THE SEVEN BOOKS OF ARNOBIUS AGAINST THE HEATHEN, BOOKS I-III.
Translated by Archdeacon Hamilton Bryce, LL.D., D.C.L. and Hugh Campbell, M.A.
ADVERSUS GENTES BOOK I.
I. SINCE I have found some who deem themselves very wise in their opinions, acting as if they were inspired,(1) and announcing with all the authority of an oracle,(2) that from the time when the Christian people began to exist in the world the universe has gone to ruin, that the human race has been visited with ills of many kinds, that even the very gods, abandoning their accustomed charge, in virtue of which they were wont in former days to regard with interest our affairs, have been driven from the regions of earth,--I have resolved, so far as my capacity and my humble power of language will allow, to oppose public prejudice, and to refute calumnious accusations; lest, on the one hand, those persons should imagine that they are declaring some weighty matter, when they are merely retailing vulgar rumours;(3) and on the other, lest, if we refrain from such a contest, they should suppose that they have gained a cause, lost by its own inherent demerits, not abandoned by the silence of its advocates. For I should not deny that that charge is a most serious one, and that we fully deserve the hatred attaching to public enemies,(4) if it should appear that to us are attributable causes by reason of which the universe has deviated from its laws, the gods have been driven far away, and such swarms of miseries have been inflicted on the generations of men.
2. Let us therefore examine carefully the real significance of that opinion, and what is the nature of the allegation; and laying aside all desire for wrangling,(5) by which the calm view of subjects is wont to be dimmed, and even intercepted, let us test, by fairly balancing the considerations on both sides, whether that which is alleged be true. For it will assuredly be proved by an array of convincing arguments, not that we are discovered to be more impious, but that they themselves are convicted of that charge who profess to be worshippers of the deities, and devotees of an antiquated superstition. And, in the first place, we ask this of them in friendly and calm language: Since the name of the Christian religion began to be used on the earth, what phenomenon, unseen before,(6) unheard of before, what event contrary to the laws established in the beginning, has the so-called "Nature of Things" felt or suffered? Have these first elements, from which it is agreed that all things were compacted, been altered into elements of an opposite character? Has the fabric of this machine and mass of the universe, by which we are all covered, and in which we are held enclosed, relaxed in any part, or broken up? Has the revolution of the globe, to which we are accustomed, departing from the rate of its primal motion, begun either to move too slowly, or to be hurried onward in headlong rotation? Have the stars begun to rise in the west, and the setting of the constellations to take place in the east? Has the sun himself, the chief of the heavenly bodies, with whose light all things are clothed, and by whose heat all things are vivified, blazed forth with increased vehemence? has he become less warm, and has he altered for the worse into opposite conditions that well-regulated temperature by which he is wont to act upon the earth? Has the moon ceased to shape herself anew, and to change into former phases by the constant recurrence of fresh ones? Has the cold of winter, has the heat of summer, has the moderate warmth of spring and autumn, been modified by reason of the intermixture of ill- assorted seasons? Has the winter begun to have long days? has the night begun to recall the very tardy twilights of summer? Have the winds at all exhausted their violence? Is the sky not collected(1) into clouds by reason of the blasts having lost their force, and do the fields when moistened by the showers not prosper? Does the earth refuse to receive the seed committed to it, or will not the trees assume their foliage? Has the flavour of excellent fruits altered, or has the vine changed in its juice? Is foul blood pressed forth from the olive berries, and is oil no longer supplied to the lamp, now extinguished? Have animals of the land and of the sea no sexual desires, and do they not conceive young? Do they not guard, according to their own habits and their own instinct, the offspring generated in their wombs? In fine, do men themselves, whom an active energy with its first impulses has scattered over habitable lands, not form marriages with due rites? Do they not beget dear children? do they not attend to public, to individual, and to family concerns? Do they not apply their talents as each one pleases, to varied occupations, to different kinds of learning? and do they not reap the fruit of diligent application? Do those to whom it has been so allotted, not exercise kingly power or military authority? Are men not every day advanced in posts of honour, in offices of power? Do they not preside in the discussions of the law courts? Do they not explain the code of law? do they not expound the principles of equity? All other things with which the life of man is surrounded, in which it consists, do not all men in their own tribes practise, according to the established order of their country's manners?
3. Since this is so, and since no strange influence has suddenly manifested itself to break the continuous course of events by interrupting their succession, what is the ground of the allegation, that a plague was brought upon the earth after the Christian religion came into the world, and after it revealed the mysteries of hidden truth? But pestilences, say my opponents, and droughts, wars, famines, locusts, mice, and hailstones, and other hurtful things, by which the property of men is assailed, the gods bring upon us, incensed as they are by your wrong-doings and by your transgressions. If it were not a mark of stupidity to linger on matters which are already clear, and which require no defence, I should certainly show, by unfolding the history of past ages, that those ills which you speak of were not unknown, were not sudden in their visitation; and that the plagues did not burst upon us, and the affairs of men begin to be attacked by a variety of dangers, from the time that our sect(2) won the honour(3) of this appellation. For if we are to blame, and if these plagues have been devised against our sin, whence did antiquity know these names for misfortunes? Whence did she give a designation to wars? By what conception could she indicate pestilence and hailstorms, or how could she introduce these terms among her words, by which speech was rendered plain? For if these ills are entirely new, and if they derive their origin from recent transgressions, how could it be that the ancients coined terms for these things, which, on the one hand, they knew that they themselves had never experienced, and which, on the other, they had not heard of as occurring in the time of their ancestors? Scarcity of produce, say my opponents, and short supplies of grain, press more heavily on us. For, I would ask, were the former generations, even the most ancient, at any period wholly free from such an inevitable calamity? Do not the very words by which these ills are characterized bear evidence and proclaim loudly that no mortal ever escaped from them with entire immunity? But if the matter were difficult of belief, we might urge, on the testimony of authors, how great nations, and what individual nations, and how often such nations experienced dreadful famine, and perished by accumulated devastation. Very many hailstorms fall upon and assail all things. For do we not find it contained and deliberately stated in ancient literature, that even showers of stones(4) often ruined entire districts? Violent rains cause the crops to perish, and proclaim barrenness to countries:--were the ancients, indeed, free from these ills, when we have known of(5) mighty rivers even being dried up, and the mud of their channels parched? The contagious influences of pestilence consume the human race:--ransack the records of history written in various languages, and you will find that all countries have often been desolated and deprived of their inhabitants. Every kind of crop is consumed, and devoured by locusts and by mice :--go through your own annals, and you will be taught by these plagues how often former ages were visited by them, and how often they were brought to the wretchedness of poverty. Cities shaken by powerful earthquakes totter to their destruction:--what !did not bygone days witness cities with their populations engulphed by huge rents of the earth?(1) or did they enjoy a condition exempt from such disasters?
4. When was the human race destroyed by a flood? was it not before us? When was the world set on fire,(2) and reduced to coals and ashes? was it not before us? When were the greatest cities engulphed in the billows of the sea? was it not before us? When were wars waged with wild beasts, and battles fought with lions?(3) was it not before us? When was ruin brought on whole communities by poisonous serpents?(4) was it not before us? For, inasmuch as you are wont to lay to our blame the cause of frequent wars, the devastation of cities, the irruptions of the Germans and the Scythians, allow me, with your leave, to say,--In your eagerness to calumniate us, you do not perceive the real nature of that which is alleged.
5. Did we bring it about, that ten thousand years ago a vast number of men burst forth from the island which is called the Atlantis of Neptune,(5) as Plato tells us, and utterly ruined and blotted out countless tribes? Did this form a prejudice against us, that between the Assyrians and Bactrians, under the leadership of Ninus and Zoroaster of old, a struggle was maintained not only by the sword and by physical power, but also by magicians, and by the mysterious learning of the Chaldeans? Is it to be laid to the charge of our religion, that Helen was carried off under the guidance and at the instigation of the gods, and that she became a direful destiny to her own and to after times? Was it because of our name, that that mad-cap Xerxes let the ocean in upon the land, and that he marched over the sea on foot? Did we produce and stir into action the causes, by reason of which one youth, starting from Macedonia, subjected the kingdoms and peoples of the East to captivity and to bondage? Did we, forsooth, urge the deities into frenzy, so that the Romans lately, like some swollen torrent, overthrew all nations, and swept them beneath the flood? But if there is no man who would dare to attribute to our times those things which took place long ago, how can we be the causes of the present misfortunes, when nothing new is occurring, but all things are old, and were unknown to none of the ancients?
6. Although you allege that those wars which you speak of were excited through hatred of our religion, it would not be difficult to prove, that after the name of Christ was heard in the world, not only were they not increased, but they were even in great measure diminished by the restraining of furious passions. For since we, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil,(6) that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscience with that of another, an ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature. But if all without exception, who feel that they are men not in form of body but in power of reason, would lend an ear for a little to His salutary and peaceful rules, and would not, in the pride and arrogance of enlightenment, trust to their own senses rather than to His admonitions, the whole world, having turned the use of steel into more peaceful occupations, would now be living in the most placid tranquillity, and would unite in blessed harmony, maintaining inviolate the sanctity of treaties.
7. But if, say my opponents, no damage is done to human affairs by you, whence arise those evils by which wretched mortals are now oppressed and overwhelmed? You ask of me a decided statement,(7) which is by no means necessary to this cause. For no immediate and prepared discussion regarding it has been undertaken by me, for the purpose of showing or proving from what causes and for what reasons each event took place; but in order to demonstrate that the reproaches of so grave a charge are far removed from our door. And if I prove this, if by examples and(8) by powerful arguments the truth of the matter is made clear, I care not whence these evils come, or from what sources and first beginnings they flow.
8. And yet, that I may not seem to have no opinion on subjects of this kind, that I may not appear when asked to have nothing to offer, I may say, What if the primal matter which has been diffused through the four elements of the universe, contains the causes of all miseries inherent in its own constitution? What if the movements of the heavenly bodies produce these evils in certain signs, regions, seasons, and tracts, and impose upon things placed under them the necessity of various dangers? What if, at stated intervals, changes take place in the universe, and, as in the tides of the sea, prosperity at one time flows, at another time ebbs, evils alternating with it? What if those impurities of matter which we tread trader our feet have this condition imposed upon them, that they give forth the most noxious exhalations, by means of which this our atmosphere is corrupted, and brings pestilence on our bodies, and weakens the human race? What if--and this seems nearest the truth--whatever appears to us adverse, is in reality not an evil to the world itself? And what if, measuring by our own advantages all things which take place, we blame the results of nature through ill-formed judgments? Plato, that sublime head and pillar of philosophers, has declared in his writings, that those cruel floods and those conflagrations of the I world are a purification of the earth; nor did that wise man dread to call the overthrow of the human race, its destruction, ruin, and death, a renewal of things, and to affirm that a youthfulness, as it were, was secured by this renewed strength.(1)
9. It rains not from heaven, my opponent says, and we are in distress from some extraordinary deficiency of grain crops. What then, do you demand that the elements should be the slaves of your wants? and that you may be able to live more softly and more delicately, ought the compliant seasons to minister to your convenience? What if, in this way, one who is intent on voyaging complains, that now for a long time there are no winds, and that the blasts of heaven have for ever lulled? Is it therefore to be said that that peacefulness of the universe is pernicious, because it interferes with the wishes of traders? What if one, accustomed to bask himself in the sun, and thus to acquire dryness of body, similarly complains that by the clouds the pleasure of serene weather is taken away? Should the clouds, therefore, be said to hang over with an injurious veil, because idle lust is not permitted to scorch itself in the burning heat, and to devise excuses for drinking? All these events which are brought to pass, and which happen under this mass of the universe, are not to be regarded as sent for our petty advantages, but as consistent with the plans and arrangements of Nature herself.
10. And if anything happens which does not foster ourselves or our affairs with joyous success, it is not to be set down forthwith as an evil, and as a pernicious thing. The world rains or does not rain: for itself it rains or does not rain; and, though you perhaps are ignorant of it, it either diminishes excessive moisture by a burning drought, or by the outpouring of rain moderates the dryness extending over a very long period. It raises pestilences, diseases, famines, and other baneful forms of plagues: how can you tell whether it does not thus remove that which is in excess, and whether, through loss to themselves, it does not fix a limit to things prone to luxuriance?
11. Would you venture to say that, in this universe, this thing or the other thing is an evil, whose origin and cause you are unable to explain and to analyze?(2) And because it interferes with your lawful, perhaps even your unlawful pleasures, would you say that it is pernicious and adverse? What, then, because cold is disagreeable to your members, and is wont to chill(3) the warmth of your blood, ought not winter on that account to exist in the world? And because you are unable(4) to endure the hottest rays of the sun, is summer to be removed from the year, and a different course of nature to be instituted under different laws? Hellebore is poison to men; should it therefore not grow? The wolf lies in wait by the sheepfolds; is nature at all in fault, because she has produced a beast most dangerous to sheep? The serpent by his bite takes away life; a reproach, forsooth, to creation, because it has added to animals monsters so cruel.
12. It is rather presumptuous, when you are not your own master, even when yon are the property of another, to dictate terms to those more powerful; to wish that that should happen which you desire, not that which you have found fixed in things by their original constitution. Wherefore, if you wish that your complaints should have a basis, you must first inform us whence you are, or who you are; whether the world was created and fashioned for you, or whether you came into it as sojourners from other regions. And since it is not in your power to say or to explain for what purpose you live beneath this vault of heaven, cease to believe that anything belongs to you; since those things which take place are not brought about in favour of a part, but have regard to the interest of the whole.
13. Because of the Christians, my opponents say, the gods inflict upon us all calamities, and ruin is brought on our crops by the heavenly deities. I ask when you say these things, do you not see that you are accusing us with bare-faced effrontery, with palpable and clearly proved falsehoods? It is almost three hundred years(1)--something less or more-- since we Christians(2) began to exist, and to be taken account of in the world. During all these years, have wars been incessant, has there been a yearly failure of the crops, has there been no peace on earth, has there been no season of cheapness and abundance of all things? For this must first be proved by him who accuses us, that these calamities have been endless and incessant, that men have never had a breathing time at all, and that without any relaxation(3) they have undergone dangers of many forms.
14. And yet do we not see that, in these years and seasons that have intervened, victories innumerable have been gained from the conquered enemy,--that the boundaries of the empire have been extended, and that nations whose names we had not previously heard, have been brought under our power,--that very often there have been the most plentiful yields of grain, seasons of cheapness, and such abundance of commodities, that all commerce was paralyzed, being prostrated by the standard of prices? For in what manner could affairs be carried on, and how could the human race have existed(4) even to this time, had not the productiveness of nature continued to supply all things which use demanded?
15. Sometimes, however, there were seasons of scarcity; yet they were relieved by times of plenty. Again, certain wars were carried on contrary to our wishes.(5) But they were afterwards compensated by victories and successes. What shall we say, then?--that the gods at one time bore in mind our acts of wrong-doing, at another time again forgot them? If, when there is a famine, the gods are said to be enraged at us, it follows that in time of plenty they are not wroth, and ill-to-be-appeased; and so the matter comes to this, that they both lay aside and resume anger with sportive whim, and always renew their wrath afresh by the recollection of the causes of offence.I
16. Yet one cannot discover by any rational process of reasoning, what is the meaning of these statements. If the gods willed that the Alemanni(6) and the Persians should be overcome because Christians dwelt among their tribes, how did they grant victory to the Romans when Christians dwelt among their peoples also? If they willed that mice and locusts should swarm forth in prodigious numbers in Asia and in Syria because Christians dwelt among their tribes too, why was there at the same time no such phenomenon in Spain and in Gaul, although innumerable Christians lived in those provinces also?(7) If among the Gaetuli and the Tinguitani(8) they sent dryness anti aridity on the crops on account of this circumstance, why did they in that very year give the most bountiful harvest to the Moors and to the Nomads, when a similar religion had its abode in these regions as well? If in any one state whatever they have caused many to die with hunger, through disgust at our name, why have they in the same state made wealthier, ay, very rich, by the high price of corn, not only men not of our booty, but even Christians themselves? Accordingly, either all should have had no blessing if we are the cause of the evils, for we are in all nations; or when you see blessings mixed with misfortunes, cease to attribute to us that which damages your interests, when we in no respect interfere with your blessings and prosperity. For if I cause it to be ill with you, why do I not prevent it from being well with you? If my name is the cause of a great dearth, why am I powerless to prevent the greatest productiveness? If I am said to bring the ill luck of a wound being received in war, why, when the enemy are slain, am I not an evil augury; and why am I not set forth against good hopes, through the ill luck of a bad omen?
17. And yet, O ye great worshippers and priests of the deities, why, as you assert that those most holy gods are enraged at Christian communities, do you not likewise perceive, do you not see what base feelings, what unseemly frenzies, you attribute to your deities? For, to be angry, what else is it than to be insane, to rave, to be urged to the lust of vengeance, and to revel in the troubles of another's grief, through the madness of a savage disposition? Your great gods, then, know, are subject to and feel that which wild beasts, which monstrous brutes experience, which the deadly plant natrix contains in its poisoned roots. That nature which is superior to others, and which is based on the firm foundation of unwavering virtue, experiences, as you allege, the instability which is in man, the faults which are in the animals of earth. And what therefore follows of necessity, but that from their eyes flashes dart, flames burst forth, a panting breast emits a hurried breathing from their mouth, and by reason of their burning words their parched lips become pale?
18. But if this that you say is true,--if it has been tested and thoroughly ascertained both that the gods boil with rage, and that an impulse of this kind agitates the divinities with excitement, on the one hand they are not immortal, and on the other they are not to be reckoned as at all partaking of divinity. For wherever, as the philosophers hold, there is any agitation, there of necessity passion must exist. Where passion is situated, it is reasonable that mental excitement follow. Where there is mental excitement, there grief and sorrow exist. Where grief and sorrow exist, there is already room for weakening and decay; and if these two harass them, extinction is at hand, viz. death, which ends all things, and takes away life from every sentient being.
19. Moreover, in this way you represent them as not only unstable and excitable, but, what all agree is far removed from the character of deity, as unfair in their dealings, as wrong-doers, and, in fine, as possessing positively no amount of even moderate fairness. For what is a greater wrong than to be angry with some, and to injure others, to complain of human beings, and to ravage the harmless corn crops, to hate the Christian name, and to ruin the worshippers of Christ with every kind of loss?
20. (1)Do they on this account wreak their wrath on you too, in order that, roused by your own private wounds, you may rise up for their vengeance? It seems, then, that the gods seek the help of mortals; and were they not protected by your strenuous advocacy, they are not able of themselves to repel and to avenge(2) the insults offered them. Nay rather, if it be true that they burn with anger, give them an opportunity of defending themselves, and let them put forth and make trial of their innate powers, to take vengeance for their offended dignity. By heat, by hurtful cold, by noxious winds, by the most occult diseases, they can slay us, they can consume(3) us, and they can drive us entirely from all intercourse with men; or if it is impolitic to assail us by violence, let them give forth some token of their indignation,(4) by which it may be clear to all that we live under heaven subject to their strong displeasure.
21. To you let them give good health, to us bad, ay, the very worst. Let them water your farms with seasonable showers; from our little fields let them drive away all those rains which are gentle. Let them see to it that your sheep are multiplied by a numerous progeny; on our flocks let them bring luckless barrenness. From your olive-trees and vineyards let them bring the full harvest; but let them see to it that from not one shoot of ours one drop be expressed. Finally, and as their worst, let them give orders that in your mouth the products of the earth retain their natural qualities; but, on the contrary that in ours the honey become bitter, the flowing oil grow rancid, and that the wine when sipped, be in the very lips suddenly changed into disappointing vinegar.
22. And since facts themselves testify that this result never occurs, and since it is plain that to us no less share of the bounties of life accrues, and to you no greater, what inordinate desire is there to assert that the gods are unfavourable, nay, inimical to the Christians, who, in the greatest adversity, just as in prosperity, differ from you in no respect? If you allow the truth to be told you, and that, too, without reserve, these allegations are but words,--words, I say; nay, matters believed on calumnious reports not proved by any certain evidence.
23. But the true(5) gods, and those who are worthy to have and to wear the dignity of this name, neither conceive anger nor indulge a grudge, nor do they contrive by insidious devices what may be hurtful to another party. For verily it is profane, and surpasses all acts of sacrilege, to believe that that wise and most blessed nature is uplifted in mind if one prostrates himself before it in humble adoration; and if this adoration be not paid, that it deems itself despised, and regards itself as fallen from the pinnacle of its glory. It is childish, weak, and petty, and scarcely becoming for those whom the experience of learned men has for a long time called demigods and heroes,(6) not to be versed in heavenly things, and, divesting themselves of their own proper state, to be busied with the coarser matter of earth.
24. These are your ideas, these are your sentiments, impiously conceived, and more impiously believed. Nay, rather, to speak out more truly, the augurs, the dream interpreters, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the priestlings, ever vain, have devised these fables; for they, fearing that their own arts be brought to nought, and that they may extort but scanty contributions from the devotees, now few and infrequent, whenever they have found you to be willing(7) that their craft should come into disrepute, cry aloud, The gods are neglected, and in the temples there is now a very thin attendance. Former ceremonies are exposed to derision, and the time-honoured rites of institutions once sacred have sunk before the superstitions of new religions. Justly is the human race afflicted by so many pressing calamities, justly is it racked by the hardships of so many toils. And men--a senseless race--being unable, from their inborn blindness, to see even that which is placed in open light, dare to assert in their frenzy what you in your sane mind do not blush to believe.
25. And lest any one should suppose that we, through distrust in our reply, invest the gods with the gifts of serenity, that we assign to them minds free from resentment, and far removed from all excitement, let us allow, since it is pleasing to you, that they put forth their passion upon us, that they thirst for our blood, and that now for a long time they are eager to remove us from the generations of men. But if it is not troublesome to you, if it is not offensive, if it is a matter of common duty to discuss the points of this argument not on grounds of partiality, but on those of truth, we demand to hear from you what is the explanation of this, what the cause, why, on the one hand, the gods exercise cruelty on us alone, and why, on the other, men barn against us with exasperation. You follow, our opponents say, profane religious systems, and you practise rites unheard of throughout the entire world. What do you, O men, endowed with reason, dare to assert? What do you dare to prate of? What do you try to bring forward in the recklessness of unguarded speech? To adore God as the highest existence, as the Lord of all things that be, as occupying the highest place among all exalted ones, to pray to Him with respectful submission in our distresses, to cling to Him with all our senses, so to speak, to love Him, to look up to Him with faith,--is this an execrable and unhallowed religion,(1) full of impiety and of sacrilege, polluting by the superstition of its own novelty ceremonies instituted of old?
26. Is this, I pray, that daring and heinous iniquity on account of which the mighty powers of heaven whet against us the stings of passionate indignation, on account of which you yourselves, whenever the savage desire has seized you, spoil us of our goods, drive us from the homes of our fathers, inflict upon us capital punishment, torture, mangle, barn us, and at the last expose us to wild beasts, and give us to be torn by monsters? Whosoever condemns that in us, or considers that it should be laid against us as a charge, is he deserving either to be called by the name of man, though he seem so to himself? or is he to be believed a god, although he declare himself to be so by the mouth of a thousand(2) prophets? Does Trophonius,(3) or Jupiter of Dodona, pronounce us to be wicked? And will he himself be called god, and be reckoned among the number of the deities, who either fixes the charge of impiety on those who serve the King Supreme, or is racked with envy because His majesty and His worship are preferred to his own?
Is Apollo whether called Delian or Clarian Didymean, Philesian, or Pythian, to be reckoned divine, who either knows not the Supreme Ruler, or who is not aware that He is entreated by us in daily prayers? And although he knew not the secrets of our hearts, and though he did not discover what we hold in our inmost thoughts, yet he might either know by his ear, or might perceive by the very tone of voice which we use in prayer, that we invoke God Supreme, and that we beg from Him what we require.
27. This is not the place to examine all our traducers, who they are, or whence they are, what is their power, what their knowledge, why they tremble at the mention of Christ, why they regard his disciples as enemies and as hateful persons; but with regard to ourselves to state expressly to those who will exercise common reason, in terms applicable to all of us alike,--We Christians are nothing else than worshippers of the Supreme King and Head, under our Master, Christ. If you examine carefully, you will find that nothing else is implied in that religion. This is the sum of all that we do; this is the proposed end and limit of sacred duties. Before Him we all prostrate ourselves, according to oar custom; Him we adore in joint prayers; from Him we beg things just and honourable, and worthy of His ear. Not that He needs our supplications, or loves to see the homage of so many thousands laid at His feet. This is our benefit, and has a regard to our advantage. For since we are prone to err, and to yield to various lusts and appetites through the fault of our innate weakness, He allows Himself at all times to be comprehended in our thoughts, that whilst we entreat Him and strive to merit His bounties, we may receive a desire for purity, and may free ourselves from every stain by the removal of all our shortcomings.(4)
28. What say ye, O interpreters of sacred and of divine law?(5) Are they attached to a better cause who adore the Lares Grundules, the Aii Locutii,(1) and the Limentini,(2) than we who worship God the Father of all things, and demand of Him protection in danger and distress? They, too, seem to you wary, wise, most sagacious, and not worthy of any blame, who revere Fauni and Fatuae, and the genii of states,(3) who worship Pausi and Bellonae:--we are pronounced dull, doltish, fatuous, stupid, and senseless, who have given ourselves up to God, at whose nod and pleasure everything which exists has its being, and remains immoveable by His eternal decree. Do you put forth this opinion? Have you ordained this law? Do you publish this decree, that he be crowned with the highest honours who shall worship your slaves? that he merit the extreme penalty of the cross who shall offer prayers to you yourselves, his masters? In the greatest states, and in the most powerful nations, sacred rites are performed in the public name to harlots, who in old days earned the wages of impurity, and prostituted themselves to the lust of all;(4) and yet for this there are no swellings of indignation on the part of the deities. Temples have been erected with lofty roofs to cats, to beetles, and to heifers:(5)--the powers of the deities thus insulted are silent; nor are they affected with any feeling of envy because they see the sacred attributes of vile animals put in rivalry with them. Are the deities inimical to us alone? To us are they most unrelenting, because we worship their Author, by whom, if they do exist, they began to be, and to have the essence of their power and their majesty, from whom, having obtained their very divinity, so to speak, they feel that they exist, and realize that they are reckoned among things that be, at whose will and at whose behest they are able both to perish and be dissolved, and not to be dissolved and not to perish?(6) For if we all grant that there is only one great Being, whom in the long lapse of time nought else precedes, it necessarily follows that after Him all things were generated and put forth, and that they burst into an existence each of its kind. But if this is unchallenged and sure, you(7) will be compelled as a consequence to confess, on the one hand, that the deities are created,(8) and on the other, that they derive the spring of their existence from the great source of things. And if they are created and brought forth, they are also doubtless liable to annihilation and to dangers; but yet they are believed to be immortal, ever-existent, and subject to no extinction. This is also a gift from God their Author, that they have been privileged to remain the same through countless ages, though by nature they are fleeting, and liable to dissolution.
29. And would that it were allowed me to deliver this argument with the whole world formed, as it were, into one assembly, and to be placed in the hearing of all the human race! Are we therefore charged before you with an impious religion? and because we approach the Head and Pillar(9) of the universe with worshipful service, are we to be considered--to use the terms employed by you in reproaching us--as persons to be shunned, and as godless ones? And who would more properly bear the odium of these names than he who either knows, or inquires after, or believes any other god rather than this of ours? To Him do we not owe this first, that we exist, that we are said to be men, that, being either sent forth from Him, or having fallen from Him, we are confined in the darkness of this body?(10) Does it not come from Him that we walk, that we breathe and live? and by the very power of living, does He not cause us to exist and to move with the activity of animated being? From this do not causes emanate, through which our health is sustained by the bountiful supply of various pleasures? Whose is that world in which you live? or who hath authorized you to retain its produce and its possession? Who hath given that common light, enabling us to see distinctly all things lying beneath it, to handle them, and to examine them? Who has ordained that the fires of the sun should exist for the growth of things, lest elements pregnant with life should be numbed by settling down in the torpor of inactivity? When yon believe that the sun is a deity, do you not ask who is his founder, who has fashioned him? Since the moon is a goddess in your estimation, do you in like manner care to know who is her author and framer?
30. Does it not occur to you to reflect and to examine in whose domain you live? on whose property you are? whose is that earth which you till?(11) whose is that air which you inhale, and return again in breathing? whose fountains do you abundantly enjoy? whose water? who has regulated the blasts of the wind? who has contrived the watery clouds? who has discriminated the productive powers of seeds by special characteristics? Does Apollo give you rain? Does Mercury send yon water from heaven? Has Aesculapius, Hercules, or Diana devised the plan of showers and of storms? And how can this be, when you give forth that they were born on earth, and that at a fixed period they received vital perceptions? For if the world preceded them in the long lapse of time, and if before they were born nature already experienced rains and storms, those who were born later have no right of rain-giving, nor can they mix themselves up with those methods which they found to be in operation here, and to be derived from a greater Author.
31. O greatest, O Supreme Creator of things invisible! O Thou who art Thyself unseen, and who art incomprehensible! Thou art worthy, Thou art verily worthy--if only mortal tongue may speak of Thee--that all breathing and intelligent nature should never cease to feel and to return thanks; that it should throughout the whole of life fall on bended knee, and offer supplication with never-ceasing prayers. For Thou art the first cause; in Thee created things exist, and Thou art the space in which rest the foundations of all things, whatever they be. Thou art illimitable, unbegotten, immortal, enduring for aye, God Thyself alone, whom no bodily shape may represent, no outline delineate; of virtues inexpressible, of greatness indefinable; unrestricted as to locality, movement, and condition, concerning whom nothing can be clearly expressed by the significance of man's words. That Thou mayest he understood, we must be silent; and that erring conjecture may track Thee through the shady cloud, no word must be uttered. Grant pardon, O King Supreme, to those who persecute Thy servants; and in virtue of Thy benign nature, forgive those who fly from the worship of Thy name and the observance of Thy religion. It is not to be wondered at if Thou art unknown; it is a cause of greater astonishment if Thou art clearly comprehended.(1)
But perchance some one dares--for this remains for frantic madness to do--to be uncertain, and to express doubt whether that God exists or not; whether He is believed in on the proved truth of reliable evidence, or on the imaginings of empty rumour. For of those who have given themselves to philosophizing, we have heard that some(2) deny the existence of any divine power, that others(3) inquire daily whether there be or not; that others(4) construct the whole fabric of the universe by chance accidents and by random collision, and fashion it by the concourse of atoms of different shapes; with whom we by no means intend to enter at this time on a discussion of such perverse convictions.(5) For those who think wisely say, that to argue against things palpably foolish, is a mark of greater folly.
32. Our discussion deals with those who, acknowledging that there is a divine race of beings, doubt about those of greater rank and power, whilst they admit that there are deities inferior and more humble. What then? Do we strive and toil to obtain such results by arguments? Far hence be such madness; and, as the phrase is, let the folly, say I, be averted from us. For it is as dangerous to attempt to prove by arguments that God is the highest being, as it is to wish to discover by reasoning of this kind that He exists. It is a matter of indifference whether you deny that He exists, or affirm it and admit it; since equally culpable are both the assertion of such a thing, and the denial of an unbelieving opponent.
33. Is there any human being who has not entered on the first day of his life with an idea of that Great Head? In whom has it not been implanted by nature, on whom has it not been impressed, aye, stamped almost in his mother's womb even, in whom is there not a native instinct, that He is King and Lord, the ruler of all things that be? In fine, if the dumb animals even could stammer forth their thoughts, if they were able to use our languages; nay, if trees, if the clods of the earth, if stones animated by vital perceptions were able to produce vocal sounds, and to utter articulate speech, would they not in that case, with nature as their guide and teacher, in the faith of uncorrupted innocence, both feel that there is a God, and proclaim that He alone is Lord of all?
34. But in vain, says one, do you assail us with a groundless and calumnious charge, as if we deny that there is a deity of a higher kind, since Jupiter is by us both called and esteemed the best and the greatest; and since we have dedicated to him the most sacred abodes, and have raised huge Capitols. You are endeavouring to connect together things which are dissimilar, and to force them into one class, thereby introducing confusion. For by the unanimous judgment of all, and by the common consent of the human race, the omnipotent God is regarded as having never been born, as having never been brought forth to new light, and as not having begun to exist at any time or century. For He Himself is the source of all things, the Father of ages and of seasons. For they do not exist of themselves, but from His everlasting perpetuity they move on in unbroken and ever endless flow. Yet Jupiter indeed, as you allege, has both father and mother, grandfathers, grandmothers, and brothers: now lately conceived in the womb of his mother, being completely formed and perfected in ten months, he burst with vital sensations into light unknown to him before. If, then, this is so, how can Jupiter be God supreme, when it is evident that He is everlasting, and the former is represented by you as having had a natal day, and as having uttered a mournful cry, through terror at the strange scene?
35. But suppose they be one, as you wish, and not different in any power of deity and in majesty, do you therefore persecute us with undeserved hatred? Why do you shudder at the mention of our name as of the worst omen, if we too worship the deity whom you worship? or why do you contend that the gods are friendly to you, but inimical, aye, most hostile to us, though our relations to them are the same? For if one religion is common to us and to you, the anger of the gods is stayed;(1) but if they are hostile to us alone it is plain that both you and they have no knowledge of God. And that that God is not Jove, is evident by the very wrath of the deities.
36. But, says my opponent, the deities are not inimical to you, because you worship the omnipotent God; but because you both allege that one born as men are, and put to death on the cross, which is a disgraceful punishment even for worthless men, was God, and because you believe that He still lives, and because you worship Him in daily supplications. If it is agreeable to you, my friends, state clearly what deities those are who believe that the worship of Christ by us has a tendency to injure them? Is it Janus, the founder of the Janiculum, and Saturn, the author of the Saturnian state? Is it Fauna Fatua,(2) the wife of Faunus, who is called the Good Goddess, but who is better and more deserving of praise in the drinking of wine? Is it those gods Indigetes who swim in the river, and live in the channels of the Numicius, in company with frogs and little fishes? Is it Aesculapius and father Bacchus, the former born of Coronis, and the other dashed by lightning from his mother's womb? Is it Mercury, son of Maia, and what is more divine, Maia the beautiful? Is it the bow- bearing deities Diana and Apollo, who were companions of their mother's wanderings, and who were scarcely safe in floating islands? Is it Venus, daughter of Dione, paramour of a man of Trojan family, and the prostituter of her secret charms? Is it Ceres, born in Sicilian territory, and Proserpine, surprised while gathering flowers? Is it the Theban or the Phoenician Hercules,--the latter buried in Spanish territory, the other burned by fire on Mount OEta? Is it the brothers Castor and Pollux, sons of Tyndareus,--the one accustomed to tame horses, the other an excellent boxer, and unconquerable with the untanned gauntlet? Is it the Titans anti the Bocchores of the Moors, and the Syrian(3) deities, the offspring of eggs? Is it Apis, born in the Peloponnese, and in Egypt called Serapis? Is it Isis, tanned by Ethiopian suns, lamenting her lost son and husband torn limb from limb? Passing on, we omit the royal offspring of Ops, which your writers have in their books set forth for your instruction, telling you both who they are, and of what character. Do these, then, hear with offended ears that Christ is worshipped, and that He is accepted by us and regarded as a divine person? And being forgetful of the grade and state in which they recently were, are they unwilling to share with another that which has been granted to themselves? Is this the justice of the heavenly deities? Is this the righteous judgment of the gods? Is not this a kind of malice and of greed? is it not a species of base envy, to wish their own fortunes only to rise,--those of others to be lowered, and to be trodden down in despised lowliness?
37. We worship one who was born a man. What then? do you worship no one who was born a man? Do you not worship one and another, aye, deities innumerable? Nay, have you not taken from the number of mortals all those whom you now have in your temples; and have you not set them in heaven, and among the constellations? For if, perchance, it has escaped you that they once partook of human destiny, and of the state common to all men, search the most ancient literature, and range through the writings of those who, living nearest to the days of antiquity, set forth all things with undisguised truth and without flattery: you will learn in detail from what fathers, from what mothers they were each sprung, in what district they were born, of what tribe; what they made, what they did, what they endured, how they employed themselves, what fortunes they experienced of an adverse or of a favourable kind in discharging their functions. But if, while you know that they were born in the womb, and that they lived on the produce of the earth, you nevertheless upbraid us with the worship of one born like ourselves, you act with great injustice, in regarding that as worthy of condemnation in us which you yourselves habitually do; or what you allow to be lawful for you, you are unwilling to be in like manner lawful for others.
38. But in the meantime let us grant, in sub-mission to your ideas, that Christ was one of us--similar in mind, soul, body, weakness, and condition; is He not worthy to be called and to be esteemed God by us, in consideration of His bounties, so numerous as they are? For if you have placed in the assembly(1) of the gods Liber, because he discovered the use of wine; Ceres, because she discovered the use of bread; Aesculapius, because he discovered the use of herbs; Minerva, because she produced the olive; Triptolemus, because he invented the plough; Hercules, because he overpowered and restrained wild beasts and robbers, and water-serpents of many heads,--with how great distinctions is He to be honoured by us, who, by instilling His truth into our hearts, has freed us from great errors; who, when we were straying everywhere, as if blind and without a guide, withdrew us from precipitous and devious paths, and set our feet on more smooth places; who has pointed out what is especially profitable and salutary for the human race; who has shown us what God is,(2) who He is, how great and how good; who has permitted and taught us to conceive and to understand, as far as our limited capacity can, His profound and inexpressible depths; who, in in His great kindness, has caused it to be known by what founder, by what Creator, this world was established and made; who has explained the nature of its origin(3) and essential substance, never before imagined in the conceptions of any; whence generative warmth is added to the rays of the sun; why the moon, always uninjured(4) in her motions, is believed to alternate her light and her obscurity from intelligent causes;(5) what is the origin of animals, what rules regulate seeds; who designed man himself, who fashioned him, or from what kind of material did He compact the very build of bodies; what the perceptions are; what the soul, and whether it flew to us of its own accord, or whether it was generated and brought into existence with our bodies themselves; whether it sojourns with us, partaking of death, or whether it is gifted with an endless immortality; what condition awaits us when we shall have separated from our bodies relaxed in death; whether we shall retain our perceptions,(6) or have no recollection of our former sensations or of past memories;(7) who has restrained(8) our arrogance, and has caused our necks, uplifted with pride, to acknowledge the measure of their weakness; who hath shown that we are creatures imperfectly formed, that we trust in vain expectations, that we understand nothing thoroughly, that we know nothing, and that we do not see those things which are placed before our eyes; who has guided us from false superstitions to the true religion,--a blessing which exceeds and transcends all His other gifts; who has raised our thoughts to heaven from brutish statues formed of the vilest clay, and has caused us to hold converse in thanksgiving and prayer with the Lord of the universe.
39. But lately, O blindness, I worshipped images produced from the furnace, gods made on anvils and by hammers, the bones of elephants, paintings, wreaths on aged trees;(9) whenever I espied an anointed stone and one bedaubed with olive oil, as if some power resided in it I worshipped it, I addressed myself to it and begged blessings from a senseless stock.(10) And these very gods of whose existence I had convinced myself, I treated with gross insults, when I believed them to be wood, stone, and bones, or imagined that they dwelt in the substance of such objects. Now, having been led into the paths of truth by so great a teacher, I know what all these things are, I entertain honourable thoughts concerning those which are worthy, I offer no insult to any divine name; and what is due to each, whether inferior" or superior, I assign with clearly-defined gradations, and on distinct authority. Is Christ, then, not to be regarded by us as God? and is He, who in other respects may be deemed the very greatest, not to be honoured with divine worship, from whom we have already received while alive so great gifts, and from whom, when the day comes, we expect greater ones?
40. But He died nailed to the cross. What is that to the argument? For neither does the kind and disgrace of the death change His words or deeds, nor will the weight of His teaching appear less; because He freed Himself from the shackles of the body, not by a natural separation, but departed by reason of violence offered to Him. Pythagoras of Samos was burned to death in a temple, under an unjust suspicion of aiming at sovereign power. Did his doctrines lose their peculiar influence, because he breathed forth his life not willingly, but in consequence of a savage assault? In like manner Socrates, condemned by the decision of his fellow-citizens, suffered capital punishment: have his discussions on morals, on virtues, and on duties been rendered vain, because he was unjustly hurried from life? Others without number, conspicuous by their renown, their merit, and their public character, have experienced the most cruel forums of death, as Aquilius, Trebonius, and Regulus: were they on that account adjudged base after death, because they perished not by the common law of the fates, but after being mangled and tortured in the most cruel kind of death? No innocent person foully slain is ever disgraced thereby; nor is he stained by the mark of any baseness, who suffers severe punishment, not from his own deserts, but by reason of the savage nature of his persecutor.(1)
41. And yet, O ye who laugh because we worship one who died an ignominious death, do not ye too, by consecrating shrines to him, honour father Liber, who was torn limb from limb by the Titans? Have you not, after his punishment and his death by lightning, named Aesculapius, the discoverer of medicines, as the guardian and protector of health, of strength, and of safety? Do you not invoke the great Hercules himself by offerings, by victims, and by kindled frankincense, whom you yourselves allege to have been burned alive after his punishment,(2) and to have been consumed on the fatal pyres? Do you not, with the unanimous approbation of the Gauls, invoke as a propitious(3) and as a holy god, in the temples of the Great Mother,(4) that Phrygian Atys(5) who was mangled and deprived of his virility? Father Romulus himself, who was torn in pieces by the hands of a hundred senators, do you not call Quirinus Martius, and do you not honour him with priests and with gorgeous couches,(6) and do you not worship him in most spacious temples; and in addition to all this, do you not affirm that he has ascended into heaven? Either, therefore, you too are to be laughed at, who regard as gods men slain by the most cruel tortures; or if there is a sure ground for your thinking that you should do so, allow us too to feel assured for what causes and on what grounds we do this.
42. You worship, says my opponent, one who was born a mere human being. Even if that were true, as has been already said in former passages, yet, in consideration of the many liberal gifts which He has bestowed on us, He ought to be called and be addressed as God. But since He is God in reality and without any shadow of doubt, do you think that we will deny that He is worshipped by us with all the fervour we are capable of, and assumed as the guardian of our body? Is that Christ of yours a god, then? some raving, wrathful, and excited man will say. A god, we will reply, and the god of the inner powers;(7) and--what may still further torture unbelievers with the most bitter pains--He was sent to us by the King Supreme for a purpose of the very highest moment. My opponent, becoming more mad and more frantic, will perhaps ask whether the matter can be proved, as we allege. There is no greater proof than the credibility of the acts done by Him, than the unwonted excellence of the virtues He exhibited, than the conquest and the abrogation of all those deadly ordinances which peoples and tribes saw executed in the light of day,(8) with no objecting voice; and even they whose ancient laws or whose country's laws He shows to be full of vanity and of the most senseless superstition, (even they) dare not allege these things to be false.
43. My opponent will perhaps meet me with many other slanderous and childish charges which are commonly urged. Jesus was a Magian;(1) He effected all these things by secret arts. From the shrines of the Egyptians He stole the names of angels of might,(2) and the religious system of a remote country. Why, O witlings, do you speak of things which you have not examined, and which are unknown to you, prating with the garrulity of a rash tongue? Were, then, those things which were done, the freaks of demons, and the tricks of magical arts? Can you specify and point out to me any one of all those magicians who have ever existed in past ages, that did anything similar, in the thousandth degree, to Christ? Who has done this without any power of incantations, without the juice of herbs and of grasses, without any anxious watching of sacrifices, of libations, or of seasons? For we do not press it, and inquire what they profess to do, nor in what kind of acts all their learning and experience are wont to be comprised. For who is not aware that these men either study to know beforehand things impending, which, whether they will or not, come of necessity as they have been ordained? or to inflict a deadly and wasting disease on whom they choose; or to sever the affections of relatives; or to open without keys places which are locked; or to seal the month in silence; or in the chariot race to weaken, urge on, or retard horses; or to inspire in wives, and in the children of strangers, whether they be males or females, the flames and mad desires of illicit love?(3) Or if they seem to attempt anything useful, to be able to do it not by their own power, but by the might of those deities whom they invoke.
44. And yet it is agreed on that Christ performed all those miracles which He wrought without any aid from external things, without the observance of any ceremonial, without any definite mode of procedure, but solely by the inherent might of His authority; and as was the proper duty of the true God, as was consistent with His nature, as was worthy of Him, in the generosity of His bounteous power He bestowed nothing hurtful or injurious, but only that which is helpful, beneficial, and full of blessings good(4) for men.
45. What do you say again, oh you(5)--? Is He then a man, is He one of us, at whose command, at whose voice, raised in the utterance of audible and intelligible words,(6) infirmities, diseases, fevers, and other ailments of the body fled away? Was He one of us, whose presence, whose very sight, that race of demons which took possession of men was unable to bear, and terrified by the strange power, fled away? Was He one of us, to whose order the foul leprosy, at once checked, was obedient, and left sameness of colour to bodies formerly spotted? Was He one of us, at whose light touch the issues of blood were stanched, and stopped their excessive flow?(7) Was He one of us, whose hands the waters of the lethargic dropsy fled from, and that searching(8) fluid avoided; and did the swelling body, assuming a healthy dryness, find relief? Was He one of us, who bade the lame run? Was it His work, too, that the maimed stretched forth their hands, and the joints relaxed the rigidity(9) acquired even at birth; that the paralytic rose to their feet, and persons now carried home their beds who a little before were borne on the shoulders of others; the blind were restored to sight, and men born without eyes now looked on the heaven and the day?
46. Was He one of us, I say, who by one act of intervention at once healed a hundred or more afflicted with various infirmities and diseases; at whose word only the raging and maddened seas were still, the whirlwinds and tempests were lulled; who walked over the deepest pools with unwet foot; who trod the ridges of the deep, the very waves being astonished, and nature coining under bondage; who with live loaves satisfied five thousand of His followers: and who, lest it might appear to the unbelieving and bard of heart to be an illusion, filled twelve capacious baskets with the fragments that remained? Was He one of us, who ordered the breath that had departed to return to the body, persons buried to come forth from the tomb, and after three days to be loosed from the swathings of the undertaker? Was He one of us, who saw clearly in the hearts of the silent what each was pondering,(10) what each had in his secret thoughts? Was He one of us, who, when He uttered a single word, was thought by nations far removed from one another and of different speech to be using well-known sounds, and the peculiar language of each?(11) Was He one of us, who, when He was teaching His followers the duties of a religion that could not be gainsaid, suddenly filled the whole world, and showed how great He was and who He was, by unveiling the boundlessness of His authority? Was He one of us, who, after His body had been laid in the tomb, manifested Himself in open day to countless numbers of men; who spoke to them, and listened to them; who taught them, reproved and admonished them; who, lest they should imagine that they were deceived by unsubstantial fancies, showed Himself once, a second time, aye frequently, in familiar conversation; who appears even now to righteous men of unpolluted mind who love Him, not in airy dreams, but in a form of pure simplicity;(1) whose name, when heard, puts to flight evil spirits, imposes silence on soothsayers, prevents men from consulting the augurs, causes the efforts of arrogant magicians to be frustrated, not by the dread of His name, as you allege, but by the free exercise of a greater power?
47. These facts set forth in sanctuary we have put forward, not on the supposition that the greatness of the agent was to be seen in these virtues alone.(2) For however great these things be, how excessively petty and trifling will they be found to be, if it shall be revealed from what realms He has come, of what God He is the minister! But with regard to the acts which were done by Him, they were performed, indeed, not that He might boast Himself into empty ostentation, bat that hardened and unbelieving men might he assured that what was professed was not deceptive, and that they might now learn to imagine, from the beneficence of His works, what a true god was. At the same time we wish this also to be known,(3) when, as was said, an enumeration of His acts has been given in summary, that Christ was able to do not only those things which He did, but that He could even overcome the decrees of fate. For if, as is evident, and as is agreed by all, infirmities and bodily sufferings, if deafness, deformity, and dumbness, if shrivelling of the sinews and the loss of sight happen to us, and are brought on us by the decrees of fate and if Christ alone has corrected this, has restored and cared man, it is clearer than the sun himself that He was more powerful than the fates are when He has loosened and overpowered those things which were bound with everlasting knots, and fixed by unalterable necessity.
48. But, says some one, you in vain claim so much for Christ, when we now know, and have in past times known, of other gods both giving remedies to many who were sick, and healing the diseases and the infirmities of many men. I do not inquire, I do not demand, what god did so, or at what time; whom he relieved, or what shattered frame he restored to sound health: this only I long to hear, whether, without the addition of any substance--that is, of any medical application--he ordered diseases to fly away from men at a touch; whether he commanded and compelled the cause of ill health to be eradicated, and the bodies of the weak to return to their natural strength. For it is known that Christ, either by applying His hand to the parts affected, or by the command of His voice only, opened the ears of the deaf, drove away blindness from the eyes, gave speech to the dumb, loosened the rigidity of the joints, gave the power of walking to the shrivelled,--was wont to heal by a word and by an order, leprosies, agues, dropsies, and all other kinds of ailments, which some fell power(4) has willed that the bodies of men should endure. What act like these have all these gods done, by whom you allege that help has been brought to the sick and the imperilled? for if they have at any time ordered, as is reported, either that medicine or a special diet be given to some,(5) or that a draught be drunk off, or that the juices of plants and of blades be placed(6) on that which causes uneasiness or have ordered that persons should walk, remain at rest, or abstain from something hurtful,--and that this is no great matter, and deserves no great admiration, is evident, if you will attentively examine it--a similar mode of treatment is followed by physicians also, a creature earth-born and not relying on true science, but founding on a system of conjecture, and wavering in estimating probabilities. Now there is no special merit in removing by remedies those ailments which affect men: the healing qualities belong to the drugs--not virtues inherent in him who applies them; and though it is praiseworthy to know by what medicine or by what method it may be suitable for persons to be treated, there is room for this credit being assigned to man, but not to the deity. For it is, at least, no discredit that he(7) should have improved the health of man by things taken from without: it is a disgrace to a god that he is not able to effect it of himself, but that he gives soundness and safety only by the aid of external objects.
49. And since you compare Christ and the other deities as to the blessings of health bestowed, how many thousands of infirm persons do you wish to be shown to you by us; how many persons affected with wasting diseases, whom no appliances whatever restored, although they went as suppliants through all the temples, although they prostrated themselves before the gods, and swept the very thresholds with their lips--though, as long as life remained, they wearied with prayers, and importuned with most piteous vows Aesculapius himself, the health-giver, as they call him? Do we not know that some died of their ailments? that others grew old by the torturing pain of their diseases? that others began to live a more abandoned life after they had wasted their days(1) and nights in incessant prayers, and in expectation of mercy?(2) Of what avail is it, then, to point to one or another who may have been healed, when so many thousands have been left unaided, and the shrines are full of all the wretched and the unfortunate? Unless, perchance, you say that the gods help the good, but that the miseries of the wicked are overlooked. And yet Christ assisted the good and the bad alike; nor was there any one rejected by Him, who in adversity sought help against violence and the ills of fortune. For this is the mark of a true god and of kingly power, to deny his bounty to none, and not to consider who merits it or who does not; since natural infirmity and not the choice of his desire, or of his sober judgment, makes a sinner. To say, moreover, that aid is given by the gods to the deserving when in distress, is to leave undecided and render doubtful what you assert: so that both he who has been made whole may seem to have been preserved by chance, and he who is not may appear to have been unable to banish infirmity, not because of his demerit, but by reason of a heaven-sent weakness.(3)
50. Moreover, by His own power He not only performed those miraculous deeds which have been detailed by us in summary, and not as the importance of the matter demanded; but, what was more sublime, He has permitted many others to attempt them, and to perform them by the use of His name. For when He foresaw that you were to be the detractors of His deeds and of His divine work, ill order that no lurking suspicion might remain of His having lavished these gifts and bounties by magic arts, from the immense multitude of people, which with admiring wonder strove to gain His favour, He chose fishermen, artisans, rustics, and unskilled persons of a similar kind, that they being sent through various nations should perform all those miracles without any deceit and without any material aids. By a word He assuaged the racking pains of the aching members; and by a word they checked the writhings of maddening sufferings. By one command He drove demons from the body, and restored their senses to the lifeless; they, too, by no different command, restored to health and to soundness of mind those labouring under the inflictions of these demons.(4) By the application of His hand He removed the marks of leprosy; they, too, restored to the body its natural skin by a touch not dissimilar. He ordered the dropsical and swollen flesh to recover its natural dryness; and His servants in the same manner stayed the wandering waters, and ordered them to glide through their own channels, avoiding injury to the frame. Sores of immense size, refusing to admit of healing, He restrained from further feeding on the flesh, by the interposition of one word; and they in like manner, by restricting its ravages, compelled the obstinate and merciless cancer to confine itself to a scar. To the lame He gave the power of walking, to the dark eyes sight, the dead He recalled to life; and not less surely did they, too, relax the tightened nerves, fill the eyes with light already lost, and order the dead to return from the tombs, reversing the ceremonies of the funeral rites. Nor was anything calling forth the bewildered admiration of all done by Him, which He did not freely allow, to be performed by those humble and rustic men, and which He did not put in their power.
51. What say ye, O minds incredulous, stubborn, hardened? Did that great Jupiter Capitolinus of yours give to any human being power of this kind? Did he endow with this right any priest of a curia, the Pontifex Maximus, nay, even the Dialis, in whose name he is revealed as the god of life?(5) I shall not say, did he impart power to raise the dead, to give light to the blind, restore the normal condition of their members to the weakened and the paralyzed, but did he even enable any one to check a pustule, a hang-nail, a pimple, either by the word of his mouth or the touch of his hand? Was this, then, a power natural to man, or could such a right be granted, could such a licence be given by the mouth of one reared on the vulgar produce of earth; and was it not a divine and sacred gift? or if the matter admits of any hyperbole, was it not more than divine and sacred? For if you do that which you are able to do, and what is compatible with your strength and your ability, there is no ground for the expression of astonishment; for you will have done that which you were able, and which your power was bound to accomplish, in order that there should be a perfect correspondence(1) between the deed and the doer. To be able to transfer to a man your own power, share with the frailest being the ability to perform that which you alone are able to do, is a proof of power supreme over all, and holding in subjection the causes of all things, and the natural laws of methods and of means.
52. Come, then, let some Magian Zoroaster(2) arrive from a remote part of the globe, crossing over the fiery zone,(3) if we believe Hermippus as an authority. Let these join him too--that Bactrian, whose deeds Ctesias sets forth in the first book of his History; the Armenian, grandson of Hosthanes;(4) and Pamphilus, the intimate friend of Cyrus; Apollonius, Damigero, and Dardanus; Velus, Julianus, and Baebulus; and if there be any other one who is supposed to have especial powers and reputation in such magic arts. Let them grant to one of the people to adapt the mouths of the dumb for the purposes of speech, to unseal the ears of the deaf, to give the natural powers of the eye to those born without sight, and to restore feeling and life to bodies long cold in death. Or if that is too difficult, and if they cannot impart to others the power to do such acts, let themselves perform them, and with their own rites. Whatever noxious herbs the earth brings forth from its bosom, whatever powers those muttered words and accompanying spells contain--these let them add, we envy them not; those let them collect, we forbid them not. We wish to make trial and to discover whether they can effect, with the aid of their gods, what has often been accomplished by unlearned Christians with a word only.
53. Cease in your ignorance to receive such great deeds with abusive language, which will in no wise injure him who did them, but which will bring danger to yourselves--danger, I say, by no means small, but one dealing with matters of great,(5) aye, even the greatest importance, since beyond a doubt the soul is a precious thing, and nothing can be found dearer to a man than himself. There was nothing magical, as you suppose, nothing human, delusive, or crafty in Christ; no deceit lurked in Him,(6) although you smile in derision, as your wont is, and though you split with roars of laughter. He was God on high, God in His inmost nature, God from unknown realms, and was sent by the Ruler of all as a Saviour God; whom neither the sun himself, nor any stars, if they have powers of perception, not the rulers and princes of the world, nor, in fine, the great gods, or those who, reigning themselves so, terrify the whole human race, were able to know or to guess whence and who He was--and naturally so. But(7) when, freed from the body, which He carried about as but a very small part of Himself, He allowed Himself to be seen, and let it be known how great He was, all the elements of the universe bewildered by the strange events were thrown into confusion. An earthquake shook the world, the sea was heaved up from its depths, the heaven was shrouded in darkness, the sun's fiery blaze was checked, and his heat became moderate;(8) for what else could occur when He was discovered to be God who heretofore was reckoned one of us?
54. But you do not believe these things; yet those who witnessed their occurrence, and who saw them done before their eyes--the very best vouchers and the most trustworthy authorities--both believed them themselves, and transmitted them to us who follow them, to be believed with no scanty measure of confidence. Who are these? you perhaps ask. Tribes, peoples, nations, and that incredulous human race; but(9) if the matter were not plain, and, as the saying is, clearer than day itself, they would never grant their assent with so ready belief to events of such a kind. But shall we say that the men of that time were untrustworthy, false, stupid, and brutish to such a degree that they pretended to have seen what they never had seen, and that they put forth under false evidence, or alleged with childish asseveration things which never took place, and that when they were able to live in harmony and to maintain friendly relations with you, they wantonly incurred hatred, and were held in execration?
55. But if this record of events is false, as you say, how comes it that in so short a time the whole world has been filled with such a religion? or how could nations dwelling widely apart, and separated by climate and by the convexities of heaven,(1) unite in one conclusion? They have been prevailed upon, say my opponents, by mere assertions, been led into vain hopes; and in their reckless madness have chosen to incur voluntarily the risks of death, although they had hitherto seen nothing of such a kind as could by its wonderful and strange character induce them to adopt this manner of worship. Nay, because they saw all these things to be done by Christ Himself and by His apostles, who being sent throughout the whole world carried with them the blessings of the Father, which they dispensed in benefiting(2) as well the minds as the bodies of men; overcome by the force of the very truth itself they both devoted themselves to God, and reckoned it as but a small sacrifice to surrender their bodies to you and to give their flesh to be mangled.
56. But our writers, we shall be told, have put forth these statements with false effrontery; they have extolled(3) small matters to an inordinate degree, and have magnified trivial affairs with most pretentious boastfulness. And(4) would that all things could have been reduced to writing,--both those which were done by Himself, and those which were accomplished by His apostles with equal authority and power. Such an assemblage of miracles, however, would make you more incredulous; and perhaps you might be able to discover a passage from which(5) it would seem very probable, both that additions were made to facts, and that falsehoods were inserted in writings and commentaries. But in nations which were unknown to the writers, and which themselves knew not the use of letters, all that was done could not have been embraced in the records or even have reached the ears of all men; or, if any were committed to written and connected narrative, some insertions and additions would have been made by the malevolence of the demons and of men like to them, whose care and study it is to obstruct(6) the progress of this truth: there would have been some changes and mutilations of words and of syllables, at once to mar the faith of the cautious and to impair the moral effect of the deeds. But it will never avail them that it be gathered from written testimony only who and what Christ was; for His cause has been put on such a basis, that if what we say be admitted to be true, He is by the confession of all proved to have been God.
57. You do not believe our writings, and we do not believe yours. We devise falsehoods concerning Christ, you say; and you put forth baseless and false statements concerning your gods: for no god has descended from heaven, or in his own person and life has sketched out your system, or in a similar way thrown discredit on our system and our ceremonies. These were written by men; those, too, were written by men--set forth in human speech; and whatever you seek to say concerning our writers, remember that about yours, too, you will find these things said with equal force. What is contained in your writings you wish to be treated as true; those things, also, which are attested in our books, you must of necessity confess to be true. You accuse our system of falsehood; we, too, accuse yours of falsehood. But ours is more ancient, say you, therefore most credible and trustworthy; as if, indeed, antiquity were not the most fertile source of errors, and did not herself put forth those things which in discreditable fables have attached the utmost infamy to the gods. For could not falsehoods have been both spoken and believed ten thousand years ago, or is it not most probable that that which is near to our own time should be more credible than that which is separated by a long term of years? For these of ours are brought forward on the faith of witnesses, those of yours on the ground of opinions; and it is much more natural that there should be less invention in matters of recent occurrence, than in those far removed in the darkness of antiquity.
58. But they were written by unlearned and ignorant ripen, and should not therefore be readily believed. See that this be not rather a stronger reason for believing that they have not been adulterated by any false statements, but were put forth by men of simple mind, who knew not how to trick out their tales with meretricious ornaments. But the language is mean and vulgar. For truth never seeks deceitful polish, nor in that which is well ascertained and certain does it allow itself to be led away into excessive prolixity. Syllogisms, enthymemes, definitions, and all those ornaments by which men seek to establish their statements, aid those groping for the truth, but do not clearly mark its great features. But he who really knows the subject under discussion, neither defines, nor deduces, nor seeks the other tricks of words by which an audience is wont to be taken in, and to be beguiled into a forced assent to a proposition.
59. Your narratives, my opponent says, are overrun with barbarisms and solecisms, and disfigured by monstrous blunders. A censure, truly, which shows a childish and petty spirit; for if we allow that it is reasonable, let us cease to use certain kinds of fruit because they grow with prickles on them, and other growths useless for food, which on the one hand cannot support us, and yet do not on the other hinder us from enjoying that which specially excels, and which nature has designed to be most wholesome for us. For how, I pray you, does it interfere with or retard the comprehension of a statement, whether anything be pronounced smoothly(1) or with uncouth roughness? whether that have the grave accent which ought to have the acute, or that have the acute which ought to have the grave? Or how is the truth of a statement diminished, if an error is made in number or case, in preposition, participle, or conjunction? Let that pomposity of style and strictly regulated diction be reserved for public assemblies, for lawsuits, for the forum and the courts of justice, and by all means be handed over to those who, striving after the soothing influences of pleasant sensations, bestow all their care upon splendour of language. But when we are discussing matters far removed from mere display, we should consider what is said, not with what charm it is said nor how it tickles the ears, but what benefits it confers on the hearers, especially since we know that some even who devoted themselves to philosophy, not only disregarded refinement of style, but also purposely adopted a vulgar meanness when they might have spoken with greater elegance and richness, lest forsooth they might impair the stern gravity of speech and revel rather in the pretentious show of the Sophists. For indeed it evidences a worthless heart to seek enjoyment in matters of importance; and when you have to deal with those who are sick and diseased, to pour into their ears dulcet sounds, not to apply a remedy to their wounds. Yet, if you consider the true state of the case, no language is naturally perfect, and in like manner none is faulty. For what natural reason is there, or what law written in the constitution of the world, that paries should be called hic,(2) and sella hoec?--since neither have they sex distinguished by male and female, nor can the most learned man tell me what hic and hoec are, or why one of them denotes the male sex while the other is applied to the female. These conventionalities are man's, and certainly are not indispensable to all persons for the use of forming their language; for paries might perhaps have been called hoec, and sella hic, without any fault being found, if it had been agreed upon at first that they should be so called, and if this practice had been maintained by following generations in their daily conversation. And yet, O you who charge our writings with disgraceful blemishes, have you not these solecisms in those most perfect arid wonderful books of yours? Does not one of you make the plur of uter, utria? another utres?(3) Do you not also say coelus and coelum, filus and filum, crocus and crocum, fretus and fretum? Also hoc pane and hic panis, hic sanguis and hoc sanguen? Are not candelabrum and jugulum in like manner written jugulus and candelaber? For if each noun cannot have more than one gender, and if the same word cannot be of this gender and of that, for one gender cannot pass into the other, he commits as great a blunder who utters masculine genders under the laws of feminines, as he who applies masculine articles to feminine genders. And yet we see you using masculines as feminines, and feminines as masculines, and those which yon call neuter both in this way and in that, without any distinction. Either. therefore, it is no blunder to employ them indifferently, and in that case it is vain for you to say that our works are disfigured with monstrous solecisms; or if the way in which each ought to be employed is unalterably fixed, you also are involved in similar errors, although you have on your side all the Epicadi, Caesellii, Verrii, Scauri, and Nisi.
60. But, say my opponents, if Christ was God, why did He appear in human shape, and why was He cut off by death after the manner of men? Could that power which is invisible, and which has no bodily substance, have come upon earth and adapted itself to the world and mixed in human society, otherwise than by taking to itself some covering of a more solid substance, which might bear the gaze of the eyes, and on which the look of the least observant might fix itself? For what mortal is there who could have seen Him, who could have distinguished Him, if He had decreed to come upon the earth such as He is in His own primitive nature, and such as He has chosen to be in His own proper character and divinity? He took upon Him, therefore, the form of man; and under the guise of our race He imprisoned His power, so that He could be seen and carefully regarded, might speak and teach, and without encroaching on the sovereignty and government of the King Supreme, might carry out all those objects for the accomplishment of which He had come into the world.
61. What, then, says my opponent, could not the Supreme Ruler have brought about those things which He had ordained to be done in the world, without feigning Himself a man? If it were necessary to do as you say, He perhaps would have done so; because it was not necessary, He acted otherwise. The reasons why He chose to do it in this way, and did not choose to do it in that, are unknown, being involved in so great obscurity, and comprehensible by scarcely any; but these you might perhaps have understood if you were not already prepared not to understand, and were not shaping your course to brave unbelief, before that was explained to you which you sought to know and to hear.
62. But, you will say, He was cut off by death as men are. Not Christ Himself; for it is impossible either that death should befall what is divine, or that that should waste away and disappear in death which is one in its substance, and not compounded, nor formed by bringing together any parts. Who, then, you ask, was seen hanging on the cross? Who dead? The human form,(1) I reply, which He had put on,(2) and which He bore about with Him. It is a tale passing belief, you say, and wrapt in dark obscurity; if yo will, it is not dark, and is established by a very close analogy.(3) If the Sibyl, when she was uttering and pouring forth her prophecies and oracular responses, was filled, as you say, with Apollo's power, had been cut down and slain by impious robbers,(4) would Apollo be said to have been slain in her? If Bacis,(5) if Helenus, Marcius,(6) and other soothsayers, had been in like manner robbed of life and light when raving as inspired, would any one say that those who, speaking by their mouths, declared to inquirers what should be done,(7) had perished according to the conditions of human life? The death of which you speak was that of the human body which He had assumed,(8) not His own--of that which was borne, not of the bearer; and not even this death would He(9) have stooped to suffer, were it not that a matter of such importance was to be dealt with, and the inscrutable plan of fate(10) brought to light in hidden mysteries.
63. What are these hidden and unseen mysteries, you will say, which neither men can know, nor those even who are called gods of the world can in any wise reach by fancy and conjecture; which none can discover,(11) except those whom Christ Himself has thought fit to bestow the blessing of so great knowledge upon, and to lead into the secret recesses of the inner treasury of wisdom? Do you then see that if He had determined that none should do Him violence, He should have striven to the utmost to keep off from Him His enemies, even by directing His power against them?(12) Could not He, then, who had restored their sight to the blind, make His enemies blind if it were necessary? Was it hard or troublesome for Him to make them weak, who had given strength to the feeble? Did He who bade(13) the lame walk, not know how to take from them all power to move their limbs,(14) by making their sinews stiff?(15) Would it have been difficult for Him who drew the dead from their tombs to inflict death on whom He would? But because reason required that those things which had been resolved on should be done here also in the world itself, and in no other fashion than was done, He, with gentleness passing understanding and belief, regarding as but childish trifles the wrongs which men did Him, submitted to the violence of savage and most hardened robbers;(16) nor did He think it worth while to take account of what their daring had aimed at, if He only showed to His disciples what they were in duty bound to look for from Him. For when many things about the perils of souls, many evils about their ...; on the other hand, the Introducer,(17) the Master and Teacher directed His laws and ordinances, that they might find their end in fitting duties;(1) did He not destroy the arrogance of the proud? Did He not quench the fires of lust? Did He not check the craving of greed? Did He not wrest the weapons from their hands, and rend from them all the sources(2) of every form of corruption? To conclude, was He not Himself gentle, peaceful, easily approached, friendly when addressed?(3) Did He not, grieving at men's miseries, pitying with His unexampled benevolence all in any wise afflicted with troubles and bodily ills,(4) bring them back and restore them to soundness?
64. What, then, constrains you, what excites you to revile, to rail at, to hate implacably Him whom no man(5) can accuse of any crime?(6) Tyrants and your kings, who, putting away all fear of the gods, plunder and pillage the treasuries of temples; who by proscription, banishment,(7) and slaughter, strip the state of its nobles? who, with licentious violence, undermine and wrest away the chastity of matrons and maidens,--these men you name indigites and divi; and you worship with couches, altars, temples, and other service, and by celebrating their games and birthdays, those whom it was fitting that you should assail with keenest(8) hatred. And all those, too, who by writing books assail in many forms with biting reproaches public manners; who censure, brand, and tear in pieces your luxurious habits and lives; who carry down to posterity evil reports of their own times(9) in their enduring writings; who seek to persuade men that the rights of marriage should be held in common;(10) who lie with boys, beautiful, lustful, naked; who declare that you are beasts, runaways, exiles, and mad and frantic slaves of the most worthless character,--all these with wonder and applause you exalt to the stars of heaven, you place in the shrines of your libraries, you present with chariots and statues, and as much as in you lies, gift with a kind of immortality, as it were, by the witness which immortal titles bear to them. Christ alone you would tear in pieces,(11) you would rend asunder, if you could do so to a god; nay, Him alone you would, were it allowed, gnaw with bloody months, and break His bones in pieces, and devour Him like beasts of the field. For what that He has done, tell, I pray you, for what crime?(12) What has He done to turn aside the course of justice, and rouse you to hatred made fierce by maddening torments? Is it because He declared that He was sent by the only true King to be your soul's guardian. and to bring to you the immortality which you believe that you already possess, relying on the assertions of a few men? But even if you were assured that He spoke falsely, that He even held out hopes without the slightest foundation, not even in this case do I see any reason that you should hate and condemn Him with bitter reproaches. Nay, if yon were kind and gentle in spirit, you ought to esteem Him even for this alone, that He promised to you things which you might well wish and hope for; that He was the bearer of good news; that His message was such as to trouble no one's mind, nay, rather to fill all with less anxious expectation.(13)
65. Oh ungrateful and impious age, prepared(14) for its own destruction by its extraordinary obstinacy! If there had come to you a physician from lands far distant and unknown to you before, offering some medicine to keep off from you altogether every kind of disease and sickness, would you not all eagerly hasten to him? Would you not with every kind of flattery and honour receive him into your houses, and treat him kindly? Would you not wish that that kind of medicine should be quite sure, and should be genuine, which promised that even to the utmost limits of life you should be free from such countless bodily distresses? And though it were a doubtful matter, you would yet entrust yourselves to him; nor would you hesitate to drink the unknown draught, indited by the hope of health set before you and by the love of safety.(15) Christ shone out and appeared to tell us news of the utmost importance, bringing an omen of prosperity, and a message of safety to those who believe. What, I pray you, means(1) this cruelty, what such barbarity, nay rather, to speak more truly, scornful(2) pride, not only to harass the messenger and bearer of so great a gift with taunting words; but even to assail Him with fierce hostility, and with all the weapons which can be showered upon Him, and with all modes of destruction? Are His words displeasing, and are you offended when you hear them? Count them as but a soothsayer's empty tales. Does He speak very stupidly, and promise foolish gifts? Laugh with scorn as wise men, and leave Him in His folly(3) to be tossed about among His errors. What means this fierceness, to repeat what has been said more than once; what a passion, so murderous? to declare implacable hostility towards one who has done nothing to deserve it at your hands; to wish, if it were allowed you, to tear Him limb from limb, who not only did no man any harm, but with uniform kindness(4) told His enemies what salvation was being brought to them from God Supreme, what must be done that they might escape destruction and obtain an immortality which they knew not of? And when the strange and unheard-of things which were held out staggered the minds of those who heard Him, and made them hesitate to believe, though master of every power and destroyer of death itself He suffered His human form to be slain, that from the result(5) they might know that the hopes were safe which they had long entertained about the soul's salvation, and that in no other way could they avoid the danger of death.
1. Here, if any means could be found, I should wish to converse thus with all those who hate the name of Christ, turning aside for a little from the defence primarily set up:--If you think it no dishonour to answer when asked a question, explain to us and say what is the cause, what the reason, that you pursue Christ with so bitter hostility? or what offences you remember which He did, that at the mention of His name you are roused to bursts of mad and savage fury?(2) Did He ever, in claiming for Himself power as king, fill the whole world with bands of the fiercest soldiers; and of nations at peace from the beginning, did He destroy and put an end to some, and compel others to submit to His yoke and serve Him? Did He ever, excited by grasping(3) avarice, claim as His own by right all that wealth to have abundance of which men strive eagerly? Did He ever, transported with lustful passions, break down by force the barriers of purity, or stealthily lie in wait for other men's wives? Did He ever, puffed up with haughty arrogance, inflict at random injuries and insults, without any distinction of persons? (B) And He was not worthy that you should listen to and believe Him, yet He should not have been despised by you even on this account, that He showed to you things concerning your salvation, that He prepared for you a path(4) to heaven, and the immortality for which you long; although(5) He neither extended the light of life to all, nor delivered all from the danger which threatens them through their ignorance.(1)
2. But indeed, same one will say, He deserved our hatred because He has driven religion(2) from the world, because He has kept men back from seeking to honour the gods.(3) Is He then denounced as the destroyer of religion and promoter of impiety, who brought true religion into the world, who opened the gates of piety to men blind and verily living in impiety, and pointed out to whom they should bow themselves? Or is there any truer religion--one more serviceable,(4) powerful, and right--than to have learned to know the supreme God, to know how to pray to God Supreme, who alone is the source and fountain of all good, the creator,(5) founder, and framer of all that endures, by whom all things on earth and all in heaven are quickened, and filled with the stir of life, and without whom there would assuredly be nothing to bear any name, and have any substance? But perhaps you doubt whether there is that ruler of whom we speak, and rather incline to believe in the existence of Apollo, Diana, Mercury, Mars, Give a true judgment;(6) and, looking round on all these things which we see, any one will rather doubt whether all the other gods exist, than hesitate with regard to the God whom we all know by nature, whether when we cry out, O God, or when we make God the witness of wicked deeds,(7) and raise our face to heaven as though He saw us.
3. But He did not permit men to make supplication to the lesser gods. Do you, then, know who are, or where are the lesser gods? Has mistrust of them, or the way in which they were mentioned, ever touched you, so that you are justly indignant that their worship has been done away with and deprived of all honour?(8) But if haughtiness of mind and arrogance,(9) as it is called by the Greeks, did not stand in your way and hinder you, you might long ago have been able to understand what He forbade to be done, or wherefore; within what limits He would have true religion lie;(10) what danger arose to you from that which you thought obedience? or from what evils you would escape if you broke away from your dangerous delusion.
4. But all these things will be more clearly and distinctly noticed when we have proceeded further. For we shall show that Christ did not teach the nations impiety, but delivered ignorant and wretched then from those who most wickedly wronged them.(11) We do not believe, you say, that what He says is true. What, then? Have you no doubt as to the things which(12) you say are not true, while, as they are only at hand, and not yet disclosed(13) they can by no means be disproved? But He, too, does not prove what He promises. It is so; for, as I said, there can be no proof of things still in the future. Since, then, the nature of the future is such that it cannot be grasped and comprehended by any anticipation,(14) is it not more rational,(15) of two things uncertain and hanging in doubtful suspense, rather to believe that which carries with it some hopes, than that which brings none at all? For in the one case there is no danger, if that which is said to be at hand should prove vain and groundless; in the other there is the greatest loss, even(16) the loss of salvation, if, when the time has come, it be shown that there was nothing false in what was declared.(17)
5. What say you, O ignorant ones, for whom we might well weep and be sad?(18) Are you so void of fear that these things may be true which are despised by you and turned to ridicule? and do you not consider with yourselves at least, in your secret thoughts, lest that which to-day with perverse obstinacy you refuse to believe, time may too late show to be true,(1) and ceaseless remorse punish you? Do not even these proofs at least give you faith to believe,(2) viz., that already, in so short and brief a time, the oaths of this vast army have spread abroad over all the earth? that already there is no nation so rude and fierce that it has not, changed by His love, subdued its fierceness, and with tranquillity hitherto unknown, become mild m disposition?(3) that men endowed with so great abilities, orators, critics, rhetoricians, lawyers, and physicians, those, too, who pry into the mysteries of philosophy, seek to learn these things, despising those in which but now they trusted? that slaves choose to be tortured by their masters as they please, wives to be divorced, children to be disinherited by their parents, rather than be unfaithful to Christ and cast off the oaths of the warfare of salvation? that although so terrible punishments have been denounced by you against those who follow the precepts of this religion, it(4) increases even more, and a great host strives more boldly against all threats and the terrors which would keep it back, and is roused to zealous faith by the very attempt to hinder it? Do you indeed believe that these things happen idly and at random? that these feelings are adopted on being met with by chance?(5) Is not this, then, sacred and divine? Or do you believe that, without God's grace, their minds are so changed, that although murderous hooks and other tortures without number threaten, as we said, those who shall believe, they receive the grounds of faith with which they have become acquainted,(6) as if carried away (A) by some charm, and by an eager longing for all the virtues,(7) and prefer the friendship of Christ to all that is in the world?(8)
6. But perhaps those seem to you weak-minded and silly, who even now are uniting all over the world, and joining together to assent with that readiness of belief at which you mock.(9) What then? Do you alone, imbued(10) with the true power of wisdom and understanding, see something wholly different(11) and profound? Do you alone perceive that all these things are trifles? you alone, that those things are mere words and childish absurdities which we declare are about to come to us from the supreme Ruler? Whence, pray, has so much wisdom been given to you? whence so much subtlety and wit? Or from what scientific training have you been able to gain so much wisdom, to derive so much foresight? Because you are skilled in declining verbs and nouns by cases and tenses, and(12) in avoiding barbarous words and expressions; because you have learned either to express yourselves in(13) harmonious, and orderly, and fitly-disposed language, or to know when it is rude and unpolished;(14) because you have stamped on your memory the Fornix of Lucilius,(15) and Marsyas of Pomponius; because you know what the issues to be proposed in lawsuits are, how many kinds of cases there are, how many ways of pleading, what the genus is, what the species, by what methods an opposite is distinguished from a contrary,--do you therefore think that you know what is false, what true, what can or cannot be done, what is the nature of the lowest and highest? Have the well-known words never rung in(16) your ears, that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God?
7. In the first place, you yourselves, too,(17) see clearly that, if you ever discuss obscure subjects, and seek to lay bare the mysteries of nature, on the one hand you do not know the very things which you speak of, which you affirm, which you uphold very often with especial zeal, and that each one defends with obstinate resistance his own suppositions as though they were proved and ascertained truths. For how can we of ourselves know whether we(1) perceive the truth, even if all ages be employed in seeking out knowledge--we whom some envious power(2) brought forth, and formed so ignorant and proud, that, although we know nothing at all, we yet deceive ourselves, and are uplifted by pride and arrogance so as to suppose ourselves possessed of knowledge? For, to pass by divine things, and those plunged in natural obscurity, can any man explain that which in the Phaedrus(3) the well-known Socrates cannot comprehend--what man is, or whence he is, uncertain, changeable, deceitful, manifold, of many kinds? for what purposes he was produced? by whose ingenuity he was devised? what he does in the world? (C) why he undergoes such countless ills? whether the earth gave life to him as to worms and mice, being affected with decay through the action of some moisture;(4) or whether he received(5) these outlines of body, and this cast of face, from the hand of some maker and framer? Can he, I say, know these things, which lie open to all, and are recognisable by(6) the senses common to all,--by what causes we are plunged into sleep, by what we awake? in what ways dreams are produced, in what they are seen? nay rather--as to which Plato in the Theoetetus(7) is in doubt--whether we are ever awake, or whether that very state which is called waking is part of an unbroken slumber? and what we seem to do when we say that we see a dream? whether we see by means of rays of light proceeding towards the object,(8) or images of the objects fly to and alight on the pupils of our eyes? whether the flavour is in the things tasted, or arises from their touching the palate? from what causes hairs lay aside their natural darkness, and do not become gray all at once, but by adding little by little? why it is that all fluids, on mingling, form one whole; that oil, on the contrary, does not suffer the others to be poured into it,(9) but is ever brought together clearly into its own impenetrable(10) substance? finally, why the soul also, which is said by you to be immortal and divine,(11) is sick in men who are sick, senseless in children, worn out in doting, silly,(12) and crazy old age? Now the weakness and wretched ignorance of these theories is greater on this account, that while it may happen that we at times say something which is true,(13) we cannot be sure even of this very thing, whether we have spoken the truth at all.
8. And since you have been wont to laugh at our faith, and with droll jests to pull to pieces our readiness of belief too, say, O wits, soaked and filled with wisdom's pure drought, is there in life any kind of business demanding diligence and activity, which the doers(14) undertake, engage in, and essay, without believing that it can be done? Do you travel about, do you sail on the sea without believing that you will return home when your business is done? Do you break up the earth with the plough, and fill it with different kinds of seeds without believing that you will gather in the fruit with the changes of the seasons? Do you unite with partners in marriage,(15) without believing that it will be pure, and a union serviceable to the husband? Do you beget children without believing that they will pass(16) safely through the different stages of life to the goal of age? Do you commit your sick bodies to the hands of physicians, without believing that diseases can be relieved by their severity being lessened? Do you wage wars with your enemies, without believing that you will carry off the victory by success in battles?(17) Do you worship and serve the gods without believing that they are, and that they listen graciously to your prayers?
9. What, have you seen with your eyes, and handled(18) with your hands, those things which you write yourselves, which you read from time to time on subjects placed beyond human knowledge? Does not each one trust this author or that? That which any one has persuaded himself is said with truth by another, does he not defend with a kind of assent, as it were, like that of faith? Does not he who says that fire(1) or water is the origin of all things, pin his faith to Thales or Heraclitus? he who places the cause of all in numbers, to Pythagoras of Samos, and to Archytas? he who divides the soul, and sets up bodiless forms, to Plato, the disciple of Socrates? he who adds a fifth element(2) to the primary causes, to Aristotle, the father of the Peripatetics? he who threatens the world with destruction by fire, and says that when the time comes it will be set on fire, to Panaetius, Chrysippus, Zeno? he who is always fashioning worlds from atoms,(3) and destroying them, to Epicurus, Democritus, Metrodorus? he who says that nothing is comprehended by man, and that all things are wrapt in dark obscurity,(4) to Archesilas,(5) to Carneades?--to some teacher, in fine, of the old and later Academy?
10. Finally, do not even the leaders and founders of the schools(6) already mentioned, say those very things(7) which they do say through belief in their own ideas? For, did Heraclitus see things produced by the changes of fires? Thales, by the condensing of water?(8) Did Pythagoras see them spring from number?(9) Did Plato see the bodiless forms? Democritus, the meeting together of the atoms? Or do those who assert that nothing at all can be comprehended by man, know whether what they say is true, so as to (10) understand that the very proposition which they lay down is a declaration of truth?(11) Since, then, you have discovered and learned nothing, and are led by credulity to assert all those things which you write, and comprise in thousands of books; what kind of judgment, pray, is this, so unjust that you mock at faith in us, while you see that you have it in common with our readiness of belief?(12) But you say you believe wise men, well versed in all kinds of learning!--those, forsooth, who know nothing, and agree in nothing which they say; who join battle with their opponents on behalf of their own opinions, and are always contending fiercely with obstinate hostility; who, overthrowing, refuting, and bringing to nought the one the other's doctrines, have made all things doubtful, and have shown from their very want of agreement that nothing can he known.
11. But, supposing that these things do not at all hinder or prevent your being bound to believe and hearken to them in great measure;(13) and what reason is there either that you should have more liberty in this respect, or that we should have less? You believe Plato,(14) Cronius,(15) Numenius, or any one you please; we believe and confide in Christ.(16) How unreasonable it is, that when we both abide(17) by teachers, and have one and the same thing, belief, in common, you should wish it to be granted to you to receive what is so(18) said by them, but should be unwilling to hear and see what is brought forward by Christ! And yet, if we chose to compare cause with cause, we are better able to point out what we have followed in Christ, than you to point out what you have followed in the philosophers. And we, indeed, have followed in him these things--those glorious works and most potent virtues which he manifested and displayed in diverse miracles, by which any one might be led to fed the necessity of believing, and might decide with confidence that they were not such as might be regarded as man's, but such as showed some divine and unknown power. What virtues did you follow in the philosophers, that it was more reasonable for you to believe them than for us to believe Christ? Was any one of them ever able by one word, or by a single command, I will not say to restrain, to check(1) the madness of the sea or the fury of the storm; to restore their sight to the blind, or give it to men blind from their birth; to call the dead back to life; to put an end to the sufferings of years; but--and this is much easier(2)--to heal by one rebuke a boil, a scab, or a thorn fixed in the skin? Not that we deny either that they are worthy of praise for the soundness of their morals, or that they are skilled in all kinds of studies and learning; for we know that they both speak in the most elegant language, and that their words flow in polished periods; that they reason in syllogisms with the utmost acuteness; that they arrange their inferences in due order;(3) that they express, divide, distinguish principles by definitions; that they say many things about the different kinds of numbers, many things about music; that by their maxims and precepts(4) they settle the problems of geometry also. But what has that to do with the case? Do enthymemes, syllogisms, and other such things, assure us that these men know what is true? or are they therefore such that credence should necessarily be given to them with regard to very obscure subjects? A comparison of persons must be decided, not by vigour of eloquence, but by the excellence of the works which they have done. He must not(5) be called a good teacher who has expressed himself clearly,(6) but he who accompanies his promises with the guarantee of divine works.
12. You bring forward arguments against us, and speculative quibblings,(7) which--may I say this without displeasing Him--if Christ Himself were to use in the gatherings of the nations, who would assent? who would listen? who would say that He decided(8) anything clearly? or who, though he were rash and utterly(9) credulous, would follow Him when pouring forth vain and baseless statements? His virtues hare been made manifest to you, and that unheard-of power over things, whether that which was openly exercised by Him or that which was used(10) over the whole world by those who proclaimed Him: it has subdued the fires of passion, and caused races, and peoples, and nations most diverse in character to hasten with one accord to accept the same faith. For the deeds can be reckoned up and numbered which have been done in India,(11) among the Seres, Persians, and Medes; in Arabia, Egypt, in Asia, Syria; among the Galatians, Parthians, Phrygians; in Achaia, Macedonia, Epirus; in all islands and provinces on which the rising and setting sun shines; in Rome herself, finally, the mistress of the world, in which, although men are(12) busied with the practices introduced by king(13) Numa, and the superstitious observances of antiquity, they have nevertheless hastened to give up their fathers' mode of life,(14) and attach themselves to Christian truth. For they had seen the chariot(15) of Simon Magus, and his fiery car, blown into pieces by the mouth of Peter, and vanish when Christ was named. They had seen him, I say, trusting in false gods, and abandoned by them in their terror, borne down headlong by his own weight, lie prostrate with his legs broken; and then, when he had been carried to Brunda,(16) worn out with anguish and shame, again cast himself down from the roof of a very lofty house. But all these deeds you neither know nor have wished to know, nor did you ever consider that they were of the utmost importance to you; and while you trust your own judgments, and term that wisdom which is overweening conceit, you have given to deceivers--to those guilty ones, I say, whose interest it is that the Christian name be degraded--an opportunity of raising clouds of darkness, and concealing truths of so much importance; of robbing you of faith, and putting scorn in its place, in order that, as they already feel that an end such as they deserve threatens them, they might excite in you also a feeling through which you should run into danger, and be deprived of the divine mercy.
13. Meantime, however, O you who wonder and are astonished at the doctrines of the learned, and of philosophy, do you not then think it most unjust to scoff, to jeer at us as though we say foolish and senseless things, when you too are found to say either these or just such things which you laugh at when said and uttered by us? Nor do I address those who, scattered through various bypaths of the schools, have formed this and that insignificant party through diversity of opinion. You, you I address, who zealously follow Mercury,(1) Plato, and Pythagoras, and the rest of you who are of one mind, and walk in unity in the same paths of doctrine. Do you dare to laugh at us because we(2) revere and worship the Creator and Lord(3) of the universe, and because we commit and entrust our hopes to Him? What does your Plato say in the Theotetus, to mention him especially? Does he not exhort the soul to flee froth the earth, and, as much as in it lies, to be continually engaged in thought and meditation about Him?(4) Do you dare to laugh at us, because we say that there will be a resurrection of the dead? And this indeed we confess that wee say, but maintain that it is understood by you otherwise than we hold it. What says the same Plato in the Politicus? Does he not say that, when the world has begun to rise out of the west and tend towards the east,(5) men will again burst forth from the bosom of the earth, aged, grey-haired, bowed down with years; and that when the remoter(6) years begin to draw near, they will gradually sink down(7) to the cradles of their infancy, through the same steps by which they now grow to manhood?(8) Do you dare to laugh at us because we see to the salvation of our souls?--that is, ourselves care for ourselves: for what are we men, but souls shut up in bodies?--You, indeed, do not take every pains for their safety,(9) in that you do not refrain from all vice and passion; about this you are anxious, that you may cleave to your bodies as though inseparably bound to them.(10)--What mean those mystic rites,(11) in which you beseech some unknown powers to be favourable to you, and not put any hindrance in your way to impede you when returning to your native seats?
14. Do you dare to laugh at us when we speak of hell,(12) and fires(13) which cannot be quenched, into which we have learned that souls are cast by their foes and enemies? What, does not your Plato also, in the book which he wrote on the immortality of the soul, name the rivers Acheron, Styx,(14) Cocytus, and Pyriphlegethon, and assert that in them souls are rolled along, engulphed, and burned up? But though a man of no little wisdom,(15) and of accurate judgment and discernment, he essays a problem which cannot be solved; so that, while he says that the soul is immortal, everlasting, and without bodily substance, he vet says that they are punished, and makes them suffer pain.(16) But what man does not see that that which is immortal, which is simple,(17) cannot be subject to any pain; that that, on the contrary, cannot be immortal which does suffer pain? And yet his opinion is not very far from the truth. For although the gentle and kindly disposed man thought it inhuman cruelty to condemn souls to death, he yet not unreasonably(18) supposed that they are cast into rivers blazing with masses of flame, and loathsome from their foul abysses. For they are cast in, and being annihilated, pass away vainly in(19) everlasting destruction. For theirs is an intermediate(20) state, as has been learned from Christ's teaching; and they are such that they may on the one hand perish if they have not known God, and on the other be delivered from death if they have given heed to His threats(1) and proffered favours. And to make manifest(2) what is unknown, this is man's real death, this which leaves nothing behind. For that which is seen by the eyes is only a separation of soul from body, not the last end--annihilation:(3) this, I say, is man's real death, when souls which know not God shall(4) be consumed in long- protracted torment with raging fire, into which certain fiercely cruel beings shall(4) cast them, who were unknown(5) before Christ, and brought to light only by His wisdom.
15. Wherefore there is no reason that that(6) should mislead us, should hold out vain hopes to us, which is said by some men till now unheard of,(7) and carried away by an extravagant opinion of themselves, that souls are immortal, next in point of rank to the God and ruler of the world, descended from that parent and sire, divine, wise, learned, and not within reach of the body by contact.(8) Now, because this is true and certain, and because we have been produced by Him who is perfect without flaw, we live unblameably, I suppose, and therefore without blame; are good, just, and upright, in nothing depraved; no passion overpowers, no lust degrades us; we maintain vigorousy the unremitting practice of all the virtues. And because all our souls have one origin, we therefore think exactly alike; we do not differ in manners, we do not differ in beliefs; we all know God; and there are not as many opinions as there are men in the world, nor are these divided in infinite variety.(9)
16. But, the say, while we are moving swiftly down towards our mortal bodies,(10) causes pursue us from the world's circles,(11) through the working of which we become bad, ay, most wicked; burn with lust and anger, spend our life in shameful deeds, and are given over to the lust of all by the prostitution of our bodies for hire. And how can the material unite with the immaterial? or how can that which God has made, be led by weaker causes to degrade itself through the practice of vice? Will you lay aside your habitual arrogance,(12) O men, who claim God as your Father, and maintain that you are immortal, just as He is? Will you inquire, examine, search what you are yourselves, whose you are, of what parentage you are supposed to be, what you do in the world, in what way you are born, how you leap to life? Will you, laying aside all partiality, consider in the silence of your thoughts that we are creatures either quite like the rest, or separated by no great difference? For what is there to show that we do not resemble them? or what excellence is in us, such that we scorn to be ranked as creatures? Their bodies are built up on bones, and bound closely together by sinews; and our bodies are in like manner built up on bones, and bound closely together by sinews. They inspire the air through nostrils, and in breathing expire it again; and we in like manner drew in the air, and breathed it out with frequent respirations. They have been arranged in classes, female and male; we, too, have been fashioned by our Creator into the same sexes.(13) Their young are born from the womb, and are begotten through union of the sexes; and we are born from sexual embraces, and are brought forth and sent into life from our mothers' wombs. They are supported by eating and drinking, and get rid of the filth which remains by the lower parts; and we are supported by eating and drinking, and that which nature refuses we deal with in the same way. Their care is to ward off death-bringing famine, and of necessity to be on the watch for food. What else is our aim in the business of life, which presses so much upon us,(14) but to seek the means by which the danger of starvation may be avoided, and carking anxiety put away? They are exposed to disease and hunger, and at last lose their strength by reason of age. What, then? are we not exposed to these evils, and are we not in like manner weakened by noxious diseases, destroyed by wasting age? But if that, too, which is said in the more hidden mysteries is true, that the souls of wicked men, on leaving their human bodies, pass into cattle and other creatures,(15) it is even more clearly shown that we are allied to them, and not separated by any great interval, since it is on the same ground that both we and they are said to be living creatures, and to act as such.
17. But we have reason, one will say, and excel the whole race of dumb animals in understanding. I might believe that this was quite true, if all men lived rationally and wisely, never swerved aside from their duty, abstained from what is forbidden, and withheld themselves from baseness, and if no one through folly and the blindness of ignorance demanded what is injurious and dangerous to himself. I should wish, however, to know what this reason is, through which we are more excellent than all the tribes of animals. Is it because we have made for ourselves houses, by which we can avoid the cold of winter and heat of summer? What! do not the other animals show forethought in this respect? Do we not see some build nests as dwellings for themselves in the most convenient situations; others shelter and secure themselves in rocks and lofty crags; others burrow in the ground, and prepare for themselves strongholds and lairs in the pits which they have dug out? But if nature, which gave them life, had chosen to give to them also hands to help them, they too would, without doubt, raise lofty buildings and strike out new works of art.(1) Yet, even in those things which they make with beaks and claws, we see that there are many appearances of reason and wisdom which we men are unable to copy, however much we ponder them, although we have hands to serve us dexterously in every kind of work.
18. They have not learned, I will be told, to make clothing, seats, ships, and ploughs, nor, in fine, the other furniture which family life requires. These are not the gifts of science, but the suggestions of most pressing necessity; nor did the arts descend with men's souls from the inmost heavens, but here on earth have they all been painfully sought out and brought to light,(2) and gradually acquired in process of time by careful thought. But if the soul(3) had in itself the knowledge which it is fitting that a race should have indeed which is divine and immortal, all men would from the first know everything; nor would there be an age unacquainted with any art, or not furnished with practical knowledge. But now a life of want and in need of many things, noticing some things happen accidentally to its advantage, while it imitates, experiments, and tries, while it fails, remoulds, changes, from continual failure has procured for itself(4) and wrought out some slight acquaintance with the arts, and brought to one issue the advances of many ages.
19. But if men either knew themselves thoroughly, or had the slightest knowledge of God,(5) they would never claim as their own a divine and immortal nature; nor would they think themselves something great because they have made for themselves gridirons, basins, and bowls,(6) because they have made under-shirts, outer-shirts, cloaks, plaids, robes of state, knives, cuirasses and swords, mattocks, hatchets, ploughs. Never, I say, carried away by pride and arrogance, would they believe themselves to be deities of the first rank, and fellows of the highest in his exaltation,(7) because they(8) had devised the arts of grammar, music, oratory, and geometry. For we do not see what is so wonderful in these arts, that because of their discovery the soul should be believed to be above the sun as well as all the stars, to surpass both in grandeur and essence the whole universe, of which these are parts. For what else do these assert that they can either declare or teach, than that we may learn to know the rules and differences of nouns, the intervals in the sounds of different tones, that we may speak persuasively in lawsuits, that we may measure the confines of the earth? Now, if the soul had brought these arts with it from the celestial regions, and it were impossible not to know them, all men would long before this be busied with them over all the earth, nor would any race of men be found which would not be equally and similarly instructed in them all. But now how few musicians, logicians, and geometricians are there in the world! how few orators, poets, critics! From which it is clear, as has been said pretty frequently, that these things were discovered under the pressure of time and circumstances, and that the soul did not fly hither divinely(9) taught, because neither are all learned, nor can all learn; and(10) there are very many among them somewhat deficient in shrewdness, and stupid, and they are constrained to apply themselves to learning only by fear of stripes. But if it were a fact that the things which we learn are but reminiscences(11)--as has been maintained in the systems of the ancients--as we start from the same truth, we should all have learned alike, and remember alike--not have diverse, very numerous, and inconsistent opinions. Now, however, seeing that we each assert different things, it is clear and manifest that we have brought nothing from heaven, but become acquainted with what has arisen here, and maintain what has taken firm root in our thoughts.
20. And, that we may show you more clearly and distinctly what is the worth of man, whom you believe to be very like the higher power, conceive this idea; and because it can be done if we come into direct contact with it, let us conceive it just as if we came into contact. Let us then imagine a place dug out in the earth, fit for dwelling in, formed into a chamber, enclosed by a roof and walls, not cold in winter, not too warm in summer, but so regulated and equable that we suffer neither cold(1) nor the violent heat of summer. To this let there not come any sound or cry whatever,(2) of bird, of beast, of storm, of man--of any noise, in fine, or of the thunder's(3) terrible crash. Let us next devise a way in which it may be lighted not by the introduction of fire, nor by the sight of the sun, but let there be some counterfeit(4) to imitate sunlight, darkness being interposed.(5) Let there not be one door, nor a direct entrance, but let it be approached by tortuous windings, and let it never be thrown open unless when it is absolutely necessary.
21. Now, as we have prepared a place for our idea, let us next receive some one born to dwell there, where there is nothing but an empty void,(6)- -one of the race of Plato, namely, or Pythagoras, or some one of those who are regarded as of superhuman wit, or have been declared most wise by the oracles of the gods. And when this has been done, he must then be nourished and brought up on suitable food. Let us therefore provide a nurse also, who shall come to him always naked, ever silent, uttering not a word, and shall not open her mouth and lips to speak at all, but after suckling him, anti doing what else is necessary, shall leave him fast asleep, and remain day and night before the closed doors; for it is usually necessary that the nurse's care should be near at hand, and that she should watch his varying motions. But when the child begins to need to be supported by more substantial food, let it be borne in by the same nurse, still undressed, and maintaining the same unbroken silence. Let the food, too, which is carried in be always precisely the same, with no difference in the material, and without being re-cooked by means of different flavours; but let it be either pottage of millet, or bread of spelt, or, in imitation of the ancients, chestnuts roasted in the hot ashes, or berries plucked from forest trees. Let him moreover, never learn to drink wine, and let nothing else be used to quench his thirst than pure cold water from the spring, and that if possible raised to his lips in the hollow of his hands. For habit, growing into second nature, will become familiar from custom; nor will his desire extend(7) further, not knowing that there is any thing more to be sought after.
22. To what, then, you ask, do these things tend? We have brought them forward in order that--as it has been believed that the souls of men are divine, and therefore immortal, and that they come to their human bodies with all knowledge--we may make trial from this child, whom we have supposed to be brought up in this way, whether this is credible, or has been rashly believed and taken for granted, in consequence of deceitful anticipation. Let us suppose, then, that be grows up, reared in a secluded, lonely spot, spending as many, years as you choose, twenty or thirty,-- nay, let him be brought into the assemblies of men when he has lived through forty years; and if it is true that he is a part of the divine essence, and(8) lives here sprung from the fountains of life, before he makes acquaint-ante with anything, or is made familiar with human speech, let him be questioned and answer who he is, or from what father in what regions he was born, how or in what way brought up; with what work or business he has been engaged during the former part of his life. Will he not, then, stand speechless, with less wit and sense than any beast, block, stone? Will he not, when brought into contact with(9) strange and previously unknown things, be above all ignorant of himself? If you ask, will he be able to say what the sun is, the earth, seas, stars, clouds, mist, showers. thunder, snow. hail? Will he be able to know what trees are, herbs, or grasses, a bull, a horse, or ram, a camel, elephant, or kite? (10)
23. If you give a grape to him when hungry, a must-cake, an onion, a thistle,(11) a cucumber, a fig, will he know that his hunger can be appeased by all these, or of what kind each should be to be fit for eating?(12) If you made a very great fire, or surrounded him with venomous creatures, will he not go through the midst of flames, vipers, tarantulae,(1) without knowing that they are dangerous, and ignorant even of fear? But again, if you set before him garments and furniture, both for city and country life, will he indeed be able to distinguish(2) for what each is fitted? to discharge what service they are adapted? Will he declare for what purposes of dress the stragula(3) was made, the coif,(4) zone,(5) fillet, cushion, handkerchief, cloak, veil, napkin, furs,(6) shoe, sandal, boot? What, if you go on to ask what a wheel is, or a sledge,(7) a winnowing-fan, jar, tub, an oil-mill, ploughshare, or sieve, a mill-stone, plough-tail, or light hoe; a carved seat, a needle, a strigil, a layer, an open seat, a ladle, a platter, a candlestick, a goblet, a broom, a cup, a bag; a lyre, pipe, silver, brass, gold,(8) a book, a rod, a roll,(9) and the rest of the equipment by which the life of man is surrounded and maintained? Will he not in such circumstances, as we said, like an ox(10) or an ass, a pig, or any beast more senseless, look(11) at these indeed, observing their various shapes, but(12) not knowing what they all are, and ignorant of the purpose for which they are kept? If he were in any way compelled to utter a sound, would he not with gaping mouth shout something indistinctly, as the dumb usually do?
24. Why, O Plato, do you in the Meno(13) put to a young slave certain questions relating to the doctrines of number, and strive to prove by his answers that what we learn we do not learn, but that we merely call back to memory those things which we knew in former times? Now, if he answers you correctly,--for it would not be becoming that we should refuse credit to what you say,--he is led to do so not by his real knowledge,(14) but by his intelligence; and it results from his having some acquaintance with numbers, through using them every day, that when questioned he follows your meaning, and that the very process of multiplication always prompts him. But if you are really assured that the souls of men are immortal and endowed with knowledge when they fly hither, cease to question that youth whom you see to be ignorant(15) and accustomed to the ways of men;(16) call to you that man of forty years, and ask of him, not anything out of the way or obscure about triangles, about squares, not what a cube is, or a second power,(17) the ratio of nine to eight, or finally, of four to three; but ask him that with which all are acquainted--what twice two are, or twice three. We wish to see, we wish to know, what answer he gives when questioned--whether he solves the desired problem. In such a case will he perceive, although his ears are open, whether you are saying anything, or asking anything, or requiring some answer from him? and will he not stand like a stock, or the Marpesian rock,(18) as the saying is, dumb and speechless, not understanding or knowing even this--whether you are talking with him or with another, conversing with another or with him;(19) whether that is intelligible speech which you utter, or merely a cry having no meaning, but drawn out and protracted to no purpose?
25. What say you, O men, who assign to yourselves too much of an excellence not your own? Is this the learned soul which you describe, immortal, perfect, divine, holding the fourth place under God tim Lord of the universe, and under the kindred spirits,(20) and proceeding from the fountains of life?(21) This is that precious bring man, endowed(22) with the loftiest powers of reason, who is said to be a microcosm, and to be made and formed after the fashion of the whole universe, superior, as has been seen, to no brute, more senseless than stock or stone; for he is unacquainted with men, and always lives, loiters idly in the still deserts although he were rich,(23) lived years without number, and never escaped from the bonds of the body. But when he goes to school, you say, and is instructed by the teaching of masters, he is made wise, learned, and lays aside the ignorance which till now clung to him. And an ass, and an ox as well, if compelled by constant practice, learn to plough and grind; a horse, to submit to the yoke, and obey the reins in running;(1) a camel, to kneel down when being either loaded or unloaded; a dove, when set free, to fly back to its master's house; a dog, on finding game, to check and repress its barking; a parrot, too, to articulate words; and a crow to utter names.
26. But when I hear the soul spoken of as something extraordinary, as akin and very nigh to God, and as coming hither knowing all about past times, I would have it teach, not learn; and not go back to the rudiments, as the saying is, after being advanced in knowledge, but hold fast the truths it has learned when it enters its earthly body.(2) For unless it were so, how could it be discerned whether the soul recalls to memory or learns for the first time that which it hears; seeing that it is much easier to believe that it learns what it is unacquainted with, than that it has forgot what it knew but a little before, and that its power of recalling former things is lost through the interposition of the body? And what becomes of the doctrine that souls, being bodiless, do not have substance? For that which is not connected with(3) any bodily form is not hampered by the opposition of another, nor can anything be led(4) to destroy that which cannot be touched by what is set against it. For as a proportion established in bodies remains unaffected and secure, though it be lost to sight in a thousand cases; so must souls, if they are not material, as is asserted, retain their knowledge(5) of the past, however thoroughly they may have been enclosed in bodies.(6) Moreover, the same reasoning not only shows that they are not incorporeal, but deprives them of all(7) immortality even, and refers them to the limits within which life is usually closed. For whatever is led by some inducement to change and alter itself, so that it cannot retain its natural state, must of necessity be considered essentially passive. But that which is liable and exposed to suffering, is declared to be corruptible by that very capacity of suffering.
27. So then, if souls lose all their knowledge on being lettered with the body, they must experience something of such a nature that it makes them become blindly forgetful.(8) For they cannot, without becoming subject to anything whatever, either lay aside their knowledge while they maintain their natural state, or without change in themselves pass into a different state. Nay, we rather think that what is one, immortal, simple, in whatever it may be, must always retain its own nature, and that it neither should nor could be subject to anything, if indeed it purposes to endure and abide within the limits of true immortality. For all suffering is a passage for death and destruction, a way leading to the grave, and bringing an end of life which may not be escaped from; and if souls are liable to it, and yield to its influence and assaults, they indeed have life given to them only for present use, not as a secured possession,(9) although some come to other conclusions, and put faith in their own arguments with regard to so important a matter.
28. And yet, that we may not be as ignorant when we leave you as before, let us hear from you(10) how you say that the soul, on being enwrapt in an earthly body, has no recollection of the past; while, after being actually placed in the body itself, and rendered almost senseless by union with it, it holds tenaciously and faithfully the things which many years before, eighty if you choose to say so, or even more, it either did, or suffered, or said, or heard. For if, through being hampered by the body, it does not remember those things which it knew long ago, and before it came into this world,(11) there is more reason that it should forget those things which it has done from time to time since being shut up in the body, than those which it did before entering it,(12) while not yet connected with men. For the same body which(13) deprives of memory the soul which enters it,(14) should cause what is done within itself also to be wholly forgotten; for one cause cannot bring about two results, and these opposed to each other, so as to make some things to be forgotten, and allow others to be remembered by him who did them. But if souls, as you call them, are prevented and hindered by their fleshly members from recalling their former knowledge,(15) how do they remember what has been arranged(16) in these very bodies, and know that they are spirits, and have no bodily substance, being exalted by their condition as immortal beings?(1) how do they know what rank they hold in the universe, in what order they have been set apart from other beings? how they have come to these, the lowest parts of the universe? what properties they acquired, and from what circles,(2) in gliding along towards these regions? How, I say, do they know that they were very learned, and have lost their knowledge by the hindrance which their bodies afford them? For of this very thing also they should have been ignorant, whether their union with the body had brought any stain upon them; for to know what you were, and what to-day you are not, is no sign that you have lost your memory,(3) but a proof and evidence that it is quite sound.(4)
29. Now, since it is so, cease, I pray you, cease to rate trifling and unimportant things at immense values. Cease to place man in the upper ranks, since he is of the lowest; and in the highest orders, seeing that his person only is taken account of,(5) that he is needy, poverty-stricken in his house and dwelling,(6) and was never entitled to be declared of illustrious descent. For while, as just men and upholders of righteousness, you should have subdued pride and arrogance, by the evils(7) of which we are all uplifted and puffed up with empty vanity; you not only hold that these evils arise naturally, but--and this is much worse--you have also added causes by which vice should increase, and wickedness remain incorrigible. For what man is there, although of a disposition which ever shuns what is of bad repute and shameful, who, when he hears it said by very wise men that the soul is immortal, and not subject to the decrees of the fates,(8) would not throw himself headlong into all kinds of vice, and fearlessly(9) engage in and set about unlawful things? who would not, in short, gratify his desires in all things demanded by his unbridled lust, strengthened even further by its security and freedom from punishment?(10) For what will hinder him from doing so? The fear of a power above and divine judgment? And how shall he be overcome by any fear or dread who has been persuaded that he is immortal, just as the supreme God Himself, and that no sentence can be pronounced upon him by God, seeing that there is the same immortality in both, and that the one immortal being cannot be troubled by the other, which is only its equal?(11)
30. But will he not be terrified by(12) the punishments in Hades, of which we have heard, assuming also, as they do, many forms of torture? And who(13) will be so senseless and ignorant of consequences,(14) as to believe that to imperishable spirits either the darkness of Tartarus, or rivers of fire, or marshes with miry abysses, or wheels sent whirling through the air,(15) can in any wise do harm? For that which is beyond reach, and not subject to the laws of destruction, though it be surrounded by all the flames of the raging streams, be rolled in the mire, overwhelmed by the fall of overhanging rocks and by the overthrow of huge mountains, must remain safe and untouched without suffering any deadly harm.
Moreover, that conviction not only leads on to wickedness, from the very freedom to sin which it suggests, but even takes away the ground of philosophy itself, and asserts that it is vain to undertake its study, because of the difficulty of the work, which leads to no result. For if it is true that souls know no end, and are ever(16) advancing with all generations, what danger is there in giving themselves up to the pleasures of sense--despising and neglecting the virtues by regard to which life is more stinted in its pleasures, and becomes less attractive--and in letting loose their boundless lust to range eagerly and unchecked through(17) all kinds of debauchery? Is it the danger of being worn out by such pleasures, and corrupted by vicious effeminacy? And how can that be corrupted which is immortal, which always exists, and is subject to no suffering? Is it the danger of being polluted by foul and base deeds? And how can that be defiled which has no corporeal substance; or where can corruption seat itself, where there is no place on which the mark of this very corruption should fasten?
But again, if souls draw near to the gates of death,(18) as is laid down in the doctrine of Epicurus, in this case, too, there is no sufficient reason why philosophy should be sought out, even if it is true that by it(1) souls are cleansed and made pure from all uncleanness.(2) For if they all(3) die, and even in the body(4) the feeling characteristic of life perishes, and is lost;(5) it is not only a very great mistake, but shows stupid blindness, to curb innate desires, to restrict your mode of life within narrow limits, not yield to your inclinations, and do what our passions have demanded and urged, since no rewards await you for so great toil when the day of death comes, and you shall be freed from the bonds of the body.
31. A certain neutral character, then, and undecided and doubtful nature of the soul, has made room for philosophy, and found out a reason for its being sought after: while, that is, that fellow(6) is full of dread because of evil deeds of which he is guilty; another conceives great hopes if he shall do no evil, and pass his life in obedience to(7) duty and justice. Thence it is that among learned men, and men endowed with excellent abilities, there is strife as to the nature of the soul, and some say that it is subject to death, and cannot take upon itself the divine substance; while others maintain that it is immortal, and cannot sink under the power of death.(8) But this is brought about by the law of the soul's neutral character:(9) because, on the one hand, arguments present themselves to the one party by which it is found that the soul(10) is capable of suffering, and perishable; and, on the other hand, are not wanting to their opponents, by which it is shown that the soul is divine and immortal.
32. Since these things are so, and we have been taught by the greatest teacher that souls are set not far from the gaping(11) jaws of death; that they can, nevertheless, have their lives prolonged by the favour and kindness of the Supreme Ruler if only they try and study to know Him,--for the knowledge of Him is a kind of vital leaven(12) and cement to bind together that which would otherwise fly apart,--let them,(13) then, laying aside their savage and barbarous nature, return to gentler ways, that they may be able to be ready for that which shall be given.(14) What reason is there that we should be considered by you brutish, as it were, and stupid, if we have yielded and given ourselves up to God our deliverer, because of these fears? We often seek out remedies for wounds and the poisoned bites of serpents, and defend ourselves by means of thin plates(15) sold by Psylli(16) or Marsi, and other hucksters(17) and impostors; and that we may not be inconvenienced by cold or intense heat,(18) we provide with anxious and careful diligence coverings in(19) houses and clothing.
33. Seeing that the fear of death, that is, the ruin of our souls, menaces(20) us, in what are we not acting, as we all are wont, from a sense of what will be to our advantage,(21) in that we hold Him fast who assures us that He will be our deliverer from such danger, embrace Him, and entrust our souls to His care,(22) if only that(23) interchange is right? You rest the salvation of your souls on yourselves, and are assured that by your own exertions alone(24) you become gods; but we, on the contrary hold out no hope to ourselves from our own weakness, for we see that our nature has no strength, and is overcome by its own passions in every strife for anything.(25) You think that, as soon as you pass away, freed from the bonds of your fleshly members, you will find wings(26) with which you may rise to heaven and soar to the stars. We shun such presumption. and do not think(27) that it is in our power to reach the abodes(28) above, since we have no certainty as to this even, whether we deserve to receive life and be freed from the law of death. You suppose that without the aid of others(1) you will return to the master's palace as if to your own home, no one hindering you; but we, on the contrary, neither have any expectation that this can be unless by the will of the Lord of all, nor think that so much power and licence are given to any man.
34. Since this is the case, what, pray, is so unfair as that we should be looked on by you as silly in that readiness of belief at which you scoff, while we see that you both have like beliefs, and entertain the same hopes? If we are thought deserving of ridicule because we hold out to ourselves such a hope, the same ridicule awaits you too, who claim for yourselves the hope of immortality. If you hold and follow a rational course, grant to us also a share in it. If Plato in the Phaedrus,(2) or another of this band of philosophers, had promised these joys to us--that is, a way to escape death, or were able to provide it and bring us to the end which he had promised,(3) it would have been fitting that we should seek to honour him from whom we look for so great a gift and favour. Now, since Christ has not only promised it, but also shown by His virtues, which were so great, that it can be made good, what strange thing do we do, and on what grounds are we charged with folly, if we bow down and worship His name(4) and majesty from whom we expect to receive both these blessings, that we may at once escape a death of suffering, and be enriched with eternal life?(5)
35. But, say my opponents, if souls are mortal and(6) of neutral character, how can they from their neutral properties become immortal? If we should say that we do not know this, and only believe it because said by(7) One mightier than we, when will our readiness of belief seem mistaken if we believe(8) that to the almighty King nothing is hard, nothing difficult, and that(9) what is impossible to us is possible to Him and at His command?(10) For is there anything which may withstand His will, or does it not follow(11) of necessity that what He has willed must be done? Are we to infer from our distinctions what either can or cannot be done; and are we not to consider that our reason is as mortal as we ourselves are, and is of no importance with the Supreme? And yet, O ye who do not believe that the soul is of a neutral character, and that it is held on the line midway between life and death, are not all whatever whom fancy supposes to exist, gods, angels, daemons, or whatever else is their name, themselves too of a neutral character, and liable to change(12) in the uncertainty of their future?(13) For if we all agree that there is one Father of all, who alone is immortal and unbegotten, and if nothing at all is found before Him which could be named,(14) it follows as a consequence that all these whom the imagination of men believes to be gods, have been either begotten by Him or produced at His bidding. Are they(15) produced and begotten? they are also later in order and time: if later in order and time, they must have an origin, and beginning of birth and life; but that which has an entrance into and beginning of life in its first stages, it of necessity follows, should have an end also.
36. But the gods are said to be immortal. Not by nature, then, but by the good-will and favour of God their Father. In the same way, then, in which the boon(16) of immortality is God's gift to these who were assuredly produced,(17) will He deign to confer eternal life upon souls also, although fell death seems able to cut them off anti blot them out of existence in utter annihilation.(18) The divine Plato, many of whose thoughts are worthy of God, and not such as the vulgar hold, in that discussion and treatise entitled the Timaus, says that the gods and the world are corruptible by nature, and in no wise beyond the reach of death, but that their being is ever maintained(19) by the will of God, their King and Prince;(20) for that that even which has been duly clasped and bound together by the surest bands is preserved only by God's goodness; and that by no other than(1) by Him who bound their elements together can they both be dissolved if necessary, and have the command given which preserves their being.(2) If this is the case, then, and it is not fitting to think or believe otherwise, why do you wonder that we speak of the soul as neutral in its character, when Plato says that it is so even with the deities,(3) but that their life is kept up by God's(4) grace, without break or end? For if by chance you knew it not, and because of its novelty it was unknown to you before, now, though late, receive and learn from Him who knows and has made it known, Christ, that souls are not the children of the Supreme Ruler, and did not begin to be self-conscious, and to be spoken of in their own special character after being created by Him;(5) but that some other is their parent, far enough removed from the chief in rank and power, of His court, however, and distinguished by His high and exalted birthright.
37. But if souls were, as is said, the Lord's children, and begotten by(6) the Supreme Power, nothing would have been wanting to make them perfect, as they would have been born with the most perfect excellence: they would all have had one mind, and been of one accord; they would always dwell in the royal palace; and would not, passing by the seats of bliss in which they had learned and kept in mind the noblest teachings, rashly seek these regions of earth, that(7) they might live enclosed in gloomy bodies amid phlegm and blood, among these bags of filth and most disgusting(8) vessels of urine. But, an opponent will say, it was necessary that these parts too should be peopled, and therefore Almighty God sent souls hither to form some colonies, as it were. And of what use are men to the world, and on account of what are they necessary,(9) so that they may not be believed to have been destined to live here and be the tenants of an earthly body for no purpose? They have a share, my opponent says, in perfecting the completeness of this immense mass, and without their addition this whole universe is incomplete and imperfect. What then? If there were not men, would the world cease to discharge its functions? would the stars not go through their changes? would there not be summers and winters? would the blasts of the winds be lulled? and from the clouds gathered and hanging overhead would not the showers come down upon the earth to temper droughts? But now(10) all things must go on in their own courses, and not give up following the arrangement established by nature, even if there should be no name of man heard in the world, and this earth should be still with the silence of an unpeopled desert. How then is it alleged that it was necessary that an inhabitant should be given to these regions, since it is clear that by man comes nothing to aid in perfecting the world, and that all his exertions regard his private convenience always, and never cease to aim at his own advantage?
38. For, to begin with what is important, what advantage is it to the world that the mightiest kings are here? What, that there are tyrants, lords, and other innumerable and very illustrious powers? What, that there are generals of the greatest experience in war, skilled in taking cities; soldiers steady and utterly invincible in battles of cavalry, or in fighting hand to hand on foot? What, that there are orators, grammarians, poets, writers, logicians, musicians, ballet-dancers, mimics, actors, singers, trumpeters, flute and reed players? What, that there are runners, boxers, charioteers, vaulters,(11) walkers on stilts, rope-dancers, jugglers? What, that there are dealers in salt fish, salters, fishmongers, perfumers, goldsmiths, bird-catchers, weavers of winnowing fans and baskets of rushes? What, that there are fullers, workers in wool, embroiderers, cooks, confectioners, dealers in mules, pimps, butchers, harlots? What, that there are other kinds of dealers? What do the other kinds of professors and arts, for the enumeration of which all life would be too short, contribute to the plan and constitution(12) of the world, that we should believe(13) that it could not have been founded without men, and would not attain its completeness without the addition of(14) a wretched and useless being's exertion?(15)
39. But perhaps, some one will urge, the Ruler of the world sent hither souls sprung from Himself for this purpose--a very rash thing for a man to say(1)--that they which had been divine(2) with Him, not coming into contact with the body and earthly limits,(3) should be buried in the germs of men, spring from the womb, burst into and keep up the silliest wailings, draw the breasts in sucking, besmear and bedaub themselves with their own filth, then be hushed by the swaying(4) of the frightened nurse and by the sound of rattles.(5) Did He send souls hither for this reason, that they which had been but now sincere and of blameless virtue should learn as(6) men to feign, to dissemble, to lie, to cheat,(7) to deceive, to entrap with a flatterer's abjectness; to conceal one thing in the heart,(8) express another in the countenance; to ensnare, to beguile(9) the ignorant with crafty devices, to seek out poisons by means of numberless arts suggested by bad feelings, and to be fashioned(10) with deceitful changeableness to suit circumstances? Was it for this He sent souls, that, living till then in calm and undisturbed tranquillity, they might find in(11) their bodies causes by which to become fierce and savage, cherish hatred and enmity, make war upon each other, subdue and overthrow states; load themselves with, and give themselves up to the yoke of slavery; and finally, be put the one in the other's power, having changed the condition(12) in which they were born? Was it for this He sent souls, that, being made unmindful of the truth, and forgetful of what God was, they should make supplication to images which cannot move; address as superhuman deities pieces of wood, brass, and stones; ask aid of them(13) with the blood of slain animals; make no mention of Himself: nay more, that some of them should doubt their own existence, or deny altogether that anything exists? Was it for this He sent souls, that they which in their own abodes had been of one mind, equals in intellect and knowledge, after that they put on mortal forms, should be divided by differences of opinion; should have different views as to what is just, useful, and right; should contend about the objects of desire and aversion; should define the highest good and greatest evil differently; that, in seeking to know the truth of things, they should be hindered by their obscurity; and, as if bereft of eyesight, should see nothing clearly,(14) and, wandering from the truth,(15) should be led through uncertain bypaths of fancy?
40. Was it for this He sent souls hither, that while the other creatures are fed by what springs up spontaneously, and is produced without being sown, and do not seek for themselves the protection or covering of houses or garments, they should be under the sad necessity(16) of building houses for themselves at very great expense and with never-ending toils, preparing coverings for their limbs, making different kinds of furniture for the wants(17) of daily life, borrowing help for(18) their weakness from the dumb creatures; using violence to the earth that it might not give forth its own herbs, but might send up the fruits required; and when they had put forth all their strength(19) in subduing the earth, should be compelled to lose the hope with which they had laboured(20) through blight, hail, drought; and at last forced by(21) hunger to throw themselves on human bodies; and when set free, to be parted from their human forms by a wasting sickness? Was it for this that they which, while they abode with Him, had never had any longing for property, should have become exceedingly covetous, and with insatiable craving be inflamed to an eager desire of possessing; that they should dig up lofty mountains, and turn the unknown bowels of the earth into materials, and to purposes of a different kind; should force their way to remote nations at the risk of life, and, in exchanging goods always catch at a high price for what they sell, and a low one(22) for what they buy, take interest at greedy and excessive rates, and add to the number of their sleepless nights spent in reckoning up thousands(23) wrung from the life-blood of wretched men; should be ever extending the limits of their possessions, and, though they were to make whole provinces one estate, should weary the forum with suits for one tree, for one furrow; should hate rancorously their friends and brethren?
41. Was it for this He sent souls, that they which shortly before had been gentle and ignorant of what it is to be moved by fierce passions, should build for themselves markets and amphitheatres, places of blood and open wickedness, in the one of which they should see men devoured and torn in pieces by wild beasts, and themselves slay others for no demerit but to please and gratify the spectators,(1) and should spend those very days on which such wicked deeds were done in general enjoyment, and keep holiday with festive gaiety; while in the other, again, they should tear asunder the flesh of wretched animals, some snatch one part, others another, as dogs and vultures do, should grind them with their teeth, and give to their utterly insatiable(2) maw, and that, surrounded by(3) faces so fierce and savage, those should bewail their lot whom the straits of poverty withheld from such repasts;(4) that their life should be(5) happy and prosperous while such barbarous doings defiled their mouths and face? Was it for this He sent souls, that, forgetting their importance and dignity as divine, they should acquire gems, precious stones, pearls, at the expense of their purity; should entwine their necks with these, pierce the tips of their ears, bind(6) their foreheads with fillets, seek for cosmetics(7) to deck their bodies,(8) darken their eyes with henna; nor, though in the forms of men, blush to curl their hair with crisping-pins, to make the skin of the body smooth, to walk with bare knees, and with every other kind of wantonness, both to lay aside the strength of their manhood, and to grow in effeminacy to a woman's habits and luxury? 42. Was it for this He sent souls, that some should infest the highways and roads,(9) others ensnare the unwary, forge(10) false wills, prepare poisoned draughts; that they should break open houses by night, tamper with slaves, steal and drive away, not act uprightly, and betray their trust perfidiously; that they should strike out delicate dainties for the palate; that in cooking fowls they should know how to catch the fat as it drips; that they should make cracknels and sausages,(11) force-meats, tit-bits, Lucanian sausages, with these(12) a sow's udder and iced(13) puddings? Was it for this He sent souls, that beings(14) of a sacred and august race should here practise singing and piping; that they should swell out their cheeks in blowing the flute; that they should take the lead in singing impure songs, and raising the loud din of the castanets,(15) by which another crowd of souls should be led in their wantonness to abandon themselves to clumsy motions, to dance and sing, form rings of dancers, and finally, raising their haunches and hips, float along with a tremulous motion of the loins?
Was it for this He sent souls, that in men they should become impure, in women harlots, players on the triangle(16) and psaltery; that they should prostitute their bodies for hire, should abandon themselves to the lust of all,(17) ready in the brothels, to be met with in the stews,(18) ready to submit to anything, prepared to do violence to their mouth even?(19)
43. What say you, O offspring and descendants of the Supreme Deity? Did these souls, then, wise, and sprung from the first causes, become acquainted with such forms of baseness, crime, and bad feeling? and were they ordered to dwell here,(20) and be clothed with the garment of the human body, in order that they might engage in, might practise these evil deeds, and that very frequently? And is there a man with any sense of reason who thinks that the world was established because of them, and not rather that it was set up as a seat and home, in which every kind of wickedness should be committed daily, all evil deeds be done, plots, impostures, frauds, covetousness, robberies, violence, impiety, all that is presumptuous, indecent, base, disgraceful,(1) and all the other evil deeds which men devise over all the earth with guilty purpose, and contrive for each other's ruin?
44. But, you say, they came of their own accord not sent(2) by their lord. And (3) where was the Almighty Creator, where the authority of His royal and exalted place,(4) to prevent their departure, and not suffer them to fall into dangerous pleasures? For if He knew that by change of place they would become base--and, as the arranger of all things,(5) He must have known-or that anything would reach them from without which would make them forget their greatness and moral dignity,--a thousand times would I beg of Him to pardon my words,--the cause of all is no other than Himself, since He allowed them to have freedom to wander(6) who He foresaw would not abide by their state of innocence; and thus it is brought about that it does not matter whether they came of their own accord, or obeyed His command, since in not preventing what should have been prevented, by His inaction He made the guilt His own, and permitted it before it was done by neglecting to withhold them from action.
45. But let this monstrous and impious fancy be put(7) far from us, that Almighty God, the creator and framer, the author(8) of things great and invisible, should be believed to have begotten souls so fickle, with no seriousness, firmness, and steadiness, prone to vice, inclining to all kinds of sins; and while He knew that they were such and of this character, to have bid(9) them enter into bodies, imprisoned in which,(10) they should live exposed to the storms and tempests of fortune every day, and now do mean things, now submit to lewd treatment; that they might perish by shipwreck, accidents, destructive conflagrations; that poverty might oppress some, beggary, others; that some might be torn in pieces by wild beasts, others perish by the venom of flies;(11) that some might limp in walking, others lose their sight, others be stiff with cramped(12) joints; in fine, that they should be exposed to all the diseases which the wretched and pitiable human race endures with agony caused by(13) different sufferings; then that, forgetting that they have one origin, one father and head, they should shake to their foundations and violate the rights of kinship, should overthrow their cities, lay waste their lands as enemies, enslave the free, do violence to maidens and to other men's wives, hate each other, envy the joys and good fortune of others; and further, all malign, carp at, and tear each other to pieces with fiercely biting teeth.
46. But, to say the same things again and again,(14) let this belief, so monstrous and impious, be put far from us, that. God, who preserves(15) all things, the origin of the virtues and chief in(16) benevolence, and, to exalt Him with human praise, most wise, just, making all things perfect, and that permanently,(17) either made anything which was imperfect and not quite correct,(18) or was the cause of misery or danger to any being, or arranged, commanded, and enjoined the very acts in which man's life is passed and employed to flow from His arrangement. These things are unworthy of(19) Him, and weaken the force of His greatness; and so far from His being believed to be their author, whoever imagines that man is sprung from Him is guilty of blasphemous impiety, man, a being miserable and wretched, who is sorry that he exists, hates and laments his state, and understands that he was produced for no other reason than lest evils should not have something(20) through which to spread themselves, and that there might always be wretched ones by whose agonies some unseen and cruel power,(21) adverse to men, should be gratified.
47. But, you say, if God is not the parent and father of souls, by what sire have they been begotten, and how have they been produced? If you wish to hear unvarnished statements not spun out with vain ostentation of words, we, too,(22) admit that we are ignorant of this, do not know it;(1) and we hold that, to know so great a matter, is not only beyond the reach of our weakness and frailty, but beyond that also of all the powers which are in the world, and which have usurped the place of deities in men's belief. But are we bound to show whose they are, because we deny that they are God's? That by no means(2) follows necessarily; for if we were to deny that flies, beetles, and bugs, dormice, weevils, and moths,(3) are made by the Almighty King, we should not be required in consequence to say who made and formed them; for without incurring any censure, we may not know who, indeed, gave them being, and yet assert that not by the Supreme(4) Deity were creatures produced so useless, so needless, so purposeless,(5) nay more,, at times even hurtful, and causing unavoidable injuries.
48. Here, too, in like manner, when we deny that souls are the offspring of God Supreme, it does not necessarily follow that we are bound to declare from what parent they have sprung, and by what causes they have been produced. For who prevents us from being either ignorant of the source from which they issued and came, or aware that they are not God's descendants? By what method, you say, in what way? Because it is most true and certain(6) that, as has been pretty frequently said, nothing is effected, made, determined by the Supreme, except that which it is right and fitting should be done; except that which is complete and entire, and wholly perfect in its(7) integrity. But further, we see that men, that is, these very souls--for what are men but souls bound to bodies?--themselves show by perversely falling into(8) vice, times without number, that they belong to no patrician race, but have sprung from insignificant families. For we see some harsh, vicious, presumptuous, rash, reckless, blinded, false, dissemblers, liars, proud, overbearing, covetous, greedy, lustful, fickle, weak, and unable to observe their own precepts; but they would assuredly not be so, if their original goodness defended(9) them, and they traced their honourable descent from the head of the universe.
49. But, you will say, there are good men also in the world,--wise, upright, of faultless and purest morals. We raise no question as to whether there ever were any such, in whom this very integrity which is spoken of was in nothing imperfect. Even if they are very honourable men, and have been worthy of praise, have reached the utmost height of perfection, and their life has never wavered and sunk into sin, yet we would have you tell us how many there are, or have been, that we may judge from their number whether a comparison(10) has been made which is just and evenly balanced.(11) One, two, three, four, ten, twenty, a hundred, yet are they at least limited in number, and it may be within the reach of names.(12) But it is fitting that the human race should be rated and weighed, not by a very few good men, but by all the rest as well. For the part is in the whole, not the whole in a part; and that which is the whole should draw to it its parts, not the whole be brought to its parts. For what if you were to say that a man, robbed of the use of all his limbs, and shrieking in bitter agony,(13) was quite well, because in(14) one little nail he suffered no pain? or that the earth is made of gold, because in one hillock there are a few small grains from which, when dissolved, gold is produced, and wonder excited at it when formed into a lump?(15) The whole mass shows the nature of an element, not particles fine as air; nor does the sea become forthwith sweet, if you cast or throw into it a few drops of less bitter water, for that small quantity is swallowed up in its immense mass; and it must be esteemed, not merely of little importance, but even of none, because, being scattered throughout all, it is lost and cut off in the immensity of the vast body of water.
50. You say that there are good men in the human race; and perhaps, if we compare them with the very wicked, we may be led(16) to believe that there are. Who are they, pray? Tell us. The philosophers, I suppose, who(17) assert that they alone are most wise, and who have been uplifted with pride from the meaning attached to this name,(18)--those, forsooth, who are striving with their passions every day, and struggling to drive out, to expel deeply-rooted passions from their minds by the persistent(19) opposition of their better qualities; who, that it may be impossible for them to be led into wickedness at the suggestion of some opportunity, shun riches and inheritances, that they may remove(1) from themselves occasions of stumbling; but in doing this, and being solicitous about it, they show very clearly that their souls are, through their weakness, ready and prone to fall into vice. In our opinion, however, that which is good naturally, does not require to be either corrected or i reproved;(2) nay more, it should not know what evil is, if the nature of each kind would abide in its own integrity, for neither can two contraries be implanted in each other, nor can equality be contained in inequality, nor sweetness in bitterness. He, then, who struggles to amend the inborn depravity of his inclinations, shows most clearly that he is imperfect,(3) blameable, although he may strive with all zeal and stedfastness.
51. But you laugh at our reply, because, while we deny that souls are of royal descent, we do not, on the other hand, say in turn from what causes and beginnings they have sprung. But what kind of crime is it either to be ignorant of anything, or to confess quite openly that you do not know that of which you are ignorant? or whether does he rather seem to you most deserving of ridicule who assumes to himself no knowledge of some dark subject; or he who thinks that he(4) knows most clearly that which transcends human knowledge, and which has been involved in dark obscurity? If the nature of everything were thoroughly considered, you too are in a position like that which you censure in our case. For you do not say anything which has been ascertained and set most clearly in the light of truth, because you say that souls descend from the Supreme Ruler Himself, and enter into the forms of men. For you conjecture, do not perceives this; surmise, do not actually know it; for if to know is to retain in the mind that which you have yourself seen or known, not one of those things which you affirm can you say that you have ever seen--that is, that souls descend from the abodes and regions above. You are therefore making use of conjecture, not trusting clear information. But what is conjecture, except a doubtful imagining of things, and directing of the mind upon nothing accessible? He, then, who conjectures, does not comprehend,(5) nor does he walk in the(6) light of knowledge. But if this is true and certain in the opinion of proper and very wise judges, your conjectures, too, in which you trust, must be regarded as showing your ignorance.
52. And yet, lest you should suppose that none but yourselves can make use of conjectures and surmises, we too are able to bring them forward as well,(7) as your question is appropriate to either side.(8) Whence, you say, are men; and what or whence are the souls of these men? Whence, we will ask, are elephants, bulls, stags, mules,(9) asses? Whence lions, horses, dogs, wolves, panthers; and what or whence are the souls of these creatures? For it is not credible that from that Platonic cup,(10) which Timaeus prepares and mixes, either their souls came, or that the locust,(11) mouse, shrew, cockroach, frog, centipede, should be believed to have been quickened and to live, because(12) they have a cause and origin of birth in(13) the elements themselves, if there are in these secret and very little known means(14) for producing the creatures which live in each of them. For we see that some of the wise say that the earth is mother of men, that others join with it water,(15) that others add to these breath of air, but that some say that the sun is their framer, and that, having been quickened by his rays, they are filled with the stir of life.(16) What if it is not these, and is something else another cause another method, another power, in fine, unheard of and unknown to us by name, which may have fashioned the human race, and connected it with things as established;(17) may it not be that men sprang up in this way, and that the cause of their birth does not go back to the Supreme God? For what reason do we suppose that the great Plato had--a man reverent and scrupulous in his wisdom--when he withdrew the fashioning of man from the highest God, and transferred it to some lesser deities. and when he would not have the souls of men formed(18) of that pure mixture of which he had made the soul of the universe, except that he thought the forming of man unworthy of God, and the fashioning of a feeble being not beseeming His greatness and excellence?
53. Since this, then, is the case, we do nothing out of place or foolish in believing that the souls of men are of a neutral character, inasmuch as they have been produced by secondary beings,(1) made subject to the law of death, and are of little strength, and that perishable; and that they are gifted with immortality, if(2) they rest their hope of so great a gift on God Supreme, who alone has power to grant such blessings, by putting away corruption. But this, you say, we are stupid in believing. What is that to you? In so believing, we act most absurdly, sillily. In what do we injure you, or what wrong do we do or inflict upon you, if we trust that Almighty God will take care of us when we leave(3) our bodies, and from the jaws of hell, as is said, deliver us?
54. Can, then, anything be made, some one will say, without God's will? We(4) must consider carefully, and examine with no little pains, test, while we think that we are honouring God(5) by such a question, we fall into the opposite sin, doing despite to His supreme majesty. In what way, you ask, on what ground? Because, if all things are brought about by His will, and nothing in the world can either succeed or fail contrary to His pleasure, it follows of necessity that it should be understood that(6) all evils, too, arise by His will. But if, on the contrary, we chose to say that He is privy to and produces no evil, not referring to Him the causes of very wicked deeds, the worst things will begin to seem to be done either against His will, or, a monstrous thing to say, while He knows it not, but is ignorant and unaware of them. But, again, if we choose to say that there are no evils, as we find some have believed and held, all races will cry out against us and all nations together, showing us their sufferings, and the various kinds of dangers with which the human race is every moment(7) distressed and afflicted. Then they will ask of us, Why, if there are no evils, do you refrain from certain deeds and actions? Why do you not do all that eager lust has required or demanded? Why, finally, do you establish punishments by terrible laws for the guilty? For what more monstrous(8) act of folly can be found than to assert that there are no evils, and at the same time to kill and condemn the erring as though they were evil?(9)
55. But when, overcome, we agree that there are these things,(10) and expressly allow that all human affairs are full of them, they will next ask, Why, then, the Almighty God does not take away these evils, but suffers them to exist and to go on without ceasing through all the ages?(11) If we have learned of God the Supreme Ruler, and have resolved not to wander in a maze of impious and mad conjectures, we must answer that we do not know these things, and have never sought and striven to know things which could be grasped by no powers which we have, and that we, even thinking it(12) preferable, rather remain in ignorance and want of knowledge than say that without God nothing is made, so that it should be understood that by His will(13) He is at once both the source of evil(14) and the occasion of countless miseries. Whence then, you will say, are all these evils? From the elements, say the wise, and from their dissimilarity; but how it is possible that things which have not feeling and judgment should be held to be wicked or criminal; or that he should not rather be wicked and criminal, who, to bring about some result, took what was afterwards to become very bad and hurtful,(15)--is for them to consider, who make the assertion. What, then, do we say? whence? There is no necessity that we should answer, for whether we are able to say whence evil springs, or our power fails us, and we are unable, in either case it is a small matter in our opinion; nor do we hold it of much importance either to know or to be ignorant of it, being content to have laid down but one thing,--that nothing proceeds from God Supreme which is hurtful and pernicious. This we are assured of, this we know, on this one truth of knowledge and science we take our stand,--that nothing is made by Him except that which is for the well-being of all, which is agreeable, which is very full of love and joy and gladness, which has unbounded and imperishable pleasures, which every one may ask in all his prayers to befall him, and think that otherwise(1) life is pernicious and fatal.
56. As for all the other things which are usually dwelt upon in inquiries and discussions--from what parents they have sprung, or by whom they are produced--we neither strive to know,(2) nor care to inquire or examine: we leave all things to their own causes, and do not consider that they have been connected and associated with that which we desire should befall us.(3) For what is there which men of ability do not dare to overthrow, to destroy,(4) from love of contradiction, although that which they attempt to invalidate is unobjectionable(5) and manifest, and evidently bears the stamp of truth? Or what, again, can they not maintain with plausible arguments, although it may be very manifestly untrue, although it may be a plain and evident falsehood? For when a man has persuaded himself that there is or is not something, he likes to affirm what he thinks, and to show greater subtlety than others, especially if the subject discussed is out of the ordinary track, and by nature abstruse and obscure.(6) Some of the wise think that the world was not created, and will never perish;(7) some that it is immortal, although they say that it was created and made;(8) while a third party have chosen to say that it both was created and made, and will perish as other things must.(9) And while of these three opinions one only must be true, they nevertheless all find arguments by which at once to uphold their own doctrines, and undermine and overthrow the dogmas of others. Some teach and declare that this same world is composed of four elements, others of two,(10) a third party of one; some say that it is composed of none of these, and that atoms are that from which it is formed,(11) and its primary origin. And since of these opinions only one is true, but(12) not one of them certain, here too, in like manner, arguments present themselves to all with which they may both establish the truth of what they say, and show that there are some things false(13) in the others' opinions. So, too, some utterly deny the existence of the gods; others say that they are lost in doubt as to whether they exist anywhere; others, however, say that they do exist, but do not trouble themselves about human things; nay others maintain that they both take part in the affairs of men, and guide the course of earthly events.(14)
57. While, then, this is the case, and it cannot but be that only one of all these opinions is true, they all nevertheless make use of arguments in striving with each other,--and not one of them is without something plausible to say, whether in affirming his own views, or objecting to the opinions of others. In exactly the same way is the condition of souls discussed. For I this one thinks that they both are immortal, and survive the end of our earthly life; that one believes that they do not survive, but perish with the bodies themselves: the opinion of another, however, is that they suffer nothing immediately, but that, after the form of man has been laid aside, they are allowed to live a little longer,(15) and then come under the power of death. And while all these opinions cannot be alike true, yet all who hold them so support their case by strong and very weighty arguments, that you cannot find out anything which seems false to you, although on every side you see that things are being said altogether at variance with each other, and inconsistent from their opposition to each other;(16) which assuredly would not happen, if man s curiosity could reach any certainty, or if that which seemed to one to have been really discovered, was attested by the approval of all the others. It is therefore wholly(1) vain, a useless task, to bring forward something as though you knew it, or to wish to assert that you know that which, although it should be true, you see can be refuted; or to receive that as true which it may be is not, and is brought forward as if by men raving. And it is rightly so, for we do not weigh and guess at(2) divine things by divine, but by human methods; and just as we think that anything should have been made, so we assert that it must be.
58. What, then, are we alone ignorant? do we alone not know who is the creator, who the former of souls, what cause fashioned man, whence ills have broken forth, or why the Supreme Ruler allows them both to exist and be perpetrated, and does not drive them from the world? have you, indeed, ascertained and learned any of these things with certainty? If you chose to lay aside audacious(3) conjectures, can you unfold and disclose whether this world m which we dwell(4) was created or founded at some time? if it was founded and made, by what kind of work, pray, or for what purpose? Can you bring forward and disclose the reason why it does not remain fixed and immoveable, but is ever being carried round in a circular motion? whether it revolves of its own will and choice, or is turned by the influence of some power? what the place, too, and space is in which it is set and revolves, boundless, bounded, hollow, or(5) solid? whether it is supported by an axis resting on sockets at its extremities, or rather itself sustains by its own power, and by the spirit within it upholds itself? Can you, if asked, make it clear, and show most skilfully,(6) what opens out the snow into feathery flakes? what was the reason and cause that day did not, in dawning, arise in the west, and veil its light in the east? how the sun, too, by one and the same influence,(7) produces results so different, nay, even so opposite? what the moon is, what the stars? why, on the one hand, it does not remain of the same shape, or why it was right and necessary that these particles of fire should be set all over the world? why some(8) of them are small, others large and greater,--these have a dim light, those a more vivid and shining brightness?
59. If that which it has pleased us to know is within reach, and if such knowledge is open to all, declare to us,(9) and say how and by what means showers of rain are produced, so that water is held suspended in the regions above and in mid-air, although by nature it is apt to glide away, and so ready to flow and run downwards. Explain, I say, and tell what it is which sends the hail whirling through the air, which makes the rain fall drop by drop, which has spread out rain and feathery flakes of snow and sheets of lightning;(10) whence the wind rises, and what it is; why the changes of the seasons were established, when it might have been ordained that there should be only one, and one kind of climate, so that there should be nothing wanting to the world's completeness. What is the cause, what the reason, that the waters of the sea are salt;(11) or that, of those on land, some are sweet, others bitter or cold? From what kind of material have the inner parts of men's bodies been formed and built up into firmness? From what have their bones been made solid? what made the intestines and veins shaped like pipes, and easily passed through? Why, when it would be better to give us light by several eyes, to guard against the risk of blindness, are we restricted to two? For what purpose have so infinite and innumerable kinds of monsters and serpents been I either formed or brought forth? what purpose do owls serve in the world,--falcons, hawks? what other birds(12) and winged creatures? what the different kinds of ants and worms springing up to be a bane and pest in various ways? what fleas, obtrusive flies, spiders, shrew, and other mice, leeches, water- spinners? what thorns, briers, wild-oats, tares? what the seeds of herbs or shrubs, either sweet to the nostrils, or disagreeable in smell? Nay more, if you think that anything can be known or comprehended, say what wheat is,--spelt, barley, millet, the chick-pea, bean, lentil, melon, cumin, scallion, leek, onion? For even if they are useful to you, and are ranked among the different kinds of food, it is not a light or easy thing to know what each is,--why they have been formed with such shapes; whether there was any necessity that they should not have had other tastes, smells, and colours than those which each has, or whether they could have taken others also; further, what these very things are,--taste, I mean,(13) and the rest; and from what relations they derive their differences of quality. From the elements, you say, and from the first beginnings of things. Are the elements, then, bitter or sweet? have they any odour or(1) stench, that we should believe that, from their uniting, qualities were implanted in their products by which sweetness is produced, or something prepared offensive to the senses?
60. Seeing, then, that the origin, the cause, the reason of so many and so important things, escapes you yourselves also, and that you can neither say nor explain what has been made, nor why and wherefore it should not have been otherwise, do you assail and attack our timidity, who confess that we do not know that which cannot be known, and who do not care to seek out and inquire into those things which it is quite clear cannot be understood, although human conjecture should extend and spread itself through a thousand hearts? And therefore Christ the divine,--although you are unwilling to allow it,--Christ the divine, I repeat, for this must be said often, that the ears of unbelievers may burst and be rent asunder, speaking in the form of man by command of the Supreme God, because He knew that men are naturally(2) blind, and cannot grasp the truth at all, or regard as sure and certain what they might have persuaded themselves as to things set before their eyes, and do not hesitate, for the sake of their(3) conjectures, to raise and bring up questions that cause much strife,--bade us abandon and disregard all these things of which you speak, and not waste our thoughts upon things which have been removed far from our knowledge, but, as much as possible, seek the Lord of the universe with the whole mind and spirit; be raised above these subjects, and give over to Him our hearts, as yet hesitating whither to turn;(4) be ever mindful of Him; and although no imagination can set Him forth as He is,(5) yet form some faint conception of Him. For Christ said that, of all who are comprehended in the vague notion of what is sacred and divine,(6) He alone is beyond the reach of doubt, alone true, and one about whom only a raving and reckless madman can be in doubt; to know whom is enough, although you have learned nothing besides; and if by knowledge you have indeed been related to(7) God, the head of the world, you have gained the true and most important knowledge.
61. What business of yours is it, He(8) says, to examine, to inquire who made man; what is the origin of souls; who devised the causes of ills; whether the sun is larger than the earth, or measures only a foot in breadth:(9) whether the moon shines with borrowed light, or from her own brightness,--things which there is neither profit in knowing, nor loss in not knowing? Leave these things to God, and allow Him to know what is, wherefore, or whence; whether it must have been or not; whether something always existed,(10) or whether it was produced at the first; whether it should be annihilated or preserved, consumed, destroyed, or restored in fresh vigour. Your reason is not permitted to involve you in such questions, and to be busied to no purpose about things so much out of reach. Your interests are in jeopardy,--the salvation, I mean,(11) of your souls; and unless you give yourselves to seek to know the Supreme God, a cruel death awaits you when freed from the bonds of body, not bringing sudden annihilation, but destroying by the bitterness of its grievous and long-protracted punishment.
62. And be not deceived or deluded with vain hopes by that which is said by some ignorant and most presumptuous pretenders,(12) that they are born of God, and are not subject to the decrees of fate; that His palace lies open to them if they lead a life of temperance, and that after death as men, they are restored without hindrance, as if to their father's abode; nor by that which the Magi(13) assert, that they have intercessory prayers, won over by which some powers make the way easy to those who are striving to mount to heaven; nor by that which Etruria holds out in the Acherontic books,(14) that souls become divine, and are freed from the law(15) of death, if the blood of certain animals is offered to certain deities. These are empty delusions, and excite vain desires. None but the Almighty God can preserve souls; nor is there any one besides who can give them length of days, and grant to them also a spirit which shall never die,(16) except He who alone is immortal and everlasting, and restricted by no limit of time. For since all the gods, whether those who are real, or those who are merely said to be from hearsay and conjecture, are immortal and everlasting by His good-will and free gift, how can it be that others(1) are able to give that which they themselves have,(2) while they have it as the gift of another, bestowed by a greater power? Let Etruria sacrifice what victims it may, let the wise deny themselves all the pleasures of life,(3) let the Magi soften and soothe all lesser powers, yet, unless souls have received from the Lord of all things that which reason demands, and does so by His command, it(4) will hereafter deeply repent having made itself a laughing-stock,(5) when it begins to feel the approach(6) of death.
63. But if, my opponents say, Christ was sent by God for this end, that He might deliver unhappy souls from ruin and destruction, of what crime were former ages guilty which were cut off in their mortal state before He came? Can you, then, know what has become of these souls(7) of men who lived long ago?(8) whether they, too, have not been aided, provided, and cared for in some way? Can you, I say, know that which could have been learned through Christ's teaching; whether the ages are unlimited in number or not since the human race began to be on the earth; when souls were first bound to bodies; who contrived that binding,(9) nay, rather, who formed man himself; whither the souls of men who lived before us have gone; in what parts or regions of the world they were; whether they were corruptible or not; whether they could have encountered the danger of death, if Christ had not come forward as their preserver at their time of need? Lay aside these cares, and abandon questions to which you can find no answer.(10) The Lord's compassion has been shown to them, too, and the divine kindness(11) has been extended to(12) all alike; they have been preserved, have been delivered, and have laid aside the lot and. condition of mortality. Of what kind, my opponents ask, what, when? If you were free from presumption, arrogance, and conceit, you might have learned long ago from this teacher.
64. But, my opponents ask, if Christ came as the Saviour of men, as(13) you say, why(14) does He not, with uniform benevolence, free all without exception? I reply, does not He free all alike who invites all alike? or does He thrust back or repel any one from the kindness of the Supreme who gives to all alike the power of coming to Him,--to men of high rank, to the meanest slaves, to women, to boys? To all, He says, the fountain of life is open,(15) and no one is hindered or kept back from drinking.(16) If you are so fastidious as to spurn the kindly(17) offered gift, nay, more, if your wisdom is so great that you term those things which are offered by Christ ridiculous and absurd, why should He keep on inviting (18) you, while His only duty is to make the enjoyment of His bounty depend upon your own free choice?(19) God, Plato says, does not cause any one to choose his lot in life;(20) nor can another's choice be rightly attributed to any one, since freedom of choice was put in His power who made it. Must you be even implored to deign to accept the gift of salvation from God; and must God's gracious mercy be poured into your bosom while you reject it with disdain, and flee very far from it? Do you choose to take what is offered, and turn it to your own advantage? You will in that case have consulted your own interests. Do you reject with disdain, lightly esteem, and despise it? You will in this case have robbed yourself of the benefit of the gift.(21) God compels no one, terrifies no one with overpowering fear. For our salvation is not necessary to Him, so that He would gain anything or suffer any loss, if He either made us divine,(22) or allowed us to be annihilated and destroyed by corruption.
65. Nay, my opponent says, if God is powerful, merciful, willing to save us, let Him change our dispositions, and compel us to trust in His promises. This, then, is violence, not kindness nor the bounty of the Supreme God, but a childish and vain(1) strife in seeking to get the mastery. For what is so unjust as to force men who are reluctant and unwilling, to reverse their inclinations; to impress forcibly on their minds what they are unwilling to receive, and shrink from; to injure before benefiting, and to bring to another way of thinking and feeling, by taking away the former? You who wish yourself to be changed,(2) and to suffer violence, that you may do and may be compelled to take to yourself that which you do not wish, why do you refuse of your own accord to select that which you wish to do, when changed and transformed? I am unwilling, He says, and have no wish. What, then, do you blame God as though He failed you? do you wish Him to bring you help,(3) whose gifts and bounties you not only reject and shun, but term empty(4) words, and assail with jocose witticisms? Unless, then, my opponent says, I shall be a Christian, I cannot hope for salvation. It is just as you yourself say. For, to bring salvation and impart to souls what should be bestowed and must be added, Christ alone has had given into His charge and entrusted(5) to Him by God the Father, the remote and more secret causes being so disposed. For, as with you, certain gods have fixed offices, privileges, powers, and you do not ask from any of them what is not in his power and permitted to him, so it is the right of(6) Christ alone to give salvation to souls, and assign them everlasting life. For if you believe that father Bacchus can give a good vintage, but cannot give relief from sickness; if you believe that Ceres can give good crops, Aesculapius health, Neptune one thing, Juno(7) another, that Fortune, Mercury, Vulcan, are each the giver of a fixed and particular thing,--this, too, you must needs receive from us,(8) that souls can receive from no one life and salvation, except from Him to whom the Supreme Ruler gave this charge and duty. The Almighty Master of the world has determined that this should be the way of salvation,--this the door, so to say, of life; by Him(9) alone is there access to the light: nor may men either creep in or enter elsewhere, all other ways being shut up and secured by an impenetrable barrier.
66. So, then, even if you are pure, and have been cleansed from every stain of vice, have won over and charmed(10) those powers not to shut the ways against you and bar your passage when returning to heaven, by no efforts will you be able to reach the prize of immortality, unless by Christ's gift you have perceived what constitutes this very immortality, and have been allowed to enter on the true life. For as to that with which you have been in the habit of taunting us, that our religion is new,(11) and arose a few days ago, almost, and that you could not abandon the ancient faith which you had inherited from your fathers, and pass over to barbarous and foreign rites, this is urged wholly without reason. For what if in this way we chose to blame the preceding, even the most ancient ages, because when they discovered how to raise crops,(12) they despised acorns, and rejected with scorn the wild strawberry; because they ceased to be covered with the bark of trees and clad in the hides of wild beasts, after that garments of cloth were devised, more useful and convenient in wearing; or because, when houses were built, and more comfortable dwellings erected, they did not cling to their ancient huts, and did not prefer to remain nuder rocks and caves like the beasts of the field? It is a disposition possessed by all, and impressed on us almost from our cradles even, to prefer good things to bad, useful to useless things, and to pursue and seek that with more pleasure which has been generally regarded(13) as more than usually precious, and to set on that our hopes for prosperity and favourable circumstances.
67. Therefore, when you urge against us that we turn away from the religion(14) of past ages, it is fitting that you should examine why it is done, not what is crone, and not set before you what we have left, but observe especially what we have followed. For if it is a fault or crime to change an opinion, and pass from ancient customs to new conditions and desires, this accusation holds against you too, who have so often changed your habits and mode of life, who have gone over to other customs and ceremonies, so that you are condemned by(15) past ages as well as we. Do you indeed have the people distributed into five(16) classes, as your ancestors once had? Do you ever elect magistrates by vote of the people? Do you know what military, urban, and common(1) comitia are? Do you watch the sky, or put an end to public business because evil omens are announced? When you are preparing for war,(2) do you hang out a flag from the citadel, or practise the forms of the Fetiales, solemnly(3) demanding the return of what has been carried off? or, when encountering the dangers of war, do you begin to hope also, because of favourable omens from the points of the spears?(4) In entering on office, do you still observe the laws fixing the proper times? with regard to gifts and presents to advocates, do you observe the Cincian and the sumptuary laws in restricting your expenses? Do you maintain fires, ever burning, in gloomy sanctuaries?(5) Do you consecrate tables by putting on them salt-cellars and images of the gods? When you marry, do you spread the couch with a toga, and invoke the genii of husbands? do you arrange the hair of brides with the hasta caelibaris? do you bear the maidens' garments to the temple of Fortuna Virginalis? Do your matrons work in the halls of your houses, showing their industry openly do they refrain from drinking wine? are their friends and relations allowed to kiss them, in order to show that they are sober and temperate?
68. On the Alban hill, it was not allowed in ancient times to sacrifice any but snow-white bulls: have you not changed that custom and religious observance, and has it not been enacted by decree of the senate, that reddish ones may be offered? While during the reigns of Romulus and Pompilius the inner parts, having been quite thoroughly cooked and softened, were burnt up in sacrificing to the gods, did you not begin, under king Tullius,(6) to hold them out half-raw and slightly warm, paying no regard to the former usage? While before the arrival of Hercules in Italy supplication was made to father Dis and Saturn with the heads of men by Apollo's advice; have you not, in like manner, changed this custom too, by means of cunning deceit and ambiguous names?(7) Since, then, yourselves also have followed at one time these customs, at another different laws, and have repudiated and rejected many things on either perceiving your mistakes or seeing something better, what have we done contrary to common sense and the discretion all men have, if we have chosen what is greater and more certain, and have not suffered ourselves to be held back by unreasoning respect for impostures?
69. But our name is new, we are told, and the religion which we follow arose but a few days ago. Granting for the present that what you urge against us is not untrue, what is there, I would ask, among the affairs of men that is either done by bodily exertion and manual labour, or attained by the mind's learning and knowledge, which did not begin at some time, and pass into general use and practice since then? Medicine,(8) philosophy, music, and all the other arts by which social life has been built up and refined,--were these born with men, and did they not rather begin to be pursued, understood, and practised lately, nay, rather, but a short time since? Before the Etruscan Tages saw the(9) light, did any one know or trouble himself to know and learn what meaning there was in the fall of thunderbolts, or in the veins of the victims sacrificed?(10) When did the motion of the stars or the art of calculating nativities begin to be known? Was it not after Theutis(11) the Egyptian; or after Atlas, as some say, the bearer, supporter, stay, and prop of the skies?
70. But why do I speak of these trivial things? The immortal gods themselves, whose temples you now enter with reverence, whose deity you suppliantly adore, did they not at certain times, as is handed down by your writings and traditions, begin to be, to be known and to be invoked by names and titles which were given to them? For if it is true that Jupiter with his brothers was born of Saturn and his wife, before Ops was married and bore children Jupiter had not existed both the Supreme and the Stygian,(12) no, nor the lord of the sea, nor Juno, nay more, no one inhabited the heavenly seats except the two parents; but from their union the other gods were conceived and born, and breathed the breath of life. So, then, at a certain time the god Jupiter began to be, at a certain time to merit worship anti sacrifices, at a certain time to be set above his brothers in power.(13) But, again, if Liber, Venus, Diana, Mercury, Apollo, Hercules, the Muses, the Tyndarian brothers,(14) and Vulcan the lord of fire, were begotten by father Jupiter, and born of a parent sprung from Saturn, before that Memory, Alcmena, Maia, Juno, Latona, Leda, Dione, and Semele also bore children to Diespiter; these deities, too, were nowhere in the world, nor in any part of the universe, but by Jupiter's embraces they were begotten and born, and began to have some sense of their own existence. So then, these, too, began to be at a certain time, and to be summoned among the gods to the sacred rites. This we say, in like manner, of Minerva. For if, as you assert, she burst forth from Jupiter's head ungenerated,(1) before Jupiter was begotten, and received in his mother's womb the shape and outline of his body,(2) it is quite certain that Minerva did not exist, and was not reckoned among things or as existing at all; but from Jove's head she was born, and began to have a real existence. She therefore has an origin at the first, and began to be called a goddess at a certain time, to be set up in temples, and to be consecrated by the inviolable obligations of religion. Now as this is the case, when you talk of the novelty of our religion, does your own not come into your thoughts, and do you not take care to examine when your gods sprung up,--what origins, what causes they have, or from what stocks they have burst forth and sprung? But how shameful how shameless it is to censure that in another which you see that you do yourself,--to take occasion to revile and accuse others for things which can be retorted upon you in turn!
71. But our rites are(3) new; yours are ancient, and of excessive antiquity, we are told. And what help does that give you, or how does it damage our cause and argument? The belief(4) which we hold is new; some day even it, too, will become old: yours is old; but when it arose, it was new and unheard of. The credibility of a religion, however, must not be determined by its age, but by its divinity; and you should consider not when, but what you began to worship. Four hundred years ago, my opponent says, your religion did not exist. And two thousand years ago, I reply, your gods did not exist. By what reckoning, you ask, or by what calculations, can that be inferred? They are not difficult, not intricate, but can be seen by any one who will take them in hand even, as the saying is. Who begot Jupiter and his brothers? Saturn with Ops, as you relate, sprung from Coelus and Hecate. Who begot Picus, the father of Faunus and grandfather of Latinus? Saturn, as you again hand down by your books and teachers? Therefore, if this is the case, Picus and Jupiter are in consequence united by the bond of kinship, inasmuch as they are sprung from one stock and race. It is clear, then, that what we say is true. How many steps are there in coming down(5) from Jupiter and Picus to Latinus? Three, as the line of succession shows. Will you suppose Faunus, Latinus, and Picus to have each lived a hundred and twenty years, for beyond this it is that man's life cannot be pro longed? The estimation is well grounded and clear. There are, then, three hundred and sixty years garter these?(6) It is just as the calculation shows. Whose father-in-law was Latinus? Aeneas'. Whose father was he?(7) He was father of the founder of the town Alba. How many years did kings reign in Alba? Four hundred and twenty almost. Of what age is the city Rome shown to be in the annals? It reckons ten(8) hundred and fifty years, or not much less. So, then, from Jupiter, who is the brother of Picus and father of the other and lesser gods, down to the present time, there are nearly, or to add a little to the time, altogether, two thousand years. Now since this cannot be contradicted, not only is the religion to which you adhere shown to have sprung up lately; but it is also shown that the gods themselves, to whom you heap up bulls and other victims at the risk of bringing on disease, are young and little children, who should still be fed with their mothers' milk.(9)
72. But your religion precedes ours by many years, and is therefore, you say, truer, because it has been supported by the authority of antiquity. And of what avail is it that it should precede ours as many years as you please, since it began at a certain time? or what(10) are two thousand years, compared with so many thousands of ages? And yet, lest we should seem to betray our cause by so long neglect, say, if it does not annoy you, does the Almighty and Supreme God seem to you to be something new; and do those who adore and worship Him seem to you to support and introduce an unheard-of, unknown, and upstart religion? Is there anything older than Him? or can anything be found preceding Him in being,(11) time, name? Is not He alone uncreated, immortal, and everlasting? Who is the head(12) and fountain of things? is not He? To whom does eternity owe its name? is it not to Him? Is it not because He is everlasting, that the ages go on without end? This is beyond doubt, and true: the religion which we follow is not new, then, but we have been late in learning what we should follow and revere, or where we should both fix our hope of salvation, and employ the aid given to save us. For He had not yet shone forth who was to point out the way to those wandering from it, and give the light of knowledge to those who were lying in the deepest darkness, and dispel the blindness of their ignorance.
73. But are we alone in this position?(1) What! have you not introduced into the number of your gods the Egyptian deities named Serapis and Isis, since the consulship of Piso and Gabinius?(2) What! did you not begin both to know and be acquainted with, and to worship with remarkable honours, the Phrygian mother--who, it is said, was first set up as a goddess by Midas or Dardanus--when Hannibal, the Carthaginian, was plundering Italy and aiming at the empire of the world?(3) Are not the sacred rites of mother Ceres, which were adopted but a little while ago, called Graeca because they were unknown to you, their name bearing witness to their novelty? Is it not said(4) in the writings of the learned, that the rituals of Numa Pompilius do not contain the name of Apollo? Now it is clear and manifest from this, that he, too, was unknown to you. but that at some time afterwards he began to be known also. If any one, therefore, should ask yon why you have so lately begun to worship those deities whom we mentioned just now, it is certain that you will reply, either because we were till lately not aware that they were gods, or because we have now been warned by the seers, or because, in very trying circumstances, we have been preserved by their favour and help. But if you think that this is well said by you, you must consider that, on our part, a similar reply has been made. Our religion has sprung up just now; for now He has arrived who was sent to declare it to us, to bring us to its truth; to show what God is; to summon us from mere conjectures, to His worship.
74. And why, my, opponent says, did God, the Ruler and Lord of the universe, determine that a Saviour, Christ, should be sent to you from the heights of heaven a few hours ago, as it is said? We ask you too, on the other hand, what cause, what reason is there that the seasons sometimes do not recur at their own months, but that winter, summer, and autumn come too late? why, after the crops have been dried up and the corn(5) has perished, showers sometimes fall which should have dropped on them while yet uninjured, and made provision for the wants of the time? Nay, this we rather ask, why, if it were fitting that Hercules should be born, Aesculapius, Mercury, Liber, and some others, that they might be both added to the assemblies of the gods, and might do men some service,--why they were produced so late by Jupiter, that only later ages should know them, while the past ages(6) of those who went before knew them not? You will say that there was some reason. There was then some reason here also that the Saviour of our race came not lately, but to-day. What, then, you ask, is the reason? We do not deny that we do not know. For it is not within the power of any one to see the mind of God, or the way in which He has arranged His plans.(7) Man, a blind creature, and not knowing himself even, can(8) in no way learn what should happen, when, or what its nature is: the Father Himself, the Governor and Lord of all, alone knows. Nor, if I have been unable to disclose to you the causes why something is done in this way or that, does it straightway follow, that what has been done becomes not done, and that a thing becomes incredible, which has been shown to be beyond doubt by such(9) virtues and(10) powers.
75. You may object and rejoin, Why was the Saviour sent forth so late? In unbounded, eternal ages, we reply, nothing whatever should be spoken of as late. For where there is no end and no beginning, nothing is too soon,(11) nothing too late. For time is perceived from its beginnings anti endings, which an unbroken line and endless(12) succession of ages cannot have. For what if the things themselves to which it was necessary to bring help, required that as a fitting time? For what if the condition of antiquity was different from that of later times? What if it was necessary to give help to the men of old in one way, to provide for their descendants in another? Do ye not hear your own writings read, telling that there were once men who were demi-gods, heroes with immense and huge bodies? Do you not read that infants on their mothers' breasts shrieked like. Stentors,(13) whose bones, when dug up in different parts of the earth, have made the discoverers almost doubt that they were the remains of human limbs? So, then, it may be that Almighty God, the only God, sent forth Christ then indeed, after that the human race, becoming feebler, weaker, began to be such as we are. If that which has been done now could have been done thousands of years ago, the Supreme Ruler would have done it; or if it had been proper, that what has been done now should be accomplished as many thousands after this, nothing compelled God to anticipate the necessary lapse(1) of time. His plans(2) are executed in fixed ways; and that which has been once decided on, can in no wise be changed again.(3)
76. Inasmuch then, you say, as you serve the Almighty God, and trust that He cares for your safety and salvation, why does He suffer you to be exposed to such storms of persecution, and to undergo all kinds of punishments and tortures? Let us, too, ask in reply, why, seeing that you worship so great and so innumerable gods, and build temples to them, fashion images of gold, sacrifice herds of animals, and all heap up(4) boxfuls of incense on the already loaded altars, why you live subject to so many dangers and storms of calamity, with which many fatal misfortunes vex you every day? Why, I say, do your gods neglect to avert from you so many kinds of disease and sickness, shipwrecks, downfalls, conflagrations, pestilences, barrenness, loss of children, and confiscation of goods, discords, wars, enmities, captures of cities, and the slavery of those who are robbed of their rights of free birth?(5) But, my opponent says, in such mischances we, too, are in no wise helped by God. The cause is plain and manifest. For no hope has been held out to us with respect to this life, nor has any help been promised or(6) aid decreed us for what belongs to the husk of this flesh,--nay, more, we have been taught to esteem and value lightly all the threats of fortune, whatever they be; and if ever any very grievous calamity has assailed us, to count as pleasant in that misfortune(7) the end which must follow, and not to fear or flee from it, that we may be the more easily released from the bonds of the body, and escape from our darkness and(8) blindness.
77. Therefore that bitterness of persecution of which you speak is our deliverance and not persecution, and our ill-treatment will not bring evil upon us, but will lead us to the light of liberty. As if some senseless and stupid fellow were to think that he never punished a man who had been put into prison(9) with severity and cruelty, unless he were to rage against the very prison, break its stones in pieces, and burn its roof, its wall, its doors; and strip, overthrow, and dash to the ground its other parts, not knowing that thus he was giving light to him whom he seemed to be injuring, and was taking from him the accursed darkness: in like manner, you too, by the flames, banishments, tortures, and monsters with which you tear in pieces and rend asunder our bodies, do not rob us of life, but relieve us of our skins, not knowing that, as far as you assault and seek to rage against these our shadows and forms, so far you free us from pressing and heavy chains, and cutting our bonds, make us fly up to the light.
78. Wherefore, O men, refrain from obstructing what you hope for by vain questions; nor should you, if anything is otherwise than you think, trust your own opinions rather than that which should be reverenced.(10) The times, full of dangers, urge us, and fatal penalties threaten us; let us flee for safety to God our Saviour, without demanding the reason of the offered gift. When that at stake is our souls' salvation and our own interests, something must be done even without reason, as Arrhianus approves of Epictetus having said.(11) We doubt, we hesitate, and suspect the credibility of what is said; let us commit ourselves to God, and let not our incredulity prevail more with us than the greatness of His name and power, lest, while we are seeking out arguments for ourselves, through which that may seem false which we do not wish and deny to be true, the last day steal upon us, and we be found in the jaws of our enemy, death.
1. All these charges, then, which might truly be better termed abuse, have been long answered with sufficient fulness and accuracy by men of distinction in this respect, and worthy to have learned the truth; and not one point of any inquiry has been passed over, without being determined in a thousand ways, and on the strongest grounds. We need not, therefore, linger further on this part of the case. For neither is the Christian religion unable to stand though it found no advocates, nor will it be therefore proved true if it found many to agree with it, and gained weight through its adherents.(1) Its own strength is sufficient for it, and it rests on the foundations of its own truth, without losing its power, though there were none to defend it, nay, though all voices assailed and opposed it, and united with common rancour to destroy all faith(2) in it.
2. Let us now return to the order from which we were a little ago compelled to diverge, that our defence may not, through its being too long broken off, be said to have given our detractors cause to triumph in the establishing of their charge. For they propose these questions: If you are in earnest about religion, why do you not serve and worship the other gods with us, or share your sacred rites with your fellows, and put the ceremonies of the different religions on an equality? We may say for the present: In essaying to approach the divine, the Supreme Deity(3) suffices us,--the Deity, I say, who is supreme, the Creator and Lord of the universe, who orders and rules all things: in Him we serve all that requires our service; in Him we worship all that should be adored,-- venerate(4) that which demands the homage of our reverence. For as we lay hold of the source of the divine itself from which the very divinity of all gods whatever is derived,(5) we think it an idle task to approach each personally, since we neither know who they are, nor the names by which they are called; and are further unable to learn, and discover, and establish their number.
3. And as in the kingdoms of earth we are in no wise constrained expressly to do reverence to those who form the royal family as well as to the sovereigns, but whatever honour belongs to them is found to be tacitly(6) implied in the homage offered to the kings themselves; in just the same way, these gods, whoever they be, for whose existence you vouch, if they are a royal race, and spring from the Supreme Ruler, even though we do not expressly do them reverence, yet feel that they are honoured in common with their Lord, and share in the reverence shown to Him. Now it must be remembered that we have made this statement, on the hypothesis only that it is clear and undeniable, that besides the Ruler and Lord Himself, there are still other beings,(7) who, when arranged and disposed in order, form, as it were, a kind of plebeian mass. But do not seek to point out to us pictures instead of gods in your temples, and the images which you set up, for you too know, but are unwilling and refuse to admit, that these are formed of most worthless clay, and are childish figures made by mechanics. And when we converse with you on religion, we ask you to prove this, that there are other gods than the one Supreme Deity in nature, power, name, not as we see them manifested in images, but in such a substance as it might fittingly be supposed that perfection of so great dignity should reside.
4. But we do not purpose delaying further on this part of the subject, lest we seem desirous to stir up most violent strife, and engage in agitating contests.
Let there be, as you affirm, that crowd of deities, let there be numberless families of gods; we assent, agree, and do not examine too closely, nor in any part of the subject do we assail the doubtful and uncertain positions you hold. This, however, we demand, and ask you to tell us, whence you have discovered, or how you have learned, whether there are these gods,(8) whom you believe to be in heaven and serve, or some others unknown by reputation and name? For it may be that beings exist whom you do not believe to do so; and that those of whose existence you feel assured, are found nowhere in the universe. For you have at no time been borne aloft to the stars of heaven, at no time have seen the face and countenance of each; and then established here the worship of the same gods, whom you remembered to be there, as having been known and seen by you. But this, too, we again would learn from you, whether they have received these names by which you call them, or assumed them themselves on the days of purification.(1) If these are divine and celestial names, who reported them to you? But if, on the other hand, these names have been applied to them by you, how could you give names to those whom you never saw, and whose character or circumstances you in no wise(2) knew?
5. But let it be assumed that there are these gods, as you wish and believe, and are persuaded; let them be called also by those names by which the common people suppose that those meaner gods(3) are known.(4) Whence, however, have you learned who make up the list of gods under these names?(5) have any ever become familiar and known to others with whose names you were not acquainted?(6) For it cannot be easily known whether their numerous body is settled and fixed in number; or whether their multitude cannot be summed up and limited by the numbers of any computation. For let us suppose that you do reverence to a thousand, or rather five thousand gods; but in the universe it may perhaps be that there are a hundred thousand; there may be even more than this,--nay, as we said a little before, it may not be possible to compute the number of the gods, or limit them by a definite number. Either, then, you are yourselves impious who serve a few gods, but disregard the duties which you owe to the rest;(7) or if you claim that your ignorance of the rest should be pardoned, you will procure for us also a similar pardon, if in just the same way(8) we refuse to worship those of whose existence we are wholly ignorant.
6. And yet let no one think that we are perversely determined not to submit to(9) the other deities, whoever they are! For we lift up pious minds, and stretch forth our hands in prayer,(10) and do not refuse to draw near whithersoever you may have summoned us; if only we learn who those divine beings are whom you press upon us, and with whom it may be right to share the reverence which we show to the king and prince who is over all. It is Saturn, my opponent says, and Janus, Minerva, Juno, Apollo, Venus, Triptolemus, Hercules, Aesculapius, and all the others, to whom the reverence of antiquity dedicated magnificent temples in almost every city. You might, perhaps, have been able to attract us to the worship of these deities you mention, had you not been yourselves the first, with foul and unseemly fancies, to devise such tales about them as not merely to stain their honour, but, by the natures assigned to them, to prove that they did not exist at all. For, in the first place, we cannot be led to believe this,--that that immortal and supreme nature has been divided by sexes, and that there are some male, others female. But this point, indeed, has been long ago fully treated of by men of ardent genius, both in Latin and Greek; and Tullius, the most eloquent among the Romans, without dreading the vexatiousness of a charge of impiety, has above all, with greater piety,(11) declared--boldly, firmly, and frankly--what he thought of such a fancy; and if you would proceed to receive from him opinions written with true discernment, instead of merely brilliant sentences, this case would have been concluded; nor would it require at our weak hands(12) a second pleading,(13) as it is termed.
7. But why should I say that men seek from him subtleties of expression and splendour of diction, when I know that there are many who avoid and flee from his books on this subject, and will not hear his opinions read,(14) overthrowing their prejudices; and when I hear others muttering angrily, and saying that the senate should decree the destruction(15) of these writings by which the Christian religion is maintained, and the weight of antiquity overborne? But, indeed, if you are convinced that anything you say regarding your gods is beyond doubt, point out Cicero's error, refute, rebut his rash and impious words,(16) and show that they are so. For when you would carry off writings, and suppress a book given forth to the public, you are not defending the gods, but dreading the evidence of the truth.
8. And yet, that no thoughtless person may raise a false accusation against us, as though we believed God whom we worship to be male,--for this reason, that is, that when we speak of Him we use a masculine word,--let him understand that it is not sex which is expressed, but His name, and its meaning according to custom, and the way in which we are in the habit of using words.(1) For the Deity is not male, but His name is of the masculine gender: but in your ceremonies you cannot say the same; for in your prayers you have been wont to say whether thou art god or goddess,(2) and this uncertain description shows, even by their opposition, that you attribute sex to the gods. We cannot, then, be prevailed on to believe that the divine is embodied; for bodies must needs be distinguished by difference of sex, if they are male and female. For who, however mean his capacity,(3) does not know that the sexes of different gender have been ordained and formed by the Creator of the creatures of earth, only that, by intercourse and union of bodies, that which is fleeting and transient may endure being ever renewed and maintained?(4)
9. What, then, shall we say? That gods beget and are begotten?(5) and that therefore they have received organs of generation, that they might be able to raise up offspring, and that, as each new race springs up, a substitution, regularly occurring,(6) should make up for all which had been swept away by the preceding age? If, then, it is so,--that is, if the gods above beget other gads, and are subject to these conditions of sex,(7) and are immortal, and are not worn out, by the chills of age,--it follows, as a consequence, that the world(8) should be full of gods, and that countless heavens could not contain their multitude, inasmuch as they are both themselves ever begetting, and the countless multitude of their descendants, always being increased, is augumented by means of their offspring; or if, as is fitting, the gods are not degraded by being subjected to sexual impulses,(9) what cause or reason will be pointed out for their being distinguished by those members by which the sexes are wont to recognise each other at the suggestion of their own desires? For it is not likely that they have these members without a purpose, or that nature had wished in them to make sport of its own improvidence,(10) in providing them with members for which there would be no use. For as the hands, feet, eyes, and other members which form our body,(11) have been arranged for certain uses, each for its own end, so we may well(12) believe that these members have been provided to discharge their office; or it must be confessed that there is something without a purpose in the bodies of the gods, which has been made uselessly and in vain.
10. What say you, ye holy and pure guardians of religion? Have the gods, then, sexes; and are they disfigured by those parts, the very mention of whose names by modest lips is disgraceful? What, then, now remains, but to believe that they, as unclean beasts, are transported with violent passions, rush with maddened desires into mutual embraces, and at last, with shattered and ruined bodies, are enfeebled by their sensuality? And since some things are peculiar to the female sex, we must believe that the goddesses, too, submit to these conditions at the proper time, conceive and become pregnant with loathing, miscarry, carry the full time, and sometimes are prematurely delivered. O divinity, pure, holy, free from and unstained by any dishonourable blot! The mind longs(13) and burns to see, in the great halls and palaces of heaven, gods and goddesses, with bodies uncovered and bare, the full-breasted Ceres nursing Iacchus,(14) as the muse of Lucretius sings, the Hellespontian Priapus bearing about among the goddesses, virgin and matron, those parts(15) ever prepared for encounter. It longs, I say, to see goddesses pregnant, goddesses with child, and, as they daily increase in size, faltering in their steps, through the irksomeness of the burden they bear about with them; others, after long delay, bringing to birth, and seeking the midwife's aid; others, shrieking as they are attacked by keen pangs and grievous pains, tormented,(16) and, under all these influences, imploring the aid of Juno Lucina. Is it not much better to abuse, revile, and otherwise insult the gods, than, with pious pretence, unworthily to entertain such monstrous beliefs about them?
11. And you dare to charge us with offending the gods, although, on examination, it is found that the ground of offence is most clearly in ourselves, and that it is not occasioned by the insult which you think(1) we offer them. For if the gods are, as you say, moved by anger, and burn with rage in their minds, why should we not suppose that they take it amiss, even in the highest degree, that you attribute to them sexes, as dogs and swine have been created, and that, since this is your belief, they are so represented, and openly exposed in a disgraceful manner? This, then, being the case, you are the cause of all troubles--you lead the gods, you rouse them to harass the earth with every ill, and every day to devise all kinds of fresh misfortunes, that so they may avenge themselves, being irritated at suffering so many wrongs and insults from you. By your insults and affronts, I say, partly in the vile stories, partly in the shameful beliefs which your theologians, your poets, you yourselves too, celebrate in disgraceful ceremonies, you will find that the affairs of men have been ruined, and that the gods have thrown away the helm, if indeed it is by their care that the fortunes of men are guided and arranged. For with us, indeed, they have no reason to be angry, whom they see and perceive neither to mock, as it is said, nor worship them, and to think,(2) to believe much more worthily than you with regard to the dignity of their name.
12. Thus far of sex. Now let us come to the appearance and shapes by which yon believe that the gods above have been represented, with which, indeed, you fashion, and set them up in their most splendid abodes, your temples. And let no one here bring up against us Jewish fables and those of the sect of the Sadducees,(3) as though we, too, attribute to the Deity forms;(4) for this is supposed to be taught in their writings, and asserted as if with assurance and authority. For these stories either do not concern us, and have nothing at all in common with us, or if they are shared in by us, as you believe, you must seek out teachers of greater wisdom, through whom you may be able to learn how best to overcome the dark and recondite sayings of those writings. Our opinion on the subject is as follows:--that the whole divine nature, since it neither came into existence at any time, nor will ever come to an end of life, is devoid of bodily features, and does not have anything like the forms with which the termination of the several members usually. completes the union of parts.(5) For whatever is of this character, we think mortal and perishable; nor do we believe that that can endure for ever which an inevitable end shuts in, though the boundaries enclosing it be the remotest.
13. But it is not enough that you limit the gods by forms:--you even confine them to the human figure, and with even less decency enclose them in earthly bodies. What shall we say then? that the gods have a head modelled with perfect symmetry,(6) bound fast by sinews to the back and breast, and that, to allow the necessary bending of the neck, it is supported by combinations of vertebrae, and by an osseous foundation? But if we believe this to be true, it follows that they have ears also, pierced by crooked windings; rolling eyeballs, overshadowed by the edges of the eyebrows; a nose, placed as a channel,(7) through which waste fluids and a current of air might easily pass; teeth to masticate food, of three kinds, and adapted to three services; hands to do their work, moving easily by means of joints, fingers, and flexible elbows; feet to support their bodies, regulate their steps, and prompt the first motions in walking. But if the gods hear these things which are seen, it is fitting that they should bear those also which the skin conceals under the framework of the ribs, and the membranes enclosing the viscera; windpipes, stomachs, spleens, lungs, bladders, livers, the long-entwined intestines, and the veins of purple blood, joined with the air-passages,(8) coursing through the whole viscera.
14. Are, then, the divine bodies free from these deformities? and since they do not eat the food of men, are we to believe that, like children, they are toothless, and, having no internal parts, as if they were inflated bladders, are without strength, owing to the hollowness of their swollen bodies? Further, if this is the case, you must see whether the gods are all alike, or are marked by a difference in the contour of their forms. For if each and all have one and the same likeness of shape, there is nothing ridiculous in believing that they err, and are deceived in recognising each other.(9) But if, on the other hand, they are distinguished by their countenances, we should, consequently, understand that these differences have been implanted for no other reason than that they might individually be able to recognise themselves by the peculiarites of the different marks. We should therefore say that some have big heads, prominent brows, broad brows, thick lips; that others of them have long chins, moles, and high noses; that these have dilated nostrils, those are snub-nosed; some chubby from a swelling of their jaws or growth of their cheeks, dwarfed, tall, of middle size, lean, sleek, fat; some with crisped and curled hair, others shaven, with bald and smooth heads. Now your workshops show and point out that our opinions are not false, inasmuch as, when you form and fashion gods, you represent some with long hair, others smooth and bare, as old, as youths, as boys, swarthy, grey-eyed, yellow, half-naked, bare; or, that cold may not annoy them, covered with flowing garments thrown over them.
15. Does any man at all possessed of judgment, believe that hairs and down grow on the bodies of the gods? that among them age is distinguished? and that they go about clad in dresses and garments of various shapes, and shield themselves from heat and cold? But if any one believes that, he must receive this also as true, that some gods are fullers, some barbers; the former to cleanse the sacred garments, the latter to thin their locks when matted with a thick growth of hair. Is not this really degrading, most impious, and insulting, to attribute to the gods the features of a frail and perishing animal? to furnish them with those members which no modest person would dare to recount, and describe, or represent in his own imagination, without shuddering at the excessive indecency? Is this the contempt you entertain,--this the proud wisdom with which you spurn us as ignorant, and think that all knowledge of religion is yours? You mock the mysteries of the Egyptians, because they ingrafted the forms of dumb animals upon their divine causes, and because they worship these very images with much incense, and whatever else is used in such rites: you yourselves adore images of men, as though they were powerful gods, and are not ashamed to give to these the countenance of an earthly creature, to blame others for their mistaken folly, and to be detected in a similarly vicious error.
16. But you will, perhaps, say that the gods have indeed other forms, and that you have given the appearance of men to them merely by way of honour, and for form's sake(1) which is much more insulting than to have fallen into any error through ignorance. For if you confessed that you had ascribed to the divine forms that which you had supposed and believed, your error, originating in prejudice, would not be so blameable. But now, when you believe one thing and fashion another, you both dishonour those to whom yon ascribe that which you confess does not belong to them, and show your impiety in adoring that which you fashion, not that which you think really is, and which is in very truth. If asses, dogs, pigs,(2) had any human wisdom and skill in contrivance, and wished to do us honour also by some kind of worship, and to show respect by dedicating statues to us, with what rage would they inflame us, what a tempest of passion would they excite, if they determined that our images should bear and assume the fashion of their own bodies? How would they, I repeat, fill us with rage, and rouse our passions, if the founder of Rome, Romulus, were to be set up with an ass's face, the revered Pompilius with that of a dog, if under the image of a pig were written Cato's or Marcus Cicero's name? So, then, do you think that your stupidity is not laughed at by your deities, if they laugh at all? or, since you believe that they may be enraged, do you think that they are not roused, maddened to fury, and that they do not wish to be revenged for so great wrongs and insults, and to hurl on you the punishments usually dictated by chagrin, and devised by bitter hatred? How much better it had been to give to them the forms of elephants, panthers, or tigers, bulls, and horses! For what is there beautiful in man,--what, I pray you, worthy of admiration, or comely,--unless that which, some poet(3) has maintained, he possesses in common with the ape?
17. But, they say, if you are not satisfied with our opinion, do you point out, tell us yourselves, what is the Deity's form. If you wish to hear the truth, either the Deity has no form; or if He is embodied in one, we indeed know not what it is. Moreover, we think it no disgrace to be ignorant of that which we never saw; nor are we therefore prevented from disproving the opinions of others, because on this we have no opinion of our own to bring forward. For as, if the earth be said to be of glass, silver, iron, or gathered together and made from brittle clay, we cannot hesitate to maintain that this is untrue, although we do not know of what it is made; so, when the form of God is discussed, we show that it is not what you maintain, even if we are still able to explain what it is.
18. What, then, some one will say, does the Deity not hear? does He not speak? does He not see what is put before Him? has He not sight? He may in His own, but not in our way. But in so great a matter we cannot know the truth at all, or reach it by speculations; for these are, it is clear, in our case, baseless, deceitful, and like vain dreams. For if we said that He sees in the same way as ourselves, it follows that it should be understood that He has eyelids placed as coverings on the pupils of the eyes, that He closes them, winks, sees by rays or images, or, as is the case in all eyes, can see nothing at all without the presence of other light. So we must in like manner say of hearing, and form of speech, and utterance of words. If He nears by means of ears, these, too, we must say, He has, penetrated by winding paths, through which the sound may steal, bearing the meaning of the discourse; or if His words are poured forth from a mouth, that He has lips and teeth, by the contact and various movement of which His tongue utters sounds distinctly, and forms His voice to words.
19. If you are willing to hear our conclusions, then learn that we are so far from attributing bodily shape to the Deity, that we fear to ascribe to so great a being even mental graces, and the very excellences by which a few have been allowed with difficulty to distinguish themselves. For who will say that God is brave, firm, good, wise? who will say that He has integrity, is temperate, even that He has knowledge, understanding, forethought? that He directs towards fixed moral ends the actions on which He determines? These things are good in man; and being opposed to vices, have deserved the great reputation which they have gained. But who is so foolish, so senseless, as to say that God is great by merely human excellences? or that He is above all in the greatness of His name, because He is not disgraced by vice? Whatever you say, whatever in unspoken thought you imagine concerning God, passes and is corrupted into a human sense, and does not carry its own meaning, because it is spoken in the words which we use, and which are suited only to human affairs. There is but one thing man can be assured of regarding God's nature, to know and perceive that nothing can be revealed in human language concerning God.
20. This, then, this matter of forms and sexes, is the first affront which you, noble advocates in sooth, and pious writers, offer to your deities. But what is the next, that you represent to us(1) the gods, some as artificers, some physicians, others working in wool, as sailors,(2) players on the harp and flute, hunters, shepherds, and, as there was nothing more, rustics? And that god, he says, is a musician, and this other can divine; for the other gods cannot,(3) and do not know how to foretell what will come to pass, owing to their want of skill and ignorance of the future. One is instructed in obstetric arts, another trained up in the science of medicine. Is each, then, powerful in his own department; and can they give no assistance, if their aid is asked, in what belongs to another? This one is eloquent in speech, and ready in linking words together; for the others are stupid, and can say nothing skilfully, if they must speak.
21. And, I ask, what reason is there, what unavoidable necessity, what occasion for the gods knowing and being acquainted with these handicrafts as though they were worthless mechanics? For, are songs sung and music played in heaven, that the nine sisters may gracefully combine and harmonize pauses and rhythms of tones? Are there on the mountains(4) of the stars, forests, woods, groves, that(5) Diana may be esteemed very mighty in hunting expeditions? Are the gods ignorant of the immediate future; and do they live and pass the time according to the lots assigned them by fate, that the inspired son of Latona may explain and declare what the morrow or the next hour bears to each? Is he himself inspired by another god, and is he urged and roused by the power of a greater divinity, so that he may be rightly said and esteemed to be divinely inspired? Are the gods liable to be seized by diseases; and is there anything by which they may be wounded and hurt, so that, when there is occasion, he(6) of Epidaurus may come to their assistance? Do they labour, do they bring forth, that Juno may soothe, and Lucina abridge the terrible pangs of childbirth? Do they engage in agriculture, or are they concerned with the duties of war, that Vulcan, the lord of fire, may form for them swords, or forge their rustic implements? Do they need to be covered with garments, that the Tritonian(7) maid may, with nice skill,(8) spin, weave cloth for them, and make(9) them tunics to suit the season, either triple-twilled, or of silken fabric? Do they make accusations and refute them, that the descendant(10) of Atlas may carry off the prize for eloquence, attained by assiduous practice?
22. You err, my opponent says, and are deceived; for the gods are not themselves artificers, but suggest these arts to ingenious men, and teach mortals what they should know, that their mode of life may be more civilized. But he who gives any instruction to the ignorant and unwilling, and strives to make him intelligently expert in some kind of work, must himself first know that which he sets the other to practise. For no one can be capable of teaching a science without knowing the rules of that which he teaches, and having grasped its method most thoroughly. The gods are, then, the first artificers; whether because they inform the minds of men with knowledge, as you say yourselves, or because, being immortal and unbegotten, they surpass the whole race of earth by their length of life.(1) This, then, is the question; there being no occasion for these arts among the gods, neither their necessities nor nature requiring in them any ingenuity or mechanical skill, why you should say that they are skilled,(2) one in one craft, another in another, and that individuals are pre-eminently expert(3) in particular departments in which they are distinguished by acquaintance with the several branches of science?
23. But you will, perhaps, say that the gods are not artificers, but that they preside over these arts, and have their oversight; nay, that under their care all things have been placed, which we manage and conduct, and that their providence sees to the happy and fortunate issue of these. Now this would certainly appear to be said justly, and with some probability, if all we engage in, all we do, or all we attempt in human affairs, sped as we wished and purposed. But since every day the reverse is the case, and the results of actions do not correspond to the purpose of the will, it is trifling to say that we have, set as guardians over as, gods invented by our superstitious fancy, not grasped with assured certainty. Portunus(4) gives to the sailor perfect safety in traversing the seas; but why has the raging sea cast up so many cruelly-shattered wrecks? Consus suggests to our minds courses safe and serviceable; and why does an unexpected change perpetually issue in results other than were looked for? Pales and Inuus(5) are set as guardians over the flocks and herds; why do they, with hurtful laziness,(6) not take care to avert from the herds in their summer pastures, cruel, infectious, and destructive diseases? The harlot Flora,(7) venerated in lewd sports, sees well to it that the fields blossom; and why are buds and tender plants daily nipt and destroyed by most hurtful frost? Juno presides over childbirth, and aids travailing mothers; and why are a thousand mothers every day cut off in murderous throes? Fire is under Vulcan's care, and its source is placed under his control; and why does he, very often, suffer temples and parts of cities to fall into ashes devoured by flames? The soothsayers receive the knowledge of their art from the Pythian god; and why does he so often give and afford answers equivocal, doubtful, steeped in darkness and obscurity? Aesculapius presides over the duties and arts of medicine; and why cannot men in more kinds of disease and sickness be restored to health and soundness of body? while, on the contrary, they become worse under the hands of the physician. Mercury is occupied with(8) combats, and presides over boxing and wrestling matches; and why does he not make all invincible who are in his charge? why, when appointed to one office, does he enable some to win the victory, while he suffers others to be ridiculed for their disgraceful weakness?
24. No one, says my opponent, makes supplication to the tutelar deities, and they therefore withhold their usual favours and help. Cannot the gods, then, do good, except they receive incense and consecrated offerings?(9) and do they quit and renounce their posts, unless they see their altars anointed with the blood of cattle? And vet I thought but now that the kindness of the gods was of their own free will, and that the unlooked-for gifts of benevolence flowed unsought from them. Is, then, the King of the universe solicited by any libation or sacrifice to grant to the races of men all the comforts of life? Does the Deity not impart the sun's fertilizing warmth, and the season of night, the winds, the rains, the fruits, to all alike,--the good and the bad, the unjust and the just,(10) the free-born and the slave, the poor and the rich? For this belongs to the true and mighty God, to show kindness, unasked, to that which is weary and feeble, and always encompassed by misery, of many kinds. For to grant your prayers on the offering of sacrifices, is not to bring help to those who ask it, but to sell the riches of their beneficence. We men trifle, and are foolish in so great a matter; anti, forgetting what(11) God is, and the majesty of His name, associate with the tutelar deities whatever meanness or baseness our morbid credulity can invent.
25. Unxia, my opponent says, presides over the anointing of door-posts; Cinxia over the loosening of the zone; the most venerable Victa(12) and Potua attend to eating and drinking. O rare and admirable interpretation of the divine powers! would gods not have names(1) if brides did not besmear their husbands' door-posts with greasy ointment; were it not that husbands, when now eagerly drawing near, unbind the maiden-girdle; if men did not eat and drink? Moreover, not satisfied to have subjected and involved the gods in cares so unseemly, you also ascribe to them dispositions fierce, cruel, savage, ever rejoicing in the ills and destruction of mankind.god-
26. We shall not here mention Laverna, goddess of thieves, the Bellonae, Discordiae, Furiae thieves, the Bellonae, Discordiae Furiae; and we pass by in utter silence the unpropitious deities whom you have set up. We shall bring forward Mars himself, and the fair mother of the Desires; to one of whom you commit wars, to the other love and passionate desire. My opponent says that Mars has power over wars; whether to quell those which are raging, or to revive them when interrupted, and kindle them in time of peace? For if he clams the madness of war, why do wars rage every day? but if he is their author, we shall then say that the god, to satisfy his own inclination, involves the whole world in strife; sows the seeds of discord and variance between far-distant peoples; gathers so many thousand men from different quarters, and speedily heaps up the field with dead bodies; makes the streams flow with blood, sweeps away the most firmly-founded empires, lays cities in the dust, robs the free of their liberty, and makes them slaves; rejoices in civil strife, in the bloody death of brothers who die in conflict, and, in fine, in the dire, murderous contest of children with their fathers.
27. Now we may apply this very argument to Venus in exactly the same way. For if, as you maintain and believe, she fills men's minds with lustful thoughts, it must be held in consequence that any disgrace and misdeed arising from such madness should be ascribed to the instigation of Venus. Is it, then, under compulsion of the goddess that even the noble too often betray their own reputation into the hands of worthless harlots; that the firm bonds of marriage are broken; that near relations burn with incestuous lust; that mothers have their passions madly kindled towards their children; that fathers turn to themselves their daughters' desires; that old men, bringing shame upon their grey hairs, sigh with the ardour of youth for the gratification of filthy desires; that wise and brave(2) men, losing in effeminacy the strength of their manhood, disregard the biddings of constancy; that the noose is twisted about their necks; that blazing pyres are ascended;(3) and that in different places men, leaping voluntarily, cast themselves headlong over very high and huge precipices?(4)
28. Can any man, who has accepted the first principles even of reason, be found to mar or dishonour the unchanging nature of Deity with morals so vile? to credit the gods with natures such as human kindness has often charmed away and moderated in the beasts of the field? How,(5) I ask, can it be said that the gods are far removed from any feeling of passion? that they are gentle, lovers of peace, mild? that in the completeness of their excellence they reach(6) the i height of perfection, and the highest wisdom also? or, why should we pray them to avert from us misfortunes and calamities, if we find that they are themselves the authors of all the ills by which we are daily harassed? Call us impious as much as you please, contemners of religion, or atheists, you will never make us believe in gods of love and war, that there are gods to sow strife, and to disturb the mind by the stings of the furies. For either they are gods in very truth, and do not do what you have related; or if(7) they do the things which you say, they are doubtless no gods at all.
29. We might, however, even yet be able to receive from you these thoughts, most full of wicked falsehoods, if it were not that you yourselves, in bringing forward many things about the gods so inconsistent and mutually destructive, compel us to withhold our minds from assenting. For when you strive individually to excel each other in reputation for more recondite knowledge, you both overthrow the very gods in whom you believe, and replace them by others who have clearly no existence; and different men give different opinions on the same subjects,(8) and you write that those whom general consent has ever received as single persons are infinite in number. Let us, too, begin duty, then, with father Janus, whom certain of you have declared to be the world, others the year, some the sun. But if we are to believe that this is true, it follows as a consequence, that it should be understood that there never was any Janus, who, they say, being sprung from Coelus and Hecate, reigned first in Italy, founded the town Janiculum, was the father of Forts,(9) the son-in-law of Vulturnus, the husband of Juturna; and thus you erase the name of the god to whom in all prayers you give the first place, and whom you believe to procure for you a hearing from the gods. But, again, if Janus be the year, neither thus can he be a god. For who does not know that the year is a fixed space(1) of time, and that there is nothing divine in that which is formed(2) by the duration of months and lapse of days? Now this very argument may, in like manner, be applied to Saturn. For if time is meant under this title, as the expounders of Grecian ideas think, so that that is regarded as Kronos,(3) which is chronos,(4) there is no such deity as Saturn. For who is so senseless as to say that time is a god, when it is but a certain space measured off(5) in the unending succession of eternity? And thus will be removed from the rank of the immortals that deity too, whom the men of old declared, and handed down to their posterity, to be born of father Coelus, the progenitor of the dii magni, the planter of the vine, the bearer of the pruning-knife.(6)
30. But what shall we say of Jove himself, whom the wise have repeatedly asserted to be the sun, driving a winged chariot, followed by a crowd of deities;(7) some, the ether, blazing with mighty flames, and wasting fire which cannot be extinguished? Now if this is clear and certain, there is, then, according to you, no Jupiter at all; who, born of Saturn his father and Ops his mother, is reported to have been concealed in the Cretan territory, that he might escape his father's rage. But now, does not a similar mode of thought remove Juno from the list of gods? For if she is the air, as you have been wont to jest and say, repeating in reversed order the syllables of the Greek name,(8) there will be found no sister and spouse of almighty Jupiter, no Fluonia,(9) no Pomona, no Ossipagina, no Februtis, Populonia, Cinxia, Caprotina; and thus the invention of that name, spread abroad with a frequent but vain(10) belief, will be found to be wholly(11) useless.
31. Aristotle, a man of most powerful intellect, and distinguished for learning, as Granius tells, shows by plausible arguments that Minerva is the moon, and proves it by the authority of learned men. Others have said that this very goddess is the depth of ether, and utmost height; some have maintained that she is memory, whence her name even, Minerva, has arisen, as if she were some goddess of memory. But if this is credited, it follows that there is no daughter of Mens, no daughter of Victory, no discoverer of the Olive, born from the head of Jupiter, no goddess skilled in the knowledge of the arts, and in different branches of learning. Neptune, they say, has received his name and title because he covers the earth with water. If, then, by the use of this name is meant the outspread water, there is no god Neptune at all; and thus is put away, and removed from us, the full brother of Pluto and Jupiter, armed with the iron trident, lord of the fish, great and small, king of the depths of the sea, and shaker of the trembling earth.(12)
32. Mercury, also, has been named as though he were a kind of go- between; and because conversation passes between two speakers, and is exchanged by them, that which is expressed by this name has been produced.(13) If this, then, is the case, Mercury is not the name of a god, but of speech and words exchanged by two persons; and in this way is blotted out and annihilated the noted Cyllenian bearer of the caduceus, born on the cold mountain top,(14) contriver of words and names, the god who presides over markets, and over the exchange of goods and commercial intercourse. Some of you have said that the earth is the Great Mother,(15) because it provides all things living with food; others declare that the same earth is Ceres, because it brings forth crops of useful fruits;(16) while some maintain that it is Vesta, because it alone in the universe is at rest, its other members being, by their constitution, ever in motion. Now if this is propounded and maintained on sure grounds, in like manner, on your interpretation, three deities have no existence: neither Ceres nor Vesta are to be reckoned in the number(17) of the gods; nor, in fine, can the mother of the gods herself, whom Nigidius thinks to have been married to Saturn, be rightly declared a goddess, if indeed these are all names of the one earth, and it alone is signified by these titles.
33. We here leave Vulcan unnoticed, to avoid prolixity; whom you all declare to be fire, with one consenting voice. We pass by Venus, named because lust assails all, and Proserpina, named because plants steal gradually forth into the light,--where, again, you do away with three deities; if indeed the first is the name of an element, and does not signify a living power; the second, of a desire common to all living creatures; while the third refers to seeds rising above ground, and the upward movements(18) of growing crops. What! when you maintain that Bacchus, Apollo, the Sun, are one deity, increased in number by the use of three names, is not the number of the gods lessened, and their vaunted reputation overthrown, by your opinions? For if it is true that the sun is also Bacchus and Apollo, there can consequently be in the universe no Apollo or Bacchus; and thus, by yourselves, the son of Semele and the Pythian god are blotted out and set aside,--one the giver of drunken merriment, the other the destroyer of Sminthian mice.
34. Some of your learned men(1)--men, too, who do not chatter merely because their humour leads them--maintain that Diana, Ceres, Luna, are but one deity in triple union;(2) and that there are not three distinct persons, as there are three different names; that in all these Luna is invoked, and that the others are a series of surnames added to her name. But if this is sure, if this is certain, and the facts of the case show it to be so, again is Ceres but an empty name, and Diana: and thus the discussion is brought to this issue, that you lead and advise us to believe that she whom you maintain to be the discoverer of the earth's fruits has no existence, and Apollo is robbed of his sister, whom once the horned hunter(3) gazed upon as she washed her limbs from impurity in a pool, and paid the penalty of his curiosity.
35. Men worthy to be remembered in the study of philosophy, who have been raised by your praises to its highest place, declare, with commendable earnestness, as their conclusion, that the whole mass of the world, by whose folds we all are encompassed, covered, and upheld, is one animal(4) possessed of wisdom and reason; yet if this is a true, sure, and certain opinion,(5) they also will forthwith cease to be gods whom you set up a little ago in its parts without change of name.(6) For as one man cannot, while his body remains entire, be divided into many men; nor can many men, while they continue to be distinct and separate from each other,(7) be fused into one sentient individual: so, if the world is a single animal, and moves from the impulse of one mind, neither can it be dispersed in several deities; nor, if the gods are parts of it, can they be brought together and changed into one living creature, with unity of feeling throughout all its parts. The moon, the sun, the earth, the ether, the stars, are members and parts of the world; but if they are parts and members, they are certainly not themselves(8) living creatures; for in no thing can parts be the very thing which the whole is, or think and feel for themselves, for this cannot be effected by their own actions, without the whole creature's joining in; and this being established and settled, the whole matter comes back to this, that neither Sol, nor Luna, nor AEther, Tellus, and the rest, are gods. For they are parts of the world, not the proper names of deities; and thus it is brought about that, by your disturbing and confusing all divine things, the world is set up as the sole god in the universe, while all the rest are cast aside, and that as having been set up vainly, uselessly, and without any reality.
36. If we sought to subvert the belief in your gods in so many ways, by so many arguments, no one would doubt that, mad with rage and fury, you would demand for us the stake, the beasts, and swords, with the other kinds of torture by which you usually appease your thirst in its intense craving for our blood. But while you yourselves put away almost the whole race of deities with a pretence of cleverness and wisdom, you do not hesitate to assert that, because of us, men suffer ill at the hands of the gods;(9) although, indeed, if it is true that they anywhere exist, and burn with anger and(10) rage, there can be no better reason for their showing anger against you,(11) than that you deny their existence, anti say that they are not found in any part of the universe.
37. We are told by Mnaseas that the Muses are the daughters of Tellus and Coelus; others declare that they are Jove's by his wife Memory, or Mens; some relate that they were virgins, others that they were matrons. For now we wish to touch briefly on the points where you are shown, from the difference of your opinions, to make different statements about the same thing. Ephorus, then, says that they are three(12) in number; Mnaseas, whom we mentioned, that they are four;(13) Myrtilus(14) brings forward seven; Crates asserts that there are eight; finally Hesiod, enriching heaven and the stars with gods, comes forward with nine names.(15)
If we are not mistaken, such want of agreement marks those who are wholly ignorant of the truth, and does not spring from the real state of the case. For if their number were clearly known, the voice of all would be the same, and the agreement of all would tend to and find issue in the same conclusion.(1)
38. How, then, can you give to religion its whole power, when you fill into error about the gods themselves? or summon us to their solemn worship, while you give us no definite information how to conceive of the deities themselves? For, to take no notice of the other(2) authors, either the first(3) makes away with and destroys six divine Muses, if they are certainly nine; or the last(4) adds six who have no existence to the three who alone really are; so that it cannot be known or understood what should be added, what taken away; and in the performance of religious rites we are in danger(5) of either worshipping that which does not exist, or passing that by which, it may be, does exist. Piso believes that the Novensiles are nine gods, set up among the Sabines at Trebia.(6) Granius thinks that they are the Muses, agreeing with AElius; Varro teaches that they are nine,(7) because, in doing anything, that number is always reputed most powerful and greatest; Cornificius,(8) that they watch over the renewing of things,(9) because, by their care, all things are afresh renewed in strength, and endure; Manilius, that they are the nine gods to whom alone Jupiter gave power to wield his thunder.(10) Cincius declares them to be deities brought from abroad, named from their very newness, because the Romans were in the habit of sometimes individually introducing into their families the rites(11) of conquered cities, while some they publicly consecrated; and lest, from their great number, or in ignorance, any god should be passed by, all alike were briefly and compendiously invoked under one name-- Novensiles.
39. There are some, besides, who assert that those who from being men became gods, are denoted by this name,--as Hercules, Romulus, AEculapius, Liber, AEneas. These are all, as is clear, different opinions; and it cannot be, in the nature of things, that those who differ in opinion can be regarded as teachers of one truth. For if Piso's opinion is true, AElius and Granius say what is false; if what they say is certain, Varro, with all his skill,(12) is mistaken, who substitutes things most frivolous and vain for those which really exist. If they are named Novensiles because their number is nine,(13) Cornificius is shown to stumble, who, giving them might and power not their own, makes them the divine overseers of renovation.(14) But if Cornificius is right in his belief, Cincius is found to be not wise, who connects with the power of the dii Novensiles the gods of conquered cities. But if they are those whom Cincius asserts them to be, Manilius will be found to speak falsely, who comprehends those who wield another's thunder under this name.(15) But if that which Manilius holds is true and certain, they are utterly mistaken who suppose that those raised to divine honours, and deified mortals, are thus named because of the novelty of their rank. But if the Novensiles are those who have deserved to be raised to the stars after passing through the life of men,(16) there are no dii Novensiles at all. For as slaves, soldiers, masters, are not names of persons comprehended under them,(17) but of officers, ranks, and duties, so, when we say that Novensiles is the name(18) of gods who by their virtues have become(19) gods from being men, it is clear and evident that no individual persons are marked out particularly, but that newness itself is named by the title Novensiles.
40. Nigidius taught that the dii Penates were Neptune and Apollo, who once, on fixed terms, girt Ilium(20) with walls. He himself again, in his sixteenth book, following Etruscan teaching, shows that there are four kinds of Penates; and that one of these pertains to Jupiter, another to Neptune, the third to the shades below, the fourth to mortal men, making some unintelligible assertion. Caesius himself, also, following this teaching, thinks that they are Fortune, and Ceres, the genius Jovialis,(21) and Pales, but not the female deity commonly received,(22) but some male attendant and steward of Jupiter. Varro thinks that they are the gods of whom we speak who are within, and in the inmost recesses of heaven, and that neither their number nor names are known. The Etruscans say that these are the Consentes and Complices,(23) and name them because they rise and fall together, six of them being male, and as many female, with unknown names and pitiless dispositions,(1) but they are considered the counsellors and princes of Jove supreme. There were some, too, who said that Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva were the dii Penates, without whom we cannot live and be wise, and by whom we are ruled within in reason, passion, and thought. As you see, even here, too, nothing is said harmoniously, nothing is settled with the consent of all, nor is there anything reliable on which the mind can take its stand, drawing by conjecture very near to the truth. For their opinions are so doubtful, and one supposition so discredited(2) by another, that there is either no truth in them all, or if it is uttered by any, it is not recognised amid so many different statements.
41. We can, if it is thought proper, speak briefly of the Lares also, whom the mass think to be the gods of streets and ways, because the Greeks name streets lauroe. In different parts of his writings, Nigidius speaks of them now as the guardians of houses and dwellings; now as the Curetes, who are said to have once concealed, by the clashing of cymbals,(3) the infantile cries of Jupiter; now the five Digiti Samothracii, who, the Greeks tell us, were named Idoei Dactyli. Varro, with like hesitation, says at one time that they are the Manes,(4) and therefore the mother of the Lares was named Mania; at another time, again, he maintains that they are gods of the air, and are termed heroes; at another, following the opinion of the ancients, he says that the Lares are ghosts, as it were a kind of tutelary demon, spirits of dead(5) men.
42. It is a vast and endless task to examine each kind separately, and make it evident even from your religious books that you neither hold nor believe that there is any god concerning whom you have not(6) brought forward doubtful and inconsistent statements, expressing a thousand different beliefs. But, to be brief, and avoid prolixity,(7) it is enough to have said what has been said; it is, further, too troublesome to gather together many things into one mass, since it is made manifest and evident in different ways that you waver, and say nothing with certainty of these things which you assert. But you will perhaps say, Even if we have no personal knowledge of the Lares, Novensiles, Penates, still the very agreement of our authors proves their existence, and that such a race(8) takes rank among the celestial gods. And how can it be known whether there is any god, if what he is shall be wholly unknown?(9) or how can it avail even to ask for benefits, if it is not settled and determined who should be invoked at each inquiry?(10) For every one who seeks to obtain an answer from any deity, should of necessity know to whom he makes supplication, on whom he calls, from whom he asks help for the affairs and occasions of human life; especially as you yourselves declare that all the gods do not have all power, and(11) that the wrath and anger of each are appeased by different rites.
43. For if this deity(12) requires a black, that(13) a white skin; if sacrifice must be made to this one with veiled, to that with uncovered head;(14) this one is consulted about marriages,(15) the other relieves distresses,--may it not be of some importance whether the one or the other is Novensills, since ignorance of the facts and confusion of persons displeases the gods, and leads necessarily to the contraction of guilt? For suppose that I myself, to avoid some inconvenience and peril, make supplication to any one of these deities, saying, Be present, be near, divine Penates, thou Apollo, and thou, O Neptune, and in your divine clemency turn away all these evils, by which I am annoyed,(16) troubled, and tormented: will there be any hope that I shall receive help from them, if Ceres, Pales, Fortune, or the genius Jovialis,(17) not Neptune and Apollo, shall be the dii Penates? Or if I invoked the Curetes instead of the Lares, whom some of your writers maintain to he the Digiti Samothracii, how shall I enjoy their help and favour, when I have not given them their own names, and have given to the others names not their own? Thus does our interest demand that we should rightly know the gods, and not hesitate or doubt about the power, the name of each; lest,(1) if they be invoked with rites and titles not their own, they have at once their ears stopped against our prayers, and hold us involved in guilt which may not be forgiven.
44. Wherefore, if you are assured that in the lofty palaces of heaven there dwells, there is, that multitude of deities whom you specify, you should make your stand on one proposition,(2) and not, divided by different and inconsistent opinions, destroy belief in the very things which you seek to establish. If there is a Janus, let Janus be; if a Bacchus, let Bacchus be; if a Summanus,(3) let Summanus be: for this is to confide, this to hold, to be settled in the knowledge of something ascertained, not to say after the manner of the blind and erring, The Novensiles are the Muses, in truth they are the Trebian gods, nay, their number is nine, or rather, they are the protectors of cities which have been overthrown; and bring so important matters into this danger, that while you remove some, and put others in their place, it may well be doubted of them all if they anywhere exist.