6 NATURAL HISTORY OF PRECIOUS STONES, &c.
the profession of Magic had been made a capital offence by the law of
Constantius in his ninth Consulship. He even conjectures that the "
god-lite prophet " alluded to (».'74) may be the philosopher Maximus,
Julian's instructor in divination, who was put to death under Valens
for alleged complicity in the plot of Hilarius and Patricius. But this
hypothesis appears to me to rest on no sufficient grounds. Had he
written so late as the reign of Valens, the poet could not have spoken
of sacrifices to the gods as matters of public and regular occurrence;
and certainly be would not have let slip the opportunity of inveighing
against the Christians, the then triumphant enemies of the ancient
worship. As for his lamentations over the ignorance of mankind, their hatred of virtue, and the
suspicion with which they regarded Magicians (points upon which Tyrwhit
builds his strongest arguments), all these would equally apply to any
previous period of the Empire, throughout which others, before Maximus,
had commonly been put to death on the charge of magical practices.
Besides, the actual allusion to the decapitation of the prophet was
cleaily intended to refer to the fate of Orpheus himself, who had been named in the preceding line. For Orpheus is
only mentioned as the author of the poem by Tzetzes, that is, not
before the twelfth century, in his Commentary upon Lycophron : whilst
the very few MSS. of it, still extant, prefix no author's name at all.
In fact another poem ' On Ceremonies,' existing in the same Collection,
is there ascribed to Maximus himself; a circumstance which alone, as
we may suspect, induced Tyrwhit to place the Αιθικά also at the same low date.
But if any competent scholar will take the trouble to compare this poem with the 'Argonautica,' which also