The Genealogical School.
Identification and Comparison.
IT is curious that it should be necessary to repeat again and again what seems almost self-evident namely that it is one thing to compare but quite a different thing to identify. No two deities can be identified unless we can trace them back to the same name and unless we can prove that name to have been the work of one and the same original name-giver. This is a point that must be clearly apprehended if further discussions on mythology are to lead to any useful results.
But when the preparatory work of the etymologist has been finished when we can show for instance that the Sanskrit name for dawn Ushas is the same as the Greek Eos; that the Sanskrit name for night N is is but a dialectic variety of the same base which we have in Νύξ and Nox (noc-tis); that Dyaus is Zeus and Agni fire is ignis what then? We then have first of all irrefragable evidence that these names existed before the Aryan Separation; secondly we know that whatever character may have been assigned to the bearers of these mythological names in later times their original conception must have been that which their etymology discloses; thirdly that whatever in the shape of story and legend is told of them in common in the mythologies of different countries must have existed before the final break up of the Aryan family. This is what constitutes Comparative Mythology in the strict or if you like in the narrow sense of the word. This stronghold must never be surrendered and in order to keep it impregnable it must be kept distinct both from the Analogical and from the Psychological divisions of Comparative Mythology.
Sarad and Ceres.
To take another instance. If I have succeeded in proving the identity of Ceres and Sk. sarad autumn or the ripening season a solid foundation is laid. That foundation must be examined by scholars and no one who is not an expert has anything to say here. He must simply accept what is given him and if he cannot himself decide between two opposite opinions he must at all events not try to pose as a linguistic Hercules in bivio. Neither common sense nor even forensic eloquence will here be of any avail.
Now it is well known that the Romans had their own etymology of Ceres. Servius V. G. i. 7 says alma Ceres a creando dicta quamvis Sabini Cererem panem appellant. If this were true Ceres would originally have been conceived as creatrix. We know that the ancient Romans did not pretend to be more than folk-etymologists but even they would have hardly found a bridge from creare to Ceres. Modern etymologists however have taken the hint and have proposed to derive Ceres from the Sk. root kar to make from which they also derive Cerus or Kerus a creative genius invoked in the Carmen Saliare as Cerus Manus applied to Janus and supposed to mean creator bonus. Preller goes so far as to connect with these names the word cerfus (the Vedic sardha) of the Umbrian Inscriptions which is utterly impossible.
Leaving Cerus for further consideration we cannot deny that phonetically Ceres might be derived from the root kar as well as from the root sar to ripen. This is a dilemma which we have often to face and where we must have recourse to what may be called the history and the geographical distribution of roots. No purely phonetic test can tell us for instance whether Vesta Greek ῾Ετία is derived from vas to dwell or from vas to shine to say nothing of other roots. Curtius derives it from vas (ush) to shine forth from which vasu the bright gods bright wealth etc.; because the goddess was first the fire and afterwards the hearth and the home. Roth derives it from vas to dwell. I prefer vas to shine forth because the root vas to dwell has left no other traces in Latin.
I feel the same objection to kar to make as the etymon of Ceres which I feel to vas to dwell as the etymon of Vesta. The root kar (or skar) first of all does not mean to create even in Sanskrit; but to fashion to perform; secondly there is hardly one certain derivation of kar in Latin for both Cerus and creo cresco etc. are doubtful. Grassmann who rejected the derivation from kar proposed to derive Ceres from karsh to draw a furrow. But karsh never occurs in the North-Aryan languages in the sense of ploughing nor is Ceres the deity of ploughing or sowing but of reaping. I therefore prefer the root sar which means to heat to cook to ripen; from it srita roasted and sarad harvest autumn. A secondary form of the same root is srâ caus. srapay. From this root not from carpere to pluck we have in Greek καρπός the ripe fruit in Anglo-Saxon hærfest autumn the time of ripening. The Latin corpus like Sk. sarîra may possibly come from the same root and have meant originally the ripe fruit of the body (leibesfrucht).
Now considering that even the German Herbst the English harvest may be derived from this root in a causative form what doubt can there remain that Ceres is sarad and was an old name of harvest? What was the substratum of Sarad and Ceres whether the time of harvest or the earth at the time of harvest the harvest-sun or the harvest-moon which seemed every year to cause the ripening temperature these are questions impossible to answer. When the concept of deity had once come in definite thought became unnecessary and the poet claimed perfect freedom to conceive his Ceres as suited his own imagination. How early the harvest the furrow (Sîtâ) the field (Urvarâ) the days the seasons and the year were raised to the rank of goddesses may be seen from the invocations addressed to them in the Domestic Sacrifices of the Brahmans. Almost all that we are told of Ceres as an aboriginal Italian deity can be fully explained by this her etymological character and with this the task of the Comparative Mythologist is finished. Her absorption by the Greek Demeter and all that flows from it belongs to the domain of the classical scholar and need not detain us at present.
It seems to me that after the etymology of a mythological name has once been satisfactorily settled we have not only the real starting-point in the history of a deity or a hero but also a clear indication of the direction which that history followed from the first. I look in fact on these etymologies and on the equations between the names of deities in different cognate languages as the true capital of Comparative Mythology and on every new discovery if well established as a permanent addition to our wealth. If we want to know the real founders and benefactors of Comparative Mythology we must look for them among those who discovered such equations as Dyaus=Zeus and defended them against every objection that could reasonably be raised against them.
Changes in the Character of Gods.
Still it often happens that after we have established the true meaning of a mythological name it seems in no way to yield a solution of the character of the god who bears it. No one can doubt the phonetic identity of the names Haritas in Sanskrit and Χάριτϵς in Greek but the former are the horses of the rising sun the latter show no trace whatever of an equine character. Kuhn supposed that Prometheus took its origin from the Vedic pramantha; yet pramantha is only the stick used for rubbing wood to produce a fire Prometheus is the wisest of the sons of the Titans. Sârameya in Sanskrit is a dog Hermeias a god. Kerberos in Greek is a dog Sarvarî in Sanskrit the night. The Maruts in the Veda are clearly the gods of the thunderstorm but there are passages where they are addressed as powerful gods as givers of all good things without a trace of thunder and lightning about them. We see in fact very clearly how here as elsewhere the idea of gods of the thunderstorm became gradually generalised and how in the end the Maruts having once been recognised as divine beings were implored without any reference to their meteorological origin.
Strange as this may seem it could hardly be otherwise in the ancient world. If one poet became the priest of a family if one family became supreme in a tribe if one tribe became by conquest the ruler of a nation the god praised by one individual poet could hardly escape becoming the supreme god of a nation and having become supreme would receive in time all the insignia of a supreme deity. In the Veda the old supreme deity of the bright sky Dyaus who remained to the end the supreme god among Greeks and Romans is visibly receding and his place is being taken by a god unknown to the other Aryan nations and hence probably of later origin Indra. Indra was originally a god of the thunderstorm the giver of rain (indra like indu rain-drops) the ally of the Rudras and Maruts but he was soon invested with all the insignia of a supreme ruler residing in heaven and manifested no longer in the thunderstorm only but in the light of heaven and the splendour of the sun.
Accidental Similarities of Names.
Any one acquainted with the principles of Comparative Philology knows of course that perfect identity between mythological names in Sanskrit Greek and Latin is not to be expected but would on the contrary be extremely suspicious. The phonetic peculiarities of each member of a family of languages extend so far that it can hardly ever happen that all the letters of a word should be exempt from their influences. That care in English and Latin cura that whole in English and Greek ὅλος should have no connection whatever with each other has often been denounced as one of the absurdities of the Science of Languages. It may sound equally absurd to deny a common origin to the Greek Heracles and the old Latin Herculus if ever there was such a god; yet it is quite certain that if there was as Mommsen supposes an indigenous Herculus a protecting deity of the enclosed cattle-yard (from hercere) he could never have had any real relationship with Heracles. The slightest acquaintance with the phonetic laws of the Aryan languages would in our days keep a scholar from proposing comparisons which would formerly have passed without difficulty such as for instance Thor and the Greek θου̑ρος rushing furious; the Saxon Hera the Latin hera mistress and the Greek Hera; or Celtic Bel or Beal and the Semitic Bel or Baal.
In the last-mentioned case however where we find the same or very similar mythological names among people speaking languages entirely unrelated to each other a new question arises namely whether they might have been carried by migration from one country to another. This is a subject which has of late attracted much attention and deserves to be treated by Comparative Mythologists in the same spirit in which the study of foreign words begins to be treated by Comparative Philologists. As we are able to say with perfect certainty at least in the majority of cases whether a Latin word has the same origin as a Greek word or whether it is borrowed from Greek whether German shares the same word in common with Latin or has taken it over ready made whether the Celtic languages have enriched themselves from Greek Latin and German or have derived certain words from the common Aryan treasury we must by observing the same phonetic laws endeavour to discover whether a Greek deity is indigenous or borrowed from Semitic sources whether a Roman deity is of Italian growth or of Greek extraction and whether certain Celtic deities were common Aryan property or adopted from neighbouring nations.
That Egyptian Phenician Babylonian and Assyrian influences have told on the mythology of the Hellenic races no one has been more ready to admit than the Greeks themselves. In several cases—as for instance in the theories propounded by Herodotus as to the Egyptian origin of Greek deities—this Greek indebtedness has been much exaggerated and the recent researches of Egyptologists have enabled us to reduce that debt to its proper limits. In other cases however the modern discoveries in Asia Minor Phenicia Babylonia and Assyria have revived the old tendency of explaining everything Greek from Oriental sources. That Greece is indebted to the East its letters its coins its measures its early art proclaim with no uncertain voice. But that Greece was not a mere pauper living on Eastern charity a single Aristeia of Homer will be sufficient to prove. That Heracles Hera Aphrodite that Zeus himself has become a centre of attraction for floating elements of Oriental mythology every one who has eyes to see can see. But that these gods and heroes were simply borrowed from non-Hellenic sources has never been proved. What has happened in so many cases when ancient nations each having its own religion and mythology were brought into closer contact has happened between the Greeks and their Oriental neighbours. Gods who showed a certain similarity were identified and identified bonâ fide nay in some cases even their names were adopted by one language from the other. That Thebes for instance the capital of Kadmos introduced into Greece many Phenician elements is well known; but Thebes was not the only place where Phenician emigrants settled. We know for instance that Phenicians had early settlements at Korinth and we can easily understand therefore how the worship of Astarte found a new home on the Isthmos and how even a purely Semitic deity Melikertes (Melkarth) gained admission into the local mythology of that part of Greece.
This subject however deserves a special treatment; nor is it the duty of Comparative Mythology to do more than enter its caveat against impossible identification.
If however we find the same names in Germany and Central America in Egypt and the Polynesian Islands we cannot appeal to early migrations but have simply to admit that the chapter of accidents is larger than we expected.
In Central America for instance we meet with a serpent deity of the name of Votan. The similarity of the name had early attracted the notice of scholars but it was reserved to Liebrecht to point out a similarity even in the exploits ascribed to this American Votan and to the Old Norse Ođinn. When Votan had returned from the town of the temple of god to his home Valum-Votan (name of ruins not far from Ciudad Real de Chiapas in Guatemala) he related that he had to pass through a subterraneous passage which passed through the earth and ended near the root of heaven. This passage we are told was made by serpents and he being the son of a serpent was able to pass through it. After that Votan made a similar passage near the gorge of Zaqui extending as far as Tzequil both localities we are told near Ciudad Real. Bishop Nuñez de la Vega further relates that Votan went to Huehuctan bringing with him several tapirs and built by his breath a dark house in which he deposited a treasure confided to the care of a woman and some guardians. There are some curious ruins left of Huehuctan in the district of Soconusco and the Bishop relates that the treasure consisting of some large urns deposited together with idols in a subterranean chamber were handed over to him by the woman and the guardians and burnt on the market-place of Huehuctan.
Liebrecht points out that the Teutonic Ođinn also as Bölverkr is said to have crept as a serpent through a hole and in memory of it to have established a similar passage in some mountain gorge. He compares the urn with the vessels Ôdrœrir Bodn and Són in the Hnit-mountain and the woman with Gunlöd the guardian.
In spite of these coincidences which Liebrecht brings out far more fully than I could do in this place all that we can say is that the similarity of names is purely accidental and that therefore it is utterly useless to try to identify the two myths unless we can first determine their original intention.
Again that the name of Sun-god in Mangaia is Ra has been pointed out as a strange coincidence with the Egyptian God Ra. Here again the similarity of sound is purely accidental though the story of Ra the sun being made captive have the same origin psychologically as the stories of the servitude of other solar heroes in Greece Germany Peru and elsewhere.
The similarity in the name of the Storm-gods among the Polynesians viz. Maru with the Vedic Marut can likewise be looked upon as fortuitous only. But the similarity between the character of the Vedic Marut the strikers shouters and warriors and the Polynesian gods of storms of war and destruction may well be accounted for by that common human nature which is affected in the same way by the same phenomena of outward nature.
The same applies to the Winds as worshipped by the Babylonians. They were considered as spirits both of good and of evil. They had been created in the lower part of the heaven and they came forth from the sky as the messengers of Anu their king or as the helpers of Merodach in his fight against the dragon. Sometimes we hear of one terrible wind who had once been sent by Bel to drown guilty mankind in the waters of the deluge and the fact that each year the memory of that terrible event rose again in the month of Sebat or January with its ‘Curse of rain’ shows that in Babylon as elsewhere the great Deluge was but the reflection of the annual deluge which often overwhelmed and destroyed what to the people living then and there was in reality the whole earth. Up to this point all coincidences between the Storm-gods in Babylonia and the Storm-gods in India are perfectly intelligible. Nature was the same and human nature was the same also.
But when we are told that the Storm-wind that brought the Deluge was called Mâtu or originally Mar-tu and that this word presupposes a root MÂ MAL and MAR we must look upon this coincidence with the Sanskrit Mar-ut as belonging to the large chapter of accidents.
It is impossible to read the Polynesian story of Ina and her mortal lover who as he grew old and infirm had to be sent back to the earth to end his days there without thinking of Selene and Endymion of Eos and Tithonos though few would venture to connect her name with that of Ino Leucothea.
Any attempt to compare words in languages which have not been proved to be related is futile particularly when we know nothing of the antecedents of the words to be compared. It is strange no doubt that the interior of the world the invisible or nether world the Hades in fact of the Mangaians should be called Avaikî Avîkî being the name of one of the lower regions both among Brahmans and Buddhists. In Sanskrit however we know at least the history of the name for we can hardly be mistaken in explaining avîkî as a parallel form of avâkî the lower region also the South. With h regard to the Mangaian Avaiki we know very little of its etymology yet we have only to remember that in Tahitian the name for Hades is Hawai'i in New Zealand Hawaiki which points to a more original Sawaiki in order to convince ourselves that even the outward similarity between the Sanskrit and the Polynesian names for hell did not exist from the beginning but is really the result of phonetic corruption.
Mythological Names which admit of no Etymology.
It is possible of course to study the history of mythological gods and heroes even without knowing the etymology of their names. There are many ordinary words of which we shall never know the etymology because they belong to a stratum of language of which little or nothing is left. They generally belong to the most ancient formations and lie about like boulders among formations of a different age. And these are the very words that would provoke folk-etymology and folk-mythology just as large boulders scattered on a meadow provoke village legends. In dealing with such words we become painfully aware how difficult it is without etymological guidance to settle on the starting-point and the first direction of a myth. We grope about but we cannot put down our foot determinately while as soon as we know the etymology we feel that we have found the true source of our river and however much that river may meander afterwards we know whence it draws its real life. With mythological beings there can be nothing earlier than their name because they are names in the true sense of the word that is they are nomina or gnomina concepts by which alone we know a thing however long we may have seen or heard or smelt or felt it before.
The Names of Gods.
No doubt the sun was there before it was named but not till he was named was there a Savitri a Pûshan a Mitra a Helios or an Apollo. It is curious that this should require any proof for to any one acquainted with the true relation between what we call language and thought it is self-evident. Some writers on Mythology speak of Jupiter and Juno as of a well-known couple who quarrelled and scolded each other and did a number of things more or less extraordinary and whose names are really of no importance at all. The idea that Jupiter and Apollo and Athene are names and nothing but names sounds almost like heresy to them. Zeus according to them was the child of Rhea was swallowed and brought up again by Kronos was educated in Crete and after conquering his father became king of gods and men. I hold on the contrary that Zeus was born when Dyaus the sky was for the first time addressed as a masculine and called father Dyaush-pitâ and that the whole of his subsequent career follows almost as a matter of course if we once know his true beginning.
It is far better however to leave mythological names which resist etymological analysis unexplained than to attempt to explain them in violation of phonetic rules. The etymological domain of mythology must be allowed to remain sacred ground which no one should enter with unwashen hands. There is really no conceit in saying this for the same rule applies to all professions. It may sound conceited to outsiders but as little as a chemist would allow a bishop however clever he may be to try experiments with his chemicals can an etymologist allow a lawyer however eminent as a pleader to play pranks with roots and suffixes and phonetic laws. It is quite true that there are mishaps and even explosions in chemical laboratories nor do philological laboratories enjoy an immunity from such accidents. But even an explosion may not be too much to pay if only it teaches us what causes an explosion and helps us to be more prudent in future. We must work on quietly and methodically and on no account must we allow ourselves to be interrupted by men who do not know the A B C of our profession.
Scholars understand each other and they soon yield to argument. What was more tempting than to identify the Sk. Samâsa (διασκϵυή) with ῞Ομηρος; yet it was given up almost as soon as it was thought of for the simple reason that s between two vowels does not appear in Greek as r. The Vedic Sôma the Old Norse Sôn (gen. sonar) even the Greek οίνος seem closely allied drinks yet who would identify their names. It seems sometimes very hard to surrender or at all events to mark as doubtful an etymology which is all right except perhaps in one consonant one spiritus one shade of a vowel; but it must be done. Benfey's argument for instance that (p. 20) ‘in Athana five elements of the Greek word correspond entirely or essentially and in the same order to five out of the seven elements in Âptyânâ: ought never to be listened to. If all but one single letter agreed the two words would not be the same; nay sometimes when all letters are the same the two words may still be and generally are as distinct as Himmel and Himâlaya Atlas and Attila. Though for instance every letter is the same in the two words I at once surrendered the equation Saramâ=Helena when it was pointed out to me that Helena had originally an initial Digamma; and I only ventured to defend the identification once more when it had been shown on how slender evidence that initial Digamma rested and how often a so-called Digamma had taken the place of an original s and y.
It is only due to the strict observation of phonetic laws that Comparative Mythology has gained the respect of true scholars whether classical or oriental. As long as we deal with facts and laws or if that sounds too grand a name with rules and analogies we are on firm ground and hold a fortress well-nigh impregnable. Another advantage is that all warfare within or without that fortress can be carried on according to the strict rules of war and when we cross swords we cross them with true swordsmen. Wild fighting is here out of the question or if it should be attempted it would only excite ridicule among the preux chevaliers. If a bold antagonist challenged the legitimacy of Dyaus=Zeus we must meet him point by point; but if a wary critic challenges the diphthong oi in ϕοι̑βος=Bhava we must yield at once. The diphthong of does not point to Guna of u not even in ἐτοι̑μος=ἔτυμος but to Guna of i and the mistake has been as readily acknowledged as when Curtius (Grundzüge p. 484) thought in former days that θοίνη could be derived from θύω while it is really the same word as the Sanskrit dhenâ.
The Etymological Meaning must be Physical.
We have now to advance another step and try to make good a position which at one time was most fiercely contested by all classical scholars but must be defended at all hazards. Though the etymological analysis of names forms the only safe foundation of Comparative Mythology it is the foundation only and not the whole building. The etymology of a mythological name may be perfectly correct phonetically and yet untenable for other reasons. It stands to reason that no etymology can be accepted which does not account for the original character of the god or hero to whom it belongs. It is clearly impossible for instance to derive Hermes from ἑρμηνϵύϵιν or Erinnys from ἑριννύϵιν because such derivations would account for the later chapters only but not for the introduction to the lives of those deities. If then we hold that the original character of most Aryan gods was physical we must also hold that no etymology of a mythological name can be acceptable which does not disclose the original physical character of the god.
Most of the etymologies suggested by later poets and philosophers suffer from one and the same inherent defect; they are all calculated to explain the later development of a god as it was known at the time but not his original character. Popular etymologies too a very rich source of modern myths and legends are almost always vitiated by this defect.
Learned and Popular Etymologies of the Greeks and Romans.
It is difficult to find out whether Socrates and other philosophers were serious in the etymologies which they suggested of their gods and heroes but many of their etymologies certainly leave the impression on our minds as if their authors had never realized the difference between the plausible and the real in etymology and as if they had never suspected that Greek names and Greek gods had passed through a long series of phases of historical growth before they became what they were in their time. When Plato quoted the old Etymology of Eros
τὸν δ᾽ ἤτοι θνητοὶ μὲν ῞Ερωτα καλου̑σι ποτηνόν ἀθάνατοι δὲ Πτέρωτα διὰ πτϵρόϕυτον ἀνάγκην
he would have been little disturbed I imagine if he had been told that wings are a modern idea in Greek mythology and that no Greek word ever loses an initial πτ. When Apollon is derived from ἀπολλύναι to destroy the question seems hardly to have occurred how the rich growth of Apollonic legends could be traced back to the one central concept of a destroying deity. Nor does it seem to have struck those ancient etymologists that a name cannot possibly have more than one source. For we find Apollon derived not only from ἀπολλύναι (Aeschylus Agam. 1080) but like-wise from ἀπϵλαύνϵιν to drive away and ἀπολύϵιν to relieve. The name of Ares is explained παρὰ τὴν ἀρὰν τὴν γϵνομένην βλάβην ἐκ του̑ πολέμου ὴ παρὰ τὸ τὴν χάραν χάρης καὶ ἄρης ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἀϵίρω that of Achilleus παρὰ τὸ ἄχος λύϵιν ἰατρὸς γὰρ ή̑ν. ἢ διὰ τὸ ἄχος ὅ ἐστι λύπην ἐπϵνϵγκϵι̑ν τῃ̑ μητρί καὶ ται̑ς ᾽ λιϵυ̑σι ἢ διὰ τὸ μὴ θίγϵιν χϵίλϵσι χϵίη̑ ς ὅ ἐστι τροϕη̑ς; that of Helena παρὰ τὸ ἓλω τὸ ἑλκύω ἢ πρὸς τὸ ἴδιον κάλλος ἕλκκος ἕλκουσα τους ἀνρώπυς διά τὸ πολλοὺς ἑλϵι̑ ν τἳ̑ κάλλϵι ἢ παρὰ τὸ ῾Ελλάς κ.τ.λ.
But while these gratuitous etymologies vanished generally as soon as they had been suggested there are others which became popular and entered into the very life of mythology. This need not surprise us for even in modern languages what has been called popular etymology continues to exercise the same irresistible charm. Who does not think that God in English has something to do with good? Does not barrow a burial mound (Ger. Berg) involuntarily call up the idea of a barrow a wheel-barrow (Ger. Bahre)? How often have the cocoa-nut tree and the cacao tree been mixed up together till at last cacao was actually spelt cocoa. When we use duck as a term of endearment we can hardly help thinking of a duck and when we speak of a lark as a game the idea of the merry lark suggests itself whether we like it or not. I have treated this subject more fully in a chapter on ‘Modern Mythology’ in the second volume of my Lectures on the Science of Language and I need not therefore say more at present than that as such things are done in the dry tree we must not be surprised to meet with them in the green also. Homer delights in such offhand etymologies. In Od. XIX. 406 Autolykos suggests the name of Odysseus or Odyseus for his grandson because he himself πολλοι̑σι γὰρ ἔγωγϵ ὀδυσσάμϵνος τόδ᾽ ἱκάνω. Because Hector protected Ilion therefore his son is called Astyanax by the people though the father himself called him Skamandrios (Il. VI. 402; XXII. 506).
Aeneas is called by his name (Hymn. Aphrod. IV. 198):
οὔνϵκα μ᾽ αἰνόν ἔσχ᾽ ἄχος οὕνϵκ᾽ ἄρα βρότου ἀνέρος ἔμπϵσον ϵὐνη̑.
Even prior to Homer etymology seems to have given birth to new myths. We can hardly suppose that the legend of the two gates of the dreams the one being made of horn the other of ivory sprang up by itself; for why should these two materials have been imagined as peculiarly appropriate? If on the contrary we suppose that Homer or even the poets before Homer knew of dreams which deceive (ἐγϵϕαίρονται) and of others which come true (ἔτυμα κραίνουσι) popular etymology may well have suggested that the gates through which the former passed were made of ivory (ἐλέϕαντι) while those of the latter were made of horn (κϵράϵσσι).
The number of myths which owe their origin to a mistaken or popular etymology seems larger than was formerly supposed. Tritogeneia for instance as a name for Athene was no doubt a difficult word but the statement that τριτώ was an Aeolic name for head and that therefore τρῑτογένϵια meant ‘head-born’ rests on very slender authority. Wherever there was a lake or a river of the name of Triton Athene was fabled to have been born. Herodotus (IV. 180) refers to an old legend which spoke of the lake Tritonis in Lybia as the birthplace of Athene. Pausanias (IX. 33 7) suggests Triton a forest-stream in Boeotia or Triton a spring in Arcadia (VIII. 26 6).
Hermes Argeiphontes is now explained by most scholars as Hermes the bright shining. But the Greeks took it as meaning the ‘killer of Argos’ and we know how large a cluster of legends sprang from this false etymology though none of them appear as yet in Homer or Hesiod. The stories told of Dionysos being born on a hill called Nysa must be old for they are mentioned as generally known by the poet of the hymns to Dionysos (Hom. Hymn. XXV. 6: XXVI. 8; see also 11. VI. 133). Still it seems as if his name alone had suggested Nysa as his birthplace particularly as several other places are mentioned in which the child of Zeus and Semele is said to have been born.
Haritas and Charites.
A consideration of these ancient mythological etymologies may seem useless in the present state of our knowledge yet it may prove useful if it teaches us what to avoid in our own attempts at explaining the meaning of the names of ancient gods and heroes. Thus when looking out for an etymology of the Charites it would seem very natural to take them as goddesses of grace (χάρις) just as we take Nike as the goddess of victory. But then comes the question why Charis should have been the wife of Hephaistos like Aphrodite why the Charites bathe and dress Aphrodite why in fact they should have entered into the very thick of Greek mythology. If Charis and the Charites are ancient goddesses they must have started from some nook or corner in nature and that nook or corner can only be discovered by their name. Charis as I have tried to prove is the same word as the Sanskrit Harit and the Haritas in the Veda are the bright horses of the rising sun. Without therefore in the least supposing that the Charites too must have passed through that equine stage we are justified in tracing both the Charites and the Haritas back to the same source the bright rays of the rising sun.
It may seem difficult no doubt to trace so abstract a concept as the Greek χάρις back to a root har which means to shine to glow; still we see in Sanskrit how this root lends itself to the most varied applications and what is real in Sanskrit may surely be admitted as possible in other Aryan languages.
In Sanskrit by the side of har we find the fuller form ghar to glow. From it we have such words as ghrina heat; ghrinâ pity; ghrinin pitiful kind; ghrini heat sunshine; gharma beat (θϵρμός) summer kettle hot milk; ghrita melted butter fat etc.
The root bar we find again in the verb hrinîte he is angry lit. he is hot against a person; and in the verb haryate he desires i.e. he is hot after something. It also is used in the sense of to be pleased with and to love as in haryata desirable gratus while in hrî to be hot it has come to mean to be ashamed. Haras means heat fire and force. Hari harina harit and harita all meaning originally shining and bright have been used as names of colour and assumed meanings which sometimes we must render by yellow sometimes by green. Out of these two hari and harit have come mythological names of the horses of the sun or of Indra.
Here then we see clearly that the ideas of shining glowing being hot can be modified so as to express warmth kindness of heart pity pleasure love shame and likewise fierceness anger and displeasure.
That being so I see no difficulty in tracing Greek words such as χαροπός bright-eyed (Sk. haryaksha) χαίρω I rejoice χαρίζομαι I am kind and favourable χαρά joy χάρις brightness grace from one and the same root har which in Latin has also left us gratus and gratia in all their various applications.
In Latin the Gratiae are supposed to have been borrowed from Greece and not to be of native growth. Charis however originally the dawn the Vedic Harit the horse of the sun seems to me hidden under the old goddess Fors the more modern Fortuna. To the Romans no doubt Fors was the goddess quae fert who brings good or bad things and I do not wonder at this natural and therefore popular etymology being preferred by classical scholars. They ask very naturally why when there is so natural an etymology of fors from ferre should we go out of our way to discover a more difficult one. My answer is the same as ever. Old gods do not spring from such abstract and faded concepts as ferre to bring. And Fors is not a mere philosophical fancy but an old deity whose worship flourished all over Italy and cannot possibly be classed with the Gratiae who are borrowed from Greece nor with such abstract goddesses as Victoria Honor Virtus Spes or Bonus Eventus.
No doubt the religion of the Romans has admitted many abstract goddesses; but if we inquire more closely we shall find that they are mostly representative of subjective qualities such as Fides Spes Virtus Pavor Pallor Honor Victoria Concordia and Pudicitia not of outward or objective powers such as Fors and Fortuna a goddess of flesh and bone as powerful as Janus and Jupiter and more powerful than Venus or Bona Dea.
It might no doubt be argued that if we have in Greek such abstract goddesses as Μοι̑ρα or Αίσα we seem hardly justified in objecting on principle to a Latin goddess like Fors in the sense of a Bringer. But first of all Italian mythology is not the same as Greek and secondly Μοι̑ρα at least in Homer shows no traces of that truly mythological character which we can easily discover in Fors Primogenia. I believe that throughout Homer we might take Μοι̑ρα as a simple appellative meaning share or fate without destroying the poetical character of any passage in which it occurs. I remember neither parents nor offspring of Moira and Aisa in Homer nor do I think that either in the Iliad or in the Odyssey are prayers ever addressed to either of them. In later times no doubt they assume new names and new characters but this seems chiefly due to their being joined or even identified with such ancient goddesses as the Erinyes Keres and Charites.
One of the oldest names of Fors is Primogenia or Primigenia. Why should a mere bringer a goddess bringing good or bad luck be called first-born? We know who the first-born deity is in all Aryan religion. It is the Dawn agriyâ or the morning sun agriyah. But Fortuna is not only called Primigenia she is represented also as the daughter of Jupiter. One inscription reads: Fortuna(i) Diovo(s) fileia(i) primo(c)enia(i); other inscriptions give Fortunae Jovis puero primigeniae. This puer or this filia Jovis primigenia can hardly be different from the duhitâ Divah the daughter of Dyaus who comes first (prathamâ) at each morning prayer (pûrvahûtau).
But the Fors or Fortuna held even a more exalted position for Cicero (De Div. 41 85) tells us of an old sanctuary and oracle at Praeneste where Fortuna was represented as holding Jupiter and Juno on her lap and giving the breast to the young Jupiter. Could such a goddess have been a modern abstract deity? Is it not more likely that she was an old Dawn goddess represented here as elsewhere as the beginning of all things the mother of the gods (Rv. I. 113 19) carrying her bright child (rusadvatsâ); also from another point of view as the daughter of Dyaus (Rv. VII. 75 4) and the wife of Sûrya the sun (Rv. VII. 75 5)?
There are lessons to be learnt as I have often tried to show from mythologies which have no genealogical connection with the mythologies of Greece and Rome but which after all exhibit to us the reflection of the same nature on the same mirror the human mind. What one knows to be real in other mythologies one feels to be possible at least in Greek and Latin. Now there is a goddess Fortuna in Egyptian namely Renenet and this Renenet like our Fortuna is represented as suckling the infant Horus. Professor Le Page Renouf without knowing anything of my attempted identification of Fortune with the Dawn says ‘In whose lap can the Sun be nursed more fitly than in that of the Dawn?’ (Hibbert Lectures p. 161.)
There are few praises bestowed upon Ushas the dawn which cannot be transferred to Fortuna if we take her as the bright light of each day worshipped from the earliest times as the Fortuna Huiusce Diei. Fortuna bad one temple near the Circus Maximus another in the Campus Martius and her own festival on the 30th of July. This Fortuna Huiusce Diei was very much what we should call the goddess of Good Morning. There was likewise a Fortuna Virgo reminding us of the Feronia as Juno Virgo and her festival fell on the same day as that of the Mater Matuta. We read of a Fortuna Respiciens and Obsequens a Bona Fortuna Domina Regina Tutela Opifera Supera Victrix. All these epithets though meant no doubt for the goddess of good fortune are applicable likewise to the Dawn.
If then the concept of Good and Evil Fortune can have been evolved from that of Dawn the phonetic transition of Harit into Fors and Fortuna causes no difficulty. The Sanskrit word gharma kettle appears in Latin as formus and fors fortis would correspond to a Sk. har-ti instead of har-it. The further development of fors to fortuna finds analogies in portunus portumnus and portus in Neptunus Tutunus etc.
I do not venture to say that the identification of Fortuna with Harit is beyond the reach of doubt. Far from it. The most natural objection will be the same which Curtius at first brought forward against the equation Harit=Χάρις. ‘What shall we do’ he said with the appellatives χάρις with χαρά χαίρω χαρίζομαι χαρίϵις etc.? That question has by this time been answered. But in our case the difficulty is even less for such words as forte fortuito forsit forsitan forsan must all have passed through the stage marked by Fors no longer as mere Dawn but as the Dawn who ushers in the day with all its chances as the ‘Morgenstunde’ which has ‘Gold im Munde’ for those who know how to earn it but who may be likewise a fatal dawn and the revenger of dark crimes. If we derived Fors from ferre we should equally have to admit that Fors had been changed into some kind of deity a deity of chance before forte or forte fortuna could mean ‘by chance’ as opposed to providentiâ. Still I do not wish to speak confidently on Fors=Harit. There are many things in Comparative Mythology which for the present at least can be put forward as hypothetical only. And it was for that very reason that I wished to show by an extreme case why even an uncertain etymology if only based on physical phenomena is preferable to a purely rationalistic derivation however unobjectionable it may seem both as to the phonetic form and the ordinary meaning of a mythological name.
Nomina and Cognomina.
And here a new problem presents itself to us which has to be carefully examined because it is due to a want of a clear perception of all its bearings that different scholars have diverged so widely in their views of ancient mythology.
Supposing that Athene and Daphne were both originally names of the Dawn should we be right in saying that they were one and the same deity? Many scholars I know take that view and are inclined to trace the whole mass of Greek or any other mythology back to a small number of physical sources. They look in fact on the numerous deities as mere representatives of a few prominent phenomena in nature. If Apollon and Helios for instance can be shown to have been originally intended for the sun they would treat them as one and the same divine subject. If Hermes betrayed a solar character he would share the same fate. Dr. Roscher for instance in a very learned essay on Apollon and Mars after showing the same solar elements in the Greek and in the Italic god treats these two gods as identical.
We cannot deny that such a treatment of mythology has a certain justification and we may see from such papers as Dr. Roscher's that it may lead to very valuable results. But we must not allow it to interfere with the etymological treatment of mythological names. According to the principles of the etymological school a deity begins from the moment it is named. It could have no existence as a deity before it was named. In Sanskrit for instance it is no doubt the sun that is meant by such names as Sûrya Âditya Savitri Mitra and in certain cases even by Agni Pûshan and other names. But every one of these names constitutes a separate mythological individuality and must be treated accordingly. Were we to say that because Mitra is meant for the sun and Savitri is meant for the sun therefore both are the same deity we should be right perhaps logically but certainly not mythologically. In mythology it is the name which makes the god and keeps one deity distinct from the other and it is the name alone which remains unchanged however much everything else the character the attributes the legends and the worship may change. There is in the name and in the name alone that continuity which cannot be broken which lasts through centuries nay which binds together the mythology of countries as distant from one another as India and Iceland. Other things may be like each other but the names alone can be said to be identical and in the name alone therefore rests the identity of mythological personalities. Apollon and Mars may share many things in common as Dr. Roscher has clearly shown but they are different from their very birth they are different as mythological subjects. It would be possible to find deities not only in Greek and Latin mythology but in almost every religion representing like Apollon and Mars the sun as determining the order of years seasons and months as bringing back every spring the life of nature as conquering heroes as patrons of clans and towns and states. But though we might compare them we should never think of identifying them.
Here lies the fundamental difference between what I call the Etymological and the Analogical Schools of Comparative Mythology. I do not mean to depreciate the results of the Analogical School. I only wish to keep the two distinct and by keeping them distinct to make them both work with greater advantage for one common end.
And this distinction is by no means always so easy as it may appear. In the earliest stage of mythological language all names were no doubt cognomina rather than nomina intended for the sun or the moon the sky or the dawn the earth or the sea. Every one of these aspects of nature had many names and it was due to influences which are absolutely beyond the reach of our knowledge whether one or the other of these cognomina should become a nomen a new centre of a number of cognomina. This period in the growth of mythology the settling of nomina and cognomina of the principal deities of a religious or political community has hardly ever been taken into consideration and yet its influence on the growth and organization of mythology must have been very important.
In Homer Apollon has no doubt become a substantive deity. Still Phoebos occurs by himself about nine times in the Iliad and Phoebos Apollon or Apollon Phoebos are found nearly half as often as Apollon by himself or with his usual epithets of ἑκάϵργος ἀργυρότοξος etc. In the Odyssey and the Hymns Phoebos by himself occurs eleven times Phoebos Apollon eighteen times while Apollon by himself or with his usual epithets is found more than twice as often as the two together.
It was therefore quite possible that Apollon and Phoebos should have remained independent deities nay we may say that to certain poets Phoebos was a distinct person from Apollon quite as much as Helios. But in time these two names of Phoebes and Apollon converged so much that to certain minds they presented one idea only though even then it was always Apollon who was determined by Phoebos not Phoebos by Apollon.
It is but seldom that we can watch this process of crystallisation in mythology. When we become acquainted with ancient mythology through literary channels that process is mostly finished. One out of many names has become central while all the rest have clustered round it as mere mythological epithets.
Dr. Mehlis has pointed out how in the case of Hermes or Hermeias the name of Argeiphontes or the two names Diaktoros Argeiphontes are still sufficiently independent to allow Greek poets to use them by themselves. But he adds that with the establishment of the dynasty of Zeus the position of Hermes in the circle of the gods became essentially changed. This period characterised by the hegemony of Zeus differed from the pre-homeric time chiefly by the anthropomorphising of all the gods and the gradual disappearance of their physical meaning. The god of the morning-sun the true Argeiphontes occupied a very prominent place in the former cult of nature among the Greeks and was then very closely related to the god of heaven Zeus. This former preeminence he retained even in the Olympian cult but his original function became more obscured and the Olympian Hermes grew as different from his physical prototype as Zeus the father of gods and men from the god of the bright sky.
Very little progress has as yet been made in analysing the transition from the physical Aryan mythology to the Olympian mythology as we find it in Homer and in distinguishing the elements which entered into the final composition of each Olympian god. Each of these gods is surrounded by a number of epithets but while some of these epithets are adjectives in the true sense of the word others seem to have possessed originally a more independent and substantive character so much so that they can be used by themselves and without what may he called the proper name of the Olympian deity.
And here a new difficulty arises namely how to distinguish modern epithets from ancient cognomina. We are told that the Erinyes were called Eumenides and σϵμναὶ θϵαί in order to indicate different sides of their character. This may be so and if we keep true to the principle that the original character of every ancient god and goddess must be physical the name of Erinyes i.e. the Dawn-goddesses alone fulfils that requirement. But when the Erinyes are identified with the ᾽Αραί this does not prove that the ᾽Αραί or imprecations were not originally independent creations of Greek mythology particularly as even in later times (Soph. Electra 112) Arae and Erinyes are separately invoked. The same applies to the Moirae who originally quite distinct from the Erinyes are afterwards treated as children of the same mother and at last mixed up with them so as to become almost indistinguishable.
It may be quite true that the problem here alluded to is one that admits of no quite satisfactory solution for the simple reason that the period during which the crystallisation of ancient divine names took place is beyond the reach of knowledge and almost of conjecture. Still it is well to remember that every organized mythology has necessarily to pass through such a period and that in Greece particularly the well-ordered Olympian mythology such as we find it in Homer presupposes a more chaotic period. Etymology may in time supply us with a thread enabling us to find our way through the dark chambers of the most ancient mythological labyrinth and we may even now lay it down as a rule that every name whether nomen or cognomen which admits of a physical interpretation is probably the result of an independent creative act represents in fact an individual mythological concept which for a time however short enjoyed an independent existence. Thus in Sanskrit Apâmnapât the son of the waters is no doubt one of the many names of Agni fire; but in the beginning it expressed an independent mythological concept the lightning sprung from the clouds or the sun emerging from the waters and it retained that independent character for a long time in the sacrificial phraseology of the Brâhmanas.
Sârameya the son of Saramâ was in Sanskrit as independent a name as Hermeias in Greek. They both meant originally the same thing the child of the dawn. But while Hermeias became a centre of attraction and a germ which developed into an Olympian deity the Vedic Sârameya dwindled away into a mere name of a dog. The germ was the same but the result was totally different.
The Haritas in Sanskrit never became anything but the horses of the sun; in Greek they developed into Charites; in Latin possibly into the Fors Fortuna.
If then we ask the question once more whether Daphne and Athene being both originally names of the dawn were therefore one and the same deity we should say No. They both sprang from a concept of the dawn but while one name grew into an Olympian goddess the other was arrested at an earlier stage of its growth and remained the name of a heroine the beloved of Apollo who like the dawn vanished before the embraces of the rising sun. Etymologically Athene and Daphne can be traced back to the Vedic Ahanâ and Dahanâ with almost the same certainty with which the Vedic Dyaush-pitar has been identified with Ζϵὺς πατήρ Jupiter and Tŷr. If there are still philosophers who hold that such coincidences are purely accidental we must leave them to their own devices. The Copernican system is true though there are some Fijians left who doubt it. But if for practical purposes we believe that in spectral analysis the same lines prove the existence of the same elements in the sun as well as on the earth we may rest satisfied with the lesson of Jupiter such as it is and feel convinced that as there was an Aryan language before a word of Sanskrit Greek and Latin had been spoken there was an Aryan mythology before there was an Æneid an Iliad or a Veda.