« السابقةمتابعة »
complete, and its name indeed a misnomer, as would also liave been such a title as the Achilleis : broken off at this point the story is clearly unsatisfactory; it is too developed for a simple episode in the world-renowned tale of Troy, and too fragmentary to aspire to be anything more. That the fall of Troy was not required to complete the proposed theme of the wrath of Achilles, would be no excuse; the wrath of Achilles should not then have been so treated, on such a scale, and in such connection, as to engage our interest so strongly in a matter irrelevant. But on the other hand, had the capture of the city been introduced as the conclusion of the Iliad, the unity of the composition would have been entirely destroyed from the necessary absence of Achilles.
The Iliad, although complete in itself as regards its main action, awakens secondary sympathies that necessarily require a sequel, sympathies with the fortunes of other Achaian heroes besides Achilles, sympathies with the general success of the Achaian expedition; when the poem concludes, Achilles is doomed and so is Troy, the crisis of the fate of both is past, Achilles has irrevocably committed himself to the alternative of a short and glorious life in preference to an obscure return to Phthia, Troy has lost her bravest son and only bulwark in the fall of Hector; but anxiety for the details is aroused, and attention is quickened to the utmost for the promise of the continuation of the story; the required gratification is given by the poet of the Odyssey, but in a perfectly unexpected manner; by the magic of unfathomable art, the reader or the listener finds himself carried away by the master from the anticipated course through the most varied and surprising turns; the main interest of the poem concentrated on an entirely different ideal of heroic character and adventure, in relation to which the actions and incidents anticipated with so much curiosity are thrown in, but chiefly as foils and episodes.
Indeed, we get another glimpse of the art of the poet in the observation how completely, in either poem, the incidents that in themselves appear most prominent in the story of the Trojan war, are thrown into the back-ground, and sometimes suppressed entirely. Such, and so treated, are the events at Aulis, the landing of the expedition, the death and obsequies of Achilles, the Trojan horse, the sack of Troy and death of Priam, the contention for the arms of Achilles, the death of Ajax. The treat
ment of these subjects proves that they had either been hacknied in song, or already so well sung as to discourage emulation. The mode of their introduction keeps curiosity alive, and retains interest; but their place is purely subordinate.
The entire omission of the Amazon and Ethiopian legendsthough the death of Antilochus by Memnon is mentioned in the scene at Pylos—was no doubt equally prompted by true artistic feeling, whether on account of triteness, or as tending to overload a portion of the subject already fully developed, the exhibition of Achaian heroism in all forms of fight. That the legends were unknown to Homer, is an inference that it is never safe to draw from the circumstance that he does not allude to them, or even that by implication he seems to indicate their non-existence. His work is a poem, not a compilation ; and similar motives of rejection may have influenced him here, that caused him not to introduce the details of return home of many most distinguished Greek chiefs, whose tales were most assuredly themes of highly-wrought tradition and song.
It is a circumstance in the highest degree remarkable, that Diomed, who in the Iliad occupies so prominent a position, and is besides so frequently associated with Ulysses, is never once mentioned in the Epic of which the latter is the principal hero. Such an omission demands an explanation, for a motive and a sufficient one it must have had. Was it that Diomed, opposed in his return by a vindictive divinity, aided as ever before Troy by Pallas Athene, and mourned by his expectant wife Egialeia, presented too close a parallel to the fortunes of Ulysses; or was it that the mention of him would detract from the dignity of the prince of Ithaka, which the Epic was concerned in every way to elevate, by reminding of the hero, who in their associated exploits always assumes the more dignified position, as in the adventure in the Trojan camp, and the abstraction of the Palladium? But this omission we recognize as deliberately planned; for we have farther to observe, that provision is made in the Iliad for satisfying curiosity as to the fortunes of Diomed on the return from 'Troy, by the insertion of the notice of them, (Iliad, v. 412,) which it was desirable should be kept out of the more peculiar poem of the Noctol.
The rationale of some other remarkable omissions, in the scheme of dæmonology, particularly as regards Demeter and Dionusos, belongs to another section of the subject, the relation
of the poems to contemporary religions and actually influential cults.
Herodotus, in a celebrated passage, (II. 53,) asserts, on his own authority, that it was Homer and Hesiod, living at most four hundred years before his own time, “a matter therefore of yesterday or the day before,” who composed a Theogony for the Hellenes, gave to the gods their titles, distinguished their dignities and arts, and indicated their forms. These words contain a very accurate description of the divine hierarchy, as we find it in the poets, consisting of a community of divinities united by various ties of relationship and intercourse, each individual characterized by epithets and titles for the most part peculiar to himself, each placed in a certain position of relative dignity to the rest, exercising an equally special influence over a certain form of natural or human activity, and described as an impersonation of his character and functions with such distinctness, even in detail of figure and most striking proportions and gestures, that art, in realizing the descriptions, achieved at once its masterworks. The antecedent condition of Hellenic dæmonology, as conceived by Herodotus, was contrasted, indeed, with the simple theism of purer Pelasgic times, inasmuch as gods were worshipped of various names—in the opinion of the historian of foreign origin ; but they were not linked together in any genealogical system ; their forms were not recognized, no order of dignity obtained among them, no limitation of control and influence.
Such, according to Herodotus, was the condition of Greek theology before the grand modification operated by the poets ; and such, it must be said, it continued to a great extent long afterwards. When, by the assistance of Pausanias, and incidental guidance of the same class, we contemplate the divinities of the Greeks as they were worshipped in innumerable sanctuaries over the whole breadth of the country, we find each several locality affecting the worship of some god more particularly, whose influence may be regarded as chiefly directed to one purpose, but is not limited to that; whose general character is often entirely out of harmony with the Homeric epithets, as his archaic statue with the Homeric ideal; and if any genealogical relations are ascribed to him, they are frequently utterly at odds with the entire theogonical scheme.
Herodotus therefore appears correct in his main assertion of
the modification of theology by poetry, though, from the poetical tendencies of the Greeks generally, it is not to be doubted that the poet was met at least half-way by the worshipper, and derived the inspiration by which he completed the ideal, from the fresh fount of original suggestion, which elaborated the festal symbolism of the local gods, and took form and colour from the occupations and scenery of the tribe. It was from the force of diverse local influences that the same god, even in cult, acquired distinct characteristics, and hence a degree of hesitation appears even in the conception of his poetical character, that gives an opportunity of observing the course of the main transformation, and completes the assurance, which is in accordance with the analogy of all history of religions, that the elaborate poetic form was the offspring, not the parent, of the less elegant but more mysterious systems of the worship.
Religion and poetry in fact are presented to us in the phenomena of Greek civilization in distinct masses, yet blending by reflected, though unequally distributed colours. The religious impulses in their most decided forms, and however attached to tradition, borrow yet much of their expression from the native poetical spirit of the people, and even, in certain localities, were very strongly affected and modified by the artificial structure developed by the poets. On the other hand, in poetry we find certainly a trace of the original religious fervour on the part of the poets, but by far the larger proportion they exhibit, remains as the unassimilated substance of an earlier structure in which serious veneration predominated.
Homer found both the gods and their legends more theological than he left them. His influence on the earlier materials, and the mixed result in which it is discoverable, are well illustrated in the following observations of Müller on the Homeric Zeus :
“ The poet has evidently a two-fold manner of conceiving this supreme deity. For, on the one hand, the god who gathers the clouds together, who sends lightning and rain, is at the same time the great governor of the world; in the proper sense of the word, God. He is the greatest that dwells in æther, the father of gods and men: he imposes destiny : his will is fate. All things take place in order that this will may be accomplished. . It is the same deity who, according to the transcendantly beautiful and sublime fable in the Theogony, espoused Themis, the
moral and physical government of the world, and by her begot the Destinies. Eurynome likewise bore to him the Charities, who lend a grace and charm to every form of life. He who does not here recognize religion, genuine, true religion, for him have Moses and the prophets written in vain. But these are only isolated expressions, in which an intense feeling, or a customary form of thinking, finds utterance, as in the prayer beginning, “O Zeus, highest and greatest in the dark clouds, and in æther!' It is by no means the manner of viewing him which predominates in, and particularly distinguishes, the Homeric poesy. In fact, it could not be so; for such a Zeus, when he interfered in the confusion of human affairs, must have at once solved and settled every thing; and therefore could not be imagined as a living and active god, and least of all as an epic personage. As such, then, he does not inhabit æther, but has his palace on Olympus. He is not the father of gods and men,
but of a not very widely extended family, to which, as Poseidon maintains, (Il. xv. 197,) his proper sway is restricted. Besides, he is like all the other gods subject to fate; and hence resulted that extraordinary mixture of strength and weakness, wisdom and ignorance, which must strike every one in the Homeric Zeus, and can scarcely be considered as the first glimmer of reflection on the Supreme Being.”—Müller, Proleg. p. 186-7.
Herodotus, no doubt, falls into a not unfrequent form of error, especially among the Greeks, when he ventures to ascribe to Homer and Hesiod the invention of an operation which they only carried on almost to its perfection. The tendency of popular feeling, concurrently with a popular school of poetry, had no doubt prepared the way, and done in a coarser what they effected in the most refined manner; and it is not difficult to see how such tendencies naturally arose when the period of the growth of special worships among the innumerable tribes into which the race was divided politically and geographically, a period in which each tribe communicated to its gods and their legends the characteristics of its own habits and habitation, was succeeded by a social change, which brought these variously developed forms and systems face to face, and exposed a glaring diversity highly satisfactory to susceptible imaginations, but a source of equal discomfort to those feelings of man which urge him to cast about for some point of stability, some principle of