Mythology (from μῦθος, a tale, and λόγος, a word) is, according to Pococke (India in Greece, page 2, note), intended strictly as a term synonymous with "invention," having no historical basis. Yet by usage the word is confined to fictions made in the early periods of a people's existence, for the purpose of presenting their religious belief, and generally their oldest traditions, in an attractive form. The tendency to create myths in this way seems inherent in every people; certainly there is no people so sunk into the brute as to be without them. And, what is more noteworthy, the systems of mythology have by no means ceased to exist even in our own day. They have only taken different shapes, and have been more widely diffused. The name is changed, while the essence remains. In losing their character of celestial reference they have become more earthly and less splendid and imposing, but their vitality is as great as ever. We might almost say of the gods as some do of the relics of saints of the Romish Church, that the more they are divided the more they multiply. The mystery with which the popular fancy delights to envelop them serves instead of the immortal ambrosia which ministers to their heavenly life. "Nothing," says De Gubernatis, "clings to the earth more closely than a superstition. A scientific truth requires years and sometimes centuries before it can obtain general acceptance. The ancient myth gives us the germ of many existing traditions, and in the same manner the current popular legends often explain the enigma of the old celestial personifications" (Zoological Mythology, volume 1, Introd.).
Myths may be divided into several classes. The most important is the moral and theological. The latter of these two is of course the more important; for it is in the myth that the oldest theology of all nonChristian nations is embodied. "Mythology," says one, "is not occupied merely or mainly with strange fancies and marvellous fictions, invented for the sake of amusement, but contains the fundamental ideas belonging to the moral and religious nature of man as they have been embodied by the imaginative faculty of the most favored races. It is this dominance of the imagination, so characteristic of the early stages of society, which gives to myth its peculiar dramatic expression, and stamps the popular creed of all nations with the character of a poetry of nature, of man, and of God." Hence. arises the great importance of mythological study for the religious student, now so universally recognised.
Mythology, or, more strictly speaking, religious mythology, may be taken in a wider or a narrower sense. In its wider signification it includes all that was believed or might be affirmed concerning the gods of any polytheistic system — not only theology, or the doctrine concerning their nature, attributes, and operations, but their interferences in the history of the world. From the very nature of the case, the myth-producing faculty exercises itself with exuberance only under the polytheistic form of religion; for there only does a sufficient number of celestial personages exist whose attributes and actions may be clothed in a historical dress. There is nothing, however, to prevent even a monotheistic people from exhibiting certain great ideas of their faith in a narrative form, so as by prosaic minds to be taken for literal historical facts. The first of these divisions answers to the doctrine concerning God found in the Scriptures; the other to the manifestation of God in the events of the world, and especially in Jewish history. Besides strictly theological myths, there are physical myths, that is, fictions representing the most striking appearances and changes of external nature in the form of poetical history; in which view the connection of legends about giants, chimeras, etc., with regions marked by peculiar volcanic phenomena, has often been observed. It is difficult indeed, in polytheistic religions, to draw any strict line between physical and theological myths; as the divinity of all the operations of nature is the first postulate of polytheism, and every physical phenomenon becomes the manifestation of a god. Again, though it may appear a contradiction, there are historical myths; that is, marvellous legends about persons who may with probability be supposed to have actually existed. So intermingled, indeed, is fact with fable in early timne that there must always be a kind of debatable land between plain theological myth and recognised historical fact. The land is occupied by what are called the heroic myths; that is, legends about heroes, concerning whom it may often be doubtful whether they are merely a sort of inferior and more human-like gods, or only men of more than ordinary powers whom the popular imagination has elevated into demigods. Schelling, in his philosophy of mythology, uses the word in a somewhat broad meaning. He says that "these (divine, or mythological) personalities are at the same time thought of both in certain natural and in certain historical relations to one another. Kronus is called a son of Uranus; this is a natural — when he emasculates and dethrones his father, this is a historical, relation. As, however, natural relations in the wider sense are historical, this element is sufficiently indicated when we speak of it as the historical one" (Lect. 1, page 7). And he goes on to remark that by their very nature the gods of heathenism as mythological beings have a historical character. They enter into the world of events in that part of the system of heathen religions, or rather of some religions, which speaks of their birth and of their relations among themselves, aside from any manifestations to men or interferences in human affairs. But if we make a distinction between the doctrinal part of polytheism, or of any particular religion, as that of India or Greece, and the historical part from which and from its cultus the doctrinal part, or the religious faith, is ascertained, we shall not be far out of the way. For the doctrinal part we refer to the article POLYTHEISM SEE POLYTHEISM . For the sake of greater clearness, however, we shall, by way of preface, proceed to enumerate some of the principles which ought to be borne in mind when we treat of mythology. We mention (1) that the divine power or life-giving energy in nature was divided up in heathenism into many separate powers, which were personified, and even became to the heathen mind persons, endowed with separate wills, desires, and intelligence.
(2) These divine powers, or gods, cast off their connection with the natural object out of which they grew, so that the connection in the end was no longer obvious to the heathen mind. In this way they entered into various relations to a nation, a tribe, or a class of men; they acquired special moral qualities or attributes of various kinds; and thus all the interests of society in all its subdivisions, all arts and employments, everything in the physical world and among men, was placed under their care.
(3) They were conceived of as having human passions and desires; they had distinctions of sex — originally because active causes, as the sun, were aptly conceived of as masculine, and passive, like the earth, as feminine; they had marriages among themselves, and as they assumed human or other shape at will, they could have connections with human beings also.
(4) As objects of nature originally, and as many in number, they all had limited powers, and, while they were immortal, had had a beginning of their existence. The theogony — Hesiod's, for instance — is a part of the cosmogony which in several religions of heathenism was devised — somewhat later than the rise of mythology — to explain the original condition of the world and the way the gods came into existence. As man comes into being by procreation, so in general the existence of the gods is in the same way accounted for. Matter itself is for the most part conceived of as eternal.
(5) When the mythological process was in full activity, not only did powers of nature become persons before the imagination and faith of the polytheist, but moral powers or causes also, abstract and general conceptions, feelings, and the like, were turned into personified agents, or even into persons. Thus among the Greeks, Themis, or justice, Nemesis, or retribution, the Moirai (shares, allotments, fates, Latin Parcae), became personified, and even assumed personal existence, together with a multitude of others. And so by the side of the gods, properly so called, a multitude of subordinate beings, who grew out of such personifications, were worshipped among the Greeks and Romans, and formed a portion of a very large class which may be called secondary divinities, consisting, among others, of representatives of the life of smaller objects in nature, such as wood, fountain, and other nymphs and spirits; or of daemons attendant on higher gods, and of heroes, or the spirits of deceased men, as also of demigods, or men with a divine father or mother, who played a part second to no other in classical mythology.
(6) The mythological age cannot, on account of our want of historical records, have any exact limits assigned to it. It began in the earliest infancy of nations. We see the mythological spirit in the Vedau, which point back to an age from 1500 to 2000 years anterior to the birth of Christ. We find the Greek mythology fully mature in the age when the Homeric poems were written, and a rude philosophy working up its materials in the Hesiodic poems. Centuries must have elapsed before Homer, during which men looked at nature and the world in this spirit. The poets collected the myths of various parts of Greece, and gave to them a general Grecian stamp, but they did not originally invent them, nor were the gods imported from Egypt, the affirmation of Herodotus to the contrary notwithstanding. The end of this mythologizing spirit is also indefinite. Some few historical events are intermingled with myths, but the connection was later than the myth. To say that they ceased when history began is to say no more, properly speaking, than that for a time mythology and the historical spirit were in conflict, and that, as the result, mythology was looked on as the history of the past.
So far as the actions and interferences of the gods form a part of mythology, it was in no sense a product of imposture. No priests or poets, or persons sustaining both characters, invented it. The poet and his hearers had the same faith, and their imaginations were in the same mythological condition: they honestly believed in the general doctrines of the theology, and the general system of divine interference in the affairs of men, of which they introduced the particulars into their poetry. Otherwise they could have met with no responsive chord in the souls of the people; or, if unbelieving themselves, they would not have searched out and reproduced the myths all through the epic age and afterwards. It is folly to suppose that the men of the myth-making times, or of the epic times, played with religion, or looked with critical eyes on the fables of the poets; or, for a long time, were injured in their moral sensibilities by the imnmoralities and grossness of many portions of the stories which were recited to them by the rhapsodists. This, however, is to be observed:
(1) That the epic poets of the Homeric period, and of the cyclical school afterwards, must have felt free to transform and work over and add to the myths which they received or gathered as their stock in trade. This is no more than Christian believers, such as Milton or Klopstoek, have done, without the least suspicion that they were practicing a fraud, or irreverently tampering with sacred things.
(2) The logographs or mythographs — the collectors of mythology into one corpus, the translators into prose of the epic sagas — these persons did allow themselves to make alterations; they may have invented connections between myths, so as to make them fit into their framework and form one whole; they may to some extent have given an improved version of one or another of the fables, under the conscious or unconscious influence of a rationalizing spirit.
(3) The lyric poets in making use of the same materials went a little further. Pindar is offended by the immoral acts imputed to the gods, and thus we see that a higher moral standard is beginning to cause a conflict between religious myths and the moral sense. This is more evident afterwards, and was one of the causes of the scepticism of later Greece. We have on record a remarkable story relating to Stesichorus, one of the earliest lyric poets. In the beginning of an ode he had indulged in invectives against Helen, and, as a retribution for his evil speaking, lost his eyesight. He then composed his Helena, in which his version of her story was that she never went to Troy, but her phantom, or eidolon, took her place; his eyesight was thereupon restored. This furnished to Euripides the argument of the drama of Helena. The nucleus of truth here is that the poet deserted the received fable for another which was thought to be new with him (Stesich. Frag. in Bergk, 29; Herm. Praef. in Eurip. Hel.; Bernhardy, Gesch. Griech. Lit. 2:473).
(4) The tragic poets indulged in still greater liberties. AEschylus and Sophocles, being religious believers, still respected the myths; while Euripides, an unbeliever, cared little for them except as materials for his verse.
(5) In a still later age they were mere materials for works of poetry and art; and that a poet interwove them inl his narrative is no proof that he received them as true. It must be observed, also, that in the mouth and recollection of the people myths could not remain exactly fixed. They changed from age to age. The spot where the events were first reputed to happen had afterwards many competitors. The actors, especially the minor actors, varied. The poets chose what suited them best, or what first presented itself. Hence it happens that a more antique form of a myth is sometimhes picked out of the fragments of some obscure writer, or of some modern author like Pausanias, who went about among the people, or had access to authorities now lost.
The main inquiry is, How did the myths arise, if neither priest nor poet, neither fraud nor conscious invention, was the source of the great mass of them? When we say that they arose by the power of the imagination looking at the world as being full of life, or by the mythologizing process, we say nothing. When we draw analogies from modern myths — as the story of Roland, or the Holy Grail, or the epic of Arthur and his Knights — or trace the marvellous alterations which the life of Alexander the Great underwent iul a series of poems and prose narratives, to be found in all the languages of Europe and in some of those of Asia, we still fall short of the explanation (comp. Grote, Hist. of Greece, 1, end). For in the first place there is in most of the modern myths a germ of fact, as, for instance, in the story of Roland; but the myths relating to the gods had no intrinsical, bit only physical, facts for their foundation. When we come to the myths of the heroic times of Greece, there must have been historical events in some shape, perhaps very much distorted, out of which they grew. The machinery in the epic stories founded on these myths — in other words, the interventions of the gods — were conformed to a belief of an age when the material was first chosen for the songs of the rhapsodists; but the difficulty still remains how the religious element of the myths became united with the rest. It is easy enough to see that a story like that of Roland, or a tradition of a siege of Troy, possessing sources of interest for the national mind, should by and by grow in the multitude of its details, be worked over, be altered in the mouth of the people or by the poetsthis is what happens on a small scale every day; but it is hard to account for the turning of celestial phenomena into events of history. This does not happen now. The power to do it is lost. If, for instance, the passage of the sun through the signs of the Zodiac — a yearly occurrence — becomes, through some faith of the ancient mind and some power of the imagination, the series of labors of a demigod like Hercules, struggling against monsters on the earth, and doing his work in its particulars once for all, we must say that there is no analogy for this in the present state of the world. The world of physical nature and the world of history are separated now by fixed limits. How in the mvthological age did a fact of nature turn into a fact of history? That is the great difficulty which we encounter while speculating on mythology, and it meets us in all the fables concerning the gods of such a nation as Greece, India, or ancient Germany. Mythology must continue a mystery until this is explained.
In attempting a solution of a part of this problem, we must bear in mind the conception of the gods already spoken of, and the sway of the imagination looking out on the life of the world, and conceiving of it as directly originated by superhuman spiritual causes, and not as yet recognizing, to the degree that we do, the control of secondary, physical laws. Take a single instance, that of Apollo. We assume here that Apollo was at first a sun-god; this, although no traces of such an identification appear in the poets before AEschylus, and although it has been denied by some writers on mythology (as by Voss, Mythol. Briefe, 2:378 sq.), is nowr admitted by the later and best scholars, in whose hands the Greek religion has been cleared of many of its difficulties (as, e.g., Creuzer, Welcker, Preller. and others). And it was the sun-god with a personality aftel the fashion of men, although the sun, Helios, still retained a place — a subordinate place — in Greek worship, just as Demeter, the earth-goddess, entered into the events of the world by the side of Guea, earth, whose action was nearly confined to the myths of the cosmogony. The sun was thought to produce pestilence through the excessive heats of summer and autumn. Apollo therefore was conceived of as originating pestilential disease. The sun's rays are naturally thought of as darted forth from the body of the sun itself. Apollo now became an archer, the god of the silver-bow; and when at the beginning of the Iliad evil disease was sent through the army before Troy, it was because Apollo was angry at the treatment which his priest, Chryses, met with from Agamemnon. Here we have moral ideas, the god's protection of an injured suppliant, and relations which only a personal existence could assume. The god came down from Olympus — where we have a society of the upper gods under Zeus — he shot his arrow into the army, the mules and dogs first, then the men, were smitten and died. But this sun-god has human feelings and can be propitiated; he can turn away his darts and heal disease. Perhaps here, too, a physical phenomenon may explain the attribute, that as the sun generates pestilence when there is an undue amount of moisture and heat, so his tempered rays bring health. However this may be, the author of pestilence became the arrester of it; he is called Hekaergos, the driver off; and in the Doric dialect Apellon, the averter, which in common Greek became Apollon. As an averter, he is the curer of disease — Paeon or Paean, the healer. His connection with music and poetry is more accidental; and his relations to political and social life (which were so important that he became the leading divinity of Greece) must be explained on historical grounds. His name, Phoebus, the bright or pure, brings him again into connection with the sun and with purifying rites. He was a source of inspiration as well at Delphi as to others besides the priestess of the oracle — for instance, to the Sibyls. All this, however, does not reach the difficulty. It is quite conceivable that mythological divinities should thus arise, as well as that events which are of common occurrence should be attributed to a special god. But go beyond such events, and you get into deeper water. Take the story of Niobe, for instance, and its explanation by two of the principal mythologers, Welcker (Gr. Gdtter. 3) and Preller (Gr. Mythol. 2:283). Omitting details, Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, the mother of many children, exalted herself against Leto (Latona) because she had given birth to two children only, Apollo and Artemis. Accordingly the angry god avenged his mother; the children of Niobe were shot down, and she wasted away in grief. She was turned into stone, and her stone image was shown on Mount Sipylus, not far from Magnesia, in Asia Minor. This is an Asiatic myth, naturalized in Greece proper, and it signifies the decay of the products of the earth. Niobe is Rhea, the earth-mother, whose multitude of offspring, born in spring, are withered by the god of light in autumn; or, as Welcker explains it, the new or renewed nature (Niobe being from the root denoting new), losing her children by the solar heat, mourns for them like Rachel. What renders this fable verv remarkable is the stone on Mount Sipylus, which many travellers describe (comp. Hamilton, Asia Minor, 1:49, 50) as having the resemblance of an image. Now, whether these or other explanations deserve the preference, we have an annually recurring event turned into a historical and personal event that happened once for all. Here the difficulty comes up again, and is coming up continually. The myth of Cybele and Attis, that of Adonis or Thammuz, that of Osiris, in the same way probably arose out of annually recurring physical phenomena, and yet they Stood before the ancient mind as individual events that did not repeat themselves. In these myths dead gods represent the annual decay of life in nature. And so with much more certainty can we interpret the rape of Proserpine in a physical way. She is snatched by the underground king — Hades, or the invisible one — and carried to his abode within the earth to be his wife. Here the myth takes the form of a stealing of a bride, which can be traced in Greece, and even now is found in the practice of many tribes. In consequence of the protests and grief of Demeter, it was arranged that she should be on earth with her mother two thirds of the year, and one third below with her husband, Hades. This threefold division clearly points to the division of the season in the early times of Greece into spring, summer, and winter (literally, ear, early time; theros, hot time; and cheima, either snow- time, from a root extant in Sanscrit, or pouring-time, rainy time, from Greek χέω). Thus the principle of vegetative life manifests itself in spring and summer only. This myth is the most important one that the Greeks had, as it lay at the foundation of the worship and mysteries at Eleusis. We have explained it in its main features to our satisfaction; but; supposing that we have been successful, the conversion of a recurring physical phenomenon into, a historical. event which appears in it we find hard to explain. We may say the gods became persons: their attributes, before physical, are now personal attributes; what they do must have a historical quality, must be like human actions; so that if anything physical was attributed to them before, it would be incongruous with their new personal, non-physical nature. But still this turning-point is dark to us, because we are other men than those of the mvthological period; we have no longer the mythological faculty in its full exercise — nay, it is all but dead. The anthropomorphic tendency — which men cannot escape from in speaking of the God of the Scriptures whenever they are exalted in their feelings — aided the mythological process, as well as the desire to express an object of worship in human form. But this pertains rather to the article POLYTHEISM SEE POLYTHEISM , where it will be spoken of more at length.
Not all nations are equally mythological, and some which have historical myths to show are not rich at all in religious myths. The Aryan race had in most of its divisions, as among the Hindus, the Greeks, the Germans and Northmen, and the Slavonians, a great richness of conception and imagination in this respect; but to none was it given as to the Greeks to stamp the impress of beauty on their mythology, so that their art and poetry, although built on mythology, still charms the Christian world. The Romans were poor in the number of their religious myths, for which the reason may be that they were formal and conscientiously scrupulous in their worship rather than free and gay; or possibly their myths may have been driven into oblivion by early culture derived from Greece. The Shemitic nations and Egypt had also a poor mythology, copious as the pantheon of the last mentioned was. It is said that the myth of Isis, Osiris, and Typhon was their only one. Thus it must either have expelled others from circulation, or none ever existed. Probably there were other myths in remote times. The Persian religion was of Aryan origin, although in centring all interest on the lasting strife between Ormusd and Ahriman it seems to have somewhat chilled the mythmaking power. Its pantheon of inferior gods or daemons was copious enough, but the grand moral idea swallowed up every other. Their myth-making faculty is exercised in their cosmogony and eschatology, but concerns itself little with special historical relations between man and the divinities. The primitive tribes of this continent were far from wanting in this power, although the forms of their myths are like the imaginings of children. All this shows that mankind are much the same in all races, that resemblances do not necessarily prove one or another race to have been the borrower, and that the religions of nature, man being what he is, have a necessary existence. Again, the myths of a religious character, in which the gods enter into human history, show a craving on the part of man for intercourse with the gods. It was no strange thing that myths should arise where there was no revelation, or where a primitive revelation had been lost; it was equally not strange that a real revelation should take the historical form.
There are certain myths which narrate the origin of the world and the births of the gods. These cosmogonical and theogonical narratives are found alike among the Indians of this continent, among the Greeks, the Syrians, in the Teutonic race, and elsewhere. These of course can be, in great part, nothing else than early human speculations put into a religious mythic shape. They are the rude, childish philosophy of early men, who try to solve the riddles presented to human reflection without knowledge of law and of the world. We believe we may affirm it to be a general truth that no natural religion conceives of a creation out of nothing, and to a great extent the gods had no eternal existence. There was, then, a necessity of a primitive firm or stuff out of which the life and thought of the'vorld was evolved. In the Greek speculation on the first origin of things, the rudest shape of matter was the first, and the progress was towards the more perfect, until their thought reached the present condition of things. In Hesiod's theogony there is a strange mixture of true personalities and allegorical ideas, but a connection of one with another, a birth or evolution, runs through all except the first. Chaos came to be (ἐγένετο); then the broad-breasted Earth, and Tartarus in the dark recess of spacious Earth, and Eros (most beautiful among the immortal gods). From Chaos Erebus and Night were born (ἐγένοντο); from Night AEther and Day, the progeny of Night and Erebus. Earth first bare starry Uranus to cover her over on every side, with the Hills and the Pontus, without sexual love; then to Uranus she bore many children — the Titans, among whom was Kronus (Saturn), the Cyclops, and the hundred-handed ones. Uranus hid his children, as they were born, in a cavern below the earth, but Kronus mutilated him with the advice of Gaea, and reigned in his stead. From Kronus and Rhea a new class of gods were born, whom the god swallowed, lest any of them should seize his throne, which Uranus and Gaea forewarned him of as being his destiny. When, however, Zeus was born, he was privily conveyed away; and a stone wrapped up in an infant's clothing was swallowed in his stead by Kronus. These children, with the stone, Kronus was made to disgorge, and Zeus, overcoming his father and his Titans, took the throne. In this strange medley, where allegorical beings and such as never received divine honors are put among the gods, we find the Titans playing a great part, who can have had no veneration as gods in the earliest Greek religion. We find also three dynasties: Uranus and Gaea, Kronus and Rhea, and Zeus with Hera. Schelling, following an earlier writer, supposes this to be a tradition of three successive forms of worship, the first and second of which were dualistic. But there is no evidence within the Greek records worth anything going to show that Uranus was ever an object of worship. It is probable that the word itself is connected with Varuna, a highly honored Aryan divinity of the Vedic times. The prevalence, however, of such a worship in Greece, or of a worship of Kronus (i.e., either of time personified, or of a divinity corresponding in part with the Roman Saturnus, and having also some Phoenician characteristics drawn from Moloch), prior to that of Zeus, cannot be made out. Nor is there any proof that the Greeks held to a dualism something like that of the Chinese. On the contrary, the Vedic gods, worshipped seven or eight centuries before Hesiod, show that in that early age a polytheism had already been evolved. As was said once before, the whole theogony shows a philosopher with his materials before him, using the cement of his own reflections to unite them together in one structure. We do not mean to say that one man did all this, but that it was not popular tradition. This was necessarily so, for the popular mind knew nothing of a cosmogony. It had no facts to work upon, as it had in the formation of the religions of nature as she appears in the present order of things. We might go on and speak of the cosmogonies of other nations, but the Greek systemthe clearest of all-will show, we think, that the part of mythology in which this is treated of is neither popular nor of the very earliest origin.
It is a very interesting inquiry whether any primeval traditions of mankind, facts pertaining to the general history of man and of the world, have mingled with the mythologies of heathenism. On the one hand. if there is a tradition of a great fact appearing with marked variations in different countries, and perhaps assuming a local character, the universality is a proof of common origin, notwithstanding the variations; and the presumption is against its being propagated from one part of the world to another, since all things else in mythology seem confined to a particular race or continent. On the other hand, if a myth contains an explanation of some interior conviction of human nature, as the sense of evil, or of a lapse of man from a better state, this may be explained on psychological grounds. To begin with the last kind of myths, the tradition of a former golden age can easily be accounted for on the principle that memory blots out what is evil in the past, and at its time hard to bear, so that the age of our fathers, our youth when we are old, the early history of a nation, are surrounded with a golden halo. As to traditions of a lapse, a departure from the idea of man, they are found in a number of mythologies, but they may all be the product of reflection. Let us take the Prometheus myth for a sample, as it appears in Hesiod. Omitting some of the details, we find that Prometheus — surnamed from his forethought, as his brother Epimetheus was from thinking after he acted — tried to cheat Zeus in respect to the offering of a victim. In revenge, Zeus would not let men have fire. Prometheus, however, who is really a fire-genius or daemon, stole it out of heaven, carrying it in a hollow stalk, and thus again provoked the wrath of the god. The latter bound Prometheus in chains to a rock, and tormented him by sending an eagle to devour his liver, which grew daily as fast as it was eaten, until Hercules killed the bird and set the victim free. As a punishment to mankind for receiving the fire, a woman was fashioned, endowed with various gifts by the gods, and sent to Epimetheus. She brought with her as a kind of outfit a jar or cask, such as was used in housekeeping. Epimetheus was not wise enough to adopt the advice of his brother to reject the gift. The woman opened the jar, which was full of pains and death-bringing diseases, unknown before, and in consequence of this act they were scattered abroad. Only Hope stayed within the jar's cover. To this we add from the Prometheus Bound of AEschylus the striking trait that a condition of the prisoner's deliverance was that some god should suffer in his place (Hesiod, Theog. 507-516; Op. 43-104; AEschylus, Prom. 1027). There is no objection against finding a tradition of a fall in this myth arising from the fact that a state of misery, and not one of sin, is contemplated. That is just the difference between heathenism and revelation, that the former, although conscious of evil, yet finds it hard to come up to the idea of sin. The resemblances between this fable and the third chapter of Genesis are plain enough. Prometheus, the fire-bringer, the introducer of the arts into the world, may stand for the tree of knowledge, and Pandora may stand for Eve. "Our woe" came by a woman in both narratives. But the differences are still greater. There is in the fable no temptation of man to evil; he is quite passive, and the craft of his benefactor is the cause of his calamity. Woman does not lead him into sin, but is contrived expressly for his suffering. And, what adds to the awkwardness of the myth in its present form, the race of man was made, and had offered religious homage to the gods, before Pandora spread maladies over the world. It was no progenitor who entailed evil on his posterity, but the god sent evil on a race already spread over the earth. We are disposed, therefore, to regard the story as a Greek invention, rather than as a distorted tradition of the primeval times. When the more recent form of the myth makes it the condition of the liberation of Prometheus that a god shall take his place of suffering, some have found in this particular an adumbration of the Christian doctrine of vicarious suffering; but to admit this would be to admit that heathen myths make as near an approach to the highest truths of the Gospel as is made by the Old Testament itself.
There is, however, another class of myths that have to do with the great fact of the flood, which no local phenomena, happening here and there over the world, can account for, and which could not be originated by the reflecting or observing mind. Traditions of a flood are very numerous, and confined to no one or two races. According to a remark of Bunsen (in his Chriistianity and Mankind, 4:121), they are not to be met with in the myths of the Turanian or Hamitic.races; the tribes of Africa have retained but slender traces of a flood at the best; but in China, Hindostan, Persia, Greece, Babylon, in the Edda, and through the tribes of North and South America, they present themselves to us as a part of the mythologies. In many local traditions it is the land of the tribe which is visited with a deluge, but this is no objection against their common origin. In Greece there were fables of three deluges, one of which, Deucalion's, was in Thessaly, that of Ogyges in Bceotia or Attica, and one was localized in the island of Samothrace. Pindar's simple story makes mention of the water overwhelming the earth, of its being forced back by the wisdom of Zeus, and then of Deucalion and Pyrrha coming down from Mount Parnassus to their home at Locrian Opus, where they had a posterity of stones. The destruction of the men of the iron age, the building of an ark by Deucalion at the suggestion of Prometheus, the copious rains bringing on a flood, the death of all men but a few who fled to the highest mountains, the floating of the ark nine days and nights until it struck on Parnassus, are particulars given by mythographers and later poets. The renewal of the human race by Deucalion and Pyrrha throwing stones behind their backs is a play of words between λαός, people, and λᾶας, stone, as Max Muller and others remark. This myth seems to have been known to Hesiod; and Deucalion is engrafted into the genealogies of the Hellenie race. It is possible that some story imported from foreign parts was its foundation. Across the Atlantic, in a widely different race, we find a tradition which repeats the story of the renewal of men in the time of Deucalion and Pyrrha. The Caribbean tribe of the Tamanakas, on the Orinoco, say that a man and a woman, the only persons saved in a deluge, threw the fruit of the Mauritia-palm over their heads, and thus created a new race (J.G. Miller, Amer. Urreliq. page 229, and Humboldt there cited). We have only room to refer to two other traditions of a flood. One is that of India, which first appears in the Mahabharata, as an episode which Bopp has translated (Berlin, 1829). In this myth Manus, a rigidly ascetic prince, was on the bank of the Wirini, when a small fish called for his protection against larger ones, and was put by him into a dish. The fish outgrew the vessel, was then removed into a lake, then, again outgrowing its dwelling, into the Ganges, and from the Ganges into the ocean. As it entered the ocean it told Manus that a great deluge was at hand, that he must build a ship with sails, go into it with the seven wise men, and provide himself with all the seeds known to the Brahmins. The fish promised to appear with a horn, to which Manus should tie his vessel, and so pass over the waters in safety. Many years the fish towed the ship of Manus over the fulness of waters. At length he gave orders to bind the ship to the highest point of Himavan (the Himalayas), which is called, says the poet, "ship-fastening," Naubandhanam, until this day. Then the fish said to Manus, "I am the lord of creatures, even Brahma; higher than me there is nothing." And he bade him renew the race of created things and the worlds, which by means of strict penance he was to accomplish. The deluge of Xisuthrus, which seems half borrowed from the narrative in the Scriptures, is reported by Berosus, who was born under Alexander the Great. Xisuthrus, king of Babylon, was warned by Saturn (Bel) that a flood would come upon the earth in which all men would perish, and was ordered to conceal his books in one of the cities called Heliopolis, and to build a vessel into which he could go with his relations and friends, with birds, beasts, and quadrupeds, together with all necessary food. When the flood was abating he repeated the experiment of Noah, sending out birds, which twice returned, but the third time went their way. He now broke a hole in the vessel, and disappeared, being translated among the gods, with his wife, his son, and the ark-builder. Fragments of that vessel, Berosus is made to say, are still to be seen on a mountain in Armenia. The same story was known to Nicolaus of Damascus, a friend of Herod the Great. Josephus (Ant. 1:3, 6), who mentions this, says that all who have recorded the history of barbarian nations have mentioned the deluge and the ark. The story which made the Almenian mountains the landing-place from the ark seems to have circulated in that country before it received Christianity (comp. Wiseman's Lect. page 290, Amer. ed. of 1837). To this Babylonian flood myth can now be added an Assyrian one, discovered by George Smith, the decipherer of cuneiform records, who published two or three years since the life of Assurbanipal, one of the last Assyrian kings, and a contemporary of Manasseh, from the clay tablets recording his reign, and has since found new tablets made for the same king, on which the myth referred to is narrated. It is far more mythological than the Babylonian tradition, and seems to be of later origin, but does not materially differ from the earlier known account, while the name of the ark- builder, which is Sisit, is evidently identical with Xisuthrus. It is worthy of mention that M. Lenormant, in a memoir on this newlyfound Assyrian myth, with some plausibility, shows how the story passed from Assyria into India, and was not indigenous in the latter cotuntry. We might strengthen (our position by the aid of other similar myths, but for this we have no space. What but a tradition of a great fact can have led men all over the world to have a common story of a deluge inwoven in their mvthology, the very variations of which — and they are very great — point to a great antiquity of the story, as well as to its independent working up? We close the subject with some remarks of Prof. Welcker's (Griech. Gottern. 1:770) on the Greek myths relating to the flood. These, he says, were not inferences from observations of their own. "Only a great event, a covering of the earth with water over wide regions, was sufficient to make a deep impression on human memory, and to produce a story formed with such beautiful simplicity, and spread so widely among the original nations of Asia." SEE DELUGE.
Nothing remains, according to our plan, but to say a few words on the explanations of the mvths of heathendom, especially by the ancients. Great difficulties and uncertainties attend such explanations, because in very many cases the myths are not homogeneous, and because the minds that created them were in a condition unlike our own. To the Greeks especially this was a subject of deep interest, and a number of solutions were offered; most of which were unsuccessful, because the Greeks of a historic and philosophic age could not comprehend their own remote ancestors. The spirit to attempt such solutions began perhaps in scepticism, and especially in moral revolt from the low conceptions of the mythology. Xenophanes, the founder of the early Eleatic school, more than five hundred years before Christ, says, in an extant fragment of a poem, that "Homer and Hesiod ascribed everything to the gods that was shameful and blamable among men, as to steal, commit adultery, and deceive one another;" and, in another place, that "those who say the gods are born are equally impious with those who say that they die." He also inveighed against the anthropomorphisms of mythology, and rejected a plurality of gods (comp. Nagelsbach, Posthom. Theol. page 428). Such utterances so early could not but meet with responses. The race was not ready to give up its faith in the only divinities known to it; some compromise was therefore necessary; and even the sceptics felt themselves bound to account for the series of events in the mythological times, and for the belief in the gods itself. One of the explanations was the historical. Thus Hecatueus of Miletus (about B.C. 520) taught that the myth of Cerberus owed its origin to a poisonous snake lying by the great cavern of Tennarum, in Southern Laconia, which was accounted an opening into the subterranean world. Herodorus of Heraclea turned Atlas into an astrologer and Prometheus into a Scythian king, who was troubled by a river gnawing away, so to speak, the fat of his land by its floods, but was freed from the plague by Hercules changing the course of the stream. The river was called the Aetus. or eagle river, whence the fable of the eagle consuming the liver of Prometheus (see Lobeck, Aglaoph. 2:987 sq.). So Herodotus mentions a version of the story of Io, which made her the daughter of the king of Argos, whereas modern students of mythology regard her as one of the forms of the moon- goddess. This method reminds us of the older rationalists — Paulus, for instance — who nibbled at the supernatural without daring to deny it, and are now deservedly almost forgotten. The gods themselves, however, were not as yet explained away.
A new form of the historical interpretation appearedi in the 3d century B.C., which is called, after the name: of its founder, Euemerus (Euhemerus, Evemerus), a Sicilian Greek of Messene, who enjoyed the acquaintance of Cassander (Ob 1:21 B.C.). This man published a book called Sacred Records, which claimed to give authentic accounts of Zeus and other gods, drawn from sacred titles and inscriptions found in the most ancient temples, and especially in one of Zeus Triphylius, on an Indian island called Panchaea. His theory was that the gods were deceased men deified: "Great personages in the confulsions of uncivilized life, being desirous of obtaining from the common mass of men greater admiration and respect, feigned that they had a certain extraordinary and divine power, on which account they were thought by the multitude to be gods." We have nearlv followed the words of Sextus Empiricus (9:7, page 394, ed. Bekker). Lactantius (Inst. 1, § 2) says that Euemerus stated that Zeus lived on Mount Olvmpus, andwas much resorted to for the settlement of disputes by those who had found out anything new and useful to society. The poet Ennius translated this book into: Latin, and, although Cicero speaks of it (De Nat. Deor, 1:42, 118) as entirely overthrowing religion, it had great currency as a rational .account of the religious system. It was accepted by some of the Christian fathers, and a theory of polytheism somewhat like it was advocated by some of the scholars two centuries ago.. Eluemerus wasi without question a forger of records; but the theory found favor (1) because some of the old fables spoke of the birth and reign of Zeus in Crete, and even of his death and burial, and so also of the death of other gods; (2) because the interval between gods and men in Greek polytheism was not very wide, and was almost obliterated by the bestowal of divine honors on such men as Alexander the Great. Heathenism destroyed itself just by destroying all essential differences between the divine and the human. (3) Although the mall does not seem to have been an atheist, it was a convenient theory for getting rid of the popular gods, now offensive to philosophy and morality (comp. Hoeck, Creta, 3:326, 337).
The physical explanation was forced upon the minds of thinking men by noticing the veneration paid to heavenly bodies, the earth, and the elements, in almost all nations. This was obvious enough in the religions of Phoenicia and Egypt. The great mother, or Cybele, the leading divinity of Asia'Minor, was the earth-goddess, according to a generally received interpretation which Lucretius (2:601 sq.) gives at large. Etymology was used in the service of this theory. A Roman could hardly fail to perceive the connectio;n between Jupiter or Diespiter (Jovis or Diovis) and divum, the clear, broad heaven, or sky; or to notice that the phrases sub Jove and sub-Divo are identical in sense. The poet Ennius, in a line cited by Cicero, says, "Look on this bright space on high which all invoke as Jove." The pantheistic philosophy of the Stoics adopted this explanation of the objects of popular religion. Varro, who was a Stoic, thought that the authors of religion in the old time believed in a world-soul, and that the principal gods were symbolical of the principal portions of the world. Jupiter was heaven, and branched out into various manifestations, while the female principal was earth under many names. The Stoics supported their philosophy by etymologies as worthless. Saturnus, or Time, is so called because it is saturated (satur), so to speak, with years. He swallowed his children, which means that duration consumes the spaces of time, and is filled with times past, without being full.
Another method of explanation may be called the allegorical, which was generally a way of conveying moral or philosophical truth, without necessarily asserting in all cases that the old mythology meant just what the philosophers made it to mean. Philo deals with the history of the Old Testament just in the same way. An instance may be found of this and other interpretations in Plutarch's essay on Isis and Osiris. Isis is the principle which receives ideas, Osiris is reason, Typhon unreason, and so on. The same method applied to the mysteries of Eleusis brought into them, as we suppose, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. A playful specimen of this method is found in Plato's Gorgias, where he explains the perforated vessels of the Danaides to mean the souls of men whose desires are unbounded; administering supplies to the desires, yet never able to satisfy them. A ridiculous specimen of a physical interpretation is the explanation of the alternate appearance of Castor and Pollux above ground by the two celestial hemispheres, the one under, the other above, the earth (Sextns Empiricus, page 399, ed. Bekker).
The scientific study of mythology commenced with the ancient nations who produced it, specially with the acute. and speculative Greeks. The great mass of the Greek people, indeed — of whom we have a characteristic type in the traveller Pausanias — accepted their oldest legends, in the mass, as divine and human facts; but as early as the time of Euripides, or even before his day, in the case of the Sicilians Epicharmus and Empedocles, we find that philosophers and poets had begun to identify Jove with the upper sky, Apollo with the sun, Juno with the nether atmosphere, and so forth; that is, they interpreted their mythology as a theology and poetry of nature. This, indeed, may be regarded as the prevalent view among the more reflective and philosophical heathens (who were not, like Xenophon, orthodox believers) from the age of Pericles, B.C. 450, to the establishment of Christianity. But there was an altogether opposite view, which arose at a later period under less genial circumstances, and exercised no small influence both on Greek and Roman writers. This view was first prominently put forth by the Messenian Euemerus in the time of the first Ptolemies, and consisted in the flat prosaic assertion that the gods, equally with the heroes, were originally men, and all the tales about them only human facts sublimed and elevated by the imagination of pious devotees. This view seemed to derive strong support from the known stories about the birth and death of the gods, especially of Jove in Crete; and the growing sceptical tendencies of the scientific school at Alexandria were of course favorable to the promulgation of such views. The work of Euemerns accordingly obtained a wide circulation and having been translated into Latin, went to nourish that crass form of religious scepticism which was one of the most notable symptoms of the decline of Roman genius at the time of the emperors. Historians, like Diode's, gladly adopted an interpretation of the popular mythology which promised to swell their stores of trustworthy material; the myths accordingly were coolly emptied of the poetic soul which inspired them, and the early traditions of the heroic ages were set forth as plain history, with a grave sobriety equally opposed to sound criticism, natural piety, and good taste. In modern times, the Greek mythology has again formed the basis of much speculation on the character of myths and the general laws of mythical interpretation. The first tendency of modern Christian scholars, following the track long before taken by the fathers, was to refer all Greek mythology to a corruption of Old-Testament doctrine and history. Of this system of interpreting myths we have examples in Vossius, in the learned and fanciful works of Bryant and Faber, and very recently, though with more pious and poetic feeling, in Gladstone. But the Germans, who have taken the lead here, as in other regions of combined research and speculation, have long ago given up this ground as untenable, and have introduced the rational method of interpreting every system of myths, in the first place, according to the peculiar laws traceable in its own genius and growth. Ground was broken in this department by Heyne, whose views have been tested, corrected, and enlarged by a great number of learned, ingenious, and philosophical writers among his own countrymen, specially by Buttmann, Voss, Creuzer, Muller, Welcker, Gerhard, and Preller. The general tendency of the Germans is to start — as Wordsworth does in his Excursion, book 4 — from the position of a devout imaginative contemplation of nature, in which the myths originated, and to trace the working out of those ideas, in different places and at different times, with the most critical research and the most vivid reconstruction. If in this work they have given birth to a large mass of ingenious nonsense and brilliant guess-work, there has not been wanting among them abundance of sober judgment and sound sense to counteract such extravagances. It may be noticed, however, as characteristic of their over-speculative intellect, that they have a tendency to bring the sway of theological and physical symbols down into a region of what appears to be plain, historical fact; so that Achilles becomes a water-god, Peletus a mud-god, and the whole of the Iliad, according to Forchhammer, a poetical geology of Thessaly and the Troad! Going to the opposite from Euemerus, they have denied the existence even of deified heroes; all the heroes of Greek tradition, according to Uschold, are only degraded gods; and generally in German writers a preference of transcendental to simple and obvious explanations of myths is noticeable. Creuzer, some of whose views had been anticipated by Blackwell, in Scotiand, is specially remarkable for the high ground of religious and philosophical conception on which he has placed the interpretation of myths; and he was also the first who directed attention to the Oriental element in Greek mythology — not, indeed, with sufficient discrimination in many cases, but to the great enrichment of mythological material, and the enlargement of philosophical survey. In the most recent times, by uniting the excursive method of Creuzer with the correction supplied by the more critical method of O. Muller and his successors, the science of comparative mythology has been launched into existence; and specially the comparison of the earliest Greek mythology with the sacred legends of the Hindlus has been ably advocated by Max Muller in the Oxford Essays (1856). In France, the views of Euemerus were propounded by Banier (1739); and generally the French scholars, such as Raoul Rochette and Petit Radel, show a distinct national tendency to recognize as much of the historical element as possible in mythology. By the British scholars mythology is a field that has been very scantily cultivated. Besides those already named, Bulfinch and Gould have done something in gathering material, but Payne Knight, Mackay, Grote in the first volumes of his history, Keightley, and Freeman are the only names of any note, and their works can in nowise compete in originality, extent of research, in discriminating criticism, or in largeness of view, with the productions of the German school. The best for common purposes is Keightley; the most original, Payne Knight. In this country some service has been rendered to this department of recent study by Profs. Hadley and Whitney, and by the Reverend James Freeman Clarke.
The charm which mythology threw over polytheism, its fascinations for the imaginative faculty, its connection with idolatry and with worship, its appeals to the senses, the vantage-ground which it had in a life-struggle with a severe holy monotheism in more ways than one — these topics will be duly considered in the article on POLYTHEISM SEE POLYTHEISM , to which we must refer the reader for a list of some of the best books on the heathen religions and mythologies likely to be of special interest to the theological student. SEE NORSE MYTHOLOGY. (T.D.W.)