Epimenides

, a Cretan philosopher and poet, of the city of Gnossus in Crete, flourished in that island, when Solon was in great reputation at Athens, in the sixth century B. C. Many fabulous stories are told of him, and it is not easy to separate the true from the false part of his history. He was supposed to have been the son of the nymph Balte. He was a man venerable for religious observances, and it was the general persuasion, all over S. Europe occupying the southern portion of a peninsula which projects into the Mediterranean between the peninsula of Italy and the mainland of Turkey…">Greece, that he was inspired by some heavenly genius; and that he was frequently favoured with divine revelations. He devoted himself wholly to poetry, and every thing connected with divine worship. He was the first who introduced the consecration of temples, and the purification of countries, cities, and likewise private houses. He had little esteem for the people of his own country. St. Paul, in his epistle to Titus, when speaking of the Cretans, cites one of his verses, where he says (according to our translation), “The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies;” which, however, Fenelon translates less obscurely in these words, “They were great liars, indolent, yet malignant brutes.

Among the miracles told of him is the following: his father one day sent him to the country, in quest of a ewe. When returning, Epimenides went a little off the highway, and entered a cave directed to the south, in order to enjoy a little repose, and remained asleep there for fifty-seven years, and when he awoke, found himself fifty-seven years older, and every thing changed in proportion around him. An adventure so strange made a great deal of noise over the country; and every one regarded Epimenides as a favourite of the gods. Some of them would have done wiser, if they had made this fiction the foundation of a satiric rojnance; but it has been conjectured that he only disappeared from his family, and spent the fifty-seven years in travelling. It is also recorded of him that he had the power of sending his soul out of his body, and recalling it at pleasure. Perhaps, says Brucker, in his hours of pretended inspiration, he had the art of appearing totally | insensible and entranced, which would easily be mistaken, by ignorant spectators, for a power of dismissing and re-­calling his spirit. If, however, the Cretans were notorious liars, and it is to them we are -indebted for the particulars of the life of Epimenides, the solution of these mysteries becomes. easy. He probably was a man of superior talents, who pretended to an intercourse with the gods, and to support his pretensions lived in retirement upon the spontaneous productions of the earth, and practised various arts of imposture. During a plague, the Athenians sent for him to perform a lustration, in consequence of which the plague ceased, and when the Athenians wished to reward him munificently, he demanded only a branch of the sacred olive, which grew in their citadel. Solon, in whose time this lustration was performed (B. C. 596), seems to have been no stranger to the true character of Epimenides; for we find that he greatly disapproved of the conduct of the Athenians in employing him to perform this ceremony. Soon after his return to Crete, he died, as Laertius says, at the age of 157 years, or, as the Cretans pretend, at the age of 299 years. The superstitious Cretans paid him divine honours, after his decease; and he has been reckoned by some the seventh wise man of S. Europe occupying the southern portion of a peninsula which projects into the Mediterranean between the peninsula of Italy and the mainland of Turkey…">Greece, to the exclusion of Periander from this number. Laertius enumerates a variety of pieces written by Epimenides, both in prose and verse. Among the former was a treatise “On Sacrifices,” and “An account of the Cretan Republic;” and among the latter “The Genealogy and Theogony of the Curetes and Corybantes,” in 5000 verses; “Of the building of the ship Argo, and Jason’s expedition to E. of the Black Sea, and S. of Caucasus, where the Argonauts, according to Greek tradition, found and conquered the Golden Fleece; the natives had a reputation for witchcraft and…">Colchis,” in 6500 verses “Of Minos and Rhadamanthus,” in 4000 verses and a treatise “Of Oracles and Responses,” mentioned by St. N. Illyria, of rich parents, presumably Christian, although he first became Christian himself of his own election after he was grown up; and from the day of his…">Jerome, from which St. Paul is said to have taken the quotation above-mentioned. 1

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Diogenes Laertius.—Gen. Dict.—Stanley’s Hist.—Feneloa’s Lives of Philosophers, by Cormack.—Brucker.