Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/38

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Sometimes the old stories were said to conceal a moral, sometimes a physical, sometimes a mystical or Neo-platonic sort of meaning. As every apologist interpreted the legends in his own fashion, the interpretations usually disagreed and killed each other. Just as one modern mythologist sees the wind in Æetes and the dawn in Medea, while another of the same school believes, on equally good evidence, that both Æetes and Medea are the moon, so writers like Porphyry (270 B.C.) and Plutarch (60 B.C.) made the ancient deities types of their own favourite doctrines, whatever these might happen to be.

When Christianity became powerful, the Christian writers naturally attacked heathen religion where it was most vulnerable, on the side of the myths, and of the mysteries which were dramatic representations of the myths. "Pretty gods you worship," said the Fathers, in effect, "homicides, adulterers, bulls, bears, mice, ants, and what not." The heathen apologists for the old religion were thus driven in the early ages of Christianity to various methods of explaining away the myths of their discredited religion.

The early Christian writers very easily, and with considerable argumentative power, disposed of the apologies for the myths advanced by Porphyry and Plutarch. Thus Eusebius in the Prœparatio Evangelica first attacks the Egyptian interpretations of their own bestial or semi-bestial gods. He shows that the various interpretations destroy each other, and goes on to point out that Greek myth is in essence only a veneered and varnished version of the faith of