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Chapter XXIV.—Agreement of Plato and Homer.

How, then, does Plato banish Homer from his republic, since, in the embassy to Achilles, he represents Phœnix as saying to Achilles, “Even the gods themselves are not inflexible,”25562556    Iliad, ix. 497. though Homer said this not of the king and Platonic maker of the gods, but of some of the multitude whom the Greeks esteem as gods, as one can gather from Plato’s saying, “gods of gods?” For Homer, by that golden chain,25572557    That is, by the challenge of the chain introduced—Iliad, viii. 18. refers all power and might to the one highest 283 God. And the rest of the gods, he said, were so far distant from his divinity, that he thought fit to name them even along with men. At least he introduces Ulysses saying of Hector to Achilles, “He is raging terribly, trusting in Zeus, and values neither men nor gods.”25582558    Iliad, ix. 238. In this passage Homer seems to me without doubt to have learnt in Egypt, like Plato, concerning the one God, and plainly and openly to declare this, that he who trusts in the really existent God makes no account of those that do not exist. For thus the poet, in another passage, and employing another but equivalent word, to wit, a pronoun, made use of the same participle employed by Plato to designate the really existent God, concerning whom Plato said, “What that is which always exists, and has no birth.” For not without a double sense does this expression of Phœnix seem to have been used: “Not even if God Himself were to promise me, that, having burnished off my old age, He should set me forth in the flower of youth.” For the pronoun “Himself” signifies the really existing God. For thus, too, the oracle which was given to you concerning the Chaldæans and Hebrews signifies. For when some one inquired what men had ever lived godly, you say the answer was:—

“Only the Chaldæans and the Hebrews found wisdom,

Worshipping God Himself, the unbegotten King.”

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