Superphysics Superphysics
Part 120

Bayle's 19 philosophic maxims

by Leibniz
11 minutes  • 2150 words
  1. Plutarch, in his treatise On Isis and Osiris, knows of no writer more ancient than Zoroaster the magician, as he calls him, that is likely to have taught the two principles. Trogus or Justin makes him a King of the Bactrians, who was conquered by Ninus or Semiramis; he attributes to him the knowledge of astronomy and the invention of magic. But this magic was apparently the religion of the fire-worshippers: and it appears that he looked upon [209]light and heat as the good principle, while he added the evil, that is to say, opacity, darkness, cold. Pliny cites the testimony of a certain Hermippus, an interpreter of Zoroaster’s books, according to whom Zoroaster was a disciple in the art of magic to one named Azonacus; unless indeed this be a corruption of Oromases, of whom I shall speak presently, and whom Plato in the Alcibiades names as the father of Zoroaster. Modern Orientals give the name Zerdust to him whom the Greeks named Zoroaster; he is regarded as corresponding to Mercury, because with some nations Wednesday (mercredi) takes its name from him. It is difficult to disentangle the story of Zoroaster and know exactly when he lived. Suidas puts him five hundred years before the taking of Troy. Some Ancients cited by Pliny and Plutarch took it to be ten times as far back. But Xanthus the Lydian (in the preface to Diogenes Laertius) put him only six hundred years before the expedition of Xerxes. Plato declares in the same passage, as M. Bayle observes, that the magic of Zoroaster was nothing but the study of religion. Mr. Hyde in his book on the religion of the ancient Persians tries to justify this magic, and to clear it not only of the crime of impiety but also of idolatry. Fire-worship prevailed among the Persians and the Chaldaeans also; it is thought that Abraham left it when he departed from Ur of the Chaldees. Mithras was the sun and he was also the God of the Persians; and according to Ovid’s account horses were offered in sacrifice to him,

Placat equo Persis radiis Hyperiona cinctum,

Ne detur celeri victima tarda Deo.

But Mr. Hyde believes that they only made use of the sun and fire in their worship as symbols of the Divinity. It may be necessary to distinguish, as elsewhere, between the Wise and the Multitude. There are in the splendid ruins of Persepolis or of Tschelminaar (which means forty columns) sculptured representations of their ceremonies. An ambassador of Holland had had them sketched at very great cost by a painter, who had devoted a considerable time to the task: but by some chance or other these sketches fell into the hands of a well-known traveller, M. Chardin, according to what he tells us himself. It would be a pity if they were lost. These ruins are one of the most ancient and most beautiful monuments of the earth; and in this respect I wonder at such lack of curiosity in a century so curious as ours.

  1. The ancient Greeks and the modern Orientals agree in saying that Zoroaster called the good God Oromazes, or rather Oromasdes, and the evil God Arimanius. When I pondered on the fact that great princes of Upper Asia had the name of Hormisdas and that Irminius or Herminius was the name of a god or ancient hero of the Scythian Celts, that is, of the Germani, it occurred to me that this Arimanius or Irminius might have been a great conqueror of very ancient time coming from the west, just as Genghis Khan and Tamburlaine were later, coming from the east. Arimanius would therefore have come from the north-west, that is, from Germania and Sarmatia, through the territory of the Alani and Massagetae, to raid the dominions of one Ormisdas, a great king in Upper Asia, just as other Scythians did in the days of Cyaxares, King of the Medes, according to the account given by Herodotus. The monarch governing civilized peoples, and working to defend them against the barbarians, would have gone down to posterity, amongst the same peoples, as the good god; but the chief of these devastators will have become the symbol of the evil principle: that is altogether reasonable. It appears from this same mythology that these two princes contended for long, but that neither of them was victorious. Thus they both held their own, just as the two principles shared the empire of the world according to the hypothesis attributed to Zoroaster.

  2. It remains to be proved that an ancient god or hero of the Germani was called Herman, Arimanius or Irminius. Tacitus relates that the three tribes which composed Germania, the Ingaevones, the Istaevones and the Herminones or Hermiones, were thus named from the three sons of Mannus. Whether that be true or not, he wished in any case to indicate that there was a hero named Herminius, from whom he was told the Herminones were named. Herminones, Hermenner, Hermunduri all mean the same, that is, Soldiers. Even in the Dark Ages Arimanni were viri militares, and there is feudum Arimandiae in Lombard law.

  3. I have shown elsewhere that apparently the name of one part of Germania was given to the whole, and that from these Herminones or Hermunduri all the Teutonic peoples were named Hermanni or Germani. The difference between these two words is only in the force of the aspiration: there is the same difference of initial letter between the Germani of the Latins and Hermanos of the Spaniards, or in the Gammarus of the Latins and the Hummer (that is, [211]marine crayfish) of the Low Germans. Besides it is very usual for one part of a nation to give the name to the whole: so all the Germani were called Alemanni by the French, and yet this, according to the old nomenclature, only applied to the Suabians and the Swiss. Although Tacitus did not actually know the origin of the name of the Germani, he said something which supports my opinion, when he observed that it was a name which inspired terror, taken or given ob metum. In fact it signifies a warrior: Heer, Hari is army, whence comes Hariban, or ‘call to Haro’, that is, a general order to be with the army, since corrupted into Arrièreban. Thus Hariman or Ariman, German Guerre-man, is a soldier. For as Hari, Heer means army, so Wehr signifies arms, Wehren to fight, to make war, the word Guerre, Guerra coming doubtless from the same source. I have already spoken of the feudum Arimandiae: not only did Herminones or Germani signify the same, but also that ancient Herman, so-called son of Mannus, appears to have been given this name as being pre-eminently a warrior.

  4. Now it is not the passage in Tacitus only which indicates for us this god or hero: we cannot doubt the existence of one of this name among these peoples, since Charlemagne found and destroyed near the Weser the column called Irminsäule, erected in honour of this god. And that combined with the passage in Tacitus leaves us with the conclusion that it was not that famous Arminius who was an enemy of the Romans, but a much greater and more ancient hero, that this cult concerned. Arminius bore the same name as those who are called Hermann to-day. Arminius was not great enough, nor fortunate enough, nor well enough known throughout Germania to attain to the honour of a public cult, even at the hands of remote tribes, like the Saxons, who came long after him into the country of the Cherusci. And our Arminius, taken by the Asiatics for the evil God, provides ample confirmation of my opinion. For in these matters conjectures confirm one another without any logical circle, when their foundations tend towards one and the same end.

  5. It is not beyond belief that the Hermes (that is, Mercury) of the Greeks is the same Herminius or Arimanius. He may have been an inventor or promoter of the arts and of a slightly more civilized life among his own people and in the countries where he held supremacy, while amongst his enemies he was looked upon as the author of confusion. Who knows but that he may have [212]penetrated even into Egypt, like the Scythians who in pursuit of Sesostris came nearly so far. Theut, Menes and Hermes were known and revered in Egypt. They might have been Tuiscon, his son Mannus and Herman, son of Mannus, according to the genealogy of Tacitus. Menes is held to be the most ancient king of the Egyptians; ‘Theut’ was with them a name for Mercury. At least Theut or Tuiscon, from whom Tacitus derives the descent of the Germani, and from whom the Teutons, Tuitsche (that is, Germani) even to-day have their name, is the same as that Teutates who according to Lucan was worshipped by the Gauls, and whom Caesar took pro Dite Patre, for Pluto, because of the resemblance between his Latin name and that of Teut or Thiet, Titan, Theodon; this in ancient times signified men, people, and also an excellent man (like the word ‘baron’), in short, a prince. There are authorities for all these significations: but one must not delay over this point. Herr Otto Sperling, who is well known for various learned writings, but has many more in readiness to appear, in a special dissertation has treated the question of this Teutates, God of the Celts. Some observations which I imparted to him on that subject have been published, with his reply, in the Literary News of the Baltic Sea. He interprets this passage from Lucan somewhat otherwise than I do:

Teutates, pollensque feris altaribus Hesus,

Et Tamaris Scythicae non mitior ara Dianae.

Hesus was, it appears, the God of War, who was called Ares by the Greeks and Erich by the ancient Germani, whence still remains Erichtag, Tuesday. The letters R and S, which are produced by the same organ, are easily interchanged, for instance: Moor and Moos, Geren and Gesen, Er war and Er was, Fer, Hierro, Eiron, Eisen. Likewise Papisius, Valesius, Fusius, instead of Papirius, Valerius, Furius, with the ancient Romans. As for Taramis or perhaps Taranis, one knows that Taran was the thunder, or the God of Thunder, with the ancient Celts, called Thor by the Germani of the north; whence the English have preserved the name ‘Thursday’, jeudi, diem Jovis. And the passage from Lucan means that the altar of Taran, God of the Celts, was not less cruel than that of Diana in Tauris: Taranis aram non mitiorem ara Dianae Scythicae fuisse.

  1. It is also not impossible that there was a time when the [213]western or Celtic princes made themselves masters of Greece, of Egypt and a good part of Asia, and that their cult remained in those countries. When one considers with what rapidity the Huns, the Saracens and the Tartars gained possession of a great part of our continent one will be the less surprised at this; and it is confirmed by the great number of words in the Greek and German tongues which correspond so closely. Callimachus, in a hymn in honour of Apollo, seems to imply that the Celts who attacked the Temple at Delphi, under their Brennus, or chief, were descendants of the ancient Titans and Giants who made war on Jupiter and the other gods, that is to say, on the Princes of Asia and of Greece. It may be that Jupiter is himself descended from the Titans or Theodons, that is, from the earlier Celto-Scythian princes; and the material collected by the late Abbé de la Charmoye in his Celtic Origins conforms to that possibility. Yet there are opinions on other matters in this work by this learned writer which to me do not appear probable, especially when he excludes the Germani from the number of the Celts, not having recalled sufficiently the facts given by ancient writers and not being sufficiently aware of the relation between the ancient Gallic and Germanic tongues. Now the so-called Giants, who wished to scale the heavens, were new Celts who followed the path of their ancestors; and Jupiter, although of their kindred, as it were, was constrained to resist them. Just so did the Visigoths established in Gallic territory resist, together with the Romans, other peoples of Germania and Scythia, who succeeded them under Attila their leader, he being at that time in control of the Scythian, Sarmatic and Germanic tribes from the frontiers of Persia up to the Rhine. But the pleasure one feels when one thinks to find in the mythologies of the gods some trace of the old history of fabulous times has perhaps carried me too far, and I know not whether I shall have been any more successful than Goropius Becanus, Schrieckius, Herr Rudbeck and the Abbe de la Charmoye.

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