George Gemistos Plethon’s
 

BOOK OF LAWS
 

Translated by John Opsopaus1

© 2020, John Opsopaus.  Send comments & criticism to opsopaus@omphalos.org

[2]2 This book contains:

Theology after Zoroaster and Plato; the traditional names of the gods of our Hellenic ancestors have been preserved for the gods recognized by philosophy, but by restoring each of these names from the less philosophical meaning that each has taken in the fictions of poets to the best sense of philosophy;

Ethics according to the same sages, and in addition according to the Stoics;

Politics on the model of that of Lacedaemon [Sparta], by removing on the one hand the excessive rigors that the greater number could not support, and by adding on the other, especially for the use of governors, the philosophy, which establishes the principal merit of the Platonic institutions; [4]

Ritual reduced to simple practices, without superfluity, and yet sufficient;

Natural Science largely according to Aristotle.

This work also touches the principles of logic, Hellenic antiquities, and some points of health. [6]


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Book I

The diversity of opinions among people on the most important objects

The best guides for the search for the true

The opposite doctrines of Protagoras and Pyrrho

Prayer to the gods of learning

General principles on the gods

On Zeus the King

The supercelestial gods

The gods in the heavens

The eternity of all gods

The generation of Poseidon and the other supercelestial gods

The generation of the gods within the heavens

The generation of mortal beings

The generation of human beings [8]

The diversity of people’s abilities for good or evil

The permanence of established things

The best moral constitution

Individual constitutions

Inheritances

Contracts

Government

Worship of the gods

Priests and their life regime

Purifications

Judgments

Burials

The cult of the dead

The property that must result from these laws

Division of being

The difference of causes

The necessity of causes

The names of the oldest gods

Book II

The method to follow in the study of the subjects proposed here to be treated

Preliminary presentation of general ideas [10]

That there are gods

The providence of the gods

That the gods are not authors of evil

Fate [Heimarmenê3]

The multitude of gods

The differences among the classes of gods

Divine worship after the Kouretes

The seven oldest gods, and other supercelestial gods

The generation of gods who inhabit the heavens

General demonstration of the three species of the soul

Different species of stars

Properties of the seven planets

The particular course of each planet

The common movement of the stars and all the aether [aithêr]

The soul of the stars

That there are daimons

That the daimons are not bad

Rebuttal of slander against daimons

Differences between daimons

The immortality of the human soul

The creation of mortal beings

The creation of the mortal substance of human beings

Sensations and their own characters

Reasonable action of certain animals

The eternity of the universe [12]

Book III

Back to the question of fate

Return to the question of the immortality of the human soul

The purpose of life

Intelligence and its various species

Education

The form of government

Fortitude

Things that are and those that are not in our power, according to the theory of fortitude

Various kinds of fortitude

Self-control

Measure and symmetry

Various species of self-control

Strength, according to the theory of the various species of self-control

Prohibition of intercourse between parents and their children

The generation of gods, according to the theory of the prohibition of intercourse between parents and their children

The union of one man with several women

The women's community

The use of meat

The unity of the property in the same family [14]

How to avoid the ruin of properties at the death of the owner

The mode of existence

Zeus: that there exists in him no division, even nominal

The Universe and its multiple units

The difference of goods

Justice

Various kinds of justice

Comparison of the various species of virtue

The perversity of manners

Convenience in gifts

Contributions to be paid to the public treasury

Judgments

Names of the gods

Prayer

Addresses to the gods

Hymns to the gods

Instruction for the use of addresses and hymns

Sacrifices that suit the different gods

In what circumstances, to which gods, and how to sacrifice

Predispositions with which one must sacrifice

Accuracy in religious practices

Against whom one must pray to the gods

Oracles

Epinomis or Conclusion

Summary of the Doctrines of Zoroaster and Plato

Bibliography

Endnotes


BOOK I

CHAPTER I. The Diversity of Opinions Among People on the Most Important Topics

[16] This book deals with laws, institutions, beliefs and practices that can assure people, in private life and in public life, the best, the most beautiful, and the happiest possible fate. Indeed, such is human nature, that people tend before and above all to happiness; it is at once the unique and common end of humanity, and the peculiar aim of each one’s life; it is in order to achieve this that we pursue and practice all other things. All are carried away towards this common goal, but not all go the same way; that is where they separate. Some think to find happiness principally in pleasure; they do everything in view of pleasure alone; they want, as much as possible, to taste it all, in all its forms, of whatever nature, whatever source it comes from. Others place happiness in the possession of riches; the only job of all their life is to get richer and richer. [18] Others run after glory; they have no other ambition than to have the praise and admiration of the crowd. Others, finally, neglect all the rest to consecrate their whole life to goodness and virtue, persuaded that virtue alone can give true happiness.

Virtue itself does not have the same characteristics for all; we see good and evil change according to opinions and usages. Thus, some believe that study and science are of no use to virtue; there are some who scrupulously flee all exercise of mind, some sophist impostors having persuaded them that science is only evil and corruption. Others, on the contrary, regard science as the principle of all virtue; they make every effort to acquire as much knowledge and wisdom as possible. Some devote all their effort to multiplying sacrifices and the religious ceremonies, and some condemn all these practices; others admit one and reject others, but with so little agreement between them that the same practices appear to some religious and to the other sacrilegious. Some place in celibacy and in the complete abstinence from sensual pleasures the most beautiful and the most divine life; for others, it is more beautiful and divine to marry and have children. [20] Some make a choice among the foods that people usually eat; they decide that some are forbidden and that it is a crime to eat them, while others are allowed. Others allow complete liberty in this respect; there is no food whose use seems to them to be prohibited as impious; it is in moderation alone that they place the good. Some consent to languish in a repulsive filthiness; others find some merit in cleanliness and seek it. Some extol poverty and indigence; others admit wealth to a certain extent. Some display extreme shamelessness; others respect modesty and the general laws of propriety; they prefer decency to indecency in all things. There are some who, in principle, establish the search for virtue, not for itself, but in view of some reward that the gods would bestow upon them; according to them virtue alone does not suffice for happiness; some think they ought to seek virtue for itself, and not in the hope of a reward; others, finally, pursue virtue for itself and for the rewards which the gods bestow on those who practice it.

4 When we see that on these points and still others people behave according to principles so contradictory, so confused, it is clear that if we want to choose for sure the best rule of conduct and not to deviate from the common goal that all pursue, namely happiness, [22] we must not take at random the first road encountered, but first consider carefully what is the best kind of life of all, where true happiness is found, then fix our choice. But before that, it will be necessary to examine what human beings are, what is their nature, and what are their faculties. Without this preliminary study, we could not know what it is better to do, to know what job we should do with our faculties. For it is so with every instrument and every object, that, if we know neither its nature nor its properties, we cannot make proper use of it. Now it is impossible to know what a human really is if we have not begun to study thoroughly the nature of things, if we have not recognized what is the first principle, what is the second, third, and last order, and what is the function proper to each of these beings. It is after having examined them all that one can legitimately study the human being in the midst of them, to find out to which beings it is similar and in which respects, to which ones it differs and to what degree, and what are the elements of which it was formed; finally, given its nature, what is its power. It is after having sufficiently clarified these questions, that we can draw the rules for human life; then we will know what is the best and most useful conduct, and that easily and without difficulty.

¶ But the question of the nature of other beings is not subject to less disagreement. [24] Some think that there are absolutely no gods; others believe that the gods exist, but that they do not watch over human affairs; others, finally, that they watch over human affairs and all things. But among these, some think that gods are the authors of evil as well as good, others that they produce only good and never evil. Some admit that they can let themselves be swayed by the prayers of people and divert things which in their wisdom they thought they should do; the others that the gods are absolutely inflexible, and that, always faithful in their thought in conformity with the decisions of fate, they lead everything to the greatest perfection possible. Some believe that there is only one god, and nothing else seems to them worthy of being respected and honored by people; others recognize several gods united by the community of nature in the same divinity; according to yet others, there is a god par excellence, a supreme god, the first principle of all things, and other gods placed on a second and third rank.

Some think that, excepting the one creator god, everything has been created in time as by a cause, and that everything must one day perish and disappear; others, that the world was created, but that it will endure forever; others, finally, that one part of the world is formed and born while another dissolves and perishes, in never ending succession. Some argue that the universe [to Sympan] is the effect of a cause, but that it was not created in time, and therefore it is eternal and cannot undergo any change from the god who produced it and watches over it, because this god has an immutable nature and never rested, [26] but worked unceasingly, and according to unchanging principles, to the production of this universe [to Pan].

Disagreement is not less about human nature. Many think that it is like that of all other mortal beings and animals, that it is no more noble nor more divine; others allow people to raise their hopes to the perfect purity of the divine essence. Some assign to human nature an intermediate place that it must always occupy; they regard it as a mixture of divine and eternal nature with mortal nature.

¶ In the midst of the uncertainty and confusion which obscures these problems, if we do not carefully examine every opinion and cannot distinguish once and for all which side has the best reasons, in order to find the truth and to secure its possession, then we will not know how to regulate our life, we will hesitate on the manner of direction we will embrace, and we will follow at random any party that will present itself. In short, one will become, without suspecting it, of all people perhaps the most miserable, instead of being happy as one hoped for.

CHAPTER II. The Best Guides in the Search for Truth

What is the manner of proceeding in the examination of these opinions? [28] What guides should be followed in this study? For these subjects have been treated by a crowd of poets, sophists, law-givers [nomothetai], and philosophers. But poets and sophists can be rightly regarded as bad guides in such matters. Poets are very inclined to flattery; they have no other purpose than to please people and to cheapen the truth and the good. And sophists turn in many matters to trickery [goeiteia] and seek fame at every turn, and some even raise their claims above human nature; as for the truth, they have no concern, they even seek a thousand expedients to disguise it. Both of them decrease the gods to the human, raise the human to the divine, upset all things, and thus do the greatest harm to those who listen to them. Such are the poets and sophists for the most part. But law-givers and philosophers can do no better than to express some sensible opinion on the subjects that occupy us. In fact, since law-givers always propose the common good, it is unlikely they will deviate from it; and the philosophers, believing that truth is the principal element of happiness, and pursuing it in preference to all treasures, will probably find it better than anyone else. However, as most men are by their nature unable to fully attain knowledge and possession of the greatest things, there are two things to fear: [30] on one hand, that even among philosophers and law-givers there are some who have been too weak to discover the good and the true, and, on the other hand, that we are not mistaken in taking for wise law-givers or philosophers some sophists or some poets who are adept at seizing the ignorant mind of the vulgar.

As for us, here are the guides we choose among the law-givers and the wise. It is first the oldest whose name has come down to us, Zoroaster, who revealed, with the greatest brilliance, to the Medes, the Persians, and to most of the ancient peoples of Asia, the truth about divine things and most other great questions. After him come, among others, Eumolpus, who established among the Athenians the Eleusinian mysteries to teach the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, Minos law-giver of the Cretans, and Lycurgus of the Spartans. Let us add Iphitus and Numa, the first of which, together with Lycurgus, founded the Olympic Games in honor of Zeus, the greatest of the gods, and the second gave the Romans a great number of laws, many of them relative to the gods, and especially to religious ceremonies. Among the law-givers, these are the ones we prefer.

Among the other sages we choose, among the Barbarians, the Brahmans of India and the Magi of Media. Among the Greeks, among others, especially the Kouretes, whom tradition gives among the most ancient law-givers; it is they who have recalled the existence of the gods of the second and third order, the immortality of the works and children of Zeus, and that of the entire Universe [to Pan], beliefs that had been destroyed in Greece by the Giants, those godless beings who fought against the gods. [32] By the force of invincible reasoning, and by the war which they made against the Giants, the Kouretes triumphed over their adversaries who claimed that everything is mortal, excepting only the creator, the ancient principle of all things. After them we will quote the priests of Zeus at Dodona and the interpreters of his oracles, and several other inspired ones, especially the diviner Polyidos, whom Minos himself cultivated for his wisdom, Teiresias, who gave the Greeks a great deal of high knowledge and who developed with the greatest brilliancy the theory of the ascent of the soul and its endless return to the earth, and Chiron, tutor to a great many heroes of his time, to whom we owe much knowledge and important discoveries.

Let us add the seven sages who flourished with brilliance at the time when Anaxandridas and Ariston reigned in Lacedaemon: Chilon of Sparta, Solon of Athens, Bias of Priene, Thales of Miletus, Cleoboulus of Lindos, Pittacus of Mitylene, and Myson of Chenai.

To all these masters we must add Pythagoras, Plato, and all the distinguished philosophers who have formed themselves in their school, and of whom the most illustrious are Parmenides, Timaeus, Plutarch, Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus.

All these having agreed on most of the questions and on the most important, they seem to have expressed their opinions, as the best, to the most sensible people who succeeded each other after them. We will therefore follow them, without seeking to innovate ourselves on such great subjects and without receiving any of the modern innovations of some sophists. [34] There is this great difference between the sage and the sophist, in that the sages express opinions always in harmony with the older beliefs, so that, even by their antiquity, the true doctrines outweigh the erroneous propositions that have been advanced or still are, while the sophists always aim at the new, the only object of their ambition. It is, indeed, the best way to achieve this vain glory for which they are excited. For us, we will adopt the doctrines and the words of the most sensible people of antiquity. Then, with the aid of reasoning, the most powerful and the most divine of our means of knowing, we will compare as exactly as possible all the systems to judge what is the best opinion in all things.

For the great vice of poets and sophists is never to give any valid reason for the opinions they put forward; it is to a prophetic inspiration from the gods, who no doubt came to visit them, that they both pretend to owe this knowledge. Thus the poets, adorning their words with the charms of expression and rhythm, seduce those who listen to them, and mislead souls who do not know how to distinguish the pleasure of style and harmony from truth or falsity of ideas. For the rest, poets care little about persuading their listeners, it is enough to amuse them, whether they persuade them or not; but there are people on whom they act more than they seek. [36] For the sophists, some employ false reasoning instead of just and true arguments, and thus deceive the ignorant minds. Others, the most charlatans of all, pretend to perform certain miracles and seem to accomplish great things by a divine power, but in reality, means, and results, all is imposture. Yet they affect minds that are weak and uncritical, and then their lies, enlarged by later speeches and writings, mislead many others. Lastly, these doctrines are accustomed to be heard repeatedly from infancy, an authority which does the greatest harm to society by accrediting a thousand absurd principles, which have the gravest consequences for the conduct of human life.

On the contrary, well-reasoned arguments clearly teach the truth about the topics under examination and, offering themselves to the discussion of careful criticism, they lead the latter as well as the former to personal knowledge, not borrowed, against those who, deceived by the teachings of sophists, blindly borrow their persuasion from those who let themselves be persuaded before them.

CHAPTER III. The Opposite Doctrines of Protagoras and Pyrrho

These two doctrines, quite opposite to each other, but also vain and pernicious, must also be rejected. [38] One [Protagoras] says that everything is true, that the human is the measure of all things, and that what everyone imagines exists for that very reason. The other [Pyrrho] argues that nothing is true, that people are incapable of being judges of anything, and that we must not even believe the testimony of things. Their two propositions are easy to overturn and consequently to refute. If one says that everything is true, one will be forced to grant the truth of the opposite opinion, which is that of most people, namely that not all things are true. If we say that nothing is true, we agree that this affirmation itself is not true. Moreover, most people recognize degrees in knowledge and ignorance; they will seek lessons from scholars and accuse the ignorant of not possessing well enough what they claim to know. Would it be so if people believed that truth is everywhere or nowhere?

Neither can it be said that two contradictory propositions are both true or both false at the same time; it’s an opinion that nobody will entertain. Thus everyone will say that this proposition: “the Universe [to Pan] is eternal,” has for a contradictory this one: “the Universe is not eternal,” and that it cannot be that these two propositions are both true or both false. In all similar cases, only one of the propositions is true and the other is false. Similarly for the future, no one will argue that all facts will necessarily justify their predictions or that all will come to deny them, but everyone knows in advance that some facts will contradict them, while others will agree with them, [40] so that some forecasts will have been true and the others false.

Thus these two doctrines are equally convicted of falsity and absurdity. Nor should we take into account this other opinion, that, if we were able to attain something in the knowledge of truth, it would not be for us, as mortals, to pursue our research to divine matters because of the inferiority of our intelligence and because the gods do not want their nature to be the object of an indiscreet curiosity. Indeed, the gods would not have given us in vain the desire to study their nature, if they had wanted to forbid us this study and to refuse us the faculty to acquire some clear notions of them.

Moreover, it would be equally absurd to believe that we must either have no idea of ​​these things and live like the brutes, or accept at random and without examination all the imaginations that arise, for we would not achieve the happiness we pursue. In fact, even if, by a divine chance, someone, without the help of reason, encountered the truth on these matters, having thus acquired it, they would never surely possess it, and they could not pursue it to enjoy either perfect happiness nor even a little happiness, having neither the reason nor the science necessary to shed light on the most important questions, and ignorant even if they are happy or not. Because it’s not enough to imagine being happy, which can happen even to madmen, [42] it is still necessary to know in what way and how one is happy, what is good for a person and what is bad, and why.

Moreover, divine things do not contain any vice that could compel the gods to hide themselves, and the gods are incapable of a feeling of jealousy that would prevent them from joining with their other benefits that of being known. And although the divine nature is far above human nature, we cannot say that humans are condemned to not know it, because they also have reason and faculties that are not at all foreign to the divine nature. Finally, if the gods have disposed us to seek their nature, it is precisely for us to seek it, to know it, at least in part, and to derive from it the greatest advantages. In fact, taking for principles the ideas and revelations [manteiais] concerning the divine nature given by the gods to all people in common, or at least the ideas of the greatest number and the most virtuous, establishing them securely, and then, by rigorous reasoning, drawing from these principles the consequences to which the wise will open the way for us, with the help of the gods, we cannot fail to have the best beliefs concerning everything. It is therefore to the guardian gods of reason that we must, before going further, address our prayers so that they may encourage this work by their inspiration.

CHAPTER IV. Prayer to the Gods of Learning

[44] Come to us, O gods of learning [theoi logioi], whoever you may be, in whatever number you may be, you who preside over science [epistêmê] and the truth, who distribute them to whomever you please, according to the decrees of the almighty father of all things, King Zeus. Without your help, we would be unable to accomplish such a great work. Come guide our reasoning, and grant this work to obtain the best possible success, and to be like a treasure always open to those people who want to lead the most beautiful and best conduct in public or private life.

CHAPTER V. General Principles on the Gods

Here are the beliefs that can best be said to have been transmitted to us by a succession of divine men [theoi andres]. The gods are all the beings of a higher and happier nature than human nature. They provide for us from their overflowing happiness; no evil can come from them, they are the authors of all good; by an irreversible and immutable fate [heimarmenê] they attribute to each the best possible dispensation. There are many gods, but with different degrees of divinity [theotêti]. One of them, the greatest of all, is the supreme god, King Zeus, who indeed infinitely surpasses them all by his majesty and the excellence of his nature; he has existed from all eternity. [46] He is not born of any other, he is self-father [autopatôr], and, as the only one of all beings that has no other father than himself, he is the father and the eldest creator [dêmiourgos] of all things; he is supremely essential essence, absolutely one, supremely identical to himself; he is the Good.

The other gods are divided according to divine nature [theotês] into the second and third orders, the first of which are the children of Zeus, his creations, and the second are the children of his children, the creations of his creations. These are the instruments by which King Zeus governs all things and especially human affairs; each of them is set over a greater or lesser part of this universe; but all are governed by the great Poseidon, the eldest and most powerful of all Zeus’s children, the most beautiful of his creations and the most perfect.

The gods born immediately from Zeus himself are the supercelestial gods; they have a divinity of the second order free from all connections to bodies and matter; they are essentially pure Forms [eidê], immutable intellects [noes], always and in all things acting by the sole force of their own thought. Each of them derives from Zeus himself an essence, an indivisible from the indivisible, but which contains in itself, in a manner at the same time collective and individual, everything under itself of which it is the cause. As to their attributes, all these gods, except Poseidon alone, the oldest of them, receive them from each other, their king and father having established among his children a community [koinônia] and a reciprocity of goods, the most beautiful gift that he granted them after participation in his essence. [48] But Poseidon, ruled by Zeus alone, governs all the others. Among the other gods, those are higher who have the fewest superiors and who do more and greater things in the universe; lower are those who do lesser things and who recognize more superiors.

Other divisions are still to be found in this class of gods. According to the most important, it is divided into two great families: first, that of the legitimate5 children of Zeus, whom their father endowed with the faculty of also producing immortal beings. The other gods, who form the illegitimate6 family of the Titans, produce only mortal and perishable beings; they are like the first gods in the community of origin, but they are very inferior to them in power and grandeur.

All these gods are in all respects out of time, because they always remain and are absolutely immutable. Indeed, time is the measure of change, and they have eternity as the measure of their life. For them there is neither past nor future, neither before nor after; for them everything is eternally present. Neither can they be circumscribed by location in space, for it is proper for bodies to be so circumscribed in a place, but they are pure essences without bodies. However, they have their proper place, in the sense that they are classified in a definite order [taxis], so that each of them holds the middle between the one who precedes him and the one who follows him. [50]

So the whole supercelestial realm is shared among these gods, but the main division of this upper world is a division into two parts which correspond to the two families of gods, and are the particular seat of each of them: the legitimate children of Zeus inhabit Olympus, the highest and most pure region of the heavens; the illegitimate race occupies Tartarus, a region inferior to the other.

These two distinct families, that of Olympus and that of Tartarus, form a great and holy group, an intelligible and supercelestial world ordered by King Zeus, an eternal world, rich in all wealth, containing all these second-order gods sufficient and lacking nothing to form a complete set. These gods, separated from each other in the most exact manner, so that each of them is in his attributions the most perfect and self-sufficient as possible, are at the same time united by the community [koinônia] of goods and the bonds of a reciprocal affection. For, while they have an individual character, yet they form a whole, as is appropriate for beings who proceed from the same principle and tend to the same end, namely, their father, their creator [dêmiourgos], the great Zeus, absolutely one and all-powerful. All things are subject to him and devoted, without struggle, without opposition, without ill-will; but these gods especially accept his domination with good-will [eunoia]. They are united by customary and friendly relations and think the same. On the one hand, they direct the gods that are less powerful and younger than themselves; on the other, they let themselves be guided by the older ones, for in this superior world there reigns in all things a perfect harmony and order. This is the constant state in which all these gods hold each other.

¶ [52] Poseidon and his legitimate siblings, the Olympians, have children who form gods of a third order; these gods inhabit the heavens, they are rational and immortal beings, they have unerring souls and bodies that escapes old age and corruption, and their nature cannot admit any harm. Their creators have also divided them into two classes. One is the legitimate and celestial family of the stars [astra], whose souls are of the purest kind, and attain everything by their science [epistêmê], and whose bodies are the most beautiful and active; they are gods who move and wander, but follow regular orbits [? periïontas].

Then comes the illegitimate and earthly family of the daimons. Their bodies do not have the same virtue, nor do their souls, which are of an inferior kind and do not attain the science of all things, although they conceive many things by conjecture only, but always with accuracy, because they always can follow in the footsteps of the gods of the higher class, and, thanks to these, remain infallible always and in all things. This class is charged with executing the orders of the other gods, and immediately touch on human affairs.

We thus distinguish four classes [genê] of gods: two are supercelestial, one inhabits Olympus, the other Tartarus; the last two inhabit the heavens, one is celestial, the other is terrestrial. All these gods are begotten in the sense that they proceed from one cause and have received existence from another, but they are uncreated and imperishable in time, for they proceed from Zeus, who is eternally active, who is not and has never been confined to mere potentiality [dynamis] without action; that is why they have neither beginning nor end.

[54] In this god [Zeus], essence [ousia] and action [praxis] are identical; there is no distinction between them, for this god is essentially one, never different from himself. In Intellect [nous], action is already distinct from essence, but action is continuous, never at rest. Also the creatures that Intellect produces without the concurrence of any being of another class are immortal. In the soul [psychê], we distinguish in the same way essence and action, but although the soul is active in part, most often it is limited in its action and reduced to the role of pure potentiality. Finally, in the body, besides all this, the essence is divided into form and matter, matter which is not only mutable, but also decomposable and infinitely divisible.

Here is another difference and the most essential among beings. The supercelestial gods are not only uncreated in time but also by their permanence [menein], because they are absolutely immutable and eternal, there is nothing in them that has not previously existed, and finally they are generated only subject to a cause. Indeed everything that derives its existence from a cause is generated in that it continues to receive the being of another power [ischys] and is incapable of being sufficient for its own existence. The celestial gods are also begotten with regard to the cause, for in relation to the substance of their soul they are uncreated, since their souls are immutable and therefore eternal. As to the action of the soul and of the nature of the body, they are truly created, for they are subject to movement, to continuous renewal, and to divisible and measurable time.

[56] Indeed, time begins from this soul which governs the heavens; it is first the ever-moving measure of the soul’s action. Then time spreads within the nature of all souls and bodies. It is the “image of eternity,”7 always already past and no longer, about to be and not yet. In the moment it is always and now, but different and always becoming different; it divides time into past and future.

As to place, these same gods may also be circumscribed in a certain part of space, because they are united with bodies, which is why we may call them “celestial,” while the other gods are called “supercelestial” and cannot be located in a body or in any place. In grandeur, the Olympians rise above all other gods, whatever their origin, but in number, they are the most limited. It is the same for the daimons; those who are actually closer to Zeus, who is pure unity, are also less numerous, but those who are more distant are more numerous; so some would be closer, the others farther away from his unity. But above the gods of Olympus and of this universe is placed Poseidon, to whom King Zeus has entrusted the government of all things after him, as to the most powerful, the greatest, the eldest of his children. However, Zeus did not make him equal to himself, because it would be inequitable to place in the same rank as a self-sufficient being one who has his existence through another… [Here the chapter breaks off]


Book II

CHAPTER VI. Fate [Heimarmenê]

[64] Are all future things determined and fixed in advance by fate, or are there any things which have not been determined and which occur without order or law, as chance [tukhê] brings them? Without doubt, all things are subject to a law; for if some event occurred without being determined by a law, either it would have no cause, and then there would be a fact that would occur without a cause, or the cause which produced it would act without determination, without necessity [anagkê], and then there would be a cause which would not produce its effects necessarily and in a definite way. The two things are equally impossible. But it is still far less possible that the gods change what they have resolved for the future and do something else than what they have decided, determined to change by the prayers of men, by certain gifts, or by some another similar reason. [66] In fact, by denying the necessity and the predetermination of the facts to come, one exposes oneself to denying entirely to the gods providence [pronoia] over human affairs, or to accusing them of being the authors of the worst, instead of the best possible, since things that they have decided second must necessarily be worse than the those decided first.

Those who absolutely deny fate therefore fall into one or other of these impieties. But these two suppositions are quite impossible. All future events are fixed from eternity; they are arranged in the best possible order under the authority of Zeus, the sole and supreme master of all things. Alone of all beings, Zeus knows no bounds, since there is nothing that can limit him (for something can be limited only by its own cause), but Zeus is too great to be bounded and remains eternally and perfectly identical to himself. He has for his essence the greatest and most powerful necessity, which is by itself in an absolute manner and does not derive from any different power. For what is necessary is better than what is contingent, and the greatest necessity is to be essentially good. To those who proceed immediately from him, Zeus communicates the same attribute to a lower degree, for the beings he produces are necessarily of the same nature as himself. [68] He determines these things and all the others because of himself, and there is nothing so great or so small that he himself cannot assign its limit, because there is nothing of which he is not the supreme cause.

Moreover, if the future were not fixed, foreknowledge [proeginôsketo] would be impossible, both for men and even for the gods; for we cannot know with certainty the indeterminate, of which we cannot say exactly in advance whether it will or will not be. Now, the gods know the future, since it is they who fix it, and they are present in it as the cause even before it has come into existence. They know it only because they determine and produce it, for they cannot know something by being themselves affected by it. Indeed, it is repugnant and impossible to admit that the gods are affected by things of an inferior nature and that do not even exist yet. Thus, those who think that the gods exist and who at the same time refuse them the foreknowledge [pronoia] and predetermination [heimarmenê] of the things here, are led to deny them knowledge. For they could not know them as subject to the action of these things [here], since the less perfect cannot act upon the more perfect, nor act upon them, because they would not even be the authors of them. It is necessary, in fact, that what knows be connected with the known thing, either as a participation undergoing its action, [70] or as a cause by acting on it, all knowledge being impossible in any circumstance other than on a relation between the knowing and the known. And even if the gods were the authors of the things of this world, but not in a determined and necessary way, they would never know what they should do one day, since they could not fix it necessarily and from all eternity in an immutable way.

But the gods know the future, and among people they choose some to whom they make it known to a certain extent. Some people wanted to make use of this forecast of part of the future to try to escape it, but, like others, they discovered the necessary and inevitable determination of fate. It is even the case that, by this forecast of their fates and by their efforts to escape from it, have brought about their fulfillment, that very thing being in their fate. There is therefore no way to escape or to avert things once decided by Zeus for eternity and fixed by fate.

¶ But, it will be said, if all is determined in advance, if no present or future fact escapes necessity, that is the end of human freedom and the divine justice because, on the one hand, people will act under the rule of fate, they will not be masters of themselves, and they will not be free; and on the other hand, the gods will completely renounce punishing the wicked, for they would not be just in punishing them, since their wickedness is destined and involuntary. [72] But people are masters of themselves, not as having no one who governs them, either among other beings, or among the gods themselves, but as having in them a single principle that commands, that is to say, the understanding [phronoun], and all the rest that obey it. It is this unique principle, the best of our nature, that controls all the rest, but nobody would dare to maintain that this understanding itself undergoes no domination. First, it is obviously subject to the impression of external things. Moreover, even if it is true that in different people the understanding is not subjected in the same way to the same influence, it would be no less absurd to think that it does not undergo these influences necessarily, since obviously it depends on the particular character of each individual understanding [phronoun] and also on its training. In fact, the same event, coming to act upon several different people, will necessarily produce different impressions on them, for their souls differ both in nature [physis] and in training [askêsis]. Now, the nature of the soul depends on the gods, and training depends on the prior intention [eggenomenên] of the one who practices it, an intention which cannot be born in a person without the attendance of a god.

[74] Thus, people are masters of themselves as governing their conduct, although this domination is subject to superior domination, and it can be said that they are free and not free. Indeed, it would obviously be a mistake to say that freedom is the opposite of necessity, for slavery would then be called necessity, but slavery presupposes domination in which the slave is subjected in their capacity as slave. But this first necessity, which alone exists absolutely and by itself while all things exist through it, this necessity which we call the absolute Good, Zeus, to what domination will it be subjected? For surely, that which is domination cannot be at the same time slavery. If, on the other hand, slavery is called submission to a superior, and liberty is the liberation from all domination, there will not be one free person, or even one of the gods, except Zeus, for every inferior will be the slave of whoever governs them, and all will be slaves of their common master, Zeus. In this way, the servitude would not be painful or something to flee. In fact, slavery under a good master cannot be unpleasant; more than that, it is profitable and gentle to the slaves themselves, because one experiences only good under a good master.

[76] But if we do not accept this definition of slavery and liberty, if instead we say that these two states consist in being prevented or not from living as we wish, then because everyone wishes to live well and be happy, whoever is happy will at the same time be free, whether they have a master or not, since they live as they wish; the unlucky person, on the contrary, not living as they would have liked, will not be free. Now people can be unhappy only when they are wicked; thus no one wants to be wicked, since no one wants to be unhappy. It is therefore against one’s will and by mistake that one becomes wicked; consequently no wicked person is free; it is the privilege of honest and virtuous people.

If the gods chastise the wicked, the goal they propose to themselves and to which they lead, is not the punishment itself, but the correction of the faults. In fact, it is impossible for people to never sin, since they are composed of two natures, one divine, the other mortal. Sometimes they are led by what is divine in themselves to the imitation of this perfection in which they participate; then they are virtuous and happy. But sometimes they carried away by their mortal instincts, and they turn out badly; it is then that the gods come to their aid and seek to correct them by punishments. [78] The gods want the punishments inflicted upon them to deliver them from their wickedness, just as bitter and painful remedies deliver our body from sickness. They intend that people be thereby brought to a better state, and pass from slavery to liberty, when the gods judge that because of their bad nature, means of sweeter correction cannot reach them. Thus, nothing prevents someone from being punished, although their wickedness is involuntary, since the punishment, far from adding to their ills, gives them a benefit.

In short, there are gods, they watch over people, and they are not the cause of any evil. Finally, according to the inevitable law of fate, they give each one what is best for them. In order not to exceed our limits; we will stop here.

CHAPTER XXVI. Reasonable Action of Some Animals

[80] The acts of certain animals that seem to attest an inspiration of reason like, among a thousand, these, which are the best known: the government of the bees, the foresight of the ants, and the hunting of the ingenious spider. If they the work of a reason [dianoia] peculiar to these animals, then this reason would be superior, inferior, or equal to that of humans. But if these animals had a reason more enlightened than ours, in all or almost all the circumstances they would act better than humans, and it is apparent that most often they remain below us. If this reason were inferior, each of them would not attach itself exclusively to a single work to bring it almost to perfection, for it seems to be the characteristic of an accomplished intelligence superior to human intelligence to always apply to a single work to render it as perfectly as possible. If at last their intelligence was equal to human intelligence, they would not concentrate thus on a single work, to show themselves then in everything else inferior to human works. It is evident, then, that animals obey not an individual reason, but the influence of that soul which governs the heavens [ouranos], and the separated intelligences [nois chôristois] that preside over each of these beings, and to which the soul attaches each of them in particular.

[82] Thus it is not only with animals, but also with inanimate things. We may mention among others the tendrils of the vine and the pumpkin, which, if they do not meet anything with which to hug, remain straight, but if a branch presents itself, roll up at once. By the action of this same soul, the magnet attracts iron; mercury in contact with gold, or with some other metal of the same kind, attaches to it in a marvelous manner and is uplifted [apaiôroito];8 all similar phenomena must be related to the same cause. It is this soul that embraces our world below, which, by its power, governs all the parts, accomplishes everything according to reason, and among other things brings closer beings that have some affinity between them.

When Helios and Kronos finished this last mortal creation according to the plans of Poseidon, head of all that exists, then not only was our world completely finished, thanks to that same god, but also, by the power of Zeus, the supreme master, this set of creations composed of a multitude of different beings, eternal, temporal, immortal, mortal, formed a universal system as beautiful and as perfect as possible … [the chapter breaks off]9


BOOK III

CHAPTER XI. Measure and Symmetry

[84] Beauty, of which we have spoken, must be sought in measure [metrô] and symmetry [summetrois]; it needs a fixed limit, and cannot be either an unmeasurable size or an indefinite that constantly increases. However, this objection may be made: if the greatest existence is at the same time the best, why is it not what increases indefinitely, but what remains in measure, that is beautiful and good? It is that it is neither the most in number, nor the most in volume, nor in a word the most in quantity which exists in the highest degree, but rather what is best endowed to last forever, and that which is best able to last forever is unity and what comes closest to it. But the simple is more unified than the compound, and the symmetric more than the un-symmetric, and the proportionate more than what is not. Indeed, the commonality of measurement or the identity of relationship is precisely what makes the unity of things symmetrical or proportionate. But that which has neither measure nor proportion, either between its own parts, or with the things to which it relates and of which it is itself a part, lacks unity and consequently cannot last forever. [86] Thus, it is especially in definite measure that the fullness of existence, the beautiful, and the good are at the highest level, and not in the ever-increasing indefinite. That is enough on this subject.

CHAPTER XIV. Prohibition of Intercourse between Parents and their Children

We must first of all focus our attention on the prohibition of intercourse between parents and their children; not to mention the suitability of this law, its universality and its invariability suffice to show that it was the gods who imposed it on people, and since it comes from the gods, it is excellent. Without doubt, when human laws are in conflict, it is up to us to look for the best of them, but when they all agree, it is not permissible to question the justice of their decision; it is necessary in this unanimity, whatever its object, to recognize the mark of a divine revelation. But the search for motives is a study worthy of the one who wants to have thorough knowledge of the laws, for there are many whose reason escapes the vulgar. Thus men have always been unanimous in banning intercourse between parents and their children, but very few could say why this defense is fair; this research will not be without interest.

¶ [88] At first it will be admitted that the sexual [aphrodisiôn] act was instituted by the gods to perpetuate the race of mortals, and to give it, too, a kind of immortality. In the second place, that on the part of the ones who perform it, this act is the efficient cause that produces beings like themselves. Lastly, that these two things, immortality and the procreation of a self-like being, are essentially suited to the gods; for all the gods are immortal, and those who are more powerful than the others produce beings like themselves, immortal like them, or mortal like those here below. Therefore, for this act to be well done, it must be as close as possible to the mode of generation that belongs to the gods; this is an argument that the weakest intelligence must understand and accept.

It is no less evident that the more important an action is, the more we must endeavor to do it well; and we cannot deny the importance of this act which in our mortal nature is the imitation of the immortality of the gods and of their manner of procreation. For it would be a mistake to believe that if we do not perform this act in public, it is because it is something shameful. Indeed, many people do not want to do in public the religious acts that they regard as the holiest; to celebrate their greatest mysteries, they hide themselves from the crowd, fearing that some spectator, for lack of being sufficiently prepared to attend, may make them a laughing stock. For the procreative act, if people do not perform it in public, it is for fear of disturbing those who witness it, because human weakness makes them easy to inflame, if not into desire, at least up to the imagination of such an act, and that for the least pretext. [90] How, then, could it be good for the man who must share his bed with a single woman to expose it to all eyes? The spectators, men or women, having no part in this act, would be agitated if not by desire, at least by the imagination of a pleasure illicit for them. Men would like to share the favors of the same woman; women would like to give themselves up to the same pleasures with the same man, although neither could accomplish this action without crime. Now, the imagination alone of illegitimate actions is guilty, and it would be even more culpable to awaken in others such desires. Such are the reasons that sexual intercourse is hidden.

For the rest, a proof that it is not because they believe it to be shameful, but that people surround it with mystery, is the publicity they give to marriage. They call to it the most people they can, as if to a grave and solemn act, and make them witnesses of the bridal union, when all know what is the purpose of this union.

Thus the act of which we speak is one of the most important that is given to people to do, and deserves that its accomplishment be as perfect as possible. Indeed, nothing is more shameful than an important act that is badly done. It is one thing to play a simple game badly, but something else not to bring to an important act the care it requires. Then, therefore, as it must be as perfect as possible, it will be necessary, as we have said, that it be an image of the generation of the gods.

CHAPTER XV. The Generation of Gods (According to the Principle of the Prohibition of Intercourse Between Parents and their Children)

[92] Let us begin by studying the generation of the gods and the way in which they procreate. You will then understand how, if the parents had intercourse with their children, they would perform acts contrary to the laws of divine procreation. Zeus, the supreme king, the ancient father of the gods, produced without a mother the gods to whom he gave birth; in fact, there was no being that could compete as a target for the production of what he created. Moreover, in the absence of a participation of this species, matter is absolutely irrelevant to the creation and life of beings who proceed immediately from Zeus. For in every generation the female principle is the one that contributes to material existence, so that the beings to whose production no female principle contributes cannot receive it from without, nor have anything material in themselves. If Zeus makes use of his creations for the generation of new creatures, he uses each as a model and not a mother.

Thus he engendered without intermediary, in his own likeness, the most powerful of the gods, whom we call Poseidon. All others he has produced through others by creating each of them in the image of the other gods he created; roughly, if we can assimilate this great work to something very small, as the images are reproduced and multiplied with the aid of several mirrors. [94] Indeed, the body that is reflected, producing an immediate image of itself, creates at the same time all the other images, which are reproductions of each other.

And if we say that at least we need several different mirrors for this production of images, let us take as another example the unit (monad), which of itself generates all the numbers by adding them successively without needing any other element. However, this production of numbers still differs in several respects from that of the supercelestial gods generated by Zeus, and in particular in that the former is perpetuated virtually indefinitely, while the second is virtually and effectively limited to a certain number of beings. Indeed, the unit joins the number as it occurs to form another; it is thus that it itself perpetuates the production of numbers to infinity, since it can always add to the last formed. But Zeus, instead of joining the beings already created, divides them; he brings out from each of them the elements which were implicitly contained in them, removes one, and leaves the other, thus he effects the creation of new beings. Now, as these divisions proceed by means of opposites without ever having a medium, they cannot repeat themselves to infinity, and must finally cease. Thus Zeus produces a bounded number of creatures, and of all these different beings he composes a single system.

Now, that this is the way he engenders the whole class of supercelestial gods, and not using one to create the other, that is what we have to prove, since we have come to talk about the generation of these gods by Zeus. The set of substances created is threefold in nature and is not originally divisible into more than three parts. [96] The first is completely eternal [aiônion] and always immutable [akinêton]; it admits neither past nor future, but it exists from all eternity. The second exists in time [egchronon] and is essentially subject to change; yet it is everlasting [aïdion], has had no beginning, and will never end. The third is both temporal [egchronon] and mortal [thnêton]; it has a beginning and an end in time.

As there are three species of substances, there must be three modes of generation, and if the substances differ essentially from each other, this essential difference must be found also between the modes of generation, because the generations must be in relation with the essences, and the essences with the generations. Therefore, if one of the beings belonging to the eternal substance comes from Zeus who is pre-eternal [proaiônios] and who alone of all beings exists by himself, all beings of the same substance will have to proceed also from Zeus alone. For if they proceeded partly from the pre-eternal principle, partly from another non-pre-eternal principle, this class of beings would not be entirely eternal. But pre-eternal Zeus created all eternal substance himself. He has entrusted to this eternal substance the production of temporal and immortal substance, and to the latter the production of that which is at once temporal and mortal, so that each substance is produced by the generation that suits it, and each comes out of the source from which it must emerge, that is, from the substance which is immediately superior to it.

If the beings belonging to the eternal substance were all equal to each other, and none of them made superior or inferior to another, Zeus would be by himself the sole author of all this substance. [98] But nothing of the sort could have happened, and has not happened, for it was necessary first that this substance should contain all the most diverse species in order to possess the perfection of variety, then that these species were each simple and one in themselves, and all united in a whole which was one by its community [koinônia], so that, in each of its parts and, as a whole, this substance was as similar as possible to its creator which exists by itself. Since things are necessarily so, Zeus begins by generating of himself a single being in his image and makes of it the most noble and the most beautiful of all things created; then he makes another one in the image of that one, and finally all the other creatures in the image of each other, their perfection always decreasing, as it suits images. He is almost like a man who would engender one of his children as similar as possible to himself, and others like him and others like them.

But when it happens to man, it is always because of the strength or weakness of the emitted sperm. Indeed, if this sperm is emitted in all its strength, thanks to a sufficient maturity, it produces a male quite similar to his father; when it is less powerful, its product is female and similar to the father, or male and mother-like, or mother-like and at the same time female, or without resemblance to either the father or the mother, but with some other member of the same family, according to greater or lesser maturity. Or this offspring does not even resemble a parent, but simply a human, or least of all the offspring is not exactly like a human but sometimes turns to another nature when he does not abstain because of the absolute lack of maturity. For generation is not subject to the will of man; [100] no doubt the procreative act depends on his will, but generation depends on nature which puts the body in this or that disposition.

But for the perfectly simple nature of Zeus, to engender is not one thing, to create another; there are not certain creatures that he generates and some others that he creates; to generate and to create are for him the same thing: he begets by the intelligence that he has of what it is appropriate to produce, and he creates by his nature, which is to produce. Thus man cannot father children as he wishes, but he can build his home and create the accessories as he likes and when he wants. Zeus, on the other hand, whose eternal essence is the identity of will and power, produces all the beings that he judges fit to contribute to the perfection of his work; at once he creates them and engenders them. He makes each being one in its nature, for he does not do anything superfluous, and to all that results from his creation he gives all possible unity. Now there was no other possible unity here than that of community, and no community is better suited to these things than to be the image of one another, for each thing has its own separate existence, and at the same time there is a certain community between the image and the model. Not only are the species the images of the genera, but they are also images of the other species which issue from the same genus by successive division, and which are always divided into more perfect and less perfect, the less perfect being the image of the more perfect, the temporal essence of the eternal essence, the mortal nature of the immortal nature, the irrational of the rational, and so on.

[102] In this communication [koinôniai] of essence, the inferior beings hold, as appropriate, from those who are superior to them all the attributes they have, from which there results between the beings a new link of affinity, since by their state of subordination, they are intimately connected with those who precede them, as the one who receives must naturally be to the one who gives. In fact, the lower natures must at the same time be subordinate and not entirely different from those from which they receive anything. Zeus, therefore, by himself gives existence to each of these eternal substances, and those he has produced are used by him for the creation of others only as models, in order to maintain the mutual union of these beings, the images being found in the models and the models in the images by their resemblance and at the same time by their distinction, each of these beings necessarily being in the relation of effect to cause, and all having for common cause Zeus. He in fact produces, by himself and alone, a single being, then on the model of this one produces another, and according to the latter still another, and so immediately, until the completion of the whole and complete system. Having thus given them existence, since it is to him that the creation of the higher essences which form the whole eternal substance belongs, he leaves to them the care of dispensing to each other their attributes, by which the higher beings must adorn those who are below them. The purpose and the end of this community among the gods is to form by their meeting a single system, a single world [kosmos] as perfect as possible.

[104] It is thus that our souls are obviously adorned with their attributes by the divine souls which are superior to them, not that they are produced by them, but they emerge from the same source, being like them of an immortal essence. Now, if it is so with our souls, so must be the gods of the higher world; they receive their existence and their attributes in the way we have said, so that there is an analogy and a relationship between things on earth and those up there, and from things up there to those here below. However, the generation of Zeus’s supercelestial gods without motherhood cannot be exactly compared to the generation of people; it has more to do with the generation of other immortal and mortal beings by these same gods and their children.

In fact, the first of Zeus’s children, Poseidon, although he is really a Form [eidos], he is not the Form of this or that, but he comprehends in himself as genus all the individual Forms, and he is after Zeus the supreme cause of the form of the universe [to Pan]; hence he is the male principle par excellence, for he is the male principle which gives beings their specific characters. His image, created like himself by Zeus and the first after him, is Hera, who also contains all Forms, but who, however, does not possess power equal to that of Poseidon. For he [Poseidon] possesses in himself all Forms in actuality, and is himself in actuality the cause of the form of all the things of this whole world [to Pan]. She [Hera] also possesses them all in actuality, but does not actually become the cause of the form of anything [in the world]; she produces only the eldest [primary] matter which contains all the Forms potentially, not in actuality. [106] For in fact, far from containing all of them, she does not possess any.

Thus, this divinity [Hera] is a female principle and the first principle of this kind. Such, indeed, is the nature of the female principle [thêleian]: it furnishes to all beings matter and nourishment. Between these two divinities there is nearly the same correlation as between semen and menstrual blood, which both contain, not in actuality but potentially, a being to come. But the former has more to do with the productive force; it gives rather the form. While the second, less endowed with the productive force, is rather the matter proper to form the new being. Thus these two divinities actually possess all Forms in common; Poseidon is the productive cause of Form, Hera of matter.

So that our comparison, all imperfect and all unworthy of divine purity, gives a good account of the mutual relation and the respective action of these two divinities. By their union, they produce the immortal creatures of our world, the most powerful of which, Helios and Selene, are united together by the same relations, and in the same way that they themselves were produced, they in turn produce mortal beings. In fact, Helios gives to these beings the form which he borrows from higher beings, that is to say, from the Tartarean gods; Selene furnishes them with matter specially placed under her influence. Helios is the first of the male Gods who inhabit the heavens, Selene the first of the female divinities.

[108] The eternal gods have associated with them, for the creation of mortal beings, Kronos and Aphrodite, who are in the same relations among the gods of Tartarus as are Poseidon and Hera among the gods of Olympus, and who create in the same way mortal beings; Kronos also gives each one form, Aphrodite matter. Doubtless, it is not the eldest and imperishable matter, but a matter extracted from the eldest bodies and other elements, able like them to assume the forms found in these bodies from which it is extracted, but already acquiring the perishable state, and thus becoming the proper material to form mortal bodies.

But the generation of mortal beings is not confined only to Helios and the gods of this order. It will be easy to be convinced by reasoning that among the immortal gods there are several, called Titans and Tartareans, subject to Kronos, who take part in this generation. For one might think that Helios, having in his mind [nous] the forms of mortal beings still purely intelligible [dianoêta] and not actually existing anywhere, gives birth to each of these beings in the same way that artists produce the work they have conceived. But we see that the works of artists are not completed in the same way as the natural creations of Helios. Indeed, all the compositions of artists, as long as they are in the hands of their authors, as long as they work on them, advance towards perfection; [110] but if they are abandoned before the end, they make no further progress; in short, they never perfect themselves except in proportion to the work the artists give them. On the contrary, the creations of nature are not necessarily subject to the presence or absence of Helios with respect to their development and life. Otherwise, all would be daily or annual, and moreover during the night nothing would progress towards perfection, while we obviously see that plants and fruits develop even during the night.

Now, it cannot be Helios, both absent and present, that leads them to their perfection, for it is not permissible to attribute this effect to the action of his intelligence separated from his body. In fact, those intelligences which have an existence in participation cannot act without their bodies on the other bodies; and as for the bodies, to act on the others they need to be in this or that position in relation to those on which they must act. It will not be said that these things are perfected by themselves, for no potentiality comes to actuality without being moved by the action of an earlier force. Hence that which is potentially perfect would never become perfect if it were not impelled to perfection by another essence that already possesses this perfection in actuality. It is not the heat received from Helios or any other affection absorbed by each mortal thing that could lead them to perfection in the absence of Helios; [112] for what completes must always be prior to what owes it completion, and no modification of any form [eidous] or substance [ousias] may be prior to the modified object.

It therefore remains to admit the necessity of certain Forms [eidê] which remain by themselves in the supercelestial domain. They are incapable of producing, alone among themselves, that which is produced here below. Thus, for example, the eldest of them may have produced Helios and Selene and the other immortal beings existing in the heavens, but to form here below the beings whose production concerns them, these deities need the help of Helios and other gods in his class. However, once the creation is finished, when the object has already taken some structure [sustasis], then they can by themselves complete it and preserve it for some time, the most perfect probably using this faculty more fully and longer than those who are endowed with a lesser perfection. This is why the perfection and the life of the works of nature are not in proportion to the nearness or distance of Helios.

Something analogous to what is felt by the bodies thrown into space happens to them, for the bodies thrown would not be such if nobody threw them; however, once thrown, they continue to move because the air seizes them and bears them for some time by the very effect of the resistance, without the one who launched them continuing to touch or to move them. Thus, the works of people are preserved as much as nature preserves them, because they are all formed of natural elements, but they can only be completed in proportion to the work that artists devote to each of them, unless some of their parts, needing a certain maturity, be entrusted to the care of nature. [114] But, in general, they advance to perfection only to the extent that we have said, for nothing can take them back and complete them. In fact, as soon as the artist’s hand fails them, the form which was in the mind of the artist, and which furnished them with the model, departs at the same time as they do.

Indeed, there is no form here below that exists by itself. They all exist only in Pluto, who presides over every human form and contains in himself all human things in their entirety and in each of their parts, while the artists [dêmiourgountas] hold them in their minds only one by one and separated from each other. The same is true of mathematical numbers and mathematical magnitudes, both of which exist in a kind of unity [kath’ hen ti] in Hera, who in fact presides over their infinity, since she presides over matter in general, and which is then received by the human soul in an extended form, shadows and phantoms, in a sense, of divine ideas [tôn theiôn], but nevertheless capable of leading people to an exact knowledge of them [the ideas]. Such is the way in which the works of people arrive at their perfection.

As for the natural substances, being formed from models that exist by themselves, it is clear that their perfection must not also depend on the presence and the disappearance of Helios, because they have for support these models, some more perfect, the others less, the former better able to perfect their works, the latter less endowed with this faculty.

[116] Nothing is more rational, in fact, than this propriety between the different classes of essences [ousiai ontôn] and the causes of each of them. The first, eternal class has for its cause Zeus alone. The class that follows it, already existing in time but everlasting [aidios], has for its creative cause only the children of Zeus, who are many but all siblings, since they proceed from Zeus himself, but we specially attribute this creation to Poseidon their chief, as to the architect the construction of a building, and to the general the victory in a battle. The third and last essence [ousia], which is both temporal and mortal, does not owe its birth to gods who are all siblings of each other, but some of those who produce it are born of Zeus himself, the others of Poseidon, and in general we attribute its generation to Kronos and Helios, the leaders of the gods who produce this kind of essence. But enough is enough about the generation of gods; now let us return to our first subject.

¶ We have shown that gods are divided into males and females, that males provide form to beings that come from them, and that females give matter. It is evident, then, that all the gods must belong by their attributes either to male nature or to female nature, because those of the gods who are endowed with the creative faculty must necessarily be for their creatures either the cause or the Form that specifies them, or else the Matter and its properties. Those who are not endowed with this creative faculty, such as most of those who inhabit the enclosure of our heavens, must necessarily have some occupation and cannot remain entirely idle, for absolute rest is not a life. [118] Since each of them must have a task to fulfill, this task will have something to do with the male principle or the female principle. For necessarily they must play an active or passive role, and of these two roles, the one obviously suits the male principle, the other the female principle. Form, which is the cause and the necessary element of the male principle, represents action; Matter, which is the element of the female principle, essentially represents passivity. It is therefore not only the gods who belong, the one to the male nature, the other to the female nature, but still among all beings those in whom form and action predominate are chiefly attached to the male nature; those in whom matter and passivity predominate are related to the female principle; consequently, it would be very difficult to find a perfectly neuter being between these two natures.

All beings, whoever they may be, being thus destined for a mutual intercourse [koinonia] of a different nature according to those whom it brings together, this intercourse, for some, presents only an image of the relations between male and female, but for material beings, when they work for the production of other beings, this intercourse is entirely sexual in the proper sense of the word. In this intercourse, however, no god unites with those whom they produce. Indeed, Zeus does not have with Hera, any more than with any other divinity, the intercourse of male with female; he uses her only as a model for the production of the divine beings who need this goddess to contribute as a model for their generation. The same can be said of Poseidon with Selene, or of Helios with Hera …

CHAPTER XXXI. Judgments

[120] … Animals act without reason, not according to their own intelligence, but under the direction of the soul that governs our heaven, I mean the soul of Helios, and also under the direction of Kronos and other intellects [nôn < nous] who are separated [from matter] and governors [of the cosmos]. These, borrowing their subjects from Helios, which is for animals the principle of generation and life, govern them according to the power which has been given to them, a power that for them is one, but divided among the different beings subject to their action. Thus guided by these more divine beings [theioterôn], animals could never do anything which was not to be done (it could not be according to their own intelligence [dianoias], for they have none; nor could it be by the external influence of these divine intellects, for it is not permissible to suppose it). It is for this reason that they perform their acts, and in particular that act [procreation], much better than people. For people, under the influence of their own intelligence [dianoia] and fallible opinion, are often mistaken, both in this act and in all the rest, and make use of their faculties sometimes in conformity with nature but needlessly, and sometimes even, which is much more shameful, contrary to nature. But animals cannot commit any similar fault, so that if one of them unites with different species, but similar to own, one must believe that it is due to the physical relations of species to each other.

[122] Moreover, if the ardor of the senses was less strong among people, we would not need such severe legislation. But the gods knew that people are governed by an imagination prone to error, and that some would, therefore, misuse sexual indulgence [aphrodisiazein], while others would abstain from it entirely, either judging it as wholly impure or as less perfect than abstention; that others, by the misanthropy of their character, would be reluctant to feed a woman and children; that others, finally, being unable to bear losing their children, would prefer not to have children rather than to lose the ones they had, instead of relying in this respect on the will of the gods and performing the duty imposed on us to contribute to the propagation of the species and the preservation of The All [To Pan].

The gods, therefore, knowing all this, and that the weakness of the judgment of people would lead to all these errors, as we have examples around us, did not want too many people to abstain from sexual indulgence [aphrodisiazein] and to fail in the providence with which Zeus maintains, through the intermediary of the human species, a link between mortal beings and immortal beings. That is why they have inspired people with such a desire [epithymian] that it prevails over all the others, and that it is very difficult to triumph over this desire unless it is opposed by force.

[124] But they knew that the opinion that one must abstain completely from sexual pleasures [aphrodisiôn] would, in the end, find few partisans, and that if it entered a few minds, most of the time it would not be strong enough not to yield easily to the incessant persecutions of the most powerful of all desires. But much more than abstinence of sexual pleasures [aphrodisiôn] the gods [feared their depraved use]10 ........ because people, among the other duties of their nature, must live as citizens, as sociable people, not loners. That is why we punish by death most of those who are degraded by such actions; at the same time we want to deliver them from this miserable state and to save their country [poleis] from such shame.

Those who commit acts against nature [para physin miainomenous], for example, those who are convicted of the crime of sodomy [arrhenomixia] or bestiality [thêriomixia], or of any of those things that are only found among the most corrupt people, these must be punished by fire, and one must at the same time burn the criminal and his victim, or if he has exercised his brutality on some animal, burn the animal with him. It is also necessary to burn adulterers [moixous], and those men or women who will have led or helped them to commit this crime. As for the adulterous women, they will have their hair shaved and will be delivered to the inspector of prostitutes [pornôn] to be abandoned to prostitution, so that if they could not keep their fidelity to the one to whom they owed it, they serve at least to maintain other women in conjugal fidelity, by offering to the passions of men too inclined to lust a remedy tolerable in the eyes of the law. [126] Likewise burned will be anyone who violates any woman, unless she is a prostitute, even a courtesan, if she did not publicly make a profession of her body; and even burn a prostitute, if she is done violence at the times when nature forbids the approach of this sex [i.e., during menstruation].

All those who are defiled by these crimes, the most infamous of all, will be burned in the enclosures designated to contain their remains, and not in the common cemeteries. For there will be in each place three cemeteries separated by very visible fences, one for the priests, another for the common citizens, a third for these great criminals, and it is also in the latter which will be burned alive the sophist who dares to attack our beliefs. This same punishment is reserved for those guilty of incest with a mother, a sister, or any relative in ascending or descending direct line. If a man is convicted of intercourse with some other relative to a prohibited degree, he will be punished by loss of civil rights [atimiai] until he is sufficiently purified, and in addition, access to sacred things will be forbidden to him. In the cemetery of the impure and infamous will be burned anyone who is judged by the magistrates to be guilty of a murder subject to expiation. If anyone is convicted of intercourse with a virgin girl, or with someone who, without being a virgin or being betrothed to anybody, would still be in guardianship, the culprit will be punished with death, even if this young girl would have given herself voluntarily to him, but burned and buried in the common cemetery, which will also be given as the burial place for one guilty of a murder not subject to expiation. Moreover, rape and adultery will not be punished only when they have been accomplished, [128] but the very attempt will also be punished when it has failed, because for these crimes the attempt is regarded as criminal as the action. As for the man who would feel violently in love with someone who is betrothed or married to another, we want him to go immediately to find the interpreter [exegêtês] of the holy things, to reveal to him the illness of his soul and to ask him for a means to purify it or for a restraint [asphaleion] against the greater evil that would befall if passion triumphed over his soul. So, approaching the holy places .........................................11

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and therefore punish him with death. But when the crime is not obvious, the accused is judged by a majority of votes; and in that case, it will be right to absolve him not only if he has only the minority of votes against him, but also if they are equally divided. Add to this chapter on judgments a last article. If a man convicted by the court of one of those crimes which are punished with death, proves that he has previously done some good deeds whose importance or number seems to exceed the magnitude of his fault, he must be considered as being neither incorrigible nor naturally perverse, but as having been the victim of some unfortunate circumstance beyond his nature, for example, of the inadequacy of his education, and then, instead of punishing him by death, it will have to be corrected by a temporary prison term. [130] But this is enough to say on this subject, for if we have left some gap, the lights diffused in the course of this work will suffice, with the help of the gods, to put our magistrates in a condition to perfectly clear up for themselves the points that we have left in the dark.

CHAPTER XXXII.  Names of the gods

We still have to deal with the worship of the gods, and certainly it is not without importance that ceremonies are well or badly regulated, for if they are in harmony with religious beliefs, they can strengthen them, otherwise shake them. Now, if we have any sense, we will easily recognize that all the conduct of our life and all our actions, whether good or bad, depend on our religious beliefs. This is a subject that we must deal with thoroughly. 

But we must first speak of the names of the gods and prove that we were right in preserving the names of the gods of our ancestors, whose philosophy has made us recognize their existence. We could not designate each god by a periphrasis instead of a name, which would be embarrassing for the common people, nor give them names of our invention, nor apply to them barbarian names, when it was so easy to use those that were used by our ancestors. However, it will be said, these names have been defiled by the poets who distorted the revelations of philosophy about the gods into false fables, and as such they should be rejected. [132] But one cannot say, speaking of names, that once soiled they remain so forever; their nature is to be defiled when they are employed in a bad and criminal sense, but as soon as they are taken in a pure and healthy sense, they immediately lose any trace of defilement in the mouth of the person who employs them. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a name so holy and so pure that it has never been soiled by anyone. Because one could say that it happened to the very name of God, when men charged with the greatest crimes have …

CHAPTER XXXIV. Addresses to the Gods

Morning Address to the Gods

Zeus, King, Being Itself [Autoôn], Unity Itself [Autoen], Goodness Itself [Autoagathos], you are great, great in reality and supremely great. You have not been produced by anything, you do not proceed from any cause, nothing is or has been before you. For you alone are pre-eternal [proaiônios]; alone of all things, you are essentially uncreated, while you are the first and productive cause of all that participates in being. Through you and from you everything comes, everything is born, everything is established and maintained in the best possible order, either those that are eternal and supercelestial, or those who live in the enclosure of our heaven and exist in time, some immortal, others mortal and so placed in the last degree of beings. [134] The first you yourself create and provide with all benefits; to the others you give other benefits by means of other beings born directly from you, and you make sure that they are as perfect as possible, not only in themselves, but even more in relation to the order [logos] of the universe, which is your supreme goal.

After Zeus, you are also great, O Lord Poseidon, the greatest and the firstborn of the greatest and first of the fathers, motherless [amêtôr], but who is the most powerful and the most perfect of works of your father. You are the leader [hêgemôn] of the universe after your father, the second father and second creator of this heaven. After him and with him, be honored, Hera, Queen, first daughter of Zeus, wife of Poseidon, mother of the gods in heaven, leader [hêgemôn] of the procession [proodos] into multiplicity of inferior beings. And you other Olympian gods, motherless [amêtores], legitimate [gnêsioi] children of the great Zeus, you who contribute to produce all the immortal beings in heaven, in common with Poseidon your leader and the first of your siblings. Your place is with them, O Lord Pluto, protector of our immortal principle.

And you, too, are blessed, O Lord Kronos; among the motherless, illegitimate [nothoi] children of Zeus, like all those who proceed directly from Zeus, you are the first and the most august, and it is you who preside over the whole of mortal nature. After him and with him, you come, O Titans, Tartarean gods, you who each take your part in the creation of this same mortal nature, together with Kronos your leader and the eldest of your siblings, and that without losing anything of the fullness of your eternal essence.

[136] You are blessed too, O lord Helios, the first and most powerful of the legitimate children of Poseidon and Hera. Poseidon, having received from his father Zeus a brother intellect [noun]12 younger than himself, has by himself and with this brother intellect [nou] created a soul. Then, with Hera, and above all by her, since to her belongs especially the production of matter, he has created a body; [they are] the most beautiful and perfect soul and body of all souls and of all bodies. Then uniting them to this intellect itself [autôi tôi nôi], and submitting the body to the soul and the soul to the intellect [nôi], he has formed from this assemblage a sort of common boundary [koinon tina horon] and bond [sundesmon] between both parts, the supercelestial and the heavens. You [Helios] are leader [hêgemona] of all the heavens, and creator [dêmiourgon], in common with Kronos, of the entire mortal nature within it.

[138] After Helios and with him, we greet the rest, O wanderer Asteres [Planets], you whose origin and formation are similar to those of your leader, your first brother, you who share with him the sovereignty of mortal nature and at the same time the direction of the earthly daimons, as well as that of our souls, according to the part assigned to each one of you. After them, we address you, O highest Astra [Stars], you who were created to contemplate beings with an exact science [epistêmê … akribei] of all things, and especially to produce the great hymn to Zeus. Lastly, I invoke you, O terrestrial daimons, gods of the last degree, who, inferior to the other gods and subject to their orders, immediately touch human nature, but who are, like all gods, infallible and safe from all evils.

May all the blessed race of the gods lend a favorable and kindly ear to this morning prayer. It is you, O gods, who, under the direction of Zeus, watch over the conduct of human things. It is you who, among other marks of your foresight towards us, have separated life in two parts, sleep and wakefulness, an alternative necessary for the preservation of this mortal body for the duration assigned to it. So from that moment when we wake up and leave our bed, grant us to live well, that is, in the way that suits you best, as we pass this day, this month, this year, and the rest of our life. You have the right to communicate a part of what is yours to whomever possible, [140] so grant it to us whose nature is immortal, but mixed.

And since you have attached us to this perishable body for the fullness and harmony of the All [tou Pantos], so that there is a common bond between the two natures, yours immortal and perfect, the other mortal and imperfect, at least make sure that we are not completely dominated by the mortal element. May the upper and excellent part of our being, which is similar to your nature, be attached to you as much as possible in everything and everywhere; may it dominate and govern the less noble part of ourselves, and to this end, support it, O gods, as far as possible. Let all the actions, all the works that we undertake, be directed according to your reason and your wisdom, that the mortal and irrational principle does not seize us exclusively, and that the weak part of our nature, taking the upper hand, does not drag us far from you. On the contrary, let us exercise the upper part of our being, the immortal essence similar to yours, to follow you unceasingly, as much as possible, and to draw closer to you, who are always good and happy, to maintain with you, as much as in our power, an intimate alliance, a familiar communion, adapting each of our actions to the rules imposed on us by the kinship of our nature with yours, so that, as far as possible, our mortal nature may be perfected, and to the extent of our strength, this participation in your being brings us closer to the greatest possible happiness.13

Above all, grant us, O gods, both now and always, as a first favor, to have an understanding of ​​you; it will be the source of all goods for us. [142] For there can be in us nothing more beautiful nor more divine than thought in general, which is the most divine act of our most divine part, and no use of thought could be more beautiful nor more happy than that which relates to you and to the great Zeus, since it is impossible, without knowing Zeus, to get a correct idea [gnôsin … orthôs] of ​​yourselves, just as you cannot, without knowing yourselves, get a correct idea of Zeus. Indeed, one does not embrace the full extent of his kindness if one does not consider him as the supreme craftsman [dêmiourgos] of your essence, as good and happy gods, produced from him. For this king of all things, who is goodness itself, wanted to be the principle and the cause of powerful and excellent gods similar to himself, and he engendered you as the second rank of the gods; then he gave the most high among you the strength to produce a third order of divinities, in order to make you still, as much as possible, similar to him in this respect.

Thus divinity is composed of three essences of which the first, the greatest, and the most august is that of Zeus; the other two emanate from it, this one immediately, that one by the intermediary of the second, and from there all the benefits that fill the universe. But it is King Zeus, author of this admirable whole, who has made perfection and unity. He composed it of immortal beings and mortal beings, of whom he shared the generation with you. Moreover, he wanted that between these two kinds of beings there was a bond [sundesmon]; this place is our nature, human nature.

[144] So you, executors [empoiountes] of the thought [gnômê] of Zeus, you have given us a place among beings, you have united an immortal substance analogous to your nature, namely our soul, with a mortal nature, and you have placed our happiness first in our link to the immortal principle, then in the beautiful and in the participation of the beautiful, that is to say, in the imitation of yourselves, in which absolute beauty resides primarily. But the contemplation of beings is for you one of the greatest benefits attached to your nature, so it must also be for us the best of actions and the height of happiness, especially when we raise our thought towards what is greater and more beautiful among all beings, that is to say, towards you, and towards the one who commands you and all things, Zeus, the supreme king, then towards the whole universe, and finally to the knowledge of ourselves who are part of it. To obtain each of these benefits and all others to which we can aspire, help us, O gods, without whom no good is possible.

But, as the first of all benefits, strengthen in us those beliefs that we have just expressed, and the others like them; and since you have deigned to instruct us about our origin, our essence, and the place we occupy in the All [to Pan], keep us free as much as possible, save us from the misfortune and humiliation of being enslaved to the lowest part of our being, and prevent us from being disturbed by all that can happen contrary to our desires. For in the first place these things must be nothing for us, since they reach only the mortal nature in us, and not the upper part of our being, that immortal nature to which you have attached our happiness. [146] And secondly, it is not possible that things are always given to us as we would like them to be, for there would be nothing mortal in us if we were safe from all these accidents, and we would no longer be a compound of two essences, one eternal, the other perishable. And finally you wanted us to be in the middle of the All [to Pan].

Then, to the extent of our condition and according to what you like to do, we must use the benefits you give us, so make us use them with calmness and liberty, characters of this superior reason that you have distributed to us as a weapon destined to combat fatal influences from without, if we have the good fortune of knowing how to use them. For it would be madness to rebel against those who are more powerful than us; it would be unjust to regret the benefits that you have not given us, instead of being grateful for those that you have granted us, and which certainly are not to be despised. May we never complain about you for any of these things, nor desire it otherwise than you have pleased to do, but, accepting without resistance all that you have decreed, and knowing that you treat us always as favorably as possible, and sharing, among other things, our intelligence [gnômê] with yours, let us share also in all your will.

Let us never have any resentment against a person, who after all is born to act as they themselves think, and who cannot reach us if we know how to fix our attention on ourselves and content ourselves with the most suitable benefits. Let us not recoil before what is fair and dear to you, in a matter coming down from you, by fear of the labor, or of losing some of what is not really our own, [148] or of the disapproval of ignorant people.

Strengthen our thinking and most divine part to be powerful [egkrates] and the master [archon] of all our other [faculties], as much as it can, regulating and organizing the others according to nature [kata physin], the superior relative to the inferior, so that it imposes limits [horous] on each of them. As for the pleasures that come from the senses, let us enjoy them as moderately as possible, insofar as they do not seem to us to be able to harm the good state of our body and our soul, even if they do not contribute to making it the best possible. Let not a deceitful and senseless pleasure conquer our soul and perhaps damage our body. Let us consider riches, instruments of pleasure, only as a means of satisfying the reasonable needs of life, and take care not to allow desire to grow in us to infinity, which will become an inexhaustible source of ills.

As for opinion, let us take into account only that of virtuous people, sure of finding in them witnesses ready to encourage and support us whenever you have given us to carry out some fair and good [kalôn k’agathôn] action. For that of people who, on the contrary, have only false ideas about virtue, let us not pay them attention, and let us seek to earn their esteem only so long as it entails no sacrifice of virtue, in all circumstances where duty is involved. Thus may we never abandon ourselves to the desire for some glory, sterile and harmful to virtue.

[150] Of the bonds and relations which you have established between us and each of those with whom we participate, ensure that we preserve them faithfully by rendering to each what is due them by virtue of these relations, and especially to those with whom we are in community, beginning with our parents, who are for us your own images, since they are the cause of our mortal nature. Let us be good in procuring for everyone all the good they have the right to expect from our relations with them; but let us never be voluntary causes of an evil, and never play the role of a hateful, evil, and unsociable being. May we, devoted to the good of the city and the family of which we are a part, always have this good before ours, thus walking in your footsteps, O gods born of the great Zeus. For if this god, who is the Good Itself [autoagathou], Being Itself [autoenos], has created and produced the All [to Pan] in its totality and in its parts, in its parts, each of which is the best and most beautiful possible, in its totality, one and multiple at the same time, and perfectly proportioned with itself to be even more beautiful and better. And you [gods] work for your part to produce unceasingly the good, either among you, or for the other beings that you preside over and govern, and that in all things, for the parts as for the whole, always preferring nevertheless the interest of the whole to that of the parts.

Let us fulfill your sacred rites [agisteias] as best as possible and especially as is appropriate to those who, as we know, do not need it, but it is a means of acting on our imagination [phantaskikon], the faculty closest to the divine part of our being, to train it, to bring it up to what is beautiful and divine, and at the same time to make it more submissive and more docile to our reason. [152] Let us make holiness and piety consist in not neglecting anything in the rites [agisteiôn] consecrated to you, but without exceeding the measure sufficient to regulate our imagination. Make us in all things as perfect [teleious] as possible, and in our actions keep us safe from mistakes [anamartêtous] by these laws [nomois] and other similar rules [kanosin] useful for life. If we fall into some fault [hamartêthêi], raise us up [epagoite] as soon as possible, and bring us back to the good by setting before our minds a healthier reason, an exact discernment [gnômona] of goods and evils [kakôn], the surest way to cure the soul of our mistakes [hamartêma] and our vices [kakian]. In this way, united to you to the extent of our strength, we will enjoy, as much as we are allowed, the infinite goods that exist in you, where envy can find no place.14

Thus allied [oikeioumenoi] with you as much as possible in all our conduct, we will be associated with you by the identity of our actions. In our hymns in your honor, we will borrow the worthiest images of you from the highest part of our being. And with you, and above you, we will celebrate the great Zeus, in the contemplation of whom all who can take part in it find the most perfect and happy state.

O Zeus, the greatest and most eminent [exairete] of the gods, O Self-father Father [autopator pater], O eldest creator [dêmiourge] of everything, all-powerful [autokrator] and absolute king [autoteles basileu], [154] by whom over all other beings all dominion [basileia] and all power [archê] is established, directed, governed, under you and under your supreme authority, O Sovereign Master [kyriôtate], and at the same time the most gentle [meiliche] Master [despota], to whom all things are subject in all righteousness and for their own good, if these things are born and if they exist, it is by you, it is also for you, for you who do not need them, but who, being essentially good, wanted to do all things as good as possible.

Of all goods, you are the first and the last, so that you do not seek good elsewhere than in yourself, for you are its very essence. You are for the blessed the inexhaustible dispenser of their bliss. You are the benefactor who lavishes on all beings the greatest goods and those most consistent with the good of the Whole [to Pan].

All is full of your glory; all the classes of gods celebrate you and regard this worship as the most beautiful and the happiest of their acts. To thee also sings Poseidon, the first and most powerful of your children, who presides over other beings for all things and that above all others. To thee sings Hera his wife, Motherless Mother [amêtôr mêtêr] of all the gods within the heavens. Likewise sing all the other Olympian gods; to thee sing Kronos too, and the Titans who rule mortals; to thee sing Helios, leader [êgemôn] of heaven, as well as his siblings and subordinates, the planets [planêtes], and the entire choir of the higher stars [astrôn]. To thee sing the earthly race of daimons that immediately touches our species, and finally to thee sing we in the last rank, the human species. To thee sing, in one word, all beings, each according to their power.

[156] We too, we sing to you, and we beseech you to distribute to us the greatest goods to the extent possible. Be kind [hilathi] and preserve us [sôze]. Govern us in the midst of the All [to Pan] and grant us finally what you have judged is best for us and is, at the same time, fixed from all eternity.

¶ This speech must be recited each of the three days that begin the first month, with the monthly and perennial hymns. In the other months, it will be recited only once, on New Moon or the first of the month, by joining the monthly hymn, and removing the perennial. On the other holidays and also on the non-holidays, it will be necessary to suppress these two pieces, namely, the monthly and perennial hymns. Finally, during the non-holidays to shorten the address, after this passage: “so that, as far as possible, our mortal nature may be perfected, and to the extent of our strength, this participation in your being brings us closer to the greatest possible happiness,” we must skip all the following and resume at: “Thus allied with you as much as possible in all our conduct,” and [include] the rest until the end of the speech.15

Afternoon Addresses

First Address of the Afternoon.

O Poseidon, King, it is you who of all the children of Zeus, the Supreme King, are the oldest and the most powerful. [158] You were born of an absolutely uncreated father who had no other father than himself. It cannot be said that you yourself are uncreated, since you are proceeding from a cause, but you surpass by the greatness and the dignity of your power all created beings. Thus your father has entrusted you with authority over all creatures, to you who are essentially the Self-form [autoeidos], Self-limit [autoperas], Self-good [autokalos], by whom all beings receive the form and the limit with the share of beauty [kalos] that suits them. You are, after the great Zeus, the father and the oldest author of the gods of the third class, of those who live in the heavens.

After you comes Queen Hera, born of the same father as you, but inferior to you in dignity as in nature, for it is necessary that in the supercelestial regions where you reign there not be several equal divinities; each one must be of its kind, in order to have this additional relationship with the being par excellence who has engendered all of you. It is her origin and nature to be responsible for presiding over the birth, the increase, and the infinite multiplication of things of a lower order; this is because, proceeding originally from you, who art the most perfect of things created, she created in herself the plurality of beings, and uniting herself to you by chaste and divine bonds, she became the mother of your celestial children.

After her, come in their order all the other Olympian gods, who are the brothers and sisters, like you legitimate children of King Zeus; their nature varies, superior in some, inferior in others, but all have received in all things the attributions which suit them and which they exercise under your authority.16 [160] Apollo [has under his law] identity [tautotêtos]; Artemis, diversity [heterotêtos]; Hephaistos, immobility [staseôs] and remaining in the same [tês en tautô monês]; Dionysos, voluntary movement [autokinêsias] and the attraction [holkês] leading upward towards perfection [tês … es to teleôteron anagôgês]; Athena, movement and impulse caused by something else [tês huph’ heterôn kinêseôs te kai ôseôs] and the repulsion of the superfluous [tou … periergou apokriseôs]; Atlas, the stars [astra] in general, his legitimate children; Tithonos, in particular, that of the planets [planêtes], and Dione, that of the fixed stars [aplanes]; Hermes, authority over terrestrial daimons [daimonôn … tôn chthoniôn], the last class of subordinate deities; Pluto, on the most elevated part of our being [tês hêmeteras physeôs kyriôterou merous] which constitutes our immortal nature [hêmôn … tou athanatou]; Rhea, on primitive bodies [sômatôn … tôn presbytatôn] and elements [stoicheiôn] in general; but in particular, Leto presides over the aether [aitheros] and the heat [thermou], which separates the elements; Hekate, over the air [aeros] and the cold [psychrou], which brings them together; Tethys, the water [hydatos] and moisture [hygrou], which makes them fluid [diarrhytou]; Hestia, the earth [gês] and the dryness [xyrou], which makes them compact [pêktou].

All these gods, legitimate and most powerful children of King Zeus, occupy Olympus, that is to say, the summit of the supercelestial region, the purest part of space; it is from there that, according to their attributes, they govern under your direction mutable nature, which can be called created because it is the product of a cause and is the object of a creation, continual in motion [kinêsin], but uncreated in the sense that it never began.17 You, subject to Zeus alone, are the guide and leader of all others. It is you who marks the limit of their action and who orders the great whole. Thus it is to you that we first address our invocations, as is right, since the very order of our creation is placed under your immediate direction, nature putting you in direct relation with the main part of our being, the immortal one.

We honor you and give you thanks for the goods you have given us and that you give us. [162] We sing hymns to your glory, and after you and with you we celebrate your brothers and sisters, the Olympian gods. O you, divinities eternal and superior to time, you who know neither past nor future, but for whom everything is present and actual, receive favorably and kindly our afternoon address, which we offer from the lower degree where we, in time and withdrawn from eternity,18 are placed, at this hour when already more than half of the day has passed, so that, if there is in us some virtuous disposition, it is strengthened by the presence of your thought, and that we do not let perish, by the succession of days, months, and years, what is divine in us, but on the contrary we preserve it, thanks to you, without corruption and without mixing.

O Poseidon, King, and you, O Pluto, who watch over mortals, and all of you, Olympian gods, without you we are not permitted to enjoy any good; help us to make virtue easy for ourselves, and help us in good deeds, which assure us, too, a share of happiness. All are worthy of your assistance, but above all, those who contemplate and celebrate great Zeus, to whom we turn last, the one who is for us, for you, and for all beings the supreme dispenser of all graces, and who, according to us in our capacity as reasonable beings, the faculty of elevating ourselves, as far as is the nature of each of us, towards the contemplation and celebration of his essence, thus puts the finishing touch on all his benefits.

¶ In this address, in the non-consecrated days, after this passage: [164] “but all have received in all things the attributions which suit them and which they exercise under your authority,” we must suppress the following and resume with: “You, subject to Zeus alone, you are the guide and leader of all others,” and continue the speech until the end.

Second Address of the Afternoon.

O Kronos, King, you are the first of all the Tartarean race of gods, illegitimate children of Zeus, the supreme king; that is why you have received authority over them. With Helios, head of our world, you have been responsible for the creation of mortal nature. Aphrodite, your companion, presides over the transmission of eternity into the mortal world by the succession of beings. Under you are all those who govern these beings according to the different attributions they have received:19 Pan, who reigns over the whole class of animals devoid of reason, Demeter, protector of plants, and all the other gods to whom have been entrusted different parts of the mortal domain. Among them is Kore, who directs the mortal part of our being. Pluto, who presides over our immortal nature, has carried off this goddess as his wife; thus an Olympian god, in love with a Tartarean goddess, establishes a link [koinônia] between Tartarus and Olympus after the decrees of Father Zeus.20

[166] And you, O Lord Helios [Sun], the oldest and most powerful son of great Zeus by the divine intellect [nous] which is in you, as also of Poseidon by the nature of your soul [psychê] and of your body [sôma], the common bound between the supercelestial gods and those who dwell in the heavens, you have been charged by your father Poseidon with the government of this entire heaven. You and your six siblings and companions — Selênê [Moon], Eôsphoros [Venus], Stilbôn [Mercury], Phainôn [Saturn], Phaëthôn [Jupiter], and Pyroeis [Mars] — you travel through the sky, and you all, together with Kronos and the other Titans, perfect the whole of mortal nature. It is you [Helios] who, in the highest regions of our heavens, conduct this brilliant and numerous choir of celestial bodies [astra]. Under you comes also the earthly race of daimons responsible for executing the orders of the other gods. Finally you still preside over the immortal part of our nature, and with the help of Kronos and the Titans who obey him, you form the other part, namely, our mortal body, and you preserve us as much as the fate of each of us allows. This is why, after Poseidon and the other Olympian gods, we also invoke you and give you thanksgiving in recognition of the goods we have from you.

We pray to those of you that lead us, to guide our immortal nature towards the good and the beautiful, and as far as possible to render our mortal nature submissive and docile. Grant, O gods, now that we have spent most of the day fulfilling our duties, to take the necessary nourishment for our mortal body in conditions which are suitable for virtuous people, that is to say, first of all with the awareness of having won it rightly, then with gratitude for those who prepared it and friendship for those who share it with us, finally with temperance and profit for our health, as with purity and not weakly [athruptôs].21 [168] Grant us to use the rest of this day and our life in the best and most beautiful way in our power. Help us at last to contemplate King Zeus and to celebrate him with our hymns whenever necessary, but especially at this moment, so that our prayers are as worthy of him as possible.

¶ In this address, on non-holidays, after this passage: “according to the different attributions they have received,” it is necessary to suppress the following and resume at: “And you, O Lord Helios [Sun],” and continue until: “You and your six siblings and companions,” take out the names of the six planets and go to: “you travel through the sky, and you all, together with Kronos and the other Titans,” and continue until the end of the prayer. In days of fasting, nothing must be cut out; we will only delete the passage relating to the meal, since it must take place only later.

Third Address of the Afternoon:

The most important of all, addressed to King Zeus

Being, Unity, Absolute Goodness, Zeus, you alone owe existence to no other cause than yourself, you alone are of a really essential essence and of an absolute unity, not of a multiple unity, [170] because it would be impossible. For neither could several uncreated beings come together in one whole, since they would need another being more powerful to assemble them, nor could one uncreated being merge with others proceeding from him, because there would be no community of nature between this principle existing by himself and the beings who, by their origin, would be distinguished from him by this characteristic. But only you are the unity, you are always and in everything identical to yourself, you are the absolute good; so you are supremely good in yourself, and with regard to the other beings descended from you and constituted by you in a state of perfection, you have an immeasurable superiority over them all.

Father of Fathers, Self-father [autopator], Creator of Creators [dêmiourge dêmiourgôn], Uncreated Creator [genêtôn agenête], King of Kings, who rules over all powers, you alone are absolute master, independent, nothing can be against you, but, commanding all those who command, great or small, you fix for each of them their state and their laws, you rule and direct them all in the most upright way by your unchanging will. Sovereign Master, Master of the Masters, and at the same time gentle and good master among all, to you everything is connected as to its original principle from the first to the last of beings, to serve in a just servitude [douleuei douleian], which is the supreme good for them, [172] for it is through you that they were created and exist, by you and for you who had no need of them, but who wanted to satisfy your supreme goodness by producing all the benefits possible to the most perfect degree possible.

That is why we sing to you and extol you with pious homage, all of us, although in the last degree of rational nature; we are celebrating you and offering you the most pious homage that is in us to offer. A [religious] exercise with you as the object is for us the most fortunate of all acts, but our homage has long been outstripped by that of the intelligent and reasonable nature [noera te kai logikê physis] of the gods.

Indeed, O God pre-eternal and uncreated, in the supreme goodness of your mind, you have not disdained to procreate other gods, some by yourself without the help of a mother, the others through the oldest of those same gods who have emerged from you, for first of all you are the author of the beings who form the closest class to your nature, to those whose substance is immutable and eternal. Without the concurrence of infinitely divisible matter, by yourself you produce beings existing in themselves, gods more than all the others like you, namely, the supercelestial gods. None of them is equal to the other, since they are all relatively inferior or superior, so that each of them, being one in individuality, by this means still approaches you as much as possible, but collectively they form a sufficient number and a great and perfect set which constitutes the supercelestial system [diakosmos], so that everyone enjoys their individuality and yet merges into the general unity.

[174] You divided these gods into two families, one made up of your legitimate children, the Olympian race of gods; the other is the Tartarean race of Titans, your illegitimate children. Like the others, these derive their origin from you, but they are limited to an inferior power and dignity. The oldest of the Titans, the one you created to be the leader of them all, is Kronos.

The oldest and most powerful of the Olympians, and at the same time of all the gods, is the great Poseidon, the one you made your most perfect image possible, the extreme limit of perfection in all beings. To assimilate him even more to yourself, you have given him sovereignty and leadership over everything, and moreover the faculty of producing and creating all beings enclosed in the heavens, but by summoning some one of his siblings for each of these partial creations. He, then, organizing our heaven for you and by your example, seeking in view of you to lead things to their highest point of beauty, creates a third nature of gods composed of body and soul which more closely ensure order and the preservation of things.

Now, as he begets them, taking as his model his own nature and all the intelligent and immaterial nature that surrounds him, he also creates Ideas for our heavens, but Ideas to which he does not give a completely separate existence. On the contrary, he makes them united to the matter provided by Hera, his sister and his wife, so that they are nonetheless the images of those other [Ideas], that is to say, modeled on those [higher Ideas]. He forms a double category, the one entirely inseparable from matter— they are all beings without reason—the other one that does not depend on [matter] anymore, but, on the contrary, keeps it under control. [176] The latter, without having an actual separated existence, has it, however, potentially and by this is closer to your nature, that is to say, that of the supercelestial beings; it is the rational soul.

This soul is divided into three species. The highest, the one who knows everything, is the legitimate offspring of [Poseidon] himself, and forms the celestial race of divine stars. The soul that does not know everything, but that has right opinion of all that it knows, is an illegitimate child of Poseidon; it is the terrestrial soul of the daimons or gods of the last order, acting only under the direction of the great gods. Finally comes the soul that does not have a correct opinion of all things, that is subject to error, and that is not the most perfect of the works of its creator; it is our soul, the human soul, which comes immediately after that of the daimons.

As for the other substance, that which is non-rational, Poseidon has made four principal species of body: fire, air, water, and earth. Choosing the most beautiful of these elements, the one which contains the least matter under the greatest volume, namely fire, he has made of its purest and most brilliant part the vehicle of the souls of the stars, and of another part, invisible and aethereal [aitheriou], the vehicle of our souls and that of the daimons. Thus, always uniting a soul to a body, he has composed the three lower classes of immortal and rational beings. However, he did not act alone, but he used the help of his siblings, the other Olympian gods, each of whom took their part in the creation of the immortal beings of our heaven, namely of the three species of souls, and in that of the four oldest and most important species of bodies.

[178] For the stars [astra], he has established two classes: the one, numerous, motionless, busy contemplating beings and glorifying you; the other, composed of seven wandering stars [planêta], each of which resembles and corresponds to some of the eternal Ideas, and for this reason he first united each star to the Idea or Intelligence [nous] that is peculiar to it. He has composed it of an eternal intelligence, a soul, and a body, and thus he has made of it a triple nature that serves as a link and a relation between this world and the supercelestial world, an admirable relation established by your all-powerful laws. He made the most beautiful and the best of them, Helios, supreme limit of the perfection of the creatures contained in the heavens. He united him to the most powerful of these intelligences, capable of communicating himself, and charged him with the government of heaven, for the All [to Pan] must also have its share of mortal nature, so that he really completed everything.

The production of the beings of which our world is composed has been entrusted to Helios and at the same time to Kronos, the first of your illegitimate children. Both, charged with this mission, produce animals, plants of all kinds, and all beings of a similar nature, each helped in this creation by his siblings, namely, the one by the Tartareans, the other by the planets. These latter, in their movement and their revolution, approaching or moving away from each other on whom they act, thus make mortal creatures. [180] For the other gods who are responsible for the birth of these [mortal creatures], the immutable Tartarean inhabitants, are incapable of producing anything without the help of the planets. Their function is to take our souls which Poseidon has created immortal but not quite pure, and to attach them, during the time marked for each of us, to a mortal nature, and later to free them from this terrestrial world, so as to establish, according to your laws and under the orders of Poseidon, a link between the two essences that make up the world, the immortal essence and the mortal essence.

Thus, all of the beings created by you are divided into three orders of beings: the first, immutable and eternal, of which you yourself are the immediate creator; the second, immortal too, but subject to the laws of motion and time, over the generation of which presides Poseidon, the most powerful of your children; the last finally, inferior and mortal, whose creation Helios and Kronos together direct. You have united these three worlds, the first to the second by the system formed by Helios and the other stars, and the second to the last through the creation of our nature and all that is connected with it. From this creation you have made a perfect whole [to pan panteles], holding the fairest things [kallista], an immortal whole, neither earlier not existing nor later suddenly condemned to return to whence it came. At the same time you perpetually preserve an immutable form, for you could neither dispense with producing it, because you are infinitely good, nor inferior to the highest degree of perfection it could attain.

[182] In this All [to Pan], you have given to all rational nature a sublime privilege: the faculty of knowing you and contemplating you, and you have granted this to us in the last rank [of nature]. So, in concert with all the races of gods, we celebrate according to the measure of our strength, and under the direction of the great Poseidon, who also presides over this act as well as all that is beautiful. You are great and sovereign par excellence, you who, being the extreme and supreme term of all greatness, dispense to each of the beings, divine or otherwise, the part of dignity which belongs to each of them in particular and agrees the best with the whole. This is how you made us a mortal and immortal condition that holds the middle and serves as a link between the two natures.

This is the place you have chosen to assign to us in the All [to Pan], and for us, as for the gods, you made happiness consist in the good, giving it to some with more abundance, to others more sparingly, always in view of the general harmony. At the same time you have made it possible for sinners to return to order, easier for some, more painful for others. Thus you have disposed all for the greater good of each being and for the greater benefit of the whole, placing all things under the eternal law of an inevitable fate, and fulfilling the details of your work by the gods to whom you have entrusted this care. So be propitious, save us, and govern us with this All [to Pan] according to what you may want for us, more favorable in your perfect goodness and at the same time according to the judgment fixed from all eternity.

Evening Address

[184] O Zeus, king, we thank you, first and especially you, for all the goods we ever have possessed, that we now possess, or that we will ever possess. Being the Good yourself, there is no other good beside you, for you are at once the first and the last for all beings, in a word, the supreme principle of all good. After Zeus, it is you, O Poseidon, and all of you gods, who transmit to us the benefits of Zeus; it is you that we thank always and on every occasion for all your gifts, but especially for these, the greatest and the most perfect of those we enjoy or can enjoy.

First, you have placed us as in the middle, between the nature of mortal beings and your immortal nature. You have made us the common boundary of these two natures and the chain that connects them to each other. You have raised us above all that is mortal in uniting us with kinship bonds, in communicating to us your immortality and this glorious beatitude which is given to us in a degree undoubtedly inferior, but yet resembling yours. Again you grant us to touch you in other ways, first of all by the knowledge we have of you, then by our intelligence capable of embracing all that exists, one of the most beautiful privileges of your own nature, which you have deigned to share with us. Finally, we know ourselves, and no other of your gifts brings us closer to you, since no one has a greater degree of self-knowledge than you do. [186] That’s how you’ve perfected what’s best in us, which has to command all the rest of us.

Besides, you granted that the faculty that comes first after the most powerful in us and dominates all the rest, in a word the imagination [phantastikon], be useful to us for rituals, forming and modeling itself as much as possible on what is strongest in our upper part, to obey then more meekly the reason and enjoy the noble [kalou] and divine nature.

You have also allowed us, through our goodness toward our loved ones and towards the whole human race, to imitate your kindness, O gods, who are the source of all good and who never cause harm to anyone. It is to you that we owe this civil society which unites us to each other, and also brings us closer to you, assimilating as much as possible to the conformity of nature that unites you, you children of the same father, King Zeus, who is Unity Itself [Autoenos], and consequently related to each other by the closest possible community. In addition, grant that the part of our soul that leans on opinion [doxan] be ruled by the best part of us, treating as unworthy what is vain according to it, but esteeming in no way slightly what alone is useful to it and somehow profitable for virtue.

Thus, you did not allow us to be entirely subject to our mortal nature. You have granted us, if we are wise, the power to govern ourselves with the help of the upper part of our being, enjoying, when permitted, [188] pleasures of the body, but moderately and without falling into license, that is to say, by imposing upon them the rule and the proper bound, taking as a measure of the enjoyments of this species the reasonable needs of the body, so as to remain free even during our stay on this earth, and not to regard as a great misfortune what can happen to this mortal part of our being contrary to our desires, when it pleases you, O gods, to detach us from participation in your happiness, either through the daimons, executors of your orders, or by the fault of our fellows, for our atonement and pacification in the first case, in the other by the effect of bad feelings due to people lacking moral education. You even often grant that we voluntarily prefer, much more, to seek what must hurt this lower part, to the point of sacrificing it sometimes entirely for the sake of nobility [kalou] and for the utility of the best part of our being, so much have you attributed power to our immortal nature over that which is not [immortal]. Such are, with still greater others, the favors with which you have filled us, raising and embellishing what is in us better and more powerful by the salutary reasonings [logismôn] with which you deign to inspire [epipneusête] us on every occasion.

But what faculties have you not so given to our mortal part, either to serve our immortal and dominant part, or to profit from its assistance, or to taste certain enjoyments which are proper to us, perfectly innocent and without danger for the better part of ourselves! [190] Thus, among your other gifts, eyes are endowed with sight, the most useful of our senses for the observation of all external objects and principally of those great celestial bodies whose knowledge gives us that of so many beautiful things, especially of the days, months, and years, a necessary measure of our life so that most of our actions can be done regularly and in order. Likewise, the ears are arranged for hearing, and the mouth for the voice; they are indispensable organs for communicating among us by the mutual manifestation of what each one has in the mind, so that the material obstacle of the body does not prevent any relation between intelligences. You have also given us the sense of smell in our nostrils, as a means of enjoying the innocent pleasure of fragrances, and also of distinguishing, often from a distance even before tasting it, healthy food from that which is not, according to its good or bad smell. You have placed the sense of taste in our mouth to judge the juices intended for our food, to enjoy them often with pleasure, and to enjoy them from the moment we touch them. You have attributed to this organ taste of varied instincts to choose the food that supports our life, a necessary tribute to our body, indispensable food for the renewal of matter that ever comes and goes during the time that fate allows us, with your help, to keep our mortal envelope.

It is still in view of this mortal and perishable part that you have instituted union of the two sexes, so attractive by pleasure. By this means the whole of the species is always maintained in the same state, an uninterrupted succession making a new individual take the place of the one who is leaving. [192] Thus souls, always in equal number, find at the end of each period bodies which come successively to lend them their ministry for the jobs you have assigned to them.

In addition, you have enabled us to compensate for the insufficiency of our physical means by the processes of the arts, varied according to their object, and for that you have given us hands, instruments necessary for the making of so many works of all kinds. You have allowed us to use the strength and the particular aptitudes of animals for our purposes, and to appropriate to ourselves the advantages of their nature.

For all these goods, it is to you, O King Zeus, first and foremost, that we must give thanks, as to the first and most powerful of our benefactors. After him, it is you, O gods, through whom these goods come from Zeus. It is most proper that we are animated by the deepest gratitude toward you, by whom, without any obligation and without any hope of return, we have been granted and we are still granted so many benefits, and to you who, good by your essence, so want to spread abundantly around you all that is good, to lavish your gifts as much as possible. Thanks be to you for all your benefactions in general, but first and foremost for those by which you bring our soul into the ways of virtue and nobility [kalou]. For these are the first of all goods, and you bestow the best part of our being; there are none of them that do not come from you or through you to us who enjoy them. For it is you who receive in the first and second degree the goods emanating from Zeus; you receive some of them equal in duration to eternity, the others if not eternal, then at least perpetual, and absolutely pure of all mixture of evils.

[194] After you and by you, we receive them in our turn, but intermittent and no longer perfectly continuous, yet still perpetual because of their successive renewal and the immortality of our soul. For you give all your solicitude to this intelligence [phronountos], our most divine attribute, which binds us to you by a kind of kinship; you are constantly pushing us towards goodness and we are heading in the right way, knowing that we too will be happy as long as we are able to walk in your footsteps and reach you by means of nobility [kalôn].

But when, yielding to the association [koinônian] to our mortal part, we move away from you, when we cease to follow you and misbehave in our thoughts, we fall, as a result of this abandonment, into faults, into vices, and into a state as unhappy as guilty. You, then, raise us up and straighten us, either at the time by the inspiration of better feelings, or by striking us with various punishments if our bad dispositions prevent us from yielding at once to the wisdom that inspires us. This is how you bring us back to goodness, either during or after this life. When you happen to punish us, it is to repair our faults and to heal vices, of which it is impossible for us not to have a share because of this lower nature that you have associated with the other, thus mixing in what seemed to us incompatible in the two natures, mortal and immortal, first of all because it seemed necessary to you for the universal harmony, then because in this general society of beings you destined us to functions that are certainly not useless or despicable. We give thanks to you who punish only for the sake of doing good, and who, having created us immortal in our best and most perfect part, lavish immortal blessings also by your perpetual renewal.

[196] Hear, O gods, this evening prayer that we send you. If in this day we have failed by breaking your laws, or if we have failed in our past life, if we have not yet repaired our faults, grant us forgiveness and make us return to the right path. Prepare us with good thoughts for good deeds, give us reason to distinguish good thoughts from bad ones, and cleanse us of defilements of our souls. Grant that you not hold back from always freely giving the good and both prompt reparation and prompt repentance of the evil that we have committed or that we commit.

May we one day, after having accomplished the time which you have assigned to this life, enjoy that other, happier, and more divine life, in which we shall be delivered from the shackles of our mortal body. For if, to make us serve as a link to the community of the Whole [tôn holôn], you have attached us to mortality, you have also assigned us a time after which our divine part returns, and each time its turn comes, it will enter into an existence more divine and more in conformity with its nature. It will go to celebrate with those who have gone before, will enter more intimately with those of you whose nature is closer to its [nature], will learn in this society what it is important for it to know, and will enjoy in all ways a better and more beautiful lot, so that it is not always filled with the miseries of this mortal body, but that it also tastes of a better and more divine life, preferable to the other in all respects and in particular by its much longer duration. [198] For by your nature, in giving us goods, you are always disposed to give long-lasting ones, as much as possible, and better than evils.

They will be bigger especially when you give us, in this future life, to know better everything that concerns us, to remember our past lives either here or there, and to compare them all then present in our memory, those that are now completely effaced for us because we have, during the first age of this life, crossed the River Lethe, and that the rest of the time we are enveloped in the darkness of our mortal nature. Moreover, we will then have a clearer foreknowledge of the future, of which we scarcely today have an incomplete picture, which comes to us through the daimons, the race closest to ours, while sleep rids us of the tumult of sensations, or even sometimes is revealed to those receiving a vision [hupar] by a certain more divine excitation of their thinking [gnômês].

And you, blessed heroes, whose nature rising above ours is closest to divinity, you who, during your stay on this earth, are for the human race the visible authors of the great goods that he [Zeus] sends us through the gods, hail to you. Hail again to you, our ancestors, our parents, who are for us images of divinity, as immediate authors of our mortal nature, to you also, housemates and comrades, clansmen and kin, who, older or younger, have entered before us into the happier life that awaits us, and to all of you, companions and friends, and to you, our fellow citizens, especially those who have presided over our common interests, and especially to you who have sacrificed your life for the freedom of your compatriots and those who think like you, or for the maintenance of their prosperity, or as needed to save the public life in danger. [200] Honor to all of you, and when the unshakable will of the gods will call us, as they have called you, give us a sweet and favorable welcome, see in us friends who come to find friends.

And all of you daimons, especially those of you whose species is nearest to ours, and above you, Pluto, protector of human nature, be kind to us, attend us here below so that we become good and honest, and when we go where you are, at the appointed time, welcome us. All of you, gods who watch over us, protect us today and always, so that virtue directs our conduct, and this night let us find on a pure couch, free from any dishonest defilement, the rest indispensable to our mortal nature. Inspire us happily while we sleep, lead our soul in a dream to your company, and wake us tomorrow away from any pernicious influence, willing to walk in this good way that will lead us to the good and to all that pleases you. Grant us to do all that is good, and among other things to properly sing your praises, and with you and above you to celebrate the great Zeus.

O Zeus, who proceeds only from yourself, father and immediate author of all motherless gods, supercelestial gods, first author also of all that exists, even by mediate procession, O truly supreme and sovereign King, who alone and independent holds all the powers under your control, the most absolute master of all things, you are great, of real greatness and superior to all; all things are full of your power and magnificence. [202] Be propitious, preserve us, govern us with the All [to Pan] according to what you want for us, more favorable in your perfect goodness and at the same time according to the judgment fixed from all eternity.

CHAPTER XXXV. Hymns to the Gods

Hymn 1. First Perennial Hymn, to Zeus

[202] Zeus, Father, thou Self-father, eldest Demiurge,
All-father, King, the highest and most great of all,
All-mighty, Unity, Self-being, and the Good Itself,
who everything has caused from all eternity,
the greatest by thyself, the rest by other gods,
all with perfection, to the uttermost degree;
be kind, protect us, lead us, as in everything,
by thine illustrious children. You entrust them with
our destinies, fulfilled as just they ought to be.

Hymn 2. Second Perennial Hymn, to the Gods

O noble children of All-father, Being, Zên,
you govern us with justice under his command.
To take you for our guidance, let us never fail,
obeying laws both right and dear to you,
as in our pow’r, the only laws to rule us well. [204]
But you, O gods, direct us, straightening our minds,
which you have made with nature similar to yours.
Moreover grant to us good order in our lives,
but most of all, with you to celebrate great Zeus.

Hymn 3. First Monthly Hymn, to Zeus

Great Zeus, Self-father, Ianos, the Progenitor
of all receiving being and receiving birth,
in truth performed not one of these things thoughtlessly;
but he himself exists, and hence do other gods,
who, never idle, he made sim’lar to himself;
and not neglecting his own power, he works well
and properly, because his nature is the Good.
O Zeus, we hail thee, guarding all and reigning; hail,
most blessed; hail thee gracious giver of all goods.


Hymn 4. Second Monthly Hymn, to Poseidon

O Lord Poseidon, thou art firstborn son of Zeus,
in splendor and in strength excelling everything,
for everything received its origin from Zeus.
With might you make and master, second to your sire,
preeminent, as great as is infinity,
because of all that is, alone is he unborn,
and by thy sire's command was granted thee to make [206]
the widespread sky, in which we have been placed by thee.
O Father, always kind and gentle be to us.

Hymn 5. Third Monthly Hymn, to Hera

August One, goddess Hera, daughter of great Zeus,

O thou whose husband is Poseidon, thou who art

the cause of matter, and the seat for species, and

dispenser of all power, and among the rest

you lead us into excellence and all that’s fair;

you grasp the laws for everything from which

the multitude eternally comes forth; you grant

us to live well; to virtue bring us graciously.


Hymn 6. Fourth Monthly Hymn, to the Gods of Olympus

Poseidon, King, the best and greatest child of Zeus,
who also governs all things from thy father born,
and Hera, holy wife of him and noble queen,
Apollo, Artemis, Hephaistos, Bacchus, and
Athena too, you seven gods are mightier
than all the rest save him, the mightiest on high.
You other gods who dwell upon Olympus peak,
you fathers of immortal things, including us,
be ye propitious and be gracious unto us. [208]


Hymn 7. Fifth Monthly Hymn, to Apollo

Apollo, Lord, who of identity of kinds
art chief and leader, guiding everything to one,
who doth subject the One itself, a multitude
and a polyphony, beneath one harmony,
from concord you impart the prudence to our souls,
and justice, qualities most beautiful to have,
combined with beauty in our bodies, joined with health.
Moreover always give our souls, O Lord, desire
for things divine and beautiful. O hail, Paián!


Hymn 8. Sixth Monthly Hymn, to Artemis

O Lady Artemis, who rules and who protects
the nature of difference, you received in one the whole;
you then divide completely each one from the rest
in many forms, from forms to individuals,
and from the whole to limbs and joints, and separate
our souls from what is worse with them, and give them strength
and self-control, and to our bodies might and health.
But grant to us, O Queen, to flee from shameful things
and straighten up our lives in every circumstance. [210]


Hymn 9. Seventh Monthly Hymn, to the gods of heaven

O lord of heaven, Helios, be kind to us,
and you, Seléne, holy mistress, be thou kind,
and Phôsphoros and Stílbôn, of the shining Sun
attendants always, and Phaéthôn, Phaínôn too,
and you Pyróeis; all are subject to the Sun,
your lord, whom you assist in his concern for us
that we not suffer need, and so we sing to you
this hymn, to you who are our splendid guardians,
and to the stars sent forth by providence divine.


Hymn 10. Eighth Monthly Hymn, to Athena

Athena, Lady, you who rule and govern form,
the form that is to matter always bound, and you
who are creator after the wide-ruling one,
Poseidon, who before you holds all form, and you
who are the source of ev'ry motion caused by force,
when anything superfluous is added on,
you drive out each and ev’ry one. Whenever we
act foolishly in error, then draw near to us,
O goddess, rouse our hearts to duty with good sense.


Hymn 11. Ninth Monthly Hymn, to Dionysos

O Bacchus, Father, maker of all rational souls,
of the celestials, and of daimons, and of us, [212]
who after great Poseidon art the next in this,
you cause the motion drawing us by love to good,
ascending thereby to the more desirable.
Grant thou whenever we depart each time the good
and holy action by our mindless thought
to lead us quickly wisely to the good again,
nor let us be so mindless of the good too long.


Hymn 12. Tenth Monthly Hymn, to the Titans

Come, let us sing to mortal nature’s demiurge,
to Kronos, Lord, the son of Zeus, and eldest one
of Zeus’s children who are illegitimate,
Tartar’an Titans, whom along with him we sing,
who are in all ways good, from evil far apart,
although they make the mortal and short-lived.
We sing of Aphrodite, Kronos’ sacred wife,
and Pan the lord of beasts, Deméter of the plants,
and Kore of our mortal nature, and the rest.


Hymn 13. Eleventh Monthly Hymn, to Hephaistos

Hephaistos, Lord, you rule the supercelestial gods,
together the Olympians and the Tartareans;
you govern with Poseidon, the wide-ruling one,
and also give to each their station and their seat;
and you’re the cause of rest in this and everything, [214]
and also you provide them everlastingness,
yourself, or by Poseidon’s, your own father’s, will.
Watch over us, and grant especially to us,
who’re born, to firmly stand in noble deeds each time.


Hymn 14. Twelfth Monthly Hymn, to the Daimons

We sing to holy daimons, who are near to us,
to them and also to the other deathless ones,
for they, who serve quite well the gods who’re more divine,
bestow the many benefits on our behalf,
disperse them all, which they receive from Zeus himself,
and which descend to us through all the other gods.
And thus they save us, with some purifying us,
and others elevating or protecting us,
and easily straightening our minds. And so, be kind.


Hymn 15. Thirteenth Monthly Hymn, to all the Gods

O Zeus, supreme, who art the greatest of all gods,
the eldest Demiurge, and the All-father too,
and all you other gods, who are Olympians,
or are Tartareans, or Celestials, or of the Earth;
if we commit some bad mistake or reckless deed,
allow us, purified, to near your blameless state,
and let our lives be blessed; especially you, O Zeus, [216]
who art, above all, the most powerful of all,
who art together both the first and final Good.


Hymn 16. First Sacred Hymn, to Zeus

Self-being, Zeus, who is entirely unborn,
All-father, All-preserver, who all things conceals
within himself, in unity and not apart,
he sends forth each of them, completely one and whole,
accomplishing the task as fully beautiful
as can be, all in one, from envy wholly free.
But you, O Zeus, and your illustrious children, lead
us with the Whole [tô Holô], as you have judged, aligning all,
and grant that starts are well begun and tasks are done.


Hymn 17. Second Sacred Hymn, to the Gods of Olympus

Oh come and let us celebrate Poseidon, Lord,
who is the eldest of all children born of Zeus,
the strongest and the second from the foremost chief
of every race, of everything that’s near to us
Creator; and with him is also Hera, Queen,
who is the eldest goddess born of Father Zeus;
but also let us celebrate the other gods,
who’re in Olympus, and all co-creators and
protectors of immortal things. Be kind to us. [218]


Hymn 18. Third Sacred Hymn, to all the Gods

Ye gods, who after Zên are all especially good,
completely blameless and yourselves exempt from death,
Poseidon is your chief and leader after Zeus,
O ye above the heavens or within the sky;
illustrious are ye all, and you we celebrate,
because we have a nature that’s akin to yours.
O blessed ones, hail to you, the givers of all goods;
but give to us, with lives not always free of care,
whatever is both fair and good, and set us straight.


Hymn 19. Fourth Sacred Hymn, to all gods inferior to those of Olympus

O Kronos, of the supercelestial Titans Lord,
who governs them, and you who all the heavens rule,
O Helios, and the other Planets following you;
by you two the whole race of mortals is produced,
from both of you, from Kronos and from Helios.
O Titans and O Planets, second to these two,
in each way or another helpers; hence to you
sing we, who have these many benefits from you,
and with you to the holy Daimons and Fixed Stars. [220]


Hymn 20. Fifth Sacred Hymn, to Pluto

Lord Pluto, thou who art of human nature chief
and guardian, allotted thee by Zeus himself,
and holding everything in one that separately
occurs for us and happens; you protect us well
in all things here, and ever after, raising us;
around thee Heroes, of a kind surpassing ours,
and also others dear to us, both fair and good;
and Kore, thy good wife and god of Tartarus,
who binds us to the mortal as must be. Be kind.


Hymn 21. Sixth Sacred Hymn, to Zeus

Zeus, Father, powerful, strong acting, cause of good,
All-parent, and by thine own mind transcendent good,
we too are born with shares of goodness from the gods.
By force of our mortality we’re fallible
but ever subject to correction once again.
Bestow on us release from misery of mistakes
by means of thine own children to whom it’s assigned,
to draw near to those pure ones having a right mind,
so we may follow thee, who art both gentle, kind. [222]


Hymn 22. First Daily Hymn, sung on the second day

Let me not cease from thanking you, O blessed gods,
for all the benefits I have because of you
or ever will; of them the highest source is Zeus.
And may I not neglect the welfare of my kind,
whatever’s in my power, working willingly
for common good, and know it greatly aids me too.
May I not be the cause of evils such as come
to people, but so far as I am able, good,
so that, becoming more like you, I may be blessed.


Hymn 23. Second Daily Hymn, sung on the third day

O gods, don’t let me savor pleasures to excess,
but put a limit onto them, in case there comes
from them some evil to my body or my soul.
Don’t let me be insatiable for resources,
but measured, and in those things that the body needs
be moderate, so independence I enjoy.
Don’t let me be enslaved to false and empty words,
but let me judge as useful only those of them
that bring divine and genuine excellence. [224]


Hymn 24. Third Daily Hymn, sung on the fourth day

O gods, don’t let these accidents that sometimes strike
my mortal part destroy me, knowing that my soul’s
immortal, separate from the mortal, and divine.
And do not let the troubles that with people come
disturb me while I exercise my liberty,
nor for some evil notion be in thrall to need.
And when it comes to me to bring about some good,
don’t let me spare my mortal part, but let me care
for my immortal soul to always be the best.


Hymn 25. Fourth Daily Hymn, sung on the fifth day

Blest are they who care for their immortal soul
so that it be the best, and for their mortal part
are not concerned, not sparing it if there be need.
Blest are they who when some mortals, acting thoughtlessly,
attack, they never are enslaved to them, but hold
their soul with firmness, rising o’er that wickedness.
Blest are they who do not grieve the bitter luck
that’s heaven-sent, but bear it easily and mark
alone as good what lies in their immortal part. [226]


Hymn 26. Fifth Daily Hymn, sung on the sixth day

Blest they who don’t unwisely cling to speakers’ vain
opinions, but by thinking for themselves pursue
with straight intelligence the virtue that’s ordained.
Blest they who do not to an infinite degree
pursue possessions foolishly, but do define
a measure by the body’s well-determined needs.
Blest they who keep a godly bound to pleasure that
does not invite some evil for the soul or for
the body, but accords with virtue that’s ordained.


Hymn 27. Sixth Daily Hymn, sung on the seventh day

Blest they who are not greedy for themselves, nor by
a fearful folly cause for people evil things,
but always good things, like the blessed gods themselves.
Blest they who do not slight the race’s common good,
especially knowing that the common is the gods’
concern, and therefore they do not abandon it.
Blest they who give the gods their thanks for benefits,
whatever they might have, before all Zên himself,
from whom came first the fair and good in everything.


¶ [228] These hymns in honor of the gods are twenty-seven in all, each of nine verses. They are sung on the meter of the heroic hexameter, which is the most beautiful of all rhythms. Indeed, there are two kinds of syllables, the long and the short; the short always of one beat, and the long most commonly of two beats, but sometimes of a greater number when the words are sung. But the heroic verse uses only two feet, the dactyl and spondee. The dactyl is formed of a long one for the downbeat, followed by two short ones for the upbeat; the spondee is formed of a long one for the downbeat and a long one for the upbeat. Thus these two feet, both beginning with a long and ending at the upbeat, being more equal for the measure, give to this rhythm a character of majesty to which no other approaches.

CHAPTER XXXVI. Instruction for the use of addresses and hymns

Now that we have made the addresses and hymns known, we must explain how to use them, and first the timing of each address. The morning address must be done between bed and breakfast, for those who breakfast, of course; for others, it is before engaging in their business. The afternoon address should be made between the middle of the day and supper time. Lastly, that of the evening between the meal and bedtime, except on days of fasting; for these days it will be done after sunset, and always before the meal. [230] These are the hours marked for each address. As for the places, it is first of all the temples, and then some place that is pure of all human excrement, of all mortal human remains, and of all that could contain them.

Here is how to proceed with each [invocations]. First of all for each one of them a proclamation is made by the sacred herald [hierokêrux], if there is one regularly instituted by a priest to fulfill this function; otherwise, one will be designated for the occasion, either by the priest, if there is one, or by the one present who is the most respectable by age or otherwise. The proclamation is as follows:

“Hear ye, worshipers of the gods [᾿Ακούετε, οἱ θεοσεβεῖς], now is the time for our morning (or afternoon, or evening) address [prosrêsis] to the gods. Let us invoke [proseipômen] the gods with all our reason [dianoiai], with all our judgment [gnômêi], with all our soul [psychêi]. Let us invoke them all, and especially Zeus who reigns over them.”

This proclamation is made on unconsecrated [bebêlois] days only once, twice on holidays [hieomêniais], and three times on New Moon.

Immediately, everyone must look up, kneel on both knees, raise their hands by throwing them back, then intone: “O gods, be propitious” [῞Ιλεῳ εἴητ’, ὦ θεοί]. At the same time that this invocation is made, we must adore the gods, first those of Olympus, by placing the right hand on the ground and raising at the same time on one of the two knees. The invocation being thus made once and the adoration once, it is then necessary to worship in the same way, but with the left hand, all the other gods by intoning the same formula. [232] In the third place, it is necessary to address Zeus the king while intoning: “Zeus, King, be propitious to us” [Ζεῦ βασιλεῦ, ἵλαθι], and this time to make obeisance [proskunein] on both knees and both hands and touch the head against the ground. This invocation must be repeated three times, and three times followed by the adoration, but all together counts for one adoration only. Every day this [rite] must be used once in each invocation, but on the holidays it is necessary to repeat the whole thing three times.

Adoration must be started by a priest or by the most distinguished of those present. Moreover, the song of address to the gods must be in the Hypophrygian mode in the adoration on the right hand, in Phrygian mode in the adoration of the left hand, and in the Hypodorian mode in that which we make to Zeus.

Then the sacred herald will make a new proclamation in these terms: “Let us listen to the address that will be made,” either the morning address to the gods; or the first or second [afternoon address], or the third to King Zeus; or at last the night [address] of the evening to the gods. Everybody will kneel at once, and he who has been appointed by the most important person in the assembly will read for all those present the proper address for the occasion.

¶ The speech or the speeches being finished, the sacred herald makes this new proclamation: “Let us listen to the hymns to the gods,” and we immediately sing the hymns, on the non-holidays [bebêlois] ordinarily without accompaniment, but on the holidays, most often with musical accompaniment. On non-holidays one always begins with the monthly hymn, then comes the daily hymn that is appropriate for the ceremony, and thirdly the first annual hymn to Zeus; each of them must be sung once. [234] But on the holidays one begins with the sacred hymn which is appropriate for the ceremony and continues with the monthly hymn, except the first [of the monthly hymns], which must precede all the sacred hymns. Each of the two hymns will be sung twice on the holidays, and thereafter the annual hymn in honor of Zeus three times. The second annual hymn, addressed to the gods, is to be sung in the midst of the afternoon addresses twice, between the first and the second, and between the second and the third, and each time entirely on holidays, but on non-holidays only two-thirds, that is to say, the first six verses, are sung in the first interval, and the rest in the second.

When the hymns are sung to music, the two annuals, the first and thirteenth of the monthly, the first, third, and sixth of the sacred hymns are sung in the Hypodorian [mode], for we assign this harmony to Zeus the King and all gods collectively, because of its grandeur and because none is better suited to the expression of proud and heroic feelings. The second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, and eleventh of the monthly hymns, and in addition the second of the sacred hymns, are sung in the Hypophrygian [mode], because we attribute to the gods of Olympus that harmony which holds the second rank for grandeur and which is apt to express the admiration of beautiful things. The seventh, tenth, and twelfth of the monthly hymns, as well as the fourth of the sacred hymns, are sung in the Phrygian [mode], since we attribute to the gods of a class inferior to the Olympians that harmony which for greatness occupies an intermediate rank and is suitable for the expression of gentle and peaceful feelings. [236] Finally the fifth of the sacred hymns, and all the daily hymns when they are sung in music, receive the Dorian [mode], the harmony reserved for people and for the gods who preside over human destinies, because of its especially agonistic character and the struggle always inherent in human affairs, due to the missteps [euolisthon] and mistakes [hamartêton] of our nature.

¶ There are thirteen monthly hymns, and the months having the same number, when the year admits an intercalary month, we sing these hymns according to their order, each during the month corresponding to it, beginning the evening preceding the New Moon and ending on the afternoon of Old-and-New. However, when the year is only twelve months long, the twelfth [monthly] hymn is sung with the evening address of Twelfth Month,22 and the thirteenth hymn with the morning and afternoon addresses.

As for the sacred hymns, as they are six in number, and as the full months have just as many holidays, with the exception only of the first and the last month which have more, we sing the first of these hymns on New Moon, the second on Eighth Waxing, the third on Midmonth, the fourth on the Eighth Waning, the fifth on the day of the Old Moon and the sixth on the day Old-and-New, observing that for the singing of the hymns each day is supposed to begin the evening preceding the corresponding holiday and to finish in the afternoon of the same day. But when the month is not full, as then the day of Old Moon is missing, the fifth [sacred] hymn is sung the evening before Old-and-New, and the sixth in the morning and afternoon of Old-and-New.

[238] The Second and Third Waxing days of First Month are holidays; the evening preceding each of these days the hymn of the day is added to the monthly hymn, namely, the first hymn [i.e. for day 2] on the eve of the second day, and the second hymn [for day 3] on the eve of the third day, each of them twice and with music, each evening belonging to the holiday of the following day. In the morning and afternoon of the second and third day, the same hymns are sung and in the same way as on New Moon. During the rest of this first week of First Month, the daily hymn is sung every day with the monthly hymn, only once and with music, though music is not usually used on non-holidays, but only on the holidays, where it is always used unless one lacks musicians.

The hymns are sung in the same way, once and in music, during the last part of the last month, from Seventh to Fourth Departing, and also, the day before and the day after three special holidays placed in the body of the year, namely, Eighth Waxing of Fourth Month, Midmonth of Seventh Month, and Eighth Waning of Tenth Month. On these days, though they are not consecrated, we sing the daily hymn of the day once with music.

On the Fourth Departing day of the last month, that is to say, the evening before the holidays that finish it, it is necessary to sing, with the monthly hymn, the second of the daily hymns [i.e., for day 3], each twice and with music. In the morning and afternoon of the Third [Departing] day, the fifth of the sacred hymns are sung before the monthly hymn. The evening preceding the Second [Departing] day, the first of the daily hymns [for day 2] is joined to the monthly hymn, and both are sung twice and with music; [240] in the morning and the afternoon of this Second [Departing] day the same hymns are sung and in the same way as on Old-and-New Moon. The next day, which is that of the Old Moon if the month is full, in the morning and the afternoon the same hymns are sung, and in the evening the fifth of the sacred hymns, then the monthly hymn. If the month is hollow and instead of the Old Moon, which is missing, we celebrate the fast on the Fourth Departing day, the evening before we will sing the third of the daily hymns [for day 4], and on the fourth day will sing the same hymns and in the same way as on Old-and-New Moon. It is understood that the annual hymn to Zeus must be sung the third and last after the others, whenever the hymns …

CHAPTER XXXVI The Order of the Months and Years23

[58] We will follow for months and years the order indicated by nature, that is to say we will use lunar months and solar years, by adjusting the latter on the solstices and taking as a starting point the winter solstice, when Helios [Sun], having arrived at his furthest point, begins to approach us. The day called Old-and-New [Henê kai Nea] Moon is the day when Selene [Moon] will be in conjunction with Helios according to the calculation of the most experienced people in astronomy. The next day, from midnight following the conjunction of these two deities, will be New Moon [Noumênia] or the first of the month, from which we will count all the other days of the month to the number of 30 for the full months, or to 29 for the hollow months, so that the evening of each night always belongs to the day before, and the morning to the present day, midnight being the boundary of the two days.

Here is the way of counting the days of each month: after New Moon we shall have Second Waxing [histamenou], then the Third, the Fourth, and so on until the Eighth [Waxing]; after the Eighth, will come the Seventh Middle [mesountos] of the month, then the Sixth, and thus descending to the Second [Middle], which will precede Midmonth [dichomênia]. We will then continue with the Second Waning [phthinontos], the Third, and so until the Eighth [Waning], after which will come the Seventh Departing [apiontos], the Sixth, and so on, down, until the Second [Departing], which will be followed, in the full months by the Old [Henê] Moon first and then Old-and-New Moon, or if the month is hollow, immediately by Old-and-New Moon. [60] As for the months, the month following the winter solstice will be the First Month of the year, and the others will be designated only by their rank up to the Twelfth in some years, up to the Thirteenth in others, when Twelfth Month will not reach the winter solstice. For the determination of the solstice, we will use sundials [hêliotropiois] employed with the greatest possible precision …

¶ “Plethon, in his treatise on Laws, having to deal with days, months and years, does not designate the months by their Attic names, … he simply names them, according to the place they occupy, by their serial numbers, First Month, Second Month, and so on. …

¶ “He wants that for the calculation of the days the months are divided into four periods, the month waxing, the middle of the month, the month waning, and the month departing … probably because he finds it more convenient for the distribution of the new holidays that he thinks fit to institute. …

¶ “He gives each month six holidays [hieromênias], which takes away much too much time from the work necessary for social life, because it is necessary to be idle on these holidays. [62] Add that he immediately establishes three holidays: the Old Moon dedicated to Pluto, the Old-and-New Moon occupied by the examination of conscience, and the New Moon dedicated to Zeus. … But what are these holidays? It is up to him to say, since he wants to create them to replace established holidays. … As for the examination of conscience at the end of the month, and only once a month, it is Plethon’s opinion and not ours; in our opinion, it’s not too much to do this examination every day, etc.

¶ “Plethon calls the Old Moon the twenty-ninth day of the month, and the thirtieth, the Old-and-New Moon. In this, it does not differ much from us as to the substance of things. Only, we call the second day of the month departing the one he prefers to call Old Moon, no doubt, because, wanting to make this day a holiday devoted to Pluto, he thought he should give it an imposing and serious name; we do well to pass these kinds of things to those who meddle in innovating in matters of religion. ” (Theodore of Gaza)

CHAPTER XLIII. Epinomis or Conclusion

[240 ctu’d] What we had proposed at the beginning of this work was accomplished with the help of those among the gods who preside over this kind of work; to them, as well as to Poseidon their leader, we pay homage in this work. It is completed to the extent necessary, for we have shown what is the principle of all things, and among all things what are the natures of the first order immediately attached to the supreme principle, what are those of the second and those of the third and last order, what place humans occupies among them, [242] of what elements they are composed, and according to their nature what kind of life [bios] suits living happily [eudaimonôs zên]. This [happiness] is the supreme and common goal that all people pursue, but not all seek it in the same kind of life. Where it is to be sought and by what actions, is what we have shown in detail by ideas [ennoiôn] and axioms [axiômatôn] that are neither weak nor questionable, but which are based on three fundamental ones. The first is that the principle of all things, that supreme god who, in the language of our fathers, is called Zeus, is supremely good, lacking no perfection to be the best possible; the second, that there must be a reciprocal relationship between essences and their mode of generation; the third, that the actions [erga] of different beings must have a certain relation [analogon] with their essences, and their essences with their actions.

¶ Once these principles are firmly established, the first reveals to us, among other important truths, that the All [to Pan] coexists perpetually [aïdion] with Zeus, and that this marvelous [All] will remain immutable in its state through all eternity [aiôna], constant in the form that was originally given to it. It would not be possible, indeed, that a god who is the very best would not produce his work and do no good (for what is best must necessarily involve other beings in this goodness as much as possible); [244] and if he creates and produces well, he cannot create with limited power, nor produce work that is inferior to his power, or that can ever be or become less perfect than the best possible. For it is evident that if Zeus changed anything in the established order [kathestêkotôn], he would make the All [to Pan] worse, either now or later. Indeed, if the smallest piece of it is changed, either because it does not usually change or because it changes differently than usual, then it is impossible that the whole configuration not change with this piece. For the same configuration cannot be preserved when all the parts do not remain the same.

¶ The second axiom enlightens us on the constitution of divine beings. For the essence of all things is divided [into three orders]: [1] into what is always the same and immutable in all respects; [2] then into what changes in time but is everlasting [aïdion]; [3] third, into mortal nature. Because it is necessary for each essence to have a generation proper and in conformity with its nature, we attribute [1] the first creation to the principle [archê] of all things, Zeus; [2] the second to Poseidon, the leader [koruphaiôi] in the first order of substances, who is helped in some of his work by some of his legitimate siblings; [3] the third to the eldest of Zeus’s illegitimate children, Kronos, [246] and to Helios, the most powerful of the legitimate sons of Poseidon, both being assisted in this work, Kronos by all his illegitimate siblings, Helios by all his legitimate siblings, called Planets [Planêtôn = Wanderers] because of the irregularity of their movement.

¶ The third axiom reveals to us the nature of humans, namely, that they are a compound of two natures, one animal and mortal, the other immortal and akin to the gods. For, of course, since man performs acts sometimes worthy of the beast [thêriôdesi], and sometimes similar to those of the gods, it is necessary to assign to these two kinds of actions a substance [ousian] of their own and connected with them. Some human actions are similar to those of the gods, and these are obviously the most important. Indeed, we cannot say that for the gods there is a more important action than the contemplation of beings [ontôn], the chief of which is the conception [ennoia] of Zeus. But humans obviously have in common with them the contemplation of beings, and they even participate in the conception of Zeus, the last limit to which the gods themselves can reach. Humans, therefore, need a substance [ousias] like that of the gods, which can produce actions like theirs, and that is moreover immortal, since the substance of the gods is immortal, for there cannot be the least resemblance between a mortal nature and an immortal nature, or a comparison between what has only an imperfect and limited power to what has an infinite and limitless one. [248] So it is in the actions suitable to his kinship with the gods that we come, after many other capable teachers, to show people their happiness [eudaimon], the aim of our book being to make those who listen to our lessons as happy as a human is allowed to be.

¶ That the human being is a compound of two natures [eidoin] is a truth we demonstrate by another equally incontestable principle: that there is not a single being [ontôn] that goes of its own accord to its destruction; all, on the contrary, make their efforts to support and preserve their existence, as much as it depends on them. Once this principle is established, when we see certain people killing themselves, we understand very clearly that it is not the mortal part of our being which kills itself, but that it is the act of a different part, and the best [kreitton], which cannot perish with the body and which is not subordinate to it, as are all mortal species subject to the bodies to which they are attached and incapable of surviving them when they perish. Because if this part of our being depended on the body, it wouldn’t act against it either to such a degree or in the slightest thing. But having its own essence that subsists by itself, as soon as it has judged that living together with the mortal element would no longer be useful to it (whether it has judged rightly or wrongly, it matters not), it kills that body as being foreign to it and thus frees itself from a companion that seems annoying and inconvenient to it.

¶ [250] We judge this mixture in us of two natures, one mortal and the other immortal, to be made by the demiurgic gods [theois demiourgois] according to the orders of Zeus, with a view to the harmony of the All [to Pan]. They wanted these two elements of the world [ouranou], the mortal and the immortal, to unite in human nature, which is placed in the middle of them. Indeed, to be complete [plêres] and whole [panteles], the All had to contain, brought together and welded together, these two elements, the mortal and the immortal; thus instead of being divided and torn apart, it forms one system in reality [hen ti tô onti sustêma]. For, just as these many different things can unite thanks to their common boundaries [methoriois], so mortal was bound to immortal in the human, which serves them both as boundary. If in man the mortal always remained united with the immortal, the first would itself be immortalized, made such indeed by this constant union with the immortal, and humans would no longer be the boundary between the two natures, as they should be, but would be ordered completely among the immortals. If, on the other hand, the immortal united just once with the mortal and abandoned it the rest of the time, being only a fleeting boundary between immortal and mortal, it would not be an everlasting boundary, nor permanently unite the mortal with the immortal, but connected once and then released from the mortal, the harmony would be dissolved. [252] It therefore remains to say that the immortal is connected partly with the mortal, and partly, each time it is released from it [the mortal part], it exists by itself, which is repeated indefinitely throughout eternity.

¶ These are reputed to be the doctrines [dogmata] of the wise [sophois] disciples of Pythagoras, especially, and of Plato. They are from the interpreters [exêgêtais] among other peoples, and also indeed from those of our ancestors who received well the sound religious service [theosebeian] of the Kouretes. They are from Zoroaster and his disciples. It is to him, the most ancient of those in our memory, to whom we attribute them, not supposing, however, that he discovered them, for these true doctrines are co-eternal with the whole heaven, and indeed among people. If they gather sometimes more, sometimes fewer by their strength, at least they always have those of us who behave according to the common ideas [ennoiôn koinon] that the gods have put in our souls. But the fact is that of all those who are remembered, Zoroaster is the oldest interpreter of these correct [orthôn] doctrines; he is said to be more than five thousand years prior to the return of the Heracleidai.

As for Mênês, the lawgiver [nomothetên] of the Egyptians, who is claimed to be earlier by more than three thousand years, he cannot be considered as a wise lawgiver and worthy of esteem. He would never have established a religion so charged with useless and bad rites [agisteias] for the gods, if he had not held to vicious doctrines. [254] If the priests who followed him had doctrines similar to those of Zoroaster, we must not believe that they received them from Mênês, but found them later in their search for wisdom. Yet they could not bring any reform to the rites, because Mênês had imposed on them a law, doubtless useful and beneficial to the people who have good legislation, but not to those with bad laws: he had forbidden them from making the slightest change in the laws of the country; thus, while they themselves recognized the true doctrines, they left the multitude to their bad rites.

In addition, some other legislations may have had their good sides—several even were not unrelated to the doctrines of Zoroaster—but they remained far from accurate. Such are the laws of the Indians and the Western Iberians, which date almost from the same period as those of Zoroaster. The name of the lawgiver [nomothetou] of the Iberians has not come down to us, and nothing has been preserved from their laws. As for the Indians, part of their legislation still exists, and their lawgiver was called Dionysos. Coming from without, he conquered the Indies, established his empire there, and by the wisdom of his institutions civilized, it is said, the inhabitants. Another Dionysos, the son of Semele, was born much later, but must have been identical to the first in his soul or at least imitating his life; both, in any case, were very unwarlike [astratôtatô]. [256] We can almost believe the same thing of the two Herakles, one the son of Amphytrion and Alcmene, the other born earlier in Tyre, who both on the contrary were very warlike [stratiôtikôtatô]. Indeed the cycles of time [periodous] bring and will always bring similar lives and actions, so that nothing exactly new has happened, nor happens now, that has not already happened in form [idea] and will happen again one day.

Although no people are atheists, yet people have very different opinions on divinity. It is therefore necessary that there be one that is always the same, which is the best, with the others being worse, some closer to or farther from the truth, and some necessarily more remote than all the others. For us, we remain attached to the doctrine that we know best, that of Zoroaster, professed also by Pythagoras and Plato; it prevails over all other doctrines in accuracy, and moreover it is our heritage. We think in this [philosophy] alone is the purest happiness possible to us. As for the other doctrines, the further they depart from ours, the more those who attach themselves to them stray from happiness and get closer to misery, and those who profess the most different opinions from ours are those who fall in the last degree of misery, since they are wallowing in frightful darkness by their ignorance of the most important things.

¶ But, it may be said, some sophists [sophistôn], admired by the crowd, [258] promise to their followers goods greater than those we announce to humankind; they promise an unalloyed immortality not defiled by any mortal mixture, whereas, according to our doctrine, our souls will not cease, whenever their turn [periodos] has come, to have again some share of mortality. But first of all, it is wise in general not to prefer those who promise the most, but rather those who deserve the most confidence [euphronountes], and likewise, one should not prefer the speeches that spread overly great [meizous] hopes to those more worthy of trust [pistoterôn]. There is no profit in persisting in hopes about the most important things that are overly great but vain and ineffectual and in thus being charmed by falsehoods and unhealthy opinions. It is the height of the misfortune [kakodaimonias] to be deceived about the gods and the beliefs [dianoêmatôn] most important to people, and to have other opinions [contrary to the truth].

But besides, it would not be astonishing if the destinies announced by us to the human race appear to good judges [skopousin orthôs] still preferable to the promises of these sophists. In the first place, these ones recognize an absolute and complete eternity neither in the whole heaven [holô tô ouranô] nor in the human soul, granting beings eternity not in both directions, but in one, that of the future. They argue that heaven [ouranon] had a beginning in time, and that it will be subject to the same change as human matters. [260] In order that these things appear more persuasive to those who hear them, on the one hand they maintain that human matters will not change alone but with the Whole [tô Holô], and on the other hand, they announce that there will be evils for a short time, and that afterwards and ever after [apeiron] God will restore matters to be good. And indeed it would be more persuasive if they said there are evils for an infinite time, after which he restores the good. We, however, by recognizing the human soul is eternally complete, not amputated and lame, thereby treat it better. For it is clear, indeed, that this two-way eternity [ep’ amphotera hautê hê aïdiotês] is better and more beautiful than that truncated one, and thus that in this way its eternity is more perfect [teleôteron] and beautiful.

But perhaps someone will object that what is past is no more and that one will not have to experience it again, while the future, although not yet, must one day be, and therefore has more existence than what is not, and that the future is in this sense preferable. It is thus, it will be said, that desire neglects the past to turn toward the future as having more existence. Consequently, this two-way eternity is not surpassed by that which embraces the future only through non-being, which is in reality neither greater nor better. But we…

[The remainder of Plethon’s Book of Laws was destroyed.]


Summary of the Doctrines of Zoroaster and Plato

[262] Here are the most necessary principles to know for whoever wants to think wisely.

[I] First, concerning the gods, we must believe that they really exist. One of them is Zeus, the king, the greatest of all and the best possible. He presides over the Whole [hois Holois]; his divinity is of an order quite transcendent [exairetos]; he himself is in all respects and altogether uncreated [agenêtos]; at the same time he is the father and the first creator [dêmiourgos] of all beings. His oldest son, begotten without mother [amêtôr], the second god, is Poseidon. He has received from his father the second place in the government of all things, and in addition the right to produce and create all beings in the heavens, but with the help and the ministry of other gods, some of whom are his siblings, these all being motherless [amêtôr] and supercelestial: the Olympians and the Tartareans. Others are engendered by himself with the help of Hera, the goddess who produces matter; they are the gods who live in the heavens, namely, the celestial race, the stars [astra], and the earthly race of daimons, who are next to us in nature. To Helios [Sun], his eldest child, Poseidon has entrusted the government of heaven and the generation of mortal beings therein, [264] and this indeed with Kronos, brother and head of the Titans, the Tartareans. A difference between the Olympian gods and the Tartareans is that the Olympians produce and govern all immortal things in the heavens and the Tartareans preside over mortal things here. Thus Kronos is leader of the Tartareans or Titans and presides over every form of mortal. Hera, who among the Olympians is placed second after Poseidon, furnishes for his works the primordial [presbutatos], indestructible [anôlethros] matter over which she herself presides. As for Poseidon, he governs all kinds of immortals and mortals; he is the leader presiding over everything, and indeed he is himself coordinator of all things. For Zeus alone, by his transcendent divinity, dominates the All [to Pan] transcendently [exaireton].

¶ For the first principle, this is the most exact summary of what to believe. [II] Moreover, these gods look after [pronoousin] us, some acting [ephaptomenoi] immediately by themselves, the others through the inferior ones [gods], but always according to the decrees of Zeus who rules everything. [III] They are not the cause of any evil, neither for us nor for any beings; on the contrary they are essentially the causes of all good. [266] [IV] In addition, it is according to the law of an immutable fate [heimarmenê], inflexible, emanated from Zeus, that they perform all their acts in the best possible way. These are the principles concerning the gods.

¶ Concerning the All [to Pan]: [V] First, the All, including the gods of the second and third orders, was created by Zeus, is everlasting [aïdion], and has had no beginning in time and will have no end. [VI] It is assembled from all the many things into one. [VII] It was created in the most perfect way by the most perfect worker [pepoiêkoti] of all, who left nothing to add. [VIII] In addition, it is always preserved immutable [aparakinêton] in its established form. These are the principles concerning the All.

¶ Concerning ourselves: [IX] First, our soul, being akin to the gods, remains immortal and everlasting [aïdion] in the heavens for all time. [X] Always attached [koinônêsousa] to a mortal body, it is sent by the gods, sometimes in one, sometimes in another, because of the harmony of the All, so that the union of mortal and immortal in human nature contributes [sundeoito] to the unity of the All. [XI] Because of this kinship with the gods, we must consider the good [kalos] to be the end that suits our life. [268] [XII] Finally, the gods, by fixing the laws of our kind, placed our happiness in the immortal part of our being, which is also the most important.

¶ Here together are the twelve principles, on the gods, on the All, and on our nature, that must be known and accepted if one wants to have great understanding and really to be wise.


Bibliography

Alexandre, C. (ed.) (1858). Pléthon: Traité des Lois, tr. A. Pellissier. Paris: Firmin Didot frères.

Anastos, Milton V. (1948). “Plethon’s Calandar and Liturgy,” Dunbarton Oaks Papers, 4, 183–303.

Hladký, Vojtěch (2014). The Philosophy of Gemistos Plethon: Platonism in Late Byzantium, between Hellenism and Orthodoxy. Farnham & Burlington: Ashgate.

Woodhouse, C. M. (1986). George Gemistos Plethon: The Last of the Hellenes. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Pr.

Endnotes

1Because there is as yet no complete English translation of Plethon’s Book of Laws, I have prepared this working translation for my interim use. It is no doubt imperfect in many ways, but I have checked it against the partial English translations and paraphrases in Hladký (2014), Woodhouse (1986), and Anastos (1948) and against the French translation by A. Pellissier in Alexandre (1858). I will update it from time to time. This is the 19 June 2020 version with verse translations of the hymns.

2Bracketed numbers refer to pages of the Greek text in Alexandre (1858). They are placed at the approximate beginning of the page in the Greek text, but cannot be placed exactly due to differences in Greek and English word order. All the numbers are even because the Greek text is on the even-numbered pages.

3I have used a simplified transcription of the Greek alphabet: rough breathing = “h”, η = “ê”, φ = “ph”, χ = “ch”, ψ = “ps”, ω = “ô”; other letters are transcribed by their cognate Roman letters (e.g., β = “b”, γ = “g”).

4There are very few paragraph breaks in the Greek text in Alexandre (1858), and so I have introduced them to improve readability. These symbols indicate a paragraph break in the Greek text.

5gnêsios = belonging to the race, born in wedlock, lawful, legitimate. In this context, belonging to the family of Olympian gods.

6nothos = bastard, illegitimate, baseborn, spurious. In this context, not of the family of Olympian gods.

7Cf. Plato, Tim. 37d.

8That is, the mercury amalgamates with the gold or other metal.

9Alexandre incorrectly takes the preceding paragraph to be the beginning of II.27, but it is the last part of II.26 (Masai, 1956, p. 397n1).

10The translation here follows Pellissier (p. 125) and Woodhouse’s paraphrase (p. 343).

11See Woodhouse, p. 344.

12Can nous in this line and the next in any way be interpreted as assistant [Fr. aide]?

13Beginning of passage to omit when shortened.

14End of omitted part when shortened.

15The complete version of the speech takes about 20 min. to recite and 10 min. when shortened.

16Beginning of omitted part for non-holidays.

17End of omitted part for non-holidays.

18Underlined text is from British Library MS. Add. 5424, fol. 108v.1–3 (Hladký, 2014, p. 311) and fills a lacuna in Alexandre (1858).

19Skip the following on non-holidays.

20Resume here on non-holidays.

21E. A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, s.v. ἀθρύπτως (New York: Scribner’s, 1900, p. 89).

22As explained in Laws III.36, Plethon names the months by their ordinal position, and so I have capitalized them. Similarly, I have capitalized the days, also named after ordinal position.

23Add. 5424, fol. 133.4–5.