Excepting those fables which are clearly allegorical,
such as those of the Muses, of Venus, the Graces,
Zephyrus, Love and Flora, with a few others of
the same species, all the rest are a collection of
idle stories, which have no other merit than that
of having furnished Ovid and Quinaut with materials
for some beautiful verses, and of having exercised
the pencils of our best painters. But there is one,
however, which seems to deserve the attention of
those who delight in the researches of antiquity,
and this is, The Fable of Bacchus.
Was this Bacchus, or Back, or Backos, or Dionisios,
a son of God, a real personage? Many nations mention
him, as well as Hercules. Indeed, so many different
Herculeses and Bacchuses have been celebrated,
that it may reasonably be supposed that there was,
in fact, one Bacchus as well as one Hercules.
It is certain, that in Egypt, Asia, and Greece,
Bacchus as well as Hercules, was acknowledged for
a demi-god; that their feasts were celebrated;
that miracles were attributed to them; and that
mysteries were instituted in the name of Bacchus
before the Jewish books were known.
We know that the Jews did not communicate their
books to foreigners, till the time of Ptolemy
Philadelphus, about two hundred and thirty years
before our era. Now, before that time, the East
and West re-echoed with the orgies of Bacchus.
The verses that are attributed to the ancient
Orpheus celebrated the conquests and good actions
of this supposed demi-god. His history is so
ancient that the fathers of the church suppose
Bacchus to have been Noah, because Bacchus and
Noah are both reputed to have cultivated the vine.
Herodotus, in relating the ancient opinions, says
that Bacchus was an Egyptian, brought up in Arabia
Felix. The Orphic verses say that he was saved
from the waters in a small box, which was called
Misem, in remembrance of this adventure; that he
was instructed in the secrets of the gods; that
he had a wand, which he changed into a serpent
at will; that he passed through the Red Sea
dry-shod, as Hercules subsequently did, in his
goblet, through the straits of Abila and Calpe;
and that, when he went into India, he and his
army enjoyed the light of the sun during the
night. Moreover, it is said, that he touched
with his magic wand the waters of the rivers
Orontes and Hydaspes; and that these waters then
separated and left him a free passage. It is even
said that he arrested the course of the sun and
moon. He wrote his laws upon two tables of stone:
and was anciently represented with horns, or rays,
issuing from his head.
After this it is not surprising that several
learned men, and particularly Bochart and Huet
in modern times, should suppose that Bacchus was
a copy of Moses and Joshua. Indeed, everything
concurs to favor the resemblance; for Bacchus
was, amongst the Egyptians, called Arsaph, and
amongst the names which the fathers have given
to Moses, we find that of Osasirph.
Between these two histories, which appear similar
in so many respects, it is not to be doubted that
the history of Moses is the real one, and that of
Bacchus only the fable. But it appears that this
fable was known to several nations long before
the history of Moses had reached them. No Greek
author before Longinus, who lived under the emperor
Aurelian, had quoted Moses; but all had previously
It appears impossible that the Greeks could have
taken their ideas of Bacchus from the book of the
Jewish laws, which they did not understand, and
of which they had not the least knowledge, -- a
book, moreover, so scarce, even amongst the Jews,
that in the reign of King Josias, but one copy
could be found, -- a book that was almost entirely
lost during the slavery of the Jews, who were
transported into Chaldea, and other parts of
Asia, -- a book that was afterwards restored by
Esdras in the flourishing times of Athens, and
the other Grecian republics -- times when the
mysteries of Bacchus were already instituted.
God then allowed that the spirit of untruth
should reveal the absurdities of the life of
Bacchus to a hundred nations, before the spirit
of truth divulged the life of Moses to any other
people than the Jews.
The learned bishop of Avranches, struck with
this surprising resemblance, did not hesitate
to contend that Moses was not only Bacchus, but
the Thaut, the Osiris of the Egyptians. He even
adds, to remove any contradiction, that Moses
was also their Typhon, that is to say, that he
was at the same time the good and the bad principle,
the protector and the enemy, the God and the
Devil of the Egyptians.
Moses, according to this learned man, is the same
as Zoroaster. He is Esculapius, Amphion, Apollo,
Faunus, Janus, Perseus, Romulus, Vertumnus, and
finally, Adonis and Priapus. The proof that he
was Adonis is that Virgil says,
"Et formosus oves ad flumina pavit Adonis,"
"And the beautiful Adonis was a keeper of sheep."
Now Moses watched the sheep towards Arabia. The
proof of his being Priapus is still better.
Priapus was sometimes represented with an ass,
and the Jews were supposed to adore an ass. Huet
adds, to complete the confirmation, that the rod
of Moses might very well be compared to the
sceptre of Priapus:
"Sceptrum Priapo tribuitur, virga Mosi."
This is what Huet calls his demonstration. It
is not in truth very geometrical. There is even
reason to believe that he blushed at it in the
latter part of his life; and that he remembered
this demonstration when he wrote his Treatise
on the Weakness of the Human Mind, and the
Uncertainty of its Knowledge.