The Age of Pericles: A History of the Politics and Arts of Greece from the Persian to the Peloponnesian War - Vol. 2

By William Watkiss Lloyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLIX.
THE ELEUSINIA.

THE ancient religions of Hellas were not complicated to any serious extent by the quasi-metaphysical dogmas with which, in modern times, philosophy is so apt to come into collision. The current legendary histories, in a certain degree from their origin as well as by tendency of later modification, insensible or designed, admitted, in most cases, of transposition into natural types and allegories, with such manifest simplicity that whosoever was willing to keep the peace with society could have little difficulty in conscientiously professing them in one sense or the other, and might do so in either with equal exemption from molestation.

Of all sections of Greek religion this was peculiarly the case with the most important, the mythic cycle of Eleusis; which largely owed to this its deep and enduring influence,-- an influence that in truth is not without important traces at this day. Upon this ground it retained a hold of respect upon even subtle minds which is far more easily explainable than many modern incongruities of the same general nature. As regards divarication of prevalent moral theory and moral practice, this has been so frequent in all ages as to absolve us from seeking recondite explanations for any contrast between the assumable value of Athenian religious sentiments and the public and private vices which might be rampant notwithstanding.

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