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10 age is conscious of its own superstitions. It
would no doubt have surprised Socrates very
much if he could have foreseen that his last words, “ We owe a cock to Æsculapius,” would one day be regarded as a striking instance of how superstition clings to the very martyrs of reason, With what unsuspecting confidence does Christ speak of the devil and his angels, at the very moment when he is proclaiming a deity whose love goes out to all, like the sunshine falling alike on good and evil. Such survivals of popular delusion in the greatest minds of the past, along with great principles of truth, may well turn our eyes searchingly on ourselves. It is true, that so far as the detection of hereditary and common errors are concerned, we have great advantages over even the foremost men of the far past. We have developed the comparative method, and the means of applying it to our beliefs. It would have been impossible for Socrates or Christ to trace the opinions around them, hunt them back to their origin in some Indian metaphor or Assyrian fable. Nor did they have a long and carefully-kept record of many ages, the converging experiences of many races, which surround the man of to-day with mirrors in which he can see his own age reflected. They had but little chance of study. ing history,—philosophy teaching by example. We should fall far beneath our opportunities if we did not detect the familiar fallacies around us to a larger extent than was possible to the past, now that we are brought face to face with them as they existed in the past, and · can know the results of them as worked out by intervening generations.
It appears to be the one opinion held in common by men of all shades of opinion that the old order of Christendom is going to pieces. It is confessed in the rage of protestant fanatics against the spread of unbelief, and equally in the outcries of catholics as they see their strongest organisations suppressed, and their Pope abandoned by nations he once controlled. Amid the confusion brought on by this state of things, the most hopeful sign is the degree to which leaders of opinion are studying those eras of history which correspond to this
Remarkable studies of this kind have appeared which merit the closest attention. The new work entitled
Supernatural Religion," contributes a large amount of knowledge concerning Christian Mythology. We there may see how on the breaking up of the old Hebrew religion, and also the Greek and Egyptian religions, their fables were saved from the deluge on the Christian ark to populate the world again with superstitions. Valuable too is Dr. Draper's “History of the Conflict between
Science and Religion," published in the excellent International series. Sir Henry Maine's histories of our institutions are invaluable books, showing by what forces and laws the civilisation around us was built, and enabling us to detect the same in the evolution which takes the form of apparent disintegration. Such works as Michelet's “La Sorcellerie," Mr. Tylor's “Primitive Culture," Sir John Lubbock's “Primitive Man," De Gubernatis' “ Zoological Mythology,” Mr. Ralston's works on the Folklore of Russia—and all bookson Folklore— lay bare the roots of a thousand superstitions which, in their polished if not their rude form, we encounter every day. Not the least important service is that which is done us by the more scholarly of the magazines. In the month of May (1875) two articles appeared which bring to a careful reader a more intimate knowledge of the realities of Greek religion than any University could teach him
One of these is a paper on “Hesiod,” in the Fortnightly Review," and the other is in “Fraser's Magazine,” entitled “ Sea Studies.”
The latter is especially important, notwithstanding some very questionable inferences. The fine scholar who wrote it, Mr. Froude, devoted the main time of a long voyage to reading the plays of Euripides, and gives us a profound analysis of the “Bacchae." It is certain that in the works of that poet are embodied the most real and salient features of Greek life and thought during the third and fourth centuries before Christ. Poets and philosophers there were in that period whose works bring us their individual feeling and thought; but the dramatic
in a year.
writer embodies the sense of the people, and aims to place on the stage before them that which shall show the very age and body of their own time, its form and pres
Euripides was born about 2,350 years ago, and it is the Greece of that epoch which speaks to us from his page. Our current impression of Greece, as it existed in those centuries, is derived from the splendid literature which the revival of classical learning gave us. We know Greece by its poetry, its philosophy, and their gods and goddesses appear to us shining in purple and gold as the poets idealised them. Time and distance have destroyed what was trivial. We see the noble forms of Plato and Socrates in the Academy, but hear not the noise of the brutal mob dragging one of them to death and the other into slavery. But the terrible disenchanting voice of Euripides comes to tell us that in his time all those gods and goddesses were to the people demons and hags. Apollo, Minerva, Venus, Juno,- they were all devils, thirsting for blood, demanding human victims, entrapping human beings in horrible crimes for the mere pleasure of vengeance on mortals for guilt which they (the gods) wished to monopolise.
Bacchus first appears in Mythology as a beneficent being, who taught mankind the culture of fruits, and the vine only among others, taught them laws, arts, religion. In the time of Euripides-the great intellectual age of