The description of the ancient point of view, concerned only with this world and its assets, leads us directly to the observation that such advantages are conceivable only in a pagan mind. That confidence in oneself, that activity in the present, the pure worship of the gods as ancestors and the admiration of them quasi as artistic creations only, resignation to an all-powerful fate, the yearning for future fame, itself dependent upon activities in this world—all these belonging necessarily together, constitute such an inseparable whole that they form a condition of human existence planned by Nature herself. In the highest moment of happiness, as well as in the deepest of sacrifice, even of destruction, we are always conscious of an indestructible well-being.
This pagan point of view pervades Winckelmann’s deeds and writings, and is expressed especially in his early letters, where he is still wearing himself out in the conflict with more modern religious opinions. This mode of thought, this remoteness from the Christian point of view, indeed his repugnance of it, must be remembered in judging his so-called change of religion. The churches into which the Christian religion is divided were a matter of complete indifference to him, because in his inmost nature he never belonged to any of them.
Since the ancients, as we boast, were really entire men, they must, as they found all happiness in themselves and the world, have learned to know the relations of human beings in the widest sense; they could not therefore be lacking in that delight which arises from the attachment of similar natures.
Here also a remarkable difference between ancient and modern times is revealed. The relation to woman, which with us has become so tender and spiritual, hardly rose above the limits of the lowest satisfaction. The relation of parents to children seems to have been of a somewhat more tender character. The friendship of persons of the male sex for one another, with them took the place of all other sentiments; although they pictured the maidens Chloris and Thyia as inseparable friends, even in Hades.
The passionate fulfilment of loving duties, the joy of inseparability, the devotion of one for the other, their avowed allegiance during life, and the duty of sharing death itself, if necessary, fill us with astonishment. One even feels ashamed of one’s own generation when poets, historians, philosophers and orators overwhelm one with amazing stories, events, sentiments and opinions, all of the same tenor and purport.
For a friendship of this character, Winckelmann felt himself born—not only capable of it, but requiring it to the highest degree. He realized himself only in the relation of friendship; he recognized himself only in that image of the whole which requires a third for its completion.