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Memorials and Other Papers by Thomas de Quincey

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means of working upon a scale of far accelerated speed.

The books now existing upon the ancient oracles, above all, upon the
Greek oracles, amount to a small library. The facts have been collected
from all quarters,--examined, sifted, winnowed. Theories have been
raised upon these facts under every angle of aspect; and yet, after
all, we profess ourselves to be dissatisfied. Amongst much that is
sagacious, we feel and we resent with disgust a taint of falsehood
diffused over these recent speculations from vulgar and even
counterfeit incredulity; the one gross vice of German philosophy, not
less determinate or less misleading than that vice which, heretofore,
through many centuries, had impoverished this subject, and had stopped
its discussion under the anile superstition of the ecclesiastical

These fathers, both Greek and Latin, had the ill fortune to be
extravagantly esteemed by the church of Rome; whence, under a natural
reaction, they were systematically depreciated by the great leaders of
the Protestant Reformation. And yet hardly in a corresponding degree.
For there was, after all, even among the reformers, a deep-seated
prejudice in behalf of all that was "primitive" in Christianity; under
which term, by some confusion of ideas, the fathers often benefited.
Primitive Christianity was reasonably venerated; and, on this argument,
that, for the first three centuries, it was necessarily more sincere.
We do not think so much of that sincerity which affronted the fear of
persecution; because, after all, the searching persecutions were rare
and intermitting, and not, perhaps, in any case, so fiery as they have
been represented. We think more of that gentle but insidious
persecution which lay in the solicitations of besieging friends, and
more still of the continual temptations which haunted the irresolute
Christian in the fascinations of the public amusements. The theatre,
the circus, and, far beyond both, the cruel amphitheatre, constituted,
for the ancient world, a passionate enjoyment, that by many authors,
and especially through one period of time, is described as going to the
verge of frenzy. And we, in modern times, are far too little aware in
what degree these great carnivals, together with another attraction of
great cities, the pomps and festivals of the Pagan worship, broke the
monotony of domestic life, which, for the old world, was even more
oppressive than it is for us. In all principal cities, so as to be
within the reach of almost all provincial inhabitants, there was a
hippodrome, often uniting the functions of the circus and the
amphitheatre; and there was a theatre. From all such pleasures the
Christian was sternly excluded by his very profession of faith. From
the festivals of the Pagan religion his exclusion was even more
absolute; against them he was a sworn militant protester from the hour
of his baptism. And when these modes of pleasurable relaxation had been
subtracted from ancient life, what could remain? Even less, perhaps,
than most readers have been led to consider. For the ancients had no
such power of extensive locomotion, of refreshment for their wearied
minds, by travelling and change of scene, as we children of modern
civilization possess. No ships had then been fitted up for passengers,
nor public carriages established, nor roads opened extensively, nor
hotels so much as imagined hypothetically; because the relation of
_xenia_, or the obligation to reciprocal hospitality, and latterly
the Roman relation of patron and client, had stifled the first motions
of enterprise of the ancients; in fact, no man travelled but the
soldier, and the man of political authority. Consequently, in
sacrificing public amusements, the Christians sacrificed _all_
pleasure whatsoever that was not rigorously domestic; whilst in facing
the contingencies of persecutions that might arise under the rapid
succession of changing emperors, they faced a perpetual _anxiety_
more trying to the fortitude than any fixed and measurable evil. Here,
certainly, we have a guarantee for the deep faithfulness of early
Christians, such as never can exist for more mixed bodies of
professors, subject to no searching trials.

Better the primitive Christians were (by no means individually better,
but better on the total body), yet they were not in any intellectual
sense wiser. Unquestionably the elder Christians participated in the
local follies, prejudices, superstitions, of their several provinces
and cities, except where any of these happened to be too conspicuously
at war with the spirit of love or the spirit of purity which exhaled at
every point from the Christian faith; and, in all intellectual
features, as were the Christians generally, such were the fathers.
Amongst the Greek fathers, one might be unusually learned, as Clement
of Alexandria; and another might be reputed unusually eloquent, as
Gregory Nazianzen, or Basil. Amongst the Latin fathers, one might be a
man of admirable genius, as far beyond the poor, vaunted Rousseau in
the impassioned grandeur of his thoughts, as he was in truth and purity
of heart; we speak of St. Augustine (usually called St. Austin), and
many might be distinguished by various literary merits. But could these
advantages anticipate a higher civilization? Most unquestionably some
of the fathers were the _élite_ of their own age, but not in
advance of their age. They, like all their contemporaries, were
besieged by errors, ancient, inveterate, traditional; and accidentally,
from one cause special to themselves, they were not merely liable to
error, but usually prone to error. This cause lay in the _polemic_
form which so often they found a necessity, or a convenience, or a
temptation for assuming, as teachers or defenders of the truth.

He who reveals a body of awful truth to a candid and willing auditory
is content with the grand simplicities of truth in the quality of his
proofs. And truth, where it happens to be of a high order, is generally
its own witness to all who approach it in the spirit of childlike
docility. But far different is the position of that teacher who
addresses an audience composed in various proportions of sceptical
inquirers, obstinate opponents, and malignant scoffers. Less than an
apostle is unequal to the suppression of all human reactions incident
to wounded sensibilities. Scorn is too naturally met by retorted scorn:
malignity in the Pagan, which characterized all the known cases of
signal opposition to Christianity, could not but hurry many good men
into a vindictive pursuit of victory. Generally, where truth is
communicated _polemically_ (this is, not as it exists in its own
inner simplicity, but as it exists in external relation to error), the
temptation is excessive to use those arguments which will tell at the
moment upon the crowd of bystanders, by preference to those which will
approve themselves ultimately to enlightened disciples. Hence it is,
that, like the professional rhetoricians of Athens, not seldom the
Christian fathers, when urgently pressed by an antagonist equally
mendacious and ignorant, could not resist the human instinct for
employing arguments such as would baffle and confound the unprincipled
opponent, rather than such as would satisfy the mature Christian. If a
man denied himself all specious arguments, and all artifices of
dialectic subtlety, he must renounce the hopes of a _present_
triumph; for the light of absolute truth on moral or on spiritual
themes is too dazzling to be sustained by the diseased optics of those
habituated to darkness. And hence we explain not only the many gross
delusions of the fathers, their sophisms, their errors of fact and
chronology, their attempts to build great truths upon fantastic
etymologies, or upon popular conceits in science that have long since
exploded, but also their occasional unchristian tempers. To contend
with an unprincipled and malicious liar, such as Julian the Apostate,
in its original sense the first deliberate _miscreant_, offered a
dreadful snare to any man's charity. And he must be a furious bigot who
will justify the rancorous lampoons of Gregory Nazianzen. Are we, then,
angry on behalf of Julian? So far as _he_ was interested, not for
a moment would we have suspended the descending scourge. Cut him to the
bone, we should have exclaimed at the time! Lay the knout into every
"raw" that can be found! For we are of opinion that Julian's duplicity
is not yet adequately understood. But what was right as regarded the
claims of the criminal, was _not_ right as regarded the duties of
his opponent. Even in this mischievous renegade, trampling with his
orangoutang hoofs the holiest of truths, a Christian bishop ought still
to have respected his sovereign, through the brief period that he
_was_ such, and to have commiserated his benighted brother,
however wilfully astray, and however hatefully seeking to quench that
light for other men, which, for his own misgiving heart, we could
undertake to show that he never _did_ succeed in quenching. We do
not wish to enlarge upon a theme both copious and easy. But here, and
everywhere, speaking of the fathers as a body, we charge them with
anti-christian practices of a two-fold order: sometimes as supporting
their great cause in a spirit alien to its own, retorting in a temper
not less uncharitable than that of their opponents; sometimes, again,
as adopting arguments that are unchristian in their ultimate grounds;
resting upon errors the reputation of errors; upon superstitions the
overthrow of superstitions; and drawing upon the armories of darkness
for weapons that, to be durable, ought to have been of celestial
temper. Alternately, in short, the fathers trespass against those
affections which furnish to Christianity its moving powers, and against
those truths which furnish to Christianity its guiding lights. Indeed,
Milton's memorable attempt to characterize the fathers as a body,
contemptuous as it is, can hardly be challenged as overcharged.

Never in any instance were these aberrations of the fathers more
vividly exemplified than in their theories upon the Pagan Oracles. On
behalf of God, they were determined to be wiser than God; and, in
demonstration of scriptural power, to advance doctrines which the
Scriptures had nowhere warranted. At this point, however, we shall take
a short course; and, to use a vulgar phrase, shall endeavor to "kill
two birds with one stone." It happens that the earliest book in our
modern European literature, which has subsequently obtained a station
of authority on the subject of the ancient Oracles, applied itself
entirely to the erroneous theory of the fathers. This is the celebrated
_Antonii Van Dale, "De Ethnicorum Oraculis Dissertationes_," which
was published at Amsterdam _at least_ as early as the year 1682;
that is, one hundred and sixty years ago. And upon the same subject
there has been no subsequent book which maintains an equal rank. Van
Dale might have treated his theme simply with a view to the
investigation of the truth, as some recent inquirers have preferred
doing; and, in that case, the fathers would have been noticed only as
incidental occasions might bring forward their opinions--true or false.
But to this author the errors of the fathers seemed capital; worthy, in
fact, of forming his _principal_ object; and, knowing their great
authority in the Papal church, he anticipated, in the plan of attaching
his own views to the false views of the fathers, an opening to a double
patronage--that of the Protestants, in the first place, as interested
in all doctrines seeming to be anti-papal; that of the sceptics, in the
second place, as interested in the exposure of whatever had once
commanded, but subsequently lost, the superstitious reverence of
mankind. On this policy, he determined to treat the subject
polemically. He fastened, therefore, upon the fathers with a deadly
_acharnement_, that evidently meant to leave no arrears of work
for any succeeding assailant; and it must be acknowledged that, simply
in relation to this purpose of hostility, his work is triumphant. So
much was not difficult to accomplish; for barely to enunciate the
leading doctrine of the fathers is, in the ear of any chronologist, to
overthrow it. But, though successful enough in its functions of
destruction, on the other hand, as an affirmative or constructive work,
the long treatise of Van Dale is most unsatisfactory. It leaves us with
a hollow sound ringing in the ear, of malicious laughter from gnomes
and imps grinning over the weaknesses of man--his paralytic facility in
believing--his fraudulent villany in abusing this facility--but in no
point accounting for those real effects of diffusive social benefits
from the Oracle machinery, which must arrest the attention of candid
students, amidst some opposite monuments of incorrigible credulity, or
of elaborate imposture.

As a book, however, belonging to that small cycle (not numbering,
perhaps, on _all_ subjects, above three score), which may be said
to have moulded and controlled the public opinion of Europe through the
last five generations, already for itself the work of Van Dale merits a
special attention. It is confessedly the _classical_ book--the
original _fundus_ for the arguments and facts applicable to this
question; and an accident has greatly strengthened its authority.
Fontenelle, the most fashionable of European authors, at the opening of
the eighteenth century, writing in a language at that time even more
predominant than at present, did in effect employ all his advantages to
propagate and popularize the views of Van Dale. Scepticism naturally
courts the patronage of France; and in effect that same remark which a
learned Belgian (Van Brouwer) has found frequent occasion to make upon
single sections of Fontenelle's work, may be fairly extended into a
representative account of the whole--"_L'on trouve les mêmes
arguments chez Fontenelle, mais dégagés des longueurs du savant Van
Dale, et exprimés avec plus d'élégance._" This _rifaccimento_
did not injure the original work in reputation: it caused Van Dale to
be less read, but to be more esteemed; since a man confessedly
distinguished for his powers of composition had not thought it beneath
his ambition to adopt and recompose Van Dale's theory. This important
position of Van Dale with regard to the effectual creed of Europe--so
that, whether he were read directly or were slighted for a more
fashionable expounder, equally in either case it was _his_ doctrines
which prevailed--must always confer a circumstantial value upon the
original dissertations, "_De Ethnicorum Oraculis_."

This original work of Van Dale is a book of considerable extent. But,
in spite of its length, it divides substantially into two great
chapters, and no more, which coincide, in fact, with the two separate
dissertations. The first of these dissertations, occupying one hundred
and eighty-one pages, inquires into the failure and extinction of the
Oracles; when they failed, and under what circumstances. The second of
these dissertations inquires into the machinery and resources of the
Oracles during the time of their prosperity. In the first dissertation,
the object is to expose the folly and gross ignorance of the fathers,
who insisted on representing the history of the case roundly in this
shape--as though all had prospered with the Oracles up to the nativity
of Christ; but that, after his crucifixion, and simultaneously with the
first promulgation of Christianity, all Oracles had suddenly drooped;
or, to tie up their language to the rigor of their theory, had suddenly
expired. All this Van Dale peremptorily denies; and, in these days, it
is scarcely requisite to add, triumphantly denies; the whole hypothesis
of the fathers having literally not a leg to stand upon; and being, in
fact, the most audacious defiance to historical records that, perhaps,
the annals of human folly present.

In the second dissertation, Van Dale combats the other notion of the
fathers--that, during their prosperous ages, the Oracles had moved by
an agency of evil spirits. He, on the contrary, contends that, from the
first hour to the last of their long domination over the minds and
practice of the Pagan world, they had moved by no agencies whatever,
but those of human fraud, intrigue, collusion, applied to human
blindness, credulity, and superstition.

We shall say a word or two upon each question. As to the first, namely,
_when_ it was that the Oracles fell into decay and silence, thanks
to the headlong rashness of the Fathers, Van Dale's assault cannot be
refused or evaded. In reality, the evidence against them is too
flagrant and hyperbolical. If we were to quote from Juvenal--"Delphis
et Oracula cessant," in that case, the fathers challenge it as an
argument on _their_ side, for that Juvenal described a state of
things immediately posterior to Christianity; yet even here the word
_cessant_ points to a distinction of cases which already in itself
is fatal to their doctrine. By _cessant_ Juvenal means evidently
what we, in these days, should mean in saying of a ship in action that
her fire was slackening. This powerful poet, therefore, wiser so far
than the Christian fathers, distinguishes two separate cases: first,
the state of torpor and languishing which might be (and in fact was)
the predicament of many famous Oracles through centuries not fewer than
five, six, or even eight; secondly, the state of absolute dismantling
and utter extinction which, even before his time, had confounded
individual Oracles of the inferior class, not from changes affecting
religion, whether true or false, but from political revolutions. Here,
therefore, lies the first blunder of the fathers, that they confound
with total death the long drooping which befell many great Oracles from
languor in the popular sympathies, under changes hereafter to be
noticed; and, consequently, from revenues and machinery continually
decaying. That the Delphic Oracle itself--of all oracles the most
illustrious--had not expired, but simply slumbered for centuries, the
fathers might have been convinced themselves by innumerable passages in
authors contemporary with themselves; and that it was continually
throwing out fitful gleams of its ancient power, when any very great
man (suppose a Caesar) thought fit to stimulate its latent vitality, is
notorious from such cases as that of Hadrian. He, in his earlier days,
whilst yet only dreaming of the purple, had not found the Oracle
superannuated or palsied. On the contrary, he found it but too clear-
sighted; and it was no contempt in him, but too ghastly a fear and
jealousy, which labored to seal up the grander ministrations of the
Oracle for the future. What the Pythia had foreshown to himself, she
might foreshow to others; and, when tempted by the same princely
bribes, she might authorize and kindle the same aspiring views in other
great officers. Thus, in the new condition of the Roman power, there
was a perpetual peril, lest an oracle, so potent as that of Delphi,
should absolutely create rebellions, by first suggesting hopes to men
in high commands. Even as it was, all treasonable assumptions of the
purple, for many generations, commenced in the hopes inspired by
auguries, prophecies, or sortileges. And had the great Delphic Oracle,
consecrated to men's feelings by hoary superstition, and _privileged
by secrecy_, come forward to countersign such hopes, many more would
have been the wrecks of ambition, and even bloodier would have been the
blood-polluted line of the imperial successions. Prudence, therefore,
it was, and state policy, not the power of Christianity, which gave the
_final_ shock (of the _original_ shock we shall speak elsewhere)
to the grander functions of the Delphic Oracle. But, in the mean
time, the humbler and more domestic offices of this oracle, though
naturally making no noise at a distance, seem long to have survived its
state relations. And, apart from the sort of galvanism notoriously
applied by Hadrian, surely the fathers could not have seen Plutarch's
account of its condition, already a century later than our Saviour's
nativity. The Pythian priestess, as we gather from _him_, had by
that time become a less select and dignified personage; she was no
longer a princess in the land--a change which was proximately due to
the impoverished income of the temple; but she was still in existence;
still held in respect; still trained, though at inferior cost, to her
difficult and showy ministrations. And the whole establishment of the
Delphic god, if necessarily contracted from that scale which had been
suitable when great kings and commonwealths were constant suitors
within the gates of Delphi, still clung (like the Venice of modern
centuries) to her old ancestral honors, and kept up that decent
household of ministers which corresponded to the altered ministrations
of her temple. In fact, the evidences on behalf of Delphi as a princely
house, that had indeed partaken in the decaying fortunes of Greece, but
naturally was all the prouder from the irritating contrast of her great
remembrances, are so plentifully dispersed through books, that the
fathers must have been willingly duped. That in some way they
_were_ duped is too notorious from the facts, and might be suspected
even from their own occasional language; take, as one instance, amongst
a whole _harmony_ of similar expressions, this short passage from
Eusebius--_hoi Hellenes homologentes ekleloipenai auton ta chresteria_:
the Greeks admitting that their Oracles have failed. (There is,
however, a disingenuous vagueness in the very word _ekleloipenai_),
_ed' allote pote ex aionos_--and when? why, at no other crisis through
the total range of their existence--_e kata tes chrones tes euangelikes
didaskalias_--than precisely at the epoch of the evangelical
dispensation, etc. Eusebius was a man of too extensive reading to be
entirely satisfied with the Christian representations upon this point.
And in such indeterminate phrases as _kata tes chrones_ (which might
mean indifferently the entire three centuries then accomplished from
the first promulgation of Christianity, or specifically that narrow
punctual limit of the earliest promulgation), it is easy to trace an
ambidextrous artifice of compromise between what would satisfy his own
brethren, on the one hand, and what, on the other hand, he could hope
to defend against the assaults of learned Pagans.

In particular instances it is but candid to acknowledge that the
fathers may have been misled by the remarkable tendencies to error
amongst the ancients, from their want of public journals, combined with
territorial grandeur of empire. The greatest possible defect of harmony
arises naturally in this way amongst ancient authors, locally remote
from each other; but more especially in the post-christian periods,
when reporting any aspects of change, or any results from a revolution
variable and advancing under the vast varieties of the Roman empire.
Having no newspapers to effect a level amongst the inequalities and
anomalies of their public experience in regard to the Christian
revolution, when collected from innumerable tribes so widely differing
as to civilization, knowledge, superstition, &c.; hence it happened
that one writer could report with truth a change as having occurred
within periods of ten to sixty years, which for some other province
would demand a circuit of six hundred. For example, in Asia Minor, all
the way from the sea coast to the Euphrates, towns were scattered
having a dense population of Jews. Sometimes these were the most
malignant opponents of Christianity; that is, wherever they happened to
rest in the _letter_ of their peculiar religion. But, on the other
hand, where there happened to be a majority (or, if not numerically a
majority, yet influentially an overbalance) in that section of the Jews
who were docile children of their own preparatory faith and discipline,
no bigots, and looking anxiously for the fulfilment of their prophecies
(an expectation at that time generally diffused),--under those
circumstances, the Jews were such ready converts as to account
naturally for sudden local transitions, which in other circumstances or
places might not have been credible.

This single consideration may serve to explain the apparent
contradictions, the irreconcilable discrepancies, between the
statements of contemporary Christian bishops, locally at a vast
distance from each other, or (which is even more important) reporting
from communities occupying different stages of civilization. There was
no harmonizing organ of interpretation, in Christian or in Pagan
newspapers, to bridge over the chasms that divided different provinces.
A devout Jew, already possessed by the purest idea of the Supreme
Being, stood on the very threshold of conversion: he might, by one
hour's conversation with an apostle, be transfigured into an
enlightened Christian; whereas a Pagan could seldom in one generation
pass beyond the infirmity of his novitiate. His heart and affections,
his will and the habits of his understanding, were too deeply diseased
to be suddenly transmuted. And hence arises a phenomenon, which has too
languidly arrested the notice of historians; namely, that already, and
for centuries before the time of Constantine, wherever the Jews had
been thickly sown as colonists, the most potent body of Christian zeal
stood ready to kindle under the first impulse of encouragement from the
state; whilst in the great capitals of Rome and Alexandria, where the
Jews were hated and neutralized politically by Pagan forces, not for a
hundred years later than Constantine durst the whole power of the
government lay hands on the Pagan machinery, except with timid
precautions, and by graduations so remarkably adjusted to the
circumstances, that sometimes they wear the shape of compromises with
idolatry. We must know the ground, the quality of the population,
concerned in any particular report of the fathers, before we can judge
of its probabilities. Under local advantages, insulated cases of
Oracles suddenly silenced, of temples and their idol-worship
overthrown, as by a rupture of new-born zeal, were not less certain to
arise as rare accidents from rare privileges, or from rare coincidences
of unanimity in the leaders of the place, than on the other hand they
were certain _not_ to arise in that unconditional universality
pretended by the fathers. Wheresoever Paganism was interwoven with the
whole moral being of a people, as it was in Egypt, or with the
political tenure and hopes of a people, as it was in Rome, _there_
a long struggle was inevitable before the revolution could be effected.
Briefly, as against the fathers, we find a sufficient refutation in
what _followed_ Christianity. If, at a period five, or even six
hundred years after the birth of Christ, you find people still
consulting the local Oracles of Egypt, in places sheltered from the
point-blank range of the state artillery,--there is an end, once and
forever, to the delusive superstition that, merely by its silent
presence in the world, Christianity must instantaneously come into
fierce activity as a reägency of destruction to all forms of idolatrous
error. That argument is multiplied beyond all power of calculation; and
to have missed it is the most eminent instance of wilful blindness
which the records of human folly can furnish. But there is another
refutation lying in an opposite direction, which presses the fathers
even more urgently in the rear than this presses them in front; any
author posterior to Christianity, who should point to the decay of
Oracles, they would claim on their own side. But what would they have
said to Cicero,--by what resource of despair would they have parried
his authority, when insisting (as many times he does insist), forty and
even fifty years before the birth of Christ, on the languishing
condition of the Delphic Oracle? What evasion could they imagine here?
How could that languor be due to Christianity, which far anticipated
the very birth of Christianity? For, as to Cicero, who did not "far
anticipate the birth of Christianity." we allege _him_ rather
because his work _De Divinatione_ is so readily accessible, and
because his testimony on any subject is so full of weight, than because
other and much older authorities cannot be produced to the same effect.
The Oracles of Greece had lost their vigor and their palmy pride full
two centuries before the Christian era. Historical records show this
_à posteriori_, whatever were the cause; and the cause, which we
will state hereafter, shows it _à priori_, apart from the records.

Surely, therefore, Van Dale needed not to have pressed his victory over
the helpless fathers so unrelentingly, and after the first ten pages by
cases and proofs that are quite needless and _ex abundanti_;
simply the survival of any one distinguished Oracle upwards of four
centuries _after_ Christ--that is sufficient. But if with this
fact we combine the other fact, that all the principal Oracles had
already begun to languish, more than two centuries _before_
Christianity, there can be no opening for a whisper of dissent upon any
real question between Van Dale and his opponents; namely, both as to
the possibility of Christianity coexisting with such forms of error,
and the possibility that oracles should be overthrown by merely Pagan,
or internal changes. The less plausible, however, that we find this
error of the fathers, the more curiosity we naturally feel about the
source of that error; and the more so, because Van Dale never turns his
eyes in that direction.

This source lay (to speak the simple truth) in abject superstition. The
fathers conceived of the enmity between Christianity and Paganism, as
though it resembled that between certain chemical poisons and the
Venetian wine-glass, which (according to the belief [Footnote: Which
belief we can see no reason for rejecting so summarily as is usually
done in modern times. It would be absurd, indeed, to suppose a kind of
glass qualified to expose all poisons indifferently, considering the
vast range of their chemical differences. But, surely, as against that
one poison then familiarly used for domestic murders, a chemical
reagency might have been devised in the quality of the glass. At least,
there is no _prima facie_ absurdity in such a supposition.] of
three centuries back) no sooner received any poisonous fluid, than
immediately it shivered into crystal splinters. They thought to honor
Christianity, by imaging it as some exotic animal of more powerful
breed, such as we English have witnessed in a domestic case, coming
into instant collision with the native race, and exterminating it
everywhere upon the first conflict. In this conceit they substituted a
foul fiction of their own, fashioned on the very model of Pagan
fictions, for the unvarying analogy of the divine procedure.
Christianity, as the last and consummate of revelations, had the high
destination of working out its victory through what was greatest in a
man--through his reason, his will, his affections. But, to satisfy the
fathers, it must operate like a drug--like sympathetic powders--like an
amulet--or like a conjurer's charm. Precisely the monkish effect of a
Bible when hurled at an evil spirit--not the true rational effect of
that profound oracle read, studied, and laid to heart--was that which
the fathers ascribed to the mere proclamation of Christianity, when
first piercing the atmosphere circumjacent to any oracle; and, in fact,
to their gross appreciations, Christian truth was like the scavenger
bird in Eastern climates, or the stork in Holland, which signalizes its
presence by devouring all the native brood of vermin, or nuisances, as
fast as they reproduce themselves under local distemperatures of
climate or soil.

It is interesting to pursue the same ignoble superstition, which, in
fact, under Romish hands, soon crept like a parasitical plant over
Christianity itself, until it had nearly strangled its natural vigor,
back into times far preceding that of the fathers. Spite of all that
could be wrought by Heaven, for the purpose of continually confounding
the local vestiges of popular reverence which might have gathered round
stocks and stones, so obstinate is the hankering after this mode of
superstition in man that his heart returns to it with an elastic recoil
as often as the openings are restored. Agreeably to this infatuation,
the temple of the true God--even its awful _adytum_--the holy of
holies--or the places where the ark of the covenant had rested in its
migrations--all were conceived to have an eternal and a self-
vindicating sanctity. So thought man: but God himself, though to man's
folly pledged to the vindication of his own sanctities, thought far
otherwise; as we know by numerous profanations of all holy places in
Judea, triumphantly carried through, and avenged by no plausible
judgments. To speak only of the latter temple, three men are memorable
as having polluted its holiest recesses: Antiochus Epiphanes, Pompey
about a century later, and Titus pretty nearly by the same exact
interval later than Pompey. Upon which of these three did any judgment
descend? Attempts have been made to impress that coloring of the sequel
in two of these cases, indeed, but without effect upon _any_ man's
mind. Possibly in the case of Antiochus, who seems to have moved under
a burning hatred, not so much of the insurgent Jews as of the true
faith which prompted their resistance, there is some colorable argument
for viewing him in his miserable death as a monument of divine wrath.
But the two others had no such malignant spirit; they were tolerant,
and even merciful; were authorized instruments for executing the
purposes of Providence; and no calamity in the life of either can be
reasonably traced to his dealings with Palestine. Yet, if Christianity
could not brook for an instant the mere coëxistence of a Pagan oracle,
how came it that the Author of Christianity had thus brooked (nay, by
many signs of coöperation, had promoted) that ultimate desecration,
which planted "the abomination of desolation" as a victorious crest of
Paganism upon his own solitary altar? The institution of the Sabbath,
again--what part of the Mosaic economy could it more plausibly have
been expected that God should vindicate by some memorable interference,
since of all the Jewish institutions it was that one which only and
which frequently became the occasion of wholesale butchery to the pious
(however erring) Jews? The scruple of the Jews to fight, or even to
resist an assassin, on the Sabbath, was not the less pious in its
motive because erroneous in principle; yet no miracle interfered to
save them from the consequences of their infatuation. And this seemed
the more remarkable in the case of their war with Antiochus, because
_that_ (if any that history has recorded) was a holy war. But,
after one tragical experience, which cost the lives of a thousand
martyrs, the Maccabees--quite as much on a level with their scrupulous
brethren in piety as they were superior in good sense--began to reflect
that they had no shadow of a warrant from Scripture for counting upon
any miraculous aid; that the whole expectation, from first to last, had
been human and presumptuous; and that the obligation of fighting
valiantly against idolatrous compliances was, at all events, paramount
to the obligation of the Sabbath. In one hour, after unyoking
themselves from this monstrous millstone of their own forging, about
their own necks, the cause rose buoyantly aloft as upon wings of
victory; and, as their very earliest reward--as the first fruits from
thus disabusing their minds of windy presumptions--they found the very
case itself melting away which had furnished the scruple; since their
cowardly enemies, now finding that they would fight on all days alike,
had no longer any motive for attacking them on the Sabbath; besides
that their own astonishing victories henceforward secured to them often
the choice of the day not less than of the ground.

But, without lingering on these outworks of the true religion, namely,
1st, the Temple of Jerusalem; 2dly, the Sabbath,--both of which the
divine wisdom often saw fit to lay prostrate before the presumption of
idolatrous assaults, on principles utterly irreconcilable with the
Oracle doctrine of the fathers,--there is a still more flagrant
argument against the fathers, which it is perfectly confounding to find
both them and their confuter overlooking. It is this. Oracles, take
them at the very worst, were no otherwise hostile to Christianity than
as a branch of Paganism. If, for instance, the Delphic establishment
were hateful (as doubtless it was) to the holy spirit of truth which
burned in the mind of an apostle, _why_ was it hateful? Not
primarily in its character of Oracle, but in its universal character of
Pagan temple; not as an authentic distributor of counsels adapted to
the infinite situations of its clients--often very wise counsels; but
as being ultimately engrafted on the stem of idolatrous religion--as
deriving, in the last resort, their sanctions from Pagan deities, and,
therefore, as sharing _constructively_ in all the pollutions of
that tainted source. Now, therefore, if Christianity, according to the
fancy of the fathers, could not tolerate the co-presence of so much
evil as resided in the Oracle superstition,--that is, in the
derivative, in the secondary, in the not unfrequently neutralized or
even redundantly compensated mode of error,--then, _à fortiori_,
Christianity could not have tolerated for an hour the parent
superstition, the larger evil, the fontal error, which diseased the
very organ of vision--which not merely distorted a few objects on the
road, but spread darkness over the road itself. Yet what is the fact?
So far from any mysterious repulsion _externally_ between
idolatrous errors and Christianity, as though the two schemes of belief
could no more coexist in the same society than two queen-bees in a
hive,--as though elementary nature herself recoiled from the abominable
_concursus_,--do but open a child's epitome of history, and you
find it to have required four entire centuries before the destroyer's
hammer and crowbar began to ring loudly against the temples of
idolatrous worship; and not before five, nay, locally six, or even
seven centuries had elapsed, could the better angel of mankind have
sung gratulations announcing that the great strife was over--that man
was inoculated with the truth; or have adopted the impressive language
of a Latin father, that "the owls were to be heard in _every_
village hooting from the dismantled fanes of heathenism, or the gaunt
wolf disturbing the sleep of peasants as he yelled in winter from the
cold, dilapidated altars." Even this victorious consummation was true
only for the southern world of civilization. The forests of Germany,
though pierced already to the south in the third and fourth centuries
by the torch of missionaries,--though already at that time illuminated
by the immortal Gothic version of the New Testament preceding Ulppilas,
and still surviving,--sheltered through ages in the north and east vast
tribes of idolaters, some awaiting the baptism of Charlemagne in the
eighth century and the ninth, others actually resuming a fierce
countenance of heathenism for the martial zeal of crusading knights in
the thirteenth and fourteenth. The history of Constantine has grossly
misled the world. It was very early in the fourth century (313 A. D.)
that Constantine found himself strong enough to take his _earliest_
steps for raising Christianity to a privileged station; which
station was not merely an effect and monument of its progress,
but a further cause of progress. In this latter light, as a power
advancing and moving, but politically still militant, Christianity
required exactly one other century to carry out and accomplish even its
eastern triumph. Dating from the era of the very inaugurating and
merely local acts of Constantine, we shall be sufficiently accurate in
saying that the corresponding period in the fifth century (namely, from
about 404 to 420 A. D.) first witnessed those uproars of ruin in Egypt
and Alexandria--fire racing along the old carious timbers, battering-
rams thundering against the ancient walls of the most horrid temples--
which rang so searchingly in the ears of Zosimus, extorting, at every
blow, a howl of Pagan sympathy from that ignorant calumniator of
Christianity. So far from the fact being, according to the general
prejudice, as though Constantine had found himself able to destroy
Paganism, and to replace it by Christianity; on the contrary, it was
both because he happened to be far too weak, in fact, for such a mighty
revolution, and because he _knew_ his own weakness, that he fixed
his new capital, as a preliminary caution, upon the Propontis.

There were other motives to this change, and particularly (as we have
attempted to show in a separate dissertation) motives of high political
economy, suggested by the relative conditions of land and agriculture
in Thrace and Asia Minor, by comparison with decaying Italy; but a
paramount motive, we are satisfied, and the earliest motive, was the
incurable Pagan bigotry of Rome. Paganism for Rome, it ought to have
been remembered by historians, was a mere necessity of her Pagan
origin. Paganism was the fatal dowry of Rome from her inauguration; not
only she had once received a retaining fee on behalf of Paganism, in
the mysterious _Ancile_, supposed to have fallen from heaven, but
she actually preserved this bribe amongst her rarest jewels. She
possessed a palladium, such a national amulet or talisman as many
Grecian or Asiatic cities had once possessed--a _fatal_ guarantee
to the prosperity of the state. Even the Sibylline books, whatever
ravages they might be supposed by the intelligent to have sustained in
a lapse of centuries, were popularly believed, in the latest period of
the Western empire, to exist as so many charters of supremacy. Jupiter
himself in Rome had put on a peculiar Roman physiognomy, which
associated him with the destinies of the gigantic state. Above all, the
solemn augury of the twelve vultures, so memorably passed downwards
from the days of Romulus, through generations as yet uncertain of the
event, and, therefore, chronologically incapable of participation in
any fraud--an augury _always_ explained as promising twelve
centuries of supremacy to Rome, from the year 748 or 750 B. C.--
coöperated with the endless other Pagan superstitions in anchoring the
whole Pantheon to the Capitol and Mount Palatine. So long as Rome had a
worldly hope surviving, it was impossible for her to forget the Vestal
Virgins, the College of Augurs, or the indispensable office and the
_indefeasible_ privileges of the _Pontifex Maximus_, which
(though Cardinal Baronius, in his great work, for many years sought to
fight off the evidences for that fact, yet afterwards partially he
confessed his error) actually availed--historically and _medallically_
can be demonstrated to have availed--for the temptation of Christian
Cæsars into collusive adulteries with heathenism. Here, for instance,
came an emperor that timidly recorded his scruples--feebly protested,
but gave way at once as to an ugly necessity. There came another, more
deeply religious, or constitutionally more bold, who fought long and
strenuously against the compromise. "What! should he, the delegate of
God, and the standard-bearer of the true religion, proclaim himself
officially head of the false? No; that was too much for his
conscience." But the fatal meshes of prescription, of superstitions
ancient and gloomy, gathered around him; he heard that he was no
perfect Cæsar without this office, and eventually the very same reason
which had obliged Augustus not to suppress, but himself to assume, the
tribunitian office, namely, that it was a popular mode of leaving
democratic organs untouched, whilst he neutralized their democratic
functions by absorbing them into his own, availed to overthrow all
Christian scruples of conscience, even in the most Christian of the
Cæsars, many years _after_ Constantine. The pious Theodosius found
himself literally compelled to become a Pagan pontiff. A _bon mot_
[Footnote: "A _bon mot_."--This was built on the accident that a
certain _Maximus_ stood in notorious circumstances of rivalship to the
emperor [Theodosius]: and the bitterness of the jest took this turn—
that if the emperor should persist in declining the office of _Pont.
_Maximus_, in that case, "erit Pontifex Maximus;" that is, Maximus (the
secret aspirant) shall be our Pontifex. _So_ the words sounded to those
in the secret [_synetoisi_], whilst to others they seemed to have no
meaning at all.] circulating amongst the people warned him that, if he
left the cycle of imperial powers incomplete, if he suffered the
galvanic battery to remain imperfect in its circuit of links, pretty
soon he would tempt treason to show its head, and would even for the
present find but an imperfect obedience. Reluctantly therefore the
emperor gave way: and perhaps soothed his fretting conscience, by
offering to heaven, as a penitential litany, that same petition which
Naaman the Syrian offered to the prophet Elijah as a reason for a
personal dispensation. Hardly more possible it was that a camel should
go through the eye of a needle, than that a Roman senator should
forswear those inveterate superstitions with which his own system of
aristocracy had been riveted for better and worse. As soon would the
Venetian senator, the gloomy "magnifico" of St. Mark, have consented to
Renounce the annual wedding of his republic with the Adriatic, as the
Roman noble, whether senator, or senator elect, or of senatorial
descent, would have dissevered his own solitary stem from the great
forest of his ancestral order; and this he must have done by doubting
the legend of Jupiter Stator, or by withdrawing his allegiance from
Jupiter Capitolinus. The Roman people universally became agitated
towards the opening of the fifth century after Christ, when their own
twelfth century was drawing near to its completion. Rome had now
reached the very condition of Dr. Faustus--having originally received a
known term of prosperity from some dark power; but at length hearing
the hours, one after the other, tolling solemnly from the church-tower,
as they exhausted the waning minutes of the very final day marked down
in the contract. The more profound was the faith of Rome in the flight
of the twelve vultures, once so glorious, now so sad, an augury, the
deeper was the depression as the last hour drew near that had been so
mysteriously prefigured. The reckoning, indeed, of chronology was
slightly uncertain. The Varronian account varied from others. But these
trivial differences might tell as easily against them as for them, and
did but strengthen the universal agitation. Alaric, in the opening of
the fifth century [about 4l0]--Attila, near the middle [445]--already
seemed prelusive earthquakes running before the final earthquake. And
Christianity, during this era of public alarm, was so far from assuming
a more winning aspect to Roman eyes, as a religion promising to survive
their own, that already, under that character of reversionary triumph,
this gracious religion seemed a public insult, and this meek religion a
perpetual defiance; pretty much as a king sees with scowling eyes, when
revealed to him in some glass of Cornelius Agrippa, the portraits of
that mysterious house which is destined to supplant his own.

Now, from this condition of feeling at Rome, it is apparent not only as
a fact that Constantine did not overthrow Paganism, but as a
possibility that he could not have overthrown it. In the fierce
conflict he would probably have been overthrown himself; and, even for
so much as he _did_ accomplish, it was well that he attempted it
at a distance from Rome. So profoundly, therefore, are the fathers in
error, that instead of that instant victory which they ascribe to
Christianity, even Constantine's revolution was merely local. Nearly
five centuries, in fact, it cost, and not three, to Christianize even
the entire Mediterranean empire of Rome; and the premature effort of
Constantine ought to be regarded as a mere _fluctus decumanus_ in
the continuous advance of the new religion,--one of those ambitious
billows which sometimes run far ahead of their fellows in a tide
steadily gaining ground, but which inevitably recede in the next
moment, marking only the strength of that tendency which sooner or
later is destined to fill the whole capacity of the shore.

To have proved, therefore, if it could have been proved, that
Christianity had been fatal in the way of a magical charm to the
Oracles of the world, would have proved nothing but a perplexing
inconsistency, so long as the fathers were obliged to confess that
Paganism itself, as a gross total, as the parent superstition (sure to
reproduce Oracles faster than they could be extinguished), had been
suffered to exist for many centuries concurrently with Christianity,
and had finally been overthrown by the simple majesty of truth that
courts the light, as matched against falsehood that shuns it.

As applied, therefore, to the first problem in the whole question upon
Oracles,--_When, and under what circumstances, did they cease?_--
the _Dissertatio_ of Van Dale, and the _Histoire des Oracles_
by Fontenelle, are irresistible, though not written in a proper spirit
of gravity, nor making use of that indispensable argument which we have
ourselves derived from the analogy of all scriptural precedents.

But the case is far otherwise as concerns the second problem,--_How,
and by what machinery, did the Oracles, in the days of their
prosperity, conduct their elaborate ministrations?_ To this problem
no justice at all is done by the school of Van Dale. A spirit of
mockery and banter is ill applied to questions that at any time have
been centres of fear, and hope, and mysterious awe, to long trains of
human generations. And the coarse assumption of systematic fraud in the
Oracles is neither satisfactory to the understanding, as failing to
meet many important aspects of the case, nor is it at all countenanced
by the kind of evidences that have been hitherto alleged. The fathers
had taken the course--vulgar and superstitious--of explaining
everything sagacious, everything true, everything that by possibility
could seem to argue prophetic functions in the greater Oracles, as the
product indeed of inspiration, but of inspiration emanating from an
evil spirit. This hypothesis of a diabolic inspiration is rejected by
the school of Van Dale. Both the power of at all looking into the
future, and the fancied source of that power, are dismissed as
contemptible chimeras. Upon the first of these dark pretensions we
shall have occasion to speak at another point. Upon the other we agree
with Van Dale. Yet, even here, the spirit of triumphant ridicule,
applied to questions not wholly within the competence of human
resources, is displeasing in grave discussions: grave they are by
necessity of their relations, howsoever momentarily disfigured by
levity and the unseasonable grimaces of self-sufficient "philosophy."
This temper of mind is already advertised from the first to the
observing reader of Van Dale by the character of his engraved
frontispiece. Men are there exhibited in the act of juggling, and still
more odiously as exulting over their juggleries by gestures of the
basest collusion, such as protruding the tongue, inflating one cheek by
means of the tongue, grinning, and winking obliquely. These vilenesses
are so ignoble, that for his own sake a man of honor (whether as a
writer or a reader) shrinks from dealing with any case to which they do
really adhere; such a case belongs to the province of police courts,
not of literature. But, in the ancient apparatus of the Oracles
although frauds and _espionage_ did certainly form an occasional
resource, the artifices employed were rarely illiberal in their mode,
and always ennobled by their motive. As to the mode, the Oracles had
fortunately no temptation to descend into any tricks that could look
like "thimble-rigging;" and as to the motive, it will be seen that this
could never be dissociated from some regard to public or patriotic
objects in the first place; to which if any secondary interest were
occasionally attached, this could rarely descend so low as even to an
ordinary purpose of gossiping curiosity, but never to a base, mercenary
purpose of fraud. Our views, however, on this phasis of the question,
will speedily speak for themselves.

Meantime, pausing for one moment to glance at the hypothesis of the
fathers, we confess ourselves to be scandalized by its unnecessary
plunge into the ignoble. Many sincere Christian believers have doubted
altogether of any evil spirits, as existences, warranted by Scripture,
that is, as beings whose principle was evil ["evil, be thou my good:"
P. L.]; others, again, believing in the possibility that spiritual
beings had been (in ways unintelligible to us) seduced from their state
of perfection by temptations analogous to those which had seduced man,
acquiesced in the notion of spirits tainted with evil, but not
therefore (any more than man himself) essentially or causelessly
malignant. Now, it is well known, and, amongst others, Eichhorn
_(Einletung in das alte Testament) has noticed the fact, which will
be obvious, on a little reflection, to any even unlearned student of
the Scriptures who can throw his memory back through a real familiarity
with those records, that the Jews derived their obstinate notions of
fiends and demoniacal possessions (as accounting even for bodily
affections) entirely from their Chaldean captivity. Not before that
great event in Jewish history, and, therefore, in consequence of that
event, were the Jews inoculated with this Babylonian, Persian, and
Median superstition. Now, if Eichhorn and others are right, it follows
that the elder Scriptures, as they ascend more and more into the purer
atmosphere of untainted Hebrew creeds, ought to exhibit an increasing
freedom from all these modes of demoniacal agency. And accordingly so
we find it. Messengers of God are often concerned in the early records
of Moses; but it is not until we come down to Post-Mosaical records,
Job, for example (though that book is doubtful as to its chronology),
and the chronicles of the Jewish kings (_Judaic or Israelitish)_,
that we first find any allusion to malignant spirits. As against
Eichhorn, however, though readily conceding that the agency is not
often recognized, we would beg leave to notice, that there is a three-
fold agency of evil, relatively to man, ascribed to certain spirits in
the elder Scriptures, namely: 1, of _misleading_ (as in the case
of the Israelitish king seduced into a fatal battle by a falsehood
originating with a spiritual being); 2, of _temptation_; 3, of
calumnious _accusation_ directed against absent parties. It is not
absolutely an untenable hypothesis, that these functions of malignity
to man, as at first sight they appear, may be in fact reconcilable with
the general functions of a being not malignant, and not evil in any
sense, but simply obedient to superior commands: for none of us
supposes, of course, that a "destroying angel" must be an evil spirit,
though sometimes appearing in a dreadful relation of hostility to
_all_ parties (as in the case of David's punishment). But, waiving
all these speculations, one thing is apparent, that the negative
allowance, the toleration granted to these later Jewish modes of belief
by our Saviour, can no more be urged as arguing any positive sanction
to such existences (to _demons_ in the bad sense), than his
toleration of Jewish errors and conceits in questions of science. Once
for all, it was no purpose of his mission to expose errors in matters
of pure curiosity, and in speculations _not_ moral, but exclusively
intellectual. And, besides the ordinary argument for rejecting
such topics of teaching, as not necessarily belonging to any known
purpose of the Christian revelation (which argument is merely
negative, and still leaves it open to have regarded such communications
as a possible _extra_ condescension, as a _lucro ponatur_,
not absolutely to have been expected, but if granted as all the more
meritorious in Christianity), we privately are aware of an argument,
far more rigorous and coërcive, which will place this question upon
quite another basis. This argument, which, in a proper situation, and
with ampler disposable space, we shall expose in its strength, will
show that it was not that neutral possibility which men have supposed,
for the founder of our faith to have granted light, casually or
indirectly, upon questions of curiosity. One sole revelation was made
by Him, as to the nature of the intercourse and the relations in
another world; but _that_ was for the purpose of forestalling a
vile, unspiritual notion, already current amongst the childish Jews,
and sure to propagate itself even to our own days, unless an utter
_averruncatio_ were applied to it. This was its purpose, and not
any purpose of gratification to unhallowed curiosity; we speak of the
question about the reversionary rights of marriage in a future state.
This memorable case, by the way, sufficiently exposes the gross,
infantine sensualism of the Jewish mind at that period, and throws an
indirect light on their creed as to demons. With this one exception,
standing by itself and self-explained, there never was a gleam of
revelation granted by any authorized prophet to speculative curiosity,
whether pointing to science, or to the mysteries of the spiritual
world. And the true argument on this subject would show that this
abstinence was not accidental; was not merely on a motive of
convenience, as evading any needless extension of labors in teaching,
which is the furthest point attained by any existing argument; but, on
the contrary, that there was an obligation of consistency, stern,
absolute, insurmountable, which made it _essential_ to withhold
such revelations; and that had but one such condescension, even to a
harmless curiosity, been conceded, there would have arisen instantly a
rent--a fracture--a schism--in another vast and collateral purpose of

From all considerations of the Jewish condition at the era of
Christianity, the fathers might have seen the license for doubt as to
the notions of a diabolic inspiration. Why must the prompting spirits,
if really assumed to be the efficient agency behind the Oracles, be
figured as holding any relation at all to moral good or moral evil? Why
not allow of demoniac powers, excelling man in beauty, power,
prescience, but otherwise neutral as to all purposes of man's moral
nature? Or, if revolting angels were assumed, why degrade their agency
in so vulgar and unnecessary a way, by adopting the vilest relation to
man which can be imputed to a demon--his function of secret
_calumnious accusation_; from which idea, lowering the Miltonic
"archangel ruined" into the assessor of thieves, as a private slanderer
(_diabolos_), proceeds, through the intermediate Italian _diavolo_,
our own grotesque vulgarism of the _devil_; [Footnote: But, says an
unlearned man, Christ uses the word _devil_. Not so. The word used is
_diabolos_. Translate v. g. "The accuser and his angels."] an idea
which must ever be injurious, in common with all base conceptions, to a
grand and spiritual religion. If the Oracles _were_ supported by
mysterious agencies of spiritual beings, it was still open to have
distinguished between mere modes of power or of intelligence, and modes
of illimitable evil. The _results_ of the Oracles were beneficent: that
was all which the fathers had any right to know: and their unwarranted
introduction of wicked or rebel angels was as much a surreptitious
fraud upon their audiences, as their neglect to distinguish between the
conditions of an extinct superstition and a superstition dormant or

To leave the fathers, and to state our own views on the final question
argued by Van Dale--"What was the essential machinery by which the
Oracles moved?"--we shall inquire,

1. What was the relation of the Oracles (and we would wish to be
understood as speaking particularly of the Delphic Oracle) to the
credulity of Greece?

2. What was the relation of that same Oracle to the absolute truth?

3. What was its relation to the public welfare of Greece?

Into this trisection we shall decompose the coarse unity of the
question presented by Van Dale and his Vandals, as though the one sole
"issue," that could be sent down for trial before a jury, were the
likelihoods of fraud and gross swindling. It is not with the deceptions
or collusions of the Oracles, as mere matters of fact, that we in this
age are primarily concerned, but with those deceptions as they affected
the contemporary people of Greece. It is important to know whether the
general faith of Greece in the mysterious pretensions of Oracles were
unsettled or disturbed by the several agencies at work that naturally
tended to rouse suspicion; such, for instance, as these four which
follow:--1. Eminent instances of scepticism with regard to the oracular
powers, from time to time circulating through Greece in the shape of
_bon mots_; or, 2, which silently amounted to the same virtual
expression of distrust, Refusals (often more speciously wearing the
name of _neglects_) to consult the proper Oracle on some hazardous
enterprize of general notoriety and interest; 3. Cases of direct
failure in the event, as understood to have been predicted by the
Oracle, not unfrequently accompanied by tragical catastrophes to the
parties misled by this erroneous construction of the Oracle; 4. (which
is, perhaps, the climax of the exposures possible under the
superstitions of Paganism), A public detection of known oracular
temples doing business on a considerable scale, as accomplices with

Modern appraisers of the oracular establishments are too commonly in
all moral senses anachronists. We hear it alleged with some
plausibility against Southey's portrait of Don Roderick, though
otherwise conceived in a spirit proper for bringing out the whole
sentiment of his pathetic situation, that the king is too Protestant,
and too evangelical, after the model of 1800, in his modes of
penitential piety. The poet, in short, reflected back upon one who was
too certain in the eighth century to have been the victim of dark
popish superstitions, his own pure and enlightened faith. But the
anachronistic spirit in which modern sceptics react upon the Pagan
Oracles is not so elevating as the English poet's. Southey reflected
his own superiority upon the Gothic prince of Spain. But the sceptics
reflect their own vulgar habits of mechanic and compendious office
business upon the large institutions of the ancient Oracles. To satisfy
them, the Oracle should resemble a modern coach-office--where
undoubtedly you would suspect fraud, if the question "How far to
Derby?" were answered evasively, or if the grounds of choice between
two roads were expressed enigmatically. But the _to loxon_, or
mysterious indirectness of the Oracle, was calculated far more to
support the imaginative grandeur of the unseen God, and was designed to
do so, than to relieve the individual suitor in a perplexity seldom of
any capital importance. In this way every oracular answer operated upon
the local Grecian neighborhood in which it circulated as one of the
impulses which, from time to time, renewed the sense of a mysterious
involution in the invisible powers, as though they were incapable of
direct correspondence or parallelism with the monotony and slight
compass of human ideas. As the symbolic dancers of the ancients, who
narrated an elaborate story, _Saltando Hecubam_, or _Saltando
Loadamiam_, interwove the passion of the advancing incidents into
the intricacies of the figure--something in the same way, it was
understood by all men, that the Oracle did not so much evade the
difficulty by a dark form of words, as he revealed his own hieroglyphic
nature. All prophets, the true equally with the false, have felt the
instinct for surrounding themselves with the majesty of darkness. And
in a religion like the Pagan, so deplorably meagre and starved as to
most of the draperies connected with the mysterious and sublime, we
must not seek to diminish its already scanty wardrobe. But let us pass
from speculation to illustrative anecdotes. We have imagined several
cases which might seem fitted for giving a shock to the general Pagan
confidence in Oracles. Let us review them.

The first is the case of any memorable scepticism published in a
pointed or witty form; as Demosthenes avowed his suspicions "that the
Oracle was _Philippizing_." This was about 344 years B.C. Exactly
one hundred years earlier, in the 444th year B.C., or the _locus_
of Pericles, Herodotus (then forty years old) is universally supposed
to have read, which for _him_ was publishing, his history. In this
work two insinuations of the same kind occur: during the invasion of
Darius the Mede (about 490 B.C.) the Oracle was charged with
_Medizing_; and in the previous period of Pisistratus (about 555
B.C.) the Oracle had been almost convicted of _Alcmœonidizing_.
The Oracle concerned was the same,--namely, the Delphic,--in all three
cases. In the case of Darius, fear was the ruling passion; in the
earlier case, a near self-interest, but not in a base sense selfish.
The Alemœonidae, an Athenian house hostile to Pisistratus, being
exceedingly rich, had engaged to rebuild the ruined temple of the
Oracle; and had fulfilled their promise with a munificence outrunning
the letter of their professions, particularly with regard to the
quality of marble used in facing or "veneering" the front elevation.
Now, these sententious and rather witty expressions gave wings and
buoyancy to the public suspicions, so as to make them fly from one end
of Greece to the other; and they continued in lively remembrance for
centuries. Our answer we reserve until we have illustrated the other

In the second case, namely, that of sceptical slights shown to the
Oracle, there are some memorable precedents on record. Everybody knows
the ridiculous stratagem of Crœsus, the Lydian king, for trying the
powers of the Oracle, by a monstrous culinary arrangement of pots and
pans, known (as he fancied) only to himself. Generally the course of
the Delphic Oracle under similar insults was--warmly to resent them.
But Crœsus, as a king, a foreigner, and a suitor of unexampled
munificence, was privileged, especially because the ministers of the
Delphic temple had doubtless found it easy to extract the secret by
bribery from some one of the royal mission. A case, however, much more
interesting, because arising between two leading states of Greece, and
in the century subsequent to the ruder age of Crœsus (who was about
coeval with Pisistratus, 555 B. C.), is reported by Xenophon of the
Lacedæmonians and Thebans. They concluded a treaty of peace without any
communication, not so much as a civil notification to the Oracle; _to
men Teo ouden ekoinosanto, hopis hæ eirpnp genoito_--to the god (the
Delphic god) they made no communication at all as to the terms of the
peace; _outoi de ebeleuonto_, but they personally pursued their
negotiations in private. That this was a very extraordinary reach of
presumption, is evident from the care of Xenophon in bringing it before
his readers; it is probable, indeed, that neither of the high
contracting parties had really acted in a spirit of religious
indifference, though it is remarkable of the Spartans, that of all
Greek tribes they were the most facile and numerous delinquents under
all varieties of foreign temptations to revolt from their hereditary
allegiance--a fact which measures the degree of unnatural constraint
and tension which the Spartan usages involved; but in this case we
rather account for the public outrage to religion and universal usage,
by a strong political jealousy lest the provisions of the treaty should
transpire prematurely amongst states adjacent to Bœotia.

Whatever, meantime, were the secret motive to this policy, it did not
fail to shock all Greece profoundly. And, in a slighter degree, the
same effect upon public feeling followed the act of Agesipolis, who,
after obtaining an answer from the Oracle of Delphi, carried forward
his suit to the more awfully ancient Oracle of Dodona; by way of
trying, as he alleged, "whether the child agreed with its papa." These
open expressions of distrust were generally condemned; and the
irresistible proof that they were, lies in the fact that they led to no
imitations. Even in a case mentioned by Herodotus, when a man had the
audacity to found a colony without seeking an oracular sanction, no
precedent was established; though the journey to Delphi must often have
been peculiarly inconvenient to the founders of colonies moving
westwards from Greece; and the expenses of such a journey, with the
subsequent offerings, could not but prove unseasonable at the moment
when every drachma was most urgently needed. Charity begins at home,
was a thought quite as likely to press upon a Pagan conscience, in
those circumstances, as upon our modern Christian consciences under
heavy taxation; yet, for all that, such was the regard to a pious
inauguration of all colonial enterprises, that no one provision or
pledge of prosperity was held equally indispensable by all parties to
such hazardous speculations. The merest worldly foresight, indeed, to
the most irreligious leader, would suggest this sanction as a
necessity, under the following reason:--colonies the most enviably
prosperous upon the whole, have yet had many hardships to contend with
in their noviciate of the first five years; were it only from the
summer failure of water under circumstances of local ignorance, or from
the casual failure of crops under imperfect arrangements of culture.
Now, the one great qualification for wrestling strenuously with such
difficult contingencies in solitary situations, is the spirit of
cheerful hope; but, when any room had been left for apprehending a
supernatural curse resting upon their efforts--equally in the most
thoughtfully pious man and the most crazily superstitious--all spirit
of hope would be blighted at once; and the religious neglect would,
even in a common human way, become its own certain executor, through
mere depression of spirits and misgiving of expectations. Well,
therefore, might Cicero in a tone of defiance demand, "Quam vero Græcia
coloniam misit in Ætoliam, Ioniam, Asiam, Siciliam, Italiam, sine
Pythio (the Delphic), aut Dodonseo, aut Hammonis oraculo?" An oracular
sanction must be had, and from a leading oracle--the three mentioned by
Cicero were the greatest; [Footnote: To which at one time must be
added, as of equal rank, the Oracle of the Branchides, in Asia Minor.
But this had been destroyed by the Persians, in retaliation of the
Athenian outrages at Sardis.] and, if a minor oracle could have
satisfied the inaugurating necessities of a regular colony, we may be
sure that the Dorian states of the Peloponnesus, who had twenty-five
decent oracles at home (that is, within the peninsula), would not so
constantly have carried their money to Delphi. Nay, it is certain that
even where the colonial counsels of the greater oracles seemed
extravagant, though a large discretion was allowed to remonstrance, and
even to very homely expostulations, still, in the last resort, no
doubts were felt that the oracle must be right. Brouwer, the Belgic
scholar, who has so recently and so temperately treated these subjects
(Histoire de la Civilisation Morale et Religieuse chez les Grecs: 6
tomes: Groningue--1840), alleges a case (which, however, we do not
remember to have met) where the client ventured to object:--"_Mon roi
Apollon, je crois que tu es fou._" But cases are obvious which look
this way, though not going so far as to charge lunacy upon the lord of
prophetic vision. Battus, who was destined to be the eldest father of
Cyrene, so memorable as the first ground of Greek intercourse with the
African shore of the Mediterranean, never consulted the Delphic Oracle
in reference to his eyes, which happened to be diseased, but that he
was admonished to prepare for colonizing Libya.--"Grant me patience,"
would Battus reply; "here am I getting into years, and never do I
consult the Oracle about my precious sight, but you, King Phœbus, begin
your old yarn about Cyrene. Confound Cyrene! Nobody knows where it is.
But, if you are serious, speak to my son--he's a likely young man, and
worth a hundred of old rotten hulks, like myself." Battus was provoked
in good earnest; and it is well known that the whole scheme went to
sleep for several years, until King Phoebus sent in a gentle refresher
to Battus and his islanders, in the shape of failing crops, pestilence,
and his ordinary chastisements. The people were roused--the colony was
founded--and, after utter failure, was again re-founded, and the
results justified the Oracle. But, in all such cases, and where the
remonstrances were least respectful, or where the resistance of
_inertia_ was longest, we differ altogether from M. Brouwer in his
belief, that the suitors fancied Apollo to have gone distracted. If
they ever said so, this must have been merely by way of putting the
Oracle on its mettle, and calling forth some _plainer_--not any
essentially different--answer from the enigmatic god; for there it was
that the doubts of the clients settled, and on that it was the
practical demurs hinged. Not because even Battus, vexed as he was about
his precious eyesight, distrusted the Oracle, but because he felt sure
that the Oracle had not spoken out freely; therefore, had he and many
others in similar circumstances presumed to delay. A second edition was
what they waited for, corrected and _enlarged_. We have a memorable
instance of this policy in the Athenian envoys, who, upon receiving a
most ominous doom, but obscurely expressed, from the Delphic Oracle,
which politely concluded by saying, "And so get out, you vagabonds,
from my temple--don't cumber my decks any longer;" were advised to
answer sturdily--"No!--we shall _not_ get out--we mean to sit here
forever, until you think proper to give us a more reasonable reply."
Upon which spirited rejoinder, the Pythia saw the policy of revising
her truly brutal rescript as it had stood originally.

The necessity, indeed, was strong for not acquiescing in the Oracle,
until it had become clearer by revision or by casual illustrations, as
will be seen even under our next head. This head concerns the case of
those who found themselves deceived by the _event_ of any oracular
prediction. As usual, there is a Spartan case of this nature. Cleomenes
complained bitterly that the Oracle of Delphi had deluded him by
holding out as a possibility, and under given conditions as a
certainty, that he should possess himself of Argos. But the Oracle was
justified: there was an inconsiderable place outside the walls of Argos
which bore the same name. Most readers will remember the case of
Cambyses, who had been assured by a legion of oracles that he should
die at Ecbatana. Suffering, therefore, in Syria from a scratch
inflicted upon his thigh by his own sabre, whilst angrily sabring a
ridiculous quadruped whom the Egyptian priests had put forward as a
god, he felt quite at his ease so long as he remembered his vast
distance from the mighty capital of Media, to the eastward of the
Tigris. The scratch, however, inflamed, for his intemperance had
saturated his system with combustible matter; the inflammation spread;
the pulse ran high: and he began to feel twinges of alarm. At length
mortification commenced: but still he trusted to the old prophecy about
Ecbatana, when suddenly a horrid discovery was made--that the very
Syrian village at his own head-quarters was known by the pompous name
of Ecbatana. Josephus tells a similar story of some man contemporary
with Herod the Great. And we must all remember that case in Shakspeare,
where the first king of the _red_ rose, Henry IV., had long
fancied his destiny to be that he should meet his death in Jerusalem;
which naturally did not quicken his zeal for becoming a crusader. "All
time enough," doubtless he used to say; "no hurry at all, gentlemen!"
But at length, finding himself pronounced by the doctor ripe for dying,
it became a question whether the prophet were a false prophet, or the
doctor a false doctor. However, in such a case, it is something to have
a collision of opinions--a prophet against a doctor. But, behold, it
soon transpired that there was no collision at all. It was the
Jerusalem chamber, occupied by the king as a bed-room, to which the
prophet had alluded. Upon which his majesty reconciled himself at once
to the ugly necessity at hand

"In that Jerusalem shall Harry die."

The last case--that of oracular establishments turning out to be
accomplices of thieves--is one which occurred in Egypt on a scale of
some extent; and is noticed by Herodotus. This degradation argued great
poverty in the particular temples: and it is not at all improbable
that, amongst a hundred Grecian Oracles, some, under a similar
temptation, would fall into a similar disgrace. But now, as regards
even this lowest extremity of infamy, much more as regards the
qualified sort of disrepute attending the three minor cases, one single
distinction puts all to rights. The Greeks never confounded the temple,
and household of officers attached to the temple service, with the dark
functions of the presiding god. In Delphi, besides the Pythia and
priests, with their train of subordinate ministers directly billeted on
the temple, there were two orders of men outside, Delphic citizens, one
styled _Arizeis_, the other styled _Hosioi_,--a sort of honorary
members, whose duty was probably _inter alia_, to attach themselves
to persons of corresponding rank in the retinues of the envoys
or consulting clients, and doubtless to collect from them, in
convivial moments, all the secrets or general information which the
temple required for satisfactory answers. If they personally went too
far in their intrigues or stratagems of decoy, the disgrace no more
recoiled on the god, than, in modern times, the vices or crimes of a
priest can affect the pure religion at whose altars he officiates.

Meantime, through these outside ministers--though unaffected by their
follies or errors as trepanners--the Oracle of Delphi drew that vast
and comprehensive information, from every local nook or recess of
Greece, which made it in the end a blessing to the land. The great
error is, to suppose the majority of cases laid before the Delphic
Oracle strictly questions for _prophetic_ functions. Ninety-nine
in a hundred respected marriages, state-treaties, sales, purchases,
founding of towns or colonies, &c., which demanded no faculty whatever
of divination, but the nobler faculty (though unpresumptuous) of
sagacity, that calculates the natural consequences of human acts,
cooperating with elaborate investigation of the local circumstances.
If, in any paper on the general civilization of Greece (that great
mother of civilization for all the world), we should ever attempt to
trace this element of Oracles, it will not be difficult to prove that
Delphi discharged the office of a central _bureau d'administration_,
a general depot of political information, an organ of universal
combination for the counsels of the whole Grecian race. And that which
caused the declension of the Oracles was the loss of political
independence and autonomy. After Alexander, still more after the Roman
conquest, each separate state, having no powers and no motive for
asking counsel on state measures, naturally confined itself more and
more to its humbler local interests of police, or even at last to its
family arrangements.



It is falsely charged upon itself by this age, in its character of
_censor morum_, that effeminacy in a practical sense lies either
amongst its full-blown faults, or amongst its lurking tendencies. A
rich, a polished, a refined age, may, by mere necessity of inference,
be presumed to be a luxurious one; and the usual principle, by which
moves the whole trivial philosophy which speculates upon the character
of a particular age or a particular nation, is first of all to adopt
some one central idea of its characteristics, and then without further
effort to pursue its integration; that is, having assumed (or, suppose
even having demonstrated) the existence of some great influential
quality in excess sufficient to overthrow the apparent equilibrium
demanded by the common standards of a just national character, the
speculator then proceeds, as in a matter of acknowledged right, to push
this predominant quality into all its consequences, and all its closest
affinities. To give one illustration of such a case, now perhaps
beginning to be forgotten: Somewhere about the year 1755, the once
celebrated Dr. Brown, after other little attempts in literature and
paradox, took up the conceit that England was ruined at her heart's
core by excess of luxury and sensual self-indulgence. He had persuaded
himself that the ancient activities and energies of the country were
sapped by long habits of indolence, and by a morbid plethora of
enjoyment in every class. Courage, and the old fiery spirit of the
people, had gone to wreck with the physical qualities which had
sustained them. Even the faults of the public mind had given way under
its new complexion of character; ambition and civil dissension were
extinct. It was questionable whether a good hearty assault and battery,
or a respectable knock-down blow, had been dealt by any man in London
for one or two generations. The doctor carried his reveries so far,
that he even satisfied himself and one or two friends (probably by
looking into the parks at hours propitious to his hypothesis) that
horses were seldom or ever used for riding; that, in fact, this
accomplishment was too boisterous or too perilous for the gentle
propensities of modern Britons; and that, by the best accounts, few men
of rank or fashion were now seen on horseback. This pleasant collection
of dreams did Doctor Brown solemnly propound to the English public, in
two octavo volumes, under the title of "An Estimate of the Manners and
Principles of the Times;" and the report of many who lived in those
days assures us that for a brief period the book had a prodigious run.
In some respects the doctor's conceits might seem too startling and
extravagant; but, to balance _that_, every nation has some pleasure
in being heartily abused by one of its own number; and the English
nation has always had a special delight in being alarmed, and in
being clearly convinced that it is and ought to be on the brink of
ruin. With such advantages in the worthy doctor's favor, he might have
kept the field until some newer extravaganza had made his own obsolete,
had not one ugly turn in political affairs given so smashing a
refutation to his practical conclusions, and called forth so sudden a
rebound of public feeling in the very opposite direction, that a bomb-
shell descending right through the whole impression of his book could
not more summarily have laid a chancery "injunction" upon its further
sale. This arose under the brilliant administration of the first Mr.
Pitt: England was suddenly victorious in three quarters of the globe;
land and sea echoed to the voice of her triumphs; and the poor Doctor
Brown, in the midst of all this hubbub, cut his own throat with his own
razor. Whether this dismal catastrophe were exactly due to his
mortification as a baffled visionary, whose favorite conceit had
suddenly exploded like a rocket into smoke and stench, is more than we
know. But, at all events, the sole memorial of his hypothesis which now
reminds the English reader that it ever existed is one solitary notice
of good-humored satire pointed at it by Cowper. [Footnote: "The
Inestimable Estimate of Brown."] And the possibility of such exceeding
folly in a man otherwise of good sense and judgment, not depraved by
any brain-fever or enthusiastic infatuation, is to be found in the
vicious process of reasoning applied to such estimates; the doctor,
having taken up one novel idea of the national character, proceeded
afterwards by no tentative inquiries, or comparison with actual facts
and phenomena of daily experience, but resolutely developed out of his
one idea all that it appeared analytically to involve; and postulated
audaciously as a solemn fact whatsoever could be exhibited in any
possible connection with his one central principle, whether in the way
of consequence or of affinity.

Pretty much upon this unhappy Brunonian mode of deducing our national
character, it is a very plausible speculation, which has been and will
again be chanted, that we, being a luxurious nation, must by force of
good logical dependency be liable to many derivative taints and
infirmities which ought of necessity to besiege the blood of nations in
that predicament. All enterprise and spirit of adventure, all heroism
and courting of danger for its own attractions, ought naturally to
languish in a generation enervated by early habits of personal
indulgence. Doubtless they _ought; a priori_, it seems strictly
demonstrable that such consequences should follow. Upon the purest
forms of inference in _Barbara_ or _Celarent_, it can be shown
satisfactorily that from all our tainted classes, _a fortiori_
then from our most tainted classes--our men of fashion and of
opulent fortunes--no description of animal can possibly arise but
poltroons and _fainéans_. In fact, pretty generally, under the
known circumstances of our modern English education and of our social
habits, we ought, in obedience to all the _precognita_ of our
position, to show ourselves rank cowards; yet, in spite of so much
excellent logic, the facts are otherwise. No age has shown in its young
patricians a more heroic disdain of sedentary ease; none in a martial
support of liberty or national independence has so gayly volunteered
upon services the most desperate, or shrunk less from martyrdom on the
field of battle, whenever there was hope to invite their disinterested
exertions, or grandeur enough in the cause to sustain them. Which of us
forgets the gallant Mellish, the frank and the generous, who reconciled
himself so gayly to the loss of a splendid fortune, and from the very
bosom of luxury suddenly precipitated himself upon the hardships of
Peninsular warfare? Which of us forgets the adventurous Lee of Lime,
whom a princely estate could not detain in early youth from courting
perils in Nubia and Abyssinia, nor (immediately upon his return) from
almost wooing death as a volunteer aide-de-camp to the Duke of
Wellington at Waterloo? So again of Colonel Evans, who, after losing a
fine estate long held out to his hopes, five times over put himself at
the head of _forlorn hopes_. Such cases are memorable, and were
conspicuous at the time, from the lustre of wealth and high connections
which surrounded the parties; but many thousand others, in which the
sacrifices of personal ease were less noticeable from their narrower
scale of splendor, had equal merit for the cheerfulness with which
those sacrifices were made. [Footnote: History of the Greek Revolution,
by Thomas Gordon.] Here, again, in the person of the author before us,
we have another instance of noble and disinterested heroism, which,
from the magnitude of the sacrifices that it involved, must place him
in the same class as the Mellishes and the Lees. This gallant Scotsman,
who was born in 1788, or 1789, lost his father in early life.
Inheriting from him a good estate in Aberdeenshire, and one more
considerable in Jamaica, he found himself, at the close of a long
minority, in the possession of a commanding fortune. Under the vigilant
care of a sagacious mother, Mr. Gordon received the very amplest
advantages of a finished education, studying first at the University of
Aberdeen, and afterwards for two years at Oxford; whilst he had
previously enjoyed as a boy the benefits of a private tutor from
Oxford. Whatever might be the immediate result from this careful
tuition, Mr. Gordon has since completed his own education in the most
comprehensive manner, and has carried his accomplishments as a linguist
to a point of rare excellence. Sweden and Portugal excepted, we
understand that he has personally visited every country in Europe. He
has travelled also in Asiatic Turkey, in Persia, and in Barbary. From
this personal residence in foreign countries, we understand that Mr.
Gordon has obtained an absolute mastery over certain modern languages,
especially the French, the Italian, the modern Greek, and the
Turkish.[Footnote: Mr. Gordon is privately known to be the translator
of the work written by a Turkish minister, "_Tchebi Effendi_"
published in the Appendix to Wilkinson's Wallachia, and frequently
referred to by the _Quarterly Review_ in its notices of Oriental
affairs.] Not content, however, with this extensive education in a
literary sense, Mr. Gordon thought proper to prepare himself for the
part which he meditated in public life, by a second, or military
education, in two separate services;--first, in the British, where he
served in the Greys, and in the forty-third regiment; and subsequently,
during the campaign of 1813, as a captain on the Russian staff.

Thus brilliantly accomplished for conferring lustre and benefit upon
any cause which he might adopt amongst the many revolutionary movements
then continually emerging in Southern Europe, he finally carried the
whole weight of his great talents, prudence, and energy, together with
the unlimited command of his purse, to the service of Greece in her
heroic struggle with the Sultan. At what point his services and his
countenance were appreciated by the ruling persons in Greece, will be
best collected from the accompanying letter, translated from the
original, in modern Greek, addressed to him by the provisional
government of Greece, in 1822. It will be seen that this official
document notices with great sorrow Mr. Gordon's absence from Greece,
and with some surprise, as a fact at that time unexplained and
mysterious; but the simple explanation of this mystery was, that Mr.
Gordon had been brought to the very brink of the grave by a contagious
fever, at Tripolizza, and that his native air was found essential to
his restoration. Subsequently, however, he returned, and rendered the
most powerful services to Greece, until the war was brought to a close,
as much almost by Turkish exhaustion, as by the armed interference of
the three great conquerors of Navarino.

"The government of Greece to the SIGNOR GORDON, a man worthy of all
admiration, and a friend of the Grecians, health and prosperity.

"It was not possible, most excellent sir, nor was it a thing endurable
to the descendants of the Grecians, that they should be deprived any
longer of those imprescriptible rights which belong to the inheritance
of their birth--rights which a barbarian of a foreign soil, an anti-
christian tyrant, issuing from the depths of Asia, seized upon with a
robber's hand, and, lawlessly trampling under foot, administered up to
this time the affairs of Greece, after his own lust and will. Needs it
was that we, sooner or later, shattering this iron and heavy sceptre,
should recover, at the price of life itself (if _that_ were found
necessary), our patrimonial heritage, that thus our people might again
be gathered to the family of free and self-legislating states. Moving,
then, under such impulses, the people of Greece advanced with one
heart, and perfect unanimity of council, against an oppressive
despotism, putting their hands to an enterprise beset with
difficulties, and hard indeed to be achieved, yet, in our present
circumstances, if any one thing in this life, most indispensable. This,
then, is the second year which we are passing since we have begun to
move in this glorious contest, once again struggling, to all
appearance, upon unequal terms, but grasping our enterprise with the
right hand and the left, and with all our might stretching forward to
the objects before us.

"It was the hope of Greece that, in these seasons of emergency, she
would not fail of help and earnest resort of friends from the Christian
nations throughout Europe. For it was agreeable neither to humanity nor
to piety, that the rights of nations, liable to no grudges of malice or
scruples of jealousy, should be surreptitiously and wickedly filched
away, or mocked with outrage and insult; but that they should be
settled firmly on those foundations which Nature herself has furnished
in abundance to the condition of man in society. However, so it was,
that Greece, cherishing these most reasonable expectations, met with
most unmerited disappointments.

"But you, noble and generous Englishman, no sooner heard the trumpet of
popular rights echoing melodiously from the summits of Taygetus, of
Ida, of Pindus, and of Olympus, than, turning with listening ears to
the sound, and immediately renouncing the delights of country, of
family ties, and (what is above all) of domestic luxury and ease, and
the happiness of your own fireside, you hurried to our assistance. But
suddenly, and in contradiction to the universal hope of Greece, by
leaving us, you have thrown us all into great perplexity and amazement,
and that at a crisis when some were applying their minds to military
pursuits, some to the establishment of a civil administration, others
to other objects, but all alike were hurrying and exerting themselves
wherever circumstances seemed to invite them.

"Meantime, the government of Greece having heard many idle rumors and
unauthorized tales disseminated, but such as seemed neither in
correspondence with their opinion of your own native nobility from rank
and family, nor with what was due to the newly-instituted
administration, have slighted and turned a deaf ear to them all, coming
to this resolution--that, in absenting yourself from Greece, you are
doubtless obeying some strong necessity; for that it is not possible
nor credible of a man such as you displayed yourself to be whilst
living amongst us, that he should mean to insult the wretched--least of
all, to insult the unhappy and much-suffering people of Greece. Under
these circumstances, both the deliberative and the executive bodies of
the Grecian government, assembling separately, have come to a
resolution, without one dissentient voice, to invite you back to
Greece, in order that you may again take a share in the Grecian
contest--a contest in itself glorious, and not alien from your
character and pursuits. For the liberty of any one nation cannot be a
matter altogether indifferent to the rest, but naturally it is a common
and diffusive interest; and nothing can be more reasonable than that
the Englishman and the Grecian, in such a cause, should make themselves
yoke-fellows, and should participate as brothers in so holy a struggle.
Therefore, the Grecian government hastens, by this present
distinguished expression of its regard, to invite you to the soil of
Greece, a soil united by such tender memorials with yourself; confident
that you, preferring glorious poverty and the hard living of Greece to
the luxury and indolence of an obscure seclusion, will hasten your
return to Greece, agreeably to your native character, restoring to us
our valued English connection. Farewell!

"The Vice-president of the Executive,


"The Chief-Secretary, Minister of Foreign Relations, NEGENZZ."

Since then, having in 1817 connected himself in marriage with a
beautiful young lady of Armenian Greek extraction, and having purchased
land and built a house in Argos, Mr. Gordon may be considered in some
sense as a Grecian citizen. Services in the field having now for some
years been no longer called for, he has exchanged his patriotic sword
for a patriotic pen--judging rightly that in no way so effectually can
Greece be served at this time with Western Europe, as by recording
faithfully the course of her revolution, tracing the difficulties which
lay or which arose in her path, the heroism with which she surmounted
them, and the multiplied errors by which she raised up others to
herself. Mr. Gordon, of forty authors who have partially treated this
theme, is the first who can be considered either impartial or
comprehensive; and upon his authority, not seldom using his words, we
shall now present to our readers the first continuous abstract of this
most interesting and romantic war:

GREECE, in the largest extent of that term, having once belonged to the
Byzantine empire, is included, by the misconception of hasty readers,
in the great wreck of 1453. They take it for granted that, concurrently
with Constantinople, and the districts adjacent, these provinces passed
at that disastrous era into the hands of the Turkish conqueror; but
this is an error. Parts of Greece, previously to that era, had been
dismembered from the Eastern empire;--other parts did not, until long
_after_ it, share a common fate with the metropolis. Venice had a
deep interest in the Morea; _in_ that, and _for_ that, she fought with
various success for generations; and it was not until the year 1717,
nearly three centuries from the establishment of the crescent in
Europe, that "the banner of St. Mark, driven finally from the Morea and
the Archipelago," was henceforth exiled (as respected Greece) to the
Ionian Islands.

In these contests, though Greece was the prize at issue, the children
of Greece had no natural interest, whether the cross prevailed or the
crescent; the same, for all substantial results, was the fate which
awaited themselves. The Moslem might be the more intolerant by his
maxims, and he might be harsher in his professions; but a slave is not
the less a slave, though his master should happen to hold the same
creed with himself; and towards a member of the Greek church one who
looked westward to Rome for his religion was likely to be little less
of a bigot than one who looked to Mecca. So that we are not surprised
to find a Venetian rule of policy recommending, for the daily allowance
of these Grecian slaves, "a _little_ bread, and a liberal application
of the cudgel"! Whichever yoke were established was sure to be hated;
and, therefore, it was fortunate for the honor of the Christian name,
that from the year 1717 the fears and the enmity of the Greeks were to
be henceforward pointed exclusively towards _Mahometan_ tyrants.

To be hated, however, sufficiently for resistance, a yoke must have
been long and continuously felt. Fifty years might be necessary to
season the Greeks with a knowledge of Turkish oppression; and less than
two generations could hardly be supposed to have manured the whole
territory with an adequate sense of the wrongs they were enduring, and
the withering effects of such wrongs on the sources of public
prosperity. Hatred, besides, without hope, is no root out of which an
effective resistance can be expected to grow; and fifty years almost
had elapsed before a great power had arisen in Europe, having in any
capital circumstance a joint interest with Greece, or specially
authorized, by visible right and power, to interfere as her protector.
The semi-Asiatic power of Russia, from the era of the Czar Peter the
Great, had arisen above the horizon with the sudden sweep and splendor
of a meteor. The arch described by her ascent was as vast in compass as
it was rapid; and, in all history, no political growth, not that of our
own Indian empire, had travelled by accelerations of speed so
terrifically marked. Not that even Russia could have really grown in
strength according to the _apparent_ scale of her progress. The
strength was doubtless there, or much of it, before Peter and
Catherine; but it was latent: there had been no such sudden growth as
people fancied; but there had been a sudden evolution. Infinite
resources had been silently accumulating from century to century; but,
before the Czar Peter, no mind had come across them of power sufficient
to reveal their situation, or to organize them for practical effects.
In some nations, the manifestations of power are coincident with its
growth; in others, from vicious institutions, a vast crystallization
goes on for ages blindly and in silence, which the lamp of some
meteoric mind is required to light up into brilliant display. Thus it
had been in Russia; and hence, to the abused judgment of all
Christendom, she had seemed to leap like Pallas from the brain of
Jupiter--gorgeously endowed, and in panoply of civil array, for all
purposes of national grandeur, at the _fiat_ of one coarse
barbarian. As the metropolitan home of the Greek church, she could not
disown a maternal interest in the humblest of the Grecian tribes,
holding the same faith with herself, and celebrating their worship by
the same rites. This interest she could, at length, venture to express
in a tone of sufficient emphasis; and Greece became aware that she
could, about the very time when Turkish oppression had begun to unite
its victims in aspirations for redemption, and had turned their eyes
abroad in search of some great standard under whose shadow they could
flock for momentary protection, or for future hope. What cabals were
reared upon this condition of things by Russia, and what premature
dreams of independence were encouraged throughout Greece in the reign
of Catherine II., may be seen amply developed, in the once celebrated
work of Mr. William Eton.

Another great circumstance of hope for Greece, coinciding with the dawn
of her own earliest impetus in this direction, and travelling _puri
passu_ almost with the growth of her mightiest friend, was the
advancing decay of her oppressor. The wane of the Turkish crescent had
seemed to be in some secret connection of fatal sympathy with the
growth of the Russian cross. Perhaps the reader will thank us for
rehearsing the main steps by which the Ottoman power had flowed and
ebbed. The foundations of this empire were laid in the thirteenth
century, by Ortogrul, the chief of a Turkoman tribe, residing in tents
not far from Dorylæum, in Phrygia (a name so memorable in the early
crusades), about the time when Jenghiz had overthrown the Seljukian
dynasty. His son Osman first assumed the title of Sultan; and, in 1300,
having reduced the city of Prusa, in Bithynia, he made it the capital
of his dominions. The Sultans who succeeded him for some generations,
all men of vigor, and availing themselves not less of the decrepitude
which had by that time begun to palsy the Byzantine sceptre, than of
the martial and religious fanaticism which distinguished their own
followers, crossed the Hellespont, conquering Thrace and the countries
up to the Danube. In 1453, the most eminent of these Sultans, Mahomet
II., by storming Constantinople, put an end to the Roman empire; and
before his death he placed the Ottoman power in Europe pretty nearly on
that basis to which it had again fallen back by 1821. The long interval
of time between these two dates involved a memorable flux and reflux of
power, and an oscillation between two extremes of panic-striking
grandeur, in the ascending scale (insomuch that the Turkish Sultan was
supposed to be charged in the Apocalypse with the dissolution of the
Christian thrones), and in the descending scale of paralytic dotage
tempting its own instant ruin. In speculating on the causes of the
extraordinary terror which the Turks once inspired, it is amusing, and
illustrative of the revolutions worked by time, to find it imputed, in
the first place, to superior discipline; for, if their discipline was
imperfect, they had, however, a _standing_ army of Janissaries,
whilst the whole of Christian Europe was accustomed to fight merely
summer campaigns with hasty and untrained levies; a second cause lay in
their superior finances, for the Porte had a regular revenue, when the
other powers of Europe relied upon the bounty of their vassals and
clergy; and, thirdly, which is the most surprising feature of the whole
statement, the Turks were so far ahead of others in the race of
improvement, that to them belongs the credit of having first adopted
the extensive use of gunpowder, and of having first brought battering-
trains against fortified places. To his artillery and his musketry it
was that Selim the Ferocious (grandson of that Sultan who took
Constantinople) was indebted for his victories in Syria and Egypt.
Under Solyman the Magnificent (the well-known contemporary of the
Emperor Charles Y.) the crescent is supposed to have attained its
utmost altitude; and already for fifty years the causes had been in
silent progress which were to throw the preponderance into the
Christian scale. In the reign of his son, Selim the Second, this crisis
was already passed; and the battle of Lepanto, in 1571, which crippled
the Turkish navy in a degree never wholly recovered, gave the first
overt signal to Europe of a turn in the course of their prosperity.
Still, as this blow did not equally affect the principal arm of their
military service, and as the strength of the German empire was too much
distracted by Christian rivalship, the _prestige_ of the Turkish
name continued almost unbroken until their bloody overthrow in 1664, at
St. Gothard, by the imperial General Montecuculi. In 1673 they received
another memorable defeat from Sobieski, on which occasion they lost
twenty-five thousand men. In what degree, however, the Turkish Samson
had been shorn of his original strength, was not yet made known to
Europe by any adequate expression, before the great catastrophe of
1683. In that year, at the instigation of the haughty vizier, Kara
Mustafa, the Turks had undertaken the siege of Vienna; and great was
the alarm of the Christian world. But, on the 12th of September, their
army of one hundred and fifty thousand men was totally dispersed by
seventy thousand Poles and Germans, under John Sobieski--"He conquering
_through_ God, and God by him." [Footnote: See the sublime Sonnet
of Chiabrora on this subject, as translated by Mr. Wordsworth.] Then
followed the treaty of Carlovitz, which stripped the Porte of Hungary,
the Ukraine, and other places; and "henceforth" says Mr. Gordon,
"Europe ceased to dread the Turks; and began even to look upon their
existence as a necessary element of the balance of power among its
states." Spite of their losses, however, during the first half of the
eighteenth century, the Turks still maintained a respectable attitude
against Christendom. But the wars of the Empress Catherine II., and the
French invasion of Egypt, demonstrated that either their native vigor
was exhausted and superannuated, or, at least, that the institutions
were superannuated by which their resources had been so long
administered. Accordingly, at the commencement of the present century,
the Sultan Selim II. endeavored to reform the military discipline; but
in the first collision with the prejudices of his people, and the
interest of the Janissaries, he perished by sedition. Mustafa, who
succeeded to the throne, in a few months met the same fate. But then
(1808) succeeded a prince formed by nature for such struggles,--cool,
vigorous, cruel, and intrepid. This was Mahmoud the Second. He
perfectly understood the crisis, and determined to pursue the plans of
his uncle Selim, even at the hazard of the same fate. Why was it that
Turkish soldiers had been made ridiculous in arms, as often as they had
met with French troops, who yet were so far from being the best in
Christendom, that Egypt herself, and the beaten Turks, had seen
_them_ in turn uniformly routed by the British? Physically, the
Turks were equal, at the very least, to the French. In what lay their
inferiority? Simply in discipline, and in their artillery. And so long
as their constitution and discipline continued what they had been,
suited (that is) to centuries long past and gone, and to a condition of
Christendom obsolete for ages, so long it seemed inevitable that the
same disasters should follow the Turkish banners. And to this point,
accordingly, the Sultan determined to address his earliest reforms. But
caution was necessary; he waited and watched. He seized all
opportunities of profiting by the calamities or the embarrassments of
his potent neighbors. He put down all open revolt. He sapped the
authority of all the great families in Asia Minor, whose hereditary
influence could be a counterpoise to his own. Mecca and Medina, the
holy cities of his religion, he brought again within the pale of his
dominions. He augmented and fostered, as a counterbalancing force to
the Janissaries, the corps of the Topjees or artillery-men. He amassed
preparatory treasures. And, up to the year 1820, "his government," says
Mr. Gordon, "was highly unpopular; but it was strong, stern, and
uniform; and he had certainly removed many impediments to the execution
of his ulterior projects."

Such was the situation of Turkey at the moment when her Grecian vassal
prepared to trample on her yoke. In her European territories she
reckoned, at the utmost, eight millions of subjects. But these, besides
being more or less in a semi-barbarous condition, and scattered over a
very wide surface of country, were so much divided by origin, by
language, and religion, that, without the support of her Asiatic arm,
she could not, according to the general opinion, have stood at all. The
rapidity of her descent, it is true, had been arrested by the energy of
her Sultans during the first twenty years of the nineteenth century.
But for the last thirty of the eighteenth she had made a headlong
progress downwards. So utterly, also, were the tables turned, that,
whereas in the fifteenth century her chief superiority over Christendom
had been in the three points of artillery, discipline, and fixed
revenue, precisely in these three she had sunk into utter
insignificance, whilst all Christendom had been continually improving.
Selim and Mahmoud indeed had made effectual reforms in the corps of
gunners, as we have said, and had raised it to the amount of sixty
thousand men; so that at present they have respectable field-artillery,
whereas previously they had only heavy battering-trains. But the
defects in discipline cannot be remedied, so long as the want of a
settled revenue obliges the Sultan to rely upon hurried levies from the
provincial militias of police. Turkey, however, might be looked upon as
still formidable for internal purposes, in the haughty and fanatical
character of her Moslem subjects. And we may add, as a concluding
circumstance of some interest, in this sketch of her modern condition,
that pretty nearly the same European territories as were assigned to
the eastern Roman empire at the time of its separation from the
western, [Footnote: "The vitals of the monarchy lay within that vast
triangle circumscribed by the Danube, the Save, the Adriatic, Euxine,
and Egean Seas, whose altitude may be computed at five hundred, and the
length of its base at seven hundred geographical miles."--GORDON. ]
were included within the frontier line of Turkey, on the first of
January, 1821.

Precisely in this year commenced the Grecian revolution. Concurrently
with the decay of her oppressor the Sultan, had been the prodigious
growth of her patron the Czar. In what degree she looked up to that
throne, and the intrigues which had been pursued with a view to that
connection, may be seen (as we have already noticed) in Eton's Turkey--
a book which attracted a great deal of notice about thirty years ago.
Meantime, besides this secret reliance on Russian countenance or aid,
Greece had since that era received great encouragement to revolt from
the successful experiment in that direction made by the Turkish
province of Servia. In 1800, Czerni George came forward as the asserter
of Servian independence, and drove the Ottomans out of that province.
_Personally_ he was not finally successful. But his example
outlived him; and, after fifteen years' struggle, Servia (says Mr.
Gordon) offered "the unwonted spectacle of a brave and armed Christian
nation living under its own laws in the heart of Turkey," and retaining
no memorial of its former servitude, but the payment of a slender and
precarious tribute to the Sultan, with a _verbal_ profession of
allegiance to his sceptre. Appearances were thus saved to the pride of
the haughty Moslem by barren concessions which cost no real sacrifice
to the substantially victorious Servian.

Examples, however, are thrown away upon a people utterly degraded by
long oppression. And the Greeks were pretty nearly in that condition.
"It would, no doubt," says Mr. Gordon, "be possible to cite a more
_cruel_ oppression than that of the Turks towards their Christian
subjects, but none _so fitted to break men's spirit_." The Greeks,
in fact (under which name are to be understood, not only those who
speak Greek, but the Christian Albanians of Roumelia and the Morea,
speaking a different language, but united with the Greeks in spiritual
obedience to the same church), were, in the emphatic phrase of Mr.
Gordon, "the slaves of slaves:" that is to say, not only were they
liable to the universal tyranny of the despotic Divan, but "throughout
the empire they were in the habitual intercourse of life subjected to
vexations, affronts, and exactions, from Mahometans of every rank.
Spoiled of their goods, insulted in their religion and domestic honor,
they could rarely obtain justice. The slightest flash of courageous
resentment brought down swift destruction on their heads; and cringing
humility alone enabled them to live in ease, or even in safety."
Stooping under this iron yoke of humiliation, we have reason to wonder
that the Greeks preserved sufficient nobility of mind to raise so much
as their wishes in the direction of independence. In a condition of
abasement, from which a simple act of apostasy was at once sufficient
to raise them to honor and wealth, "and from the meanest serfs gathered
them to the caste of oppressors," we ought not to wonder that some of
the Greeks should be mean, perfidious, and dissembling, but rather that
any (as Mr. Gordon says) "had courage to adhere to their religion, and
to eat the bread of affliction." But noble aspirations are fortunately
indestructible in human nature. And in Greece the lamp of independence
of spirit had been partially kept alive by the existence of a native
militia, to whom the Ottoman government, out of mere necessity, had
committed the local defence. These were called _Armatoles_ (or
Gendarmerie); their available strength was reckoned by Pouqueville (for
the year 1814) at ten thousand men; and, as they were a very effectual
little host for maintaining, from age to age, the "true faith militant"
of Greece, namely, that a temporary and a disturbed occupation of the
best lands in the country did not constitute an absolute conquest on
the part of the Moslems, most of whom flocked for security with their
families into the stronger towns; and, as their own martial appearance,
with arms in their hands, lent a very plausible countenance to their
insinuations that they, the Christian Armatoles, were the true _bona
fide_ governors and possessors of the land under a Moslem Suzerain;
and, as the general spirit of hatred to Turkish insolence was not
merely maintained in their own local stations, [Footnote: Originally,
it seems, there were fourteen companies (or _capitanerias_)
settled by imperial diplomas in the mountains of Olympus, Othryx,
Pindus, and Œta; and distinct appropriations were made by the Divan for
their support. _Within_ the Morea, the institution of the
Armatoles was never tolerated; but there the same spirit was kept alive
by tribes, such as the Mainatts, whose insurmountable advantages of
natural position enabled them eternally to baffle the most powerful
enemy.] but also propagated thence with activity to every part of
Greece;--it may be interesting to hear Mr. Gordon's account of their
peculiar composition and habits.

"The Turks," says he, "from the epoch of Mahommed the Second, did not
(unless in Thessaly) generally settle there. Beyond Mount Œta, although
they seized the best lands, the Mussulman inhabitants were chiefly
composed of the garrisons of towns with their families. Finding it
impossible to keep in subjection with a small force so many rugged
cantons, peopled by a poor and hardy race, and to hold in check the
robbers of Albania, the Sultans embraced the same policy which has
induced them to court the Greek hierarchy, and respect ecclesiastical
property,--by enlisting in their service the armed bands that they
could not destroy. When wronged or insulted, these Armatoles threw off
their allegiance, infested the roads, and pillaged the country; while
such of the peasants as were driven to despair by acts of oppression
joined their standard; the term Armatole was then exchanged for that of
Klefthis [_Kleptæs_] or Thief, a profession esteemed highly
honorable, when it was exercised sword in hand at the expense of the
Moslems. [Footnote: And apparently, we may add, when exercised at the
expense of whomsoever at sea. The old Grecian instinct, which
Thucydides states so frankly, under which all seafarers were dedicated
to spoil as people who courted attack, seems never to have been fully
rooted out from the little creeks and naval fastnesses of the Morea,
and of some of the Egean islands. Not, perhaps, the mere spirit of
wrong and aggression, but some old traditionary conceits and maxims,
brought on the great crisis of piracy, which fell under no less terrors
than of the triple thunders of the great allies.] Even in their
quietest mood, these soldiers curbed Turkish tyranny; for, the captains
and Christian primates of districts understanding each other, the
former, by giving to some of their men a hint to desert and turn
Klefts, could easily circumvent Mahometans who came on a mission
disagreeable to the latter. The habits and manners of the Armatoles,
living among forests and in mountain passes, were necessarily rude and
simple: their magnificence consisted in adorning with silver their
guns, pistols, and daggers; their amusements, in shooting at a mark,
dancing, and singing the exploits of the most celebrated chiefs.
Extraordinary activity, and endurance of hardships and fatigue, made
them formidable light troops in their native fastnesses; wrapped in
shaggy cloaks, they slept on the ground, defying the elements; and the
pure mountain air gave them robust health. Such were the warriors that,
in the very worst times, kept alive a remnant of Grecian spirit."

But all these facts of history, or institutions of policy, nay, even
the more violent appeals to the national pride in such memorable
transactions as the expatriation of the illustrious Suliotes (as also
of some eminent predatory chieftains from the Morea), were, after all,
no more than indirect excitements of the insurrectionary spirit. If it
were possible that any adequate occasion should arise for combining the
Greeks in one great movement of resistance, such continued irritations
must have the highest value, as keeping alive the national spirit,
which must finally be relied on to improve it and to turn it to
account; but it was not to be expected that any such local irritations
could ever of themselves avail to create an occasion of sufficient
magnitude for imposing silence on petty dissensions, and for organizing
into any unity of effort a country so splintered and naturally cut into
independent chambers as that of Greece. That task, transcending the
strength (as might seem) of any real agencies or powers then existing
in Greece, was assumed by a mysterious, [Footnote: Epirus and
Acarnania, etc., to the north-west; Roumelia, Thebes, Attica, to the
east; the Morea, or Peloponnesus, to the south-west; and the islands so
widely dispersed in the Egean, had from position a separate interest
over and above their common interest as members of a Christian
confederacy. And in the absence of some great representative society,
there was no voice commanding enough to merge the local interest in the
universal one of Greece. The original (or _Philomuse_ society),
which adopted literature for its ostensible object, as a mask to its
political designs, expired at Munich in 1807; but not before it had
founded a successor more directly political. Hence arose a confusion,
under which many of the crowned heads in Europe were judged
uncharitably as dissemblers or as traitors to their engagements. They
had subscribed to the first society; but they reasonably held that this
did not pledge them to another, which, though inheriting the secret
purposes of the first, no longer masked or disavowed them.] and, in
some sense, a fictitious society of corresponding members, styling
itself the _Hetæria_. A more astonishing case of mighty effects
prepared and carried on to their accomplishment by small means,
magnifying their own extent through great zeal and infinite
concealment, and artifices the most subtle, is not to be found in
history. The _secret tribunal_ of the middle ages is not to be
compared with it for the depth and expansion of its combinations, or
for the impenetrability of its masque. Nor is there in the whole annals
of man a manoeuvre so admirable as that, by which this society,
silently effecting its own transfiguration, and recasting as in a
crucible its own form, organs, and most essential functions, contrived,
by mere force of seasonable silence, or by the very pomp of mystery, to
carry over from the first or innoxious model of the Hetæria, to its new
organization, all those weighty names of kings or princes who would not
have given their sanction to any association having political objects,
however artfully veiled. The early history of the Hetæria is shrouded
in the same mystery as the whole course of its political movements.
Some suppose that Alexander Maurocordato, ex-Hospodar of Wallachia,
during his long exile in Russia, founded it for the promotion of
education, about the beginning of the present century. Others ascribe
it originally to Riga. At all events, its purposes were purely
intellectual in its earliest form. In 1815, in consequence chiefly of
the disappointment which the Greeks met with in their dearest hopes
from the Congress of Vienna, the Hetæria first assumed a political
character under the secret influence of Count Capodistria, of Corfu,
who, having entered the Russian service as mere private secretary to
Admiral Tchitchagoff, in 1812, had, in a space of three years,
insinuated himself into the favor of the Czar, so far as to have become
his private secretary, and a cabinet minister of Russia. He, however,
still masked his final objects under plans of literature and scientific
improvement. In deep shades he organized a vast apparatus of agents and
apostles; and then retired behind the curtain to watch or to direct the
working of his blind machine. It is an evidence of some latent nobility
in the Greek character, in the midst of that levity with which all
Europe taxes it, that never, except once, were the secrets of the
society betrayed; nor was there the least ground for jealousy offered
either to the stupid Moslems, in the very centre of whom, and round
about them, the conspiracy was daily advancing, or even to the rigorous
police of Moscow, where the Hetæria had its head-quarters. In the
single instance of treachery which occurred, it happened that the
Zantiote, who made the discovery to Ali Pacha on a motion of revenge,
was himself too slenderly and too vaguely acquainted with the final
purposes of the Hetæria for effectual mischief, having been fortunately
admitted only to its lowest degree of initiation; so that all passed
off without injury to the cause, or even personally to any of its
supporters. There were, in fact, five degrees in the Hetæria. A
candidate of the lowest class (styled _Adelphoi_, or brothers),
after a minute examination of his past life and connections, and after
taking a dreadful oath, under impressive circumstances, to be faithful
in all respects to the society and his afflicted country, and even to
assassinate his nearest and dearest relation, if detected in treachery,
was instructed only in the general fact that a design was on foot to
ameliorate the condition of Greece. The next degree of _Systimenoi_,
or bachelors, who were selected with more anxious discrimination,
were informed that this design was to move towards its object
_by means of a revolution_. The third class, called _Priests
of Eleusis_, were chosen from the aristocracy; and to them it
was made known that _this revolution was near at hand_; and,
also, that there were in the society higher ranks than their own.
The fourth class was that of the _prelates_; and to this order,
which never exceeded the number of one hundred and sixteen, and
comprehended the leading men of the nation, the most unreserved
information was given upon all the secrets of the Hetæria; after which
they were severally appointed to a particular district, as
superintendent of its interests, and as manager of the whole
correspondence on its concerns with the Grand Arch. This, the crowning
order and key-stone of the society, was reputed to comprehend sixteen
"mysterious and illustrious names," amongst which were obscurely
whispered those of the Czar, the Crown Prince of Bavaria and of
Wurtemburg, of the Hospodar of Wallachia, of Count Capodistria, and
some others. The orders of the Grand Arch were written in cipher, and
bore a seal having in sixteen compartments the same number of initial
letters. The revenue which it commanded must have been considerable;
for the lowest member, on his noviciate, was expected to give at least
fifty piastres (at this time about two pounds sterling); and those of
the higher degrees gave from three hundred to one thousand each. The
members communicated with each other, in mixed society, by masonic

It cannot be denied that a secret society, with the grand and almost
awful purposes of the Hetæria, spite of some taint which it had
received in its early stages from the spirit of German mummery, is
fitted to fill the imagination, and to command homage from the coldest.
Whispers circulating from mouth to mouth of some vast conspiracy mining
subterraneously beneath the very feet of their accursed oppressors;
whispers of a great deliverer at hand, whose mysterious _Labarum_,
or mighty banner of the Cross, was already dimly descried through
northern mists, and whose eagles were already scenting the carnage and
"savor of death" from innumerable hosts of Moslems; whispers of a
revolution which was again to call, as with the trumpet of
resurrection, from the grave, the land of Timoleon and Epaminondas;
such were the preludings, low and deep, to the tempestuous overture of
revolt and patriotic battle which now ran through every nook of Greece,
and caused every ear to tingle.

The knowledge that this mighty cause must be sowed in dishonor,--
propagated, that is, in respect to the knowledge of its plans, by
redoubled cringings to their brutal masters, in order to shield it from
suspicion,--but that it would probably be reaped in honor; the belief
that the poor Grecian, so abject and trampled under foot, would soon
reappear amongst the nations who had a name, in something of his
original beauty and power; these dim but elevating perceptions, and
these anticipations, gave to every man the sense of an ennobling secret
confided to his individual honor, and, at the same time, thrilled his
heart with sympathetic joy, from approaching glories that were to prove
a personal inheritance to his children. Over all Greece a sense of
power, dim and vast, brooded for years; and a mighty phantom, under the
mysterious name of _Arch_, in whose cloudy equipage were descried,
gleaming at intervals, the crowns and sceptres of great potentates,
sustained, whilst it agitated their hearts. _London_ was one of
the secret watchwords in their impenetrable cipher; _Moscow_ was a
countersign; Bavaria and Austria bore mysterious parts in the drama;
and, though no sound was heard, nor voice given to the powers that were
working, yet, as if by mere force of secret sympathy, all mankind who
were worthy to participate in the enterprise seemed to be linked in
brotherhood with Greece. These notions were, much of them, mere
phantasms and delusions; but they were delusions of mighty efficacy for
arming the hearts of this oppressed country against the terrors that
must be faced; and for the whole of them Greece was indebted to the
Hetæria, and to its organized agency of apostles (as they were
technically called), who compassed land and sea as pioneers for the
coming crusade. [Footnote: Considering how very much the contest did
finally assume a religious character (even Franks being attached, not
as friends of Greece, but simply as Christians), one cannot but wonder
that this romantic term has not been applied to the Greek war in
Western Europe.]

By 1820 Greece was thoroughly inoculated with the spirit of resistance;
all things were ready, so far, perhaps, as it was possible that they
should ever be made ready under the eyes and scimitars of the enemy.
Now came the question of time,--_when_ was the revolt to begin?
Some contend, says Mr. Gordon, that the Hetæria should have waited for
a century, by which time they suppose that the growth of means in favor
of Greece would have concurred with a more than corresponding decay in
her enemy. But, to say nothing of the extreme uncertainty which attends
such remote speculation, and the utter impossibility of training men
with no personal hopes to labor for the benefit of distant generations,

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