Back to The City of God Against the Pagans
| Book IV
ARGUMENT AS IN THE FOREGOING BOOK AUGUSTIN HAS PROVED REGARDING MORAL AND SPIRITUAL CALAMITIES, SO IN THIS BOOK HE PROVES REGARDING EXTERNAL AND BODILY DISASTERS, THAT SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE CITY THE ROMANS HAVE BEEN CONTINUALLY SUBJECT TO THEM; AND THAT EVEN WHEN THE FALSE GODS WERE WORSHIPPED WITHOUT A RIVAL, BEFORE THE ADVENT OF CHRIST, THEY AFFORDED NO RELIEF FROM SUCH CALAMITIES.
CHAPTER 1 OF THE ILLS WHICH ALONE THE WICKED FEAR, AND WHICH THE WORLD CONTINUALLY SUFFERED, EVEN WHEN THE GODS WERE WORSHIPPED
OF moral and spiritual evils, which are above all others to be deprecated
, I think enough has already been said to show that the false gods
took no steps to prevent the people who worshipped them from being overwhelmed by such calamities, but rather aggravated the ruin. I see I must now speak of those evils which alone are dreaded by the heathen — famine
, pillage, captivity, massacre, and the like calamities, already enumerated
in the first book
. For evil men account those things alone evil which do not make men evil; neither do they blush to praise good things, and yet to remain evil among the good things they praise. It grieves them more to own a bad house than a bad life, as if it were man's greatest good to have everything good but himself. But not even such evils as were alone dreaded by the heathen were warded off by their gods, even when they were most unrestrictedly worshipped. For in various times and places before the advent of our Redeemer
, the human race
was crushed with numberless and sometimes incredible calamities; and at that time what gods but those did the world worship, if you except the one nation of the Hebrews, and, beyond them, such individuals as the most secret and most just judgment of God counted worthy of divine grace
? But that I may not be prolix, I will be silent regarding the heavy calamities that have been suffered by any other nations, and will speak only of what happened to Rome and the Roman empire, by which I mean Rome properly so called, and those lands which already, before the coming of Christ, had by alliance or conquest become, as it were, members of the body of the state.
CHAPTER 2 WHETHER THE GODS, WHOM THE GREEKS AND ROMANS WORSHIPPED IN COMMON, WERE JUSTIFIED IN PERMITTING THE DESTRUCTION Or ILIUM
First, then, why was Troy
, the cradle of the Roman people (for I must not overlook nor disguise what I touched upon in the first book), conquered, taken and destroyed by the Greeks, though it esteemed and worshipped the same gods as they? Priam, some answer, paid the penalty of the perjury of his father Laomedon
. Then it is true that Laomedon
as his workmen. For the story goes that he promised them wages, and then broke his bargain. I wonder that famous diviner Apollo
toiled at so huge a work, and never suspected Laomedon
was going to cheat him of his pay. And Neptune too, his uncle, brother of Jupiter, king of the sea, it really was not seemly that he should be ignorant of what was to happen. For he is introduced by Homer (who lived and wrote before the building of Rome) as predicting something great of the posterity of Aeneas
, who in fact founded Rome. And as Homer says, Neptune also rescued Aeneas in a cloud from the wrath of Achilles
, though (according to Virgil
"All his will was to destroy His own creation, perjured
Gods, then, so great as Apollo
, in ignorance of the cheat that was to defraud them of their wages, built the walls of Troy for nothing but thanks and thankless people. There may be some doubt whether it is not a worse crime to believe such persons to be gods, than to cheat such gods. Even Homer himself did not give full credence to the story for while he represents Neptune, indeed, as hostile to the Trojans, he introduces Apollo as their champion, though the story implies that both were offended by that fraud. If, therefore, they believe their fables, let them blush to worship such gods; if they discredit the fables, let no more be said of the "Trojan perjury
;" or let them explain how the gods hated Trojan, but loved Roman perjury. For how did the conspiracy of Catiline, even in so large and corrupt a city, find so abundant a supply of men whose hands and tongues found them a living by perjury and civic broils? What else but perjury corrupted the judgments pronounced by so many of the senators? What else corrupted the people's votes and decisions of all causes tried before them? For it seems that the ancient practice of taking oaths has been preserved even in the midst of the greatest corruption, not for the sake of restraining wickedness by religious fear, but to complete the tale of crimes by adding that of perjury.
CHAPTER 3 THAT THE GODS COULD NOT BE OFFENDED BY THE ADULTERY OF PARIS, THIS CRIME BEING SO COMMON AMONG THEMSELVES
There is no ground, then, for representing the gods (by whom, as they say, that empire stood, though they are proved to have been conquered by the Greeks) as being enraged at the Trojan perjury. Neither, as others again plead in their defense, was it indignation at the adultery of Paris that caused them to withdraw their protection from Troy. For their habit is to be instigators and instructors in vice, not its avengers. "The city of Rome," says Sallust, "was first built and inhabited, as I have heard, by the Trojans, who, flying their country, under the conduct of Aeneas
, wandered about without making any settlement." If, then, the gods were of opinion that the adultery of Paris should be punished, it was chiefly the Romans, or at least the Romans also, who should have suffered; for the adultery was brought about by Aeneas' mother. But how could they hate in Paris
a crime which they made no objection to in their own sister Venus
, who (not to mention any other instance) committed adultery with Anchises
, and so became the mother of Aeneas? Is it because in the one case Menelaus
was aggrieved, while in the other Vulcan
connived at the crime? For the gods, I fancy, are so little jealous of their wives, that they make no scruple of sharing them with men. But perhaps I may be suspected of turning the myths into ridicule, and not handling so weighty a subject with sufficient gravity. Well, then, let us say that Aeneas
is not the son of Venus
. I am willing to admit it; but is Romulus
any more the son of Mars
? For why not the one as well as the other? Or is it lawful for gods to have intercourse with women, unlawful for men to have intercourse with goddesses? A hard, or rather an incredible condition, that what was allowed to Mars
by the law of Venus, should not be allowed to Venus herself by her own law. However, both cases have the authority of Rome; for Caesar
in modern times believed no less that he was descended from Venus
, than the ancient Romulus
believed himself the son of Mars.
CHAPTER 4 OF VARRO'S OPINION, THAT IT IS USEFUL FOR MEN TO FEIGN THEMSELVES THE OFFSPRING OF THE GODS.
Some one will say, But do you believe all this? Not I indeed. For even Varro
, a very learned heathen, all but admits that these stories are false, though he does not boldly and confidently say so. But he maintains it is useful for states that brave men believe, though falsely, that they are descended from the gods; for that thus the human spirit
, cherishing the belief of its divine descent, will both more boldly venture into great enterprises, and will carry them out more energetically, and will therefore by its very confidence secure more abundant success. You see how wide a field is opened to falsehood by this opinion of Varro's, which I have expressed as well as I could in my own words; and how comprehensible it is, that many of the religions and sacred legends should be feigned in a community in which it was judged profitable for the citizens that lies should be told even about the gods themselves.
CHAPTER 5 THAT IT IS NOT CREDIBLE THAT THE GODS SHOULD HAVE PUNISHED THE ADULTERY OF PARIS, SEEING THEY SHOWED NO INDIGNATION AT THE ADULTERY OF THE MOTHER OF ROMULUS
But whether Venus could bear Aeneas to a human father Anchises
, or Mars beget Romulus of the daughter of Numitor
, we leave as unsettled questions. For our own Scriptures suggest the very similar question, whether the fallen angels had sexual intercourse with the daughters of men, by which the earth was at that time filled with giants, that is, with enormously large and strong men. At present, then, I will limit my discussion to this dilemma
: If that which their books relate about the mother of Aeneas and the father of Romulus be true, how can the gods be displeased with men for adulteries which, when committed by themselves, excite no displeasure? If it is false, not even in this case can the gods be angry that men should really commit adulteries, which, even when falsely attributed to the gods, they delight in. Moreover, if the adultery of Mars be discredited, that Venus also may be freed from the imputation, then the mother of Romulus is left unshielded by the pretext of a divine seduction. For Sylvia
was a vestal
priestess, and the gods ought to avenge this sacrilege
on the Romans with greater severity than Paris' adultery on the Trojans. For even the Romans themselves in primitive times used to go so far as to bury alive any vestal who was detected in adultery, while women unconsecrated, though they were punished, were never punished with death for that crime; and thus they more earnestly vindicated the purity of shrines they esteemed divine, than of the human bed.
CHAPTER 6 THAT THE GODS EXACTED NO PENALTY FOR THE FRATRICIDAL ACT OF ROMULUS
I add another instance: If the sins of men so greatly incensed those divinities, that they abandoned Troy
to fire and sword to punish the crime of Paris
, the murder of Romulus
' brother ought to have incensed them more against the Romans than the cajoling
of a Greek husband moved them against the Trojans: fratricide
in a newly-born
city should have provoked them more than adultery in a city already flourishing. It makes no difference to the question we now discuss, whether Romulus
ordered his brother to be slain, or slew him with his own hand; it is a crime which many shamelessly deny, many through shame doubt, many in grief disguise. And we shall not pause to examine and weigh the testimonies of historical writers on the subject. All agree that the brother of Romulus was slain, not by enemies, not by strangers. If it was Romulus who either commanded or perpetrated this crime; Romulus was more truly the head of the Romans than Paris of the Trojans; why then did he who carried off another man's wife bring down the anger of the gods on the Trojans, while he who took his brother's life obtained the guardianship of those same gods? If, on the other hand, that crime was not wrought either by the hand or will of Romulus, then the whole city is chargeable with it, because it did not see to its punishment, and thus committed, not fratricide
, but parricide, which is worse. For both brothers were the founders of that city, of which the one was by villainy
prevented from being a ruler. So far as I see, then, no evil can be ascribed to Troy which warranted the gods in abandoning it to destruction, nor any good to Rome which accounts for the gods visiting it with prosperity; unless the truth be, that they fled from Troy because they were vanquished, and betook themselves to Rome to practice their characteristic deceptions there. Nevertheless they kept a footing for themselves in Troy, that they might deceive future inhabitants who re-peopled
these lands: while at Rome, by a rider exercise of their malignant arts, they exulted in more abundant honors.
CHAPTER 7 OF THE DESTRUCTION OF ILIUM BY FIMBRIA, A LIEUTENANT OF MARIUS
And surely we may ask what wrong poor Ilium had done, that, in the first heat of the civil wars of Rome, it should suffer at the hand of Fimbria
, the veriest
villain among Marius
' partisans, a more fierce and cruel destruction than the Grecian sack. For when the Greeks took it many escaped, and many who did not escape were suffered to live, though in captivity. But Fimbria
from the first gave orders that not a life should be spared, and burnt up together the city and all its inhabitants. Thus was Ilium
requited, not by the Greeks
, whom she had provoked by wrong-doing; but by the Romans, who had been built out of her ruins; while the gods, adored alike of both sides, did simply nothing, or, to speak more correctly, could do nothing. Is it then true, that at this time also, after Troy
had repaired the damage done by the Grecian fire, all the gods by whose help the kingdom stood, "forsook each fane, each sacred shrine?"
But if so, I ask the reason; for in my judgment, the conduct of the gods was as much to be reprobated as that of the townsmen to be applauded. For these closed their gates against Fimbria
, that they might preserve the city for Sylla, and were therefore burnt and consumed by the enraged general. Now, up to this time, Sylla's cause was the more worthy of the two; for till now he used arms to restore the republic, and as yet his good intentions had met with no reverses. What better thing, then, could the Trojans
have done? What more honorable, what more faithful to Rome, or more worthy of her relationship, than to preserve their city for the better part of the Romans, and to shut their gates against a parricide of his country? It is for the defenders of the gods to consider the ruin which this conduct brought on Troy. The gods deserted an adulterous people, and abandoned Troy to the fires of the Greeks, that out of her ashes a chaster Rome might arise. But why did they a second time abandon this same town, allied now to Rome, and not making war upon her noble daughter, but preserving a most steadfast and pious fidelity to Rome's most justifiable faction? Why did they give her up to be destroyed, not by the Greek heroes, but by the basest of the Romans? Or, if the gods did not favor Sylla
's cause, for which the unhappy Trojans maintained their city, why did they themselves predict and promise Sylla such successes? Must we call them flatterers of the fortunate, rather than helpers of the wretched? Troy was not destroyed, then, because the gods deserted it. For the demons, always watchful to deceive, did what they could. For, when all the statues were overthrown and burnt together with the town, Livy tells us that only the image of Minerva is said to have been found standing uninjured amidst the ruins of her temple; not that it might be said in their praise, "The gods who made this realm divine," but that it might not be said in their defense, They are "gone from each fane, each sacred shrine:" for that marvel was permitted to them, not that they might be proved to be powerful, but that they might be convicted of being present.
CHAPTER 8 WHETHER ROME OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED TO THE TROJAN GODS?
Where, then, was the wisdom of entrusting Rome to the Trojan gods, who had demonstrated their weakness in the loss of Troy? Will some one say that, when Fimbria
, the gods were already resident in Rome? How, then, did the image of Minerva
remain standing? Besides, if they were at Rome when Fimbria
destroyed Troy, perhaps they were at Troy when Rome itself was taken and set on fire by the Gauls
. But as they are very acute in hearing, and very swift in their movements, they came quickly at the cackling of the goose to defend at least the Capitol
, though to defend the rest of the city they were too long in being warned.
CHAPTER 9 WHETHER IT IS CREDIBLE THAT THE PEACE DURING THE REIGN OF NUMA WAS BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE GODS
It is also believed that it was by the help of the gods that the successor of Romulus
, Numa Pompilius
, enjoyed peace during his entire reign, and shut the gates of Janus
, which are customarily kept open during war. And it is supposed he was thus requited for appointing many religious observances among the Romans. Certainly that king would have commanded our congratulations for so rare a leisure, had he been wise enough to spend it on wholesome pursuits, and, subduing a pernicious curiosity, had sought out the true God with true piety. But as it was, the gods were not the authors of his leisure; but possibly they would have deceived him less had they found him busier. For the more disengaged they found him, the more they themselves occupied his attention. Varro informs us of all his efforts, and of the arts he employed to associate these gods with himself and the city; and in its own place, if God will, I shall discuss these matters. Meanwhile, as we are speaking of the benefits conferred by the gods, I readily admit that peace is a great benefit; but it is a benefit of the true God, which, like the sun, the rain, and other supports of life, is frequently conferred on the ungrateful and wicked. But if this great boon was conferred on Rome and Pompilius by their gods, why did they never afterwards grant it to the Roman empire during even more meritorious periods? Were the sacred rites more efficient at their first institution than during their subsequent celebration? But they had no existence in Numa
's time, until he added them to the ritual; whereas afterwards they had already been celebrated and preserved, that benefit might arise from them. How, then, is it that those forty-three, or as others prefer it, thirty-nine years of Numa's reign, were passed in unbroken peace, and yet that afterwards, when the worship was established, and the gods themselves, who were invoked by it, were the recognized guardians and patrons of the city, we can with difficulty find during the whole period, from the building of the city to the reign of Augustus, one year — that, viz., which followed the close of the first Punic war
— in which, for a marvel, the mans were able to shut the gates of war?
CHAPTER 10 WHETHER IT WAS DESIRABLE THAT THE ROMAN EMPIRE SHOULD BE INCREASED BY SUCH A FURIOUS SUCCESSION OF WARS, WHEN IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN QUIET AND SAFE BY FOLLOWING IN THE PEACEFUL WAYS OF NUMA
Do they reply that the Roman empire could never have been so widely extended, nor so glorious, save by constant and unintermitting wars? A fit argument, truly! Why must a kingdom be distracted in order to be great? In this little world of man's body, is it not better to have a moderate stature, and health with it, than to attain the huge dimensions of a giant by unnatural torments, and when you attain it to find no rest, but to be pained the more in proportion to the size of your members? What evil would have resulted, or rather what good would not have resulted, had those times continued which Sallust sketched, when he says, "At first the kings (for that was the first title of empire in the world) were divided in their sentiments: part cultivated the mind, others the body: at that time the life of men was led without coveteousness; every one was sufficiently satisfied with his own!" Was it requisite, then, for Rome's prosperity, that the state of things which Virgil reprobates
"At length stole on a baser age And war's indomitable rage, And greedy lust of gain?"
But obviously the Romans have a plausible defense for undertaking and carrying on such disastrous wars, — to wit, that the pressure of their enemies forced them to resist, so that they were compelled to fight, not by any greed of human applause, but by the necessity of protecting life and liberty. Well, let that pass. Here is Sallust
's account of the matter: "For when their state, enriched with laws, institutions, territory, seemed abundantly prosperous and sufficiently powerful, according to the ordinary law of human nature, opulence gave birth to envy. Accordingly, the neighboring kings and states took arms and assaulted them. A few allies lent assistance; the rest, struck with fear, kept aloof from dangers. But the Romans, watchful at home and in war, were active, made preparations, encouraged one another, marched to meet their enemies, — protected by arms their liberty, country, parents. Afterwards, when they had repelled the dangers by their bravery, they carried help to their allies and friends, and procured alliances more by conferring than by receiving favors." This was to build up Rome's greatness by honorable means. But, in Numa's reign, I would know whether the long peace was maintained in spite of the incursions of wicked neighbors, or if these incursions were discontinued that the peace might be maintained? For if even then Rome was harassed by wars, and yet did not meet force with force, the same means she then used to quiet her enemies without conquering them in war, or terrifying them with the onset of battle, she might have used always, and have reigned in peace with the gates of Janus shut. And if this was not in her power, then Rome enjoyed peace not at the will of her gods, but at the will of her neighbors round about, and only so long as they cared to provoke her with no war, unless perhaps these pitiful gods will dare to sell to one man as their favor what lies not in their power to bestow, but in the will of another man. These demons, indeed, in so far as they are permitted, can terrify or incite the minds of wicked men by their own peculiar wickedness. But if they always had this power, and if no action were taken against their efforts by a more secret and higher power, they would be supreme to give peace or the victories of war, which almost always fall out through some human emotion, and frequently in opposition to the will of the gods, as is proved not only by lying legends, which scarcely hint or signify any grain of truth, but even by Roman history itself.
CHAPTER 11 OF THE STATUE OF APOLLO AT CUMAE, WHOSE TEARS ARE SUPPOSED TO HAVE PORTENDED DISASTER TO THE GREEKS, WHOM THE GOD WAS UNABLE TO SUCCOR
And it is still this weakness of the gods which is confessed in the story of the Cuman Apollo, who is said to have wept for four days during the war with the Achaeans
and King Aristonicus
. And when the augurs were alarmed at the portent, and had determined to cast the statue into the sea, the old men of Cumae interposed, and related that a similar prodigy had occurred to the same image during the wars against Antiochus
and against Perseus
, and that by a decree of the senate, gifts had been presented to Apollo
, because the event had proved favorable to the Romans. Then soothsayers were summoned who were supposed to have greater professional skill, and they pronounced that the weeping of Apollo's image was propitious to the Romans, because Cumae was a Greek colony, and that Apollo was bewailing (and thereby presaging) the grief and calamity that was about to light upon his own land of Greece, from which he had been brought. Shortly afterwards it was reported that King Aristonicus
was defeated and made prisoner, — a defeat certainly opposed to the will of Apollo; and this he indicated by even shedding tears from his marble image. And this shows us that, though the verses of the poets are mythical, they are not altogether devoid of truth, but describe the manners of the demons in a sufficiently fit style. For in Virgil, Diana
mourned for Camilla
, and Hercules wept for Pallas doomed to die. This is perhaps the reason why Numa Pompilius
, too, when, enjoying prolonged peace, but without knowing or inquiring from whom he received it, he began in his leisure to consider to what gods he should entrust the safe keeping and conduct of Rome, and not dreaming that the true, almighty, and most high God cares for earthly affairs, but recollecting only that the Trojan gods which Aeneas had brought to Italy had been able to preserve neither the Trojan nor Lavinian kingdom rounded by Aeneas himself, concluded that he must provide other gods as guardians of fugitives and helpers of the weak, and add them to those earlier divinities who had either come over to Rome with Romulus, or when Alba was destroyed.
CHAPTER 12 THAT THE ROMANS ADDED A VAST NUMBER OF GODS TO THOSE INTRODUCED BY NUMA, AND THAT THEIR NUMBERS HELPED THEM NOT AT ALL
But though Pompilius introduced so ample a ritual, yet did not Rome see fit to be content with it. For as yet Jupiter
himself had not his chief temple, — it being King Tarquin
who built the Capitol. And Aesculapius left Epidaurus for Rome, that in this foremost city he might have a finer field for the exercise of his great medical skill. The mother of the gods, too, came I know not whence from Pessinuns; it being unseemly that, while her son presided on the Capitoline hill
, she herself should lie hid in obscurity. But if she is the mother of all the gods, she not only followed some of her children to Rome, but left others to follow her. I wonder, indeed, if she were the mother of Cynocephalus
, who a long while afterwards came from Egypt. Whether also the goddess Fever was her offspring, is a matter for her grandson Aesculapius to decide. But of whatever breed she be, the foreign gods will not presume, I trust, to call a goddess base-born
who is a Roman citizen. Who can number the deities to whom the guardianship of Rome was entrusted? Indigenous and imported, both of heaven, earth, hell, seas, fountains, rivers; and, as Varro says, gods certain and uncertain, male and female: for, as among animals, so among all kinds of gods are there these distinctions. Rome, then, enjoying the protection of such a cloud of deities, might surely have been preserved from some of those great and horrible calamities, of which I can mention but a few. For by the great smoke of her altars she summoned to her protection, as by a beacon-fire, a host of gods, for whom she appointed and maintained temples, altars, sacrifices, priests, and thus offended the true and most high God, to whom alone all this ceremonial is lawfully due. And, indeed, she was more prosperous when she had fewer gods; but the greater she became, the more gods she thought she should have, as the larger ship needs to be manned by a larger crew. I suppose she despaired of the smaller number, under whose protection she had spent comparatively happy days, being able to defend her greatness. For even under the kings (with the exception of Numa Pompilius
, of whom I have already spoken), how wicked a contentiousness must have existed to occasion the death of Romulus
CHAPTER 13 BY WHAT RIGHT OR AGREEMENT THEROMANS OBTAINED THEIR FIRST WIVES
How is it that neither Juno
, who with her husband Jupiter
even then cherished
"Rome's sons, the nation of the gown," nor Venus
herself, could assist the children of the loved Aeneas to find wives by some right and equitable means? For the lack of this entailed upon the Romans the lamentable necessity of stealing their wives, and then waging war with their fathers-in-law; so that the wretched women, before they had recovered from the wrong done them by their husbands, were dowried with the blood of their fathers. "But the Romans conquered their neighbors." Yes; but with what wounds on both sides, and with what sad slaughter of relatives and neighbors! The war of Caesar and Pompey was the contest of only one father-in-law with one son-in-law; and before it began, the daughter of Caesar
's wife, was already dead. But with how keen and just an accent of grief does Lucan
exclaim: "I sing that worse than civil war waged in the plains of Emathia
, and in which the crime was justified by the victory!"
The Romans, then, conquered that they might, with hands stained in the blood of their fathers-in-law, wrench the miserable girls from their embrace, — girls who dared not weep for their slain parents, for fear of offending their victorious husbands; and while yet the battle was raging, stood with their prayers on their lips, and knew not for whom to utter them. Such nuptials were certainly prepared for the Roman people not by Venus, but Bellona
; or possibly that infernal fury Alecto
had more liberty to injure them now that Juno was aiding them, than when the prayers of that goddess had excited her against Aeneas. Andromache in captivity was happier than these Roman brides. For though she was a slave, yet, after she had become the wife of Pyrrhus, no more Trojans fell by his hand but the Romans slew in battle the very fathers of the brides they fondled. Andromache
, the victor's captive, could only mourn, not fear, the death of her people. The Sabine women, related to men still combatants, feared the death of their fathers when their husbands went out to battle, and mourned their death as they returned, while neither their grief nor their fear could be freely expressed. For the victories of their husbands, involving the destruction of fellow-townsmen, relatives, brothers, fathers, caused either pious agony or cruel exultation
. Moreover, as the fortune of war is capricious, some of them lost their husbands by the sword of their parents, while others lost husband and father together in mutual destruction. For the Romans by no means escaped with impunity
, but they were driven back within their walls, and defended themselves behind closed gates; and when the gates were opened by guile, and the enemy admitted into the town, the Forum itself was the field of a hateful and fierce engagement of fathers-in-law and sons-in-law. The ravishers were indeed quite defeated, and, flying on all sides to their houses, sullied with new shame their original shameful and lamentable triumph. It was at this juncture that Romulus, hoping no more from the valor of his citizens, prayed Jupiter that they might stand their ground; and from this occasion the god gained the name of Stator. But not even thus would the mischief have been finished, had not the ravished women themselves flashed out with disheveled hair, and cast themselves before their parents, and thus disarmed their just rage, not with the arms of victory, but with the supplications of filial affection. Then Romulus, who could not brook his own brother as a colleague, was compelled to accept Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, as his partner on the throne. But how long would he who misliked the fellowship of his own twin-brother endure a stranger? So, Tatius being slain, Romulus
remained sole king, that he might be the greater god. See what rights of marriage these were that fomented unnatural wars. These were the Roman leagues of kindred, relationship, alliance, religion. This was the life of the city so abundantly protected by the gods. You see how many severe things might be said on this theme; but our purpose carries us past them, and requires our discourse for other matters.
CHAPTER 14 OF THE WICKEDNESS OF THE WAR WAGED BY THE ROMANS AGAINST THE ALBANS, AND OF THE VICTORIES WON BY THE LUST OF POWER
But what happened after Numa's reign, and under the other kings, when the Albans were provoked into war, with sad results not to themselves alone, but also to the Romans? The long peace of Numa had become tedious; and with what endless slaughter and detriment of both states did the Roman and Alban armies bring it to an end! For Alba
, which had been rounded by Ascanius, son of Aeneas, and which was more properly the mother of Rome than Troy herself, was provoked to battle by Tullus Hostilius
, king of Rome, and in the conflict both inflicted and received such damage, that at length both parties wearied of the struggle. It was then devised that the war should be decided by the combat of three twin-brothers from each army: from the Romans the three Horatii stood forward, from the Albans the three Curiatii
. Two of the Horatii
were overcome and disposed of by the Curiatii
; but by the remaining Horatius the three Curiatii were slain. Thus Rome remained victorious, but with such a sacrifice that only one survivor returned to his home. Whose was the loss on both sides? Whose the grief, but of the offspring of Aeneas, the descendants of Ascanius, the progeny of Venus, the grandsons of Jupiter? For this, too, was a "worse than civil" war, in which the belligerent states were mother and daughter. And to this combat of the three twin-brothers there was added another atrocious and horrible catastrophe. For as the two nations had formerly been friendly (being related and neighbors), the sister of the Horatii had been betrothed to one of the Curiatii; and she, when she saw her brother wearing the spoils of her betrothed, burst into tears, and was slain by her own brother in his anger. To me, this one girl seems to have been more humane than the Whole Roman people. I cannot think her to blame for lamenting the man to whom already she had plighted her troth, or, as perhaps she was doing, for grieving that her brother should have slain him to whom he had promised his sister. For why do we praise the grief of Aeneas (in Virgil
) over the enemy cut down even by his own hand? Why did Marcellus shed tears over the city of Syracuse
, when he recollected, just before he destroyed, its magnificence and meridian glory, and thought upon the common lot of all things? I demand, in the name of humanity, that if men are praised for tears shed over enemies conquered by themselves, a weak girl should not be counted criminal for bewailing her lover slaughtered by the hand of her brother. While, then, that maiden was weeping for the death of her betrothed inflicted by her brother's hand, Rome was rejoicing that such devastation had been wrought on her mother state, and that she had purchased a victory with such an expenditure of the common blood of herself and the Albans.
Why allege to me the mere names and words of "glory" and "victory?" Tear off the disguise of wild delusion, and look at the naked deeds: weigh them naked, judge them naked. Let the charge be brought against Alba, as Troy was charged with adultery. There is no such charge, none like it found: the war was kindled only in order that there
"Might sound in languid
ears the cry Of Tullus and of victory."
This vice of restless ambition was the sole motive to that social and parricidal war, — a vice which Sallust
brands in passing; for when he has spoken with brief but hearty commendation of those primitive times in which life was spent without covetousness, and every one was sufficiently satisfied with what he had, he goes on: "But after Cyrus
in Asia, and the Lacedemonians
in Greece, began to subdue cities and nations, and to account the lust of sovereignty a sufficient ground for war, and to reckon that the greatest glory consisted in the greatest empire;" and so on, as I need not now quote. This lust of sovereignty disturbs and consumes the human race with frightful ills. By this lust Rome was overcome when she triumphed over Alba, and praising her own crime, called it glory. For, as our Scriptures say, "the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth." Away, then, with these deceitful masks, these deluding whitewashes, that things may be truthfully seen and scrutinized. Let no man tell me that this and the other was a "great" man, because he fought and conquered so and so. Gladiators fight and conquer, and this barbarism has its meed of praise; but I think it were better to take the consequences of any sloth, than to seek the glory won by such arms. And if two gladiators entered the arena to fight, one being father, the other his son, who would endure such a spectacle? who would not be revolted by it? How, then, could that be a glorious war which a daughter-state waged against its mother? Or did it constitute a difference, that the battlefield was not an arena, and that the wide plains were filled with the carcasses not of two gladiators, but of many of the flower of two nations; and that those contests were viewed not by the amphitheater, but by the whole world, and furnished a profane spectacle both to those alive at the time, and to their posterity, so long as the fame of it is handed down?
Yet those gods, guardians of the Roman empire, and, as it were, theatric spectators of such contests as these, were not satisfied until the sister of the Horatii was added by her brother's sword as a third victim from the Roman side, so that Rome herself, though she won the day, should have as many deaths to mourn. Afterwards, as a fruit of the victory, Alba was destroyed, though it was there the Trojan gods had formed a third asylum after Ilium had been sacked by the Greeks, and after they had left Lavinium
, where Aeneas had founded a kingdom in a land of banishment. But probably Alba was destroyed because from it too the gods had migrated, in their usual fashion, as Virgil says:
"Gone from each fane, each sacred shrine, Are those who made this realm divine."
Gone, indeed, and from now their third asylum
, that Rome might seem all the wiser m committing herself to them after they had deserted three other cities. Alba, whose king Amulius had banished his brother, displeased them; Rome, whose king Romulus had slain his brother, pleased them. But before Alba was destroyed, its population, they say, was amalgamated with the inhabitants of Rome so that the two cities were one. Well, admitting it was so, yet the fact remains that the city of Ascanius
, the third retreat of the Trojan gods, was destroyed by the daughter-city. Besides, to effect this pitiful conglomerate of the war's leavings, much blood was spilt on both sides. And how shall I speak in detail of the same wars, so often renewed in subsequent reigns, though they seemed to have been finished by great victories; and of wars that time after time were brought to an end by great slaughters, and which yet time after time were renewed by the posterity of those who had made peace and struck treaties? Of this calamitous history we have no small proof, in the fact that no subsequent king closed the gates of war; and therefore with all their tutelar gods, no one of them reigned in peace.
CHAPTER 15 WHAT MANNER OF LIFE AND DEATH THE ROMAN KINGS HAD
And what was the end of the kings themselves? Of Romulus, a flattering legend tells us that he was assumed into heaven. But certain Roman historians relate that he was torn in pieces by the senate for his ferocity, and that a man, Julius Proculus
, was suborned to give out that Romulus had appeared to him, and through him commanded the Roman people to worship him as a god; and that in this way the people, who were beginning to resent the action of the senate, were quieted and pacified. For an eclipse of the sun had also happened; and this was attributed to the divine power of Romulus by the ignorant multitude, who did not know that it was brought about by the fixed laws of the sun's course: though this grief of the sun might rather have been considered proof that Romulus
had been slain, and that the crime was indicated by this deprivation of the sun's light; as, in truth, was the case when the Lord was crucified through the cruelty and impiety of the Jews. For it is sufficiently demonstrated that this latter obscuration of the sun did not occur by the natural laws of the heavenly bodies, because it was then the Jewish Passover, which is held only at full moon, whereas natural eclipses of the sun happen only at the last quarter of the moon. Cicero
, too, shows plainly enough that the apotheosis
was imaginary rather than real, when, even while he is praising him in one of Scipio
's remarks in the De Republica
, he says: "Such a reputation had he acquired, that when he suddenly disappeared during an eclipse of the sun, he was supposed to have been assumed into the number of the gods, which could be supposed of no mortal who had not the highest reputation for virtue." By these words, "he suddenly disappeared," we are to understand that he was mysteriously made away with by the violence either of the tempest or of a murderous assault. For their other writers speak not only of an eclipse, but of a sudden storm also, which certainly either afforded opportunity for the crime, or itself made an end of Romulus. And of Tullus Hostilius
, who was the third king of Rome, and who was himself destroyed by lightning, Cicero
in the same book says, that "he was not supposed to have been deified by this death, possibly because the Romans were unwilling W vulgarize the promotion they were assured or persuaded of in the case of Romulus, lest they should bring it into contempt by gratuitously assigning it to all and sundry." In one of his invectives, too, he says, in round terms, "The founder of this city, Romulus
, we have raised to immortality and divinity by kindly celebrating his services;" implying that his deification was not real, but reputed, and called so by courtesy on account of his virtues. In the dialogue Hortensius
too, while speaking of the regular eclipses of the sun, he says that they "produce the same darkness as covered the death of Romulus, which happened during an eclipse of the sun." Here you see he does not at all shrink from speaking of his "death," for Cicero was more of a reasoner than an eulogist.
The other kings of Rome, too, with the exception of Numa Pompilius
and Ancus Marcius
, who died natural deaths, what horrible ends they had! Tullus Hostilius
, the conqueror and destroyer of Alba, was, as I said, himself and all his house consumed by lightning. Priscus Tarquinius
was slain by his predecessor's sons. Servius Tullius
was foully murdered by his son-in-law Tarquinius Super-bus
, who succeeded him on the throne. Nor did so flagrant a parricide committed against Rome's best king drive from their altars and shrines those gods who were said to have been moved by Paris' adultery to treat poor Troy
in this style, and abandon it to the fire and sword of the Greeks. Nay, the very Tarquin
who had murdered, was allowed to succeed his father-in-law. And this infamous parricide
, during the reign he had secured by murder, was allowed to triumph in many victorious wars, and to build the Capitol from their spoils; the gods meanwhile not departing, but abiding, and abetting, and suffering their king Jupiter
to preside and reign over them in that very splendid Capitol
, the work of a parricide. For he did not build the Capitol in the days of his innocence, and then suffer banishment for subsequent crimes; but to that reign during which he built the Capitol, he won his way by unnatural crime. And when he was afterwards banished by the Romans, and forbidden the city, it was not for his own but his son's wickedness in the affair of Lucretia
, — a crime perpetrated not only without his cognizance, but in his absence. For at that time he was besieging Ardea, and fighting Rome's battles; and we cannot say what he would have done had he been aware of his son's crime. Notwithstanding, though his opinion was neither inquired into nor ascertained, the people stripped him of royalty; and when he returned to Rome with his army, it was admitted, but he was excluded, abandoned by his troops, and the gates shut in his face. And yet, after he had appealed to the neighboring states, and tormented the Romans with calamitous but unsuccessful wars, and when he was deserted by the ally on whom he most depended, despairing of regaining the kingdom, he lived a retired and quiet life for fourteen years, as it is reported, in Tusculum, a Roman town, where he grew old in his wife's company, and at last terminated his days in a much more desirable fashion than his father-in-law, who had perished by the hand of his son-in-law; his own daughter abetting, if report be true. And this Tarquin the Romans called, not the Cruel, nor the Infamous, but the Proud; their own pride perhaps resenting his tyrannical airs. So little did they make of his murdering their best king, his own father-in-law, that they elected him their own king. I wonder if it was not even more criminal in them to reward so bountifully so great a criminal. And yet there was no word of the gods abandoning the altars; unless, perhaps, some one will say in defense of the gods, that they remained at Rome for the purpose of punishing the Romans, rather than of aiding and profiting them, seducing them by empty victories, and wearing them out by severe wars. Such was the life of the Romans under the kings during the much-praised epoch of the state which extends to the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus in the 243d year, during which all those victories, which were bought with so much blood and such disasters, hardly pushed Rome's dominion twenty miles from the city; a territory which would by no means bear comparison with that of any petty Gaetulian state.
CHAPTER 16 OF THE FIRST ROMAN CONSULS THE ONE OF WHOM DROVE THE OTHER FROM THE COUNTRY, AND SHORTLY AFTER PERISHED AT ROME BY THE HAND OF A WOUNDED ENEMY, AND SO ENDED A CAREER OF UNNATURAL MURDERS
To this epoch let us add also that of which Sallust says, that it was ordered with justice and moderation, while the fear of Tarquin and of a war with Etruria was impending. For so long as the Etrurians aided the efforts of Tarquin to regain the throne, Rome was convulsed with distressing war. And therefore he says that the state was ordered with justice and moderation, through the pressure of fear, not through the influence of equity. And in this very brief period, how calamitous a year was that in which consuls were first created, when the kingly power was abolished! They did not fulfill their term of office. For Junius Brutus
deprived his colleague Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus
, and banished him from the city; and shortly after he himself fell in battle, at once slaying and slain, having formerly put to death his own sons and his brothers-in-law, because he had discovered that they were conspiring to restore Tarquin. It is this deed that Virgil shudders to record, even while he seems to praise it; for when he says:
"And call his own rebellious seed For menaced liberty to bleed,"
he immediately exclaims, "Unhappy father! howsoe'er The deed be judged by after days;" that is to say, let posterity judge the deed as they please, let them praise and extol the father who slew his sons, he is unhappy. And then he adds, as if to console so unhappy a man:
"His country's love shall all o'erbear, And unextinguished thirst of praise."
In the tragic end of Brutus
, who slew his own sons, and though he slew his enemy, Tarquin's son, yet could not survive him, but was survived by Tarquin the elder, does not the innocence of his colleague Collatinus seem to be vindicated, who, though a good citizen, suffered the same punishment as Tarquin himself, when that tyrant was banished? For Brutus himself is said to have been a relative of Tarquin. But Collatinus had the misfortune to bear not only the blood, but the name of Tarquin. To change his name, then, not his country, would have been his fit penalty: to abridge his name by this word, and be called simply L. Collatinus
. But he was not compelled to lose what he could lose without detriment, but was stripped of the honor of the first consulship, and was banished from the land he loved. Is this, then, the glory of Brutus — this injustice, alike detestable and profitless to the republic? Was it to this he was driven by "his country's love, and unextinguished thirst of praise?"
When Tarquin the tyrant was expelled, L. Tarquinius Collatinus
, the husband of Lucretia, was created consul along with Brutus. How justly the people acted, in looking more to the character than the name of a citizen! How unjustly Brutus acted, in depriving of honor and country his colleague in that new office, whom he might have deprived of his name, if it were so offensive to him! Such were the ills, such the disasters, which fell out when the government was "ordered with justice and moderation." Lucretius, too, who succeeded Brutus, was carried off by disease before the end of that same year. So P. Valerius, who succeeded Collatinus
, and M. Horatius
, who filled the vacancy occasioned by the death of Lucretius, completed that disastrous and funereal year, which had five consuls. Such was the year in which the Roman republic inaugurated the new honor and office of the consulship.
CHAPTER 17 OF THE DISASTERS WHICH VEXED THE ROMAN REPUBLIC AFTER THE INAUGURATION OF THE CONSULSHIP, AND OF THE NON-INTERVENTION OF THE GODS OF ROME
After this, when their fears were gradually diminished, — not because the wars ceased, but because they were not so furious, — that period in which things were "ordered with justice and moderation" drew to an end, and there followed that state of matters which Sallust thus briefly sketches: "Then began the patricians to oppress the people as slaves, to condemn them to death or scourging, as the kings had done, to drive them from their holdings, and to tyrannize over those who had no property to lose. The people, overwhelmed by these oppressive measures, and most of all by usury, and obliged to contribute both money and personal service to the constant wars, at length took arms and seceded to Mount Aventine
and Mount Sacer
, and thus secured for themselves tribunes and protective laws. But it was only the second Punic war
that put an end on both sides to discord and strife." But why should I spend time in writing such things, or make others spend it in reading them? Let the terse summary of Sallust suffice to intimate the misery of the republic through all that long period till the second Punic war
, — how it was distracted from without by unceasing wars, and tom with civil broils and dissensions. So that those victories they boast were not the substantial joys of the happy, but the empty comforts of wretched men, and seductive incitements to turbulent men to concoct disasters upon disasters. And let not the good and prudent Romans be angry at our saying this; and indeed we need neither deprecate nor denounce their anger, for we know they will harbor none. For we speak no more severely than their own authors, and much less elaborately and strikingly; yet they diligently read these authors, and compel their children to learn them. But they who are angry, what would they do to me were I to say what Sallust says? "Frequent mobs, seditions, and at last civil wars, became common, while a few leading men on whom the masses were dependent, affected supreme power under the seemly pretense of seeking the good of senate and people; citizens were judged good or bad without reference to their loyalty to the republic (for all were equally corrupt); but the wealthy and dangerously powerful were esteemed good citizens, because they maintained the existing state of things." Now, if those historians judged that an honorable freedom of speech required that they should not be silent regarding the blemishes of their own state, which they have in many places loudly applauded in their ignorance of that other and true city in which citizenship is an everlasting dignity; what does it become us to do, whose liberty ought to be so much greater, as our hope in God is better and more assured, when they impute to our Christ the calamities of this age, in order that men of the less instructed and weaker sort may be alienated from that city in which alone eternal and blessed life can be enjoyed? Nor do we utter against their gods anything more horrible than their own authors do, whom they read and circulate. For, indeed, all that we have said we have derived from them, and there is much more to say of a worse kind which we are unable to say.
Where, then, were those gods who are supposed to be justly worshipped for the slender and delusive prosperity of this world, when the Romans, who were seduced to their service by lying wiles, were harassed by such calamities? Where were they when Valerius the consul was killed while defending the Capitol, that had been fired by exiles and slaves? He was himself better able to defend the temple of Jupiter, than that crowd of divinities with their most high and mighty king, whose temple he came to the rescue of were able to defend him. Where were they when the city, worn out with unceasing seditions, was waiting in some kind of calm for the return of the ambassadors who had been sent to Athens to borrow laws, and was desolated by dreadful famine and pestilence? Where were they when the people, again distressed with famine, created for the first time a prefect of the market; and when Spurius Melius, who, as the famine increased, distributed corn to the furnishing masses, was accused of aspiring to royalty, and at the instance of this same prefect, and on the authority of the superannuated
dictator L. Quintius, was put to death by Quintus Servilius
, master of the horse, — an event which occasioned a serious and dangerous riot? Where were they when that very severe pestilence visited Rome, on account of which the people, after long and wearisome and useless supplications of the helpless gods, conceived the idea of celebrating Lectisternia
, which had never been done before; that is to say, they set couches in honor of the gods, which accounts for the name of this sacred rite, or rather sacrilege? Where were they when, during ten successive years of reverses, the Roman army suffered frequent and great losses among the Veians and would have been destroyed but for the succor of Furius Camillus, who was afterwards banished by an ungrateful country? Where were they when the Gauls took sacked, burned, and desolated Rome? Where were they when that memorable pestilence wrought such destruction, in which Furius Camillus too perished, who first defended the ungrateful republic from the Veians, and afterwards saved it from the Gauls
? Nay, during this plague, they introduced a new pestilence of scenic entertainments, which spread its more fatal contagion, not to the bodies, but the morals of the Romans? Where were they when another frightful pestilence visited the city — I mean the poisonings imputed to an incredible number of noble Roman matrons, whose characters were infected with a disease more fatal than any plague? Or when both consuls at the head of the army were beset by the Samnites in the Caudine Forks, and forced to strike a shameful treaty, 600 Roman knights being kept as hostages; while the troops, having laid down their arms, and being stripped of everything, were made to pass under the yoke with one garment each? Or when, in the midst of a serious pestilence, lightning struck the Roman camp and killed many? Or when Rome was driven, by the violence of another intolerable plague, to send to Epidaurus for Aesculapius as a god of medicine; since the frequent adulteries of Jupiter in his youth had not perhaps left this king of all who so long reigned in the Capitol, any leisure for the study of medicine? Or when, at one time, the Lucanians, Brutians, Samnites, Tuscans, and Senonian Gauls conspired against Rome, and first slew her ambassadors, then overthrew an army under the praetor, putting to the sword 13,000 men, besides the commander and seven tribunes? Or when the people, after the serious and long-continued disturbances at Rome, at last plundered the city and withdrew to Janiculus; a danger so grave, that Hortensius was created dictator, — an office which they had recourse to only in extreme emergencies; and he, having brought back the people, died while yet he retained his office, — an event without precedent in the case of any dictator, and which was a shame to those gods who had now Aesculapius
At that time, indeed, so many wars were everywhere engaged in, that through scarcity of soldiers they enrolled for military service the proletarii, who received this name, because, being too poor to equip for military service, they had leisure to beget offspring. Pyrrhus
, king of Greece, and at that time of widespread renown, was invited by the Tarentines
to enlist himself against Rome. It was to him that Apollo
, when consulted regarding the issue of his enterprise, uttered with some pleasantry so ambiguous an oracle, that whichever alternative happened, the god himself should be counted divine. For he so worded the oracle that whether Pyrrhus
was conquered by the Romans, or the Romans by Pyrrhus, the soothsaying god would securely await the issue. And then what frightful massacres of both armies ensued! Yet Pyrrhus remained conqueror, and would have been able now to proclaim Apollo a true diviner, as he understood the oracle, had not the Romans been the conquerors in the next engagement. And while such disastrous wars were being waged, a terrible disease broke out among the women. For the pregnant women died before delivery. And Aesculapius, I fancy, excused himself in this matter on the ground that he professed to be arch-physician, not midwife. Cattle, too, similarly perished; so that it was believed that the whole race of animals was destined to become extinct. Then what shall I say of that memorable winter in which the weather was so incredibly severe, that in the Forum
frightfully deep snow lay for forty days together, and the Tiber
was frozen? Had such things happened in our time, what accusations we should have heard from our enemies! And that other great pestilence, which raged so long and carried off so many; what shall I say of it? Spite of all the drugs of Aesculapius, it only grew worse in its second year, till at last recourse was had to the Sibylline
books, — a kind of oracle which, as Cicero says in his De Divinatione
, owes significance to its interpreters, who make doubtful conjectures as they can or as they wish. In this instance, the cause of the plague was said to be that so many temples had been used as private residences. And thus Aesculapius
for the present escaped the charge of either ignominious negligence or want of skill. But why were so many allowed to occupy sacred tenements without interference, unless because supplication had long been addressed in vain to such a crowd of gods, and so by degrees the sacred places were deserted of worshippers, and being thus vacant, could without offense be put at least to some human uses? And the temples, which were at that time laboriously recognized and restored that the plague might be stayed, fell afterwards into disuse, and were again devoted to the same human uses. Had they not thus lapsed into obscurity, it could not have been pointed to as proof of Varro's great erudition, that in his work on sacred places he cites so many that were unknown. Meanwhile, the restoration of the temples procured no cure of the plague, but only a fine excuse for the gods.
CHAPTER 18 THE DISASTERS SUFFERED BY THE ROMANS IN THE PUNIC WARS, WHICH WERE NOT MITIGATED BY THE PROTECTION OF THE GODS
In the Punic wars, again, when victory hung so long in the balance between the two kingdoms, when two powerful nations were straining every nerve and using all their resources against one another, how many smaller kingdoms were crushed, how many large and flourishing cities were demolished, how many states were overwhelmed and ruined, how many districts and lands far and near were desolated! How often were the victors on either side vanquished! What multitudes of men, both of those actually in arms and of others, were destroyed! What huge navies, too, were crippled in engagements, or were sunk by every kind of marine disaster! Were we to attempt to recount or mention these calamities, we should become writers of history. At that period Rome was mightily perturbed, and resorted to vain and ludicrous expedients. On the authority of the Sibylline books, the secular games were re-appointed, which had been inaugurated a century before, but had faded into oblivion in happier times. The games consecrated to the infernal gods were also renewed by the pontiffs; for they, too, had sunk into disuse in the better times. And no wonder; for when they were renewed, the great abundance of dying men made all hell rejoice at its riches, and give itself up to sport: for certainly the ferocious wars, and disastrous quarrels, and bloody victories — now on one side, and now on the other — though most calamitous to men, afforded great sport and a rich banquet to the devils. But in the first Punic war there was no more disastrous event than the Roman defeat in which Regulus was taken. We made mention of him in the two former books as an incontestably great man, who had before conquered and subdued the Carthaginians, and who would have put an end to the first Punic war, had not an inordinate appetite for praise and glory prompted him to impose on the worn-out Carthagians harder conditions than they could bear. If the unlooked-for captivity and unseemly bondage of this man, his fidelity to his oath, and his surpassingly cruel death, do not bring a blush to the face of the gods, it is true that they are brazen and bloodless.
Nor were there wanting at that time very heavy disasters within the city itself. For the Tiber was extraordinarily flooded, and destroyed almost all the lower parts of the city; some buildings being carried away by the violence of the torrent, while others were soaked to rottenness by the water that stood round them even after the flood was gone. This visitation was followed by a fire which was still more destructive, for it consumed some of the loftier buildings round the Forum, and spared not even its own proper temple, that of Vesta, in which virgins chosen for this honor, or rather for this punishment, had been employed in conferring, as it were, everlasting life on fire, by ceaselessly feeding it with fresh fuel. But at the time we speak of, the fire in the temple was not content with being kept alive: it raged. And when the virgins, scared by its vehemence, were unable to save those fatal images which had already brought destruction on three citiesin which they had been received, Metellus the priest, forgetful of his own safety, rushed in and rescued the sacred things, though he was half roasted in doing so. For either the fire did not recognize even him, or else the goddess of fire was there, — a goddess who would not have fled from the fire supposing she had been there. But here you see how a man could be of greater service to Vesta than she could be to him. Now if these gods could not avert the fire from themselves, what help against flames or flood could they bring to the state of which they were the reputed guardians? Facts have shown that they were useless. These objections of ours would be idle if our adversaries maintained that their idols are consecrated rather as symbols of things eternal, than to secure the blessings of time; and that thus, though the symbols, like all material and visible things, might perish, no damage thereby resulted to the things for the sake of which they had been consecrated, while, as for the images themselves, they could be renewed again for the same purposes they had formerly served. But with lamentable blindness, they suppose that, through the intervention of perishable gods, the earthly well-being and temporal prosperity of the state can be preserved from perishing. And so, when they are reminded that even when the gods remained among them this well-being and prosperity were blighted, they blush to change the opinion they are unable to defend.
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