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I. (1) Having mentioned the Essenes, who in all respects selected for their admiration and for their especial adoption the practical course of life, and who excel in all, or what perhaps may be a less unpopular and invidious thing to say, in most of its parts, I will now proceed, in the regular order of my subject, to speak of those who have embraced the speculative life, and I will say what appears to me to be desirable to be said on the subject, not drawing any fictitious statements from my own head for the sake of improving the appearance of that side of the question which nearly all poets and essayists are much accustomed to do in the scarcity of good actions to extol, but with the greatest simplicity adhering strictly to the truth itself, to which I know well that even the most eloquent men do not keep close in their speeches. Nevertheless we must make the endeavour and labour to attain to this virtue; for it is not right that the greatness of the virtue of the men should be a cause of silence to those who do not think it right that anything which is creditable should be suppressed in silence; (2) but the deliberate intention of the philosopher is at once displayed from the appellation given to them; for with strict regard to etymology, they are called therapeutae and therapeutrides, {1}{from therapeuoµ, “to heal.”} either because they process an art of medicine more excellent than that in general use in cities (for that only heals bodies, but the other heals souls which are under the mastery of terrible and almost incurable diseases, which pleasures and appetites, fears and griefs, and covetousness, and follies, and injustice, and all the rest of the innumerable multitude of other passions and vices, have inflicted upon them), or else because they have been instructed by nature and the sacred laws to serve the living God, who is superior to the good, and more simple than the one, and more ancient than the unit; (3) with whom, however, who is there of those who profess piety that we can possibly compare? Can we compare those who honour the elements, earth, water, air, and fire? to whom different nations have given different names, calling fire Hephaestus, I imagine because of its kindling, {2}{the Greek is exapsis, as if eµphaistos were also derived from aptomai, being akin to apheµ.} and the air Hera, I imagine because of its being raised up, {3}{the Greek word is hairesthai, to which Heµra has some similarity in sound.} and raised aloft to a great height, and water Poseidon, probably because of its being drinkable, {4}{the Greek word is poton, derived from 3rd sing. perf. pass. of pinoµ pepotai, from the 2nd sing. of which Peposai, poseidoµn may probably be derived.} and the earth Demeter, because it appears to be the Mother{5}{the Greek word is meµteµr, evidently the root of Deµmeµteµr.} of all plants and of all animals. (4) But these names are the inventions of sophists: but the elements are inanimate matter, and immovable by any power of their own, being subjected to the operator on them to receive from him every kind of shape or distinctive quality which he chooses to give them. (5) But what shall we say of those men who worship the perfect things made of them, the sun, the moon, and the other stars, planets, or fixed-stars, or the whole heaven, or the universal world? And yet even they do not owe their existence to themselves, but to some creator whose knowledge has been most perfect, both in mind and degree. (6) What, again, shall we say of the demi-gods? This is a matter which is perfectly ridiculous: for how can the same man be both mortal and immortal, even if we leave out of the question the fact that the origin of the birth of all these beings is liable to reproach, as being full of youthful intemperance, which its authors endeavour with great profanity to impute to blessed and divine natures, as if they, being madly in love with mortal women, had connected themselves with them; while we know gods to be free from all participation in and from all influence of passion, and completely happy. (7) Again, what shall we say of those who worship carved works and images? the substances of which, stone and wood, were only a little while before perfectly destitute of shape, before the stone-cutters or wood-cutters hewed them out of the kindred stuff around them, while the remainder of the material, their near relation and brother as it were, is made into ewers, or foot-pans, and other common and dishonoured vessels, which are employed rather for uses of darkness than for such as will bear the light; (8) for as for the customs of the Egyptians, it is not creditable even to mention them, for they have introduced irrational beasts, and those not merely such as are domestic and tame, but even the most ferocious of wild beasts to share the honours of the gods, taking some out of each of the elements beneath the moon, as the lion from among the animals which live on the earth, the crocodile from among those which live in the water, the kite from such as traverse the air, and the Egyptian iris. (9) And though they actually see that these animals are born, and that they are in need of food, and that they are insatiable in voracity and full of all sorts of filth, and moreover poisonous and devourers of men, and liable to be destroyed by all kinds of diseases, and that in fact they are often destroyed not only by natural deaths, but also by violence, still they, civilised men, worship these untameable and ferocious beasts; though rational men, they worship irrational beasts; though they have a near relationship to the Deity, they worship creatures unworthy of being compared even to some of the beasts; though appointed as rulers and masters, they worship creatures which are by nature subjects and slaves.


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