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24. But, my opponent says, these are not the rites of our state. Who, pray, says this, or who repeats it? Is he Roman, Gaul, Spaniard, African, German, or Sicilian? And what does it avail your cause if these stories are not yours, while those who compose them are on your side? Or of what importance is it whether you approve of them or not, since what you yourselves say44264426 Lit., “what are your proper things.” are found to be either just as foul, or of even greater baseness? For do you wish that we should consider the mysteries and those ceremonies which are named by the Greeks Thesmophoria,44274427 Every one since Salmasius (ad solinum, p. 750) has supposed Arnobius to have here fallen into a gross error, by confounding the Eleusinian mysteries with the Thesmophoria; an error the less accountable, because they are carefully distinguished by Clemens Alexandrinus, whom Arnobius evidently had before him, as usual. There seems to be no sufficient reason, however, for charging Arnobius with such a blunder, although in the end of ch. 26 he refers to the story just related as showing the base character of the Eleusinia (Eleusiniorum vestrorum notas); as he here speaks of mysteria(i.e., Eleusinia, cf. Nepos, Alc., 3, 16) et illa divina quæ Thesmophoria nominantur a Græcis. It should be remembered also that there was much in common between these mysteries: the story of Ceres’ wanderings was the subject of both; in both there was a season of fasting to recall her sadness; both had indecent allusions to the way in which that sadness was dispelled; and both celebrated with some freedom the recovery of cheerfulness by the goddess, the great distinguishing feature of the Thesmophoria being that only women could take part in its rites. Now, as it is to the points in which the two sets of mysteries were at one that allusion is made in the passage which follows, it was only natural that Arnobius should not be very careful to distinguish the one from the other, seeing that he was concerned not with their differences, but with their coincidence. It seems difficult, therefore, to maintain that Arnobius has here convicted himself of so utter ignorance and so gross carelessness as his critics have imagined. [Vol. ii. p. 176.] in which those holy vigils and 499solemn watchings were consecrated to the goddess by the Athenians? Do you wish us, I say, to see what beginnings they have, what causes, that we may prove that Athens itself also, distinguished in the arts and pursuits of civilization, says things as insulting to the gods as others, and that stories are there publicly related under the mask of religion just as disgraceful as are thrown in our way by the rest of you? Once, they say, when Proserpine, not yet a woman and still a maiden, was gathering purple flowers in the meadows of Sicily, and when her eagerness to gather them was leading her hither and thither in all directions, the king of the shades, springing forth through an opening of unknown depth, seizes and bears away with him the maiden, and conceals himself again in the bowels44284428 Lit., “caverns.” of the earth. Now when Ceres did not know what had happened, and had no idea where in the world her daughter was, she set herself to seek the lost one all over the44294429 Lit., “in the whole.” world. She snatches up two torches lit at the fires of Ætna;44304430 The ms. is utterly corrupt—flammis onere pressas etneis, corrected as above by Gelenius from c. 35., f. comprehensas.—Æl. and giving herself light by means of these, goes on her quest in all parts of the earth.
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