This golden rule of mine does, I own, resemble those of Pythagoras in its obscurity rather than in its depth. If however the reader will permit me to be my own Hierocles, I trust, that he will find its meaning fully explained by the following instances. I have now before me a treatise of a religious fanatic, full of dreams and supernatural experiences.
General abstractions he had no opportunity for presenting; consequently we have no opportunity for valuing; and, on the other hand, single cases selected from a succession of hundreds would not justify any representative criticism, more than the single brick, in the anecdote of Hierocles, would serve representatively to describe or to appraise the house.
Poor thing! even the happiness of these her best days is hollow, for she cannot have, at the same time, peace in the harem and her husband's love." With these specimens we must be content, though we are well aware, as Hierocles has taught us, that we cannot judge of a house from a single brick.
Paganism never wears so fair a dress as in the writings of Hierocles; his commentary on the Golden Verses of the Pythagoreans is full of the loftiest and purest morality, and not less agreeable are the fragments that remain of his writings on our duties, and his beautiful chapter on the pleasures of a married life.
"Philosophy," says Hierocles, "is the purification and perfection of human life. It is the purification, indeed, from material irrationality, and the mortal body; but the perfection, in consequence of being the resumption of our proper felicity, and a reascent to the divine likeness.
'History of the Heathen Mythology, with an explication of the fables, both allegorical and historical; with references to the poets. 'History of the State of Venice, in a compendious manner. 'Aristotle's Ethicks, an English translation of them, with notes. 'Geographical Dictionary, from the French. 'Hierocles upon Pythagoras, translated into English, perhaps with notes. This is done by Norris.
In the Facetiæ of Hierocles we have one of the earliest jest-books that has been saved from the wreck of time. It is a curious proof of the fallen state of learning; the Sophists had long since made themselves ridiculous; books alone will not make a man of sense; and in the jokes of Hierocles the blunderer is always called a man of learning.
It was probably with an indirect view of this sort that Philostratus was incited by the empress Julia to compose his life of this philosopher; and Hierocles, a writer of the time of Dioclesian, appears to have penned an express treatise in the way of a parallel between the two, attempting to shew a decisive superiority in the miracles of Apollonius.
As his name had become the very emblem of wisdom, they would cover with it the latest inventions of their ever-deepening theosophy. Zoroaster and Plato were treated as if they had been philosophers of the same school, and Hierocles expounded their doctrines in the same book.
Of this style there are two divisions; the one sententious and witty, the sentiments neatly turned and graceful rather than grave or sedate: an example of this in history is Timaeus; in oratory during my own boyhood there was Hierocles of Alabanda, and still more his brother Menecles, both whose speeches are, considering their style, worthy of the highest praise.