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And now consider whether my discourse have not enlarged itself too far. To which Timon: Perhaps (said he) it may seem to have been too long, if we consider what remains behind, and the length of time required for the discussion of our other doubts. For now I am going about to put forward the last question, like a new champion, since we have contended already long enough upon the former. Now, as to what we have further to say, we find that Euripides delivers his mind freely, and censures the Gods for imputing the transgressions of forefathers unto their offspring. And I am apt to believe that even they who are most silent among us do the like. For if the offenders themselves have already received their reward, then there is no reason why the innocent should be punished, since it is not equal to punish even criminals twice for the same fact. But if remiss and careless, the Gods, omitting opportunely to inflict their penalties upon the wicked, send down their tardy rigor on the blameless, they do not well to repair their defective slowness by injustice. As it is reported of Aesop, that he came upon a time to Delphi, having brought along with him a great quantity of gold which Croesus had bestowed upon him, on purpose to offer a most magnificent oblation to the Gods, and with a design moreover to distribute among the priests and the people of Delphi four minas apiece. But there happening some disgust and difference between him and the Delphians, he performed his solemnity, but sent back his money to Sardis, not deeming those ungrateful people worthy of his bounty. Upon which the Delphians, laying their heads together, accused him of sacrilege, and [p. 161] then threw him down headlong from a steep and prodigious precipice, which is there, called Hyampia. Upon which it is reported that the Deity, being highly incensed against them for so horrid a murder, brought a famine upon the land, and infested the people with noisome diseases of all sorts; insomuch that they were constrained to make it their business to travel to all the general assemblies and places of public concourse in Greece, making public proclamation wherever they came, that, whoever they were that would demand justice for the death of Aesop, they were prepared to give him satisfaction and to undergo whatever penalty he should require. Three generations afterwards came one Idmon, a Samian, no way of kin or otherwise related to Aesop, but only descended from those who had purchased Aesop in Samos; to whom the Delphians paid those forfeitures which he demanded, and were delivered from all their pressing calamities. And from hence (by report) it was, that the punishment of sacrilegious persons was transferred from the rock Hyampia to that other cliff which bears the name of Nauplia.

Neither is Alexander applauded by those who have the greatest esteem for his memory (of which number are we ourselves), who utterly laid waste the city of Branchidae, putting men, women, and children to the sword, for that their ancestors had long before delivered up the temple of Miletus. In like manner Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, when the Corcyraeans requested to know the reason of him, why he depopulated their island, deriding and scoffing at their demand, replied: For no other reason, by Jove, but because your forefathers entertained Ulysses. And when the islanders of Ithaca expostulated with him, asking why his soldiers carried away their sheep; because, said he, when your king came to our island, he put out the eyes of the shepherd himself. And therefore do you not think Apollo more extravagant than all these, for punishing [p. 162] so severely the Pheneatae by stopping up that profound and spacious receptacle of all those floods that now cover their country, upon a bare report that Hercules a thousand years ago took away the prophetic tripod and carried it to Pheneus?—or when he foretold to the Sybarites, that all their calamities should cease, upon condition they appeased the wrath of Leucadian Juno by enduring three ruinous calamities upon their country? Nor is it so long since, that the Locrians surceased to send their virgins to Troy;

Who like the meanest slaves, exposed to scorn,
Barefoot, with limbs unclad, at earliest morn
Minerva's temple sweep; yet all the while,
No privilege has age from weary toil.
Nor, when with years decrepit, can they claim
The thinnest veil to hide their aged shame;

and all this to punish the lasciviousness of Ajax.

Now where is the reason or justice of all this? Nor is the custom of the Thracians to be approved, who to this day abuse their wives in revenge of their cruelty to Orpheus. And with as little reason are the Barbarians about the river Po to be extolled, who once a year put themselves into mourning for the misfortune of Phaethon. And still more ridiculous than all this it would certainly be, when all those people that lived at the time took no notice of Phaethon's mischance, that they, who happened to be born five or ten generations after, should be so idle as to take up the custom of going into black and bewailing his downfall. However, in all these things there is nothing to be observed but mere folly; nothing pernicious, nor any thing dangerous. But as for the anger of the Gods, what reason can be given why their wrath should stop and conceal itself upon a sudden, like some certain rivers, and when all things seem to be forgot, should break forth upon others with so much fury, as not to be atoned but with some remarkable calamities?

[p. 163]

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