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SUPERSTITION (DE SUPERSTITIONE)Plutarch's essay on Superstition is, in the main, an attempt to prove that superstition is worse than atheism. Its somewhat impassioned tone savours more of the emotional sermon than of the carefully reasoned discourse, and suggests that it was originally prepared for public presentation. Wyttenbach was disturbed because in the catalogue of Lamprias, in which this essay is No. 155, the title is given as Περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας πρὸς Ἐπίκουπον, and he thought that this title might refer to some other treatise of Plutarch. The explanation is so simple that the only surprising thing is that it should have escaped a man of Wyttenbach's acumen. On the first page of the essay are the words, ‘the universe . . . atoms and void . . . assumption is false.’ Then, as now, librarians and reviewers looked at the first page, and reached their conclusions ; so it was only natural that the compiler of the catalogue should conclude that the rest of the book was equally hostile to Epicurus. On the other hand, this affords interesting evidence that the compiler of the catalogue of Lamprias probably had a copy of Plutarch's works before him when he drew up his list. The ms. tradition of this essay is better than of many others, and one ms. (D) has preserved many [p. 453] excellent readings.a Only one passage, a quotation (170 b), presents serious difficulty, and of this Professor Goodwin remarked: ‘As to the original Greek, hardly a word can be made out with certainty.’ Mention should be made of a separate edition and a parallel English translation of this essay in a book entitled ‘ Περὶ δεισιδαιμονίας. Plutarchus and Theophrastus on Superstition with various appendices and a life of Plutarchus. Printed a.d. 1828. (Privately) printed by Julian Hibbert . . . Kentish Town.’ The translation is very literal, but is sometimes an improvement on that of William Baxter in the translation of Plutarch by ‘Several Hands’ (London, 1684-94). Intimate and amusing is the preface of the author, who, in his notes, admits that he has never read Plato, but ends his preface with these words : ‘I terminate this my Preface by consigning all ' Greek Scholars ' to the special care of Beelzebub.’ A spirited defence of this essay (if any defence is needed) may be found in John Oakesmith's The Religion of Plutarch (London, 1902), chap. ix. pp. 179 ff. 1
1 In spite of the fact that Pohlenz in his preface to Vol. I. (Leipzig, 1925) of the Moralia (p. xiv) uses these words: ‘ Codicem Paris D e recensione libidinosissima ortum’! Paton, who edited this essay, accepts the readings of D a good part of the time, and his edition would have been more intelligible had he accepted them more often.