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polytheist extractions

Tag Archives: lucian

Lucian, On Sacrifices 15

“Sacrifices are the same in Egypt as with us, except that they mourn over the victim, standing about it and beating their breasts after it has been slain. In some cases they even bury it after simply cutting its throat.” – Lucian, On Sacrifices 15

Lucian, On Sacrifices 10-13

“That is the way the gods live, and as a result, the practices of men in the matter of divine worship are harmonious and consistent with all that. First they fenced off groves, dedicated mountains, consecrated birds and assigned plants to each god. Then they divided them up, and now worship them by nations and claim them as fellow-countrymen ; the Delphians claim Apollo, and so do the Delians, the Athenians Athena (in fact, she proves her kinship by her name), the Argives Hera, the Mygdonians Rhea, the Paphians Aphrodite. As for the Cretans, they not only say that Zeus was born and brought up among them, but even point out his tomb. We were mis­taken all this while, then, in thinking that thunder and rain and everything else comes from Zeus ; if we had but known it, he has been dead and buried in Crete this long time! Then too they erect temples, in order that the gods may not be houseless and hearthless, of course; and they fashion images in their likeness, sending for a Praxiteles or a Polycleitus or a Phidias, who have caught sight of them somewhere and represent Zeus as a bearded man, Apollo as a perennial boy, Hermes with his first moustache, Poseidon with sea-blue hair and Athena with green eyes ! In spite of all, those who enter the temple think that what they behold is not now ivory from India nor gold mined in Thrace, but the very son of Cronus and Rhea, transported to earth by Phidias and bidden to be overlord of de­serted Pisa, thinking himself lucky if he gets a sacrifice once in four long years as an incident to the Olympic games. When they have established altars and formulae and lustral rites, they present their sacrifices, the farmer an ox from the plough, the shepherd a lamb, the goatherd a goat, someone else incense or a cake ; the poor man, however, propitiates the god by just kissing his own hand. But those who offer victims (to come back to them) deck the animal with gar­lands, after finding out far in advance whether it is perfect or not, in order that they may not kill some­thing that is of no use to them; then they bring it to the altar and slaughter it under the god’s eyes, while it bellows plaintively—making, we must suppose, auspicious sounds, and fluting low music to accom­pany the sacrifice! Who would not suppose that the gods like to see all this ? And although the notice says that no one is to be allowed within the holy-water who has not clean hands, the priest himself stands there all bloody, just like the Cyclops of old, cutting up the victim, removing the entrails, plucking out the heart, pouring the blood about the altar, and doing everything possible in the way of piety. To crown it all, he lights a fire and puts upon it the goat, skin and all, and the sheep, wool and all; and the smoke, divine and holy, mounts upward and gradually dissipates into Heaven itself.” – Lucian, On Sacrifices 10-13

Lucian, On Sacrifices 2

“So nothing, it seems, that the gods do is done without compensation. They sell men their blessings, and one can buy from them health, it may be, for a calf, wealth for four oxen, a royal throne for a hundred, a safe return from Troy to Pylos for nine bulls, and a fair voyage from Aulis to Troy for a king’s daughter! Hecuba, you know, purchased temporary immunity for Troy from Athena for twelve oxen and a frock. One may imagine, too, that they have many things on sale for the price of a cock or a wreath or nothing more than incense.” – Lucian, On Sacrifices 2

Lucian, De Dea Syria 6

“I saw too at Byblos a large temple, sacred to the Byblian Aphrodite: this is the scene of the secret rites of Adonis: I mastered these. They assert that the legend about Adonis and the wild boar is true, and that the facts occurred in their country, and in memory of this calamity they beat their breasts and wail every year, and perform their secret ritual amid signs of mourning through the whole countryside. When they have finished their mourning and wailing, they sacrifice in the first place to Adonis, as to one who has departed this life: after this they allege that he is alive again, and exhibit his effigy to the sky. They proceed to shave their heads, too, like the Egyptians on the loss of their Apis. The women who refuse to be shaved have to submit to the following penalty: to stand for the space of an entire day in readiness to expose their persons for hire. The place of hire is open to none but foreigners, and out of the proceeds of the traffic of these women a sacrifice to Aphrodite is paid.” – Lucian, De Dea Syria 6

Lucian, Amores 13-14

“When we had enjoyed the plants to our fill we entered into the temple. The goddess is sited in the middle, a most beautiful artistic work of Parian marble, smiling a little sublimely with her lips parted in a laugh. Her whole beauty is uncovered, she has no clothing cloaking her and is naked except in as far as with one hand she nonchalantly conceals her crotch. The craftsman’s art has been so great as to suit the opposite and unyielding nature of the stone to each of the limbs. Kharikles, indeed, shouted out in a mad and deranged way. ‘Happiest of all gods was Ares who was bound for this goddess’, and with that he ran up and stretching his neck as far as he could kissed it on its shining lips. But Kallikratidas stood silently, his mind numbed with amazement.

“The temple has doors at both ends too, for those who want to see the goddess in detail from the back, in order that no part of her may not be wondered at. So it is easy for men entering at the other door to examine the beautiful form behind. So we decided to see the whole of the goddess and went around to the back of the shrine. Then, when the door was opened by the keeper of the keys, sudden wonder gripped us at the beauty of the woman entrusted to us. Well, the Athenian, when he had looked on quietly for a little, caught sight of the love parts of the goddess, and immediately cried out much more madly than Kharikles, ‘Herakles! What a fine rhythm to her back! Great flanks! What a handful to embrace. Look at the way the beautifully delineated flesh of the buttocks is arched, neither too wanting and drawn in too close to the bones themselves, nor allowed to spread out excessively fat. No one could express the sweetness of the smile of the shape impressed upon the hips. How precise the rhythms of thigh and shin extending right straight to the foot. Such a Ganymede pours nectar sweetly for Zeus in Heaven! For I wouldn’t have received a drink if Hebe had been serving.’ As Kallikratidas made this inspired cry, Kharikles was virtually transfixed with amazement, his eyes growing damp with a watering complaint . . .” – Lucian, Amores 13-14

Lucian, How to Write History

“There is a story of a curious epidemic at Abdera, just after the accession of King Lysimachus. It began with the whole population’s exhibiting feverish symptoms, strongly marked and consistent from the very first attack. About the seventh day, the fever was relieved, in some cases by a violent flow of blood from the nose, in others by perspiration no less violent. The mental effects, however, were most ridiculous; they were all stage-struck, mouthing blank verse and ranting at the top of their voices. Their favourite recitation was the Andromeda of Euripides; one after another would go through the great speech of Perseus; the whole place was full of pale ghosts, who were our seventh-day tragedians vociferating: ‘O Love, who lord’st it over gods and men…’ and the rest of it. This continued for some time, till the coming of winter put an end to their madness with a sharp frost. I find the explanation of the form the madness took in this fact: Archelaus was then the great tragic actor, and in the middle of the summer, during some very hot weather, he had played the Andromeda in Abdera; most of them took the fever in the theatre, and convalescence was followed by a relapse – into tragedy, the Andromeda haunting their memories.” – Lucian, How to Write History