Sunday, 6 November 2011

A PAGAN PHILOSOPHER ON THE USE OF IMAGES

( Maximus of Tyre,' Oration,' V111, 10)

Maximus of Trye (ca.A.D 125 -185) was a Sophist and eclectic philosopher who reavelled widely and lectured both at Athens and at Rome.

For the God who is the Father and Creator of all that is, older than the sun, older than the sky, greater than time and etrnity and the whole continual flow of nature, is not to be named by any lawgiver is not to be uttered by any voice, is not to be seen by any eye. But we, being unable to grasp his essence, makes use of sounds and names and pictures, of beaten gold and ivory and silver, of plants and rivers, of mountains peakes and torrents, yearning for the knowledge of him, and in our weakness  naming all that is beautiful in the world
after his nature. The same thing happens to those who love others, to them the sweetest sight will be the actual figure of their children, but sweet also will be their memory - they will be happy at ( the sight of) a lyre, a little spear, or a chair , perhaps, or  a running ground, or anything whatever that wakens  the memory of the beloved. Why should I go any further in examining and passing judgement about images? Let all men know what is divine; let them know, that is all. If Greeks are stirred to the rememberance of God by the art of Phidias, oe the Egyptions by paying worship to animals, or others by a river, or others by fire, Iwill not quarrel with their diffrerences. Only let them know, let them love, let them remember.

Translation by Frederick C. Grant, in his Hellenistic Religions ( New York , 1953)

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