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ested witness; since it was supposed that when he saw this eclipse, Dionysius was a pagan?
As these pretended letters of Dionysius were not forged until towards the fifteenth or sixteenth century, Eusebius of Cæsarea was contented with quoting the evidence of Phlegon, a freed man of the emperor Adrian. This author was also a pagan, and had written the history of the Olympiads in sixteen books, from their origin to the year 140 of the vulgar era. He is made to say, that in the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, there was the greatest eclipse of the sun that had ever been seen: the day was changed to night at the sixth hour, the stars were seen, and an earthquake overthrew several edifices in the city of Niceas in Bithynia. Eusebius adds, that the same events are related in the ancient monuments of the Greeks, as having happened in the eighteenth year of Tiberius. It is thought that Eusebius alluded to Thallus, a Greek historian already cited by Justin, Tertullian, and Julius Africanus; but neither the work of Thallus, nor that of Phlegon, having reached us, we can only judge of the accuracy of these two quotations by reasoning.
It is true that the Paschal Chronicle of the Greeks, as well as St. Jerome Anastatius, the author of the Historia Miscella, and Freculphus of Luxem, among the Latins, all unite in representing the fragment of Phlegon in the same manner. But it is known that these five witnesses, so uniform in their depositions, translated or copied the passage, not from Phlegon himself but from Eusebius; while John Philoponus, who had read Phlegon, far from agreeing with Eusebius, differs from him by two years. We could also name Maximus and Malela, who lived when the work of Phlegon still existed; and the result of an examination of the whole is, that five of the quoted authors copy Eusebius. Philoponus, who really saw the work of Phlegon, gives a second reading, Maximus a third, and Malela a fourth; so that they are far from relating the passage in the
In short, the calculations of Hodgson, Halley, Whiston, and Gale Morris, have demonstrated that Phlegon and Thallus speak of a natural eclipse which happened on the 24th of November, in the first year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, and not in the fourth year, as Eusebius pretends. Its size at Nicea in Bithynia was only, according to Whiston, from nine to ten digits; that is to say, two thirds and a half of the sun's disk. It began at a quarter past eight, and ended at five minutes past ten; and between Cairo in Egypt and Jerusalem, according to Mr. Gale Morris, the sun was totally obscured for near two minutes. At Jerusalem the middle of the eclipse happened about an hour and a quarter after noon.
But what ought to spare all this discussion is, that Tertullian* says, the day became suddenly dark whilst the sun was in the midst of his career; that the pagans believed that it was an eclipse, not knowing that it had been predicted by the prophet Amos in these words, t " I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.”—“They," adds Tertullian,“ who have sought for the cause of this event, and could not discover it, have denied it; but the fact is certain, and you will find it noted in your archives."
Origen,f on the contrary, says that it is not astonishing foreign authors have said nothing about the darknesses of which the evangelists speak, since they only appeared in the environs of Jerusalem ; Judea, according to him, being designated under the name of all the earth, in more than one place in scripture. He also avows, that the passage in the gospel of St. Luke,ş in which we read that in his time all the earth was covered with darkness, on account of an eclipse of the sun, had been thus falsified by some ignorant christian, who thought thereby to throw a light on the text of the evangelist; or by some ill-intentioned enemy, who wished a pretext to calumniate the church, as if the evangelists had remarked an eclipse at a time when it was very evident that it could not have happened. “ It is true,” adds he, “ that Phlegon says that there was one under Tiberius: but as he does not say that it happened at the full moon, there is nothing wonderful in that.” “ These obscurations,” continues Origen,
* Apology, chap. xxi. + Chap. viii. 9.
| On St. Matthew, chap. xxvii.
Chap. xxiii. 25.
were of the nature of those which covered Egypt in the time of Moses, and were not felt in the quarter in which the Israelites dwelt. Those of Egypt lasted three days, while those of Jerusalem only lasted three hours; the first were after the manner of the second; and even as Moses raised his hands to heaven, and invoked the Lord to draw them down on Egypt, so Jesus Christ, to cover Jerusalem with darkness, extended his hands on the cross against an ungrateful people, who had criedCrucify him, crucify him!'
We may, in this case, exclaim with Plutarch, the darkness of superstition is more dangerous than that of eclipses.
ECONOMY (RURAL).* The primitive economy, that which is the foundation of all the rest, is rural. In early times it was exhibited in the patriarchal life, and especially in that of Abraham, who made a long journey through the arid desarts of Memphis to buy corn. I shall continue, with due respect, to discard all that is divine in the history of Abraham, and attend to his rural economy alone.
I do not learn that he ever had a house; he quitted the most fertile country of the universe, and towns in which there were commodious houses, to go wandering in countries, the languages of which he did not understand.
He went from Sodom into the desart of Gerar, without forming the least establishment. When he turned away Hagar and the child Ismael, it was still in a desart, and all the food he gave them was a morsel of bread and a cruise of water. When he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord, it was again in a desart. He cut the wood himself to burn the victim, and put it on the back of Isaac, whom he was going to immolate.
* Under the general head ECONOMY, Voltaire comprises political as well as social and domestic economy ; but so much of it is exclusively applicable to France under the old regime, and superseded by extensive subsequent research and discovery, a few passages only are retained.-T.
His wife died in a place called Kirgath-arba, or Hebron; he had not six feet of earth in which to bury her, but was obliged to buy a cave to deposit her body. This was the only piece of land which he ever possessed.
However, he had many children; for, without reckoning Isaac and his posterity, his second wife Keturah, at the age of one hundred and forty years, according to the ordinary calculation, bore him five male children, who departed towards Arabia. : It is not said that Isaac had a single piece of land in the country in which his father died; on the contrary, he went into the desart of Gerar with his wife Rebecca to the same Abimelech, king of Gerar, who had been in love with his mother.
This king of the desart became also amorous of his wife Rebecca, whom her husband caused to pass for his sister, as Abraham had acted with regard to Sarah and this same king Abimelech forty years before. It is rather astonishing that in this family the wife always passed for the sister when there was anything to be gained; but as these facts are consecrated, it is for. us to maintain a respectful silence.
Scripture says that Abraham enriched himself in this horrible country, which became fertile for his benefit, and that he became extremely powerful. But it is also mentioned that he had no water to drink, that he had a great quarrel with the king's herdsmen for a well; and it is easy to discover that he still had not a house of his own.
His children, Esau and Jacob, had not a greater establishment than their father. Jacob was obliged to seek his fortune in Mesopotamia, from whence Abraham
came; he served seven years for one of the daughters of Laban, and seven other years to obtain the second daughter. He fled with his wives and the flocks of his father-in-law, who pursued him. A precarious fortune, that of Jacob.
Esau is represented as wandering like Jacob. None of the twelve patriarchs, the children of Jacob, had any fixed dwelling, or a field of which they were the
proprietors. They only reposed in their tents like Bedouin Arabs.
It is clear that this patriarchal life would not conveniently suit the temperature of our atmosphere. A good cultivator, such as Pignoux of Auvergne, must have a convenient house, with an aspect towards the east; large barns and stables ; stalls properly built; the whole amounting to about fifty thousand francs of our present money in value. He must sow a hundred acres with corn, besides having good pastures; he should possess some acres of vineyard, and about fifty for inferior grain and herbs; thirty acres of wood; a plantation of mulberries, silk-worms, and bees. With all these advantages well economised, he can maintain a family in abundance. His land will daily improve; he will support them without fearing the irregularity of the seasons and the weight of taxes, because one good year repairs the damages of two bad ones.
He will enjoy in his domain a real sovereignty which will only be subject to the laws. It is the most natural state of man; the most tranquil, the most happy, and unfortunately the most rare.
The son of this venerable patriarch seeing himself rich, is disgusted with paying the humiliating tax of the taillé. Having unfortunately learned some Latin, he repairs to town, buys a post which exempts him from the tax, and which bestows nobility. He sells his domain to pay for his vanity; marries a girl brought up in luxury, who dishonours and ruins him: he dies in beggary, and his only son wears a livery in Paris.*
* Voltaire loses no opportunity of ridiculing the folly and effeminacy of a mere Parisian existence; and of showing the superiority of provincial independence. The above sketch is pleasantly filled