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They changed every foreign term to something similar in their own language; to something similar in sound, however remote in meaning; being led solely by the ear.
They constantly mistook titles for names ; and from these titles multiplied their Deities and Heroes.
All terms of relation between the Deities to be disregarded.
As the Grecians were mistaken, it is worth our while to observe the mode of error and uniformity of mistake. By attending to this, we may bring things back to their primitive state, and descry in antient terms the original meaning.
We must have regard to the oblique cases, especially in nouns imparasyllabic, when we have an antient term transmitted to us either from the Greeks or Romans. The nominative, in both languages, is often abridged; so that, from the genitive of the word, or from the possessive, the original term is to be deduced. This will be found to obtain even in common names. From veteris we have veter for the true term; from sanguinis we have sanguen: and that this is right we may prove from Ennius, who says: 56 O! pater, O! genitor, O! sanguen diis oriundum.
56 Ennii Annales, 1. 2.
57 Cum veter occubuit Priamus sub marte
So mentis, and not mens, was the true nominative to mentis, menti, mentem; as we may learn from the same author:
** Istic est de sole sumptus ignis, isque mentis
In like manner Plebes was the nominative to Plebi and Plebem.
Deficit alma Ceres, nec plebes pane potitur.
All the common departments of the Deities are to be set aside, as inconsistent and idle. Pollux will be found a judge ; Ceres, a law-giver; Bacchus, the God of the year; Neptune, a physician; and Æsculapius, the God of thunder : and this not merely from the poets; but from the best mythologists of the Grecians, from those who wrote professedly upon the subject.
I have observed before, that the Grecians in
37 Ennii Annales. 1. 1.
foreign words often changed the Nu final to Sigma. For Keren, they wrote Ktf «f; for Cohen, Ku»<;; for Athon, Aflus; for Boun, Ba?; for Sain,
People, of old, were styled the children of the God whom they worshipped: hence they were, at last, thought to have been his real offspring; and he was looked up to as the true parent. On the contrary, Priests were represented as fosterfathers to the Deity before whom they ministered; and Priestesses were styled i-.G^a., or nurses.
Colonies always went out under the patronage and title of some Deity. This conducting-God was in after-times supposed to have been the real leader.
Sometimes the whole merit of a transaction was imputed to this Deity solely; who was represented under the character of Perseus, Dionusus, or Hercules. Hence, instead of one person, we must put a people; and the history will be found consonant to the truth.
As the Grecians made themselves principals in many great occurrences which were of another country, we must look abroad for the original, both of their rites and mythology; and apply to the nations from whence they were derived. Their original history was foreign, and ingrafted upon the history of the country where they settied. This is of great consequence, and repeatedly to be considered.
One great mistake frequently prevails among people who deal in these researches, which must be carefully avoided." We should never make use of a language which is modern, or comparatively modern, to deduce the etymology of antient and primitive terms. Pezron applies to the modern Teutonic, which he styles the Celtic, and says, was the language of Jupiter. But who was Jupiter, and what has the modern Celtic to do with the history of Egypt or Chaldea? There was an interval of two thousand years between the times of which he treats and any history of the Celtae: and there is still an interval, not very much inferior to the former, before Ave arrive at the aera of the language to which he applies.
It has been the custom of those writers, who have been versed in the Oriental languages, to deduce their etymologies from roots; which are often some portion of a verb. But the names of places and of persons are generally ah assemblage of qualities and titles; such as I have exhibited in the treatise above; and I believe were never formed by such evolutions. The terms were obvious, and in common use; taken from some well-known characteristics. Those who imposed such names never thought of a root; and, probably, did not know the purport of the term. Whoever, therefore, in etymology, has recourse to this method of investigation, seems to me to act like a person who should seek at the fountainhead for a city which stood at the mouth of a river.