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Chapter V.—The vain pretensions of false gods.

But concerning those who think that they shall share the holy and perfect name, which some have received by a vain tradition as if they were gods, Menander in the Auriga says:—

“If there exists a god who walketh out

With an old woman, or who enters in

By stealth to houses through the folding-doors,

He ne’er can please me; nay, but only he

Who stays at home, a just and righteous God,

To give salvation to His worshippers.”

The same Menander, in the Sacerdos, says:—

“There is no God, O woman, that can save

One man by another; if indeed a man,

With sound of tinkling cymbals, charm a god

Where’er he listeth, then assuredly

He who doth so is much the greater god.

But these, O Rhode, are but the cunning schemes

Which daring men of intrigue, unabashed,

Invent to earn themselves a livelihood,

And yield a laughing-stock unto the age.”

Again, the same Menander, stating his opinion about those who are received as gods, proving rather that they are not so, says:—

“Yea, if I this beheld, I then should wish

That back to me again my soul returned.

For tell me where, O Getas, in the world

’Tis possible to find out righteous gods?”

And in the Depositum:—

“There’s an unrighteous judgment, as it seems,

Even with the gods.”

And Euripides the tragedian, in Orestes, says:—

“Apollo having caused by his command

The murder of the mother, knoweth not

What honesty and justice signify.

We serve the gods, whoever they may be;

But from the central regions of the earth

You see Apollo plainly gives response

To mortals, and whate’er he says we do.

I him obeyed, when she that bore me fell

Slain by my hand: he is the wicked man.

Then slay him, for ’twas he that sinned, not I.

What could I do? Think you not that the god

Should free me from the blame which I do bear?”

The same also in Hippolytus:—

“But on these points the gods do not judge right.”

And in Ion:—

“But in the daughter of Erechtheus

What interest have I? for that pertains

Not unto such as me. But when I come

With golden vessels for libations, I

The dew shall sprinkle, and yet needs must warn

Apollo of his deeds; for when he weds

Maidens by force, the children secretly

Begotten he betrays, and then neglects

When dying. Thus not you; but while you may

Always pursue the virtues, for the gods

Will surely punish men of wickedness.

How is it right that you, who have prescribed

Laws for men’s guidance, live unrighteously?

But ye being absent, I shall freely speak,

And ye to men shall satisfaction give

For marriage forced, thou Neptune, Jupiter,

Who over heaven presides. The temples ye

Have emptied, while injustice ye repay.

And though ye laud the prudent to the skies,

Yet have ye filled your hands with wickedness.

No longer is it right to call men ill

If they do imitate the sins26072607    κακά in Euripedes, καλά in text. of gods;26082608    [See Warburton’s Divine Legation (book ii. § 4), vol. ii. p. 20. Ed. London, 1811.]

Nay, evil let their teachers rather be.”

And in Archelaus:—

“Full oft, my son, do gods mankind perplex.”

And in Bellerophon:—

“They are no gods, who do not what is right.”

And again in the same:—

“Gods reign in heaven most certainly, says one;

But it is false,— -yea, false, -and let not him

Who speaks thus, be so foolish as to use

Ancient tradition, or to pay regard

Unto my words: but with unclouded eye

Behold the matter in its clearest light.

Power absolute, I say, robs men of life

And property; transgresses plighted faith;

Nor spares even cities, but with cruel hand

Despoils and devastates them ruthlessly.

But they that do these things have more success

Than those who live a gentle pious life;

And cities small, I know, which reverence gods,

Submissive bend before the many spears

Of larger impious ones; yea, and methinks

If any man lounge idly, and abstain

From working with his hands for sustenance,

Yet pray the gods; he very soon will know

If they from him misfortunes will avert.”

And Menander in Diphilus:26092609    These lines are assigned to Diphilus.

“Therefore ascribe we praise and honour great

To Him who Father is, and Lord of all;

Sole maker and preserver of mankind,

And who with all good things our earth has stored.”

The same also in the Piscatores:—

“For I deem that which nourishes my life

Is God; but he whose custom ’tis to meet

The wants of men,—He needs not at our hands

Renewed supplies, Himself being all in all.”26102610    The words from “but” to “all” are assigned by Otto to Justin, not to Menander.

The same in the Fratres:—

“God ever is intelligence to those

Who righteous are: so wisest men have thought.”

And in the Tibicinæ:—

“Good reason finds a temple in all things

Wherein to worship; for what is the mind,

But just the voice of God within us placed?”

293 And the tragedian in Phrixus:—

“But if the pious and the impious

Share the same lot, how could we think it just,

If Jove, the best, judges not uprightly?”

In Philoctetes:—

“You see how honourable gain is deemed

Even to the gods; and how he is admired

Whose shrine is laden most with yellow gold.

What, then, doth hinder thee, since it is good

To be like gods, from thus accepting gain?”

In Hecuba:—

“O Jupiter! whoever thou mayest be,

Of whom except in word all knowledge fails;”


“Jupiter, whether thou art indeed

A great necessity, or the mind of man,

I worship thee!”

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