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From Greek and Roman Mythology & Heroic Legend, by Professor H. Steuding, Translated from the German and edited by Lionel D. Barnett. The Temple Primers,, London: J. M Dent; 1901; pp. i-iv.






Black and white engraving of the Otricoli bust of Zeus.


Black and white and red woodcut of the title page.


1901       29 & 30 BEDFORD STREET · LONDON


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STUDY of Greek religion needs no apology, and should need no bush. This all must feel who have looked upon the creations of the art it inspired. But to purify and strengthen admiration by the higher light of knowledge is no work of ease.

No truth is more vital than the seeming paradox which declares that Greek myths are not nature-myths. The ape is not further removed from the man than is the nature-myth from the religious fancy of the Greeks as we meet them in history. The Greek myth is the child of the devout and lovely imagination of the noble race that dwelt around the Aegean. Coarse fantasies of brutish forefathers in their Northern homes softened beneath the southern sun into a pure and godly beauty, and thus gave birth to the divine forms of Hellenic religion.

Comparative Mythology can teach us much. It can shew how gods are born in the mind of the savage and moulded into his image. But it cannot reveal to us the heart of the Greek as his devout thoughts turned towards the gods. Greece sees God with her own eyes; and if we would share the loveliness of her vision we must put away from our thoughts the uncouth forms which had been worn by her northern forefathers’ deities, the slough cast off by her gods as they grew into shapes of godliness and beauty. True it is that in regions where nature and history hindered Greek religion from developing its potential riches, that slough was still often trailed by the figures of popular faith; but these exceptions point all the more effectively the lesson of evolution in Greek religion.


While the plastic fancy of the Greek was actively remodelling the uncouth and formless conceptions of barbarous faith into moral and human personalities, the Roman went on a different course. The sternly legal mind of Rome, which looked upon the person merely as a unit in corporations ruled by definite law, was little likely to lend human personality to its conceptions of divine forces, its numina. Instead of gods it worshipped deified functions; and as the whole sphere of the community’s political and social life was methodically mapped out into divisions and subdivisions, and each of these was put under the presidency of its own deified self, the result was the Indigitamenta, in whose mathematical precision the legal spirit of Roman religion reached its climax. Then followed the inrush of foreign worships, and the native religion died.

Thus there are few more instructive studies than that of the gods of Greece and the deities of Rome. And withal it is a study which of late years has met with little general recognition in England, if we can judge by the number of reasonably scientific books treating of it. The present translation of Professor Steuding’s valuable little work has been brought out in the hope that the interest of the public is but slumbering. I have added nothing but a few notes to the original, and I have altered little, even in parts where my own judgment led me to dissent from the learned author. A few illustrations have been put in, and the marks of the quantities transferred from the text to the index.

Department of Or. P. B. & MSS.
         British Museum.

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