philo’s treatise on dreams,[1596] in
which he classifies the art of politics along with that of magic. He
compares Joseph’s coat of many colors to “the much-variegated web of
political affairs” where along with “the smallest possible portion of
truth” falsehoods of every shade of plausibility are interwoven; and
he compares politicians and statesmen to augurs, ventriloquists, and
sorcerers, “men skilful in juggling and in incantations and in tricks
of all kinds, from whose treacherous arts it is very difficult to
escape.” He adds that Moses very naturally represented Joseph’s coat as
blood-stained, since all statecraft is tainted with wars and bloodshed.

[Sidenote: A thought repeated by Moses Maimonides and Albertus Magnus.]

Twelve centuries later we find Philo’s association of politicians with
magicians repeated by his compatriot Moses Maimonides in the _More
Nevochim_ or _Guide for the Perplexed_,[1597] a work which appeared
almost immediately in Latin translation and from which this very
passage is cited by Albertus Magnus in his discussion of divination by
dreams.[1598] There are some men, says Albert, in whom the intellect
is abundant and active and clear. Such men are akin to the superior
substances, that is, to the angels and stars, and therefore Moses of
Egypt, _i.e._, Maimonides, calls them sages. But there are others
who, according to Albert, confound true wisdom with sophistry and are
content with mere probabilities and imaginations and are at home in
“rhetorical and civil matters.” Maimonides, however, described this
class a little differently, saying that in them the imaginative faculty
is preponderant and the rational faculty imperfect. “Whence arises
the sect of politicians, of legislators, of diviners, of enchanters,
of dreamers, ... and of prestidigiteurs who work marvels by strange
cunning and occult arts.”[1599]

                              CHAPTER XV

                             THE GNOSTICS

 Difficulty in defining Gnosticism—Magic and astrology in
 Gnosticism—Simon Magus as a Gnostic—Simon’s Helen—The number thirty
 and the moon—Ophites and Sethians—A magical diagram—Employment
 of names and formulae—Seven metals and planets—Magic of Simon’s
 followers—Magic of Marcus in the Eucharist—Other magic and occult
 lore of Marcus—Name and number magic—The magic vowels—Magic of
 Carpocrates—The Abraxas and the number 365—Astrology of Basilides—_The
 Book of Helxai_—Epiphanius on the Elchasaites—_The Book of the Laws
 of Countries_—Personality of Bardesanes—Sin possible for men, angels,
 and stars—Does fate in the astrological sense prevail?—National
 laws and customs as a proof of free will—_Pistis-Sophia_; attitude
 to astrology—“Magic” condemned—Power of names and rites—Interest
 in natural science—“Gnostic gems” and astrology—The planets in
 early Christian art—Gnostic amulets in Spain—Syriac Christian
 charms—Priscillian executed for magic—Manichean manuscripts—The

[Sidenote: Difficulty in defining Gnosticism.]

Gnosticism[1600] is not easy to define and the term Gnostic appears
to have been applied to a great variety of sects with a confusing
diversity of beliefs. Many of the constituents and roots at least of
Gnosticism were older than Christianity, and it is now the custom to
associate the Gnosis or superior knowledge and revelation, which gives
the movement its name, not with Greek philosophy or mysteries but
with oriental speculation and religions. Anz[1601] has been impressed
by its connection with Babylonian star-worship; Amélineau[1602] has
urged its debt to Egyptian magic and religion; Bousset[1603] has
argued for Persian origins. The main features of the great oriental
religions which swept westward over the Roman Empire were shared by
Gnosticism: the redeemer god, even the great mother goddess conception
to some extent, the divinely revealed mysteries, the secret symbols,
the dualism, and the cosmic theory. Gnosticism as it is known to us,
however, is more closely connected with Christianity than with any
other oriental religion or body of thought, for the extant sources
consist almost entirely either of Gnostic treatises which pretend to be
Christian Scriptures and were almost entirely written in Coptic in the
second or third century of our era,[1604] or of hostile descriptions of
Gnostic heresies by the early church fathers. However, the philosopher
Plotinus also criticized the Gnostics, as we have seen.

[Sidenote: Magic and astrology in Gnosticism.]

What especially concerns our investigation is the great use made, or
said to be made, by the Gnostics of sacred formulae, symbols, and names
of demons, and the prevalence among them of astrological theory as
shown by their widespread notion of the seven planets as the powers
who have created our inferior and material world and who rule over
its affairs. Gnosticism was deeply influenced by, albeit it to some
extent represents a reaction against, the Babylonian star-worship
and incantation of spirits. The seven planets and the demons occupy
an important place in Gnostic myth because they intervene between
our world and the world of supreme light, and their spheres must be
traversed—much as in the _Book of Enoch_ and Dante’s _Paradiso_—both
by the redeeming god in his descent and return and by any human soul
that would escape from this world of fate, darkness, and matter. What
encouragement there is for such views in the canonical Scriptures
themselves may be inferred from the following passage in which Christ
foretells His second coming: “Immediately after the tribulation of
those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her
light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, _and the powers of the
heavens shall be shaken_. And then shall appear _the sign_ of the Son
of man _in heaven_; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn,
and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with
power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound
of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four
winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”[1605] But in order to pass
the demons and the spheres of the planets, who are usually represented
as opposed to this, one must, as in the Egyptian _Book of the Dead_,
know the passwords, the names of the spirits, the sacred formulae, the
appropriate symbols, and all the other apparatus suggestive of magic
and necromancy which forms so large a part of the _gnosis_ that gives
its name to the system. This will become the more apparent from the
following particular accounts of Gnostic sects and doctrines found
in the works of the Christian fathers and in the scanty remains of
the Gnostics themselves. The philosopher Plotinus we have already
heard charge the Gnostics with resort to magic and sorcery, and with
ascribing evil and fatal influence to the stars. At the same time we
shrewdly suspect that Gnosticism has been made a scapegoat for the sins
in these regards of both early Christianity and pagan philosophy.

[Sidenote: Simon Magus as a Gnostic.]

Simon Magus, of whose magical exploits as recorded by many a Christian
writer we shall treat in another chapter, is also represented by
the fathers as holding Gnostic doctrine, although some writers have
contended that Simon the magician named in _Acts_ was an entirely
different person from Simon the heretic and author of _The Great
Declaration_.[1606] Simon declared himself the Great Power of God, or
the Being who was over all, who had appeared in Samaria as the Father,
in Judea as the Son, and to other nations as the Holy Spirit.[1607] In
the _Pseudo-Clementines_ Simon is represented as arguing against Peter
in characteristically Gnostic style that “he who framed the world is
not the highest God, but that the highest God is another who alone is
good and who has remained unknown up to this time.”[1608] According
to Epiphanius Simon claimed to have descended from heaven through the
planetary spheres and spirits in the manner of the Gnostic redeemer.
He is quoted as saying, “But in each heaven I changed my form in
accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might
escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought,
who is none other than she who is likewise called Prounikon and the
Holy Spirit.” Epiphanius further informs us that Simon believed in a
plurality of heavens, assigned certain powers to each firmament and
heaven, and applied barbaric names to these spirits or cosmic forces.
“Nor,” adds Epiphanius, “can anyone be saved unless he learns this
mystic lore and offers such sacrifices to the Father of all through
these archons and authorities.”[1609]

[Sidenote: Simon’s Helen.]

The fathers tell us that Simon went about with a woman called Helena
or Helen, who Justin Martyr says had formerly been a prostitute.[1610]
Simon is said to have called her the mother of all, through whom God
had created the angels and aeons, who in their turn had formed the
world and men. These cosmic powers had then, however, cast her down
to earth, where she had been confined in various successive human and
animal bodies. She seems to have obtained her name of Helen from the
fact that it was for her that the Trojan war had been fought, an event
which Simon seems to have subjected to much allegorical interpretation.
He also spoke of Helen as “the lost sheep,” whom he, the Great Power,
had descended from heaven to release from the bonds of the flesh. She
was that Thought or Holy Spirit which we have heard him say he came
down to recover. Simon’s Helen also corresponds to Pistis-Sophia, who
in the extant Gnostic work named after her descends through the twelve
aeons, deceived by a lion-faced power whom they have formed to mislead
her, and then reascends by the aid of Jesus or the true light. It
seems fairly evident that the fathers[1611] have taken literally and
travestied by a scandalous application to an actual woman a beautiful
Gnostic myth or allegory concerning the human soul. At the same time
Simon’s Helen reminds us of Jesus’s relations with the woman taken in
adultery, the woman of Samaria, and Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene, it
may be noted, in the Gnostic writing, _Pistis-Sophia_, takes a rôle
superior to the twelve disciples, a fact of which Peter complains to
his Lord more than once. But Simon’s Helen was that spirit of truth
which lies latent in the human mind and which he endeavored to release
by means of the philosophy, astrology, and magic of his time. May
modern scientific method prove more successful in setting the prisoner

[Sidenote: The number thirty and the moon.]

We find in the _Pseudo-Clementines_ other details concerning Simon and
Helen which bring out the astrological side of Gnosticism. We are told
that John the Baptist had thirty disciples, a number suggestive of
the days of the moon and also of the thirty aeons of the Gnostics of
whom we elsewhere hear a great deal.[1612] But the revolution of the
moon does not occupy thirty full days, so that we are not surprised to
learn that one of these disciples was a woman and furthermore that she
was the very Helen of whom we have been speaking. At least, she is so
called in the _Homilies_ of the Pseudo-Clement; in the _Recognitions_
she is actually called Luna or the Moon.[1613] After the death of John
the Baptist Simon by his magic power supplanted Dositheus as leader
of the thirty, and then fell in love with Luna and went about with
her, proclaiming that she was Wisdom or Truth, “brought down ... from
the highest heavens to this world.”[1614] The number thirty is again
associated with Simon and Dositheus in a curiously insistent, although
apparently unconscious, manner by Origen, who in one passage of his
_Reply to Celsus_, written in the first half of the third century,
expresses doubt whether thirty followers of Simon, the Samaritan
magician, can be found in all the world, and in a second passage, while
asserting that “Simonians are found nowhere throughout the world,” adds
that of the followers of Dositheus there are now not more than thirty
in all.[1615]

[Sidenote: Ophites and Sethians.]

Similar to Simon’s account of the heavens and of his descent through
them were the teachings of the Ophites and Sethians who, according
to Irenaeus,[1616] held that Christ “descended through the seven
heavens, having assumed the likeness of their sons, and gradually
emptied them of their power.” These heretics also represented the
“heavens, potentates, powers, angels, and creators as sitting in
their proper order in heaven, according to their generation, and as
invisibly ruling over things celestial and terrestrial.” All ruling
spirits were not invisible, however, since the Ophites and Sethians
identified with the seven planets their Holy Hebdomad, consisting of
Ialdabaoth, Iao, Sabaoth, Adonaus (or, Adonai), Eloeus, Oreus, and
Astanphaeus,—names often employed in the Greek magical papyri,[1617]
in medieval incantations, and in the Jewish Cabbala. The Ophites and
Sethians further asserted that when the serpent was cast down into
the lower world by the Father, he begat six sons who, with himself,
constitute a group of seven corresponding and in contrast to the Holy
Hebdomad which surround the Father. They are the seven mundane demons
who are ever hostile to humanity. The Sethians of course took their
name from Seth, son of Adam, who in the middle ages was regarded
sometimes, like Enoch, as the especial recipient of divine revelation
and as the author of sacred books. The historian Josephus states in his
_Jewish Antiquities_ that Seth and his descendants discovered the art
of astronomy and that one of the two pillars on which they recorded
their findings was still extant in his time, the first century.[1618]
Under the caption, _Sethian Tablets of Curses_, Wünsch has published
some magical imprecations scratched on lead tablets between 390 and 420
A. D. at Rome.[1619] Eight revelations ascribed to Adam and Seth are
also extant in Armenian.[1620]

[Sidenote: A magical diagram.]

In Origen’s _Reply to Celsus_ is described a mystic diagram with
details redolent of magic and astrological necromancy,[1621] which
Celsus had laid to the charge of Christians generally but which Origen
declares is probably the product of the “very insignificant sect called
Ophites.” Origen himself has seen this diagram or one something like
it, and assures his readers that “we know the depth of these unhallowed
mysteries,” but he declares that he has never met anybody anywhere
who put any faith in this diagram. Obviously, however, such a diagram
would not have been in existence if no one had ever had faith in it.
Furthermore, its survival into Origen’s time, when he asserts that men
had ceased to use it, is evidence of the antiquity of the sect and
the superstition. In this diagram ten distinct circles were united
by a single circle representing the soul of all things and called
Leviathan. Celsus spoke of the upper circles, of which at least some
were in colors, as “those that are above the heavens.” On these were
inscribed such words and phrases as “Father and Son,” “Love,” “Life,”
“Knowledge,” and “Understanding.” Then there were “the seven circles of
archontic demons,” who are probably to be connected with the spheres
of the seven planets. These seven ruling demons were represented by
animal heads or figures, somewhat resembling the symbols of the four
evangelists to be seen in the mosaics at Ravenna and elsewhere in
Christian art. The angel Michael was depicted by a sort of chimaera,
the words of Celsus being, “The goat was shaped like a lion”; Suriel,
by a bull; Raphael, by a dragon; Gabriel, by an eagle; Thautabaoth, by
a bear; Erataoth, by a dog; and Thaphabaoth or Onoel, by an ass. The
diagram was divided by a thick black line called Gehenna and beneath
the lowest circle was placed “the being named Behemoth.” There was also
“a square pattern” with inscriptions concerning the gates of paradise,
a flaming circle with a flaming sword as its diameter guarding the
tree of knowledge and of life, “a barrier inscribed in the shape of a
hatchet,” and a rhomboid with the words, “The foresight of wisdom.”
Celsus further mentioned a seal with which the Father impresses the
Son, who says, “I have been anointed with white ointment from the tree
of life,” and seven angels who contend with the seven ruling demons for
the soul of the dying body.

[Sidenote: Employment of names and formulae.]

Origen further informs us of the forms of salutation to each ruling
spirit employed by “those sorcerers,” as they pass through “the fence
of wickedness” or the gate to the realm of each spirit. The names of
the spirits are now given as Ialdabaoth, who is the lion-like archon
and with whom the planet Saturn is in sympathy, Iao or Jah, Sabaoth,
Adonaeus, Astaphaeus, Aloaeus or Eloaeus, and Horaeus. The following
is an example of the salutations or invocations addressed to these
spirits: “Thou, O second Iao, who shinest by night, who art the ruler
of the secret mysteries of Son and Father, first prince of death, and
portion of the innocent, bearing now thine own beard as symbol, I am
ready to pass through thy realm, having strengthened him who is born of
thee by the living word. Grace be with me; Father, let it be with me!”
Origen also states that the makers of this diagram have borrowed from
magic the names Ialdabaoth, Astaphaeus, and Horaeus, while the other
four are names of God drawn from the Hebrew Scriptures.

[Sidenote: Seven metals and planets.]

It is worth noting that immediately before this account of the diagram
Celsus had described similar Persian mysteries of Mithras, in which
seven heavens through which the soul has to pass were arranged in an
ascending scale like a ladder.[1622] Each successive heaven was entered
by a gate of a metal corresponding to the planet in question, lead
for Saturn, tin for Venus, copper for Jupiter, iron for Mercury, a
mixed metal for Mars, silver for the moon, and gold for the sun. This
association of metals and planets became a common feature of medieval
alchemy. At the same time the passage is said to be our chief literary
source for the mysteries of Mithras.[1623]

[Sidenote: Magic of Simon’s followers.]

The Simonians, according to Irenaeus, were as addicted to magic
as their founder had been, employing exorcisms and incantations,
love-philters and enchantments, familiar spirits and “dream-senders.”
“And whatever other curious arts may be resorted to are eagerly
employed by them.” Menander, the immediate successor of Simon in
Samaria, was “a perfect adept in the practice of magic” and taught
that by means of it one could overcome the angels who had created this
world.[1624] In a treatise on rebaptism, falsely ascribed to Cyprian
but very likely contemporary with him, it is stated that the Simonians
regard their baptism as superior to that of orthodox Christians,
because when they descend into the water fire appears upon its surface.
The writer thinks that this is done by some trick, or that there is
some natural explanation of it, or that they merely imagine that
they see a flame on the water, or that it is the work of some evil
one and of magic power.[1625] Epiphanius states that Simon employed
such obscene substances as _semen_ and _menstruum_ in his magic,[1626]
but this seems to be a slander, at least against Gnosticism, since
in a passage of the Gnostic _Book of the Saviour_, adjoined to the
_Pistis-Sophia_, Thomas asks Jesus what shall be the punishment of men
who eat “_semen maris et menstruum feminae_” mixed with lentils, saying
as they do so, “We believe in Esau and Jacob,” and is told that this
is the worst of sins and that the souls of those committing it will be
absolutely blotted out.[1627]

[Sidenote: Magic of Marcus in the Eucharist.]

Next to Simon Magus, Marcus was the Gnostic and heretic most notorious
as a practitioner of the magic arts, as Irenaeus states at the close of
the second century, and Hippolytus and Epiphanius repeat in the third
and fourth centuries respectively.[1628] In performing the Eucharist he
would change white wine placed in three wine cups into three different
colors, one blood-red, one purple, and one dark blue, according to
Epiphanius, while Irenaeus and Hippolytus more vaguely state, although
they lived closer to Marcus’s time, that he gave the wine a purple
or reddish hue as if it had been changed into blood, an alteration
which Marcus himself regarded as a manifestation of divine grace.
Epiphanius attributes the change to an incantation muttered by Marcus
while pretending to perform the Eucharist. Hippolytus, who ascribes
Marcus’s feats partly to sleight-of-hand and partly to demons, in this
case charges that he furtively dropped some drug into the wine. Marcus
was also accustomed to fill a large cup from a smaller one so that it
would overflow, a marvel which Hippolytus again tries to account for
by stating that “very many drugs, when mingled in this way with liquid
substances” temporarily increase their volume, “especially when diluted
in wine.”

[Sidenote: Other magic and occult lore of Marcus.]

Irenaeus, who is quoted verbatim by Epiphanius, further states that
Marcus had a familiar demon by whose aid he was able to prophesy, and
that he pretended to confer this gift upon others. He also accuses
Marcus of seducing women by means of philters and love potions which he
compounded. Hippolytus does not make these charges, but unites with the
others in describing at length Marcus’s theory of mystic names and his
symbolical and mystical interpretation of the letters of the alphabet
and of numbers. Marcus made various calculations based upon the number
of letters in a name, the number of letters in the name of each letter,
and so on. When Christ, whose ineffable name has thirty letters, said,
“I am Alpha and Omega,” He was believed by Marcus to have displayed
the dove, whose number is 801. These reveries “are mere bits,” as
Hippolytus says, of astrological theory and Pythagorean philosophy.
We shall find them perpetuated in the middle ages in the method of
divination known as the Sphere of Pythagoras.

[Sidenote: Name and number magic.]

Such symbolism and mysticism concerning numbers and letters seldom
indeed remain a matter of mere theory but readily lend themselves
to operative magic. Thus Hippolytus can speak in the same breath of
“magical arts and Pythagorean numbers” or tell that Pythagoras himself
“also touched on magic, as they say, and himself discovered an art of
physiognomy, laying down as a basis certain numbers and measures.” Or
note a third passage where Hippolytus is discussing Egyptian theology
based on the theory of numbers.[1629] After treating of the monad,
duad, and enneads, of the four elements in pairs, of the 360 parts of
the circle, of “ascending and beneficent and masculine names” which
end in odd numbers, and of feminine and malicious and descending names
which terminate in even numbers, Hippolytus continues, “Moreover, they
assert that they have calculated the word, ‘Deity.’ Now this name
is an even number, and they write it down and attach it to the body
and accomplish cures by it. In the same way an herb which terminates
in this number is bound around the body and operates by reason of a
similar calculation of the number. Nay, even a doctor cures the sick by
such calculations.“ Similarly Censorinus states that the number seven
is ascribed to Apollo and used in the cure of bodily ills, while nine
is associated with the Muses and heals mental diseases.[1630] But to
return to Gnosticism.

[Sidenote: The magic vowels.]

The seven vowels were much employed by the Gnostics, undoubtedly as
symbols for the seven planets and the spirits associated with them, but
as symbols possessed of magic power as well as of mystic significance.
“The Saviour and His disciples are supposed in the midst of their
sentences to have broken out in an interminable gibberish of only
vowels; magic spells have come down to us consisting of vowels by the
fourscore; on amulets the seven vowels, repeated according to all sorts
of artifices, form a very common inscription.”[1631] As the seven
planets made the music of the spheres, so the seven vowels seem to have
represented the musical scale, “and many a Gnostic sheet of vowels is
in fact a sheet of music.”[1632]

[Sidenote: Magic of Carpocrates.]

Other heretics with Gnostic views who were accused of magic by the
fathers were the followers of Carpocrates, who employed incantations
and spells, philters and potions, who attracted spirits to themselves
and made light of the cosmic angels, and who pretended to have great
power over all things so that they were able by their magic to satisfy
every desire.[1633]

[Sidenote: The Abraxas and the number 365.]

Saturninus and Basilides were charged with “practicing magic, and
employing images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of
curious art.” They also believed in a supreme power named Abrasax or
Abraxas, whose number was 365; and they contended that there were 365
heavens and as many bones in the human body; “and they strive to set
forth the names, principles, angels, and powers of the 365 imagined

[Sidenote: Astrology of Basilides.]

Hippolytus gives further indication of the astrological leanings of
Basilides, who held that each thing had its own particular time, and
supported his view by citing the _Magi_ gazing wistfully at the star
of Bethlehem and the remark of Christ Himself, “Mine hour is not yet
come.”[1635] I suppose that by this Hippolytus means to suggest that
Basilides held the astrological doctrine of elections; Basilides
further affirmed, according to Hippolytus, that Jesus was “mentally
preconceived at the time of the generation of the stars; and of the
complete return to their starting point of all the seasons in the
vast conglomeration,” that is, at the end of the astronomical _magnus
annus_, variously reckoned as of 36,000 or 15,000 years in duration.

[Sidenote: _The Book of Helxai._]

In his _Refutation of all Heresies_[1636] Hippolytus tells of an
Alcibiades from Apamea in Syria who in his time brought to Rome a
book supposed to contain revelations made to a holy man, Elchasai or
Helxai, by an angel ninety-six miles in height and from sixteen to
twenty-four miles in breadth and leaving a footprint fourteen miles
long. This angel was the Son of God, and was accompanied by a female
of corresponding size who was the Holy Spirit. This apparition and
revelation was accompanied by a preaching of a new remission of sins
in the third year of Trajan’s reign, at which time we are led to
suppose that the _Book of Helxai_ came into existence. It imposed
secrecy upon those initiated into its mysteries. The sect, according
to Hippolytus, were much given to magic, astrology, and the number
mysticism of Pythagoras. The Elchasaites employed incantations and
formulae to cure persons bitten by mad dogs or afflicted with disease.
In such cases and also in the case of rebaptism for the remission of
sins it was customary with them to invoke or adjure “seven witnesses,”
not however in this case the planets, but “the heaven, and the water,
and the holy spirits, and the angels of prayer, and the oil (or, the
olive), and the salt, and the earth.” Hippolytus declares that their
formulae of this sort were “very numerous and very ridiculous.” They
dipped consumptives and persons possessed by demons in cold water forty
times in seven days. They believed in the astrological doctrine of
elections, since their sacred book warned them not to baptize or begin
other important undertakings upon those days which were governed by
the evil stars. They also seem to have predicted political events from
the stars, foretelling that three years after Trajan’s subjugation of
the Parthians “war rages between the impious angels of the northern
(constellations), and on this account all kingdoms of impiety are in

[Sidenote: Epiphanius on the Elchasaites.]

In the next century Epiphanius adds one or two further details to
Hippolytus’ account of the Elchasaites. Besides the list of seven
witnesses already given he mentions another slightly different one:
salt, water, earth, wheat, heaven, ether, and wind. He also tells
of two sisters in the time of Constantine who were supposed to be
descendants of Helxai. One of them was still alive the last Epiphanius
knew, and crowds followed “this witch” to collect the dust of her
footprints or her spittle to use in curing diseases.[1637]

[Sidenote: _The Book of the Laws of Countries._]

We possess an important document for the attitude of early Christianity
and Gnosticism towards astrology in _The Dialogue concerning Fate_ or
_The Book of the Laws of Countries_ of Bardesanes or Bardaisan.[1638]
The complete Syriac text is extant;[1639] there is a long and somewhat
modified extract adopted from it in the Latin _Recognitions_ of
Clement,[1640] and briefer fragments in the Greek fathers. Strictly
speaking, the text seems to be written by some follower of Bardesanes
named Philip who represents his master as discussing the problem of
human free will with Avida, himself, and other disciples. The bulk of
the treatise is in any case put in Bardesanes’ mouth and it probably
reflects his views with fair accuracy. Eusebius ascribed it to
Bardesanes himself.

[Sidenote: Personality of Bardesanes]

Bardesanes (154-222 A. D.) was born in Edessa. He spent most of his
life in Mesopotamia but for a time went to Armenia as a missionary.
His many works in Syriac included apologies for Christianity, attacks
upon heresies, and numerous hymns, but the only work extant is the
treatise we are about to examine, with the possible exception of _The
Hymn of the Soul_[1641] ascribed to him and contained in the Syriac
_Acts of St. Thomas_. His doctrines were regarded by Ephraem Syrus and
others as tainted with Gnostic heresy. He is often represented as a
follower of Valentinus, but the ancient authorities, such as Epiphanius
and Eusebius, disagree as to whether he degenerated from orthodoxy to
Valentinianism or reformed in the opposite direction. In the dialogue
which we consider he is represented as a Christian, but his remarks
have often been thought to have a Gnostic flavor. F. Nau, however, has
argued that he was not a Gnostic and that the statements in question in
the dialogue can be explained as purely astrological.[1642]

[Sidenote: Sin possible for men, angels, and stars.]

The treatise opens with the query, why did not God make men so that
they could not sin? The reply of course is that moral freedom for good
or evil is a greater gift of God than compulsory morality. By virtue of
his individual freedom of action man is equal to the angels, some of
whom, too, have sinned with the daughters of men and fallen, and is
superior even to the sun, moon, and signs of the zodiac which are fixed
in their courses. The stars, however, as in _The Book of Enoch_, “are
not absolutely destitute of all freedom” and will be held responsible
at the day of judgment. Presently some of them are called evil.

[Sidenote: Does fate in the astrological sense prevail?]

After some discussion whether man does wrong from his nature, the
treatise turns to the question, how far are men controlled by fate,
that is, by the power of the seven planets in accordance with the
doctrine of the Chaldeans, which is the term here usually employed for
astrologers. Some men attack astrology as “a lying invention” and hold
that the human will is free and that such evils as man cannot avoid are
due to chance or to divine punishment but not to the stars. Between
these extremes Bardesanes takes middle ground. He believes that there
is such a force in the stars, whom he refers to as Potentates and
Governors, as the fate of which the astrologers speak, but that this
fate evidently does not rule everything, since it is itself established
by the one God who imposed upon the stars and elements that motion in
conformity with which “intelligences undergo change when they descend
to the soul, and souls undergo change when they descend to bodies,” a
statement which appears to have a Gnostic flavor. This fate furthermore
is limited by nature on the one hand and human free will on the other
hand. The vital processes and periods which are common to all men,
such as birth, generation, child-bearing, eating, drinking, old age,
and death, Bardesanes regards as governed by nature. “The body,” he
says, “is neither hindered nor helped by fate in the several acts it
performs,” a view which most astrologers would probably not accept.
On the contrary, in Bardesanes’ opinion wealth and honors, power and
subjection, sickness and health, are controlled by fate which often
disturbs the regular course of nature. This is because in genesis
or the nativity the stars, some of which work with and some against
nature, are in conflict. In short, some stars are good and some are

[Sidenote: National laws and customs as a proof of free will.]

If nature is thus often upset by the stars, fate in its turn may be
resisted and overpowered by man’s exercise of will. This assertion
Bardesanes proceeds to prove by the argument which has given to the
dialogue the title, _The Book of the Laws of the Countries_, and which
we find much repeated in subsequent writers. Briefly it is that in
various nations certain laws are enforced upon, or customs observed by
all the people alike regardless of their diverse individual horoscopes.
In illustration of this are listed various prohibitions and practices
fondly supposed by Bardesanes and his audience to characterize the
Seres, Brahmans, Persians, Geli, Bactrians, Arabs, Britons, Parthians,
Amazons, and other peoples. Savage tribes are mentioned among whom
there are no artists, bankers, perfumers, musicians, and poets to
fit the nativities decreed by the constellations for certain times.
Bardesanes is aware of the astrological theory of seven zones or
climes, by which the science of individual horoscopes is corrected
and modified, but he contends that there are many different laws in
each of these zones, and would be, even if the number were raised to
twelve according to the number of the signs or to thirty-six after
the decans. He also contends that men retain their laws or customs
when they migrate to other climes, and adduces the fidelity of Jews
and Christians to the commandments of their respective religions as
a further illustration of the triumph of free will over the stars.
He concedes, however, as before that “in every country and in every
nation there are rich and poor, and rulers and subjects, and people
in health and those who are sick, each one according as fate and his
nativity have affected him.” Incidentally to the foregoing discussion
it is affirmed that the astrology of Egypt and that of the Chaldeans
in Babylon are identical. At the close of the treatise is appended a
note stating that Bardesanes estimated the duration of the world at six
thousand years on the basis of sixty as the least number of years in
which the seven planets complete an even number of revolutions.

[Sidenote: The _Pistis-Sophia_: attitude to astrology.]

If the work ascribed to Bardesanes is not certainly Gnostic, the
_Pistis-Sophia_ is, and we turn next to it and first of all to its
attitude towards astrology. This treatise is extant in a Coptic codex
of the fifth or sixth century;[1643] the Greek original text was
probably written in the second half of the third century. It gives
the revelations made by Jesus to his disciples after He had ascended
to heaven and returned again to them. When He ascended through the
heavens, He changed the fatal influence of the lords of the spheres and
made the planets turn to the right for six months of the year, whereas
before they had faced the left continually.[1644] In a long passage
near the close of the _Pistis-Sophia_ proper[1645] Jesus asserts the
absolute control of human destiny hitherto by “the rulers of the fate”
and describes how they fashion the new soul, control the process of
generation and of the formation of the child in the womb, and decree
every event of life down to the day and manner of death. Only by the
Gnostic key to the mysteries can one escape their control.[1646] In the
following _Book of the Saviour_, moreover, even the finding of this
key is subjected to astral control, since a constellation is described
under which all souls descending to this world will be just and good
and will discover the mysteries of light.[1647]

[Sidenote: “Magic” condemned.]

The _Pistis-Sophia_ assumes the usual attitude of condemnation of magic
so-called. Among the evils which Jesus warns his followers to renounce
are superstition and invocations and drugs or magic potions.[1648]
One object of his reducing by one-third the power of the lords of the
spheres when He ascended through the heavens was that men might not
henceforth invoke them by magic rites for evil purposes. Marvels may
still, however, be accomplished by “those who know the mysteries of the
magic of the thirteenth aeon” or power above the spheres.[1649]

[Sidenote: Power of names and rites.]

But while magic is renounced, great faith is shown in the power of
names and rites. Thus after a description of the dragon of outer
darkness and the twelve main dungeons into which it divides and the
animal faces and names of the twelve rulers thereof, who evidently
represent in an inaccurate fashion the signs of the zodiac, it is added
that even unrepentant sinners, if they know the mystery of any one of
these twelve names, can escape from these dungeons.[1650] In the _Book
of the Saviour_ Jesus not only utters several long lists of strange
and presumably magic words by way of invocation to the Power or powers
above, but these are accompanied by careful observance of ceremonial.
On both occasions Jesus and the disciples are clad in linen.[1651] In
the first case the disciples are carefully grouped with reference to
the points of the compass, towards which Jesus turns successively as He
utters the magic words standing at a sacrificial altar. The result of
this ceremony and invocation was that the heavens were displaced and
the earth left behind and that Jesus and the disciples found themselves
in the region of mid-air. Before uttering the other invocation Jesus
commanded that fire and vine branches be brought, placed an offering
on the flame, and carefully arranged two vessels of wine, two cups of
water, and as many pieces of bread as there were disciples. In this
case the object was to remit the sins of the disciples. In the _Book of
Jeû_ in the Bruce Papyrus there is a perfect riot of such magic names
and invocations, seals and diagrams, and accompanying ceremonial.[1652]

[Sidenote: Interest in natural science.]

The interest of the Gnostics in natural science is seen in the list of
things that will be known by one who has penetrated all the mysteries
and fully entered upon the inheritance of the kingdom of light. Not
only will he understand why there is light and darkness, and why sin
and vice exist and life and death, but also why there are reptiles and
wild beasts and why they shall be destroyed, why there are birds and
beasts of burden, why there are gems and precious metals, why there are
brass, iron and steel, lead, glass, wax, herbs, waters, “and why the
wild denizens of the sea.” Why there are four points of the compass,
why demons and men, why heat and cold, stars, winds, and clouds, frost,
snow, planets, aeons, decans, and so on and so forth.[1653]

[Sidenote: “Gnostic gems” and astrology.]

King has shown that many of the so-called “Gnostic gems” are purely
astrological talismans and that “only a very small minority amidst
their multitude present any traces of the influence of Christian
doctrines.”[1654] Many are for medicinal or magical purposes rather
than of a religious character. Some nevertheless are engraved with
the truly Gnostic figure of Pantheus Abraxas which King regards as
“the actual invention of Basilides.” Another common symbol, borrowed
from Egypt, is the Agathodaemon, which by the third century had become
the popular designation of the hooded snake of Egypt, or Chnuphis or
Chneph, a great serpent with a lion’s head encircled by a crown of
seven or twelve rays, representing the planets or signs. Often the
seven Greek vowels are placed at the tips of the seven rays. On the
obverse of the gem the letter “s” is engraved thrice and traversed by a
straight rod, a design probably meant to depict a snake twisting about
a wand. We are reminded, not only with King of the club of Aesculapius,
but of Aaron’s rod, the magicians of Pharaoh, and the serpent lifted
up in the wilderness; also of Lucian’s tale of the pretended discovery
of the god Asclepius by the pseudo-prophet, Alexander. At least one
“Gnostic amulet” has on the back the legend “Iao Sabao” (th).[1655]

[Sidenote: The planets in early Christian art.]

The influence of astrology may be seen in other and more certainly
genuine works of early Christian art than many of the so-called Gnostic
gems. On a lamp in the catacombs Christ is depicted as the good
shepherd with a lamb on His shoulder. Above His head are the seven
planets, although the sun and moon are shown again at either side, and
about His feet press seven lambs, perhaps an indication that He is
freeing the peoples of the seven climes from the fatal influence of the
stars. In the _Poemander_ attributed to Hermes it is stated that there
are seven peoples from the seven planets. On a gem of perhaps the third
century a similar scene is engraved except that the sun and moon are
not shown apart from the seven planets, and that the lamb on Christ’s
shoulders is counted as one of the seven, so that there are but six at
His feet.[1656]

[Sidenote: Gnostic amulets in Spain.]

“Gnostic amulets and other works of art” are occasionally found in
Spain, especially the Asturian northwest which remained Christian at
the time of the Mohammedan conquest of the rest of the peninsula. One
ring is inscribed with the sentence, “Zeus, Serapis, and Iao are one.”
On another octagonal ring are Greek letters signifying the Gnostic
_Anthropos_ or father of wisdom. A stone is carved with a candelabrum
and the seven planets, “the sacred hebdomad of the Chaldeans.”[1657]

[Sidenote: Syriac Christian charms.]

Gollancz in his _Selection of Charms from Syriac Manuscripts_ presents
a number of spells and incantations which, whether any of them are
Gnostic or not, certainly seem to be Christian, since they mention
the divine persons of Christianity, Mary, and various Biblical

[Sidenote: Priscillian executed for magic.]

At the close of the fourth century the views of the Gnostics were
revived in Gaul and Spain by Priscillian, who seems to have been
much influenced by astrology and who was put to death at Treves in
385 A. D. on a charge of magic. He confessed under torture, but was
afterwards thought innocent. We are not told, however, what the magical
practices were of which he was accused.[1659] Both Sulpicius Severus
and Isidore of Seville[1660] state that he was accused of _maleficium_,
which should mean witchcraft, sorcery, or magical operations with the
intent to injure someone. But further details are wanting, except that
Sulpicius calls Priscillian a man “more puffed up than was right with
the knowledge of profane things, and who was further believed to have
practiced magic arts since adolescence,” while Isidore states that
Bishop Itacius (Ithaicus), who was largely responsible for pushing the
charges against Priscillian, showed in a book which he wrote against
Priscillian’s heresy that “a certain Marcus of Memphis, most learned
in magic art, was a disciple of Mani and master of Priscillian.”
Priscillian himself states in his extant works that Itacius had accused
him of magic in 380. As the final trial proceeded, Itacius gave way
as accuser to a public prosecutor (_fisci patronus_) who continued
the case on behalf of the emperor Maximus who seems to have had his
eye upon Priscillian’s large fortune. St. Martin of Tours in vain
obtained from Maximus a promise that Priscillian should not be put to
death.[1661] But his execution brought his persecutor Itacius into such
bad odor that he was excommunicated and condemned to exile for the rest
of his life.

[Sidenote: Manichean Manuscripts]

We have just heard that Priscillian was taught by a disciple of
Mani, while Ephraem Syrus states that Bardesanes was the teacher of
Mani. Augustine in his youth, when a follower of the Manicheans, had
been devoted to astrology. This connection between Gnosticism and
astrology and Manicheism has been further attested by the fragments of
Manichean manuscripts recently discovered in central Asia.[1662] In
them the sun-god and moon-god and five other planets play a prominent
part. Besides the five planets we have five elements—ether, wind,
light, fire, and water—five plants, five trees, and five beings with
souls—man, quadrupeds, reptiles, aquatic, and flying animals. The five
gods or luminous bodies are represented as good forces who imprisoned
five kinds of demons; but the devil had his revenge by imprisoning
luminous forces in man, whom he made a microcosm of the universe. And
whereas the good spirit had created sun and moon, the devil formed male
and female. The great sage of beneficent light then appeared in the
world and brought forth from his own five members five liberators—pity,
contentment, patience, wisdom, and good faith—corresponding to the
five elements just as among the Christians we shall find four virtues
and four elements. Then ensued the struggle of the old man with the
new man. Although we are commonly told that idolatry and magic were
strictly prohibited by the Manicheans, the envoy of light is in one
text represented as “employing great magic prayers” in his effort to
deliver living beings. When men eat living beings, they offend against
the five gods, the earth dry and moist, the five orders of animate
beings, the five different herbs and five trees. Other numbers than
five appear in these Manichean fragments: four seals of light and four
praises, four courts with iron barriers; three vestments and three
wheels and three calamities; ten vows and ten layers of heavens above,
and eight layers of earth beneath; twelve great kings and twelve
evil natures; thirteen great luminous forces and thirteen parts of
the carnal body and thirteen vices,—elsewhere fourteen parts; fifteen
enumerations of sins for which forgiveness is sought; fifty days in the
year to be observed; and so on.

[Sidenote: The Mandaeans.]

A sect derived either from Gnosticism or from common sources
seems still to exist in the case of the Mandaeans of southern
Babylonia.[1663] They believe that the earth and man were formed by a
Demiurge, who corresponds to the Ialdabaoth of the Ophites, and who was
aided by the spirits of the seven planets. They divide the history of
the world into seven ages and represent Jesus Christ as a false prophet
and magician produced by the planet Mercury. The lower world consists
of four vestibules and three hells proper and has seven iron and seven
golden walls. A dying Mandaean is clothed in a holy dress of seven
pieces. The spirits of the planets, however, are represented as evil
beings, and the first two of three sets of progeny borne by the spirit
of hell fire were the seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac.
The influence of these two numbers, seven and twelve, may be further
seen in the regulation that a candidate for the priesthood should be
at least nineteen years old and have had twelve years of previous
training, which we infer would normally begin when he reached his
seventh year and not before. Other prominent numbers in Mandaean lore
are five,[1664] perhaps indicative of the planets other than sun and
moon, and three hundred and sixty, suggestive of the number of degrees
in the circle of the zodiac. Thus the main manifestations of the primal
light are five, and the third generation produced by the spirit of
hell fire was of like number. The number of aeons is often stated as
three hundred and sixty, and the delivering deity or Messiah of the
Mandaeans is said to have sent forth that number of disciples before
his return to the realm of light. We hear of yet other numbers, such
as 480,000 years for the duration of the world, 60,000, and 240, but
these too are commensurate, if not identical, with astrological periods
such as those of conjunctions and the _magnus annus_. A peculiarity of
Mandaean astronomy and astrology is that the other heavenly bodies are
all believed to rotate about the polar star. Mandaeans always face it
when praying; their sanctuaries are built so that persons entering face
it; and even the dying man is placed so that his feet point and eyes
gaze in its direction. Like the Gnostics, the Mandaeans invoke by many
strange names their spirits and aeons who are divided into numerous
orders. Their names for the planets seem to be of Babylonian origin.
Passages from their sacred books are recited like incantations and are
considered more effective in danger and distress than prayer in the
ordinary sense of the word. Such recitations are also employed to aid
the souls of the dead to ascend through various stages or prisons to
the world of light. Earthenware vessels have recently been brought to
light with Mandaean inscriptions and incantations to avert evil.[1665]

                              CHAPTER XVI

                        THE CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA

 Magic in the Bible—Apocryphal Gospels of the Infancy—Question of
 their date—Their medieval influence—Resemblances to Apuleius and
 Apollonius in the Arabic _Gospel of the Infancy_—Counteracting magic
 and demons—Other miracles and magic by the Christ child—Sometimes with
 injurious results—Further marvels from the _Pseudo-Matthew_—Learning
 of the Christ child—Other charges of magic against Christ and
 the apostles—The _Magi_ and the star—Allegorical zoology of
 Barnabas—Traces of Gnosticism in the apocryphal Acts—Legend of St.
 John—Legend of St. Sousnyos—Old Testament Apocrypha of the Christian

[Sidenote: Magic in the Bible.]

It is hardly necessary to rehearse here in detail the numerous
allusions to, prohibitions of, and descriptions of the practice
of magic, witchcraft, and astrology, enchantments and exorcisms,
divination and interpretation of dreams, which are to be found
scattered through the pages of the Old and New Testaments. Such
passages had a profound influence upon Christian thought on such themes
in the early church and during the middle ages, and we shall have
occasion to mention many, if not most, of such scriptural passages, in
connection with this later discussion of them by the church fathers and
others. For instance, Pharaoh’s magicians and their contests with Moses
and Aaron; Balaam and his imprecations and enchantments and prediction
that a star would come out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel; the
witch of Endor or ventriloquist and her invocation of what seemed to be
the ghost of Samuel; the repeated use of the numbers seven and twelve,
suggestive of the planets and signs of the zodiac, as in the twelve
cakes of showbread and candlestick with seven branches; the dreams
and interpretation of dreams of Joseph and Daniel, not to mention
the former’s silver divining cup;[1666] the wise men who saw Christ’s
star in the east; Christ’s own allusion to the shaking of “the powers
of the heavens” and the gathering of His elect from the four winds
at His second coming; the accusation against Christ that He cast out
demons by the aid of the prince of demons; the eclipse of the sun at
the time of the crucifixion; the adventures of the apostles with Simon
Magus, with Elymas the sorcerer, and with the damsel possessed with a
spirit of divination who brought her master much gain by soothsaying;
the burning of their books of magic by the vagabond Jewish exorcists;
the prohibitions of heathen divination and witchcraft by the Mosaic
law and by the prophets; the penalties prescribed for sorcerers in
the Book of Revelation; at the same time the legalized practice of
similar superstitions, such as the ordeal to test a wife’s faithfulness
by making her drink “the bitter water that causeth the curse,”[1667]
the engraved gold plate upon the high priest’s forehead,[1668] or the
use of Paul’s handkerchief and underwear to cure the sick and dispel
demons; the promise to believers in the closing verses or appendix of
_The Gospel according to St. Mark_ that they shall cast out devils,
speak with new tongues, handle serpents and drink poison without
injury, and cure the sick by laying on of hands. The foregoing scarcely
exhaust the obvious allusions or analogies to astrology and other magic
arts in the Bible, to say nothing of less explicit passages[1669]
which were later taken to justify certain occult arts, as Exodus XIII,
9, to support chiromancy, and the Gospel of John XI, 9, to support
the astrological doctrine of elections. Suffice it for the present to
say that the prevailing atmosphere of the Bible is one of prophecy,
vision, and miracle, and that with these go, like the obverse face of a
coin or medal, their inevitable accompaniments of divination, demons,
and magic.

[Sidenote: Apocryphal gospels of the infancy.]

This is also the case in apocryphal literature of the New Testament
which is now so much less familiar and accessible especially to English
readers,[1670] but which had wide currency in the early Christian and
medieval periods. We may begin with the apocryphal gospels and more
particularly those dealing with the infancy and childhood of Christ.
Of these two are believed to date from the second century, namely,
the Gospel of James or “Gospel of the Infancy” (_Protoevangelium
Iacobi_)[1671] and the Gospel of St. Thomas, which is mentioned
by Hippolytus. However, he cites a sentence which is not in the
present text—of which the manuscripts are scanty and for the most
part of late date[1672]—and the gospel as we have it is not Gnostic,
as he says it is, so that our version has probably been altered
by some Catholic.[1673] Later in date is the Latin gospel of the
Pseudo-Matthew—perhaps of the fourth or fifth century—and the Arabic
Gospel of the Infancy, which is believed to be a translation from a
lost Syriac original. We are the worst off of all for manuscripts of
its text and apparently there is no Latin manuscript of it now extant,
although a Latin text has reached us through the printed editions.
Tischendorf was, however, “unwilling to omit in this new collection
of the apocryphal gospels that ancient and memorable monument of the
superstition of oriental Christians,” and for the same reason we
shall survey its medley of miracle and magic in the present chapter.
Speaking of the flight into Egypt this gospel says, “And the Lord Jesus
performed a great many miracles in Egypt which are not found recorded
either in the Gospel of the Infancy or in the Perfect Gospel.”[1674]
Tischendorf noted the close resemblance of its first nine chapters to
the Gospel of James and of chapters 36-55 to the Gospel of Thomas,
while the intervening chapters “contain especially fables of the sort
you may fittingly call oriental, filled with allusions to Satan and
demons and sorceries and magic arts.”[1675] We find, however, the same
sort of fables in the other three apocryphal gospels; there are simply
more of them in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. It appears to be a
compilation and may embody other earlier sources no longer extant as
well as passages from the pseudo-James and pseudo-Thomas.

[Sidenote: Question of their date.]

There is a tendency on the part of orthodox Christian scholars to
defer the writing of apocryphal works to as late a date as possible,
and they seem to have a notion that they can save the credibility or
purity of the miracles of the New Testament[1676] by representing such
miracles as those recorded of the infancy of Christ as the inventions
of a later age. And it is probably true that all these marvels were not
the invention of a single century but of a succession of centuries.
On the other hand, I know of no reason for thinking Christians of the
first century any less credulous than Christians of the fifth century;
it was not until the latter century that Pope Gelasius’ condemnation
of apocryphal books was drawn up, but apocryphal books had long been
in existence before that time; nor for thinking the Christians of
the thirteenth century any more credulous than those of the other
two centuries. It is only in our own age that Christians have become
really critical of such matters. Moreover, these unacceptable miracles,
whenever they were invented, were presumably invented by and accepted
by Christians, who must bear the discredit for them. Whatever the
century was, the same men believed in them who believed in the miracles
recorded in the New Testament. If the plant has flowered into such rank
superstition, can the original seed escape responsibility? The Arabic
Gospel of the Infancy is no doubt an extreme instance of Christian
credence in magic, but it is an instance that cannot be overlooked,
whatever its date, place, or language.

[Sidenote: Their medieval influence.]

These apocryphal gospels of the Infancy, which are in part extant
only in Latin, continued to be influential in the medieval period.
At the beginning of it we find included in Pope Gelasius’ list of
apocryphal works, published at a synod at Rome in 494,[1677] besides
apocryphal gospels of Matthew and of Thomas—which last we are told,
“the Manicheans use”—a _Liber de infantia Salvatoris_ and a _Liber de
nativitate Salvatoris et de Maria et obstetrice_. There are numerous
manuscripts of such gospels in the later medieval centuries but it
would not be safe to attempt to identify or classify them without
examining each in detail. As Tischendorf said, the Latins do not seem
to have long remained content with mere translations of the Greek
pseudo-gospel of James but combined the stories told there with others
from the Pseudo-Thomas or other sources into new apocryphal treatises.
Thus the extant Latin apocrypha in no case reproduce the Gospel of
James accurately but rather are imitated after it, and include some of
it, omit some of it, embellish some of its tales, and add to it.[1678]
Mâle states in his work on religious art in France in the thirteenth
century that _The Gospel of the Pseudo-Matthew_ and _The Gospel
of Nicodemus_ or _Acts of Pilate_ were the two apocryphal gospels
especially used in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.[1679]

[Sidenote: Resemblances to Apuleius and Apollonius in the Arabic Gospel
of the Infancy.]

That the fables of the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy were at least
not fresh from the orient is indicated by the way in which some of
the incidents in the stories of Apuleius and Apollonius of Tyana are
closely paralleled.[1680] In the parlor of a well furnished house where
lived two sisters with their widowed mother stood a mule caparisoned
in silk and with an ebony collar about his neck, “whom they kissed and
were feeding.”[1681] He was their brother, transformed into a mule by
the sorcery of a jealous woman one night a little before daybreak,
although all the doors of the house were locked at the time. “And we,”
they tell a girl who had been instantly cured of leprosy by use of
perfumed water in which the Christ child had been washed and who had
then become the maid-servant of the virgin Mary,[1682] “have applied to
all the wise men, magicians, and diviners in the world, but they have
been of no service to us.”[1683] The girl recommends them to consult
Mary, who restores their brother to human form by placing the Christ
child upon his back. This romantic episode is then brought to a fitting
conclusion by the marriage of the brother to the girl who had assisted
in his restoration to his right body. As the demon, who in the form of
an artful beggar was causing the plague at Ephesus and whom Apollonius
had stoned to death, turned at the last moment into a mad dog, so
Satan, when forced by the presence of the Christ child to leave the
boy Judas, ran away like a mad dog.[1684] The reviving of a corpse by
an Egyptian prophet in the _Metamorphoses_ in order that the dead man
may tell who murdered him is paralleled in both the Arabic Infancy and
the gospels of Thomas and the Pseudo-Matthew by the conduct of Jesus
when accused of throwing another boy down from a house-top. The text
reads: “Then the Lord Jesus going down stood over the dead boy and said
with a loud voice, ‘Zeno, Zeno, who threw you down from the house-top?’
Then the dead boy answered, ‘Lord, thou didst not throw me down, but
so-and-so did.’”[1685]

[Sidenote: Counteracting magic and demons.]

Many were the occasions upon which the Christ child or his mother
counteracted the operations of magic or relieved persons who were
possessed by demons. Kissing him cured a bride whom sorcerers had made
dumb at her wedding,[1686] and a bridegroom who was kept by sorcery
from enjoying his wife was cured of his impotence by the mere presence
of the holy family who lodged in his house for the night.[1687] Mary’s
pitying glance was sufficient to expel Satan from a woman possessed by
demons.[1688] Another upright woman who was often vexed by Satan in
the form of a serpent when she went to bathe in the river,[1689] which
reminds one somewhat of Olympias and Nectanebus,[1690] was permanently
cured by kissing the Christ child. And a girl, whose blood Satan
used to suck, miraculously discomfited him when he appeared in the
shape of a huge dragon by putting upon her head and about her eyes a
swaddling cloth of Jesus which Mary had given to her. Fire then went
forth and was scattered upon the dragon’s head and eyes, as from the
blinking eyes of the artful beggar who caused the plague in the _Life
of Apollonius of Tyana_, and he fled in a panic.[1691] A priest’s
three-year-old son who was possessed by a great multitude of devils,
who uttered many strange things, and who threw stones at everybody, was
likewise cured by placing on his head one of Christ’s swaddling clothes
which Mary had hung out to dry. In this case the devils made their
escape through his mouth “in the shape of crows and serpents.”[1692]
Such marvels may offend modern taste but have their probable prototype
in the miracles wrought by use of Paul’s handkerchief and underwear in
the New Testament and illustrate, like the placing of spittle on the
eyes of the blind man, the great healing virtue then ascribed to the
perspiration and other secretions and excretions of the human body.

[Sidenote: Other miracles and magic by the Christ child.]

Sick children as well as lepers were cured by the water in which Jesus
had bathed or by wearing coats made of his swaddling clothes,[1693]
while the child Bartholomew was snatched from the very jaws of death
by the mere smell of the Christ child’s garments the moment he was
placed on Jesus’ bed.[1694] On the road to Egypt is a balsam which
was produced “from the sweat which ran down there from the Lord
Jesus.”[1695] The Christ child cured snake-bite, in the case of his
brother James by blowing on it, in the case of his playfellow, Simon
the Canaanite, by forcing the serpent who had stung him to come out of
its hole and suck all the poison from the wound, after which he cursed
the snake “so that it immediately burst asunder and died.”[1696] When
the boy Jesus took all the cloths waiting to be dyed with different
colors in a dyer’s shop and threw them into the furnace, the dyer began
to scold him for this mischief, but the cloths all came out of the
desired colors.[1697] Jesus also miraculously remedied the defective
carpentry of Joseph, who had worked for two years on a throne for
the king of Jerusalem and made it too short. Jesus and Joseph took
hold of the opposite sides and pulled the throne out to the required

[Sidenote: Sometimes with injurious results.]

The usual result of the Christ child’s miracles was that all the
bystanders united in praising God. But when his little playmates went
home and told their parents how he had made his clay animals walk and
his clay birds fly, eat, and drink, their elders said, “Take heed,
children, for the future of his company, for he is a sorcerer; shun
and avoid him, and from henceforth never play with him.”[1699] Indeed,
if the theory of the fathers is correct that the surest hall-mark by
which divine miracles may be distinguished from feats of magic is that
the former are never wrought for any evil end while the latter are, it
must be admitted that his contemporaries were sometimes justified in
suspecting the Christ child of resort to magic. After his playmates
had been thus forbidden to associate with Jesus, they hid from him in
a furnace, and some women at a house near by told him that there were
not boys but kids in the furnace. Jesus then actually transformed them
into kids who came skipping forth at his command.[1700] It is true that
he soon changed them back into human form, and that the women worshiped
Christ and asserted their conviction that he was “come to save and not
to destroy.” But on several subsequent occasions Jesus is represented
in the apocryphal gospels of the infancy as causing the death of his
playmates. When another boy broke a little fish-pool which Jesus had
constructed on the Sabbath day, he said to him, “In like manner as this
water has vanished, so shall thy life vanish,” and the boy presently
died.[1701] When a third boy ran into Jesus and knocked him down, he
said, “As thou hast thrown me down, so shalt thou fall, nor ever rise;”
and that instant the boy fell down and died.[1702] When Jesus’ teacher
started to whip him, his hand withered and he died. After which we
are not surprised to hear Joseph say to Mary, “Henceforth we will not
allow him to go out of the house; for everyone who displeases him is

[Sidenote: Further marvels from the _Pseudo-Matthew_.]

As has been indicated in the footnotes many of the foregoing marvels
are recounted in the Pseudo-Matthew and Latin Gospel of Thomas as
well as in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. The Pseudo-Matthew also
tells how lions adored the Christ child and were bade by him to go in
peace.[1704] And how he “took a dead child by the ear and suspended him
from the earth in the sight of all. And they saw Jesus speaking with
him like a father with his son. And his spirit returned unto him and
he lived again. And all marveled thereat.”[1705] When a rich man named
Joseph died and was lamented, Jesus asked his father Joseph why he did
not help his dead namesake. When Joseph asked what there was that he
could do, Jesus replied, “Take the handkerchief which is on your head
and go and put it over the face of the corpse and say to him, ‘May
Christ save you.’” Joseph followed these instructions except that he
said, “_Salvet te Iesus_,” instead of “_Salvet te Christus_,” which
was possibly the reason why the dead man upon reviving asked, “Who is

[Sidenote: Learning of the Christ child.]

While no very elaborate paraphernalia or ceremonial were involved in
the miracles ascribed to the Christ child in the Arabic Gospel of the
Infancy, it is perhaps worth noting that he was already possessed of
all learning and nonplussed his masters, when they tried to teach him
the alphabet, by asking the most abstruse questions. And when he
appeared before the doctors in the temple, he expounded to them not
only the books of the law,[1707] but natural philosophy, astronomy,
physics and metaphysics, physiology, anatomy, and psychology. He is
represented as telling them “the number of the spheres and heavenly
bodies, as also their triangular, square, and sextile aspect; their
progressive and retrograde motion; their twenty-fourths and sixtieths
of twenty-fourths” (perhaps corresponding to our hours and minutes!)
“and other things which the reason of man had never discovered.”
Furthermore, “the powers also of the body, its humors and their
effects; also the number of its members, and bones, veins, arteries,
and nerves; the several constitutions of the body, hot and dry, cold
and moist, and the tendencies of them; how the soul operates upon
the body; what its various sensations and faculties are; the faculty
of speaking, anger, desire; and lastly, the manner of the body’s
composition and dissolution, and other things which the understanding
of no creature had ever reached.”[1708] It may be added that in the
apocryphal epistles supposed to have been interchanged between Christ
and Abgarus, king of Edessa, that monarch writes to Christ, “I have
been informed about you and your cures, which are performed without the
use of herbs and medicines.”[1709]

[Sidenote: Other charges of magic against Christ and the apostles.]

Jesus is again accused of magic in _The Gospel of Nicodemus_ or _Acts
of Pontius Pilate_, where the Jews tell Pilate that he is a conjurer.
After Pilate has been warned by his wife, the Jews repeat, “Did we not
say unto thee, He is a magician? Behold, he hath caused thy wife to
dream.”[1710] In the _Acts of Paul and Thecla_, to which Tertullian
refers and which are now seen to be an excerpt from the apocryphal
_Acts of Paul_, discovered in 1899 in a Coptic papyrus,[1711] the mob
similarly cries out against Paul, “He is a magician; away with him.”
In the _Acts of Peter and Andrew_[1712] they are both accused of
being sorcerers by Onesiphorus, who also, however, denies that Peter
can make a camel go through the eye of a needle. Nor is he satisfied
when the feat is successfully performed with a needle and camel of
Peter’s selection, but insists upon its being repeated with an animal
and instrument of his own selection. Onesiphorus also has “a polluted
woman” ride upon his camel’s back, apparently with the idea that this
will break the magic spell. But Peter sends the camel through the
eye of the needle, “which opened up like a gate,” as successfully as
before, and also back again through it once more from the opposite

[Sidenote: The _Magi_ and the star.]

Some details are added by the apocrypha to the account of the star at
Christ’s birth. The Arabic Gospel states that Zoroaster (Zeraduscht)
had predicted the coming of the _Magi_, that Mary gave the _Magi_ one
of Christ’s swaddling clothes, that they were guided on their homeward
journey by an angel in the form of the star which had led them to
Bethlehem, and that after their return they found that the swaddling
cloth would not burn in fire.[1713] The _Epistle of Ignatius to the
Ephesians_ states that this star shone with a brightness far exceeding
all others, filling men with fear, and that with its coming the power
of magic was destroyed and the new kingdom of God ushered in.[1714]

[Sidenote: Allegorical zoology of Barnabas.]

In the apocryphal _Epistle of Barnabas_ occurs some of that allegorical
zoology which we are apt to associate especially with the Physiologus.
In its ninth chapter the hyena and weasel are adduced as examples of
its contention that the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean
animals has a spiritual meaning. Thus the command not to eat the hyena
means not to be an adulterer or corrupter of others, for the hyena
changes its sex annually. The weasel which conceives with its mouth
signifies persons with unclean mouths. In the _Acts of Barnabas_ he
cures the sick of Cyprus by laying a copy of the _Gospel of Matthew_
upon their bodies.[1715]

[Sidenote: Traces of Gnosticism in the apocryphal Acts.]

If we turn again to the various apocryphal Acts, where we have already
noted charges of magic made against the apostles, we may find traces
of gnosticism which have already been noted by Anz.[1716] In the _Acts
of Thomas_ the Holy Ghost is called the pitying mother of seven houses
whose rest is the eighth house of heaven. In the _Acts of Philip_
that apostle prays, “Come now, Jesus, and give me the eternal crown
of victory over every hostile power ... Lord Jesus Christ ... lead me
on ... until I overcome all the cosmic powers and the evil dragon who
opposes us. Now therefore Lord Jesus Christ make me to come to Thee
in the air.” _The Acts of John_, too, speak of overcoming fire and
darkness and angels and demons and archons and powers of darkness who
separate man from God.

[Sidenote: Legend of John.]

We deal in another chapter with the struggle of the apostles with Simon
Magus as recounted in the apocryphal _Acts of Peter and Paul_, and with
similar legends of the contests of other apostles with magicians. Here,
however, we may mention some of the marvels in the apocryphal legend
of St. John, supposed to have been written by his disciple Procharus
and “which deluded the Greek Church by its air of sincerity and its
extreme precision of detail,”[1717] although it does not seem to have
reached the west until the sixteenth century. John is represented
as drinking without injury a poison which had killed two criminals,
and as reviving two corpses without going near them by directing an
incredulous pagan to lay his cloak over them. A Stoic philosopher had
persuaded some young men to embrace the life of poverty by converting
their property into gems and then pounding the gems to pieces. John
made the criticism that this wealth might have better been distributed
among the poor, and when challenged to do so by the Stoic, prayed to
God and had the gems made whole again. Later when the young men longed
for their departed wealth, he turned the pebbles on the seashore into
gold and precious stones, a miracle which is said to have persuaded the
medieval alchemists that he possessed the secret of the philosopher’s
stone.[1718] At any rate Adam of St. Victor in the twelfth century
wrote the following lines concerning St. John in a chant to be used in
the church service:

    Cum gemmarum partes fractas
    Solidasset, has distractas
      Tribuit pauperibus;
    Inexhaustum fert thesaurum
    Qui de virgis fecit aurum,
      Gemmas de lapidibus.[1719]

[Sidenote: Legend of St. Sousnyos.]

The brief legend of St. Sousnyos, which Basset has included in his
edition of Ethiopian Apocrypha,[1720] is all magic, beginning with
an incantation or magic prayer against disease and demons. There is
also a Slavonic version. This Sousnyos is presumably the same as
the Sisinnios who is said by the author of the apocryphal _Acts of
Archelaus_,[1721] forged about 330-340 A. D., to have abandoned Mani,
embraced Christianity, and revealed to Archelaus secret teachings which
enabled him to triumph over his adversary.

[Sidenote: Old Testament apocrypha of the Christian era.]

While on the subject, mention may be made of two works which properly
belong to the apocrypha of the Old Testament, but which first appear
during the Christian era and so fall within our period. _The Ascension
of Isaiah_,[1722] of which the old Latin version was printed at Venice
in 1522, and which dates back to the second century, is something like
the _Book of Enoch_, describing Isaiah’s ascent through the seven
heavens and vision of the mission of Christ. In the _Book of Baruch_,
of which the original version was written in Greek by a Christian of
the third or fourth century,[1723] the most interesting episode is the
magic sleep into which, like Rip Van Winkle, Abimelech falls during the
destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans. In the legend of Jeremiah
the prophet’s soul is absent from his body on one occasion for three
days, while on another occasion he dresses up a stone to impersonate
himself before the populace who are trying to stone him to death, in
order that he may gain time to make certain revelations to Abimelech
and Baruch. When he has had his say, the stone asks the people why they
persist in stoning it instead of Jeremiah, against whom they then turn
their missiles.[1724]

Such is no exhaustive listing but rather a few examples of the
encouragement given to belief in magic by the Christian Apocrypha.

                             CHAPTER XVII


 The Pseudo-Clementines—Was Rufinus the sole medieval version?—Previous
 Greek versions—Date of the original version—Internal
 evidence—Resemblances to Apuleius and Philostratus—Science and
 religion—Interest in natural science—God and nature—Sin and
 nature—Attitude to astrology—Arguments against genethlialogy—The
 virtuous Seres—Theory of demons—Origin of magic—Frequent accusations
 of magic—Marvels of magic—How distinguish miracle from magic?—Deceit
 in magic—Murder of a boy—Magic is evil—Magic is an art—Other accounts
 of Simon Magus: Justin Martyr to Hippolytus—Peter’s account in the
 _Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum_—Arnobius, Cyril, and
 Philastrius—Apocryphal _Acts of Peter and Paul_—An account ascribed to
 Marcellus—Hegesippus—A sermon on Simon’s fall—Simon Magus in medieval

 “_The Truth herself shall receive thee a wanderer and a stranger, and
 enroll thee a citizen of her own city._”
                                                —_Recognitions_ I, 13.

[Sidenote: The Pseudo-Clementines.]

The starting-point and chief source for this chapter will be the
writings known as the _Pseudo-Clementines_ and more particularly
the Latin version commonly called _The Recognitions_. We shall then
note other accounts of its villain-hero, Simon Magus, in patristic
literature.[1725] The _Pseudo-Clementines_, as the name implies, are
works or different versions of one work ascribed to Clement of Rome,
who is represented as writing to James, the brother of the Lord, an
account of events and discussions in which he and the apostle Peter had
participated not long after the crucifixion. This Pseudo-Clementine
literature has a double character, combining romantic narrative
concerning Peter, Simon Magus, and the family of Clement with long,
argumentative, didactic, and doctrinal discussions and dialogues in
which the same persons participate but Peter takes the leading and
most authoritative part. Not only the authorship, origin, and date,
but even the title or titles and the make-up and arrangement of the
various versions and their original are doubtful or disputed matters.
The versions now extant and published seem by no means to have been
the only ones, but we will describe them first. In Greek we have the
version known as _The Homilies_ in twenty books, in which the didactic
element preponderates. It is extant in only two manuscripts of the
twelfth and fourteenth centuries at Paris and Rome,[1726] but is also
preserved in part in epitomes. Different from it is the Latin version
in which the narrative element plays a greater part.

[Sidenote: Was Rufinus the sole medieval version?]

This Latin version, now usually referred to as _The Recognitions_,
because the main point in its plot is the successive bringing together
again of, and recognition of one another by, the members of a family
long separated, is the translation made by Rufinus, who is last heard
from in 410. It is usually divided into ten books. Numerous manuscripts
of this version attest its popularity and influence in the middle
ages, when we early find Isidore of Seville quoting Clement several
times as an authority on natural science.[1727] Arevalus, however,
thought that Isidore used some other version of the Pseudo-Clementines
than that of Rufinus,[1728] and in the medieval period another title
was common, namely, _The Itinerary of Clement_, or _The Itinerary of
Peter_.[1729] William of Auvergne, for instance, in the first half of
the thirteenth century cites the _Itinerarium Clementis_ or “Book of
the disputations of Peter against Simon Magus.”[1730] This _Itinerary
of Clement_ also heads the list of works condemned as apocryphal by
Pope Gelasius at a synod at Rome in 494,[1731] a list reproduced by
Vincent of Beauvais in his _Speculum naturale_ in the thirteenth
century[1732] and in the previous century rather more accurately by
Hugh of St. Victor in his _Didascalicon_.[1733] In all three cases
the full title is given in practically the same words, “The Itinerary
by the name of the Apostle Peter which is called Saint Clement’s, an
apocryphal work in eight books.”[1734] Here we encounter a difficulty,
since as we have said _The Recognitions_ are in ten books. We find,
however, that in another passage[1735] Vincent correctly cites the
ninth book of _The Recognitions_ as Clement’s ninth book, and that the
number of books into which _The Recognitions_ is divided varies in the
manuscripts, and that they, too, more often call it _The Itinerary of
Clement_ or even apply other designations. Rabanus Maurus in the ninth
century quotes an utterance of the apostle Peter from _The History of
Saint Clement_, but the passage is found in _The Recognitions_.[1736]
Vincent of Beauvais also quotes “the blessed apostle Peter in a
certain letter attached to _The Itinerary of Clement_.” No letter by
Peter is prefaced to the printed text of _The Recognitions_, nor does
Rufinus mention such a letter, although he does speak in his preface of
a letter by Clement which he has already translated elsewhere. Prefixed
to the printed _Homilies_, however, and in the manuscripts found also
with _The Recognitions_, are letters of Peter and Clement respectively
to James. But the passage quoted by Vincent does not occur in either,
but comes from the tenth book of _The Recognitions_.[1737] It would
seem, therefore, despite variations in the number of books and in the
arrangement of material, that the Latin version by Rufinus was the only
one current in the middle ages, but we cannot be sure of this until all
the extant manuscripts have been more carefully examined.[1738]

[Sidenote: Previous Greek versions.]

The version by Rufinus differed from previous ones not only in being in
Latin but also in various omissions which he admits he made and perhaps
other changes to suit it to his Latin audience. That there was already
more than one version in Greek he shows in his preface by describing
another text than that upon which his translation or adaptation was
based. Neither of these two Greek texts appears to have been the same
as the present _Homilies_.[1739] Yet _The Homilies_ were apparently in
existence at that time, since a Syriac manuscript of 411 A. D. contains
four books of _The Homilies_ and three of _The Recognitions_,[1740]
thus in itself furnishing an illustration of the ease with which new
versions might be compounded from old. Both _The Homilies_ and _The
Recognitions_ as they have reached us would seem to be confusions and
perversions of this sort, as their incidents are obviously not arranged
in correct order. For instance, when the story of _The Recognitions_
begins Christ is still alive and reports of His miracles are reaching
Rome; the same year Barnabas pays a visit to Rome and Clement almost
immediately follows him back to Syria, making the passage from Rome to
Caesarea in fifteen days;[1741] but on his arrival there he meets Peter
who tells him that “a week of years” have elapsed since the crucifixion
and of other intervening events involving a considerable lapse of time.
Or again, in the third book of _The Recognitions_ Simon is said to have
sunk his magical paraphernalia in the sea and gone to Rome, but as late
as the tenth and last book we find him still in Antioch and with enough
paraphernalia left to transform the countenance of Faustus.

[Sidenote: Date of the original version.]

Yet this late and misarranged version on which Rufinus bases his
text must have been already in existence for some time, since he
confesses that he has been a long while about his translation. The
virgin Sylvia who “once enjoined it upon” him to “render Clement into
our language” is now spoken of as “of venerable memory,” and it is to
Bishop Gaudentius that Rufinus “after many delays” in his old age “at
length” presents the work. We might thus infer that the original and
presumably more self-consistent Pseudo-Clementine narrative, which
Rufinus evidently does not use, must date back to a much earlier
period. We hear from other sources of _The Circuits_ or _Periodoi of
Peter_ by Clement, but this may have been the version translated by
Rufinus.[1742] Conservative Christian scholars regard as the oldest
unmistakable allusion to the Pseudo-Clementines that by Eusebius early
in the fourth century, who, without giving any specific titles, speaks
of certain “verbose and lengthy writings, containing dialogues of Peter
forsooth and Apion,” which are ascribed to Clement but are really
of recent origin. As for the date of the original work from which
_Homilies_ and _Recognitions_ are derived,[1743] from 200 to 280 A. D.
is suggested by Harnack and his school, who take middle ground between
the extreme contentions of Hilgenfeld and Chapman. But the original
Pseudo-Clement is supposed to have utilized _The Teachings of Peter_
and _The Acts of Peter_, which Waitz would date between 135 and 210 A.

[Sidenote: Internal evidence.]

The work itself, even in the perverted form preserved by Rufinus,
makes pretensions to the highest Christian antiquity. Not only is it
addressed to James and put into the mouth of Clement, but Paul is never
mentioned, and no book of the New Testament is cited by name, while
sayings of Jesus are cited which are not found in the Bible. Christ is
often alluded to in a veiled and mystic fashion as “the true prophet,”
who had appeared aforetime to Abraham and Moses, and interesting and
vivid incidental glimpses are given of what purports to be the life
of an early Christian community and perhaps is that of the Ebionites,
Essenes, or some Gnostic sect. Emphasis is laid upon the purifying
power of baptism, upon Peter’s practice of bathing early every morning,
preferably in the sea or running water, upon secret prayers and
meetings, a separate table for the initiated, esoteric discussions of
religion at cock-crow and in the night, and upon power over demons. All
this may be mere clever invention, but there certainly is an atmosphere
of verisimilitude about it; and it is rather odd that a later writer
should be “very careful to avoid anachronisms,” in whose account as it
now stands are such glaring chronological confusions as those already
noted concerning Clement’s voyage to Caesarea and Simon’s departure for
Rome. But, as in the case of the New Testament Apocrypha, the exact
date of composition makes little difference for our purpose, for which
it is enough that the _Pseudo-Clementines_ played an important part in
the first thirteen centuries of Christian thought viewed as a whole.
Eusebius and Epiphanius may find them unpalatable in certain respects
and reject them as heretical, but Basil and Gregory utilize their
arguments against astrology. Gelasius may classify them as apocryphal,
but Vincent of Beauvais justifies a discriminating use of the
apocryphal books in general and cites this one in particular more than
once as an authority, and the incidents of its story were embodied, as
we shall see, in medieval art.

[Sidenote: Resemblances to Apuleius and Philostratus.]

The same resemblance to the works of Apuleius and Philostratus that
we noted in the case of an apocryphal gospel is observable in the
_Pseudo-Clementines_. We see in _The Recognitions_ the same mixed
interest in natural science and in magic combined with religion and
romantic incident that characterized the variegated and motley page
of the author of the _Metamorphoses_ and the biographer of Apollonius
of Tyana. It is probably only a coincidence that two of the works of
Apuleius are dedicated to a Faustinus whom he calls “my son,” while
Clement’s father is named Faustus or Faustinianus, and the legend of
Faust is believed to originate with him and the episodes in which he is
concerned.[1745] Less accidental may be the connection between Peter’s
religious sea-bathing and that purification in the sea by which the
hero of the _Metamorphoses_ began the process by which he succeeded
in regaining his lost human form. More considerable are the detailed
parallels to the work of Philostratus.[1746] Peter corresponds roughly
to Apollonius and Clement to Damis, while the wizards and _magi_ are
ably personified by the famous Simon Magus. If Apollonius abstained
from all meat and wine and wore linen garments, Peter lives upon “bread
alone, with olives, and seldom even with pot-herbs; and my dress,”
he says, “is what you see, a tunic with a pallium: and having these,
I require nothing more.”[1747] Like Philostratus the Pseudo-Clement
speaks of bones of enormous size which are still to be seen as proof
of the existence of giants in former ages;[1748] and the accounts of
the Brahmans and allusions to the Scythians in the _Life of Apollonius
of Tyana_ are paralleled in _The Recognitions_ by a series of brief
chapters on these and other strange races.[1749] Peter is, of course,
a Jew, not a Hellene like Apollonius, but in his train are men who are
thoroughly trained in Greek philosophy and capable of discussing its
problems at length. They also are not without appreciation of pagan
art and turn aside, with Peter’s consent, to visit a temple upon an
island and “to gaze earnestly” upon “the wonderful columns” and “very
magnificent works of Phidias.”[1750] Just as Apollonius knew all
languages without having ever studied them, so Peter is so filled with
the Spirit of God that he is “full of all knowledge” and “not ignorant
even of Greek learning”; but to descend from his usual divine themes to
discuss it is considered to be rather beneath him. Clement, however,
felt the need of coaching Peter up a little in Greek mythology.[1751]
This mingled attitude of contempt for “the babblings of the Greeks”
when compared to divine revelation, and of respect for Greek philosophy
when compared with anything else is, it is hardly necessary to say, a
very common one with Christian writers throughout the Roman Empire.

[Sidenote: Science and religion.]

The same attitude prevails toward natural science. At the very
beginning of the Clementines the curiosity of the ancient world in
regard to things of nature is shown by the question which someone
propounded to Barnabas when he began to preach, at Rome according to
_The Recognitions_, at Alexandria according to _The Homilies_, of the
Son of God. The heckler wanted to know why so small a creature as a
fly has not only six feet but wings in addition, while the elephant,
despite its enormous bulk, has only four feet and no wings at all.
Barnabas did not answer the question, although he asserted that he
could if he wished to, making the excuse that it was not fitting to
speak of mere creatures to those who were still ignorant of their

[Sidenote: Interest in natural science.]

This unwillingness to discuss natural questions by no means continues
characteristic of the Clementines, however. Not only does Peter
explain to Clement the creation of the world and propound the
extraordinary[1753] doctrine that after completing the process of
creation God “set an angel as chief over the angels, a spirit over the
spirits, a star over the stars, a demon over the demons, a bird over
the birds, a beast over the beasts, a serpent over the serpents, a fish
over the fishes,” and “over men a man who is Christ Jesus.”[1754] Not
only does he later in public defend baptism with water on the ground
that “all things are produced from waters” and that waters were first
created.[1755] We also find Niceta accepting the Greek hypothesis of
four elements, of the sphericity of the universe, and of the motions
of the heavenly bodies “assigned to them by fixed laws and periods,”
citing Plato’s _Timaeus_, mentioning Aristotle’s introduction of a
fifth element,[1756] disputing the atomic theory of Epicurus,[1757]
and alluding to “mechanical science.”[1758] He further discusses the
generation of plants, animals, and human beings as evidences of divine
design and providence,[1759] in which connection he collects a number
of examples of marvelous gen eration of animals such as moles from
earth and vipers from ashes, and affirms that “the crow conceives
through the mouth and the weasel generates through the ear.”[1760]
Simon Magus declared himself immortal on the theory, which we shall
find cropping out again in the thirteenth century in Roger Bacon and
Peter of Abano, that his flesh was “so compacted by the power of his
divinity that it can endure to eternity.”[1761] On the other hand,
Niceta describes the action of the intestines in a fairly intelligent
manner,[1762] and tells how the blood flows like water from a fountain,
“and first borne along in one channel, and then spreading through
innumerable veins as through canals, irrigates the entire territory
of the human body with vital streams.”[1763] A little later on Aquila
gives a natural explanation of rainbows.[1764]

[Sidenote: God and nature.]

There is noticeable, it is true, a tendency, common in patristic
literature and found even among those fathers who hold the dualism
of the Manichees in the deepest detestation, to make a distinction
between God and nature and to attribute any flaws in the universe to
the latter.[1765] Niceta cannot agree with “those who speak of nature
instead of God and declare that all things were made by nature”; he
holds that God created the universe. But Aquila, who supports his
brother in the discussion, seems to think that God’s responsibility
for the universe ceased, at least in part, after it was once created.
At any rate he admits that “in this world some things are done in an
orderly and some in a disorderly fashion. Those things therefore,” he
continues, “that are done rationally, believe that they are done by
Providence; but those that are done irrationally and inordinately,
believe that they befall naturally and happen accidentally.”[1766]

[Sidenote: Sin and nature.]

But even nature sometimes rises up against the sins of mankind
according to Peter and his associates. Aquila believes that the sins
of men are the cause of pestilences;[1767] that “when chastisement
is inflicted upon men according to the will of God, he” (i. e. the
Sun, already called “that good servant” and whom the early Christians
found it difficult to cease to personify) “glows more fiercely and
burns up the world with more vehement fires”;[1768] and that “those
who have become acquainted with prophetic discourse know when and for
what reason blight, hail, pestilence, and such like have occurred
in every generation, and for what sins these have been sent as a
punishment.”[1769] Peter gives the impression that nature sometimes
acts rather independently of God in thus punishing the wicked. He says:
“But this also I would have you know, that upon such souls God does not
take vengeance directly, but His whole creation rises up and inflicts
punishments upon the impious. And although in the present world the
goodness of God bestows the light of the world and the services of the
earth alike upon the pious and the impious, yet not without grief does
the Sun afford his light and the other elements perform their services
to the impious. And, in short, sometimes even in opposition to the
goodness of the Creator, the elements are worn out by the crimes of the
wicked; and hence it is that either the fruit of the earth is blighted,
or the composition of the air is vitiated, or the heat of the sun is
increased beyond measure, or there is an excess of rain or cold.”[1770]
This is a close approach to the notion of _The Book of Enoch_ that
human sin upsets the world of nature, and an even closer approach to
the theory of the Brahmans in _The Life of Apollonius of Tyana_ that
prolonged drought is a punishment visited by the world-soul upon human

[Sidenote: Attitude to astrology.]

Such vestiges of the world-soul doctrine, such a tendency to ascribe
emotion and will to the elements and planets, to personify them, and to
think of God as ruling the world indirectly through them, prepare us
to find an attitude rather favorable to astrological theory. Indeed,
in the first book of _The Recognitions_[1771] we are told in so many
words that the Creator adorned the visible heaven with stars, sun, and
moon in order that “they might be for an indication of things past,
present, and future,” and that these celestial signs, while seen by
all, are “understood only by the learned and intelligent.” Astrology is
respectfully described as “the science of mathesis,”[1772] and, as was
common in the Roman Empire, astrologers are called _mathematici_.[1773]
A defender even of the most extreme pretensions of the art is not
abused as a charlatan but is courteously greeted as “so learned a
man,”[1774] and all admire his eloquence, grave manners, and calm
speech, and accord him a respectful hearing.[1775] Astrology, far
from being regarded as necessarily contrary to religion, is thought
to furnish arguments for the existence of God, and it is said that
Abraham, “being an astrologer, was able from the rational system of the
stars to recognize the Creator, while all other men were in error, and
understood that all things are regulated by His Providence.”[1776] The
number seven is somewhat emphasized[1777] and the twelve apostles are
called the twelve months of Christ who is the acceptable year of the
Lord.[1778] Somewhat similarly the Gnostic followers of the heretic
Valentinus made much of the Duodecad, a group of twelve aeons, and
believed, according to Irenaeus, “that Christ suffered in the twelfth
month. For their opinion is that He continued to preach for one year
only after His baptism.”[1779] Peter, too, has a group of twelve
disciples.[1780] Niceta speaks of “man who is a microcosm in the great
world.”[1781] It is admitted that the stars exert evil as well as
good influence,[1782] and that the astrologer “can indicate the evil
desire which malign virtue produces.”[1783] But it is contended that,
“possessing freedom of the will, we sometimes resist our desires and
sometimes yield to them,” and that no astrologer can predict beforehand
which course we will take.

[Sidenote: Arguments against genethlialogy.]

In fine, astrology is criticized adversely only when it goes to the
length of contending that “there is neither any God, nor any worship,
neither is there any Providence in the world, but all things are done
by fortuitous chance and _genesis_”; that “whatever your _genesis_
contains, that shall befall you”;[1784] and that the constellations
force men to commit murder, adultery, and other crimes.[1785] On
this point Niceta and Aquila, and finally Clement himself, have long
discussions with an aged adept in genethlialogy which fill a large
portion of the last three books of _The Recognitions_, and include a
dozen chapters which are little more than an extract from _The Laws
of Countries_ of Bardesanes. Divine Providence and human free will
are defended, and genethlialogy is represented as an error which has
received confirmation through the operations of demons.[1786] It
is asserted that men can be kept from committing crimes by fear of
punishment and by law, even if they are naturally so inclined, and
races like the Seres (Chinese) and Brahmans are adduced as examples
of entire races of men who never commit the crimes into which men are
supposed to be forced by the constellations. The argument is also
advanced, “Since God is righteous and since He Himself made human
nature, how could it be that He should place _genesis_ in opposition to
us, which should compel us to sin, and then that He should punish us
when we do sin?”[1787] It is further charged that the constellations
are so complicated, that for any given moment one astrologer may infer
a favorable and another a disastrous influence,[1788] and that most
successful explanations of the effects of the stars are made after
the event, like dreams of which men can make nothing at the time, but
“when any event occurs, then they adapt what they saw in the dream to
what has occurred.”[1789] Finally the aged defender of _genesis_, who
believed that his own fate and that of his wife had been accurately
prescribed by their horoscopes, turns out to be Faustinianus (called
Faustus in _The Homilies_), the long-lost father of Clement, Niceta,
and Aquila; is also restored to his wife; and learns that his previous
interpretation of events from the stars was quite erroneous.[1790]

[Sidenote: The virtuous Seres.]

The ideal picture of the Seres or Chinese, “who dwell at the beginning
of the world,” which _The Recognitions_ apparently borrows from
Bardesanes, is perhaps worth repeating here as an odd admission that
a non-Christian people can attain a state of moral perfection and
sinlessness, as well as an interesting bit of ancient ethnology. “In
all that country which is very large there is neither temple nor
image nor harlot nor adulteress, nor is any thief brought to trial.
But neither is any man ever slain there.... For this reason they are
not chastened with those plagues of which we have spoken; they live
to extreme old age, and die without sickness.”[1791] Perhaps these
virtuous Seres are the blameless Hyperboreans in another guise.

[Sidenote: Theory of demons.]

Demons and angels abound in _The Recognitions_. One may be rebuked
and scourged at night by an angel of God.[1792] Peter says that every
nation has an angel, since God has divided the earth into seventy-two
sections and appointed an angel as governor and prince of each.[1793]
Once, before beginning to preach, Peter expelled demons from a number
of persons in the audience.[1794] In another passage is described
the cure of a girl of twenty-seven who for twenty years had been
vexed by an unclean spirit and had been shut up in a closet in chains
because of her violence and superhuman strength. The mere presence
of Peter put this demon to rout and the chains fell off the girl
of their own accord.[1795] Besides these personal encounters with
demons, the theory of demoniacal possession is discussed more than
once, and anything of which the author does not approve, such as the
art of horoscopes, heathen oracles, the excesses of pagan rites and
festivals, and the animal gods of the Egyptians, is attributed to
the influence of demons.[1796] One becomes susceptible to demoniacal
possession who eats meat sacrificed to idols or who merely eats and
drinks immoderately.[1797] Demons are apt to get into the very bowels
of those who frequent drunken banquets.[1798] Incontinence, too, is
accompanied by demons whose “noxious breath” produces “an intemperate
and vicious progeny.... And therefore parents are responsible for their
children’s defects of this sort, because they have not observed the law
of intercourse.”[1799] As much care should be taken in human generation
as in the sowing of crops. But while demons abound, God has given every
Christian power over them, since they may be driven out by uttering
“the threefold name of blessedness.”[1800] Moreover, “what is spoken by
the true God, whether by prophets or varied visions, is always true;
but what is foretold by demons is not always true.”[1801]

[Sidenote: Origin of magic.]

With demons is associated the origin of the magic art. “Certain angels
... taught men that demons could be made to obey man by certain
arts, that is, by magical invocations.”[1802] The first magicians
were Ham and his son Mesraim, from whom the Egyptians, Babylonians,
and Assyrians are descended, and who tried to draw sparks from the
stars[1803] but set himself on fire “and was consumed by the demon
whom he had accosted with too great importunity.”[1804] But on this
account he was called Zoroaster or “living star” after his death.
Moreover, the magic art did not perish but was transmitted to Nimrod
“as by a flash.”[1805] With this may be compared the slightly different
account of the origin of magic given by Epiphanius in the _Panarion_,
written about 374-375 A. D. Magic is older than heresy and was already
in existence before the time of Ham or Mesraim in the antediluvian
days of Jared, when it coexisted with “pharmacy,” a term here used to
cover sorcery and poisoning, licentiousness, adultery, and injustice.
After the flood Epiphanius mentions Nimrod (Νεβρώδ) as the first tyrant
and the inventor of the evil disciplines of astrology and magic. He
states that the Greeks incorrectly confuse him with Zoroaster whom they
regard as the founder of magic and astrology. According to Epiphanius,
“pharmacy” and magic passed from Egypt to Greece in the time of

[Sidenote: Frequent accusations of magic.]

In _The Recognitions_ everyone, Christian, heretic, pagan, and
philosopher, condemns or professes to condemn magic, and reference
is made to the laws of the Roman emperors against it.[1807] But
Christians, pagans, and heretics, while claiming divine power and
protection for themselves, freely accuse one another of the practice
of magic. An unnamed person, by whom Paul is perhaps meant, stirs up
the people of Jerusalem to persecute the apostolic community there as
“most miserable men, who are deceived by Simon, a magician.”[1808] The
guards at the sepulcher, unable to prevent the resurrection, said that
Jesus was a magician, a charge which is repeated by one of the scribes
and by Simon Magus. Simon also calls Peter a magician on more than
one occasion.[1809] Peter, of course, makes similar charges against
Simon; he had been especially sent by James to Caesarea in order to
refute this magician who was giving himself out to be the _Stans_ or
Christ.[1810] The gods of Greek mythology, too, are accused of having
resorted to magic transformations and sorcery.[1811] Philosophy,
however, escapes the accusation of magic in _The Recognitions_,[1812]
and it was a philosopher who deterred Clement, before the latter had
become a Christian, from his plan of investigating the problem of
the immortality of the soul by hiring an Egyptian magician to evoke
a soul from the infernal regions by the art of necromancy.[1813]
The philosopher condemned such an attempt as unlawful, impious, and
“hateful to the Divinity.”[1814]

[Sidenote: Marvels of magic.]

But while magic is condemned, its great powers are admitted. Simon
Magus makes great boasts of the marvels which he can perform. These
include becoming invisible, boring through rocks and mountains as if
they were clay, passing through fire without being burned, flying
through the air, loosing bonds and barriers, transformation into animal
shapes, animation of statues, production of new plants or trees in a
moment, and growing beards upon little boys.[1815] He also asserted
that he had formed a boy by turning air into water and the water into
blood, and then solidifying this into flesh, a feat which he regarded
as superior to the creation of Adam from earth. Later Simon unmade him
and restored him to the air, “but not until I had placed his image and
picture in my bedchamber as a proof and memorial of my work.”[1816]
Not only does Simon himself make such boasts; Niceta and Aquila, who
had been his disciples before their conversion by Zaccheus, also
bear witness to his amazing feats. “Who would not be astonished at
the wonderful things which he does? Who would not think that he was
a god come down from heaven for the salvation of men?”[1817] He can
fly through the air, or so mingle himself with fire as to become one
body with it, he can make statues walk and dogs of brass bark. “Yea,
he has also been seen to make bread of stones.”[1818] When Dositheus
tried to beat Simon, the rod passed through his body as if it had
been smoke.[1819] The woman called Luna who goes about with Simon was
seen by a crowd to look out of all the windows of a tower at the same
time,[1820] an illusion possibly produced by mirrors. When Simon fears
arrest, he transforms the face of Faustinianus into the likeness of his
own, in order that Faustinianus may be arrested in his place.[1821]

[Sidenote: How distinguish miracle from magic?]

So great, indeed, are the marvels wrought by Simon and by magicians
generally that Niceta asks Peter how they may be distinguished from
divine signs and Christian miracles, and in what respect anyone sins
who infers from the similarity of these signs and wonders either that
Simon Magus is divine or that Christ was a magician. Speaking first
of Pharaoh’s magicians, Niceta asks, “For if I had been there, should
I not have thought, from the fact that the magicians did like things
(to those which Moses did), either that Moses was a magician, or that
the feats displayed by the magicians were divinely wrought?... But if
he sins who believes those who work signs, how shall it appear that
he also does not sin who has believed on our Lord for His signs and
occult virtues?” Peter’s reply is that Simon’s magic does not benefit
anyone, while the Christian miracles of healing the sick and expelling
demons are performed for the good of humanity. To Antichrist alone
among workers of magic will it be permitted at the end of the world to
mix in some beneficial acts with his evil marvels. Moreover, “by this
means going beyond his bounds, and being divided against himself,
and fighting against himself, he shall be destroyed.”[1822] Later in
_The Recognitions_, however, Aquila states that even the magic of
the present has found ways of imitating by contraries the expulsion
of demons by the word of God, that it can counteract the poisons
of serpents by incantations, and can effect cures “contrary to the
word and power of God.” He adds, “The magic art has also discovered
ministries contrary to the angels of God, placing the evocation of
souls and the figments of demons in opposition to these.”[1823]

[Sidenote: Deceit in magic.]

But while the marvels of magic are admitted, there is a feeling that
there is something deceitful and unreal about them. The teachings
of the true prophet, we are told, “contain nothing subtle, nothing
composed by magic art to deceive,”[1824] while Simon is “a deceiver and
magician.”[1825] Nor is he deceitful merely in his religious teaching
and his opposition to Peter; even his boasts of magic power are partly
false. Aquila, his former disciple, says, “But when he spoke thus of
the production of sprouts and the perforation of the mountain, I was
confounded on this account, because he wished to deceive even us, in
whom he seemed to place confidence; for we knew that those things had
been from the days of our fathers, which he represented as having been
done by himself lately.”[1826] Moreover, not only does Simon deceive
others; he is himself deceived by demons as Peter twice asserts:[1827]
“He is deluded by demons, yet he thinks that he sees the very substance
of the soul.” “Although in this he is deluded by demons, yet he has
persuaded himself that he has the soul of a murdered boy ministering to
him in whatever he pleases to employ it.”

[Sidenote: Murder of a boy.]

This story of having sacrificed a pure boy for purposes of magic or
divination was a stock charge, which we have previously heard made
against Apollonius of Tyana and which was also told of the early
Christians by their pagan enemies and of the Jews and heretics in the
middle ages. Simon is said to have confessed to Niceta and Aquila,
when they asked how he worked his magic, that he received assistance
from “the soul of a boy, unsullied and violently slain, and invoked
by unutterable adjurations.” He went on to explain that “the soul of
man holds the next place after God, when once it is set free from
the darkness of the body. And immediately it acquires prescience,
wherefore it is invoked in necromancy.” When Aquila asked why the
soul did not take vengeance upon its slayer instead of performing the
behests of magicians, Simon answered that the soul now had the last
judgment too vividly before it to indulge in vengeance, and that the
angels presiding over such souls do not permit them to return to earth
unless “adjured by someone greater than themselves.”[1828] Niceta then
indignantly interposed, “And do you not fear the day of judgment, who
do violence to angels and invoke souls?” As a matter of fact, the
charge that Simon had murdered or violently slain a boy is rather
overdrawn, since the boy in question was the one whom he had made from
air in the first place and whom he simply turned back into air again,
claiming, however, to have thereby produced an unsullied human soul.
According to _The Homilies_, however, he presently confided to Niceta
and Aquila that the human soul did not survive the death of the body
and that a demon really responded to his invocations.[1829]

[Sidenote: Magic is evil.]

Nevertheless, the charge of murder thus made against Simon illustrates
the criminal character here as usually ascribed to magic. Simon is said
to be “wicked above measure,” and to depend upon “magic arts and wicked
devices,” and Peter accuses him of “acting by nefarious arts.”[1830]
Simon in his turn calls Peter “a magician, a godless man, injurious,
cunning, ignorant, and professing impossibilities,” and again “a
magician, a sorcerer, a murderer.”[1831]

[Sidenote: Magic is an art.]

A further characteristic of magic which comes out clearly in _The
Recognitions_ is that it is an art. Demons and souls of the dead
may have a great deal to do with it, but it also requires a human
operator and makes use of materials drawn from the world of nature.
It was by anointing his face with an ointment which the magician had
compounded that the countenance of Faustinianus was transformed into
the likeness of Simon, while Appion and Anubion, who anointed their
faces with the juice of a certain herb, were thereby enabled still to
recognize Faustinianus as himself.[1832] In another passage one of
Simon’s disciples who has deserted him and come to Peter tells how
Simon had made him carry on his back to the seashore a bundle “of his
polluted and accursed secret things.” Simon took the bundle out to sea
in a boat and later returned without it.[1833] Simon not only employed
natural materials in his magic, but was regarded as a learned man,
even by his enemies. He is “by profession a magician, yet exceedingly
well trained in Greek literature.”[1834] He is “a most vehement
orator, trained in the dialectic art, and in the meshes of syllogisms;
and what is most serious of all, he is greatly skilled in the magic
art.”[1835] And he engages with Peter in theological debates. It is
also interesting to note as an illustration of the connection between
magic and experimental science that Simon, in boasting of his feats
of magic, says, “For already I have achieved many things by way of

[Sidenote: Other accounts of Simon Magus: Justin Martyr to Hippolytus.]

In the Pseudo-Clementines we are told that Simon intended to go to
Rome, but _The Recognitions_ and _The Homilies_ deal only with the
conflicts between Peter and Simon in various Syrian cities and do not
follow them to Rome, where, as other Christian writers tell us, they
had yet other encounters in which Simon finally came to his bitter end.
Justin Martyr, writing about the middle of the second century, states
that Simon, a Samaritan of Gitto, came to Rome in the reign of Claudius
and performed such feats of magic by demon aid that a statue was
erected to him as a god. In this matter of the statue Justin is thought
to have confused Semo Sancus, a Sabine deity, with Simon. Justin adds
that almost all Samaritans and a few persons from other nations still
believe in Simon as the first God, and that a disciple of his, named
Menander, deceived many by magic at Antioch. Justin complains that
the followers of these men are still called Christians and on the
other hand that the emperors do not persecute them as they do other
Christians, although Justin charges them with practicing promiscuous
sexual intercourse as well as magic.[1837] Irenaeus gives a very
similar account.[1838] Origen, as we have seen, denied that there were
more than thirty of Simon’s followers left,[1839] but his contemporary
Tertullian wrote, “At this very time even the heretical dupes of this
same Simon are so much elated by the extravagant pretensions of their
art, that they undertake to bring up from Hades the souls of the
prophets themselves. And I suppose that they can do so under cover
of a lying wonder.”[1840] But Origen and Tertullian add nothing to
the story of Simon Magus himself. Hippolytus, too, implies that Simon
still has followers, since he devotes a number of chapters to stating
and refuting Simon’s doctrines and to “teaching anew the parrots of
Simon that Christ ... was not Simon.”[1841] But Hippolytus also gives
further details concerning Simon’s visit to Rome, stating that he there
encountered the apostles and was repeatedly opposed by Peter, until
finally Simon declared that if he were buried alive he would rise again
upon the third day. His disciples buried him, as they were directed,
but he never reappeared, “for he was not the Christ.”

[Sidenote: Peter’s account in the _Didascalia et Constitutiones

Peter himself is represented as briefly recounting his struggle at
Rome with Simon Magus in the _Didascalia Apostolorum_, an apocryphal
work of probably the third century, extant in Syriac and Latin, and
more fully in the parallel passage of the Greek _Constitutiones
Apostolorum_, written perhaps about 400 A. D.[1842] Peter found
Simon at Rome drawing many away from the church as well as seducing
the Gentiles by his “magic operation and virtues,” or, in the Greek
version, “magic experiments and the working of demons.”[1843] In the
Syriac and Latin account Peter then states that one day he saw Simon
flying through the air. “And standing beneath I said, ‘In the virtue
of the holy name, Jesus, I cut off your virtues.’ And so falling he
broke the arch (thigh?) of his foot (leg?).”[1844] But he did not die,
since Peter goes on to say that while “many then departed from him,
others who were worthy of him remained with him.” In the longer Greek
version Simon announced his flight in the theater. While all eyes were
turned on Simon, Peter prayed against him. Meanwhile Simon mounted
aloft into mid-air, borne up, Peter says, by demons, and telling
the people that he was ascending to heaven, whence he would return
bringing them good tidings. The people applauded him as a god, but
Peter stretched forth his hands to heaven, supplicating God through
the Lord Jesus to dash down the corrupter and curtail the power of the
demons. He asked further, however, that Simon might not be killed by
his fall but merely bruised. Peter also addressed Simon and the evil
powers who were supporting him, requiring that he might fall and become
a laughing-stock to those who had been deceived by him. Thereupon
Simon fell with a great commotion and bruised his bottom and the
soles of his feet. It will be noted that here, as in the accounts by
some other authors, Peter alone struggles with Simon Magus, lending
color to the Tübingen theory once suggested in connection with the
Pseudo-Clementines, that Simon Magus is meant to represent the apostle

[Sidenote: Arnobius, Cyril, and Philastrius.]

Arnobius, writing about 300 A. D., gives a somewhat different account
of Simon’s mode of flight and fall. He says that the people of Rome
“saw the chariot of Simon Magus and his four fiery horses blown away
by the mouth of Peter and vanish at the name of Christ. They saw, I
say, him who had trusted false gods and been betrayed by them in their
fright precipitated by his own weight and lying with broken legs.
Then, after he had been carried to Brunda, worn out by his shame and
sufferings, he again hurled himself down from the highest ridge of the
roof.”[1845] Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-386 A. D., also speaks of Simon’s
being borne in air in the chariot of demons, “and is not surprised
that the combined prayers of Peter and Paul brought him down, since
in addition to Jesus’s promise to answer the petition of two or three
gathered together it is to be remembered that Peter carried the keys
of heaven and that Paul had been rapt to the third heaven and heard
secret words.”[1846] Philastrius, another writer of the fourth century,
describes Simon’s death more vaguely, stating that after Peter had
driven him from Jerusalem he came to Rome where they engaged in another
contest before Nero. Simon was worsted by Peter on every point of
argument, and, “smitten by an angel died a merited death in order that
the falsity of his magic might be evident to all men.”[1847] But it
is hardly worth while to pile up such brief allusions to Simon in the
writings of the fathers.[1848]

[Sidenote: Apocryphal _Acts of Peter and Paul_.]

Other fuller accounts of Simon’s doings at Rome are contained in the
Syriac _Teaching of Simon Cephas_[1849] and in the apocryphal _Acts of
Peter and Paul_.[1850] In the former Peter urges the people of Rome
not to allow the sorcerer Simon to delude them by semblances which
are not realities, and he raises a dead man to life after Simon has
failed to do so. In the latter work Simon opposes Peter and Paul in
the presence of Nero and as usual they charge one another with being
magicians. Simon also as usual affirms that he is Christ, and we are
told that the chief priests had called Jesus a wizard. Simon had
already made a great impression upon Nero by causing brazen serpents
to move and stone statues to laugh, and by altering both his face and
stature and changing first to a child and then to an old man. Nero
also asserts that Simon has raised a dead man and that Simon himself
rose on the third day after being beheaded. It is later explained,
however, that Simon had arranged to have the beheading take place in a
dark corner and through his magic had substituted a ram for himself.
The ram appeared to be Simon until after it had been decapitated, when
the executioner discovered that the head was that of a ram but did not
dare report the fact to Nero. When Simon met the apostles in Nero’s
presence, he caused great dogs to rush suddenly at Peter, but Peter
made them vanish into air by showing them some bread which he had been
secretly blessing and breaking. As a final test Simon promised to
ascend to heaven if Nero would build him a tower in the Campus Martius,
where “my angels may find me in the air, for they cannot come to me
upon earth among sinners.” The tower was duly provided, and Simon,
crowned with laurel, began to fly successfully until Peter, tearfully
entreated by Paul to make haste, adjured the angels of Satan who were
supporting Simon to let him drop. Simon then fell upon the _Sacra Via_
and his body was broken into four parts.[1851] Nero, however, chose to
regard the apostles as Simon’s murderers and put them to death, after
which a Marcellus, who had been Simon’s disciple but left him to join
Peter, secretly buried Peter’s body.

[Sidenote: An account ascribed to Marcellus.]

To this Marcellus is ascribed a very similar narrative which is found
in an early medieval manuscript and was perhaps written in the seventh
or eighth century.[1852] Fabricius and Florentinus give its title as,
_Of the marvelous deeds and acts of the blessed Peter and Paul and of
Simon’s magic arts_.[1853] I have read it in a Latin pamphlet printed
at some time before 1500, where the full title runs: _The Passion of
the Apostles Peter and Paul, and their disputation before the emperor
Nero against Simon, a certain magician, who, when he saw that he could
not resist the utterances of St. Peter, cast all his books of magic
into the sea lest he be adjudged a magician. Then when the same Simon
Magus presumed to ascend to heaven, overcome by St. Peter he fell to
earth and perished most miserably._ At its close occurs the statement,
“I, Marcellus, a disciple of my lord, the apostle Peter, have written
what I saw.” When this Marcellus began to desert his former master,
Simon, to follow Peter, Simon procured a big dog to keep Peter away
from Marcellus, but at Peter’s order the dog turned upon Simon himself.
Peter then humanely forbade the beast to do Simon any serious bodily
injury, but the dog tore the magician’s clothing off his back, and
Simon was chased from town by the mob and did not venture to return
until after a year’s time.[1854]

[Sidenote: Hegesippus.]

A chapter is devoted to Simon Magus in the _History of the Jewish War_
of the so-called Hegesippus, a name which is thought to be a corruption
of Josephus, since the work in large measure reproduces that historian.
At any rate it was not written until the fourth century and is probably
a translation or adaptation by Ambrose. Its account of Simon Magus
combines the story of his competition with Peter in raising the dead,
“for in such works Peter was held most celebrated,” with that of his
flight and fall. He is represented as launching his flight from the
Capitoline Hill and leaping off the Tarpeian rock. The people marveled
at his flight, some remarking that Christ had never performed such
a feat as this. But when Peter prayed against him, “straightway his
propeller was tangled up in Peter’s voice, and he fell, nor was he
killed, but, weakened by a broken leg, withdrew to Aricia and died

[Sidenote: A sermon on Simon’s fall.]

Finally, passing over other Latin accounts of the contest between the
apostles and Simon Magus to be found in the _Apostolic Histories_ of
the Pseudo-Abdias[1856] and in a work ascribed to Pope Linus,[1857] we
may note a sermon which has been variously ascribed in the manuscripts
and printed editions to Augustine, Ambrose, and Maximus.[1858] This
sermon, intended for the anniversary of the day of martyrdom of Peter
and Paul, proceeds to inquire the cause of their death and finds it in
the fact that among other marvels they “prostrated by their prayers
that magician Simon in a headlong fall from the empty air. For when the
same Simon called himself Christ and asserted that as the Son he could
ascend unto the Father by flying, and, suddenly raised up by magic
arts, began to fly, then Peter on his knees prayed the Lord, and by
sacred prayer overcame the magical levitation. For the prayer ascended
to the Lord before the flier, and the just petition arrived ere the
iniquitous presumption. Peter, I say, though placed on the ground,
obtained what he sought before Simon reached the heaven towards which
he was tending. So then Peter brought him down like a captive from high
in air, and, falling precipitately upon a rock, he broke his legs. And
this in contumely of his feat, so that he who just before had tried to
fly, of a sudden could not even walk, and he who had assumed wings lost
even his feet. But lest it appear strange that, while the apostle was
present, that magician should fly through the air even for a while, let
it be explained that this was due to Peter’s patience. For he let him
soar the higher in order that he might fall the farther; for he wished
him to be carried aloft where everyone could see him, in order that all
might see him when he fell from on high.” The preacher then draws the
moral that pride goes before a fall.

[Sidenote: Simon Magus in medieval art.]

The struggle of Peter and Paul with Simon Magus at Rome appears in
_The Golden Legend_, compiled by Jacopo de Voragine in the thirteenth
century, and was likewise a favorite theme of Gothic stained glass.
At Chartres and Angers Peter may be seen routing Simon’s dogs by
blessing bread; at Bourges and Lyons Simon and Peter compete in raising
the dead; while windows at Chartres, Bourges, Tours, Reims, and
Poitiers show the apostles praying and Simon falling and breaking his
neck.[1859] This last scene and also the disputation before Nero are
represented in the earlier mosaics of the eleventh or twelfth century
which the Norman rulers of Sicily had executed in the cathedral of
Monreale and the royal chapel of their castle at Palermo.[1860]

                             CHAPTER XVIII


 The _Confession_ of Cyprian—His initiation into mysteries—His thorough
 study of nature, divination, and magic—The lore of Egypt—And of
 Chaldea—Cyprian’s practice of magic at Antioch—A Christian virgin
 defeats the magic of the demons—Summary of Cyprian’s picture of
 magic—Christians accused of magic—A story from Epiphanius—Joseph’s
 experience of miracle and magic—Legend of St. James and Hermogenes
 the magician—Other contests of apostles and magicians in _The Golden

[Sidenote: The _Confession_ of Cyprian.]

To the accounts of the contests of Peter and Paul with Simon Magus
which were recorded in our last chapter we shall add in this some other
encounters of early Christians with magicians, and to the picture of
magic contained in the Pseudo-Clementines that presented by Cyprian in
his _Confession_. If Simon Magus died impenitent in the midst of his
magic, very different was the end of Cyprian, a magician by profession
in the third century, who, after being educated from childhood in
heathen mysteries and the magic art, repented and was baptized, became
bishop of Antioch, and finally achieved a martyr’s crown. In the
_Confession_[1861] current under his name and which most critics agree
was composed before the time of Constantine[1862] is described his
education in and subsequent practice of magic. For us perhaps the most
interesting feature of his account of his education is the association
of magic, not only with pagan mysteries and the operations of demons,
but also with natural science.

[Sidenote: His initiation into mysteries.]

“I am Cyprian,” says the author, “who from a tender age was consecrated
a gift to Apollo and while yet a child was initiated into the arts of
the dragon.” When not yet seven years old, he entered the mysteries of
Mithra, and at ten his parents enrolled him a citizen at Athens, and
he carried a torch in the mysteries of Demeter and “ministered to the
dragon on the citadel of Pallas.” When not yet fifteen, he also visited
Mount Olympus for forty days, and “was initiated into sonorous speeches
and noisy narrations.”[1863] There he saw in phantasy trees and herbs
which seemed to be moved by the presence of the gods, spirits who
regulated the passage of time, and choruses of demons who sang, while
others waged war or plotted, deceived, and permeated.[1864] He saw the
phalanx of each god and goddess, and how from Mount Olympus as from a
palace spirits were despatched to every nation of the earth. He was fed
only after sunset and upon fruits, and was taught the efficacy of each
of them by seven hierophants.

[Sidenote: His thorough study of nature, divination, and magic.]

Cyprian’s parents were determined that he should learn whatever there
was in earth and air and sea, and not merely the natural generation
and corruption of herbs and trees and bodies, but also the virtues
implanted in all these, which the prince of this world impressed upon
them in order that he might oppose the divine constitution. Cyprian
also participated at Argos in the sacred rites of Hera, and saw the
union of air with ether and of ether with air, also of earth with
water, and water with air. He penetrated the Troad and to Artemis
Tauropolos who is at Lacedaemon to learn how matter was confused and
divided “and the profundities of sinister and cruel legends.” From the
Phrygians he learned liver divination; among the barbarians he studied
auspices and the significance of the movements of quadrupeds, and how
to interpret omens and the language of birds, and the sounds made by
every kind of wood and stone, or by the dead in tombs and the creaking
of doors. He became acquainted with the palpitations of the limbs,
the movement of the blood and pulse in bodies, all the extensions
and corollaries of ratios and numbers, diseases simulated as well as
natural, “and oaths which are heard yet are not audible, and pacts for
discord.” There was, in fine, nothing whatever in earth or sea or air
that he did not know, whether it was a matter of science or phantasy,
of mechanics or artifice, “even down to the magic translation of
writings and other things of that sort.”

[Sidenote: The lore of Egypt.]

At twenty Cyprian was admitted to the shrines at ancient Memphis in
Egypt and learned what communication and relationship existed between
demons and earthly things and “in what stars and laws and objects they
delight.” He witnessed imitations of earthquakes, rain, and storms
at sea. He saw the souls of giants held in darkness and fancied that
they sustained the earth as a load on their shoulders. He saw the
communications of serpents with demons, ideas of transfigurations,
impious piety, science without reason, iniquitous justice, and
things topsy-turvy generally. Besides the forms of various sins and
vices, such as fornication and avarice, which suggest the medieval
personification of the seven deadly sins, he saw the three hundred
and sixty-five varieties of ailments, “and the empty glory and the
empty virtue” with which the priests of Egypt had deceived the Greek

[Sidenote: And of Chaldea.]

At thirty Cyprian left Egypt for Chaldea in order to acquire its
lore concerning air, fire, and light. Here he was instructed in the
qualities of stars as well as of herbs, and their “choruses like
drawn-up battle lines.” He was taught the house and relationships of
each star and its appropriate food and drink. Also the meetings of
spirits with men in light, the three hundred and sixty-five demons who
divide as many parts of the ether between them, and the sacrifices,
libations, and words appropriate to each. Cyprian’s education had now
advanced to such a point that the devil himself hailed him, mere youth
as he was, as a new Jambres, a skilful and reliable practitioner, and
worthy of communication with himself. Cyprian again explains at this
point that in all the stars and plants and other works of God the devil
has bound to himself likenesses in preparation to wage war with God
and His angels, but these likenesses are shadowy images, not solid
substances. The devil’s rain is not water, his fire does not burn, his
fish are not food, and his gold is not genuine. The devil obtains the
material for his products from the vapors of sacrifices.

[Sidenote: Cyprian’s practice of magic at Antioch.]

Cyprian now returned from Chaldea and wrought marvels at Antioch “like
one of the ancients,” and “made many experiments of magic and became
celebrated as a magician and philosopher endowed with vast knowledge
of things invisible.” Men came to him to be taught magic or to secure
their ends by his assistance. And he easily helped them all, some to
the gratification of pleasure, others to triumph over their adversaries
or even to slay their rivals. His conscience sometimes pricked him at
the evil deeds which he thus wrought with the aid of demons, but as yet
he did not doubt that the devil was all powerful.

[Sidenote: A Christian virgin defeats the magic of the demons.]

But then the case of the Christian girl Justina revealed to him the
weakness and fraud of the devil. Determined to dedicate herself to a
life of virginity, Justina repulsed the love of the youth Aglaïdes, who
sought Cyprian’s assistance. But in vain: the demon failed to alter
Justina’s determination and was not even able to give another girl the
form of Justina and so deceive Aglaïdes. Justina was shown the form of
her lover, but she called upon the Virgin, and the devil was forced to
vanish in smoke. Nor did disease and other plagues and torments affect
her resolution. Her parents, however, were similarly afflicted until
they besought her to marry Aglaïdes, but instead she cured them of
their ailments by the sign of the cross. The devil then inflicted a
plague on the entire community and delivered an oracle to the effect
that the pest could be stayed only by the marriage of Justina and
Aglaïdes, but her prayers turned the wrath of the public from herself
against Cyprian. When the magician in disgust cursed the demon for the
evil pass to which he had thus brought him, the demon made a ferocious
attack upon him, from which Cyprian saved himself just in the nick of
time by calling upon God for aid and making the sign of the cross. He
then publicly confessed his crimes as a magician, burned his books of
magic, and was baptized into the Christian faith.[1865]

[Sidenote: Summary of Cyprian’s picture of magic.]

Cyprian’s _Confession_ thus represents magic as a very elaborate art,
requiring long study and a thorough knowledge of natural objects and
processes. The magician has his books, and he must also be able to read
the book of nature. Astrology and other arts of divination are integral
parts of magic. But magic is also represented as the work of evil
spirits. This involves not merely a Neo-Platonic sort of association of
demons with natural forces and regions of earth or sky, but also the
specific association of the devil for evil purposes with objects in
nature, a doctrine which we shall find again in the works of a medieval
saint, Hildegard of Bingen. Furthermore, magic aids in the commission
of crime and is dangerous even to the magician against whom the devil
may turn. While magic involves study of nature and use of natural
forces and associations, and we also hear of “many experiments of
magic,” it is scarcely represented as operating scientifically in the
_Confession_. It is mystic, confused, shadowy, imitative, imaginary,
lacking in solidity and reality, fraudulent and deceptive. Finally,
this complex art, this universal system of knowledge, is easily balked
and overthrown by the far simpler counter-magic of Christianity, by
such methods as a prayer to the Virgin, calling on the name of God, or
merely making the sign of the cross.

[Sidenote: Christians accused of magic.]

Such counter-magic was apt to be regarded as magic by the pagans, and
the account of the martyrdom of Cyprian states that the devil, that
“very bad serpent,” suggested to the Count of the Orient that Cyprian,
together with a certain virgin who is assumed to be Justina, was
destroying the ancient worship of the gods by his magic tricks as well
as stirring up the orient and the whole world by his epistles. He was
accordingly arrested and finally beheaded. According to one account
he and Justina were first placed together in a cauldron of tallow and
pitch over a fire. But when they sang a hymn, the flames left them
uninjured and instead shot out and caused the death of an unreformed
magician who happened to be standing near by.[1866] Another case of
Christian martyrs who were probably accused of magic is found in Spain
about 287 A. D. Two Christian sisters who were dealers in pottery
refused to sell their earthenware for purposes of pagan worship. One
day, as a pagan religious procession passed by their shop, the crowd
trampled upon their wares which were exposed for sale. But thereupon
the idol which was being borne in the procession fell and broke in
pieces. “Being probably suspected of magical practices,” the two
sisters were arrested; one died in prison and the other was strangled;
whereupon the bishop rescued their bones, and these were cherished as
the remains of martyrs.[1867]

[Sidenote: A story from Epiphanius.]

Epiphanius in the next century tells a story similar to that of
Cyprian, Aglaïdes, and Justina, of a youth who was led astray by evil
companions who employed magic arts, love philters, and incantations
to force free women to gratify their licentious desires. By means of
magic the youth went through the air to a very beautiful woman in the
public bath, but she repelled him by making the sign of the cross.
His companions then tried to devise some more powerful magic for his
benefit, and took him at sunset to a cemetery full of caves where for
three successive nights the wizards vainly plied their arts in the
attempt to gratify his lust. But in every instance they were foiled by
the name of Christ and the sign of the cross.[1868]

[Sidenote: Joseph’s experience of miracle and magic.]

Joseph, the guardian of this same young man, finally became converted
to Christianity after Christ had appeared repeatedly to him in dreams
and cured him of diseases and after he himself, by employing the name
of Jesus, had cured a man of a demoniacal possession which made him
go shamelessly about the town in a nude state. After his conversion,
Joseph started to complete as a Christian church an unfinished
structure in Tiberias called the Adrianaion, which the citizens
previously had tried to convert into a public bath. When the Jews
endeavored to ruin his undertaking by bewitching the furnaces which he
had erected for the preparation of quick-lime, he counteracted their
magic by making the sign of the cross, sprinkling his furnaces with
holy water, and saying in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, “Let there be
power in this water to counteract all pharmacy and magic employed by
these men and to instill sufficient energy into the fire to complete
the house of the Lord.” With that his fires blazed up violently.[1869]

[Sidenote: Legend of St. James and Hermogenes the magician.]

Very similar both to the _Confession_ of Cyprian and the story of
Simon Magus is the legend of St. James the Great and Hermogenes the
magician, which is found in _The Golden Legend_ and which was often
reproduced in medieval stained glass windows.[1870] James converted
to Christianity a disciple of Hermogenes whom the magician had sent
against him when he was preaching in Judea. When the angry wizard cast
a spell over his erstwhile disciple, the latter was freed by means of
St. James’s cloak. When the magician sent demons to fetch both the
convert and the saint, James made them bring Hermogenes to him instead,
but then set him free, telling him that Christians returned good for
evil. Hermogenes now feared the vengeance that the demons would take
upon himself, and so James gave his staff to him to protect himself
with. Soon afterwards Hermogenes threw all his books of magic into the
sea and was baptized.

[Sidenote: Other contests of apostles and magicians in _The Golden

“In _The Golden Legend_,” in fact, as Mâle says, “almost all the
apostles have to contend with magicians. But it is St. Simon and
St. Jude who strive with the most formidable of sorcerers, and they
challenge him even in the very sanctuary of magic art, the temple of
the Sun at Suanir, near Babylon. Undismayed by the science of Zoroaster
and Aphaxad, they foretell the future, they cause a new-born babe to
speak, they subdue tigers and serpents, and from a statue they cast
out a demon, which shows itself in the shape of a black Ethiopian and
flees uttering raucous cries.”[1871] If this last exorcism reminds
us somewhat of the exploits of Apollonius of Tyana, still more do
the performances of St. Andrew, who “must surpass all the marvels of
the magicians before he can convert Asia and Greece. He drives away
seven demons who in the shape of seven great dogs desolate the town of
Nicaea, and he exorcises a spirit which dwells in the _thermae_ and is
wont to strangle the bathers.”[1872]

                              CHAPTER XIX

                           ORIGEN AND CELSUS

 Celsus’ charges of magic against Christianity—Hebrew magic as depicted
 by Celsus—Various recriminations of magic—Origen’s distinction between
 miracles and magic—Origen frees Jews as well as Christians from the
 charge of magic—Celsus’ sceptical description of magic—Celsus suggests
 a connection between magic and occult virtues in nature—Celsus on
 magicians and demons—Origen ascribes magic to demons—Magic is an
 elaborate art—The Magi of Scripture were not different from other
 magicians—Origen’s Biblical commentaries—Balaam and the power of
 words—Limitations to the power of Pharaoh’s magicians—Was Balaam a
 prophet of God or a magician?—Balaam’s magic experiments—Limitations
 to his magic power—Divine prophecy distinct from magic and
 divination—The ventriloquist really invoked Samuel for Saul—Christians
 less affected by magic than philosophers are—Their superstitious
 methods against magic—Incantations—The power of words—Origen
 admits a connection between the power of words and magic—Jewish
 and Christian employment of powerful names is really magic—Celsus’
 theory of demons—Origen calls demons wicked—But believes in presiding
 angels—A law of spiritual gravitation—Attitude of Celsus toward
 astrology—Attitude of Origen toward astrology—Further discussion in
 his _Commentary on Genesis_—Problems of the waters above the firmament
 and of one or more heavens—Augury, dreams, and prophecy—Animals and
 gems—Origen later accused of countenancing magic.

[Sidenote: Celsus’ charges of magic against Christianity.]

In the celebrated work of Origen _Against Celsus_,[1873] written in the
first half of the third century, the subject of magic is often touched
upon, largely because Celsus in his _True Discourse_ had so frequently
brought charges of magic against Jesus, His Christian followers,
and the Jewish people from whom they had sprung. Celsus had called
Jesus “a wicked and God-hated sorcerer”;[1874] had contended that His
miracles were wrought by magic, not by divine power;[1875] and had
compared them unfavorably, as less wonderful, to the tricks performed
by jugglers and Egyptians in the middle of market-places.[1876] It
was the opinion of Celsus that Jesus in warning His disciples that
“there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show
great signs and wonders,” had tacitly convicted Himself of the same
magical practices.[1877] Celsus, for his part, warned the Christians
that they “must shun all deceivers and jugglers who will introduce
you to phantoms”;[1878] he accused them of employing incantations
and the names of certain demons;[1879] he asserted that he had seen
in the hands of Christian presbyters “barbarous books containing the
names and marvelous operations of demons,” and that these presbyters
“professed to do no good, but all that was calculated to injure human

[Sidenote: Hebrew magic as depicted by Celsus]

Celsus regarded Moses equally with Jesus as a wizard,[1881] and he
evidently, like Juvenal and other classical writers, considered
the Jews and Syrians as a race of charlatans, especially given to
superstition, sorcery, incantations, ambiguous oracles and conjuration
of spirits. “They worship angels,” he declared, “and are addicted to
sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor.”[1882] He stated that
the Jews traced back their origin to “the first generation of lying
wizards,” by which phrase Origen thinks he referred to Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob, whose names Origen admits are much employed in the magic
arts.[1883] Celsus further characterized the Jews as “blinded by some
crooked sorcery, or dreaming dreams through the influence of shadowy
specters,”[1884] and as “induced to bow down to the angels in heaven by
the incantations employed by jugglery and sorcery, in consequence of
which certain phantoms appear in obedience to the spells employed by
the magicians.”[1885] Celsus, also, in describing the many self-styled
prophets, Redeemers, and Sons of God in the Phoenicia and Palestine
of his own time, states that they make use of “strange, fanatical,
and quite unintelligible words, of which no rational person can find
any meaning,”[1886] and that those prophets whom he himself had
heard had afterwards confessed to him that these words “really meant
nothing.”[1887] Yet even the Christians—Celsus complains—who condemn
all other oracles, regard as marvelous and accept unquestioningly
“those sayings which were uttered or were not uttered in Judea after
the manner of that country, as indeed they are still delivered among
the peoples of Phoenicia and Palestine.”[1888]

[Sidenote: Various recriminations of magic.]

To these accusations of Celsus Origen himself adds that the Jews affirm
that Jesus passed Himself off as Christ by means of sorcery,[1889]
while the Egyptians charge Moses and the Hebrews with the practice of
sorcery during their stay in Egypt.[1890] Origen, on the other hand,
speaks of “the magical arts and rites of the Egyptians” and holds that
it was by divine aid and not by superior magic that Moses prevailed
over Pharaoh’s magicians.[1891] Celsus for his part had accused Jesus
during His residence in Egypt of “having there acquired some miraculous
powers, on which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves.”[1892]

[Sidenote: Origen’s distinction between miracles and magic.]

Origen repudiates the charges of magic made against Christ and His
followers as slanders. He asserts that Christianity on the contrary
strictly forbids the practice of magic arts,[1893] and that these
lost much of their force at the birth of Christ.[1894] He contends
that no magician would teach such noble doctrines as those of
Christianity.[1895] Origen goes so far as to deny that even the “false
Christs and false prophets,” who “shall show great signs and wonders,”
will be sorcerers, and he states that no sorcerer has ever claimed to
be Christ[1896]—an amazing assertion in view of his own allusions to
Simon Magus. Works of magic and miracles, Origen affirms, are no more
alike than are a wolf and a dog or a wood-pigeon and a dove. They are,
however, so closely related that if one admits the reality of magic
he must also believe in divine miracles, just as the existence of
sophistry proves that there is such a thing as sound argument and an
art of dialectic.[1897] Moreover, in one passage Origen admits that
“there would indeed be a resemblance” between miracles and magic, “if
Jesus, like the dealers in magic arts, had performed His works only
for show; but now there is not a single juggler who, by means of his
proceedings, invites his spectators to reform their manners, or trains
those to the fear of God who are amazed at what they see, nor who
tries to persuade them so to live as men who are to be justified by
God.”[1898] On the contrary, Origen asserts that the magicians’ “own
lives are full of the grossest and most notorious sins.”

[Sidenote: Origen frees Jews as well as Christians from the charge of

Since it is one of Origen’s chief concerns to uphold Hebrew prophecy
as a proof of Christ’s divinity, although Celsus subjects the argument
from prophecy to ridicule; to defend the Old Testament against
Celsus’ attacks as an inspired record of greater antiquity than Greek
philosophy, history, and literature, which he asserts have stolen
truths from it; and to maintain that “there is no discrepancy between
the God of the Gospel and the God of the Law”:[1899]—since this is so,
it is incumbent upon him to rebut also the accusations of magic laid
by Celsus at the door of the Jews. Origen therefore asserts that the
Jews “despised all kinds of divination as that which bewitches men to
no purpose,” and cites the prohibition of _Leviticus_ (xix, 31) against
wizards and familiar spirits.[1900]

[Sidenote: Celsus’ sceptical description of magic.]

The _Reply to Celsus_ is of especial interest to us because it presents
as it were in parallel columns for our inspection the classical and
the Christian conceptions of and attitudes towards magic. Before
proceeding, therefore, to inquire how far justified Origen seems to
be in thus acquitting, or Celsus, on the other hand, in condemning
Christians and Jews on the charge of magic, it is essential to note
what magic means for either author. Both evidently regard it as a
term of reproach and as usually evil in character.[1901] Celsus lists
as feats of magic the expelling of demons and diseases from men, or
the sudden production of tables, dishes, and food as for an expensive
banquet, or of animals who move about as if alive. Celsus, however,
seems to speak with a sneer of “their most venerated arts” and
describes the banquet dishes as “dainties having no real existence” and
the animals as “not really living but having only the appearance of
life.” Therefore the ensuing comment of Origen seems unusually stupid
or unfair, when he tries to convict Celsus of inconsistency on the
ground that “by these expressions he allows as it were the existence of
magic,” whereas Origen hints that it was he “who wrote several books
against it.” “These expressions” are, on the contrary, precisely those
which a man who had attacked magic as deceptive would use. Celsus
further stated that an Egyptian named Dionysius had told him that magic
arts had power “only over the uneducated and men of corrupt morals,”
but had no effect upon philosophers, “because they were careful to
observe a healthy manner of life.”[1902] Celsus himself observed
that “those who in market-places perform most disreputable tricks
and collect crowds around them ... would never approach an assembly
of wise men.”[1903] It was at the request of a Celsus, moreover,
that the second century satirist Lucian wrote his _Alexander_ or
_Pseudomantis_[1904] in which some of the tricks of a magician-impostor
and oracle-monger are exposed, and in which allusion is made to the
“excellent treatises against the magicians” written by Celsus himself.
It seems reasonably certain that the Celsus of Lucian and the Celsus
of Origen are identical, as there are no chronological difficulties
and the same point of view is ascribed in either case to Celsus, whom
both Lucian and Origen regard as an Epicurean or at least in sympathy
with the Epicureans. Galen, in a treatise in which he lists his own
writings, mentions an “Epistle to Celsus the Epicurean.”[1905] This,
too, might be the same man.

[Sidenote: Celsus suggests a connection between magic and occult
virtues in nature.]

Another passage in which Celsus, according to Origen at least, “mixed
up together matters which belong to magic and sorcery” runs as
follows: “What need to number up all those who have taught methods
of purification, or expiatory hymns, or spells for averting evil, or
images, or resemblances of demons, or the various sorts of antidotes
against poison in clothing, or in numbers, or stones, or plants, or
roots, or generally in all kinds of things?”[1906] In another passage
Celsus again closely connected sorcery with the knowledge of occult
virtues in nature, arguing that men need not pride themselves upon
their power of sorcery when serpents and eagles know of antidotes to
poisons and amulets and the virtues of certain stones which help to
preserve their young.[1907] Origen objects that it is not customary
to use the word sorcery (γοητεία) for such things, and suggests that
Celsus is such an “Epicurean,” i. e., so sceptical, that he wishes to
discredit all those other beliefs and practices “as resting only on
the professions of sorcerers.” But we have already had proof enough in
other chapters that Celsus was not unjustified in connecting the occult
virtue of natural objects with magic, if not with sorcery.

[Sidenote: Celsus on magicians and demons.]

Celsus, as we shall see, believed in the existence of demons whom,
however, he did not regard as necessarily evil spirits, and whom he
probably regarded as above any connection with magic. Origen once says
that if Celsus “had been acquainted with the nature of demons” and
their operations in the magic arts, he would not have blamed Christians
for not worshiping them.[1908] The natural inference from this
statement is that Celsus did not associate demons with magic. Origen,
however, depicts him as “speaking of those who employ the arts of magic
and sorcery and who invoke the barbarous names of demons,”[1909] and
we have already heard him censure certain Christian presbyters for
their “barbarous books containing the names and marvelous doings of
demons.”[1910] It therefore becomes evident that magicians attempt to
avail themselves of the aid of demons, whether Celsus believes that
they succeed in their attempt or not.

[Sidenote: Origen ascribes magic to demons.]

Origen at any rate believes that magicians are aided by evil spirits,
and for him demons became the paramount factor in magic, just as it
is they who are worshiped in pagan temples as gods and who inspire
the pagan oracles.[1911] Indeed, just as Celsus has kept calling the
Christians sorcerers, so Origen is inclined to label all heathen
religions, rites, and ceremonies as magic. He quotes the Psalmist
as saying that “all the gods of the heathen are demons.”[1912] He
states that the dedication of pagan temples, statues, and the like are
accompanied by “curious magical incantations ... performed by those
who zealously serve the demons with magic arts.”[1913] Divination in
general, he believes, “proceeds rather from wicked demons than from
anything of a better nature.”[1914] He does not think of magic as a
deception, he does not endeavor to expose its frauds, he accepts its
marvels as facts, but declares that “magic and sorcery are produced
by wicked spirits, held spellbound by elaborate incantations and
yielding themselves to sorcerers.”[1915] Origen seems in doubt whether
the demons are coerced by the spells and charms of magic or yield
themselves willingly.[1916]

[Sidenote: Magic is an elaborate art.]

As we shall see, Origen is at least ready to attribute great power to
incantations, and he does not deny that magic is an elaborate art. With
such various arts of magic he contrasts the simplicity of Christian
prayers and adjurations “which the plainest person can use,” or the
Christian casting out of demons which is performed for the most part
by “unlettered persons.”[1917] Origen also suggests that the natural
properties of plants and animals are a factor in magic, when he cites
Numenius the Pythagorean’s description of the Egyptian deity Serapis.
“He partakes of the essence of all the animals and plants that are
under the control of nature, that he may appear to have been fashioned
into a god, not only by the image-makers with the aid of profane
mysteries and juggling tricks employed to invoke demons, but also by
magicians and sorcerers (μάγων καὶ φαρμακῶν) and those demons who are
bewitched by their incantations.”[1918] Another passage pointing in the
same direction is Origen’s description of “the man who is curiously
inquisitive about the names of demons, their powers and agency, the
incantations, the herbs proper to them, and the stones with the
inscriptions graven on them, corresponding symbolically or otherwise to
their traditional shapes.”[1919] Thus although Origen lays the emphasis
upon demons, we see that he admits most of the other customary elements
in magic.

[Sidenote: The Magi of Scripture were not different from other

Origen does not, like Philo Judaeus, Apuleius and some Christian
writers, distinguish two uses of the word magic, one good and one evil.
He does not differentiate between vulgar magic and malignant sorcery
on the one hand and the lore of learned Magi of the east on the other
hand. He simply says that the art of magic gets its name from the
Magi and that from them its evil influence has been transmitted to
other nations.[1920] Celsus had ranked the Magi among divinely inspired
nations but Origen objects to this. Yet he recognizes that the wise
men of the east who followed the star of Bethlehem and came to worship
the infant Christ were Magi.[1921] But he seems to regard them as
ordinary magicians, who were accustomed to invoke evil spirits.[1922]
He thinks that the coming of Christ dispelled the demons and hindered
the Magi’s spells and charms from working as usual. Trying to find the
reason for this, they would note the new star in the sky. Origen will
not admit that they could do all this by means of astrology, nor even
that they were astrologers at all; he accuses Celsus of blundering
in calling them Chaldeans or astrologers.[1923] Rather he thinks
that they could find an explanation of the star in the prophecies
of Balaam[1924] which they possessed and which predicted, as Moses
too records,[1925] “There shall arise a star out of Jacob, and a man
(or, as in the King James’ version, a scepter) shall rise up out of
Israel.”[1926] In another treatise than the _Reply to Celsus_ Origen
further explains that the Magi were descended from Balaam and so owned
his written prophecies.[1927] Balaam was perhaps alluding to these very
Magi descended from him who came to adore Jesus when he prophesied that
his seed should be as the seed of the just.[1928] Origen seems to
have been the first of the church fathers to state the number of these
Magi as three, which he does in one of his homilies on the Book of

[Sidenote: Origen’s Biblical commentaries.]

At this point indeed, we may well turn for a little while from the
_Reply to Celsus_ to those Biblical commentaries of Origen where he
discusses such Old Testament passages connected with magic as the
stories of Balaam and of the witch of Endor or ventriloquist. The
commentary of Origen upon the Book of Numbers is extant only in the
Latin translation by Rufinus, who literally snatched it for posterity
as a brand from the burning, for he did not refrain from this learned
and literary labor, although as he plied his pen in Messina in 410 A.
D. he could see the invading barbarians ravaging the fields and burning
Reggio just across the narrow strait which separates Sicily from

[Sidenote: Balaam and the power of words.]

In commencing to speak of Balaam and his ass[1931] Origen implies
that much has already been written on this thorny theme and that
he approaches it with considerable diffidence. He prays God again
and again for grace to be able to explain it, not by means of
fabulous Jewish narrations—by which expression he perhaps alludes to
commentaries of the rabbis such as have reached us in the Talmud—but in
a sense that shall be reasonable and worthy of the divine law. To begin
with he admits the power of words, and not merely that of holy words
or words of God, but of certain words used by men. That such words
are in some respects more powerful than bodies is shown by the fact
that Balaam’s cursing could accomplish what armies and weapons could
not effect. This calls to mind one of the Mohammedan tales concerning
Balaam to the effect that by reading the books of Abraham he learned
“the name Yahweh by virtue of which he predicted the future, and got
from God whatever he wished.”[1932]

[Sidenote: Limitations to the power of Pharaoh’s magicians.]

The magicians of Egypt, too, who withstood Moses and Aaron before
Pharaoh, were able to turn rods into snakes and water into blood, feats
which no man could accomplish by mere bodily strength. Indeed, because
the king of Egypt knew that his magicians could do such things by a
human art of words, he thought, at first at least, that Moses too was
doing the same things not by the help of God but by the magic art.
There was, however, a very serious limitation to the magicians’ power.
By the aid of demons they could turn good into evil but they could not
repair the damage which they had done or restore the evil to good. The
rod of Moses, on the other hand, not only devoured theirs but turned
back from a snake into its original form,[1933] and it was necessary
for Moses to pray to God in order to stay the other plagues.

[Sidenote: Was Balaam a prophet of God or a magician?]

Origen classifies Balaam as a magician, not as a prophet. This seems
to have been the prevalent patristic and medieval view, although the
Biblical account in Numbers represents Balaam as in close and constant
communication with God and the Second Epistle of Peter[1934] calls him
a prophet although it condemns his temporary madness in seeking “the
wages of unrighteousness.” Josephus too calls him the best prophet of
his time but one who yielded to temptation.[1935] A fifteenth century
treatise on the translation of the relics of the three kings to Cologne
tells us that “concerning this Balaam there is an altercation in the
east between the Christians and the Jews”; the Jews holding that he
was no prophet but a diviner who predicted by magic and diabolical
arts, the Christians asserting that he was the first prophet of the
Gentiles.[1936] The problem continued to exercise the ingenuity of
Lutherans and theologians of the Reformed Churches, and in 1842 was
the main theme of a treatise of 290 pages in which Hebrew words and
quotations from Calvin abound.[1937]

[Sidenote: Balaam’s magic experiments.]

Origen remarks that magicians differ in the amount of power they
possess. Balaam was a very famous and expert one, known throughout the
whole orient. He had given many experimental proofs (_experimenta_)
of his skill and Balak had frequently employed him. The translator
Rufinus’s repeated use of the words _experimenta_ and _expertus_ here
is an interesting indication of the close connection between magic and

[Sidenote: Limitation to his magic power.]

Great, however, as was Balaam’s fame and power, he could only curse and
not bless, an indication that he operated by the agency of demons who
also only work evil and not good. It is true that King Balak said to
him: “I know that whom you bless will be blessed,” but Origen regards
this as false flattery. Magicians employ the services of evil spirits,
but cannot invoke such angels as Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, much
less God or Christ. Christians alone have the power to do this, and
they must cease entirely from the invocation of demons or the Holy
Spirit will flee from them.

[Sidenote: Divine prophecy distinct from magic and divination.]

It is true also that God in the end did speak through the mouth of
Balaam and that he blessed instead of cursed Israel. Origen will not
admit, however, that Balaam was worthy of this, or that a man can be
both a magician and a prophet; if God spake through Balaam, it was only
to prevent the demons from coming and helping Balaam to curse Israel.
Origen also attempts to solve the difficulties and inconsistencies
involved in the repeated appearances and conflicting commands of God
and the angel to Balaam. Finally we may note that Origen sees the
similarity between the use of cauldron-shaped tripods in human arts
of divination and the donning of the ephod by the prophets described
in the Old Testament.[1939] But he affirms that divine prophecy and
divination are two different things and cites the Biblical prohibition
of the latter.

[Sidenote: The ventriloquist really invoked Samuel for Saul.]

In his commentary upon the First Book of Samuel,[1940] Origen takes
the ground that when Saul consulted the witch or ventriloquist
(ἐγγαστριμύθος), Samuel’s ghost really appeared and spoke to Saul, for
the Scriptural account plainly says that the woman saw Samuel[1941]
and that Samuel spoke to Saul. Consequently Origen cannot agree with
those who have held that the woman deceived Saul or that both she and
he were deluded by a demon who assumed the guise of Samuel. No demon,
he thinks, could have prophesied that the kingdom would pass to David.
It has been objected that the enchantress could not raise the spirit of
Samuel from the infernal regions because he was a good man, but Origen
holds that even Christ descended to hell and that all before Him had
their abode there until He came to release them. From this position not
even the parable of Dives and of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom with the
great gulf fixed between them can shake Origen.

[Sidenote: Christians less affected by magic than philosophers are.]

Origen disputes the statement of Celsus that philosophers are not
affected by the magic arts by pointing out that in Moiragenes’s _Life
of Apollonius of Tyana_, who was himself both a philosopher and
magician, it is affirmed that other philosophers were won over by his
magic power “and resorted to him as a sorcerer.”[1942] On the other
hand Origen makes the counter-assertion that the followers of Christ
“who live according to His gospel, using night and day continuously
and becomingly the prescribed prayers, are not carried away either by
magic or demons.”

[Sidenote: Their superstitious methods against magic.]

If these “prescribed prayers” were set forms of words, they would seem
not far removed in character from the incantations of the magicians
which they were supposed to counteract. An even clearer example of
preventive magic is seen in Origen’s explanation that the practice of
circumcision was a safeguard against some angel (_sic_) hostile to the
Jewish race.[1943]

[Sidenote: Incantations.]

If demons are for Origen of primary importance in magic, incantations
run a close second, since it is chiefly through them that men are
able to utilize the power of the demons. Some of the barbarians,
Origen tells us, “are admired for their marvelous powers of
incantation.”[1944] And when he mentions the miraculous releases of
Peter and Paul and Silas from prison, he adds that if Celsus had
read of these events he “would probably say in reply that there are
certain sorcerers who are able by incantations to unloose chains and
to open doors.”[1945] But Celsus did not say this; we must therefore
attribute the thought rather to Origen himself. Speaking elsewhere in
his own person Origen more than once informs us that “almost all those
who occupy themselves with incantations and magical rites” and “many
who conjure evil spirits” employ in their spells and incantations
such expressions as “God of Abraham.”[1946] Origen grants that these
phrases are used by the Jews themselves in their prayers to God and
exorcisms, and that the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possess
great efficacy “when united with the word of God.”[1947] Yet he will
not acknowledge that the Jews practice magic. He also denies the charge
of Celsus that Christians use incantations and the names of certain
demons, although he admits that Christians ward off magic by regular
use of prescribed prayers and frequently expel demons by repetition
of “the simple name of Jesus, and _certain other words_ in which they
repose faith, according to the holy Scriptures,” or “the name of Jesus
accompanied by the announcement of the narratives which relate to Him”
(presumably a repetition of the names of the four Evangelists).[1948]
It is even possible for persons who are not true Christians to make use
of the name of Jesus to work wonders just as magicians use the Hebrew

[Sidenote: The power of words.]

Origen, however, does not try to justify these Hebrew and Christian
formulae, adjurations, and exorcisms on the ground that they are
simply prayers to God, who Himself then performs the cure or miracle
without compulsion. Origen believes that there is power in the words
themselves, as we have already heard him state in speaking of Balaam.
This is seen from the fact that when translated into another language
they lose their operative force, as those who are skilled in the use
of incantations have noted.[1950] Thus not what is signified by the
words, but the qualities and peculiarities of the words themselves, are
potent for this or that effect. It seems strange that Origen should
thus cite enchanters, when in the sentence just preceding he had spoken
of “our Jesus, whose name has been manifestly seen to have driven out
demons from souls and bodies....” Was the divine name alone and not God
the cause of the miracle? It may be added, however, that Origen denied
that languages were of human origin.[1951] But he has already gone
far along this line and in the previous chapter has stated that “the
nature of powerful names” is a “deep and mysterious subject.”[1952]
Some such names, he goes on to say, “are used by the learned amongst
the Egyptians, or by the Magi among the Persians, and by the Indian
philosophers called Brahmans.”

[Sidenote: Origen admits a connection between the power of words and

Later on in the work, in a passage which we have already cited,
Origen waxed indignant with Celsus for speaking favorably of the
Magi, inventors of the destructive magic art. But now he speaks
almost in a tone of respect of magic, stating that if “the so-called
magic also is not, as followers of Epicurus” (i. e., men like Celsus
whom Origen accuses of being an Epicurean) “and Aristotle think, an
entirely chaotic affair but, as those skilled in such matters show, a
connected system comprising words known to very few persons,” then such
names as Adonai and Sabaoth “pertain to some mystic theology,” and,
“when pronounced with that attendant train of circumstances which is
appropriate to their nature, are possessed of great power.”

[Sidenote: Jewish and Christian employment of powerful names is really

These last clauses make it clear that Jews and Christians were guilty
both of incantations and magic, however much Origen may protest to the
contrary. It can hardly be argued that Origen means to distinguish
this “so-called magic” from the magic art which he condemns in other
passages, for not only is it evident that the followers of Epicurus
and Aristotle make no such distinction, but Origen himself in other
passages ascribes the employment of such Hebrew names to ordinary
magicians and declares that such invocations of God are “found in
treatises on magic in many countries.”[1953] Origen also states in his
_Commentary upon Matthew_[1954] that the Jews are regarded as adepts
in adjuration of demons and that they employ adjurations in the Hebrew
language drawn from the books of Solomon. Moreover, he continues in
the present passage, “And other names, again, current in the Egyptian
tongue, are efficacious against certain demons who can only do certain
things; and others in the Persian language have corresponding power
over other spirits; and so on in every different nation, for different
purposes.” “ ... And when one is able to philosophize about the mystery
of names, he will find much to say respecting the titles of the
angels of God, of whom one is called Michael, and another Gabriel,
and another Raphael, appropriately to the duties which they discharge
in the world. And a similar philosophy of names applies also to our
Jesus.” Between such mystic theology and philosophy of names, the
Gnostic diagram of the Ophites,[1955] and the downright incantations of
the magicians, there is surely little to choose.

[Sidenote: Celsus’ theory of demons.]

From the names of God and angels, by uttering which such wonders may
be performed, we turn to the spirits themselves. Celsus seems to think
of demons as spiritual beings who act as intermediaries between the
supreme Deity and the world of nature and human society. He believes
that “in all probability the various quarters of the earth were from
the beginning allotted to different superintending spirits.”[1956] He
warns the Christians that it is absurd for them to think that they
can escape the demons by simply refusing to eat the meat that has
been offered to idols; the demons are everywhere in nature, and one
cannot eat bread or drink wine or taste fruit or breathe the very air
without receiving these gifts of nature from the demons to whom the
various provinces of nature have been assigned.[1957] The Egyptians
teach that even the most insignificant objects are committed to demon
care, and they divide the human body into thirty-six parts, each in
charge of a demon of the air who should be invoked in order to cure
an ailment of that particular part.[1958] Celsus mentions some of the
names of these thirty-six demons: Chnoumen, Chnachoumen, Cnat, Sicat,
Biou, Erou, and others. Celsus, however, does not accept this Egyptian
doctrine without qualification. He suspects, Origen tells us, that it
leads toward magic, and hence adds “the opinion of those wise men who
say that most of the earth-demons are taken up with carnal indulgence,
blood, odors, sweet sounds and other such sensual things; and therefore
they are unable to do more than heal the body, or foretell the fortunes
of men and cities, and do other such things as relate to this mortal
life.”[1959] Celsus himself, however, seems as unwilling to accept this
Egyptian view as he is to condone magic, and concludes that “the more
just opinion is that the demons desire nothing and need nothing, but
that they take pleasure in those who discharge toward them offices of
piety.”[1960] Celsus believes that divine providence regulates the acts
of the demons and so asks: “Why are we not to serve demons?”[1961]

[Sidenote: Origen calls demons wicked.]

Origen’s reply to this question is that the demons are wicked spirits
and concerned with magic and idolatry. He maintains that not only
Christians “but almost all who acknowledge the existence of demons”
regard them as evil spirits.[1962] His own attitude toward them is
invariably one of hostility. The thirty-six spirits who, as the
Egyptians believe, have charge of different parts of the human body,
Origen spurns as “thirty-six barbarous demons whom the Egyptian Magi
alone call upon in some unknown way.”[1963] Really we probably have
here to do with the astrological decans or sub-divisions of the signs
of the zodiac into sections of ten degrees each.

[Sidenote: But believes in presiding angels.]

Yet Origen’s notion of the spiritual world rather closely resembles
that of Celsus, for he is ready to ascribe to angels or other good
invisible beings much the same functions which Celsus attributed to
demons. He does not, for example, dispute the theory that different
parts of the earth and of nature are assigned to different spirits.
Instead he “ventures to lay down some considerations of a profounder
kind, conveying a mystical and secret view respecting the original
distribution of the various quarters of the earth among different
superintending spirits.”[1964] He quotes the Septuagint version of
Deuteronomy, “When the most High divided the nations.... He set
the bounds of the people according to the number of the angels of
God.”[1965] He narrates how after Babel, men “were conducted by those
angels who imprinted on each his native language to the different
parts of the earth according to their deserts.”[1966] He concludes
by saying, “These remarks are to be understood as being made by us
with a concealed meaning,”[1967] but there seems little doubt as to
his substantial agreement with the view of Celsus. Indeed, later when
Celsus asserts that Christians cannot eat, drink, or breathe without
being indebted to demons, Origen responds, “We indeed also maintain ...
the agency and control of certain beings whom we may call invisible
husbandmen and guardians; ... but we deny that those invisible agents
are demons.”[1968]

In his fourteenth homily on Numbers, as extant in Rufinus’s
translation,[1969] Origen again speaks of presiding angels in these
words. “And what is so pleasant, what is so magnificent as the work
of the sun or moon by whom the world is illuminated? Yet there is
work in the world itself too for angels who are over beasts and for
angels who preside over earthly armies. There is work for angels who
preside over the nativity of animals, of seedlings, of plantations,
and many other growths. And again there is work for angels who preside
over holy works, who teach the comprehension of eternal light and the
knowledge of God’s secrets and the science of divine things.” How this
passage might be used to encourage a belief in magic is made evident
by the paraphrase of it in _The Occult Philosophy_ of Henry Cornelius
Agrippa,[1970] written in 1510 at the close of the middle ages. He
represents Origen as saying, “There is work in the world itself for
angels who preside over earthly armies, kingdoms, provinces, men,
beasts, the nativity and growth of animals, shoots, plants, and other
things, giving that virtue which they say is in things from their
occult property.”

In the treatise _De Principiis_,[1971] Origen states that particular
offices are assigned to individual angels, as curing diseases to
Raphael, and the conduct of wars to Gabriel. This notion he perhaps
derived from the _Book of Enoch_ which, however, he states in
his _Reply to Celsus_ is not accepted by the churches as divinely
inspired.[1972] He further declares on the authority of passages in
the New Testament that to one angel the Church of the Ephesians was
entrusted; to another, that of Smyrna; that Peter had his angel and
Paul his,—nay that “every one of the little ones of the Church” has his
angel who daily beholds the face of God.[1973]

[Sidenote: A law of spiritual gravitation.]

Origen advances a further theory concerning spirits, which may be
described as a sort of law of spiritual gravitation. It is that when
souls are pure and “not weighted down with sin as with a weight of
lead,” they ascend on high where other pure and ethereal bodies and
spirits dwell, “leaving here below their grosser bodies along with
their impurities.” Polluted souls, on the contrary, have to stay
close to earth where they wander about sepulchers as ghosts and
apparitions.[1974] Origen therefore infers that pagan gods “who are
attached for entire ages to particular dwellings and places” on earth,
are wicked and polluted spirits. Origen of course will not admit that
Christians or Jews bow down even to angels; such worship they reserve
for God alone.[1975]

[Sidenote: Attitude of Celsus toward astrology.]

Both Celsus and Origen closely associate with the world of invisible
spirits, whether these be angels or demons, the visible heavenly
bodies, and thus lead us from magic, which Origen makes so dependent
upon demons, to the kindred subject of astrology, the pseudo-science
of the stars. Celsus had censured the Jews and by implication the
Christians for worshiping heaven and the angels, and even apparitions
produced by sorcery and enchantment, and yet at the same time
neglecting what in his opinion formed the holiest and most powerful
part of the heaven, namely, the fixed stars and the planets, “who
prophesy to everyone so distinctly, through whom all productiveness
results, the most conspicuous of supernal heralds, real heavenly
angels.”[1976] This shows that Celsus was much more favorably inclined
toward astrology than toward magic and less sceptical concerning its
validity. Origen also represents Celsus—and furthermore the Stoics,
Platonists, and Pythagoreans—as believing in the theory of the _magnus
annus_, according to which, when the celestial bodies all return to
their original positions after the lapse of some thousands of years,
history will begin to repeat itself and the same events will occur and
the same persons live over again.[1977] Origen also complains that
Celsus regards as a divinely-inspired nation the Chaldeans, who were
the founders of “deceitful genethlialogy,”[1978] as well as the Magi
whom Celsus elsewhere identified with the Chaldeans or astrologers, but
whom Origen as we have seen regards rather as the founders of magic.

[Sidenote: Attitude of Origen toward astrology.]

Origen is opposed both to this art of casting horoscopes and
determining the entire life of the individual from his nativity, and to
the theory of the _magnus annus_,[1979] because he is convinced that to
admit their truth is to annihilate free-will. But he is far from having
freed himself fundamentally from the astrological attitude toward the
stars; indeed he still shows vestiges of the old pagan tendency to
worship them as divinities. He is convinced that the celestial bodies
are not mere fiery masses, as Anaxagoras teaches.[1980] The body of
a star is material, it is true, but also ethereal. But furthermore
Origen is inclined to agree, both in the _De principiis_[1981] and in
the _Contra Celsum_,[1982] that the stars are rational beings (λογικὰ
καί σπουδαῖα—the latter word had already been applied to them by Philo
Judaeus) possessed of free-will and “illuminated with the light of
knowledge by that wisdom which is the reflection of everlasting light.”
He interprets a passage in Deuteronomy[1983] to mean that the stars
have in general been assigned by God to all the nations beneath the
heaven, but asserts that from this system of astral satrapies God’s
chosen people were exempted. He is willing to admit that the stars
foretell many things, and puts especial faith in comets as omens.[1984]
He states that they have appeared on the eve of dynastic changes, great
wars, and other disasters, and inclines also to agree with Chaeremon
the Stoic that they may come as signs of future good, as in the case of
the star announcing the birth of Christ.[1985] But while Origen will
grant reasoning faculties and a certain amount of prophetic power to
the stars, he refuses to permit worship of them. Rather he is persuaded
“that the sun himself and moon and stars pray to the supreme God
through his only begotten Son.”[1986]

Pierre Daniel Huet (1630-1721), the learned bishop of Avranches and
editor of Origen, in his commentaries upon Origen[1987] cites other
works, commentaries on Matthew, the Psalms, the Epistle to the Romans,
and Ezekiel, in which Origen again states that the stars are reasoning
beings, honor God, praise and pray to Him, and even that they are
capable of sin, a point upon which he agrees with the _Book of Enoch_
and Bardesanes but not with Philo Judaeus. Nicephorus[1988] states
that Origen was condemned in the fifth synod for his error concerning
the stars being animated. Sometimes, however, Huet points out, Origen
leaves it an open question whether the heavenly bodies are animated
or not.[1989] Huet also asserts that in his own time such great men
as Tycho Brahe and Kepler have defended the view that the stars are
animated beings.

[Sidenote: Further discussion in his _Commentary on Genesis_.]

In a fragment from Origen’s _Commentary on Genesis_ preserved by
Eusebius we have a further discussion of the stars and astrology.[1990]
Here he represents even Christians as troubled by the doctrine that
the stars control human affairs absolutely. This theory he attacks as
destructive to all morality, as rendering prayer to God of no avail,
and as subjecting even such events as the birth of Christ and the
conversion of each individual to Christianity to fatal necessity.
Like Philo Judaeus Origen holds that the stars are merely signs
instituted by God, not causes of the future, and quotes passages from
the Old Testament in support of his view; like the _Book of Enoch_ he
holds that men were instructed in the interpretation of the stars’
significations by the fallen angels. He argues at length that divine
foreknowledge does not impose necessity. While, however, God instituted
the stars as signs of the future, He intended that only the angels
should be able to read them, and deemed it best for mankind to remain
in ignorance of the future. “For it is a much greater task than lies
within human power to learn truly from the motion of the stars what
each person will do and suffer.”[1991] The evil spirits have, however,
taught men the art of astrology, but Origen believes that it is so
difficult and requires such superhuman accuracy that the predictions
of astrologers are more likely to be wrong than right. His tone toward
astrology is thus distinctly more unfavorable here than in the _Reply
to Celsus_. In arguing that the stars are merely signs, Origen asks why
men admit that the flight of birds and condition of entrails in augury
and liver-divination are only signs and yet insist that the stars are
causes of future events.[1992] The answer, of course, is simple enough:
all nature is under the control of the stars which alike produce the
events signified and the action of the birds or condition of the liver
signifying them. But the question is notable because it was also put by
Plotinus a little later in the same century.

[Sidenote: Problems of the waters above the firmament and of one or
more heavens.]

In explaining the Book of Genesis Origen said that celestial and
infernal virtues were represented by the waters above and below the
firmament respectively. This figurative interpretation gave offence
to many later Christian writers, although some of them were ready to
interpret the waters above as celestial virtues, but not to take the
waters below as signifying evil spirits.[1993] Concerning the question
of a plurality of heavens Origen says in the _Reply to Celsus_, “The
Scriptures which are current in the Churches of God do not speak of
seven heavens or of any definite number at all, but they do appear
to teach the existence of heavens, whether that means the spheres
of those bodies which the Greeks call planets or something more

[Sidenote: Augury, dreams, and prophecy.]

Of other pagan methods of divination than astrology Origen disapproved
and classed them, as we have seen, as the work of demons. He was
impressed by the weight of testimony to the validity of augury,[1995]
although he states that it has been disputed whether there is any
such art, but he attributed the truth of the predictions to demons
acting through the animals and pointed out that the Mosaic law forbade
augury[1996] and classified as unclean the animals commonly employed
in divination. The true God, he held, would not employ irrational
animals at all to reveal the future, nor even any chance human being,
but only the purest of prophetic souls. Origen would appear for the
moment to have forgotten Balaam’s ass! Moreover, he himself accepted
other channels of foreknowledge than holy prophecy, and believed that
dreams often were of value in this respect. When Celsus, criticizing
the Scriptural story of the flight into Egypt, stated that an angel
descended from heaven to warn Joseph and Mary of the danger threatening
the Christ child, Origen retorted that the angelic warning came rather
in a dream—an occurrence which seemed in no way marvelous to him, since
“in many other cases it has happened that a dream has shown persons
the proper course of action.”[1997] Origen grants that all men desire
to ascertain the future and argues that the Jews must have had divine
prophets, or, since they were forbidden by the Mosaic law to consult
“observers of times and diviners,” they would have had no means of
satisfying this universal human craving. It was to slake this popular
curiosity concerning the future, Origen thinks, that the Hebrew seers
sometimes predicted things of no religious significance or other
lasting importance.[1998] Once Origen alludes to physiognomy, saying,
“If there be any truth in the doctrine of the physiognomists, whether
Zopyrus or Loxus or Polemon.”[1999]

[Sidenote: Animals and gems.]

The allusions to natural science in the _Reply to Celsus_ are not
numerous. There are a few passages where animals or gems are mentioned.
The remarks concerning animals mention the usual favorites and embody
familiar notions which we either have already met or shall meet
again and again. Celsus speaks[2000] of the knowledge of poisons and
medicines possessed by animals, of predictions by birds, of assemblies
held by other animals, of the fidelity with which elephants observe
oaths, of the filial affection of the stork, and of the Arabian bird,
the phoenix.[2001] Origen implies the belief that the weasel conceives
through its mouth when he says, “Observe, moreover, to what pitch of
wickedness the demons proceed, so that they even assume the bodies
of weasels in order to reveal the future.”[2002] Origen also adduces
the marvelous methods of generation of several kinds of animals in
support of the virgin birth of Jesus.[2003] Origen’s allusions to
gems can scarcely be classified as natural science. He contends that
Plato’s statement that our precious stones are a reflection of gems
in that better land is taken from Isaiah’s description of the city of
God.[2004] In another passage Origen again quotes Isaiah regarding
the walls, foundations, battlements, and gates of various precious
stones, but states that he cannot stop to examine their spiritual
meaning at present.[2005] In one of his homilies on the Book of
Numbers Origen displays a favorable attitude towards medical and
pharmaceutical investigation, saying, “For if there is any science
from God, what will be more from Him than the science of health, in
which too the virtues of herbs and the diverse properties of juices are

[Sidenote: Origen later accused of countenancing magic.]

Origen’s belief that the stars were rational beings continued to be
held by the sect called Origenists and also by the heretic Priscillian
and his followers in the later fourth century. Priscillian, as we have
seen, was accused of magic and executed in 385. But we are surprised
to find Theophilus of Alexandria, who attacked some of Origen’s views
as heretical and persuaded Pope Anastasius to do the same, accusing
Origen in a letter written in 405 and translated into Latin by Jerome,
of having defended magic.[2007] Theophilus states that Origen has
written in one of his treatises, “The magic art seems to me a name for
something which does not exist”—a bold and admirable assertion, but one
which, as we have seen, the Epicurean Celsus would have been much more
likely to make than the Christian Origen—“but if it does, it is not the
name of an evil work.” Theophilus cannot understand how Origen, who
vaunts himself a Christian, can thus make himself a protector of Elymas
the magician who opposed the apostles and of Jamnes and Mambres who
resisted Moses. Huet, the learned seventeenth century editor of Origen,
knew of no such passage in his extant works as that which Theophilus
professes to quote.[2008]

                              CHAPTER XX


 Plan of this chapter—Tertullian on magic—Astrology
 attacked—Resemblance to Minucius Felix—Lactantius—Hippolytus on magic
 and astrology—Frauds of magicians in answering questions—Other tricks
 and illusions—Defects and merits of Hippolytus’ exposure of magic
 and of magic itself—Hippolytus’ sources—Justin Martyr and others
 on the witch of Endor—Gregory of Nyssa and Eustathius concerning
 the ventriloquist—Gregory of Nyssa _Against Fate_—Astrology and the
 birth of Christ—Chrysostom on the star of the Magi—_Sixth Homily
 on Matthew_—The spurious homily—Number, names, and home of the
 Magi—Liturgical drama of the Magi; _Three Kings of Cologne_—Another
 homily on the Magi—Priscillianists answered—Number and race of the
 Magi again.

[Sidenote: Plan of this chapter.]

In this chapter we shall supplement the picture of the Christian
attitude towards magic supplied us in preceding chapters by some
accounts of magic in other Christian writers of the period before
Augustine. After giving the opinions of a few Latin fathers, Minucius
Felix, Tertullian, and Lactantius, we shall consider the exposure
of magic devices in Hippolytus’ _Refutation of All Heresies_, then
compare the utterances of other fathers concerning the witch of Endor
with those of Origen, and finally discuss the treatment of the Magi
and the star of Bethlehem in both the genuine and the spurious homily
of Chrysostom on that theme, adding some account of the medieval
development of the legend of the three Magi, although leaving until
later the statements of medieval theologians and astronomers concerning
the star of the Magi. This makes a rather omnibus chapter, but its
component parts are too brief to separate as distinct chapters and they
all supplement the preceding chapter on Origen and Celsus.

[Sidenote: Tertullian on magic.]

Some important features of Origen’s account of magic are duplicated
in the writings of the western church father, Tertullian, who wrote
at about the same time or perhaps a few years before Origen. Again
the Jews are represented as calling Christ a magician,[2009] and when
Tertullian challenges the emperors to allow a Christian exorcist
to appear before them and attempt to expel a demon from someone so
possessed and force the spirit to confess its evil character, he
expects that his Christian exorcist will be accused of employing
magic.[2010] Again divination and magic are attributed to the fallen
angels; in fact, Tertullian follows the _Book of Enoch_ in stating that
men were instructed by the fallen angels in metallurgy and botany as
well as in incantations and astrology.[2011] The demons are represented
as invisible and “everywhere in a moment.” Living as they do in the air
near the clouds and stars, they are enabled to predict the weather.
They send diseases and then pretend to cure them by the recommendation
of novel remedies or prescriptions quite contrary to accepted medical
practice.[2012] “There is hardly a human being who is unattended by
a demon.”[2013] Magicians are described by Tertullian as producing
phantasms, insulting the souls of the dead, injuring boys for purposes
of divination, sending dreams, and performing many miraculous feats
by their complicated jugglery.[2014] “The science of magic” is well
defined as “a multiform contagion of the human mind, an artificer
of every error, a destroyer of safety and soul.” As examples of
well-known magicians Tertullian lists Ostanes and Typhon and Dardanus
and Damigeron[2015] and Nectabis[2016] and Berenice. Tertullian
states that a literature is current which promises to evoke ghosts
from the infernal regions, but that in such cases the dead are really
impersonated by demons, as was the fact when the pythoness seemed to
show Samuel to Saul, a point on which Tertullian disagrees with Origen.
Magic is therefore fallacious, a point which Tertullian emphasizes more
than Origen did, although Tertullian is not very explicit. He avers
that “it is no great task to deceive the outer eye of him whose mental
insight it is easy to blind.” The rods of Pharaoh’s magicians seemed to
turn into snakes, “but Moses’[2017] reality devoured their deceit.”

[Sidenote: Astrology attacked.]

Tertullian further diverges from Origen in definitely classifying
astrology as a species of magic along with that other variety of
magic which works miracles. Astrology is an art which was invented by
the fallen angels and with which Christians should have nothing to
do. Tertullian would not mention it but for the fact that recently a
certain person has defended his persistence in that profession, that
is, presumably after he had become a Christian. Tertullian states,
again unlike Origen, that the Magi who came from the east to the Christ
child were astrologers—“We know the union existing between magic and
astrology”—but that Christ’s followers are under no obligation to
astrology on their account, although he again implies the existence of
Christian astrologers in the sarcastic remark, “Astrology now-a-days,
forsooth, treats of Christ; is the science of the stars of Christ, not
of Saturn and Mars.” As Origen affirmed that the power of the demons
and of magic was greatly weakened by the birth of Christ, so Tertullian
affirms that the science of the stars was allowed to exist until the
coming of the Gospel, but that since Christ’s birth no one should
cast nativities. “For since the Gospel you will never find sophist
or Chaldean or enchanter or diviner or magician who has not been
manifestly punished.”[2018] Tertullian rejoices that the _mathematici_
or astrologers are forbidden to enter Rome or Italy, the reason being,
as he states in another passage,[2019] that they are consulted so much
in regard to the life of the emperor.

[Sidenote: Resemblance to Minucius Felix.]

Tertullian’s account of magic is perhaps borrowed from the dialogue
entitled _Octavius_ by M. Minucius Felix,[2020] which is generally
regarded as the oldest extant work of Christian Latin literature and
was probably written in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Some of the
words and phrases used by Tertullian and Minucius Felix in describing
magic are almost identical,[2021] and a third passage of the same sort
appears in Cyprian of Carthage in the third century.[2022] Ostanes,
one of Tertullian’s list of magicians, is also mentioned as the first
prominent magician by both Minucius Felix and Cyprian. Minucius Felix
ascribes magic to demons and seems to regard it as a deceptive and
rather unreal art, saying, “The magicians not only are acquainted with
demons, but whatever miraculous feats they perform, they do through
demons; under their influence and inspiration they produce illusions,
making things seem to be which are not, or making real things seem

[Sidenote: Lactantius.]

A century after Tertullian Lactantius of Gaul treats of magic and
demons in about the same way in his _Divine Institutes_,[2023] written
at the opening of the fourth century. He denies that Christ was a
magician and declares that His miracles differed from those attributed
to Apuleius and Apollonius of Tyana in that they were announced
beforehand by the prophets. “He worked marvels,” Lactantius says to his
opponents, “and we should have thought Him a magician, as you think
now and as the Jews thought at the time, had not all the prophets with
one accord predicted that Christ would do these very things.”[2024]
Lactantius believes that the offspring of the fallen angels and “the
daughters of men” were a different variety of demon from their fathers
and more terrestrial. Be that as it may, he affirms that the entire
art and power of the magicians consist in invocations of demons who
“deceive human vision by blinding illusions so that men do not see
what does exist and think that they see what does not exist,”[2025]
the very expression that we have just heard from Minucius Felix. More
specifically Lactantius regards necromancy, oracles, liver-divination,
augury, and astrology as all invented by the demons.[2026] Like Origen
he emphasizes the power of the sign of the cross and the name of Jesus
against the evil spirits,[2027] and he implies the power of the names
of spirits when he states that, although demons may masquerade under
other forms and names in pagan temples and worships, in magic and
sorcery they are always summoned by their true names, those celestial
ones which are read in sacred literature.[2028]

[Sidenote: Hippolytus on magic and astrology.]

From these accounts of magic in Latin fathers, which do little more
than reinforce the impressions which we had already gained concerning
the Christian attitude, we come to a very different discussion by
Hippolytus who wrote in Greek although he lived in Italy. Eusebius
and Jerome state that Origen as a young man heard Hippolytus preach
at Rome; in 235 he was exiled to Sardinia; the next year his body was
brought back to Rome for burial. In Hippolytus, instead of attacks
upon astrology as impious, immoral, and fatalistic, and upon magic as
evil and the work of demons, we have an attempt to prove astrology
irrational and impracticable, and to show that magic is based upon
imposture and deceit. In the first four of the nine books of his
_Philosophumena_ or _Refutation of All Heresies_[2029] Hippolytus
set forth the tenets of the Greek philosophers, the system of the
astrologers, and the practice of the magicians in order later to be
able to show how much the various heretics had borrowed from these
sources. His second and third books are not extant; it is in the fourth
book or what is left of it that we have portions of his discussion of
astrology and magic.[2030]

[Sidenote: Frauds of magicians in answering questions.]

In exposing the frauds of magicians Hippolytus uses the word μάγος,
and not γόης, a sorcerer. He tells how the magicians pretend that
the spirits give response through a medium to questions which those
consulting them have written on papyrus, perhaps in invisible ink, and
folded up, after which the papyrus is placed on coals and burned. The
magician, however, operating in semi-darkness and making a great noise
and diversion and pretending to invoke the demon, is really occupied
in sprinkling the burnt papyrus with a mixture of water and copperas
(vitriol?) or fumigating it with vapor of a gall nut or employing
other methods to make the concealed letters visible. Having by some
such method discovered the question, he instructs the medium, who is
now supposed to be possessed of demons and is reclining upon a couch,
what answer to give by whispering to him through a long hidden tube
constructed out of the windpipe of a crane or ten brass pipes fitted
together. It will be recalled that it was by such a tube made of the
windpipes of cranes that Alexander the false prophet, according to
Lucian, caused the artificial head of his god to give forth oracles.
Hippolytus adds that at the same time the magician produces alarming
flames and liquids by such chemical mixtures as fossil salts and
Etruscan wax and a grain of salt. “And when this is consumed, the salts
bound upward and give the impression of a strange vision.”[2031]

[Sidenote: Other tricks and illusions.]

Hippolytus also reveals how magicians secretly fill eggs with dyes, how
they cause sheep to behead themselves against a sword by smearing their
throats with a drug which makes them itch, how a ram dies if its head
is merely bent back facing the sun, how they obstruct the ears of goats
with wax so that they cannot breathe and presently die of suffocation,
how out of sea foam they make a compound which, like alcohol, will
itself burn but not consume the objects over which it is poured.[2032]
He tells how the magician produces stage thunder, how he is able to
plunge his hand into a boiling cauldron or walk over hot coals without
being burnt, and how he can set a seeming pyramid of stone on fire. He
tells how the magicians loosen seals and seal them up again, just as
Lucian did in his _Alexander_ or _The Pseudo-Prophet_; how by means
of trap-doors, mirrors, and the like devices they show demons in a
cauldron; how they pretend to show flaming demons by igniting drawings
which they have sketched on the wall with some inflammable substance
or by loosing a bird which has been set on fire. They make the moon
appear indoors and imitate the starry sky by attaching fish scales to
the ceiling. They produce the sensation of an earthquake by burning
the ordure of a weasel with the stone magnet upon an open fire. They
construct a false skull from the caul of an ox, some wax, and some gum,
make it speak by means of a hidden tube, and then cause it suddenly to
collapse and disappear or to burn up.[2033]

[Sidenote: Defects and merits of Hippolytus’ exposure of magic and of
magic itself.]

This exposition of the frauds of the magicians by Hippolytus is rather
broken and incoherent, at least in the form in which his text has
reached us.[2034] Also we do not have much more faith in some of the
methods by which he says the feats of magic are really done than he has
in the ways by which the magicians claim to perform them. But while
his notions of the chemical action of certain substances and of the
occult virtue of others may be incorrect, the noteworthy point is that
he endeavors to explain magic either as a deception or as employing
natural substances and forces to simulate supernatural action, and that
his exposure of magic devices leaves no place for the action of demons.
Moreover, we see that magic fraud involves chemical experiment and
considerable knowledge or error in the field of natural science. Under
the guise or tyranny of magic experimental science is at work.

[Sidenote: Hippolytus’ sources.]

The question then arises whether Hippolytus himself discovered
these tricks of the magicians or whether he is simply copying his
explanations of them from some previous work. An examination of
the earlier chapters of his fourth book is sufficient to solve
the question. His arguments against the practice of the Chaldean
astrologers of predicting man’s life from his horoscope at the time
of his birth are drawn from the pages of the sceptical philosopher,
Sextus Empiricus, whom he follows so closely that his editors are
able to rectify his text by reference to the parallel passage in
Sextus. We are therefore probably safe in assuming, especially in
view of the resemblances to the _Alexander_ of Lucian which have
already been noted, that Hippolytus’ attack on magic is also largely
indebted to some classical work, possibly to that very treatise against
magic by Celsus to which both Origen and Lucian refer, or perhaps
to some account of apparatus with which to work marvels like Hero’s

[Sidenote: Justin Martyr and others on the witch of Endor.]

Turning back now to the subject of the witch of Endor, we find that
some of the church fathers agree with Origen rather than Tertullian
that the witch really invoked Samuel. Before Origen’s time Justin
Martyr in _The Dialogue with Trypho_[2035] had mentioned as a proof
of the immortality of the soul “the fact that the soul of Samuel
was called up by the witch, as Saul demanded.” Huet, who edited the
writings of Origen, lists other Christian authors[2036] who agreed
with Origen on this question, and further informs us that the ancient
rabbis were wont to say that a soul invoked within a year after
its death as Samuel’s was, would be seen by the ventriloquist but
not heard, and heard by the person consulting it but not seen, an
observation which suggests that Saul was deceived by ventriloquism,
while by others present the ghost would be neither seen nor heard.

[Sidenote: Gregory of Nyssa and Eustathius concerning the

Two ecclesiastics of the fourth century composed special treatises upon
the ventriloquist or witch of Endor in which they took the opposite
view from that of Origen. The briefer of these two treatises is by
Gregory of Nyssa[2037] who states, without mentioning Origen by name,
that some previous writers have contended that Samuel was truly invoked
by magic with divine permission in order that he might see his mistake
in having called Saul the enemy of ventriloquists. But Gregory believes
that Samuel was already in paradise and hence could not be invoked
from the infernal regions; but that it was a demon from the infernal
regions who predicted to Saul, “To-morrow you and Jonathan shall be
with me.” The longer treatise of Eustathius of Antioch is a direct
answer to Origen’s argument as its title, _Concerning the Ventriloquist
against Origen_,[2038] indicates. Eustathius holds that it was illegal
to consult ventriloquists in view of Saul’s own previous action against
them and other prohibitions in Scripture, and that Origen’s remarks are
to be deplored as tending to encourage simple men to resort to arts of
divination. Eustathius contends that the witch did not invoke Samuel
but only made Saul think that she did, and that Saul himself did not
see Samuel. Pharaoh’s magicians similarly deceived the imagination with
shadows and specters when they pretended to turn rods into snakes and
water into blood. Eustathius does not agree with Origen that Samuel
was in hell. He holds that the predictions made by the pseudo-Samuel
were not impossible for a demon to make, and indeed were not strictly
accurate, since Saul did not die the very next day but the day after
it, and since not only Jonathan but his three sons were slain with
him.[2039] Furthermore, David was already so prominent in public
affairs that a demon might easily guess that he would succeed Saul.

[Sidenote: Gregory of Nyssa _Against Fate_.]

Gregory of Nyssa also composed a treatise, entitled _Against
Fate_,[2040] in the form of a disputation between a pagan philosopher
and himself at Constantinople in 382 A. D. His opponent holds that
the life of man is determined by the constellations at his nativity,
upon whose decree even conversion to Christianity would thus be made
dependent. Gregory assumes the position of one hitherto ignorant of
the principles of the art of astrology, of which the philosopher has
to inform him, but on general grounds it seems very unlikely that he
really was as ignorant as this of such a widespread superstition.
Furthermore, he is sufficiently read in the subject to incorporate some
of Bardesanes’ arguments, of whose treatise both Gregory’s title and
dialogue form are reminiscent. Some of Gregory’s reasoning, however,
might well be that of a tyro and is scarcely worth elaborating here.

[Sidenote: Astrology and the birth of Christ.]

When the writer of the Gospel according to Matthew included the story
of the wise men from the east who had seen the star, there can be
little or no doubt that he inserted it and that it had been formulated
in the first place, not merely in order to satisfy the ordinary,
unlearned reader with portents connected with the birth of Jesus, but
to secure the appearance of support for the kingship of Jesus from that
art or science of astrology which so many persons then held in high
esteem. To an age whose sublimest science was star-gazing it would seem
fitting and almost inevitable that God should have announced the coming
of the Prince of Peace in this manner, and the account in the Gospel of
Matthew is in a sense an attempt to present the birth of Christ in a
way to comply with the most searching tests of contemporary science.
But the early Christians were relatively rude and unlettered, and this
effort to construct a royal horoscope for Jesus is a crude and faulty
one from the astrological standpoint. For this, however, the author
of the Gospel and not the art of astrology is obviously responsible.
As a result, however, of the Gnostic reaction against astrological
fatalism or of an orthodox Christian opposition to both Gnostics and
astrologers, most of the early fathers of the church denied that this
passage implied any recognition of the truth of astrology and attempted
to explain away its obvious meaning. In doing this they often made the
crude and imperfect astrology of the Gospel a criterion for criticizing
the art of astrology itself.

[Sidenote: Chrysostom on the star of the Magi.]

Of patristic commentaries upon the passage in the Gospel of Matthew
dealing with the Magi and the star of Bethlehem one of the fullest
and most frequently cited by medieval writers is that attributed to
Chrysostom. I say “attributed,” because in addition to his genuine
sixth homily upon Matthew[2041] there was generally ascribed to
Chrysostom in the middle ages another homily which is extant only in
Latin[2042] and has been thought to be the work of some Arian. The
famous St. John Chrysostom was born at Antioch about 347 A. D. and
there studied rhetoric under the noted sophist Libanius. From 398 to
404 he held the office of patriarch of Constantinople; then he was
exiled to Cappadocia where he died in 407. One detail of his boyhood
may be noted because of its connection with magic. When he was a lad,
the tyrants in the city became suspicious of plots against them and
sent soldiers to search for books of magic and sorcery. One of the
men who was arrested and put to death had tried to rid himself of the
damaging possession of a book of magic by throwing it into the river.
Chrysostom and a playmate later unsuspectingly fished an object out of
the water which turned out to be this very book, and when a soldier
happened to pass by just then, they were very frightened lest he should
see what they had and they should be severely punished for it.[2043]

[Sidenote: Sixth homily on Matthew.]

In his sixth homily upon Matthew Chrysostom recognizes the difficulties
presented by the Scriptural account of the Magi and the star, and
approaches the task of expounding it with prayers to God for aid.
Some, he informs us, take the passage as an admission of the truth
of astrology. It is this opinion which he is concerned to refute. He
argues that it is not the function of astronomy to learn from the
stars who are being born but merely to predict from the hour of birth
what is going to happen, which seems a quite fallacious distinction
upon his part. He also criticizes the Magi for calling Jesus the king
of the Jews, when as Christ told Pilate His kingdom was not of this
world. He further criticizes them for coming to Christ’s birthplace
when they might have known that it would cause difficulties with Herod,
the existing king, and for coming, making trouble, and then immediately
going back home again. But these shortcomings would seem to be those
of the Scriptural narrative rather than of the art of astrology,
although of course Chrysostom is trying to make the point that the Magi
had not foreseen what would happen to themselves. He further argues
that the star of Bethlehem was not like other stars nor even a star
at all,[2044] as was proved by its peculiar itinerary, its shining by
day, its rare intelligence in hiding itself at the right time, and its
miraculous ability in standing over the head of the child. Chrysostom
therefore concludes that some invisible virtue put on the form of a
star. He thinks that the star appeared to the Magi as a reflection
upon the Jews, who had rejected prophet after prophet, whereas the
apparition of a single star was sufficient to bring barbarian Magi to
the feet of Christ. At the same time he believes that God especially
favored the Magi in vouchsafing them a star, a sign to which they were
accustomed, as the mode of announcement. Thus he comes dangerously near
to admitting tacitly what he has just been denying, namely, that the
stars are signs of the future and that there is something in the art
of astrology. In short, the star appeared to the Magi because they as
astrologers would comprehend its meaning. Chrysostom denies this openly
and does his best to think up arguments against it, but he cannot rid
his subconscious thought of the idea.

[Sidenote: The spurious homily.]

The other homily ascribed to Chrysostom repeats some of the points
made in the genuine homily, but adds others. The preacher has read
somewhere, perhaps in Origen where we have already met the suggestion,
that the Magi had learned that the star would appear from the books
of the diviner Balaam, “whose divination is also put into the Old
Testament: ‘A star shall arise from Jacob and a man shall come forth
from Israel, and he shall rule all nations.’” But the preacher does
not state why it is any better to have such a prediction made by a
diviner than by an astrologer. The preacher has also heard some cite
a writing, which is not surely authentic but yet is not destructive
to the Faith and rather pleasing, to the effect that in the extreme
east on the shores of the ocean live a people who possess a writing
inscribed with the name of Seth and dealing with the appearance of this
star and the gifts to be offered. This writing was handed down from
father to son through successive generations, and twelve of the most
studious men of their number were chosen to watch for the coming of
the star, and whenever one died, another was chosen in his place. They
were called Magi in their language because they glorified God silently.
Every year after the threshing of the harvest they climbed a mountain
to a cave with delightful springs shaded by carefully selected trees.
There they washed themselves and for three days in silence prayed and
praised God. Finally one year the star appeared in the form of a little
child with the likeness of a cross above it; and it spoke with them
and taught them and instructed them to set out for Judea.[2045] When
they had set out, it went before them for two years, during which time
food and drink were never lacking in their wallets. On their return
they worshiped and glorified God more sedulously than ever and preached
to their people. Finally, after the resurrection, the apostle Thomas
visited that region and they were baptized by him and were made his
assistant preachers. This tale is indeed pleasing enough, and it saves
the Magi from all imputation of magic arts and employment of demons and
even denies that they were astrologers. But as a device to escape the
natural inference from the Gospel story that the birth of Christ was
announced by the stars and in a way which astronomers could comprehend
it is certainly far-fetched, and shows how Christian theologians were
put to it to find a way out of the difficulty. The homily goes on to
advance some of the usual arguments against astrology, such as that
the stars cannot cause evil, that the human will is free, and that a
science of individual horoscopes cannot account for all men worshiping
idols before Christ and abandoning idolatry and other ancient customs
thereafter, or for the perishing in the deluge of all men except the
family of Noah, or for national customs such as circumcision among the
Jews and incest among the Persians. Here we again probably see the
influence of Bardesanes.

[Sidenote: Number, names, and home of the Magi.]

We have already noted that Origen seems to have been the first of
the fathers to state the number of the Magi as three, whereas the
homily just considered implies that there were twelve of them. Their
representation in art as three in number did not become general
until the fourth century,[2046] while the depiction of them as kings
was also a gradual and, according to Kehrer, later growth.[2047]
Bouché-Leclercq, citing an earlier monograph,[2048] states that the
royalty of the Magi was invented towards the sixth century to show
the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies,[2049] and that Bede is
the first who knows their names. But Mâle says, “Their mysterious
names are first found in a Greek chronicle of the beginning of the
sixth century translated into Latin by a Merovingian monk,” and are
“Bithisarea, Melichior, Gathaspa.”[2050] The provenance of the Magi was
variously stated by the Christian fathers:[2051] Arabia according to
Justin Martyr, Epiphanius, and Tertullian or Pseudo-Tertullian; Persia
according to Clement of Alexandria, Basil, and Cyril; Persia or Chaldea
according to Chrysostom and Diodorus of Tarsus; Chaldea according to
Jerome and Augustine and the philosopher Chalcidius in his commentary
upon Plato’s _Timaeus_.[2052] The homily which we were just considering
gave the impression that they came from India.

[Sidenote: Liturgical drama of the Magi: _The Three Kings of Cologne_.]

In the middle ages the Magi appeared in liturgical drama as well as in
art. An early instance is a tenth century lectionary from Compiègne,
now preserved at Paris,[2053] where after homilies by various fathers
there is added in a hand only slightly later the liturgical drama of
the adoration of the Magi. In the later middle ages there came into
existence the _History_ or _Deeds of the Three Kings of Cologne_, as
the Magi came to be called from the supposed translation of their
relics to that city. Their bodies were said to have been brought by
the empress Helena from India to Constantinople, whence they were
transferred to Milan, and after its destruction by Barbarossa, to
Cologne. This “fabulous narration,” as it has well been entitled,[2054]
also has much to say of the miracles of the apostle Thomas in India and
of Prester John, to whom we shall devote a later chapter. It asserts
that the three kings reached Jerusalem on the thirteenth day after
Christ’s birth by a miraculously rapid transit by day and by night of
themselves and their armies to the marvel of the inhabitants of the
towns through which they passed, or rather, flew.[2055] After they had
returned home and had successively migrated to Christ above, another
apparition of a star marked this fact.[2056] The treatise exists in
many manuscripts[2057] and was printed more than once before 1500.

[Sidenote: Another homily on the Magi.]

Finally we may note the contents of the homily on the Magi which
immediately precedes the liturgical drama concerning them in the
above mentioned tenth century lectionary.[2058] The Magi are said to
have come on the thirteenth day of Christ’s nativity. That they came
from the Orient was fitting since they sought one of whom it had been
written, _Ecce vir oriens_. It was also fitting that Christ’s coming
should be announced to shepherds of Israel by a rational angel, to
Gentile Magi by an irrational star. This star appeared neither in the
starry heaven nor on earth but in the air; it had not existed before
and ceased to exist after it had fulfilled its function. Although he
has just said that the star appeared in the air and not in the sky,
the preacher now adds that when a new man was born in the world it was
fitting that a new star should appear in the sky. He also, in pointing
out how all the elements recognized that their Creator had come into
the world, states that the sky sent a star, the sea allowed Him to walk
upon it, the sun was darkened, stones were broken and the earth quaked
when He died.

[Sidenote: Priscillianists answered.]

Since the heretics known as Priscillianists have adduced the star at
Christ’s birth to prove that every man is born under the fates of the
stars, the preacher endeavors to answer them. He holds that since the
star came to where Jesus lay He controlled it rather than vice versa.
Then follow the usual arguments against genethlialogy that many men
born under the sign Aquarius are not fishermen, that sons of serfs are
born at the same time as princes, and the case of Jacob and Esau. The
star was merely a sign to the Magi and by its twinkling illuminated
their minds to seek the new-born babe. It seems scarcely consistent
that a star which the preacher has called irrational should illuminate

[Sidenote: Number and race of the Magi again.]

The homily goes on to say that opinions differ as to who the Magi were
and whence they came. Owing to the prophecy that the kings of Tarsus
and the isles offer presents, the kings of the Arabs and Sheba bring
gifts, some regard Tarsus, Arabia, and Sheba as the homes of the Magi.
Others call them Persians or Chaldeans, since Chaldeans are skilled in
astronomy. Others say that they were descendants of Balaam. At any rate
they were the first Gentiles to seek Christ and they are well said to
have been three, symbolizing faith in the Trinity, the three virtues,
faith, hope and charity, the three safeguards against evil, thoughts,
words and works, and the three Gentile contributions to the Faith of
physics, ethics, and logic, or natural, moral, and rational philosophy.
The preacher then indulges in further allegorical interpretation anent
Herod and what was typified by the gifts of the Magi.[2059]

                              CHAPTER XXI


 Lactantius not a fair example—Commentaries on the Biblical account of
 creation—Date and delivery of Basil’s _Hexaemeron_—The _Hexaemeron_
 of Ambrose—Basil’s medieval influence—Science and religion—Scientific
 curiosity of Basil’s audience—Allusions to amusements—Conflicts
 with Greek science—Agreement with Greek science—Qualification of
 the Scriptural account of creation—The four elements and four
 qualities—Enthusiasm for nature as God’s work—Sin and nature—Habits
 of animals—Marvels of nature—Spontaneous generation—Lack of
 scientific scepticism—Sun worship and astrology—Permanence of
 species—Final impression from the _Hexaemeron_—The _Medicine Chest_
 of Epiphanius—Gems in the high priest’s breastplate—Some other
 gems—The so-called _Physiologus_; problem of its origin—Does the
 title apply to any one particular treatise?—And to what sort of a
 treatise?—Medieval art shows almost no symbolic influence of the
 _Physiologus_—_Physiologus_ was more natural scientist than allegorist.

[Sidenote: Lactantius not a fair example.]

The opposition of early Christian thought to natural science has been
rather unduly exaggerated. For instance, Lactantius, one of the least
favorable to Greek philosophy and natural science of the fathers,
should hardly be cited as typical of early Christian attitude in
such matters. Nor does his opposition impress one as weighty.[2060]
He ridicules the theory of the Antipodes,[2061] which he perhaps
understands none too well, asking if anyone can be so inept as to
think that there are men whose feet are above their heads, although
he knows very well that Greek science teaches that all weights fall
towards the center of the earth, and that consequently if the feet are
nearer the center of the earth that they must be below the head. He
continues, however, to insist that the philosophers are either very
stupid, or just joking, or arguing for the sake of arguing, and he
declares that he could show by many arguments that the heaven cannot
possibly be lower than the earth—which no one has asserted except
himself—if it were not already time to close his third book and begin
the fourth. Apparently Lactantius is the one who is arguing for the
sake of arguing, or just joking, or else very stupid, and I fear it
is the last. But other Christian fathers were less dense, and we
already have heard the cultured pagan Plutarch scoff at the notion of
a spherical earth and of antipodes. We may grant, however, that the
ecclesiastical writers of the Roman Empire and early medieval period
normally treat of spiritual rather than material themes and discuss
them in a religious rather than a scientific manner.

[Sidenote: Commentaries on the Biblical account of creation.]

But in the commentaries upon the books of the Bible which the fathers
multiplied so voluminously it was necessary for them, if they began
their labors with _Genesis_, to deal at the very start in the first
verses of the first book of the Bible with an explanation of nature
which at several points was in disagreement with the accepted theories
of Greek philosophy and ancient science. Such comment upon the opening
verses of _Genesis_ sometimes developed into a separate treatise
called _Hexaemeron_ from the works of the six days of creation which
it discussed. Of the various treatises of this type the _Hexaemeron_
of Basil[2062] seems to have been both the best[2063] and the most
influential, and will be considered by us as an example of Christian
attitude towards the natural science and, to some extent, the
superstition of the ancient world.

[Sidenote: Date and delivery of Basil’s _Hexaemeron_.]

Basil died on the first day of January, 379 A. D., and was born about
329. When or where the nine homilies which compose his _Hexaemeron_
were preached is not known, but from an allusion to his bodily
infirmity in the seventh homily and his forgetfulness the next day in
Homily VIII we might infer that it was late in life. To all appearances
these sermons were taken down and have reached us just as they were
delivered to the people, to whose daily life Basil frequently adverts.
The sermons were delivered early in the morning before the artisans
in the audience went to their work and again at the close of the day
and before the evening meal, since Basil sometimes speaks of the
approach of darkness surprising him and of its consequently being time
to stop.[2064] One of the surest indications either that the sermons
were delivered extemporaneously, or that Basil was repeating with
variations to suit the occasion and present audience sermons which he
had delivered so often as to have practically memorized, occurs in the
eighth homily where he starts to discuss land animals, forgetting that
the last day he did not get to birds, but is presently brought to a
realization of his omission by the actions of his audience and, after a
pause and an apology, makes a fresh start upon birds. The _Hexaemeron_
was highly praised by Basil’s contemporaries and was regarded as the
best of his works by later Byzantine literary collectors and critics.

[Sidenote: The _Hexaemeron_ of Ambrose.]

Basil’s work, however, was not the first of its kind, as Hippolytus and
Origen, at least, are known to have earlier composed similar treatises,
and still earlier in the treatise of Theophilus _To Autolycus_ we
find a few chapters[2065] devoted to the six days of creation. In one
of his letters Jerome states that “Ambrose recently so compiled the
_Hexaemeron_ of Origen that he rather followed the views of Hippolytus
and Basil.”[2066] This Latin work of Ambrose is extant and seems to me
to follow Basil very closely. At times the order of presentation is
slightly varied and the work of Ambrose is longer, but this is due to
its more verbose rhetoric and greater indulgence in Biblical quotation,
and not to the introduction of new ideas. The Benedictine editors of
Ambrose admit that he has taken a great deal from Basil but deny that
he has servilely imitated him.[2067] But a striking instance of such
servile imitation is seen in Ambrose’s duplicating even Basil’s mistake
in omitting to discuss birds and then apologizing for it, reminding
one of the Chinese workman who made all the new dinner plates with a
crack and a toothpick stuck in it, like the old broken plate which
he had been given as a model. It is true that Ambrose does not first
discuss land animals for a page as Basil did, but makes his apology
more immediately. The opening words of the eighth sermon in the twelfth
chapter of his fifth book are, “And after he had remained silent for
a moment, again resuming his discourse, he said....” Then comes his
apology, expressed in different terms from Basil’s and to the effect
that in his previous discourse upon fishes he became so immersed in
the depths of the sea as to forget all about birds. Thus the incident
which in Basil had every appearance of a natural mistake, in Ambrose
has all the earmarks of an affected imitation. It is barely possible,
however, that Origen made the original mistake and that Basil and
Ambrose have both imitated him in it. On the other hand, we are told
that the _Hexaemerons_ of Origen and Basil differed fundamentally in
this respect, that Origen indulged to a great extent in allegorical
interpretation of the Mosaic account of creation,[2068] while Basil
declares that he “takes all in the literal sense,” is “not ashamed of
the Gospel,” and “admits the common sense of the Scriptures.”[2069]

[Sidenote: Basil’s medieval influence.]

At any rate, Basil’s _Hexaemeron_ seems to have supplanted all such
previous treatises in Greek, while its western influence is shown not
only by Ambrose’s imitation of it so soon after its production, but by
Latin translations of it by Eustathius Afer in the fifth, and perhaps
by Dionysius Exiguus in the sixth century. Medieval manuscripts of it
are fairly numerous and sometimes of early date,[2070] and include
an Anglo-Saxon epitome ascribed to Aelfric in the Bodleian Library.
Bartholomew of England[2071] in the thirteenth century quotes “Rabanus
who uses the words of Basil in the _Hexaemeron_” for a description
of the empyrean heaven which I have been unable to find in the
works of either Rabanus or Basil. Bede, in a similar, though much
abbreviated, work of his own, states that while many have said many
things concerning the beginning of the _Book of Genesis_, the chief
authorities, so far as he has been able to discover, are Basil of
Caesarea, whom Eustathius translated from Greek into Latin, Ambrose of
Milan, and Augustine, bishop of Hippo. These works, however, were so
long and expensive that only the rich could afford to purchase them and
so profound that only the learned could read and understand them. Bede
had accordingly been requested to compose a brief rendition of them,
which he does partly in his own words, partly in theirs.[2072]

[Sidenote: Science and religion.]

The general tenor of Basil’s treatise may be described as follows.
He accepts the literal sense of the first chapter of _Genesis_ as a
correct account of the universe, and, when he finds Greek philosophy
and science in disagreement with the Biblical narrative, inveighs
against the futilities and follies and conflicting theories and
excessive elaborations of the philosophers. On such occasions the
simple statements of Scripture are sufficient for him. “Upon the
essence of the heavens we are contented with what Isaiah says.... In
the same way, as concerns the earth, let us resolve not to torment
ourselves by trying to find out its essence.... At all events let us
prefer the simplicity of faith to the demonstrations of reason.”[2073]
These three quotations illustrate his attitude at such times. But at
all other times he is apt to follow Greek science rather implicitly,
accepting without question its hypothesis of four elements and four
qualities, and taking all his details about birds, beasts, and fish
from the same source.

[Sidenote: Scientific curiosity of Basil’s audience.]

Moreover, while Basil may affirm that the edification of the church
is his sole aim and interest, it is evident that his audience are
possessed by a lively scientific curiosity, and that they wish to hear
a great deal more about natural phenomena than Isaiah or any other
Biblical author has to offer them. “What trouble you have given me
in my previous discourses,” exclaims Basil in his fourth homily, “by
asking me why the earth was invisible, why all bodies are naturally
endued with color, and why all color comes under the sense of sight?
And perhaps my reason did not appear sufficient to you.... Perhaps you
will ask me new questions.” Basil gratifies this curiosity concerning
the world of nature with many details not mentioned in the Bible but
drawn from such works as Aristotle’s _Meteorology_ and _History of
Animals_. This scientific curiosity displayed by Basil’s hearers is
the more interesting in that artisans who had to labor for their daily
bread appear to have made up a large element in his audience.[2074]
It is perhaps on their account that Basil often speaks of God as the
supreme artisan or artificer or artist,[2075] or calls their attention
to “the vast and varied workshop of divine creation,”[2076] and makes
other flattering allusions to arts which support life or produce
enduring work, and to waterways and sea trade.[2077] He also seems to
have a sincere appreciation of the arts and admiration of beauty, which
he twice defines.[2078]

[Sidenote: Allusions to amusements.]

At the risk of digression, it is perhaps worth noting further that
Basil’s hearers seem to have been very familiar with, not to say fond
of, the amusements common in the cities of the Roman Empire. Twice he
opens his sermons with allusions to the athletes of the circus and
actors of the theater,[2079] apparently as the surest way of quickly
catching the attention of his audience, while on a third occasion, in
concluding his morning address on what appears to have been a holiday,
he remarks that if he had dismissed them earlier, some would have spent
the rest of the day gambling with dice, and that “the longer I keep
you, the longer you are out of the way of mischief.”[2080] He also
alludes to the spinning of tops and to what was apparently the game of

[Sidenote: Conflicts with Greek science.]

Taking up the contents of the _Hexaemeron_ more in detail, we may
first note those points upon which Basil supports the statements of
the Bible against Greek science and philosophy. He of course insists
that the universe was created by God and is not co-existent, much
less identical, with Him.[2082] He also denies that the form of the
world alone is due to God and that matter is of separate origin.[2083]
Nor will he accept the arguments of the philosophers who “would
rather lose their tongues” than admit that there is more than one
heaven. Basil is ready to believe not merely in a second, but a third
heaven, such as the apostle Paul speaks of being rapt to. He regards
a plurality of heavens as no more difficult to credit than the seven
concentric spheres of the planets, and as much more probable than the
philosophic theory of the music of the spheres which he decries as
“ingenious frivolity, the untruth of which is evident from the first
word.”[2084] He also defends the statement of Scripture that there are
waters above the firmament, not only against the doctrines of ancient
astronomy,[2085] but also against “certain writers in the church,”
among whom he probably has Origen in mind, who interpret the passage
figuratively and assert that the waters stand for “spiritual and
incorporeal powers,” those above the firmament representing good angels
and those below the firmament standing for evil demons. “Let us reject
these theories as we would the interpretations of dreams and old-wives’

In connection with Basil’s defense of the plurality of the heavens
it may be noted that R. H. Charles presents evidence to show “that
speculations or definitely formulated views on the plurality of the
heavens were rife in the very cradle of Christendom and throughout
its entire development,” and that “the prevailing view was that of
the sevenfold division of the heavens.”[2087] He fails, however,
to discriminate between the doctrine of Greek philosophy that the
universe was one, although the circles of the planets are seven, and
the plurality of the heavens, which Basil insists that the philosophers
deny; and very probably the Jewish and early Christian notions of
successive heavens full of angels and spirits developed from the
spheres of the planets. Among the various early heresies described by
the fathers are also found, of course, many allusions to these seven
spheres or heavens. The disciples of Valentinus, for example, according
to Irenaeus and Epiphanius, “affirm that these seven heavens are
intelligent and speak of them as angels ... and declare that Paradise,
situated above the third heaven, is a powerful angel.”[2088]

[Sidenote: Agreement with Greek science.]

On the other hand, we may note some points where Basil is in accord
with Greek science. He warns his hearers not to “be surprised that the
world never falls; it occupies the center of the universe, its natural
place.”[2089] He advances numerous proofs of the immense size of the
sun and moon.[2090] He accepts the hypothesis of four elements but
abstains from passing judgment upon the question of a fifth element of
which the heavens and celestial bodies may be composed.[2091] He thinks
that “it needs not the space of a moment for light to pass through” the

[Sidenote: Qualification of the Scriptural account of creation.]

Moreover, Basil finds it necessary to qualify some of the statements
in the first chapter of _Genesis_. He interprets the command, “Let
the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,”
to apply only to the sea or ocean, which he contends is one body of
water, and not to pools and lakes,[2093] recognizing that otherwise
“our explanation of the creation of the world may appear contrary to
experience, because it is evident that all the waters did not flow
together in one place.” In this connection he states that “although
some authorities think that the Hyrcanian and Caspian Seas are enclosed
in their own boundaries, if we are to believe the geographers, they
communicate with each other and together discharge themselves into the
Great Sea.” He speaks of “the vast ocean, so dreaded by navigators,
which surrounds the isle of Britain and western Spain.”[2094] Later
he contends that “sea water is the source of all the moisture of the
earth.”[2095] He has also to meet the following objection made to the
eleventh and twelfth verses of the first chapter of _Genesis_: “How
then, they say, can Scripture describe all the plants of the earth as
seed-bearing, when the reed, couch-grass, mint, crocus, garlic, and the
flowering rush and countless other species produce no seed? To this we
reply that many vegetables have their seminal virtue in the lower part
and in the roots.”[2096]

[Sidenote: The four elements and four qualities.]

Basil regards the words of _Genesis_, “God called the dry land earth,”
as a recognition of the fact that drought is the primal property of
earth, as humidity is of air; cold, of water; and heat, of fire. He
adds, however, that “our eyes and senses can find nothing which is
completely singular, simple, and pure. Earth is at the same time dry
and cold; water, cold and moist; air, moist and warm; fire, warm and
dry.”[2097] Indeed, as he has already stated in the previous homily,
the mixture of elements in actual objects is even more intricate
than this last sentence might seem to indicate. Every element is in
every other, and we not only do not perceive with our senses any pure
elements but not even any compounds of two elements only.[2098]

[Sidenote: Enthusiasm for nature as God’s work.]

Basil is alive to the absorbing interest of the world of nature and
to the marvelous intricacies of natural science. He tells his hearers
that as “anyone not knowing a town is taken by the hand and led through
it,” so he will guide them “through the mysterious marvels of this
great city of the universe.”[2099] As he had said in the preceding
homily, “A single plant, a blade of grass is sufficient to occupy all
your intelligence in the contemplation of the skill which produced
it.”[2100] He sees “great wisdom in small things.”[2101] Thus by the
argument from design he is apt to work back from nature to the Creator,
so that his enthusiasm cannot be regarded as purely scientific. Going a
step farther than Galen’s argument from design, he contends that “not
a single thing has been created without reason; not a single thing is

[Sidenote: Sin and nature.]

Basil also cherishes the notion, which we have already found both in
pagan and Christian writers, that human sin leaves its stain or has its
effect upon nature. The rose was without thorns before the fall of man,
and their addition to its beauty serves to remind us that “sorrow is
very near to pleasure.”[2103]

[Sidenote: Habits of animals.]

Basil discusses the habits of animals largely in order to draw moral
lessons from them for human beings and he has several passages in the
style supposed to be characteristic of the _Physiologus_. But he also
refers in a number of places to the ability of animals to find remedies
with which to cure themselves of ailments and injuries, or to their
power of divining the future. The sea-urchin foretells storms; sheep
and goats discern danger by instinct alone. The starling eats hemlock
and digests it “before its chill can attack the vital parts”; and the
quail is able to feed on hellebore. The wounded bear nurses himself,
filling his wounds with mullein, an astringent plant; “the fox heals
his wounds with droppings from the pine tree”; the tortoise counteracts
the venom of the vipers it has eaten by means of the herb marjoram; and
“the serpent heals sore eyes by eating fennel.”[2104]

[Sidenote: Marvels of nature.]

Indeed, far from being led by his acquaintance with Greek science into
doubting the marvelous, Basil finds “in nature a thousand reasons for
believing in the marvelous.”[2105] He is ready to ascribe astounding
powers to animals, and believes, like Pliny, that “the greatest
vessels, sailing with full sails, are easily stopped by a tiny
fish.”[2106] He tells us that nature endowed the lion with such loud
and forceful vocal organs “that often much swifter animals are caught
by his roaring alone.”[2107] He also repeats in charming style the
familiar story of the halcyon days. The halcyon lays its eggs along the
shore in mid-winter when violent winds dash the waves against the land.
Yet winds are hushed and waves are calm during the seven days that the
halcyon sits, and then, after its young are hatched and in need of
food, “God in his munificence grants another seven days to this tiny
animal. All sailors know this and call these days halcyon days.”[2108]

[Sidenote: Spontaneous generation.]

Like most ancient scientists, Basil believes that some animals are
spontaneously generated. “Many birds have no need of union with males
to conceive,” a circumstance which should make it easy for us to
believe in the Virgin birth of Christ.[2109] Grasshoppers and other
nameless insects and sometimes frogs and mice are “born from the earth
itself,” and “mud alone produces eels,”[2110] a theory not much more
amazing than the assertion of modern biologists that eels spawn only in
the Mediterranean Sea. Basil states that “in the environs of Thebes in
Egypt after abundant rain in hot weather the country is covered with
field mice,” but without noting that abundant rain in upper Egypt in
hot weather would itself be in the nature of a miracle.

[Sidenote: Lack of scientific scepticism.]

Basil is less sceptical than Apollonius of Tyana in regard to the
birth of lions and of vipers, repeating unquestioningly the statement
that the viper gnaws its way out of its mother’s womb, and that
the lioness bears only one whelp because it tears her with its
claws.[2111] Of purely scientific scepticism there is, indeed, little
in the _Hexaemeron_. Basil does, however, question one of the powers
ascribed to magicians, and this is his only mention of the magic art.
Discussing the immense size of the moon and its great influence upon
terrestrial nature, he declares ridiculous the old-wives’ tales which
have been circulated everywhere that magic incantations “can remove the
moon from its place and make it descend to the earth.”[2112]

[Sidenote: Sun worship and astrology.]

Sun worship still existed in Basil’s time and he hails the fact that
the sun was not created until the fourth day, after both light and
vegetation were in existence, as a severe blow to those who reverence
the sun as the source of life.[2113] However, he does “not pretend to
be able to separate light from the body of the sun.”[2114] Theophilus
in his earlier discussion of creation had stated, perhaps copying
Philo Judaeus, that the luminaries were not created until the fourth
day, “because God, who possesses foreknowledge, knew the follies of
the vain philosophers, that they were going to say, that the things
which grow on earth are produced from the heavenly bodies”—which is,
indeed, a fundamental hypothesis of astrology—“so as to exclude God.
In order, therefore, that the truth might be obvious, the plants and
seeds were produced prior to the heavenly bodies, for what is posterior
cannot produce that which is prior.”[2115] Basil does not make this
point against the rule of inferior creation by the heavenly bodies,
but in a succeeding homily he feels it necessary to devote several
paragraphs[2116] to refutation of the “vain science” of casting
nativities, which some persons have justified by the words of God
concerning sun, moon, and stars in the first chapter of _Genesis_,
“And let them be for signs.” Basil questions if it be possible to
determine the exact instant of birth, declares that to attribute to the
constellations and signs of the zodiac the characteristics of animals
is to subject them to external influences, and defends human free
will in much the usual fashion. He is ready, however, to grant that
“the variations of the moon do not take place without exerting great
influence upon the organization of animals and of all living things,”
and that the moon makes “all nature participate in her changes.”[2117]

[Sidenote: Permanence of species.]

Basil’s utterances concerning the world of nature are not always
consistent. In describing the creation of vegetation he asserts that
species are unchanging, affirming that “all which sprang from the
earth in the first bringing forth is kept the same to our time, thanks
to the constant reproduction of kind.”[2118] Yet a few paragraphs
later we find him saying, “It has been observed that pines, cut down
or even submitted to the action of fire, are changed into a forest
of oaks.”[2119] Nevertheless in the last homily he again asserts
that “nature, once put in motion by divine command, ... keeps up the
succession of kinds through resemblance to the last. Nature always
makes a horse succeed to a horse, a lion to a lion, an eagle to an
eagle, and preserving each animal by these uninterrupted successions
she transmits it to the end of all things. Animals do not see their
peculiarities destroyed or effaced by any length of time; their nature,
as though it had just been constituted, follows the course of ages
forever young.”[2120]

[Sidenote: Final impression from the _Hexaemeron_.]

Concerning Basil in conclusion we may say that while he can scarcely
be called much of a scientist, he is a pretty good scientist for a
preacher. His knowledge of, and errors concerning, the world of nature
will probably compare quite as well with the science of his day as
those of most modern sermons will with the science of our days. His
occasional flings at Greek philosophy are probably not to be taken too
seriously. But what interests us rather more than Basil’s attitude
is that of his audience, curious concerning nature. Just as it is
evident that many of them go to theaters and circuses, or play with
dice, despite Basil’s denunciation of the immoral songs of the stage
and the evils of gambling; just so, we suspect, it was the attractive
morsels of Greek astronomy, botany, and zoology which he offered them
that induced them to come and listen further to his argument from
design and his moral lessons based upon these natural phenomena. Nor
were they likely to observe his censure of incantations and nativities
more closely than his condemnation of theater and gaming. It would
be rash to infer that they always practiced what he preached. By
the same token, even if the church fathers had opposed scientific
investigation—and it hardly appears that they did—they would probably
have been no more successful in checking it than they were in checking
the commerce of Constantinople, although “S. Ambrose regards the gains
of merchants as for the most part fraudulent, and S. Chrysostom’s
language has been generally appealed to in a similar sense.”[2121]

[Sidenote: _The Medicine Chest_ of Epiphanius.]

The same recognition of an interest in nature on the part of his
audience and the same appeal to their scientific curiosity, which
we have seen in Basil’s sermons, is shown by Epiphanius of Cyprus
(315-403) writing in 374-375 A. D.[2122] He calls his work against
heresies the _Panarion_, or “Medicine Chest,” his idea being to
provide antidotes and healing herbs in the form of salubrious doctrine
against the venom of heretics whose enigmas he compares to the bites
of serpents or wild beasts. This metaphor is more or less adhered to
throughout the work, and particular heresies are compared to the asp,
basilisk, dipsas,[2123] buprestis,[2124] lizard, dog-fish or shark,
mole, centipede, scorpion, and various vipers. We are further told of
substances that drive away serpents, such as the herbs _dictamnon_,
_abrotonum_, and _libanotis_, the gum _storax_,[2125] and the stone
_gagates_. As his authorities in such matters Epiphanius states that he
uses Nicander for the natures of beasts and reptiles, and for roots and
plants Dioscorides, Pamphilus, Mithridates the king, Callisthenes and
Philo, Iolaos the Bithynian, Heraclides of Tarentum, and a number of
other names.[2126]

[Sidenote: Gems in the high priest’s breastplate.]

If in his _Panarion_ Epiphanius makes use of ancient botany, medicine,
and zoology for purposes of comparison, in his treatise on the twelve
gems in the breastplate of the Hebrew high priest[2127] he perhaps
gives an excuse and sets the fashion for the Christian medieval
_Lapidaries_. This work was probably composed after the _Panarion_,
and in the opinion of Fogginius even later than 392 A. D.[2128]
This treatise probably was better known in the middle ages than the
_Panarion_, since the fullest version of it extant is the old Latin
one, while the Greek text which has survived seems only a very brief
epitome. The Greek version, however, embodies a good deal of what
is said concerning the gems themselves and their virtues, but omits
entirely the long effort to identify each of the twelve stones with
one of the twelve tribes of Israel, which is left unfinished even in
the Latin version. Epiphanius shows himself rather chary in regard to
such virtues attributed to gems as to calm storms, make men pacific,
and confer the power of divination. He does not go so far as to omit
them entirely, but he usually qualifies them as the assertion of “those
who construct fables” or “those who believe fables.” It is without any
such qualification, however, that he declares that the topaz,[2129]
when ground on a physician’s grindstone, although red itself, emits a
white milky fluid, and, moreover, that as many vessels as one wishes
may be filled with this fluid without changing the appearance or shape
or lessening the weight of the stone. Skilled physicians also attribute
to this liquid a healing effect in eye troubles, in hydrophobia, and in
the case of those who have gone mad from eating grape-fish.

[Sidenote: Some other gems.]

Epiphanius mentions a few other gems than those in the high priest’s
breastplate. Among these is the stone hyacinth[2130] which, when
placed upon live coals, extinguishes them without injury to itself
and which is also beneficial to women in childbirth, and drives away
phantasms. Certain varieties of it are found in the north among the
barbarous Scythians. The gems lie at the bottom of a deep valley which
is inaccessible to men because walled in completely by mountains, and
moreover from the summits one cannot see into the valley because of a
dark mist which covers it. How men ever became cognizant of the fact
that there are gems there may well be wondered but is a point which
Epiphanius does not take into consideration. He simply tells us that
when men are sent to obtain some of these stones, they skin sheep and
hurl the carcasses into the valley where some of the gems adhere to the
flesh. The odor of the raw meat then attracts the eagles, whose keener
sight is perhaps able to penetrate the mist, although Epiphanius does
not say so, and they carry the carrion to their nests in the mountains.
The men watch where the eagles have taken the meat and go there and
find the gems which have been brought out with it. In the middle ages
we find this same story in a slightly different form told of Alexander
the Great on his expedition to India. Epiphanius has one thing to tell
of India himself in connection with gems, which is that a temple of
Father Liber (Bacchus) is located there which is said to have three
hundred and sixty-five steps,—all of sapphire.[2131]

[Sidenote: The so-called _Physiologus_: problem of its origin.]

The problem of an early Christian work entitled _Physiologus_ is no
easy one, although much has been written concerning it[2132] and more
has been taken for granted. For instance, one often meets such wild
and sweeping statements as that “the name Physiologus” was “given to a
cyclopedia of what was known and imagined about earth, sea, sky, birds,
beasts, and fishes, which for a thousand years was the authoritative
source of information on these matters and was translated into every
European tongue.”[2133] My later treatment of medieval science will
make patent the inaccuracy of such a statement. But to return to the
problem of the origin of Physiologus. The original Greek text,[2134]
which some would put back in the first half of the second century of
our era, if it ever existed, is now lost, and its previous existence
and character are inferred from numerous apparent citations of it,
possible extracts from it, and what are taken to be imitations,
abbreviations, amplifications, adaptations, and translations of it in
other languages and of later date. Thus we have versions or fragments
in Armenian,[2135] Syriac,[2136] Ethiopian,[2137] and Arabic;[2138]
a Greek text from medieval manuscripts, mostly of late date;[2139]
various Latin versions in numerous manuscripts from the eighth century
on;[2140] in Old High German a prose translation of about 1000 A. D.
and a poetical version later in the same language;[2141] and Bestiaries
such as those of Philip of Thaon[2142] and William the Clerk[2143]
in the Romance languages[2144] and other vernaculars.[2145] The
_Physiologus_ has been thought to have originated in Alexandria because
of its use of the Egyptian names for the months and because Clement
of Alexandria and Origen are supposed to have made use of it. But it
is difficult to determine whether the church fathers drew passages
concerning animals and nature from some such work or whether it was a
collection of passages from their writings upon such themes. Ahrens,
who thought he found the original form of the work in a Syriac _Book
of the Things of Nature_,[2146] regarded Origen as its author. In a
medical manuscript at Vienna is a _Physiologus_ in Greek ascribed
to Epiphanius of Cyprus,[2147] of whom we have just been treating,
while we hear that Pope Gelasius at a synod of 496 condemned as
apocryphal a _Physiologus_ which was written by heretics and ascribed
to Ambrose,[2148] who so closely duplicated the _Hexaemeron_ of
Basil. A work on the natures of animals is also attributed to John
Chrysostom.[2149] I am not sure whether a _Physiologus_ ascribed
to John the Scot in a tenth century Latin manuscript is the same

[Sidenote: Does the title apply to any one particular treatise?]

The _Physiologus_ is commonly described as a symbolic bestiary, in
which the characteristics and properties of animals are accompanied
by Christian allegories and instruction. Some have almost gone so far
as to hold that any passages of this sort are evidence of an author’s
having employed the _Physiologus_, which some have held influenced
the middle ages more than any other book except the Bible. But
Pitra’s point is well taken that the _Physiologus_ is one thing and
the allegorical interpretation thereof another. In the case of the
discordant versions or fragments which he gathered and published from
different manuscripts, centuries, and languages, he noted one common
feature, that the allegorical interpretation was sharply separated
from the extracts from _Physiologus_ and sometimes omitted entirely.
This is what one would naturally expect since a _physiologus_ is a
natural scientist on whose statements concerning this or that the
allegorical interpretation is presumably based and added thereto. But
this suggests another difficulty in identifying _Physiologus_ as a
single work. The abbreviations for the word in medieval manuscripts
are very easily confused with those for philosophers or _phisici_
(physical scientists), and just as medieval writers often cite what
the philosophers say or the _phisici_ say without having reference to
any particular book, so may they not cite what _physiologi_ or even
_physiologus_ says without having any particular writer in mind? In the
_De bestiis_ ascribed to Hugh of St. Victor of the twelfth century
_physici_ are cited[2151] as well as _Physiologus_. When Albertus
Magnus states in the thirteenth century in his work on minerals
that the _physiologi_ have assigned very different causes for the
marvelous occult virtue in stones, he evidently simply alludes to the
opinions of scientists in general and has no such work or works as the
so-called _Physiologus_ in mind.[2152] This is also clearly the case
in a fragment from the introduction to a Latin translation from the
Arabic of some treatise on the astrolabe, in which we find _phisiologi_
cited as astronomical authorities.[2153] Furthermore, even in works
which deal with the natures of animals and which either have the word
_Physiologus_ in their titles or cite it now and then in the course of
their texts, there exists such diversity that it becomes fairly evident
not only that it is impossible to deduce from them the list of animals
treated in the original _Physiologus_ or the details which it gave
concerning each, but also that it is highly probable that the title
_Physiologus_ has been applied to different treatises which did not
necessarily have a common origin. Or at least the greatest liberties
were taken with the original text and title,[2154] so that the word
_Physiologus_ came to apply less to any particular book, author, or
authority than to almost any treatment of animals in a certain style.

[Sidenote: And to what sort of a treatise?]

But of what style? It has too often been assumed that theology
dominated all medieval thought and that natural science was employed
only for purposes of religious symbolism. Of this general assumption
the _Physiologus_ has been seized upon as an apt illustration and
it has been represented as a symbolic bestiary which influenced the
middle ages more than any other book except the Bible[2155] and whose
allegories accounted for the animal sculpture of the Gothic cathedrals
and the strange or familiar beasts in the borders of the Bayeux
Tapestry, the margins of illuminated manuscripts, and so on and so

[Sidenote: Medieval art shows almost no symbolic influence of the

The more recent scientific study of medieval art has largely dissipated
this latter notion. It has become evident that in the main medieval
men represented animals in art because they were fond of animals,
not because they were fond of allegories. Their art was natural, not
symbolic. They were, says Mâle, “craftsmen who delighted in nature for
its own sake, sometimes lovingly copying the living forms, sometimes
playing with them, combining and contorting them as they were led by
their own caprice.” St. Bernard, although “the prince of allegorists,”
saw no sense in the animal sculptures in Romanesque cloisters and
inveighed against them. In short, with the exception of the symbols of
the four evangelists, “there are few cases in which it is permissible
to assign symbolic meaning to animal forms,” and it is “evident that
the fauna and flora of medieval art, natural or fantastic, have in
most cases a value that is purely decorative.” “To sum up,” concludes
Mâle, “we are of the opinion that the Bestiaries of which we hear so
much from the archaeologists had no real influence on art until their
substance passed into Honorius of Autun’s book (_Speculum ecclesiae_,
c. 1090-1120) and from that book into sermons. I have searched in vain
(with but two exceptions) for representations of the hedgehog, beaver,
tiger, and other animals which figure in the Bestiaries but which are
not mentioned by Honorius.”[2156]

[Sidenote: Physiologus was more natural scientist than allegorist.]

These assertions concerning medieval art hold true also to a large
extent of medieval literature and medieval science, although they were
perhaps less natural and original than it and more dependent on past
tradition and authority. But medieval men, as we shall see, studied
nature from scientific curiosity and not in search for spiritual
allegories, and even Goldstaub recognizes that by the thirteenth
century the scientific zoology of Aristotle submerged that of the
_Physiologus_ in writers like Thomas of Cantimpré and Albertus Magnus
who, although they may still embody portions of the _Physiologus_,
divest it of its characteristic religious elements.[2157] But were
its characteristic elements ever religious? Were they not always
scientific or pseudo-scientific? Ahrens holds that the title was taken
from Aristotle in the first place, and that Pliny was the chief source
for the contents. The allegories do not appear in such early texts as
the Syriac version or the fragments preserved in the Latin Glossary
of Ansileubus. Not even the introductory scriptural texts appear in
the Greek version ascribed to Epiphanius. Moreover, in the Bestiaries
where the allegorical applications are included, it is for the natures
of the animals, the supposedly scientific facts on which the symbolism
is based, and for these alone that _Physiologus_ is cited in the text.
Thus the symbolism would appear to be somewhat adventitious, while
the pseudo-science is constant. It is obvious that the allegorical
applications cannot do without the supposed facts concerning animals;
on the other hand, the supposedly scientific information can and
does frequently dispense with the allegories. We do not know who was
responsible for the allegorical interpretations in the first instance.
Hommel would carry the origin of their symbolism back of the Christian
era to the animal worship of Persia, India, and Egypt.[2158] But we are
assured over and over again that Natural Scientist or _Physiologus_
vouches for the statements concerning the natures of animals. Thus the
symbolic significance of the literature that has been grouped under the
title _Physiologus_ has been exaggerated, while the respect for and
interest in natural science to which it testifies have too often been
lost sight of.



 Date and influence of Augustine—Christianity and magic—Censure of
 magic and theurgy as well as _Goetia_—Magic due to demons—Marvels
 wrought by magic—Cannot be equalled by most Christians—Miracles of
 heretics—Theory of demons—Limitations to the power of magic—Its
 fantastic character—Samuel and the witch of Endor—Natural
 marvels—Relation between magic and science—Superstitions akin to
 magic—Survival of pagan superstition among the laity—Augustine’s
 attack upon astrology—Fate and free will—Argument from twins—Defense
 of the astrologers—Elections—Are animals and plants under the
 stars?—Failure to disprove the control of nature by the stars—Natural
 divination and prophetic visions—The star at Christ’s birth—Nature of
 the stars—Orosius on the Priscillianists and Origenists—Augustine’s
 letter—Attitude toward astronomy—Perfect numbers.

[Sidenote: Date and influence of Augustine.]

The utterances of Augustine concerning magic and astrology have been
reserved for separate treatment in this chapter, partly because of
his late date, 354 to 430 A. D., partly because of the voluminousness
of his writings, but especially because of his approach to and
influence upon the thought of the middle ages. It is, moreover, in
his epoch-making book, _The City of God_, which better than any other
single event marks, or at least sums up, the transition from classical
to medieval civilization, from the life of the ancient city to that of
the medieval church, that he descants with especial fulness upon magic,
demons, and astrology, although he often also refers to these themes
in his other treatises, which we shall cite as well. I separate the
words, magic and astrology, here because Augustine, like most of the
fathers, does so. Of Augustine’s discussion of the Biblical account
of creation in his _Confessions_ and _De Genesi ad litteram_ I shall
not treat, having already presented Basil’s _Hexaemeron_ as an example
of this type of work and of the Christian attitude toward natural
science.[2159] But later in treating of medieval writers on nature I
may have occasion to point out certain passages in which they may have
been influenced by Augustine.

[Sidenote: Christianity and magic.]

Even though writing in the fifth century Augustine still finds it
necessary to defend Christ against those who imagine that He has
converted peoples to Himself by means of the magic art.[2160] And he
tells us of books of magic which are ascribed to Christ Himself or
to the apostles Peter and Paul.[2161] In reply to such charges or
assertions he insists that Christians have nothing to do with magic,
and that their miracles “were wrought by simple confidence and devout
faith, not by incantations and spells compounded by an art of depraved
curiosity.”[2162] And he brings the counter-charge against Roman
religion that King Numa, its founder, learned its secrets and sacred
rites by means of hydromancy or necromancy.[2163] He admits, however,
that condemnation of magic and legislation against it had begun before

[Sidenote: Magic and theurgy censured as well as _Goetia_.]

Augustine uniformly speaks of magic with censure and several times
adverts to “the crimes of magicians.”[2165] He speaks, however, of
_goetia_ or sorcery as “a more detestable name” than _magia_ and of
“theurgy” as “an honorable name.” He also states that some persons draw
a distinction between the _malefici_ or sorcerers or practitioners of
_goetia_, whom they call truly guilty of illicit arts and deserving
of condemnation, and those who practice theurgy, whom they call
praiseworthy. Porphyry, for instance, had stated that theurgy was
useful to purge the soul and prepare it to receive spirits and to
see God. Augustine, however, holds that in other passages Porphyry
condemned theurgy, and in any case he himself refuses to sanction
it.[2166] He stoutly denies that “souls are purged and reconciled to
God through sacrilegious likenesses and impious curiosity and magic
consecrations.”[2167] Very possibly Augustine would have classed as
improper theurgy some of the use of powerful names described by Origen.

[Sidenote: Magic due to demons.]

At any rate Augustine declares that theurgists and sorcerers alike “are
entangled in the deceitful rites of demons who may masquerade under the
names of angels.”[2168] For it is to demons that Augustine, like most
of our Christian writers, attributes both the origin and the success of
magic. The demons are enticed by men to work marvels, not by offerings
of food, as if they were animals, but by symbols which conform to the
individual taste of each as a spirit, namely, various stones, plants,
trees, animals, incantations, and ceremonies,[2169]—a good brief
summary of the materials and methods of magic. Augustine believes that
the spirits had first to instruct men what rites to perform and by what
names to call them in order to summon them.

[Sidenote: Marvels wrought by magic.]

But when once the demons have revealed their secrets, henceforth the
charms of the magic art have efficacy. Of the marvels worked by means
of magic Augustine has little doubt; to deny them would indeed in his
opinion be to deny the truth of the Scriptures, to whose accounts of
Pharaoh’s magicians,[2170] the witch of Endor, and the Magi and the
star, he adverts many times in his various works. If actors in the
theater and performers in spectacles are able by art and exercise to
display astounding alterations in the appearance of their earthly
bodies, why may not the demons with their aerial bodies produce
marvelous changes in elementary substances or by occult influence
construct phantom images to delude human senses?[2171] Augustine even
grants that the magicians are able to terrify the inferior spirits into
obedience to their commands by adjuring them by the names of superior
spirits, and thereby with divine permission “to exhibit to the eye of
sense certain results which seem great and marvelous to men who through
weakness of the flesh are incapable of beholding things eternal.” He
does not regard this as inconsistent with the assertion of Jesus that
Satan cannot cast out Satan, since while it may be that thus demons are
expelled from sick bodies, the evil one thereby only the more surely
takes possession of the soul.[2172]

[Sidenote: Cannot be equalled by most Christians.]

Augustine further grants that magicians, although stained with crime,
can at present work miracles which most Christians and even most saints
cannot perform. For this, however, he finds Scriptural precedent.
Pharaoh’s magicians performed feats which none of the Children of
Israel could equal except Moses who excelled them by divine aid.
Augustine, like earlier fathers, usually fails to mention Aaron in this
connection.[2173] This superiority of magicians to most Christians
in working marvels Augustine believes is divinely ordained so that
Christians may remain humble and practice works of justice rather than
seek to perform miracles. Magicians seek their own glory; the saints
strive only for the glory of God. And the more marvelous are the feats
of magic, the more Christians should shun them; the greater the power
of the demons, the closer Christians should cling to that Mediator who
alone can raise men from the lowest depths.[2174]

[Sidenote: Miracles of heretics.]

Like Origen, Augustine further distinguishes the miracles wrought by
heretics both from magic and from the miracles of true Christians. He
holds that every soul in part controls itself and exercises as it were
a private jurisdiction, in part is subject to the laws of the universe
just as any citizen is amenable to public jurisdiction. Therefore
magicians perform their marvels by private contracts with demons; good
Christians perform theirs by public justice; bad Christians perform
theirs by the appearance or signs of public justice.[2175] This view
would seem to indicate that God, like the demons, regards the signs
alone and not the character and purpose of the performer, so that
Christian miracles, if they can be duplicated by heretics, would appear
to be largely a matter of procedure and art, like magic.

[Sidenote: Theory of demons.]

For his theory of demons and their characteristics Augustine seems
largely indebted to Apuleius, whom he cites in several chapters of the
eighth and ninth books of _The City of God_. In his separate treatise,
_The Divination of Demons_,[2176] he explains their ability to predict
the future and to perform marvels by the keenness of their sense, their
rapidity of movement, their long experience of nature and life, and
the subtlety of their aerial bodies. This last quality enables them to
penetrate human bodies or affect the thoughts of men without men being
aware of their presence. Augustine, however, of course does not believe
that the world of nature is completely under the control of the demons.
God alone created it and He still governs it, and the demons are able
to do only as much as He permits.[2177]

[Sidenote: Limitations to the power of magic.]

There were, for example, some things which Pharaoh’s magicians could
not do and in which Moses clearly excelled them. They were able to
change their rods into snakes but his snake devoured theirs. How the
magicians got their rods back, if at all, neither Augustine nor the
Book of Exodus informs us. But whether with or without their magic
wands, they were still able to duplicate one or two of the plagues
sent upon Egypt. Augustine explains that neither they nor the demons
who helped them really created snakes and frogs, but that there are
certain seeds of life hidden away in the elemental bodies of this
world of which they made use. But their magic failed them when it came
to the reproduction of minute insects.[2178] Augustine furthermore has
some hesitation about accepting the stories of magic transformations
of men into animals, which he represents as current in his own day as
well as in times past, so that certain female inn-keepers in Italy are
said to transform travelers into beasts of burden by a magic potion
administered in the cheese, just as Circe transformed the companions of
Ulysses and as Apuleius says happened to himself in the book that he
wrote under the title, _The Golden Ass_. These stories, in Augustine’s
opinion, “are either false or such uncommon occurrences that they are
justly discredited.”[2179] He does not believe that demons can truly
transform the human body into the limbs and lineaments of beasts, but
the strange personal experiences of reliable persons have convinced him
that men are deceived by dreams, hallucinations, and fantastic images.

[Sidenote: Its fantastic character.]

Thus, as we have already seen over and over again, the fantastic and
deceptive character of magic is dimly realized. Usually, however, when
Augustine represents “the powers of the air” as deceiving men by magic,
the deceit consists merely in the magicians’ imagining that they are
working the marvels which are really performed by demons, or in men
being lured into subjection to Satan and to their ultimate and eternal
damnation through the attractions of the magic art.[2180]

[Sidenote: Samuel and the witch of Endor.]

Augustine twice responded to questions concerning the witch of Endor’s
apparent invocation of the spirit of Samuel, repeating in his _De octo
Dulcitii quaestionibus_[2181] what he had already said in _De diversis
quaestionibus ad Simplicianum_.[2182] In certain respects Augustine’s
treatment of the problem differs from those which we have previously
examined. What, he asks, if the impure spirit which possessed the
_pythonissa_ was able to raise the very soul of Samuel from the
dead? Is it not much more strange that Satan was allowed to converse
personally with God concerning the tempting of Job, and to raise the
very Christ aloft upon a pinnacle of the temple? Why then may not the
soul of Samuel have appeared to Saul, not unwillingly and coerced by
magic power but voluntarily under some hidden divine dispensation?
Augustine, however, also thinks it possible that the soul of Samuel
did not appear but was impersonated by some phantasm and imaginary
illusion made by diabolical machinations. He can see no deceit in the
Scripture’s calling such a phantom Samuel, since we are accustomed to
call paintings, statues, and images seen in dreams by the names of
the actual persons whom they represent. Nor does it trouble him that
the spirit of Samuel or pretended spirit predicted truly to Saul, for
demons have a limited power of that sort. Thus they recognized Christ
when the Jews knew Him not, and the damsel possessed of a spirit of
divination in _The Acts_ testified to Paul’s divine mission. Augustine
leaves, however, as beyond the limits of his time and strength the
further problem whether the human soul after death can be so evoked
by magic incantations that it is not only seen but recognized by the
living. In his answer to Dulcitius he further calls attention to the
passage in _Ecclesiasticus_ (XLVI, 23) where Samuel is praised as
prophesying from the dead. And if this passage be rejected because
the book is not in the Hebrew canon, what shall we say of Moses who
appeared to the living long after his death?

[Sidenote: Natural marvels.]

Augustine had some acquaintance with ancient natural science and in one
passage rehearses a number of natural marvels which are found in the
pages of Pliny and Solinus in order to show pagans their inconsistency
in accepting such wonders and yet remaining incredulous in regard to
analogous phenomena mentioned in the Bible. So Augustine rehearses the
strange properties of the magnet; asserts that adamant can be broken
neither by steel nor fire but only by application of the blood of a
goat; tells of Cappadocian mares who conceive from the wind; and hails
the ability of the salamander to live in the midst of flames as a token
that the bodies of sinners can subsist in hell fire. Augustine also
admits “the virtue of stones and other objects and the craft of men
who employ these in marvelous ways.”[2183] He denies, however, that
the Marsi who charm snakes by their incantations are really understood
by the serpents. There is some diabolical force behind their magic, as
when Satan spoke to Eve through the serpent.[2184]

[Sidenote: Relation between magic and science.]

Once at least, however, Augustine associates science and magic. In his
_Confessions_, after speaking of sensual pleasure he also censures “the
vain and curious desire of investigation” through the senses, which is
“palliated under the name of knowledge and science.” This is apt to
lead one not only into scrutinizing secrets of nature which are beyond
one and which it does one no good to know and which men want to know
just for the sake of knowledge, but also “into searching through magic
arts into the confines of perverse science.”[2185]

[Sidenote: Superstitions akin to magic.]

Of this dangerous borderland between magic and science Augustine
has more to say in some chapters of his _Christian Doctrine_.[2186]
After mentioning as prime instances of human superstition idolatry,
other false religions, and the magic arts, he next lists the books of
soothsayers (_aruspices_) and augurs as of the same class, “though
seemingly a more permissible vanity.” In his _Confessions_,[2187]
however, he tells of a soothsayer who offered not only to consult
the future for him, but to insure him success in a poetical contest
in which he was to engage in the theater. The incident is a good
illustration of the fact that prediction of the future and attempting
to influence events go naturally together, and that arts of divination
cannot be separated either in theory or practice from magic arts.
In the _Christian Doctrine_ Augustine is inclined further to put in
the same class all use of invocations, incantations, and characters,
which he regards as signs implying pacts with evil spirits, and the
use of which in working cures he asserts is condemned by the medical
profession. He is also suspicious of ligatures and suspensions, and
states that it is one thing to say, “If you drink the juice of this
herb, your stomach will not ache,” and is another thing to say, “If you
suspend this herb from the neck, your stomach will not ache. For in
one case a healing application is worthy of approval, in the other a
superstitious signification is to be censured.” Augustine recognizes,
however, that such ligatures and suspensions are called “by the milder
name of natural remedies (_physica_)”; and if they are applied without
incantations or characters, possibly they may heal the body naturally
by mere attachment, in which case it is lawful to employ them. But they
may involve some signal to demons, in which case the more efficacious
they are, the more a Christian should avoid them.

[Sidenote: Survival of pagan superstition among the laity.]

The same attitude toward superstitious medicine is shown in a sermon
attributed to Augustine but probably spurious.[2188] Here a tempter
is represented as coming to the sick man and saying, “If you had
only employed that enchanter, you would be well now; if you would
attach these characters to your body, you could recover your health.”
Or another comes and says, “Send your girdle to that diviner; he
will measure and scrutinize it and tell you what to do and whether
you can recover.” Or a third visitor may recommend someone who is
skilled in fumigation. The preacher warns his hearers not to succumb
to such advice or they will be sacrificing to the devil; whereas if
they refuse such treatment and die, it will be a glorious martyr’s
death. The preacher, however, is not over-sanguine that his advice
will be heeded, as he has often before admonished his hearers against
pagan superstitions, and yet reports keep coming to him that some
are continuing such practices. He therefore “warns them again and
again” to forsake all diviners, _aruspices_, enchanters, phylacteries,
augury, and observance of days, or they will lose all benefit of the
sacrament of baptism and will be eternally damned unless they perform
a vast amount of penance. The observance of days other than the
Lord’s Day is here condemned on the ground that God made the other
six days without distinction. In another supposititious sermon[2189]
the practice of diligently observing on which day of the week to set
out on a journey is censured as equivalent to worshiping the planets,
or rather the pagan gods whose names they bear and who are said here
to have originally been bad men and women who lived at the time that
the Children of Israel were in Egypt. The preacher is even opposed to
naming the days of the week after such persons or planets and exhorts
his hearers to speak simply of the first day, second day, and so on.

[Sidenote: Augustine’s attack upon astrology.]

Nor will Augustine, to return to his remarks in the _Christian
Doctrine_,[2190] exempt “from this genus of pernicious superstition
those who are called _genethliaci_ from their consideration of natal
days and now are also popularly termed _mathematici_.” He holds
that they enslave human free will by predicting a man’s character
and life from the stars, and that their art is a presumptuous and
fallacious human invention, and that if their predictions come
true, this is due either to chance or to demons who wish to confirm
mankind in its error.[2191] In his youth, when a follower of the
Manichean sect, Augustine had been a believer in astrology and thereby
“sacrificed himself to demons” at the same time that, owing to his
Manichean scruples against animal sacrifice, he refused to employ a
_haruspex_.[2192] Perhaps on this account he felt the more bound to
warn his readers against astrology in his old age. He often attacks
the casters of horoscopes in his works and especially in the opening
chapters of the fifth book of _The City of God_, on which we may
center our attention as being a rather more elaborate discussion than
the other passages and including almost all the arguments which he
advances elsewhere. These arguments are not original with him, but his
presentation of them was perhaps better known in the middle ages than
any other.[2193]

[Sidenote: Fate and free will.]

The objection to astrology as fatalistic does not come with the best
grace from Augustine, the great advocate of divine prescience and
of predestination, and in his discussion in _The City of God_ he is
forced to recognize this fact. He holds that the world is not governed
by chance or by fate, a word which for most men means the force of
the constellations, but by divine providence. He starts to accuse the
astrologers of attributing to the spotless stars, or to the God whose
orders the stars obediently execute, the causing of human sin and evil;
but then recognizes that the astrologers will answer that the stars
simply signify and in no way cause evil, just as God foresees but does
not compel human sinfulness.

[Sidenote: Argument from twins.]

Thus thwarted in his attempt to show that the astrologers enslave the
human will, although in other passages he still gives us to understand
that they do,[2194] Augustine adopts another line of argument, that
from twins, an old favorite, which he twists first one way and then
another, proposing to the astrologers a series of dilemmas as he
finds them likely to escape from each preceding one. He seems to have
been much impressed by the thought that at the same instant and hence
with the same horoscope persons were born whose subsequent lives
and characters were different. He brings forward Esau and Jacob as
examples, and states that he himself has known of twins of dissimilar
sex and life. Moreover, he tells us in his _Confessions_ that he was
finally induced to abandon his study of the books of the astrologers,
from which the arguments of “Vindicianus, a keen old man, and of
Nebridius, a youth of remarkable intellect,” had failed to win him, by
hearing from another youth that his father, a man of wealth and rank,
had been born at precisely the same moment as a certain wretched slave
on the estate.[2195]

[Sidenote: Defense of the astrologers.]

But the astrologers reply that even twins are not born at precisely the
same instant and do not have the same horoscope, but are born under
different constellations, so rapidly do the heavens revolve, as the
astrologer Nigidius Figulus neatly illustrated by striking a rapidly
revolving potter’s wheel two successive blows as quickly as he could
in what appeared to be the same spot. But when the wheel was stopped
and examined, the two marks were found to be far apart. Augustine’s
counter argument is that if astrologers must take into account such
small intervals of time, their observations and predictions can never
attain sufficient accuracy to insure correct prediction; and that
if so brief an instant of time is sufficient to alter the horoscope
totally, then twins should not be as much alike as they are nor have
as much in common as they do,—for instance, falling ill and recovering
simultaneously. To this the astrologers are likely to respond that
twins are alike because conceived at the same instant, but somewhat
dissimilar in their life because of the difference in their times of
birth. Augustine retorts that if two persons conceived simultaneously
in the same womb may be born at different times and have different
fates after birth, he sees no reason why persons who are born of
different mothers at the same instant with the same horoscope may
not die at different dates and lead different lives. But he does
not recognize that very likely the astrologers would agree with him
in this, since they often held that the influence of the stars was
received variously by matter. He also asks why a certain sage is
said to have selected a certain hour for intercourse with his wife in
order to beget a marvelous son—possibly an inaccurate allusion to the
story of Nectanebus[2196]—unless the hour of conception controls the
hour of birth, and consequently twins conceived together must have the
same horoscope. He also objects that if twins fall sick at the same
time because of their simultaneous conception, they should not be of
opposite sex as sometimes happens.

[Sidenote: Elections.]

With this Augustine turns from the case of twins to urge the
inconsistency of the astrological doctrine of elections, suggested by
the story of the sage who chose the favorable moment for intercourse
with his wife. He holds that this practice of choosing favorable times
is inconsistent with the belief in nativities which are supposed to
have determined and predicted the individual’s fate already. He also
inquires why men choose certain days for setting out trees and shrubs
or breeding animals, if men alone are subject to the constellations.

[Sidenote: Are animals and plants under the stars]

This last clause indicates how exclusively Augustine’s attacks are
directed against the prediction of man’s life from the stars, and how
little he has to say regarding the stars’ control of the world of
nature in general. He now goes on to consider this latter possibility,
but interprets it too in the narrow sense of horoscope-casting, and
as implying that every herb and beast must have its fate absolutely
determined by the constellations at its moment of birth. This appears,
however, to have been a widespread belief then, since he tells us that
men are accustomed to test the skill of astrologers by submitting to
them the horoscopes of dumb animals, and that the best astrologers
are able not only to recognize that the reported constellations mark
the birth of a beast rather than that of a human being, but also
to state whether it was a horse, cow, dog, or sheep. Nevertheless,
Augustine feels that he has reduced the art of casting horoscopes to
an absurdity, as he feels sure that beasts and plants which are so
numerous must frequently be born at precisely the same instant as
human beings. Furthermore, it is plain that crops which are sown and
ripen simultaneously meet with very diverse fates in the end. Augustine
thinks that by this argument he will force the astrologers to say that
men alone are subject to the stars, and then he will triumphantly ask
how this can be, when God has endowed man alone of all creatures with
free will. Having thus argued more or less in a circle, Augustine
regains the point from which he had started, or rather, retreated.

[Sidenote: Failure to disprove the control of nature by the stars.]

Augustine cannot then be said to have advanced any telling arguments
against some sort of control of inferior nature by the motions
and influence of the heavenly bodies. He leaves the fundamental
hypothesis of astrology unrebutted. His attention is concentrated
upon genethlialogy, the superstition that the time and place of birth
and nothing else determine with mathematical certainty and mechanical
rigidity the entirety of one’s life. This seems nevertheless to have
been a superstition which was very much alive in his time, which he
felt he must take pains repeatedly to refute, and to which he himself
had once been in bondage. But he could not have studied the books of
the astrologers very deeply, as he ascribes views to them which many of
them did not hold. Also he seems never to have read the _Tetrabiblos_
of Ptolemy. His attack upon and criticism of astrology was therefore
narrow, partial, and inadequate, and did not prevent medieval men
from devoting themselves to that subject, although they might cite
his objections against ascribing to the constellations an influence
subversive of human free will. But he cannot be said to have admitted
the control of the stars over the world of nature. Apparently the most
that he was willing to concede was that it was not absurd to say that
the influence of the stars might produce changes in material things, as
in the varying seasons of the year caused by the sun’s course and the
alternating augmentation and diminution of tides and shell-fish due, as
he supposed, to the moon’s phases. He concludes his discussion of the
subject in _The City of God_ by saying that, all things considered, if
the astrologers make many marvelously true predictions, they do so by
the aid and inspiration of the demons and not by the art of noting and
inspecting horoscopes, which has no sound basis.

[Sidenote: Natural divination and prophetic visions.]

In another work Augustine tells of some young men who, while traveling,
as a boyish prank pretended to be astrologers and either by mere chance
or by natural and innate power of divination hit upon the truth in the
predictions which they supposed that they were inventing. In the same
context he proceeds to discuss in a credulous way the possibility of
marvelous prophetic visions, concerning which he tells one or two other
tall tales from his personal experience. He is, however, doubtful how
far the human soul itself possesses the power of divination, which he
is inclined to attribute rather to spirits, good or bad. But owing to
Satan’s ability in disguising himself as an angel of light it is often
very difficult to tell to which sort of spirit to ascribe the vision in

[Sidenote: The star at Christ’s birth.]

In Augustine’s time there were those who held that Christ Himself had
been “born under the decree of the stars,” because of the statement i