Bishop Warburton (Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated) has contended, and his opinion has been sustained by the great majority of subsequent commentators, that Vergil, in the Sixth Book of his immortal epic, has, under the figure of the descent of Aeneas into the infernal regions, described the ceremony of initiation into the Ancient Mysteries.
An equally noteworthy allusion is to be found in the Third Book of the Aeneid by Vergil. Here the hero, Aeneas, by means of a message given to him by the uprooting of a plant on the hillside, discovers the grave of a lost prince. A free translation is given as follows of this interesting story by the ancient Roman poet:
"Near at hand there chanced to be sloping ground crested by trees and with a myrtle rough with spear like branches. Unto it I came. There I strove to tear from the earth its forest growth of foliage that the altars I might cover with the leafy boughs. But at that I saw a dreadful wonder, marvelous to tell.
That tree when torn from the soil, as its rooted fibers were wrenched asunder, distilled black blood in drops and gore smeared the ground. My limbs shook with cold terror and the chill veins froze with fear.
"Again I essayed to tear off one slender branch from another and thus thoroughly search for the hidden cause. From the bark of that bough there descended purpled blood. Awaking in my mind many an anxious thought, I reverently beseeched the rural divinities and father Mars, who presides over these Thracian territories, to kindly bless the vision and divert the evil of the omen. So a third time I grasped the boughs with greater vigor and on my knees struggled again with the opposing ground. Then I heard a piteous groan from the depths of the hill and unto mine ears there issued forth a voice :
"'Aeneas, why dost thou strive with an unhappy wretch? Now that I am in my grave spare me. Forbear with guilt to pollute thy pious hands. To you Troy brought me forth no stranger. Oh, flee this barbarous land, flee the greedy shore. Polydore am I. Here an iron crop of darts hath me overwhelmed, transfixed, and over me shoots up pointed javelins.'
"Then indeed, depressed with perplexing fear at heart, was I stunned. On end stood my hair, to my jaws clung my tongue. This Polydore unhappy Priam formerly had sent in secrecy with a great weight of gold to be stored safely with the King of Thrace when Priam began to distrust the arms of Troy and saw the city blocked up by close siege.
The King of Thrace, as soon as the power of the Trojans was crushed and gone their fortune, broke every sacred bond, killed Polydore and by violence took his gold. Cursed greed of gold, to what don't thou not urge the hearts of men! When fear left my bones I reported the warnings of the gods to our chosen leaders and especially to my father, and their opinion asked. All agreed to quit that accursed country, abandon the corrupt associations, and spread our sails to the winds. Thereupon we renewed funeral rites to Polydore. A large hill of earth was heaped for the tomb. A memorial altar was reared to his soul and mournfully bedecked with grey wreaths and gloomy cypress. Around it the Trojan matrons stood with hair disheveled according to the custom. We offered the sacrifices to the dead, bowls foaming with warm milk, and goblets of the sacred blood. We gave the soul repose in the grave, and with loud voice addressed to him the last farewell."
Egyptian mythology also supplies us with a similar legend to the above in the story of the search for the body of slain Osiris. This was placed in a coffin and thrown into the sea, being cast upon the shores of Phoenicia at the base of a tamarisk tree. Here it was found by Isis and brought back to Egypt for ceremonious burial (see Mysteries).
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