Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/315

This page has been validated.

much should be regarded as the first guesses of the physical poet-philosophers, and how much is truly ancient popular legend recast in literary form, it is impossible with certainty to determine.

We must not regard a myth as necessarily late or necessarily foreign because we first meet it in an "Orphic composition." If the myth be one of the sort which encounter us in every quarter, nay, in every obscure nook of the globe, we may plausibly regard it as ancient. If it bear the distinct marks of being a Neo-platonic pastiche, we may reject it without hesitation. On the whole, however, our Orphic authorities can never be quoted with much satisfaction. The later sources of evidence for Greek myths are not of great use to the student of cosmogonic legend, though invaluable when we come to treat of the established dynasty of gods, the heroes, and the "culture heroes." For these the authorities are the whole range of Greek literature, poets, dramatists, philosophers, critics, historians, and travellers. We have also the notes and comments of the scholiasts or commentators on the poets and dramatists. Sometimes these annotators only darken counsel by their guesses. Sometimes perhaps, especially in the scholia on the Iliad and Odyssey, they furnish us now and then with a precious myth or popular märchen not otherwise recorded. The regular professional mythographi, again, of whom Apollodorus (150 B.C.) is the type, compiled manuals explanatory of the myths which were alluded to by the poets. The scholiasts and mythographi often retain myths from lost poems