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SOUND MORAL DOCTRINES OF THE ANCIENTS.
'Αγάπη ου ζητεί τα εαυτής. - Plato, in Symposio.
Whatever we may think respecting the deterioration of style in the time of the Senecas, it seems as if Christian habits of thinking, marked by a more just feeling and philosophy, had thus early made a silent progress in the heathen mind. The following sentiment may indeed be found in anterior authors, but I doubt whether it be any where so simply and correctly stated :
Nemo tam Divos habuit faventes,
Senec. in Thyeste.
Ovid is not the poet to whom we should preferably recur for morality. Yet the great principle of the connection between occupation and virtue is strongly stated and exemplified by him in his elegiac poem De Remed. Amor. :
Quæritis, Ægisthus quare sit factus adulter ?
In promtu caussa est : desidiosus erat.
The illustration is notorious, but strong and pointed. The general doctrine had been previously laid
Otia si tollas, periere Cupidinis arcus,
Contemtæque jacent, et sine luce, faces :
Et quam limosa canna palustris humo;
Seneca, not the tragedian, as quoted by Erasmus, but the philosopher, in the 107th of his epistles, borrows the following sentiment, closely expressed in a single iambic line, from the original Greek of Cleanthes the Stoic, whence Epictetus also transferred it to ch. 77. of his Manual :
Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.
POPULAR TRICKS AND SUPERSTITIOUS IMAGI.
NATIONS OF THE ANCIENTS.
Veteres iis quos irridere volebant, cornua dormientibus capiti imponebant, vel caudam vulpis, vel quid simile.-Scaligerana.
THE Sortes Virgilianæ furnish a specimen of Pagan superstition. To enter into any explanation of them might seem like paying the reader a bad compliment: but it may not be so generally known, that under the first race of the French kings, a most profane practice was substituted for the Homeric or Virgilian lots. Three different books of the Bible were taken, for instance, the Prophecies, the Gospels, and the Epistles of St. Paul. Having laid them on the altar of some saint, by way of enhancing the piety of the proceeding, the consulters opened the books at hazard, and entered into a solemn examination of the respective texts, to ascertain in what respects they were applicable to the points they wished to ascertain. It is obvious that this would not always end in mere folly; but that the cunning contrivers of the accidental opening would take care the book should gape at such leaves, as should contain some fact or sentiment which they might wrest to the purposes they designed to promote. Louis le Débonnaire
had the merit of abolishing this custom. In the Ordinances of that emperor, the law to such effect is found in the following terms:— “Ut nullus in Psalterio, vel Evangelio, vel aliis rebus sortiri præsumat, nec divinationes aliquas observare."
But even Socrates himself was not proof against this superstition; as we learn from the following passage of Diogenes Laertius, in the Life of Socrates. It shows in a strong point of view the inconsistency of human wisdom in the wisest, that the man who could make such a reply as the following to his wife; Της γυναικός ειπούσης, 'Αδίκως αποθνήσκεις, Συ δε, έφη, δικαίως έβούλου; should have had his mind affected by a sors Homericà, communicated in a dream :-"Όναρ δόξας τινά αυτώ λέγειν,
"Ήματί κεν τριτάτα Φθίην ερίβωλον ίκαιο,
Προς Αισχίνην έφη, Εις τρίτην αποθανούμαι.
Brutus drew a similar presage from the coincidence of his opening on the passage in the sixteenth Iliad, where Patroclus says that Fate and the son of Latona had caused his death, and Apollo being the watchword on the day of the battle of Pharsalia.
The opinions of the ancients respecting the deathbed inspiration of poets, the Sibylline and other oracles, are well known. Thus Aristophanes, in the play of The Knights :
"Αδει δε χρησμούς: είθ' ο γέρων σιβυλλιά.
Actus 1. Scena 1.
Ovid gives the following account of the festival of Vesta, which was celebrated on the 9th of June, in his Fasti:
Adspicit instantes mediis sex lucibus Idus
Illa dies, qua sunt vota soluta Deæ.
Ad tua si nobis sacra venire licet.
Ovid's Medea, and Horace's Canidia, are both indebted to the Pharmaceutria of Theocritus for many of their love-charms. The ίυγξ was a bird used by magicians in their incantations, supposed to be the wag-tail. The moon and the night, notwithstanding the supposed purity of Diana, have always kept bad company with sorcerers, and are the old accomplices of their abominations, as well as the receivers of lovers' vows, knowing them to be stolen :
Βασεύμαι ποτί ταν Τιμαγήτοιο παλαίςραν
Manducus was the name given to a strange figure, dressed up frightfully, with wide jaws and large teeth, carried about at public shows :