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not ashamed to bid us wait for some self-wrought crumbling away of the spirit of Brahminism ere we look for any results but those of political evil, from preaching the gospel within sight of its bloody shrines.
• As things are now,' says Lucian, in one of his epistles, every man is, as the proverb has it, an ant or a camel;' and the saying is a key to the history of the time. The social chain had rusted and dwindled through all its middle links; there was little left between the lord and the slave ; and this can never be the case in an age either of barbarism or of refinement, without bringing along with it evils yet more deadly than those political mischiefs which are its visible attendants. The perilous extent to which slavery had grown all over the empire is known from other sources ;—the fact is implied in Lucian's writings passim. We have nowhere from him those glimpses of a peaceful and contented peasant life which lend so many charms to the works wherein the earlier periods both of Greek and of Roman society are illustrated. With him the transition from the beechen bowl to the golden cup studded with gems is immediate, and the existence of a rooted and universal enmity between the hovel and the palace seems to be taken for granted. It was far beyond the power of the mildest and most benevolent of despots to cure evils which were necessary consequences of the very events to which they themselves owed the possession of universal dominion. The imperial government was built, and it behoved it to rest upon, a total corruption of manners the settled ennui of gorgeous luxury, and the heart-broken prostration and listlessness of misery sunk below all hope, these were the only elements of safety which even an Antonine could contemplate from the throne which dazzled the world. The bloated excess of sensual indulgence, and the nerveless exhaustion of over-wearied penury, were their twin-ministrants; and these are influences almost alike effective in both the kindred causes of superstition and tyranny.
It is curious to trace the contradictions into which Gibbon could be betrayed by that miserable spleen, which, like an everpresent demon, controlled the workings of his masculine understanding.
• The division of Europe,' says he, into a number of independent states, connected, however, with each other, by the general resemblance of religion, language, and manners, is productive of the most beneficial consequences to the liberty of mankind. A modern tyrant, who should find no resistance either in his own breast, or in his people, would soon experience a gentle restraint from the example of his equals, the dread of present censure, the advice of his allies, and the apprehension of his enemies. The object of his displeasure, escaping from the narrow limits of his dominions, would easily obtain, in a happier climate, a secure refuge, a new fortune adequate to his merit, the freedom of
complaint, and perhaps the means of reyenge. But the empire of the Romans filled the world, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his enemies. The slave of imperial despotism, whether he was condemned to drag his gilded chain in Rome and the senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair. To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every side he was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse without being discovered, seized, and restored to his irritated master. Beyond the frontiers, his anxious view could discover nothing, except the ocean, inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of barbarians, of fierce manners and unknown language, or dependent kings, who would gladly purchase the emperor's protection by the sacrifice of an obnoxious fugitive. “ Wherever you are,” said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus,“ remember that you are equally within the power of the conqueror.” –Gibbon, vol. i. p. 132. And he adds, in a note :
• The place of Ovid’s exile is well known, by his just, but unmanly lamentations. It should seem that he only received an order to leave Rome in so many days, and to transport himself to Tomi. Guards and gaolers were unnecessary. Under Tiberius, a Roman knight attempted to fly to the Parthians. He was stopt in the streights of Sicily; but so little danger did there appear in the example, that the most jealous of tyrants disdained to punish it. Tacit. Annal. vi. 14.'
But a few pages before we read, that If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus. The vast extent of the Roman empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of virtue and wisdom. The armies were restrained by the firm but gentle hand of four successive emperors, whose characters and authority commanded involuntary respect. The forms of the civil administration were carefully preserved by Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the Antonines, who delighted in the image of liberty, and were pleased with considering themselves the accountable ministers of the laws. Such princes deserved the honour of restoring the republic, had the Romans of their days been capable of enjoying a rational freedom. The labours of these monarchs were overpaid by the immense reward that inseparably waited on their success; by the honest pride of virtue, and by the exquisite delight of beholding the general happiness of which they were the authors.'- Idem, vol. i. p. 126.
The superstition barbare de la Palestine' (as a bolder infidel phrases it) was not destined to disturb a scene of uch profound repose. The Roman police was, indeed, perfect for all political purposes, and so was, so perhaps still is, that of the French ; but
it would not be difficult to prove, with whatever disgust the loungers of the boulevards and cafés might witness such an attempt, that no police is more wretchedly inefficient, where political purposes are not concerned, than the Parisian; that more untraced, and unavenged blood, for example, is annually shed in and about that glittering Babylon than in any three Christian cities besides : and, in like manner, the reader of Lucian is furnished with perfect evidence that, amidst all the splendour of the golden æra of the Antonines, there was no lack of rottenness in the state of the magnificent empire, for which, be it admitted, these virtuous princes would fain have effected all that their eulogist has fancied. Robberies and midnight murders occur in our author's writings almost as frequently as adulteries and debauches; and we learn from a casual parenthesis in his account of the great Paphlagonian impostor, that a gentleman no more dreamt of travelling in those days in Asia Minor—then the garden of the world—without a guard of soldiers, than he would now in the most barbarous province of the Grand Seignior's dominion. The lucky chance that Lucian's janissaries had followed him to the gate of the serpent-oracle's abode, saved the life of the rash Pyrrhonist, when the cool-headed master of the loathsome show (who knew very well that the disappearance of such a person might be inquired into) could scarcely have prevented his being torn in pieces by the crowd of rude and exasperated devotees. And had Marcus Aurelius condescended to play the Haroon Alraschid for a single night in any great city of his empire, he would have found out that the evils of the time called for other remedies than those periodical courses of lectures with which he held it his duty, as a sovereign, to edify audiences both Greek and Roman, and considerably more thronged, we may believe, than have usually gratified the vanity of unpurpled professors of ethics. Had Gibbon condescended to examine other sources as diligently as he certainly did the formal and professed documents of history, he would, perhaps, have avoided more important errors than that at which we have been glancing; but it is singular that one so fond of dwelling on the ridiculous superstitions which priestly craft was able to engraft on the religion of the Bible during the decline and fall of the old Roman power, should have touched with so gentle a hand upon the prevalence of absurdities of kindred origin and complexion, and attended with moral consequences of precisely the same character, among every order of men in a society which he has the fancy to set before his readers as equally happy and enlightened. His boasted age of philosophical light and heathen toleration never had any existence except in the pages of hirelings and flatterers, and in those of well-meaning princes, the dupes of their own vanity, and of the lies by which
that vanity was systematically fed. We must look, not to the three or four place-hunting pieces of Lucian, but to the mass of his works, and their scope as a whole; the result will be satisfactory, absolvetque Deos.
To say that this multifarious collection of popular essays teems with proofs of the utter subjection into which the priestcraft of heathendom had reduced, and in which, in spite of all that the real philosophy of antiquity could do, it preserved the vulgar mind, would indeed be idle; if that had not been the case, it were impossible to imagine that a man of the tythe of Lucian's talents could have published a body of exquisitely polished writings, the main object of which, avowedly and obviously, is to cry down existing superstitions. But what we are satisfied even Ġibbon had never properly adverted to is, the extraordinary picture which these works exhibit of the intensely superstitious feelings prevalent among the very highest classes of society—the Roman senators and the Greek philosophers alike. We have already alluded to the elaborate tract in which Lucian tries to soothe a nobleman of consular rank, whose mind had been disturbed to its centre in consequence of his mistake in saluting him one morning with a úylaiva instead of a Xanpe; a circumstance nearly equivalent to an accidental transposition of 'good evening and good morning' among mortal men—ool vuv Bpoto siol. In the account of Alexander of Abonoteichos, we are informed distinctly that when the fame of the framer of the paper-headed serpent began to resound through Italy, ' all was bustle and hurry, the only strife being who should be first served with an oracle. Some went themselves, others sent their servants ; but of all classes the most elevated were they that manifested the greatest eagerness in the pursuit ;' and he goes on to the history of a certain Rutilianus, a senator who had filled some of the first offices in the imperial government, and who now sent embassy after embassy from Rome to Paphlagonia, until at last he consulted the prophet of the foolscap dragon touching the choice of a second wife, had his due reward in a most pithy and sonorous hexameter, which bade him marry the daughter of Alexander and Selene,' (i.e. the Moon,) * and actually, in obedience to the holy voice, made the impostor’s bastard his spouse, and celebrated the consummation in a style of splendour which attested his full sense of the dignity of a close alliance with the glory of earth and the queen of heaven :-the whole of which story, be it remembered, Lucian expressly introduces as a specimen. Nor can we regard, in
any other light, that unequalled congeries of absurdities which he presents to us as the substance of a conversation held by a com
* Γήμος Αλεξάνδρε τι Σελεναίης τε θύγατρα.
pany of the most eminent philosophers and physicians of the time at the bedside of an Athenian nobleman of illustrious rank, in his Philopseudes. His 'lie-lovers' are gathered from among the salt of the earth'assuredly the satirist had other ends in view than merely raising a laugh at the personal foibles of half a dozen odd, eccentric, hair-brained individuals. It is one of the most finished of his pieces; there is none in which the minute shades of character are more carefully preserved and delicately blended, or where the style varies in more delightful harmony with every variation of the topics.
The ingenious illustrator of the popular superstitions of Ireland will find here the prototypes of all his Phocas, Banshees, and Cluricaunes-stories told with the most consummate gravity by personages of the highest condition and accomplishment,-nay, attested, in many instances, with the most solemn appeals to personal character and trustworthiness—of ghosts, witches, Hyperborean and Libyan charms, brooms animated at the touch of a wand, assuming the likeness of clever lacqueys and abigails, performing the becoming functions during any space of time required, and, on its termination, forthwith re-broomed; bloody skeletons drawing men's curtains at the dead of night, and pointing the way to cellars in which their bones lay unblest and restless; a serpentbitten vinedresser cured by the spell of a Babylonian, who tied around the wounded toe a bandage inclosing a chip of the tombstone of a recently buried virgin ; a small bit of clay formed into a Cupid, told to fly to a distant damsel and deliver a tender message, and obeying; of astonishing results from the wearing of ring made out of the iron-work of a gibbet; of a statue of Pelichus, that used to come down every night from its pedestal in the mansion where the conversation is held, and walk about the house, and which appeared crowned with wreaths newly gilt in honour of a cure it had recently effected on the person of the proprietor; of an African
groom in the narrator's service, who stole some oboli that had been deposited as offerings at the feet of this Pelichus, and who, after running, as he supposed, all night away from the scene of his felony, found himself at daybreak within a few yards thereof, re-entered the house, confessed his guilt, restored the oboli, was whipt regularly every night afterwards by an invisible scourge wielded by an invisible hand, and at last died of terror; of a bronze Hippocrates two spans high in the possession of another of the company, the family physician of the great man, who, whenever the oil in the lamp before him was burnt out, was sure to skip down from the shelf, jump all over the house, make a sad clatter among the dishes, and jumble the contents of the doctor's gallipots; of a tall female spectre, an ancestress, no question, of Major