Friday, July 03, 2015


Divine Abstractions

Lucian, Parliament of the Gods 13 (Momus speaking; tr. A.M. Harmon):
But there are many outlandish names that have come to my ears, of beings not to be found among us and unable to exist at all as realities; and over these too, Zeus, I make very merry. Where is that famous Virtue, and Nature, and Destiny, and Chance? They are unsubstantial, empty appellations, excogitated by those dolts, the philosophers. All the same, artificial as they are, they have so imposed upon the witless that nobody is willing to do as much as sacrifice to us, knowing that though he offer ten thousand hecatombs, nevertheless "Chance" will effect what is "fated" and what has been "spun" for every man from the beginning. So I should like to ask you, Zeus, if you have anywhere seen either Virtue or Nature or Destiny. I know that you too are always hearing of them in the discussions of the philosophers, unless you are deaf, so as not to be able to hear them screaming.

ἐγὼ δὲ καὶ ξένα ὀνόματα πολλὰ ἤδη ἀκούων οὔτε ὄντων τινῶν παρ᾿ ἡμῖν οὔτε συστῆναι ὅλως δυναμένων, πάνυ, ὦ Ζεῦ, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτοις γελῶ. ἢ ποῦ γάρ ἐστιν ἡ πολυθρύλητος ἀρετὴ καὶ φύσις καὶ εἱμαρμένη καὶ τύχη, ἀνυπόστατα καὶ κενὰ πραγμάτων ὀνόματα ὑπὸ βλακῶν ἀνθρώπων τῶν φιλοσόφων ἐπινοηθέντα; καὶ ὅμως αὐτοσχέδια ὄντα οὕτω τοὺς ἀνοήτους πέπεικεν, ὥστε οὐδεὶς ἡμῖν οὐδὲ θύειν βούλεται, εἰδὼς ὅτι, κἂν μυρίας ἑκατόμβας παραστήσῃ, ὅμως τὴν τύχην πράξουσαν τὰ μεμοιραμένα καὶ ἃ ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἑκάστῳ ἐπεκλώσθη. ἡδέως ἂν οὖν ἐροίμην σε, ὦ Ζεῦ, εἴ που εἶδες ἢ ἀρετὴν ἢ φύσιν ἢ εἱμαρμένην; ὅτι μὲν γὰρ ἀεὶ καὶ σὺ ἀκούεις ἐν ταῖς τῶν φιλοσόφων διατριβαῖς, οἶδα, εἰ μὴ καὶ κωφός τις εἶ, ὡς βοώντων αὐτῶν μὴ ἐπαΐειν.

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