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but spread over the slopes of the magnificent piazza ! How finely the colonnades embrace all the pageantry of this solemn moment! The holy father approaches the balcony—the multitude kneels down-the troops gape for the apostolical blessing—the blessing is given—the
-the wheels rattle, and the blessed disperse. · Dio mio, cried a Pope, when the work was done, ‘quanto è facile di coglionare la gente* !!”
RELIGION OF ITALY AND SICILY.
Mos unde deductus per omne
As it is both curious and amusing to trace the ancient customs of Italy subsisting in the modern, and as the ceremonies of the church of Rome present many striking coincidences with the observances of paganism, I shall now proceed to notice some of the more remarkable of those coincidences, taking Middleton's celebrated “ Letter from Rome” as the groundwork of my
observations. “ The greatest of the ancient poets seem to have held, that every thing in the moral, as well as in the natural world, was carried on by the influence and direction of the supreme Being*. It was Jupiter that actuated every thing; and, in some sense, might be said to do every
Virgil, in his proposition to the Æneid, says that every thing that happened to his hero was, Vi superum; and Homer, in his proposition to the Iliad, says that the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, (and all the mischievous consequences of it), was only a fulfilling of the will of Jove: Alog & ETEMELETO Bouln.—When Cicero (De Div. i. 55) says, “ that reason obliges us to own that every thing is done by Fate"— Fieri omnia à Fato, ratio cogit fateri — he means just the same by that word that Homer does by his Acos Bouin, and Virgil by his Vis superum; Fatum being nothing else but the word of Jupiter, or, as they otherwise term it, of the gods. Fatum dicunt esse, quod Dii fantur, vel quod Jupiter fatur. (Isid. Orig. Lib. 8. c. 2.) — Spence, Polymetis, p. 316.
thing that was done. This universal principle of action they considered, for their own ease, as divided into so many several personages, as they had occasion for causes.
. Hence, every part of the creation was filled by them with deities; and no action was performed without the assistance of some god or another; for every power superior to man they called by that name. This way of thinking, or, at least, this way of talking, was received by many of their philosophers, as well as poets: though it was particularly serviceable to the latter; and therefore appears so frequently in their works. In the Æneid, almost the whole course of the story is carried on by the intervention of gods. If Æneas meets with a storm, just after his first setting out; it is Æolus that raises it, at the request of Juno, and by the operation of the several genii that preside over the winds. If the sea grows calm again, it is by an appearance of the deity, who presides over that element; who countermands the winds, and sends them back to their caves. If Æneas lands on the coast of Afric, and is to be received kindly at Carthage; it is Mercury that is sent by Jupiter, to soften the minds of the Carthaginians and their queen towards him: and if he escapes all the attacks and dangers in passing through an unknown country, and an inhospitable people, till he comes to their capital; it is Venus who shrouds him in cloud, and protects him from all danger. In fine, if the Queen falls in love with him when he is arrived there; though she be represented as not old, and he as very handsome; yet must Cupid do no less than undergo a transformation, to lie on her breast, and insinuate that
soft passion there. This sort of management, which is used so much by Virgil in the entrance of his poem, runs through it quite to the end; and appears as fully in Æneas's combat with Turnus, in the last book, as it did, on his arrival at Carthage, in the first. Every step and progression in the story is carried on by the interposition and administration of the gods*."
Thus, though the heathen world, in general, believed that there was but one supreme God; yet they also believed in a multitude of ministers, deputies, or inferior gods, as acting under this supreme. The first may be called the philosophical belief; and the second, the vulgar belief of the heathens. This, as we shall find in the sequel, has been closely copied by the Roman Catholics; who, though they maintain that there is but one God, scruple not to offer up their prayers to a countless multitude of Saints, as ministers and dispensers of blessings under that one God.
* Spence's Polymetis, p. 316.
Dîs, quibus septem placuêre colles.-HOR.
The Romish Saints, whether we consider their numbers, their reputed lives, the places and objects over which they are supposed to preside, or the miraculous
powers ascribed to them, will be found to bear a close resemblance to the gods of old Rome.
66 The deities of the Romans were so numerous, that they might well complain of wanting a nomenclator to help them to remember all their names.
Their vulgar religion, as indeed that of the heathens in general, was a sort of Manicheism. Whatever was able to do good or to do harm to man, was immediately looked upon as a superior power; which, in their language, was the same as a deity. It was hence that they had such a multitude of gods, that their temples were better peopled with statues than their cities with men.
It is a perfect mob of deities* ;" nor can we wonder at Juvenal's complaint, that, in his time, they had so multiplied as to become a burden to Atlas almost greater than he could beart. Not only were the cities of ancient Italy crowded
* Polymetis, p. 2. +
Nec turba Deorum Talis, ut est hodiè; contentaque siderapaucis Numinibus miserum urgebant Atlanta minori Pondere.---Sat, xii. 46.