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But it is more surprising to learn that the best-known god worshipped by the Egyptians was but the Merodach of Babylon in a foreign dress. Yet this is the result of the researches of Professor Hommel of Munich and Mr. C. J. Ball. The name of the god whom the Egyptians called Uasar or U'sir and the Greeks Osiris has no meaning in Egyptian, but corresponds closely to Asari, which formed (as we have seen), the first part of the proper name of Merodach. Both have the bull as their symbol, and the resemblance is completed by the epithet Un-nofer or Onophris, which is almost invariably associated in Egyptian texts with the name of Osiris, this being, like Mirri-dugga, simply 'the benefactor.' While, as if to make all doubt impossible, it is now shown that at a date when the Sumerian script was still pictorial or ideographic instead of cuneiform, the sign for Merodach's name was identical with the hieroglyph afterwards used by the Egyptians to denote Osiris, namely, a stool and an eye. It seems, therefore, impossible to resist the conclusion that Osiris was not originally an Egyptian god at all, but that his worship was brought into Egypt from Babylon where he was known as Merodach.*

The worship of Osiris, however, became in Egyptian hands a very different affair from that of his Asiatic prototype. It is true that he was like Merodach, a solar deity, the son of the earth-god Seb, and the husband of his own sister Isis—two names which Dr. Hommel has identified on linguistic grounds with those of their Sumerian analogues, Ea and Istar. He was also the slayer of a serpent who seems to typify darkness. But here the parallel ends. For the national characteristics of the Egyptians differed toto coelo from those of the Babylonians among whom the idea of a solar god first took definite shape. The Sumerian, like the Chinese, was tenacious, practical, and ingenious; the Semite, then as now, was fierce, cruel, and greedy; but the Egyptian was, in the words of Herodotus, ' religious to excess, far beyond any other race of men.' Un

* The Babylonian origin not only of the worship of Osiris, but also of the whole civilisation of Egypt is fully dealt with in the review mentioned in the note on p. 34.

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like the Sumerian, who was by nature and inclination either an agriculturist or an artificer, or the Semite, who was a warrior or a trader, the Egyptian longed above all things to be a priest. Full of that melancholy which rejoiceth exceedingly and is glad when it can find the grave,' to live in a temple all day, to compose hymns to the gods, and to muse on the life to come seemed to the Egyptian the highest delight that this world had to offer.* Among such a people, the deity who in Babylon was the warrior of the gods, became a god not of the living but of the dead. The Egyptian priests taught that Osiris had once come down from heaven to rule over men, to whom he had taught all useful knowledge including the cultivation of corn and the vine; that he had been treacherously torn in pieces by his brother Set, his widow Isis wandering weeping over land and sea until she had collected and buried with pious care his mangled remains; and that his son Horus when arrived at man's estate had avenged his father, and now ruled over the world as the visible Sun, while Osiris retained the sovereignty of the underworld to which all men must go after death.† Henceforward, to the Egyptian, this life became more than ever a preparation for the next. If he could commit to memory the spells and formulas which would enable him to combat successfully the demons and monsters who would beset his path beyond the tomb; if he could ensure that after death his carefully embalmed body should be laid in a sepulchre enriched with the offerings of food and fruit, either in actual or in pictorial form, on which he might feed in the centuries to come; if he could be buried with all the ceremonies which attended the interment of the dead Osiris :-why then his double or phantom might hope to come forth from the tomb, to win its perilous way to the Hall of the Two Truths, there to make its denial of sin before Osiris as judge of the dead, and thereafter to become

* Compare the statement of Diodoros (A. 51) that the Egyptians 'called the dwelling-place of the living, guest-chambers, as we inhabit them but a short time, while the houses of the dead they name eternal mansions, because we abide in the house of Hades for a boundless age.'

+ G. Maspero The Dawn of Civilisation, Lond. 1894, p. 174-176.

identified in some not very intelligible way, with Osiris himself. But such privileges were naturally within the power of the rich alone to the poor was held out no hope beyond the grave save of a wretched existence for a few weeks, during which the soul might wander upon the earth feeding upon filth and refuse, until complete annihilation put an end to its sufferings. Those who praise the pure ethics and spiritual character of the Egyptian religion seem to forget that its promises, like its ceremonies, concerned none but a small part of the nation who professed it.

Let us turn now from the creeds of Asiatics and Africans to that brilliant and wonderful people to whom we are directly indebted for our science, our art, our literature, and in fact for nearly all our intellectual possessions. The religion of the Greeks was not, in its origin, very unlike those of the barbarians just noticed. In the Iliad, the gods preserve epithets which show that they, like the deities of Babylon and Abydos, were once merely the fetiches or tutelary spirits of the little communities in which their worship grew up. Aphrodite is still Kypris; Hera, Hera of Argos, and Apollo the god who watches over Tenedos. Even Zeus, the father of gods and men, has such local adjectives as Dodonaian appended to his august name. But these deities were, for the most part, the gods of the kings and warriors, that is to say, of the conquering Dorian race who played in Homeric Greece the part acted in England by the Normans. The rustics and peasants of Attica held fast to the worship of their native divinities, and foremost among these was Demeter, the goddess from whom they learned the art of agriculture.

The legend of Demeter has been made so familiar to us by both ancient and modern art that there can be no need to do more here than refer to it. Everyone has heard how Demeter, a personification of the earth in its smiling and beneficent aspect, bore a daughter, Persephone, whose beauty breathed desire into Hades the king of the lower regions; how he carried

* See Jequier Le Livre de ce qu'il y a dans l'Hadés. Paris, 1894, pp. 9-10: Maspero Et. de Myth. and d'Arch. Egypt. Paris, 1893, I., pp. 347-348.

her off to his gloomy abode; and how Demeter refused to allow the earth again to bring forth fruit until a treaty was arranged by which Persephone was to spend half the year with her mother above ground, and the rest with her new consort. This seems to have been in its origin a nature-myth setting forth the rude ideas of an agricultural people as to the mystery of the germination and growth of the corn sown in the earth, and it was originally portrayed in dramatic form at festivals held at particular times of the year, in the way that Mr. J. G. Frazer in The Golden Bough has shown to be common to tillers of the soil nearly all over the world. But about the year 600 B.C., a new element was introduced into these agricultural festivals of Attica by the addition of a new actor. This was the god of the vine, the Thracian Dionysos.

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The first home of this god is not very clear. The old explanation of his name is that it meant the Zeus of Nysa,' but as nobody has been able to identify Nysa with any place known to the ancients, this does not take us much further. M. Langlois would make him out to be the Vedic god AgniSoma, but although the myths of the two deities present many features in common, the parallel is not so close as to make it necessary to suppose any direct connection between the two. The most that we know about his origin with tolerable certainty is that the Thracian immigrants into Boeotia brought with them a god of this name, who seems to have been looked upon as the supreme god of vegetation and reproduction, from which, by a very natural association of ideas, he became the god of the underworld, and therefore the deity who presides over the life and death of man. Him Epimenides,—a wise man of Crete who had been sent for to purify Athens from the murder of Kylon and the plague which was supposed to be its consequence-introduced into the festivals of Demeter, and particularly into that prolonged one which culminated in a solemn procession from Athens to Eleusis. The secret rites celebrated on that occasion were probably already known as the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The agricultural side of these rites is fairly well known to us. They displayed the carrying-off of Persephone, the

wanderings of Demeter in her pursuit, the gift of corn to Triptolemos, the fosterling whom Demeter had taken to console her in her affliction, and the departure of the same hero in his winged car drawn by serpents to spread the knowledge of agriculture throughout the world. The part at first played in them by Dionysos is not so clear, but in any case the wave of religious thought which swept over Greece about the middle of the sixth century before Christ must have completely transformed it. For, at about this period, a sect known to us as the Orphic Brotherhood sprang up in Greece. These sectaries—it is doubtful whether they were ever formed into a regular association or not-claimed to have an exclusive knowledge of such recondite matters as the creation of the world, the legends of the gods, and the future lot of man, special revelations as to which they professed to have found in the poems of the mythical Thracian singer Orpheus.* At first their ideas seem to have made little way but they were favoured by Peisistratos, then tyrant of Athens, and received a great accession of strength on the break up of the Pythagorean schools of Magna Graecia in B.C. 510. From that time forward, Orphic ideas permeated the whole teaching of the Mysteries, until at last Orpheus was looked upon as their founder. As Dionysos was the God whose worship formed the central point of the Orphic system, he naturally, under their influence, assumed a more important place at Eleusis. The form which his legend finally took was as follows:Dionysos Zagreus, or the hunter,' was the son of the omnipotent Zeus by his virgin daughter Persephone. He was the favourite son of his father, who gave to him the kingdom of this world, and sent him upon earth to escape the jealousy of Hera. But the latter incited against him the Titans, who surprise him by a trick, tore him in pieces, and ate his flesh. The heart was saved by Athena, from which was born again the infant Dionysos, the mystic child whose birth formed one

It is now generally admitted that the poems attributed to Orpheus were not the work of any person of that name. The earlier ones extant are nearly all by different members of the first Pythagorean school. See Abel's Orphica, Lips., 1885, pp. 139-140.

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