EUHEMERUS of Messene

Diodorus Siculus VI 1

"As regards the gods, then, men of ancient times have handed down to later generations two different conceptions: Certain of the gods, they say, are eternal and imperishable, such as the sun and the moon and the other stars of the heavens, and the winds as well and whatever else possesses a nature similar to theirs; for each of these the genesis and duration are from everlasting to everlasting. But the other gods, we are told, were terrestrial beings who attained to immortal honor and fame because of their benefactions to mankind, such as Herakles, Dionysus, Aristaeus, and the others who were like them...

Now Euhemerus, who was a friend of King Cassander [of Macedonia (301 to 297 B.C.)] and was required by him to perform certain affairs of state and to make great journeys abroad, says that he traveled southward as far as the [Indian] ocean; for setting sail from Arabia he voyaged through the ocean for a considerable number of days and was carried to the shore of some islands in the sea, one of which bore the name of Panachaea. On this island he saw the Panachaeans who dwell there, who excel in piety and honor the gods with the most magnificent sacrifices and with remarkable votive offerings of silver and gold.... There is also on the island, situated on an exceedingly high hill, a sanctuary of Zeus, which was established by him during the time when he was king of all the inhabited world and was still in the company of men. And in the temple there is a stele of gold on which is inscribed in summary, in the writing employed by the Panchaeans, the deeds of Ouranos and Kronos and Zeus.

Euhemerus goes on to say that Ouranos was the first to be king, that he was an honorable and beneficent man, who was versed in the movement of the stars, and that he was also the first to honor the gods of the heavens with sacrifices, whence he was called Ouranos, or "Heaven". There were born to him by his wife Hestia two sons, Titan and Kronos, and two daughters, Rhea and Demeter. Kronos became king after Ouranos, and, marrying Rhea, he begat Zeus and Hera and Poseidon. And Zeus, on succeeding to the kingship, married Hera and Demeter and Themis, and by them he had children: the Kouretes by the first named; Persephone by the second; and Athena by the third. And going to Babylon he was entertained by Belus, and after that he went to the island of Panchaea, which lies in the ocean, and here he set up an altar to Ouranos, the founder of his family. From there he passed through Syria,... and coming to Cilicia he conquered in battle Cilix, the governor of the region, and he visited very many other nations, all of which paid honor to him and publicly proclaimed him a god.

Hyginus Astronomica 2.42:

" It remains for us to speak of the five stars which many have called wandering, and which the Greeks call planetai.

One of them is the star of Jupiter [Zeus], Phaenon by name, a youth whom Prometheus made excelling all others in beauty, when he was making men, as Heraclides Ponticus says. When he intended to keep him back, without presenting him to Jove as he did the others, Cupid [Eros] reported this to Jove, whereupon Mercurius [Hermes] was sent to Phaenon and persuaded him to come to Jove and become immortal. Therefore he is placed among the stars.

The second star is that of Sol [Helios]; others say of Saturnus [Kronos]. Eratosthenes claim that it is called Phaethon, from the son of Sol. Many have written about him – how he foolishly drove his father’s chariot and set fire to the earth. Because of this he was struck with a thunderbolt by Jove, and fell into the river Eridanus, and was conveyed by Sol to the constellations.

The third star is that of Mars [Ares], though others say it belongs to Hercules … Since she [Aphrodite] inflamed him violently with love, she called the star Pyroeis, indicating this fact.

The fourth star is that of Venus [Aphrodite], Lucifer by name. Some say it is Juno’s. In many tales it is recorded that it is called Hesperus, too. It seems to be the largest of all stars. Some have said it represents the son of Aurora [Eos] and Cephalus, who surpassed many in beauty, so that he even vied with Venus, and, as Eratosthenes says, for this reason it is called the star of Venus. It is visible both at dawn and sunset, and so properly has been called both Lucifer and Hesperus.

This fifth star is Mercurius’ [Hermes], named Stilbon. It is small and bright. It is attributed to Mercurius because he first established the months and perceived the courses of the constellations. Euhemerus says that Venus first established the constellations and taught Mercurius."

Lactantius Epitome of the Divine Institutes:

But let us leave the poets; let us come to history, which is supported both by the credibility of the facts and by the antiquity of the times. Euhemerus was a Messenian, a very ancient writer, who gave an account of the origin of Jupiter (Zeus), and his exploits, and all his posterity, gathered from the sacred inscriptions of ancient temples; he also traced out the parents of the other gods, their countries, actions, commands, and deaths, and even their sepulchres. And this history Ennius translated into Latin, whose words are these:--
"As these things are written, so is the origin and kindred of Jupiter and his brothers; after this manner it is handed down to us in the sacred writing."

The same Euhemerus therefore relates that Jupiter, when he had five times gone round the world, and had distributed governments to his friends and relatives, and had given laws to men, and had wrought many other benefits, being endowed with immortal glory and everlasting remembrance, ended his life in Crete, and departed to the gods, and that his sepulchre is in Crete, in the town of Gnossus [Knossos], and that upon it is engraved in ancient Greek letters Zankronou, which is Jupiter the son of Saturnus. It is plain, therefore, from the things which I have related, that he was a man, and reigned on the earth.


Let us pass on to former things, that we may discover the origin of the whole error. Saturnus [Kronos] is said to have been born of Coelus [Ouranos] and Terra [Gaia]. This is plainly incredible; but there is a certain reason why it is thus related, and he who is ignorant of this rejects it as a fable. That Uranus was the father of Saturnus, both Hermes affirms, and sacred history teaches. When Trismegistus said that there were very few men of perfect learning, he enumerated among them Iris' relatives, Uranus, Saturnus and Mercurius. Euhemerus relates that the same Uranus was the first who reigned on earth, using these words: "In the beginning Coelus first had the chief power on earth: he instituted and prepared that kingdom for himself together with his brothers."


Surviving fragments:

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January 28, 2010 12:07 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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