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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



9697
Porphyry, On Abstinence, 2.9


nanThe sacrifice, therefore, through animals is posterior and most recent, and originated from a cause which is not of a pleasing nature, like that of the sacrifice from fruits, but received its commencement either from famine, or some other unfortunate circumstance. The causes, indeed, of the peculiar mactations among the Athenians, had their beginning, either in ignorance, or anger, or fear. For the slaughter of swine is attributed to an involuntary error of Clymene, who, by unintentionally striking, slew the animal. Hence her husband, being terrified as if he had perpetrated an illegal deed, consulted the oracle of the Pythian God about it. But as the God did not condemn what had happened, the slaughter of animals was afterwards considered as a thing of an indifferent nature. The inspector, however, of sacred rites, who was the offspring of prophets, wishing to make an offering of first-fruits from sheep, was permitted to do so, it is said, by an oracle, but with much caution and fear. For the oracle was as follows:---"Offspring of prophets, sheep by force to slay,The Gods permit not thee: but with wash'd hands For thee 'tis lawful any sheep to kill, That dies a voluntary death.


nan9.The sacrifice, therefore, through animals is posterior and most recent, and originated from a cause which is not of a pleasing nature, like that of the sacrifice from fruits, but received its commencement either from famine, or some other unfortunate circumstance. The causes, indeed, of the peculiar mactations among the Athenians, had their beginning, either in ignorance, or anger, or fear. For the slaughter of swine is attributed to an involuntary error of Clymene, who, by unintentionally striking, slew the animal. Hence her husband, being terrified as if he had perpetrated an illegal deed, consulted the oracle of the Pythian God about it. But as the God did not condemn what had happened, the slaughter of animals was afterwards considered as a thing of an indifferent nature. The inspector, however, of sacred rites, who was the offspring of prophets, wishing to make an offering of first-fruits from sheep, was permitted to do so, it is said, by an oracle, but with much caution and fear. For the oracle was as follows:--- "Offspring of prophets, sheep by force to slay, The Gods permit not thee: but with wash'd hands For thee 'tis lawful any sheep to kill, That dies a voluntary death."


Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

11 results
1. Aristophanes, Peace, 960 (5th cent. BCE - 4th cent. BCE)

960. σείου σὺ ταχέως: σὺ δὲ πρότεινε τῶν ὀλῶν
2. Empedocles, Fragments, 139, 128 (5th cent. BCE - 5th cent. BCE)

3. Euripides, Electra, 171 (5th cent. BCE - 5th cent. BCE)

171. ἀγγέλλει δ' ὅτι νῦν τριταί-
4. Plutarch, On The Eating of Flesh I, None (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

997e. Ido not yet go so far as to say that it may well be the life of your mother or father or some friend or child, as Empedocles declared. Yet it does, at least, possess some perception, hearing, seeing, imagination, intelligence, which last every creature receives from Nature to enable it to acquire what is proper for it and to evade what is not. Do but consider which are the philosophers who serve the better to humanize us: those who bid us eat our children and friends and fathers and wives after their death, or Pythagoras and Empedocles who try to accustom us to act justly towards other creatures also? You ridicule a man who abstains from eating mutton. But are we, they will say, to refrain from laughter when we see you slicing off portions from a dead father or mother
5. Plutarch, Whether Land Or Sea Animals Are More Clever, None (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

6. Sextus, Against The Mathematicians, 9.127-9.129 (2nd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

7. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of The Philosophers, 8.36 (3rd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

8.36. This is what Alexander says that he found in the Pythagorean memoirs. What follows is Aristotle's.But Pythagoras's great dignity not even Timon overlooked, who, although he digs at him in his Silli, speaks ofPythagoras, inclined to witching works and ways,Man-snarer, fond of noble periphrase.Xenophanes confirms the statement about his having been different people at different times in the elegiacs beginning:Now other thoughts, another path, I show.What he says of him is as follows:They say that, passing a belaboured whelp,He, full of pity, spake these words of dole:Stay, smite not ! 'Tis a friend, a human soul;I knew him straight whenas I heard him yelp !
8. Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation For The Gospel, 4.1 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

9. Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, 24.108 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

10. Porphyry, On Abstinence, 2.5-2.8, 2.10-2.32, 2.34.2, 3.2.4 (3rd cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

2.5. 5.It seems that the period is of immense antiquity, from which a nation the most learned of all others 1 as Theophrastus says, and who inhabit the most sacred region made by the Nile, began first, from the vestal hearth, to sacrifice to the celestial Gods, not myrrh, or cassia, nor the first-fruits of things mingled with the crocus of frankincense; for these were assumed many generations afterwards, in consequence of error gradually increasing, when men, wanting the necessaries of life, offered, with great labour and many tears, some drops of these, as first-fruits to the Gods. Hence, they did not at first sacrifice these, but grass, which, as a certain soft wool of prolific nature, they plucked with their hands. For the earth produced trees prior to animals; and long before trees grass, which germinates annually. Hence, gathering the blades and roots, and all the germs of this herb, they committed them to the flames, as a sacrifice to the visible celestial Gods, to whom they paid |47 immortal honour through fire. For to these, also, we preserve in temples an immortal fire, because it is especially most similar to these divinities. But from the exhalation or smoke (εκ δε της θυμιασεως) of things produced in the earth, they called the offerings θυμιατηρια, thumiateria; to sacrifice, they called θυειν, thuein, and the sacrifices, θυσιαι, thusiai; all which, as if unfolding the error which was afterwards introduced, we do not rightly interpret; since we call the worship of the Gods through the immolation of animals thusia. But so careful were the ancients not to transgress this custom, that against those who, neglecting the pristine, introduced novel modes of sacrificing, they employed execrations 2 and therefore they now denominate the substances which are used for fumigations αρωματα, aromata, i.e. aromatics, [or things of an execrable nature.] The antiquity, however, of the before-mentioned fumigations may be perceived by him who considers that many now also sacrifice certain portions of odoriferous wood. Hence, when after grass, the earth produced trees, and men at first fed on the fruits of the oak; they offered to the Gods but few of the fruits on account of their rarity, but in sacrifices they burnt many of its leaves. After this, however, when human life proceeded to a milder nutriment, and sacrifices from nuts were introduced, they said enough of the oak. SPAN 2.6. 6.But as barley first appeared after leguminous substances, the race of men used it in primitive sacrifices, moistening it for this purpose with water. Afterwards, when they had broken and bruised it, so as to render it eatable, as the instruments of this operation afforded a divine assistance to human life, they concealed them in an arcane place, and approached them as things of a sacred nature. But esteeming the food produced from it when bruised to be blessed, when compared with their former nutriment, they offered, in fine, the first-fruits of it to the Gods. Hence also now, at the end of the sacrifices, we use fruits that are bruised or ground; testifying by this how much fumigations have departed from their ancient simplicity; at the same time not perceiving on what account we perform each of these. Proceeding, however, from hence, and being more abundantly supplied, both with other fruits and wheat, the first-fruits of cakes, made of the fine flour of wheat, and of everything else, were offered in sacrifices to the Gods; many flowers being collected for this purpose, and with these all that was conceived to be beautiful, and adapted, by its odour, to a divine sense, being |48 mingled. From these, also, some were used for garlands, and others were given to the fire. But when they had discovered the use of the divine drops of wine, and honey, and likewise of oil, for the purposes of human life, then they sacrificed these to their causes, the Gods. SPAN 2.7. 7.And these things appear to be testified by the splendid procession in honour of the Sun and the Hours, which is even now performed at Athens, and in which there were other herbs besides grass, and also acorns, the fruit of the crab-tree, barley, wheat, a heap of dried figs, cakes made of wheaten and barley flour; and, in the last place, an earthen pot. This mode, however, of offering first-fruits in sacrifices, having, at length, proceeded to great illegality, the assumption of immolations, most dire and full of cruelty, was introduced; so that it would seem that the execrations, which were formerly uttered against us, have now received their consummation, in consequence of men slaughtering animals, and defiling altars with blood; and this commenced from that period in which mankind tasted of blood, through having experienced the evils of famine and war. Divinity, therefore, as Theophrastus says, being indigt, appears to have inflicted a punishment adapted to the crime. Hence some men became atheists; but others, in consequence of forming erroneous conceptions of a divine nature, may be more justly called κακοφρονες, kakophrones, than κακοθεοι, kakotbeoi 3, because they think that the Gods are depraved, and in no respect naturally more excellent than we are. Thus, therefore, some were seen to live without sacrificing any thing, and without offering the first-fruits of their possessions to the Gods; but others sacrificed improperly, and made use of illegal oblations. SPAN 2.8. 8.Hence the Thoes 4, who dwell in the confines of Thrace, as they neither offered any first-fruits, nor sacrificed to the Gods, were at that time suddenly taken away from the rest of mankind; so that neither the inhabitants, nor the city, nor the foundations of the houses, could by any one be found. "Men prone to ill, denied the Gods their due, And by their follies made their days but few. The altars of the bless'd neglected stand, |49 Without the offerings which the laws demand; But angry Jove in dust this people laid, Because no honours to the Gods they paid." Hesiod. Op. et Di. lib. i. v. 133. Nor did they offer first-fruits to the Gods, as it was just that they should. But with respect to the Bassarians, who formerly were not only emulous of sacrificing bulls, but also ate the flesh of slaughtered men, in the same manner as we now do with other animals; for we offer to the Gods some parts of them as first-fruits; and eat the rest; --- with respect to these men, who has not heard, that insanely rushing on and biting each other, and in reality feeding on blood, they did not cease to act in this manner till the whole race was destroyed of those who use sacrifices of this kind? SPAN 2.10. 10.But a goat was first slain in Icarus, a mountain of Attica, because it had cropped a vine. And Diomus, who was a priest of Jupiter Polieus, was the first that slew an ox; because, when the festival sacred to Jupiter, and called Diipolia, was celebrated, and fruits were prepared after the |50 ancient manner, an ox approaching tasted the sacred cake. But the priest, being aided by others who were present, slew the ox. And these are the causes, indeed, which are assigned by the Athenians for this deed; but by others, other causes are narrated. All of them however, are full of explanations that are not holy. But most of them assign famine, and the injustice with which it is attended, as the cause. Hence men having tasted of animals, they offered them in sacrifice, as first-fruits, to the Gods; but prior to this, they were accustomed to abstain from animal food. Whence, since the sacrifice of animals is not more ancient than necessary food, it may be determined from this circumstance what ought to be the nutriment of men. But it does not follow, because men have tasted of and offered animals in sacrifices as first-fruits, that it must necessarily be admitted to be pious to eat that which was not piously offered to the Gods. SPAN 2.11. 11.But what especially proves that every thing of this kind originated from injustice, is this, that the same things are neither sacrificed nor eaten in every nation, but that they conjecture what it is fit for them to do from what they find to be useful to themselves. With the Egyptians, therefore, and Phoenicians, any one would sooner taste human flesh than the flesh of a cow. The cause, however, is that this animal being useful, is also rare among them. Hence, though they eat bulls, and offer them in sacrifice as first-fruits, yet they spare cows for the sake of their progeny, and ordain that, if any one kill them, it shall be considered as an expiation. And thus, for the sake of utility in one and the same genus of animals, they distinguish what is pious, and what is impious. So that these particulars subsisting after this manner, Theophrastus reasonably forbids those to sacrifice animals who wish to be truly pious; employing these, and other similar arguments, such as the following. SPAN 2.12. 12.In the first place, indeed, because we sacrificed animals through the occurrence, as we have said, of a greater necessity. For pestilence and war were the causes that introduced the necessity of eating them. Since, therefore, we are supplied with fruits, what occasion is there to use the sacrifice of necessity? In the next place, the remunerations of, and thanks for benefits, are to be given differently to different persons, according to the worth of the benefit conferred; so that the greatest remunerations, and from things of the most honourable nature, are to be given to those who have benefited us in the greatest degree, and especially if they are the causes of these gifts. But the most beautiful and honourable of those things, by which the Gods benefit us, are the fruits of the earth. For through these they preserve us, and enable us to |51 live legitimately; so that, from these we ought to venerate them. Besides, it is requisite to sacrifice those things by the sacrifice of which we shall not injure any one. For nothing ought to be so inoxious to all things as sacrifice. But if someone should say, that God gave animals for our use, no less than the fruits of the earth, yet it does not follow that they are, therefore, to be sacrificed, because in so doing they are injured, through being deprived of life. For sacrifice is, as the name implies, something holy.5 But no one is holy who requites a benefit from things which are the property of another, whether he takes fruits or plants from one who is unwilling to be deprived of them. For how can this be holy, when those are injured from whom they are taken? If, however, he who takes away fruit from others does not sacrifice with sanctity, it cannot be holy to sacrifice things taken from others, which are in every respect more honourable than the fruits of the earth. For a more dire deed is thus perpetrated. But soul is much more honourable than the vegetable productions of the earth, which it is not fit, by sacrificing animals, that we should take away. SPAN 2.13. 13.Some one, however, perhaps may say, that we also take away something from plants [when we eat, and sacrifice them to the Gods]. But the ablation is not similar; since we do not take this away from those who are unwilling that we should. For, if we omitted to gather them, they would spontaneously drop their fruits. The gathering of the fruits, also, is not attended with the destruction of the plants, as it is when animals lose their animating principle. And, with respect to the fruit which we receive from bees, since this is obtained by our labour, it is fit that we should derive a common benefit from it. For bees collect their honey from plants; but we carefully attend to them. On which account it is requisite that such a division should be made [of our attention and their labour] that they may suffer no injury. But that which is useless to them, and beneficial to us, will be the reward which we receive from them [of our attention to their concerns]. In sacrifices, therefore, we should abstain from animals. For, though all things are in reality the property of the Gods, yet plants appear to be our property; since we sow and cultivate them, and nourish them by other attentions which we pay to them. We ought to sacrifice, therefore, from our own property, and not from the property of others; since that which may be procured at a small expense, and which may easily be obtained, is more holy, more acceptable to the Gods, and better adapted |52 to the purposes of sacrifice, and to the exercise of continual piety. Hence, that which is neither holy, nor to be obtained at a small expense, is not to be offered in sacrifice, even though it should be present. SPAN 2.14. 14.But that animals do not rank among things which may be procured easily, and at a small expense, may be seen by directing our view to the greater part of our race: for we are not now to consider that some men abound in sheep, and others in oxen. In the first place, therefore, there are many nations that do not possess any of those animals which are offered in sacrifice, some ignoble animals, perhaps, excepted. And, in the second place, most of those that dwell in cities themselves, possess these but rarely. But if some one should say that the inhabitants of cities have not mild fruits in abundance; yet, though this should be admitted, they are not in want of the other vegetable productions of the earth; nor is it so difficult to procure fruits as it is to procure animals. Hence an abundance of fruits, and other vegetables, is more easily obtained than that of animals. But that which is obtained with facility, and at a small expense, contributes to incessant and universal deity. SPAN 2.15. 15.Experience also testifies that the Gods rejoice in this more than in sumptuous offerings. For when that Thessalian sacrificed to the Pythian deity oxen with gilt horns, and hecatombs, Apollo said, that the offering of Hermioneus was more gratifying to him, though he had only sacrificed as much meal as he could take with his three fingers out of a sack. But when the Thessalian, on hearing this, placed all the rest of his offerings on the altar the God again said, that by so doing his present was doubly more unacceptable to him than his former offering. Hence the sacrifice which is attended with a small expense is pleasing to the Gods, and divinity looks more to the disposition and manners of those that sacrifice, than to the multitude of the things which are sacrificed. SPAN 2.16. 16.Theopompus likewise narrates things similar to these, viz. that a certain Magnesian came from Asia to Delphi; a man very rich, and abounding in cattle, and that he was accustomed every year to make many and magnificent sacrifices to the Gods, partly through the abundance of his possessions, and partly through piety and wishing to please the Gods. But being thus disposed, he came to the divinity at Delphi, bringing with him a hecatomb for the God, and magnificently honouring Apollo, he consulted his oracle. Conceiving also that he worshipped the Gods in a manner more beautiful than that of all other men, he asked the Pythian deity who the man was that, with the greatest promptitude, and in the best manner, venerated divinity, and |53 made the most acceptable sacrifices, conceiving that on this occasion the God would deem him to be pre-eminent. The Pythian deity however answered, that Clearchus, who dwelt in Methydrium, a town of Arcadia, worshipped the Gods in a way surpassing that of all other men. But the Magnesian being astonished, was desirous of seeing Clearchus, and of learning from him the manner in which he performed his sacrifices. Swiftly, therefore, betaking himself to Methydrium, in the first place, indeed, he despised the smallness and vileness of the town, conceiving that neither any private person, nor even the whole city, could honour the Gods more magnificently and more beautifully than he did. Meeting, however, with the man, he thought fit to ask him after what manner he reverenced the Gods. But Clearchus answered him, that he diligently sacrificed to them at proper times in every month at the new moon, crowning and adorning the statues of Hermes and Hecate, and the other sacred images which were left to us by our ancestors, and that he also honoured the Gods with frankincense, and sacred wafers and cakes. He likewise said, that he performed public sacrifices annually, omitting no festive day; and that in these festivals he worshipped the Gods, not by slaying oxen, nor by cutting victims into fragments, but that he sacrificed whatever he might casually meet with, sedulously offering the first-fruits to the Gods of all the vegetable productions of the seasons, and of all the fruits with which he was supplied. He added, that some of these he placed before the [statues of the] Gods,6 but that he burnt others on their altars; and that, being studious of frugality, he avoided the sacrificing of oxen. SPAN 2.17. 17.By some writers, also, it is related, that certain tyrants, after the Carthaginians were conquered, having, with great strife among themselves, placed hetacombs before Apollo. Afterwards inquired of the God with which of the offerings he was most delighted; and that he answered, contrary to all their expectation, that he was most pleased with the cakes of Docimus. But this Docimus was an inhabitant of Delphi, and cultivated some rugged and stony land. Docimus, therefore, coming on that day from the place which he cultivated, took from a bag which was fastened round him a few handfuls of meal, and sacrificed them to the God, who was more delighted with his offering than with the magnificent sacrifices of the tyrants. Hence, also a certain poet, |54 because the affair was known, appears to have asserted things of a similar kind, as we are informed by Antiphanes in his Mystics: In simple offerings most the Gods delight: For though before them hecatombs are placed, Yet frankincense is burnt the last of all. An indication this that all the rest, Preceding, was a vain expense, bestowed Through ostentation, for the sake of men; But a small offering gratifies the Gods. Meder likewise, in the comedy called the Morose, says, Pious th'oblation which with frankincense And Popanum7 is made; for in the fire Both these, when placed, divinity accepts. SPAN 2.18. 18.On this account also, earthen, wooden, and wicker vessels were formerly used, and especially in public sacrifices, the ancients being persuaded that divinity is delighted with things of this kind. Whence, even now, the most ancient vessels, and which are made of wood, are thought to be more divine, both on account of the matter and the simplicity of the art by which they were fashioned. It is said, therefore, that Aeschylus, on his brother's asking him to write a Paean in honour of Apollo, replied, that the best Paean was written by Tynnichus8; and that if his composition were to be compared with that of Tynnichus, the same thing would take place as if new were compared with ancient statues. For the latter, though they are simple in their formation, are conceived to be divine; but the former, though they are most accurately elaborated, produce indeed admiration, but are not believed to possess so much of a divine nature. Hence Hesiod, praising the law of ancient sacrifices, very properly says, |55 Your country's rites in sacrifice observe: [In pious works] the ancient law is best 9. SPAN 2.19. 19.But those who have written concerning sacred operations and sacrifices, admonish us to be accurate in preserving what pertains to the popana, because these are more acceptable to the Gods than the sacrifice which is performed through the mactation of animals. Sophocles also, in describing a sacrifice which is pleasing to divinity, says in his Polyidus: The skins of sheep in sacrifice were used, Libations too of wine, grapes well preserved, And fruits collected in a heap of every kind; The olive's pinguid juice, and waxen work Most variegated, of the yellow bee. Formerly, also, there were venerable monuments in Delos of those who came from the Hyperboreans, bearing handfuls [of fruits]. It is necessary, therefore, that, being purified in our manners, we should make oblations, offering to the Gods those sacrifices which are pleasing to them, and not such as are attended with great expense. Now, however, if a man's body is not pure and invested with a splendid garment, he does not think it is qualified for the sanctity of sacrifice. But when he has rendered his body splendid, together with his garment, though his soul at the same time is not, purified from vice, yet he betakes himself to sacrifice, and thinks that it is a thing of no consequence; as if divinity did not especially rejoice in that which is most divine in our nature, when it is in a pure condition, as being allied to his essence. In Epidaurus, therefore, there was the following inscription on the doors of the temple: Into an odorous temple, he who goes Should pure and holy be; but to be wise In what to sanctity pertains, is to be pure. SPAN 2.20. 20.But that God is not delighted with the amplitude of sacrifices, but with any casual offering, is evident from this, that of our daily food, whatever it may be that is placed before us, we all of us make an |56 offering to the Gods, before we have tasted it ourselves; this offering being small indeed, but the greatest testimony of honour to divinity. Moreover, Theophrastus shows, by enumerating many of the rites of different countries, that the sacrifices of the ancients were from fruits, and he narrates what pertains to libations in the following manner: "Ancient sacrifices were for the most part performed with sobriety. But those sacrifices are sober in which the libations are made with water. Afterwards, however, libations were made with honey. For we first received this liquid fruit prepared for us by the bees. In the third place, libations were made with oil; and in the fourth and last place with wine." SPAN 2.21. 21.These things, however, are testified not only by the pillars which are preserved in Cyrbe 10, and which contain, as it were, certain true descriptions of the Cretan sacred rites of the Corybantes; but also by Empedocles, who, in discussing what pertains to sacrifices and theogony, or the generation of the Gods, says: With them nor Mars nor tumult dire was found, Nor Saturn, Neptune, or the sovereign Jove, But Venus [beauty's] queen. And Venus is friendship. Afterwards he adds, With painted animals, and statues once of sacred form, with unguents sweet of smell, The fume of frankincense and genuine myrrh, And with libations poured upon the ground of yellow honey, Venus was propitious made. Which ancient custom is still even now preserved by some persons as a certain vestige of the truth. And in the last place, Empedocles says, Nor then were altars wet with blood of bulls Irrationally slain. SPAN 2.22. 22.For, as it appears to me, when friendship and a proper sense of the duties pertaining to kindred natures, was possessed by all men, no one slaughtered any living being, in consequence of thinking that other |57 animals were allied to him. But when strife, and tumult, every kind of contention, and the principle of war, invaded mankind, then, for the first time, no one in reality spared any one of his kindred natures. The following particulars, likewise, ought to be considered: For, as though there is an affinity between us and noxious men, who, as it were, by a certain impetus of their own nature and depravity, are incited to injure anyone they may happen to meet, yet we think it requisite that all of them should be punished and destroyed; thus also, with respect to those irrational animals that are naturally malefic and unjust, and who are impelled to injure those that approach them, it is perhaps fit that they should be destroyed. But with respect to other animals who do not at all act unjustly, and are not naturally impelled to injure us, it is certainly unjust to destroy and murder them, no otherwise than it would be to slay men who are not iniquitous. And this seems to evince that the justice between us and other animals does not arise from some of them being naturally noxious and malefic, but others not, as is also the case with respect to men. SPAN 2.23. 23.Are therefore those animals to be sacrificed to the Gods which are thought to be deserving of death? But how can this be possible, if they are naturally depraved? For it is no more proper to sacrifice such as these, than it would be to sacrifice mutilated animals. For thus, indeed, we shall offer the first-fruits of things of an evil nature, but we shall not sacrifice for the sake of honouring the Gods. Hence, if animals are to be sacrificed to the Gods, we should sacrifice those that are perfectly innoxious. It is however acknowledged, that those animals are not to be destroyed who do not at all injure us, so that neither are they to be sacrificed to the Gods. If, therefore, neither these, nor those that are noxious, are to be sacrificed, is it not evident that we should abstain from them more than from any thing else, and that we should not sacrifice any one of them, though it is fit that some of them should be destroyed? SPAN 2.24. 24.To which may be added, that we should sacrifice to the Gods for the sake of three things, viz. either for the sake of honouring them, or of testifying our gratitude, or through our want of good. For, as we offer first-fruits to good men, thus also we think it is necessary that we should offer them to the Gods. But we honour the Gods, either exploring the means of averting evils, and obtaining good, or when we have been previously benefited, or in order that we may obtain some present advantage and assistance, or merely for the purpose of venerating the goodness of their nature. So that if the first-fruits of animals are to be |58 offered to the Gods, some of them for the sake of this are to be sacrificed. For whatever we sacrifice, we sacrifice for the sake of some one of the above mentioned particulars. Is it therefore to be thought that God is honoured by us, when we are directly seen to act unjustly through the first-fruits which we offer to him? Or will he not rather think that he is dishonoured by such a sacrifice, in which, by immolating animals that have not at all injured us, we acknowledge that we have acted unjustly. So that no one of other animals is to be sacrificed for the sake of honouring divinity. Nor yet are they to be sacrificed for the purpose of testifying our gratitude to the Gods. For he who makes a just retribution for the benefits he has received, ought not to make it by doing an injury to certain other animals. For he will no more appear to make a retribution than he who, plundering his neighbour of his property, should bestow it on another person for the sake of honour. Neither are animals to be sacrificed for the sake of obtaining a certain good of which we are in want. For he who endeavours to be benefited by acting unjustly, is to be suspected as one who would not be grateful even when he is benefited. So that animals are not to be sacrificed to the Gods through the expectation of deriving advantage from the sacrifice. For he who does this, may perhaps elude men, but it is impossible that he can elude divinity. If, therefore, we ought to sacrifice for the sake of a certain thing, but this is not to be done for the sake of any of the before mentioned particulars, it is evident that animals ought not to be sacrificed. SPAN 2.25. 25.For, by endeavouring to obliterate the truth of these things through the pleasures which we derive from sacrifices, we deceive ourselves, but cannot deceive divinity. of those animals, therefore, which are of an ignoble nature, which do not impart to our life any superior utility, and which do not afford us any pleasure, we do not sacrifice any one to the Gods. For who ever sacrificed serpents, scorpions, and apes, or any one of such like animals? But we do not abstain from any one of those animals which afford a certain utility to our life, or which have something in them that contributes to our enjoyments; since we, in reality, cut their throats, and excoriate them, under the patronage of divinity 11. For we sacrifice to the Gods oxen and sheep, and besides these, stags and birds, and fat hogs, though they do not at all participate of purity, but afford us delight. And of these animals, indeed, some, by co-operating with our labours, afford assistance to our life, but others supply us with |59 food, or administer to our other wants. But those which effect neither of these, yet, through the enjoyment which is derived from them, are slain by men in sacrifices similarly with those who afford us utility. We do not, however, sacrifice asses or elephants, or any other of those animals that co-operate with us in our labours, but are not subservient to our pleasure; though, sacrificing being excepted, we do not abstain from such like animals, but we cut their throats on account of the delight with which the deglutition of them is attended; and of those which are fit to be sacrificed, we do not sacrifice such as are acceptable to the Gods, but such as in a greater degree gratify the desires of men; thus testifying against ourselves, that we persist in sacrificing to the Gods, for the sake of our own pleasure, and not for the sake of gratifying the Gods. SPAN 2.26. 26.But of the Syrians, the Jews indeed, through the sacrifice which they first made, even now, says Theophrastus, sacrifice animals, and if we were persuaded by them to sacrifice in the same way that they do, we should abstain from the deed. For they do not feast on the flesh of the sacrificed animals, but having thrown the whole of the victims into the fire, and poured much honey and wine on them during the night, they swiftly consume the sacrifice, in order that the all-seeing sun may not become a spectator of it. And they do this, fasting during all the intermediate days, and through the whole of this time, as belonging to the class of philosophers, and also discourse with each other about the divinity 12. But in the night, they apply themselves to the theory of the stars, surveying them, and through prayers invoking God. For these make offerings both of other animals and themselves, doing this from necessity, and not from their own will. The truth of this, however, may be learnt by any one who directs his attention to the Egyptians, the most learned of all men; who are so far from slaying other animals, that they make the images of these to be imitations of the Gods; so adapted and allied do they conceive these to be both to Gods and men. SPAN 2.27. 27.For at first, indeed, sacrifices of fruits were made to the Gods; but, in the course of time, men becoming negligent of sanctity, in consequence of fruits being scarce, and through the want of legitimate nutriment, being impelled to eat each other, then supplicating divinity with many prayers, they first began to make oblations of themselves to |60 the Gods, not only consecrating to the divinities whatever among their possessions was most beautiful, but, proceeding beyond this, they sacrificed those of their own species. Hence, even to the present time, not only in Arcadia, in the Lupercal festivals, and in Carthage, men are sacrificed in common to Saturn, but periodically, also, for the sake of remembering the legal institute, they sprinkle the altars of those of the same tribe with blood, although the rites of their sacrifices exclude, by the voice of the crier, him from engaging in them who is accused of human slaughter. Proceeding therefore from hence, they made the bodies of other animals supply the place of their own in sacrifices, and again, through a satiety of legitimate nutriment, becoming oblivious of piety, they were induced by voracity to leave nothing untasted, nothing un-devoured. And this is what now happens to all men with respect to the aliment from fruits. For when, by the assumption of them, they have alleviated their necessary indigence, then searching for a superfluity of satiety, they labour to procure many things for food which are placed beyond the limits of temperance. Hence, as if they had made no ignoble sacrifices to the Gods, they proceeded also to taste the animals which they immolated; and from this, as a principle of the deed, the eating of animals became an addition to men to the nutriment derived from fruits. As, therefore, antiquity offered the first produce of fruits to the Gods, and gladly, after their pious sacrifice, tasted what they offered, thus also, when they sacrificed the firstlings of animals to the divinities, they thought that the same thing ought to be done by them, though ancient piety did not ordain these particulars after this manner, but venerated each of the Gods from fruits. For with such oblations, both nature, and every sense of the human soul, are delighted. No altar then was wet with blood of bulls Irrationally slain; but this was thought To be of every impious deed the worst, Limbs to devour of brutes deprived of life. SPAN 2.28. 28.The truth of this may also be perceived from the altar which is even now preserved about Delos, which, because no animal is brought to, or is sacrificed upon it, is called the altar of the pious. So that the inhabitants not only abstain from sacrificing animals, but they likewise conceive, that those who established, are similarly pious with those who use the altar. Hence, the Pythagoreans having adopted this mode of sacrifice, abstained from animal food through the whole of life. But when they distributed to the Gods a certain animal instead of themselves, they merely tasted of it, living in reality without touching other |61 animals. We, however, do not act after this manner; but being filled with animal diet, we have arrived at this manifold illegality in our life by slaughtering animals, and using them for food. For neither is it proper that the altars of the Gods should be defiled with murder, nor that food of this kind should be touched by men, as neither is it fit that men should eat one another; but the precept which is still preserved at Athens, should be obeyed through the whole of life. SPAN 2.29. 29.For formerly, as we have before observed, when men sacrificed to the Gods fruits and not animals, and did not assume the latter for food, it is said, that a common sacrifice being celebrated at Athens, one Diomus, or Sopater, who was not a native, but cultivated some land in Attica, seizing a sharp axe which was near to him, and being excessively indigt, struck with it an ox, who, coming from his labour, approached to a table, on which were openly placed cakes and other offerings which were to be burnt as a sacrifice to the Gods, and ate some, but trampled on the rest of the offerings. The ox, therefore, being killed, Diomus, whose anger was now appeased, at the same time perceived what kind of deed he had perpetrated. And the ox, indeed, he buried. But embracing a voluntary banishment, as if he had been accused of impiety, he fled to Crete. A great dryness, however, taking place in the Attic land from vehement heat, and a dreadful sterility of fruit, and the Pythian deity being in consequence of it consulted by the general consent, the God answered, that the Cretan exile must expiate the crime; and that, if the murderer was punished, and the statue of the slain ox was erected in the place in which it fell, this would be beneficial both to those who had and those who had not tasted its flesh. An inquiry therefore being made into the affair, and Sopater, together with the deed, having been discovered, he, thinking that he should be liberated from the difficulty in which he was now involved, through the accusation of impiety, if the same thing was done by all men in common, said to those who came to him, that it was necessary an ox should be slain by the city. But, on their being dubious who should strike the ox, he said that he would undertake to do it, if they would make him a citizen, and would be partakers with him of the slaughter. This, therefore, being granted, they returned to the city, and ordered the deed to be accomplished in such a way as it is performed by them at present, [and which was as follows:] SPAN 2.30. 30.They selected virgins who were drawers of water; but these brought water for the purpose of sharpening an axe and a knife. And these being sharpened, one person gave the axe, another struck with it the ox, |62 and a third person cut the throat of the ox. But after this, having excoriated the animal, all that were present ate of its flesh. These things therefore being performed, they sewed up the hide of the ox, and having stuffed it with straw, raised it upright in the same form which it had when alive, and yoked it to a plough, as if it was about to work with it. Instituting also a judicial process, respecting the slaughter of the ox, they cited all those who were partakers of the deed, to defend their conduct. But as the drawers of water accused those who sharpened the axe and the knife, as more culpable than themselves, and those who sharpened these instruments accused him who gave the axe, and he accused him who cut the throat of the ox, and this last person accused the knife,---hence, as the knife could not speak, they condemned it as the cause of the slaughter. From that time also, even till now, during the festival sacred to Jupiter, in the Acropolis, at Athens, the sacrifice of an ox is performed after the same manner. For, placing cakes on a brazen table, they drive oxen round it, and the ox that tastes of the cakes that are distributed on the table, is slain. The race likewise of those who perform this, still remains. And all those, indeed, who derive their origin from Sopater are called boutupoi [i.e. slayers of oxen]; but those who are descended from him that drove the ox round the table, are called kentriadai, [or stimulators.] And those who originate from him that cut the throat of the ox, are denominated daitroi, [or dividers,] on account of the banquet which takes place from the distribution of flesh. But when they have filled the hide, and the judicial process is ended, they throw the knife into the sea. SPAN 2.31. 31.Hence, neither did the ancients conceive it to be holy to slay animals that co-operated with us in works beneficial to our life, and we should avoid doing this even now. And as formerly it was not pious for men to injure these animals, so now it should be considered as unholy to slay them for the sake of food. If, however, this is to be done from motives of religious reference of the Gods, yet every passion or affection which is essentially produced from bodies is to be rejected, in order that we may not procure food from improper substances, and thus have an incentive to violence as the intimate associate of our life. For by such a rejection we shall, at least, all of us derive great benefit in what pertains to be our mutual security, if we do not in anything else. For those whose sense is averse to the destruction of animals of a species different from their own, will evidently abstain from injuring those of their own kind. Hence it would perhaps have been best, if men in after-times had immediately abstained from slaughtering these animals; but since no one is free from error, it remains for posterity to take away by |63 purifications the crime of their ancestors, respecting nutriment. This, however, will be effected, if, placing before our eyes, the dire nature of such conduct, we exclaim with Empedocles: Ah me, while yet exempt from such a crime, Why was I not destroyed by cruel Time, Before these lips began the guilty deed, On the dire nutriment of flesh to feed? For in those only the appropriate sense sympathetically grieves for errors that have been committed, who endeavour to find a remedy for the evils with which they are afflicted; so that every one, by offering pure and holy sacrifices to the divinity, may through sanctity obtain the greatest benefits from the Gods. SPAN 2.32. 32.But the benefit derived from fruits is the first and the greatest of all others, and which, as soon as they are matured, should alone be offered to the Gods, and to Earth, by whom they are produced. For she is the common Vesta of Gods and men; and it is requisite that all of us, reclining on her surface, as on the bosom of our mother and nurse, should celebrate her divinity, and love her with a parental affection, as the source of our existence. For thus, when we exchange this life for another, we shall again be thought worthy of a residence in the heavens, and of associating with all the celestial Gods, whom, now beholding 13, we ought to venerate with those fruits of which they are the causes, sacrificing indeed to them from all these, when they have arrived at maturity, but not conceiving all of us to be sufficiently worthy to sacrifice to the Gods. For as all things are not to be sacrificed to the Gods, so neither perhaps are the Gods gratified by the sacrifice of everyone. This, therefore, is the substance of the arguments adduced by Theophrastus, to show that animals ought not to be sacrificed; exclusive |64 of the interspersed fabulous narrations, and a few things which we have added to what he has said. SPAN
11. Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, 1.7 (5th cent. CE - 5th cent. CE)



Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
aetiology of sacrifice Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
animals, sacrificial Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
animals Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
aphrodite Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
aristophanes Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
athenaeus Naiden, Smoke Signals for the Gods: Ancient Greek Sacrifice from the Archaic through Roman Periods (2013) 84
athens, sacred regulations Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
bremmer, j. Naiden, Smoke Signals for the Gods: Ancient Greek Sacrifice from the Archaic through Roman Periods (2013) 84
burkert, walter Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
casabona, jean Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
cattle Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
delphic oracle Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
detienne, marcel Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
eitrem, samson Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
empedocles Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
eusebius, attacks apollonius Simmons, Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian (1995) 313
golden age Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
guilt Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
hesiod Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
homer, iliad Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
homer, odyssey Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
killing Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
laws, of the polis Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
menander Naiden, Smoke Signals for the Gods: Ancient Greek Sacrifice from the Archaic through Roman Periods (2013) 84
naiden, fred Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
oracles, delphic Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
parker, robert c. t. Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
plutarch Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
polis-religion Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
porphyry Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
prayer Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
price, simon r. f. Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
pythagoras, doctrine of justice Simmons, Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian (1995) 313
pythagoras Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
pythagoreanism' Simmons, Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian (1995) 313
religion, in the georgics Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
religious authority, sacred law/prescriptions Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
sacrifice (thysia), animal slaughter Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
sacrifice (thysia), rules and prescriptions Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
sacrifice (thysia), standards of decorum Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
sacrifice (thysia) Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
stengel, paul Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
themis Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147
theophrastus Gale, Virgil on the Nature of Things: The Georgics, Lucretius and the Didactic Tradition (2000) 103
van straten, f. Naiden, Smoke Signals for the Gods: Ancient Greek Sacrifice from the Archaic through Roman Periods (2013) 84
vernant, jean-pierre Eidinow and Kindt, The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion (2015) 471
zeus, polieus Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 147