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servience and sacrifice of the individual to the community. But as man is manifold and cannot be forever confined to a single form of lite, a reaction against this narrow patriotism was to be expected in the interest of personal freedom, and it came very naturally from Greek infiuences. The Roman could not contemplate the exuberant development of Greek thought, art, literature, society, without bitterly feeling how confined was his own range, how meagre and empty his owr îife. Hence, very early, Roman society began to be Hellenized, but especially after the unification of Italy. To quote Mommsen once more: “The Greek civilization was grandly human and cosmopolitan; and Rome not only was stimulated by this influence, but was penetrated by it to its very centre.” Even in politics there was a new school, whose fixed idea was the consolidation and propagandism of republicanism; but this Philhellenism showed itself especially in the realm of thought and faith. As the old faith died, more ceremonies were added ; for as life goes out, forms come in. As the winter of unbelief lowers the stream of piety, the ice of ritualism accumulates along its banks. In addition to the three colleges of Pontiffs, Haruspices, and Quindecemviri, another of Epulones, whose business was to attend to the religious feasts, was instituted in A. U. 558 (B. C. 196). Contributions and tithes of all sorts were demanded from the people. Hercules, especially, as is more than once intimated in the plays of Plautus, became very rich by his tithes.* Religion became more and more a charm, on the exact performance of which the favor of the gods depended; so that ceremonies were sometimes performed thirty times before the essential accuracy was attained.
The gods were now changed, in the hands of Greek statuaries, into ornaments for a rich man's home. Greek * A Greek epigram, recently translated, alludes to the same fact :
Honey and milk are sacrifice to thee,
myths were imported and connected with the story of Roman deities, as Ennius made Saturn the son of Cælus, in imitation of the genealogy of Kronos. That form of rationalism called Euhemerism, which explains every god into a mythical king or hero, became popular. So, too, was the doctrine of Epicharmos, who considered the divinities as powers of nature symbolized. According to the usual course of events, superstition and unbelief went hand in hand. As the old faith died out, new forms of worship, like those of Cybele and Bacchus, came in. Stern conservatives like Cato opposed all these innovations and scepticisms, but ineffectually.
Gibbon says that “the admirable work of Cicero, ' De Naturâ Deorum,' is the best clew we have to guide us thro this dark abyss" (the moral and religious teachings of the philosophers).* After, in the first two books, the arguments for the existence and providence of the gods have been set forth and denied, by Velleius the Epicurean, Cotta the academician, and Balbus the Stoic; in the third book, Cotta, the head of the priesthood, the Pontifex Maximus, proceeds to refute the stoical opinion that there are gods who govern the universe and provide for the welfare of mankind. To be sure, he says, as Pontifex, he of course believes in the gods, but he feels free as a philosopher to deny their existence. “I believe in the gods," says he, "on the authority and tradition of our ancestors; but if we reason, I shall reason against their existence.” Of course,” he says, “I believe in divination, as I have always been taught to do. But who knows whence it comes ? As to the voice of the Fauns, I never heard it; and I do not know what a Faun is. You say that the regular course of nature proves the existence of some ordering power. But what more regular than a tertian or quartan fever ? The world subsists by the power of nature.” on to criticise the Roman pantheon, ridiculing the idea of such gods as “Love, Deceit, Fear, Labor, Envy, Old Age, Death, Darkness, Misery, Lamentation, Favor, Fraud, Obstinacy,” etc. He shows that there are many gods of the same name; several Jupiters, Vulcans, Apollos, and Venuses. He then denies providence, by showing that the wicked succeed and the good are unfortunate. Finally, all was left in doubt, and the dialogue ends with a tone of triumphant uncertainty. This was Cicero's contribution to theology; and Cicero was far more religious than most men of his period.
* Gibbon, Decline and Fall, Chap. II.
Cotta goes * Conversion of the Roman Empire, Note A. +" Expedit civitates falli in religione,” said Varro.
Many writers, and more recently Merivale,* have referred to the remarkable debate which took place in the Roman Senate, on the occasion of Catiline's conspiracy. Cæsar, at that time chief pontiff, the highest religious authority in the state, gave his opinion against putting the conspirators to death ; for death, says he, “is the end of all suffering. After death there is neither pain nor pleasure (ultra neque curæ, neque gaudii locum).” Cato, the Stoic, remarked that Cæsar had spoken well concerning life and death. “I take it,” says he, “that he regards as false what we are told about the sufferings of the wicked hereafter,” but does not object to that statement. These speeches are reported by Sallust, and are confirmed by Cicero's fourth Catiline Oration. The remarkable fact is, not that such things were said, but that they were heard with total indifference. No one seemed to think it was of any consequence one way or the other. Suppose that when the question of the execution of Charles I. was before Parliament, it had been opposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury (had he been there) on the ground that after death all pain and pleasure ceased. The absurdity of the supposition shows the different position of the human mind at the two epochs.
In fact, an impassable gulf yawned between the old Roman religion and modern Roman thought. It was out of the question for an educated Roman, who read Plato and Zeno, who listened to Cicero and Hortensius, to believe in Janus and the Penates. All very well for the people,” said they. “The people must be kept in order by these superstitions.” + But the secret could not be kept. Sincere men, like Lucretius, who saw all the evil of these superstitions, and who had no strong religious sense, would speak out, and proclaim all religion to be priestcraft and an unmitigated evil. The poem of Lucretius,“ De Rerum Naturâ,” declares faith in the gods to have been the curse of the human race, and immortality to be a silly delusion. He denies the gods, providence, the human soul, and any moral purpose in the universe. But as religion is an instinct, which will break out in some form, and when expelled from the soul returns in disguise, Lucretius, denying all the gods, pours out a lovely hymn to Venus, goddess of beauty and love.
The last philosophic protest, in behalf of a pure and authoritative faith, came from the Stoics. The names of Seneca, Epictetus, and Aurelius Antoninus gave dignity, if they could not bring safety, to the declining religion of Rome.
Seneca, indeed, was inferior to the other two in personal character, and was more of a rhetorician than a philosopher. But noble thoughts occur in his writings. “A sacred spirit sits in every heart,” he says, “and treats us as we treat it.” He opposed idolatry, he condemned animal sacrifices. The moral element is very marked in his brilliant pages. Philosophy, he says, is an effort to be wise and good.* Physical studies he condemns as useless.t Goodness is that which harmonizes with the natural movements of the soul. I God and matter are the two principles of all being ; God is the active principle, matter the passive. God is spirit, and all souls are part of this spirit. Reason is the bond which unites God and other souls, and so God dwells in all souls.l
One of the best sayings of Epictetus is that "the wise man does not merely know by tradition and hearsay that
Philosophia pientiæ amor est.” “Nec philosophia sine virtute, nec sine philosophia virtus. Epist. XCI. 5. + “Physica non faciunt bonos, sed doctos.” Epist. CVI. 11. “ Bonum est, quod ad se impetum animi secundum naturam mo
Epist. CXVIII. 9. § “Universa ex materia et Deo constant.” Epist. LXV. 24.
Ñ “Socii Dei sumus et membra. Prope a te Deus est, tecum est, intus est. Sacer intra nos Spiritus sedet, malorum bonorumque nostrorum observator et custos. Deus ad homines venit ; inimo, in homines." Epist. XCII. 41, 73.
Jupiter is the father of gods and men ; but is inwardly convinced of it in his soul, and therefore cannot help act. ing and feeling according to this conviction.”*
Epictetus declared that the philosopher could have no will but that of the deity; he never blames fate or fortune, for he knows that no real evil can befall the just
The life of Epictetus was as true as his thoughts were noble, but he had fallen on an evil age, which needed for its reform, not a new philosophy, but a new inspiration of divine life. This steady current downward darkened the pure soul of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, of whom Niebuhr says, + " If there is any sublime human virtue, it is his.” He adds: “ He was certainly the noblest character of his time, and I know no other man who combined such unaffected kindness, mildness, and humility with such conscientiousness and severity towards himself.” “If there is anywhere an expression of virtue, it is in the heavenly features of M. Aurelius. His Meditations are a golden book, though there are things in it which cannot be read without deep grief, for there we find this purest of men without happiness." Though absolute monarch of the Empire, and rich in the universal love of his people, he was not powerful enough to resist the steady tendency to decay in society. Nor did he know that the power that was to renew the life of the world was already present in Christianity. He himself was in soul almost a Christian, though he did not know it, and though the Christian element of faith and hope was wanting. But he expressed a thought worthy of the Gospel, when he said : " The man of disciplined mind reverently bids Nature, who bestows all things and resumes them again to herself, 'Give what thou wilt, and take what thou wilt.'"
Although we have seen that Seneca speaks of a sacred spirit which dwells in us, other passages in his works (quoted by Zeller) show that he was, like other Stoics, a pantheist, and meant the soul of the world. He says
* Arrian's “Discourses of Epictetus,” III. 24. † Lectures on the History of Rome, III. 247. I Monolog., X. 14.