Eve'merus or Euhe'merus
), a Sicilian author of the time of Alexander the Great and his immediate successors. Most writers call him a native of Messene in Sicily (Plut. de Is. et Os.
23; Lactant. de Fals. Relig.
1.11; Etym. M. s. v. Βροτός
), while Arnobius (4.15) calls him an Agrigentine, and others mention either Tegea in Arcadia or the island of Cos as his native place. (Athen. 14.658
. His mind was trained in the philosophical school of the Cyrenaics, who had before his time become notorious for their scepticism in matters connected with the popular religion, and one of whom, Theodorus, is frequently called an atheist by the ancients.
The influence of this school upon Evemerus seems to have been very great, for he subsequently became the founder of a peculiar method of interpreting the legends and mythi of the popular religion, which has often and not unjustly been compared with the rationalism of some modern theologians in Germany. About B. C. 316 we find Evemerus at the court of Cassander in Macedonia, with whom he was connected by friendship, and who, according to Eusebius (Praep. Evany.
2.2, p.59), senthim out on an exploring expedition. Evemerus is said to have sailed down the Red Sea and round the southern coasts of Asia to a very great distance, until he came to an island called Panchaea.
After his return from this voyage lie wrote a work entitled Ἱερὰ Ἀναγραφή
, which consisted of at least nine books.
The title of this "Sacred History," as we may term it, was taken from the ἀναγραφαί
, or the inscriptions on columns and walls, which existed in great numbers in the temples of Greece, and Evemerus chose it because lie pretended to have derived his information from public documents of that kind, which he had discovered in his travels, especially in the island of Panchaea.
The work contained accounts of the several gods, whom Evemerus represented as having originally been men who had distinguished themselves either as warriors, kings, inventors, or benefactors of man, and who after their death were worshipped as gods by the grateful people. Zeus, for example, was, according to him, a king of Crete, who had been a great conqueror; and he asserted that he had seen in the temple of Zeus Triphyiius a column with an inscription detailing all the exploits of the kings Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus. (Euseb. l. c;
Sext. Empir. 9.17.)
This book, which seems to have been written in a popular style, must have been very attractive; for all the fables of mythology were dressed up in it as so many true and historical narratives; and many of the subsequent historians, such as the uncritical Diodorius (see Fragm.
lib. vi.) adopted his mode of dealing with myths, or at least followed in his track, as we find to be the case with Polybius and Dionysius. Traces of such a method of treating mythology occur, it is true, even in Herodotus and Thucvdides; but Evemerus was the first who carried it out systematically, and after his time it found numerous admirers.
In the work of Diodorus and other historians and mythographers, we meet with innumerable stories which have all the appearance of being nothing but Evemeristic interpretations of ancient myths, though they are frequently taken by modern critics for genuine legends. Evemerus was much attacked and treated within contempt, and Eratosthenes called him a Bergaean, that is, as great a liar as Antiphanes of Berga (Polyb. 33.12, 34.5; Strab. i. p.47
, ii. pp. 102, 104, vii. p. 299); but the ridicule with which he is treated refers almost entirely to his pretending to have visited the island of Panchaea, a sort of Thule of the southern ocean; whereas his method of treating mythology is passed over unnoticed, and is even adopted. His method, in fact, became so firmly rooted, that even down to the end of the last century there were writers who acquiesced in it.
The pious believers among the ancients, on the other hand, called Evemerus an atheist. (Plut. de Place. Philos.
1.7; Aelian, Ael. VH 2.31
; Theophil. ad Autolyc.
The great popularity of the work is attested by the circumstance that Eunius made a Latin translation of it. (Cic. de Nat. Deor.
1.42; Lactant. de Fals. Relig.
1.11; Varro, de Re Rust.
1.48.) The Christian writers often refer to Evemerus as their most useful ally to prove that the pagan mythology was nothing but a heap of fables invented by mortal men. (Hieron. Columna, Prolegom. in Evemerum,
in his Q. Ennii quae supersunt Fragm.
p. 482, &c., ed. Naples, 1590; Sevin, in the Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscript.
viii. p. 107, &c.; Fourmont, ibid.
xv. p. 265, &c.; Foucher, ibid.
xxxiv. p. 435, &c., xxxv. p. 1, &c.; Lobeck, Aglaoph.
i. p. 138, &c.)