Another great means of corrupting the ancient theology, and establishing the poetical mythology, was the practice of the artists in representing the various attributes of the creator under human forms of various character and expression. These figures, being
distinguished by the titles of the deity which they were meant to represent, became in time to be considered as distinct personages, and worshipped as separate subordinate deities. Hence the many-shaped god, the πολυμορφος and μυριομορφος of the ancient theologists, became divided into many gods and goddesses, often described by the poets as at variance with each other and wrangling about the little intrigues and passions of men. Hence too, as the symbols were multiplied, particular ones lost their dignity; and that venerable one which is the subject of this discourse, became degraded from the representative of the god of nature to a subordinate rural deity, a supposed son of the Asiatic conqueror Bacchus, standing among the nymphs by a fountain, 1 and expressing the fertility of a garden, instead of the general creative power of the great active principle of the universe. His degradation did not stop even here; for we find him, in times still more prophane and corrupt, made a subject of raillery and insult, as answering no better purpose than holding up his rubicund snout to frighten the birds and thieves. 2 His talents were also perverted from their natural ends, and employed in base and abortive efforts in conformity
to the taste of the times; for men naturally attribute their own passions and inclinations to the objects of their adoration; and as God made man in his own image, so man returns the favour, and makes God in his. Hence we find the highest attribute of the all-pervading spirit and first-begotten love foully prostituted to promiscuous vice, and calling out, Hæc cunnum, caput hic, præbeat ille nates. 1
He continued however still to have his temple, priestess and sacred geese, 2 and offerings of the most exquisite kind were made to him:
Crissabitque tibi excussis pulcherrima Iumbis
Hoc anno primum experta puella virum.
Sometimes, however, they were not so scrupulous in the selection of their victims, but suffered frugality to restrain their devotion:
Cum sacrum fieret Deo salaci
Conducta est pretio puella parvo. 3
The bride was usually placed upon him immediately before marriage; not, as Lactantius says, ut ejus pudicitiam prior Deus prælibasse videatur, but that she might be rendered fruitful by her communion with the divine nature, and capable of fulfilling the
duties of her station. In an ancient poem 1 we find a lady of the name of Lalage presenting the pictures of the "Elephantis" to him, and gravely requesting that she might enjoy the pleasures over which he particularly presided, in all the attitudes described in that celebrated treatise. 2 Whether or not she succeeded, the poet has not informed us; but we may safely conclude that she did not trust wholly to faith and prayer, but, contrary to the usual practice of modern devotees, accompanied her devotion with such good works as were likely to contribute to the end proposed by it.
When a lady had served as the victim in a sacrifice to this god, she expressed her gratitude for the benefits received, by offering upon his altar certain small images representing his characteristic attribute, the number of which was equal to the number of men who had acted as priests upon the occasion. 3 On an antique gem, in the collection of Mr. Townley, is one of these fair victims, who appears just returned from a sacrifice of this kind, and devoutly returning her thanks by offering upon an altar some of these images, from the number of which one may observe
that she has not been neglected. 1 This offering of thanks had also its mystic and allegorical meaning; for fire being the energetic principle and essential force of the Creator, and the symbol above mentioned the visible image of his characteristic attribute, the uniting them was uniting the material with the essential cause, from whose joint operation all things were supposed to proceed.
These sacrifices, as well as all those to the deities presiding over generation, were performed by night: hence Hippolytus, in Euripides, says, to express his love of chastity, that he likes none of the gods revered by night. 2 These acts of devotion were indeed attended with such rites as must naturally shock the prejudices of a chaste and temperate mind, not liable to be warmed by that ecstatic enthusiasm which is peculiar to devout persons when their attention is absorbed in the contemplation of the beneficent powers of the Creator, and all their faculties directed to imitate him in the exertion of his great characteristic attribute. To heighten this enthusiasm, the male and female saints of antiquity used to lie promiscuously together in the temples, and honour God by a liberal display and general communication of his bounties. 3
[paragraph continues] Herodotus, indeed, excepts the Greeks and Egyptians, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the Romans, from this general custom of other nations; but to the testimony of the former we may oppose the thousand sacred prostitutes kept at each of the temples of Corinth and Eryx; 1 and to that of the latter the express words of Juvenal, who, though he lived an age, later, lived when the same religion, and nearly the same manners, prevailed. 2 Diodorus Siculus also tells us, that when the Roman prætors visited Eryx, they laid aside their magisterial severity, and honoured the goddess by mixing with her votaries, and indulging themselves in the pleasures over which she presided. 3 It appears, too, that the act of generation was a sort of sacrament in the island of Lesbos; for the device on its medals (which in the Greek republics had always some relation to religion) is as explicit as forms can make it. 4 The figures appear indeed to be mystic and allegorical, the male having evidently a mixture of the goat in his beard and features, and therefore probably represents Pan, the generative power of the universe incorporated in universal matter. The female has all that breadth and
fulness which characterise the personification of the passive power, known by the titles of Rhea, Juno, Ceres, &e.
When there were such seminaries for female education as those of Eryx and Corinth, we need not wonder that the ladies of antiquity should be extremely well instructed in all the practical duties of their religion. The stories told of Julia and Messalina show us that the Roman ladies were no ways deficient; and yet they were as remarkable for their gravity and decency as the Corinthians were for their skill and dexterity in adapting themselves to all the modes and attitudes which the luxuriant imaginations of experienced votaries have contrived for performing the rites of their tutelar goddess. 1
The reason why these rites were always performed by night was the peculiar sanctity attributed to it by the ancients, because dreams were then supposed to descend from heaven to instruct and forewarn men. The nights, says Hesiod, belong to the blessed gods; 2 and the Orphic poet calls night the source of all things (παντων γενεσις) to denote that productive power, which, as I have been told, it really possesses; it being observed that plants and animals grow more
by night than by day. The ancients extended this power much further, and supposed that not only the productions of the earth, but the luminaries of heaven, were nourished and sustained by the benign influence of the night. Hence that beautiful apostrophe in the "Electra" of Euripides, Ω νυξ μελαινα, χυσεων αστρων τροφε, &c.
Not only the sacrifices to the generative deities, but in general all the religious rites of the Greeks, were of the festive kind. To imitate the gods, was, in their opinion, to feast and rejoice, and to cultivate the useful and elegant arts, by which we are made partakers of their felicity. 1 This was the case with almost all the nations of antiquity, except the 2 Egyptians and their reformed imitators the Jews, 3 who being governed by a hierarchy, endeavoured to make it awful and venerable to the people by an appearance of rigour and austerity. The people, however, sometimes broke through this restraint, and indulged themselves in the more pleasing worship of their neighbours, as when they danced and feasted before the golden calf which Aaron erected, 4 and devoted themselves to the worship of obscene idols, generally
supposed to be of Priapus, under the reign of Abijam. 1
197:1 So the translators have rendered the expression of the original, which literally means brooding as a fowl on its eggs, and alludes to the symbols of the ancient theology, which I have before observed upon. See Patrick's Commentary.
198:1 Theocrit. Idyll. i. ver. 21.
198:2 Horat. lib. i. Sat. viii. Virg. Georg. iv.
199:1 Priap. Carm. 21.
199:2 Petron. Satyric.
199:3 Priap. Carm. 34.
200:1 Priap. Carm. 3.
200:2 The Elephantis was written by one Philænis, and seems to have been of the same kind with the Puttana errante of Aretin.
200:3 Priap. Carm. 34. Ed. Scioppii.
201:1 See Plate III. Fig. 3.
201:2 Ver. 613.
201:3 Herodot. lib. ii.
202:1 Strab. lib. viii.
202:2 Sat. ix. ver. 24.
202:3 Lib. iv. Ed. Wessel.
202:4 See Plate IX. Fig. 8, from one belonging to me.
203:1 Philodemi Epigr. Brunk. Analect. vol. ii. p. 85.
203:2 Εργ· ver. 730.
204:1 Strabo, lib. x.
204:2 Herodot. lib. ii.
204:3 See Spencer de Leg. Rit. Vet. Hebræor.
204:4 Exod. ch. xxxii.