In Lucian and Apuleius indeed we are presented with a singular and terrible aspect of social existence. The most ordinary acts and functions of life were believed to be affected by the invisible powers, and those powers were supposed to be willing to do service to all who were malignant enough to seek their aid, and fearless enough to serve the apprenticeship which was demanded of them. It is easy to decry the weakness and detect the absurdity of such a creed. Yet it was believed : it excited terror: it nurtured revenge: it wrought withering and wasting effects upon the feeble and the credulous: it cast a dark shade over life: it was potent over the sinews of the strong and over the bloom of the beautiful: it exercised "upon the inmost mind" all "its fierce accidents," and preyed upon the purest spirits, "As on entrails,joints and limbs, With answerable pains, but more intense".
It is idle to regard such a belief as a mere superficial or individual superstition. It pervaded all ranks of society, from the philosopher who disputed about a first cause, and the magistrate who viewed religion in the light of a useful system of police, to the shepherd who watched Orion and the Pleiades, and the miner who rarely beheld either sun or star. It was an erroneous, but it was an earnest, belief which drove men to consult with diviners, and to question the elements for signs and wonders.