19 Dec Augustine: “De Civitae Dei”: Book IV
ST. AUGUSTINE: DE CIVITATE DEI CONTRA PAGANOS (“ON THE CITY OF GOD AGAINST THE PAGANS”): BOOK IV.
The item translated below is the first extract from the works of St. Augustine of Hippo that Sabidius has translated. This is partly because, with the exception of some selected letters written by Augustine, none of his writings, including both his famous “Confessions” and “City of God”, are included in the texts of the Perseus website maintained by Tufts University, upon which Sabidius has so often depended for support, and partly, perhaps, because of the length of so many of Augustine’s works. However, Sabidius has recently been put under some pressure by his coadjutor, Andrew William Panton (see the ‘Prolegomenon’ at the beginning of this blog), to open up to Augustine’s offerings, massive and weighty as they are. When he studied Modern History at Oxford (1964-67), Andrew chose St. Augustine as the subject of his special study in the final year of his three-year course. He did this because this special subject was in line with his particular interest in Later Roman History, and also because this choice brought him the great benefit of securing as his tutor for these studies the well-known Later Roman and Early Christian historian Peter Brown of All Souls’ College, whose seminal biography, “Augustine of Hippo” was first published in 1967, just after Andrew had graduated. Andrew had found the insights which Peter Brown provided particularly inspiring during the second year of the course, when he had chosen the period 284-717 A.D. as the basis of his studies in European History, and therefore he had no hesitation in selecting St. Augustine as his special subject in his final year. Book IV of the “City of God”, the piece translated below, was one of the set books which Andrew was required to study.
The purpose of Book IV is to demonstrate both to pagans and any recently converted Christians, whose confidence in their new faith might be faltering, how unconvincing and unsatisfactory was the long-standing reliance of the Romans upon a multiplicity of gods and goddesses. In writing it, Augustine makes good use of the works of Varro, the prolific Latin writer of the First Century B.C., who apparently believed that there was only one god. Book IV indicates how immensely wordy Augustine is, how much he revels in writing Latin prose, and, although much of this work appears to be most repetitive, such repetition had the merit of making the pagan obsession with multiple gods look very foolish indeed. Augustine points out that most natural functions, for instance child-rearing and agriculture, are divided up between a number of deities, none of whom seems to have much overall power or responsibility for the function as a whole. He also makes much of the fact that what most people want is happiness (‘felicia’), and that it would therefore have made much sense to have given the goddess Felicitas a position of great significance, and to have allowed most, if not all, of the other gods and goddesses to have faded from the scene; however, in practice the Romans failed to promote Felicitas as an important deity, and he spends much time and effort emphasing the ludicrous nature of this failure, while continually pointing out that true happiness is actually provided, not by Felicitas, but by the one true God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Argument: In this (book) it is shown that the extent and long duration of the Roman empire is not to be attributed to Jupiter or the gods of the pagans, to which individuals even single (issues) and the very basest of functions were believed to be entrusted, but to the one true God, the author of happiness, by whose power and judgment the kingdoms of the earth are founded and preserved.
Chapter 1: – on the (matters) which have been discussed in the first book.
When I began to speak of the city of God, I thought it necessary, in the first place, to reply to its enemies, who, as they pursue earthly joys and gape at fleeting things, throw the blame for whatever disappointment they suffer in these (matters) – (this occurs) through the compassion of God in admonishing (them) rather than in the strictness of his punishing (them) – , on the Christian religion, which is the one sound and true religion. And, since there is among them also an untaught rabble, they are more deeply stirred up into hatred of us by the supposed authority of the learned, with (them) thinking in their ignorance that the (things) which have happened unusually in their own times were not accustomed to occur in times past, and that, (whereas) this opinion of theirs is confirmed even by those who know it to be false, and by the dissembling of their own knowledge, in order that they may seem to have a just (cause) for murmuring against us, I was obliged to demonstrate, from books which their authors (have written) to explain the history of times past and to commit (it) to memory, that it was very different from what they think (it was), and, at the same time, I have had to teach that the false gods, whom they either used to worship openly or (whom) they still worship in secret, are (really) the most unclean spirits and the most malignant and the most deceitful demons, so much so that they take delight in crimes (which,) whether (they are) real or even fictitious, (are) yet their own, and they have wished these to be celebrated in their (honour) during their own festivals, so that human infirmity cannot be revoked from perpetrating damnable deeds, so long as a supposedly divine authority is granted for them to be imitated.
These (things) I have proved, not from my own conjecture, but partly, from recent memory, because I, myself, have seen such (spectacles) produced in public and in honour of such (deities), and partly from the writings of those who have left descriptions of these (things), not as a reproach, but in honour of their own gods, so that Varro, the most learned man among them, and (a man) of the weightiest authority, when he wrote separate books on human and divine affairs, (while) apportioning some to humans and others to the gods in accordance with the particular importance of each topic, placed the theatrical plays among things divine, although, if only there were good and honest men in the community, theatrical plays ought to have no place in human affairs. He certainly did this on his own authority, but, because he had been born and brought up in Rome, he found them (to be classified) among divine affairs.
And, since I briefly set down at the end of the first book (those topics) which were to be discussed next, and I have discussed some of these in the two following (ones), we see what (debts) remain to be repaid in the expectation of my readers.
Chapter 2: – on the (matters) which were contained in the second and third books.
So had I promised that I would say something against those who attribute the disasters of the Roman state to our religion, and that I would recount all those evils – and some of them were very great – that could have occurred, or would have seemed to be sufficient (for my purpose), which that city, or the provinces belonging to its empire, had endured before their sacrifices had been forbidden; all of these (disasters) would, without any doubt, have been attributed to us, if our religion had already either been experienced by them or had thus prohibited them from (performing) their sacrilegious rites.
These (matters) I have, I think, disposed of fully enough in the second and third books, dealing in the second with moral evils, which should be considered (as) either the only or the greatest evils, and in the third with those evils which (are) the only ones (that) fools dread to suffer, namely those of the body or external (things), which the good mostly suffer too; but they regard, I do not say with patience, but with pleasure those evils by which they themselves become evil.
And what few (evils) have I mentioned concerning that single city itself and its empire! not even all of them down to the time of Caesar Augustus. What (a story it would be) if I had wished to recount and to emphasise not those evils which men inflict upon one another, such as the devastation and destruction (which) are (caused) by wars, but (those afflictions which) befall earthly (things) from the rudiments of the universe itself! Apuleius (i.e. the author of “The Metamorphoses” of the “Golden Ass”) touches briefly on these (things) in one passage of that book which he wrote “On the Universe”, saying that all earthly (things) are subject to changes, reversals, and destruction; for to use his own words, he says that by excessive earthquakes the ground has burst open and that cities and their inhabitants (have been) totally swallowed up; whole districts have even been washed away by sudden rain-storms; some (areas) too, which had formerly been parts of the mainland, have been made into islands by inhospitable foreign waves, and others, by a recession of the sea, have been made open to access by foot; cities have been overthrown by winds and storms; fires have flashed from the clouds, and regions in the East have been burnt up by these and have perished; and in Western regions some springs and floods have caused similar havoc; so, on one occasion, craters erupted from the peaks of (Mount) Aetna in a godsent conflagration and rivers of fire flowed down its slopes like a torrent. If I had wanted to collect such (instances) and others of a similar kind, which history has in its possession, whenever I could, when should I (ever) have finished (the task)? Those (things) happened in those times before the name of Christ suppressed any of their (rites), vain and ruinous (as they are) to true salvation.
I had promised also that I should point out what their customs (were) and for what reason the true God, in whose power all kingdoms lie, had deigned to help (them) to enlarge their empire, and how those, whom they think (are) gods, had not helped them in any way, and how much they had harmed (them) instead by their deceit and trickery: so now I see that I must speak of (these things), and especially of the extension of the Roman empire. For not a little has already been said, especially in the second book, about the harmful deceit of the demons, whom they used to worship as gods, (and) how many evils they brought to their morals. But throughout all three books (which have been) completed, I have shown, where it seemed suitable, how much relief, even amid the very evils of war, God has bestowed on the good and the bad through the name of Christ, to whom the barbarians, contrary to the usages of war, have shown so much honour, according as it is written: “He makes his sun rise on the good and the bad and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5. 45).
Chapter 3: – whether the extent of an empire which is not acquired other than by wars should be counted among the blessings of the wise or the happy.
So now let us see how it is that they dare to attribute the very great extent and the long duration of the Roman empire to those gods, whom they claim that they worshipped honourably, even by means of their allegiance to shameful shows and through the services of disgraceful men.
And yet I should first like briefly to inquire what reason, what good sense there is in wishing to boast of the extent and the grandeur of the Roman empire, when you cannot show the happiness of the men who, with their fear of darkness and lust for blood, are always engaged in the scourge of war and in bloodshed, – (whether it be that) of their fellow-citizens or of their enemies, (it is) still human – , so that their joy may be compared to glass, splendid in its brittleness, of which one is so horribly afraid that it may suddenly be shattered.
So that we may make up our minds more easily about this, let us not be carried away by the empty flatulence of boasting and blunt the sharpness of our thinking by the high-sounding names of things, when we hear (such words as) “peoples,” “kingdoms,” “provinces;” but let us consider the case of two men (for each individual man, like one letter in a discourse, is, as it were, the basic element of a city or a kingdom, however large it has become by its occupation of land), and let us imagine that one of these (is) poor, or rather of modest means, (and) that the other (is) extremely rich; but the rich (man is) troubled by fears, pining with grief, burning with desire, never secure, always unsettled, breathless from the ceaseless struggles with his foes; (and yet) to be sure he increases his patrimony by means of these miseries to an immense degree, and by those additions he also adds to his most bitter cares; on the other hand, that man of modest means is satisfied with his small and compact estate, is most dear to his (family), enjoys the most agreeable relations with his kindred, his neighbours and his friends, (is) devoutly religious, well-disposed in his mind, healthy in body, frugal in his lifestyle, chaste in his morals, (and) untroubled in his conscience. I do not know whether there is anyone so stupid that he ventures to doubt which (one) he would prefer (to be). So, as in the case of these two men, so in the case of two families, and in the case of two peoples and in the case of two kingdoms, the (same) rule of equity goes with (it), and, if we vigilantly apply (it), and our thinking is unprejudiced, we shall easily see where vanity dwells, and where (is the home of true) happiness.
Therefore, if the true God is worshipped and is served with genuine religious rites and good morals, it is expedient that good men should rule far and wide and for a long time. For, in so far as this relates to themselves, their piety and probity, which are God’s great gifts, suffice to (bring) them to true happiness, by which they may both live their lives well, and afterwards attain (the things that are) eternal. So, in this world the rule of good (men) benefits not so much themselves as the affairs of their human (subjects); but the rule of bad (men) is particularly harmful to those who rule, (for) they destroy their own souls by their greater licence to sin; but no harm is done to those who are put under them, except through their own iniquity. For whatever evils are imposed on the just by unjust masters does not involve the punishment of crime but the testing of virtue. Therefore, a good (man), even if he is a slave, is free; but a bad (man), even if he rules, is a slave, not of one man, but, what is worse, of as many masters as (he has) vices. When divine Scripture deals with these vices, it says: “For, by whomever a man is overcome, to him he is also bound (as) a slave” (2 Peter 2. 19).
Chapter 4: – how kingdoms without justice are similar to robber bands.
And so, if justice has been removed, what are kingdoms but great robber bands? For what are robber bands but little kingdoms? The band itself is also a (group) of men; it is ruled by the command of a leader, it is bound by a social compact, and the booty is divided by a law (which has been agreed) upon. If, by the admittance of desperate men, this evil grows to so great an extent that it even holds places, fixes abodes, occupies cities (and) subdues peoples, it more clearly assumes the name of a kingdom, because (this name) is now manifestly conferred on it, not (because) covetousness has been taken away, but (because) impunity is added. For, indeed, that pirate, (who had been) seized, responded aptly and truthfully to Alexander the Great. For when that same king asked him what he meant (by saying) that he kept the sea hostile, he said in frank defiance: “What (it means) to you to (seize) the (whole) world; but, because I do it with a little ship, I am called a robber; because you (do it) with a great fleet, (you are called) an emperor.”
Chapter 5: – on the runaway gladiators, whose power became like the grandeur of kings.
So, I refrain from asking what sort of (men) Romulus gathered together, since, in their case, there was much consideration that, when the fellowship of his community had been granted to them, (after they had abandoned) their previous way of life, they might cease to dwell on the punishments that were due (to them), the fear of which was driving them to greater crimes, so that, in the future, they might become more peacefully inclined towards human affairs.
But this I do say, that the Roman empire, (having) now (become) great by subduing many nations and terrifying (all) the rest, itself felt bitterly distressed and was profoundly alarmed, (as) it suppressed (a revolt) with no small difficulty, and (thus) avoided a huge disaster, when a handful of gladiators, escaping from their training school in Campania, got together a large army, appointed three generals (i.e. Spartacus, Oenomaus and Crixus), and ravaged Italy far and wide and with the utmost cruelty. (Now) let them tell (us) what god helped those (men), so that, from a small and contemptible band of robbers, they became a kingdom which the Romans had to fear, as great as their forces and their strongholds now (were). Or will their being divinely assisted be denied for this reason, that they did not last for long? As if indeed the life of any man were long-lasting! So by such reasoning as this the gods help no one to rule, since all individuals die quickly, nor should you count (as) a benefit (something) which, for every single man, and, on this (basis,) for all (men) one by one at least, vanishes in a moment like a (puff of) smoke.
For what does it matter to those who worshipped the gods under Romulus, and died a long time ago, that after their death the Roman empire has grown so great, while they are pleading their cases before the (powers) of the underworld? Whether (their cases are) good or bad does not affect the case before us. And this must be understood in relation to all of those who have, in the few days of their life, passed quickly and hurriedly through the imperial (office) itself, bearing the heavy burden of their deeds – although (the office) has lasted for long periods (of time) as mortals die and succeed (one another). But if indeed those benefits of even the shortest duration are to be ascribed to the help of the gods, those gladiators received no little help: they broke the chains of their servile condition, they fled, they escaped, they amassed a great and a very valiant army, and, as they were obedient to the advice and commands of their chiefs, (and they were the source of) great fear to the Roman establishment, and invincible in respect of a number of Roman generals, they won numerous victories, and, enjoying whatever pleasures they wished, they did whatever their lust suggested (to them) and lived in an exalted and dominant state, until at last they were conquered, (something) which was only achieved with the utmost difficulty. But let us come to more important (matters).
Chapter 6: – on the ambition of King Ninus, who was the first to make war on his neighbours in order to extend his dominions.
Justin (i.e. a Latin author of the second or third century A.D.), who followed (the example of) Pompeius Trogus (i.e. a Latin historian of the first century B.C.) in writing Greek, or rather foreign, history not only in Latin, as he (did), but also in a condensed form, begins the work of his books as follows: “At the beginning of the affairs of tribes and nations, power was in the hands of kings, who were raised to the summit of such majesty not by winning the favour of the people, but (because) their restraint was observed among good (men). The people were not bound by any laws, (and) it was the custom to defend rather than to extend the boundaries of an empire, and the domains of each (ruler) were kept within the boundaries of his own native land. First of all, Ninus, king of the Assyrians (i.e. the founder of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire), through a new lust for empire, changed the old and, as it were, ancestral, custom of the nations. He was the first to make war on his neighbours, and he wholly subdued those peoples, (who were) as yet untrained to resist, as far as the borders of Libya.” And a little later, he says: “By his constant (new) acquisitions, Ninus strengthened the greatness of the dominion (he had) won. So, having conquered his nearest (neighbours), and (having become) stronger with the acquisition of new forces, he went on to (attack) others (peoples), and, (since) each victory became the means of pursuing the next (ones), he subdued the peoples of the whole of the East.”
Now, with whatever fidelity to the facts either he (i.e. Justin) or Trogus may have written – for other more trustworthy writings do show that they had been lying in relation to some (things) – yet it is agreed among other writers that the kingdom of the Assyrians had been extended far and wide by king Ninus. Moreover, it lasted for so long that the Roman (Empire) has not yet (reached) its age. For, if they write as those who have written chronological history (do), this kingdom lasted for twelve hundred and forty years, from the first year in which Ninus began to rule (i.e. 2059 B.C.) until it was transferred to the Medes (i.e. 819 B.C.). But to make war on your neighbours and thence to proceed against others, and, solely through a desire to rule, to crush and subdue people who have caused you no trouble, what else can this be called (other) than robbery on a grand scale?
Chapter 7: – whether earthly kingdoms in their rise and fall have been assisted by the help of the gods or deserted (by them)?
If this kingdom was so great and prolonged without the help of the gods, why is (the credit for) the Roman kingdom, so abundant in territories and long-lasting in duration (as it is), to be attributed to the gods of the Romans? For whatever is the cause of the one, the same is also (the cause of) the other. But, if they argue that their (success) is also to be attributed to the help of the gods, I ask of what (gods)? For the other nations, whom Ninus conquered and subdued, did not then worship any different gods (from his). Or if the Assyrians had their own (gods), (and they were) more skilful workmen, so to speak, in the construction and maintenance of an empire, then were they dead when they themselves lost the empire, or (was it) because they were not paid their wages or because they were promised better alternatives, (that) they chose to go over to the Medes, and then again to the Persians, when Cyrus invited (them) and promised (them) something more advantageous? Since (the time of) Alexander of Macedon’s kingdom, great in territory and very brief in duration (as it was), this nation (i.e. Persia) occupies no small (number of) lands in the East, (and) still maintains its rule right up (to the present day).
If this is so, (then) either the gods are unfaithful, in deserting their own (people) and going over to the enemy – (this is something) which the man Camillus (i.e. Marcus Furius Camillus) did not do, when as victor and stormer of a most hostile city (i.e. Veii, which he conquered in 396 B.C. after a ten year war) he experienced the ingratitude of Rome, for whom he had conquered (it), and yet later, forgetting this injury, (and) mindful (only) of his native-land, he liberated her once more, (this time) from the Gauls (i.e. in 390 B.C.) – or they are not so strong as gods ought to be, (when) they can be overcome by the stratagems or the strength of men; or if, when they wage war among themselves, the gods are perchance overcome not by men but by other gods, who are the particular (gods) of certain cities, then they also have feuds between themselves, which they progress, each on behalf of his own community. So the city ought not to worship its own gods more than those others, from which their own (people) receive assistance.
Finally, whatever may be the reason for the gods’ changing sides or their flight, whether (it was) migration or defection in battle, the name of Christ had not yet been proclaimed in those times or in those parts of the earth, when these kingdoms (were) lost through mighty military disasters and were (then) transferred (to others). For, if after twelve hundred years and more, when the kingdom was taken from the Assyrians, if at that time the Christian religion had already been proclaiming another kingdom, and had put a stop to the sacrilegious worship of false gods, what else would those foolish men have said, but that a kingdom which had been preserved for so long could not have perished for any other reason than because they had forsaken their own religion and another (one) (i.e. Christianity) had been accepted? In that absurd statement, which could have been (uttered), let them look in their own mirror, and, if they have made similar complaints, let them blush, if there is any (sense of) shame in them. And yet the Roman empire has (only) been afflicted rather than exchanged (for another), something which has also befallen (it) in other times, and after such affliction it has been restored, (something) which, even in such times as these, ought not to be despaired of. For who knows the will of God, concerning this matter?
Chapter 8: – with the help of what gods could the Romans suppose that their empire grew and was maintained, when the sponsorship of individual subjects could scarcely be entrusted to individual (gods)?
Next let us ask, if you like, out of so great a crowd of gods and goddesses, which the Romans used to worship, whom, or which gods, in particular, did they believe to have extended and preserved their empire? For in such a glorious achievement, and (in one) so very full of importance, they did not venture to assign any parts (of it) to the goddess Cluacina (i.e. the goddess of ‘cloaca’, sewers), or to Volupia, who gets her name from pleasure (i.e. ‘voluptas’), or to Lubentina, whose name comes from lust (i.e. ‘libido’), or to Vaticanus, who presides over the wailing (i.e. ‘vagitus’) of infants, or to Cunina, who runs their cradles (i.e. ‘cunae’) (for them). But how can the names of all the gods and goddesses be recorded in one passage of this book, when they were scarcely able to find room for them in the huge volumes where they apportioned the peculiar services of these deities in relation to individual matters (i.e. the “Antiquities” of Marcus Terentius Varro)? Nor have they thought that responsibility for their land should be committed to one god, but (they have entrusted) their farms (i.e. ‘rura’) to the goddess Rusina, and the ridges (i.e. ‘iuga’) of their mountains to the god Jugatinus; they have put the goddess Collatina in charge of their hills (i.e. ‘colles’), (and) Vallonia in charge of their valleys (i.e. ‘valles’). Nor could they even find such a single Segetia, to whom they could entrust they corn-crops (i.e. ‘segetes’) once and for all, but, as long as their seed-corn was under the ground, they chose to have the goddess Seia (i.e. from ‘seges’, corn-field) put in charge of (it), but then, when it was above ground and the grain was forming, the goddess Segetia; but, when the grain was harvested and stored away, they appointed the goddess Tutilina to take care of (it), so that it might be kept safe (i.e. ‘tuta’).
To whom would the (goddess) Segetia not have seemed adequate, while the crop was going from its grassy beginnings all the way to (becoming) dry ears of corn? But she was not sufficient for men who were (so) enamoured of a multitude of gods that (each one) of their wretched souls was prostituted to a crowd of demons, (while) disdaining the chaste embrace of the one true God. So, they put Proserpina (i.e. the daughter of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture) in charge of the germinating corn-seeds, the god Nodotus (i.e. from ‘nodus’, knot) (in charge) of the joints and knots of the stalks, and the goddess Volutina (i.e. from ‘voluto’, I roll about, turn over) (in charge) of the sheaths of the husks; when the husks open, so that the ears may emerge, the goddess Patelana (i.e. from ‘pateo’, I open) (was in charge), when the grain with its new ears stood level (in the fields), (it was) the goddess Hostilia, since the ancients used the term ‘hostire’ to mean to make things level (i.e to requite); when the corn was in flower (it was) the goddess Flora (i.e. from ‘flos’, flower) when it was milky, the god Lacturnus (i.e. from ‘lac’, milk), when it ripened the goddess Matuta (i.e. from ‘maturo’, I ripen), (and,) when the weeds were cleared, that is removed from the soil, the goddess Runcina (i.e. from ‘runco’, I weed). I do not record all (the names), because I regret that they are not ashamed of them.
But I have said these very few (things), so that it may be understood that they should by no means dare to say that (it is) these deities (who) founded, enlarged, and maintained the Roman empire, as they were used in such a way, each one (being assigned) to his own special duties, that no (function) as a whole was entrusted to any one (of them). So, how could Segetia take care of the empire when she was not allowed to take care of the cornfields and the trees at the same time? How could Cunina think of arms, when they did not permit her responsibilities to go beyond the cradles of her children? How could Nodotus provide assistance in war, when he had no responsibility for the husk of an ear of corn, but only for the knot of the joints? Each (of us) places one (man as) a door-keeper for his house, and, because he is a man, that is quite sufficient. (But) they have put three gods (there): Forculus on the doors, Cardea on the hinges, (and) Limentinus at the threshold. So, Forculus was not able to guard the hinge and the threshold at the same time (as the doors).
Chapter 9: – whether the extent and the duration of the Roman empire should have been ascribed to Jupiter, whom his worshippers consider (to be) the supreme god.
Overlooking, therefore, that crowd of tiny gods, or setting (them) aside for a while, we ought to inquire into the role of the major gods, through which Rome became so great that it has ruled over so many nations for so long. So undoubtedly this is the work of Jupiter. For they want him (as) king of all the gods and goddesses; his sceptre indicates this, as does the Capitol on its high hill. Of this god, they declare that it was most aptly said, even if by a poet: “All (things are) full of Jupiter.” (viz. Virgil: “Eclogues”, 3.60). Varro believes that he is worshipped even by those who worship only one God without an image, but he is called by another name. But, if that is so, why has he been so badly treated in Rome, just as (he has been) by other nations too, that an image has been made for him? This was so displeasing even to Varro, that, although he was overborne by the perverse custom of so great a city, he still never hesitated to say and to write that those, who have set up images for the people, have taken away fear and added error.
Chapter 10: – what opinions they have followed, who have put different gods in charge of different parts of the world.
Why also is Juno joined to him (as) a wife, who is called “sister and spouse”? Because, they say, we understand that Jupiter (is) in the aether, (and) Juno (is) in the air, and these two elements are joined together, the one above, (and) the other beneath. Then, he is not (the one) of whom it is said “All (things are) full of Jupiter,” if Juno also fills some part. Or do both of them fill both (regions), and are both of these consorts in both of these elements and in each (of them) at the same time? So, why is the aether awarded to Jupiter, (and) the air to Juno? Besides, these two should have been enough; why is it that the sea is assigned to Neptune, (and) the earth to Pluto? And, in order that these (two) should not remain without consorts, Salacia is assigned to Neptune (and) Proserpina to Pluto. For, they say, that, just as Juno occupies the lower part of the sky, that is the air, so Salacia (occupies) the lower (part) of the sea, and Proserpina the lower (part) of the earth. They are looking for a way in which they might repair these fables, but they do not find (one). For, if these (things) were as they say, their ancient (sages) would have argued that there are only three elements of the world, so that one pair of gods could be apportioned to each (one) of the elements. But now they have positively affirmed that the aether is one thing and that the air (is) another. But water, whether higher or lower, is still water; suppose that (it is) different, do you think that (the difference can be) so great that it is no (longer) water. And, (as for) the lower earth, what else can it be than earth, however great the diversity that marks (it)?
Now, lo and behold, the whole of the physical universe is now complete with these three or four elements. Where will Minerva be? What will she occupy? What will she fill? For she has her place on the Capitol together with them (i.e. Jupiter and Juno), although she is not the daughter of the two of them. Or if they say that Minerva occupies the higher part of the aether, and, on that account, the poets have imagined that she was born from the head of Jupiter, then why is she rather (than Juno) not considered (to be) queen of the gods, because she is higher than Jupiter. Is it because it was (considered) improper to put a daughter above her father? Then why was that (principle of) justice not observed with regard to Jupiter himself in relation to Saturn? (Is it) because he was vanquished? So, did they (ever) fight (each other)? Not at all, they say; such chattering belongs to fables. So look (then), let us not believe in fables, but let us adopt better (ideas) in relation to the gods. Why then has a seat not been given to Jupiter’s father, if not of higher, then at least of equal, honour? Because, they say, Saturn means length of time, So, (they) who worship Saturn, worship Time, and it is implied that Jupiter, king of the gods, (was) born of Time. For is anything improper said, when Jupiter and Juno are said to be born of Time, if he is the sky and she is the earth, since heaven and earth were certainly created?
For their learned and wise (men) have this also in their books. Nor was it from poetic fictions, but from the books of philosophers that it was stated by Virgil: “Then, (as) Aether, the Father almighty, descends in fruitful showers into the lap of his joyous spouse,” (viz. Virgil: “Georgics, 2.325) that is, into the lap of Tellus or Terra; because here again they choose to make a number of distinctions, and in relation to the earth itself they think that Terra (is) one (thing), Tellus (is) another, (and) Tellumo something else, and they regard all these (as) gods, called by their own names, distinguished by their own functions, (and) worshipped at their own altars with (their own special) rites. The same earth they also call the mother of the gods, so they now pretend that (the works) of a poet are now more tolerable, if, in accordance, not with their poetic books, but with (those) of their rituals, Juno is not only “the sister and wife” of Jupiter, but also his mother. They would (identify) the same earth (as) Ceres, (and) the same (earth) also (as) Vesta, though they more often affirm that Vesta is nothing but the fire that belongs to their hearths, without which no city can exist, and it is customary for virgins to serve her for this reason, that, just as nothing is born from a virgin, so (nothing is born) from a fire. All this nonsense ought to be completely abolished and extinguished by (the One) who was born of a virgin (i.e. Jesus Christ).
For who could bear (the fact) that, although they have attributed so much honour and chastity, as it were, to fire, they sometimes do not even blush to call Vesta Venus, and the honoured virginity of her handmaids disappears? For, if Vesta is Venus, how can virgins duly serve (her) by abstaining from acts of love-making? Or are there two Venuses, one a virgin, (and) the other a married woman? Or, rather, (are there) three, one, who is also Vesta, (is) (a goddess) of virgins, another of married women, (and) another of harlots? To her the Phoenicians even used to offer a gift, by prostituting their daughters before they married them to their husbands. Which of these is the wife of Vulcan? Certainly not the virgin, since she has a husband. But perish the thought that (it should be) the harlot, lest we should appear to give an insult to the son of Juno and the fellow-worker of Minerva. Therefore, she is understood to belong to married women; but we should not wish them to imitate her in relation to what she did with Mars. “Once more,” they say, “you are going back to fables.” What sort of justice is it, to be angry with us, because we say such (things) about their gods, (and) not to be angry with themselves, who most willingly watch these crimes of their gods in the theatres? And – (it is something) which would be incredible, if it were not proved by so may witnesses – these very theatrical crimes (committed) by their gods were arranged in honour of the same gods.
Chapter 11: – concerning the many gods, whom the more learned among the pagans portray as one and the same as Jupiter.
So, let them lay whatever claims they like in relation to their physical theories and arguments. Now let Jupiter be the soul of this material world, (he) who fills and moves that whole mass, constructed and composed, (as it is,) of four elements, or as many as is pleasing to them, and now then let him yield parts of it to his sister and his brothers; now let him be the aether, so that he may embrace from above Juno, (who is) spread in the air beneath; now let he himself be the sky, together with the air, and, indeed, let him impregnate the earth with fertilising rain-showers and seeds, as if (she were) his wife and, at the same time, his mother – since this is no disgrace in relation to divine beings – ; and now – lest it be necessary to run through (them) all – , (let him be) the one god, concerning whom many (people) think it was said by the most noble poet: “For God pervades all lands, and tracts of sea, and depths of sky” (viz. Virgil: “Georgics 4, 221-2); let it be Jupiter himself in the aether, (let) him (be) Juno in the air, (let) him (be) Neptune in the sea, (and) also Salacia in the lower (parts) of the sea, Pluto in the earth, (and) Proserpina in the lower earth, Vesta in domestic hearths, Vulcan in the workmen’s forge, among the heavenly bodies (let him be) the sun, the moon and the stars, (let him be) Apollo among the soothsayers, and Mercury in commerce, in Janus (i.e. the god of beginnings, who had his temple in the Roman Forum) (let him be) the opener (and) in Terminus (i.e. the god of endings, who was named after the sacred boundary stone in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus) the closer (of actions), (let him be) Saturn in time, Mars and Bellona in wars, Liber in vineyards, Ceres in cornfields, Diana in woods, and Minerva in natural talents.
Finally, let him also be in that crowd of plebeian gods, as it were; in the name of Liber (i.e. an old Italian fertility god, later identified with Bacchus) let him preside over the seeds of men, and, under the name of Libera (i.e. Liber’s female counterpart), (those) of women; let him be Diespiter (i.e. a variant name for Jupiter), who brings the newborn child into the light of day; let him be the goddess Mena (i.e. taken from ‘mensis’, month), whom they put in charge of women’s menstrual periods; (let) him (be) Lucina (i.e. taken from ‘lux’, daylight) who is invoked by women in labour; let him bring help to those being born by taking them from the bosom of the earth and let him be called Opis (i.e. taken from ‘ops’, wealth); let him open the mouth of the crying (baby) and be called the god Vaticanus (i.e. taken from ‘vagitus’, wailing); let him lift (it) from the earth and be called the goddess Levana (i.e. the goddess reputed to lift new-born babies from the ground, her name is taken from ‘levare’ to lift, relieve, lighten); let him guard the cradles and be called the goddess Cunina (i.e. taken from ‘cunae’, cradle); let no one else but he be present in those goddesses who sing of the destinies of the newborn and are called Carmentes (i.e. taken from Carmenta, the name of a prophetic deity associated with childbirth, after whom the Porta Carmentalis, one of the gates of Rome, was named); let him preside over chance events and be called Fortuna (i.e. the goddess of luck); as the goddess Rumina (i.e. she was associated with the ‘ficus Ruminalis’, the fig-tree, beside which the wolf nursed Romulus and Remus) let him give milk from the breast to a baby, because the ancients called the breast “ruma”; as the goddess Potina (i.e. taken from ‘potio’, drink), let him serve drink, (and) as the goddess Educa (i.e. taken from ‘educare’ to produce), let him supply food; from the fear (i.e. ‘pavor’) of infants, let him be called Paventia, from the hope that comes (i.e. ‘venit’) (to them) Venilia, from pleasure (i.e. ‘voluptas’) Volupia, (and) from action (i.e. agere’) Agenoria; from the goads (i.e. stimuli) by which a man is spurred on to excessive action, let him be named (as) the goddess Stimula; let him be the goddess Strenia by making (a man) vigorous (i.e. strenuus), Numeria from teaching (him) to count (i.e. ‘numerare’), (and) Camena from (teaching him) to sing (i.e. ‘canere’); let him be both the god Consus by giving counsel (i.e. ‘consilium’), and the goddess Sentia by offering opinions (i.e. ‘sententiae’).
(Let) him (be) the goddess Iuventas, who supervises the beginnings of the age of youth, after the robe of childhood (has been set aside), (and) let him also be Fortuna Barbata, who provides young men with beards – these they have not chosen to honour, as they should at least have named this divinity, whatever it might be, (as) a male god, either “Barbatus” from “barba”, like “Nodutus” from “nodus”, or certainly not Fortuna, but Fortunius, because he has bristles – ; as the god Jugurtinus, let him join couples in marriage, and, when the girdle of the virgin bride is loosed, let him be invoked and called the goddess Virginiensis; let him be Mutunus or Tutunus, who is (known as) Priapus (i.e. a rustic fertility god, marked by his oversized genitalia and permanent erection) among the Greeks: if they are not ashamed (of it), let everything I have named and whatever I have not named – for I have not thought to mention (them) all – (let) all these gods and goddesses be Jupiter alone, or, as some will have it, let them be aspects of him or the powers that he has, as seems to be the case with regard to those who hold that he is the world soul, which is apparently the view of most of the great and the learned.
If these (things) are true – what their nature is I am, for the present not yet asking – what would they lose, if by some prudent abridgment they were to worship (just) the one God? For what part of him could be slighted if he himself were to be (thus) worshipped? But, if there were reason to fear that aspects of him should be angered at being overlooked or neglected, then (it is) not (the case) that, as they would have it be, that this whole life is that of one living being, which comprises all the gods together, as if they were his powers, members or parts; but each part has its own life, separate from the rest, if one (part) can be angered, and another be appeased or stirred up, more than another. But, if it is said that all (of them) together, that is the whole of Jupiter himself, could be offended if his parts were not worshipped singly and bit by bit, it is foolishly spoken. Surely none of these could be overlooked, if he who possesses (them) all were worshipped alone. For, to disregard other (remarks,) which are innumerable, when they (i.e. the learned) say that all the stars are aspects of Jupiter, and that they are all alive and have rational souls, and that is why they are gods without doubt, they (i.e. most of the other pagan worshippers) do not see how many they do not worship, for how many they build no temples, nor set up altars, and to how very few of the stars they have thought to erect such (facilities), and to make sacrifices on an individual basis. So, if those (stars), who are not worshipped on an individual basis, are angry, are they not afraid to live with a few (who are) appeased and a whole sky (that is) angered? But, if they so worship all the stars, because they are a part of Jupiter, whom they do worship, by means of that abridgment, they could worship all (of them) in him alone – for in this way no one would be angered, since in him alone no one would be slighted – rather than providing a just cause for anger to that much larger number who have been overlooked by the worship (being offered) to some, especially when Priapus, stretched out in his vile nakedness, is preferred to those (who are) shining from their lofty abode (i.e. the stars).
Chapter 12: – on the opinion of those who thought that God (was) the world soul, and that the world was the body of God.
Why (is it? I ask). Ought it not to persuade men of intelligence, or men of whatever kind you like, to set aside their zeal for dispute and note carefully that, if God is the world soul and the world is (to him) as the body (is) to that soul, so that it is one living being composed of soul and body, and, (if) this God is, as it were, in the bosom of nature and contains all (things) in himself, so that from his soul, by which that whole mass is quickened, the lives and souls of all living (things) are derived, each according to the lot of his birth, (and, if this were so,) that nothing at all remains which is not a part of God. If this is the case, who can fail to see how great (is) the impiety and blasphemy (that) follows, in that, whatever any man tramples on, he tramples on a part of God, and, whenever any living creature is slain, a part of God is slaughtered? (But) I am unwilling to name all (the things) which could occur to those thinking (of them), but (which) cannot be mentioned without shame.
Chapter 13: – of those who assert that only rational animals are parts of the one God.
But, if they argue that only rational animals, such as men are, are parts of God, I just fail to see how they exclude beasts from his parts; but what need is there to contest (the point)? With regard to the rational animal, that is man, what more unfortunate belief could there be, than (the idea) that a part of God is whipped, when a boy is whipped? But who now could bear (the thought) that parts of God become lascivious, wicked, impious and utterly damnable, unless he is quite mad? Finally, why is he angry with those, by whom he is not worshipped, since (it is) by parts of himself (that) he is not being worshipped?
So, it remains (for them) to say that all the gods have their own lives, that each one lives for himself, that no one of them is part of another, but that all that can be discovered and worshipped should (be) worshipped, since there are so many that all cannot (be). Because Jupiter presides over them (as) king, I believe he is thought by them to have established and extended the Roman realm. For, if he has not done it, what other god do they believe could have embarked upon so great a task, when they are all occupied with their own duties and tasks, and no one intrudes on the works of another. So, (it is only) by the king of the gods (that) the kingdom of men could be propagated and enlarged.
Chapter 14: – the enlargement of kingdoms is not properly ascribed to Jupiter, since, if Victoria is a goddess, as they will (have it), she alone would suffice for this business.
Here, first of all, I ask why is the kingdom itself not some god as well? For why should this not be the case if Victoria is a goddess? Or what need is there for Jupiter in this matter, if Victoria is favourable and propitious and always goes to those whom she wishes to be victorious? With this goddess being favourable and propitious, even if Jupiter were idle or did nothing, what nations could remain unsubdued? What kingdoms would not yield? Or is it perhaps displeasing to good (men) to fight in the most wickedly unrighteous manner, and to provoke by a war (fought) of one’s own accord, peaceful neighbours who have caused (them) no injury (simply) to enlarge their kingdom? If this is how they feel, I give (them) my complete approval and praise.
Chapter 15: – whether it is suitable for good men to seek to rule more widely.
So let them consider whether it may perhaps not be proper for good men to rejoice in the extent of their domain. For the iniquity of those with whom just wars were waged did help the empire to grow, as it would undoubtedly have remained small if the peacefulness and honesty of our neighbours had never by any wrongdoing provoked a war being waged against them, and so, with the affairs of men (being) happier, all kingdoms would have been small, enjoying harmony with their neighbours, and so there would have been a great many national kingdoms, just as there are very many homes for citizens in a city. Therefore, to carry on waging war and extending a kingdom over subjugated (peoples) seems a happy outcome to bad (men), (and) a necessity to good (ones). But, since it would be a worse (thing) that wrongdoers should rule over those who were more righteous (than them), for that reason even that (necessary evil) is not unsuitably called a blessing. But, without doubt, it is a greater blessing to live in harmony with a good neighbour than to subdue a bad neighbour by making war.
Your wishes are bad (ones) when you pray that (one) whom you hate or whom you fear should be (in such a condition) that he can become one whom you conquer. So, if by waging just wars, not impious or unjust (ones), the Romans could have acquired so great an empire, should they not have also worshipped foreign injustice, as if she were some kind of goddess? For we see that she contributed greatly to the extension of the empire, by making (others) so unjust that they became (people) with whom just wars could be fought, and the empire (thereby) enlarged. But why should this injustice, at least (that) of the foreign nations, not be a goddess too, if Fear and Pallor and Fever have the right to be Roman gods? Therefore, by those two (things), that is foreign injustice and the goddess Victoria, since injustice provides the causes (of them), (and) Victoria brings these same wars to a happy termination, the empire has grown, even though Jupiter has been on holiday. For what roles could Jupiter have had here, when those (things) which might be thought to be favours of his, are regarded (as) gods, are called gods, are worshipped (as) gods, and are themselves invoked as his own functions? But he might also have some role here, if he himself were also called Empire as she is called Victory. Or, if empire is regarded (as) the gift of Jupiter, why is victory not regarded (as) his gift as well? That surely would have been the case, if he were recognised and worshipped (as) the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Chapter 16: – why it was that the Romans, (while) assigning separate gods to every event and every activity, wished the temple of Quies (i.e. Peace) to be outside the gates.
But I marvel greatly that, when they assigned separate gods to separate things and to almost (all) separate mental activities, they invoked the goddess Agenoria to rouse (men) to action, the goddess Stimula to stimulate (men) to abnormal activity, the goddess Murcia, not to move (men) beyond measure, but, as Pomponius says, to make a man ‘murcidus’, that is excessively slothful and inactive, (and) the goddess Strenia to make (a man) strenuous, (and) for all these gods and goddesses they arranged to establish public cults, but, when they called upon Quies to make (a man) quiet, they refused to give her public recognition, since her temple was outside the Colline gate. Was this an indication of an unquiet mind, or rather was it thus signified that he who should persist in worshipping such a throng, not of gods. to be sure, but of demons, could not enjoy tranquillity? To this (tranquillity) the true physician calls us, when he says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Chapter 17: – whether, if the supreme power belongs to Jupiter, Victoria should also be regarded as a goddess.
Do they say, perhaps, that Jupiter sends the goddess Victory, and that she obeys (him) as king of the gods, and comes to those he has decreed and takes her place at their side? This is truly said, not of that Jupiter, whom, in accordance with their fancy, they imagine (to be) king of the gods, but of that true King of the ages, because he sends, not Victoria, who is no real being, but his angel, and gives victory to whomever he wishes; his design may be hidden, (but) it cannot be unjust.
For, if Victory is a goddess, why is Triumph not a god also, and joined to Victory as husband or brother or son? They have, of course, imagined such things as these concerning the gods, (and) if poets had invented (them) and had (then) been censured by us, they would have replied that the fictions of the poets were worthy of laughter; and yet they did not laugh at themselves, when they were reading of such absurdities, not in the presence of the poets, but (when) they were worshipping in the temples. Therefore, they should have entreated Jupiter for everything, and only have made supplications to him alone. For, wherever he had sent Victory, if she is a goddess and subject to him (as) king, she could not venture to resist him and enact her own will instead.
Chapter 18: – by what means (those,) who think Felicitas (i.e. Happiness) and Fortuna (are) goddesses, distinguish between (them).
What then (of the belief) that Felicitas is also a goddess? She has received a temple, she has acquired an altar, (and) suitable rites of worship are being paid (to her). Therefore, she herself should alone be worshipped. For where she is present, what good (thing) can be absent? But what is the meaning of it, when Fortuna is also regarded (as) a goddess and is worshipped? Is happiness one (thing) and fortune another? (Yes, indeed,) because fortune can be bad as well as (good); but, if happiness can be bad, it will not be happiness. Surely we ought not to regard all the gods of either sex – even if they too have sex – (as anything) but good. This (is what) Plato says, this (is what) other philosophers, and the distinguished rulers of our state and its peoples, (say). Then how is the goddess Fortuna sometimes good and sometimes bad? (Is it) perhaps that, when she is bad, she is not a goddess, but is suddenly changed into a malignant demon? Then, how many such goddesses are there? Surely (there are) as many as there are fortunate men, that is (men) of good fortune. For it must be the case that there are simultaneously, that is at one (and the same) time, very many other (men) of bad fortune; well, if this is indeed her, she is both good and bad at the same time: one (thing) for some, (and) another (thing) for others? Or, as she is a goddess, is she always good? In that case she is the same as Felicitas; why, then, are different names employed? But this is tolerable; for it is customary for things to be called by two names.
(But) why (are there) different temples, different altars, different rites of worship? The reason, they say, is because happiness is what good (men) enjoy due to their previous merits; but fortune, which is called good, happens fortuitously to men, both good and bad without any scrutiny of their deserts, (and) for this reason she is called Fortuna. Then, how is she (really) good, when she comes to both good (men) and bad (ones) without any (consideration of) justice? So why then is she worshipped, if she is thus blind and runs into whomever you like at random, and she overlooks most of her worshippers and cleaves to those who despise her? Or if her worshippers do accomplish anything, so that they are seen and loved by her, then she follows their merits, and does not come by chance. (Now) where is that definition of Fortune? Where is the name which she has even acquired from fortuitous (events)? For there is no benefit in worshipping her, if she is fortune. But if she identifies her worshippers, in order to help them, (then) she is not fortune. Of does Jupiter send her wherever it pleases (him)? Then, let him alone be worshipped; for Fortuna cannot resist him when he commands (her) and when he sends her to wherever he wishes. Or, at least, let bad (men) worship her, (those) who are unwilling to possess the merits through which the goddess Felicitas could be summoned.
Chapter 19: – on Fortuna Muliebris (i.e. the Feminine Fortuna).
To be sure, they ascribe such (importance) to this apparent deity, whom they call Fortuna, that they have entrusted to the memory (the story) that an image of her which was dedicated by matrons and was called Fortuna Muliebris, had actually spoken, and had declared not once, but twice, that the matrons had consecrated her properly (viz. tradition had it that a temple to Fortuna Muliebris had been erected in 488 B.C. at the place where Coriolanus, as he was leading the Volscians against Rome, turned back following the intercession of his mother Veturia and his wife Virgilia). If this story is actually true, this ought not to surprise us. For it is not hard for malicious demons to deceive (men) in this way too, (though) they ought rather to have taken note of their crafty tricks, inasmuch as the goddess (who) spoke (was the one who) comes by chance (i.e. Fortuna), not (the one) who comes to (reward) merit (i.e. Felicitas). For Fortuna was garrulous and Felicitas (was) mute. For what other (reason did they have) but that men might not be concerned to live rightly if they had won the favour of Fortuna, who could make them fortunate without any deserving good (deeds)? And, surely, if Fortuna speaks, she should at least speak, not with a feminine (voice), but rather with a manly (one), lest the very ones who dedicated that image should think so great a miracle had been wrought by feminine loquacity.
Chapter 20: – on Virtus (i.e. Virtue) and Fides (i.e. Faith), whom the pagans honoured with temples and sacred rites, overlooking other good (qualities), which should have been similarly worshipped if divinity were rightly ascribed to these.
They also made Virtus a goddess; (and,) if she really was a goddess, she should have been preferred to many (others). And now, since she is not a goddess, but a gift of God, let her be obtained from him, by whom alone she can be given, and the whole crowd of false gods will vanish. But why was Fides also believed (to be) a goddes, and (why) did she also receive a temple and an altar herself? Whoever wisely acknowledges her makes himself her dwelling. But how do they know what faith is, when her first and chief duty is to ensure belief in the true God? But why had Virtus not sufficed? Isn’t Fides also there (with her)? Seeing that they realised that virtue ought to be divided into four categories: prudence, justice, fortitude, (and) temperance; and, since (each of) these separate (categories) also has its own features, faith is among the aspects of justice, and has the chief place among those of us who know what is (the meaning of the saying) that “The just (man) lives by his faith” (viz. Habbakuk 2.4; Romans 1. 17; Galatians 3.11; Hebrews 10. 38).
But I wonder at these (men), who (so) desire a multitude of gods; if Fides is a goddess, why have they wronged so many other goddesses by overlooking them, when they might have dedicated other temples and altars to them? Why has temperance not deserved to be a goddess when several Roman leaders have gained no small glory in her name? Now why is fortitude not a goddess, (she) who assisted Mucius, (i.e. Gaius Mucius Scaevola, who by thrusting his hand into the fire to show Lars Porsenna of Clusium how courageous he and his colleagues were, so impressed the latter that he made peace with Rome in 508 B.C.) when he stretched out his right hand into the flames, and (who) aided Curtius (i.e. Marcus Curtius, a young soldier who in 362 B.C. while in full armour rode his horse into a chasm which had opened up in the Forum, because soothsayers had declared that it could only be closed if Rome’s chief strength, namely a brave young warrior, were cast into it) when he threw himself headlong into the gaping earth, (and) who helped Decius the father (i.e. Publius Decius Mus the Elder, secured victory for the Romans in 340 B.C. during the Latin War, by sacrificing himself at the beginning of the battle), and Decius the son (i.e. Publius Decius Mus the Younger, who sacrificed himself in a similar manner and thus brought about the victory at the battle of Sentinum in 295 B.C. which brought the Third Samnite War to an end) when they devoted themselves to saving the army? Yet if true fortitude were present in all these (men), although this matter is not under discussion, why have prudence and wisdom not won any places among our deities? (Is it) because they are all worshipped under the general name of Virtus herself? So then one God only could be worshipped, and the other gods are thought (to be) aspects of him. But, while Fides and Pudicitia (i.e. Modesty) are both present in the one Virtus, yet they were awarded separate altars in temples of their own.
Chapter 21: – that those that did not know the one God should at least have been content with Virtus and Felicitas.
(It is) not truth (that) creates these goddesses, but vanity; for they are functions of the true God, (and) they are not goddesses themselves. But yet where there is virtue and felicity, why look for anything else? What would satisfy a man, for whom virtue and felicity are not enough? Virtue, of course, comprises everything we should do, and felicity everything we should wish for. If Jupiter were worshipped for the reason that he might grant these (things), because, if extent and duration of rule is something good, it should be an aspect of the same felicity, why is it not understood that they are God’s gifts, not goddesses? But, if they are thought (to be) goddesses, (then) at least that other great crowd of divinities should not be sought after. For, having considered the functions of all the gods and goddesses that they have fashioned as they would wish in accordance with their fancy, let them discover, if they can, something which may be bestowed by any god on a man possessing virtue (and) possessing felicity. What instruction should be sought from Mercury or from Minerva, when virtue would have everything with her. Virtue, itself, was in fact defined by the ancients as the art of living rightly and well. Hence, because virtue is called ‘arete’ (i.e. ἀρετή) in Greek, they thought that the Latins have derived from it the word ‘ars’. But if virtue could not come, except to the talented, what need was there for the god Father Catius to make (men) shrewd, that is sharp-witted, when felicity could confer this (gift)?
To be born with natural abilities is certainly (a sign) of felicity; hence, although the goddess Felicitas could not be worshipped by (one) not yet born, so that, having been won over, she might grant him this (benefit), (yet) she might confer this (favour) on his parents, (who were) her worshippers, so that talented sons should be born to them. What need was there for (women) in childbirth to invoke Lucina, when, if Felicitas should be present, they would have not only a good delivery but good (children) too? Why was it necessary to commend (children) to the goddess Ops, while they were being born, to the god Vaticanus while they were wailing, to the goddess Cunina, while they were lying (in their cradles), to the goddess Rumina, while they were sucking (at the breast), to the god Statilinus, when they are standing, to the goddess Adeona, when they are coming, and to Abeona, when they are going away? (And was it really necessary to commend children) to the goddess Mens, that they might have a good mind; to the god Volumnus and the goddess Volumna, that they might wish for good (things); to the gods of wedlock, that they might marry well; to the gods of the fields, and especially to the goddess Fructesea herself, that they should get very plentiful crops; to Mars and Bellona, that they might wage war well; to the goddess Victoria, that they might conquer; to the god Honor, that they might be honoured; to the goddess Pecunia, that they might be well off; (and) to the god Aesculanus and his son Argentinus, that they might have bronze and silver money. For the reason they made Aesculanus the father of Argentinus (was) because bronze money began to be used first, (and) silver (money came) later. But I am surprised that Argentinus did not beget Aurinus, since golden (money) followed (him) closely. (And,) if they had had Aurinus, so they might have placed him in front of both his father Argentinus and his grandfather Aesculanus, just as (they put) Jupiter above Saturn.
So why was it necessary, on account of these blessings, whether of mind or body, or external (ones), to worship and invoke so great a crowd of gods – I have not mentioned them all, nor have they themselves (i.e the pagans) been able to divide up all human benefits into tiny and separate bits, and to provide tiny and separate gods (for each one) – when the one goddess Felicitas, by a great and easy economy, could confer all (of them), nor should any other (god) have been sought, either to obtain blessings or to ward off disasters? For why should the goddess Fessona have been invoked for the sake of the weary, the goddess Pellonia in order to drive away enemies, or, for the sick, a healing (god), either Apollo or Aesculapius, or both together, when there should be great danger? Nor should the god Spiniensis be entreated to root out the thorns from the fields, nor the goddess Robigo (i.e. rust or mildew) (entreated) not to come near the fields: with Felicitas alone being present and on guard, either no evils would arise, or they would easily be driven away.
Finally, since we are dealing with these two goddesses, Virtus and Felicitas, if felicity is the reward of virtue, she is not a goddess, but a gift of God; but, if she is a goddess, why may it not be said that she herself also confers virtue, when to attain virtue is indeed also a (matter of) great felicity?
Chapter 22: – on the knowledge of the worship due to the gods, which Varro boasts had been conferred on the Romans by him.
What is it then that Varro boasts that he has bestowed on the Romans as a very great benefit, in that he not only recounts the gods who ought to be worshipped by the Romans, but he also tells (us) what (function) relates to each of them? For it is of no advantage, he says, to know the name of any man (who is) a doctor, and not to know that he is a doctor. In the same way, he says it is of no help to know that Aesculapius is a god, if you are unaware that he provides help in relation to sickness, and so you do not know why you should pray to him. He also supports this by another comparison, saying that no one is able, not only to live well but (even) to live at all, if he does not know who is a blacksmith, who (is) a baker, who (is) a weaver, from whom he may seek whatever utensil (he needs), whom he (may) take on (as) a helper, (as) a leader, (or as) a teacher; for this reason he asserts that no one can doubt that a knoledge of the gods is thus useful, if it can be known what strength, and skill and power a particular god may have in a particular situation. “For from this we may be able,” he says, “to know what god we ought to summon and invoke for each purpose, lest we should do as the mimes are accustomed to do, and ask for water from Liber and wine from the Lymphae (i.e. the water nymphs).” A great advantage of course! Who would not give this (man) thanks, if he had shown him the (way of the) truth, and if he had taught (him) that the one true God, from whom all good (things) come, should be worshipped by men?
Chapter 23: – on Felicitas, whom the Romans, (despite being) the venerators of many gods, did not worship with divine honour for many years, although she alone would have sufficed for all (of them).
But – and from this point we are now continuing the argument – if their books and rites of worship are valid and Felicitas is a goddess, why was she not appointed as the only (one) to be worshipped, as she could confer all (things) and create happiness by a short cut? For who wishes for anything for any other (reason) than that he may become happy? Above all, why did Lucullus (i.e. Lucius Licinius Lucullus, consul 74 B.C.) set up a shrine to this very great goddess at so late (a date), after so many Roman leaders (had preceded him)? Why did Romulus himself, keen (as he was) to found a happy city, not erect a significant temple to her, and not entreat the other gods for anything, since he would have lacked nothing, if she had been there (with him)? For even he himself would neither have first become a king, nor, as they think, a god afterwards, if he had not had such a propitious goddess. So, to what (end) did he establish (as) gods for the Romans Janus, Jupiter, Mars, Picus (i.e. a legendary king, and son of Saturn, perhaps invented to justify a cult of the woodpecker, whose name he shared), Faunus (i.e. son of Picus, a rural deity, often equated with Pan), Tiberinus (i.e. Father Tiber, whose sanctuary was on an island in the river), Hercules, and whatever other (gods) there were? To what (end) did Titus Tatius (i.e. a legendary Sabine king, who became co-ruler of Rome with Romulus after the Rape of the Sabine Women) add Saturn, Ops, Sol, Luna, Vulcan, Lux and whatever other (deities) he added, among whom also was the goddess Cloacina, while Felicitas was neglected? To what (end did) Numa (i.e. the second king of Rome, 715-673) (introduce) so many gods and so many goddesses without (including) her? Perhaps he could not see her, amid so great a crowd? Surely king Hostilius (i.e. the third king of Rome, 673-642) would not have introduced the new gods, Pavor and Pallor to be propitiated, if he himself had known or worshipped that goddess. In the presence of Felicitas, fear and pallor would certainly not have walked away entirely propitiated, but, after a beating, they would have fled.
Then, why is it that the Roman empire was already growing far and wide, and still no one was worshipping Felicitas? Or is that the reason why the empire was greater in size than in happiness? For how could true happiness exist in a place where there was no true piety? For true piety is the worship of the true God, not the worship of as many false gods as (there are) demons. But even afterwards, when Felicitas had been received into the ranks of the true gods, the great unhappiness of the civil wars was to follow. Was Felicitas perhaps rightly indignant, because she was summoned so late, and not to be honoured, but rather to be insulted, as with her were worshipped Priapus, and Cloacina, and Pavor, and Pallor, and Febris, and others (who were) not (so much) the deified (names) of those who should be worshipped, but the (names) of the worshippers’ offences?
Lastly, if it seemed good for so great a goddess (to be) worshipped with that most unworthy throng, why was she not at least worshipped in a more distinguished manner than the others? For who can endure (the fact) that Felicitas was placed neither among the Dei Consentes (i.e. the twelve main gods, six male and six female, who had their statues in the Forum) whom they say are members of the council of Jupiter, nor among the gods, whom they call Select (i.e. the twenty deities, twelve male and eight female, highlighted by Varro in his works)? Some temple should also have been built (for her), which would have been pre-eminent both in the loftiness of its site and in the dignity of its structure. For who gave the kingdom even to Jupiter but Felicitas? – that is, if he was happy when he reigned. And happiness is better than royal power. For no one doubts that (it is) easy for a man to be found who fears that he should be made a king; but no one can be found who does not wish to be happy. So, if the gods themselves were consulted on this matter by an augury, or by whatever other means they think that they can be consulted, (and they were asked) whether they were willing to yield their place to Felicitas, if by chance the place where a greater and more lofty temple might be erected to Felicitas had already been occupied by the temples and altars of others, even Jupiter himself might yield, so that Felicitas rather than he might obtain the pinnacle of the Capitoline hill. For (there is) not anyone (who) would (care to) resist Felicitas, unless – (and this is something) which could not happen – he were a man who would wish to be unhappy.
It is quite inconceivable that Jupiter, if he were consulted, would have acted as the three gods, Mars, Terminus, and Juventas (i.e. the Goddess of Youth) acted towards him, when they refused to yield in any way their place to a greater (god) and (one who was) their king. For, as their books record, when king Tarquin (i.e. Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome, 616-579) wished the Capitol to be built, and saw that the place which seemed most worthy and most suitable (for it) had been previously occupied by other gods, not daring to do anything against their will, and believing that they would willingly yield to so great a deity and (one who was) their prince, (and, since there were) many who were there (on the site) where the Capitol was built, he inquired through an augury whether they were willing to concede their place to Jupiter; and they were all willing to move from there, except those whom I have mentioned: Mars, Terminus, (and) Juventas; and therefore the Capitol was built in such a way that these three might be (included) within (it), but their signs were so well hidden that (even) the most learned of men scarcely knew of it.
So, Jupiter himself would by no means have scorned Felicitas as he was scorned by Terminus, Mars (and) Juventas. But they, who had not themselves yielded to Jupiter, would surely yield to Felicitas, who had made Jupiter their king. Of, if they should not yield, they would act thus, not out of contempt for her, but because they preferred to be hidden in the house of Felicitas (rather) than to be conspicuous on their own sites without her.
So, if the goddess Felicitas had been established in the most spacious and loftiest abode, the citizens would learn from where help should be sought for every good wish, and so, when nature herself had persuaded (them) to abandon the superfluous multitude of the other gods, Felicitas alone would be worshipped, prayer would be made to her alone, her temple only would be frequented by the citizens who wished to be happy, and among these there was no one who did not wish (that), and so she, who was sought after from all the (gods), would be sought after (only) from herself. For who would wish for anything from any god but to receive happiness, or what he believes leads to happiness? Therefore, if Felicitas has (it) in her power (to choose) with what man she will abide – and, if she is a goddess, she has – , just what folly is it to seek this (i.e. happiness) from some other god, when you can obtain (it) from her (directly)? So, they should also have honoured this goddess above (all) other gods by the dignity of her abode. For, as one can read in their (books), the ancient Romans worshipped someone called Summanus, to whom they attributed nocturnal thunderbolts, rather than Jupiter, with whom they associated the daytime thunderbolts. But after a distinguished and lofty temple was built for Jupiter, such a multitude flocked to it on account of the grandeur of the shrine, that scarcely (anyone) could be found who remembered that he had even read the name of Summanus, which now it is impossible to hear (at all).
But, if happiness is not a goddess, because, as is true, it is a gift of God, that God must be sought who has the power to give it, and that noxious multitude of false gods must be abandoned, which the vain multitude of foolish men follows, making gods for themselves of the gifts of God, and offending him, whose gifts they are, by the obstinacy of a proud self-will. For so he cannot be free from unhappiness, who worships happiness as a goddess, and forsakes God, the giver of happiness, just as he cannot be free from hunger who licks a painted loaf of bread, and does not get (it) from the man who has a real (one).
Chapter 24: – by what argument the pagans defend (the fact) that they worship the divine gifts themselves among the gods.
Now it would please (me) to consider their arguments. Are we to believe that our forefathers were really so stupid that they were unaware that these were divine gifts, not gods? But, since they knew that such (things) were granted to no one unless some god bestows (them), whenever they did not discover the names of those gods, they called the gods by the names of those things, which they thought were given by them, at the same time altering some of the designations, for example in the case of warfare, they called (the deity) Bellona, not Bellum; and, in the case of cradles, Cunina, not Cuna; and, in the case of crops, Segetia, not Seges; and, in the case of apples, Pomona, not Poma; and, in the case of oxen, Bubona, not Bos; sometimes, to be sure, without any avoidance of the name, the things themselves are named, so that the goddess who gives money is called Pecunia, (though) money is in no way thought (to be) a goddess itself; likewise, (in the case of) Virtus, who gives virtue, Honor, who gives honour, Concord, who gives concord, (and) Victoria, who gives victory. So, they say, when Felicitas is called a goddess, what is meant (is) not (the thing) itself, but the deity, by whom happiness is acquired.
Chapter 25: – of the one god only to be worshipped, who, although he is unknown by name, is yet deemed to be the giver of felicity.
Now that this explanation has been given to us, we shall perhaps, as we would wish, more easily persuade those whose hearts have not been too much hardened. For, if human infirmity has now perceived that happiness cannot be granted except by some god, and (it was) the men who were worshipping so many gods, amongst whom was Jupiter their king himself, (who) realised this, (and) because they were unaware of the name of him, by whom happiness was given, they therefore chose to call him by the name of that very thing, which they believed was given by him; so they indicated (clearly) enough that happiness could not be obtained (even) from Jupiter himself, whom they were already worshipping, but rather from that (power) whom they thought should be worshipped in the name of happiness itself. I absolutely affirm that they believed that happiness was given by some god, whom they did not know; so let him be sought after, let him be worshipped, and it is enough. Let the din of the innumerable gods be rejected; let this god be found to be insufficient by the man for whom his gift is insufficient. I repeat, let God, the giver of happiness, not be enough to worship by the man, for whom happiness itself is not enough to receive. But let him who does find (it) enough – for a man does not have anything greater for which he ought to pray – serve the one god, the giver of happiness. This is not (the one) whom they call Jupiter. For, if they acknowledged him (to be) the giver of happiness, they would surely not search for another (god) or goddess with the name of happiness itself, by whom happiness might be given, nor would they have thought that Jupiter himself should be worshipped together with those great wrongs (that he had committed). (For) he is said to be the seducer of other men’s wives (i.e. Alcmene, the mother of Hercules and the wife of Amphitryon, for example) and a shameless lover and ravisher of a beautiful boy (i.e. Ganymede, the son of Tros).
Chapter 26: – on the theatrical plays, which the gods have demanded should be celebrated by their worshippers.
But says Tullius (i.e. Marcus Tullius Cicero), “Homer invented these (stories) and transferred human (qualities) to the gods; I would rather (he had transferred) divine (qualities) to us” (i.e. Tusculan Disputations 1. 26. 65). Why, therefore, are the theatrical plays, where these (stories) are told, sung, enacted and exhibited in honour of the gods, enrolled by the most learned (men) among ‘divine affairs’? At this point, Cicero should exclaim, not against the inventions of the poets, but against the institutions (established) by our ancestors, or they, in turn, might exclaim: “What have we done? (It was) the gods themselves (who) demanded, and fiercely commanded, that these (shows) should be exhibited in their honour, (and) foretold disaster unless it was done; if any (aspect) was neglected, they punished this (omission) with the utmost severity; yet if the thing which had been neglected was attended to, they showed that they had been placated.”
Among their acts of heroism and remarkable deeds there is recorded (one incident,) which I shall relate. Titus Latinius, a Roman countryman and the head of a household, was told in his sleep that he should announce to the senate that the Roman games should be restarted because, on their first day, a certain condemned criminal had been ordered to be led to his execution in the sight of the people, (and) this grim order had displeased the gods, who had evidently been seeking some amusement from the games. Then, when the man who had been warned in his dream did not dare on the following day to obey the command, the same (order) was repeated once more in a severer form; (and) he lost his son, because he did not do (as he had been told). On the third night, the man was told that a greater punishment was in store for him, if did not act. When even then he did not dare (to obey), he fell into an acute and fearful illness. But then, on the advice of his friends, he reported the matter to the magistrates, and was carried into the senate in a litter, and, when he had recounted his dream, he regained his health at once and walked out on his own feet fully fit. Amazed by so great a miracle, the senate voted that the games should be renewed with a fourfold increase in the subsidy.
What man, who is in his right senses, can fail to see that men (who have been) subjected to malignant demons, from whose domination there is no freedom but by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, have been compelled by force to exhibit to such gods as these (plays) which, on the basis of good advice, should be condemned (as) shameful? For sure, during these plays, the misdeeds of the gods, (as told by) the poets, are celebrated, and the plays were repeated by order of the senate under the compulsion of the gods. In these plays, the most shameless actors used to sing (and) act (the part of) Jupiter, the corrupter of chastity, (and) please (him by so doing). If (all) that were fictitious, he should have been angered; but, if he were delighted by his misdeeds, even (if they were) fictitious, how could he be worshipped, unless he is being served by the devil? So (could) the (god who) founded, extended (and) preserved the Roman empire (have been) more contemptible than any Roman man for whom such (plays) were displeasing? Could he be the giver of happiness, who was so unhappily worshipped, and was so unhappily moved to anger, if he were not so worshipped?
Chapter 27: – of the three kinds of gods, whom the pontiff Scaevola (i.e. Quintus Mucius Scaevola, consul 95 B.C., high priest, and distinguished jurist and orator) discussed.
It is recorded in documents that the very learned pontiff Scaevola argued that three kinds of gods (are) handed down (to us): one by the poets, another by philosophers, (and) a third by the leading men of the state. He says that the first kind are trivial, because many unworthy (things) concerning the gods are invented; the second is not suited to city-states, because it involves some pointless (things) and some (things) too which it would be harmful for the people to know.
As for the pointless (doctrines) there is no great reason (for controversy); for it is wont to be said by those versed in the law: “Superfluous (things) do no harm.” But what are those (things) which are harmful (when) made known to the multitude? “(Statements such as) these,” he says, “that Hercules, Aesculapius, Castor (and) are not gods; for it was handed down by learned (men) that they were men and experienced the weaknesses of the human state.” What else? “That city-states do not have the true images of those who are gods, because the true God has neither sex nor age nor definite bodily parts.” The pontiff does not want the people to know these (things); for he does not think they are false. Varro himself does not hesitate to say this also in his books on divine affairs. (What) a splendid religion (it is), to which a weak (man) may flee for deliverance, and, when he asks about the truth by which he may be delivered, it is thought to be better for him that he is deceived!
(And) to be sure, in these same works, he (i.e. Varro) is not silent as to why Scaevola rejects the poetic kind of gods: because they so evidently disfigure the gods that they could not (even) be compared with good men, when they make one steal, another commit adultery, and so also they make others say and do some base and foolish (things); (they say) that three goddesses (i.e. Hera, Athene and Venus) competed with each other for the prize of beauty (i.e. the Judgment of Paris), and that the two who were vanquished by Venus overthrew Troy; that Jupiter turned himself into a bull or a swan, in order to copulate with some woman (i.e. Europa in the case of the bull, and Leda in the case of the swan); that a goddess marries a man (i.e. Thetis married Peleus), that Saturn devours his children; in short, no miracles and (no) vices can be imagined, which may not be found there, and yet they are far removed from the nature of the gods.
O chief pontiff Scaevola, do away with the games, if you can; tell the people not to offer such honours to the immortal gods, when (they) like to admire the crimes of the gods and it pleases (them) to imitate whatever can be done. But, if the people shall answer you: “You pontiffs have introduced these (things) to us,” then ask the gods themselves, at whose instigation you gave these orders, not to require such (shows) to be exhibited to them. If the (deeds) are bad, and therefore in no way to be believed in relation to the majesty of the gods, the greater is the wrong done to the gods, about whom they are invented with impunity.
But they do not hear you, (for) they are demons, (who) teach wicked (things, and) rejoice in (moral) turpitude; not only do they not count (it as) a wrong if these (things) are invented about them, but rather they cannot bear the affront, if (these deeds) are not acted out at their festivals. But now, if you would appeal to Jupiter against them, mainly for the reason that more of his misdeeds are (likely to be) acted out in the theatrical plays, yet even if you call the God, by whom the whole of this world is ruled and administered, Jupiter, is not the greatest wrong being done to him by you, because you think that he should be worshipped along with them, and you cite (him) to be their king?
Chapter 28: – whether the worship of the gods helped the Romans to obtain and to extend their empire.
So, such gods as these, who are appeased, or rather accused (of their misdeeds), by such honours, as it is a greater offence that they delighted in these false (stories) than if true (things) could be said of them, could by no means have been able to enlarge and preserve the Roman empire. For, if they could have done it, they would rather have conferred so great a gift on the Greeks, who have worshipped them in divine affairs of this kind, that is in theatrical plays, more honourably and more worthily, since they have not exempted themselves from the practices of the poets, by which they saw the gods torn in pieces, by giving them the licence to abuse any men they pleased, and they have not judged the theatrical (players) themselves (to be) shameful, but have regarded (them as) worthy even of distinguished honours.
But, just as the Romans were able to have gold money without worshipping a god Aurinus, so they could have had silver and bronze (money) without worshipping Argentinus and his father Aesculanus, and so of all (the rest) which it would be irksome to reveal. So they could by no means have an empire against the will of the true God, but, if these false and numerous gods were unknown or scorned, and he alone were acknowledged and worshipped with sincere faith and (good) conduct, then they could have had a better kingdom here, whatever its size might have been, and afterwards they would have received an eternal (one), whether they had (one) here or not.
Chapter 29: – on the falsity of the augury, by which the strength and stability of the Roman empire seemed to be indicated.
For what kind of augury is that (one) which I have mentioned a little while ago, which they have declared to have been most excellent, (when) Mars, and Terminus and Juventas would not yield their place to Jupiter, king of the gods? For so, they say, it was signified that the people of Mars, that is the Roman (people), should surrender to no one the place they (once) held, (and) likewise that, on account of the god Terminus, that no one should disturb the Roman boundaries, (and) also that, on account of the goddess Juventas, that the Roman youth should yield to no one. So let them consider how they can regard him (as) the king of their gods and the giver of their own kingdom, and (how) these auguries have set him up as an adversary, to whom it would have been a fine (thing) not to yield. And yet, if these (things) are true, they have nothing at all to fear. For they are not going to confess that the gods, who would not yield to Jupiter, have yielded to Christ; for, without violating the borders of the empire, they have been able to yield to Christ and (to depart) from the grounds of their sacred precincts, and, especially, from the hearts of their believers.
But, before Christ came in the flesh, and well before these (things) which we have quoted from their books were written, but yet after that augury under king Tarquin was enacted (i.e. see Chapter 23), the Roman army was routed, that is put to flight, on a number of occasions, and this shows the falseness of the auspice, on the basis of which Juventas did not yield his (place) to Jupiter, as the people of Mars were crushed, when the conquering Gauls burst into the City itself, and, with many cities defecting to Hannibal, the boundaries of the empire had been compressed into a narrow (space). So the excellence of the auspices came to nothing, (but) the defiance of Jupiter, not of gods but of demons, has remained. For it is one (thing) not to have yielded, (and) another (thing) to have returned (to the places) from which you had retreated. And yet even after (that), in the eastern regions, the boundaries of the Roman empire were changed by the decision of Hadrian (i.e. emperor 117-138 A.D.). For he conceded three distinguished provinces, Armenia, Mesopotamia (and) Assyria, to the empire of the Persians, so that the god Terminus, who, according to those (books), was guarding the Roman frontiers, and, on account of that most excellent auspice, had not yielded his place to Jupiter, seemed to be more afraid of Hadrian, the king of men, than of the king of the gods. The aforesaid provinces having also been recovered at another time, Terminus yielded (as he had done) earlier, almost within our memory, when Julian (i.e. emperor 361-363), (who was) devoted to the oracles of those gods, by (an act of) reckless daring ordered the ships which carried the food provisions to be burnt; for this (reason) the army was soon destitute, and, as he himself had also been killed by a wound (inflicted) by the enemy, it was reduced to such (a state of) want, that, when the enemy attacked our troops from all sides, confused (as they were) by the death of their emperor, it seemed no one would escape from there, but, (the terms) of peace having been agreed, the boundaries of the empire were then established, where they remain today, not indeed (involving) so great a loss as Hadrian had conceded, but it still involved a moderate settlement. So vain (was) the augury (when) the god Terminus did not yield to Jupiter, for he had even yielded to the rashness of Julian and to the needs of Jovian (i.e. emperor 363-364 A.D.) The more intelligent and the more dignified of the Romans saw (all) this; but they were not strong enough to go against the customs of a community which had been bound to the rites of demons, because they themselves, even if they thought these (rites) were vain, still thought that the religious worship that is due to God should be paid to the nature of things under (which is) established the guidance and rule of the one true God, (thus) “serving,” as the Apostle says, “the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed for evermore” (viz. Romans 1.25).
Chapter 30: – what kind of things even their worshippers admit that they think about the pagan gods.
Cicero the augur laughs at augury and rebukes the men who regulate the plans for their lives by the voice of the raven and the crow. But an Academic (philosopher) who argues that all (things) are uncertain does not deserve to have any authority in these matters. In the second book of his “On the Nature of the Gods” Quintus Lucilius Balbus (i.e. a Stoic philosopher, fl. 100 B.C.) discusses (them) with him, and, although he introduces superstitions (derived) from the nature of things, like physical and philosophical (doctrines), yet he expresses indignation at the setting up of images and at (the telling of) fairy tales, and thus he speaks: “Do you see that from the discovery of good and useful physical subjects, one’s reason may be diverted to fictitious and imaginary gods? This situation produces false opinions and confused errors, and superstitions almost worthy of old women. For both the shapes and the ages, and the clothing and ornaments of the gods are known to us, along with their genealogies, their family relationships and everything (about them) is transported into the likeness of human weakness. For they are exhibited with agitated minds; and we have heard of the lusts, the griefs (and) the rages of the gods. Nor indeed, as the fables tell (us), are the gods exempted from wars and battles; (and it is) not only, as in Homer, when certain gods on either side have protected two opposing armies, but also – as with the Titans or with the Giants – they have waged special wars of their own. (It is) most foolish both to talk of, and to believe, such (things), and they are full of falsehood and utter nonsense” (viz. Cicero: “De Natura Deorum” 2. 70).
Behold, now, what (things) are confessed (by those) who defend the pagan gods. Then, while he may say that these (things) belong to superstition, yet he says that (the things) which seem good for him to teach in accordance with the Stoics (belong) to religion: “For not only philosophers, but also our ancestors have separated superstition from religion; for (those) who spent whole days in prayer and offered sacrifices in order that their children might survive them were called superstitious” (viz. Cicero: “De Natura Deorum” 2. 71-72).
Who can fail to understand that he, while he respects the customs of the community, was trying to praise the religion of his ancestors, and that he wishes to separate it from superstition, but cannot discover how (to do) it? For, if those who prayed and sacrificed all day were called superstitious, (was that) also (true) of those who set up images of gods, differing in age and distinguished by their clothing, (and invented) the genealogies, marriages and family relationships of the gods? So, when these (things) are castigated as superstitious, he involves our ancestors in these faults as the creators and worshippers of such images; and he implicates himself who, (while) he may strive with whatever eloquence (he can manage) to extricate himself and be free (of them), (still) thought it necessary to honour these (images); nor did he dare (so much as) to whisper in the popular assembly what he proclaims (so) eloquently in this discourse.
Let us, therefore, give thanks to the Lord our God, not to heaven and earth, as he (i.e. Cicero) argues, but to him who has made heaven and earth, and who has overthrown these superstitions, which Balbus, like the babbler (that he is), scarcely refutes, through the most deep humility of Christ, through the preaching of the apostles, (and) through the faith of the martyrs who die for the truth and who live with the truth, not only in the hearts of the religious, but also in the temples of superstition by their freely-given service.
Chapter 31: – on the views of Varro, who rejected popular belief, (and,) although he did not come to the knowledge of the true God, still thought that (only) one god should be worshipped.
What does Varro himself say, (he) whom we grieve that he placed, although not by his own judgment, theatrical plays among things divine, (for,) although, as a religious (man) he exhorts (people) to worship the gods, does he not admit in so doing that (it is) not by his own judgment that he follows those (things) which he relates that the Roman state has set up, so he does not hesitate to confirm that, if he were founding that state anew, he would rather have consecrated the gods and their names in accordance with the rule of nature? But now. since he was living among an ancient people, he says that he is bound to keep the record taken from the ancients, as it has been handed down, of the names and surnames (of the gods), and to write and to research those (things), to the end that he would much prefer the common people to worship them rather than to despise (them). By these words, this most intelligent man makes it clear that he is not being frank enough on all (points, points) which were not only contemptible to him, but seemed despicable even to the common people, unless they were passed over in silence.
I ought to be thought to be inferring these (things), if he himself (i.e. Varro) did not plainly say in another place, when speaking of religious rites, that many (things) are true which it is not only not useful for common people to know, but it is also expedient for people to think otherwise, although (these things) are untrue, and for this reason the Greeks have enclosed their initiations and mysteries behind walls of secrecy. Here he undoubtedly discloses the whole policy of the so-called wise (men), by whom states and peoples are governed. Yet, malicious demons take delight in this deceit in wonderful ways, and they possess both deceivers and deceived alike, (and) from their control there is no freedom save by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The same most intelligent and most learned author says that only those, who have believed him to be the soul who governs the world by design and reason, seem to him to have realised what God (really) is, and, for this (reason) – for the true God (is) not a soul, but the maker and founder of the soul as well – , if he could still have been free to oppose the prejudices of custom, he would have acknowledged and persuaded (others) that the one god ought to be worshipped who governs the world by design and reason, so that, on this subject, (only) this question would remain (to be discussed) with him, that he was saying that he was the soul, and not the creator of the soul.
He also says that for more than a hundred and seventy years the ancient Romans worshipped the gods without an image. “If this (practice),” he says, “had continued until now, the gods would have been honoured more devoutly.” At this point, he cites, among other (things), the Jewish nation (as) evidence for his opinion; nor does he hesitate so to conclude this passage, that he says (of those) who first set up images of the gods for the people, that they took away fear from their communities and added to error, wisely thinking that gods in the dull shape of statues could easily be despised. But, as he does not say, “they handed down error,” but “they added to error,” he certainly wants it to be understood that there had been error, even without images. And therefore, when he says that only (those,) who believe him (to be) the soul that governs the world, have realised what God was, and, (when) he thinks that religious worship would be devoutly observed without images, who can fail to see how near he has come to the truth? For, if he had been able to do anything against the antiquity of so great an error, he would certainly have expressed the opinion that one God, by whom he believed the world was governed, should be worshipped, and that (he should be worshipped) without an image; and, since he had so nearly discovered (the truth), he might have been made mindful of the mutability of the soul, so that he would perceive that the true God is rather an unchangeable being, which also created the soul itself.
Since these (things) are so, whatever mockeries about the many gods such men have included in their writings, they were compelled by the hidden will of God rather than because they were trying to persuade (other people).Therefore, if any testimonies are brought forward by us from this source, they are revealed to refute those who are unwilling to accept how great and how malignant (is) the power of the demons, from (which) the unique sacrifice of such holy blood shed (for us) and the gift of the Spirit imparted (to us) has set us free.
Chapter 32: – on account of what apparent benefit the rulers of the nations have preferred false religions to continue among the peoples subject to them.
He (i.e. Varro) also says, concerning the begetting of the gods, that the people have been more inclined to (follow) the poets than the natural philosophers, and so their forefathers, that is the ancient Romans, believed in the sexual activity and begetting of the gods, and determined their marriages. It certainly seems that this (was) done for no other reason except that it was the business of supposedly prudent and wise men to deceive the people in matters of region, and, in (doing) that very (thing), not only to worship but also to imitate the demons, whose greatest desire is to deceive. For, just as the demons cannot possess (any) but those whom they have deceived by their guile, so also ruling men (who are) certainly not just, but like demons have, in the name of religion, persuaded the people (to accept) as true those (things) which they know to be false, (and) by this means they bound them more firmly, as it were, to civil society, so they might take control of (men who had been) subdued in a like manner. But what weak and untaught (person) could escape at the same time the deceptions both of the rulers of the state and of the demons?
Chapter 33: – that the times of all kings and kingdoms have been ordained by the judgment and power of God.
So, God, the author and giver of happiness, since he is the only true God, himself gives earthly kingdoms both to the good and the bad, and (he does) not (do) this rashly and at random, as it were – because he is God, not fortune – but in accordance with the order of things and times, (which is) hidden from us, but well-known to him; yet he does not serve in subjection to this order of times, but he rules it himself as its master and controls (it) as its governor; but he does not give happiness, except to the good. For those who are servants may either possess it or not possess (it), and those who are rulers may either possess (it) or not possess (it), but it will (only) be complete in that life where no one will be a servant any longer. And, therefore, earthly kingdoms are granted by him to both the good and the bad, lest his worshippers, (who are) still little children in relation to the growth of their minds, should crave these gifts from him as if (they were) something important.
And it is the mystery of the Old Testament, in which the New was hidden, that earthly gifts are promised in it to (men) of spiritual understanding, and, although they have not yet openly proclaimed (it), that eternity was signified by those temporal things, and by the gifts of God, in which true happiness resides.
Chapter 34: – on the kingdom of the Jews, which was established and preserved by the one true God, as long as they continued in the true religion.
Therefore, in order that it might be known that even those earthly goods, which they alone crave who cannot imagine anything better, have been placed in the power of the one God himself, not in (that) of the many false (gods), whom the Roman people formerly believed should be worshipped, he increased (the size of) his people in Egypt from their very small (numbers), and freed (them) from there by miraculous signs. Nor did these people invoke Lucina (i.e. the Roman goddess of childbirth), when he himself delivered their offspring from the hands of the Egyptians who were persecuting (them) and wished to kill all their babies, so that (their numbers) were multiplied in wonderful ways and that their people grew incredibly (in size). They were fed at the breast without the goddess Rumina, they were in cradles without Cunina, they took food and drink without Educa and Potina, they were reared without all those gods of childhood, (they were) married without the gods of marriage, they enjoyed conjugal intercourse without the worship of Priapus; (and,) without the invocation of Neptune, the sea (i.e. the Red Sea) (was) divided and opened up (to them) as they crossed, and (then) buried their enemies, who were pursuing (them,) under the waves when they returned. Nor did they consecrate any goddess Mannia, when they received manna from heaven; nor, when the rock (was) struck and poured forth water (for them) when they were thirsty, did they worship the Nymphs and Lymphs. They waged wars without the mad rites of Mars and Bellona, and, while they did not conquer without victory, they did not regard it (as) a goddess, but (as) a gift from their God. (They had) crops without Segetia, oxen without Bubona, honey without Mellona, apples without Pomona, and, in short, all (those things) for which the Romans thought they had to pray to that great crowd of false gods, (these) they received much more happily from the one true God.
And, if they (i.e. the Jews) had not sinned against him with impious curiosity, as though they had been led astray by magic arts in falling away to (the worship) of strange gods and idols, and, finally, by murdering Christ, they would have remained in the same kingdom, and, although (it would) not (have grown larger), yet (it would have been) happier. And now that they have been dispersed throughout almost all lands and nations, it is by the providence of that one true God that, when the images, altars, groves (and) temples are everywhere overthrown, and their sacrifices are forbidden, it can be shown from their scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament) how this had been prophesied so long before; and this avoids the possibility that, when it is read (only) in our books (i.e. the New Testament and other holy books of the Christians), it may be thought to have been invented by us.
Now what follows must be seen in the following book, and here a limit must be set to the undue length of this (one).