« AnteriorContinuar »
quent Symmachus* is sent by the Lucian did them no injustice when, in a Pagans, as a delegate to request the controversy supposed to occur between Roman Senate to restore the altar of an orthodox Sioic, by the name of TimoVictory which had previously been cles, and a sceptic, he represents the cast down by the prevailing party. He former winding up the contest by the is eloquent and impressive, but he has following crushing syllogism : “ If no argument. In the course of his there be altars, gods must exist; but speech he introduces Rome herself, the there are altars, therefore gods do celestial genius that presided over the exist." fate of the city, to plead her own A creed thus destitute of proofs, and case:
without any common and standard
authority by which its believers might “ Most excellent Princes, Fathers of be guided, could not, of course, originate your country, pity and respect my age, a pulpit. We look in vain throughout which has hitherto flowed on in an unin- the empire of Pagan Rome for the terrupted course of piety. Since I do not Preacher. The thousands and tens of repent, permit me to continue in the prac- thousands of priests, whom Christian tice of my ancient rites. Since I am born Rome subsequently distributed over all free, permit me to enjoy my domestic in- the cities and villages and hamlets of stitutions. This religion has reduced the
Europe, to become the advocates and world under my laws. These rites have repelled Hannibal from the city and the ac
defenders of the “new faith,” exercised Gauls from the Capitol. Were my grey
an influence to which Paganism was hairs reserved for such intolerable dis
an entire stranger. It had no Chrysosgrace? I am ignorant of the new system
toms and Augustines, no Bossuets and which I am required to adopt, but I am Taylors to expound its doctrines; no well assured that the correction of old Paley, with his Evidences, nor Butler, age is always an ungrateful and ignomi with his Analogy, to demonstrate their nious office.”
truth ; still less could it boast of its
“noble army of martyrs,” like those But when Ambrose, the old Arch- who marched forth from the foot of the bishop of Milan, arose, and, in a tone cross, to bear testimony by their suffernot without contempt, asked him why ings and death to the holiness of that he had introduced an imaginary and calling wherewith they were called. invisible power, as the cause of deeds There are other reasons no less de which were sufficiently explained by serving of consideration, for the falling the valor and discipline of the legions, away of the people from the Pagan the delegate was confounded. He had faith. From the time when Augustus no power whatever of identifying the made his declaration of universal peace, causes of Rome's greatness with the the Roman army had been comparaPagan faith. Hence we see that tively idle. Consequently the customwhenever the Roman polytheists were ary sacrifices and consultations of thrown back upon their integrity, they augurs, which always used to precede were forced to admit that their best their military expeditions, soon went reason for believing that their gods did into comparative disuse, and with them exist was, that such had, for several all the pomp and circumstance which centuries, been the general impression. made those mysterious ceremonies so
* The eloquent Symmachus, a wealthy and noble Senator, who united the sacred characters of Pontiff and Augur with the civil dignities of Proconsul of Africa and Prefect of the City.-Gib., vol. ii., p. 185.
| Epist. Sym., lib. 10. e. 54.
| Jupiter Tragedus.—This logic reminds us of the very satisfactory explanation of the empirical physician in Molière:
A doctissimo doctore
Et ego respondeo,
imposing upon the people. A like task for no ordinary mind to attempt.
attack which Lucian employed in While the state was thus gradually assailing the Olympian dynasty. In withdrawing its countenance from the his “ Dialogues of the Gods," alfaith in which it had been baptized, most every form of weakness and inthe introduction of foreign religions consistency is noticed which he has precipitated the latter to its ruin with alluded to in any part of his writings, a rapidity quite disproportioned to its though not always with the same Darural gravitation. Almost every force. He frequently presents the form of polytheism in the world at that same argument in a different form. time had a temple in the capital of the The doctrine of fate, which has puzzled Roman empire, and every form of the theologians of all ages, was a licentiousness and wickedness which stumbling-block against which Lucian the enervating climates of Asia and delighted to crowd his antagonists. Egypt could engender, were practised This absurdity of the Pagans' faith is in them. Ovid had to warn the Roman armed against them several times, but daughters against the dangerous prac- nowhere with so much completeness tices of the belted priests of Isis, whom as in the “ Convicted Jupiter," which they were in the habit of consulting. is a debate between Jupiter and CynisThe mutilated priests of Cybele divided cus. The former is completely cornered with the severer priesthood of Vesta by the latter, and fairly, too, upon the and Eleusis, the patronage of the noble idea that the Parcæ, or Fates, are and the wealthy; while Nero threw off independent and superior to Jupiter, the last restraint from his people which who assumes to be omnipotent. Jupihad bound them to their national creed, ter, in accordance with this view, adby becoming himself a public minister mits that “nothing happens which the at the altar of the Syrian goddess. Parcæ had not previously ordained."
Surely no farther explanation can be He likewise is led to admit that the needed for the patience with which the gods, Jupiter included, are likewise Roman people endured Lucian's ridi- subject to the Parcæ. “If matters cule of their religion. A nation is really go thus,” says Cyniscus; “ if all never intolerant about that to which it be subject 'to the Parcæ, and nothing is indifferent.
can be altered which they have once It will be obvious from what we been pleased to decree, to what purpose have said that the duty which Lu- do we offer hecatombs to you, and cian's satire had to perform was not to pray you to be kind to us?" Jupiter convince men of the errors of poly- then gets angry and tries to change theism, but to force them into a posi- the issue, but Cyniscus lugs him back tive and public rejection of it--to make to the question. “But we are not them ashamed of owning it. “ Dans sacrificed to,” says Jupiter, “from inles voies de la Providence,” says Victor terested motives, but to do us honor, Hugo, “ il y a des hommes pour les who have superior and more perfect fruits verts,' et d'autres hommes pour natures.” “Wherein," asks Cyniscus, les fruits mûrs."* Of the latter class “are you superior, since, like us, you was Lucian. His certainly was not are but instruments, fellow-servants, the vocation of the hero, but it was a and subject to the same distresses ?”
“ Because we live an endless life, in of all things. For if a man murder, they the fruition of all conceivable goods,” are the murderers, and if he robs a temple, « Not all of you,” says Cyniscus, he only executes what they have ordered, • Vulcan is lame, and a dirty black- &c., &c. smith: Prometheus was crucified. to " Jup. Such questions deserve no farsay nothing of your father, who, to this
is ther answer. You are a shameless, soday, lies shackled in Tartarus. Acci
phistical fellow, and I shall listen to you dents befall you: many of you, who
no longer." were of gold and silver, have even been melted down--because it was
The Pagan doctrine of special protheir fate."
vidence, is described with ludicrous
detail, in the excursion of Icaro Me« Jupiter. You begin to be insolent, nippus, who visits Jupiter on some but have a care. You may hereafter re- private business, and thus has an op pent having provoked me.
portunity of witnessing the order in “Cyniscus. You may spare your which the colonial affairs of his departthreats, Jupiter, since, as you are aware, ment are conducted: nothing can betide me, excepting what the Parcæ have long since foreordained.
“ We arrived at the place where he Why, else, are so many church robbers
was to sit down and give audience to tolerated with impunity ? Most of them
mankind. There were apertures, resemhappily escape you-since it was not
bling the inouths of wells, at regular intheir fate to be caught, I suppose.”
tervals, provided with covers, and by every
one of them stood a golden chair of state. The doctrine of rewards and punish- On the first chair Jupiter now seated himments is thus disposed of:
self, lifted up the cover, and gave ear to
the supplicants. Many and diverse were " Jupiter. What do I hear? You do the prayers that came up to him from not believe then that there are rewards every region upon earth, some of them and punishments, and a judgment, where impossible to be granted at the same time. the life of every one will be examined ? I also stooping down, on the side contigu
“ Cyniscus. I have, to be sure, heard ous to the opening, could distinctly hear, that a certain Minos, of Crete, presides • Jupiter, let me be a king! Jupithere below as judge over all this; and ter, send my onions and garlic to thrive he being your son, as it is reported, may this year! O Jupiter, let my father I be allowed to put one question more speedily depart hence!' Another cried respecting him ? , . . Who are those out, 'Oh, that I could soon be rid of my whom he punishes ?
wife!' Another again, Oh, that I might “ Jup. That is understood, of course, succeed in my plot against my brother!' the wicked; for example, murderers A third prayed for a happy issue to his church-robbers.
lawsuit, a fourth wanted to be crowned “ Cyn. And who are those whom he at Olympia. One seaman prayed for a sends to the heroes ?
north wind, another for a south wind; a " Jup. The good, who have led a vir- husbandman for rain, a fuller for suntuons and blameless life.
shine. Father Jupiter hearkened to them “Cyn. Why so, Jupiter?
all.. . The equitable requests were " Jup. Because these deserve reward, admitted through the aperture, and deposthose punishment.
ited on the right hand : the iniquitous and “Cyn. If, however, a man has done futile he puffed back ere they had reached wrong against his will, would you deemn it the skies. With respect to one alone, I just to punish him ?
perceived him very much puzzled. Two “ Jup. By no means.
parties preferred petitions for favors in “ Cyn. And if a man has done good direct opposition to one another; at the involuntarily, would you not judge him, same time both promising equal sacrifices. for the same reason, unworthy of reward? For want, therefore, of a decisive reason Jup. Most assuredly.
why he should favor either the one or the 6 Cim. Therefore, best Jupiter, nobody other, he was in the predicament of the can justly either be punished or rewarded. academies, not knowing to which he « Jup. How so?
should say " Aye,' but was forced to say, Cun. Because we men do nothing with honest Phyrro, - We shall see!' voluntarily, but stand under the command “Having done with hearing prayers, he of an invincible necessity, supposing that rose up, and seated himself in the second to be true which we agreed at first setting chair, adjoining the second aperture, to out, that the Parcæ are the prime cause lend his attention to oaths, protestations, order, ti
and vows. When this was over, and after than the Pastophori who fed the crocohaving on this occasion smashed the Epi- diles of the Egyptian temples. Indeed, curean Hermodorus's head with a thun- of so little consideration were the derbolt, he went on to the third chair, Christians held as yet at Rome, that, where he gave audience to presages, prog- to the best of our recollection, he never nostications, divinations, and auguries. has alluded to them again in any part This done, he proceeded to the fourth, of his works. This unfortunate parathrough which the fume of the victims
graph, however, roused the Christians ascended, wasting to him severally the names of the sacrificers. This business
to a fury. They could keep no terms being despatched, the winds and storms
with an ally in their warfare against were admitted and orders given to each Paganism who was equally ready to enwhat it was to do, as
-To-day let it rain
list in a campaign against Christianity. in Scythia, thunder and lighten in Africa, “ Non tali auxilio," they all cried out, and snow in Greece. You, Boreas, blow in universal horror, and from that time towards Lydia. You, South Wind, shall forth, until history suggested an apter have a day of rest. The West Wind will illustration, Lucian was the Antichrist raise a tempest in the Adriatic! Let a of the Revelations. To us, who are thousand bushels of hail, or thereabouts, more familiar with the laws of human be scattered on Cappadocia, and the belief, it seems very ridiculous for any
one to get so indignant about Lucian's
scepticism. We should as soon think It is impossible here to go more into of abusing Bacon for rejecting the Codetail upon this subject, except to pernican theory of the universe, or of allude for a moment to a single para- blackening the name of Henry VII., graph which occurs in one of Lucian's for having despised the scheme of pieces, t on the subject of the Christian discovery which has given Columbus faith. We deem this the more proper, immortality. Hence the charge of because it has, probably,cost him more blasphemy, which hung like plummets popularity with posterity than any- at the heels of Lucian's reputation for thing else he ever wrote.
several hundred years, has with us A notorious charlatan, by the name entirely disappeared, and we look at of Peregrinus, who had tried every the stand which he had the misfortune form of imposture which “a mind 10 take toward Christianity as more capacious of such things" could inveni, deserving of pity than of censure. whose skilfully devised villainy had We have thus far attempted to premade victims of multitudes of intelli- sent to our readers those leading points gent men and women, wishing to give in the Life of Lucian which most symmetry to the chaplet of his infamies, commend him to the student of history, associated himself with the small and to the respect of men. We have band of Christians, who were as yet found him a man of extraordinary without any effective organization, discernment, almost preternaturally and were struggling with the burden susceptible to ludicrous impressions, à of their new faith against a strong tide sincere lover of truth, a man who deof oppressive penal legislation, and voted the best of his life to a warfare popular prejudice. In sketching the upon hypocrisy and imposture, fair ta arts of this infamous wretch, Lucian his opponents, and a bold and successis naturally led to speak severely of the ful innovator upon the most serious Christians, who for a time had given and inaccessible abuses to which society him countenance and protection. From is exposed. We may add farther, that what he says, it is evident that he knew though Lucian was an uncompromising comparatively nothing about them. To antagonist of hypocrisy, he never aphim they were of even less importance pears to have been vindictive. He is than the ten thousand other sects by never personal, except in his attacks which he was surrounded wherever upon the Peregrines and Alexanders, he went. Our Saviour was no more to the Social outlaws of his time, who him than Isis or Osiris. The Apostles have abandoned all claim and lost all exhibited to him no better credentials right to courtesy. In all his writings
* Icaro Menippus. Vol. i., p. 137-8. † Peregrinus.
Lehmann, Luciani Opera. L. lxxvii.
it is obvious that he pursues errors, much of faith in man, and his future and not those who are possessed with was lit up by no comprehensive philothem. His moral character appears to sophy. He condemned the popular have been eminently symmetrical. No abuses from an instinct, not from a vicious impulses appear upon the face principle. And it is, perhaps, the most of his writings, no personal immorali- singular fact in Lucian's history, that, ties disfigure his life. He was one of in all the writings he has left us, not a the most witty writers, we think the hint is given, nor a suggestion made, wittiest, that preceded Rabelais, not ex- for any substantial improvement in the cepting Aristophanes. He was learned institutions of religion or the science in the elegant literature of Greece and of government. His was not the highRome, though grossly ignorant of ma. est apostolic mission-he was sent to thematical and natural science. He destroy, but not to fulfil. He never had an active, nervous temperament, appears to have speculated upon the like Voltaire, with whom he has been future, nor to have turned to the past, frequently and justly compared. Indeed but for deeper colors to paint the prethey are said to have strongly resem- sent. There is no reason to suppose bled each other in personal appearance. that he ever indulged the hope that They were both witty, both lived in a the human race would ever effect any state of open warfare with the popular amelioration which would depend religious institutions of their times; upon the caprice of an absolute monboth jobbed somewhat in politics; both arch, or the discordant councils of an lived more or less under the influence oligarchy. Of course he is never so of a king who affected letters, without childish as to complain of the condition being literary, and were jostled by of things, in which he anticipates no upstart courtiers, who had been made improvement. He can only jest at its impudent by undeserved prosperity, defects. Hence Lucian never assumes and who made themselves foolish to a serious tone while engaged in his be qualified for the bounty which an vocation. He smiles upon the popular undiscriminating patron had laid upon creed of an empire, with the same folly. But, unlike Voltaire, Lucian tolerating contempt that he might exwas not malignant, he was not cruel, perience in overlooking the amusehe was not selfish, he was not mean, ments of a nursery. Such are not the he never became morbid and misan- men who become martyrs to great thropical Lucian ridiculed a religion principles, who are willing to brave that was absurd and corrupt: Vol- every danger in defence of their contaire ridiculed a religion of which victions. Some of the friends of Luther the priests and institutions only had once compared the great reformer to become corrupted. This was their our Saviour. “1," said he, “ but I great difference: the one laughed at have never been crucified for any one." Olympus-the other made a mock of Apart from the real sacrifices and perils Heaven; the one scoffed at Jupiter - which Luther did pass through, we the other scoffed at the living God! may discern, in his reply, the real dif
But highly as we esteem Lucian's ference between the hero and the artist. personal character, potent and useful Lucian not only had no claims, he had as we think his influence undoubtedly no aspirations for the glory of martyrwas upon his age, in the various ways dom. He reconciled himself, appawe have attempted to specify, tho- rently without regret, to a life of poliroughly as we admire the moral inde- tical inactivity, when he should have pendence of his whole literary career, thundered and lightened until he had yet, as we have before remarked, he cleared from the face of heaven the never rises in our mind to the dignity pestilent cloud of abominations which of a Hero. He maintained an unflinch- had exhaled from that unnatural peoing hostility to established abuses, but ple. But in the mysterious dispensahe never vindicated any higher claim iions of Providence it had been otherto the character of a Reformer. He was wise ordained. That great work of repotent to destroy, but he built up no- generation had been entrusted to an thing. He discerned the vices of the arm which never wearied, to a mind present with incomparable sagacity, which never devised an error, to a but he was prescient of no more en- power which never resolved upon what Larged or happier future. He had not it did not execute. Under such mys