Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter VIII.—The Demons Sin Among Mankind.

But men form the material (ὑπόθεσις) of their apostasy. For, having shown them a plan of the position of the stars, like dice-players, they introduced Fate, a flagrant injustice. For the judge and the judged are made so by Fate; the murderers and the murdered, the wealthy and the needy, are the offspring of the same Fate; and every nativity is regarded as a theatrical entertainment by those beings of whom Homer says,—

“Among the gods
Rose laughter irrepressible.” 442

But must not those who are spectators of single combats and are partisans on one side or the other, and he who marries and is a pæderast and an adulterer, who laughs and is angry, who flees and is wounded, be regarded as mortals? For, by whatever actions they manifest to men their characters, by these they prompt their hearers to copy their example. And are not the demons themselves, with Zeus at their head, subjected to Fate, being overpowered by the same passions as men? And, besides, how are those beings to be worshipped among whom there exists such a great contrariety of opinions? For Rhea, whom the inhabitants of the Phrygian mountains call Cybele, enacted emasculation on account of Attis, of whom she was enamoured; but Aphrodité is delighted with conjugal embraces. Artemis is a poisoner; Apollo heals diseases. And after the decapitation of the Gorgon, the beloved of Poseidon, whence sprang the horse Pegasus and Chrysaor, Athené and Asclepios divided between them the drops of blood; and, while he saved men’s lives by means of them, she, by the same blood, became a homicide and the instigator of wars. From regard to her reputation, as it appears to me, the Athenians attributed to the earth the son born of her connection with Hephæstos, that Athené might not be thought to be deprived of her virility by Hephæstos, as Atalanta by Meleager. This limping manufacturer of buckles and earrings, as is likely, deceived the motherless child and orphan with these girlish ornaments. Poseidon frequents the seas; Ares delights in wars; Apollo is a player on the cithara; Dionysus is absolute sovereign of the Thebans; Kronos is a tyrannicide; Zeus has intercourse with his own daughter, who becomes pregnant by him. I may instance, too, Eleusis, and the mystic Dragon, and Orpheus, who says,—

“Close the gates against the profane!”

Aïdoneus carries off Koré, and his deeds have been made into mysteries; Demeter bewails her daughter, and some persons are deceived by the Athenians. In the precincts of the temple of the son of Leto is a spot called Omphalos; but Omphalos is the burial-place of Dionysus. You now I laud, O Daphne!—by conquering the incontinence of Apollo, you disproved his power of vaticination; for, not foreseeing what would occur to you, 443 he derived no advantage from his art. Let the far-shooting god tell me how Zephyrus slew Hyacinthus. Zephyrus conquered him; and in accordance with the saying of the tragic poet,—

“A breeze is the most honourable chariot of the gods,” 444

conquered by a slight breeze, Apollo lost his beloved.



Il., i. 599; Od., viii. 326.


On fleeing from Apollo, she became a bay-tree.


It is uncertain from whom this line is quoted.

Next: Chapter IX. They Give Rise to Superstitions.