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The season of the year also gives us a suspicion that this gloominess is brought about because of the disappearance from our sight of the crops and fruits that people in days of old did not regard as gods, but as necessary and important contributions of the gods toward the avoidance of a savage and a bestial life. At the time of year when they saw some of the fruits vanishing and disappearing completely from the trees, while they themselves were sowing others in a mean and poverty-stricken fashion still, scraping [p. 163] away the earth with their hands and again replacing it, committing the seeds to the ground with uncertain expectation of their ever appearing again or coming to fruition, they did many things like persons at a funeral in mourning for their dead. Then again, even as we speak of the man who buys the books of Plato as ‘buying Plato,’ and of the man who represents the poems of Menander as ‘acting Menander,’ even so those men of old did not refrain from calling by the names of the gods the gifts and creations of the gods, honouring and venerating them because of the need which they had for them. The men of later times accepted this blindly, and in their ignorance referred to the gods the behaviour of the crops and the presence and disappearance of necessities, not only calling them the births and deaths of the gods, but even believing that they are so ; and thus they filled their minds with absurd, unwarranted, and confused opinions although they had before their eyes the absurdity of such illogical reasoning. Rightly did Xenophanes1 of Colophon insist that the Egyptians, if they believed these to be gods, should not lament them ; but if they lamented them, they should not believe them to be gods. Is it anything but ridiculous amid their lamentations to pray that the powers may cause their crops to sprout again and bring them to perfection in order that they again be consumed and lamented ?
1 Cf. Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, i. 44, Xenophanes, no. a 13; also Moralia, 171 d, 228 e, and 763 d; and Heracleitus, no. b 127 (Diels, i. 103).