Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/41

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Eusebius, sought after something divine, which they found in the heavenly bodies. Later, they fell to worshipping living persons, especially "medicine men" and conjurors, and continued to worship them even after their decease, so that Greek temples are really tombs of the dead.[1] Finally, the civilised ancients, with a conservative reluctance to abandon their old myths (κινεῖν τὰ πάτρια τολμῶντος οῦδενὸς) invented for them moral or physical explanations, like those of Plutarch and others, earlier and later.[2]

As Eusebius, like Clemens of Alexandria, Arnobius, and the other early Christian disputants, had no prejudice in favour of Hellenic mythology, and no sentimental reason for wishing to suppose that the origin of its impurities was pure, he found his way to the very theory of the irrational element in mythology which we propose to offer.

Even to sketch the history of mythological hypothesis in modern times would require a book to itself. It must suffice here to indicate the various lines which speculation as to mythology has pursued.

All interpretations of myth have been formed in accordance with the ideas prevalent in the time of the interpreters. The early Greek physicists thought that mythopœic men had been physicists. Aristotle hints that they were (like himself) political philosophers.[3] Neo-platonists sought in the myths for Neo-platonism; most Christians (unlike Eusebius) either sided with Euemerus, or found in myth the inventions

  1. Prœp. E., ii. 5.
  2. Prœp. E., ii. 6, 19.
  3. Met. xi. 8, 19.