A Medieval Criticism of Greek Myth

Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum Maius:

“Let us come then to the Greeks so that we can see what they think about God. For the Greeks, saying that they were wise, became stupid – worse even than the Chaldeans – introducing the notion that there were many gods, some of them men and others women. They claimed that they were the authors of all vices and all iniquities so that, employing the gods as the defenders of their own villainy, they could commit adultery, rape, kill, and perform every piece of wickedness under the sun. Saturn was brought out at the head of their pantheon, and they sacrifice his sons to him; he fathered many children with Rhea, and in his insanity, he ate his sons. They say that Jupiter cut off his penis and threw it into the sea, from which Venus was said to have been miraculously born. Jupiter then bound his father up and hurled him into Tartarus. Jupiter was then installed, and they say that he was the king of all the gods, and that he was transformed into animals so that he could commit adultery with mortal women. They represent him as transformed into a bull for Europa, into gold for Diana, into a swan for Leda, into a satyr for Emptione, and into lightning for Semele, and he produced from these unions many children, such as Dionysus, Zethus and Amphion, Hercules, and Apollo, and Artemis, and Perseus, and Castor and Pollux and Helen, and Juno*, and Radamanthus and Sarpedon, and the nine daughters whom they called the Muses.”

*Probably Minos is meant here.

Image result for vincent of beauvais

Veniamus itaque ad Graecos ut videamus quid forte de Deo sentiant. Graeci namque dicentes se esse sapientes stulti facti sunt, deterius Chaldaeis, introducentes plurimos deos factos esse, alios quidem masculos, alios vero feminas; omnium vitiorum cunctarumque auctores iniquitatum ut, advocates istos et patronos habentes suae nequitiae, adulterentur, rapiant, occidant, et omnia mala faciant. Inducitur enim ab eis ante omnes deus Saturnus et huic sacrificant filios suos; qui genuit multos pueros de Rea, et insaniens comedit filios suos. Aiunt autem Iovem abscidisse sibi virilia et proiecisse in mare, unde Venus fabulose dicitur fuisse nata. Alligans autem suum patrem Iupiter proiecit in Tartarum. Secundus inducitur Iupiter, quem ferunt regem esse aliorum deorum et transformatum fuisse in animalia ut cum mortalibus mulieribus adulteria committeret. Inducunt enim hunc transformatum in taurum propter Europam et in aurum propter Dianam et in cignum propter Ledam et in satyrum propter Emptionem et in fulmen propter Semelem et ita genuisse ex his filios multos, Liberum videlicet, et Zetum et Amphionem, Herculem et Apollinem et Arthenicam et Perseum Castoremque et Pollucem et Helenam et Iunonem et Radamantum et Sarpedonem et novem filias quas appellaverunt Musas.

One thought on “A Medieval Criticism of Greek Myth

Leave a Reply