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Title: The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (Third Edition, Vol. 05 of 12)

Author: James George Frazer

Release date: August 30, 2013 [eBook #43605]

Language: English


The Golden Bough

Studies in the History of Oriental Religion


James George Frazer, D.C.L., LL.D., Litt.D.

Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge

Professor of Social Anthropology in the University of Liverpool

Vol. V. of XII.

Part IV: Adonis Attis Osiris.

Vol. 1 of 2.

New York and London

MacMillan and Co.



Cover Art

[Transcriber's Note: The above cover image was produced by the submitter at Distributed Proofreaders, and is being placed into the public domain.]

[pg v]

Preface to the First Edition.

These studies are an expansion of the corresponding sections in my book The Golden Bough, and they will form part of the third edition of that work, on the preparation of which I have been engaged for some time. By far the greater portion of them is new, and they make by themselves a fairly complete and, I hope, intelligible whole. I shall be glad if criticisms passed on the essays in their present shape should enable me to correct and improve them when I come to incorporate them in my larger work.

In studying afresh these three Oriental worships, akin to each other in character, I have paid more attention than formerly to the natural features of the countries in which they arose, because I am more than ever persuaded that religion, like all other institutions, has been profoundly influenced by physical environment, and cannot be understood without some appreciation of those aspects of external nature which stamp themselves indelibly on the thoughts, the habits, the whole life of a people. It is a matter of great regret to me that I have never visited the East, and so cannot describe from personal knowledge the native lands of Adonis, Attis, and Osiris. But I have sought to remedy the defect by comparing the descriptions of eye-witnesses, and painting from them what may be called composite pictures of some of the scenes on which I have been led to touch in the course of this [pg vi] volume. I shall not have wholly failed if I have caught from my authorities and conveyed to my readers some notion, however dim, of the scenery, the atmosphere, the gorgeous colouring of the East.

J. G. Frazer.

Trinity College, Cambridge,
22nd July 1906.

[pg vii]

Preface to the Second Edition.

In this second edition some minor corrections have been made and some fresh matter added. Where my views appear to have been misunderstood, I have endeavoured to state them more clearly; where they have been disputed, I have carefully reconsidered the evidence and given my reasons for adhering to my former opinions. Most of the additions thus made to the volume are comprised in a new chapter (“Sacred Men and Women”), a new section (“Influence of Mother-kin on Religion”), and three new appendices (“Moloch the King,” “The Widowed Flamen,” and “Some Customs of the Pelew Islanders”). Among the friends and correspondents who have kindly helped me with information and criticisms of various sorts I wish to thank particularly Mr. W. Crooke, Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie, Mr. G. F. Hill of the British Museum, the Reverend J. Roscoe of the Church Missionary Society, and Mr. W. Wyse. Above all I owe much to my teacher the Reverend Professor R. H. Kennett, who, besides initiating me into the charms of the Hebrew language and giving me a clearer insight into the course of Hebrew history, has contributed several valuable suggestions to the book and enhanced the kindness by reading and criticizing some of the proofs.

J. G. Frazer.

Trinity College, Cambridge,
22nd September 1907.

[pg ix]

Preface to the Third Edition.

In revising the book for this third edition I have made use of several important works which have appeared since the last edition was published. Among these I would name particularly the learned treatises of Count Baudissin on Adonis, of Dr. E. A. Wallis Budge on Osiris, and of my colleague Professor J. Garstang on the civilization of the Hittites, that still mysterious people, who begin to loom a little more distinctly from the mists of the past. Following the example of Dr. Wallis Budge, I have indicated certain analogies which may be traced between the worship of Osiris and the worship of the dead, especially of dead kings, among the modern tribes of Africa. The conclusion to which these analogies appear to point is that under the mythical pall of the glorified Osiris, the god who died and rose again from the dead, there once lay the body of a dead man. Whether that was so or not, I will not venture to say. The longer I occupy myself with questions of ancient mythology the more diffident I become of success in dealing with them, and I am apt to think that we who spend our years in searching for solutions of these insoluble problems are like Sisyphus perpetually rolling his stone up hill only to see it revolve again into the valley, or like the daughters of Danaus doomed for ever to pour water into broken jars that can hold no water. If we are taxed with wasting life in seeking to know what can never be known, and what, if it could be discovered, would not be worth knowing, what [pg x] can we plead in our defence? I fear, very little. Such pursuits can hardly be defended on the ground of pure reason. We can only say that something, we know not what, drives us to attack the great enemy Ignorance wherever we see him, and that if we fail, as we probably shall, in our attack on his entrenchments, it may be useless but it is not inglorious to fall in leading a Forlorn Hope.

J. G. Frazer

16th January 1914.

[pg 001]

Book First. Adonis.

[pg 003]

Chapter I. The Myth of Adonis.

The changes of the seasons explained by the life and death of gods.

The spectacle of the great changes which annually pass over the face of the earth has powerfully impressed the minds of men in all ages, and stirred them to meditate on the causes of transformations so vast and wonderful. Their curiosity has not been purely disinterested; for even the savage cannot fail to perceive how intimately his own life is bound up with the life of nature, and how the same processes which freeze the stream and strip the earth of vegetation menace him with extinction. At a certain stage of development men seem to have imagined that the means of averting the threatened calamity were in their own hands, and that they could hasten or retard the flight of the seasons by magic art. Accordingly they performed ceremonies and recited spells to make the rain to fall, the sun to shine, animals to multiply, and the fruits of the earth to grow. In course of time the slow advance of knowledge, which has dispelled so many cherished illusions, convinced at least the more thoughtful portion of mankind that the alternations of summer and winter, of spring and autumn, were not merely the result of their own magical rites, but that some deeper cause, some mightier power, was at work behind the shifting scenes of nature. They now pictured to themselves the growth and decay of vegetation, the birth and death of living creatures, as effects of the waxing or waning strength of divine beings, of gods and goddesses, who were born and died, who married and begot children, on the pattern of human life.

[pg 004]

Magical ceremonies to revive the failing energies of the gods.

Thus the old magical theory of the seasons was displaced, or rather supplemented, by a religious theory. For although men now attributed the annual cycle of change primarily to corresponding changes in their deities, they still thought that by performing certain magical rites they could aid the god, who was the principle of life, in his struggle with the opposing principle of death. They imagined that they could recruit his failing energies and even raise him from the dead. The ceremonies which they observed for this purpose were in substance a dramatic representation of the natural processes which they wished to facilitate; for it is a familiar tenet of magic that you can produce any desired effect by merely imitating it. And as they now explained the fluctuations of growth and decay, of reproduction and dissolution, by the marriage, the death, and the rebirth or revival of the gods, their religious or rather magical dramas turned in great measure on these themes. They set forth the fruitful union of the powers of fertility, the sad death of one at least of the divine partners, and his joyful resurrection. Thus a religious theory was blended with a magical practice. The combination is familiar in history. Indeed, few religions have ever succeeded in wholly extricating themselves from the old trammels of magic. The inconsistency of acting on two opposite principles, however it may vex the soul of the philosopher, rarely troubles the common man; indeed he is seldom even aware of it. His affair is to act, not to analyse the motives of his action. If mankind had always been logical and wise, history would not be a long chronicle of folly and crime.1

[pg 005]

The principles of animal and of vegetable life confused in these ceremonies.

Of the changes which the seasons bring with them, the most striking within the temperate zone are those which affect vegetation. The influence of the seasons on animals, though great, is not nearly so manifest. Hence it is natural that in the magical dramas designed to dispel winter and bring back spring the emphasis should be laid on vegetation, and that trees and plants should in them more prominently than beasts and birds. Yet the two sides of life, the vegetable and the animal, were not dissociated in the minds of those who observed the ceremonies. Indeed they commonly believed that the tie between the animal and the vegetable world was even closer than it really is; hence they often combined the dramatic representation of reviving plants with a real or a dramatic union of the sexes for the purpose of furthering at the same time and by the same act the multiplication of fruits, of animals, and of men. To them the principle of life and fertility, whether animal or vegetable, was one and indivisible. To live and to cause to live, to eat food and to beget children, these were the primary wants of men in the past, and they will be the primary wants of men in the future so long as the world lasts. Other things may be added to enrich and beautify human life, but unless these wants are first satisfied, humanity itself must cease to exist. These two things, therefore, food and children, were what men chiefly sought to procure by the performance of magical rites for the regulation of the seasons.

Prevalence of these rites in Western Asia and Egypt.

Nowhere, apparently, have these rites been more widely [pg 006] and solemnly celebrated than in the lands which border the Eastern Mediterranean. Under the names of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, and Attis, the peoples of Egypt and Western Asia represented the yearly decay and revival of life, especially of vegetable life, which they personified as a god who annually died and rose again from the dead. In name and detail the rites varied from place to place: in substance they were the same. The supposed death and resurrection of this oriental deity, a god of many names but of essentially one nature, is the subject of the present inquiry. We begin with Tammuz or Adonis.2

Tammuz or Adonis in Babylonia. His worship seems to have originated with the Sumerians.

The worship of Adonis was practised by the Semitic peoples of Babylonia and Syria, and the Greeks borrowed it from them as early as the seventh century before Christ.3 The true name of the deity was Tammuz: the appellation of Adonis is merely the Semitic Adon, “lord,” a title of honour by which his worshippers addressed him.4 In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament the same name Adonai, [pg 007] originally perhaps Adoni, “my lord,” is often applied to Jehovah.5 But the Greeks through a misunderstanding converted the title of honour into a proper name. While Tammuz or his equivalent Adonis enjoyed a wide and lasting popularity among peoples of the Semitic stock, there are grounds for thinking that his worship originated with a race of other blood and other speech, the Sumerians, who in the dawn of history inhabited the flat alluvial plain at the head of the Persian Gulf and created the civilization which was afterwards called Babylonian. The origin and affinities of this people are unknown; in physical type and language they differed from all their neighbours, and their isolated position, wedged in between alien races, presents to the student of mankind problems of the same sort as the isolation of the Basques and Etruscans among the Aryan peoples of Europe. An ingenious, but unproved, hypothesis would represent them as immigrants driven from central Asia by that gradual desiccation which for ages seems to have been converting once fruitful lands into a waste and burying the seats of ancient civilization under a sea of shifting sand. Whatever their place of origin may have been, it is certain that in Southern Babylonia the Sumerians attained at a very early period to a considerable pitch of civilization; for they tilled the soil, reared cattle, built cities, dug canals, and even invented a system of writing, which their Semitic neighbours in time borrowed from them.6 In the pantheon [pg 008] of this ancient people Tammuz appears to have been one of the oldest, though certainly not one of the most important figures.7 His name consists of a Sumerian phrase meaning “true son” or, in a fuller form, “true son of the deep water,”8 and among the inscribed Sumerian texts which have survived the wreck of empires are a number of hymns in his honour, which were written down not later than about two thousand years before our era but were almost certainly composed at a much earlier time.9

Tammuz the lover of Ishtar. Descent of Ishtar to the nether world to recover Tammuz.

In the religious literature of Babylonia Tammuz appears as the youthful spouse or lover of Ishtar, the great mother goddess, the embodiment of the reproductive energies of nature. The references to their connexion with each other in myth and ritual are both fragmentary and obscure, but we gather from them that every year Tammuz was believed to die, passing away from the cheerful earth to the gloomy subterranean world, and that every year his divine mistress journeyed in quest of him “to the land from which there is no returning, to the house of darkness, where dust lies on door and bolt.” During her absence the passion of love ceased to operate: men and beasts alike forgot to reproduce their kinds: all life was threatened with extinction. So [pg 009] intimately bound up with the goddess were the sexual functions of the whole animal kingdom that without her presence they could not be discharged. A messenger of the great god Ea was accordingly despatched to rescue the goddess on whom so much depended. The stern queen of the infernal regions, Allatu or Eresh-Kigal by name, reluctantly allowed Ishtar to be sprinkled with the Water of Life and to depart, in company probably with her lover Tammuz, that the two might return together to the upper world, and that with their return all nature might revive.

Laments for Tammuz.

Laments for the departed Tammuz are contained in several Babylonian hymns, which liken him to plants that quickly fade. He is

A tamarisk that in the garden has drunk no water,
Whose crown in the field has brought forth no blossom.
A willow that rejoiced not by the watercourse,
A willow whose roots were torn up.
A herb that in the garden had drunk no water.

His death appears to have been annually mourned, to the shrill music of flutes, by men and women about midsummer in the month named after him, the month of Tammuz. The dirges were seemingly chanted over an effigy of the dead god, which was washed with pure water, anointed with oil, and clad in a red robe, while the fumes of incense rose into the air, as if to stir his dormant senses by their pungent fragrance and wake him from the sleep of death. In one of these dirges, inscribed Lament of the Flutes for Tammuz, we seem still to hear the voices of the singers chanting the sad refrain and to catch, like far-away music, the wailing notes of the flutes:—

At his vanishing away she lifts up a lament,
Oh my child! at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament;
My Damu! at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament.
My enchanter and priest! at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament,
At the shining cedar, rooted in a spacious place,
In Eanna, above and below, she lifts up a lament.
Like the lament that a house lifts up for its master, lifts she up a lament,
Like the lament that a city lifts up for its lord, lifts she up a lament.
[pg 010]
Her lament is the lament for a herb that grows not in the bed,
Her lament is the lament for the corn that grows not in the ear.
Her chamber is a possession that brings not forth a possession,
A weary woman, a weary child, forspent.
Her lament is for a great river, where no willows grow,
Her lament is for a field, where corn and herbs grow not.
Her lament is for a pool, where fishes grow not.
Her lament is for a thicket of reeds, where no reeds grow.
Her lament is for woods, where tamarisks grow not.
Her lament is for a wilderness where no cypresses (?) grow.
Her lament is for the depth of a garden of trees, where honey and wine grow not.
Her lament is for meadows, where no plants grow.
Her lament is for a palace, where length of life grows not.10

Adonis in Greek mythology merely a reflection of the Oriental Tammuz.

The tragical story and the melancholy rites of Adonis are better known to us from the descriptions of Greek writers than from the fragments of Babylonian literature or [pg 011] the brief reference of the prophet Ezekiel, who saw the women of Jerusalem weeping for Tammuz at the north gate of the temple.11 Mirrored in the glass of Greek mythology, the oriental deity appears as a comely youth beloved by Aphrodite. In his infancy the goddess hid him in a chest, which she gave in charge to Persephone, queen of the nether world. But when Persephone opened the chest and beheld the beauty of the babe, she refused to give him back to Aphrodite, though the goddess of love went down herself to hell to ransom her dear one from the power of the grave. The dispute between the two goddesses of love and death was settled by Zeus, who decreed that Adonis should abide with Persephone in the under world for one part of the year, and with Aphrodite in the upper world for another part. At last the fair youth was killed in hunting by a wild boar, or by the jealous Ares, who turned himself into the likeness of a boar in order to compass the death of his rival. Bitterly did Aphrodite lament her loved and lost Adonis.12 The strife between the divine rivals for the possession of Adonis appears to be depicted on an Etruscan mirror. The two goddesses, identified by inscriptions, are stationed on either side of Jupiter, who occupies the seat of judgment and lifts an admonitory finger as he looks sternly towards Persephone. Overcome with grief the goddess of love buries her face in her mantle, while her pertinacious rival, grasping a branch in one hand, points with the other at a closed coffer, which probably contains the youthful Adonis.13 In [pg 012] this form of the myth, the contest between Aphrodite and Persephone for the possession of Adonis clearly reflects the struggle between Ishtar and Allatu in the land of the dead, while the decision of Zeus that Adonis is to spend one part of the year under ground and another part above ground is merely a Greek version of the annual disappearance and reappearance of Tammuz.

[pg 013]

Chapter II. Adonis in Syria.

Worship of Adonis and Astarte at Byblus, the kingdom of Cinyras. The kings of Byblus.

The myth of Adonis was localized and his rites celebrated with much solemnity at two places in Western Asia. One of these was Byblus on the coast of Syria, the other was Paphos in Cyprus. Both were great seats of the worship of Aphrodite, or rather of her Semitic counterpart, Astarte;14 and of both, if we accept the legends, Cinyras, the father of Adonis, was king.15 Of the two cities Byblus was the more ancient; indeed it claimed to be the oldest city in Phoenicia, and to have been founded in the early ages of the world by the great god El, whom Greeks and Romans identified with Cronus and Saturn respectively.16 However that may have been, in historical times it ranked as a holy place, the religious capital of the country, the Mecca or Jerusalem of the Phoenicians.17 The city stood on a height beside the sea,18 and contained a great sanctuary of Astarte,19 where [pg 014] in the midst of a spacious open court, surrounded by cloisters and approached from below by staircases, rose a tall cone or obelisk, the holy image of the goddess.20 In this sanctuary the rites of Adonis were celebrated.21 Indeed the whole city was sacred to him,22 and the river Nahr Ibrahim, which falls into the sea a little to the south of Byblus, bore in antiquity the name of Adonis.23 This was the kingdom of Cinyras.24 From the earliest to the latest times the city appears to have been ruled by kings, assisted perhaps by a senate or council of elders.25 The first of the kings of whom we have historical evidence was a certain Zekar-baal. He reigned about a century before Solomon; yet from that dim past his figure stands out strangely fresh and lifelike in the journal of an Egyptian merchant or official named Wen-Ammon, which has fortunately been preserved in a papyrus. This man spent some time with the king at Byblus, and received from him, in return for rich presents, a supply of timber felled in the forests of Lebanon.26 Another king of Byblus, who bore the name of Sibitti-baal, paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser III., king of Assyria, about the year 739 b.c.27 Further, from an inscription of the fifth or fourth century before our era we learn that a king of Byblus, by name Yehaw-melech, son of Yehar-baal, and grandson of Adom-melech or Uri-melech, dedicated a pillared portico with a carved work of gold and a bronze altar to the goddess, whom he worshipped under the name of Baalath Gebal, that is, the female Baal of Byblus.28

[pg 015]

Divinity of Semitic kings.

The names of these kings suggest that they claimed affinity with their god Baal or Moloch, for Moloch is only a corruption of melech, that is, “king.” Such a claim at all events appears to have been put forward by many other Semitic kings.29 The early monarchs of Babylon were worshipped as gods in their lifetime.30 Mesha, king of Moab, perhaps called himself the son of his god Kemosh.31 Among the Aramean sovereigns of Damascus, mentioned in the Bible, we find more than one Ben-hadad, that is, “son of the god Hadad,” the chief male deity of the Syrians;32 and Josephus tells us that down to his own time, in the first century of our era, Ben-hadad I., whom he calls simply Adad, and his successor, Hazael, continued to be worshipped as gods by the people of Damascus, who held processions daily in their honour.33 Some of the kings of Edom seem to have gone a step farther and identified themselves with the god in their lifetime; at all events they bore his name Hadad without any qualification.34 King Bar-rekub, who [pg 016] reigned over Samal in North-Western Syria in the time of Tiglath-pileser (745-727 b.c.) appears from his name to have reckoned himself a son of Rekub-el, the god to whose favour he deemed himself indebted for the kingdom.35 The kings of Tyre traced their descent from Baal,36 and apparently professed to be gods in their own person.37 Several of them bore names which are partly composed of the names of Baal and Astarte; one of them bore the name of Baal pure and simple.38 The Baal whom they personated was no doubt Melcarth, “the king of the city,” as his name signifies, the great god whom the Greeks identified with Hercules; for the equivalence of the Baal of Tyre both to Melcarth and to Hercules is placed beyond the reach of doubt by a bilingual inscription, in Phoenician and Greek, which was found in Malta.39

Divinity of the Phoenician kings of Byblus and the Canaanite kings of Jerusalem. The sacred men at Jerusalem.

In like manner the kings of Byblus may have assumed the style of Adonis; for Adonis was simply the divine Adon [pg 017] or “lord” of the city, a title which hardly differs in sense from Baal (“master”) and Melech (“king”). This conjecture would be confirmed if one of the kings of Byblus actually bore, as Renan believed, the name of Adom-melech, that is, Adonis Melech, the Lord King. But, unfortunately, the reading of the inscription in which the name occurs is doubtful.40 Some of the old Canaanite kings of Jerusalem appear to have played the part of Adonis in their lifetime, if we may judge from their names, Adoni-bezek and Adoni-zedek,41 which are divine rather than human titles. Adoni-zedek means “lord of righteousness,” and is therefore equivalent to Melchizedek, that is, “king of righteousness,” the title of that mysterious king of Salem and priest of God Most High, who seems to have been neither more nor less than one of these same Canaanitish kings of Jerusalem.42 Thus if the old priestly kings of Jerusalem regularly played the part of Adonis, we need not wonder that in later times the women of Jerusalem used to weep for Tammuz, that is, for Adonis, at the north gate of the temple.43 In doing so they may only have been continuing a custom which had been observed in the same place by the Canaanites long before the Hebrews invaded the land. Perhaps the “sacred men,” as they were called, who lodged within the walls of the temple at Jerusalem down almost to the end of the Jewish kingdom,44 may have acted the part of the living Adonis to the living Astarte of the women. At all events we know that in the cells of [pg 018] these strange clergy women wove garments for the asherim,45 the sacred poles which stood beside the altar and which appear to have been by some regarded as embodiments of Astarte.46 Certainly these “sacred men” must have discharged some function which was deemed religious in the temple at Jerusalem; and we can hardly doubt that the prohibition to bring the wages of prostitution into the house of God, which was published at the very same time that the men were expelled from the temple,47 was directed against an existing practice. In Palestine as in other Semitic lands the hire of sacred prostitutes was probably dedicated to the deity as one of his regular dues: he took tribute of men and women as of flocks and herds, of fields and vineyards and oliveyards.

David as heir of the old sacred kings of Jerusalem.

But if Jerusalem had been from of old the seat of a dynasty of spiritual potentates or Grand Lamas, who held the keys of heaven and were revered far and wide as kings and gods in one, we can easily understand why the upstart David chose it for the capital of the new kingdom which he had won for himself at the point of the sword. The central position and the natural strength of the virgin fortress need not have been the only or the principal inducements which [pg 019] decided the politic monarch to transfer his throne from Hebron to Jerusalem.48 By serving himself heir to the ancient kings of the city he might reasonably hope to inherit their ghostly repute along with their broad acres, to wear their nimbus as well as their crown.49 So at a later time when he had conquered Ammon and captured the royal city of Rabbah, he took the heavy gold crown of the Ammonite god Milcom and placed it on his own brows, thus posing as the deity in person.50 It can hardly, therefore, be unreasonable to suppose that he pursued precisely the same policy at the conquest of Jerusalem. And on the other side the calm confidence with which the Jebusite inhabitants of that city awaited his attack, jeering at the besiegers from the battlements,51 may well have been born of a firm trust in the local deity rather than in the height and thickness of their grim old walls. Certainly the obstinacy [pg 020] with which in after ages the Jews defended the same place against the armies of Assyria and Rome sprang in large measure from a similar faith in the God of Zion.

Traces of the divinity of Hebrew kings.

Be that as it may, the history of the Hebrew kings presents some features which may perhaps, without straining them too far, be interpreted as traces or relics of a time when they or their predecessors played the part of a divinity, and particularly of Adonis, the divine lord of the land. In life the Hebrew king was regularly addressed as Adoni-ham-melech, “My Lord the King,”52 and after death he was lamented with cries of Hoi ahi! Hoi Adon! “Alas my brother! alas Lord!”53 These exclamations of grief uttered for the death of a king of Judah were, we can hardly doubt, the very same cries which the weeping women of Jerusalem uttered in the north porch of the temple for the dead Tammuz.54 However, little stress can be laid on such forms of address, since Adon in Hebrew, like “lord” in English, was a secular as well as a religious title. But whether identified with Adonis or not, the Hebrew kings certainly seem to have been regarded as in a sense divine, as representing and to [pg 021] some extent embodying Jehovah on earth. For the king's throne was called the throne of Jehovah;55 and the application of the holy oil to his head was believed to impart to him directly a portion of the divine spirit.56 Hence he bore the title of Messiah, which with its Greek equivalent Christ means no more than “the Anointed One.” Thus when David had cut off the skirt of Saul's robe in the darkness of a cave where he was in hiding, his heart smote him for having laid sacrilegious hands upon Adoni Messiah Jehovah, “my Lord the Anointed of Jehovah.”57

The Hebrew kings seem to have been held responsible for drought and famine.

Like other divine or semi-divine rulers the Hebrew kings were apparently held answerable for famine and pestilence. When a dearth, caused perhaps by a failure of the winter rains, had visited the land for three years, King David inquired of the oracle, which discreetly laid the blame not on him but on his predecessor Saul. The dead king was indeed beyond the reach of punishment, but his sons were [pg 022] not. So David had seven of them sought out, and they were hanged before the Lord at the beginning of barley harvest in spring: and all the long summer the mother of two of the dead men sat under the gallows-tree, keeping off the jackals by night and the vultures by day, till with the autumn the blessed rain came at last to wet their dangling bodies and fertilize the barren earth once more. Then the bones of the dead were taken down from the gibbet and buried in the sepulchre of their fathers.58 The season when these princes were put to death, at the beginning of barley harvest, and the length of time they hung on the gallows, seem to show that their execution was not a mere punishment, but that it partook of the nature of a rain-charm. For it is a common belief that rain can be procured by magical ceremonies performed with dead men's bones,59 and it would be natural to ascribe a special virtue in this respect to the bones of princes, who are often expected to give rain in their life. When the Israelites demanded of Samuel that he should give them a king, the indignant prophet, loth to be superseded by the upstart Saul, called on the Lord to send thunder and rain, and the Lord did so at once, though the season was early summer and the reapers were at work in the wheat-fields, a time when in common years no rain falls from the cloudless Syrian sky.60 The pious historian who records the miracle seems to have regarded it as a mere token of the wrath of the deity, whose voice was heard in the roll of thunder; but we may surmise that in giving this impressive proof of his control of the weather Samuel meant to hint gently at the naughtiness of asking for a king to do for the fertility of the land what could be done quite as well and far more cheaply by a prophet.

Excessive rain set down to the wrath of the deity.

In Israel the excess as well as the deficiency of rain seems to have been set down to the wrath of the [pg 023] deity.61 When the Jews returned to Jerusalem from the great captivity and assembled for the first time in the square before the ruined temple, it happened that the weather was very wet, and as the people sat shelterless and drenched in the piazza they trembled at their sin and at the rain.62 In all ages it has been the strength or the weakness of Israel to read the hand of God in the changing aspects of nature, and we need not wonder that at such a time and in so dismal a scene, with a lowering sky overhead, the blackened ruins of the temple before their eyes, and the steady drip of the rain over all, the returned exiles should have been oppressed with a double sense of their own guilt and of the divine anger. Perhaps, though they hardly knew it, memories of the bright sun, fat fields, and broad willow-fringed rivers of Babylon,63 which had been so long their home, lent a deeper shade of sadness to the austerity of the Judean landscape, with its gaunt grey hills stretching away, range beyond range, to the horizon, or dipping eastward to the far line of sombre blue which marks the sullen waters of the Dead Sea.64

Hebrew kings apparently supposed to heal disease and stop epidemics.

In the days of the Hebrew monarchy the king was apparently credited with the power of making sick and making whole. Thus the king of Syria sent a leper to the king of Israel to be healed by him, just as scrofulous patients [pg 024] used to fancy that they could be cured by the touch of a French or English king. However, the Hebrew monarch, with more sense than has been shown by his royal brothers in modern times, professed himself unable to work any such miracle. “Am I God,” he asked, “to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?”65 On another occasion, when pestilence ravaged the country and the excited fancy of the plague-stricken people saw in the clouds the figure of the Destroying Angel with his sword stretched out over Jerusalem, they laid the blame on King David, who had offended the touchy and irascible deity by taking a census. The prudent monarch bowed to the popular storm, acknowledged his guilt, and appeased the angry god by offering burnt sacrifices on the threshing-floor of Araunah, one of the old Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem. Then the angel sheathed his flashing sword, and the shrieks of the dying and the lamentations for the dead no longer resounded in the streets.66

The rarity of references to the divinity of Hebrew kings in the historical books may be explained by the circumstances in which these works were composed or edited.

To this theory of the sanctity, nay the divinity of the Hebrew kings it may be objected that few traces of it survive in the historical books of the Bible. But the force of the objection is weakened by a consideration of the time and the circumstances in which these books assumed their final shape. The great prophets of the eighth and the [pg 025] seventh centuries by the spiritual ideals and the ethical fervour of their teaching had wrought a religious and moral reform perhaps unparalleled in history. Under their influence an austere monotheism had replaced the old sensuous worship of the natural powers: a stern Puritanical spirit, an unbending rigour of mind, had succeeded to the old easy supple temper with its weak compliances, its wax-like impressionability, its proclivities to the sins of the flesh. And the moral lessons which the prophets inculcated were driven home by the political events of the time, above all by the ever-growing pressure of the great Assyrian empire on the petty states of Palestine. The long agony of the siege of Samaria67 must have been followed with trembling anxiety by the inhabitants of Judea, for the danger was at their door. They had only to lift up their eyes and look north to see the blue hills of Ephraim, at whose foot lay the beleaguered city. Its final fall and the destruction of the northern kingdom could not fail to fill every thoughtful mind in the sister realm with sad forebodings. It was as if the sky had lowered and thunder muttered over Jerusalem. Thenceforth to the close of the Jewish monarchy, about a century and a half later, the cloud never passed away, though once for a little it seemed to lift, when Sennacherib raised the siege of Jerusalem68 and the watchers on the walls beheld the last of the long line of spears and standards disappearing, the last squadron of the blue-coated Assyrian cavalry sweeping, in a cloud of dust, out of sight.69

The historical books were composed or edited under the influence of the prophetic reformation.

It was in this period of national gloom and despondency that the two great reformations of Israel's religion were accomplished, the first by king Hezekiah, the second a century later by king Josiah.70 We need not wonder then [pg 026] that the reformers who in that and subsequent ages composed or edited the annals of their nation should have looked as sourly on the old unreformed paganism of their forefathers as the fierce zealots of the Commonwealth looked on the far more innocent pastimes of Merry England; and that in their zeal for the glory of God they should have blotted many pages of history lest they should perpetuate the memory of practices to which they traced the calamities of their country. All the historical books passed through the office of the Puritan censor,71 and we can hardly doubt that they emerged from it stript of many gay feathers which they had flaunted when they went in. Among the shed plumage may well have been the passages which invested human beings, whether kings or commoners, with the attributes of deity. Certainly no pages could seem to the censor more rankly blasphemous; on none, therefore, was he likely to press more firmly the official sponge.

The Baal and his female Baalath the sources of all fertility.

But if Semitic kings in general and the kings of Byblus in particular often assumed the style of Baal or Adonis, it follows that they may have mated with the goddess, the Baalath or Astarte of the city. Certainly we hear of kings of Tyre and Sidon who were priests of Astarte.72 Now to the agricultural Semites the Baal or god of a land was the author of all its fertility; he it was who produced the corn, the wine, the figs, the oil, and the flax, by means of his quickening waters, which in the arid parts of the Semitic world are oftener springs, streams, and underground flow than the rains of heaven.73 Further, “the life-giving power of the god was not limited to vegetative nature, but to him also was ascribed the increase of animal life, the [pg 027] multiplication of flocks and herds, and, not least, of the human inhabitants of the land. For the increase of animate nature is obviously conditioned, in the last resort, by the fertility of the soil, and primitive races, which have not learned to differentiate the various kinds of life with precision, think of animate as well as vegetable life as rooted in the earth and sprung from it. The earth is the great mother of all things in most mythological philosophies, and the comparison of the life of mankind, or of a stock of men, with the life of a tree, which is so common in Semitic as in other primitive poetry, is not in its origin a mere figure. Thus where the growth of vegetation is ascribed to a particular divine power, the same power receives the thanks and homage of his worshippers for the increase of cattle and of men. Firstlings as well as first-fruits were offered at the shrines of the Baalim, and one of the commonest classes of personal names given by parents to their sons or daughters designates the child as the gift of the god.” In short, “the Baal was conceived as the male principle of reproduction, the husband of the land which he fertilised.”74 So far, therefore, as the Semite personified the reproductive energies of nature as male and female, as a Baal and a Baalath, he appears to have identified the male power especially with water and the female especially with earth. On this view plants and trees, animals and men, are the offspring or children of the Baal and Baalath.

Personation of the Baal by the king.

If, then, at Byblus and elsewhere, the Semitic king was allowed, or rather required, to personate the god and marry the goddess, the intention of the custom can only have been to ensure the fertility of the land and the increase of men and cattle by means of homoeopathic magic. There is reason to think that a similar custom was observed from a similar motive in other parts of the ancient world, and particularly at Nemi, where both the male and the female powers, the Dianus and Diana, were in one aspect of their nature personifications of the life-giving waters.75

Cinyras, king of Byblus. Aphaca and the vale of the Adonis. Monuments of Adonis.

The last king of Byblus bore the ancient name of Cinyras, and was beheaded by Pompey the Great for his [pg 028] tyrannous excesses.76 His legendary namesake Cinyras is said to have founded a sanctuary of Aphrodite, that is, of Astarte, at a place on Mount Lebanon, distant a day's journey from the capital.77 The spot was probably Aphaca, at the source of the river Adonis, half-way between Byblus and Baalbec; for at Aphaca there was a famous grove and sanctuary of Astarte which Constantine destroyed on account of the flagitious character of the worship.78 The site of the temple has been discovered by modern travellers near the miserable village which still bears the name of Afka at the head of the wild, romantic, wooded gorge of the Adonis. The hamlet stands among groves of noble walnut-trees on the brink of the lyn. A little way off the river rushes from a cavern at the foot of a mighty amphitheatre of towering cliffs to plunge in a series of cascades into the awful depths of the glen. The deeper it descends, the ranker and denser grows the vegetation, which, sprouting from the crannies and fissures of the rocks, spreads a green veil over the roaring or murmuring stream in the tremendous chasm below. There is something delicious, almost intoxicating, in the freshness of these tumbling waters, in the sweetness and purity of the mountain air, in the vivid green of the vegetation. The temple, of which some massive hewn blocks and a fine column of Syenite granite still mark the site, occupied a terrace facing the source of the river and commanding a magnificent prospect. Across the foam and the roar of the waterfalls you look up to the cavern and away to the top of the sublime precipices above. So lofty is the cliff that the goats which creep along its ledges to browse on the bushes appear like ants to the spectator hundreds of feet below. Seaward the view is especially impressive when the sun floods the profound gorge with golden light, revealing all the fantastic buttresses and rounded towers of its mountain rampart, and falling softly on the varied green of the woods which clothe its depths.79 It was here that, according [pg 029] to the legend, Adonis met Aphrodite for the first or the last time,80 and here his mangled body was buried.81 A fairer scene could hardly be imagined for a story of tragic love and death. Yet, sequestered as the valley is and must always have been, it is not wholly deserted. A convent or a village may be observed here and there standing out against the sky on the top of some beetling crag, or clinging to the face of a nearly perpendicular cliff high above the foam and the din of the river; and at evening the lights that twinkle through the gloom betray the presence of human habitations on slopes which might seem inaccessible to man. In antiquity the whole of the lovely vale appears have been dedicated to Adonis, and to this day it is haunted by his memory; for the heights which shut it in are crested at various points by ruined monuments of his worship, some of them overhanging dreadful abysses, down which it turns the head dizzy to look and see the eagles wheeling about their nests far below. One such monument exists at Ghineh. The face of a great rock, above a roughly hewn recess, is here carved with figures of Adonis and Aphrodite. He is portrayed with spear in rest, awaiting the attack of a bear, while she is seated in an attitude of sorrow.82 Her grief-stricken figure may well be the mourning [pg 030] Aphrodite of the Lebanon described by Macrobius,83 and the recess in the rock is perhaps her lover's tomb. Every year, in the belief of his worshippers, Adonis was wounded to death on the mountains, and every year the face of nature itself was dyed with his sacred blood. So year by year the Syrian damsels lamented his untimely fate,84 while the red anemone, his flower, bloomed among the cedars of Lebanon, and the river ran red to the sea, fringing the winding shores of the blue Mediterranean, whenever the wind set inshore, with a sinuous, band of crimson.

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Chapter III. Adonis in Cyprus.

Phoenician colonies in Cyprus.

The island of Cyprus lies but one day's sail from the coast of Syria. Indeed, on fine summer evenings its mountains may be descried looming low and dark against the red fires of sunset.85 With its rich mines of copper and its forests of firs and stately cedars, the island naturally attracted a commercial and maritime people like the Phoenicians; while the abundance of its corn, its wine, and its oil must have rendered it in their eyes a Land of Promise by comparison with the niggardly nature of their own rugged coast, hemmed in between the mountains and the sea.86 Accordingly they settled in Cyprus at a very early date and remained there long after the Greeks had also established themselves on its shores; for we know from inscriptions and coins that Phoenician kings reigned at Citium, the Chittim of the Hebrews, down to the time of Alexander the Great.87 [pg 032] Naturally the Semitic colonists brought their gods with them from the mother-land. They worshipped Baal of the Lebanon,88 who may well have been Adonis, and at Amathus on the south coast they instituted the rites of Adonis and Aphrodite, or rather Astarte.89 Here, as at Byblus, these rites resembled the Egyptian worship of Osiris so closely that some people even identified the Adonis of Amathus with Osiris.90 The Tyrian Melcarth or Moloch was also worshipped at Amathus,91 and the tombs discovered in the neighbourhood prove that the city remained Phoenician to a late period.92

Kingdom of Paphos. Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos.

But the great seat of the worship of Aphrodite and Adonis in Cyprus was Paphos on the south-western side of the island. Among the petty kingdoms into which Cyprus was divided from the earliest times until the end of the fourth century before our era Paphos must have ranked with the best. It is a land of hills and billowy ridges, diversified by fields and vineyards and intersected by rivers, which in the course of ages have carved for themselves beds of such tremendous depth that travelling in the interior is difficult and tedious. The lofty range of Mount Olympus (the modern Troodos), capped with snow the greater part of the year, screens Paphos from the northerly and easterly winds and cuts it off from the rest of the island. On the slopes of the range the last pine-woods of Cyprus linger, sheltering here and there monasteries [pg 033] in scenery not unworthy of the Apennines. The old city of Paphos occupied the summit of a hill about a mile from the sea; the newer city sprang up at the harbour some ten miles off.93 The sanctuary of Aphrodite at Old Paphos (the modern Kuklia) was one of the most celebrated shrines in the ancient world. From the earliest to the latest times it would seem to have preserved its essential features unchanged. For the sanctuary is represented on coins of the Imperial age,94 and these representations agree closely with little golden models of a shrine which were found in two of the royal graves at Mycenae.95 Both on the coins and in the models we see a façade surmounted by a pair of doves and divided into three compartments or chapels, of which the central one is crowned by a lofty superstructure. In the golden models each chapel contains a pillar standing in a pair of horns: the central superstructure is crowned by two pairs of horns, one within the other; and the two side chapels are in like manner crowned each with a pair of horns and a single dove perched on the outer horn of each pair. On the coins each of the side chapels contains a pillar or candelabra-like object: the central chapel contains a cone and is flanked by two high columns, each terminating in a pair of ball-topped pinnacles, with a star and crescent appearing between the tops of the columns. The doves are doubtless the sacred doves of Aphrodite or Astarte,96 and the [pg 034] horns and pillars remind us of the similar religious emblems which have been found in the great prehistoric palace of Cnossus in Crete, as well as on many monuments of the Mycenaean or Minoan age of Greece.97 If antiquaries are right in regarding the golden models as copies of the Paphian shrine, that shrine must have suffered little outward change for more than a thousand years; for the royal graves at Mycenae, in which the models were found, can hardly be of later date than the twelfth century before our era.

The Aphrodite of Paphos a Phoenician or aboriginal deity. Her conical image.

Thus the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos was apparently of great antiquity.98 According to Herodotus, it was founded by Phoenician colonists from Ascalon;99 but it is possible that a native goddess of fertility was worshipped on the spot before the arrival of the Phoenicians, and that the newcomers identified her with their own Baalath or Astarte, whom she may have closely resembled. If two deities were thus fused in one, we may suppose that they were both varieties of that great goddess of motherhood and fertility whose worship appears to have been spread all over Western Asia from a very early time. The supposition is confirmed as well by the archaic shape of her image as by the licentious character of her rites; for both that shape and those rites were shared by her with other Asiatic deities. Her image was simply a white cone or pyramid.100 [pg 035] In like manner, a cone was the emblem of Astarte at Byblus,101 of the native goddess whom the Greeks called Artemis at Perga in Pamphylia,102 and of the sun-god Heliogabalus at Emesa in Syria.103 Conical stones, which apparently served as idols, have also been found at Golgi in Cyprus, and in the Phoenician temples of Malta;104 and cones of sandstone came to light at the shrine of the “Mistress of Torquoise” among the barren hills and frowning precipices of Sinai.105 The precise significance of such [pg 036] an emblem remains as obscure as it was in the time of Tacitus.106 It appears to have been customary to anoint the sacred cone with olive oil at a solemn festival, in which people from Lycia and Caria participated.107 The custom of anointing a holy stone has been observed in many parts of the world; for example, in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi.108 To this day the old custom appears to survive at Paphos, for “in honour of the Maid of Bethlehem the peasants of Kuklia anointed lately, and probably still anoint each year, the great corner-stones of the ruined Temple of the Paphian Goddess. As Aphrodite was supplicated once with cryptic rites, so is Mary entreated still by Moslems as well as Christians, with incantations and passings through perforated stones, to remove the curse of barrenness from Cypriote women, or increase the manhood of Cypriote men.”109 Thus the ancient worship of the goddess of fertility is continued under a different name. Even the name of the old goddess is retained in some parts of the island; for in more than one chapel the Cypriote peasants adore the mother of Christ under the title Panaghia Aphroditessa.110

Sacred prostitution in the worship of the Paphian Aphrodite and of other Asiatic goddesses.

In Cyprus it appears that before marriage all women were formerly obliged by custom to prostitute themselves to strangers at the sanctuary of the goddess, whether she went by the name of Aphrodite, Astarte, or what not.111 Similar customs prevailed in many parts of Western Asia. Whatever its motive, the practice was clearly regarded, not as an orgy of lust, but as a solemn religious duty performed in the service of that great Mother Goddess of Western Asia whose name varied, while her type remained constant, from place to place. Thus at Babylon every woman, whether rich or poor, had once in her life to submit to the embraces of a stranger at the temple of Mylitta, that is, of Ishtar or [pg 037] Astarte, and to dedicate to the goddess the wages earned by this sanctified harlotry. The sacred precinct was crowded with women waiting to observe the custom. Some of them had to wait there for years.112 At Heliopolis or Baalbec in Syria, famous for the imposing grandeur of its ruined temples, the custom of the country required that every maiden should prostitute herself to a stranger at the temple of Astarte, and matrons as well as maids testified their devotion to the goddess in the same manner. The emperor Constantine abolished the custom, destroyed the temple, and built a church in its stead.113 In Phoenician temples women prostituted themselves for hire in the service of religion, believing that by this conduct they propitiated the goddess and won her favour.114 “It was a law of the Amorites, that [pg 038] she who was about to marry should sit in fornication seven days by the gate.”115 At Byblus the people shaved their heads in the annual mourning for Adonis. Women who refused to sacrifice their hair had to give themselves up to strangers on a certain day of the festival, and the money which they thus earned was devoted to the goddess.116 This custom may have been a mitigation of an older rule which at Byblus as elsewhere formerly compelled every woman without exception to sacrifice her virtue in the service of religion. I have already suggested a reason why the offering of a woman's hair was accepted as an equivalent for the surrender of her person.117 We are told that in Lydia all girls were obliged to prostitute themselves in order to earn a dowry;118 but we may suspect that the real motive of the custom was devotion rather than economy. The suspicion is confirmed by a Greek inscription found at Tralles in Lydia, which proves that the practice of religious prostitution survived in that country as late as the second century of our era. It records of a certain woman, Aurelia Aemilia by name, not only that she herself served the god in the capacity of a harlot at his express command, but that her mother and other female ancestors had done the same before her; and the publicity of the record, engraved on a marble column which supported a votive offering, shows that no stain attached to such a life and such a parentage.119 In Armenia the noblest families dedicated their daughters to the service of the goddess Anaitis in her temple at Acilisena, where the damsels acted as prostitutes for a long time before they were given in marriage. Nobody scrupled to take one of these girls to wife when her period of service was over.120 [pg 039] Again, the goddess Ma was served by a multitude of sacred harlots at Comana in Pontus, and crowds of men and women flocked to her sanctuary from the neighbouring cities and country to attend the biennial festivals or to pay their vows to the goddess.121

The Asiatic Mother Goddess a personification of all the reproductive energies of nature. Her worship perhaps reflects a period of sexual communism.

If we survey the whole of the evidence on this subject, some of which has still to be laid before the reader, we may conclude that a great Mother Goddess, the personification of all the reproductive energies of nature, was worshipped under different names but with a substantial similarity of myth and ritual by many peoples of Western Asia; that associated with her was a lover, or rather series of lovers, divine yet mortal, with whom she mated year by year, their commerce being deemed essential to the propagation of animals and plants, each in their several kind;122 and further, that the fabulous union of the divine pair was simulated and, as it were, multiplied on earth by the real, though temporary, union of the human sexes at the sanctuary of the goddess for the sake of thereby ensuring the fruitfulness of the ground and the increase of man and beast.123 And if the [pg 040] conception of such a Mother Goddess dates, as seems probable, from a time when the institution of marriage was either unknown or at most barely tolerated as an immoral infringement of old communal rights, we can understand both why the goddess herself was regularly supposed to be at once unmarried and unchaste, and why her worshippers were obliged to imitate her more or less completely in these respects. For had she been a divine wife united to a divine husband, the natural counterpart of their union would have been the lawful marriage of men and women, and there would have been no need to resort to a system of prostitution or promiscuity in order to effect those purposes which, on the principles of homoeopathic magic, might in that case have been as well or better attained by the legitimate intercourse of the sexes in matrimony. Formerly, perhaps, every woman was obliged to submit at least once in her life to the exercise of those marital rights which at a still earlier period had theoretically belonged in permanence to all the males of the tribe. But in course of time, as the institution of individual marriage grew in favour, and the old communism fell more and more into discredit, the revival of the ancient practice even for a single occasion in a woman's life became ever more repugnant to the moral sense of the people, and accordingly they resorted to various expedients for evading in practice the obligation which they still acknowledged in theory. One of these evasions was to let the woman offer her hair instead of her person; another apparently was to substitute an obscene symbol for the obscene act.124 But while the majority of women thus contrived to observe the forms of religion without sacrificing their virtue, it was still thought necessary to the general welfare that a certain number of them should discharge the old obligation in the old way. These became prostitutes either for life or for a term of years at one of the temples: dedicated to the service of religion, they were invested with [pg 041] a sacred character,125 and their vocation, far from being deemed infamous, was probably long regarded by the laity as an exercise of more than common virtue, and rewarded with a tribute of mixed wonder, reverence, and pity, not unlike that which in some parts of the world is still paid to women who seek to honour their Creator in a different way by renouncing the natural functions of their sex and the tenderest relations of humanity. It is thus that the folly of mankind finds vent in opposite extremes alike harmful and deplorable.

The daughters of Cinyras.

At Paphos the custom of religious prostitution is said to have been instituted by King Cinyras,126 and to have been practised by his daughters, the sisters of Adonis, who, having incurred the wrath of Aphrodite, mated with strangers and ended their days in Egypt.127 In this form of the tradition the wrath of Aphrodite is probably a feature added by a later authority, who could only regard conduct which shocked his own moral sense as a punishment inflicted by the goddess instead of as a sacrifice regularly enjoined by her on all her devotees. At all events the story indicates that the princesses of Paphos had to conform to the custom as well as women of humble birth.

The Paphian dynasty of the Cinyrads.

The legendary history of the royal and priestly family of the Cinyrads is instructive. We are told that a Syrian man, by name Sandacus, migrated to Cilicia, married Pharnace, daughter of Megassares, king of Hyria, and founded the city of Celenderis. His wife bore him a son, Cinyras, who in time crossed the sea with a company of people to Cyprus, wedded Metharme, daughter of Pygmalion, king of the island, and founded Paphos.128 These legends [pg 042] seem to contain reminiscences of kingdoms in Cilicia and Cyprus which passed in the female line, and were held by men, sometimes foreigners, who married the hereditary princesses. There are some indications that Cinyras was not in fact the founder of the temple at Paphos. An older tradition ascribed the foundation to a certain Aerias, whom some regarded as a king, and others as the goddess herself.129 Moreover, Cinyras or his descendants at Paphos had to reckon with rivals. These were the Tamirads, a family of diviners who traced their descent from Tamiras, a Cilician augur. At first it was arranged that both families should preside at the ceremonies, but afterwards the Tamirads gave way to the Cinyrads.130 Many tales were told of Cinyras, the founder of the dynasty. He was a priest of Aphrodite as well as a king,131 and his riches passed into a proverb.132 To his descendants, the Cinyrads, he appears to have bequeathed his wealth and his dignities; at all events, they reigned as kings of Paphos and served the goddess as priests. Their dead bodies, with that of Cinyras himself, were buried in the sanctuary.133 But by the fourth century before our era the family had declined and become nearly extinct. When Alexander the Great expelled a king of Paphos for injustice and wickedness, his envoys made search for a member of the ancient house to set on the throne of his fathers. At last they found one of [pg 043] them living in obscurity and earning his bread as a market gardener. He was in the very act of watering his beds when the king's messengers carried him off, much to his astonishment, to receive the crown at the hands of their master.134 Yet if the dynasty decayed, the shrine of the goddess, enriched by the offerings of kings and private persons, maintained its reputation for wealth down to Roman times.135 When Ptolemy Auletes, king of Egypt, was expelled by his people in 57 b.c., Cato offered him the priesthood of Paphos as a sufficient consolation in money and dignity for the loss of a throne.136

Incest of Cinyras with his daughter Myrrha, and birth of Adonis. Legends of royal incest—a suggested explanation.

Among the stories which were told of Cinyras, the ancestor of these priestly kings and the father of Adonis, there are some that deserve our attention. In the first place, he is said to have begotten his son Adonis in incestuous intercourse with his daughter Myrrha at a festival of the corn-goddess, at which women robed in white were wont to offer corn-wreaths as first-fruits of the harvest and to observe strict chastity for nine days.137 Similar cases of incest with [pg 044] a daughter are reported of many ancient kings.138 It seems unlikely that such reports are without foundation, and perhaps equally improbable that they refer to mere fortuitous outbursts of unnatural lust. We may suspect that they are based on a practice actually observed for a definite reason in certain special circumstances. Now in countries where the royal blood was traced through women only, and where consequently the king held office merely in virtue of his marriage with an hereditary princess, who was the real sovereign, it appears to have often happened that a prince married his own sister, the princess royal, in order to obtain with her hand the crown which otherwise would have gone to another man, perhaps to a stranger.139 May not the same rule of descent have furnished a motive for incest with a daughter? For it seems a natural corollary from such a rule that the king was bound to vacate the throne on the death of his wife, the queen, since he occupied it only by virtue of his marriage with her. When that marriage terminated, his right to the throne terminated with it and passed at once to his daughter's husband. Hence if the king desired to reign after his wife's death, the only way in which he could legitimately continue to do so was by marrying his daughter, and thus prolonging through her the title which had formerly been his through her mother.

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The Flamen Dialis and his Flaminica at Rome.

In this connexion it is worth while to remember that at Rome the Flamen Dialis was bound to vacate his priesthood on the death of his wife, the Flaminica.140 The rule would be intelligible if the Flaminica had originally been the more important functionary of the two, and if the Flamen held office only by virtue of his marriage with her.141 Elsewhere I have shown reason to suppose that he and his wife represented an old line of priestly kings and queens, who played the parts of Jupiter and Juno, or perhaps rather Dianus and Diana, respectively.142 If the supposition is correct, the custom which obliged him to resign his priesthood on the death of his wife seems to prove that of the two deities whom they personated, the goddess, whether named Juno or Diana, was indeed the better half. But at Rome the goddess Juno always played an insignificant part; whereas at Nemi her old double, Diana, was all-powerful, casting her mate, Dianus or Virbius, into deep shadow. Thus a rule which points to the superiority of the Flaminica over the Flamen, appears to indicate that the divine originals of the two were Dianus and Diana rather than Jupiter and Juno; and further, that if Jupiter and Juno at Rome stood for the principle of father-kin, or the predominance of the husband over the wife, Dianus and Diana at Nemi stood for the older principle of mother-kin, or the predominance of the wife in matters of inheritance over the husband. If, then, I am right in holding that the kingship at Rome was originally a plebeian institution and descended through women,143 we must conclude that the people who founded the sanctuary of Diana at Nemi were of the same plebeian stock as the Roman kings, that they traced descent in the female line, and that they worshipped a great Mother Goddess, not a great Father God. That goddess was Diana; her maternal functions are abundantly proved by the votive offerings found at her ancient shrine among the wooded hills.144 On the other hand, the [pg 046] patricians, who afterwards invaded the country, brought with them father-kin in its strictest form, and consistently enough paid their devotions rather to Father Jove than to Mother Juno.

Priestesses among the Khasis of Assam.

A parallel to what I conjecture to have been the original relation of the Flaminica to her husband the Flamen may to a certain extent be found among the Khasis of Assam, who preserve to this day the ancient system of mother-kin in matters of inheritance and religion. For among these people the propitiation of deceased ancestors is deemed essential to the welfare of the community, and of all their ancestors they revere most the primaeval ancestress of the clan. Accordingly in every sacrifice a priest must be assisted by a priestess; indeed, we are told that he merely acts as her deputy, and that she “is without doubt a survival of the time when, under the matriarchate, the priestess was the agent for the performance of all religious ceremonies.” It does not appear that the priest need be the husband of the priestess; but in the Khyrim State, where each division has its own goddess to whom sacrifices are offered, the priestess is the mother, sister, niece, or other maternal relation of the priest. It is her duty to prepare all the sacrificial articles, and without her assistance the sacrifice cannot take place.145 Here, then, as among the ancient Romans on my hypothesis, we have the superiority of the priestess over the priest based on a corresponding superiority of the goddess or divine ancestress over the god or divine ancestor; and here, as at Rome, a priest would clearly have to vacate office if he had no woman of the proper relationship to assist him in the performance of his sacred duties.

Sacred marriage of a priest and priestess as representatives of the Sun-god and the Earth-goddess. Marriage of the Sun-god and Earth-goddess acted by a priest and his wife.

Further, I have conjectured that as representatives of Jupiter and Juno respectively the Flamen and Flaminica at Rome may have annually celebrated a Sacred Marriage for the purpose of ensuring the fertility of the powers of nature.146 This conjecture also may be supported by an analogous custom which is still observed in India. We have seen how among the Oraons, a primitive hill-tribe of Bengal, the [pg 047] marriage of the Sun and the Earth is annually celebrated by a priest and priestess who personate respectively the god of the Sun and the goddess of the Earth.147 The ceremony of the Sacred Marriage has been described more fully by a Jesuit missionary, who was intimately acquainted with the people and their native religion. The rite is celebrated in the month of May, when the sal tree is in bloom, and the festival takes its native name (khaddi) from the flower of the tree. It is the greatest festival of the year. “The object of this feast is to celebrate the mystical marriage of the Sun-god (Bhagawan) with the Goddess-earth (Dharti-mai), to induce them to be fruitful and give good crops.” At the same time all the minor deities or demons of the village are propitiated, in order that they may not hinder the beneficent activity of the Sun God and the Earth Goddess. On the eve of the appointed day no man may plough his fields, and the priest, accompanied by some of the villagers, repairs to the sacred grove, where he beats a drum and invites all the invisible guests to the great feast that will await them on the morrow. Next morning very early, before cock-crow, an acolyte steals out as quietly as possible to the sacred spring to fetch water in a new earthen pot. This holy water is full of all kinds of blessings for the crops. The priest has prepared a place for it in the middle of his house surrounded by cotton threads of diverse colours. So sacred is the water that it would be defiled and lose all its virtue, were any profane eye to fall on it before it entered the priest's house. During the morning the acolyte and the priest's deputy go round from house to house collecting victims for the sacrifice. In the afternoon the people all gather at the sacred grove, and the priest proceeds to consummate the sacrifice. The first victims to be immolated are a white cock for the Sun God and a black hen for the Earth Goddess; and as the feast is the marriage of these great deities the marriage service is performed over the two fowls before they are hurried into eternity. Amongst other things both birds are marked with vermilion just as a bride and bridegroom are marked at a human marriage; and the earth is also smeared with vermilion, as if it were a real bride, on the spot where [pg 048] the sacrifice is offered. Sacrifices of fowls or goats to the minor deities or demons follow. The bodies of the victims are collected by the village boys, who cook them on the spot; all the heads go to the sacrificers. The gods take what they can get and are more or less thankful. Meantime the acolyte has collected flowers of the sal tree and set them round the place of sacrifice, and he has also fetched the holy water from the priest's house. A procession is now formed and the priest is carried in triumph to his own abode. There his wife has been watching for him, and on his arrival the two go through the marriage ceremony, applying vermilion to each other in the usual way “to symbolise the mystical marriage of the Sun-god with the Earth-goddess.” Meantime all the women of the village are standing on the thresholds of their houses each with a winnowing-fan in her hand. In the fan are two cups, one empty to receive the holy water, and the other full of rice-beer for the consumption of the holy man. As he arrives at each house, he distributes flowers and holy water to the happy women, and enriches them with a shower of blessings, saying, “May your rooms and granary be filled with rice, that the priest's name may be great.” The holy water which he leaves at each house is sprinkled on the seeds that have been kept to sow next year's crop. Having thus imparted his benediction to the household the priest swigs the beer; and as he repeats his benediction and his potation at every house he is naturally dead-drunk by the time he gets to the end of the village. “By that time every one has taken copious libations of rice-beer, and all the devils of the village seem to be let loose, and there follows a scene of debauchery baffling description—all these to induce the Sun and the Earth to be fruitful.”148

Thus the people of Cyprus and Western Asia in antiquity were by no means singular in their belief that the profligacy of the human sexes served to quicken the fruits of the earth.149

Cinyras beloved by Aphrodite. Pygmalion and Aphrodite. The Phoenician kings of Cyprus or their sons appear to have been hereditary lovers of the goddess. Sacred marriage of the kings of Paphos. Sons and daughters, fathers and mothers of a god.

Cinyras is said to have been famed for his exquisite [pg 049] beauty150 and to have been wooed by Aphrodite herself.151 Thus it would appear, as scholars have already observed,152 that Cinyras was in a sense a duplicate of his handsome son Adonis, to whom the inflammable goddess also lost her heart. Further, these stories of the love of Aphrodite for two members of the royal house of Paphos can hardly be dissociated from the corresponding legend told of Pygmalion, the Phoenician king of Cyprus, who is said to have fallen in love with an image of Aphrodite and taken it to his bed.153 When we consider that Pygmalion was the father-in-law of Cinyras, that the son of Cinyras was Adonis, and that all three, in successive generations, are said to have been concerned in a love-intrigue with Aphrodite, we can hardly help concluding that the early Phoenician kings of Paphos, or their sons, regularly claimed to be not merely the priests of the goddess154 but also her lovers, in other words, that in their official capacity they personated Adonis. At all events Adonis is said to have reigned in Cyprus,155 and it appears to be certain that the title of Adonis was regularly borne by the sons of all the Phoenician kings of the island.156 It is true that the title strictly signified no more than “lord”; yet the legends which connect these Cyprian princes with the goddess of love make it probable that they claimed the [pg 050] divine nature as well as the human dignity of Adonis. The story of Pygmalion points to a ceremony of a sacred marriage in which the king wedded the image of Aphrodite, or rather of Astarte. If that was so, the tale was in a sense true, not of a single man only, but of a whole series of men, and it would be all the more likely to be told of Pygmalion, if that was a common name of Semitic kings in general, and of Cyprian kings in particular. Pygmalion, at all events, is known as the name of the famous king of Tyre from whom his sister Dido fled;157 and a king of Citium and Idalium in Cyprus, who reigned in the time of Alexander the Great, was also called Pygmalion, or rather Pumiyathon, the Phoenician name which the Greeks corrupted into Pygmalion.158 Further, it deserves to be noted that the names Pygmalion and Astarte occur together in a Punic inscription on a gold medallion which was found in a grave at Carthage; the characters of the inscription are of the earliest type.159 As the custom of religious prostitution at Paphos is said to have been founded by King Cinyras and observed by his daughters,160 we may surmise that the kings of Paphos played the part of the divine bridegroom in a less innocent rite than the form of marriage with a statue; in fact, that at certain festivals each of them had to mate with one or more of the sacred harlots of the temple, who played Astarte to his Adonis. If that was so, there is more truth than has commonly been supposed in the reproach cast by the Christian fathers that the Aphrodite worshipped [pg 051] by Cinyras was a common whore.161 The fruit of their union would rank as sons and daughters of the deity, and would in time become the parents of gods and goddesses, like their fathers and mothers before them. In this manner Paphos, and perhaps all sanctuaries of the great Asiatic goddess where sacred prostitution was practised, might be well stocked with human deities, the offspring of the divine king by his wives, concubines, and temple harlots. Any one of these might probably succeed his father on the throne162 or be sacrificed in his stead whenever stress of war or other grave junctures called, as they sometimes did,163 for the death of a royal victim. Such a tax, levied occasionally on the king's numerous progeny for the good of the country, would neither extinguish the divine stock nor break the father's heart, who divided his paternal affection among so many. At all events, if, as there seems reason to believe, Semitic kings were often regarded at the same time as hereditary deities, it is easy to understand the frequency of Semitic personal names which imply that the bearers of them were the sons or daughters, the brothers or sisters, the fathers or mothers of a god, and we need not resort to the shifts employed by some scholars to evade the plain sense of the words.164 This interpretation is confirmed by a parallel [pg 052] Egyptian usage; for in Egypt, where the kings were worshipped as divine,165 the queen was called “the wife of the god” or “the mother of the god,”166 and the title “father of the god” was borne not only by the king's real father but also by his father-in-law.167 Similarly, perhaps, among the Semites any man who sent his daughter to swell the royal harem may have been allowed to call himself “the father of the god.”

Cinyras, like King David, a harper. The use of music as a means of prophetic inspiration among the Hebrews.

If we may judge by his name, the Semitic king who bore the name of Cinyras was, like King David, a harper; for the name of Cinyras is clearly connected with the Greek cinyra, “a lyre,” which in its turn comes from the Semitic kinnor, “a lyre,” the very word applied to the instrument on which David played before Saul.168 We shall probably not err in assuming that at Paphos as at Jerusalem the music of the lyre or harp was not a mere pastime designed to while away an idle hour, but formed part of the service of religion, the moving influence of its melodies being perhaps set down, like the effect of wine, to the direct inspiration of a deity. Certainly at Jerusalem the regular clergy of the temple prophesied to the music of harps, of psalteries, and of cymbals;169 and it appears that the irregular clergy also, as we may call the prophets, depended on some such stimulus for inducing the ecstatic state which they took for immediate converse with the divinity.170 Thus we read of a band of prophets coming down from a high place with a psaltery, a timbrel, a pipe, and a harp before them, and prophesying as they went.171 Again, when the united forces of Judah and Ephraim were traversing the wilderness of Moab in pursuit of the enemy, they could find no water for [pg 053] three days, and were like to die of thirst, they and the beasts of burden. In this emergency the prophet Elisha, who was with the army, called for a minstrel and bade him play. Under the influence of the music he ordered the soldiers to dig trenches in the sandy bed of the waterless waddy through which lay the line of march. They did so, and next morning the trenches were full of the water that had drained down into them underground from the desolate, forbidding mountains on either hand. The prophet's success in striking water in the wilderness resembles the reported success of modern dowsers, though his mode of procedure was different. Incidentally he rendered another service to his countrymen. For the skulking Moabites from their lairs among the rocks saw the red sun of the desert reflected in the water, and taking it for the blood, or perhaps rather for an omen of the blood, of their enemies, they plucked up heart to attack the camp and were defeated with great slaughter.172

The influence of music on religion.

Again, just as the cloud of melancholy which from time to time darkened the moody mind of Saul was viewed as an evil spirit from the Lord vexing him, so on the other hand the solemn strains of the harp, which soothed and composed his troubled thoughts,173 may well have seemed to the hag-ridden king the very voice of God or of his good angel whispering peace. Even in our own day a great religious writer, himself deeply sensitive to the witchery of music, has said that musical notes, with all their power to fire the blood and melt the heart, cannot be mere empty sounds and nothing more; no, they have escaped from some higher sphere, they are outpourings of eternal harmony, the voice of angels, the Magnificat of saints.174 It is thus that the rude imaginings of primitive man are transfigured and his feeble lispings echoed with a rolling reverberation in the musical prose of Newman. Indeed the influence of music on the development [pg 054] of religion is a subject which would repay a sympathetic study. For we cannot doubt that this, the most intimate and affecting of all the arts, has done much to create as well as to express the religious emotions, thus modifying more or less deeply the fabric of belief to which at first sight it seems only to minister. The musician has done his part as well as the prophet and the thinker in the making of religion. Every faith has its appropriate music, and the difference between the creeds might almost be expressed in musical notation. The interval, for example, which divides the wild revels of Cybele from the stately ritual of the Catholic Church is measured by the gulf which severs the dissonant clash of cymbals and tambourines from the grave harmonies of Palestrina and Handel. A different spirit breathes in the difference of the music.175

The function of string music in Greek and Semitic ritual.

The legend which made Apollo the friend of Cinyras176 may be based on a belief in their common devotion to the lyre. But what function, we may ask, did string music perform in the Greek and the Semitic ritual? Did it serve to rouse the human mouthpiece of the god to prophetic ecstasy? or did it merely ban goblins and demons from the holy places and the holy service, drawing as it were around the worshippers a magic circle within which no evil thing might intrude? In short, did it aim at summoning good or banishing evil spirits? was its object inspiration or exorcism? The examples drawn from the lives or legends of Elisha and David prove that with the Hebrews the music of the lyre might be used for either purpose; for while Elisha employed it to tune himself to the prophetic pitch, David resorted to it for the sake of exorcising the foul fiend from Saul. With the Greeks, on the other hand, in historical times, it does not appear that string music served as a means of inducing the condition of trance or ecstasy in the human mouthpieces of Apollo and the other oracular gods; on the contrary, its sobering and composing influence, as contrasted with the exciting influence of flute music, is the aspect which chiefly impressed [pg 055] the Greek mind.177 The religious or, at all events, the superstitious man might naturally ascribe the mental composure wrought by grave, sweet music to a riddance of evil spirits, in short to exorcism; and in harmony with this view, Pindar, speaking of the lyre, says that all things hateful to Zeus in earth and sea tremble at the sound of music.178 Yet the association of the lyre with the legendary prophet Orpheus as well as with the oracular god Apollo seems to hint that in early days its strains may have been employed by the Greeks, as they certainly were by the Hebrews, to bring on that state of mental exaltation in which the thick-coming fancies of the visionary are regarded as divine communications.179 Which of these two functions of music, the positive or the negative, the inspiring or the protective, predominated in the religion of Adonis we cannot say; perhaps the two were not clearly distinguished in the minds of his worshippers.

Traditions as to the death of Cinyras.

A constant feature in the myth of Adonis was his premature and violent death. If, then, the kings of Paphos regularly personated Adonis, we must ask whether they imitated their divine prototype in death as in life. Tradition varied as to the end of Cinyras. Some thought that he slew himself on discovering his incest with his daughter;180 others alleged that, like Marsyas, he was defeated by Apollo in a musical contest and put to death by the victor.181 Yet he cannot strictly be said to have perished in the flower of his youth if he lived, as Anacreon averred, to the ripe age of one hundred and sixty.182 If we must choose between the two stories, it is perhaps more likely that he died a violent death than that he survived to an age which surpassed that of [pg 056] Thomas Parr by eight years,183 though it fell far short of the antediluvian standard. The life of eminent men in remote ages is exceedingly elastic and may be lengthened or shortened, in the interests of history, at the taste and fancy of the historian.

[pg 057]

Chapter IV. Sacred Men and Women.

§ 1. An Alternative Theory.

Sacred prostitution of Western Asia.

In the preceding chapter we saw that a system of sacred prostitution was regularly carried on all over Western Asia, and that both in Phoenicia and in Cyprus the practice was specially associated with the worship of Adonis. As the explanation which I have adopted of the custom has been rejected in favour of another by writers whose opinions are entitled to be treated with respect, I shall devote the present chapter to a further consideration of the subject, and shall attempt to gather, from a closer scrutiny and a wider survey of the field, such evidence as may set the custom and with it the worship of Adonis in a clearer light. At the outset it will be well to examine the alternative theory which has been put forward to explain the facts.

Theory of its secular origin.

It has been proposed to derive the religious prostitution of Western Asia from a purely secular and precautionary practice of destroying a bride's virginity before handing her over to her husband in order that “the bridegroom's intercourse should be safe from a peril that is much dreaded by men in a certain stage of culture.”184 Among [pg 058] the objections which may be taken to this view are the following:—

The theory does not account for the religious character of the custom,

(1) The theory fails to account for the deeply religious character of the customs as practised in antiquity all over Western Asia. That religious character appears from the observance of the custom at the sanctuaries of a great goddess, the dedication of the wages of prostitution to her, the belief of the women that they earned her favour by prostituting themselves,185 and the command of a male deity to serve him in this manner.186

Nor for the prostitution of married women.

(2) The theory fails to account for the prostitution of married women at Heliopolis187 and apparently also at Babylon and Byblus; for in describing the practice at the two latter places our authorities, Herodotus and Lucian, speak only of women, not of virgins.188 In Israel also we know from Hosea that young married women prostituted themselves at the sanctuaries on the hilltops under the shadow of the sacred oaks, poplars, and terebinths.189 The prophet makes no mention of virgins participating in these orgies. They may have done so, but his language does not imply it: he speaks only of “your daughters” and “your daughters-in-law.” The prostitution of married women is wholly inexplicable on the hypothesis here criticized. Yet it can hardly be separated from the prostitution of virgins, which in some places at least was carried on side by side with it.

Nor for the repeated prostitution of the same women.

(3) The theory fails to account for the repeated and professional prostitution of women in Lydia, Pontus, Armenia, and apparently all over Palestine.190 Yet this habitual prostitution can in its turn hardly be separated [pg 059] from the first prostitution in a woman's life. Or are we to suppose that the first act of unchastity is to be explained in one way and all the subsequent acts in quite another? that the first act was purely secular and all the subsequent acts purely religious?

Nor for the sacred men beside the sacred women.

(4) The theory fails to account for the Ḳedeshim (“sacred men”) side by side with the Ḳedeshoth (“sacred women”) at the sanctuaries;191 for whatever the religious functions of these “sacred men” may have been, it is highly probable that they were analogous to those of the “sacred women” and are to be explained in the same way.

And is irreconcilable with the payment of the women.

(5) On the hypothesis which I am considering we should expect to find the man who deflowers the maid remunerated for rendering a dangerous service; and so in fact we commonly find him remunerated in places where the supposed custom is really practised.192 But in Western Asia it was just the contrary. It was the woman who was paid, not the man; indeed, so well was she paid that in Lydia and Cyprus the girls earned dowries for themselves in this fashion.193 This clearly shows that it was the woman, and not the man, who was believed to render the service. Or are we to suppose that the man had to pay for rendering a dangerous service?194

These considerations seem to prove conclusively that whatever the remote origin of these Western Asiatic customs may have been, they cannot have been observed in historical [pg 060] times from any such motive as is assumed by the hypothesis under discussion. At the period when we have to do with them the customs were to all appearance purely religious in character, and a religious motive must accordingly be found for them. Such a motive is supplied by the theory I have adopted, which, so far as I can judge, adequately explains all the known facts.

The practice of destroying virginity has sometimes had a religious character.

At the same time, in justice to the writers whose views I have criticized, I wish to point out that the practice from which they propose to derive the sacred prostitution of Western Asia has not always been purely secular in character. For, in the first place, the agent employed is sometimes reported to be a priest;195 and, in the second place, the sacrifice of virginity has in some places, for example at Rome and in parts of India, been made directly to the image of a male deity.196 The meaning of these practices is very obscure, and in the present state of our ignorance on the subject it is unsafe to build conclusions on them. It is possible that what seems to be a purely secular precaution may be only a degenerate form of a religious rite; and on the other hand it is possible that the religious rite may go back to a purely physical preparation for marriage, such as is still observed among the aborigines of Australia.197 But even if such an [pg 061] historical origin could be established, it would not explain the motives from which the customs described in this volume were practised by the people of Western Asia in historical times. The true parallel to these customs is the sacred prostitution which is carried on to this day by dedicated women in India and Africa. An examination of these modern practices may throw light on the ancient customs.

§ 2. Sacred Women in India.

Sacred women in the Tamil temples of Southern India. Such women are sometimes married to the god and possessed by him.

In India the dancing-girls dedicated to the service of the Tamil temples take the name of deva-dasis, “servants or slaves of the gods,” but in common parlance they are spoken of simply as harlots. Every Tamil temple of note in Southern India has its troop of these sacred women. Their official duties are to dance twice a day, morning and evening, in the temple, to fan the idol with Tibetan ox-tails, to dance and sing before it when it is borne in procession, and to carry the holy light called Kúmbarti. Inscriptions show that in a.d. 1004 the great temple of the Chola king Rajaraja at Tanjore had attached to it four hundred “women of the temple,” who lived at free quarters in the streets round about it and were allowed land free of taxes out of its endowment. From infancy they are trained to dance and sing. In order to obtain a safe delivery expectant mothers will often vow to dedicate their child, if she should prove to be a girl, to the service of God. Among the weavers of Tiru-kalli-kundram, a little town in the Madras Presidency, the eldest daughter of every family is devoted to the temple. Girls thus made over to the deity are formally married, sometimes to the idol, sometimes to a sword, before they enter on their duties; from which it appears that they are often, if not regularly, regarded as the wives of the god.198 [pg 062] Among the Kaikolans, a large caste of Tamil weavers who are spread all over Southern India, at least one girl in every family should be dedicated to the temple service. The ritual, as it is observed at the initiation of one of these girls in Coimbatore, includes “a form of nuptial ceremony. The relations are invited for an auspicious day, and the maternal uncle, or his representative, ties a gold band on the girl's forehead, and, carrying her, places her on a plank before the assembled guests. A Brahman priest recites the mantrams, and prepares the sacred fire (hōmam). The uncle is presented with new cloths by the girl's mother. For the actual nuptials a rich Brahman, if possible, and, if not, a Brahman of more lowly status is invited. A Brahman is called in, as he is next in importance to, and the representative of the idol. It is said that, when the man who is to receive her first favours, joins the girl, a sword must be placed, at least for a few minutes, by her side.” When one of these dancing-girls dies, her body is covered with a new cloth which has been taken for the purpose from the idol, and flowers are supplied from the temple to which she belonged. No worship is performed in the temple until the last rites have been performed over her body, because the idol, being deemed her husband, is held to be in that state of ceremonial pollution common to human mourners which debars him from the offices of religion.199 In Mahratta such a female devotee is called Murli. Common folk believe that from time to time the shadow of the god falls on her and [pg 063] possesses her person. At such times the possessed woman rocks herself to and fro, and the people occasionally consult her as a soothsayer, laying money at her feet and accepting as an oracle the words of wisdom or folly that drop from her lips.200 Nor is the profession of a temple prostitute adopted only by girls. In Tulava, a district of Southern India, any woman of the four highest castes who wearies of her husband or, as a widow and therefore incapable of marriage, grows tired of celibacy, may go to a temple and eat of the rice offered to the idol. Thereupon, if she is a Brahman, she has the right to live either in the temple or outside of its precincts, as she pleases. If she decides to live in it, she gets a daily allowance of rice, and must sweep the temple, fan the idol, and confine her amours to the Brahmans. The male children of these women form a special class called Moylar, but are fond of assuming the title of Stanikas. As many of them as can find employment hang about the temple, sweeping the areas, sprinkling them with cow-dung, carrying torches before the gods, and doing other odd jobs. Some of them, debarred from these holy offices, are reduced to the painful necessity of earning their bread by honest work. The daughters are either brought up to live like their mothers or are given in marriage to the Stanikas. Brahman women who do not choose to live in the temples, and all the women of the three lower castes, cohabit with any man of pure descent, but they have to pay a fixed sum annually to the temple.201

In Travancore the dancing-girls are regularly married to the god.

In Travancore a dancing-girl attached to a temple is known as a Dâsî, or Dêvadâsî, or Dêvaratiâl, “a servant of God.” The following account of her dedication and way of life deserves to be quoted because, while it ignores the baser side of her vocation, it brings clearly out the idea of her marriage to the deity. “Marriage in the case of a Dêvaratiâl in its original import is a renunciation of ordinary family life and a consecration to the service of God. With a lady-nurse at a Hospital, or a sister at a Convent, a Dêvadâsî at a Hindu shrine, such as she probably was in the early ages of Hindu [pg 064] spirituality, would have claimed favourable comparison. In the ceremonial of the dedication-marriage of the Dâsî, elements are not wanting which indicate a past quite the reverse of disreputable. The girl to be married is generally from six to eight years in age. The bridegroom is the presiding deity of the local temple. The ceremony is done at his house. The expenses of the celebration are supposed to be partly paid from his funds. To instance the practice at the Suchîndram temple, a Yôga or meeting of the chief functionaries of the temple arranges the preliminaries. The girl to be wedded bathes and goes to the temple with two pieces of cloth, a tâli, betel, areca-nut, etc. These are placed by the priest at the feet of the image. The girl sits with the face towards the deity. The priest kindles the sacred fire and goes through all the rituals of the Tirukkalyânam festival. He then initiates the bride into the Panchâkshara mantra, if in a Saiva temple, and the Ashtâkshara, if in a Vaishnava temple. On behalf of the divine bridegroom, he presents one of the two cloths she has brought as offering and ties the Tâli around her neck. The practice, how old it is not possible to say, is then to take her to her house where the usual marriage festivities are celebrated for four days. As in Brahminical marriages, the Nalunku ceremony, i.e. the rolling of a cocoanut by the bride to the bridegroom and vice versa a number of times to the accompaniment of music, is gone through, the temple priest playing the bridegroom's part. Thenceforth she becomes the wife of the deity in the sense that she formally and solemnly dedicates the rest of her life to his service with the same constancy and devotion that a faithful wife united in holy matrimony shows to her wedded lord. The life of a Dêvadâsî bedecked with all the accomplishments that the muses could give was one of spotless purity. Even now she is maintained by the temple. She undertakes fasts in connection with the temple festivals, such as the seven days' fast for the Apamârgam ceremony. During the period of this fast, strict continence is enjoined; she is required to take only one meal, and that within the temple—in fact to live and behave at least for a term, in the manner ordained for her throughout life. Some of the details of her daily work seem interesting; she attends [pg 065] the Dîpâradhana, the waving of lighted lamps in front of the deity at sunset every day; sings hymns in his praise, dances before his presence, goes round with him in his processions with lights in hand. After the procession, she sings a song or two from Jayadêva's Gîtagôvinda and with a few lullaby hymns, her work for the night is over. When she grows physically unfit for these duties, she is formally invalided by a special ceremony, i.e. Tôtuvaikkuka, or the laying down of the ear-pendants. It is gone through at the Maha Raja's palace, whereafter she becomes a Tâikkizhavi (old mother), entitled only to a subsistence-allowance. When she dies, the temple contributes to the funeral expenses. On her death-bed, the priest attends and after a few ceremonies immediately after death, gets her bathed with saffron-powder.”202

§ 3. Sacred Men and Women in West Africa.

Among the Ewe peoples of West Africa the sacred prostitutes are regarded as the wives of the god.

Still more instructive for our present purpose are the West African customs. Among the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast “recruits for the priesthood are obtained in two ways, viz. by the affiliation of young persons, and by the direct consecration of adults. Young people of either sex dedicated or affiliated to a god are termed kosio, from kono, ‘unfruitful,’ because a child dedicated to a god passes into his service and is practically lost to his parents, and si, ‘to run away.’ As the females become the ‘wives’ of the god to whom they are dedicated, the termination si in võdu-si [another name for these dedicated women], has been translated ‘wife’ by some Europeans; but it is never used in the general acceptation of that term, being entirely restricted to persons consecrated to the gods. The chief business of the female kosi is prostitution, and in every town there is at least one institution in which the best-looking girls, between ten and twelve years of age, are received. Here they remain for three years, learning the chants and dances peculiar to the worship of the gods, and prostituting themselves to the [pg 066] priests and the inmates of the male seminaries; and at the termination of their novitiate they become public prostitutes. This condition, however, is not regarded as one for reproach; they are considered to be married to the god, and their excesses are supposed to be caused and directed by him. Properly speaking, their libertinage should be confined to the male worshippers at the temple of the god, but practically it is indiscriminate. Children who are born from such unions belong to the god.”203 These women are not allowed to marry since they are deemed the wives of a god.204

The human wives of the python-god.

Again, in this part of Africa “the female Kosio of Dañh-gbi, or Dañh-sio, that is, the wives, priestesses, and temple prostitutes of Dañh-gbi, the python-god, have their own organization. Generally they live together in a group of houses or huts inclosed by a fence, and in these inclosures the novices undergo their three years of initiation. Most new members are obtained by the affiliation of young girls; but any woman whatever, married or single, slave or free, by publicly simulating possession, and uttering the conventional cries recognized as indicative of possession by the god, can at once join the body, and be admitted to the habitations of the order. The person of a woman who has joined in this manner is inviolable, and during the period of her novitiate she is forbidden, if single, to enter the house of her parents, and, if married, that of her husband. This inviolability, while it gives women opportunities of gratifying an illicit passion, at the same time serves occasionally to save the persecuted slave, or neglected wife, from the ill-treatment of the lord and master; for she has only to go through the conventional form of possession and an asylum is assured.”205 The python-god marries these women secretly in his temple, and they father their offspring on him; but it is the priests who consummate the union.206

Supposed connexion between the fertility of the soil and the marriage of women to the serpent.

For our purpose it is important to note that a close [pg 067] connexion is apparently supposed to exist between the fertility of the soil and the marriage of these women to the serpent. For the time when new brides are sought for the reptile-god is the season when the millet is beginning to sprout. Then the old priestesses, armed with clubs, run frantically through the streets shrieking like mad women and carrying off to be brides of the serpent any little girls between the ages of eight and twelve whom they may find outside of the houses. Pious people at such times will sometimes leave their daughters at their doors on purpose that they may have the honour of being dedicated to the god.207 The marriage of wives to the serpent-god is probably deemed necessary to enable him to discharge the important function of making the crops to grow and the cattle to multiply; for we read that these people “invoke the snake in excessively wet, dry, or barren seasons; on all occasions relating to their government and the preservation of their cattle; or rather, in one word, in all necessities and difficulties, in which they do not apply to their new batch of gods.”208 Once in a bad season the Dutch factor Bosman found the King of Whydah in a great rage. His Majesty explained the reason of his discomposure by saying “that that year he had sent much larger offerings to the snake-house than usual, in order to obtain a good crop; and that one of his vice-roys (whom he shewed me) had desired him afresh, in the name of the priests, who threatened a barren year, to send yet more. To which he answered that he did not intend to make any further offerings this year; and if the snake would not bestow a plentiful harvest on them, he might let it alone; for (said he) I cannot be more damaged thereby, the greatest part of my corn being already rotten in the field.”209

Human wives of a snake-god among the Akikuyu.

The Akikuyu of British East Africa “have a custom which reminds one of the West African python-god and his wives. At intervals of, I believe, several years the medicine-men order huts to be built for the purpose of worshipping a river snake. The snake-god requires wives, and women or [pg 068] more especially girls go to the huts. Here the union is consummated by the medicine-men. If the number of females who go to the huts voluntarily is not sufficient, girls are seized and dragged there. I believe the offspring of such a union is said to be fathered by God (Ngai): at any rate there are children in Kikuyu who are regarded as the children of God.”210

Sacred men as well as women in West Africa: they are thought to be possessed by the deity.

Among the negroes of the Slave Coast there are, as we have seen, male kosio as well as female kosio; that is, there are dedicated men as well as dedicated women, priests as well as priestesses, and the ideas and customs in regard to them seem to be similar. Like the women, the men undergo a three years' novitiate, at the end of which each candidate has to prove that the god accepts him and finds him worthy of inspiration. Escorted by a party of priests he goes to a shrine and seats himself on a stool that belongs to the deity. The priests then anoint his head with a mystic decoction and invoke the god in a long and wild chorus. During the singing the youth, if he is acceptable to the deity, trembles violently, simulates convulsions, foams at the mouth, and dances in a frenzied style, sometimes for more than an hour. This is the proof that the god has taken possession of him. After that he has to remain in a temple without speaking for seven days and nights. At the end of that time, he is brought out, a priest opens his mouth to show that he may now use his tongue, a new name is given him, and he is fully ordained.211 Henceforth he is regarded as the priest and medium of the deity whom he serves, and the words which he utters in that morbid state of mental excitement which passes for divine inspiration, are accepted by the hearers as the very words of the god spoken by the mouth of the man.212 Any crime which a priest committed in a state of frenzy used to remain unpunished, no doubt because the act was thought to be the act of the god. But this benefit of clergy was so much abused that under King Gezo the law had to be altered; and although, while he is still possessed [pg 069] by the god, the inspired criminal is safe, he is now liable to punishment as soon as the divine spirit leaves him. Nevertheless on the whole among these people “the person of a priest or priestess is sacred. Not only must a layman not lay hands on or insult one; he must be careful not even to knock one by accident, or jostle against one in the street. The Abbé Bouche relates213 that once when he was paying a visit to the chief of Agweh, one of the wives of the chief was brought into the house by four priestesses, her face bloody, and her body covered with stripes. She had been savagely flogged for having accidentally trodden upon the foot of one of them; and the chief not only dared not give vent to his anger, but had to give them a bottle of rum as a peace-offering.”214

Similarly among the Tshi peoples of the Gold Coast there are sacred men and women, who are supposed to be inspired by the deity.

Among the Tshi-speaking peoples of the Gold Coast, who border on the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast to the west, the customs and beliefs in regard to the dedicated men and dedicated women, the priests and priestesses, are very similar. These persons are believed to be from time to time possessed or inspired by the deity whom they serve; and in that state they are consulted as oracles. They work themselves up to the necessary pitch of excitement by dancing to the music of drums; each god has his special hymn, sung to a special beat of the drum, and accompanied by a special dance. It is while thus dancing to the drums that the priest or priestess lets fall the oracular words in a croaking or guttural voice which the hearers take to be the voice of the god. Hence dancing has an important place in the education of priests and priestesses; they are trained in it for months before they may perform in public. These mouthpieces of the deity are consulted in almost every concern of life and are handsomely paid for their services.215 “Priests marry like any other members of the community, and purchase wives; but priestesses are never married, nor can any ‘head money’ be paid for a priestess. The reason appears to be that a priestess belongs to the god she serves, and therefore cannot become the property of a man, as would [pg 070] be the case if she married one. This prohibition extends to marriage only, and a priestess is not debarred from sexual commerce. The children of a priest or priestess are not ordinarily educated for the priestly profession, one generation being usually passed over, and the grandchildren selected. Priestesses are ordinarily most licentious, and custom allows them to gratify their passions with any man who may chance to take their fancy.”216 The ranks of the hereditary priesthood are constantly recruited by persons who devote themselves or who are devoted by their relations or masters to the profession. Men, women, and even children can thus become members of the priesthood. If a mother has lost several of her children by death, she will not uncommonly vow to devote the next born to the service of the gods; for in this way she hopes to save the child's life. So when the child is born it is set apart for the priesthood, and on arriving at maturity generally fulfils the vow made by the mother and becomes a priest or priestess. At the ceremony of ordination the votary has to prove his or her vocation for the sacred life in the usual way by falling into or simulating convulsions, dancing frantically to the beat of drums, and speaking in a hoarse unnatural voice words which are deemed to be the utterance of the deity temporarily lodged in the body of the man or woman.217

§ 4. Sacred Women in Western Asia.

In like manner the sacred prostitutes of Western Asia may have been viewed as possessed by the deity and married to the god.

Thus in Africa, and sometimes if not regularly in India, the sacred prostitutes attached to temples are regarded as the wives of the god, and their excesses are excused on the ground that the women are not themselves, but that they act under the influence of divine inspiration. This is in substance the explanation which I have given of the custom of sacred prostitution as it was practised in antiquity by the peoples [pg 071] of Western Asia. In their licentious intercourse at the temples the women, whether maidens or matrons or professional harlots, imitated the licentious conduct of a great goddess of fertility for the purpose of ensuring the fruitfulness of fields and trees, of man and beast; and in discharging this sacred and important function the women were probably supposed, like their West African sisters, to be actually possessed by the goddess. The hypothesis at least explains all the facts in a simple and natural manner; and in assuming that women could be married to gods it assumes a principle which we know to have been recognized in Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt.218 At Babylon a woman regularly slept in the great bed of Bel or Marduk, which stood in his temple on the summit of a lofty pyramid; and it was believed that the god chose her from all the women of Babylon and slept with her in the bed. However, unlike the Indian and West African wives of gods, this spouse of the Babylonian deity is reported by Herodotus to have been chaste.219 Yet we may doubt whether she was so; for these wives or perhaps paramours of Bel are probably to be identified with the wives or votaries of Marduk mentioned in the code of Hammurabi, and we know from the code that female votaries of the gods might be mothers and married to men.220 At Babylon the sun-god Shamash as well as Marduk had human wives formerly dedicated to his service, and they like the votaries of Marduk might have children.221 It is significant that a name for these Babylonian votaries was ḳadishtu, which is the same word as ḳedesha, “consecrated woman,” the regular Hebrew word for a temple harlot.222 It is true that the law [pg 072] severely punished any disrespect shown to these sacred women;223 but the example of West Africa warns us that a formal respect shown to such persons, even when it is enforced by severe penalties, need be no proof at all of their virtuous character.224 In Egypt a woman used to sleep in the temple of Ammon at Thebes, and the god was believed to visit her.225 Egyptian texts often mention her as “the divine consort,” and in old days she seems to have usually been the Queen of Egypt herself.226 But in the time of Strabo, at the beginning of our era, these consorts or concubines of Ammon, as they were called, were beautiful young girls of noble birth, who held office only till puberty. During their term of office they prostituted themselves freely to any man who took their fancy. After puberty they were given in marriage, and a ceremony of mourning was performed for them as if they were dead.227 When they died in good earnest, their bodies were laid in special graves.228

§ 5. Sacred Men in Western Asia.

Similarly the sacred men (ḳedeshim) of Western Asia may have been regarded as possessed by the deity and as acting and speaking in his name.

As in West Africa the dedicated women have their counterpart in the dedicated men, so it was in Western Asia; for there the sacred men (ḳedeshim) clearly corresponded to the sacred women (ḳedeshoth), in other words, the sacred male slaves229 of the temples were the complement of the sacred female slaves. And as the characteristic feature of the dedicated men in West Africa is their supposed possession or inspiration by the deity, so we may conjecture was it with the sacred male slaves (the ḳedeshim) of Western Asia; they, too, may have been regarded as temporary or permanent embodiments of the deity, possessed from time to time by [pg 073] his divine spirit, acting in his name, and speaking with his voice.230 At all events we know that this was so at the sanctuary of the Moon among the Albanians of the Caucasus. The sanctuary owned church lands of great extent peopled by sacred slaves, and it was ruled by a high-priest, who ranked next after the king. Many of these slaves were inspired by the deity and prophesied; and when one of them had been for some time in this state of divine frenzy, wandering alone in the forest, the high-priest had him caught, bound with a sacred chain, and maintained in luxury for a year. Then the poor wretch was led out, anointed with unguents, and sacrificed with other victims to the Moon. The mode of sacrifice was this. A man took a sacred spear, and thrust it through the victim's side to the heart. As he staggered and fell, the rest observed him closely and drew omens from the manner of his fall. Then the body was dragged or carried away to a certain place, where all his fellows stood upon it by way of purification.231 In this custom the prophet, or rather the maniac, was plainly supposed to be moon-struck in the most literal sense, that is, possessed or inspired by the deity of the Moon, who was perhaps thought by the Albanians, as by the Phrygians,232 to be a male god, since his chosen minister and mouthpiece was a man, not a woman.233 It can hardly therefore be deemed improbable that at other sanctuaries of Western Asia, where sacred men were kept, these ministers of religion should have discharged a similar prophetic function, even though they did not share the tragic [pg 074] fate of the moon-struck Albanian prophet. Nor was the influence of these Asiatic prophets confined to Asia. In Sicily the spark which kindled the devastating Servile War was struck by a Syrian slave, who simulated the prophetic ecstasy in order to rouse his fellow-slaves to arms in the name of the Syrian goddess. To inflame still more his inflammatory words this ancient Mahdi ingeniously interlarded them with real fire and smoke, which by a common conjurer's trick he breathed from his lips.234

Resemblance of the Hebrew prophets to the sacred men of Western Africa.

In like manner the Hebrew prophets were believed to be temporarily possessed and inspired by a divine spirit who spoke through them, just as a divine spirit is supposed by West African negroes to speak through the mouth of the dedicated men his priests. Indeed the points of resemblance between the prophets of Israel and West Africa are close and curious. Like their black brothers, the Hebrew prophets employed music in order to bring on the prophetic trance;235 like them, they received the divine spirit through the application of a magic oil to their heads;236 like them, they were apparently distinguished from common people by certain marks on the face;237 and like [pg 075] them they were consulted not merely in great national emergencies but in the ordinary affairs of everyday life, in which they were expected to give information and advice for a small fee. For example, Samuel was consulted about lost asses,238 just as a Zulu diviner is consulted about lost cows;239 and we have seen Elisha acting as a dowser when water ran short.240 Indeed, we learn that the old name for a prophet was a seer,241 a word which may be understood to imply that his special function was divination rather than prophecy in the sense of prediction. Be that as it may, prophecy of the Hebrew type has not been limited to Israel; it is indeed a phenomenon of almost world-wide occurrence; in many lands and in many ages the wild, whirling words of frenzied men and women have been accepted as the utterances of an indwelling deity.242 What does distinguish Hebrew prophecy from all others is that the genius of a few members of the profession wrested this vulgar but powerful instrument from baser uses, and by wielding it in the interest of a high morality rendered a service of incalculable value to humanity. That is indeed the glory of Israel, but it is not the side of prophecy with which we are here concerned.

Inspired prophets at Byblus.

More to our purpose is to note that prophecy of the ordinary sort appears to have been in vogue at Byblus, the sacred city of Adonis, centuries before the life-time of the earliest Hebrew prophet whose writings have come down to us. When the Egyptian traveller, Wen-Ammon, was lingering in the port of Byblus, under the King's orders to quit the place, the spirit of God came on one of the royal [pg 076] pages or henchmen, and in a prophetic frenzy he announced that the King should receive the Egyptian stranger as a messenger sent from the god Ammon.243 The god who thus took possession of the page and spoke through him was probably Adonis, the god of the city. With regard to the office of these royal pages we have no information; but as ministers of a sacred king and liable to be inspired by the deity, they would naturally be themselves sacred; in fact they may have belonged to the class of sacred slaves or ḳedeshim. If that was so it would confirm the conclusion to which the foregoing investigation points, namely, that originally no sharp line of distinction existed between the prophets and the ḳedeshim; both were “men of God,” as the prophets were constantly called;244 in other words, they were inspired mediums, men in whom the god manifested himself from time to time by word and deed, in short temporary incarnations of the deity. But while the prophets roved freely about the country, the ḳedeshim appear to have been regularly attached to a sanctuary; and among the duties which they performed at the shrines there were clearly some which revolted the conscience of men imbued with a purer morality. What these duties were, we may surmise partly from the behaviour of the sons of Eli to the women who came to the tabernacle,245 partly from the beliefs and practices [pg 077] as to “holy men” which survive to this day among the Syrian peasantry.

Holy men in modern Syria.

Of these “holy men” we are told that “so far as they are not impostors, they are men whom we would call insane, known among the Syrians as mejnûn, possessed by a jinn or spirit. They often go in filthy garments, or without clothing. Since they are regarded as intoxicated by deity, the most dignified men, and of the highest standing among the Moslems, submit to utter indecent language at their bidding without rebuke, and ignorant Moslem women do not shrink from their approach, because in their superstitious belief they attribute to them, as men possessed by God, a divine authority which they dare not resist. Such an attitude of compliance may be exceptional, but there are more than rumours of its existence. These ‘holy men’ differ from the ordinary derwishes whom travellers so often see in Cairo, and from the ordinary madmen who are kept in fetters, so that they may not do injury to themselves and others. But their appearance, and the expressions regarding them, afford some illustrations of the popular estimate of ancient seers, or prophets, in the time of Hosea: ‘The prophet is a fool, the man that hath the spirit is mad’;246 and in the time of Jeremiah,247 the man who made himself a prophet was considered as good as a madman.”248 To complete the parallel these vagabonds “are also believed to be possessed of prophetic power, so that they are able to foretell the future, and warn the people among whom they live of impending danger.”249

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The licence accorded to such holy men may be explained by the desire of women for offspring.

We may conjecture that with women a powerful motive for submitting to the embraces of the “holy men” is a hope of obtaining offspring by them. For in Syria it is still believed that even dead saints can beget children on barren women, who accordingly resort to their shrines in order to obtain the wish of their hearts. For example, at the Baths of Solomon in Northern Palestine, blasts of hot air escape from the ground; and one of them, named Abu Rabah, is a famous resort of childless wives who wish to satisfy their maternal longings. They let the hot air stream up over their bodies and really believe that children born to them after such a visit are begotten by the saint of the shrine.250 But the saint who enjoys the highest reputation in this respect is St. George. He reveals himself at his shrines which are scattered all over the country; at each of them there is a tomb or the likeness of a tomb. The most celebrated of these sanctuaries is at Kalat el Hosn in Northern Syria. Barren women of all sects, including Moslems, resort to it. “There are many natives who shrug their shoulders when this shrine is mentioned in connection with women. But it is doubtless true that many do not know what seems to be its true character, and who think that the most puissant saint, as they believe, in the world can give them sons.” “But the true character of the place is beginning to be recognized, so that many Moslems have forbidden their wives to visit it.”251

§ 6. Sons of God.

Belief that men and women may be the offspring of a god.

Customs like the foregoing may serve to explain the belief, which is not confined to Syria, that men and women may be in fact and not merely in metaphor the sons and [pg 079] daughters of a god; for these modern saints, whether Christian or Moslem, who father the children of Syrian mothers, are nothing but the old gods under a thin disguise. If in antiquity as at the present day Semitic women often repaired to shrines in order to have the reproach of barrenness removed from them—and the prayer of Hannah is a familiar example of the practice,252 we could easily understand not only the tradition of the sons of God who begat children on the daughters of men,253 but also the exceedingly common occurrence of the divine titles in Hebrew names of human beings.254 Multitudes of men and women, in fact, whose mothers had resorted to holy places in order to procure offspring, would be regarded as the actual children of the god and would be named accordingly. Hence Hannah called her infant Samuel, which means “name of God” or “his name is God”;255 and probably she sincerely believed that the child was actually begotten in her womb by the deity.256 The dedication of such children to the service of God at the sanctuary was merely giving back the divine son to the divine father. Similarly in West Africa, when a woman has got a child at the shrine of Agbasia, the god who alone bestows offspring on women, she dedicates him or her as a sacred slave to the deity.257

The saints in modern Syria are the equivalents of the ancient Baal or Adonis.

Thus in the Syrian beliefs and customs of to-day we probably have the clue to the religious prostitution practised in the very same regions in antiquity. Then as now women looked to the local god, the Baal or Adonis of old, the Abu Rabah or St. George of to-day, to satisfy the natural craving of a woman's heart; and then as now, apparently, the part [pg 080] of the local god was played by sacred men, who in personating him may often have sincerely believed that they were acting under divine inspiration, and that the functions which they discharged were necessary for the fertility of the land as well as for the propagation of the human species. The purifying influence of Christianity and Mohammedanism has restricted such customs within narrow limits; even under Turkish rule they are now only carried on in holes and corners. Yet if the practice has dwindled, the principle which it embodies appears to be fundamentally the same; it is a desire for the continuance of the species, and a belief that an object so natural and legitimate can be accomplished by divine power manifesting itself in the bodies of men and women.

Belief in the physical fatherhood of God not confined to Syria. Sons of the serpent-god.

The belief in the physical fatherhood of God has not been confined to Syria in ancient and modern times. Elsewhere many men have been counted the sons of God in the most literal sense of the word, being supposed to have been begotten by his holy spirit in the wombs of mortal women. Here I shall merely illustrate the creed by a few examples drawn from classical antiquity.258 Thus in order to obtain offspring women used to resort to the great sanctuary of Aesculapius, situated in a beautiful upland valley, to which a path, winding through a long wooded gorge, leads from the bay of Epidaurus. Here the women slept in the holy place and were visited in dreams by a serpent; and the children to whom they afterwards gave birth were believed to have been begotten by the reptile.259 That the serpent was supposed to be the god himself seems certain; for Aesculapius repeatedly appeared in the form of a serpent,260 and live serpents were kept and fed in his sanctuaries for the healing of the sick, being no doubt regarded as his incarnations.261 Hence the children born to women who had [pg 081] thus visited a sanctuary of Aesculapius were probably fathered on the serpent-god. Many celebrated men in classical antiquity were thus promoted to the heavenly hierarchy by similar legends of a miraculous birth. The famous Aratus of Sicyon was certainly believed by his countrymen to be a son of Aesculapius; his mother is said to have got him in intercourse with a serpent.262 Probably she slept either in the shrine of Aesculapius at Sicyon, where a figurine of her was shown seated on a serpent,263 or perhaps in the more secluded sanctuary of the god at Titane, not many miles off, where the sacred serpents crawled among ancient cypresses on the hill-top which overlooks the narrow green valley of the Asopus with the white turbid river rushing in its depths.264 There, under the shadow of the cypresses, with the murmur of the Asopus in her ears, the mother of Aratus may have conceived, or fancied she conceived, the future deliverer of his country. Again, the mother of Augustus is said to have got him by intercourse with a serpent in a temple of Apollo; hence the emperor was reputed to be the son of that god.265 Similar tales were told of the Messenian hero Aristomenes, Alexander the Great, and the elder Scipio: all of them were reported to have been begotten by snakes.266 In the time of Herod a serpent, according to Aelian, in like manner made love to a Judean maid.267 Can the story be a distorted rumour of the parentage of Christ?

Women fertilized by stone serpents in India.

In India even stone serpents are credited with a power of bestowing offspring on women. Thus the Komatis of Mysore “worship Nága or the serpent god. This worship is generally confined to women and is carried on on a large [pg 082] scale once a year on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Srávana (July and August). The representations of serpents are cut in stone slabs and are set up round an Asvattha tree on a platform, on which is also generally planted a margosa tree. These snakes in stones are set up in performance of vows and are said to be specially efficacious in curing bad sores and other skin diseases and in giving children. The women go to such places for worship with milk, fruits, and flowers on the prescribed day which is observed as a feast day.” They wash the stones, smear them with turmeric, and offer them curds and fruits. Sometimes they search out the dens of serpents and pour milk into the holes for the live reptiles.268

§ 7. Reincarnation of the Dead.

Belief that the dead come to life in the form of serpents.

The reason why snakes were so often supposed to be the fathers of human beings is probably to be found in the common belief that the dead come to life and revisit their old homes in the shape of serpents.

This notion is widely spread in Africa, especially among tribes of the Bantu stock. It is held, for example, by the Zulus, the Thonga, and other Caffre tribes of South Africa;269 by the Ngoni of British Central Africa;270 by the Wabondei,271 the Masai,272 the Suk,273 the Nandi,274 and the Akikuyu of German and British East Africa;275 and by the Dinkas of [pg 083] the Upper Nile.276 It prevails also among the Betsileo and other tribes of Madagascar.277 Among the Iban or Sea Dyaks of Borneo a man's guardian spirit (Tua) “has its external manifestation in a snake, a leopard or some other denizen of the forest. It is supposed to be the spirit of some ancestor renowned for bravery or some other virtue who at death has taken an animal form. It is a custom among the Iban when a person of note in the tribe dies, not to bury the body but to place it on a neighbouring hill or in some solitary spot above ground. A quantity of food is taken to the place every day, and if after a few days the body disappears, the deceased is said to have become a Tua or guardian spirit. People who have been suffering from some chronic complaint often go to such a tomb, taking with them an offering to the soul of the deceased to obtain his help. To such it is revealed in a dream what animal form the honoured dead has taken. The most frequent form is that of a snake. Thus when a snake is found in a Dyak house it is seldom killed or driven away; food is offered to it, for it is a guardian spirit who has come to inquire after the welfare of its clients and bring them good luck. Anything that may be found in the mouth of such a snake is taken and kept as a charm.”278 Similarly in [pg 084] Kiriwina, an island of the Trobriands Group, to the east of New Guinea, “the natives regarded the snake as one of their ancestral chiefs, or rather as the abode of his spirit, and when one was seen in a house it was believed that the chief was paying a visit to his old home. The natives considered this as an ill omen and so always tried to persuade the animal to depart as soon as possible. The honours of a chief were paid to the snake: the natives passed it in a crouching posture, and as they did so, saluted it as a chief of high rank. Native property was presented to it as an appeasing gift, accompanied by prayers that it would not do them any harm, but would go away quickly. They dared not kill the snake, for its death would bring disease and death upon those who did so.”279

Serpents which are viewed as ancestors come to life are treated with respect and often fed with milk.

Where serpents are thus viewed as ancestors come to life, the people naturally treat them with great respect and often feed them with milk, perhaps because milk is the food of human babes and the reptiles are treated as human beings in embryo, who can be born again from women. Thus “the Zulu-Caffres imagine that their ancestors generally visit them under the form of serpents. As soon, therefore, as one of these reptiles appears near their dwellings, they hasten to salute it by the name of father, place bowls of milk in its way, and turn it back gently, and with the greatest respect.”280 Among the Masai of East Africa, “when a medicine-man or a rich person dies and is buried, his soul turns into a snake as soon as his body rots; and the snake goes to his children's kraal to look after them. The Masai in consequence do not kill their sacred snakes, and if a woman sees one in her hut, she pours some milk on the ground for it to lick, after which it will go away.”281 Among [pg 085] the Nandi of British East Africa, “if a snake goes on to the woman's bed, it may not be killed, as it is believed that it personifies the spirit of a deceased ancestor or relation, and that it has been sent to intimate to the woman that her next child will be born safely. Milk is put on the ground for it to drink, and the man or his wife says: ‘... If thou wantest the call, come, thou art being called.’ It is then allowed to leave the house. If a snake enters the houses of old people they give it milk, and say: ‘If thou wantest the call, go to the huts of the children,’ and they drive it away.”282 This association of the serpent, regarded as an incarnation of the dead, both with the marriage bed and with the huts of young people, points to a belief that the deceased person who is incarnate in the snake may be born again as a human child into the world. Again, among the Suk of British East Africa “it seems to be generally believed that a man's spirit passes into a snake at death. If a snake enters a house, the spirit of the dead man is believed to be very hungry. Milk is poured on to its tracks, and a little meat and tobacco placed on the ground for it to eat. It is believed that if no food is given to the snake one or all of the members of the household will die. It, however, may none the less be killed if encountered outside the house, and if at the time of its death it is inhabited by the spirit of a dead man, ‘that spirit dies also.’ ”283 The Akikuyu of British East Africa, who similarly believe that snakes are ngoma or spirits of the departed, “do not kill a snake but pour out honey and milk for it to drink, which they say it licks up and then goes its way. If a man causes the death of a snake he must without delay summon the senior Elders in the village and slaughter a sheep, which they eat and cut a rukwaru from the skin of its right shoulder for the offender to wear on his right wrist; if this ceremony is neglected he, his wife and his children will die.”284 Among [pg 086] the Baganda the python god Selwanga had his temple on the shore of the lake Victoria Nyanza, where he dwelt in the form of a live python. The temple was a hut of the ordinary conical shape with a round hole in the wall, through which the sinuous deity crawled out and in at his pleasure. A woman lived in the temple, and it was her duty to feed the python daily with fresh milk from a wooden bowl, which she held out to the divine reptile while he drained it. The serpent was thought to be the giver of children; hence young couples living in the neighbourhood always came to the shrine to ensure the blessing of the god on their union, and childless women repaired from long distances to be relieved by him from the curse of barrenness.285 It is not said that this python god embodied the soul of a dead ancestor, but it may have been so; his power of bestowing offspring on women suggests it.

The Greeks and Romans seem to have shared the belief that the souls of the dead can be reincarnated in serpents.

The Romans and Greeks appear to have also believed that the souls of the dead were incarnate in the bodies of serpents. Among the Romans the regular symbol of the genius or guardian spirit of every man was a serpent,286 and in Roman houses serpents were lodged and fed in such numbers that if their swarms had not been sometimes reduced by conflagrations there would have been no living for them.287 In Greek legend Cadmus and his wife Harmonia [pg 087] were turned at death into snakes.288 When the Spartan king Cleomenes was slain and crucified in Egypt, a great serpent coiled round his head on the cross and kept off the vultures from his face. The people regarded the prodigy as a proof that Cleomenes was a son of the gods.289 Again, when Plotinus lay dying, a snake crawled from under his bed and disappeared into a hole in the wall, and at the same moment the philosopher expired.290 Apparently superstition saw in these serpents the souls of the dead men. In Greek religion the serpent was indeed the regular symbol or attribute of the worshipful dead,291 and we can hardly doubt that the early Greeks, like the Zulus and other African tribes at the present day, really believed the soul of the departed to be lodged in the reptile. The sacred serpent which lived in the Erechtheum at Athens, and was fed with honey-cakes once a month, may have been supposed to house the soul of the dead king Erechtheus, who had reigned in his lifetime on the same spot.292 Perhaps the libations of milk which the Greeks poured upon graves293 were intended to be drunk by serpents as the embodiments of the deceased; on two tombstones found at Tegea a man and a woman are respectively represented holding out to a serpent a cup which may be supposed to contain milk.294 We have seen that various African tribes feed serpents with milk because they imagine the reptiles to be incarnations of their dead kinsfolk;295 and the Dinkas, who practise the custom, also pour milk on the graves of their friends for some time after the burial.296 It is possible that a common type in Greek art, which exhibits a woman feeding a serpent out of [pg 088] a saucer, may have been borrowed from a practice of thus ministering to the souls of the departed.297

The serpents fed at the Thesmophoria may have been deemed incarnations of the dead. Reluctance to disturb the Earth Goddess or the spirits of the earth by the operations of digging and ploughing. Hence agricultural operations are sometimes forbidden.

Further, at the sowing festival of the Thesmophoria, held by Greek women in October, it was customary to throw cakes and pigs to serpents, which lived in caverns or vaults sacred to the corn-goddess Demeter.298 We may guess that the serpents thus propitiated were deemed to be incarnations of dead men and women, who might easily be incommoded in their earthy beds by the operations of husbandry. What indeed could be more disturbing than to have the roof of the narrow house shaken and rent over their heads by clumsy oxen dragging a plough up and down on the top of it? No wonder that at such times it was thought desirable to appease them with offerings. Sometimes, however, it is not the dead but the Earth Goddess herself who is disturbed by the husbandman. An Indian prophet at Priest Rapids, on the Middle Columbia River, dissuaded his many followers from tilling the ground because “it is a sin to wound or cut, tear up or scratch our common mother by agricultural pursuits.”299 “You ask me,” said this Indian sage, “to plough the ground. Shall I take a knife and tear my mother's bosom? You ask me to dig for stone. Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? You ask me to cut grass and hay and sell it and be rich like white men. But [pg 089] how dare I cut off my mother's hair?”300 The Baigas, a primitive Dravidian tribe of the Central Provinces in India, used to practise a fitful and migratory agriculture, burning down patches of jungle and sowing seed in the soil fertilized by the ashes after the breaking of the rains. “One explanation of their refusal to till the ground is that they consider it a sin to lacerate the breast of their mother earth with a ploughshare.”301 In China the disturbance caused to the earth-spirits by the operations of digging and ploughing was so very serious that Chinese philosophy appears to have contemplated a plan for allowing the perturbed spirits a close time by forbidding the farmer to put his spade or his plough into the ground except on certain days, when the earth-spirits were either not at home or kindly consented to put up with some temporary inconvenience for the good of man. This we may infer from a passage in a Chinese author who wrote in the first century of our era. “If it is true,” he says, “that the spirits who inhabit the soil object to it being disturbed and dug up, then it is proper for us to select special good days for digging ditches and ploughing our fields. (But this is never done); it therefore follows that the spirits of the soil, even though really annoyed when it is disturbed, pass over such an offence if man commits it without evil intent. As he commits it merely to ensure his rest and comfort, the act cannot possibly excite any anger against him in the perfect heart of those spirits; and this being the case, they will not visit him with misfortune even if he do not choose auspicious days for it. But if we believe that the earth-spirits cannot excuse man on account of the object he pursues, and detest him for annoying them by disturbing the ground, what advantage then can he derive from selecting proper days for doing so?”302 What advantage indeed? In that case the only logical conclusion is, with the Indian prophet, to forbid agriculture altogether, as an impious encroachment on the spiritual world. Few peoples, however, who have once contracted the habit of agriculture [pg 090] are willing to renounce it out of a regard for the higher powers; the utmost concession which they are willing to make to religion in the matter is to prohibit agricultural operations at certain times and seasons, when the exercise of them would be more than usually painful to the earth-spirits. Thus in Bengal the chief festival in honour of Mother Earth is held at the end of the hot season, when she is supposed to suffer from the impurity common to women, and during that time all ploughing, sowing, and other work cease.303 On a certain day of the year, when offerings are made to the Earth, the Ewe farmer of West Africa will not hoe the ground, and the Ewe weaver will not drive a sharp stake into it, “because the hoe and the stake would wound the Earth and cause her pain.”304 When Ratumaimbulu, the god who made fruit-trees to blossom and bear fruit, came once a year to Fiji, the people had to live very quietly for a month lest they should disturb him at his important work. During this time they might not plant nor build nor sail about nor go to war; indeed most kinds of work were forbidden. The priests announced the time of the god's arrival and departure.305 These periods of rest and quiet would seem to be the Indian and Fijian Lent.

Graves as places of conception for women.

Thus behind the Greek notion that women may conceive by a serpent-god306 seems to lie the belief that they can conceive by the dead in the form of serpents. If such a belief was ever held, it would be natural that barren women should resort to graves in order to have their wombs quickened, and this may explain why they visited the shrine of the serpent-god Aesculapius for that purpose; the shrine was perhaps at first a grave. It is significant that in Syria the shrines of St. George, to which childless women go to get offspring, always include a tomb or the likeness of one;307 and further, [pg 091] that in the opinion of Syrian peasants at the present day women may, without intercourse with a living man, bear children to a dead husband, a dead saint, or a jinnee.308 In the East Indies also it is still commonly believed that spirits can consort with women and beget children on them. The Olo Ngadjoe of Borneo imagine that albinoes are the offspring of the spirit of the moon by mortal women, the pallid hue of the human children naturally reflecting the pallor of their heavenly father.309

Reincarnation of the dead in America and Africa.

Such beliefs are closely akin to the idea, entertained by many peoples, that the souls of the dead may pass directly into the wombs of women and be born again as infants. Thus the Hurons used to bury little children beside the paths in the hope that their souls might enter the passing squaws and be born again;310 and similarly some negroes of West Africa throw the bodies of infants into the bush in order that their souls may choose a new mother from the women who pass by.311 Among the tribes of the Lower Congo “a baby is always buried near the house of its mother, never in the bush. They think that, if the child is not buried near its mother's house, she will be unlucky and never have any more children.” The notion probably is that the dead child, buried near its mother's house, will enter into her womb and be born again, for these people believe in the reincarnation of the dead. They think that “the only new thing about a child is its body. The spirit is old and formerly belonged to some deceased person, or it may have the spirit of some living person.” For example, if a child is like its mother, father, or uncle, they imagine that it must [pg 092] have the spirit of the relative whom it resembles, and that therefore the person whose soul has thus been abstracted by the infant will soon die.312 Among the Bangalas, a tribe of cannibals in Equatorial Africa, to the north of the Congo, a woman was one day seen digging a hole in the public road. Her husband entreated a Belgian officer to let her alone, promising to mend the road afterwards, and explaining that his wife wished to become a mother. The good-natured officer complied with his request and watched the woman. She continued to dig till she had uncovered a little skeleton, the remains of her first-born, which she tenderly embraced, humbly entreating the dead child to enter into her and give her again a mother's joy. The officer rightly did not smile.313 The Bagishu, a Bantu tribe of Mount Elgon, in the Uganda Protectorate, practise the custom of throwing out their dead “except in the case of the youngest child or the old grandfather or grandmother, for whom, like the child, a prolonged life on earth is desired.... When it is desired to perpetuate on the earth the life of some old man or woman, or that of some young baby, the corpse is buried inside the house or just under the eaves, until another child is born to the nearest relation of the corpse. This child, male or female, takes the name of the corpse, and the Bagishu firmly believe that the spirit of the dead has passed into this new child and lives again on earth. The remains are then dug up and thrown out into the open.”314

Measures taken to prevent the rebirth of undesirable spirits. Belief of the Baganda that a woman can be impregnated by the flower of the banana.

Again, just as measures are adopted to facilitate the rebirth of good ghosts, so on the other hand precautions are taken to prevent the rebirth of bad ones. Thus, with regard to the Baganda of Central Africa we read that, “while the present generation know the cause of pregnancy, the people in the earlier times were uncertain as to its real cause, and thought that it was possible to conceive without any intercourse with the male sex. Hence their precautions in passing places where [pg 093] either a suicide had been burnt, or a child born feet first had been buried. Women were careful to throw grass or sticks on such a spot, for by so doing they thought that they could prevent the ghost of the dead from entering into them, and being reborn.”315 The fear of being got with child by such ghosts was not confined to married women, it was shared by all women alike, whether young or old, whether married or single; and all of them sought to avert the danger in the same way.316 And Baganda women imagined that without the help of the other sex they could be impregnated not only by these unpleasant ghosts but also by the flower of the banana. If while a woman was busy in her garden under the shadow of the banana trees, a great purple bloom chanced to fall from one of the trees on her back or shoulders, it was quite enough, in the opinion of the Baganda, to get her with child; and were a wife accused of adultery because she gave birth to a child who could not possibly have been begotten by her husband, she had only to father the infant on a banana flower to be honourably acquitted of the charge. The reason why this remarkable property was ascribed to the bloom of the banana would seem to be that ghosts of ancestors were thought to haunt banana groves, and that the afterbirths of children, which the Baganda regarded as twins of the children, were commonly buried at the root of the trees.317 What more natural than that a ghost should lurk in each flower, and dropping adroitly in the likeness of a blossom on a woman's back effect a lodgment in her womb?

Reincarnation of the dead in India. Means taken to facilitate the rebirth of dead children.

Again, when a child dies in Northern India it is usually buried under the threshold of the house, “in the belief that as [pg 094] the parents tread daily over its grave, its soul will be reborn in the family. Here, as Mr. Rose suggests, we reach an explanation of the rule that children of Hindus are buried, not cremated. Their souls do not pass into the ether with the smoke of the pyre, but remain on earth to be reincarnated in the household.”318 In the Punjaub this belief in the reincarnation of dead infants gives rise to some quaint or pathetic customs. Thus, “in the Hissar District, Bishnois bury dead infants at the threshold, in the belief that it would facilitate the return of the soul to the mother. The practice is also in vogue in the Kangra District, where the body is buried in front of the back door. In some places it is believed that, if the child dies in infancy and the mother drops her milk for two or three days on the ground, the soul of the child comes back to be born again. For this purpose milk diluted with water is placed in a small earthen pot and offered to the dead child's spirit for three consecutive evenings. There is also a belief in the Ambala and Gujrat Districts that if jackals and dogs dig out the dead body of the child and bring it towards the town or village, it means that the child will return to its mother, but if they take it to some other side, the soul will reincarnate in some other family. For this purpose, the second day after the infant's death, the mother goes out early in the morning to see whether the dogs have brought the body towards the village. When the child is being taken away for burial the mother cuts off and preserves a piece of its garment with a view to persuade the soul to return to her. Barren women or those who have lost children in infancy tear a piece off the clothing of a dead child and stitch it to their wearing apparel, believing that the soul of the child will return to them instead of its own mother. On this account, people take great care not to lose the clothes of dead children, and some bury them in the house.”319 In Bilaspore “a still-born child, or one who has passed away before the Chhatti (the sixth day, the day of purification) is not taken out of the [pg 095] house for burial, but is placed in an earthen vessel and is buried in the doorway or in the yard of the house. Some say that this is done in order that the mother may bear another child.”320 Here in Bilaspore the people have devised a very simple way of identifying a dead person when he or she is born again as an infant. When anybody dies, they mark the body with soot or oil, and the next baby born in the family with a similar mark is hailed as the departed come to life again.321 Among the Kois of the Godavari district, in Southern India, the dead are usually burnt, but the bodies of children and of young men and women are buried. If a child dies within a month of its birth, it is generally buried close to the house “so that the rain, dripping from the eaves, may fall upon the grave, and thereby cause the parents to be blessed with another child.”322 Apparently it is supposed that the soul of the dead child, refreshed and revived by the rain, will pass again into the mother's womb. Indian criminal records contain many cases in which “the ceremonial killing of a male child has been performed as a cure for barrenness, the theory being that the soul of the murdered boy becomes reincarnated in the woman, who performs the rite with a desire to secure offspring. Usually she effects union with the spirit of the child by bathing over its body or in the water in which the corpse has been washed. Cases have recently occurred in which the woman actually bathed in the blood of the child.”323

Bringing back the soul of the dead in a fish or insect. Stories of the Virgin Birth. Reincarnation of the dead among the South Slavs.

On the fifth day after a death the Gonds perform the ceremony of bringing back the soul. They go to the bank of a river, call aloud the name of the deceased, and entering the water catch a fish or an insect. This creature they then take home and place among the sainted dead of the family, supposing that in this manner the spirit of the departed has been brought back to the house. Sometimes the fish or [pg 096] insect is eaten in the belief that it will be thus reborn as a child.324 This last custom explains the widely diffused story of virgins who have conceived by eating of a plant or an animal or merely by taking it to their bosom.325 In all such cases we may surmise that the plant or animal was thought to contain the soul of a dead person, which thus passed into the virgin's womb and was born again as an infant. Among the South Slavs childless women often resort to a grave in which a pregnant woman is buried. There they bite some grass from the grave, invoke the deceased by name, and beg her to give them the fruit of her womb. After that they take a little of the mould from the grave and carry it about with them thenceforth under their girdle.326 Apparently they imagine that the soul of the unborn infant is in the grass or the mould and will pass from it into their body.

Belief of the Kai that women may be impregnated without sexual intercourse. Belief in the island of Mota that a woman can conceive through the entrance into her of a spirit animal or fruit.

Among the Kai of German New Guinea, “impossible as it may be thought, it is yet a fact that women here and there deny in all seriousness the connexion between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Of course most people are clear as to the process. The ignorance of some individuals is perhaps based on the consideration that not uncommonly married women remain childless for years or for life. Finally, the animistic faith contributes its share to support the [pg 097] ignorance.”327 In some islands of Southern Melanesia the natives appear similarly to believe that sexual intercourse is not necessary to impregnation, and that a woman can conceive through the simple passage into her womb of a spirit-animal or a spirit-fruit without the help of a man. In the island of Mota, one of the Banks' group, “the course of events is usually as follows: a woman sitting down in her garden or in the bush or on the shore finds an animal or fruit in her loincloth. She takes it up and carries it to the village, where she asks the meaning of the appearance. The people say that she will give birth to a child who will have the characters of this animal or even, it appeared, would be himself or herself the animal. The woman then takes the creature back to the place where she had found it and places it in its proper home; if it is a land animal on the land; if a water animal in the pool or stream from which it had probably come. She builds up a wall round it and goes to feed and visit it every day. After a time the animal will disappear, and it is believed that that is because the animal has at the time of its disappearance entered into the woman. It seemed quite clear that there was no belief in physical impregnation on the part of the animal, nor of the entry of a material object in the form of the animal into her womb, but so far as I could gather, an animal found in this way was regarded as more or less supernatural, a spirit animal and not one material, from the beginning. It has happened in the memory of an old man now living in Mota that a woman who has found an animal in her loincloth has carried it carefully in her closed hands to the village, but that when she opened her hands to show it to the people, the animal has gone, and in this case it was believed that the entry had taken place while the woman was on her way from the bush to the village.... When the child is born it is regarded as being in some sense the animal or fruit which had been found and tended by the mother. The child may not eat the animal during the whole of its life, and if it does so, will suffer serious illness, if not death. If it is a fruit which has been found, the child may not eat this fruit or touch the tree [pg 098] on which it grows, the latter restriction remaining in those cases in which the fruit is inedible.... I inquired into the idea at the bottom of the prohibition of the animal as food, and it appeared to be that the person would be eating himself. It seemed that the act would be regarded as a kind of cannibalism. It was evident that there is a belief in the most intimate relation between the person and all individuals of the species with which he is identified.

“A further aspect of the belief in the animal nature of a child is that it partakes of the physical and mental characters of the animal with which it is identified. Thus, if the animal found has been a sea-snake, and this is a frequent occurrence, the child would be weak, indolent and slow; if an eel, there will be a similar disposition; if a hermit crab, the child will be hot-tempered; if a flying fox, it will also be hot-tempered and the body will be dark; if a brush turkey, the disposition will be good; if a lizard, the child will be soft and gentle; if a rat, thoughtless, hasty and intemperate. If the object found has been a fruit, here also the child will partake of its nature. In the case of a wild Malay apple (malmalagaviga) the child will have a big belly, and a person with this condition will be asked, ‘Do you come from the malmalagaviga?’ Again, if the fruit is one called womarakaraqat, the child will have a good disposition.

Similar belief in the island of Motlav.

“In the island of Motlav not far from Mota they have the same belief that if a mother has found an animal in her dress, the child will be identified with that animal and will not be allowed to eat it. Here again the child is believed to have the characters of the animal, and two instances given were that a child identified with a yellow crab will have a good disposition and be of a light colour, while if a hermit crab has been found, the child will be angry and disagreeable. In this island a woman who desires her child to have certain characters will frequent a place where she will be likely to encounter the animal which causes the appearance of these characters. Thus, if she wants to have a light coloured child, she will go to a place where there are light coloured crabs.”328

[pg 099]

Australian beliefs as to the birth of children. Reincarnation of the dead in Central Australia.

Throughout a large part of Australia, particularly in the Centre, the North, and the West, the aborigines hold that the commerce of the human sexes is not necessary to the production of children; indeed many of them go further and deny that sexual intercourse is the real cause of the propagation of the species. Among the Arunta, Kaitish, Luritcha, Ilpirra and other tribes, who roam the barren steppes of Central Australia, it appears to be a universal article of belief that every person is the reincarnation of a deceased ancestor, and that the souls of the dead pass directly into the wombs of women, who give them birth without the need of commerce with the other sex. They think that the spirits of the departed gather and dwell at particular spots, marked by a natural feature such as a rock or a tree, and that from these lurking-places they dart out and enter the bodies of passing women or girls. When a woman feels her womb quickened, she knows that a spirit has made its way into her from the nearest abode of the dead. This is their regular explanation of conception and childbirth. “The natives, one and all in these tribes, believe that the child is the direct result of the entrance into the mother of an ancestral spirit individual. They have no idea of procreation as being associated with sexual intercourse, and firmly believe that children can be born without this taking place.”329 The spots where the souls thus congregate waiting [pg 100] to be born again are usually the places where the remote ancestors of the dream-time are said to have passed into the ground; that is, they are the places where the forefathers of the tribe are supposed to have died or to have been buried. For example, in the Warramunga tribe the ancestor of the Black-snake clan is said to have left many spirits of Black-snake children in the rocks and trees which border a certain creek. Hence no woman at the present day dares to strike one of these trees with an axe, being quite convinced that the blow would release one of the spirit-children, who would at once enter her body. They imagine that the spirit is no larger than a grain of sand, and that it enters the woman through her navel and grows into a child in her womb.330 Again, at several places in the wide territory of the Arunta tribe there are certain stones which are in like manner thought to be the abode of souls awaiting rebirth. Hence the stones are called “child-stones.” In one of them there is a hole through which the spirit-children look out for passing women, and it is firmly believed that a visit to the stone would result in conception. If a young woman is obliged to pass near the stone and does not wish to have a child, she will carefully disguise her youth, pulling a wry face and hobbling along on a stick. She will bend herself double like a very old woman, and imitating the cracked voice of age she will say, “Don't come to me, I am an old woman.” Nay, it is thought that women may conceive by the stone without visiting it. If a man and his wife both wish for a child, the husband will tie his hair-girdle round the stone, rub it, and mutter a direction to the spirits to give heed to his wife. And it is believed that by performing a similar ceremony a malicious man can cause women and even children at a distance to be pregnant.331

Reincarnation of the dead in Northern Australia.

Such beliefs are not confined to the tribes of Central Australia but prevail among all the tribes from Lake Eyre northwards to the sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria.332 Thus [pg 101] the Mungarai say that in the far past time their old ancestors walked about the country, making all the natural features of the landscape and leaving spirit-children behind them where they stopped. These children emanated from the bodies of the ancestors, and they still wait at various spots looking out for women into whom they may go and be born. For example, near McMinn's bar on the Roper River there is a large gum tree full of spirit-children, who all belong to one particular totem and are always agog to enter into women of that totem. Again, at Crescent Lagoon an ancestor, who belonged to the thunder totem, deposited numbers of spirit-children; and if a woman of the Gnaritjbellan subclass so much as dips her foot in the water, one of the spirit-children passes up her leg and into her body and in due time is born as a child, who has thunder for its totem. Or if the woman stoops and drinks water, one of the sprites will enter her through the mouth. Again, there are lagoons along the Roper River where red lilies grow; and the water is full of spirit-children which were deposited there by a kangaroo man. So when women of the Gnaritjbellan subclass wade into the water to gather lilies, little sprites swarm up their legs and are born as kangaroo children. Again, in the territory of the Nullakun tribe there is a certain spring where a man once deposited spirit-children of the rainbow totem; and to this day when a woman of the right totem comes to drink at the spring, the spirit of a rainbow child will dart into her and be born. Once more, in the territory of the Yungman tribe the trees and stones near Elsey Creek are full of spirit-children who belong to the sugar-bag (honeycomb) totem; and these sugar-bag children are constantly entering into the right women and being born into the world.333

[pg 102]

Theories as to the birth of children among the tribes of Queensland.

The natives of the Tully River in Queensland do not recognize sexual intercourse as a cause of conception in women, though curiously enough they do recognize it as the cause of conception in all animals, and pride themselves on their superiority to the brutes in that they are not indebted for the continuance of their species to such low and vulgar means. The true causes of conception in a woman, according to them, are four in number. First, she may have received a particular species of black bream from a man whom the European in his ignorance would call the father; this she may have roasted and sat over the fire inhaling the savoury smell of the roast fish. That is quite sufficient to get her with child. Or, secondly, she may have gone out on purpose to catch a certain kind of bull-frog, and if she succeeds in capturing it, that again is a full and satisfactory explanation of her pregnancy. Thirdly, some man may have told her to conceive a child, and the mere command produces the desired effect. Or, fourth and lastly, she may have simply dreamed that the child was put into her, and the dream necessarily works its own fulfilment. Whatever white men may think about the matter, these are the real causes why babies are born among the blacks on the Tully River.334 About Cape Bedford in Queensland the natives believe that babies are sent by certain long-haired spirits, with two sets of eyes in the front and back of their heads, who live in the dense scrub and underwood. The children are made in the far west where the sun goes down, and they are made not in the form of infants but full grown; but on their passage from the sunset land to the wombs they are changed into the shape of spur-winged plovers, if they are girls, or of pretty snakes, if they are boys. So when the cry of a plover is heard by night, the blacks prick up their ears and say, “Hallo! there is a baby somewhere about.” And if a woman is out in the bush searching for food and sees one of the pretty snakes, which are really baby boys on the look out for mothers, she will call out to her mates, and [pg 103] they will come running and turn over stones, and leaves, and logs in the search for the snake; and if they cannot find it they know that it has gone into the woman and that she will soon give birth to a baby boy.335 On the Pennefather River in Queensland the being who puts babies into women is called Anje-a. He takes a lump of mud out of one of the mangrove swamps, moulds it into the shape of an infant, and insinuates it into a woman's womb. You can never see him, for he lives in the depths of the woods, among the rocks, and along the mangrove swamps; but sometimes you can hear him laughing there to himself, and when you hear him you may know that he has got a baby ready for somebody.336 Among the tribes of the Cairns district in North Queensland “the acceptance of food from a man by a woman was not merely regarded as a marriage ceremony, but as the actual cause of conception.”337

Theories as to the birth of children in Northern and Western Australia. Belief that conception in women is caused by the food they eat.

Similarly among the Australian tribes of the Northern Territory, about Port Darwin and the Daly River, especially among the Larrekiya and Wogait, “conception is not regarded as a direct result of cohabitation.” The old men of the Wogait say that there is an evil spirit who takes babies from a big fire and puts them in the wombs of women, who must give birth to them. In the ordinary course of events, when a man is out hunting and kills game or collects other food, he gives it to his wife and she eats it, believing that the game or other food will cause her to conceive and bring forth a child. When the child is born, it may on no account partake of the food [pg 104] which caused conception in the mother until it has got its first teeth.338 A similar belief that conception is caused by the food which a woman eats is held by some tribes of Western Australia. On this subject Mr. A. R. Brown reports as follows: “In the Ingarda tribe at the mouth of the Gascoyne River, I found a belief that a child is the product of some food of which the mother has partaken just before her first sickness in pregnancy. My principal informant on this subject told me that his father had speared a small animal called bandaru, probably a bandicoot, but now extinct in this neighbourhood. His mother ate the animal, with the result that she gave birth to my informant. He showed me the mark in his side where, as he said, he had been speared by his father before being eaten by his mother. A little girl was pointed out to me as being the result of her mother eating a domestic cat, and her brother was said to have been produced from a bustard.... The bustard was one of the totems of the father of these two children and, therefore, of the children themselves. This, however, seems to have been purely accidental. In most cases the animal to which conception is due is not one of the father's totems. The species that is thus connected with an individual by birth is not in any way sacred to him. He may kill or eat it; he may marry a woman whose conceptional animal is of the same species, and he is not by the accident of his birth entitled to take part in the totemic ceremonies connected with it.

“I found traces of this same belief in a number of tribes north of the Ingarda, but everywhere the belief seemed to be sporadic; that is to say, some persons believed in it and others did not. Some individuals could tell the animal or plant from which they or others were descended, while others did not know or in some cases denied that conception was so caused. There were to be met with, however, some beliefs of the same character. A woman of the Buduna tribe said that native women nowadays bear half-caste children because they eat bread made of white flour. Many [pg 105] of the men believed that conception is due to sexual intercourse, but as these natives have been for many years in contact with the whites this cannot be regarded as satisfactory evidence of the nature of their original beliefs.

Conception supposed to be caused by a man who is not the father.

“In some tribes further to the north I found a more interesting and better organised system of beliefs. In the Kariera, Ñamal, and Injibandi tribes the conception of a child is believed to be due to the agency of a particular man, who is not the father. This man is the wororu of the child when it is born. There were three different accounts of how the wororu produces conception, each of them given to me on several different occasions. According to the first, the man gives some food, either animal or vegetable, to the woman, and she eats this and becomes pregnant. According to the second, the man when he is out hunting kills an animal, preferably a kangaroo or an emu, and as it is dying he tells its spirit or ghost to go to a particular woman. The spirit of the dead animal goes into the woman and is born as a child. The third account is very similar to the last. A hunter, when he has killed a kangaroo or an emu, takes a portion of the fat of the dead animal which he places on one side. This fat turns into what we may speak of as a spirit-baby, and follows the man to his camp. When the man is asleep at night the spirit-baby comes to him and he directs it to enter a certain woman who thus becomes pregnant. When the child is born the man acknowledges that he sent it, and becomes its wororu. In practically every case that I examined, some forty in all, the wororu of a man or woman was a person standing to him or her in the relation of father's brother own or tribal. In one case a man had a wororu who was his father's sister. The duties of a man to his wororu are very vaguely defined. I was told that a man ‘looks after’ his wororu, that is, performs small services for him, and, perhaps, gives him food. The conceptional animal or plant is not the totem of either the child or the wororu. The child has no particular magical connection with the animal from which he is derived. In a very large number of cases that animal is either the kangaroo or the emu.”339

[pg 106]

Some rude races still ignorant as to the cause of procreation.

Thus it appears that a childlike ignorance as to the physical process of procreation still prevails to some extent among certain rude races of mankind, who are accordingly driven to account for it in various fanciful ways such as might content the curiosity of children. We may safely assume that formerly a like ignorance was far more widely spread than it is now; indeed in the long ages which elapsed before any portion of mankind emerged from savagery, it is probable that the true cause of childbirth was universally unknown, and that people made shift to explain the mystery by some such theories as are still current among the savage or barbarous races of Central Africa, Melanesia, and Australia. A little reflection on the conditions of savage life may satisfy us that the ignorance is by no means so surprising as it may seem at first sight to a civilized observer, or, to put it otherwise, that the true cause of the birth of children is not nearly so obvious as we are apt to think. Among low savages, such as all men were originally, it is customary for boys and girls to cohabit freely with each other under the age of puberty, so that they are familiar with a commerce of the sexes which is not and cannot be attended with the birth of children. It is, therefore, not very wonderful that they should confidently deny the connexion of sexual intercourse with the production of offspring. Again, the long interval of time which divides the act of conception from the first manifest symptoms of pregnancy might easily disguise from the heedless savage the vital relation between the two. These considerations may remove or lessen the hesitation which civilized man naturally feels at admitting that a considerable part or even the whole of his species should ever have doubted or denied what seems to him one of the most obvious and elementary truths of nature.340

Legends of virgin mothers.

In the light of the foregoing evidence, stories of the [pg 107] miraculous birth of gods and heroes from virgin mothers lose much of the glamour that encircled them in days of old, and we view them simply as relics of superstition surviving like fossils to tell us of a bygone age of childlike ignorance and credulity.

§ 8. Sacred Stocks and Stones among the Semites.

Procreative virtue apparently ascribed to the sacred stocks and stones at Semitic sanctuaries.

Traces of beliefs and customs like the foregoing may perhaps be detected among the ancient Semites. When the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the Israelites who said to a stock or to a tree (for in Hebrew the words are the same), “Thou art my father,” and to a stone, “Thou hast brought me forth,”341 it is probable that he was not using vague rhetorical language, but denouncing real beliefs current among his contemporaries. Now we know that at all the old Canaanite sanctuaries, including the sanctuaries of Jehovah down to the reformations of Hezekiah and Josiah, the two regular objects of worship were a sacred stock and a sacred stone,342 and that these sanctuaries were the seats of profligate rites performed by sacred men (ḳedeshim) and sacred women (ḳedeshoth). Is it not natural to suppose that the stock and stone which the superstitious Israelites regarded as their father and mother were the sacred stock (asherah) and the sacred stone (massebah) of the sanctuary, and that the children born of the loose intercourse of the sexes at these places were believed to be the offspring or emanations of these uncouth but worshipful idols in which, as in the sacred trees and stones of Central Australia, the souls of the dead may have been supposed to await rebirth? On this view the sacred men and women who actually begot [pg 108] or bore the children were deemed the human embodiments of the two divinities, the men perhaps personating the sacred stock, which appears to have been a tree stripped of its branches, and the women personating the sacred stone, which seems to have been in the shape of a cone, an obelisk, or a pillar.343

These conclusions confirmed by the excavation of a sanctuary at the Canaanitish city of Gezer. The infants buried in the sanctuary may have been expected to be born again.

These conclusions are confirmed by the result of recent researches at Gezer, an ancient Canaanitish city, which occupied a high, isolated point on the southern border of Ephraim, between Jerusalem and the sea. Here the English excavations have laid bare the remains of a sanctuary with the sacred stone pillars or obelisks (masseboth) still standing in a row, while between two of them is set a large socketed stone, beautifully squared, which perhaps contained the sacred stock or pole (asherah). In the soil which had accumulated over the floor of the temple were found vast numbers of male emblems rudely carved out of soft limestone; and tablets of terra-cotta, representing in low relief the mother-goddess, were discovered throughout the strata. These objects were no doubt votive-offerings presented by the worshippers to the male and female deities who were represented by the sacred stock and the sacred stones; and their occurrence in large quantities raises a strong presumption that the divinities of the sanctuary were a god and goddess regarded as above all sources of fertility. The supposition is further strengthened by a very remarkable discovery. Under the floor of the temple were found the bones of many new-born children, none more than a week old, buried in large jars. None of these little bodies showed any trace of mutilation or violence; and in the light of the customs practised in many other lands344 we seem to be justified in [pg 109] conjecturing that the infants were still-born or died soon after birth, and that they were buried by their parents in the sanctuary in the hope that, quickened by the divine power, they might enter again into the mother's womb and again be born into the world.345 If the souls of these buried babes were supposed to pass into the sacred stocks and stones and to dart from them into the bodies of would-be mothers who resorted to the sanctuary, the analogy with Central Australia would be complete. That the analogy is real and not fanciful is strongly suggested by the modern practice of Syrian women who still repair to the shrines of saints to procure offspring, and who still look on “holy men” as human embodiments of divinity. In this, as in many other dark places of superstition, the present is the best guide to the interpretation of the past; for while the higher forms of religious faith pass away like clouds, the lower stand firm and indestructible like rocks. The “sacred men” of one age are the dervishes of the next, the Adonis of yesterday is the St. George of to-day.

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Chapter V. The Burning of Melcarth.

Semitic custom of sacrificing a member of the royal family. The burning of Melcarth at Tyre. Festival of the awakening of Herculesat Tyre.

If a custom of putting a king or his son to death in the character of a god has left small traces of itself in Cyprus, an island where the fierce zeal of Semitic religion was early tempered by Greek humanity, the vestiges of that gloomy rite are clearer in Phoenicia itself and in the Phoenician colonies, which lay more remote from the highways of Grecian commerce. We know that the Semites were in the habit of sacrificing some of their children, generally the first-born, either as a tribute regularly due to the deity or to appease his anger in seasons of public danger and calamity.346 If commoners did so, is it likely that kings, with all their heavy responsibilities, could exempt themselves from this dreadful sacrifice for the fatherland? In point of fact, history informs us that kings steeled themselves to do as others did.347 It deserves to be noticed that if Mesha, king of Moab, who sacrificed his eldest son by fire, claimed to be a son of his god,348 he would no doubt transmit his divinity to his offspring; and further, that the same sacrifice is said to have been performed in the same way by the divine founder of Byblus, the great seat of the worship of Adonis.349 This suggests that the human representatives of Adonis formerly perished in the flames. At all events, a custom of periodically burning the chief god of the city in effigy appears to have prevailed [pg 111] at Tyre and in the Tyrian colonies down to a late time, and the effigy may well have been a later substitute for a man. For Melcarth, the great god of Tyre, was identified by the Greeks with Hercules,350 who is said to have burned himself to death on a great pyre, ascending up to heaven in a cloud and a peal of thunder.351 The common Greek legend, immortalized by Sophocles, laid the scene of the fiery tragedy on the top of Mount Oeta, but another version transferred it significantly to Tyre itself.352 Combined with the other evidence which I shall adduce, this latter tradition raises a strong presumption that an effigy of Hercules, or rather of Melcarth, was regularly burned at a great festival in Tyre. That festival may have been the one known as “the awakening of Hercules,” which was held in the month of Peritius, answering nearly to January.353 The name of the festival suggests that the dramatic representation of the death of the god on the pyre was followed by a semblance of his resurrection. The mode in which the resurrection was supposed to be effected is perhaps indicated by the statement of a Greek writer that the Phoenicians used to sacrifice quails to Hercules, because Hercules on his journey to Libya had been slain by Typhon and brought to life again by Iolaus, who held a quail under his nose: the dead god snuffed at the bird and revived.354 According to another account Iolaus burnt a quail alive, and the dead hero, who [pg 112] loved quails, came to life again through the savoury smell of the roasted bird.355 This latter tradition seems to point to a custom of burning the quails alive in the Phoenician sacrifices to Melcarth.356 A festival of the god's resurrection might appropriately be held in spring, when the quails migrate northwards across the Mediterranean in great bands, and immense numbers of them are netted for the market.357 In the month of March the birds return to Palestine by myriads in a single night, and remain to breed in all the open plains, marshes, and cornfields.358 Certainly a close connexion seems to have subsisted between quails and Melcarth; for legend ran that Asteria, the mother of the Tyrian Hercules, that is, of Melcarth, was transformed into a quail.359 It was probably to this annual festival of the death and resurrection of Melcarth that the Carthaginians were wont to send ambassadors every year to Tyre, their mother-city.360

Worship of Melcarth at Gades, and trace of a custom of burning him there in effigy.

In Gades, the modern Cadiz, an early colony of Tyre on the Atlantic coast of Spain,361 there was an ancient, famous, and wealthy sanctuary of Hercules, the Tyrian Melcarth. Indeed the god was said to be buried on the spot. No image stood in his temple, but a perpetual fire burned on the altar, and incense was offered by white-robed priests, with bare feet and shorn heads, who were bound to chastity. Neither women nor pigs might pollute the holy place by their presence. In later times many distinguished Romans went on pilgrimage to this remote shrine on the Atlantic shore when they were about to embark on some perilous [pg 113] enterprise, and they returned to it to pay their vows when their petitions had been granted.362 One of the last things Hannibal himself did before he marched on Italy was to repair to Gades and offer up to Melcarth prayers which were never to be answered. Soon after he dreamed an ominous dream.363 Now it would appear that at Gades, as at Tyre, though no image of Melcarth stood in the temple, an effigy of him was made up and burned at a yearly festival. For a certain Cleon of Magnesia related how, visiting Gades, he was obliged to sail away from the island with the rest of the multitude in obedience to the command of Hercules, that is, of Melcarth, and how on their return they found a monstrous man of the sea stranded on the beach and burning; for the god, they were told, had struck him with a thunderbolt.364 We may conjecture that at the annual festival of Melcarth strangers were obliged to quit the city, and that in their absence the mystery of burning the god was consummated. What Cleon and the rest saw on their return to Gades would, on this hypothesis, be the smouldering remains of a gigantic effigy of Melcarth in the likeness of a man riding on a sea-horse, just as he is represented on coins of Tyre.365 In like manner the Greeks portrayed the sea-god Melicertes, whose name is only a slightly altered form of Melcarth, riding on a dolphin or stretched on the beast's back.366

Evidence of a custom of burning a god or goddess at Carthage. The fire-walk at Tyre. The fire-walk at Castabala. The Carthaginian king Hamilcar sacrifices himself in the fire.

At Carthage, the greatest of the Tyrian colonies, a [pg 114] reminiscence of the custom of burning a deity in effigy seems to linger in the story that Dido or Elissa, the foundress and queen of the city, stabbed herself to death upon a pyre, or leaped from her palace into the blazing pile, to escape the fond importunities of one lover or in despair at the cruel desertion of another.367 We are told that Dido was worshipped as a goddess at Carthage so long as the country maintained its independence.368 Her temple stood in the centre of the city shaded by a grove of solemn yews and firs.369 The two apparently contradictory views of her character as a queen and a goddess may be reconciled if we suppose that she was both the one and the other; that in fact the queen of Carthage in early days, like the queen of Egypt down to historical times, was regarded as divine, and had, like human deities elsewhere, to die a violent death either at the end of a fixed period or whenever her bodily and mental powers began to fail. In later ages the stern old custom might be softened down into a pretence by substituting an effigy for the queen or by allowing her to pass through the fire unscathed. A similar modification of the ancient rule appears to have been allowed at Tyre itself, the mother-city of Carthage. We have seen reason to think that the kings of Tyre, from whom Dido was descended, claimed to personate the god Melcarth, and that the deity was burned either in effigy or in the person of a man at an annual festival.370 Now in the same chapter in which Ezekiel charges the king of Tyre with claiming to be a god, the prophet describes him as walking “up and down amidst the stones of fire.”371 The description becomes at once intelligible [pg 115] if we suppose that in later times the king of Tyre compounded for being burnt in the fire by walking up and down on hot stones, thereby saving his life at the expense perhaps of a few blisters on his feet. It is possible that when all went well with the commonwealth, children whom strict law doomed to the furnace of Moloch may also have been mercifully allowed to escape on condition of running the fiery gauntlet. At all events, a religious rite of this sort has been and is still practised in many parts of the world: the performers solemnly pace through a furnace of heated stones or glowing wood-ashes in the presence of a multitude of spectators. Examples of the custom have been adduced in another part of this work.372 Here I will cite only one. At Castabala, in Southern Cappadocia, there was worshipped an Asiatic goddess whom the Greeks called the Perasian Artemis. Her priestesses used to walk barefoot over a fire of charcoal without sustaining any injury. That this rite was a substitute for burning human beings alive or dead is suggested by the tradition which placed the adventure of Orestes and the Tauric Artemis at Castabala;373 for the men or women sacrificed to the Tauric Artemis were first put to the sword and then burned in a pit of sacred fire.374 Among the Carthaginians another trace of such a practice may perhaps be detected in the story that at the desperate battle of Himera, fought from dawn of day till late in the evening, the Carthaginian king Hamilcar remained in the camp and kept sacrificing holocausts of victims on a huge pyre; but when he saw his army giving [pg 116] way before the Greeks, he flung himself into the flames and was burned to death. Afterwards his countrymen sacrificed to him and erected a great monument in his honour at Carthage, while lesser monuments were reared to his memory in all the Punic colonies.375 In public emergencies which called for extraordinary measures a king of Carthage may well have felt bound in honour to sacrifice himself in the old way for the good of his country. That the Carthaginians regarded the death of Hamilcar as an act of heroism and not as a mere suicide of despair, is proved by the posthumous honours they paid him.

The death of Hercules a Greek version of the burning of Melcarth.

The foregoing evidence, taken altogether, raises a strong presumption, though it cannot be said to amount to a proof, that a practice of burning a deity, and especially Melcarth, in effigy or in the person of a human representative, was observed at an annual festival in Tyre and its colonies. We can thus understand how Hercules, in so far as he represented the Tyrian god, was believed to have perished by a voluntary death on a pyre. For on many a beach and headland of the Aegean, where the Phoenicians had their trading factories, the Greeks may have watched the bale-fires of Melcarth blazing in the darkness of night, and have learned with wonder that the strange foreign folk were burning their god. In this way the legend of the voyages of Hercules and his death in the flames may be supposed to have originated. Yet with the legend the Greeks borrowed the custom of burning the god; for at the festivals of Hercules a pyre used to be kindled in memory of the hero's fiery death on Mount Oeta.376 We may surmise, though we are not expressly told, that an effigy of Hercules was regularly burned on the pyre.

[pg 117]

Chapter VI. The Burning of Sandan.

§ 1. The Baal of Tarsus.

The Tyrian Melcarth in Cyprus. The lion-slaying god.

In Cyprus the Tyrian Melcarth was worshipped side by side with Adonis at Amathus,377 and Phoenician inscriptions prove that he was revered also at Idalium and Larnax Lapethus. At the last of these places he seems to have been regarded by the Greeks as a marine deity and identified with Poseidon.378 A remarkable statue found at Amathus may represent Melcarth in the character of the lion-slayer, a character which the Greeks bestowed on Hercules. The statue in question is of colossal size, and exhibits a thick-set, muscular, hirsute deity of almost bestial aspect, with goggle eyes, huge ears, and a pair of stumpy horns on the top of his head. His beard is square and curly: his hair falls in three pigtails on his shoulders: his brawny arms appear to be tattooed. A lion's skin, clasped by a buckle, is knotted round his loins; and he holds the skin of a lioness in front of him, grasping a hind paw with each hand, while the head of the beast, which is missing, hung down between his legs. A fountain must have issued from the jaws of the lioness, for a rectangular hole, where the beast's head should be, communicates by a channel with another hole in the back of the statue. Greek artists working on this or a similar barbarous model produced the refined type of the Grecian Hercules with the lion's scalp thrown like a cowl over [pg 118] his head. Statues of him have been found in Cyprus, which represent intermediate stages in this artistic evolution.379 But there is no proof that in Cyprus the Tyrian Melcarth was burned either in effigy or in the person of a human representative.380

The Baal of Tarsus, an Oriental god of corn and grapes.

On the other hand, there is clear evidence of the observance of such a custom in Cilicia, the country which lies across the sea from Cyprus, and from which the worship of Adonis, according to tradition, was derived.381 Whether the Phoenicians ever colonized Cilicia or not is doubtful,382 but at all events the natives of the country, down to late times, worshipped a male deity who, in spite of a superficial assimilation to a fashionable Greek god, appears to have been an Oriental by birth and character. He had his principal seat at Tarsus, in a plain of luxuriant fertility and almost tropical climate, tempered by breezes from the snowy range of Tarsus on the north and from the sea on the south.383 Though Tarsus boasted of a school of Greek philosophy which at the beginning of our era surpassed those of Athens and Alexandria,384 the city apparently remained in manners and spirit essentially Oriental. The women went about the streets muffled up to the eyes in Eastern fashion, and Dio Chrysostom reproaches the natives with resembling the most dissolute of the Phoenicians rather than the Greeks [pg 119] whose civilization they aped.385 On the coins of the city they assimilated their native deity to Zeus by representing him seated on a throne, the upper part of his body bare, the lower limbs draped in a flowing robe, while in one hand he holds a sceptre, which is topped sometimes with an eagle but often with a lotus flower. Yet his foreign nature is indicated both by his name and his attributes; for in Aramaic inscriptions on the coins he bears the name of the Baal of Tarsus, and in one hand he grasps an ear of corn and a bunch of grapes.386 These attributes clearly mark him out as a god of fertility in general, who conferred on his worshippers the two things which they prized above all other gifts of nature, the corn and the wine. He was probably therefore a Semitic, or at all events an Oriental, rather than a Greek deity. For while the Semite cast all his gods more or less in the same mould, and expected them all to render him nearly the same services, the Greek, with his keener intelligence and more pictorial imagination, invested his deities with individual characteristics, allotting to each of them his or her separate function in the divine economy of the world. Thus he assigned the production of the corn to Demeter, and that of the grapes to Dionysus; he was not so unreasonable as to demand both from the same hard-worked deity.

§ 2. The God of Ibreez.

The Baal of Tarsus has his counterpart at Ibreez in Cappadocia. The pass of the Cilician Gates.

Now the suspicion that the Baal of Tarsus, for all his posing in the attitude of Zeus, was really an Oriental is confirmed by a remarkable rock-hewn monument which is to be seen at Ibreez in Southern Cappadocia. Though the [pg 120] place is distant little more than fifty miles from Tarsus as the crow flies, yet the journey on horseback occupies five days; for the great barrier of the Taurus mountains rises like a wall between. The road runs through the famous pass of the Cilician Gates, and the scenery throughout is of the grandest Alpine character. On all sides the mountains tower skyward, their peaks sheeted in a dazzling pall of snow, their lower slopes veiled in the almost inky blackness of dense pine-forests, torn here and there by impassable ravines, or broken into prodigious precipices of red and grey rock which border the narrow valley for miles. The magnificence of the landscape is enhanced by the exhilarating influence of the brisk mountain air, all the more by contrast with the sultry heat of the plain of Tarsus which the traveller has left behind. When he emerges from the defile on the wide open tableland of Anatolia he feels that in a sense he has passed out of Asia, and that the highroad to Europe lies straight before him. The great mountains on which he now looks back formed for centuries the boundary between the Christian West and the Mohammedan East; on the southern side lay the domain of the Caliphs, on the northern side the Byzantine Empire. The Taurus was the dam that long repelled the tide of Arab invasion; and though year by year the waves broke through the pass of the Cilician Gates and carried havoc and devastation through the tableland, the refluent waters always retired to the lower level of the Cilician plains. A line of beacon lights stretching from the Taurus to Constantinople flashed to the Byzantine capital tidings of the approach of the Moslem invaders.387

The rock-sculptures at Ibreez represent a god of corn and grapes adored by his worshipper, a priest or king.

The village of Ibreez is charmingly situated at the northern foot of the Taurus, some six or seven miles south of the town of Eregli, the ancient Cybistra, From the town to the village the path goes through a richly cultivated district of wheat and vines along green lanes more lovely than those of Devonshire, lined by thick hedges and rows of willow, poplar, hazel, hawthorn, and huge old walnut-trees, where in early summer the nightingales warble on [pg 121] every side. Ibreez itself is embowered in the verdure of orchards, walnuts, and vines. It stands at the mouth of a deep ravine enclosed by great precipices of red rock. From the western of these precipices a river clear as crystal, but of a deep blue tint, bursts in a powerful jet, and being reinforced by a multitude of springs becomes at once a raging impassable torrent foaming and leaping with a roar of waters over the rocks in its bed. A little way from the source a branch of the main stream flows in a deep narrow channel along the foot of a reddish weather-stained rock which rises sheer from the water. On its face, which has been smoothed to receive them, are the sculptures. They consist of two colossal figures, representing a god adored by his worshipper. The deity, some fourteen feet high, is a bearded male figure, wearing on his head a high pointed cap adorned with several pairs of horns, and plainly clad in a short tunic, which does not reach his knees and is drawn in at the waist by a belt. His legs and arms are bare; the wrists are encircled by bangles or bracelets. His feet are shod in high boots with turned-up toes. In his right hand he holds a vine-branch laden with clusters of grapes, and in his raised left hand he grasps a bunch of bearded wheat, such as is still grown in Cappadocia; the ears of corn project above his fingers, while the long stalks hang down to his feet. In front of him stands the lesser figure, some eight feet high. He is clearly a priest or king, more probably perhaps both in one. His rich vestments contrast with the simple costume of the god. On his head he wears a round but not pointed cap, encircled by flat bands and ornamented in front with a rosette or bunch of jewels, such as is still worn by Eastern princes. He is draped from the neck to the ankles in a long robe heavily fringed at the bottom, over which is thrown a shawl or mantle secured at the breast by a clasp of precious stones. Both robe and shawl are elaborately carved with patterns in imitation of embroidery. A heavy necklace of rings or beads encircles the neck; a bracelet or bangle clasps the one wrist that is visible; the feet are shod in boots like those of the god. One or perhaps both hands are raised in the act of adoration. The large aquiline nose, like the beak of a hawk, is a conspicuous [pg 122] feature in the face both of the god and of his worshipper; the hair and beard of both are thick and curly.388

The fertility of Ibreez contrasted with the desolation of the surrounding country.

The situation of this remarkable monument resembles that of Aphaca on the Lebanon;389 for in both places we see a noble river issuing abruptly from the rock to spread fertility through the rich vale below. Nowhere, perhaps, could man more appropriately revere those great powers of nature to whose favour he ascribes the fruitfulness of the earth, and through it the life of animate creation. With its cool bracing air, its mass of verdure, its magnificent stream of pure ice-cold water—so grateful in the burning heat of summer—and its wide stretch of fertile land, the valley may well have been the residence of an ancient prince or high-priest, who desired to testify by this monument his devotion and gratitude to the god. The seat of this royal or priestly potentate may have been at Cybistra,390 the modern Eregli, now a decayed and miserable place straggling amid orchards and gardens full of luxuriant groves of walnut, poplar, willow, mulberry, and oak. The place is a paradise of birds. Here [pg 123] the thrush and the nightingale sing full-throated, the hoopoe waves his crested top-knot, the bright-hued woodpeckers flit from bough to bough, and the swifts dart screaming by hundreds through the air. Yet a little way off, beyond the beneficent influence of the springs and streams, all is desolation—in summer an arid waste broken by great marshes and wide patches of salt, in winter a broad sheet of stagnant water, which as it dries up with the growing heat of the sun exhales a poisonous malaria. To the west, as far as the eye can see, stretches the endless expanse of the dreary Lycaonian plain, barren, treeless, and solitary, till it fades into the blue distance, or is bounded afar off by abrupt ranges of jagged volcanic mountains, on which in sunshiny weather the shadows of the clouds rest, purple and soft as velvet.391 No wonder that the smiling luxuriance of the one landscape, sharply contrasting with the bleak sterility of the other, should have rendered it in the eyes of primitive man a veritable garden of God.

The horned god.

Among the attributes which mark out the deity of Ibreez as a power of fertility the horns on his high cap should not be overlooked. They are probably the horns of a bull; for to primitive cattle-breeders the bull is the most natural emblem of generative force. At Carchemish, the great Hittite capital on the Euphrates, a relief has been discovered which represents a god or a priest clad in a rich robe, and wearing on his head a tall horned cap surmounted by a disc.392 Sculptures found at the palace of Euyuk in North-Western Cappadocia prove that the Hittites worshipped the bull and sacrificed rams to it.393 Similarly the Greeks conceived the vine-god Dionysus in the form of a bull.394

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§ 3. Sandan of Tarsus.

The god of Ibreez a Hittite deity.

That the god of Ibreez, with the grapes and corn in his hands, is identical with the Baal of Tarsus, who bears the same emblems, may be taken as certain.395 But what was his name? and who were his worshippers? The Greeks apparently called him Hercules; at least in Byzantine times the neighbouring town of Cybistra adopted the name of Heraclea, which seems to show that Hercules was deemed the principal deity of the place.396 Yet the style and costume of the figures at Ibreez prove unquestionably that the god was an Oriental. If any confirmation of this view were needed, it is furnished by the inscriptions carved on the rock beside the sculptures, for these inscriptions are composed in the peculiar system of hieroglyphics now known as Hittite. It follows, therefore, that the deity worshipped at Tarsus and Ibreez was a god of the Hittites, that ancient and little-known people who occupied the centre of Asia Minor, invented a system of writing, and extended their influence, if not their dominion, at one time from the Euphrates to the Aegean. From the lofty and arid tablelands of the interior, a prolongation of the great plateau of Central Asia, with a climate ranging from the most burning heat in summer to the most piercing cold in winter,397 these hardy highlanders seem to have swept down through the mountain-passes and established themselves at a very early date in the rich southern lowlands of Syria and Cilicia.398 [pg 125] Their language and race are still under discussion, but a great preponderance of opinion appears to declare that neither the one nor the other was Semitic.399

The burning of Sandan or Hercules at Tarsus.

In the inscription attached to the colossal figure of the god at Ibreez two scholars have professed to read the name of Sandan or Sanda.400 Be that as it may, there are independent grounds for thinking that Sandan, Sandon, or Sandes may have been the name of the Cappadocian and Cilician god of fertility. For the god of Ibreez in Cappadocia appears, as we saw, to have been identified by the Greeks with Hercules, and we are told that a Cappadocian and Cilician name of Hercules was Sandan or Sandes.401 [pg 126] Now this Sandan or Hercules is said to have founded Tarsus, and the people of the city commemorated him at an annual or, at all events, periodical festival by erecting a fine pyre in his honour.402 Apparently at this festival, as at the festival of Melcarth, the god was burned in effigy on his own pyre. For coins of Tarsus often exhibit the pyre as a conical structure resting on a garlanded altar or basis, with the figure of Sandan himself in the midst of it, while an eagle with spread wings perches on the top of the pyre, as if about to bear the soul of the burning god in the pillar of smoke and fire to heaven.403 In like manner when a Roman emperor died leaving a son to succeed him on the [pg 127] throne, a waxen effigy was made in the likeness of the deceased and burned on a huge pyramidal pyre, which was reared upon a square basis of wood; and from the summit of the blazing pile an eagle was released for the purpose of carrying to heaven the soul of the dead and deified emperor.404 The Romans may have borrowed from the East a grandiose custom which savours of Oriental adulation rather than of Roman simplicity.405

Sandan of Tarsus an Asiatic god with the symbols of the lion and the double axe.

The type of Sandan or Hercules, as he is portrayed on the coins of Tarsus, is that of an Asiatic deity standing on a lion. It is thus that he is represented on the pyre, and it is thus that he appears as a separate figure without the pyre. From these representations we can form a fairly accurate conception of the form and attributes of the god. They exhibit him as a bearded man standing on a horned and often winged lion. Upon his head he wears a high pointed cap or mitre, and he is clad sometimes in a long robe, sometimes in a short tunic. On at least one coin his feet are shod in high boots with flaps. At his side or over his shoulder are slung a sword, a bow-case, and a quiver, sometimes only one or two of them. His right hand is raised and sometimes holds a flower. His left hand grasps a double-headed axe, and sometimes a wreath either in addition to the axe or instead of it; but the double-headed axe is one of Sandan's most constant attributes.406

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§ 4. The Gods of Boghaz-Keui.

Boghaz-Keui the ancient capital of a Hittite kingdom in Cappadocia.

Now a deity of almost precisely the same type figures prominently in the celebrated group of Hittite sculptures which is carved on the rocks at Boghaz-Keui in North-Western Cappadocia. The village of Boghaz-Keui, that is, “the village of the defile,” stands at the mouth of a deep, narrow, and picturesque gorge in a wild upland valley, shut in by rugged mountains of grey limestone. The houses are built on the lower slopes of the hills, and a stream issuing from the gorge flows past them to join the Halys, which is distant about ten hours' journey to the west. Immediately above the modern village a great ancient city, enclosed by massive fortification walls, rose on the rough broken ground of the mountainside, culminating in two citadels perched on the tops of precipitous crags. The walls are still standing in many places to a height of twelve feet or more. They are about fourteen feet thick and consist of an outer and inner facing built of large blocks with a core of rubble between them. On the outer side they are strengthened at intervals of about a hundred feet by projecting towers or buttresses, which seem designed rather as architectural supports than as military defences. The masonry, composed of large stones laid in roughly parallel courses, resembles in style that of the walls of Mycenae, with which it may be contemporary; and the celebrated Lion-gate at Mycenae has its counterpart in the southern gate of Boghaz-Keui, which is flanked by a pair of colossal stone lions executed in the best style of Hittite art. The eastern gate is adorned on its inner side with the figure of a Hittite warrior or Amazon carved in high relief. A dense undergrowth of stunted oak coppice now covers much of the site. The ruins of a large palace or temple, built of enormous blocks of stone, occupy a terrace in a commanding situation within the circuit of the walls. This vast city, some four or five miles in circumference, appears to have been the ancient Pteria, which Croesus, king of Lydia, captured in his war with Cyrus. It was probably the capital of a powerful Hittite empire before the Phrygians made their way from [pg 129] Europe into the interior of Asia Minor and established a rival state to the west of the Halys.407

The sanctuary in the rocks. The rock-sculptures in the outer sanctuary at Boghaz-Keui represent two processions meeting. The central figures.

From the village of Boghaz-Keui a steep and rugged path leads up hill to a sanctuary, distant about a mile and a half to the east. Here among the grey limestone cliffs there is a spacious natural chamber or hall of roughly oblong shape, roofed only by the sky, and enclosed on three sides by high rocks. One of the short sides is open, and through it you look out on the broken slopes beyond and the more distant mountains, which make a graceful picture set in a massy frame. The length of the chamber is about a hundred feet; its breadth varies from twenty-five to fifty feet. A nearly level sward forms the floor. On the right-hand side, as you face inward, a narrow opening in the rock leads into another but much smaller chamber, or rather corridor, which would seem to have been the inner sanctuary or Holy of Holies. It is a romantic spot, where the deep shadows of the rocks are relieved by the bright foliage of walnut-trees and by the sight of the sky and clouds overhead. On the rock-walls of both chamber are carved the famous bas-reliefs. In the outer sanctuary these reliefs represent two great processions which defile along the two long sides of the chamber and meet face to face on the short wall at the inner end. The figures on the left-hand wall are for the most part men clad in the characteristic Hittite costume, which consists of a high pointed cap, shoes with turned-up toes, and a tunic drawn in at the waist and [pg 130] falling short of the knees.408 The figures on the right-hand wall are women wearing tall, square, flat-topped bonnets with ribbed sides; their long dresses fall in perpendicular folds to their feet, which are shod in shoes like those of the men. On the short wall, where the processions meet, the greater size of the central figures, as well as their postures and attributes, mark them out as divine. At the head of the male procession marches or is carried a bearded deity clad in the ordinary Hittite costume of tall pointed cap, short tunic, and turned-up shoes; but his feet rest on the bowed heads of two men, in his right hand he holds on his shoulder a mace or truncheon topped with a knob, while his extended left hand grasps a symbol, which apparently consists of a trident surmounted by an oval with a cross-bar. Behind him follows a similar, though somewhat smaller, figure of a man, or perhaps rather of a god, carrying a mace or truncheon over his shoulder in his right hand, while with his left he holds aloft a long sword with a flat hilt; his feet rest not on two men but on two flat-topped pinnacles, which perhaps represent mountains. At the head of the female procession and facing the great god who is borne on the two men, stands a goddess on a lioness or panther. Her costume does not differ from that of the women: her hair hangs down in a long plait behind: in her extended right hand she holds out an emblem to touch that of the god. The shape and meaning of her emblem are obscure. It consists of a stem with two pairs of protuberances, perhaps leaves or branches, one above the other, the whole being surmounted, like the emblem of the god, by an oval with a cross-bar. Under the outstretched arms of the two deities appear the front parts of two animals, which have been usually interpreted as bulls but are rather goats; each of them wears on its head the high conical Hittite cap, and its body is concealed by that of the deity. Immediately behind the goddess marches a smaller and apparently youthful male figure, standing like her upon a lioness or panther. He is beardless and wears the Hittite [pg 131] dress of high pointed cap, short tunic, and shoes with turned-up toes. A crescent-hilted sword is girt at his side; in his left hand he holds a double-headed axe, and in his right a staff topped by an armless doll with the symbol of the cross-barred oval instead of a head. Behind him follow two women, or rather perhaps goddesses, resembling the goddess at the head of the procession, but with different emblems and standing not on a lioness but on a single two-headed eagle with outspread wings.

The rock-sculptures in the inner sanctuary at Boghaz-Keui. The lion-god. The god protecting his priest. Other representations of the priest at Boghaz-Keui and Euyuk.

The entrance to the smaller chamber is guarded on either side by the figure of a winged monster carved on the rock; the bodies of both figures are human, but one of them has the head of a dog, the other the head of a lion. In the inner sanctuary, to which this monster-guarded passage leads, the walls are also carved in relief. On one side we see a procession of twelve men in Hittite costume marching with curved swords in their right hands. On the opposite wall is a colossal erect figure of a deity with a human head and a body curiously composed of four lions, two above and two below, the latter standing on their heads. The god wears the high conical Hittite hat: his face is youthful and beardless like that of the male figure standing on the lioness in the large chamber; and the ear turned to the spectator is pierced with a ring. From the knees downwards the legs, curiously enough, are replaced by a device which has been interpreted as the tapering point of a great dagger or dirk with a midrib. To the right of this deity a square panel cut in the face of the rock exhibits a group of two figures in relief. The larger of the two figures closely resembles the youth on the lioness in the outer sanctuary. His chin is beardless; he wears the same high pointed cap, the same short tunic, the same turned-up shoes, the same crescent-hilted sword, and he carries a similar armless doll in his right hand. But his left arm encircles the neck of the smaller figure, whom he seems to clasp to his side in an attitude of protection. The smaller figure thus embraced by the god is clearly a priest or priestly king. His face is beardless; he wears a skull-cap and a long mantle reaching to his feet with a sort of chasuble thrown over it. The crescent-shaped hilt of a sword projects from under his [pg 132] mantle. The wrist of his right arm is clasped by the god's left hand; in his left hand the priest holds a crook or pastoral staff which ends below in a curl. Both the priest and his protector are facing towards the lion-god. In an upper corner of the panel behind them is a divine emblem composed of a winged disc resting on what look like two Ionic columns, while between them appear three symbols of doubtful significance. The figure of the priest or king in this costume, though not in this attitude, is a familiar one; for it occurs twice in the outer sanctuary and is repeated twice at the great Hittite palace of Euyuk, distant about four and a half hours' ride to the north-east of Boghaz-Keui. In the outer sanctuary at Boghaz-Keui we see the priest marching in the procession of the men, and holding in one hand his curled staff, or lituus, and in the other a symbol like that of the goddess on the lioness: above his head appears the winged disc without the other attributes. Moreover he occupies a conspicuous place by himself on the right-hand wall of the outer sanctuary, quite apart from the two processions, and carved on a larger scale than any of the other figures in them. Here he stands on two heaps, perhaps intended to represent mountains, and he carries in his right hand the emblem of the winged disc supported on two Ionic columns with the other symbols between them, except that the central symbol is replaced by a masculine figure wearing a pointed cap and a long robe decorated with a dog-tooth pattern. On one of the reliefs at the palace of Euyuk we see the priest with his characteristic dress and staff followed by a priestess, each of them with a hand raised as if in adoration: they are approaching the image of a bull which stands on a high pedestal with an altar before it. Behind them a priest leads a flock of rams to the sacrifice. On another relief at Euyuk the priest, similarly attired and followed by a priestess, is approaching a seated goddess and apparently pouring a libation at her feet. Both these scenes doubtless represent acts of worship paid in the one case to a goddess, in the other to a bull.409

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The two deities at the head of the processions at Boghaz-Keui appear to be the great Asiatic goddess and her consort. The Hittite god of the thundering sky. Jupiter Dolichenus.

We have still to inquire into the meaning of the rock-carvings at Boghaz-Keui. What are these processions which are meeting? Who are the personages represented? and what are they doing? Some have thought that the scene is historical and commemorates a great event, such as a treaty of peace between two peoples or the marriage of a king's son to a king's daughter.410 But to this view it has [pg 134] been rightly objected that the attributes of the principal figures prove them to be divine or priestly, and that the scene is therefore religious or mythical rather than historical. With regard to the two personages who head the processions and hold out their symbols to each other, the most probable opinion appears to be that they stand for the great Asiatic goddess of fertility and her consort, by whatever names these deities were known; for under diverse names a similar divine couple appears to have been worshipped with similar rites all over Western Asia.411 The bearded god who, grasping a trident in his extended left hand, heads the procession of male figures is probably the Father deity, the great Hittite god of the thundering sky, whose emblems were the thunderbolt and the bull; for the trident which he carries may reasonably be interpreted as a thunderbolt. The deity is represented in similar form on two stone monuments of Hittite art which were found at Zenjirli in Northern Syria and at Babylon respectively. On both we see a bearded male god wearing the usual Hittite costume of tall cap, short tunic, and shoes turned up at the toes: a crescent-hilted sword is girt at his side: his hands are raised: in the right he holds a single-headed axe or hammer, in the left a trident of wavy lines, which is thought to stand for forked lightning or a bundle of thunderbolts. On the Babylonian slab, which bears a long Hittite inscription, the god's cap is ornamented with a pair of horns.412 The horns on the cap are probably [pg 135] those of a bull; for on another Hittite monument, found at Malatia on the Euphrates, there is carved a deity in the usual Hittite costume standing on a bull and grasping a trident or thunderbolt in his left hand, while facing him stands a priest clad in a long robe, holding a crook or curled staff in one hand and pouring a libation with the other.413 The Hittite thunder-god is also known to us from a treaty of alliance which about the year 1290 b.c. was contracted between Hattusil, King of the Hittites, and Rameses II., King of Egypt. By a singular piece of good fortune we possess copies of this treaty both in the Hittite and in the [pg 136] Egyptian language. The Hittite copy was found some years ago inscribed in cuneiform characters on a clay tablet at Boghaz-Keui; two copies of the treaty in the Egyptian language are engraved on the walls of temples at Thebes. From the Egyptian copies, which have been read and translated, we gather that the thunder-god was the principal deity of the Hittites, and that the two Hittite seals which were appended to the treaty exhibited the King embraced by the thunder-god and the Queen embraced by the sun-goddess of Arenna.414 This Hittite divinity of the thundering sky appears to have long survived at Doliche in Commagene, for in later Roman art he reappears under the title of Jupiter Dolichenus, wearing a Phrygian cap, standing on a bull, and wielding a double axe in one hand and a thunderbolt in the other. In this form his worship was transported from his native Syrian home by soldiers and slaves, till it had spread over a large part of the Roman empire, especially on the frontiers, where it flourished in the camps of the legions.415 The combination of the bull with the thunderbolt as emblems of the deity suggests that the animal may have been chosen to represent the sky-god for the sake not merely of its virility but of its voice; for in the peal of thunder primitive man may well have heard the bellowing of a celestial bull.

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The Mother Goddess.

The goddess who at the head of the procession of women confronts the great sky-god in the sanctuary at Boghaz-Keui is generally recognized as the divine Mother, the great Asiatic goddess of life and fertility. The tall flat-topped hat with perpendicular grooves which she wears, and the lioness or panther on which she stands, remind us of the turreted crown and lion-drawn car of Cybele, who was worshipped in the neighbouring land of Phrygia across the Halys.416 So Atargatis, the great Syrian goddess of Hierapolis-Bambyce, was portrayed sitting on lions and wearing a tower on her head.417 At Babylon an image of a goddess whom the Greeks called Rhea had the figures of two lions standing on her knees.418

The youth on the lioness, bearing the double axe, at Boghaz-Keui may be the divine son and lover of the goddess.

But in the rock-hewn sculptures of Boghaz-Keui, who is the youth with the tall pointed cap and double axe who stands on a lioness or panther immediately behind the great goddess? His figure is all the more remarkable because he is the only male who interrupts the long procession of women. Probably he is at once the divine son and the divine lover of the goddess; for we shall find later on that in Phrygian mythology Attis united in himself both these characters.419 [pg 138] The lioness or panther on which he stands marks his affinity with the goddess, who is supported by a similar animal. It is natural that the lion-goddess should have a lion-son and a lion-lover. For we may take it as probable that the Oriental deities who are represented standing or sitting in human form on the backs of lions and other animals were originally indistinguishable from the beasts, and that the complete separation of the bestial from the human or divine shape was a consequence of that growth of knowledge and of power which led man in time to respect himself more and the brutes less. The hybrid gods of Egypt with their human [pg 139] bodies and animal heads form an intermediate stage in this evolution of anthropomorphic deities out of beasts.

The mystery of the lion-god.

We may now perhaps hazard a conjecture as to the meaning of that strange colossal figure in the inner shrine at Boghaz-Keui with its human head and its body composed of lions. For it is to be observed that the head of the figure is youthful and beardless, and that it wears a tall pointed cap, thus resembling in both respects the youth with the double-headed axe who stands on a lion in the outer sanctuary. We may suppose that the leonine figure in the inner shrine sets forth the true mystic, that is, the old savage nature of the god who in the outer shrine presented himself to his worshippers in the decent semblance of a man. To the chosen few who were allowed to pass the monster-guarded portal into the Holy of Holies, the awful secret may have been revealed that their god was a lion, or rather a lion-man, a being in whom the bestial and human natures mysteriously co-existed.420 The reader may remember that on the rock beside this leonine divinity is carved a group which represents a god with his arm twined round the neck of his priest in an attitude of protection, holding one of the priest's hands in his own. Both figures are looking and stepping towards the lion-monster, and the god is holding out his right hand as if pointing to it. The scene may represent the deity revealing the mystery to the priest, or preparing him to act his part in some solemn rite for which all his strength and courage will be needed. He seems to be leading his minister onward, comforting him with an assurance that no harm can come near him while the divine arm is around him and the divine hand clasps his. Whither is he leading him? Perhaps to death. The deep shadows of the rocks which fall on the [pg 140] two figures in the gloomy chasm may be an emblem of darker shadows soon to fall on the priest. Yet still he grasps his pastoral staff and goes forward, as though he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The processions at Boghaz-Keui appear to represent the Sacred Marriage of the god and goddess. Traces of mother-kin among the Hittites.

If there is any truth in these guesses—for they are little more—the three principal figures in the processional scene at Boghaz-Keui represent the divine Father, the divine Mother, and the divine Son. But we have still to ask, What are they doing? That they are engaged in the performance of some religious rite seems certain. But what is it? We may conjecture that it is the rite of the Sacred Marriage, and that the scene is copied from a ceremony which was periodically performed in this very place by human representatives of the deities.421 Indeed, the solemn meeting of the male and female figures at the head of their respective processions obviously suggests a marriage, and has been so interpreted by scholars, who, however, regarded it as the historical wedding of a prince and princess instead of the mystic union of a god and goddess, overlooking or explaining away the symbols of divinity which accompany the principal personages.422 We may suppose that at Boghaz-Keui, as at many other places in the interior of Asia Minor, the government was in the hands of a family who combined royal with priestly functions and personated the gods whose names they bore. Thus at Pessinus in Phrygia, as we shall see later on, the priests of Cybele bore the name of her consort Attis, and doubtless represented him in the ritual.423 [pg 141] If this was so at Boghaz-Keui, we may surmise that the chief pontiff and his family annually celebrated the marriage of the divine powers of fertility, the Father God and the Mother Goddess, for the purpose of ensuring the fruitfulness of the earth and the multiplication of men and beasts. The principal parts in the ceremony would naturally be played by the pontiff himself and his wife, unless indeed they preferred for good reasons to delegate the onerous duty to others. That such a delegation took place is perhaps suggested by the appearance of the pontiff himself in a subordinate place in the procession, as well as by his separate representation in another place, as if he were in the act of surveying the ceremony from a distance.424 The part of the divine Son at the rite would fitly devolve upon one of the high-priest's own offspring, who may well have been numerous. For it is probable that here, as elsewhere in Asia Minor, the Mother Goddess was personated by a crowd of sacred harlots,425 with whom the spiritual ruler may have been required to consort in his character of incarnate deity. But if the personation of the Son of God at the rites laid a heavy burden of suffering on the shoulders of the actor, it is possible that the representative of the deity may have been drawn, perhaps by lot, from among the numerous progeny of the consecrated courtesans; for these women, as incarnations of the Mother Goddess, were probably supposed to transmit to their offspring some portion of their own divinity. Be that as it may, if the three principal personages in the processional scene at Boghaz-Keui are indeed the Father, the Mother, and the Son, the remarkable position assigned [pg 142] to the third of them in the procession, where he walks behind his Mother alone in the procession of women, appears to indicate that he was supposed to be more closely akin to her than to his Father. From this again we may conjecturally infer that mother-kin rather than father-kin was the rule which regulated descent among the Hittites. The conjecture derives some support from Hittite archives, for the names of the Great Queen and the Queen Mother are mentioned along with that of the King in state documents.426 The other personages who figure in the procession may represent human beings masquerading in the costumes and with the attributes of deities. Such, for example, are the two female figures who stand on a double-headed eagle; the two male figures stepping on what seem to be two mountains; and the two winged beings in the procession of men, one of whom may be the Moon-god, for he wears a crescent on his head.427

§ 5. Sandan and Baal at Tarsus.

Sandan at Tarsus appears to be a son of Baal, as Hercules was a son of Zeus.

Whatever may be thought of these speculations, one thing seems fairly clear and certain. The figure which I have called the divine Son at Boghaz-Keui is identical with the god Sandan, who appears on the pyre at Tarsus. In both personages the costume, the attributes, the attitude are the same. Both represent a man clad in a short tunic with a tall pointed cap on his head, a sword at his side, a double-headed axe in his hand, and a lion or panther under his feet.428 Accordingly, if we are right in identifying him as the divine Son at Boghaz-Keui, [pg 143] we may conjecture that under the name of Sandan he bore the same character at Tarsus. The conjecture squares perfectly with the title of Hercules, which the Greeks bestowed on Sandan; for Hercules was the son of Zeus, the great father-god. Moreover, we have seen that the Baal of Tarsus, with the grapes and the corn in his hand, was assimilated to Zeus.429 Thus it would appear that at Tarsus as at Boghaz-Keui there was a pair of deities, a divine Father and a divine Son, whom the Greeks identified with Zeus and Hercules respectively. If the Baal of Tarsus was a god of fertility, as his attributes clearly imply, his identification with Zeus would be natural, since it was Zeus who, in the belief of the Greeks, sent the fertilizing rain from heaven.430 And the identification of Sandan with Hercules would be equally natural, since the lion and the death on the pyre were features common to both. Our conclusion then is that it was the divine Son, the lion-god, who was burned in effigy or in the person of a human representative at Tarsus, and perhaps at Boghaz-Keui. Semitic parallels suggest that the victim who played the part of the Son of God in the fiery furnace ought in strictness to be the king's son.431 But no doubt in later times an effigy would be substituted for the man.

§ 6. Priestly Kings of Olba.

Priests of Sandan-Hercules at Tarsus. Kings of Cilicia related to Sandan.

Unfortunately we know next to nothing of the kings and priests of Tarsus. In Greek times we hear of an Epicurean philosopher of the city, Lysias by name, who was elected by his fellow-citizens to the office of Crown-wearer, that is, to the priesthood of Hercules. Once raised to that dignity, he would not lay it down again, but played the part of tyrant, wearing a white robe edged with purple, a costly cloak, white shoes, and a golden wreath of laurel. He truckled to the mob by distributing among them the property of the wealthy, while he put to death such as refused to open their money-bags to him.432 Though we cannot distinguish in this account [pg 144] between the legal and the illegal exercise of authority, yet we may safely infer that the priesthood of Hercules, that is of Sandan, at Tarsus continued down to late times to be an office of great dignity and power, not unworthy to be held in earlier times by the kings themselves. Scanty as is our information as to the kings of Cilicia, we hear of two whose names appear to indicate that they stood in some special relation to the divine Sandan. One of them was Sandu'arri, lord of Kundi and Sizu, which have been identified with Anchiale and Sis in Cilicia.433 The other was Sanda-sarme, who gave his daughter in marriage to Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria.434 It would be in accordance with analogy if the kings of Tarsus formerly held the priesthood of Sandan and claimed to represent him in their own person.

Priestly kings of Olba who bore the names of Teucer and Ajax. The Teucrids of Salamis in Cyprus. Burnt sacrifices of human victims at Salamis and traces of a similar custom elsewhere. Burnt sacrifice of doves to Adonis.

We know that the whole of Western or Mountainous Cilicia was ruled by kings who combined the regal office with the priesthood of Zeus, or rather of a native deity whom, like the Baal of Tarsus, the Greeks assimilated to their own Zeus. These priestly potentates had their seat at Olba, and most of them bore the name either of Teucer or of Ajax,435 but we may suspect that these appellations are merely Greek distortions of native Cilician names. Teucer (Teukros) may be a corruption of Tark, Trok, Tarku, or Troko, all of which occur in the names of Cilician priests and kings. At all events, it is worthy of notice that one, [pg 145] if not two, of these priestly Teucers had a father called Tarkuaris,436 and that in a long list of priests who served Zeus at the Corycian cave, not many miles from Olba, the names Tarkuaris, Tarkumbios, Tarkimos, Trokoarbasis, and Trokombigremis, besides many other obviously native names, occur side by side with Teucer and other purely Greek appellations.437 In like manner the Teucrids, who traced their descent from Zeus and reigned at Salamis in Cyprus,438 may well have been a native dynasty, who concocted a Greek pedigree for themselves in the days when Greek civilization was fashionable. The legend which attributed the foundation of the Cyprian Salamis to Teucer, son of Telamon, appears to be late and unknown to Homer.439 Moreover, a cruel form of human sacrifice which was practised in the city down to historical times savours rather of Oriental barbarity than of Greek humanity. Led or driven by the youths, a man ran thrice round the altar; then the priest stabbed him in the throat with a spear and burned his body whole on a heaped-up pyre. The sacrifice was offered in the month of Aphrodite to Diomede, who along with Agraulus, daughter of Cecrops, had a temple at Salamis. A temple of Athena stood within the same [pg 146] sacred enclosure. It is said that in olden times the sacrifice was offered to Agraulus, and not to Diomede. According to another account it was instituted by Teucer in honour of Zeus. However that may have been, the barbarous custom lasted down to the reign of Hadrian, when Diphilus, king of Cyprus, abolished or rather mitigated it by substituting the sacrifice of an ox for that of a man.440 On the hypothesis here suggested we must suppose that these Greek names of divine or heroic figures at the Cyprian Salamis covered more or less similar figures of the Asiatic pantheon. And in the Salaminian burnt-sacrifice of a man we may perhaps detect the original form of the ceremony which in historical times appears to have been performed upon an image of Sandan or Hercules at Tarsus. When an ox was sacrificed instead of a man, the old sacrificial rites would naturally continue to be observed in all other respects exactly as before: the animal would be led thrice round the altar, stabbed with a spear, and burned on a pyre. Now at the Syrian Hierapolis the greatest festival of the year bore the name of the Pyre or the Torch. It was held at the beginning of spring. Great trees were then cut down and planted in the court of the temple: sheep, goats, birds, and other creatures were hung upon them: sacrificial victims were led round: then fire was set to the whole, and everything was consumed in the flames.441 Perhaps here also the burning of animals was a substitute for the burning of men. When the practice of human sacrifice becomes too revolting to humanity to be tolerated, its abolition is commonly effected by substituting [pg 147] either animals or images for living men or women. At Salamis certainly, and perhaps at Hierapolis, the substitutes were animals: at Tarsus, if I am right, they were images. In this connexion the statement of a Greek writer as to the worship of Adonis in Cyprus deserves attention. He says that as Adonis had been honoured by Aphrodite, the Cyprians after his death cast live doves on a pyre to him, and that the birds, flying away from the flames, fell into another pyre and were consumed.442 The statement seems to be a description of an actual custom of burning doves in sacrifice to Adonis. Such a mode of honouring him would be very remarkable, since doves were commonly sacred to his divine mistress Aphrodite or Astarte. For example, at the Syrian Hierapolis, one of the chief seats of her worship, these birds were so holy that they might not even be touched. If a man inadvertently touched a dove, he was unclean or tabooed for the rest of the day. Hence the birds, never being molested, were so tame that they lived with the people in their houses, and commonly picked up their food fearlessly on the ground.443 Can the burning of the sacred bird of Aphrodite in the Cyprian worship of Adonis have been a substitute for the burning of a sacred man who personated the lover of the goddess?

The priestly Teucers of Olba perhaps personated a native god Tark.

If, as many scholars think, Tark or Tarku was the name, or part of the name, of a great Hittite deity, sometimes identified as the god of the sky and the lightning,444 we may [pg 148] conjecture that Tark or Tarku was the native name of the god of Olba, whom the Greeks called Zeus, and that the priestly kings who bore the name of Teucer represented the god Tark or Tarku in their own persons. This conjecture is confirmed by the observation that Olba, the ancient name of the city, is itself merely a Grecized form of Oura, the name which the place retains to this day.445 The situation of the town, moreover, speaks strongly in favour of the view that it was from the beginning an aboriginal settlement, though in after days, like so many other Asiatic cities, it took on a varnish of Greek culture. For it stood remote from the sea on a lofty and barren tableland, with a rigorous winter climate, in the highlands of Cilicia.

Western or Rugged Cilicia.

Great indeed is the contrast between the bleak windy uplands of Western or Rugged Cilicia, as the ancients called it, and the soft luxuriant lowlands of Eastern Cilicia, where winter is almost unknown and summer annually drives the population to seek in the cool air of the mountains a refuge from the intolerable heat and deadly fevers of the plains. In Western Cilicia, on the other hand, a lofty tableland, ending in a high sharp edge on the coast, rises steadily inland till it passes gradually into the chain of heights which divide it from the interior. Looked at from the sea it resembles a great blue wave swelling in one uniform sweep till its crest breaks into foam in the distant snows of the Taurus. The surface of the tableland is almost everywhere rocky and overgrown, in the intervals of the rocks, with dense, thorny, almost impenetrable scrub. Only here and there in a hollow or glen the niggardly soil allows of a patch of cultivation; and here and there fine oaks and [pg 149] planes, towering over the brushwood, clothe with a richer foliage the depth of the valleys. None but wandering herdsmen with their flocks now maintain a precarious existence in this rocky wilderness. Yet the ruined towns which stud the country prove that a dense population lived and throve here in antiquity, while numerous remains of wine-presses and wine-vats bear witness to the successful cultivation of the grape. The chief cause of the present desolation is lack of water; for wells are few and brackish, perennial streams hardly exist, and the ancient aqueducts, which once brought life and fertility to the land, have long been suffered to fall into disrepair.

The Cilician pirates.

But for ages together the ancient inhabitants of these uplands earned their bread by less reputable means than the toil of the husbandman and the vinedresser. They were buccaneers and slavers, scouring the high seas with their galleys and retiring with their booty to the inaccessible fastnesses of their mountains. In the decline of Greek power all over the East the pirate communities of Cilicia grew into a formidable state, recruited by gangs of desperadoes and broken men who flocked to it from all sides. The holds of these robbers may still be seen perched on the brink of the profound ravines which cleave the tableland at frequent intervals. With their walls of massive masonry, their towers and battlements, overhanging dizzy depths, they are admirably adapted to bid defiance to the pursuit of justice. In antiquity the dark forests of cedar, which clothed much of the country and supplied the pirates with timber for their ships, must have rendered access to these fastnesses still more difficult. The great gorge of the Lamas River, which eats its way like a sheet of forked lightning into the heart of the mountains, is dotted every few miles with fortified towns, some of them still magnificent in their ruins, dominating sheer cliffs high above the stream. They are now the haunt only of the ibex and the bear. Each of these communities had its own crest or badge, which may still be seen carved on the corners of the mouldering towers. No doubt, too, it blazoned the same crest on the hull, the sails, or the streamers of the galley which, manned with a crew of ruffians, it sent out to prey [pg 150] upon the rich merchantmen in the Golden Sea, as the corsairs called the highway of commerce between Crete and Africa.

The deep gorges of Rugged Cilicia.

A staircase cut in the rock connects one of these ruined castles with the river in the glen, a thousand feet below. But the steps are worn and dangerous, indeed impassable. You may go for miles along the edge of these stupendous cliffs before you find a way down. The paths keep on the heights, for in many of its reaches the gully affords no foothold even to the agile nomads who alone roam these solitudes. At evening the winding course of the river may be traced for a long distance by a mist which, as the heat of the day declines, rises like steam from the deep gorge and hangs suspended in a wavy line of fleecy cloud above it. But even more imposing than the ravine of the Lamas is the terrific gorge known as the Sheitan dere or Devil's Glen near the Corycian cave. Prodigious walls of rock, glowing in the intense sunlight, black in the shadow, and spanned by a summer sky of the deepest blue, hem in the dry bed of a winter torrent, choked with rocks and tangled with thickets of evergreens, among which the oleanders with their slim stalks, delicate taper leaves, and bunches of crimson blossom stand out conspicuous.446

[pg 151]

The site and ruins of Olba. The temple of Olbian Zeus.

The ruins of Olba, among the most extensive and remarkable in Asia Minor, were discovered in 1890 by Mr. J. Theodore Bent. But three years before another English traveller had caught a distant view of its battlements and towers outlined against the sky like a city of enchantment or dreams.447 Standing at a height of nearly six thousand feet above the sea, the upper town commands a free, though somewhat uniform, prospect for immense distances in all directions. The sea is just visible far away to the south. On these heights the winter is long and severe. Snow lies on the ground for months. No Greek would have chosen such a site for a city, so bleak and chill, so far from blue water; but it served well for a fastness of brigands. Deep gorges, one of them filled for miles with tombs, surround it on all sides, rendering fortification walls superfluous. But a great square tower, four stories high, rises conspicuous on the hill, forming a landmark and earning for this upper town the native name of Jebel Hissar, or the Mountain of the Castle. A Greek inscription cut on the tower proves that it was built by Teucer, son of Tarkuaris, one of the priestly potentates of Olba. Among other remains of public buildings the most notable are forty tall Corinthian columns of the great temple of Olbian Zeus. Though coarse in style and corroded by long exposure to frost and snow, these massive pillars, towering above the ruins, produce an imposing effect. That the temple of which they formed part belonged indeed to Olbian Zeus is shown by a Greek inscription found within the sacred area, which records that the pent-houses on the inner side of the boundary wall were built by King Seleucus Nicator and repaired for Olbian Zeus by “the great high-priest Teucer, son of Zenophanes.” About two hundred yards from this great temple are standing five elegant granite columns of a small temple dedicated to the goddess Fortune. Further, the remains of two theatres and many other public buildings attest the former splendour of this mountain city. An arched colonnade, of which some Corinthian columns are standing with their architraves, ran through the town; [pg 152] and an ancient paved road, lined with tombs and ruins, leads down hill to a lower and smaller city two or three miles distant. It is this lower town which retains the ancient name of Oura. Here the principal ruins occupy an isolated fir-clad height bounded by two narrow ravines full of rock-cut tombs. Below the town the ravines unite and form a fine gorge, down which the old road passed seaward.448

§ 7. The God of the Corycian Cave.

Limestone caverns of Western Cilicia.

Nothing yet found at Olba throws light on the nature of the god who was worshipped there under the Greek name of Zeus. But at two places near the coast, distant only some fourteen or fifteen miles from Olba, a deity also called Zeus by the Greeks was revered in natural surroundings of a remarkable kind, which must have stood in close relation with the worship, and are therefore fitted to illustrate it. In both places the features of the landscape are of the same general cast, and at one of them the god was definitely identified with the Zeus of Olba. The country here consists of a tableland of calcareous rock rent at intervals by those great chasms which are characteristic of a limestone formation. Similar fissures, with the accompaniment of streams or rivers which pour into them and vanish under ground, are frequent in Greece, and may be observed in our own country near Ingleborough in Yorkshire. Fossil bones of extinct animals are often found embedded in [pg 153] the stalagmite or breccia of limestone caves. For example, the famous Kent's Hole near Torquay contained bones of the mammoth, rhinoceros, lion, hyaena, and bear; and red osseous breccias, charged with the bones of quadrupeds which have long disappeared from Europe, are common in almost all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.449 Western Cilicia is richer in Miocene deposits than any other part of Anatolia, and the limestone gorges of the coast near Olba are crowded with fossil oysters, corals, and other shells.450 Here, too, within the space of five miles the limestone plateau is rent by three great chasms, which Greek religion associated with Zeus and Typhon. One of these fissures is the celebrated Corycian cave.

The city of Corycus. The Corycian cave.

To visit this spot, invested with the double charm of natural beauty and legendary renown, you start from the dead Cilician city of Corycus on the sea, with its ruined walls, towers, and churches, its rock-hewn houses and cisterns, its shattered mole, its island-fortress, still imposing in decay. Viewed from the sea, this part of the Cilician coast, with its long succession of white ruins, relieved by the dark wooded hills behind, presents an appearance of populousness and splendour. But a nearer approach reveals the nakedness and desolation of the once prosperous land.451 Following the shore westward from Corycus for about an hour you come to a pretty cove enclosed by wooded heights, where a spring of pure cold water bubbles up close to the sea, giving to the spot its name of Tatlu-su, or the Sweet Water. From this bay a steep ascent of about a mile along an ancient paved road leads inland to a plateau. Here, threading your way through a labyrinth or petrified sea of jagged calcareous rocks, you suddenly find yourself on the brink of a vast chasm which yawns at your feet. This is the Corycian cave. In reality it is not a cave but an immense hollow or trough in the plateau, of oval shape and perhaps half a mile in circumference. The cliffs which [pg 154] enclose it vary from one hundred to over two hundred feet in depth. Its uneven bottom slopes throughout its whole length from north to south, and is covered by a thick jungle of trees and shrubs—myrtles, pomegranates, carobs, and many more, kept always fresh and green by rivulets, underground water, and the shadow of the great cliffs. A single narrow path leads down into its depths. The way is long and rough, but the deeper you descend the denser grows the vegetation, and it is under the dappled shade of whispering leaves and with the purling of brooks in your ears that you at last reach the bottom. The saffron which of old grew here among the bushes is no longer to be found, though it still flourishes in the surrounding district. This luxuriant bottom, with its rich verdure, its refreshing moisture, its grateful shade, is called Paradise by the wandering herdsmen. They tether their camels and pasture their goats in it and come hither in the late summer to gather the ripe pomegranates. At the southern and deepest end of this great cliff-encircled hollow you come to the cavern proper. The ruins of a Byzantine church, which replaced a heathen temple, partly block the entrance. Inwards the cave descends with a gentle slope into the bowels of the earth. The old path paved with polygonal masonry still runs through it, but soon disappears under sand. At about two hundred feet from its mouth the cave comes to an end, and a tremendous roar of subterranean water is heard. By crawling on all fours you may reach a small pool arched by a dripping stalactite-hung roof, but the stream which makes the deafening din is invisible. It was otherwise in antiquity. A river of clear water burst from the rock, but only to vanish again into a chasm. Such changes in the course of streams are common in countries subject to earthquakes and to the disruption caused by volcanic agency. The ancients believed that this mysterious cavern was haunted ground. In the rumble and roar of the waters they seemed to hear the clash of cymbals touched by hands divine.452

[pg 155]

Priests of Corycian Zeus.

If now, quitting the cavern, we return by the same path to the summit of the cliffs, we shall find on the plateau the ruins of a town and of a temple at the western edge of the great Corycian chasm. The wall of the holy precinct was built within a few feet of the precipices, and the sanctuary must have stood right over the actual cave and its subterranean waters. In later times the temple was converted into a Christian church. By pulling down a portion of the sacred edifice Mr. Bent had the good fortune to discover a Greek inscription containing a long list of names, probably those of the priests who superintended the worship. One name which meets us frequently in the list is Zas, and it is tempting to regard this as merely a dialectical form of Zeus. If that were so, the priests who bore the name might be supposed to personate the god.453 But many strange and barbarous-looking names, evidently foreign, occur in the list, and Zas may be one of them. However, it is certain that Zeus was worshipped at the Corycian cave; for about half a mile from it, on the summit of a hill, are the ruins of a larger temple, which an inscription proves to have been dedicated to Corycian Zeus.454

The cave of the giant Typhon.

But Zeus, or whatever native deity masqueraded under his name, did not reign alone in the deep dell. A more dreadful being haunted a still more awful abyss which opens in the ground only a hundred yards to the east of the great Corycian chasm. It is a circular cauldron, about a quarter [pg 156] of a mile in circumference, resembling the Corycian chasm in its general character, but smaller, deeper, and far more terrific in appearance. Its sides overhang and stalactites droop from them. There is no way down into it. The only mode of reaching the bottom, which is covered with vegetation, would be to be lowered at the end of a long rope. The nomads call this chasm Purgatory, to distinguish it from the other which they name Paradise. They say that there is a subterranean passage between the two, and that the smoke of a fire kindled in the Corycian cave may be seen curling out of the other. The one ancient writer who expressly mentions this second and more grisly cavern is Mela, who says that it was the lair of the giant Typhon, and that no animal let down into it could live.455 Aeschylus puts into the mouth of Prometheus an account of “the earth-born Typhon, dweller in Cilician caves, dread monster, hundred-headed,” who in his pride rose up against the gods, hissing destruction from his dreadful jaws, while from his Gorgon eyes the lightning flashed. But him a flaming levin bolt, crashing from heaven, smote to the very heart, and now he lies, shrivelled and scorched, under the weight of Etna by the narrow sea. Yet one day he will belch a fiery hail, a boiling angry flood, rivers of flame, to devastate the fat Sicilian fields.456 This poetical description of the monster, confirmed by a similar passage of Pindar,457 clearly proves that Typhon was conceived as a personification of those active volcanoes which spout fire and smoke to heaven as if they would assail the celestial gods. The Corycian caverns are not volcanic, but the ancients apparently regarded them as such, else they would hardly have made them the den of Typhon.

Battle of Zeus and Typhon.

According to one legend Typhon was a monster, half man and half brute, begotten in Cilicia by Tartarus upon the goddess Earth. The upper part of him was human, but from the loins downward he was an enormous snake. In the battle of the gods and giants, which was fought out in Egypt, Typhon hugged Zeus in his snaky coils, wrested [pg 157] from him his crooked sword, and with the blade cut the sinews of the god's hands and feet. Then taking him on his back he conveyed the mutilated deity across the sea to Cilicia, and deposited him in the Corycian cave. Here, too, he hid the severed sinews, wrapt in a bear's skin. But Hermes and Aegipan contrived to steal the missing thews and restore them to their divine owner. Thus made whole and strong again, Zeus pelted his beaten adversary with thunderbolts, drove him from place to place, and at last overwhelmed him under Mount Etna. And the spots where the hissing bolts fell are still marked by jets of flame.458

Fossil bones of extinct animals give rise to stories of giants.

It is possible that the discovery of fossil bones of large extinct animals may have helped to localize the story of the giant at the Corycian cave. Such bones, as we have seen, are often found in limestone caverns, and the limestone gorges of Cilicia are in fact rich in fossils. The Arcadians laid the scene of the battle of the gods and the giants in the plain of Megalopolis, where many bones of mammoths have come to light, and where, moreover, flames have been seen to burst from the earth and even to burn for years.459 These natural conditions would easily suggest a fable of giants who had fought the gods and had been slain by thunderbolts; the smouldering earth or jets of flame would be regarded as the spots where the divine lightnings had struck the ground. Hence the Arcadians sacrificed to thunder and lightning.460 In Sicily, too, great quantities of bones of mammoths, elephants, hippopotamuses, and other animals long extinct in the island have been found, and have been appealed to with confidence by patriotic Sicilians as conclusive evidence of the gigantic stature of their ancestors or predecessors.461 These remains of huge unwieldy creatures which once trampled through the jungle or splashed in the rivers of Sicily may have contributed with the fires of Etna to build up the story of giants imprisoned under the volcano and vomiting smoke and flame from its crater. “Tales of [pg 158] giants and monsters, which stand in direct connexion with the finding of great fossil bones, are scattered broadcast over the mythology of the world. Huge bones, found at Punto Santa Elena, in the north of Guayaquil, have served as a foundation for the story of a colony of giants who dwelt there. The whole area of the Pampas is a great sepulchre of enormous extinct animals; no wonder that one great plain should be called the ‘Field of the giants,’ and that such names as ‘the hill of the giant,’ ‘the stream of the animal,’ should be guides to the geologist in his search for fossil bones.”462

Chasm of Olbian Zeus at Kanytelideis.

About five miles to the north-east of the Corycian caverns, but divided from them by many deep gorges and impassable rocks, is another and very similar chasm. It may be reached in about an hour and a quarter from the sea by an ancient paved road, which ascends at first very steeply and then gently through bush-clad and wooded hills. Thus you come to a stretch of level ground covered with the well-preserved ruins of an ancient town. Remains of fortresses constructed of polygonal masonry, stately churches, and many houses, together with numerous tombs and reliefs, finely chiselled in the calcareous limestone of the neighbourhood, bear witness to the extent and importance of the place. Yet it is mentioned by no ancient writer. Inscriptions prove that its name was Kanyteldeis or Kanytelideis, which still survives in the modern form of Kanidiwan. The great chasm opens in the very heart of the city. So crowded are the ruins that you do not perceive the abyss till you are within a few yards of it. It is almost a complete circle, about a quarter of a mile wide, three-quarters of a mile in circumference, and uniformly two hundred feet or more in depth. The cliffs go sheer down and remind the traveller of the great quarries at Syracuse. But like the Corycian caves, the larger of which it closely resembles, the huge fissure is natural; and its bottom, like theirs, is overgrown with trees and vegetation. Two ways led down into it in antiquity, both cut through the rock. One of them was a tunnel, which is now obstructed; the other is still open. [pg 159] Remains of columns and hewn stones in the bottom of the chasm seem to show that a temple once stood there. But there is no cave at the foot of the cliffs, and no stream flows in the deep hollow or can be heard to rumble underground. A ruined tower of polygonal masonry, which stands on the southern edge of the chasm, bears a Greek inscription stating that it was dedicated to Olbian Zeus by the priest Teucer, son of Tarkuaris. The letters are beautifully cut in the style of the third century before Christ. We may infer that at the time of the dedication the town belonged to the priestly kings of Olba, and that the great chasm was sacred to Olbian Zeus.463

The deity of these great chasms was called Zeus by the Greeks, but he was probably a god of fertility embodied in vegetation and water.

What, then, was the character of the god who was worshipped under the name of Zeus at these two great natural chasms? The depth of the fissures, opening suddenly and as it were without warning in the midst of a plateau, was well fitted to impress and awe the spectator; and the sight of the rank evergreen vegetation at their bottom, fed by rivulets or underground water, must have presented a striking contrast to the grey, barren, rocky wilderness of the surrounding tableland. Such a spot must have seemed to simple folk a paradise, a garden of God, the abode of higher powers who caused the wilderness to blossom, if not with roses, at least with myrtles and pomegranates for man, and with grass and underwood for his flocks. So to the Semite, as we saw, the Baal of the land is he who fertilizes it by subterranean water rather than by rain from the sky, and who therefore dwells in the depths of earth rather than in the height of heaven.464 In rainless countries the sky-god is deprived of one of the principal functions which he discharges in cool cloudy climates like that of Europe. He has, in fact, little or nothing to do with the water-supply, and has therefore small excuse for levying a water-rate on his worshippers. Not, indeed, that Cilicia is rainless; but in countries bordering [pg 160] on the Mediterranean the drought is almost unbroken through the long months of summer. Vegetation then withers: the face of nature is scorched and brown: most of the rivers dry up; and only their white stony beds, hot to the foot and dazzling to the eye, remain to tell where they flowed. It is at such seasons that a green hollow, a shady rock, a murmuring stream, are welcomed by the wanderer in the South with a joy and wonder which the untravelled Northerner can hardly imagine. Never do the broad slow rivers of England, with their winding reaches, their grassy banks, their grey willows mirrored with the soft English sky in the placid stream, appear so beautiful as when the traveller views them for the first time after leaving behind him the aridity, the heat, the blinding glare of the white southern landscape, set in seas and skies of caerulean blue.

Analogy of the Corycian and Olbian caverns to Ibreez and the vale of the Adonis.

We may take it, then, as probable that the god of the Corycian and Olbian caverns was worshipped as a source of fertility. In antiquity, when the river, which now roars underground, still burst from the rock in the Corycian cave, the scene must have resembled Ibreez, where the god of the corn and the vine was adored at the source of the stream; and we may compare the vale of Adonis in the Lebanon, where the divinity who gave his name to the river was revered at its foaming cascades. The three landscapes had in common the elements of luxuriant vegetation and copious streams leaping full-born from the rock. We shall hardly err in supposing that these features shaped the conception of the deities who were supposed to haunt the favoured spots. At the Corycian cave the existence of a second chasm, of a frowning and awful aspect, might well suggest the presence of an evil being who lurked in it and sought to undo the beneficent work of the good god. Thus we should have a fable of a conflict between the two, a battle of Zeus and Typhon.

Two gods at Olba, perhaps a father and a son, corresponding to the Baal and Sandan of Tarsus.

On the whole we conclude that the Olbian Zeus, worshipped at one of these great limestone chasms, and clearly identical in nature with the Corycian Zeus, was also identical with the Baal of Tarsus, the god of the corn and the vine, who in his turn can hardly be separated from [pg 161] the god of Ibreez. If my conjecture is right the native name of the Olbian Zeus was Tark or Trok, and the priestly Teucers of Olba represented him in their own persons. On that hypothesis the Olbian priests who bore the name of Ajax embodied another native deity of unknown name, perhaps the father or the son of Tark. A comparison of the coin-types of Tarsus with the Hittite monuments of Ibreez and Boghaz-Keui led us to the conclusion that the people of Tarsus worshipped at least two distinct gods, a father and a son, the father-god being known to the Semites as Baal and to the Greeks as Zeus, while the son was called Sandan by the natives, but Hercules by the Greeks. We may surmise that at Olba the names of Teucer and Ajax designated two gods who corresponded in type to the two gods of Tarsus; and if the lesser figure at Ibreez, who appears in an attitude of adoration before the deity of the corn and the vine, could be interpreted as the divine Son in presence of the divine Father, we should have in all three places the same pair of deities, represented probably in the flesh by successive generations of priestly kings. But the evidence is far too slender to justify us in advancing this hypothesis as anything more than a bare conjecture.

§ 8. Cilician Goddesses.

Goddesses less prominent than gods in Cilician religion.

So far, the Cilician deities discussed have been males; we have as yet found no trace of the great Mother Goddess who plays so important a part in the religion of Cappadocia and Phrygia, beyond the great dividing range of the Taurus. Yet we may suspect that she was not unknown in Cilicia, though her worship certainly seems to have been far less prominent there than in the centre of Asia Minor. The difference may perhaps be interpreted as evidence that mother-kin and hence the predominance of Mother Goddesses survived, in the bleak highlands of the interior, long after a genial climate and teeming soil had fostered the growth of a higher civilization, and with it the advance from female to male kinship, in the rich lowlands of Cilicia. Be that as it may, Cilician goddesses with or without a male partner are known to have been revered in various parts of the country.

[pg 162]

The goddess 'Atheh, partner of Baal at Tarsus, seems to have been a form of Atargatis. The lion-goddess and the bull-god. In later times the old goddess became the Fortune of the City.

Thus at Tarsus itself the goddess 'Atheh was worshipped along with Baal; their effigies are engraved on the same coins of the city. She is represented wearing a veil and seated upon a lion, with her name in Aramaic letters engraved beside her.465 Hence it would seem that at Tarsus, as at Boghaz-Keui, the Father God mated with a lion-goddess like the Phrygian Cybele or the Syrian Atargatis. Now the name Atargatis is a Greek rendering of the Aramaic 'Athar-'atheh, a compound word which includes the name of the goddess of Tarsus.466 Thus in name as well as in attributes the female partner of the Baal of Tarsus appears to correspond to Atargatis, the Syrian Mother Goddess whose image, seated on a lion or lions, was worshipped with great pomp and splendour at Hierapolis-Bambyce near the Euphrates.467 [pg 163] May we go a step farther and find a correspondence between the Baal of Tarsus and the husband-god of Atargatis at Hierapolis-Bambyce? That husband-god, like the Baal of Tarsus, was identified by the Greeks with Zeus, and Lucian tells us that the resemblance of his image to the images of Zeus was in all respects unmistakable. But his image, unlike those of Zeus, was seated upon bulls.468 In point of fact he was probably Hadad, the chief male god of the Syrians, who appears to have been a god of thunder and fertility; for at Baalbec in the Lebanon, where the ruined temple of the Sun is the most imposing monument bequeathed to the modern world by Greek art in its decline, his image grasped in his left hand a thunderbolt and ears of corn,469 and a colossal statue of the deity, found near Zenjirli in Northern Syria, represents him with a bearded human head and horns, the emblem of strength and fertility.470 A similar god of thunder and lightning was worshipped from early times by the Babylonians and Assyrians; he bore the similar name of Adad and his emblems appear to have been a thunderbolt and a bull. On an Assyrian relief his image is represented as that of a bearded man clad in a short tunic, wearing a cap with two pairs of horns, and grasping an axe in his right hand and a thunderbolt in his left. His resemblance to the Hittite god of the thundering sky was therefore very close. An alternative name for this Babylonian and Assyrian deity was Ramman, an appropriate [pg 164] term, derived from a verb ramâmu to “scream” or “roar.”471 Now we have seen that the god of Ibreez, whose attributes tally with those of the Baal of Tarsus, wears a cap adorned with bull's horns;472 that the Father God at Boghaz-Keui, meeting the Mother Goddess on her lioness, is attended by an animal which according to the usual interpretation is a bull;473 and that the bull itself was worshipped, apparently as an emblem of fertility, at Euyuk near Boghaz-Keui.474 Thus at Tarsus and Boghaz-Keui, as at Hierapolis-Bambyce, the Father God and the Mother Goddess would seem to have had as their sacred animals or emblems the bull and the lion respectively. In later times, under Greek influence, the goddess was apparently exchanged for, or converted into, the Fortune of the City, who appears on coins of Tarsus as a seated woman with veiled and turreted head, grasping ears of corn and a poppy in her hand. Her lion is gone, but a trace of him perhaps remains on a coin which exhibits the throne of the goddess adorned with a lion's leg.475 In general it would seem that the goddess Fortune, who figures commonly as the guardian of cities in the Greek East, especially in Syria, was nothing but a disguised form of Gad, the Semitic god of fortune or luck, who, though the exigencies of grammar required him to be masculine, is supposed to have been often merely a special aspect of the great goddess Astarte or Atargatis conceived as the patroness and protector of towns.476 In Oriental religion such permutations or combinations need not surprise us. To the gods all things are [pg 165] possible. In Cyprus the goddess of love wore a beard,477 and Alexander the Great sometimes disported himself in the costume of Artemis, while at other times he ransacked the divine wardrobe to figure in the garb of Hercules, of Hermes, and of Ammon.478 The change of the goddess 'Atheh of Tarsus into Gad or Fortune would be easy if we suppose that she was known as Gad-'Atheh, “Luck of 'Atheh,” which occurs as a Semitic personal name.479 In like manner the goddess of Fortune at Olba, who had her small temple beside the great temple of Zeus,480 may have been originally the consort of the native god Tark or Tarku.

The Phoenician god El and his wife at Mallus in Cilicia. Assimilation of native Oriental deities to Greek divinities.

Another town in Cilicia where an Oriental god and goddess appear to have been worshipped together was Mallus. The city was built on a height in the great Cilician plain near the mouth of the river Pyramus.481 Its coins exhibit two winged deities, a male and a female, in a kneeling or running attitude. On some of the coins the male deity is represented, like Janus, with two heads facing opposite ways, and with two pairs of wings, while beneath him is the forepart of a bull with a human head. The obverse of the coins which bear the female deity displays a conical stone, sometimes flanked by two bunches of grapes.482 This conical stone, like those of other Asiatic cities,483 was probably the emblem of a Mother Goddess, and the bunches of grapes indicate her fertilizing powers. The god with the two heads [pg 166] and four wings can hardly be any other than the Phoenician El, whom the Greeks called Cronus; for El was characterized by four eyes, two in front and two behind, and by three pairs of wings.484 A discrepancy in the number of wings can scarcely be deemed fatal to the identification. The god may easily have moulted some superfluous feathers on the road from Phoenicia to Mallus. On later coins of Mallus these quaint Oriental deities disappear, and are replaced by corresponding Greek deities, particularly by a head of Cronus on one side and a figure of Demeter, grasping ears of corn, on the other.485 The change doubtless sprang from a wish to assimilate the ancient native divinities to the new and fashionable divinities of the Greek pantheon. If Cronus and Demeter, the harvest god and goddess, were chosen to supplant El and his female consort, the ground of the choice must certainly have been a supposed resemblance between the two pairs of deities. We may assume, therefore, that the discarded couple, El and his wife, had also been worshipped by the husbandman as sources of fertility, the givers of corn and wine. One of these later coins of Mallus exhibits Dionysus sitting on a vine laden with ripe clusters, while on the obverse is seen a male figure guiding a yoke of oxen as if in the act of ploughing.486 These types of the vine-god and the ploughman probably represent another attempt to adapt the native religion to changed conditions, to pour the old Asiatic wine into new Greek bottles. The barbarous monster with the multiplicity of heads and wings has been reduced to a perfectly human Dionysus. The sacred but deplorable old conical stone no longer flaunts proudly on the coins; it has retired to a decent obscurity in favour of a natural and graceful vine. It is thus that a truly progressive theology keeps pace with the march of intellect. But if these things were done by the apostles of culture at Mallus, we cannot suppose that the clergy of Tarsus, the capital, lagged behind their provincial [pg 167] brethren in their efforts to place the ancient faith upon a sound modern basis. The fruit of their labours seems to have been the more or less nominal substitution of Zeus, Fortune, and Hercules for Baal, 'Atheh, and Sandan.487

Sarpedonian Artemis. The goddess Perasia at Hieropolis-Castabala. The fire-walk in the worship of Perasia. Insensibility to pain regarded as a mark of inspiration.

We may suspect that in like manner the Sarpedonian Artemis, who had a sanctuary in South-Eastern Cilicia, near the Syrian border, was really a native goddess parading in borrowed plumes. She gave oracular responses by the mouth of inspired men, or more probably of women, who in their moments of divine ecstasy may have been deemed incarnations of her divinity.488 Another even more transparently Asiatic goddess was Perasia, or Artemis Perasia, who was worshipped at Hieropolis-Castabala in Eastern Cilicia. The extensive ruins of the ancient city, now known as Bodroum, cover the slope of a hill about three-quarters of a mile to the north of the river Pyramus. Above them towers the acropolis, built on the summit of dark grey precipices, and divided from the neighbouring mountain by a deep cutting in the rock. A mediaeval castle, built of hewn blocks of reddish-yellow limestone, has replaced the ancient citadel. The city possessed a large theatre, and was traversed by two handsome colonnades, of which some columns are still standing among the ruins. A thick growth of brushwood and grass now covers most of the site, and the place is wild and solitary. Only the wandering herdsmen encamp near the deserted city in winter and spring. The neighbourhood is treeless; yet in May magnificent fields of wheat and barley gladden the eye, and in the valleys the [pg 168] clover grows as high as the horses' knees.489 The ambiguous nature of the goddess who presided over this City of the Sanctuary (Hieropolis)490 was confessed by a puzzled worshipper, a physician named Lucius Minius Claudianus, who confided his doubts to the deity herself in some very indifferent Greek verses. He wisely left it to the goddess to say whether she was Artemis, or the Moon, or Hecate, or Aphrodite, or Demeter.491 All that we know about her is that her true name was Perasia, and that she was in the enjoyment of certain revenues.492 Further, we may reasonably conjecture that at the Cilician Castabala she was worshipped with rites like those which were held in honour of her namesake Artemis Perasia at another city of the same name, Castabala in Cappadocia. There, as we saw, the priestesses of the goddess walked over fire with bare feet unscathed.493 Probably the [pg 169] same impressive ceremony was performed before a crowd of worshippers in the Cilician Castabala also. Whatever the exact meaning of the rite may have been, the goddess was in all probability one of those Asiatic Mother Goddesses to whom the Greeks often applied the name of Artemis.494 The immunity enjoyed by the priestess in the furnace was attributed to her inspiration by the deity. In discussing the nature of inspiration or possession by a deity, the Syrian philosopher Jamblichus notes as one of its symptoms a total insensibility to pain. Many inspired persons, he tells us, “are not burned by fire, the fire not taking hold of them by reason of the divine inspiration; and many, though they are burned, perceive it not, because at the time they do not live an animal life. They pierce themselves with skewers and feel nothing. They gash their backs with hatchets, they slash their arms with daggers, and know not what they do, because their acts are not those of mere men. For impassable places become passable to those who are filled with the spirit. They rush into fire, they pass through fire, they cross rivers, like the priestess at Castabala. These things prove that under the influence of inspiration men are beside themselves, that their senses, their will, their life are those neither of man nor of beast, but that they lead another and a diviner life instead, whereby they are inspired and wholly possessed.”495 Thus in traversing the fiery furnace the priestesses of Perasia were believed to be beside themselves, to be filled with the goddess, to be in a real sense incarnations of her divinity.496

A similar touchstone of inspiration is still applied by some villagers in the Himalayan districts of North-Western [pg 170] India. Once a year they worship Airi, a local deity, who is represented by a trident and has his temples on lonely hills and desolate tracts. At his festival the people seat themselves in a circle about a bonfire. A kettle-drum is beaten, and one by one his worshippers become possessed by the god and leap with shouts round the flames. Some brand themselves with heated iron spoons and sit down in the fire. Such as escape unhurt are believed to be truly inspired, while those who burn themselves are despised as mere pretenders to the divine frenzy. Persons thus possessed by the spirit are called Airi's horses or his slaves. During the revels, which commonly last about ten days, they wear red scarves round their heads and receive alms from the faithful. These men deem themselves so holy that they will let nobody touch them, and they alone may touch the sacred trident, the emblem of their god.497 In Western Asia itself modern fanatics still practise the same austerities which were practised by their brethren in the days of Jamblichus. “Asia Minor abounds in dervishes of different orders, who lap red-hot iron, calling it their ‘rose,’ chew coals of living fire, strike their heads against solid walls, stab themselves in the cheek, the scalp, the temple, with sharp spikes set in heavy weights, shouting ‘Allah, Allah,’ and always consistently avowing that during such frenzy they are entirely insensible to pain.”498

§ 9. The Burning of Cilician Gods.

The divine triad, Baal, 'Atheh, and Sandan, at Tarsus may have been personated by priests and priestesses.

On the whole, then, we seem to be justified in concluding that under a thin veneer of Greek humanity the barbarous native gods of Cilicia continued long to survive, and that among them the great Asiatic goddess retained a place, though not the prominent place which she held in the highlands of the interior down at least to the beginning of our era. The principle that the inspired priest or priestess represents the deity in person appears, if I am right, to [pg 171] have been recognized at Castabala and at Olba, as well as at the sanctuary of Sarpedonian Artemis. There can be no intrinsic improbability, therefore, in the view that at Tarsus also the divine triad of Baal, 'Atheh, and Sandan may also have been personated by priests and priestesses, who, on the analogy of Olba and of the great sanctuaries in the interior of Asia Minor, would originally be at the same time kings and queens, princes and princesses. Further, the burning of Sandan in effigy at Tarsus would, on this hypothesis, answer to the walk of the priestess of Perasia through the furnace at Castabala. Both were perhaps mitigations of a custom of putting the priestly king or queen, or another member of the royal family, to death by fire.

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Chapter VII. Sardanapalus and Hercules.

§ 1. The Burning of Sardanapalus.

Tarsus said to have been founded by the Assyrian king Sardanapalus, who burned himself on a pyre. Deaths of Babylonian and Assyrian kings on the pyre.

The theory that kings or princes were formerly burned to death at Tarsus in the character of gods is singularly confirmed by another and wholly independent line of argument. For, according to one account, the city of Tarsus was founded not by Sandan but by Sardanapalus, the famous Assyrian monarch whose death on a great pyre was one of the most famous incidents in Oriental legend. Near the sea, within a day's march of Tarsus, might be seen in antiquity the ruins of a great ancient city named Anchiale, and outside its walls stood a monument called the monument of Sardanapalus, on which was carved in stone the figure of the monarch. He was represented snapping the fingers of his right hand, and the gesture was explained by an accompanying inscription, engraved in Assyrian characters, to the following effect:—“Sardanapalus, son of Anacyndaraxes, built Anchiale and Tarsus in one day. Eat, drink, and play, for everything else is not worth that,” by which was implied that all other human affairs were not worth a snap of the fingers.499 The gesture may have been misinterpreted [pg 173] and the inscription mistranslated,500 but there is no reason to doubt the existence of such a monument, though we may conjecture that it was of Hittite rather than Assyrian origin; for, not to speak of the traces of Hittite art and religion which we have found at Tarsus, a group of Hittite monuments has been discovered at Marash, in the upper valley of the Pyramus.501 The Assyrians may have ruled over Cilicia for a time, but Hittite influence was probably much deeper and more lasting.502 The story that Tarsus was founded by Sardanapalus may well be apocryphal,503 but there must have been some reason for his association with the city. On the present hypothesis that reason is to be found in the traditional manner of his death. To avoid falling into the hands of the rebels, who laid siege to Nineveh, he built a huge pyre in his palace, heaped it up with gold and silver and purple raiment, and then burnt himself, his wife, his concubines, and his eunuchs in the fire.504 The story is false of the historical Sardanapalus, that is, of the great Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, but it is true of his brother Shamashshumukin. Being appointed king of Babylon by Ashurbanipal, he revolted against his suzerain and benefactor, and was besieged by him in his capital. The siege was long and the resistance desperate, for the Babylonians knew that they had no mercy to expect from the ruthless Assyrians. But they were decimated by famine and pestilence, and when the city could hold out no more, King Shamashshumukin, determined not to fall alive into the hands of his offended brother, shut himself up in his [pg 174] palace, and there burned himself to death, along with his wives, his children, his slaves, and his treasures, at the very moment when the conquerors were breaking in the gates.505 Not many years afterwards the same tragedy was repeated at Nineveh itself by Saracus or Sinsharishkun, the last king of Assyria. Besieged by the rebel Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, and by Cyaxares, king of the Medes, he burned himself in his palace. That was the end of Nineveh and of the Assyrian empire.506 Thus Greek history preserved the memory of the catastrophe, but transferred it from the real victims to the far more famous Ashurbanipal, whose figure in after ages loomed vast and dim against the setting sun of Assyrian glory.

§ 2. The Burning of Croesus.

Story that Cyrus intended to burn Croesus alive. It is unlikely that the Persians would thus have polluted the sacred element of fire.

Another Oriental monarch who prepared at least to die in the flames was Croesus, king of Lydia. Herodotus tells how the Persians under Cyrus captured Sardes, the Lydian capital, and took Croesus alive, and how Cyrus caused a great pyre to be erected, on which he placed the captive monarch in fetters, and with him twice seven Lydian youths. Fire was then applied to the pile, but at the last moment Cyrus relented, a sudden shower extinguished the flames, and Croesus was spared.507 But it is most improbable that the Persians, with their profound reverence for the sanctity of fire, should have thought of defiling the sacred element with the worst of all pollutions, the contact of dead bodies.508 Such an act would have seemed to them sacrilege of the deepest dye. For to them fire was the earthly form of the [pg 175] heavenly light, the eternal, the infinite, the divine; death, on the other hand, was in their opinion the main source of corruption and uncleanness. Hence they took the most stringent precautions to guard the purity of fire from the defilement of death.509 If a man or a dog died in a house where the holy fire burned, the fire had to be removed from the house and kept away for nine nights in winter or a month in summer before it might be brought back; and if any man broke the rule by bringing back the fire within the appointed time, he might be punished with two hundred stripes.510 As for burning a corpse in the fire, it was the most heinous of all sins, an invention of Ahriman, the devil; there was no atonement for it, and it was punished with death.511 Nor did the law remain a dead letter. Down to the beginning of our era the death penalty was inflicted on all who threw a corpse or cow-dung on the fire, nay, even on such as blew on the fire with their breath.512 It is hard, therefore, to believe that a Persian king should have commanded his subjects to perpetrate a deed which he and they viewed with horror as the most flagitious sacrilege conceivable.

The older and truer tradition was that in the extremity of his fortunes Croesus attempted to burn himself.

Another and in some respects truer version of the story of Croesus and Cyrus has been preserved by two older witnesses—namely, by the Greek poet Bacchylides, who was born some forty years after the event,513 and by a Greek artist who painted the scene on a red-figured vase about, or soon after, the time of the poet's birth. Bacchylides tells us that when the Persians captured Sardes, Croesus, unable to brook the thought of slavery, caused a pyre to be erected in front of his courtyard, mounted it with his wife and daughters, and bade a page apply a light to the wood. A bright blaze shot up, but Zeus extinguished it with rain from heaven, and [pg 176] Apollo of the Golden Sword wafted the pious king and his daughters to the happy land beyond the North Wind.514 In like manner the vase-painter clearly represents the burning of Croesus as a voluntary act, not as a punishment inflicted on him by the conqueror. He lets us see the king enthroned upon the pyre with a wreath of laurel on his head and a sceptre in one hand, while with the other he is pouring a libation. An attendant is in the act of applying to the pile two objects which have been variously interpreted as torches to kindle the wood or whisks to sprinkle holy water. The demeanour of the king is solemn and composed: he seems to be performing a religious rite, not suffering an ignominious death.515

Thus we may fairly conclude with some eminent modern scholars516 that in the extremity of his fortunes Croesus prepared to meet death like a king or a god in the flames. It was thus that Hercules, from whom the old kings of Lydia claimed to be sprung,517 ascended from earth to heaven: it was thus that Zimri, king of Israel, passed beyond the reach of his enemies: it was thus that Shamashshumukin, king of Babylon, escaped a brother's vengeance: it was thus that the last king of Assyria expired in the ruins of his capital; and it was thus that, sixty-six years after the capture of Sardes, the Carthaginian king Hamilcar sought to retrieve a lost battle by a hero's death.518

Legend that Semiramis burnt herself on a pyre.

Semiramis herself, the legendary queen of Assyria, is said to have burnt herself on a pyre out of grief at the death of a favourite horse.519 Since there are strong grounds for regarding [pg 177] the queen in her mythical aspect as a form of Ishtar or Astarte,520 the legend that Semiramis died for love in the flames furnishes a remarkable parallel to the traditionary death of the love-lorn Dido, who herself appears to be simply an Avatar of the same great Asiatic goddess.521 When we compare these stories of the burning of Semiramis and Dido with each other and with the historical cases of the burning of Oriental monarchs, we may perhaps conclude that there was a time when queens as well as kings were expected under certain circumstances, perhaps on the death of their consort, to perish in the fire. The conclusion can hardly be deemed extravagant when we remember that the practice of burning widows to death survived in India under English rule down to a time within living memory.522

The great burningsfor Jewish kings.

At Jerusalem itself a reminiscence of the practice of burning kings, alive or dead, appears to have lingered as late as the time of Isaiah, who says: “For Tophet is prepared of old; yea, for the king it is made ready; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.”523 We know that “great burnings” were [pg 178] regularly made for dead kings of Judah,524 and it can hardly be accidental that the place assigned by Isaiah to the king's pyre is the very spot in the Valley of Hinnom where the first-born children were actually burned by their parents in honour of Moloch “the King.” The exact site of the Valley of Hinnom is disputed, but all are agreed in identifying it with one of the ravines which encircle or intersect Jerusalem; and according to some eminent authorities it was the one called by Josephus the Tyropoeon.525 If this last identification is correct, the valley where the children were burned on a pyre lay immediately beneath the royal palace and the temple. Perhaps the young victims died for God and the king.526

The great burnings for Jewish Rabbis at Meiron in Galilee.

With the “great burnings” for dead Jewish kings it seems worth while to compare the great burnings still annually made for dead Jewish Rabbis at the lofty village of Meiron in Galilee, the most famous and venerated place of pilgrimage for Jews in modern Palestine. Here the tombs of the Rabbis are hewn out of the rock, and here on the thirtieth of April, the eve of May Day, multitudes of pilgrims, both men and women, assemble and burn their offerings, which consist of shawls, scarfs, handkerchiefs, books, and the like. These are placed in two stone basins on the top of two low pillars, and being drenched with oil and ignited they are consumed to ashes amid the loud applause, shouts, and cries of the spectators. A man has been known to pay as much as [pg 179] two thousand piastres for the privilege of being allowed to open the ceremony by burning a costly shawl. On such occasions the solemn unmoved serenity of the Turkish officials, who keep order, presents a striking contrast to the intense excitement of the Jews.527 This curious ceremony may be explained by the widespread practice of burning property for the use and benefit of the dead. So, to take a single instance, the tyrant Periander collected the finest raiment of all the women in Corinth and burned it in a pit for his dead wife, who had sent him word by necromancy that she was cold and naked in the other world, because the clothes he buried with her had not been burnt.528 In like manner, perhaps, garments and other valuables may have been consumed on the pyre for the use of the dead kings of Judah. In Siam, the corpse of a king or queen is burned in a huge structure resembling a permanent palace, which with its many-gabled and high-pitched roofs and multitudinous tinselled spires, soaring to a height of over two hundred feet, sometimes occupies an area of about an acre.529 The blaze of such an enormous catafalque may resemble, even if it far surpasses, the “great burnings” for the Jewish kings.

§ 3. Purification by Fire.

Death by fire regarded by the ancients as a kind of apotheosis. Fire was supposed to purge away the mortal parts of men, leaving the immortal.

These events and these traditions seem to prove that under certain circumstances Oriental monarchs deliberately chose to burn themselves to death. What were these circumstances? and what were the consequences of the act? If the intention had merely been to escape from the hands of a conqueror, an easier mode of death would naturally have been chosen. There must have been a special reason for electing to die by fire. The legendary death of Hercules, the historical death of Hamilcar, and the picture of Croesus enthroned in state on the pyre and pouring a libation, all combine to indicate that to be burnt alive was regarded as a solemn sacrifice, nay, more than that, as an apotheosis which [pg 180] raised the victim to the rank of a god.530 For it is to be remembered that Hamilcar as well as Hercules was worshipped after death. Fire, moreover, was regarded by the ancients as a purgative so powerful that properly applied it could burn away all that was mortal of a man, leaving only the divine and immortal spirit behind. Hence we read of goddesses who essayed to confer immortality on the infant sons of kings by burning them in the fire by night; but their beneficent purpose was always frustrated by the ignorant interposition of the mother or father, who peeping into the room saw the child in the flames and raised a cry of horror, thus disconcerting the goddess at her magic rites. This story is told of Isis in the house of the king of Byblus, of Demeter in the house of the king of Eleusis, and of Thetis in the house of her mortal husband Peleus.531 In a slightly [pg 181] different way the witch Medea professed to give back to the old their lost youth by boiling them with a hell-broth in her magic cauldron;532 and when Pelops had been butchered and served up at a banquet of the gods by his cruel father Tantalus, the divine beings, touched with pity, plunged his mangled remains in a kettle, from which after decoction he emerged alive and young.533 “Fire,” says Jamblichus, “destroys the material part of sacrifices, it purifies all things that are brought near it, releasing them from the bonds of matter and, in virtue of the purity of its nature, making them meet for communion with the gods. So, too, it releases us from the bondage of corruption, it likens us to the gods, it makes us meet for their friendship, and it converts our material nature into an immaterial.”534 Thus we can understand why kings and commoners who claimed or aspired to divinity should choose death by fire. It opened to them the gates of heaven. The quack Peregrinus, who ended his disreputable career in the flames at Olympia, gave out that after death he would be turned into a spirit who would guard men from the perils of the night; and, as Lucian remarked, no doubt there were plenty of fools to believe him.535 According to one account, the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles, who set up for being a god in his lifetime, leaped into the crater of Etna in order to establish his claim to godhead.536 There is nothing incredible in the tradition. The crack-brained philosopher, with his itch for notoriety, may well have done what Indian fakirs537 and the brazen-faced mountebank Peregrinus did in antiquity, and what Russian peasants and Chinese Buddhists have done in modern times.538 There is no extremity to which fanaticism or vanity, or a mixture of the two, will not impel its victims.

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§ 4. The Divinity of Lydian Kings.

The Lydian kings seem to have claimed divinity on the ground of their descent from Hercules, the god of the double-axe and of the lion; and this Lydian Hercules or Sandon appears to have been the same with the Cilician Sandan. Lydian kings held responsible for the weather and the crops.

But apart from any general notions of the purificatory virtues of fire, the kings of Lydia seem to have had a special reason for regarding death in the flames as their appropriate end. For the ancient dynasty of the Heraclids which preceded the house of Croesus on the throne traced their descent from a god or hero whom the Greeks called Hercules;539 and this Lydian Hercules appears to have been identical in name and in substance with the Cilician Hercules, whose effigy was regularly burned on a great pyre at Tarsus. The Lydian Hercules bore the name of Sandon;540 the Cilician Hercules bore the name of Sandan, or perhaps rather of Sandon, since Sandon is known from inscriptions and other evidence to have been a Cilician name.541 The characteristic emblems of the Cilician Hercules were the lion and the double-headed axe; and both these emblems meet us at Sardes in connexion with the dynasty of the Heraclids. For the double-headed axe was carried as part of the sacred regalia by Lydian kings from the time of the legendary queen Omphale down to the reign of Candaules, the last of the Heraclid kings. It is said to have been given to Omphale by Hercules himself, and it was apparently regarded as a palladium of the Heraclid sovereignty; for after the dotard Candaules ceased to carry the axe himself, and had handed it over to the keeping of a courtier, a rebellion broke out, and the ancient dynasty of the Heraclids came to an end. The new king Gyges did not attempt to carry the old emblem of sovereignty; he dedicated it with other spoils to Zeus in Caria. Hence the image of the Carian Zeus bore an axe in his hand and received the epithet of Labrandeus, from labrys, the Lydian word for “axe.”542 Such is Plutarch's account; but we may [pg 183] suspect that Zeus, or rather the native god whom the Greeks identified with Zeus, carried the axe long before the time of Candaules. If, as is commonly supposed, the axe was the symbol of the Asiatic thunder-god,543 it would be an appropriate emblem in the hand of kings, who are so often expected to make rain, thunder, and lightning for the good of their people. Whether the kings of Lydia were bound to make thunder and rain we do not know; but at all events, like many early monarchs, they seem to have been held responsible for the weather and the crops. In the reign of Meles the country suffered severely from dearth, so the people consulted an oracle, and the deity laid the blame on the kings, one of whom had in former years incurred the guilt of murder. The soothsayers accordingly declared that King Meles, though his own hands were clean, must be banished for three years in order that the taint of bloodshed should be purged away. The king obeyed and retired to Babylon, where he lived three years. In his absence the kingdom was administered by a deputy, a certain Sadyattes, son of Cadys, who traced his descent from Tylon.544 As to this Tylon we shall hear more presently. Again, we read that the Lydians rejoiced greatly at the assassination of Spermus, another of their kings, “for he was very wicked, and the land suffered from drought in his reign.”545 Apparently, like the ancient Irish and many modern Africans, they laid the drought at the king's door, and thought that he only got what he deserved under the knife of the assassin.

[pg 184]

The lion-god of Lydia.

With regard to the lion, the other emblem of the Cilician Hercules, we are told that the same king Meles, who was banished because of a dearth, sought to make the acropolis of Sardes impregnable by carrying round it a lion which a concubine had borne to him. Unfortunately at a single point, where the precipices were such that it seemed as if no human foot could scale them, he omitted to carry the beast, and sure enough at that very point the Persians afterwards clambered up into the citadel.546 Now Meles was one of the old Heraclid dynasty547 who boasted their descent from the lion-hero Hercules; hence the carrying of a lion round the acropolis was probably a form of consecration intended to place the stronghold under the guardianship of the lion-god, the hereditary deity of the royal family. And the story that the king's concubine gave birth to a lion's whelp suggests that the Lydian kings not only claimed kinship with the beast, but posed as lions in their own persons and passed off their sons as lion-cubs. Croesus dedicated at Delphi a lion of pure gold, perhaps as a badge of Lydia,548 and Hercules with his lion's skin is a common type on coins of Sardes.549

Identity of the Lydian and Cilician Hercules.

Thus the death, or the attempted death, of Croesus on the pyre completes the analogy between the Cilician and the Lydian Hercules. At Tarsus and at Sardes we find the worship of a god whose symbols were the lion and the double-headed axe, and who was burned on a great pyre, either in effigy or in the person of a human representative. The Greeks called him Hercules, but his native name was Sandan or Sandon. At Sardes he seems to have been personated by the kings, who carried the double-axe and perhaps wore, like their ancestor Hercules, the lion's skin. We may conjecture that at Tarsus also the royal family aped the lion-god. At all events we know that Sandan, the name of the god, entered into the names of Cilician [pg 185] kings, and that in later times the priests of Sandan at Tarsus wore the royal purple.550

§ 5. Hittite Gods at Tarsus and Sardes.

The Cilician and Lydian Hercules (Sandan or Sandon) seems to have been a Hittite deity.

Now we have traced the religion of Tarsus back by a double thread to the Hittite religion of Cappadocia. One thread joins the Baal of Tarsus, with his grapes and his corn, to the god of Ibreez. The other thread unites the Sandan of Tarsus, with his lion and his double axe, to the similar figure at Boghaz-Keui. Without being unduly fanciful, therefore, we may surmise that the Sandon-Hercules of Lydia was also a Hittite god, and that the Heraclid dynasty of Lydia were of Hittite blood. Certainly the influence, if not the rule, of the Hittites extended to Lydia; for at least two rock-carvings accompanied by Hittite inscriptions are still to be seen in the country. Both of them attracted the attention of the ancient Greeks. One of them represents a god or warrior in Hittite costume armed with a spear and bow. It is carved on the face of a grey rock, which stands out conspicuous on a bushy hillside, where an old road runs through a glen from the valley of the Hermus to the valley of the Cayster. The place is now called Kara-Bel. Herodotus thought that the figure represented the Egyptian king and conqueror Sesostris.551 The other monument is a colossal seated figure of the Mother of the Gods, locally known in antiquity as Mother Plastene. It is hewn out of the solid rock and occupies a large niche in the face of a cliff at the steep northern foot of Mount Sipylus.552 Thus it would seem that at some time or other the Hittites carried their arms to the shores of the Aegean. There is no improbability, therefore, in the view that a Hittite dynasty may have reigned at Sardes.553

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§ 6. The Resurrection of Tylon.

Death and resurrection of the Lydian hero Tylon. Feast of the Golden Flower at Sardes.

The burning of Sandan, like that of Melcarth,554 was probably followed by a ceremony of his resurrection or awakening, to indicate that the divine life was not extinct, but had only assumed a fresher and purer form. Of that resurrection we have, so far as I am aware, no direct evidence. In default of it, however, there is a tale of a local Lydian hero called Tylon or Tylus, who was killed and brought to life again. The story runs thus. Tylon or Tylus was a son of Earth.555 One day as he was walking on the banks of the Hermus a serpent stung and killed him. His distressed sister Moire had recourse to a giant named Damasen, who attacked and slew the serpent. But the serpent's mate culled a herb, “the flower of Zeus” in the woods, and bringing it in her mouth put it to the lips of the dead serpent, which immediately revived. In her turn Moire took the hint and restored her brother Tylon to life by touching him with the same plant.556 A similar incident occurs in many folk-tales. Serpents are often credited with a knowledge of life-giving plants.557 But Tylon seems to have been more than a mere hero of fairy-tales. He was closely associated with Sardes, for he figures on the coins of the city along with his champion Damasen or Masnes, the dead serpent, and the life-giving branch.558 And [pg 187] he was related in various ways to the royal family of Lydia; for his daughter married Cotys, one of the earliest kings of the country,559 and a descendant of his acted as regent during the banishment of King Meles.560 It has been suggested that the story of his death and resurrection was acted as a pageant to symbolize the revival of plant life in spring.561 At all events, a festival called the Feast of the Golden Flower was celebrated in honour of Persephone at Sardes,562 probably in one of the vernal months, and the revival of the hero and of the goddess may well have been represented together. The Golden Flower of the Festival would then be the “flower of Zeus” of the legend, perhaps the yellow crocus of nature or rather her more gorgeous sister, the Oriental saffron. For saffron grew in great abundance at the Corycian cave of Zeus;563 and it is an elegant conjecture, if it is nothing more, that the very name of the place meant “the Crocus Cave.”564 However, on the coins of Sardes the magical plant seems to be a branch rather than a blossom, a Golden Bough rather than a Golden Flower.

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Chapter VIII. Volcanic Religion.

§ 1. The Burning of a God.

The custom of burning a god may have been intended to recruit his divine energies.

Thus it appears that a custom of burning a god in effigy or in the person of a human representative was practised by at least two peoples of Western Asia, the Phoenicians and the Hittites. Whether they both developed the custom independently, or whether one of them adopted it from the other, we cannot say. And their reasons for celebrating a rite which to us seems strange and monstrous are also obscure. In the preceding inquiry some grounds have been adduced for thinking that the practice was based on a conception of the purifying virtue of fire, which, by destroying the corruptible and perishable elements of man, was supposed to fit him for union with the imperishable and the divine. Now to people who created their gods in their own likeness, and imagined them subject to the same law of decadence and death, the idea would naturally occur that fire might do for the gods what it was believed to do for men, that it could purge them of the taint of corruption and decay, could sift the mortal from the immortal in their composition, and so endow them with eternal youth. Hence a custom might arise of subjecting the deities themselves, or the more important of them, to an ordeal of fire for the purpose of refreshing and renovating those creative energies on the maintenance of which so much depended. To the coarse apprehension of the uninstructed and unsympathetic observer the solemn rite might easily wear a very different aspect. According as he was of a pious or of a sceptical turn of mind, he might [pg 189] denounce it as a sacrilege or deride it as an absurdity. “To burn the god whom you worship,” he might say, “is the height of impiety and of folly. If you succeed in the attempt, you kill him and deprive yourselves of his valuable services. If you fail, you have mortally offended him, and sooner or later he will visit you with his severe displeasure.” To this the worshipper, if he was patient and polite, might listen with a smile of indulgent pity for the ignorance and obtuseness of the critic. “You are much mistaken,” he might observe, “in imagining that we expect or attempt to kill the god whom we adore. The idea of such a thing is as repugnant to us as to you. Our intention is precisely the opposite of that which you attribute to us. Far from wishing to destroy the deity, we desire to make him live for ever, to place him beyond the reach of that process of degeneration and final dissolution to which all things here below appear by their nature to be subject. He does not die in the fire. Oh no! Only the corruptible and mortal part of him perishes in the flames: all that is incorruptible and immortal of him will survive the purer and stronger for being freed from the contagion of baser elements. That little heap of ashes which you see there is not our god. It is only the skin which he has sloughed, the husk which he has cast. He himself is far away, in the clouds of heaven, in the depths of earth, in the running waters, in the tree and the flower, in the corn and the vine. We do not see him face to face, but every year he manifests his divine life afresh in the blossoms of spring and the fruits of autumn. We eat of his broken body in bread. We drink of his shed blood in the juice of the grape.”

§ 2. The Volcanic Region of Cappadocia.

The custom of burning a god may have stood in some relation to volcanic phenomena.

Some such train of reasoning may suffice to explain, though naturally not to justify, the custom which we bluntly call the burning of a god. Yet it is worth while to ask whether in the development of the practice these general considerations may not have been reinforced or modified by special circumstances; for example, by the natural features of the country where the custom grew up. For the history [pg 190] of religion, like that of all other human institutions, has been profoundly affected by local conditions, and cannot be fully understood apart from them. Now Asia Minor, the region where the practice in question appears to have been widely diffused, has from time immemorial been subjected to the action of volcanic forces on a great scale. It is true that, so far as the memory of man goes back, the craters of its volcanoes have been extinct, but the vestiges of their dead or slumbering fires are to be seen in many places, and the country has been shaken and rent at intervals by tremendous earthquakes. These phenomena cannot fail to have impressed the imagination of the inhabitants, and thereby to have left some mark on their religion.

The great extinct volcano Mount Argaeus in Cappadocia.

Among the extinct volcanoes of Anatolia the greatest is Mount Argaeus, in the centre of Cappadocia, the heart of the old Hittite country. It is indeed the highest point of Asia Minor, and one of the loftiest mountains known to the ancients; for in height it falls not very far short of Mount Blanc. Towering abruptly in a huge pyramid from the plain, it is a conspicuous object for miles on miles. Its top is white with eternal snow, and in antiquity its lower slopes were clothed with dense forests, from which the inhabitants of the treeless Cappadocian plains drew their supply of timber. In these woods, and in the low grounds at the foot of the mountain, the languishing fires of the volcano manifested themselves as late as the beginning of our era. The ground was treacherous. Under a grassy surface there lurked pits of fire, into which stray cattle and unwary travellers often fell. Experienced woodmen used great caution when they went to fell trees in the forest. Elsewhere the soil was marshy, and flames were seen to play over it at night.565 Superstitious fancies no doubt [pg 191] gathered thick around these perilous spots, but what shape they took we cannot say. Nor do we know whether sacrifices were offered on the top of the mountain, though a curious discovery may perhaps be thought to indicate that they were. Sharp and lofty pinnacles of red porphyry, inaccessible to the climber, rise in imposing grandeur from the eternal snow of the summit, and here Mr. Tozer found that the rock had been perforated in various places with human habitations. One such rock-hewn dwelling winds inward for a considerable distance; rude niches are hollowed in its sides, and on its roof and walls may be seen the marks of tools.566 The ancients certainly did not climb mountains for pleasure or health, and it is difficult to imagine that any motive but superstition should have led them to provide dwellings in such a place. These rock-cut chambers may have been shelters for priests charged with the performance of religious or magical rites on the summit.

§ 3. Fire-Worship in Cappadocia.

Persian fire-worship in Cappadocia. Worship of natural fires which burn perpetually. The perpetual fires of Baku.

Under the Persian rule Cappadocia became, and long continued to be, a great seat of the Zoroastrian fire-worship. In the time of Strabo, about the beginning of our era, the votaries of that faith and their temples were still numerous in the country. The perpetual fire burned on an altar, surrounded by a heap of ashes, in the middle of the temple; and the priests daily chanted their liturgy before it, holding in their hands a bundle of myrtle rods and wearing on their heads tall felt caps with cheek-pieces which covered their lips, lest they should defile the sacred flame with their breath.567 It is reasonable to suppose that the natural fires which burned perpetually on the outskirts of Mount Argaeus attracted the devotion of the disciples of Zoroaster, for elsewhere similar fires have been the object of religious [pg 192] reverence down to modern times. Thus at Jualamukhi, on the lower slopes of the Himalayas, jets of combustible gas issue from the earth; and a great Hindoo temple, the resort of many pilgrims, is built over them. The perpetual flame, which is of a reddish hue and emits an aromatic perfume, rises from a pit in the fore-court of the sanctuary. The worshippers deliver their gifts, consisting usually of flowers, to the attendant fakirs, who first hold them over the flame and then cast them into the body of the temple.568 Again, Hindoo pilgrims make their way with great difficulty to Baku on the Caspian, in order to worship the everlasting fires which there issue from the beds of petroleum. The sacred spot is about ten miles to the north-east of the city. An English traveller, who visited Baku in the middle of the eighteenth century, has thus described the place and the worship. “There are several ancient temples built with stone, supposed to have been all dedicated to fire; most of them are arched vaults, not above ten to fifteen feet high. Amongst others there is a little temple, in which the Indians now worship; near the altar, about three feet high, is a large hollow cane, from the end of which issues a blue flame, in colour and gentleness not unlike a lamp that burns with spirits, but seemingly more pure. These Indians affirm that this flame has continued ever since the flood, and they believe it will last to the end of the world; that if it was resisted or suppressed in that place, it would rise in some other. Here are generally forty or fifty of these poor devotees, who come on a pilgrimage from their own country, and subsist upon wild sallary, and a kind of Jerusalem artichoke, which are very good food, with other herbs and roots, found a little to the northward. Their business is to make expiation, not for their own sins only, but for those of others; and they continue the longer time, in proportion to the number of persons for whom they have engaged to pray. They mark their foreheads with saffron, and have a great veneration for a red cow.”569 Thus it [pg 193] would seem that a purifying virtue is attributed to the sacred flame, since pilgrims come to it from far to expiate sin.

§ 4. The Burnt Land of Lydia.

The Burnt Land of Lydia.

Another volcanic region of Asia Minor is the district of Lydia, to which, on account of its remarkable appearance, the Greeks gave the name of the Burnt Land. It lies to the east of Sardes in the upper valley of the Hermus, and covers an area of about fifty miles by forty. As described by Strabo, the country was wholly treeless except for the vines, which produced a wine inferior to none of the most famous vintages of antiquity. The surface of the plains was like ashes; the hills were composed of black stone, as if they had been scorched by fire. Some people laid the scene of Typhon's battle with the gods in this Black Country, and supposed that it had been burnt by the thunderbolts hurled from heaven at the impious monster. The philosophic Strabo, however, held that the fires which had wrought this havoc were subterranean, not celestial, and he pointed to three craters, at intervals of about four miles, each in a hill of scoriae which he supposed to have been once molten matter ejected by the volcanoes.570 His observation and his theory have both been confirmed by modern science. The three extinct volcanoes to which he referred are still conspicuous features of the landscape. Each is a black cone of loose cinders, scoriae, and ashes, with steep sides and a deep crater. From each a flood of rugged black lava has flowed forth, bursting out at the foot of the cone, and then rushing down the dale to the bed of the Hermus. The dark streams follow all the sinuosities of the valleys, their sombre hue contrasting with the rich verdure of the surrounding landscape. Their surface, broken into a thousand fantastic forms, resembles a sea lashed into fury by a gale, and then suddenly hardened into [pg 194] stone. Regarded from the geological point of view, these black cones of cinders and these black rivers of lava are of comparatively recent formation. Exposure to the weather for thousands of years has not yet softened their asperities and decomposed them into vegetable mould; they are as hard and ungenial as if the volcanic stream had ceased to flow but yesterday. But in the same district there are upwards of thirty other volcanic cones, whose greater age is proved by their softened forms, their smoother sides, and their mantle of vegetation. Some of them are planted with vineyards to their summits.571 Thus the volcanic soil is still as favourable to the cultivation of the vine as it was in antiquity. The relation between the two was noted by the ancients. Strabo compares the vines of the Burnt Land with the vineyards of Catania fertilized by the ashes of Mount Etna; and he tells us that some ingenious persons explained the fire-born Dionysus as a myth of the grapes fostered by volcanic agency.572

§ 5. The Earthquake God.

Earthquakes in Asia Minor. Worship of Poseidon, the earthquake god.

But the inhabitants of these regions were reminded of the slumbering fires by other and less agreeable tokens than the generous juice of their grapes. For not the Burnt Land only but the country to the south, including the whole valley of the Maeander, was subject to frequent and violent shocks of earthquake. The soil was loose, friable, and full of salts, the ground hollow, undermined by fire and water. In particular the city of Philadelphia was a great centre of disturbance. The shocks there, we are told, were continuous. The houses rocked, the walls cracked and gaped; the few inhabitants were kept busy repairing the breaches or buttressing and propping the edifices which threatened to tumble [pg 195] about their ears. Most of the citizens, indeed, had the prudence to dwell dispersed on their farms. It was a marvel, says Strabo, that such a city should have any inhabitants at all, and a still greater marvel that it should ever have been built.573 However, by a wise dispensation of Providence, the earthquakes which shook the foundations of their houses only strengthened those of their faith. The people of Apameia, whose town was repeatedly devastated, paid their devotions with great fervour to Poseidon, the earthquake god.574 Again, the island of Santorin, in the Greek Archipelago, has been for thousands of years a great theatre of volcanic activity. On one occasion the waters of the bay boiled and flamed for four days, and an island composed of red-hot matter rose gradually, as if hoisted by machinery, above the waves. It happened that the sovereignty of the seas was then with the Rhodians, those merchant-princes whose prudent policy, strict but benevolent oligarchy, and beautiful island-city, rich with accumulated treasures of native art, rendered them in a sense the Venetians of the ancient world. So when the ebullition and heat of the eruption had subsided, their sea-captains landed in the new island, and founded a sanctuary of Poseidon the Establisher or Securer,575 a complimentary epithet often bestowed on him as a hint not to shake the earth more than he could conveniently help.576 In many [pg 196] places people sacrificed to Poseidon the Establisher, in the hope that he would be as good as his name and not bring down their houses on their heads.577

Spartan propitiation of Poseidon during an earthquake.

Another instance of a Greek attempt to quiet the perturbed spirit underground is instructive, because similar efforts are still made by savages in similar circumstances. Once when a Spartan army under King Agesipolis had taken the field, it chanced that the ground under their feet was shaken by an earthquake. It was evening, and the king was at mess with the officers of his staff. No sooner did they feel the shock than, with great presence of mind, they rose from their dinner and struck up a popular hymn in honour of Poseidon. The soldiers outside the tent took up the strain, and soon the whole army joined in the sacred melody.578 It is not said whether the flute-band, which always played the Spartan redcoats into action,579 accompanied the deep voices of the men with its shrill music. At all events, the intention of this service of praise, addressed to the earth-shaking god, can only have been to prevail on him to stop. I have spoken of the Spartan redcoats because the uniform of Spartan soldiers was red.580 As they fought in an extended, not a deep, formation, a Spartan line of battle must always have been, what the British used to be, a thin red line. It was in this order, and no doubt with the music [pg 197] playing and the sun flashing on their arms, that they advanced to meet the Persians at Thermopylae. Like Cromwell's Ironsides, these men could fight as well as sing psalms.581

Modes of stopping an earthquake by informing the god or giant that there are still men on the earth.

If the Spartans imagined that they could stop an earthquake by a soldiers' chorus, their theory and practice resembled those of many other barbarians. Thus the people of Timor, in the East Indies, think that the earth rests on the shoulder of a mighty giant, and that when he is weary of bearing it on one shoulder he shifts it to the other, and so causes the ground to quake. At such times, accordingly, they all shout at the top of their voices to let him know that there are still people on the earth; for otherwise they fear lest, impatient of his burden, he might tip it into the sea.582 The Manichaeans held a precisely similar theory of earthquakes, except that according to them the weary giant transferred his burden from one shoulder to the other at the end of every thirty years,583 a view which, at all events, points to the observation of a cycle in the recurrence of earthquake shocks. But we are not told that these heretics reduced an absurd theory to an absurd practice by raising a shout in [pg 198] order to remind the earth-shaker of the inconvenience he was putting them to. However, both the theory and the practice are to be found in full force in various parts of the East Indies. When the Balinese and the Sundanese feel an earthquake they cry out, “Still alive,” or “We still live,” to acquaint the earth-shaking god or giant with their existence.584 The natives of Leti, Moa, and Lakor, islands of the Indian Archipelago, imagine that earthquakes are caused by Grandmother Earth in order to ascertain whether her descendants are still to the fore. So they make loud noises for the purpose of satisfying her grandmotherly solicitude.585 The Tami of German New Guinea ascribe earthquakes to a certain old Panku who sits under a great rock; when he stirs, the earth quakes. If the shock lasts a long time they beat on the ground with palm-branches, saying, “You down there! easy a little! We men are still here.”586 The Shans of Burma are taught by Buddhist monks that under the world there sleeps a great fish with his tail in his mouth, but sometimes he wakes, bites his tail, and quivering with pain causes the ground to quiver and shake likewise. That is the cause of great earthquakes. But the cause of little earthquakes is different. These are produced by little men who live underground and sometimes feeling lonely knock on the roof of the world over their heads; these knockings we perceive as slight shocks of earthquakes. When Shans feel such a shock, they run out of their houses, kneel down, and answer the little men saying, “We are here! We are here!”587 Earthquakes are common in the Pampa del Sacramento of Eastern Peru. The Conibos, a tribe of Indians on the left bank of the great Ucayali River, attribute these disturbances to the creator, who usually resides in heaven, but comes down from time to time to see whether the work of his hands still exists. The result of his descent is an earthquake. So when one happens, these Indians rush out [pg 199] of their huts with extravagant gestures shouting, as if in answer to a question, “A moment, a moment, here I am, father, here I am!” Their intention is, no doubt, to assure their heavenly father that they are still alive, and that he may return to his mansion on high with an easy mind. They never remember the creator nor pay him any heed except at an earthquake.588 In Africa the Atonga tribe of Lake Nyassa used to believe that an earthquake was the voice of God calling to inquire whether his people were all there. So when the rumble was heard underground they all shouted in answer, Ye, ye,” and some of them went to the mortars used for pounding corn and beat on them with pestles. They thought that if any one of them did not thus answer to the divine call he would die.589 In Ourwira the people think that an earthquake is caused by a dead sultan marching past underground; so they stand up to do him honour, and some raise their hands to the salute. Were they to omit these marks of respect to the deceased, they would run the risk of being swallowed up alive.590 The Baganda of Central Africa used to attribute earthquakes to a certain god named Musisi, who lived underground and set the earth in a tremor when he moved about. At such times persons who had fetishes to hand patted them and begged the god to be still; women who were with child patted their bellies to keep the god from taking either their own life or that of their unborn babes; others raised a shrill cry to induce him to remain quiet.591

Conduct of the Bataks during an earthquake.

When the Bataks of Sumatra feel an earthquake they shout “The handle! The handle!” The meaning of the cry is variously explained. Some say that it contains a delicate allusion to the sword which is thrust up to the hilt into the body of the demon or serpent who shakes the earth. Thus explained the words are a jeer or taunt levelled at that mischievous being.592 Others say that when Batara-guru, the [pg 200] creator, was about to fashion the earth he began by building a raft, which he commanded a certain Naga-padoha to support. While he was hard at work his chisel broke, and at the same moment Naga-padoha budged under his burden. Therefore Batara-guru said, “Hold hard a moment! The handle of the chisel is broken off.” And that is why the Bataks call out “The handle of the chisel” during an earthquake. They believe that the deluded Naga-padoha will take the words for the voice of the creator, and that he will hold hard accordingly.593

Various modes of prevailing upon the earthquake god to stop.

When the earth quakes in some parts of Celebes, it is said that all the inhabitants of a village will rush out of their houses and grub up grass by handfuls in order to attract the attention of the earth-spirit, who, feeling his hair thus torn out by the roots, will be painfully conscious that there are still people above ground.594 So in Samoa, during shocks of earthquake, the natives sometimes ran and threw themselves on the ground, gnawed the earth, and shouted frantically to the earthquake god Mafuie to desist lest he should shake the earth to pieces.595 They consoled themselves with the thought that Mafuie has only one arm, saying, “If he had two, what a shake he would give!”596 The Bagobos of the Philippine Islands believe that the earth rests on a great post, which a large serpent is trying to remove. When the serpent shakes the post, the earth quakes. At such times the Bagobos beat their dogs to make them howl, for the howling of the animals frightens the serpent, and he stops shaking the post. Hence so long as an earthquake lasts the howls of dogs may be heard to proceed from every house in a Bagobo village.597 The Tongans think that the earth is supported on the prostrate [pg 201] form of the god Móooi. When he is tired of lying in one posture, he tries to turn himself about, and that causes an earthquake. Then the people shout and beat the ground with sticks to make him lie still.598 During an earthquake the Burmese make a great uproar, beating the walls of their houses and shouting, to frighten away the evil genius who is shaking the earth.599 On a like occasion and for a like purpose some natives of the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain beat drums and blow on shells.600 The Dorasques, an Indian tribe of Panama, believed that the volcano of Chiriqui was inhabited by a powerful spirit, who, in his anger, caused an earthquake. At such times the Indians shot volleys of arrows in the direction of the volcano to terrify him and make him desist.601 Some of the Peruvian Indians regarded an earthquake as a sign that the gods were thirsty, so they poured water on the ground.602 In Ashantee several persons used to be put to death after an earthquake; they were slain as a sacrifice to Sasabonsun, the earthquake god, in the hope of satiating his cruelty for a time. Houses which had been thrown down or damaged by an earthquake were sprinkled with human blood before they were rebuilt. When part of the wall of the king's house at Coomassie was knocked down by an earthquake, fifty young girls were slaughtered, and the mud to be used in the repairs was kneaded with their blood.603

Religious and moral effects of earthquakes.

An English resident in Fiji attributed a sudden access of piety in Kantavu, one of the islands, to a tremendous earthquake which destroyed many of the natives. The Fijians think that their islands rest on a god, who causes earthquakes by turning over in his sleep. So they sacrifice to him things of great value in order that he may turn as gently as possible.604 In Nias a violent earthquake has a salutary [pg 202] effect on the morals of the natives. They suppose that it is brought about by a certain Batoo Bedano, who intends to destroy the earth because of the iniquity of mankind. So they assemble and fashion a great image out of the trunk of a tree. They make offerings, they confess their sins, they correct the fraudulent weights and measures, they vow to do better in the future, they implore mercy, and if the earth has gaped, they throw a little gold into the fissure. But when the danger is over, all their fine vows and promises are soon forgotten.605

The god of the sea and of the earthquake naturally conceived as one.

We may surmise that in those Greek lands which have suffered severely from earthquakes, such as Achaia and the western coasts of Asia Minor, Poseidon was worshipped not less as an earthquake god than as a sea-god.606 It is to be remembered that an earthquake is often accompanied by a tremendous wave which comes rolling in like a mountain from the sea, swamping the country far and wide; indeed on the coasts of Chili and Peru, which have often been devastated by both, the wave is said to be even more dreaded than the earthquake.607 The Greeks often experienced this combination of catastrophes, this conspiracy, as it were, of earth and sea against the life and works of man.608 [pg 203] It was thus that Helice, on the coast of Achaia, perished with all its inhabitants on a winter night, overwhelmed by the billows; and its destruction was set down to the wrath of Poseidon.609 Nothing could be more natural than that to people familiar with the twofold calamity the dreadful god of the earthquake and of the sea should appear to be one and the same. The historian Diodorus Siculus observes that Peloponnese was deemed to have been in ancient days the abode of Poseidon, that the whole country was in a manner sacred to him, and that every city in it worshipped him above all the gods. The devotion to Poseidon he explains partly by the earthquakes and floods by which the land has been visited, partly by the remarkable chasms and subterranean rivers which are a conspicuous feature of its limestone mountains.610

§ 6. The Worship of Mephitic Vapours.

Poisonous mephitic vapours.

But eruptions and earthquakes, though the most tremendous, are not the only phenomena of volcanic regions which have affected the religion of the inhabitants. Poisonous mephitic vapours and hot springs, which abound especially in volcanic regions,611 have also had their devotees, and both are, or were formerly, to be found in those western districts of Asia Minor with which we are here concerned. To begin with vapours, we may take as an illustration of their deadly effect the Guevo Upas, or Valley of Poison, near Batur in Java. It is the crater of an extinct volcano, about half a mile in circumference, and from thirty to thirty-five [pg 204] feet deep. Neither man nor beast can descend to the bottom and live. The ground is covered with the carcases of tigers, deer, birds, and even the bones of men, all killed by the abundant emanations of carbonic acid gas which exhale from the soil. Animals let down into it die in a few minutes. The whole range of hills is volcanic. Two neighbouring craters constantly emit smoke.612 In another crater of Java, near the volcano Talaga Bodas, the sulphureous exhalations have proved fatal to tigers, birds, and countless insects; and the soft parts of these creatures, such as fibres, muscles, hair, and skin, are well preserved, while the bones are corroded or destroyed.613

Places of Pluto or Charon. The valley of Amsanctus.

The ancients were acquainted with such noxious vapours in their own country, and they regarded the vents from which they were discharged as entrances to the infernal regions.614 The Greeks called them places of Pluto (Plutonia) or places of Charon (Charonia).615 In Italy the vapours were personified as a goddess, who bore the name of Mefitis and was worshipped in various parts of the peninsula.616 She had a temple in the famous valley of Amsanctus in the land of the Hirpini, where the exhalations, supposed to be the breath of Pluto himself, were of so deadly a character that all who set foot on the spot died.617 The place is a glen, partly wooded with chestnut trees, among limestone hills, distant about four miles from the town of Frigento. Here, under a steep shelving bank of decomposed limestone, there is a pool of dark ash-coloured water, which continually bubbles up with an explosion like distant thunder. A rapid stream of the same blackish water rushes into the pool from under the [pg 205] barren rocky hill, but the fall is not more than a few feet. A little higher up are apertures in the ground, through which warm blasts of sulphuretted hydrogen are constantly issuing with more or less noise, according to the size of the holes. These blasts are no doubt what the ancients deemed the breath of Pluto. The pool is now called Mefite and the holes Mefitinelle. On the other side of the pool is a smaller pond called the Coccaio, or Cauldron, because it appears to be perpetually boiling. Thick masses of mephitic vapour, visible a hundred yards off, float in rapid undulations on its surface. The exhalations given off by these waters are sometimes fatal, especially when they are borne on a high wind. But as the carbonic acid gas does not naturally rise more than two or three feet from the ground, it is possible in calm weather to walk round the pools, though to stoop is difficult and to fall would be dangerous. The ancient temple of Mefitis has been replaced by a shrine of the martyred Santa Felicita.618

Sanctuaries of Charon or Pluto in Caria.

Similar discharges of poisonous vapours took place at various points in the volcanic district of Caria, and were the object of superstitious veneration in antiquity. Thus at the village of Thymbria there was a sacred cave which gave out deadly emanations, and the place was deemed a sanctuary of Charon.619 A similar cave might be seen at the village of Acharaca near Nysa, in the valley of the Maeander. Here, below the cave, there was a fine grove with a temple dedicated to Pluto and Persephone. The place was sacred to Pluto, yet sick people resorted to it for the restoration of their health. They lived in the neighbouring village, and the priests prescribed for them according to the revelations which they received from the two deities in dreams. Often the priests would take the patients to the cave and leave them there for days without food. Sometimes the sufferers themselves were favoured with revelations in dreams, but [pg 206] they always acted under the spiritual direction of the priests. To all but the sick the place was unapproachable and fatal. Once a year a festival was held in the village, and then afflicted folk came in crowds to be rid of their ailments. About the hour of noon on that day a number of athletic young men, their naked bodies greased with oil, used to carry a bull up to the cave and there let it go. But the beast had not taken a few steps into the cavern before it fell to the ground and expired: so deadly was the vapour.620

Sanctuary of Pluto at the Lydian or Phrygian Hierapolis.

Another Plutonian sanctuary of the same sort existed at Hierapolis, in the upper valley of the Maeander, on the borders of Lydia and Phrygia.621 Here under a brow of the hill there was a deep cave with a narrow mouth just large enough to admit the body of a man. A square space in front of the cave was railed off, and within the railing there hung so thick a cloudy vapour that it was hardly possible to see the ground. In calm weather people could step up to the railing with safety, but to pass within it was instant death. Bulls driven into the enclosure fell to the earth and were dragged out lifeless; and sparrows, which spectators by way of experiment allowed to fly into the mist, dropped dead at once. Yet the eunuch priests of the Great Mother Goddess could enter the railed-off area with impunity; nay more, they used to go up to the very mouth of the cave, stoop, and creep into it for a certain distance, holding their breath; but there was a look on their faces as if they were being choked. Some people ascribed the immunity of the priests to the divine protection, others to the use of antidotes.622

§ 7. The Worship of Hot Springs.

The hot springs and petrified cascades of Hierapolis.

The mysterious chasm of Hierapolis, with its deadly mist, has not been discovered in modern times; indeed it [pg 207] would seem to have vanished even in antiquity.623 It may have been destroyed by an earthquake. But another marvel of the Sacred City remains to this day. The hot springs with their calcareous deposit, which, like a wizard's wand, turns all that it touches to stone, excited the wonder of the ancients, and the course of ages has only enhanced the fantastic splendour of the great transformation scene. The stately ruins of Hierapolis occupy a broad shelf or terrace on the mountain-side commanding distant views of extraordinary beauty and grandeur, from the dark precipices and dazzling snows of Mount Cadmus away to the burnt summits of Phrygia, fading in rosy tints into the blue of the sky. Hills, broken by wooded ravines, rise behind the city. In front the terrace falls away in cliffs three hundred feet high into the desolate treeless valley of the Lycus. Over the face of these cliffs the hot streams have poured or trickled for thousands of years, encrusting them with a pearly white substance like salt or driven snow. The appearance of the whole is as if a mighty river, some two miles broad, had been suddenly arrested in the act of falling over a great cliff and transformed into white marble. It is a petrified Niagara. The illusion is strongest in winter or in cool summer mornings when the mist from the hot springs hangs in the air, like a veil of spray resting on the foam of the waterfall. A closer inspection of the white cliff, which attracts the traveller's attention at a distance of twenty miles, only adds to its beauty and changes one illusion for another. For now it seems to be a glacier, its long pendent stalactites looking like icicles, and the snowy whiteness of its smooth expanse being tinged here and there with delicate hues of blue, rose and green, all the colours of the rainbow. These petrified cascades of Hierapolis are among the wonders of the world. Indeed they have probably been without a rival in their kind ever since the famous white and pink terraces or staircases of Rotomahana in New Zealand were destroyed by a volcanic eruption.

The hot pool of Hierapolis with its deadly exhalations.

The hot springs which have wrought these miracles at [pg 208] Hierapolis rise in a large deep pool among the vast and imposing ruins of the ancient city. The water is of a greenish-blue tint, but clear and transparent. At the bottom may be seen the white marble columns of a beautiful Corinthian colonnade, which must formerly have encircled the sacred pool. Shimmering through the green-blue water they look like the ruins of a Naiad's palace. Clumps of oleanders and pomegranate-trees overhang the little lake and add to its charm. Yet the enchanted spot has its dangers. Bubbles of carbonic acid gas rise incessantly from the bottom and mount like flickering particles of silver to the surface. Birds and beasts which come to drink of the water are sometimes found dead on the bank, stifled by the noxious vapour; and the villagers tell of bathers who have been overpowered by it and drowned, or dragged down, as they say, to death by the water-spirit.

Deposits left by the waters of Hierapolis.

The streams of hot water, no longer regulated by the care of a religious population, have for centuries been allowed to overflow their channels and to spread unchecked over the tableland. By the deposit which they leave behind they have raised the surface of the ground many feet, their white ridges concealing the ruins and impeding the footstep, except where the old channels, filled up solidly to the brim, now form hard level footpaths, from which the traveller may survey the strange scene without quitting the saddle. In antiquity the husbandmen used purposely to lead the water in rills round their lands, and thus in a few years their fields and vineyards were enclosed with walls of solid stone. The water was also peculiarly adapted for the dyeing of woollen stuffs. Tinged with dyes extracted from certain roots, it imparted to cloths dipped in it the finest shades of purple and scarlet.624

[pg 209]

Hercules the patron of hot springs.

We cannot doubt that Hierapolis owed its reputation as a holy city in great part to its hot springs and mephitic vapours. The curative virtue of mineral and thermal springs was well known to the ancients, and it would be interesting, if it were possible, to trace the causes which have gradually eliminated the superstitious element from the use of such waters, and so converted many old seats of volcanic religion into the medicinal baths of modern times. It was an article of Greek faith that all hot springs were sacred to Hercules.625 “Who ever heard of cold baths that were sacred to Hercules?” asks Injustice in Aristophanes; and Justice admits that the brawny hero's patronage of hot baths was the excuse alleged by young men for sprawling all day in the steaming water when they ought to have been sweating in the gymnasium.626 Hot springs were said to have been first produced for the refreshment of Hercules after his labours; some ascribed the kindly thought and deed to Athena, others to Hephaestus, and others to the nymphs.627 The warm water of these sources appears to have been used especially to heal diseases of the skin; for a Greek proverb, “the itch of Hercules,” was applied to persons in need of hot baths for the scab.628 On the strength of his connexion with medicinal springs Hercules set up as a patron of the healing art. In heaven, if we can trust Lucian, he even refused to give place to Aesculapius himself, and the difference between the two deities led to a very unseemly brawl. “Do you mean to say,” demanded Hercules of his father Zeus, in a burst of indignation, “that this apothecary is to sit down to table [pg 210] before me?” To this the apothecary replied with much acrimony, recalling certain painful episodes in the private life of the burly hero. Finally the dispute was settled by Zeus, who decided in favour of Aesculapius on the ground that he died before Hercules, and was therefore entitled to rank as senior god.629

Hot springs of Hercules at Thermopylae.

Among the hot springs sacred to Hercules the most famous were those which rose in the pass of Thermopylae, and gave to the defile its name of the Hot Gates.630 The warm baths, called by the natives “the Pots,” were enlarged and improved for the use of invalids by the wealthy sophist Herodes Atticus in the second century of our era. An altar of Hercules stood beside them.631 According to one story, the hot springs were here produced for his refreshment by the goddess Athena.632 They exist to this day apparently unchanged, although the recession of the sea has converted what used to be a narrow pass into a wide, swampy flat, through which the broad but shallow, turbid stream of the Sperchius creeps sluggishly seaward. On the other side the rugged mountains descend in crags and precipices to the pass, their grey rocky sides tufted with low wood or bushes wherever vegetation can find a foothold, and their summits fringed along the sky-line with pines. They remind a Scotchman of the “crags, knolls, and mounds confusedly hurled” in which Ben Venue comes down to the Silver Strand of Loch Katrine. The principal spring bursts from the rocks just at the foot of the steepest and loftiest part of the range. After forming a small pool it flows in a rapid stream eastward, skirting the foot of the mountains. The water is so hot that it is almost painful to hold the hands in it, at least near the source, and steam rises thickly from its surface along the course of the brook. Indeed the clouds of white steam and the strong sulphurous smell acquaint the traveller with his approach to the famous spot before he comes in sight of the springs. The water is clear, but has the appearance of being of a deep sea-blue or sea-green [pg 211] colour. This appearance it takes from the thick, slimy deposits of blue-green sulphur which line the bed of the stream. From its source the blue, steaming, sulphur-reeking brook rushes eastward for a few hundred yards at the foot of the mountain, and is then joined by the water of another spring, which rises much more tranquilly in a sort of natural bath among the rocks. The sides of this bath are not so thickly coated with sulphur as the banks of the stream; hence its water, about two feet deep, is not so blue. Just beyond it there is a second and larger bath, which, from its square shape and smooth sides, would seem to be in part artificial. These two baths are probably the Pots mentioned by ancient writers. They are still used by bathers, and a few wooden dressing-rooms are provided for the accommodation of visitors. Some of the water is conducted in an artificial channel to turn a mill about half a mile off at the eastern end of the pass. The rest crosses the flat to find its way to the sea. In its passage it has coated the swampy ground with a white crust, which sounds hollow under the tread.633

Hot springs of Hercules at Aedepsus.

We may conjecture that these remarkable springs furnished the principal reason for associating Hercules with this district, and for laying the scene of his fiery death on the top of the neighbouring Mount Oeta. The district is volcanic, and has often been shaken by earthquakes.634 Across the strait the island of Euboea has suffered from the same cause and at the same time; and on its southern shore sulphureous springs, like those of Thermopylae, but much hotter and more powerful, were in like manner dedicated to Hercules.635 The strong medicinal qualities of the [pg 212] waters, which are especially adapted for the cure of skin diseases and gout, have attracted patients in ancient and modern times. Sulla took the waters here for his gout;636 and in the days of Plutarch the neighbouring town of Aedepsus, situated in a green valley about two miles from the springs, was one of the most fashionable resorts of Greece. Elegant and commodious buildings, an agreeable country, and abundance of fish and game united with the health-giving properties of the baths to draw crowds of idlers to the place, especially in the prime of the glorious Greek spring, the height of the season at Aedepsus. While some watched the dancers dancing or listened to the strains of the harp, others passed the time in discourse, lounging in the shade of cloisters or pacing the shore of the beautiful strait with its prospect of mountains beyond mountains immortalized in story across the water.637 Of all this Greek elegance and luxury hardly a vestige remains. Yet the healing springs flow now as freely as of old. In the course of time the white and yellow calcareous deposit which the water leaves behind it, has formed a hillock at the foot of the mountains, and the stream now falls in a steaming cascade from the face of the rock into the sea.638 Once, after an earthquake, the springs ceased to flow for three days, and at the same time the hot springs of Thermopylae dried up.639 The incident proves the relation of these Baths of Hercules on both sides of the strait to each other and to volcanic agency. On another occasion a cold spring suddenly burst out beside the hot springs of Aedepsus, and as its water was supposed to be peculiarly beneficial to health, patients hastened from far and near to drink of it. But the generals of King Antigonus, anxious to raise a revenue, imposed a tax on the use of the water; and the spring, as if in disgust at being turned to so base a use, disappeared as suddenly as it had come.640

[pg 213]

Reasons for the association of Hercules with hot springs.

The association of Hercules with hot springs was not confined to Greece itself. Greek influence extended it to Sicily,641 Italy,642 and even to Dacia.643 Why the hero should have been chosen as the patron of thermal waters, it is hard to say. Yet it is worth while, perhaps, to remember that such springs combine in a manner the twofold and seemingly discordant principles of water and fire,644 of fertility and destruction, and that the death of Hercules in the flames seems to connect him with the fiery element. Further, the apparent conflict of the two principles is by no means as absolute as at first sight we might be tempted to suppose; for heat is as necessary as moisture to the support of animal and vegetable life. Even volcanic fires have their beneficent aspect, since their products lend a more generous flavour to the juice of the grape. The ancients themselves, as we have seen, perceived the connexion between good wine and volcanic soil, and proposed more or less seriously to interpret the vine-god Dionysus as a child of the fire.645 As a patron of hot springs Hercules combined the genial elements of heat and moisture, and may therefore have stood, in one of his many aspects, for the principle of fertility.

The hot springs of Callirrhoe in Moab.

In Syria childless women still resort to hot springs in order to procure offspring from the saint or the jinnee of the waters.646 [pg 214] This, for example, they do at the famous hot springs in the land of Moab which flow through a wild gorge into the Dead Sea. In antiquity the springs went by the Greek name of Callirrhoe, the Fair-flowing. It was to them that the dying Herod, weighed down by a complication of disorders which the pious Jews traced to God's vengeance, repaired in the vain hope of arresting or mitigating the fatal progress of disease. The healing waters brought no alleviation of his sufferings, and he retired to Jericho to die.647 The hot springs burst in various places from the sides of a deep romantic ravine to form a large and rapid stream of lukewarm water, which rushes down the depths of the lynn, dashing and foaming over boulders, under the dense shade of tamarisk-trees and cane-brakes, the rocks on either bank draped with an emerald fringe of maidenhair fern. One of the springs falls from a high rocky shelf over the face of a cliff which is tinted bright yellow by the sulphurous water. The lofty crags which shut in the narrow chasm are bold and imposing in outline and varied in colour, for they range from red sandstone through white and yellow limestone to black basalt. The waters issue from the line where the sandstone and limestone meet. Their temperature is high, and from great clefts in the mountain-sides you may see clouds of steam rising and hear the rumbling of the running waters. The bottom of the glen is clothed and half choked with rank vegetation; for, situated far below the level of the sea, the hot ravine is almost African in climate and flora. Here grow dense thickets of canes with their feathery tufts that shake and nod in every passing breath of wind: here the oleander flourishes with its dark-green glossy foliage and its beautiful pink blossoms: here tall date-palms rear their stately heads wherever the hot springs flow. Gorgeous flowers, too, carpet the ground. Splendid orobanches, some pinkish purple, some bright yellow, grow in large tufts, each flower-stalk more than three feet high, and covered with blossoms from the ground upwards. An exquisite rose-coloured geranium abounds among the stones; and where the soil is a little richer than [pg 215] usual it is a mass of the night-scented stock, while the crannies of the rocks are gay with scarlet ranunculus and masses of sorrel and cyclamen. Over all this luxuriant vegetation flit great butterflies of brilliant hues. Looking down the far-stretching gorge to its mouth you see in the distance the purple hills of Judah framed between walls of black basaltic columns on the one side and of bright red sandstone on the other.648

Prayers and sacrifices offered to the hot springs of Callirrhoe.

Every year in the months of April and May the Arabs resort in crowds to the glen to benefit by the waters. They take up their quarters in huts made of the reeds which they cut in the thickets. They bathe in the steaming water, or allow it to splash on their bodies as it gushes in a powerful jet from a crevice in the rocks. But before they indulge in these ablutions, the visitors, both Moslem and Christian, propitiate the spirit or genius of the place by sacrificing a sheep or goat at the spring and allowing its red blood to tinge the water. Then they bathe in what they call the Baths of Solomon. Legend runs that Solomon the Wise made his bathing-place here, and in order to keep the water always warm he commanded the jinn never to let the fire die down. The jinn obey his orders to this day, but sometimes they slacken their efforts, and then the water runs low and cool. When the bathers perceive that, they say, “O Solomon, bring green wood, dry wood,” and no sooner have they said so than the water begins to gurgle and steam as before. Sick people tell the saint or sheikh, who lives invisible in the springs, all about their ailments; they point out to him the precise spot that is the seat of the malady, it may be the back, or the head, or the legs; and if the heat of the water diminishes, they call out, “Thy bath is cold, O sheikh, thy bath is cold!” whereupon the obliging sheikh stokes up the fire, and out comes the water boiling. But if in spite of their remonstrances the temperature of the spring [pg 216] continues low, they say that the sheikh has gone on pilgrimage, and they shout to him to hasten his return. Barren Moslem women also visit these hot springs to obtain children, and they do the same at the similar baths near Kerak. At the latter place a childless woman has been known to address the spirit of the waters saying, “O sheikh Solomon, I am not yet an old woman; give me children.”649 The respect thus paid by Arab men and women to the sheikh Solomon at his hot springs may help us to understand the worship which at similar spots Greek men and women used to render to the hero Hercules. As the ideal of manly strength he may have been deemed the father of many of his worshippers, and Greek wives may have gone on pilgrimage to his steaming waters in order to obtain the wish of their hearts.

§ 8. The Worship of Volcanoes in other Lands.

Worship of volcanic phenomena in other lands.

How far these considerations may serve to explain the custom of burning Hercules, or gods identified with him, in effigy or in the person of a human being, is a question which deserves to be considered. It might be more easily answered if we were better acquainted with analogous customs in other parts of the world, but our information with regard to the worship of volcanic phenomena in general appears to be very scanty. However, a few facts may be noted.

The great volcano of Kirauea in Hawaii.

The largest active crater in the world is Kirauea in Hawaii. It is a huge cauldron, several miles in circumference and hundreds of feet deep, the bottom of which is filled with boiling lava in a state of terrific ebullition; from the red surge rise many black cones or insulated craters belching columns of grey smoke or pyramids of brilliant flame from their roaring mouths, while torrents of blazing lava roll down their sides to flow into the molten, tossing sea of fire below. The scene is especially impressive by night, [pg 217] when flames of sulphurous blue or metallic red sweep across the heaving billows of the infernal lake, casting a broad glare on the jagged sides of the insulated craters, which shoot up eddying streams of fire with a continuous roar, varied at frequent intervals by loud detonations, as spherical masses of fusing lava or bright ignited stones are hurled into the air.650 It is no wonder that so appalling a spectacle should have impressed the imagination of the natives and filled it with ideas of the dreadful beings who inhabit the fiery abyss. They considered the great crater, we are told, as the primaeval abode of their volcanic deities: the black cones that rise like islands from the burning lake appeared to them the houses where the gods often amused themselves by playing at draughts: the roaring of the furnaces and the crackling of the flames were the music of their dance; and the red flaming surge was the surf wherein they played, sportively swimming on the rolling wave.651

The divinities of the volcano. Offerings to the volcano. Priestess impersonating the goddess of the volcano.

For these fearful divinities they had appropriate names; one was the King of Steam or Vapour, another the Rain of Night, another the Husband of Thunder, another the Child of War with a Spear of Fire, another the Fiery-eyed Canoe-breaker, another the Red-hot Mountain holding or lifting Clouds, and so on. But above them all was the great goddess Pélé. All were dreaded: they never journeyed on errands of mercy but only to receive offerings or to execute vengeance; and their arrival in any place was announced by the convulsive trembling of the earth, by the lurid light of volcanic eruption, by the flash of lightning, and the clap of thunder. The whole island was bound to pay them tribute or support their temples and devotees; and whenever the chiefs or people failed to send the proper offerings, or incurred their displeasure by insulting them or their priests or breaking the taboos which should be observed round about the craters, they filled the huge cauldron on the top of Kirauea with molten lava, and spouted the fiery liquid on the surrounding country; or they would [pg 218] march to some of their other houses, which mortals call craters, in the neighbourhood of the sinners, and rushing forth in a river or column of fire overwhelm the guilty. If fishermen did not bring them enough fish from the sea, they would go down, kill all the fish, fill the shoals with lava, and so destroy the fishing-grounds. Hence, when the volcano was in active eruption or threatened to break out, the people used to cast vast numbers of hogs, alive or dead, into the craters or into the rolling torrent of lava in order to appease the gods and arrest the progress of the fiery stream.652 To pluck certain sacred berries, which grow on the mountain, to dig sand on its slopes, or to throw stones into the crater were acts particularly offensive to the deities, who would instantly rise in volumes of smoke, crush the offender under a shower of stones, or so involve him in thick darkness and rain that he could never find his way home. However, it was lawful to pluck and eat of the sacred berries, if only a portion of them were first offered to the goddess Pélé. The offerer would take a branch laden with clusters of the beautiful red and yellow berries, and standing on the edge of the abyss and looking towards the place where the smoke rose in densest volumes, he would say, “Pélé, here are your berries: I offer some to you, some I also eat.” With that he would throw some of the berries into the crater and eat the rest.653 A kind of brittle volcanic glass, of a dark-olive colour and semi-transparent, is found on the mountain in the shape of filaments as fine as human hair; the natives call it the hair of the goddess Pélé.654 Worshippers used to cast locks of their own hair into the crater of Kirauea as an offering to the dreadful goddess who dwelt in it. She had also a temple at the bottom of a valley, where stood a number of rude stone idols wrapt in white and yellow cloth. Once a year the priests and devotees of Pélé assembled there to perform certain rites and to feast on hogs, dogs, and fruit, which the [pg 219] pious inhabitants of Hamakua brought to the holy place in great abundance. This annual festival was intended to propitiate the volcanic goddess and thereby to secure the country from earthquakes and floods of molten lava.655 The goddess of the volcano was supposed to inspire people, though to the carnal eye the inspiration resembled intoxication. One of these inspired priestesses solemnly affirmed to an English missionary that she was the goddess Pélé herself and as such immortal. Assuming a haughty air, she said, “I am Pélé; I shall never die; and those who follow me, when they die, if part of their bones be taken to Kirauea (the name of the volcano), will live with me in the bright fires there.”656 For “the worshippers of Pélé threw a part of bones of their dead into the volcano, under the impression that the spirits of the deceased would then be admitted to the society of the volcanic deities, and that their influence would preserve the survivors from the ravages of volcanic fire.”657

Sacrifices to volcanoes. Human victims thrown into volcanoes. Annual sacrifices to the volcano Bromo in Java.

This last belief may help to explain a custom, which some peoples have observed, of throwing human victims into volcanoes. The intention of such a practice need not be simply to appease the dreadful volcanic spirits by ministering to their fiendish lust of cruelty; it may be a notion that the souls of the men or women who have been burnt to death in the crater will join the host of demons in the fiery furnace, mitigate their fury, and induce them to spare the works and the life of man. But, however we may explain the custom, it has been usual in various parts of the world to throw human beings as well as less precious offerings into the craters of active volcanoes. Thus the Indians of Nicaragua used to sacrifice men, women, and children to the active volcano Massaya, flinging them into the craters: we are told that the victims went willingly to their fate.658 In the island of Siao, to the north of Celebes, a child was formerly sacrificed every year in order to keep the volcano Goowoong Awoo quiet. The poor wretch was tortured to death at a festival which lasted nine days. In later times the place of the child has [pg 220] been taken by a wooden puppet, which is hacked to pieces in the same way. The Galelareese of Halmahera say that the Sultan of Ternate used annually to require some human victims, who were cast into the crater of the volcano to save the island from its ravages.659 In Java the volcano Bromo or Bromok is annually worshipped by people who throw offerings of coco-nuts, plantains, mangoes, rice, chickens, cakes, cloth, money, and so forth into the crater.660 To the Tenggereese, an aboriginal heathen tribe inhabiting the mountains of which Bromo is the central crater, the festival of making offerings to the volcano is the greatest of the year. It is held at full moon in the twelfth month, the day being fixed by the high priest. Each household prepares its offerings the night before. Very early in the morning the people set out by moonlight for Mount Bromo, men, women, and children all arrayed in their best. Before they reach the mountain they must cross a wide sandy plain, where the spirits of the dead are supposed to dwell until by means of the Festival of the Dead they obtain admittance to the volcano. It is a remarkable sight to see thousands of people streaming across the level sands from three different directions. They have to descend into it from the neighbouring heights, and the horses break into a gallop when, after the steep descent, they reach the level. The gay and varied colours of the dresses, the fantastic costumes of the priests, the offerings borne along, the whole lit up by the warm beams of the rising sun, lend to the spectacle a peculiar charm. All assemble at the foot of the crater, where a market is held for offerings and refreshments. The scene is a lively one, for hundreds of people must now pay the vows which they made during the year. The priests sit in a long row on mats, and when the high priest appears the people pray, saying, “Bromo, we thank thee for all thy gifts and benefits with which thou ever blessest us, and for which we offer thee our thank-offerings to-day. Bless us, our children, and our children's children.” The prayers over, the high priest gives a signal, and the whole multitude arises and climbs the mountain. On reaching the edge of the [pg 221] crater, the pontiff again blesses the offerings of food, clothes, and money, which are then thrown into the crater. Yet few of them reach the spirits for whom they are intended; for a swarm of urchins now scrambles down into the crater, and at more or less risk to life and limb succeeds in appropriating the greater part of the offerings. The spirits, defrauded of their dues, must take the will for the deed.661 Tradition says that once in a time of dearth a chief vowed to sacrifice one of his children to the volcano, if the mountain would bless the people with plenty of food. His prayer was answered, and he paid his vow by casting his youngest son as a thank-offering into the crater.662

Other sacrifices to volcanoes.

On the slope of Mount Smeroe, another active volcano in Java, there are two small idols, which the natives worship and pray to when they ascend the mountain. They lay food before the images to obtain the favour of the god of the volcano.663 In antiquity people cast into the craters of Etna vessels of gold and silver and all kinds of victims. If the fire swallowed up the offerings, the omen was good; but if it rejected them, some evil was sure to befall the offerer.664

No evidence that the Asiatic custom of burning kings or gods was connected with volcanic phenomena.

These examples suggest that a custom of burning men or images may possibly be derived from a practice of throwing them into the craters of active volcanoes in order to appease the dreaded spirits or gods who dwell there. But unless we reckon the fires of Mount Argaeus in Cappadocia665 and of Mount Chimaera in Lycia,666 there is apparently no record of any mountain in Western Asia which has been in [pg 222] eruption within historical times. On the whole, then, we conclude that the Asiatic custom of burning kings or gods was probably in no way connected with volcanic phenomena. Yet it was perhaps worth while to raise the question of the connexion, even though it has received only a negative answer. The whole subject of the influence which physical environment has exercised on the history of religion deserves to be studied with more attention than it has yet received.667

[pg 223]

Chapter IX. The Ritual of Adonis.

Results of the preceding inquiry.

Thus far we have dealt with the myth of Adonis and the legends which associated him with Byblus and Paphos. A discussion of these legends led us to the conclusion that among Semitic peoples in early times, Adonis, the divine lord of the city, was often personated by priestly kings or other members of the royal family, and that these his human representatives were of old put to death, whether periodically or occasionally, in their divine character. Further, we found that certain traditions and monuments of Asia Minor seem to preserve traces of a similar practice. As time went on, the cruel custom was apparently mitigated in various ways; for example, by substituting an effigy or an animal for the man, or by allowing the destined victim to escape with a merely make-believe sacrifice. The evidence of all this is drawn from a variety of scattered and often ambiguous indications: it is fragmentary, it is uncertain, and the conclusions built upon it inevitably partake of the weakness of the foundation. Where the records are so imperfect, as they happen to be in this branch of our subject, the element of hypothesis must enter largely into any attempt to piece together and interpret the disjointed facts. How far the interpretations here proposed are sound, I leave to future inquiries to determine.

Our knowledge of the rites of Adonis derived chiefly from Greek writers.

From dim regions of the past, where we have had to grope our way with small help from the lamp of history, it is a relief to pass to those later periods of classical antiquity on which contemporary Greek writers have shed the light of their clear intelligence. To them we owe [pg 224] almost all that we know for certain about the rites of Adonis. The Semites who practised the worship have said little about it; at all events little that they said has come down to us. Accordingly, the following account of the ritual is derived mainly from Greek authors who saw what they describe; and it applies to ages in which the growth of humane feeling had softened some of the harsher features of the worship.

Festivals of the death and resurrection of Adonis. The festival at Alexandria. The festival at Byblus.

At the festivals of Adonis, which were held in Western Asia and in Greek lands, the death of the god was annually mourned, with a bitter wailing, chiefly by women; images of him, dressed to resemble corpses, were carried out as to burial and then thrown into the sea or into springs;668 and in some places his revival was celebrated on the following day.669 But at different places the ceremonies varied somewhat in the manner and apparently also in the season of their celebration. At Alexandria images of Aphrodite and Adonis were displayed on two couches; beside them were set ripe fruits of all kinds, cakes, plants growing in flower-pots, and green bowers twined with anise. The marriage of the lovers was celebrated one day, and on the morrow women attired as mourners, with streaming hair and bared [pg 225] breasts, bore the image of the dead Adonis to the sea-shore and committed it to the waves. Yet they sorrowed not without hope, for they sang that the lost one would come back again.670 The date at which this Alexandrian ceremony was observed is not expressly stated; but from the mention of the ripe fruits it has been inferred that it took place in late summer.671 In the great Phoenician sanctuary of Astarte at Byblus the death of Adonis was annually mourned, to the shrill wailing notes of the flute, with weeping, lamentation, and beating of the breast; but next day he was believed to come to life again and ascend up to heaven in the presence of his worshippers. The disconsolate believers, left behind on earth, shaved their heads as the Egyptians did on the death of the divine bull Apis; women who could not bring themselves to sacrifice their beautiful tresses had to give themselves up to strangers on a certain day of the festival, and to dedicate to Astarte the wages of their shame.672

Date of the festival at Byblus. The anemone and the red rose the flowers of Adonis. Festivals of Adonis at Athens and Antioch.

This Phoenician festival appears to have been a vernal one, for its date was determined by the discoloration of the river Adonis, and this has been observed by modern travellers to occur in spring. At that season the red earth washed down from the mountains by the rain tinges the water of the river, and even the sea, for a great way with a blood-red hue, and the crimson stain was believed to be the blood of Adonis, annually wounded to death by the boar on Mount Lebanon.673 Again, the [pg 226] scarlet anemone is said to have sprung from the blood of Adonis, or to have been stained by it;674 and as the anemone blooms in Syria about Easter, this may be thought to show that the festival of Adonis, or at least one of his festivals, was held in spring. The name of the flower is probably derived from Naaman (“darling”), which seems to have been an epithet of Adonis. The Arabs still call the anemone “wounds of the Naaman.”675 The red rose also was said to owe its hue to the same sad occasion; for Aphrodite, hastening to her wounded lover, trod on a bush of white roses; the cruel thorns tore her tender flesh, and her sacred blood dyed the white roses for ever red.676 It would be idle, perhaps, to lay much weight on evidence drawn from the calendar of flowers, and in particular to press an argument so fragile as the bloom of the rose. Yet so far as it counts at all, the tale which links the damask rose with the death of Adonis points to a summer rather than to a spring celebration of his passion. In Attica, certainly, the festival fell at the height of summer. For the fleet which Athens fitted out against Syracuse, and by the destruction of which her power was permanently crippled, sailed at midsummer, and by an ominous coincidence the sombre rites of Adonis were being celebrated at the very time. As the troops marched down to the harbour to embark, the streets through which they passed were lined with coffins and corpse-like effigies, and the air was rent with the noise of women wailing for the dead Adonis. The circumstance cast a gloom over the sailing of the most splendid armament that Athens ever sent to sea.677 Many [pg 227] ages afterwards, when the Emperor Julian made his first entry into Antioch, he found in like manner the gay, the luxurious capital of the East plunged in mimic grief for the annual death of Adonis: and if he had any presentiment of coming evil, the voices of lamentation which struck upon his ear must have seemed to sound his knell.678

Resemblance of these rites to Indian and European ceremonies. The death and resurrection of Adonis a mythical expression for the annual decay and revival of plant life. Adonis sometimes taken for the sun.

The resemblance of these ceremonies to the Indian and European ceremonies which I have described elsewhere is obvious. In particular, apart from the somewhat doubtful date of its celebration, the Alexandrian ceremony is almost identical with the Indian.679 In both of them the marriage of two divine beings, whose affinity with vegetation seems indicated by the fresh plants with which they are surrounded, is celebrated in effigy, and the effigies are afterwards mourned over and thrown into the water.680 From the similarity of these customs to each other and to the spring and midsummer customs of modern Europe we should naturally expect that they all admit of a common explanation. Hence, if the explanation which I have adopted of the latter is correct, the ceremony of the death and resurrection of Adonis must also have been a dramatic representation of the decay and revival of plant life. The inference thus based on the resemblance of the customs is confirmed by the following features in the legend and ritual of Adonis. His affinity with vegetation comes out at once in the common story of his birth. He was said to have been born from a myrrh-tree, the bark of which bursting, after a ten month' gestation, allowed the lovely infant to come forth. According to some, a boar rent the bark with his tusk and so opened a passage for the babe. A faint rationalistic colour was given to the legend by saying that his mother was a woman named Myrrh, who had been [pg 228] turned into a myrrh-tree soon after she had conceived the child.681 The use of myrrh as incense at the festival of Adonis may have given rise to the fable.682 We have seen that incense was burnt at the corresponding Babylonian rites,683 just as it was burnt by the idolatrous Hebrews in honour of the Queen of Heaven,684 who was no other than Astarte. Again, the story that Adonis spent half, or according to others a third, of the year in the lower world and the rest of it in the upper world,685 is explained most simply and naturally by supposing that he represented vegetation, especially the corn, which lies buried in earth half the year and reappears above ground the other half. Certainly of the annual phenomena of nature there is none which suggests so obviously the idea of death and resurrection as the disappearance and reappearance of vegetation in autumn and spring. Adonis has been taken for the sun; but there is nothing in the sun's annual course within the temperate and tropical zones to suggest that he is dead for half or a third of the year and alive for the other half or two-thirds. He might, indeed, be conceived as weakened in winter, but dead he could not be thought to be; his daily reappearance contradicts the supposition.686 Within the Arctic Circle, where the sun annually disappears for a continuous period which varies from twenty-four hours to six months according to the latitude, his yearly death and resurrection would certainly be an obvious idea; but no one except the unfortunate [pg 229] astronomer Bailly687 has maintained that the Adonis worship came from the Arctic regions. On the other hand, the annual death and revival of vegetation is a conception which readily presents itself to men in every stage of savagery and civilization; and the vastness of the scale on which this ever-recurring decay and regeneration takes place, together with man's intimate dependence on it for subsistence, combine to render it the most impressive annual occurrence in nature, at least within the temperate zones. It is no wonder that a phenomenon so important, so striking, and so universal should, by suggesting similar ideas, have given rise to similar rites in many lands. We may, therefore, accept as probable an explanation of the Adonis worship which accords so well with the facts of nature and with the analogy of similar rites in other lands. Moreover, the explanation is countenanced by a considerable body of opinion amongst the ancients themselves, who again and again interpreted the dying and reviving god as the reaped and sprouting grain.688

[pg 230]

Tammuz or Adonis as a corn-spirit bruised and ground in a mill.

The character of Tammuz or Adonis as a corn-spirit comes out plainly in an account of his festival given by an Arabic writer of the tenth century. In describing the rites and sacrifices observed at the different seasons of the year by the heathen Syrians of Harran, he says: “Tammuz (July). In the middle of this month is the festival of el-Bûgât, that is, of the weeping women, and this is the Tâ-uz festival, which is celebrated in honour of the god Tâ-uz. The women bewail him, because his lord slew him so cruelly, ground his bones in a mill, and then scattered them to the wind. The women (during this festival) eat nothing which has been ground in a mill, but limit their diet to steeped wheat, sweet vetches, dates, raisins, and the like.”689 Tâ-uz, who is no other than Tammuz, is here like Burns's John Barleycorn—

[pg 231]
They wasted o'er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all—
For he crush'd him between two stones.

This concentration, so to say, of the nature of Adonis upon the cereal crops is characteristic of the stage of culture reached by his worshippers in historical times. They had left the nomadic life of the wandering hunter and herdsman far behind them; for ages they had been settled on the land, and had depended for their subsistence mainly on the products of tillage. The berries and roots of the wilderness, the grass of the pastures, which had been matters of vital importance to their ruder forefathers, were now of little moment to them: more and more their thoughts and energies were engrossed by the staple of their life, the corn; more and more accordingly the propitiation of the deities of fertility in general and of the corn-spirit in particular tended to become the central feature of their religion. The aim they set before themselves in celebrating the rites was thoroughly practical. It was no vague poetical sentiment which prompted them to hail with joy the rebirth of vegetation and to mourn its decline. Hunger, felt or feared, was the mainspring of the worship of Adonis.

The mourning for Adonis interpreted as a harvest rite.

It has been suggested by Father Lagrange that the mourning for Adonis was essentially a harvest rite designed to propitiate the corn-god, who was then either perishing under the sickles of the reapers, or being trodden to death under the hoofs of the oxen on the threshing-floor. While the men slew him, the women wept crocodile tears at home to appease his natural indignation by a show of grief for his death.690 The theory fits in well with the dates of the festivals, which fell in spring or summer; for spring and summer, not autumn, are the seasons of the barley and wheat harvests in the lands which, worshipped Adonis.691 [pg 232] Further, the hypothesis is confirmed by the practice of the Egyptian reapers, who lamented, calling upon Isis, when they cut the first corn;692 and it is recommended by the analogous customs of many hunting tribes, who testify great respect for the animals which they kill and eat.693

But probably Adonis was a spirit of fruits, edible roots, and grass before he became a spirit of the cultivated corn.

Thus interpreted the death of Adonis is not the natural decay of vegetation in general under the summer heat or the winter cold; it is the violent destruction of the corn by man, who cuts it down on the field, stamps it to pieces on the threshing-floor, and grinds it to powder in the mill. That this was indeed the principal aspect in which Adonis presented himself in later times to the agricultural peoples of the Levant, may be admitted; but whether from the beginning he had been the corn and nothing but the corn, [pg 233] may be doubted. At an earlier period he may have been to the herdsman, above all, the tender herbage which sprouts after rain, offering rich pasture to the lean and hungry cattle. Earlier still he may have embodied the spirit of the nuts and berries which the autumn woods yield to the savage hunter and his squaw. And just as the husbandman must propitiate the spirit of the corn which he consumes, so the herdsman must appease the spirit of the grass and leaves which his cattle munch, and the hunter must soothe the spirit of the roots which he digs, and of the fruits which he gathers from the bough. In all cases the propitiation of the injured and angry sprite would naturally comprise elaborate excuses and apologies, accompanied by loud lamentations at his decease whenever, through some deplorable accident or necessity, he happened to be murdered as well as robbed. Only we must bear in mind that the savage hunter and herdsman of those early days had probably not yet attained to the abstract idea of vegetation in general; and that accordingly, so far as Adonis existed for them at all, he must have been the Adon or lord of each individual tree and plant rather than a personification of vegetable life as a whole. Thus there would be as many Adonises as there were trees and shrubs, and each of them might expect to receive satisfaction for any damage done to his person or property. And year by year, when the trees were deciduous, every Adonis would seem to bleed to death with the red leaves of autumn and to come to life again with the fresh green of spring.

The propitiation of the corn-spirit may have fused with the worship of the dead.

We have seen reason to think that in early times Adonis was sometimes personated by a living man who died a violent death in the character of the god. Further, there is evidence which goes to show that among the agricultural peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean, the corn-spirit, by whatever name he was known, was often represented, year by year, by human victims slain on the harvest-field.694 If that was so, it seems likely that the propitiation of the corn-spirit would tend to fuse to some extent with the worship of the dead. For the spirits of these victims [pg 234] might be thought to return to life in the ears which they had fattened with their blood, and to die a second death at the reaping of the corn. Now the ghosts of those who have perished by violence are surly and apt to wreak their vengeance on their slayers whenever an opportunity offers. Hence the attempt to appease the souls of the slaughtered victims would naturally blend, at least in the popular conception, with the attempt to pacify the slain corn-spirit. And as the dead came back in the sprouting corn, so they might be thought to return in the spring flowers, waked from their long sleep by the soft vernal airs. They had been laid to their rest under the sod. What more natural than to imagine that the violets and the hyacinths, the roses and the anemones, sprang from their dust, were empurpled or incarnadined by their blood, and contained some portion of their spirit?

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.
And this reviving Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean—
Ah, lean upon it lightly, for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen?

The festival of the dead a festival of flowers.

In the summer after the battle of Landen, the most sanguinary battle of the seventeenth century in Europe, the earth, saturated with the blood of twenty thousand slain, broke forth into millions of poppies, and the traveller who passed that vast sheet of scarlet might well fancy that the earth had indeed given up her dead.695 At Athens the great Commemoration of the Dead fell in spring about the middle of March, when the early flowers are in bloom. Then the dead were believed to rise from their graves and go about the streets, vainly endeavoring to enter the temples and the dwellings, which were barred against these perturbed spirits with ropes, buckthorn, and pitch. The name of the festival, according to the most obvious and natural interpretation, means the Festival of Flowers, and the title would [pg 235] fit well with the substance of the ceremonies if at that season the poor ghosts were indeed thought to creep from the narrow house with the opening flowers.696 There may therefore be a measure of truth in the theory of Renan, who saw in the Adonis worship a dreamy voluptuous cult of death, conceived not as the King of Terrors, but as an insidious enchanter who lures his victims to himself and lulls them into an eternal sleep. The infinite charm of nature in the Lebanon, he thought, lends itself to religious emotions of this sensuous, visionary sort, hovering vaguely between pain and pleasure, between slumber and tears.697 It would doubtless be a mistake to attribute to Syrian peasants the worship of a conception so purely abstract as that of death in general. Yet it may be true that in their simple minds the thought of the reviving spirit of vegetation was blent with the very concrete notion of the ghosts of the dead, who come to life again in spring days with the early flowers, with the tender green of the corn and the many-tinted blossoms of the trees. Thus their views of the death and resurrection of nature would be coloured by their views of the death and resurrection of man, by their personal sorrows and hopes and fears. In like manner we cannot doubt that Renan's theory of Adonis was itself deeply tinged by passionate memories, memories of the slumber akin to death which sealed his own eyes on the slopes of the Lebanon, memories of the sister who sleeps in the land of Adonis never again to wake with the anemones and the roses.

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Chapter X. The Gardens of Adonis.

Pots of corn, herbs, and flowers, called the gardens of Adonis.

Perhaps the best proof that Adonis was a deity of vegetation, and especially of the corn, is furnished by the gardens of Adonis, as they were called. These were baskets or pots filled with earth, in which wheat, barley, lettuces, fennel, and various kinds of flowers were sown and tended for eight days, chiefly or exclusively by women. Fostered by the sun's heat, the plants shot up rapidly, but having no root they withered as rapidly away, and at the end of eight days were carried out with the images of the dead Adonis, and flung with them into the sea or into springs.698

These gardens of Adonis were charms to promote the growth of vegetation. The throwing of the gardensinto water was a rain-charm. Parallel European customs of drenching the corn with water at harvest or sowing. Use of water as a rain-charm at harvest and sowing.

These gardens of Adonis are most naturally interpreted as representatives of Adonis or manifestations of his power; they represented him, true to his original nature, in vegetable form, while the images of him, with which they were carried out and cast into the water, portrayed him in his later human shape. All these Adonis ceremonies, if I am right, were originally intended as charms to promote the growth [pg 237] or revival of vegetation; and the principle by which they were supposed to produce this effect was homoeopathic or imitative magic. For ignorant people suppose that by mimicking the effect which they desire to produce they actually help to produce it; thus by sprinkling water they make rain, by lighting a fire they make sunshine, and so on. Similarly, by mimicking the growth of crops they hope to ensure a good harvest. The rapid growth of the wheat and barley in the gardens of Adonis was intended to make the corn shoot up; and the throwing of the gardens and of the images into the water was a charm to secure a due supply of fertilizing rain.699 The same, I take it, was the object of throwing the effigies of Death and the Carnival into water in the corresponding ceremonies of modern Europe.700 Certainly the custom of drenching with water a leaf-clad person, who undoubtedly personifies vegetation, is still resorted to in Europe for the express purpose of producing rain.701 Similarly the custom of throwing water on the last corn cut at harvest, or on the person who brings it home (a custom observed in Germany and France, and till quite lately in England and Scotland), is in some places practised with the avowed intent to procure rain for the next year's crops. Thus in Wallachia and amongst the Roumanians in Transylvania, when a girl is bringing home a crown made of the last ears of corn cut at harvest, all who meet her hasten to throw water on her, and two farm-servants are placed at the door for the purpose; for they believe that if this were not done, the crops next year would perish from drought.702 So [pg 238] amongst the Saxons of Transylvania, the person who wears the wreath made of the last corn cut is drenched with water to the skin; for the wetter he is, the better will be next year's harvest, and the more grain there will be threashed out. Sometimes the wearer of the wreath is the reaper who cut the last corn.703 In Northern Euboea, when the corn-sheaves have been piled in a stack, the farmer's wife brings a pitcher of water and offers it to each of the labourers that he may wash his hands. Every man, after he has washed his hands, sprinkles water on the corn and on the threshing-floor, expressing at the same time a wish that the corn may last long. Lastly, the farmer's wife holds the pitcher slantingly and runs at full speed round the stack without spilling a drop, while she utters a wish that the stack may endure as long as the circle she has just described.704 At the spring ploughing in Prussia, when the ploughmen and sowers returned in the evening from their work in the fields, the farmer's wife and the servants used to splash water over them. The ploughmen and sowers retorted by seizing every one, throwing them into the pond, and ducking them under the water. The farmer's wife might claim exemption on payment of a forfeit, but every one else had to be ducked. By observing this custom they hoped to ensure a due supply of rain for the seed.705 Also after harvest in Prussia, the person who wore a wreath made of the last corn cut was drenched with water, while a prayer was uttered that “as the corn had sprung up and multiplied through the water, so it might spring up and multiply in the barn and granary.”706 At Schlanow, in Brandenburg, when the sowers [pg 239] return home from the first sowing they are drenched with water “in order that the corn may grow.”707 In Anhalt on the same occasion the farmer is still often sprinkled with water by his family; and his men and horses, and even the plough, receive the same treatment. The object of the custom, as people at Arensdorf explained it, is “to wish fertility to the fields for the whole year.”708 So in Hesse, when the ploughmen return with the plough from the field for the first time, the women and girls lie in wait for them and slyly drench them with water.709 Near Naaburg, in Bavaria, the man who first comes back from sowing or ploughing has a vessel of water thrown over him by some one in hiding.710 At Hettingen in Baden the farmer who is about to begin the sowing of oats is sprinkled with water, in order that the oats may not shrivel up.711 Before the Tusayan Indians of North America go out to plant their fields, the women sometimes pour water on them; the reason for doing so is that “as the water is poured on the men, so may water fall on the planted fields.”712 The Indians of Santiago Tepehuacan steep the seed of the maize in water before they sow it, in order that the god of the waters may bestow on the fields the needed moisture.713

Gardens of Adonis among the Oraons and Mundas of Bengal.

The opinion that the gardens of Adonis are essentially charms to promote the growth of vegetation, especially of the crops, and that they belong to the same class of customs as those spring and midsummer folk-customs of modern Europe which I have described elsewhere,714 does not rest for its evidence merely on the intrinsic probability of the case. Fortunately we are able to show that gardens of Adonis (if we may use the expression in a general sense) are still planted, first, by a primitive race at their sowing season, [pg 240] and, second, by European peasants at midsummer. Amongst the Oraons and Mundas of Bengal, when the time comes for planting out the rice which has been grown in seed-beds, a party of young people of both sexes go to the forest and cut a young Karma-tree, or the branch of one. Bearing it in triumph they return dancing, singing, and beating drums, and plant it in the middle of the village dancing-ground. A sacrifice is offered to the tree; and next morning the youth of both sexes, linked arm-in-arm, dance in a great circle round the Karma-tree, which is decked with strips of coloured cloth and sham bracelets and necklets of plaited straw. As a preparation for the festival, the daughters of the headman of the village cultivate blades of barley in a peculiar way. The seed is sown in moist, sandy soil, mixed with turmeric, and the blades sprout and unfold of a pale-yellow or primrose colour. On the day of the festival the girls take up these blades and carry them in baskets to the dancing-ground, where, prostrating themselves reverentially, they place some of the plants before the Karma-tree. Finally, the Karma-tree is taken away and thrown into a stream or tank.715 The meaning of planting these barley blades and then presenting them to the Karma-tree is hardly open to question. Trees are supposed to exercise a quickening influence upon the growth of crops, and amongst the very people in question—the Mundas or Mundaris—“the grove deities are held responsible for the crops.”716 Therefore, when at the season for planting out the rice the Mundas bring in a tree and treat it with so much respect, their object can only be to foster thereby the growth of the rice which is about to be planted out; and the custom of causing barley blades to sprout rapidly and then presenting them to the tree must be intended to subserve the same purpose, perhaps by reminding the tree-spirit of his duty towards the crops, and stimulating his activity by this visible example of rapid vegetable growth. The throwing of the Karma-tree into the water is to be interpreted as a rain-charm. [pg 241] Whether the barley blades are also thrown into the water is not said; but if my interpretation of the custom is right, probably they are so. A distinction between this Bengal custom and the Greek rites of Adonis is that in the former the tree-spirit appears in his original form as a tree; whereas in the Adonis worship he appears in human form, represented as a dead man, though his vegetable nature is indicated by the gardens of Adonis, which are, so to say, a secondary manifestation of his original power as a tree-spirit.

Gardens of Adonis in Rajputana.

Gardens of Adonis are cultivated also by the Hindoos, with the intention apparently of ensuring the fertility both of the earth and of mankind. Thus at Oodeypoor in Rajputana a festival is held “in honour of Gouri, or Isani, the goddess of abundance, the Isis of Egypt, the Ceres of Greece. Like the Rajpoot Saturnalia, which it follows, it belongs to the vernal equinox, when nature in these regions proximate to the tropic is in the full expanse of her charms, and the matronly Gouri casts her golden mantle over the verdant Vassanti, personification of spring. Then the fruits exhibit their promise to the eye; the kohil fills the ear with melody; the air is impregnated with aroma, and the crimson poppy contrasts with the spikes of golden grain to form a wreath for the beneficent Gouri. Gouri is one of the names of Isa or Parvati, wife of the greatest of the gods, Mahadeva or Iswara, who is conjoined with her in these rites, which almost exclusively appertain to the women. The meaning of gouri is ‘yellow,’ emblematic of the ripened harvest, when the votaries of the goddess adore her effigies, which are those of a matron painted the colour of ripe corn.” The rites begin when the sun enters the sign of the Ram, the opening of the Hindoo year. An image of the goddess Gouri is made of earth, and a smaller one of her husband Iswara, and the two are placed together. A small trench is next dug, barley is sown in it, and the ground watered and heated artificially till the grain sprouts, when the women dance round it hand in hand, invoking the blessing of Gouri on their husbands. After that the young corn is taken up and distributed by the women to the men, who wear it in their turbans. Every wealthy family, or at least every subdivision of the city, has its own image. These and other [pg 242] rites, known only to the initiated, occupy several days, and are performed within doors. Then the images of the goddess and her husband are decorated and borne in procession to a beautiful lake, whose deep blue waters mirror the cloudless Indian sky, marble palaces, and orange groves. Here the women, their hair decked with roses and jessamine carry the image of Gouri down a marble staircase to the water's edge, and dance round it singing hymns and love-songs. Meantime the goddess is supposed to bathe in the water. No men take part in the ceremony; even the image of Iswara, the husband-god, attracts little attention.717 In these rites the distribution of the barley shoots to the men, and the invocation of a blessing on their husbands by the wives, point clearly to the desire of offspring as one motive for observing the custom. The same motive probably explains the use of gardens of Adonis at the marriage of Brahmans in the Madras Presidency. Seeds of five or nine sorts are mixed and sown in earthen pots, which are made specially for the purpose and are filled with earth. Bride and bridegroom water the seeds both morning and evening for four days; and on the fifth day the seedlings are thrown, like the real gardens of Adonis, into a tank or river.718

Gardens of Adonis in North-Western and Central India.

In the Himalayan districts of North-Western India the cultivators sow barley, maize, pulse, or mustard in a basket of earth on the twenty-fourth day of the fourth month (Asárh), which falls about the middle of July. Then on the last day of the month they place amidst the new sprouts small clay images of Mahadeo and Parvati and worship them in remembrance of the marriage of those deities. Next day they cut down the green stalks and wear them in their head-dress.719 Similar is the barley feast known as Jâyî or Jawâra in Upper India and as Bhujariya in the Central Provinces. On the seventh day of the light half of the month Sâwan grains of barley are sown in a pot of manure, and spring up so quickly that by the end of the [pg 243] month the vessel is full of long, yellowish-green stalks. On the first day of the next month, Bhâdon, the women and girls take the stalks out, throw the earth and manure into water, and distribute the plants among their male friends, who bind them in their turbans and about their dress.720 At Sargal in the Central Provinces of India this ceremony is observed about the middle of September. None but women may take part in it, though crowds of men come to look on. Some little time before the festival wheat or other grain has been sown in pots ingeniously constructed of large leaves, which are held together by the thorns of a species of acacia. Having grown up in the dark, the stalks are of a pale colour. On the day appointed these gardens of Adonis, as we may call them, are carried towards a lake which abuts on the native city. The women of every family or circle of friends bring their own pots, and having laid them on the ground they dance round them. Then taking the pots of sprouting corn they descend to the edge of the water, wash the soil away from the pots, and distribute the young plants among their friends.721 At the temple of the goddess Padmavati, near Pandharpur in the Bombay Presidency, a Nine Nights' festival is held in the bright half of the month Ashvin (September-October). At this time a bamboo frame is hung in front of the image, and from it depend garlands of flowers and strings of wheaten cakes. Under the frame the floor in front of the pedestal is strewn with a layer of earth in which wheat is sown and allowed to sprout.722 A similar rite is observed in the same month before the images of two other goddesses, Ambabai and Lakhubai, who also have temples at Pandharpur.723

[pg 244]

Gardens of Adonis in Bavaria. Gardens of Adonis on St. John's Day in Sardinia.

In some parts of Bavaria it is customary to sow flax in a pot on the last three days of the Carnival; from the seed which grows best an omen is drawn as to whether the early, the middle, or the late sowing will produce the best crop.724 In Sardinia the gardens of Adonis are still planted in connexion with the great Midsummer festival which bears the name of St. John. At the end of March or on the first of April a young man of the village presents himself to a girl, and asks her to be his comare (gossip or sweetheart), offering to be her compare. The invitation is considered as an honour by the girl's family, and is gladly accepted. At the end of May the girl makes a pot of the bark of the cork-tree, fills it with earth, and sows a handful of wheat and barley in it. The pot being placed in the sun and often watered, the corn sprouts rapidly and has a good head by Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, the twenty-third of June). The pot is then called Erme or Nenneri. On St. John's Day the young man and the girl, dressed in their best, accompanied by a long retinue and preceded by children gambolling and frolicking, move in procession to a church outside the village. Here they break the pot by throwing it against the door of the church. Then they sit down in a ring on the grass and eat eggs and herbs to the music of flutes. Wine is mixed in a cup and passed round, each one drinking as it passes. Then they join hands and sing “Sweethearts of St. John” (Compare e comare di San Giovanni) over and over again, the flutes playing the while. When they tire of singing they stand up and dance gaily in a ring till evening. This is the general Sardinian custom. As practised at Ozieri it has some special features. In May the pots are made of cork-bark and planted with corn, as already described. Then on the Eve of St. John the window-sills are draped with rich cloths, on which the pots are placed, adorned with crimson and blue silk and ribbons of various colours. On each of the pots they used formerly to place a statuette or cloth doll dressed as a woman, or a Priapus-like figure made of paste; but this custom, rigorously forbidden by the Church, has fallen into disuse. The village swains go about [pg 245] in a troop to look at the pots and their decorations and to wait for the girls, who assemble on the public square to celebrate the festival. Here a great bonfire is kindled, round which they dance and make merry. Those who wish to be “Sweethearts of St. John” act as follows. The young man stands on one side of the bonfire and the girl on the other, and they, in a manner, join hands by each grasping one end of a long stick, which they pass three times backwards and forwards across the fire, thus thrusting their hands thrice rapidly into the flames. This seals their relationship to each other. Dancing and music go on till late at night.725 The correspondence of these Sardinian pots of grain to the gardens of Adonis seems complete, and the images formerly placed in them answer to the images of Adonis which accompanied his gardens.

Gardens of Adonis on St. John's Day in Sicily.

Customs of the same sort are observed at the same season in Sicily. Pairs of boys and girls become gossips of St. John on St. John's Day by drawing each a hair from his or her head and performing various ceremonies over them. Thus they tie the hairs together and throw them up in the air, or exchange them over a potsherd, which they afterwards break in two, preserving each a fragment with pious care. The tie formed in the latter way is supposed to last for life. In some parts of Sicily the gossips of St. John present each other with plates of sprouting corn, lentils, and canary seed, which have been planted forty days before the festival. The one who receives the plate pulls a stalk of the young plants, binds it with a ribbon, and preserves it among his or her greatest treasures, restoring the platter to the giver. At Catania the gossips exchange pots of basil and great cucumbers; the girls tend the basil, and the thicker it grows the more it is prized.726

[pg 246]

In these Sardinian and Sicilian ceremonies St. John may have taken the place of Adonis. Custom of bathing in water or washing in dew on the Eve or Day of St. John (Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day). Petrarch at Cologne on St. John's Eve.

In these midsummer customs of Sardinia and Sicily it is possible that, as Mr. R. Wünsch supposes,727 St. John has replaced Adonis. We have seen that the rites of Tammuz or Adonis were commonly celebrated about midsummer; according to Jerome, their date was June.728 And besides their date and their similarity in respect of the pots of herbs and corn, there is another point of affinity between the two festivals, the heathen and the Christian. In both of them water plays a prominent part. At his midsummer festival in Babylon the image of Tammuz, whose name is said to mean “true son of the deep water,” was bathed with pure water: at his summer festival in Alexandria the image of Adonis, with that of his divine mistress Aphrodite, was committed to the waves; and at the midsummer celebration in Greece the gardens of Adonis were thrown into the sea or into springs. Now a great feature of the midsummer festival associated with the name of St. John is, or used to be, the custom of bathing in the sea, springs, rivers, or the dew on Midsummer Eve or the morning of Midsummer Day. Thus, for example, at Naples there is a church dedicated to St. John the Baptist under the name of St. John of the Sea (S. Giovan a mare); and it was an old practice for men and women to bathe in the sea on St. John's Eve, that is, on Midsummer Eve, believing that thus all their sins were washed away.729 In the Abruzzi water is still supposed to acquire certain marvellous and beneficent properties on St. John's Night. They say that on that night the sun and moon bathe in the water. Hence many people take a bath in the sea or in a river at that season, especially at the moment of sunrise. At Castiglione a Casauria they go before sunrise to the Pescara River or to springs, wash their faces and hands, then gird themselves with twigs of bryony (vitalba) and twine the plant round their brows, in order that they may be free from pains. At Pescina boys and girls wash each other's faces in a river or a spring, then exchange kisses, and become gossips. The dew, also, that [pg 247] falls on St. John's Night is supposed in the Abruzzi to benefit whatever it touches, whether it be water, flowers, or the human body. For that reason people put out vessels of water on the window-sills or the terraces, and wash themselves with the water in the morning in order to purify themselves and escape headaches and colds. A still more efficacious mode of accomplishing the same end is to rise at the peep of dawn, to wet the hands in the dewy grass, and then to rub the moisture on the eyelids, the brow, and the temples, because the dew is believed to cure maladies of the head and eyes. It is also a remedy for diseases of the skin. Persons who are thus afflicted should roll on the dewy grass. When patients are prevented by their infirmity or any other cause from quitting the house, their friends will gather the dew in sheets or tablecloths and so apply it to the suffering part.730 At Marsala in Sicily there is a spring of water in a subterranean grotto called the Grotto of the Sibyl. Beside it stands a church of St. John, which has been supposed to occupy the site of a temple of Apollo. On St. John's Eve, the twenty-third of June, women and girls visit the grotto, and by drinking of the prophetic water learn whether their husbands have been faithful to them in the year that is past, or whether they themselves will wed in the year that is to come. Sick people, too, imagine that by bathing in the water, drinking of it, or ducking thrice in it in the name of the Trinity, they will be made whole.731 At Chiaramonte in Sicily the following custom is observed on St. John's Eve. The men repair to one fountain and the women to another, and dip their heads thrice in the water, repeating at each ablution certain verses in honour of St. John. They believe that this is a cure or preventive of the scald.732 When Petrarch visited Cologne, he chanced to [pg 248] arrive in the town on St. John's Eve. The sun was nearly setting, and his host at once led him to the Rhine. A strange sight there met his eyes, for the banks of the river were covered with pretty women. The crowd was great but good-humoured. From a rising ground on which he stood the poet saw many of the women, girt with fragrant herbs, kneel down on the water's edge, roll their sleeves up above their elbows, and wash their white arms and hands in the river, murmuring softly some words which the Italian did not understand. He was told that the custom was a very old one, much honoured in the observance; for the common folk, especially the women, believed that to wash in the river on St. John's Eve would avert every misfortune in the coming year.733 On St. John's Eve the people of Copenhagen used to go on pilgrimage to a neighbouring spring, there to heal and strengthen themselves in the water.734 In Spain people still bathe in the sea or roll naked in the dew of the meadows on St. John's Eve, believing that this is a sovereign preservative against diseases of the skin.735 To roll in the dew on the morning of St. John's Day is also esteemed a cure for diseases of the skin in Normandy and Perigord. In Perigord a field of hemp is especially recommended for the purpose, and the patient should rub himself with the plants on which he has rolled.736 At Ciotat in Provence, while the midsummer bonfire blazed, young people used to plunge into the sea and splash each other vigorously. At Vitrolles they bathed in a pond in order that they might not suffer from fever during the year, and at Saint-Maries they watered the horses to protect them from the itch.737 A custom of drenching people on this occasion with water formerly prevailed in Toulon, Marseilles, and other towns of the south of France. The water was squirted from syringes, poured on the heads of passers-by from windows, and so [pg 249] forth.738 From Europe the practice of bathing in rivers and springs on St. John's Day appears to have passed with the Spaniards to the New World.739

The custom of bathing at midsummer is pagan, not Christian, in its origin.

It may perhaps be suggested that this wide-spread custom of bathing in water or dew on Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day is purely Christian in origin, having been adopted as an appropriate mode of celebrating the day dedicated to the Baptist. But in point of fact the custom is older than Christianity, for it was denounced and forbidden as a heathen practice by Augustine,740 and to this day it is practised at midsummer by the Mohammedan peoples of North Africa.741 We may conjecture that the Church, unable to put down this relic of paganism, followed its usual policy of accommodation by bestowing on the rite of a Christian name and acquiescing, with a sigh, in its observance. And casting about for a saint to supplant a heathen patron of bathing, the Christian doctors could hardly have hit upon a more appropriate successor than St. John the Baptist.

Old heathen festival of midsummer in Europe and the East.

But into whose shoes did the Baptist step? Was the displaced deity really Adonis, as the foregoing evidence seems to suggest? In Sardinia and Sicily it may have been so, for in these islands Semitic influence was certainly deep and probably lasting. The midsummer pastimes of Sardinian and Sicilian children may therefore be a direct continuation of the Carthaginian rites of Tammuz. Yet the midsummer festival seems too widely spread and too deeply rooted in Central and Northern Europe to allow us to trace it everywhere to an Oriental origin in general and to the cult of Adonis in particular. It has the air of a native of the soil rather than of an exotic imported from the East. We shall [pg 250] do better, therefore, to suppose that at a remote period similar modes of thought, based on similar needs, led men independently in many distant lands, from the North Sea to the Euphrates, to celebrate the summer solstice with rites which, while they differed in some things, yet agreed closely in others; that in historical times a wave of Oriental influence, starting perhaps from Babylonia, carried the Tammuz or Adonis form of the festival westward till it met with native forms of a similar festival; and that under pressure of the Roman civilization these different yet kindred festivals fused with each other and crystallized into a variety of shapes, which subsisted more or less separately side by side, till the Church, unable to suppress them altogether, stripped them so far as it could of their grosser features, and dexterously changing the names allowed them to pass muster as Christian. And what has just been said of the midsummer festivals probably applies, with the necessary modifications, to the spring festivals also. They, too, seem to have originated independently in Europe and the East, and after ages of separation to have amalgamated under the sway of the Roman Empire and the Christian Church. In Syria, as we have seen, there appears to have been a vernal celebration of Adonis; and we shall presently meet with an undoubted instance of an Oriental festival of spring in the rites of Attis. Meantime we must return for a little to the midsummer festival which goes by the name of St. John.

Midsummer fires and midsummer couples in relation to vegetation.

The Sardinian practice of making merry round a great bonfire on St. John's Eve is an instance of a custom which has been practised at the midsummer festival from time immemorial in many parts of Europe. That custom has been more fully dealt with by me elsewhere.742 The instances which I have cited in other parts of this work seem to indicate a connexion of the midsummer bonfire with vegetation. For example, both in Sweden and Bohemia an essential part of the festival is the raising of a May-pole or Midsummer-tree, which in Bohemia is burned in the bonfire.743 Again, in a Russian midsummer ceremony a straw figure of Kupalo, [pg 251] the representative of vegetation, is placed beside a May-pole or Midsummer-tree and then carried to and fro across a bonfire.744 Kupalo is here represented in duplicate, in tree-form by the Midsummer-tree, and in human form by the straw effigy, just as Adonis was represented both by an image and a garden of Adonis; and the duplicate representatives of Kupalo, like those of Adonis, are finally cast into water. In the Sardinian and Sicilian customs the Gossips or Sweethearts of St. John probably answer, on the one hand to Adonis and Astarte, on the other to the King and Queen of May. In the Swedish province of Blekinge part of the midsummer festival is the election of a Midsummer Bride, who chooses her bridegroom; a collection is made for the pair, who for the time being are looked upon as man and wife.745 Such Midsummer pairs may be supposed, like the May pairs, to stand for the powers of vegetation or of fertility in general: they represent in flesh and blood what the images of Siva or Mahadeo and Parvati in the Indian ceremonies, and the images of Adonis and Aphrodite in the Alexandrian ceremony, set forth in effigy.

Gardens of Adonis intended to foster the growth of vegetation, and especially of the crops. Modes of divination at midsummer like the gardens of Adonis.

The reason why ceremonies whose aim is to foster the growth of vegetation should thus be associated with bonfires; why in particular the representative of vegetation should be burned in the likeness of a tree, or passed across the fire in effigy or in the form of a living couple, has been discussed by me elsewhere.746 Here it is enough to have adduced evidence of such association, and therefore to have obviated the objection which might have been raised to my theory of the Sardinian custom, on the ground that the bonfires have nothing to do with vegetation. One more piece of evidence may here be given to prove the contrary. In some parts of Germany and Austria young men and girls leap over midsummer bonfires for the express purpose of making the hemp or flax grow tall.747 We may, therefore, assume that in the Sardinian custom the blades of wheat and barley which are [pg 252] forced on in pots for the midsummer festival, and which correspond so closely to the gardens of Adonis, form one of those widely-spread midsummer ceremonies, the original object of which was to promote the growth of vegetation, and especially of the crops. But as, by an easy extension of ideas, the spirit of vegetation was believed to exercise a beneficent and fertilizing influence on human as well as animal life, the gardens of Adonis would be supposed, like the May-trees or May-boughs, to bring good luck, and more particularly perhaps offspring,748 to the family or to the person who planted them; and even after the idea had been abandoned that they operated actively to confer prosperity, they might still be used to furnish omens of good or evil. It is thus that magic dwindles into divination. Accordingly we find modes of divination practised at midsummer which resemble more or less closely the gardens of Adonis. Thus an anonymous Italian writer of the sixteenth century has recorded that it was customary to sow barley and wheat a few days before the festival of St. John (Midsummer Day) and also before that of St. Vitus; and it was believed that the person for whom they were sown would be fortunate, and get a good husband or a good wife, if the grain sprouted well; but if it sprouted ill, he or she would be unlucky.749 In various parts of Italy and all over Sicily it is still customary to put plants in water or in earth on the Eve of St. John, and from the manner in which they are found to be blooming or fading on St. John's Day omens are drawn, especially as to fortune in love. Amongst the plants used for this purpose are Ciuri di S. Giuvanni (St. John's wort?) and nettles.750 In Prussia two hundred years ago the farmers used to send out their servants, especially their maids, to gather St. John's [pg 253] wort on Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Day (St. John's Day). When they had fetched it, the farmer took as many plants as there were persons and stuck them in the wall or between the beams; and it was thought that he or she whose plant did not bloom would soon fall sick or die. The rest of the plants were tied in a bundle, fastened to the end of a pole, and set up at the gate or wherever the corn would be brought in at the next harvest. The bundle was called Kupole: the ceremony was known as Kupole's festival; and at it the farmer prayed for a good crop of hay, and so forth.751 This Prussian custom is particularly notable, inasmuch as it strongly confirms the opinion that Kupalo (doubtless identical with Kupole) was originally a deity of vegetation.752 For here Kupalo is represented by a bundle of plants specially associated with midsummer in folk-custom; and her influence over vegetation is plainly signified by placing her vegetable emblem over the place where the harvest is brought in, as well as by the prayers for a good crop which are uttered on the occasion. This furnishes a fresh argument in support of the view that the Death, whose analogy to Kupalo, Yarilo, and the rest I have shown elsewhere, originally personified vegetation, more especially the dying or dead vegetation of winter.753 Further, my interpretation of the gardens of Adonis is confirmed by finding that in this Prussian custom the very same kind of plants is used to form the gardens of Adonis (as we may call them) and the image of the deity. Nothing could set in a stronger light the truth of the theory that the gardens of Adonis are merely another manifestation of the god himself.

Sicilian gardens of Adonis in spring.

In Sicily gardens of Adonis are still sown in spring as well as in summer, from which we may perhaps infer that Sicily as well as Syria celebrated of old a vernal festival of the dead and risen god. At the approach of Easter, Sicilian women sow wheat, lentils, and canary-seed in plates, which they keep in the dark and water every two days. The plants soon shoot up; the stalks are tied together with red ribbons, and the plates containing them are placed on [pg 254] the sepulchres which, with the effigies of the dead Christ, are made up in Catholic and Greek churches on Good Friday,754 just as the gardens of Adonis were placed on the grave of the dead Adonis.755 The practice is not confined to Sicily, for it is observed also at Cosenza in Calabria,756 and perhaps in other places. The whole custom—sepulchres as well as plates of sprouting grain—may be nothing but a continuation, under a different name, of the worship of Adonis.

Resemblance of the Easter ceremonies in the Greek Church to the rites of Adonis.

Nor are these Sicilian and Calabrian customs the only Easter ceremonies which resemble the rites of Adonis. “During the whole of Good Friday a waxen effigy of the dead Christ is exposed to view in the middle of the Greek churches and is covered with fervent kisses by the thronging crowd, while the whole church rings with melancholy, monotonous dirges. Late in the evening, when it has grown quite dark, this waxen image is carried by the priests into the street on a bier adorned with lemons, roses, jessamine, and other flowers, and there begins a grand procession of the multitude, who move in serried ranks, with slow and solemn step, through the whole town. Every man carries his taper and breaks out into doleful lamentation. At all the houses which the procession passes there are seated women with censers to fumigate the marching host. Thus the community solemnly buries its Christ as if he had just died. At last the waxen image is again deposited in the church, and the same lugubrious chants echo anew. These lamentations, accompanied by a strict fast, continue till midnight on Saturday. As the clock strikes twelve, the bishop appears and announces the glad tidings that ‘Christ is risen,’ to which the crowd replies, ‘He is risen indeed,’ and at once the whole city bursts into an uproar of joy, which finds vent in shrieks and shouts, in the endless discharge of carronades and muskets, and the explosion of fire-works of every sort. In the very same hour people plunge from the extremity of the fast into the enjoyment of the Easter lamb and neat wine.”757

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Resemblance of the Easter ceremonies in the Catholic Church to the rites of Adonis.

In like manner the Catholic Church has been accustomed to bring before its followers in a visible form the death and resurrection of the Redeemer. Such sacred dramas are well fitted to impress the lively imagination and to stir the warm feelings of a susceptible southern race, to whom the pomp and pageantry of Catholicism are more congenial than to the colder temperament of the Teutonic peoples. The solemnities observed in Sicily on Good Friday, the official anniversary of the Crucifixion, are thus described by a native Sicilian writer. “A truly moving ceremony is the procession which always takes place in the evening in every commune of Sicily, and further the Deposition from the Cross. The brotherhoods took part in the procession, and the rear was brought up by a great many boys and girls representing saints, both male and female, and carrying the emblems of Christ's Passion. The Deposition from the Cross was managed by the priests. The coffin with the dead Christ in it was flanked by Jews armed with swords, an object of horror and aversion in the midst of the profound pity excited by the sight not only of Christ but of the Mater Dolorosa, who followed behind him. Now and then the ‘mysteries’ or symbols of the Crucifixion went in front. Sometimes the procession followed the ‘three hours of agony’ and the ‘Deposition from the Cross.’ The ‘three hours’ commemorated those which Jesus Christ passed upon the Cross. Beginning at the eighteenth and ending at the twenty-first hour of Italian time two priests preached alternately on the Passion. Anciently the sermons were delivered in the open air on the place called the Calvary: at last, when the third hour was about to strike, at the words [pg 256] emisit spiritum Christ died, bowing his head amid the sobs and tears of the bystanders. Immediately afterwards in some places, three hours afterwards in others, the sacred body was unnailed and deposited in the coffin. In Castronuovo, at the Ave Maria, two priests clad as Jews, representing Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, with their servants in costume, repaired to the Calvary, preceded by the Company of the Whites. There, with doleful verses and chants appropriate to the occasion, they performed the various operations of the Deposition, after which the procession took its way to the larger church.... In Salaparuta the Calvary is erected in the church. At the preaching of the death, the Crucified is made to bow his head by means of machinery, while guns are fired, trumpets sound, and amid the silence of the people, impressed by the death of the Redeemer, the strains of a melancholy funeral march are heard. Christ is removed from the Cross and deposited in the coffin by three priests. After the procession of the dead Christ the burial is performed, that is, two priests lay Christ in a fictitious sepulchre, from which at the mass of Easter Saturday the image of the risen Christ issues and is elevated upon the altar by means of machinery.”758 Scenic representations of the same sort, with variations of detail, are exhibited at Easter in the Abruzzi,759 and probably in many other parts of the Catholic world.760

The Christian festival of Easter perhaps grafted on a festival of Adonis.

When we reflect how often the Church has skilfully contrived to plant the seeds of the new faith on the old stock of paganism, we may surmise that the Easter celebration of the dead and risen Christ was grafted upon a similar celebration of the dead and risen Adonis, which, as we have seen reason to believe, was celebrated in Syria at the same season. The type, created by Greek artists, of the sorrowful goddess with her dying lover in her arms, resembles and may have [pg 257] been the model of the Pietà of Christian art, the Virgin with the dead body of her divine Son in her lap, of which the most celebrated example is the one by Michael Angelo in St. Peter's. That noble group, in which the living sorrow of the mother contrasts so wonderfully with the languor of death in the son, is one of the finest compositions in marble. Ancient Greek art has bequeathed to us few works so beautiful, and none so pathetic.761

The worship of Adonis at Bethlehem. The Morning Star, identified with Venus, may have been the signal for the festival of Adonis. The Star of Bethlehem.

In this connexion a well-known statement of Jerome may not be without significance. He tells us that Bethlehem, the traditionary birthplace of the Lord, was shaded by a grove of that still older Syrian Lord, Adonis, and that where the infant Jesus had wept, the lover of Venus was bewailed.762 Though he does not expressly say so, Jerome seems to have thought that the grove of Adonis had been planted by the heathen after the birth of Christ for the purpose of defiling the sacred spot. In this he may have been mistaken. If Adonis was indeed, as I have argued, the spirit of the corn, a more suitable name for his dwelling-place could hardly be found than Bethlehem, “the House of Bread,”763 and he may well have been worshipped there at his House of Bread long ages before the birth of Him who said, “I am the bread of life.”764 Even on the hypothesis that Adonis followed rather than preceded Christ at Bethlehem, the choice of his sad figure to divert the allegiance of Christians from their Lord cannot but strike us as eminently appropriate when we remember the similarity of the rites which commemorated the death and resurrection of the two. One of the earliest seats of the worship of the new god was Antioch, and at Antioch, [pg 258] as we have seen,765 the death of the old god was annually celebrated with great solemnity. A circumstance which attended the entrance of Julian into the city at the time of the Adonis festival may perhaps throw some light on the date of its celebration. When the emperor drew near to the city he was received with public prayers as if he had been a god, and he marvelled at the voices of a great multitude who cried that the Star of Salvation had dawned upon them in the East.766 This may doubtless have been no more than a fulsome compliment paid by an obsequious Oriental crowd to the Roman emperor. But it is also possible that the rising of a bright star regularly gave the signal for the festival, and that as chance would have it the star emerged above the rim of the eastern horizon at the very moment of the emperor's approach. The coincidence, if it happened, could hardly fail to strike the imagination of a superstitious and excited multitude, who might thereupon hail the great man as the deity whose coming was announced by the sign in the heavens. Or the emperor may have mistaken for a greeting to himself the shouts which were addressed to the star. Now Astarte, the divine mistress of Adonis, was identified with the planet Venus, and her changes from a morning to an evening star were carefully noted by the Babylonian astronomers, who drew omens from her alternate appearance and disappearance.767 Hence we may conjecture that the festival of Adonis was regularly timed to coincide with the appearance of Venus as [pg 259] the Morning or Evening Star. But the star which the people of Antioch saluted at the festival was seen in the East; therefore, if it was indeed Venus, it can only have been the Morning Star. At Aphaca in Syria, where there was a famous temple of Astarte, the signal for the celebration of the rites was apparently given by the flashing of a meteor, which on a certain day fell like a star from the top of Mount Lebanon into the river Adonis. The meteor was thought to be Astarte herself,768 and its flight through the air might naturally be interpreted as the descent of the amorous goddess to the arms of her lover. At Antioch and elsewhere the appearance of the Morning Star on the day of the festival may in like manner have been hailed as the coming of the goddess of love to wake her dead leman from his earthy bed. If that were so, we may surmise that it was the Morning Star which guided the wise men of the East to Bethlehem,769 the hallowed spot which heard, in the language of Jerome, the weeping of the infant Christ and the lament for Adonis.

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Book Second. Attis.

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Chapter I. The Myth and Ritual of Attis.

Attis the Phrygian counterpart of Adonis. His relation to Cybele. His miraculous birth. The death of Attis.

Another of those gods whose supposed death and resurrection struck such deep roots into the faith and ritual of Western Asia is Attis. He was to Phrygia what Adonis was to Syria. Like Adonis, he appears to have been a god of vegetation, and his death and resurrection were annually mourned and rejoiced over at a festival in spring.770 The legends and rites of the two gods were so much alike that the ancients themselves sometimes identified them.771 Attis was said to have been a fair young shepherd or herdsman beloved by Cybele, the Mother of the Gods, a great Asiatic goddess of fertility, who had her chief home in Phrygia.772 Some held that Attis was her son.773 His birth, like that of many other heroes, is said to have been miraculous. His mother, Nana, was a virgin, who conceived by putting a ripe almond or a pomegranate in her bosom. Indeed in the Phrygian cosmogony an almond figured [pg 264] as the father of all things,774 perhaps because its delicate lilac blossom is one of the first heralds of the spring, appearing on the bare boughs before the leaves have opened. Such tales of virgin mothers are relics of an age of childish ignorance when men had not yet recognized the intercourse of the sexes as the true cause of offspring. That ignorance, still shared by the lowest of existing savages, the aboriginal tribes of central Australia,775 was doubtless at one time universal among mankind. Even in later times, when people are better acquainted with the laws of nature, they sometimes imagine that these laws may be subject to exceptions, and that miraculous beings may be born in miraculous ways by women who have never known a man. In Palestine to this day it is believed that a woman may conceive by a jinnee or by the spirit of her dead husband. There is, or was lately, a man at Nebk who is currently supposed to be the offspring of such a union, and the simple folk have never suspected his mother's virtue.776 Two different accounts of the death of Attis were current. According to the one he was killed by a boar, like Adonis. According to the other he unmanned himself under a pine-tree, and bled to death on the spot. The latter is said to have been the local story told by the people of Pessinus, a great seat of the worship of Cybele, and the whole legend of which the story forms a part is stamped with a character of rudeness and savagery that speaks strongly for its antiquity.777 Both tales might claim the support of custom, [pg 265] or rather both were probably invented to explain certain customs observed by the worshippers. The story of the self-mutilation of Attis is clearly an attempt to account for the self-mutilation of his priests, who regularly castrated themselves on entering the service of the goddess. The story of his death by the boar may have been told to explain why his worshippers, especially the people of Pessinus, abstained from eating swine.778 In like manner the worshippers of Adonis abstained from pork, because a boar had killed their god.779 After his death Attis is said to have been changed into a pine-tree.780

Worship of Cybele introduced into Rome in 204 b.c.

The worship of the Phrygian Mother of the Gods was adopted by the Romans in 204 b.c. towards the close of their long struggle with Hannibal. For their drooping spirits had been opportunely cheered by a prophecy, alleged to be drawn from that convenient farrago of nonsense, the Sibylline Books, that the foreign invader would be driven from Italy if the great Oriental goddess were brought to Rome. Accordingly ambassadors were despatched to her sacred city Pessinus in Phrygia. The small black stone which embodied the mighty divinity was entrusted to them and conveyed to Rome, where it was received with great respect and installed in the temple of Victory on the Palatine Hill. It was the middle of April when the goddess arrived,781 and she went to work at once. For the harvest that year was such as had not been seen for many a long day,782 and in the very next year Hannibal and his veterans embarked for Africa. As he looked his last on the coast of Italy, fading behind him in the distance, he could not foresee that Europe, which had repelled the arms, would yet yield to the gods, of the Orient. The vanguard of the conquerors had already encamped in [pg 266] the heart of Italy before the rearguard of the beaten army fell sullenly back from its shores.

Attis and his eunuch priests the Galli at Rome.

We may conjecture, though we are not told, that the Mother of the Gods brought with her the worship of her youthful lover or son to her new home in the West. Certainly the Romans were familiar with the Galli, the emasculated priests of Attis, before the close of the Republic. These unsexed beings, in their Oriental costume, with little images suspended on their breasts, appear to have been a familiar sight in the streets of Rome, which they traversed in procession, carrying the image of the goddess and chanting their hymns to the music of cymbals and tambourines, flutes and horns, while the people, impressed by the fantastic show and moved by the wild strains, flung alms to them in abundance, and buried the image and its bearers under showers of roses.783 A further step was taken by the Emperor Claudius when he incorporated the Phrygian worship of the sacred tree, and with it probably the orgiastic rites of Attis, in the established religion of Rome.784 The great [pg 267] spring festival of Cybele and Attis is best known to us in the form in which it was celebrated at Rome; but as we are informed that the Roman ceremonies were also Phrygian,785 we may assume that they differed hardly, if at all, from their Asiatic original. The order of the festival seems to have been as follows.786

The spring festival of Cybele and Attis at Rome. The Day of Blood.

On the twenty-second day of March, a pine-tree was cut in the woods and brought into the sanctuary of Cybele, where it was treated as a great, divinity. The duty of carrying the sacred tree was entrusted to a guild of Tree-bearers. The trunk was swathed like a corpse with woollen bands and decked with wreaths, of violets, for violets were said to have sprung from the blood of Attis, as roses and anemones from the blood of Adonis; and the effigy of a young man, doubtless Attis himself, was tied to the middle of the stem.787 On the second day of the festival, the twenty-third [pg 268] of March, the chief ceremony seems to have been a blowing of trumpets.788 The third day, the twenty-fourth of March, was known as the Day of Blood: the Archigallus or high-priest drew blood from his arms and presented it as an offering.789 Nor was he alone in making this bloody sacrifice. Stirred by the wild barbaric music of clashing cymbals, rumbling drums, droning horns, and screaming flutes, the inferior clergy whirled about in the dance with waggling heads and streaming hair, until, rapt into a frenzy of excitement and insensible to pain, they gashed their bodies with potsherds or slashed them with knives in order to bespatter the altar and the sacred tree with their flowing blood.790 The ghastly rite probably formed part of the mourning for Attis and may have been intended to strengthen him for the resurrection. The Australian aborigines cut themselves in like manner over the graves of their friends for the purpose, perhaps, of enabling them to be born again.791 Further, we may conjecture, though we are not expressly told, that it was on the same Day of Blood and for the same purpose that the novices sacrificed their virility. Wrought up to the highest pitch of religious excitement they dashed the severed portions of themselves against the image of the cruel goddess. These broken instruments of fertility were afterwards reverently wrapt up and buried in the earth or in subterranean chambers sacred to Cybele,792 where, like the [pg 269] offering of blood, they may have been deemed instrumental in recalling Attis to life and hastening the general resurrection of nature, which was then bursting into leaf and blossom in the vernal sunshine. Some confirmation of this conjecture is furnished by the savage story that the mother of Attis conceived by putting in her bosom a pomegranate sprung from the severed genitals of a man-monster named Agdestis, a sort of double of Attis.793

Eunuch priests in the service of Asiatic goddesses.

If there is any truth in this conjectural explanation of the custom, we can readily understand why other Asiatic goddesses of fertility were served in like manner by eunuch priests. These feminine deities required to receive from their male ministers, who personated the divine lovers, the means of discharging their beneficent functions: they had themselves to be impregnated by the life-giving energy before they could transmit it to the world. Goddesses thus ministered to by eunuch priests were the great Artemis of Ephesus794 and the great Syrian Astarte of Hierapolis,795 whose sanctuary, frequented by swarms of pilgrims and enriched by the offerings of Assyria and Babylonia, of Arabia and Phoenicia, was perhaps in the days of its glory the most popular in the East.796 Now the unsexed priests of this Syrian goddess resembled those of Cybele so closely that some people took them to be the same.797 And the mode in which they dedicated themselves to the religious life was similar. The [pg 270] greatest festival of the year at Hierapolis fell at the beginning of spring, when multitudes thronged to the sanctuary from Syria and the regions round about. While the flutes played, the drums beat, and the eunuch priests slashed themselves with knives, the religious excitement gradually spread like a wave among the crowd of onlookers, and many a one did that which he little thought to do when he came as a holiday spectator to the festival. For man after man, his veins throbbing with the music, his eyes fascinated by the sight of the streaming blood, flung his garments from him, leaped forth with a shout, and seizing one of the swords which stood ready for the purpose, castrated himself on the spot. Then he ran through the city, holding the bloody pieces in his hand, till he threw them into one of the houses which he passed in his mad career. The household thus honoured had to furnish him with a suit of female attire and female ornaments, which he wore for the rest of his life.798 When the tumult of emotion had subsided, and the man had come to himself again, the irrevocable sacrifice must often have been followed by passionate sorrow and lifelong regret. This revulsion of natural human feeling after the frenzies of a fanatical religion is powerfully depicted by Catullus in a celebrated poem.799

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The sacrifice of virility. The mourning for Attis.

The parallel of these Syrian devotees confirms the view that in the similar worship of Cybele the sacrifice of virility took place on the Day of Blood at the vernal rites of the goddess, when the violets, supposed to spring from the red drops of her wounded lover, were in bloom among the pines. Indeed the story that Attis unmanned himself under a pine-tree800 was clearly devised to explain why his priests did the same beside the sacred violet-wreathed tree at his festival. [pg 272] At all events, we can hardly doubt that the Day of Blood witnessed the mourning for Attis over an effigy of him which was afterwards buried.801 The image thus laid in the sepulchre was probably the same which had hung upon the tree.802 Throughout the period of mourning the worshippers fasted from bread, nominally because Cybele had done so in her grief for the death of Attis,803 but really perhaps for the same reason which induced the women of Harran to abstain from eating anything ground in a mill while they wept for Tammuz.804 To partake of bread or flour at such a season might have been deemed a wanton profanation of the bruised and broken body of the god. Or the fast may possibly have been a preparation for a sacramental meal.805

The Festival of Joy (Hilaria) for the resurrection of Attis on March 25th. The procession to the Almo.

But when night had fallen, the sorrow of the worshippers was turned to joy. For suddenly a light shone in the darkness: the tomb was opened: the god had risen from the dead; and as the priest touched the lips of the weeping mourners with balm, he softly whispered in their ears the glad tidings of salvation. The resurrection of the god was hailed by his disciples as a promise that they too would issue triumphant from the corruption of the grave.806 On the [pg 273] morrow, the twenty-fifth day of March, which was reckoned the vernal equinox, the divine resurrection was celebrated with a wild outburst of glee. At Rome, and probably elsewhere, the celebration took the form of a carnival. It was the Festival of Joy (Hilaria). A universal licence prevailed. Every man might say and do what he pleased. People went about the streets in disguise. No dignity was too high or too sacred for the humblest citizen to assume with impunity. In the reign of Commodus a band of conspirators thought to take advantage of the masquerade by dressing in the uniform of the Imperial Guard, and so, mingling with the crowd of merrymakers, to get within stabbing distance of the emperor. But the plot miscarried.807 Even the stern Alexander Severus used to relax so far on the joyous day as to admit a pheasant to his frugal board.808 The next day, the twenty-sixth of March, was given to repose, which must have been much needed after the varied excitements and fatigues of the preceding days.809 Finally, the Roman festival closed on the twenty-seventh of March with a procession to the brook Almo. The silver image of the goddess, with its face of jagged black stone, sat in a wagon drawn by oxen. Preceded by the nobles walking barefoot, it moved slowly, to the loud music of pipes and tambourines, out by the Porta Capena, and so down to the banks of the Almo, which flows into the Tiber just below the walls of Rome. There the high-priest, robed in purple, washed the wagon, the image, and the other sacred objects in the water of the stream. On returning from their bath, the wain and the oxen were strewn with fresh spring flowers. All was mirth and gaiety. No one thought of the blood that had flowed so lately. Even the eunuch priests forgot their wounds.810

[pg 274]

The mysteries of Attis. The sacrament. The baptism of blood. The Vatican a centre of the worship of Attis.

Such, then, appears to have been the annual solemnization of the death and resurrection of Attis in spring. But besides these public rites, his worship is known to have comprised certain secret or mystic ceremonies, which probably aimed at bringing the worshipper, and especially the novice, into closer communication with his god. Our information as to the nature of these mysteries and the date of their celebration is unfortunately very scanty, but they seem to have included a sacramental meal and a baptism of blood. In the sacrament the novice became a partaker of the mysteries by eating out of a drum and drinking out of a cymbal, two instruments of music which figured prominently in the thrilling orchestra of Attis.811 The fast which accompanied the mourning for the dead god812 may perhaps have been designed to prepare the body of the communicant for the reception of the blessed sacrament by purging it of all that could defile by contact the sacred elements.813 In the baptism the devotee, crowned with gold and wreathed with fillets, descended into a pit, the mouth of which was covered with a wooden grating. A bull, adorned with garlands of flowers, its forehead glittering with gold leaf, was then driven on to the grating and there stabbed to death with a consecrated spear. Its hot reeking blood poured in torrents through the apertures, and was received with devout eagerness by the worshipper on every part of his person and garments, till he emerged from the pit, drenched, dripping, and scarlet from head to foot, to receive the homage, nay the adoration, of his fellows as one who had been born again to eternal life and had washed [pg 275] away his sins in the blood of the bull.814 For some time afterwards the fiction of a new birth was kept up by dieting him on milk like a new-born babe.815 The regeneration of the worshipper took place at the same time as the regeneration of his god, namely at the vernal equinox.816 At Rome the new birth and the remission of sins by the shedding of bull's blood appear to have been carried out above all at the sanctuary of the Phrygian goddess on the Vatican Hill, at or near the spot where the great basilica of St. Peter's now stands; for many inscriptions relating to the rites were found when the church was being enlarged in 1608 or 1609.817 From the Vatican as a centre this barbarous system of superstition seems to have spread to other parts [pg 276] of the Roman empire. Inscriptions found in Gaul and Germany prove that provincial sanctuaries modelled their ritual on that of the Vatican.818 From the same source we learn that the testicles as well as the blood of the bull played an important part in the ceremonies.819 Probably they were regarded as a powerful charm to promote fertility and hasten the new birth.

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Chapter II. Attis As a God of Vegetation.

The sanctity of the pine-tree in the worship of Attis.

The original character of Attis as a tree-spirit is brought out plainly by the part which the pine-tree plays in his legend, his ritual, and his monuments.820 The story that he was a human being transformed into a pine-tree is only one of those transparent attempts at rationalizing old beliefs which meet us so frequently in mythology. The bringing in of the pine-tree from the woods, decked with violets and woollen bands, is like bringing in the May-tree or Summer-tree in modern folk-custom; and the effigy which was attached to the pine-tree was only a duplicate representative of the tree-spirit Attis. After being fastened to the tree, the effigy was kept for a year and then burned.821 The same thing appears to have been sometimes done with the May-pole; and in like manner the effigy of the corn-spirit, made at harvest, is often preserved till it is replaced by a new effigy at next year's harvest.822 The original intention of such customs was no doubt to maintain the spirit of vegetation in life throughout the year. Why the Phrygians should have worshipped the pine above other trees we can only guess. Perhaps the sight of its changeless, though sombre, green cresting the ridges of the high hills above the fading splendour of the autumn woods in the valleys may have seemed to their eyes to mark it out as the seat of a diviner life, of something exempt from the sad vicissitudes of the [pg 278] seasons, constant and eternal as the sky which stooped to meet it. For the same reason, perhaps, ivy was sacred to Attis; at all events, we read that his eunuch priests were tattooed with a pattern of ivy leaves.823 Another reason for the sanctity of the pine may have been its usefulness. The cones of the stone-pine contain edible nut-like seeds, which have been used as food since antiquity, and are still eaten, for example, by the poorer classes in Rome.824 Moreover, a wine was brewed from these seeds,825 and this may partly account for the orgiastic nature of the rites of Cybele, which the ancients compared to those of Dionysus.826 Further, pine-cones were regarded as symbols or rather instruments of fertility. Hence at the festival of the Thesmophoria they were thrown, along with pigs and other agents or emblems of fecundity, into the sacred vaults of Demeter for the purpose of quickening the ground and the wombs of women.827

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Attis as a corn-god. Cybele as a goddess of fertility. The bathing of her image either a rain-charm or a marriage-rite.

Like tree-spirits in general, Attis was apparently thought to wield power over the fruits of the earth or even to be identical with the corn. One of his epithets was “very fruitful”: he was addressed as the “reaped green (or yellow) ear of corn”; and the story of his sufferings, death, and resurrection was interpreted as the ripe grain wounded by the reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to life again when it is sown in the ground.828 A statue of him in the Lateran Museum at Rome clearly indicates his relation to the fruits of the earth, and particularly to the corn; for it represents him with a bunch of ears of corn and fruit in his hand, and a wreath of pine-cones, pomegranates, and other fruits on his head, while from the top of his Phrygian cap ears of corn are sprouting.829 On a stone urn, which contained the ashes of an Archigallus or high-priest of Attis, the same idea is expressed in a slightly different way. The top of the urn is adorned with ears of corn carved in relief, and it is surmounted by the figure of a cock, whose tail consists of ears of corn.830 Cybele in like manner was conceived as a goddess of fertility who could make or mar the fruits of the earth; for the people of Augustodunum (Autun) in Gaul used to cart her image about in a wagon for the good of the fields and vineyards, while they danced and sang before it,831 and we have seen that in Italy an unusually [pg 280] fine harvest was attributed to the recent arrival of the Great Mother.832 The bathing of the image of the goddess in a river may well have been a rain-charm to ensure an abundant supply of moisture for the crops. Or perhaps, as Mr. Hepding has suggested, the union of Cybele and Attis, like that of Aphrodite and Adonis, was dramatically represented at the festival, and the subsequent bath of the goddess was a ceremonial purification of the bride, such as is often observed at human marriages.833 In like manner Aphrodite is said to have bathed after her union with Adonis,834 and so did Demeter after her intercourse with Poseidon.835 Hera washed in the springs of the river Burrha after her marriage with Zeus;836 and every year she recovered her virginity by bathing in the spring of Canathus.837 However that may be, the rules of diet observed by the worshippers of Cybele and Attis at their solemn fasts are clearly dictated by a belief that the divine life of these deities manifested itself in the fruits of the earth, and especially in such of them as are actually hidden by the soil. For while the devotees were allowed to partake of flesh, though not of pork or fish, they were forbidden to eat seeds and the roots of vegetables, but they might eat the stalks and upper parts of the plants.838

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Chapter III. Attis As The Father God.

The name Attis seems to mean father.

The name Attis appears to mean simply “father.”839 This explanation, suggested by etymology, is confirmed by the observation that another name for Attis was Papas;840 for Papas has all the appearance of being a common form of that word for “father” which occurs independently in many distinct families of speech all the world over. Similarly the mother of Attis was named Nana,841 which is itself a form of the world-wide word for “mother.” “The immense list of such words collected by Buschmann shows that the types pa and ta, with the similar forms ap and at, preponderate in the world as names for ‘father,’ while ma and na, am and an, preponderate as names for ‘mother.’ ”842

Relation of Attis to the Mother Goddess. Attis as a Sky-god or Heavenly Father. Stories of the emasculation of the Sky-god.

Thus the mother of Attis is only another form of his divine mistress the great Mother Goddess,843 and we are brought back to the myth that the lovers were mother and son. The story that Nana conceived miraculously without commerce with the other sex shows that the Mother Goddess of Phrygia herself was viewed, like other goddesses of the same primitive type, as a Virgin Mother.844 That view of [pg 282] her character does not rest on a perverse and mischievous theory that virginity is more honourable than matrimony. It is derived, as I have already indicated, from a state of savagery in which the mere fact of paternity was unknown. That explains why in later times, long after the true nature of paternity had been ascertained, the Father God was often a much less important personage in mythology than his divine partner the Mother Goddess. With regard to Attis in his paternal character it deserves to be noticed that the Bithynians used to ascend to the tops of the mountains and there call upon him under the name of Papas. The custom is attested by Arrian,845 who as a native of Bithynia must have had good opportunities of observing it. We may perhaps infer from it that the Bithynians conceived Attis as a sky-god or heavenly father, like Zeus, with whom indeed Arrian identifies him. If that were so, the story of the loves of Attis and Cybele, the Father God and the Mother Goddess, might be in one of its aspects a particular version of the widespread myth which represents Mother Earth fertilized by Father Sky;846 and, further, the story of the [pg 283] emasculation of Attis would be parallel to the Greek legend that Cronus castrated his father, the old sky-god Uranus,847 and was himself in turn castrated by his own son, the younger sky-god Zeus.848 The tale of the mutilation of the sky-god by his son has been plausibly explained as a myth of the violent separation of the earth and sky, which some races, for example the Polynesians, suppose to have originally clasped each other in a close embrace.849 Yet it seems unlikely that an order of eunuch priests like the Galli should have been based on a purely cosmogonic myth: why should they continue for all time to be mutilated because the sky-god was so in the beginning? The custom of castration must surely have been designed to meet a constantly recurring need, not merely to reflect a mythical event which happened at the creation of the world. Such a need is the maintenance of the fruitfulness of the earth, annually imperilled by the changes of the seasons. Yet [pg 284] the theory that the mutilation of the priests of Attis and the burial of the severed parts were designed to fertilize the ground may perhaps be reconciled with the cosmogonic myth if we remember the old opinion, held apparently by many peoples, that the creation of the world is year by year repeated in that great transformation which depends ultimately on the annual increase of the sun's heat.850 However, the evidence for the celestial aspect of Attis is too slight to allow us to speak with any confidence on this subject. A trace of that aspect appears to survive in the star-spangled cap which he is said to have received from Cybele,851 and which is figured on some monuments supposed to represent him.852 His identification with the Phrygian moon-god Men Tyrannus853 points in the same direction, but is probably due rather to the religious speculation of a later age than to genuine popular tradition.854

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Chapter IV. Human Representatives of Attis.

The high priest of Attis bore the god's name and seems to have personated him. The drawing of the high priest's blood may have been a substitute for putting him to death in the character of the god. The name of Attis in the royal families of Phrygia and Lydia. The Phrygian priests of Attis may have been members of the royal family.

From inscriptions it appears that both at Pessinus and Rome the high-priest of Cybele regularly bore the name of Attis.855 It is therefore a reasonable conjecture that he played the part of his namesake, the legendary Attis, at the annual festival.856 We have seen that on the Day of Blood he drew blood from his arms, and this may have been an imitation of the self-inflicted death of Attis under the pine-tree. It is not inconsistent with this supposition that Attis was also represented at these ceremonies by an effigy; for instances can be shown in which the divine being is first represented by a living person and afterwards by an effigy, which is then burned or otherwise destroyed.857 Perhaps we may go a step farther and conjecture that this mimic killing of the priest, accompanied by a real effusion of his blood, was in Phrygia, as it has been elsewhere, a substitute for a human sacrifice which in earlier times was actually offered. Sir W. M. Ramsay, whose authority on all questions relating to Phrygia no one will dispute, is [pg 286] of opinion that at these Phrygian ceremonies “the representative of the god was probably slain each year by a cruel death, just as the god himself died.”858 We know from Strabo859 that the priests of Pessinus were at one time potentates as well as priests; they may, therefore, have belonged to that class of divine kings or popes whose duty it was to die each year for their people and the world. The name of Attis, it is true, does not occur among the names of the old kings of Phrygia, who seem to have borne the names of Midas and Gordias in alternate generations; but a very ancient inscription carved in the rock above a famous Phrygian monument, which is known as the Tomb of Midas, records that the monument was made for, or dedicated to, King Midas by a certain Ates, whose name is doubtless identical with Attis, and who, if not a king himself, may have been one of the royal family.860 It is worthy of note also that the name Atys, which, again, appears to be only another form of Attis, is recorded as that of an early king of Lydia;861 and that a son of Croesus, king of Lydia, not only bore the name Atys but was said to have been killed, while he was hunting a boar, by a member of the royal Phrygian family, who traced his lineage to King Midas and had fled to the court of Croesus because he had unwittingly slain his own brother.862 Scholars have recognized in this story of the death of Atys, son of Croesus, a mere double of the myth of Attis;863 and in view of the facts which have come before us in the present inquiry864 it [pg 287] is a remarkable circumstance that the myth of a slain god should be told of a king's son. May we conjecture that the Phrygian priests who bore the name of Attis and represented the god of that name were themselves members, perhaps the eldest sons, of the royal house, to whom their fathers, uncles, brothers, or other kinsmen deputed the honour of dying a violent death in the character of gods, while they reserved to themselves the duty of living, as long as nature allowed them, in the humbler character of kings? If this were so, the Phrygian dynasty of Midas may have presented a close parallel to the Greek dynasty of Athamas, in which the eldest sons seem to have been regularly destined to the altar.865 But it is also possible that the divine priests who bore the name of Attis may have belonged to that indigenous race which the Phrygians, on their irruption into Asia from Europe, appear to have found and conquered in the land afterwards known as Phrygia.866 On the latter hypothesis the priests may have represented an older and higher civilization than that of their barbarous conquerors. Be that as it may, the god they personated was a deity of vegetation whose divine life manifested itself especially in the pine-tree and the violets of spring; and if they died in the character of that divinity, they corresponded to the mummers who are still slain in mimicry by European peasants in spring, and to the priest who was slain long ago in grim earnest on the wooded shore of the Lake of Nemi.

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Chapter V. The Hanged God.

The way in which the representatives of Attis were put to death is perhaps shown by the legend of Marsyas, who was hung on a pine-tree and flayed by Apollo.

A reminiscence of the manner in which these old representatives of the deity were put to death is perhaps preserved in the famous story of Marsyas. He was said to be a Phrygian satyr or Silenus, according to others a shepherd or herdsman, who played sweetly on the flute. A friend of Cybele, he roamed the country with the disconsolate goddess to soothe her grief for the death of Attis.867 The composition of the Mother's Air, a tune played on the flute in honour of the Great Mother Goddess, was attributed to him by the people of Celaenae in Phrygia.868 Vain of his skill, he challenged Apollo to a musical contest, he to play on the flute and Apollo on the lyre. Being vanquished, Marsyas was tied up to a pine-tree and flayed or cut limb from limb either by the victorious Apollo or by a Scythian slave.869 His skin was shown at Celaenae in historical times. It [pg 289] hung at the foot of the citadel in a cave from which the river Marsyas rushed with an impetuous and noisy tide to join the Maeander.870 So the Adonis bursts full-born from the precipices of the Lebanon; so the blue river of Ibreez leaps in a crystal jet from the red rocks of the Taurus; so the stream, which now rumbles deep underground, used to gleam for a moment on its passage from darkness to darkness in the dim light of the Corycian cave. In all these copious fountains, with their glad promise of fertility and life, men of old saw the hand of God and worshipped him beside the rushing river with the music of its tumbling waters in their ears. At Celaenae, if we can trust tradition, the piper Marsyas, hanging in his cave, had a soul for harmony even in death; for it is said that at the sound of his native Phrygian melodies the skin of the dead satyr used to thrill, but that if the musician struck up an air in praise of Apollo it remained deaf and motionless.871

Marsyas apparently a double of Attis. The hanging and spearing of Odin and his human victims on sacred trees. The hanging and spearing of human victims among the Bagobos.

In this Phrygian satyr, shepherd, or herdsman who enjoyed the friendship of Cybele, practised the music so characteristic of her rites,872 and died a violent death on her sacred tree, the pine, may we not detect a close resemblance to Attis, the favourite shepherd or herdsman of the goddess, who is himself described as a piper,873 is said to have perished under a pine-tree, and was annually represented by an effigy hung, like Marsyas, upon a pine? We may conjecture that in old days the priest who bore the name and played the part of Attis at the spring festival of Cybele was regularly hanged or otherwise slain upon the sacred tree, and that this barbarous custom was afterwards mitigated into the form in which it is known to us in later times, when the priest merely drew blood from his body under the tree and attached an effigy instead of himself to its trunk. In the holy grove at Upsala men and animals were sacrificed by [pg 290] being hanged upon the sacred trees.874 The human victims dedicated to Odin were regularly put to death by hanging or by a combination of hanging and stabbing, the man being strung up to a tree or a gallows and then wounded with a spear. Hence Odin was called the Lord of the Gallows or the God of the Hanged, and he is represented sitting under a gallows tree.875 Indeed he is said to have been sacrificed to himself in the ordinary way, as we learn from the weird verses of the Havamal, in which the god describes how he acquired his divine power by learning the magic runes:

I know that I hung on the windy tree
For nine whole nights,
Wounded with the spear, dedicated to Odin,
Myself to myself.876

The Bagobos of Mindanao, one of the Philippine Islands, used annually to sacrifice human victims for the good of the crops in a similar way. Early in December, when the [pg 291] constellation Orion appeared at seven o'clock in the evening, the people knew that the time had come to clear their fields for sowing and to sacrifice a slave. The sacrifice was presented to certain powerful spirits as payment for the good year which the people had enjoyed, and to ensure the favour of the spirits for the coming season. The victim was led to a great tree in the forest; there he was tied with his back to the tree and his arms stretched high above his head, in the attitude in which ancient artists portrayed Marsyas hanging on the fatal tree. While he thus hung by the arms, he was slain by a spear thrust through his body at the level of the armpits. Afterwards the body was cut clean through the middle at the waist, and the upper part was apparently allowed to dangle for a little from the tree, while the under part wallowed in blood on the ground. The two portions were finally cast into a shallow trench beside the tree. Before this was done, anybody who wished might cut off a piece of flesh or a lock of hair from the corpse and carry it to the grave of some relation whose body was being consumed by a ghoul. Attracted by the fresh corpse, the ghoul would leave the mouldering old body in peace. These sacrifices have been offered by men now living.877

The hanging of Artemis. The hanging of Helen. The hanging of animal victims.

In Greece the great goddess Artemis herself appears to have been annually hanged in effigy in her sacred grove of Condylea among the Arcadian hills, and there accordingly she went by the name of the Hanged One.878 Indeed a trace of a similar rite may perhaps be detected even at Ephesus, the most famous of her sanctuaries, in the legend of a woman who hanged herself and was thereupon dressed by the compassionate goddess in her own divine garb and called by the name of Hecate.879 Similarly, at Melite in Phthia, a story [pg 292] was told of a girl named Aspalis who hanged herself, but who appears to have been merely a form of Artemis. For after her death her body could not be found, but an image of her was discovered standing beside the image of Artemis, and the people bestowed on it the title of Hecaerge or Far-shooter, one of the regular epithets of the goddess. Every year the virgins sacrificed a young goat to the image by hanging it, because Astypalis was said to have hanged herself.880 The sacrifice may have been a substitute for hanging an image or a human representative of Artemis. Again, in Rhodes the fair Helen was worshipped under the title of Helen of the Tree, because the queen of the island had caused her handmaids, disguised as Furies, to string her up to a bough.881 That the Asiatic Greeks sacrificed animals in this fashion is proved by coins of Ilium, which represent an ox or cow hanging on a tree and stabbed with a knife by a man, who sits among the branches or on the animal's back.882 At Hierapolis also the victims were hung on trees before they were burnt.883 With these Greek and Scandinavian parallels before us we can hardly dismiss as wholly improbable [pg 293] the conjecture that in Phrygia a man-god may have hung year by year on the sacred but fatal tree.

Use of the skins of human victims to effect their resurrection.

The tradition that Marsyas was flayed and that his skin was exhibited at Celaenae down to historical times may well reflect a ritual practice of flaying the dead god and hanging his skin upon the pine as a means of effecting his resurrection, and with it the revival of vegetation in spring. Similarly, in ancient Mexico the human victims who personated gods were often flayed and their bloody skins worn by men who appear to have represented the dead deities come to life again.884 When a Scythian king died, he was buried in a grave along with one of his concubines, his cup-bearer, cook, groom, lacquey, and messenger, who were all killed for the purpose, and a great barrow was heaped up over the grave. A year afterwards fifty of his servants and fifty of his best horses were strangled; and their bodies, having been disembowelled and cleaned out, were stuffed with chaff, sewn up, and set on scaffolds round about the barrow, every dead man bestriding a dead horse, which was bitted and bridled as in life.885 These strange horsemen were no doubt supposed to mount guard over the king. The setting up of their stuffed skins might be thought to ensure their ghostly resurrection.

Skins of men and horses stuffed and set up at graves. Some tribes of Borneo use the skulls of their enemies to ensure the fertility of the ground and of women, the abundance of game, and so forth.

That some such notion was entertained by the Scythians is made probable by the account which the mediaeval traveller de Plano Carpini gives of the funeral customs of the Mongols. The traveller tells us that when a noble Mongol died, the custom was to bury him seated in the middle of a tent, along with a horse saddled and bridled, and a mare and her foal. Also they used to eat another horse, stuff the carcase with straw, and set it up on poles. All this they did in order that in the other world the dead man might have a tent to live in, a mare to yield milk, and a steed to ride, and that he might be able to breed horses. Moreover, the bones of the horse which they ate were burned for the good of his soul.886 When the Arab traveller Ibn Batuta visited Peking in the fourteenth century, [pg 294] he witnessed the funeral of an emperor of China who had been killed in battle. The dead sovereign was buried along with four young female slaves and six guards in a vault, and an immense mound like a hill was piled over him. Four horses were then made to run round the hillock till they could run no longer, after which they were killed, impaled, and set up beside the tomb.887 When an Indian of Patagonia dies, he is buried in a pit along with some of his property. Afterwards his favourite horse, having been killed, skinned, and stuffed, is propped up on sticks with its head turned towards the grave. At the funeral of a chief four horses are sacrificed, and one is set up at each corner of the burial-place. The clothes and other effects of the deceased are burned; and to conclude all, a feast is made of the horses' flesh.888 The Scythians certainly believed in the existence of the soul after death and in the possibility of turning it to account. This is proved by the practice of one of their tribes, the Taurians of the Crimea, who used to cut off the heads of their prisoners and set them on poles over their houses, especially over the chimneys, in order that the spirits of the slain men might guard the dwellings.889 Some of the savages of Borneo allege a similar reason for their favourite custom of taking human heads. “The custom,” said a Kayan chief, “is not horrible. It is an ancient custom, a good, beneficent custom, bequeathed to us [pg 295] by our fathers and our fathers' fathers; it brings us blessings, plentiful harvests, and keeps off sickness and pains. Those who were once our enemies, hereby become our guardians, our friends, our benefactors.”890 Thus to convert dead foes into friends and allies all that is necessary is to feed and otherwise propitiate their skulls at a festival when they are brought into the village. “An offering of food is made to the heads, and their spirits, being thus appeased, cease to entertain malice against, or to seek to inflict injury upon, those who have got possession of the skull which formerly adorned the now forsaken body.”891 When the Sea Dyaks of Sarawak return home successful from a head-hunting expedition, they bring the head ashore with much ceremony, wrapt in palm leaves. “On shore and in the village, the head, for months after its arrival, is treated with the greatest consideration, and all the names and terms of endearment of which their language is capable are abundantly lavished on it; the most dainty morsels, culled from their abundant though inelegant repast, are thrust into its mouth, and it is instructed to hate its former friends, and that, having been now adopted into the tribe of its captors, its spirit must be always with them; sirih leaves and betel-nut are given to it, and finally a cigar is frequently placed between its ghastly and pallid lips. None of this disgusting mockery is performed with the intention of ridicule, but all to propitiate the spirit by kindness, and to procure its good wishes for the tribe, of whom it is now supposed to have become a member.”892 Amongst these Dyaks the “Head-Feast,” which has been just described, is supposed to be the most beneficial in its [pg 296] influence of all their feasts and ceremonies. “The object of them all is to make their rice grow well, to cause the forest to abound with wild animals, to enable their dogs and snares to be successful in securing game, to have the streams swarm with fish, to give health and activity to the people themselves, and to ensure fertility to their women. All these blessings, the possessing and feasting of a fresh head are supposed to be the most efficient means of securing. The very ground itself is believed to be benefited and rendered fertile, more fertile even than when the water in which fragments of gold presented by the Rajah have been washed, has been sprinkled over it.”893

The stuffed skin of the human representative of the Phrygian god may have been used for like purposes.

In like manner, if my conjecture is right, the man who represented the father-god of Phrygia used to be slain and his stuffed skin hung on the sacred pine in order that his spirit might work for the growth of the crops, the multiplication of animals, and the fertility of women. So at Athens an ox, which appears to have embodied the corn-spirit, was killed at an annual sacrifice, and its hide, stuffed with straw and sewn up, was afterwards set on its feet and yoked to a plough as if it were ploughing, apparently in order to represent, or rather to promote, the resurrection of the slain [pg 297] corn-spirit at the end of the threshing.894 This employment of the skins of divine animals for the purpose of ensuring the revival of the slaughtered divinity might be illustrated by other examples.895 Perhaps the hide of the bull which was killed to furnish the regenerating bath of blood in the rites of Attis may have been put to a similar use.

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Chapter VI. Oriental Religions in the West.

Popularity of the worship of Cybele and Attis in the Roman Empire.

The worship of the Great Mother of the Gods and her lover or son was very popular under the Roman Empire. Inscriptions prove that the two received divine honours, separately or conjointly, not only in Italy, and especially at Rome, but also in the provinces, particularly in Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Bulgaria.896 Their worship survived the establishment of Christianity by Constantine; for Symmachus records the recurrence of the festival of the Great Mother,897 and in the days of Augustine her effeminate priests still paraded the streets and squares of Carthage with whitened faces, scented hair, and mincing gait, while, like the mendicant friars of the Middle Ages, they begged alms from the passers-by.898 In Greece, on the other hand, the bloody orgies of the Asiatic goddess and her consort appear to have found little favour.899 The barbarous and cruel character of the worship, with its frantic excesses, was doubtless repugnant to the good taste and humanity of the Greeks, who seem to have preferred the kindred but gentler rites of Adonis. Yet the same features which shocked and repelled the Greeks may have positively [pg 299] attracted the less refined Romans and barbarians of the West. The ecstatic frenzies, which were mistaken for divine inspiration,900 the mangling of the body, the theory of a new birth and the remission of sins through the shedding of blood, have all their origin in savagery,901 and they naturally appealed to peoples in whom the savage instincts were still strong. Their true character was indeed often disguised under a decent veil of allegorical or philosophical interpretation,902 which probably sufficed to impose upon the rapt and enthusiastic worshippers, reconciling even the more cultivated of them to things which otherwise must have filled them with horror and disgust.

The spread of Oriental faiths over the Roman Empire contributed to undermine the fabric of Greek and Roman civilization by inculcating the salvation of the individual soul as the supreme aim of life.

The religion of the Great Mother, with its curious blending of crude savagery with spiritual aspirations, was only one of a multitude of similar Oriental faiths which in the later days of paganism spread over the Roman Empire, and by saturating the European peoples with alien ideals of [pg 300] life gradually undermined the whole fabric of ancient civilization.903 Greek and Roman society was built on the conception of the subordination of the individual to the community, of the citizen to the state; it set the safety of the commonwealth, as the supreme aim of conduct, above the safety of the individual whether in this world or in a world to come. Trained from infancy in this unselfish ideal, the citizens devoted their lives to the public service and were ready to lay them down for the common good; or if they shrank from the supreme sacrifice, it never occurred to them that they acted otherwise than basely in preferring their personal existence to the interests of their country. All this was changed by the spread of Oriental religions which inculcated the communion of the soul with God and its eternal salvation as the only objects worth living for, objects in comparison with which the prosperity and even the existence of the state sank into insignificance. The inevitable result of this selfish and immoral doctrine was to withdraw the devotee more and more from the public service, to concentrate his thoughts on his own spiritual emotions, and to breed in him a contempt for the present life which he regarded merely as a probation for a better and an eternal. The saint and the recluse, disdainful of earth and rapt in ecstatic contemplation of heaven, became in popular opinion the highest ideal of humanity, displacing the old ideal of the patriot and hero who, forgetful of self, lives and is ready to die for the good of his country. The earthly city seemed poor and contemptible to men whose eyes beheld the City of God coming in the clouds of heaven. Thus the centre of gravity, so to say, was shifted from the present to a future life, and however much the other world may have gained, there can be little doubt that this one lost heavily by the change. A general disintegration of the body politic set in. The ties of the state and the family were loosened: the structure of society tended to resolve itself [pg 301] into its individual elements and thereby to relapse into barbarism; for civilization is only possible through the active co-operation of the citizens and their willingness to subordinate their private interests to the common good. Men refused to defend their country and even to continue their kind.904 In their anxiety to save their own souls and the souls of others, they were content to leave the material world, which they identified with the principle of evil, to perish around them. This obsession lasted for a thousand years. The revival of Roman law, of the Aristotelian philosophy, of ancient art and literature at the close of the Middle Ages, marked the return of Europe to native ideals of life and conduct, to saner, manlier views of the world. The long halt in the march of civilization was over. The tide of Oriental invasion had turned at last. It is ebbing still.905

Popularity of the worship of Mithra; its resemblance to Christianity and its rivalry with that religion. The festival of Christmas borrowed by the Church from the religion of Mithra.

Among the gods of eastern origin who in the decline of the ancient world competed against each other for the allegiance of the West was the old Persian deity Mithra. [pg 302] The immense popularity of his worship is attested by the monuments illustrative of it which have been found scattered in profusion all over the Roman Empire.906 In respect both of doctrines and of rites the cult of Mithra appears to have presented many points of resemblance not only to the religion of the Mother of the Gods907 but also to Christianity.908 The similarity struck the Christian doctors themselves and was explained by them as a work of the devil, who sought to seduce the souls of men from the true faith by a false and insidious imitation of it.909 So to the Spanish conquerors of Mexico and Peru many of the native heathen rites appeared to be diabolical counterfeits of the Christian sacraments.910 With more probability the modern student of comparative religion traces such resemblances to the similar and independent workings of the mind of man in his sincere, if crude, attempts to fathom the secret of the universe, and to adjust his little life to its awful mysteries. However that may be, there can be no doubt that the Mithraic religion proved a formidable rival to Christianity, combining as it did a solemn ritual with aspirations after moral purity and a hope of immortality.911 Indeed the issue of the conflict between the two faiths appears for a time to have hung in the balance.912 An instructive relic of the long [pg 303] struggle is preserved in our festival of Christmas, which the Church seems to have borrowed directly from its heathen rival. In the Julian calendar the twenty-fifth of December was reckoned the winter solstice,913 and it was regarded as the Nativity of the Sun, because the day begins to lengthen and the power of the sun to increase from that turning-point of the year.914 The ritual of the nativity, as it appears to have been celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was remarkable. The celebrants retired into certain inner shrines, from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry, “The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!”915 The Egyptians even represented the new-born sun by the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter solstice, they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers.916 No doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental goddess whom the Semites called the Heavenly Virgin or simply the Heavenly Goddess; in Semitic lands she was a form of Astarte.917 Now [pg 304] Mithra was regularly identified by his worshippers with the Sun, the Unconquered Sun, as they called him;918 hence his nativity also fell on the twenty-fifth of December.919 The Gospels say nothing as to the day of Christ's birth, and accordingly the early Church did not celebrate it. In time, however, the Christians of Egypt came to regard the sixth of January as the date of the Nativity, and the custom of commemorating the birth of the Saviour on that day gradually spread until by the fourth century it was universally established in the East. But at the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century the Western Church, which had never recognized the sixth of January as the day of the Nativity, adopted the twenty-fifth of December as the true date, and in time its decision was accepted also by the Eastern Church. At Antioch the change was not introduced till about the year 375 a.d.920

Motives for the institution of Christmas.

What considerations led the ecclesiastical authorities to institute the festival of Christmas? The motives for the innovation are stated with great frankness by a Syrian writer, himself a Christian. “The reason,” he tells us, “why the fathers transferred the celebration of the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December was this. It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled [pg 305] lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day and the festival of the Epiphany on the sixth of January. Accordingly, along with this custom, the practice has prevailed of kindling fires till the sixth.”921 The heathen origin of Christmas is plainly hinted at, if not tacitly admitted, by Augustine when he exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on account of him who made the sun.922 In like manner Leo the Great rebuked the pestilent belief that Christmas was solemnized because of the birth of the new sun, as it was called, and not because of the nativity of Christ.923

The Easter celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ appears to have been assimilated to the celebration of the death and resurrection of Attis, which was held at Rome at the same season. Heathen festivals displaced by Christian.

Thus it appears that the Christian Church chose to celebrate the birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was called the Sun of Righteousness.924 If that was so, there can be no intrinsic improbability [pg 306] in the conjecture that motives of the same sort may have led the ecclesiastical authorities to assimilate the Easter festival of the death and resurrection of their Lord to the festival of the death and resurrection of another Asiatic god which fell at the same season. Now the Easter rites still observed in Greece, Sicily, and Southern Italy bear in some respects a striking resemblance to the rites of Adonis, and I have suggested that the Church may have consciously adapted the new festival to its heathen predecessor for the sake of winning souls to Christ.925 But this adaptation probably took place in the Greek-speaking rather than in the Latin-speaking parts of the ancient world; for the worship of Adonis, while it flourished among the Greeks, appears to have made little impression on Rome and the West.926 Certainly it never formed part of the official Roman religion. The place which it might have taken in the affections of the vulgar was already occupied by the similar but more barbarous worship of Attis and the Great Mother. Now the death and resurrection of Attis were officially celebrated at Rome on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of March,927 the latter being regarded as the spring equinox,928 and therefore as the most appropriate day for the revival of a god of vegetation who had been dead or sleeping throughout the winter. But according to an ancient and widespread tradition Christ suffered on the twenty-fifth of March, and accordingly some Christians regularly celebrated the Crucifixion on that day without any regard to the state of the moon. This custom was certainly observed in Phrygia, Cappadocia, and Gaul, and there seem to be grounds for thinking that at one time it was followed also in Rome.929 Thus the tradition which [pg 307] placed the death of Christ on the twenty-fifth of March was ancient and deeply rooted. It is all the more remarkable because astronomical considerations prove that it can have had no historical foundation.930 The inference appears to be inevitable that the passion of Christ must have been arbitrarily referred to that date in order to harmonize with an older festival of the spring equinox. This is the view of the learned ecclesiastical historian Mgr. Duchesne, who points out that the death of the Saviour was thus made to fall upon the very day on which, according to a widespread belief, the world had been created.931 But the resurrection [pg 308] of Attis, who combined in himself the characters of the divine Father and the divine Son,932 was officially celebrated at Rome on the same day. When we remember that the festival of St. George in April has replaced the ancient pagan festival of the Parilia;933 that the festival of St. John the Baptist in June has succeeded to a heathen Midsummer festival of water;934 that the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin in August has ousted the festival of Diana;935 that the feast of All Souls in November is a continuation of an old heathen feast of the dead;936 and that the Nativity of Christ himself was assigned to the winter solstice in December because that day was deemed the Nativity of the Sun;937 we can hardly be thought rash or unreasonable in conjecturing that the other cardinal festival of the Christian church—the solemnization of Easter—may have been in like manner, and from like motives of edification, adapted to a similar celebration of the Phrygian god Attis at the vernal equinox.938

Coincidence between the pagan and the Christian festivals of the divine death and resurrection.

At least it is a remarkable coincidence, if it is nothing more, that the Christian and the heathen festivals of the divine death and resurrection should have been solemnized at the same season and in the same places. For the places which celebrated the death of Christ at the spring equinox were Phrygia, Gaul, and apparently Rome, that is, the very regions in which the worship of Attis either originated or [pg 309] struck deepest root. It is difficult to regard the coincidence as purely accidental. If the vernal equinox, the season at which in the temperate regions the whole face of nature testifies to a fresh outburst of vital energy, had been viewed from of old as the time when the world was annually created afresh in the resurrection of a god, nothing could be more natural than to place the resurrection of the new deity at the same cardinal point of the year. Only it is to be observed that if the death of Christ was dated on the twenty-fifth of March, his resurrection, according to Christian tradition, must have happened on the twenty-seventh of March, which is just two days later than the vernal equinox of the Julian calendar and the resurrection of Attis. A similar displacement of two days in the adjustment of Christian to heathen celebrations occurs in the festivals of St. George and the Assumption of the Virgin. However, another Christian tradition, followed by Lactantius and perhaps by the practice of the Church in Gaul, placed the death of Christ on the twenty-third and his resurrection on the twenty-fifth of March.939 If that was so, his resurrection coincided exactly with the resurrection of Attis.

Different theories by which pagans and Christians explained the coincidence.

In point of fact it appears from the testimony of an anonymous Christian, who wrote in the fourth century of our era, that Christians and pagans alike were struck by the remarkable coincidence between the death and resurrection of their respective deities, and that the coincidence formed a theme of bitter controversy between the adherents of the rival religions, the pagans contending that the resurrection of Christ was a spurious imitation of the resurrection of Attis, and the Christians asserting with equal warmth that the resurrection of Attis was a diabolical counterfeit of the resurrection of Christ. In these unseemly bickerings the heathen took what to a superficial observer might seem strong ground by arguing that their god was the older and therefore presumably the original, not the counterfeit, since as a general rule an original is older than its copy. This feeble argument the Christians easily rebutted. They [pg 310] admitted, indeed, that in point of time Christ was the junior deity, but they triumphantly demonstrated his real seniority by falling back on the subtlety of Satan, who on so important an occasion had surpassed himself by inverting the usual order of nature.940

Compromise of Christianity with paganism. Parallel with Buddhism.

Taken altogether, the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the Church in the hour of its triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished yet still dangerous rivals. The inflexible Protestantism of the primitive missionaries, with their fiery denunciations of heathendom, had been exchanged for the supple policy, the easy tolerance, the comprehensive charity of shrewd ecclesiastics, who clearly perceived that if Christianity was to conquer the world it could do so only by relaxing the too rigid principles of its Founder, by widening a little the narrow gate which leads to salvation. In this respect an instructive parallel might be drawn between the history of Christianity and the [pg 311] history of Buddhism.941 Both systems were in their origin essentially ethical reforms born of the generous ardour, the lofty aspirations, the tender compassion of their noble Founders, two of those beautiful spirits who appear at rare intervals on earth like beings come from a better world to support and guide our weak and erring nature.942 Both preached moral virtue as the means of accomplishing what they regarded as the supreme object of life, the eternal salvation of the individual soul, though by a curious antithesis the one sought that salvation in a blissful eternity, the other in a final release from suffering, in annihilation. But the austere ideals of sanctity which they inculcated were too deeply opposed not only to the frailties but to the natural instincts of humanity ever to be carried out in practice by more than a small number of disciples, who consistently renounced the ties of the family and the state in order to work out their own salvation in the still seclusion of the cloister. If such faiths were to be nominally accepted by whole nations or even by the world, it was essential that they should first be modified or transformed so as to accord in some measure with the prejudices, the passions, the superstitions of the vulgar. This process of accommodation was carried out in after ages by followers who, made of less ethereal stuff than their masters, were for that reason the better fitted to mediate between them and the common herd. Thus as time went on, the two religions, in exact proportion to their growing popularity, absorbed more and more of those baser elements which they had been instituted for the very purpose of suppressing. Such spiritual decadences are [pg 312] inevitable. The world cannot live at the level of its great men. Yet it would be unfair to the generality of our kind to ascribe wholly to their intellectual and moral weakness the gradual divergence of Buddhism and Christianity from their primitive patterns. For it should never be forgotten that by their glorification of poverty and celibacy both these religions struck straight at the root not merely of civil society but of human existence. The blow was parried by the wisdom or the folly of the vast majority of mankind, who refused to purchase a chance of saving their souls with the certainty of extinguishing the species.

[pg 313]

Chapter VII. Hyacinth.

The Greek Hyacinth interpreted as the vegetation which blooms and withers away.

Another mythical being who has been supposed to belong to the class of gods here discussed is Hyacinth. He too has been interpreted as the vegetation which blooms in spring and withers under the scorching heat of the summer sun.943 Though he belongs to Greek, not to Oriental mythology, some account of him may not be out of place in the present discussion. According to the legend, Hyacinth was the youngest and handsomest son of the ancient king Amyclas, who had his capital at Amyclae in the beautiful vale of Sparta. One day playing at quoits with Apollo, he was accidentally killed by a blow of the god's quoit. Bitterly the god lamented the death of his friend. The hyacinth—“that sanguine flower inscribed with woe”—sprang from the blood of the hapless youth, as anemones and roses from the blood of Adonis, and violets from the blood of Attis:944 like these vernal flowers it heralded the advent of another spring and gladdened the hearts of men with the promise of a joyful resurrection. The flower is usually supposed to be not what we call a hyacinth, but a little purple iris with the letters of lamentation (AI, which in [pg 314] Greek means “alas”) clearly inscribed in black on its petals. In Greece it blooms in spring after the early violets but before the roses.945 One spring, when the hyacinths were in bloom, it happened that the red-coated Spartan regiments lay encamped under the walls of Corinth. Their commander gave the Amyclean battalion leave to go home and celebrate as usual the festival of Hyacinth in their native town. But the sad flower was to be to these men an omen of death; for they had not gone far before they were enveloped by clouds of light-armed foes and cut to pieces.946

The tomb and the festival of Hyacinth at Amyclae.

The tomb of Hyacinth was at Amyclae under a massive altar-like pedestal, which supported an archaic bronze image of Apollo. In the left side of the pedestal was a bronze door, and through it offerings were passed to Hyacinth, as to a hero or a dead man, not as to a god, before sacrifices were offered to Apollo at the annual Hyacinthian festival. Bas-reliefs carved on the pedestal represented Hyacinth and his maiden sister Polyboea caught up to heaven by a company of goddesses.947 The annual festival of the Hyacinthia was held in the month of Hecatombeus, which seems to have corresponded to May.948 The ceremonies occupied three days. On the first the people mourned for [pg 315] Hyacinth, wearing no wreaths, singing no paeans, eating no bread, and behaving with great gravity. It was on this day probably that the offerings were made at Hyacinth's tomb. Next day the scene was changed. All was joy and bustle. The capital was emptied of its inhabitants, who poured out in their thousands to witness and share the festivities at Amyclae. Boys in high-girt tunics sang hymns in honour of the god to the accompaniment of flutes and lyres. Others, splendidly attired, paraded on horseback in the theatre: choirs of youths chanted their native ditties: dancers danced: maidens rode in wicker carriages or went in procession to witness the chariot races: sacrifices were offered in profusion: the citizens feasted their friends and even their slaves.949 This outburst of gaiety may be supposed to have celebrated the resurrection of Hyacinth and perhaps also his ascension to heaven, which, as we have seen, was represented on his tomb. However, it may be that the ascension took place on the third day of the festival; but as to that we know nothing. The sister who went to heaven with him was by some identified with Artemis or Persephone.950

Hyacinth an aboriginal god, perhaps a king, who was worshipped in Laconia before the invasion of the Dorians. His sister Polyboea may perhaps have been his spouse.

It is highly probable, as Erwin Rohde perceived,951 that Hyacinth was an old aboriginal deity of the underworld who had been worshipped at Amyclae long before the Dorians invaded and conquered the country. If that was so, the story of his relation to Apollo must have been a comparatively late invention, an attempt of the newcomers to fit the ancient god of the land into their own mythical system, in order that he might extend his protection to them. On this theory it may not be without significance [pg 316] that sacrifices at the festival were offered to Hyacinth, as to a hero, before they were offered to Apollo.952 Further, on the analogy of similar deities elsewhere, we should expect to find Hyacinth coupled, not with a male friend, but with a female consort. That consort may perhaps be detected in his sister Polyboea, who ascended to heaven with him. The new myth, if new it was, of the love of Apollo for Hyacinth would involve a changed conception of the aboriginal god, which in its turn must have affected that of his spouse. For when Hyacinth came to be thought of as young and unmarried there was no longer room in his story for a wife, and she would have to be disposed of in some other way. What was easier for the myth-maker than to turn her into his unmarried sister? However we may explain it, a change seems certainly to have come over the popular idea of Hyacinth; for whereas on his tomb he was portrayed as a bearded man, later art represented him as the pink of youthful beauty.953 But it is perhaps needless to suppose that the sisterly relation of Polyboea to him was a late modification of the myth. The stories of Cronus and Rhea, of Zeus and Hera, of Osiris and Isis, remind us that in old days gods, like kings, often married their sisters, and probably for the same reason, namely, to ensure their own title to the throne under a rule of female kinship which treated women and not men as the channel in which the blood royal flowed.954 It is not impossible that Hyacinth may have been a divine king who actually reigned in his lifetime at Amyclae and was afterwards worshipped at his tomb. The representation of his triumphal ascent to heaven in company with his sister suggests that, like Adonis and Persephone, he may have been supposed to spend one part of the year in the [pg 317] under-world of darkness and death, and another part in the upper-world of light and life. And as the anemones and the sprouting corn marked the return of Adonis and Persephone, so the flowers to which he gave his name may have heralded the ascension of Hyacinth.

End Of Vol. 1.


As in the present volume I am concerned with the beliefs and practices of Orientals I may quote the following passage from one who has lived long in the East and knows it well: “The Oriental mind is free from the trammels of logic. It is a literal fact that the Oriental mind can accept and believe two opposite things at the same time. We find fully qualified and even learned Indian doctors practising Greek medicine, as well as English medicine, and enforcing sanitary restrictions to which their own houses and families are entirely strangers. We find astronomers who can predict eclipses, and yet who believe that eclipses are caused by a dragon swallowing the sun. We find holy men who are credited with miraculous powers and with close communion with the Deity, who live in drunkenness and immorality, and who are capable of elaborate frauds on others. To the Oriental mind, a thing must be incredible to command a ready belief” (“Riots and Unrest in the Punjab, from a correspondent,” The Times Weekly Edition, May 24, 1907, p. 326). Again, speaking of the people of the Lower Congo, an experienced missionary describes their religious ideas as “chaotic in the extreme and impossible to reduce to any systematic order. The same person will tell you at different times that the departed spirit goes to the nether regions, or to a dark forest, or to the moon, or to the sun. There is no coherence in their beliefs, and their ideas about cosmogony and the future are very nebulous. Although they believe in punishment after death their faith is so hazy that it has lost all its deterrent force. If in the following pages a lack of logical unity is observed, it must be put to the debit of the native mind, as that lack of logical unity really represents the mistiness of their views.” See Rev. John H. Weeks, “Notes on some Customs of the Lower Congo People,” Folk-lore, xx. (1909) pp. 54 sq. Unless we allow for this innate capacity of the human mind to entertain contradictory beliefs at the same time, we shall in vain attempt to understand the history of thought in general and of religion in particular.
The equivalence of Tammuz and Adonis has been doubted or denied by some scholars, as by Renan (Mission de Phénicie, Paris, 1864, pp. 216, 235) and by Chwolsohn (Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus, St. Petersburg, 1856, ii. 510). But the two gods are identified by Origen (Selecta in Ezechielem, Migne's Patrologia Graeca, xiii. 797), Jerome (Epist. lviii. 3 and Commentar. in Ezechielem, viii. 13, 14, Migne's Patrologia Latina, xxii. 581, xxv. 82), Cyril of Alexandria (In Isaiam, lib. ii. tomus. iii., and Comment. on Hosea, iv. 15, Migne's Patrologia Graeca, lxx. 441, lxxi. 136), Theodoretus (In Ezechielis cap. viii., Migne's Patrologia Graeca, lxxxi. 885), the author of the Paschal Chronicle (Migne's Patrologia Graeca, xcii. 329) and Melito (in W. Cureton's Spicilegium Syriacum, London, 1855, p. 44); and accordingly we may fairly conclude that, whatever their remote origin may have been, Tammuz and Adonis were in the later period of antiquity practically equivalent to each other. Compare W. W. Graf Baudissin, Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte (Leipsic, 1876-1878), i. 299; id., in Realencyclopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirchengeschichte,3 s.v. “Tammuz”; id., Adonis und Esmun (Leipsic, 1911), pp. 94 sqq.; W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald- und Feldkulte (Berlin, 1877), pp. 273 sqq.; Ch. Vellay, “Le dieu Thammuz,” Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, xlix. (1904) pp. 154-162. Baudissin holds that Tammuz and Adonis were two different gods sprung from a common root (Adonis und Esmun, p. 368). An Assyrian origin of the cult of Adonis was long ago affirmed by Macrobius (Sat. i. 21. 1). On Adonis and his worship in general see also F. C. Movers, Die Phoenizier, i. (Bonn, 1841) pp. 191 sqq.; W. H. Engel, Kypros (Berlin, 1841), ii. 536 sqq.; Ch. Vellay, Le culte et les fêtes d' Adonis-Thammouz dans l'Orient antique (Paris, 1904).
The mourning for Adonis is mentioned by Sappho, who flourished about 600 b.c. See Th. Bergk's Poetae Lyrici Graeci,3 iii. (Leipsic, 1867) p. 897; Pausanias, ix. 29. 8.
Ed. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums,2 i. 2 (Berlin, 1909), pp. 394 sq.; W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun, pp. 65 sqq.
Encyclopaedia Biblica, ed. T. K. Cheyne and J. S. Black, iii. 3327. In the Old Testament the title Adoni, “my lord,” is frequently given to men. See, for example, Genesis xxxiii. 8, 13, 14, 15, xlii. 10, xliii. 20, xliv. 5, 7, 9, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24.
C. P. Tiele, Geschichte der Religion im Altertum (Gotha, 1896-1903), i. 134 sqq.; G. Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient Classique, les Origines (Paris, 1895), pp. 550 sq.; L. W. King, Babylonian Religion and Mythology (London, 1899), pp. 1 sqq.; id., A History of Sumer and Akkad (London, 1910), pp. 1 sqq., 40 sqq.; H. Winckler, in E. Schrader's Die Keilinschriften und das alte Testament3 (Berlin, 1902), pp. 10 sq., 349; Fr. Hommel, Grundriss der Geographie und Geschichte des alten Orients (Munich, 1904), pp. 18 sqq.; Ed. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums,2 i. 2 (Berlin, 1909), pp. 401 sqq. As to the hypothesis that the Sumerians were immigrants from Central Asia, see L. W. King, History of Sumer and Akkad, pp. 351 sqq. The gradual desiccation of Central Asia, which is conjectured to have caused the Sumerian migration, has been similarly invoked to explain the downfall of the Roman empire; for by rendering great regions uninhabitable it is supposed to have driven hordes of fierce barbarians to find new homes in Europe. See Professor J. W. Gregory's lecture “Is the earth drying up?” delivered before the Royal Geographical Society and reported in The Times, December 9th, 1913. It is held by Prof. Hommel (op. cit. pp. 19 sqq.) that the Sumerian language belongs to the Ural-altaic family, but the better opinion seems to be that its linguistic affinities are unknown. The view, once ardently advocated, that Sumerian was not a language but merely a cabalistic mode of writing Semitic, is now generally exploded.
H. Zimmern, “Der babylonische Gott Tamüz,” Abhandlungen der philologisch-historischen Klasse der Königl. Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, xxvii. No. xx. (Leipsic, 1909) pp. 701, 722.
Dumu-zi, or in fuller form Dumuzi-abzu. See P. Jensen, Assyrisch-Babylonische Mythen und Epen (Berlin, 1900), p. 560; H. Zimmern, op. cit. pp. 703 sqq.; id., in E. Schrader's Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament3 (Berlin, 1902), p. 397; P. Dhorme, La Religion Assyro-Babylonienne (Paris, 1910), p. 105; W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun (Leipsic, 1911), p. 104.
H. Zimmern, “Der babylonische Gott Tamüz,” Abhandl. d. Kön. Sächs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, xxvii. No. xx. (Leipsic, 1909) p, 723. For the text and translation of the hymns, see H. Zimmern, “Sumerisch-babylonische Tamüzlieder,” Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Königlich Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-historische Klasse, lix. (1907) pp. 201-252. Compare H. Gressmann, Altorientalische Texte und Bilder (Tübingen, 1909), i. 93 sqq.; W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun (Leipsic, 1911), pp. 99 sq.; R. W. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament (Oxford, n.d.), pp. 179-185.
A. Jeremias, Die babylonisch-assyrischen Vorstellungen vom Leben nach dem Tode (Leipsic, 1887), pp. 4 sqq.; id., in W. H. Roscher's Lexikon der griech. und röm. Mythologie, ii. 808, iii. 258 sqq.; M. Jastrow, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria (Boston, 1898), pp. 565-576, 584, 682 sq.; W. L. King, Babylonian Religion and Mythology, pp. 178-183; P. Jensen, Assyrisch-babylonische Mythen und Epen, pp. 81 sqq., 95 sqq., 169; R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Literature (New York, 1901), pp. 316 sq., 338, 408 sqq.; H. Zimmern, in E. Schrader's Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament,3 pp. 397 sqq., 561 sqq.; id., “Sumerisch-babylonische Tamūzlieder,” Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Königlich Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-historische Klasse, lix. (1907) pp. 220, 232, 236 sq.; id., “Der babylonische Gott Tamūz,” Abhandlungen der philologisch-historischen Klasse der Königl. Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, xxvii. No. xx. (Leipsic, 1909) pp. 725 sq., 729-735; H. Gressmann, Altorientalische Texte und Bilder zum Alten Testamente (Tübingen, 1909), i. 65-69; R. W. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament (Oxford, n.d.), pp. 121-131; W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun (Leipsic, 1911), pp. 99 sqq., 353 sqq. According to Jerome (on Ezekiel viii. 14) the month of Tammuz was June; but according to modern scholars it corresponded rather to July, or to part of June and part of July. See F. C. Movers, Die Phoenizier, i. 210; F. Lenormant, “Il mito di Adone-Tammuz nei documenti cuneiformi,” Atti del IV. Congresso Internazionale degli Orientalisti (Florence, 1880), i. 144 sq.; W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald- und Feldkulte, p. 275; Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.v. “Months,” iii. 3194. My friend W. Robertson Smith informed me that owing to the variations of the local Syrian calendars the month of Tammuz fell in different places at different times, from midsummer to autumn, or from June to September. According to Prof. M. Jastrow, the festival of Tammuz was celebrated just before the summer solstice (The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 547, 682). He observes that “the calendar of the Jewish Church still marks the 17th day of Tammuz as a fast, and Houtsma has shown that the association of the day with the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans represents merely the attempt to give an ancient festival a worthier interpretation.”
Ezekiel viii. 14.
Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, iii. 14. 4; Bion, Idyl, i., J. Tzetzes. Schol. on Lycophron, 831; Ovid, Metam. x. 503 sqq.; Aristides, Apology, edited by J. Rendel Harris (Cambridge, 1891), pp. 44, 106 sq. In Babylonian texts relating to Tammuz no reference has yet been found to death by a boar. See H. Zimmern, “Sumerisch-babylonische Tamūzlieder,” p. 451; id., “Der babylonische Gott Tamūz,” p. 731. Baudissin inclines to think that the incident of the boar is a late importation into the myth of Adonis. See his Adonis und Esmun, pp. 142 sqq. As to the relation of the boar to the kindred gods Adonis, Attis, and Osiris see Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, ii. 22 sqq., where I have suggested that the idea of the boar as the foe of the god may be based on the terrible ravages which wild pigs notoriously commit in fields of corn.
W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun (Leipsic, 1911), pp. 152 sq., with plate iv. As to the representation of the myth of Adonis on Etruscan mirrors and late works of Roman art, especially sarcophaguses and wall-paintings, see Otto Jahn, Archäologische Beiträge (Berlin, 1847), pp. 45-51.
The ancients were aware that the Syrian and Cyprian Aphrodite, the mistress of Adonis, was no other than Astarte. See Cicero, De natura deorum, iii. 23. 59; Joannes Lydus, De mensibus, iv. 44. On Adonis in Phoenicia see W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun (Leipsic, 1911), pp. 71 sqq.
As to Cinyras, see F. C. Movers, Die Phoenizier, i. 238 sqq., ii. 2. 226-231; W. H. Engel, Kypros (Berlin, 1841), i. 168-173, ii. 94-136; Stoll, s.v. “Kinyras,” in W. H. Roscher's Lexikon der griech. und röm. Mythologie, ii. 1189 sqq. Melito calls the father of Adonis by the name of Cuthar, and represents him as king of the Phoenicians with his capital at Gebal (Byblus). See Melito, “Oration to Antoninus Caesar,” in W. Cureton's Spicilegium Syriacum (London, 1855), p. 44.
Philo of Byblus, quoted by Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelii, i. 10; Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller, iii. 568; Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Βύβλος. Byblus is a Greek corruption of the Semitic Gebal (גבל), the name which the place still retains. See E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie (Paris, 1864), p. 155.
R. Pietschmann, Geschichte der Phoenizier (Berlin, 1889), p. 139. On the coins it is designated “Holy Byblus.”
Strabo, xvi. 1. 18, p. 755.
Lucian, De dea Syria, 6.
The sanctuary and image are figured on coins of Byblus. See T. L. Donaldson, Architectura Numismatica (London, 1859), pp. 105 sq.; E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie, p. 177; G. Perrot et Ch. Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, iii. (Paris, 1885) p. 60; R. Pietschmann, Geschichte der Phoenizier, p. 202; G. Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient Classique, ii. (Paris, 1897) p. 173. Renan excavated a massive square pedestal built of colossal stones, which he thought may have supported the sacred obelisk (op. cit. pp. 174-178).
Lucian, De dea Syria, 6.
Strabo, xvi. 1. 18, p. 755.
Lucian, De dea Syria, 8; Pliny, Nat. Hist. v. 78; E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie, pp. 282 sqq.
Eustathius, Commentary on Dionysius Periegetes, 912 (Geographi Graeci Minores, ed. C. Müller, ii. 376); Melito, in W. Cureton's Spicilegium Syriacum, p. 44.
Ezekiel xxvii. 9. As to the name Gebal see above, p. 13, note 1.
L. B. Paton, The Early History of Syria and Palestine (London, 1902), pp. 169-171. See below, pp. 75 sq.
L. B. Paton, op. cit. p. 235; R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Literature, p. 57 (the Nimrud inscription of Tiglath-pileser III.).
The inscription was discovered by Renan. See Ch. Vellay, Le culte et les fêtes d'Adonis-Thammouz dans l'Orient antique (Paris, 1904), pp. 38 sq.; G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions (Oxford 1903), No. 3, pp. 18 sq. In the time of Alexander the Great the king of Byblus was a certain Enylus (Arrian, Anabasis, ii. 20), whose name appears on a coin of the city (F. C. Movers, Die Phoenizier, ii. 1, p. 103, note 81).
On the divinity of Semitic kings and the kingship of Semitic gods see W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites2 (London, 1894), pp. 44 sq., 66 sqq.
H. Radau, Early Babylonian History (New York and London, 1900), pp. 307-317; P. Dhorme, La Religion Assyro-Babylonienne (Paris, 1910), pp. 168 sqq.
The evidence for this is the Moabite stone, but the reading of the inscription is doubtful. See S. R. Driver, in Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.v. “Mesha,” vol. iii. 3041 sqq.; id., Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, Second Edition (Oxford, 1913), pp. lxxxv., lxxxvi., lxxxviii. sq.; G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, No. 1, pp. 1 sq., 6.
2 Kings viii. 7, 9, xiii. 24 sq.; Jeremiah xlix. 27. As to the god Hadad see Macrobius, Saturn, i. 23. 17-19 (where, as so often in late writers, the Syrians are called Assyrians); Philo of Byblus, in Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller, iii. 569; F. Baethgen, Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte (Berlin, 1888), pp. 66-68; G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, Nos. 61, 62, pp. 161 sq., 164, 173, 175; M. J. Lagrange, Études sur les Religions Sémitiques2 (Paris, 1905), pp. 93, 493, 496 sq. The prophet Zechariah speaks (xii. 11) of a great mourning of or for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddon. This has been taken to refer to a lament for Hadad-Rimmon, the Syrian god of rain, storm, and thunder, like the lament for Adonis. See S. R. Driver's note on the passage (The Minor Prophets, pp. 266 sq., Century Bible); W. W. Graf Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun, p. 92.
Josephus, Antiquit. Jud. ix. 4. 6.
Genesis xxxvi. 35 sq.; 1 Kings xi. 14-22; 1 Chronicles i. 50 sq. Of the eight kings of Edom mentioned in Genesis (xxxvi. 31-39) and in 1 Chronicles (i. 43-50) not one was the son of his predecessor. This seems to indicate that in Edom, as elsewhere, the blood royal was traced in the female line, and that the kings were men of other families, or even foreigners, who succeeded to the throne by marrying the hereditary princesses. See The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, ii. 268 sqq. The Israelites were forbidden to have a foreigner for a king (Deuteronomy xvii. 15 with S. R. Driver's note), which seems to imply that the custom was known among their neighbours. It is significant that some of the names of the kings of Edom seem to be those of divinities, as Prof. A. H. Sayce observed long ago (Lectures on the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, London and Edinburgh, 1887, p. 54).
G. A. Cooke, op. cit. Nos. 62, 63, pp. 163, 165, 173 sqq., 181 sqq.; M. J. Lagrange, op. cit. pp. 496 sqq. The god Rekub-el is mentioned along with the gods Hadad, El, Reshef, and Shamash in an inscription of King Bar-rekub's mortal father, King Panammu (G. A. Cooke, op. cit. No. 61, p. 161).
Virgil, Aen. i. 729 sq., with Servius's note; Silius Italicus, Punica, i. 86 sqq.
Ezekiel xxviii. 2, 9.
Menander of Ephesus, quoted by Josephus, Contra Apionem, i. 18 and 21; Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller, iv. 446 sq. According to the text of Josephus, as edited by B. Niese, the names of the kings in question were Abibal, Balbazer, Abdastart, Methusastart, son of Leastart, Ithobal, Balezor, Baal, Balator, Merbal. The passage of Menander is quoted also by Eusebius, Chronic. i. pp. 118, 120, ed. A. Schoene.
G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, No. 36, p. 102. As to Melcarth, the Tyrian Hercules, see Ed. Meyer, s.v. “Melqart,” in W. H. Roscher's Lexikon d. griech. u. röm. Mythologie, ii. 2650 sqq. One of the Tyrian kings seems to have been called Abi-milk (Abi-melech), that is, “father of a king” or “father of Moloch,” that is, of Melcarth. A letter of his to the king of Egypt is preserved in the Tel-el-Amarna correspondence. See R. F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Literature, p. 237. As to a title which implies that the bearer of it was the father of a god, see below, pp. 51 sq.
E. Renan, quoted by Ch. Vellay, Le culte et les fêtes d'Adonis-Thammouz, p. 39. Mr. Cooke reads ארםלך (Uri-milk) instead of אדםלך (Adon-milk) (G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, No. 3, p. 18).
Judges i. 4-7; Joshua x. 1 sqq.
Genesis xiv. 18-20, with Prof. S. R. Driver's commentary; Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.vv. “Adoni-bezek,” “Adoni-zedek,” “Melchizedek.” It is to be observed that names compounded with Adoni- were occasionally borne by private persons. Such names are Adoni-kam (Ezra ii. 13) and Adoni-ram (1 Kings iv. 6), not to mention Adoni-jah (1 Kings i. 5 sqq.), who was a prince and aspired to the throne of his father David. These names are commonly interpreted as sentences expressive of the nature of the god whom the bearer of the name worshipped. See Prof. Th. Nöldeke, in Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.v. “Names,” iii. 3286. It is quite possible that names which once implied divinity were afterwards degraded by application to common men.
Ezekiel viii. 14.
They were banished from the temple by King Josiah, who came to the throne in 637 b.c. Jerusalem fell just fifty-one years later. See 2 Kings xxiii. 7. As to these “sacred men” (ḳedēshīm), see below, pp. 72 sqq.
2 Kings xxiii. 7, where, following the Septuagint, we must apparently read כתנים for the בתים of the Massoretic Text. So R. Kittel and J. Skinner.
The ashērah (singular of ashērīm) was certainly of wood (Judges vi. 26): it seems to have been a tree stripped of its branches and planted in the ground beside an altar, whether of Jehovah or of other gods (Deuteronomy xvi. 21; Jeremiah xvii. 2). That the asherah was regarded as a goddess, the female partner of Baal, appears from 1 Kings xviii. 19; 2 Kings xxi. 3, xxiii. 4; and that this goddess was identified with Ashtoreth (Astarte) may be inferred from a comparison of Judges ii. 13 with Judges iii. 7. Yet on the other hand the pole or tree seems by others to have been viewed as a male power (Jeremiah ii. 27; see below, pp. 107 sqq.), and the identification of the asherah with Astarte has been doubted or disputed by some eminent modern scholars. See on this subject W. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites,2 pp. 187 sqq.; S. R. Driver, on Deuteronomy xvi. 21; J. Skinner, on 1 Kings xiv. 23; M. J. Lagrange, Études sur les religions Sémitiques,2 pp. 173 sqq.; G. F. Moore, in Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. i. 330 sqq., s.v. “Asherah.”
Deuteronomy xxiii. 17 sq. (in Hebrew 18 sq.). The code of Deuteronomy was published in 621 b.c. in the reign of King Josiah, whose reforms, including the ejection of the ḳedeshim from the temple, were based upon it. See W. Robertson Smith, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church2 (London and Edinburgh, 1892), pp. 256 sqq., 353 sqq.; S. R. Driver, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy3 (Edinburgh, 1902), pp. xliv. sqq.; K. Budde, Geschichte der althebräischen Litteratur (Leipsic, 1906), pp. 105 sqq.
He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem (2 Samuel v. 5; 1 Kings ii. 11; 1 Chronicles xxix. 27).
Professor A. H. Sayce has argued that David's original name was Elhanan (2 Samuel xxi. 19 compared with xxiii. 24), and that the name David, which he took at a later time, should be written Dod or Dodo, “the Beloved One,” which according to Prof. Sayce was a name for Tammuz (Adonis) in Southern Canaan, and was in particular bestowed by the Jebusites of Jerusalem on their supreme deity. See A. H. Sayce, Lectures on the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians (London and Edinburgh, 1887), pp. 52-57. If he is right, his conclusions would accord perfectly with those which I had reached independently, and it would become probable that David only assumed the name of David (Dod, Dodo) after the conquest of Jerusalem, and for the purpose of identifying himself with the god of the city, who had borne the same title from time immemorial. But on the whole it seems more likely, as Professor Kennett points out to me, that in the original story Elhanah, a totally different person from David, was the slayer of Goliath, and that the part of the giant-killer was thrust on David at a later time when the brightness of his fame had eclipsed that of many lesser heroes.
2 Samuel xii. 26-31; 1 Chronicles xx. 1-3. Critics seem generally to agree that in these passages the word מלכם must be pointed Milcom, not malcham “their king,” as the Massoretic text, followed by the English version, has it. The reading Milcom, which involves no change of the original Hebrew text, is supported by the reading of the Septuagint Μολχὸμ τοῦ βασιλέως αὐτῶν, where the three last words are probably a gloss on Μολχὸμ. See S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, Second Edition (Oxford, 1913), p. 294; Dean Kirkpatrick, in his note on 2 Samuel xii. 30 (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges); Encyclopaedia Biblica, iii. 3085; R. Kittel, Biblia Hebraica, i. 433; Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1906), pp. 575 sq. David's son and successor adopted the worship of Milcom and made a high place for him outside Jerusalem. See 1 Kings xi. 5; 2 Kings xxiii. 13.
2 Samuel v. 6-10; 1 Chronicles xi. 4-9.
See for example 1 Samuel xxiv. 8; 2 Samuel xiv. 9, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, xv. 15, 21, xvi. 4, 9, xviii. 28, 31, 32; 1 Kings i. 2, 13, 18, 20, 21, 24, 27; 1 Chronicles xxi. 3, 23.
Jeremiah xxii. 18, xxxiv. 5. In the former passage, according to the Massoretic text, the full formula of mourning was, “Alas my brother! alas sister! alas lord! alas his glory!” Who was the lamented sister? Professor T. K. Cheyne supposes that she was Astarte, and by a very slight change (דדה for הדה) he would read “Dodah” for “his glory,” thus restoring the balance between the clauses; for “Dodah” would then answer to “Adon” (lord) as “sister” answers to “brother.” I have to thank Professor Cheyne for kindly communicating this conjecture to me by letter. He writes that Dodah “is a title of Ishtar, just as Dôd is a title of Tamûz,” and for evidence he refers me to the Dodah of the Moabite Stone, where, however, the reading Dodah is not free from doubt. See G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, No. 1, pp. 1, 3, 11; Encyclopaedia Biblica, ii. 3045; S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, Second Edition (Oxford, 1913), pp. lxxxv., lxxxvi., xc.; F. Baethgen, Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte (Berlin, 1888), p. 234; H. Winckler, Geschichte Israels (Leipsic, 1895-1900), ii. 258. As to Hebrew names formed from the root dôd in the sense of “beloved,” see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, pp. 187 sq.; G. B. Gray, Studies in Hebrew Proper Names (London, 1896), pp. 60 sqq.
This was perceived by Renan (Histoire du peuple d'Israel, iii. 273), and Prof. T. K. Cheyne writes to me: “The formulae of public mourning were derived from the ceremonies of the Adonia; this Lenormant saw long ago.”
1 Chronicles xxix. 23; 2 Chronicles ix. 8.
1 Samuel xvi. 13, 14, compare id., x. 1 and 20. The oil was poured on the king's head (1 Samuel x. 1; 2 Kings ix. 3, 6). For the conveyance of the divine spirit by means of oil, see also Isaiah lx. 1. The kings of Egypt appear to have consecrated their vassal Syrian kings by pouring oil on their heads. See the Tell-el-Amarna letters, No. 37 (H. Winckler, Die Thontafeln von Tell-el-Amarna, p. 99). Some West African priests are consecrated by a similar ceremony. See below, p. 68. The natives of Buru, an East Indian island, imagine that they can keep off demons by smearing their bodies with coco-nut oil, but the oil must be prepared by young unmarried girls. See G. A. Wilken, “Bijdrage tot de kennis der Alfoeren van het eiland Boeroe,” Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, xxxviii. (Batavia, 1875) p. 30; id., Verspreide Geschriften (The Hague, 1912), i. 61. In some tribes of North-West America hunters habitually anointed their hair with decoctions of certain plants and deer's brains before they set out to hunt. The practice was probably a charm to secure success in the hunt. See C. Hill-Tout, The Home of the Salish and Déné (London, 1907), p. 72.
1 Samuel xxiv. 6. Messiah in Hebrew is Mashiah (משיה). The English form Messiah is derived from the Aramaic through the Greek. See T. K. Cheyne, in Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.v. “Messiah,” vol. iii. 3057 sqq. Why hair oil should be considered a vehicle of inspiration is by no means clear. It would have been intelligible if the olive had been with the Hebrews, as it was with the Athenians, a sacred tree under the immediate protection of a deity; for then a portion of the divine essence might be thought to reside in the oil. W. Robertson Smith supposed that the unction was originally performed with the fat of a sacrificial victim, for which vegetable oil was a later substitute (Religion of the Semites,2 pp. 383 sq.). On the whole subject see J. Wellhausen, “Zwei Rechtsriten bei den Hebräern,” Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, vii. (1904) pp. 33-39; H. Weinel, “משה und seine Derivate,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, xviii. (1898) pp. 1-82.
2 Samuel xxi. 1-14, with Dean Kirkpatrick's notes on 1 and 10.
The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, i. 284 sq.
1 Samuel xii. 17 sq. Similarly, Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven and the Lord sent thunder and rain (Exodus ix. 23). The word for thunder in both these passages is “voices” (קלות). The Hebrews heard in the clap of thunder the voice of Jehovah, just as the Greeks heard in it the voice of Zeus and the Romans the voice of Jupiter.
Ezekiel xiii. 11, 13, xxxviii. 22; Jeremiah iii. 2 sq. The Hebrews looked to Jehovah for rain (Leviticus xxvi. 3-5; Jeremiah v. 24) just as the Greeks looked to Zeus and the Romans to Jupiter.
Ezra x. 9-14. The special sin which they laid to heart on this occasion was their marriage with Gentile women. It is implied, though not expressly said, that they traced the inclemency of the weather to these unfortunate alliances. Similarly, “during the rainy season, when the sun is hidden behind great masses of dark clouds, the Indians set up a wailing for their sins, believing that the sun is angry and may never shine on them again.” See Francis C. Nicholas, “The Aborigines of Santa Maria, Colombia,” American Anthropologist, N.S., iii. (New York, 1901) p. 641. The Indians in question are the Aurohuacas of Colombia, in South America.
Psalm cxxxvii. The willows beside the rivers of Babylon are mentioned in the laments for Tammuz. See above, pp. 9, 10.
The line of the Dead Sea, lying in its deep trough, is visible from the Mount of Olives; indeed, so clear is the atmosphere that the blue water seems quite near the eye, though in fact it is more than fifteen miles off and nearly four thousand feet below the spectator. See K. Baedeker, Palestine and Syria4 (Leipsic, 1906), p. 77. When the sun shines on it, the lake is of a brilliant blue (G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, London, 1894, pp. 501 sq.); but its brilliancy is naturally dimmed under clouded skies.
2 Kings v. 5-7.
2 Samuel xxiv.; 1 Chronicles xxi. In this passage, contrary to his usual practice, the Chronicler has enlivened the dull tenor of his history with some picturesque touches which we miss in the corresponding passage of Kings. It is to him that we owe the vision of the Angel of the Plague first stretching out his sword over Jerusalem and then returning it to the scabbard. From him Defoe seems to have taken a hint in his account of the prodigies, real or imaginary, which heralded the outbreak of the Great Plague in London. “One time before the plague was begun, otherwise than as I have said in St. Giles's, I think it was in March, seeing a crowd of people in the street, I joined with them to satisfy my curiosity, and found them all staring up into the air to see what a woman told them appeared plain to her, which was an angel clothed in white with a fiery sword in his hand, waving it or brandishing it over his head.... One saw one thing and one another. I looked as earnestly as the rest, but, perhaps, not with so much willingness to be imposed upon; and I said, indeed, that I could see nothing but a white cloud, bright on one side, by the shining of the sun upon the other part.” See Daniel Defoe, History of the Plague in London (Edinburgh, 1810, pp. 33 sq.). It is the more likely that Defoe had here the Chronicler in mind, because a few pages earlier he introduces the prophet Jonah and a man out of Josephus with very good effect.
2 Kings xvii. 5 sq., xviii. 9 sq.
2 Kings xix. 32-36.
We owe to Ezekiel (xxiii. 5 sq., 12) the picture of the handsome Assyrian cavalrymen in their blue uniforms and gorgeous trappings. The prophet writes as if in his exile by the waters of Babylon he had seen the blue regiments filing past, in all the pomp of war, on their way to the front.
Samaria fell in 722 b.c., during or just before the reign of Hezekiah: the Book of Deuteronomy, the cornerstone of king Josiah's reformation, was produced in 621 b.c.; and Jerusalem fell in 586 b.c. The date of Hezekiah's accession is a much-disputed point in the chronology of Judah. See the Introduction to Kings and Isaiah i.-xxxix. by J. Skinner and O. C. Whitehouse respectively, in The Century Bible.
Or the Deuteronomic redactor, as the critics call him. See W. Robertson Smith, The Old Testament in the Jewish Church2 (London and Edinburgh, 1892), pp. 395 sq., 425; Encyclopaedia Biblica, ii. 2078 sqq., 2633 sqq., iv. 4273 sqq.; K. Budde, Geschichte der althebräischen Litteratur (Leipsic, 1906), pp. 99, 121 sqq., 127 sqq., 132; Principal J. Skinner, in his introduction to Kings (in The Century Bible), pp. 10 sqq.
Menander of Ephesus, quoted by Josephus, Contra Apionem, i. 18 (Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller, iv. 446); G. A. Cooke, Text-book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, No. 4, p. 26. According to Justin, however, the priest of Hercules, that is, of Melcarth, at Tyre, was distinct from the king and second to him in dignity. See Justin, xviii. 4, 5.
Hosea ii. 5 sqq.; W. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites2 (London, 1894), pp. 95-107.
W. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites,2 pp. 107 sq.
The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, ii. 120 sqq., 376 sqq.
Strabo, xvi. 1. 18, p. 755.
Lucian, De dea Syria, 9.
Eusebius, Vita Constantini, iii. 55; Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica, ii. 5; Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica, i. 18; Zosimus, i. 58.
On the valley of the Nahr Ibrahim, its scenery and monuments, see Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine3 (London, 1867), iii. 603-609; W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, Lebanon, Damascus, and beyond Jordan (London, 1886), pp. 239-246; E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie, pp. 282 sqq.; G. Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient Classique, ii. (Paris, 1897) pp. 175-179; Sir Charles Wilson, Picturesque Palestine (London, n.d.), iii. 16, 17, 27. Among the trees which line the valley are oak, sycamore, bay, plane, orange, and mulberry (W. M. Thomson, op. cit. p. 245). Travellers are unanimous in testifying to the extraordinary beauty of the vale of the Adonis. Thus Robinson writes: “There is no spot in all my wanderings on which memory lingers with greater delight than on the sequestered retreat and exceeding loveliness of Afka.” Renan says that the landscape is one of the most beautiful in the world. My friend the late Sir Francis Galton wrote to me (20th September 1906): “I have no good map of Palestine, but strongly suspect that my wanderings there, quite sixty years ago, took me to the place you mention, above the gorge of the river Adonis. Be that as it may, I have constantly asserted that the view I then had of a deep ravine and blue sea seen through the cliffs that bounded it, was the most beautiful I had ever set eyes on.”
Etymologicum Magnum, s.v. Ἄφακα, p. 175.
Melito, “Oration to Antoninus Caesar,” in W. Cureton's Spicilegium Syriacum (London, 1855), p. 44.
E. Renan, Mission de Phénicie, pp. 292-294. The writer seems to have no doubt that the beast attacking Adonis is a bear, not a boar. Views of the monument are given by A. Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients2 (Leipsic, 1906), p. 90, and by Baudissin, Adonis und Esmun, plates i. and ii., with his discussion, pp. 78 sqq.
Macrobius, Saturn, i. 21. 5.
Lucian, De dea Syria, 8.
F. C. Movers, Die Phoenizier, ii. 2, p. 224; G. Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient Classique, ii. 199; G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land (London, 1894), p. 135.
On the natural wealth of Cyprus see Strabo, xiv. 6. 5; W. H. Engel, Kypros, i. 40-71; F. C. Movers, Die Phoenizier, ii. 2, pp. 224 sq.; G. Maspero, Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient Classique, ii. 200 sq.; E. Oberhummer, Die Insel Cypern, i. (Munich, 1903) pp. 175 sqq., 243 sqq. As to the firs and cedars of Cyprus see Theophrastus, Historia Plantarum, v. 7. 1, v. 9. 1. The Cyprians boasted that they could build and rig a ship complete, from her keel to her topsails, with the native products of their island (Ammianus Marcellinus, xiv. 8. 14).
G. A. Cooke, Text-Book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, Nos. 12-25, pp. 55-76, 347-349; P. Gardner, New Chapters in Greek History (London, 1892), pp. 179, 185. It has been held that the name of Citium is etymologically identical with Hittite. If that was so, it would seem that the town was built and inhabited by a non-Semitic people before the arrival of the Phoenicians. See Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.v. “Kittim.” Other traces of this older race, akin to the primitive stock of Asia Minor, have been detected in Cyprus; amongst them the most obvious is the Cyprian syllabary, the characters of which are neither Phoenician nor Greek in origin. See P. Gardner, op. cit. pp. 154, 173-175, 178 sq.
G. A. Cooke, Text-Book of North-Semitic Inscriptions, No. 11, p. 52.
Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Ἀμαθοῦς; Pausanias, ix. 41. 2 sq. According to Pausanias, there was a remarkable necklace of green stones and gold in the sanctuary of Adonis and Aphrodite at Amathus. The Greeks commonly identified it with the necklace of Harmonia or Eriphyle. A terra-cotta statuette of Astarte, found at Amathus (?), represents her wearing a necklace which she touches with one hand. See L. P. di Cesnola, Cyprus (London, 1877), p. 275. The scanty ruins of Amathus occupy an isolated hill beside the sea. Among them is an enormous stone jar, half buried in the earth, of which the four handles are adorned with figures of bulls. It is probably of Phoenician manufacture. See L. Ross, Reisen nach Kos, Halikarnassos, Rhodes und der Insel Cypern (Halle, 1852), pp. 168 sqq.
Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Ἀμαθοῦς. For the relation of Adonis to Osiris at Byblus see below, vol. ii. pp. 9 sq., 22 sq., 127.
Hesychius, s.v. Μάλικα.
L. P. di Cesnola, Cyprus, pp. 254-283; G. Perrot et Ch. Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, iii. (Paris, 1885) pp. 216-222.
D. G. Hogarth, Devia Cypria (London, 1889), pp. 1-3; Encyclopaedia Britannica,9 vi. 747; Élisée Reclus, Nouvelle Géographie Universelle (Paris, 1879-1894), ix. 668.
T. L. Donaldson, Architectura Numismatica (London, 1859), pp. 107-109, with fig. 31; Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) pp. 210-213; G. F. Hill, Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Cyprus (London, 1904), pp. cxxvii-cxxxiv, with plates xiv. 2, 3, 6-8, xv. 1-4, 7, xvi. 2, 4, 6-9, xvii. 4-6, 8, 9, xxvi. 3, 6-16; George Macdonald, Catalogue of Greek Coins in the Hunterian Collection (Glasgow, 1899-1905), ii. 566, with pl. lxi. 19. As to the existing remains of the temple, which were excavated by an English expedition in 1887-1888, see “Excavations in Cyprus, 1887-1888,” Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) pp. 193 sqq. Previous accounts of the temple are inaccurate and untrustworthy.
C. Schuchhardt, Schliemann's Ausgrabungen2 (Leipsic, 1891), pp. 231-233; G. Perrot et Ch. Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, vi. (Paris, 1894) pp. 336 sq., 652-654; Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) pp. 213 sq.; P. Gardner, New Chapters in Greek History, p. 181.
J. Selden, De dis Syris (Leipsic, 1668), pp. 274 sqq.; S. Bochart, Hierozoicon, Editio Tertia (Leyden, 1692), ii. 4 sqq. Compare the statue of a priest with a dove in his hand, which was found in Cyprus (Perrot et Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, iii. Paris, 1885, p. 510), with fig. 349.
A. J. Evans, “Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult,” Journal of Hellenic Studies, xxi. (1901) pp. 99 sqq.
Tacitus, Annals, iii. 62.
Herodotus, i. 105; compare Pausanias, i. 14. 7. Herodotus only speaks of the sanctuary of Aphrodite in Cyprus, but he must refer to the great one at Paphos. At Ascalon a goddess was worshipped in mermaid-shape under the name of Derceto, and fish and doves were sacred to her (Diodorus Siculus, ii. 4; compare Lucian, De dea Syria, 14). The name Derceto, like the much more correct Atargatis, is a Greek corruption of 'Attâr, the Aramaic form of Astarte, but the two goddesses Atargatis and Astarte, in spite of the affinity of their names, appear to have been historically distinct. See Ed. Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums,2 i. 2 (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1909), pp. 605, 650 sq.; F. Baethgen, Beiträge zur Semitischen Religionsgeschichte (Berlin, 1888), pp. 68 sqq.; F. Cumont, s.vv. “Atargatis” and “Dea Syria,” in Pauly-Wissowa's Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft; René Dussaud, Notes de Mythologie Syrienne (Paris, 1903), pp. 82 sqq.; R. A. Stewart Macalister, The Philistines, their History and Civilization (London, 1913), pp. 94 sqq.
It is described by ancient writers and figured on coins. See Tacitus, Hist. ii. 3; Maximus Tyrius, Dissert. viii. 8; Servius on Virgil, Aen. i. 720; T. L. Donaldson, Architectura Numismatica, p. 107, with fig. 31; Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) pp. 210-212. According to Maximus Tyrius, the material of the pyramid was unknown. Probably it was a stone. The English archaeologists found several fragments of white cones on the site of the temple at Paphos: one which still remains in its original position in the central chamber was of limestone and of somewhat larger size (Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) p. 180).
See above, p. 14.
On coins of Perga the sacred cone is represented as richly decorated and standing in a temple between sphinxes. See B. V. Head, Historia Numorum (Oxford, 1887), p. 585; P. Gardner, Types of Greek Coins (Cambridge, 1883), pl. xv. No. 3; G. F. Hill, Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia (London, 1897), pl. xxiv. 12, 15, 16. However, Mr. G. F. Hill writes to me: “Is the stone at Perga really a cone? I have always thought it was a cube or something of that kind. On the coins the upper, sloping portion is apparently an elaborate veil or head-dress. The head attached to the stone is seen in the middle of this, surmounted by a tall kalathos.” The sanctuary stood on a height, and a festival was held there annually (Strabo, xiv. 4. 2, p. 667). The native title of the goddess was Anassa, that is, “Queen.” See B. V. Head, l.c.; Wernicke, s.v. “Artemis,” in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ii. 1, col. 1397. Aphrodite at Paphos bore the same title. See below, p. 42, note 6. The worship of Pergaean Artemis at Halicarnassus was cared for by a priestess, who held office for life and had to make intercession for the city at every new moon. See G. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum2 (Leipsic, 1898-1901), vol. ii. p. 373, No. 601.
Herodian, v. 3. 5. This cone was of black stone, with some small knobs on it, like the stone of Cybele at Pessinus. It is figured on coins of Emesa. See B. V. Head, Historia Numorum (Oxford, 1887), p. 659; P. Gardner, Types of Greek Coins, pl. xv. No. 1. The sacred stone of Cybele, which the Romans brought from Pessinus to Rome during the Second Punic War, was small, black, and rugged, but we are not told that it was of conical shape. See Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, vii. 49; Livy, xxix. 11. 7. According to one reading, Servius (on Virgil, Aen. vii. 188) speaks of the stone of Cybele as a needle (acus), which would point to a conical shape. But the reading appears to be without manuscript authority, and other emendations have been suggested.
G. Perrot et Ch. Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, iii. 273, 298 sq., 304 sq. The sanctuary of Aphrodite, or rather Astarte, at Golgi is said to have been even more ancient than her sanctuary at Paphos (Pausanias, viii. 5. 2).
W. M. Flinders Petrie, Researches in Sinai (London, 1906), pp. 135 sq., 189. Votive cones made of clay have been found in large numbers in Babylonia, particularly at Lagash and Nippur. See M. Jastrow, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria (Boston, U.S.A., 1898), pp. 672-674.
Tacitus, Hist. ii. 3.
We learn this from an inscription found at Paphos. See Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) pp. 188, 231.
Pausanias, x. 24. 6, with my note.
D. G. Hogarth, A Wandering Scholar in the Levant (London, 1896), pp. 179 sq. Women used to creep through a holed stone to obtain children at a place on the Dee in Aberdeenshire. See Balder the Beautiful, ii. 187.
G. Perrot et Ch. Chipiez, Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquité, iii. 628.
Herodotus, i. 199; Athenaeus, xii. 11, p. 516 a; Justin, xviii. 5. 4; Lactantius, Divin. Inst. i. 17; W. H. Engel, Kypros, ii. 142 sqq. Asiatic customs of this sort have been rightly explained by W. Mannhardt (Antike Wald- und Feldkulte, pp. 283 sqq.).
Herodotus, i. 199; Strabo, xvi. 1. 20, p. 745. As to the identity of Mylitta with Astarte see H. Zimmern in E. Schrader's Die Keilinschriften und das alte Testament,3 pp. 423, note 7, 428, note 4. According to him, the name Mylitta comes from Mu'allidtu, “she who helps women in travail.” In this character Ishtar would answer to the Greek Artemis and the Latin Diana. As to sacred prostitution in the worship of Ishtar see M. Jastrow, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 475 sq., 484 sq.; P. Dhorme, La Religion Assyro-Babylonienne (Paris, 1910), pp. 86, 300 sq.
Eusebius, Vita Constantini, iii. 58; Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica, i. 18. 7-9; Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica, v. 10. 7. Socrates says that at Heliopolis local custom obliged the women to be held in common, so that paternity was unknown, “for there was no distinction of parents and children, and the people prostituted their daughters to the strangers who visited them” (τοῖς παριοῦσι ξένοις). The prostitution of matrons as well as of maids is mentioned by Eusebius. As he was born and spent his life in Syria, and was a contemporary of the practices he describes, the bishop of Caesarea had the best opportunity of informing himself as to them, and we ought not, as Prof. M. P. Nilsson does (Griechische Feste, Leipsic, 1906, p. 366 n.2), to allow his positive testimony on this point to be outweighed by the silence of the later historian Sozomenus, who wrote long after the custom had been abolished. Eusebius had good reason to know the heathenish customs which were kept up in his diocese; for he was sharply taken to task by Constantine for allowing sacrifices to be offered on altars under the sacred oak or terebinth at Mamre; and in obedience to the imperial commands he caused the altars to be destroyed and an oratory to be built instead under the tree. So in Ireland the ancient heathen sanctuaries under the sacred oaks were converted by Christian missionaries into churches and monasteries. See Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica, i. 18; The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, ii. 242 sq.
Athanasius, Oratio contra Gentes, 26 (Migne's Patrologia Graeca, xxv. 52), γυναῖκες γοῦν ἐν εἰδωλείοις τῆς Φοινικῆς πάλαι προεκαθέζοντο, ἀπαρχόμεναι τοῖς ἐκεῖ θέοις ἑαυτῶν τὴν τοῦ σώματος αὐτῶν μισθαρνίαν, νομίζουσαι τῇ πορνειᾳ τὴν θέον ἑαυτῶν ἰλάσκεσθαι καὶ εἰς εὐμενείαν ἄγειν αὐτὴν διὰ τούτων. The account of the Phoenician custom which is given by H. Ploss (Das Weib,2 i. 302) and repeated after him by Fr. Schwally (Semitische Kriegsaltertümer, Leipsic, 1901, pp. 76 sq.) may rest only on a misapprehension of this passage of Athanasius. But if it is correct, we may conjecture that the slaves who deflowered the virgins were the sacred slaves of the temples, the ḳedeshim, and that they discharged this office as the living representatives of the god. As to these ḳedeshim, or “sacred men,” see above, pp. 17 sq., and below, pp. 72 sqq.
The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, translated and edited by R. H. Charles (London, 1908), chapter xii. p. 81.
Lucian, De dea Syria, 6. The writer is careful to indicate that none but strangers were allowed to enjoy the women (ἡ δὲ ἀγορὴ μούνοισι ξείνοισι παρακέεται).
The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, i. 30 sq.
Herodotus, i. 93 sq.; Athenaeus, xii. 11, pp. 515 sq.
W. M. Ramsay, “Unedited Inscriptions of Asia Minor,” Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, vii. (1883) p. 276; id., Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, i. (Oxford, 1895) pp. 94 sq., 115.
Strabo, xi. 14. 16, p. 532.
Strabo, xii. 3. 32, 34 and 36, pp. 557-559; compare xii. 2. 3, p. 535. Other sanctuaries in Pontus, Cappadocia, and Phrygia swarmed with sacred slaves, and we may conjecture, though we are not told, that many of these slaves were prostitutes. See Strabo, xi. 8. 4, xii. 2. 3 and 6, xii. 3. 31 and 37, xii. 8. 14.
On this great Asiatic goddess and her lovers see especially Sir W. M. Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, i. 87 sqq.
Compare W. Mannhardt, Antike Wald- und Feldkulte, pp. 284 sq.; W. Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, New Edition (London, 1902), pp. 171-174. Similarly in Camul, formerly a province of the Chinese Empire, the men used to place their wives at the disposal of any foreigners who came to lodge with them, and deemed it an honour if the guests made use of their opportunities. The emperor, hearing of the custom, forbade the people to observe it. For three years they obeyed, then, finding that their lands were no longer fruitful and that many mishaps befell them, they prayed the emperor to allow them to retain the custom, “for it was by reason of this usage that their gods bestowed upon them all the good things that they possessed, and without it they saw not how they could continue to exist.” See The Book of Ser Marco Polo, translated and edited by Colonel Henry Yule, Second Edition (London, 1875), i. 212 sq. Here apparently the fertility of the soil was deemed to depend on the intercourse of the women with strangers, not with their husbands. Similarly, among the Oulad Abdi, an Arab tribe of Morocco, “the women often seek a divorce and engage in prostitution in the intervals between their marriages; during that time they continue to dwell in their families, and their relations regard their conduct as very natural. The administrative authority having bestirred itself and attempted to regulate this prostitution, the whole population opposed the attempt, alleging that such a measure would impair the abundance of the crops.” See Edmond Doutté, Magie et Religion dans l'Afrique du Nord (Algiers, 1908), pp. 560 sq.
Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii. 14, p. 13, ed. Potter; Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, v. 19; compare Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum, 10.
In Hebrew a temple harlot was regularly called “a sacred woman” (kĕdēsha). See Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.v. “Harlot”; S. R. Driver, on Genesis xxxviii. 21. As to such “sacred women” see below, pp. 70 sqq.
Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii. 13, p. 12, ed. Potter; Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, v. 19; Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum, 10.
Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, iii. 14. 3.
Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, iii. 14. 3. I follow the text of R. Wagner's edition in reading Μεγασσάρου τοῦ Ὑριέων βασιλέως. As to Hyria in Isauria see Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Ὑρία. The city of Celenderis, on the south coast of Cilicia, possessed a small harbour protected by a fortified peninsula. Many ancient tombs survived till recent times, but have now mostly disappeared. It was the port from which the Turkish couriers from Constantinople used to embark for Cyprus. As to the situation and remains see F. Beaufort, Karmania (London, 1817), p. 201; W. M. Leake, Journal of a Tour in Asia Minor (London, 1824), pp. 114-118; R. Heberdey und A. Wilhelm, “Reisen in Kilikien,” Denkschriften der kais. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosoph.-historische Classe, xliv. (1896) No. vi. p. 94. The statement that the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos was founded by the Arcadian Agapenor, who planted a colony in Cyprus after the Trojan war (Pausanias, viii. 5. 2), may safely be disregarded.
Tacitus, Hist. ii. 3; Annals, iii. 62.
Tacitus, Hist. ii. 3; Hesychius, s.v. Ταμιράδαι.
Pindar, Pyth. ii. 13-17.
Tyrtaeus, xii. 6 (Poetae Lyrici Graeci, ed. Th. Bergk,3 Leipsic, 1866-1867, ii. 404); Pindar, Pyth. viii. 18; Plato, Laws, ii. 6, p. 660 e; Clement of Alexandria, Paedag. iii. 6, p. 274, ed. Potter; Dio Chrysostom, Orat. viii. (vol. i. p. 149, ed. L. Dindorf); Julian, Epist. lix. p. 574, ed. F. C. Hertlein; Diogenianus, viii. 53; Suidas, s.v. Καταγηράσαις.
Schol. on Pindar, Pyth. ii. 15 (27); Hesychius, s.v. Κινυράδαι; Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. iii. 45, p. 40, ed. Potter; Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, vi. 6. That the kings of Paphos were also priests of the goddess is proved, apart from the testimony of ancient writers, by inscriptions found on the spot. See H. Collitz, Sammlung der griechischen Dialektinschriften, i. (Göttingen, 1884) p. 22, Nos. 38, 39, 40. The title of the goddess in these inscriptions is Queen or Mistress (Ϝανασ(σ)ἀς). It is perhaps a translation of the Semitic Baalath.
Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, ii. 8. The name of the gardener-king was Alynomus. That the Cinyrads existed as a family down to Macedonian times is further proved by a Greek inscription found at Old Paphos, which records that a certain Democrates, son of Ptolemy, head of the Cinyrads, and his wife Eunice, dedicated a statue of their daughter to the Paphian Aphrodite. See L. Ross, “Inschriften von Cypern,” Rheinisches Museum, N.F. vii. (1850) pp. 520 sq. It seems to have been a common practice of parents to dedicate statues of their sons or daughters to the goddess at Paphos. The inscribed pedestals of many such statues were found by the English archaeologists. See Journal of Hellenic Studies, ix. (1888) pp. 228, 235, 236, 237, 241, 244, 246, 255.