The priests of Bacchus, or, as the Greeks called him, Dionysus, having devoted themselves to architectural pursuits, established about 1000 years before the Christian era a society or fraternity of builders in Asia Minor, which is styled by the ancient writers the Fraternity of Dionystan Architects, and to this society was exclusively confined the privilege of erecting temples and other public buildings.
The members of the Fraternity of Dionysian Architects were linked together by the secret ties of the Dionysian mysteries, into which they had all been initiated. Thus constituted, the Fraternity was distinguished by many peculiarities that strikingly assimilate it to our Order. In the exercise of charity, the more opulent were sacredly bound to provide for the exigencies of the poorer brethren." For the facilities of labor and government, they were divided into communities called ouvoud each of which was governed by a Master and Wardens.
They held a general assembly or grand festival once a year, which was solemnized with great pomp and splendor. They employed in their ceremonial observances many of the implements which are still to be found among Freemasons, and used, like them, a universal language, by which one Brother could distinguish another in the dark as well as in the light, and which served to unite the members scattered over India, Persia, and Syria, into one common brotherhood.
The existence of this Order in Tyre, at the time of the building of the Temple, is universally admitted; and Hiram, the widow's son, to whom Solomon entrusted the superintendence of the workmen, as an inhabitant of Tyre, and as a skillful architect and cunning and curious workman, was, very probably, one of its members. Hence, we may legitimately suppose that the Dionysians were sent by Hiram, King of Tyre, to assist King Solomon in the construction of the house he was about to dedicate to Jehovah, and that they communicated to their Jewish fellow-laborers a knowledge of the advantages of their Fraternity, and invited them to a participation in its mysteries and privileges. In this union, however, the apocryphal legend of the Dionysians would naturally give way to the true legend of the Freemasons, which was unhappily furnished by a melancholy incident that occurred at the time.
The latter part of this statement is, it is admitted, a mere speculation, but one that has met the approval of Lawrie, Oliver, and our best writers; and although this connection between the Dionysian Architects and the builders of King Solomon may not be supported by documentary evidence, the traditional theory is at least plausible, and offers nothing which is either absurd or impossible. If accepted, it supplies the necessary link which connects the Pagan with the Jewish mysteries.
The history of this association subsequent to the Solomonic era has been detailed by Masonic writers, who have derived their information sometimes from conjectural and sometimes from historical authority. About 300 B.C., they were incorporated by the kings of Pergamos at Teos, which was assigned to them as a settlement, and where they continued for centuries as an exclusive society engaged in the erection of works of art and the celebration of their mysteries. Notwithstanding the edict of the Emperor Theodosius which abolished all mystical associations, they are said to have continued their existence down to the time of the Crusades, and during the constant communication which was kept up between the two continents passed over from Asia to Europe, where they became known as the Traveling Freemasons of the Middle Ages, into whose future history they thus became merged.
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