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nant races which constituted the larger part of the Roman world.
Epicure. the Deity, ils iinaginative materialism, its milder and more pleasur
cordant to able morals, and perhaps its propensity to degenerate inlo indolence Greek chaand sensuality, was kindred and congenial to that of Greece, and lhe Grecian part of the Roman society. The Stoic, with its more Stoicism practical character, ils mental strength and self-confidence, ils fatalism, ils universally diffused and all-governing Deily, the soul of the universe (of which the political power of the all-ruling re* public might appear an image), bore the same analogy to that of Rome. While the more profound thinkers, who could not disguise from themselves the insufficiency of the grounds on which the philosophical systems rested, either sellled into a calm and contented sceplicism, or with the Academics, formed an eclectic creed from what appeared the better parts of the rest.
Such on all the great questions of religion, the divine nature, providence, the origin and future state of the soul (1), was the floaling and uncertain state of the human mind. In the department of morals, Philosophy nobly performed her part; bul perhaps her success in this respect more clearly displayed her inefficiency. The height to which moral science was carried in the works of Cicero, Seneca, Epiclelus, and Marcus Antoninus, while it made the breach slill wider between the popular religion and the advanced state of the human mind, more vividly displayed the want of a faith, which would associate itself with the purest and loftiest morality; and remarry, as it were, those thoughls and feelings, which connect man with a fulure state of being, to the practical duties of life (2).
For while these speculations occupied the loftier and more think- Philosoing minds, what remained for the vulgar of the higher and of the phy fatal
to popular lower orders ? Philosophy had shaken the old edifice to its base; Religion. and even if it could have confined its more profound and secret doctrines within the circle of its own elect, if its contempt for the old fables of the popular creed had been more jealously guarded, it is impossible but that the irreligion of the upper order must work downwards upon the lower. When religion has, if not avowedly, yet manifestly, sunk into an engine of state policy, its most imposing and solemn rites will lose all their commanding life and energy. Actors will perform ill who do not feel their parts. “It is marvellous,” says the Epicurean in Cicero, :" that one soothsayer (Ha
(1) Augustin speaking of the great work of of the iminortality of the soul. There is a striking
lation for the loss of a favourite grandson : Si (2) Gibbon and many other writers ( Law, maximè esse animas imunortales conslet, erit hoc Theory of Religion, 127. 130. ; Sumner, Evi- philosophis dissercndi argumentum, non parendences, p. 76.) have adduced the well-known tibus desiderandi reinedium. Front, de Nep. passages from Sallust and Cicero, which indicate Amiss. ihe general state of feeling on the great question
ruspex), can look another in the face without laughing." And when
Unless indeed the literature as well as the philosophy of the age,
would perhaps be unnecessary in a commonwealth of wise men. But since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, it is right to restrain it by the fear of the invisible world, and such tragic terrors. Whence our ancestors appear to have introduced notions concerning the Gods, and opinions about the infernal regions not rashly or without consideration. Those rather act rashly and inconsiderately who would expel them (2).” “It is impossible," observes the inquiring geographer, “to govern a mob of women, or the whole mixed multitude, by philosophic reasoning, and to exhort them to piety, holiness, and faith; we must also employ superstition with its fables and prodigies. For the thunder, the ægis, the Irident, the torches, the serpents, the thyrsi of the Gods are fables, as is all the ancient theology; but the legislalure introduced these things as bugbears to those who are children in understanding (3).” In short even when the Roman wrilers professed the utmost respect for the religious institutions of their country, there was a kind of silent protest against their sincerity. It was an evident, frequently an avowed, condescension to the prejudices of the vulgar. Livy admires the wisdom of Numa, who introduced the fear of the Gods,
(1) Quoted also by Neander from Plutarch. (Non poss. suav. viv. sec. Epic.) I have adopted Reiske's reading of the latter clause.
(2) Polyb. vi. 56.
most efficacious means of controlling an ignorant and barbarous populace(1).” Even the serious Dionysius judges of religion according to its usefulness, not according to its truth, as the wise scheme of the legislator, rather than as the revelation of the Deity (2). Pausanias, while he is making a kind of religious survey of Greece, expressing a grave veneration for all the temples and rites of antiquity, frequently relating the miraculous intervention of the several deities (3), is jealous and careful lest he should be considered a believer in the fables which he relates (4). The natural consequence of this double doctrine was not unforeseen. “Whal,' says the Academic in Cicero, “when men maintain all belief in the immortal Gods to have been invented by wise men for the good of the state, thal religion might lead to their duty those who would not be led by reason, do they not sweep away the very foundations of all religion (5)?”
The mental childhood of the human race was passing away, at Future least it had become wearied of its old toy (6). The education itself, by which, according to these generally judicious writers, the youthful mind was to be impregnated with reverential feelings for the objects of national worship, must have been coldly conducted by teachers conscious that they were practising a pious fraud upon their disciples, and perpetually embarrassed by the necessity of maintaining the gravity befitting such solemn subjects, and of suppressing the involuntary smile, which might betray the secret of their own impiety. One class of fables seems to have been universally exploded even in the earliest youth, those which related to another life. The picture of the unrivalled satirist may be overcharged, but il corresponds strictly with the public language of the orator, and the private sentence of the philosopher :
The silent realm of disembodied ghosts,
Even the religious Pausanias speaks of the immortality of the soul as a foreign doctrine, introduced by the Chaldeans and the Magi,
(1) H. R. i. 19.
un prêtre, et un athée.” He adds atheist, as dis(2) Ant. Rom. ii. 8, 9.
believing with the Epicureans the providence of Boeotica, 25. ; Laconica, 4.
God. (4) Τουτον τον λόγον, και ο σα έoικότα (7) Esse aliquid manes et subterranea regna, είρηται , ουκ αποδεχόμενος γράφω,
Et contum, et Stygio ranas in gurgite nigras;
Atque una transire vadum tot millia cymba. zpáow o údév nogov. Corinth. xvii.' 'in
Nec pueri credunt nisi qui nondum ære lavantur. another place he repeats that he gives the popular
Pro Sat. ii. 149. legend as he finds it. Arcad. viii.
Nisi forte ineptiis ac fabulis ducimur, ut exis. (5) De Nat. Deor. i. 42.
timemus apud inferos impiorum supplicia per(6) Gibbon has a striking sentence in his ju. ferre ***
quæ si falsa sunt, id quod omnes intelvenile Essai sur la Littérature (Misc. Works, iv. ligunt.--Cic. Pro Cluent. c. 61. Nemo tam puer 61.): “Les Romains étaient éclairés : cependant est ut Cerberum timeat, et tenebras et larvarum ces mêmes Romains ne furent pas choqués de habitum nudis ossibus cohærentem. Mors nos aut voir réunir dans la personne de César un dieu, consumit aut emittit. Sen. Ep. 24:
and embraced by some of the Greeks, particularly by Plato (1). Pliny, whose Nalural History opens with a declaration that the universe is the sole Deity, devotes a separate chapter to a contemptuous exposure of the idle notion of the immortality of the soul, as a vision of human pride, and equally absurd, whether under the form of existence in another sphere, or under that of transmi
gration (2). Recep We return then again to the question, whal remained for minds Foreign
thus enlightened beyond the poetic faith of their ancestors, yet not Religions, ripe for philosophy? how was the craving for religious excitement
to be appeased, which turned with dissatisfaction or disgust from ils accustomed nutriment? Here is the secret of the remarkable union between the highest reason and the most abject superstition which characterises the age of Imperial Rome. Every foreign religion found proselyles in the capital of the world; nol only the pure and rational lh
m of the Jews, which had made a progress, the extent of which it is among the most difficult questions in history to eslimate : but the Oriental rites of Phrygia, and the Isiac and Serapic worship of Egypt, which, in defiance of the edict of the magistrate (3) and the scorn of the philosopher, maintained their ground in the capital, and were so widely propagated among the provinces, that their vestiges may be traced in the remote districts of Gaul (4) and Britain (5); and at a later period the reviving Mithriac Mysteries, which in the same manner made their way into the western provinces of the empire (6). In the capital itself, every thing that was new, or secret, or imposing, found a welcome reception among a people that listened with indifference io philosophers who reasoned, and poets who embodied philosophy in the most attractive diction. For in Rome, poetry had forsworn the alliance of the old imaginative faith. The irreligious system of Euhemerus (7)
had found a translator in Ennius; that of Epicurus was commended Poetry by the unrivalled powers of Lucrelius. Virgil himself, who, as he
collected from all quarters the beaulies of ancient poetry, so he religious. inlaid in his splendid lessellation the noblest images of the poetic
faith of Greece : yet, though al one moment he transfuses mylhology into his slalely verse, with all the fire of an ardent votary, at
ceases to be
Messeniaca, c. xxxii.
of Cassander king of Macedon), was of the CyreLib. vii. 55.
naic school of philosophy, and was einployed on See antè, p. 7.
a voyage to the Red Sea by Cassander. But he As late as the time of Julian, the son of a was still more celebrated for his theologic innoGerman king had changed his barbarous name vation : be pretended to have discovered during of Agenario for that of Serapion, having been this voyage on an isla nd in the Eastern Oeean, instructed in certain Mysteries in Gaul. Amm. called Panchaia, a register of the birtbs and Marcell. xvi. c. 12.
deaths of the gods inscribed on a golden column (5) I have been informed that in some recent in the temple of the Triphylian Jupiter. Hence excavations at York, vestiges Isiac worship he inferred that all the popular deities were mere have been discovered.
mortals deified on account of their fame, or their (6) Religions de l'Antiquité, i. 363.; and note, benesactions to the human race. Cic. de Nat. 9, p. 743.
Deor. i. 42. Plut. de Isid. et Osir. p. 12k. (7) Eulemerus either of Messina in Sicily or Brucker, i. 604. of Messene in Peloponnes'is (he lived in the time
the next he appears as a pantheist, and describes the Deity but as the animating soul of the universe (1). An occasional fit of superstition crosses over the careless and Epicurean apathy of Horace (2). Astrology and witchcraft (3) led captive minds, which boasted themselves emancipated from the idle lerrors of the avenging gods. In the Pharsalia of Lucan, which manifestly soars far above the vulgar theology, where the lofty Stoicism elevates the brave man who disdains, above the gods who flatter, the rising fortunes of Cæsar; yet in the description of the witch Erictho evoking the dead (the only purely imaginative passage in the whole rhetorical poem), there is a kind of tremendous truth and earnesiness, which show that if the poet himself believed not“ the magic wonders which he drew,” at least he well knew the terrors that would strike lhe age in which he wrote. The old established traders in human credulity had almost lost
Supersti their occupalion, but their place was supplied by new empirics, tions. who swarmed from all quarters. The oracles were silent, while astrology seized the adıninistration of the secrets of fulurily. Pompey, and Crassus, and Cæsar, all consulled the Chaldeans(4), whose flattering predictions that they should die in old age, in their homes, in glory, so belied by their miserable sales, still brought not the unblushing science into disrepute. The repeated edicts which expelled the astrologers and mathematicians" from Rome, was no less an homage to their power over the public mind, than their recall, lhe tacit permission to return, or the relurn in defiance of the insulted edict. Banished by Agrippa (5), by Augustus (6), by Tiberius (7), by Claudius (8), they are described in the inimitable language of Tacitus, as a race who, treacherous to those in power, fallacious to those who hope for power, are ever proscribed, yet will ever remain (9). They were at length laken under the avowed patronage of Vespasian and his successors (10). All these circumstances were manifest indications of the decay, and of the approaching dissolution of the old religion. The elegiac poel had read, not without sagacity, the signs of the limes.
None sought the aid of foreign gods, while bow'd
(1) Æn. vi. 724. According to his life hy Do- (4) Chaldeis sed major erit fiducia, quicquid nalus Virgil was an Epicurean.
Dixerit astrologus, credent de fonte relatum
Hammonis; quoniam Delphis oracula cessant, (2) Insanientis dum sapientiæ
Et genus humanum damnat caligo futuri.
Juv. vi. 553.
(5) Dio, xlix. c. 43. Cogor relictos.
6) Dio. Ivi. c. 25. And this because he heard thunder at noon-day. Tac. Ann. ii. 32.
Tac. Ann. xii. 52. (3) See the Canidia of Horace. According to Genus hominum, potentibus infiduin, speGibbou's just criticism, a." vulgar witch," the rantibus fallax, quod in civitate nostra et vetabiErictho of Lucan, is “ tedious, disgusting, but sometimes sublime." Note, ch. xxv. vol. iv. p.
tür seinper et reti ebitur. Tac. Hist. i. 22. 239. It is the difference between the weird Suet. in Dom. xiv. xv.
(10) Tac. Hist. ii. 78. Suct. in Vesp. Dio. Ixviii. sisters in Macbeth and Middleton's “Witch,"
(11) Nulli cura fuit externos quærere Divos, excepting of course the prolixity of Lucan.
Cum tremeret patrio pendula turba foro.
Pror. iv. I-17.