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DE PRINCIPIIS ATQUE ORIGINIBUS.
BY ROBERT LESLIE ELLIS.
THE following tract is one of those which were published by Gruter. It seems to be of later date than many of the others, as it contains several phrases and turns of expression which occur also in the Novum Organum.
Bacon's design was to give a philosophical exposition of two myths; namely, that of the primeval Eros or Cupid, and that of Uranos or Coelum. Only the first however is discussed in the fragment which we now have, and even that is left incomplete.
The philosophy of Democritus appeared to Bacon to be nearly in accordance with the hidden meaning of these fables; but we are not well able to judge of his reasons for thinking so, as the only system spoken of in detail is that of Telesius.
Touching the origin of Eros, Bacon remarks that no mention is made anywhere of his progenitors. In this he is supported by the authority of Plato, or rather by that of one of the interlocutors in the Symposium, who affirms that no one, whether poet or not, has
spoken of the parents of Eros; but that Hesiod in the order of his theogony places Gaia and Eros next after primeval Chaos.1 It seems in truth probable
that the fables which make Eros the son of Zeus
and Aphrodite are of later origin. From the Symposium Bacon may also have derived the recognition of an elder and a younger Eros, of whom the former was allied to the heavenly Aphrodite, and the latter to Aphrodite Pandemus.2 But it is more probable that his account of the distinction between them comes from some later writer.
Hesiod, to whom the first speaker in the Symposium refers, though he places Eros and Gaia next to Chaos, says nothing of Eros as the progenitor of the universe. His existence is recognised, but nothing is said of his offspring. In this the theogony of Hesiod differs essentially from that which is contained in the Orphic poems, and shows I think signs of greater antiquity. To recognise as a deity an abstract feeling of love or desire, is in itself to recede in some measure from the simplicity of the old world: we find no such recognition in Homer; and the transition from him to Hesiod is doubtless a transition from an earlier way of thinking to a later. But even in Hesiod Eros is not the producing principle of the universe, nor is his share in its production explained. On the other hand in the Orphic poems, Phanes, whom we are entitled to identify with Eros, is the progenitor of gods and men, the light and life of the universe. He comes forth from Chaos, uniting in his own essence the poles of
1 Sympos. p. 178.; and see Valcknaer's Diatribe, to whom Stallbaum refers. On the other hand Pausanias mentions as an early myth that Eros was the son of Ilithyia. See Pausan. Boot. ix. 27.
2 Sympos. p. 180., and see also p. 195.
the mysterious antithesis on which all organic production depends. From him all other beings derive their existence. There seems clearly more of a philosopheme in this than in the simpler statements of Hesiod.
The identification of Eros with Phanes or Ericapeus rests on a passage in the Argonautics, in which it is said that he was called Phanes by the men of later time because he was manifested before all other beings; πρῶτος γὰρ ἐφάνθη. It is confirmed by the authority of Proclus.
Phanes, in the common form of the Orphic theogony, comes out of the egg into which Chaos had formed itself.2 But I am not aware that any one except Aristophanes makes Night lay the egg from which Eros afterwards emerges ; 3 and it seems that this is only a playful modification of the common myth, not unsuitable to the chorus of birds by whom it is introduced.4 It does not appear necessary to suppose, as Cudworth seemingly does, that Aristophanes had in some unexplained way become acquainted with a peculiar form of "the old atheistic cabala." 5
The most remarkable passage in which Eros (not Phanes) is spoken of as the producer of all things, is in the Argonautics :
πρῶτα μὲν ἀρχαίου χάεος μεγαλήφατον ὕμνον,
ὡς ἐπάμειψε φύσεις, ὥς τ ̓ οὐρανὸς ἐς πέρας ἦλθεν,
1 Orph. Argon. 14. In the preceding line, Eros is made, according to Gesner's reading, the son of Night. But for via there is another reading, πατέρα.
2 See Lobeck, Aglaoph. i. 474.
3 Aves, 650.
4 This seems to be confirmed by the half ludicrous epithet vrηvémov. 5 See Cudworth, Intellect. Syst.