Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/313

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"early," selected instinctively the purer mythical materials, and burned away the coarser dross of antique legend, leaving little but the gold which is comparatively refined.

We must remember that it does not follow that any mythical ideas are later than the age of Homer because we first meet them in poems of a later date. We have already seen that though the Brahmanas are much later in date of compilation than the Veda, yet a tradition which we first find in the Brahmanas may be older than the time at which the Veda was compiled. In the same way, as Mr. Max Müller observes, "we know that certain ideas which we find in later writers do not occur in Homer. But it does not follow at all that such ideas are all of later growth or possess a secondary character. One myth may have belonged to one tribe; one god may have had his chief worship in one locality; and our becoming acquainted with these through a later poet does not in the least prove their later origin."[1]

After Homer and Hesiod our most ancient authorities for Greek cosmogonic myths are probably the so-called Orphic fragments. Concerning the dates and the manner of growth of these poems, volumes of erudition have been compiled. As Homer is silent about Orpheus (in spite of the position which the mythical Thracian bard acquired as the inventor of letters and magic and the father of the mysteries), it has been usual to regard the Orphic ideas as of

  1. Hibbert Lectures, pp. 130–131.