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It is certain, however, from the fable itself, that Hercules never extended his views to all. Indeed, the kind of benevolent actions which he performed, rendered this impossible. Besides, the representation that has been given of this benefactor of the human race, is unquestionably nothing more than a picture made up of several heroes of this class, and very considerably embellished. In those times men were every where needed, and almost every where to be found, who, by the strength of their arm, could afford protection from ravenous beasts of prey. In the course of time, however, the benevolent exploits of several of these heroes were collected together, and attributed to one, who was extolled as a philanthropist. In this way a fable was made, with which very naturally originated an instance of that enlargement of thought in regard to benevolent views, which no one individual of those, who, in this rough and barbarous age, contributed by their merits, to the formation of this picture, ever actually possessed or could possess.* The Sophists labored the most to render the character of this hero uncommonly great, for they delighted in making choice of his praise as the theme of their declamations, which were delivered with all the wit and eloquence of which they were masters. What wonder then that the most beautiful features of magnanimity, disinterestedness, and philanthropy, were gradually blended together in the same picture, when no one ever intended to produce it, without adding some new strokes of embellishment !+

The fable respecting Osiris and his march through the world, appears to have originated in a manner somewhat different. It unquestionably exhibits the germ of the

* Consult a passage in Cicero upon this subject, De Natura Deorum, B. III. Chap. 16.

A fine specimen of such school declamations respecting the praise due to Hercules, is to be found in Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations 5th and 22d, [two short passages. In Reiske, the 21st and 38th, Tom. I. 409, II. 235.] If any one, however, is anxious to know what the ancient grammarians made out of the mythologies respecting Hercules, he may consult what Heraclides has said upon the subject, Allegor. Homer., c. 33, 34.

greatest and most salutary plan of which we find any traces before the times of the founder of Christianity. The account is given by Diodorus of Sicily.* From it we learn, that Osiris king of Egypt, after having by means of religion and agriculture, of which he and his queen were the inventors, in connexion with laws and the advancement of the sciences, softened and polished the manners of his own countrymen, formed the great design of delivering the world itself from the barbarity in which it was sunk, by travelling through it, and teaching its nations agriculture and the cultivation of the vine. His intention in this respect is said to have originated in benevolence and a desire of doing something to render himself famous. He collected together an army, not for the purpose of shedding blood, but of filling the world with pleasure and joy, and, by the enchanting effects of music and dancing, making its barbarous inhabitants willing to receive the instructions which he wished to impart. Accordingly, he confided his kingdom to safe hands during his absence, and commenced his journey. He passed through Ethiopia, Arabia, India, and the whole of Asia, and then crossed over the Hellespont into Europe, and passed through Thrace, all Greece, and the other countries that contained human beings. Wherever he went, he introduced agriculture, and on departing, left behind him memorials of his philanthropical disposition and feeling, and such of his army as were found prepared to remain with his new pupils, for the purpose of preserving and farther extending the knowledge with which they had been intrusted. He never made use of power, except when men were barbarous enough to attack and oppose him in the first place. He finally returned to his native country, accompanied with the thanks and well wishes of mankind, who ever after felt themselves bound to honor him as a benevolent deity.

I need not call the attention of any person to the greatness of this plan. Considering the circumstances under

* In his Biblioth. Hist., B. I. Chap. 17-26, p. 20 seqq., Wesseling's ed.

which Osiris is said to have executed it, a greater and more salutary one for mankind could scarcely have been conceived. If the man ever lived who undertook any thing of the kind, he was unquestionably the greatest, most philanthropical genius of antiquity; for without predecessor or example, he perfected a work which no other great man of antiquity, so far as we know, ever thought of or dared to imitate. There are several circumstances, however, which render it certain, that this whole account is one of those sacred traditions of the Egyptians, which are altogether destitute of historical credibility. Indeed, the simple fact, that a plan of such universal benevolence and extent is attributed to a king, who, with his people, had hardly escaped from a state of gross barbarity, is amply sufficient to bring it into complete suspicion. That greatness of mind and sympathizing goodness of heart, which look carefully to the welfare of others, and make the highest honor to consist in doing good to the whole human family, do not immediately succeed to a state of barbarity. Between the low degree of cultivation in which Osiris must have found himself and his people, and this height, there are numerous grades which cannot be overleaped. The men belonging to those times, of which we have credible accounts, and who were able to advance but a few degrees in active philanthropy and universal benevolence, were slow in their progress. History also informs us, and we have often had occasion to observe, that this high degree has been attained only by a few choice spirits, after a long course of great, national improvements.


Notwithstanding, it is worthy of particular remark, that this fable does exhibit at least the traces of a plan which embraced the whole human family, and contained that universality which we have hitherto searched for in vain among all the benevolent plans of antiquity. By attending closely, however, to the changes of the Egyptian mythology, which was in other respects very peculiar, we shall, as I think, be able to discover the origin of this fable, without supposing even that spirit of universal benev

olence which it displays, to have been common to the old world. It is not improbable that there was once such a man as Osiris, perhaps an old king, who deserved well of his people. After his death, his people, on account of his merits, doubtless placed him in the heavens, and began to worship him as a deity. This is indeed credible, from the fact, that the ancient nations were very much accustomed to express the gratitude which they felt towards their benefactors, by rendering them such honor.* It is well known, however, that the name of Osiris, by the multiplication of sacred traditions, gradually became ambiguous. The result was, that people soon began to consider it as the name of a higher deity, such, for instance as the sun,‡ whose benevolence was universal, and embraced mankind at large. Now, in this case, the signification of the name being changed, the old historical truth respecting a former king in Egypt, was no longer applicable to it. The account itself, therefore, was also changed, so as to be accommodated to the new idea which had been attached to the name of Osiris, by which, as people were anxious to make him in reality great and divine in his actions, they appropriated to him the exalted project which has already been described. Besides, it was very agreeable to Egyptian pride to make an Egyp

* Plutarch indeed, De Isid. et Osir., p. 419 seqq., Reisk. ed. [Vol. VII.,] objects to this opinion. It is evident, however, that he was led very violently to oppose an explanation, which probably had many advocates even in antiquity, by his great aversion to the well known mythological system of Evemerus. The arguments which he uses for the purpose, are evidently too weak, and too intimately connected with his opinion respecting the nature of demons, -an opinion which led this otherwise excellent writer to make many superstitious assertions.

+ Comp. Heeren, Ideen über die Politik, den Verkehr und den Handel der vornehmsten Völker der alten Welt, Th. I. S. 434 ff.; [fourth ed., Th. II. Abth. 2, S. 124, Hist. Schriften, 14r Theil.]

‡ Osiris was unquestionably represented under a symbol of the sun, which induced many of the ancients to consider him as the sun. This cannot be denied by Plutarch himself, notwithstanding his opposition to this interpretation. Vid. the treatise already quoted, p. 465. The arguments in favor of this position, have been collected together by Jablonsky in his Panth. Aegypt., Part I. p. 125 seqq.

tian king the means of rescuing all other nations from a state of barbarity; and to whom was it more suitable that this act of great and universal benevolence should be imputed than to the good deity whom they worshipped under the name of Osiris? The whole account, therefore, was probably nothing more than a fiction intended to convey the idea that all wisdom and improvement had their origin in Egypt, and were thence extended over the world; or perhaps a sensible representation of the truth, that agriculture and the cultivation of the vine every where mark the commencement of genuine civilization, and that the muse and the pleasures of life are to be found in their train.

This fable, however, was unquestionably not invented until after the Egyptian priests had received much information from the Greeks, and probably begun to feel ashamed of such gods as had confined all their acts of benevolence entirely to their own country. At least, Diodorus of Sicily is the oldest writer that gives an account of this tradition. However this may be, from this fable it is evident, that the ancients considered a plan of such compass and benevolence as a thing very uncommon and extraordinary. The very fact, that the Egyptians represented their supreme god as thinking and acting in such a

* In this place, a learned note upon Cudworth by Mosheim, may be consulted, Kap. IV. § 13. S. 246. u. 47, Jen. ed. Under Osiris, Origen understands water, contra Celsum, 1. V. p. 257, Spencer's ed. [De la Rue, Tom. I. 607.] Admit him to be correct, a point which this is not the place to determine, the remarks made in the first place would be applicable even to this explanation; and it would be easy to point out causes, by means of which this fable obtained such a benevolent extension. The same is also true, if Osiris be taken in general for the moistening and fructifying principle in nature;-an explanation which Plutarch brings forward in the work just quoted, p. 436 seqq., as the opinion of the wisest of the Egyptian priests, and which he takes much pains to dress up with embellishments. [Creuzer's explanation of the fables respecting Hercules and Osiris, gives a result which, as is easy to perceive, lends equal support to the author's assertion. Consult in particular, respecting Hercules, Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker, II. 205. 248 ff. 254 ff. III. 309 ff. IV. 244, 2d ed.; respecting Osiris, I. 257, 267 ff.]

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