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as if there were no popular legends except those which found place more or less in song. Having recognized the legendary character of the early Roman history, Niebuhr inferred, without sufficient evidence, that such legends must have existed either in the form of popular ballads or as portions of considerable epopees. All that we are really entitled to conclude is, that they circulated among the public as current oral narratives, belonging to a legendary stock created and sustained by the appetite of the people for reciting as well as for hearing. Portions of them were from time to time made the subject of ballad or epopee, and thus acquired special notoriety and celebrity: but the great mass of them maintained their place in the public memory, and their hold on the public affections, without any aid from the genius of poets. All the popular legends, as well those which have passed into ballad and epos as those which have remained in simple oral circulation, profess to be narratives of past matter of fact: but this does not authorise the conclusion that they are narratives really derived from the past: they are often the offspring of the retrospective feelings and fancy, seeking to explain or ennoble what is actually existing, by connecting it with a train of impressive, but unreal antecedents (p. 7).
The first two chapters of Nitzsch's treatise (pp. 10—32) open the question of the national estimation of these legends among the Greeks. Were they all believed, or what were the limits and gradations recognised in the national faith? Were any of them regarded as inventions purely and simply, for purposes of amusement or instruction?
Some particular personages there are, mentioned in the ancient legends, who were considered as beings of fancy, such as Oknus (Pausan. x. 29), Akko, Lamia, Empusa, &c. But by far the greater number of the legendary characters were accepted among the general public as unquestionable realities, and the adventures ascribed to them as genuine matters of fact. Miraculous interpositions, superhuman or fantastic incidents, did not inspire to an ordinary Greek any doubt as to the truth of these legendary narratives: for the scene was laid in a supposed previous time, consecrated by his religion, and believed to have exhibited the immediate and bodily agency of those gods whom he worshipped: "whoever believes in the gods can entertain no doubt of their miracles, especially when performed, as it generally happened, for the upholding of their dignity among men" (p. 15). "The same fancy which created for the Greeks their gods with human personality also spun out for them their tales of a foretime in which these gods had first established and manifested their power, had dwelt individually in the separate towns and tribes, had begotten heroic families or primitive tribe-ancestors and founders, had imparted to particular favourites by whom they had been hospitably entertained various arts and comforts of life, had rendered miraculous aid during periods of trouble and conflict, &c. The legends thus contained the divine history and the manifestations of the living and acting gods: for a long time, there was no other teaching and no other knowledge beyond the legends. But this divine history was at the same time the history of the fathers and primitive ancestors of the people: it embraced all traditions respecting the foundation of the cities, temples, and existing institutions generally, as well as respecting the deeds and destinies of ancestors. Faith in the legends was therefore, at one and the same time, faith in ancestors and faith in the gods, and had thus the deepest roots in the national feeling." (p. 14.)
This intimate and inseparable connection in the minds of the Greeks, between their religious belief and the facts and persons of their legendary past, is largely illustrated by Nitzsch in many curious references, setting forth the relics, the tombs of heroes, and the innumerable objects of antiquarian interest and evidence, which were shewn to the visitor in every part of Greece. A Greek of perfectly orthodox disposition and uninstructed intellect accepted these stories in all their details and variety: in particular cases, inquiry or scepticism displayed itself, according to the individual turn of men's minds: but even the most inquiring and the most sceptical never severed themselves entirely from the legendary faith of their countrymen, or from the public religious rites, akin to that faith, in which they had been educated. The legendary "foretime" is their foretime, as well as that of their countrymen: the persons who occupy it, gods, heroes, and autochthonous men, as well as the string of barren intermediate names and generations which connect the extreme past with the present—all have been real entities, and form distinct objects of retrospective contemplation, Deukalion, Kekrops, Theseus, Minos, Herakles, are all real persons, and have done, if not exactly what is ascribed to them, at least something like it. The voyages of Jason, of Odysseus, and of Herakles, are treated as not less real and historical, though they are less accurately known, than those of Xerxes to Athens or Alexander to India,
Such was the view taken by historians, periegetes, or logographers:
they looked upon the general body of Grecian legends as history partially corrupted and exaggerated—true in the main, but with various allowances and deductions. But in estimating the amount of deduction requisite to be made, in order to bring down the exaggerations to the level of truth, there was neither rule nor available evidence to guide them: each man had to determine this point for himself, according to his own individual fancy or religious sentiment. In general, all agreed in recognising the historical reality of the legendary persons. Thucydides forms the most illustrious example of this mode of reducing the legends into conjectural history: but Nitzsch justly remarks that when we contemplate the subject from our objective point of view, to find out actual and ascertained matter of fact, the judgment even of Thucydides upon such points constitutes no authority; nor ought we to admit Kekrops as a real person, or Pelops as a wealthy Lydian founder of a dynasty in Peloponnesus, because Thucydides has done so before us. (p. 17.)
But this pragmatismus (i. e. recognition of an historical basis) was not the only principle applied in antiquity for interpreting the legends and qualifying the literal belief in them. There arose besides a class of philosophers, men of speculation and theory, who devoted their principal attention to the legends connected with the Gods, rejecting them in the literal sense as unworthy of credence, but ascribing to them an interior meaning, pantheistic err allegorical, such as the vulgar could neither detect nor appreciate. Other philosophers, refraining from allegory altogether, left the personal Gods and the current legends generally undisturbed, but set aside those particular legends which appeared to them unworthy of divine characters, as stories which must be untrue.
When we pass therefore from the ordinary public of Greece, amongst whom all the legends were accepted with pious and literal faith, to the lettered classes, we find the divine legends distinguished from the heroic, and construed upon different principles: an allegorical basis being ascribed to the former, an historical basis to the latter. There were however some critics, such as Metrodorus, who allegorised the heroic as well as the divine legends; while Euemerus, and some distinguished men who followed him, historicised even the divine legends, representing the Gods as having been nothing more than beneficent men or distinguished kings. But the allegorical interpretation of the one class of legends, and the historical interpretation of the other were both alike subjective, as Nitzsch remarks, (p. 17), that is, adapted to the special tone of thought of those in whose minds they arose, and destitute of positive or generally available evidence. So thoroughly incorporated was the general body of legend with the national mind—so completely was it interwoven with the religious and patriotic education of every one—that even those who could not believe it literally were at the same time unable to reject it: each man qualified and transformed it according to his own mental tendencies, so as to render it credible and acceptable to himself.
A number of well-selected examples are cited by Nitzsch, from the different Grecian authors, to illustrate the extent and manner in which each of them qualified his belief in the ancient legends. The belief in the personal interposition of the gods and heroes, on occasions of trouble and danger, continues all through the historical times : only that such interpositions become more and more rare, and are supposed to have been accorded frequently and liberally only during the favoured ages of legendary ancestry (p. 37). The greatest and ablest Greeks of the historical times, Themistocles, Pericles, Alexander the Great, and Parrhasius the painter, believed themselves to have seen the gods in dreams, and acted in conformity to suggestions then received (p. 39).
In the fourth chapter, Nitzsch produces many passages in proof of the literal belief current among the Grecian public, in the most fantastic and marvellous of the legends; including even the stories of wonderful transformations, such as those described in the Metamorphoses of Ovid— a collection of anecdotes which had been circulated and believed, each in its own locality, as authentic miraculous events, though with the readers of Ovid they passed only for amusing fictions (p. 45). He remarks that the most extravagant of these romantic stories are to be found among the fables relating to the iEolic race, which he regards as the most rich in narratives of a romantic tendency (p. 54), comprising as it does the stories of Sisyphus, Bellerophon, and the Argonauts. The combinations in the Cretan and Attic legends, including Minos, Daedalus, Skylla, &c, are also in a high degree fantastic: on the other hand, in the genuine Ionic epos, such romantic incidents occur more rarely. The adventures of the heroes under special patronage or persecution of the gods, exhibit greater analogy with the lot of ordinary humanity (p. 55). The later legends present generally more of what is fanciful and monstrous than the earlier (p. 59).
Amongst all the classes of legendary narrative there were three, according to Nitzsch, in which the lettered Greeks found it especially difficult to accommodate their belief to that of the ordinary man :—
1. The descriptions of Hades with its posthumous punishments
2. The generation of offspring by commerce of Gods with women.—
3. The bodily apotheosis of favoured mortals (p. 58).
In the fifth chapter, entitled Sagen-glaube der Gebildeten, Nitzsch examines the eclectic tendencies of Hekatseus, Herodotus, Thucydides, Ephorus, and Strabo—the degree to which each of them permitted the negative influences of criticism to qualify their Jiereditary faith in the national legends. In the sixth and last, he illustrates with some detail the allegorising views of the philosophers, begun as early as Theagenes of Rhegium (a. c. 521), renewed by Metrodorus and Anaxagoras, and adopted by the chiefs of the stoic school—the indignant condemnation, and consequent disbelief, of portions of the legends, on the ground of immorality or indelicacy, first pronounced by Xenophanes (a.c. 540), subsequently by Pindar, Plato, Isocrates, and others—and the heresy, not less consistent than unpopular, of Euemerus, who applied to the Gods the same canons of criticism which others were content to apply to the heroes.
These transformations, so many and so various, which the ancient legends underwent, all sprung at the bottom from one and the same
principle. The legends constituted an integral portion of the national faith and sentiment—they were the common property of rich and poor, wise men and fools, priests and laity—they were linked with the public worship, the patriotic sympathies, and the social enjoyments, of every individual citizen (p. 71)*. But the intellectual state of a lettered Greek of the fifth century before the Christian sera, was such as to forbid the possibility of his believing the great body of the legends literally as they stood. To escape the painful necessity of positive disbelief, there was no resource except to interpret, to remodel, and to cut down the legends, until they came into harmony with the intellectual pre-dispositions of those by whom the process was performed. The process indeed was differently performed by Thucydides, by Anaxagoras, and by Plato: but in all three it was dictated by the same mental wants; and in all three it was equally subjective—destitute of any support from positive or generally available evidence.
Nitzsch concludes with some brief reflections on the general state of mind of those early ages in which the legends first originated, and in which a ready and reverential faith both accompanied and stimulated fertility of invention (pp. 90—93). They had their root in a poetical fancy and mode of expression, working upon religious hopes and fears as well as upon national attachments and aversions. In this early state of the mind, the poetical dialect forms the natural and current manner of expression: fictitious persons and fictitious incidents are accepted without hesitation, and afford the only recognised method of satisfying curiosity, of appeasing fears and doubts, and of explaining and ennobling at the same time the round of present customs in which every one lives and moves. In conceiving phenomena, as well as in describing them to others, personification and personal narrative is the natural form which presents itself—the essential machinery of the poetical dialect. Of this tendency the most striking illustration is to be found in the universal imagination of Eponymous heroes for every city, village, tribe, locality, &c.
I have not been ab^e, in this short notice, to convey any idea of the valuable and well-chosen references by which Nitzsch has sustained the most part of his general positions. They form of course the most instructive portion of the treatise, the perusal of which, as a whole, will amply repay any one who is curious in respect to what is called early history, or anxious to appreciate the habits of the ancient Grecian mind in the investigation of evidence. G. G.