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THE APPROACH TO THE PANTHEON “...--THE ORIGINAL OF IDOLATRY.
V V HAT sort of building is that before us, of so unusual a figure ? I think lu's round, woless the distance deceives my sight. Mystagogus. You are not deceived. It is a place well deserving to be visited in this, the queen of cities. Let us go and view it, before we go to any other place. P. What is it’s name 3 M. The Fabulous Pantheon. That is, the Temple of all the God’s, which the superstitious folly of men have feigned either through a gross ignorance of the true and only God, or through a detestable contempt of him. P. What was the occasion of the feigning of many gods : M. Many causes of this may be assigned, but "these four were the principal ones, upon which, as upon so many pillars, the whole frame of this fabric depends. 1. The first cause of Idolatry was the extreme folly" and vainglory of men, who have denied to Him, who is the inexhausted fountain of all good, the honours which they have attributed to muddy streams: Digging," as the holy prophet complains, to themselves broken and dirty cisterns, and neglecting and forsaking the most flure fountain of living waters. It ordinarily happened after this manner. " If any one did excel in stature of body, if he was endued with greatness of mind, or noted for clearness of * wit, he first gained to himself the admiration of the ignorant vulgar; this admiration was by degrees turned into a profound respect, till at length they paid him greater honour than men ought to receive, and ascribed the man into the number of the gods: while the more prudent were either carried away by the torrent of the vulgar opinion, or were unable, or at least afraid, to resist it. 2. The sordid flattery of swójects toward their firinces was a second cause of Idolatry. For, to gratify their vanity, to flatter their pride, and to soothe them in their self-conceit, they erected altars, and set the images of their princes on them; to which they offered incense, in like manner as to the gods; and many times also, while they were yet living. 3. A third cause of Idolatry was an 8 immoderate love of immortality in many, who studied to attain it, by
*The Pantheon, at Rome, was built by M. Agrippa, son-in-law to Augustus Caesar, and (according to the signification of its name) dedicated to the honour of all the Gods, every of whose images were placed in several niches round the same. The building, with some diminution, continues to this day, only Pope Boniface 1 v. reconsecrated it to the worship of the Virgin Mary, and all the saints, male and female. It is now called the church of S, Maria Rotonda. B O
*Vit. Euseb. Lactant. Clem. August. Plat. Cic. d Sap. xiv. 14. * Jerem, ii. 13. d Diodor. l. 17. Plut. in Lysand. e Val. Max. l. 8, c. ult. Cic. de Rep. apud. Aug de. Civ. Dei. 3. f Athen. 1. 6. deipnosoph. c. 6. de Demetrio. Poliorcete. Sueton, in Julio, c. 76 & 84, s Pontan, l. 1, c. de, Saturn.
leaving effigies of themselves behind them; imagining that their names would still be preserved from the power of death and time, so long as they lived in brass, or, as it were, breathed in living statues of marble, after their funerals. 4. h.A firefiosterous desire offershetuating the memories of excellent and useful men to future ages, was the fourth cause of Idolatry. For, to make the memory of such men eternal, and their names immortal, they made them gods, or rather called them so. P. But who was the first contriver and assertor of false gods? M. * Winus, the first king of the Assyrians was, as it is reported; who, to render the name of his father Belus, or Mimrod, immortal, worshipped him with divine honour after his death. P. When, and in what manner, do they say that happened 2 M. I will tell you. After Minus had conquered many nations far and near, and built the city, called after his name, Mineveh; in a public assembly of the Babylonians he extolled his father Belus, the founder of the empire and city of Babylon, beyond all measure, as his manner was ; representing him, not only worthy of perpetual honour among all posterity, but also of an immortality among we gods above. Then he exhibited a statue of him, curiously and neatly made, to which he commanded them to pay the same reverence that they would have given to Belus alive : he also appointed it to be a common sanctuary to the miserable, and ordained, That if at any time an offender should fly to this statue, it should not be lawful to force him away thence to punishment. This privilege easily procured so great a veneration to the dead prince, that he was thought more than a man, and therefore was created a god, and called Jusiter, or as others write, Saturn of Babylon ; where
o 1.7. Plutarch. Apopht. Lacon. 4. Cic. de Nat. Deor. 1. 1. Sap. 14. 15. i Vid. Annal. Salian. anno 2000. k Hier. in Ezech, & in Oseam.
a most magnificent temple was erected to him by his son, and dedicated with variety of sacrifices, in the two thousandth year of the world, which was the last year but one of the life of Moah. And from this, as from a pestilential head, the sacrilegious plague of idols passed, by a kind of contagion, into other nations, and dispersed itself every-where about. P. What | Did all other nations of the world worship Belus 2 M. All, indeed, did not worship Belus ; but, after this beginning of Idolatry, several nations formed to themselves several gods; receiving into that number not only mortal and dead men, but brutes also ; and, which is a greater wonder, even the most mean and pitiful inanimate things. For it is evident, from the authority of innumerable writers, that the Africans worshipped the heavens, as a god ; the Persians adored fire, water, and the winds; the Lybians, the sun and moon ; the Thebans, sheep and weasels; the Babylonians of Memfihis, a whale; the inhabitants of Mendes, a goat; the Thessalians, storks; the Syroflhaenicians, doves ; the Egyptians, dogs, cats, crocodiles, and hawks; nay, leeks, onions, and garlic. Which most senseless folly 'Juvenal wittily exposes. P. But certainly the ancient inhabitants and most wise citizens of Rome did not so sottishly receive those images of vain gods, as those barbarous nations did, to whom they were superior, not only in arms and humanity, but in wit and judgment. M. You are mistaken sir; for they exceeded even those barbarians in this sort of folly. o P. Say you so : M. Indeed. For they reckoned among their gods, and adored not only beasts and things void of all sense; but, which is a far greater madness, they worshipped
| 0 sanctas gentes, quibus hæc mascuntur in hortis
Religious nations sure, and bless'd abodes,
also murderers, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, robbers, and such like pests of mankind.
P. How many, and what kind of gods did the Romans worship 2
M. It is scarce possible to recount them : when, beside their own country gods and family gods, all strange gods that came to the city were made free of it. Whence it came to pass in time, that when they saw their precincts too narrow to contain so many, necessity forced them to send their gods into colonies, as they did their men. But these things, which I cursorily tell you, you will see more conveniently and pleasantly by and by, with your own eyes, when you come into this Pantheon with me ; where we are now at the door. Let us enter.
THE ENTRANCE INTO THE PANTHF.ON. A DISTRIBUTION OF THE GODS INTO SEVERAL CLASSES.
P. GooD heavens ! What a crowd of dead deities is here, if all these are deities, whose figures I see painted and described upon the walls : M. This is the smallest part of them. For the very walls of the city, although it be so large, much less the walls of this temple, cannot contain even their titles. P. Were all these gods of the same order and dignity ? M. By no means. But as the Roman feofile were distributed into three ranks; namely, of " senators or noblemen, knights or gentlemen, filebeians or citizens ; as also into, " noble, new-raised, and ignoble, (of which the new-raised were those who did not receive their nobility from their ancestors, but obtained it themselves by their own virtue); so the Roman gods were divided, as it were, into three classes.
m Patricii, equites, et plebeii. " Nobiles, novi, et ignobiles. Cic, pro Muraen.