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Chapter XXIII.—Hesiod; The Nine Muses; The Hesiodic Cosmogony; The Ancient Speculators, Materialists; Derivative Character of the Heresies from Heathen Philosophy.

But Hesiod the poet asserts himself also that he thus heard from the Muses concerning nature, and that the Muses are the daughters of Jupiter. For when for nine nights and days together, Jupiter, through excess of passion, had uninterruptedly lain with Mnemosyne, that Mnemosyne conceived in one womb those nine Muses, becoming pregnant with one during each night. Having then summoned the nine Muses from Pieria, that is, Olympus, he exhorted them to undergo instruction:—

“How first both gods and earth were made,144144    There are several verbal differences from the original in Hippolytus’ version. These may be seen on comparing it with Hesiod’s own text. The particular place which Hesiod occupies in the history of philosophy is pointed out by Aristotle in his Metaphysics. The Stagyrite detects in the Hesiodic cosmogony, in the principle of “love,” the dawn of a recognition of the necessity of an efficient cause to account for the phenomena of nature. It was Aristotle himself, however, who built up the science of causation; and in this respect humanity owes that extraordinary man a deep debt of gratitude.

And rivers, and boundless deep, and ocean’s surge,

And glittering stars, and spacious heaven above;

How they grasped the crown and shared the glory,

And how at first they held the many-valed Olympus.

These (truths), ye Muses, tell me of, saith he,

From first, and next which of them first arose.

Chaos, no doubt, the very first, arose; but next

Wide-stretching Earth, ever the throne secure of all

Immortals, who hold the peaks of white Olympus;

And breezy Tartarus in wide earth’s recess;

And Love, who is most beauteous of the gods immortal,

Chasing care away from all the gods and men,

Quells in breasts the mind and counsel sage.

But Erebus from Chaos and gloomy Night arose;

And, in turn, from Night both Air and Day were born;

But primal Earth, equal to self in sooth begot

The stormy sky to veil it round on every side,

Ever to be for happy gods a throne secure.

And forth she brought the towering hills, the pleasant haunts

Of nymphs who dwell throughout the woody heights.

And also barren Sea begat the surge-tossed

Flood, apart from luscious Love; but next

Embracing Heaven, she Ocean bred with eddies deep,

And Cæus, and Crius, and Hyperian, and Iapetus,

And Thia, and Rhea, and Themis, and Mnemosyne,

And gold-crowned Phœbe, and comely Tethys.

But after these was born last145145    Or “youngest,” or “most vigorous.” This is Hesiod’s word, which signifies literally, “fittest for bearing arms” (for service, as we say). the wiley Cronus,

Fiercest of sons; but he abhorred his blooming sire,

And in turn the Cyclops bred, who owned a savage breast.”

And all the rest of the giants from Cronus, Hesiod enumerates, and somewhere afterwards that Jupiter was born of Rhea. All these, then, made 23the foregoing statements in their doctrine regarding both the nature and generation of the universe. But all, sinking below what is divine, busied themselves concerning the substance of existing things,146146    “The majority of those who first formed systems of philosophy, consider those that subsist in a form of matter, to be alone the principle of all things.”—Aristotle’s Metaphysics, book i. c. iii. p. 13 (Bohn’s ed.). being astonished at the magnitude of creation, and supposing that it constituted the Deity, each speculator selecting in preference a different portion of the world; failing, however, to discern the God and maker of these.

The opinions, therefore, of those who have attempted to frame systems of philosophy among the Greeks, I consider that we have sufficiently explained; and from these the heretics, taking occasion, have endeavoured to establish the tenets that will be after a short time declared. It seems, however, expedient, that first explaining the mystical rites and whatever imaginary doctrines some have laboriously framed concerning the stars, or magnitudes, to declare these; for heretics likewise, taking occasion from them, are considered by the multitude to utter prodigies. Next in order we shall elucidate the feeble opinions advanced by these.

Books II. And III. Are Awanting.

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