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have been, then where it must have been.
But, by whomsoever written, here they are! The Iliad and the Odyssey exist for us; they have descended from a remote antiquity, and give us most valuable intimations of the manners and modes of thought and feeling of ancient times. The precise date when these poems were written may still be doubtful; but this is of little consequence so long as we confine our deductions to a certain period that we are contented to call the heroic period of Greece. When, however, we proceed, as Mr Gladstone does, to draw inference from them of the political and religious state and condition of Troy, and of the Greeks as they lived and acted at the siege of Troy, it becomes then necessary to fix the date of their composition with some precision.
Homer for we shall speak of a one Homer, the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, leaving the doubts which hang over this subject still unresolved,- Homer would necessarily describe the state of manners with which he was familiar. Though his poems are two great romances, and though he deals with gods and demigods, and tells and invents the most marvellous things, he would not invent a whole system of manners, customs, institutions. One may find materials for history, and many true details of life, of customs and opinions, in the Arabian Nights, because the authors of these fictions might invent genii and giants, but they would not, and could not, invent an entirely new state of society, and forms of government and religion that did not exist. We are sure, therefore, that we have in the Iliad and the Odyssey a valuable record of the age in which they were written.
As a picture of ancient manners, these poems have been well studied. There is very little left here for the discoverer. Mr Gladstone adds nothing to the terse and compendious descriptions which Mr Grote has given in the second volume of his History. The Greeks of Homer's time were a semi-barbarous race, cruel, revengeful, often brutal, reckless of human life, bound by few ties
of duty; and on the other hand, brave, hospitable, at times generous, and (which is their best trait), sufficiently humanised to treat their wives and their daughters with honour and respect. Their manners are of the most primitive character. Achilles cooks the dinner; Ulysses builds the house. Their political institutions are very unsettled. Their kings or chiefs owe their authority to personal prowess, to a reputation for bravery or sagacity. The prince has as much power as he can keep. There is very little of the government of law. If one man kills another, the relations of the murdered man pursue their own revenge. In lieu of revenge they may accept a fine, but there appears to be no power to compel them to receive this compensation. What we call our obligations to society, are very dimly recognised. Hospitality is practised, as we find amongst other semi-barbarous people, but the stranger was not safe till he had put himself under the protection of the gods: he came as a suppliant, and the host, binding himself by an oath, took the character of protector. Wherever there is much dependence placed upon the oath, we may be sure there is very little general and habitual morality. This picture of Homeric manners is seen reflected amongst the gods: they too have very little care for the general good-are capricious, revengeful
moved by personal feelings of hostility or of kindness. The government of Jupiter is as lax and unsettled as the rule of Agamemnon. His deities are self-willed, and Jove himself has to make concessions, and it is as much by skilful management of his refractory council, as by inherent power and authority, that he contrives to get the decrees of Fate executed.
All historians and critics agree in portraying this period in much the same colours. Some are more impressed with the lights, some with the shadows, but the picture cannot be very different to any two candid observers. Mr Gladstone dwells more frequently on the virtues than the vices of this heroic period, but he does not omit the latter. haps the chief source of the difference
that may be noticed in the estimate
clusively to the poet, not to the warrior, of that age. In some of the speeches assigned to his heroes we think we see the reflective, meditative man giving out his own especial thoughts; uttering them in the person of that class of fighting men amongst whom they would probably never have originated.*
Some weight must doubtless be attached to a remark which Mitford makes in his History of Greece, that, at a time when poets are the only historians, they will be solicitous to perform this part of historian; they will occasionally interweave in their poems mere matter of fact and sober narrative, simply because it is true, and that the record should be preserved. Thus, besides these general intimations incidentally given, there are positive historical facts to be gleaned from the Homeric poems. Still they are chiefly valuable to us for the unintentional record they have transmitted to us of a certain phase of human society. Even when examining them in this light, we must proceed with caution. Mr
* For instance, in the Twelfth Book there is a speech assigned to Hector and another to Sarpedon, which seem to bring us into communion with the mind of the poet. We will quote from the prose translation in Bohn's series. It is only in prose that any translator can be faithful to the original. Polydamas has advised Hector to withdraw from the battle; he has seen an eagle flying with a serpent in his talons, and interpreted this into an augury of defeat for the Trojans. Hector rises above these auguries-shows a contempt for them. "O Polydamas, thou dost not say things agreeable to me. Truly have the gods destroyed thy judgment from thee, who advisest me to be forgetful of the counsels of lofty-thundering Jove, which he hath himself undertaken for me and confirmed. And thou exhortest me to obey the wing-expanding birds; which I very little regard, nor do I care for them whether they fly to the right towards the moon and the sun, or to the left towards the darkening west; but let us obey the will of mighty Jove, who rules over all mortals and immortals. There is one augury, the best, to fight for our country."
In the other instance Sarpedon thus addresses Glaucus : Glaucus, why are we especially honoured in Lycia both with the first seat in banquet, and with full goblets, and why do all look to us as gods? Why do we also possess a great and beautiful enclosure of the vine-bearing and corn-bearing land on the banks of Zanthus? Now, therefore, it behoves us, advancing among the foremost Lycians, to stand firm, and to bear the brunt of the raging fight; so that some one of the closely-armed Lycians may say, 'By no means inglorious do our kings govern Lycia, and eat the fat sheep, and drink the choice sweet wine; but their valour likewise is excelling, because they fight amongst the foremost Lycians.' O dear friend, if indeed, by escaping from this war, we were destined to be ever free from old age, and immortal, neither would I combat myself in the van, nor send thee into the glorious battle. But now-for of a truth ten thousand fates of death press upon us, which it is not possible for a mortal to escape or avoid- let us on: either we shall give glory to some one, or some one to us."
It seems to us that there is a strain of reflection here which the poet gave to, but did not find, amongst his warriors. In estimating the Homeric period, we may assign such sentiments to the Homerids if we please, but hardly to the military chiefs.
Gladstone finds in Homer an authority for the political and religious institutions of Troy. What did Homer know of Troy? He gave to it institutions which probably existed in his own time in cities of Asia Minor, but Troy had disappeared, had gone for him into the region of fable. It has always been a subject of controversy what interval had elapsed between the siege of Troy and the composition of the Iliad. Opinions have varied from eighty to five hundred years. Mr Gladstone would make the interval less even than eighty. But it matters not what length of time you imagine; this fact remains certain, that, whether fifty or five hundred years, a period had elapsed sufficiently long to throw Troy and the history of Troy into the region of fable. The manner in which the siege terminates is sufficient proof of this. The stratagem of the wooden horse bears some indistinct reference to the fact that peculiar and religious honours were given by the Trojans to the horse. Time enough had elapsed for some mythical or allegorical story to grow into this absurd fable.
Subject to these considerations, we can cordially agree with Mr Gladstone when he says, that, next to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Homeric poems form the most precious record we possess of antiquity. And the Greek and the Hebrew records throw light upon each other. Not that we are able to detect any direct link of connection between the two, but they both originate from, and explain our common humanity. Even in that religious development in which the Hebrew outstript all other nations, they throw light upon each other, because, notwithstanding many marked diversities, and the inferiority of the one, there are also many marked resemblances and great characteristics common to them both. How striking, for instance, is this broad resemblance-with both the early Greek and the early Hebrew, the god rules here on earth-inflicts his judgments here-bestows his rewards here. Hades or Elysium plays but a feeble part in the government of man. In both nations, as the mind grows in knowledge, views of
a future life expand, and the immortality of man shines out both upon Jew and Greek.
It is on the mythology of Homer that Mr Gladstone has bestowed his chief attention; it is here that he has indeed brought forward some striking novelties. Not that his theory is new-on the contrary, it is the revival of a theory which we thought had passed away from the scholarship of the nineteenth century; but his manner of proving and exemplifying it may assuredly have the praise of novelty. Here, at all events-in this region of mythology
Homer is good authority, for we are in the very region of imagination; and if the poet invents here, he must still be taken as an expounder of the popular creed, for his inventions become a part of it. Here, what people have imagined, and felt, and thought, is the very fact of history we are in search of, and the most interesting of all facts to know.
Mr Gladstone accords to the Greeks the faculty of invention, and is ready to acknowledge that any amount of nonsense may have grown up spontaneously in this fruitful soil of the human mind; but where there is any approximation in their conceptions of deity, in their religious sentiments or practices, to our own standard of truth and rationality, then he refers us to traditions of an especially divine communication made to Adam and the patriarchs. From such traditions did they obtain what light of truth they possessed; and by the degradation and disintegration of such traditions, and by corrupt additions to them, did they proceed to manufacture their own mythology. He finds, for instance, that Minerva and Apollo have greater attributes than their place in the family of Jupiter would account for-attributes inconsistent with the subordinate position they hold to the Father of gods and men; and he explains this, not as other mythologists have explained it, by showing that these deities had been the supreme objects of worship to other people, or to separate Greek tribes, before Homer had gathered them into his Olympian family-but he refers us for these higher attributes to Messianic traditions de
scended from patriarchal times, of which those who desire to know more than they will learn from the book of Genesis, may consult the Talmud with advantage. We must endeavour to state Mr Gladstone's views in his own words, though it will take some trouble to select from his ample and redundant pages any statement that will at once be brief, full, and explicit. But before we proceed to the further exposition of Mr Gladstone's theory, or the theory to which he has devoted this exercise of his argumentative ingenuity, let us recall what we had previously learned, from other authorities, to consider as settled conclusions on this subject of Greek mythology. It is always well, before opening a new book, to call to mind what we have obtained by our previous reading and reflection. Nothing can be more plain than that the poems of Homer do not represent to us the earliest form of religious faith; they refer us distinctly to earlier gods, and to gods conceived of in an earlier manner. The fables related of the Olympian deities, their very names and their attributes, carry us back to some period when the gods were more nearly identified with the elements over which they rule than they were in the times of Homer. Many of these fables wear the unmistakable appearance of having been suggested, in the first place, by allegories and personifications which originally were merely methods of describing physical facts. The alternation of day and night, of spring and winter the power of the sun over all vegetable and animal life-the dawn, the dew, the fertilising shower, the unceasing activity and mutability of nature, life and death, generation and decay incessantly giving place to each other-these were the great patent truths which reflective men, of ardent and imaginative temper, had first to express, and which they perhaps inevitably expressed in the language of metaphor and personification. A statement of natural phenomena expressed in a series of personifications becomes itself a history, or sooner or later tempts to the moulding of it into some narrative. If the imaginative thinker of one age, looking admiringly on the sudden bursting forth
of all the glories and the growths of spring-noting how the earth produces all this marvellous birth of tree, and flower, and fruit, under the influence of bright skies and moist showersshould proclaim this to be the blessed marriage of the heaven and the earth, we may be sure that some subsequent thinker, dwelling on the image here presented to him, would be tempted to describe this marriage
to describe the bridegroom and the bride. These would certainly be king and queen, if such dignities were known to him; and these royal titles would alone suggest a government, as well as a matrimonial union, and subjects to govern both in heaven and in earth. We are launched at once into an anthropomorphic mythology. A Zeus, the god of day, and light, and of the upper air, marries Here, goddess of the earth; and by-and-by we have a King and Queen of Olympus, ruling over men and gods, and a Jupiter and Juno, who are no longer bound to any one element, but to whom all the elements of the world are equally free. The stars of heaven, and the passage of the sun through constellations, named from fancied resemblances to terrestrial objects-our first astronomy, in short-was sufficient of itself to give origin to a multitude of fables. The imaginative poet only needed that two or three positive facts should be given him-the wilder and the more unconnected the better-and he would piece them together into some narrative. The more abrupt and extravagant the fragments given to him, the more likely would they be to stimulate his invention to supply the missing links. The zodiac alone, and the sun, now brighter, and now dimmer, tracing his way through it, was enough to people the world with legends-the labours of Hercules, and the like-which very soon lost all recognisable connection with the sun, and the stars, and the seasons. What is more, when the poets have framed these wild legends out of materials thus accidentally given to them, other men, because they are so wild and absurd as narratives, begin to supply profound moral meanings for them.
When we say that the perusal of the Homeric poems alone, without further or collateral evidence, is sufficient to prove an antecedent period of nature-worship, we beg leave to add that we by no means understand by that term a worship in which nothing was present to the mind but the literal facts or forces of nature, nothing but physical phenomena. The physical phenomena-if imagination stirs at all within us, if there is any worship at all-have been animated, we may be sure, by a power analogous to human will or human thought. But the term nature-worship is serviceable to point out that epoch when the gods were conceived of as in close combination with the elements, or when some great Pantheistic idea was expressed by a deification of separate elements.
No religion of any service to man or to society can arise till the god has been so far humanised as to be invested with a moral character. Now the separation of the god from the elemental forces of nature, and converting it into a mere "immortal man," seems, in an intellectual point of view, to be a retrograde step; but it is in reality a necessary and progressive step, in order to the subsequent conception of the god as invested with perfect reason and perfect justice. If the anthropomorphic god of Homer seems, because of its very distinctness, a less rational conception than the nature god of the Pantheist, it at all events gives us that representation of the god on which a far higher and more effective conception than the Pantheist possessed could alone be raised. The mythology of Homer represents the deities of Olympus walking in perfect freedom amongst the elements, completely humanised, but humanised, as yet, after a very imperfect standard of intelligence and morality.
It may be well to note in passing, that personifications are not only made of nature, of the celestial bodies and the elements, but also of the attributes of man-his virtues, or his vices, or his passions. Thus we have Themis, a god of justice. And in systems of a more refined and subtle character than the theology of Homer, this kind of personi
fication had been carried a stage farther, for we have the attributes of the god personified. That Wisdom, by which God made the world, becomes a distinct being, an intermediate agent, and the actual commissioned creator of the world, the Supreme Being falling back into what seemed to such thinkers a more honourable obscurity, and a remoteness from any contact with a degrading matter.
Though it seems clear that the imagination which produced the Olympic deities, and the legends related of them, was, in the first instance, prompted, guided or misguided, by allegories or personifications originally expressing physical facts, it is not pretended by any one that these allegories are always to be traced in the full-grown fable. Once launched upon his story, what was to arrest the poet, until the story itself had assumed a fixed form in the popular belief, and was no longer to be tampered with? Nor can any one trace the subtle progress from what we have described as a natureworship. When it was that Phoebus Apollo first left the sun fairly behind him, moved freely from it, and entered, without a care about this luminary, into the court of Olympus, or the shady recesses of groves haunted by the nymphs, it is impossible to say; but it is equally impossible to deny that this Phoebus Apollo was born of the light of the sun. This is clear, although there may be another sun-god, earlier or later, a Helios also in Olympus, not so far advanced in his humanity, and retaining more of the elemental god. Homer did not want this Helios. If he had once brought him on the plains of Troy-once mixed him up in the strife of gods and men-his godship would have assumed a new or more decided character.
But, we repeat, the humanising or anthropomorphic proceeding was not a degradation of a higher conception, unless it interfered with a certain vague Pantheism; and, at all events, if not itself an advancement, was a necessary step towards the representation of the god in that grand personality of perfect will and perfect reason which is our final conception.