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4. Then Numa, forsaking the ways of city folk, determined to live for the most part in country places, and to wander there alone, passing his days in groves of the gods, sacred meadows, and solitudes. This, more than anything else, gave rise to the story about his goddess. It was not, so the story ran, from any distress or aberration of spirit that he forsook the ways of men, but he had tasted the joy of more august companionship [2] and had been honoured with a celestial marriage; the goddess Egeria loved him and bestowed herself upon him, and it was his communion with her that gave him a life of blessedness and a wisdom more than human. However, that this story resembles many of the very ancient tales which the Phrygians have received and cherished concerning Attis, the Bithynians concerning Herodotus, the Arcadians concerning Endymion, and other peoples concerning other mortals who were thought to have achieved a life of blessedness in the love of the gods, is quite evident. [3] And there is some reason in supposing that Deity, who is not a lover of horses or birds, but a lover of men, should be willing to consort with men of superlative goodness, and should not dislike or disdain the company of a wise and holy man. But that an immortal god should take carnal pleasure in a mortal body and its beauty, this, surely, is hard to believe.

[4] And yet the Aegyptians make a distinction here which is thought plausible, namely, that while a woman can be approached by a divine spirit and made pregnant, there is no such thing as carnal intercourse and communion between a man and a divinity. But they lose sight of the fact that intercourse is a reciprocal matter, and that both parties to it enter into a like communion. However, that a god should have affection for a man, and a so-called love which is based upon affection, and takes the form of solicitude for his character and his virtue, is fit and proper. [5] And therefore it is no mistake when the ancient poets tell their tales of the love Apollo bore Phorbas, Hyacinthus, and Admetus, as well as the Sicyonian Hippolytus also, of whom it is said, that, as often as he set out to sail from Sicyon to Cirrha, the Pythian priestess, as though the god knew of his coming and rejoiced thereat, chanted this prophetic verse:—

Lo, once more doth beloved Hippolytus hither make voyage.

[6] There is a legend, too, that Pan became enamoured of Pindar and his verses. And the divine powers bestowed signal honour on Archilochus and Hesiod after their deaths, for the sake of the Muses.1 Again, there is a story, still well attested, that Sophocles, during his life, was blessed with the friendship of Aesculapius, and that when he died, another deity procured him fitting burial.2 [7] Is it worth while, then, if we concede these instances of divine favour, to disbelieve that Zaleucus, Minos, Zoroaster, Numa, and Lycurgus, who piloted kingdoms and formulated constitutions, had frequent audience of the Deity? Is it not likely, rather, that the gods are in earnest when they hold converse with such men as these, in order to instruct and advise them in the highest and best way, but use poets and warbling singers, if at all, for their own diversion? [8] However, if any one is otherwise minded, I say with Bacchylides, ‘Broad is the way.’ 3 Indeed there is no absurdity in the other account which is given of Lycurgus and Numa and their like, namely, that since they were managing headstrong and captious multitudes, and introducing great innovations in modes of government, they pretended to get a sanction from the god, which sanction was the salvation of the very ones against whom it was contrived.

1 The Delphian oracle pronounced a curse on the man who killed Archilochus, because ‘he had slain the servant of the Muses.’ And the same oracle told the people of Orchomenus, when a plague had fallen upon them, that ‘the only remedy was to bring back the bones of Hesiod from the land of Naupactus to the land of Orchomenus.’

2 Dionysus is said to have appeared to Lysander and ordered him to allow Sophocles to be buried in the tomb of his fathers, on the road to Deceleia, then occupied by the Lacedaemonian army. See Pausanias, i. 21, 1, with Frazer's note.

3 Fragment 29 (Jebb, Bacchylides, p. 423).

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