people so advanced, so much in contact with foreign peoples and foreign ideas, and so wonderfully gifted by nature with keen intellect and perfect taste, it is natural to expect, if anywhere, a mythology almost free from repulsive elements, and almost purged of all that we regard as survivals from the condition of savagery. But while Greek mythology is richer far than any other in beautiful legend, and is thronged with lovely and majestic forms of gods and goddesses, nymphs and oreads ideally fair, none the less a very large proportion of its legends is practically on a level with the myths of Maoris, Thlinkeets, Cahrocs, and Bushmen.
This is the part of Greek mythology which has at all times excited most curiosity, and has been made the subject of many systems of interpretation. The Greeks themselves, from almost the earliest historical ages, were deeply concerned either to veil or explain away the blasphemous horrors of their own "sacred chapters," poetic traditions, and temple legends. We endeavour to account for these as relics of an age of barbarism lying very far behind the time of Homer—an age when the ancestors of the Greeks either borrowed, or more probably developed for themselves the kind of myths by which savage peoples endeavour to explain the nature and origin of the world and all phenomena.
The correctness of this explanation, resting as it does on the belief that the Greeks were at one time in the savage status, might be demonstrated from the fact that not only myths, but Greek life in general, and especially Greek ritual, teemed with surviving examples of institutions and of manners