TERTULLIAN'S DEFENCE OF THE CHRISTIANS AGAINST THE HEATHEN
[Translated by Alexander SOUTER]
CHAP. I. If it is not permitted even to you, who are the governors of the Roman Empire, seated on a lofty and conspicuous tribunal, which I might almost call the very summit of our state; if, I say, even you may not openly investigate and judge in the presence of both parties, what are the real facts in the case of the Christians; if in this instance alone your authority is either afraid or ashamed to make public inquiry with regard to the scrupulous observance of justice; if, finally, as has recently happened, the persecution of this sect, having been too much exercised in trials connected with households, has blocked up the way to defence--, then let the truth be permitted to reach your ears, if only by the hidden path of silent literature. She asks no mercy in her case, because she does not feel any surprise either as to her circumstances. She knows that her part is that of a foreigner upon earth, that amongst aliens she easily finds enemies, while she has her race, her home, hope, welcome and honour in heaven. One thing only does she eagerly desire in the meantime, namely that she be not condemned without being known. What loss is herein inflicted on the laws, which are absolute masters in their own realm, if she should be heard ? Or will this make them boast all the more of their power, in that they condemn the truth even when they have heard it? Further, if they should condemn it unheard, besides the odium attached to unfair dealing, they will also earn the suspicion of a certain complicity, by their refusal to hear what, if heard, they could not condemn. This then is the first proof that we lay before you of the injustice of your hatred towards the name of Christian. This unfairness is at once exaggerated and refuted by the same plea that seems to excuse it, namely ignorance. For what could be more unfair than that men should hate that of which they know nothing, even if the fact deserve this hatred? For then only does the fact deserve hatred, when it is already ascertained whether it deserves it. In default of the knowledge of its deserts, whence can the justice |5 of hatred be defended, seeing that it is to be tested not by the verdict passed but by a good conscience ? When therefore men hate because they do not know the character of what they hate, what is to hinder the thing hated from being of the sort they ought not to hate ? So we refute either position from the other, showing that in hating they do not know, and that in not knowing, their hatred is unjust. It is an evidence of the ignorance, which, while it is made the excuse, is really the condemnation of injustice, when all who hated in the past, because they did not know the character of that which they hated, cease to hate as soon as they cease to be ignorant. It is from this class that Christians are produced, of course from conviction, and begin to hate what they had been, and to profess what they hated, and are indeed as numerous as we who are branded with that name. They cry aloud that the state is besieged: that (even) in the country-districts, in the (walled) villages, in the islands, you will find Christians. They mourn as for a loss that all, without distinction of sex, age, circumstances, or even position, are deserting to this name. And yet even in this very way they do not carry on their minds to the appraisement of some good hidden therein; they do not care1 to form a truer conjecture upon a closer inquiry, they have no pleasure in trying it at closer quarters. In this sphere alone is human curiosity apathetic; they delight to be ignorant, while others rejoice to have learned. How much more severely would Anacharsis have condemned these men, as specimens of the unwise judging the wise, than as the unmusical judging the musical! They had rather be ignorant, because they already hate; such a strong suspicion have they that what they are ignorant of is that which, if they knew it, they could not hate; since, if no duty to hate were discovered, it would of course be best to cease to hate unjustly, but if there were no doubt as to desert, not only would there be no withdrawal of hatred, but persistence would gain greater force, even through the sanction of justice itself. 'But it is not therefore good,' they say, 'because it makes many converts: for how many are fashioned for evil! how many deserters are there to what is wrong ?' Who denies it? Yet what is truly evil, even those who are in its clutches do not dare to defend as good. Nature has stamped on every evil thing the character either of fear or of shame. Accordingly evil-doers are eager to hide, they shrink from showing themselves, they tremble when caught, deny their guilt when charged, and even when tortured do not readily or always confess. To be sure when condemned they mourn, and they either sum up |7 against themselves, or ascribe to their destiny or their star the outbursts of an evil mind. For they are unwilling to acknowledge as their own what they recognise to be bad. But the Christian does nothing of the kind. No (Christian) feels shame, or regret, except of course that he was so late in becoming one. If he is defamed, he rejoices; if he is prosecuted, he does not defend himself; if he is questioned, he at once confesses, if he is condemned, he returns thanks. What evil can there be in this which has none of the characters of evil, either fear, or shame, prevarication, regret, or despair ? What ? is there evil in that, which causes pleasure to the person accused of it, whose prosecution is his dearest wish, and who finds his happiness in his punishment? You cannot call it madness, since you are proved to know nothing about it.
CHAP. II. Again, supposing it to be true that we are criminals of deepest dye, why are we treated differently by you from our fellows, I mean all other criminals, since the same guilt ought to meet with the same treatment? When others are called by whatever name is applied to us, they employ both their own voices and the services of a paid pleader to set forth their innocence. They have every opportunity of answering and cross-questioning, since it is not even legal that persons should be condemned entirely undefended and unheard. But the Christians alone are not permitted to say anything to clear themselves of the charge, to uphold the truth, to prevent injustice in the judge. The one thing looked for is that which is demanded by the popular hatred, the confession of the name, not the weighing of a charge. Whereas, if you were inquiring into the case of some criminal, you would not be satisfied to give a verdict, immediately on his confession of the crime of homicide or sacrilege or incest or treason, to speak of the charges levelled against us, unless you also demanded an account of the accessory facts, the character of the act, the frequency of its repetition, the place, the manner, the time, who were privy to it, who were accomplices in it. In our case no such procedure is followed, although there was an equal necessity to sift by investigation the false charges that are bandied about, how many slaughtered babes each had already tasted, how many times he had committed incest in the dark, what cooks, what dogs had been present (on the occasion). Oh what fame would that governor have acquired, if he had ferreted out some one, who had already eaten up a hundred infants! But we find that in our case even such inquiry is forbidden. For Primus Secundus, when he was in command of a province, after |9 condemning some Christians, and having dislodged others from the stand they had taken up2, was nevertheless greatly troubled by their very numbers, and then consulted the Emperor Trajan as to what he should do in future, stating that, apart from the obstinate refusal to sacrifice, he had found out nothing else about their mysteries, save meetings before dawn to sing to Christ and to3 God, and to establish one common rule of life, forbidding murder, adultery, fraud, treachery and other crimes. Then Trajan replied that such people were not indeed to be sought out, but that if they were brought before the court they ought to be punished. O self-contradictory verdict which says they are not to be sought out, because they are innocent, and yet orders them to be punished as criminals; which spares while it rages, which shuts the eye to crime and yet chastises it. Why, O judgment, dost thou cheat thyself? If thou condemnest, why dost thou not also denounce ? If thou dost not denounce, why not also acquit? For the tracking of brigands the soldiers on outpost duty cast lots throughout all the provinces. Against those charged with treason and the enemies of the state, every man is a soldier. The investigation is made wide enough to take in accomplices and others who are privy to it. The Christian alone may not be sought out, but he may be brought into court, as if searching out had any other object than prosecution! You condemn therefore, when prosecuted, one whom no one desired to be sought out, one, I suppose, who already deserved punishment, not because he was guilty, but because, though not to be inquired after, he was found. Thus not in that matter either do you act towards us according to the rule for trying malefactors: namely that to others you apply torture when they deny, to make them confess, to Christians alone you apply it to make them deny. And yet, if it were a crime (with which we were charged), we indeed should deny our guilt, but you by tortures would compel us to confess it. Nor indeed could you think that crimes were not to be investigated by questionings, on the ground that you were assured by the confession of the name that they had been committed. For even to-day, though you know what murder is, you nevertheless extort from a confessed murderer the whole train of circumstances touching the act. Wherefore it is with the greater perverseness that when you make up your minds beforehand about our crimes from the confession of the name, you seek to compel us by tortures to go back from our confession, with the result that in denying the name we at the same time |11 of course deny the crimes also, about which you presumed us guilty from the confession of the name. But, methinks, you do not wish us to perish, though you believe us to be the worst of men. For is it your wont to say to a murderer, 'Deny the fact?' or to order a sacrilegious person to be torn with scourges, if he continue to confess? If you do not act so in the case of us criminals, you must judge us to be entirely innocent, when you will not have us as innocent persons to persevere in such a confession, as you know has to be condemned by you of necessity and not from justice. A man cries out: 'I am a Christian.' He tells what he is; you wish to hear what he is not. Though presiding to extract the truth, from us alone you strive to hear falsehood. 'I am,' he says, 'that which you ask whether I am: why do you torture me to make me give a wrong answer? You reward my confession with torture; what would you have done, if I had denied?' It is quite evident that, when others deny, you do not readily credit them: while, if we deny, you immediately believe our assertion. You ought to suspect this perversity, lest some power lurk in secret that makes tools of you against all rule, against the nature of judicial trial, even against the laws themselves. For unless I am mistaken, the laws order that malefactors should be rooted out, not concealed ; they lay down that those who confess should be condemned, not acquitted. This is ordained by decrees of the senate, by the edicts of emperors. The government whose servants you are is the rule of a fellow-citizen, not of a tyrant. For with tyrants tortures were employed also as punishment; with you they are kept within bounds for the. sole purpose of inquiry. Retain for them your law up to the point of necessary confession. And if (tortures) are anticipated by confession, they will be superfluous. A verdict is needed: the guilty man must be struck off the roll of the accused by the punishment which is his due, and not saved from punishment. No one, in short, cares to acquit him; it is not allowable to wish this: consequently no guilty man is compelled to deny his guilt. But a Christian man you believe to be guilty of all crimes, an enemy of gods, emperors, laws, morals, the whole teaching of nature, and yet you compel him to deny, in order that you may acquit one whom you will not be able to acquit unless from his denial. You are guilty of unfair dealing against the laws. You wish him therefore to deny his guilt, that you may make him out to be innocent, and that too unwilling as he now is, and no longer arraigned for the past. Whence comes this perversity, that you should fail to reflect even on this fact, that more credence should be given to one who voluntarily confesses than to one who denies under |13 compulsion? or whether one who has been forced to deny should not have denied sincerely, and after acquittal on the spot, leaving the court, should once more claim to be a Christian, and laugh at your vain effort to prove him other ? Since therefore in every way you treat us differently from all other criminals, by aiming at this one thing, that we may be shut out from that name, for we are shut out if we do things which Christians do not do, you can understand that there is no crime in question, but just the name, which is harassed by the scheming of a kind of rival agency, its first aim being that men should be unwilling to know for certain that of which they certainly know themselves to be ignorant. Consequently they not only believe what is not proved with regard to us, but they are unwilling that inquiry should be made, lest those things should be proved not to be, which they had rather should be believed to be, so that the hostile name of that rival agency should be condemned merely by its own confession, on the presumption, not the proof of crime. Accordingly we are tortured when we confess, and punished when we persist, and acquitted if we deny, just because it is a battle about a name. Finally, you also read out from the charge-sheet that a man is a Christian. Why not also style him a murderer ? If a Christian is a murderer, why not also one guilty of incest or any other crime you believe us to be guilty of ? Is it in our case only that you are ashamed or reluctant to give a verdict on the mere names of the crimes4? If a Christian is guilty of no specific crime, it is a very guilty sort of crime, if one of the name only!
CHAP. III. Again, many people are so blinded with prejudice that even when they are bearing witness to a man's excellence, they mingle with it a taunt against the name of Christian. 'So-and-so is a good fellow, were it not that he is a Christian.' So another says 'I marvel that a philosopher like So-and-so should have so suddenly turned Christian.' No one reflects whether the fact that So-and-so is good or wise is due to his Christianity, or the fact that So-and-so is a Christian results from his being wise and good. They praise what they know, and blame what they do not know, and that which they know they spoil because they are really ignorant of it. Surely it were a juster course to prejudge things hidden from things evident, than to precondemn the evident from the hidden. Others characterize in their very praises those they formerly knew, before they received the name of Christian, as vagabonds, worthless and wicked. Through their blind hatred they become |15 vehement supporters. 'What a fine woman! How merry, how debonair!' 'What a fine fellow, what a sport, what a gallant!' They have become Christians. Thus is the name applied to their reformation. Some even make a bargain with this hatred at the cost of their interests, ready to put up with harm, provided that what they hate is not mixed up with their home-life. A husband now no longer jealous has turned out of doors his now chaste wife: a father, patient in the past, has disinherited his now obedient son: a once forgiving master has banished from his sight a now faithful servant. In each case the reform effected by the name of Christian is the ground of offence. Goodness is not of such account as hatred of the Christians. Now therefore if it is a name that is hated what charge can there be against a name, what prosecution of words, unless it be that a particular utterance of a word has a barbarous or ill-omened or a scurrilous or immodest sound? The name Christian indeed, so far as its meaning is concerned, is derived from 'anointing.' And even when it is wrongly pronounced 'Chreestian' by you--for neither is there any real knowledge of the name among you--it is made up from sweetness or kindness. And thus even an innocent name gets hated in the case of innocent men. But indeed there can be no doubt that the sect is hated in the name of its Founder. What novelty is there in a school of thought bringing on its followers a name taken from its teacher? Are not philosophers named after their founders, e.g. Platonists, Epicureans, Pythagoreans? or even from their places of meeting and their stations, as Stoics or Academics? so too physicians from Erasistratus, and grammarians from Aristarchus, and even cooks from Apicius? And yet the profession of a name, handed down with the institution from the founder himself, causes no offence. To be sure, if any one should prove a sect to be evil, and thus the originator also to be evil, he will prove the name to be likewise evil, worthy of hatred from the guilt attaching to the sect and its founder. Hence, before hating the name, it were fitting first to convict the sect from the character of the founder, or the founder from the character of the sect. But, as matters are, though the investigation and examination of both are neglected, the name is laid hold of, the name is made the object of attack, and a mere word prejudges a sect and its founder (though both are equally unknown) simply because they bear a name, not because they are convicted of guilt.
CHAP. IV. Having then made this sort of preface by way of hammering into men's heads the unfairness of the popular hatred |17 towards us, I will now join issue as to the question of innocence, and will not only rebut the charges against us, but will even cause them to recoil on the very men who make them; that from this also men may know that Christians are free from those failings, of the existence of which in themselves their critics are unconscious; and that they may at the same time blush, while they accuse us--I do not say the worst accusing the best, but rather (as they themselves would have it) ordinary persons accusing their fellows. We will meet each of the secret scandals laid to our charge by appealing to the same acts committed openly, acts in which we are held to show ourselves wicked, empty-headed, worthy of condemnation and of ridicule. But since when the truth of our cause meets you at every turn, the authority of the laws is at last set up against it, so that either . it is said that nothing is to be reconsidered after the laws have decided, or the necessity of obedience is unwillingly preferred to truth, it is upon the laws that I will first join issue with you, as their guardians. In the first place then, when you harshly lay down the law by your phrase 'Your existence is forbidden,' and enjoin this without any gentler reservation, you make no secret of violence and tyranny as belonging to your stronghold, if you deny us the right to exist because such is your will, not because it was fitting that we should be outlawed. If however you wish this not to be allowed because it is not right, no doubt an evil action ought not to be allowed; and of course this very fact involves a previous judgment that a good action is legal. If I shall find something to be good, which your law has forbidden, is it not, by .this previous determination, disabled from forbidding me that which, if it were evil, it would justly forbid? If your law has made a mistake, I suppose it is because it was framed by a man, for it certainly did not fall from heaven. Do you wonder either that a man should have made a mistake in framing a law, or should have come to his senses again when he finds in it matter for emendation ? Did not even the improvements made by the Spartans in the laws of Lycurgus himself cause him such pain that he determined to resign office and starve himself to death? Do not even you too, as daily experience throws light upon the darkness of antiquity, lop and cut down all the wild growth of that ancient forest of statutes with the new axes of imperial rescripts and edicts ? Did not Severus, that most determined of emperors, as it were but yesterday, abrogate the ridiculous Papian laws, which enforced the bringing up of children before the Julian laws enforced the contracting of marriage,--laws whose antiquity gave them such high authority ? Nay there were even laws authorizing that those |19 sentenced under them should be cut in pieces by their creditors, yet was this cruelty afterwards blotted out by public consent, the punishment of death being converted into a mark of disgrace. By the resort to a public sale of property they preferred to raise the blush of shame rather than to shed blood. How many laws still lie hidden for you to purify, laws which neither antiquity nor the dignity of their framers, but only their fairness (if such there be) commends? and therefore when they are recognised to be unfair, though condemning, they are deservedly condemned. But how do we call them unfair? Nay, if they punish the mere name, we call them foolish also. If however it is deeds that they punish, why. in our case, do they punish deeds on the ground merely of the name, which in other cases they maintain must be proved by the act and not from the name given to the accused ? I am guilty of incest: why do they not inquire into it? of infanticide, why do they not extort a confession ? I commit some offence against the gods or the Caesars; why am I not heard, when I am able to clear myself ? No law forbids the investigation of that which is prohibited, because neither can any judge rightly exact punishment unless he knows that an illegal offence has been committed; nor can any citizen loyally obey the law, if ignorant of the nature of that which is punished by the law. The law is not only bound to satisfy itself as to its own intrinsic justice; it must also satisfy those from whom it looks for obedience. A law excites suspicion if it is not willing to be tested, and it is wicked if, after being disapproved, it claims despotic power.
CHAP. V. And now to treat somewhat more fully of the origin of laws of this kind, there was an old decree that no god should be consecrated by a general without the approval of the senate. M. Aemilius learnt this in the case of his god Alburnus. This, too, makes in our favour, because among you divinity is weighed out by human caprice. Unless a god shall have been acceptable to man, he shall not be a god: man must now be propitious to a god. Accordingly Tiberius, in whose time the Christian name first made its appearance in the world, laid before the senate tidings from Syria Palaestina which had revealed to him the truth of the divinity there manifested, and supported the motion by his own vote to begin with. The senate rejected it because it had not itself given its approval. Caesar held to his own opinion and threatened danger to the accusers of the Christians. Consult your records : you will there find that Nero was the first emperor who wreaked his fury on the blood of Christians, when our religion was just springing |21 up in Rome. But we even glory in being first dedicated to destruction by such a monster. For whoever knows him can understand that it could only have been something of supreme excellence that called forth the condemnation of Nero. Domitian too had tried the same experiment as Nero, with a large share of Nero's cruelty, but inasmuch as he retained something of humanity also, he was easily able to change his course, even restoring those whom he had banished. Such have always been our persecutors, unjust, impious and treacherous, whom even ye yourselves have been wont to condemn and to reinstate those who were condemned by them. But out of so many emperors who reigned from that time to the present, men versed in knowledge, human and divine, show us one who set himself to destroy the Christians. We on the other hand can show you a protector, if the letters of the honoured emperor M. Aurelius be searched, in which he testifies that the famous drought in Germany was put a stop to by the rain which fell in answer to the prayers of the Christians who happened to be in his army. Thus, although he did not openly abolish punishment incurred by such men, yet in another way he openly neutralized it, adding also a condemnation, and indeed a more shocking one, for their prosecutors. Of what sort then are these laws, which are put into force against us by the impious, the unjust, the base, the cruel, the foolish, the mad, and by them alone ? Laws which Trajan made less effective by forbidding Christians to be sought out; to which no Hadrian, although an investigator of all curiosities, no Vespasian, although conqueror of the Jews, no Pius, no Verus ever set his mark. Certainly the worst of men would be more readily sentenced to death by all the best, as their enemies, than by their own accomplices.
CHAP. VI. Now I should like these scrupulous champions and avengers of laws and ancestral institutions to answer with regard to their own loyalty, respect and obedience towards the decrees of their ancestors, whether they have abandoned none, whether they have transgressed in none, whether they have not abolished what were the necessary and most appropriate elements of their rule of life. What has become of those laws which checked extravagance and ostentation? those which ordered that not more than a hundred pence should be allowed for a dinner, that not more than one fowl and that not specially fattened should be served, which removed a patrician from the senate, because he had ten pounds weight of wrought silver, on the ground that this was a notable proof of ostentation, |23 which proceeded at once to destroy theatres as they rose for the corruption of morals, which did not allow the badges of office or noble birth to be employed lightly or with impunity? (I ask these questions) for I see dinners, which can only be called centuries from the 100,000 sesterces they cost, and whole mines of silver worked out into plates, a small thing if they were the property of senators only and not of freedmen or of those who are still liable to be flogged. I see too that one theatre, or a theatre open to the sky, is not enough for each town; for doubtless it was to prevent their immodest pleasure from being too cold in winter, that the Spartans first invented their cloak for the sports. I see too that there is no difference left between the dress of matrons and that of prostitutes. Indeed with regard to women even those customs of our ancestors have fallen into disuse, which protected modesty and sobriety, in an age when no woman knew aught of gold save on the one finger which the bridegroom had claimed for himself with the wedding ring, and when women abstained from wine to such a degree, that her relatives put a matron to death by starvation for breaking open the bins of the wine-cellar. Under Romulus indeed one who had touched wine was put to death with impunity by her husband Metennius. For the same reason they were also even obliged to offer kisses to their kinsfolk, that they might be judged by their breath. Where is now that happiness of married life so successful in point of morals at any rate, the result of which was that for about six hundred years after the foundation of Rome a writing of divorce was unknown? But now in the case of women every part of the body is weighted with gold, no kiss is free owing to wine, and divorce is now the object of prayer, as the natural fruit of marriage. Even with regard to your gods themselves the wise decrees of your ancestors with their application to the future have been rescinded by you, the very people who plume yourselves on your obedience to them. The consuls on the authority of the senate banished Father Bacchus with his mysteries not only from the capital but from the whole of Italy. Serapis and Isis and Harpocrates with their dog-headed attendant were forbidden the Capitol, in other words were expelled from the parliament of the gods, their altars overturned and themselves banished by the consuls Piso and Gabinius, who were assuredly no Christians, with a view to check the vices arising from their base and idle superstitions. But these you have restored, and conferred on them the highest dignity. Where is your religion, where the respect you owe to your ancestors? In dress, in food, in household arrangements, in feeling, even in |25 language itself you have abandoned your ancestors. You are always praising old times, but you change your position from day to day. By this it is shown that, in departing from the good customs of your ancestors, you retain and preserve those which you ought not, while you have not preserved those which you ought. Even the very thing that you still seem most faithfully to guard, as handed down by your ancestors, that in which most of all you have marked the Christians as guilty of transgression, I mean zeal in the worship of the gods, (concerning which early ages made the greatest mistakes,) although you have built up again the altars to Serapis, now become a Roman, although you present the frantic orgies of your worship to Bacchus, now an Italian, I will show in the proper place that these are alike looked down upon and slighted and undermined by you against the authority of your ancestors. But now I will reply to that evil reputation for secret crimes, to clear my way for the more open ones.
CHAP. VII. We are called abominable from the sacrament of infanticide and the feeding thereon, as well as the incestuous intercourse, following the banquet, because the dogs, that overturn the lamps, (our pimps forsooth of the darkness) bring about the shamelessness engendered by our impious lusts. Yet we are but called so on each occasion, and you take no pains to bring to light what we have been so long charged with. Therefore either prove the fact, if you believe it, or refuse to believe it, you who have not proved it. For your want of straightforwardness a preliminary objection is raised against you, that that cannot be true which not even you yourselves dare to search out. It is quite a different duty that you lay upon the executioner against the Christians, namely, not that they should say of what they are guilty, but that they should deny what they are. The beginning of this teaching, as I have already stated, dates from Tiberius. Truth from the first was accompanied by hatred of herself: from her first appearance she is an enemy. She has as many enemies as there are strangers to her, the Jews indeed quite specially so from jealousy, the soldiers from their violence, and even the very members of our households from natural ill-feeling. We are daily besieged, we are daily betrayed, even in our very meetings and assemblies we are frequently surprised. Who ever came upon an infant wailing under such circumstances? Who ever kept for the judge the bloodstained faces of Cyclopes and Sirens just as he had found them? Who detected even on our wives any trace of impurity ? Who when he had discovered such crimes, concealed them or sold his concealment of them, |27 with the very offenders in his grasp ? If we are always in hiding, when was the crime we commit betrayed ? nay rather, by whom could it be betrayed ? Assuredly not by the accused themselves, since even according to rule all mysteries are bound to be loyally concealed. Silence is preserved with regard to the mysteries of Samothrace and Eleusis; how much more with regard to such as if betrayed will sometimes even call forth human punishment, while the divine is kept in reserve! unless therefore they are themselves their own betrayers, it follows that the betrayers must be outsiders. And, if so, whence do the outsiders obtain the knowledge, since even religious initiations always exclude the profane and take precautions against the presence of eyewitnesses, unless it be that the impious are bolder than others ? The nature of rumour is known to all. One of your (own) writers says: 'Rumour, than which no other evil is swifter.' Why is rumour an evil? because it is swift? because it gives information? or is it because it is very often lying? Even when it brings some truth with it, it is not exempt from the flaw of falsehood, as it takes away from, adds to, and alters the truth. What are we to say of the fact that its character is such that it does not persist without lying and it lives only as long as it cannot prove its truth; since when it has proved it, it ceases to exist and as though it had done its work of reporting hands down the matter, and thereafter it is held to be fact, and is so called. Nor does anyone for example remark: 'They say this has happened at Rome,' or 'The rumour is that he has obtained the province (by lot),' but 'He has obtained the province,' and:--'This has happened at Rome.' Rumour, a name belonging to uncertainty, has no place where certainty exists. Would anyone indeed, unless he were devoid of sense, believe rumour? A wise man does not trust what is uncertain. Anyone can judge that, however great may be the extent to which the story is spread, however great the confidence with which it has been built up, still it must have sprung at some time or other from a single root. From that it creeps into the branches of tongues and ears. And a fault in the little seed is so concealed by the shield5 of rumour, that no one reflects whether that first mouth may not have sown the lie, a thing that often happens either through the inventiveness of jealousy or the humour of suspicion or the pleasure in lying, which is not new but inborn in some people. It is a good thing that time reveals everything, as even your proverbs and maxims testify, by the arrangement of nature, which has so ordered it that nothing is concealed for long, even that which rumour has |29 not spread abroad. Justly therefore, has rumour and rumour alone had for so long any knowledge of the crimes of the Christians. This is the informer you produce against us, one which as yet has not been able to prove what it has so long thrown out and what in so long a period of time it has strengthened into a settled opinion. But now to appeal to the credit of nature herself against those who dare to assume that such stories are to be believed.
CHAP. VIII. Lo, I set before you the reward of such crimes; they promise everlasting life. Believe it for the moment. About this I ask whether even you who have believed think it worth while to attain it at the price of such a (guilty) conscience. Come, plunge the sword into an infant who is no one's enemy, guilty of no crime, the child of all: or if such bloodshed is another's duty, do you merely stand by a human being dying before he has really lived; wait for the flight of the new life; catch the scarce-formed blood; with it soak your bread, and enjoy your meal. Meantime, as you recline, count the places and mark where your mother, where your sister is; make a careful note, so that when the dogs have put out the lights, you may not make a mistake. For you will be guilty of sin if you fail to commit incest. Thus initiated and sealed, you live for ever. Please tell me, whether eternity is worth such a price; if it is not so, it ought not to be believed to be so. Even if you believed it, I deny that you wished it; even if you wished it, I deny that you could do it. Why then should others be capable of doing what you cannot do? why could not you do it if others can? We, I suppose, are of another nature-- monstrosities with heads of dogs or with feet so large as to shade us; with teeth differently arranged, and with organs different from other men, for the gratification of incestuous lust! You who believe such things about a. fellow man can also do them yourself. You too are a human being, as the Christian is too. You who are incapable of the deeds, ought not to believe them possible. For the Christian also is a human being as you are. But perhaps the ignorant alone are tricked and decoyed into our religion: for they knew that no such statement was made about the Christians: but they must assuredly look to the matter and study it with all care. And yet, it is the custom, I fancy, for those who wish to be initiated, first to approach the father of the rites, and to write down what has to be prepared. Then he says: 'You have need of a little child, still soft, with no knowledge of death, who will smile under your knife; also bread, in which to gather the blood sauce; further, candlesticks |31 and lamps and some dogs and little morsels of meat, to make them strain and overturn the lamps; above all you will have to come with your mother and sister. What if they refuse or if you have none ? What in a word are solitary Christians to do ? Every lawful Christian will be, I suppose, either a brother or a son. What now, even if all these things are prepared for those who know nothing about them? At any rate they learn it later, and endure it and pardon it! You will say they fear punishment, though, if they declared the facts, they would deserve every protection, and though they would rather suffer death than live with such a consciousness of guilt! Suppose, however, that they are still afraid, why do they still continue to be Christians ? For it follows that you no longer wish to be that which you would never have become if you had known beforehand.
CHAP. IX. To refute these charges more effectively, I will show that these crimes are perpetrated by you both in public and in secret, which is perhaps the reason that you have come to believe them about us also. Babes were sacrificed publicly to Saturn in Africa till the proconsulate of Tiberius, who exposed the same priests on the same trees that overshadow the crimes of their temple, on dedicated crosses, as is attested by the soldiery of my father6, which performed that very service for that proconsul. But even now this accursed crime is in secret kept up. It is not the Christians only who despise you; nor is any crime rooted out once for all, nor does any god change his character. Since Saturn did not spare his own children, of course he stuck to his habit of not sparing those of other people, whom indeed their own parents offered of themselves, being pleased to answer the call, and fondled the infants, lest they should weep when being sacrificed. And yet a parent's murder of his child is far worse than simple homicide. Among the Gauls adults are sacrificed to Mercury. I leave the fables about the Taurians to the theatres to which they belong. Lo, in that deeply religious city of the pious descendants of Aeneas there is a certain Jupiter whom at his own games they drench with human blood. 'But,' say you, 'only that of a criminal condemned to the beasts.' This, I suppose, is of less value than that of a human being. Or is this the viler, because it is that of an evil man? At any rate it is the blood of homicide that is shed. What a Christian is Jupiter, the only son of his father in point of cruelty! But since, in a case of infanticide, it matters not whether it is carried out as a sacred rite or out of mere caprice |33 (although it does matter whether it is child-murder or homicide) I will appeal to the people. How many of those standing around and panting for the blood of the Christians, aye even of yourselves, magistrates most just and severe against us, should I prick in their consciences, for putting to death the children born to them? Since there is a difference also in the manner of the death, it is assuredly more cruel to suffocate them by drowning or to expose them to cold and starvation and the dogs; for even an older person would prefer to die by the sword. But to us, to whom homicide has been once for all forbidden, it is not permitted to break up even what has been conceived in the womb, while as yet the blood is being drawn (from the parent body) for a human life. Prevention of birth is premature murder, and it makes no difference whether it is a life already born that one snatches away, or a life in the act of being born that one destroys; that which is to be a human-being is also human; the whole fruit is already actually present in the seed. With regard to banquets of blood and such like tragic dishes, you may read whether it is not somewhere stated (it is in Herodotus, I think) that certain tribes had arranged the tasting of blood drawn from the arms of both sides to signify ratification of a treaty. Something of the same kind was tasted also under Catiline. They say that among certain tribesmen of the Scythians also each dead person becomes food for his own relations. But I am wandering too far. On this very day, in this very country, blood from a wounded thigh, caught in a palm of the hand and given to her worshippers to drink, marks the votaries7 of Bellona. Again, what of those who, by way of healing epilepsy, at the gladiatorial show, drain with eager thirst the blood of slaughtered criminals, while it is still fresh and flowing down from the throat? Or what of those, who dine on bits of wild-beast from the arena, who seek a slice of boar or stag ? That boar in the struggle wiped off the blood from him whom he had first stained with gore; that stag wallowed in a gladiator's blood. The paunches of the very bears are eagerly sought, while they are yet gorged with undigested human flesh; thus flesh that has been fed on man is forthwith vomited by man. You that eat such things, how far removed you are from the feasts of the Christians! But are those others less guilty, who with savage lust gloat over human bodies, because they devour them alive? are they any the less dedicated to filth by human blood, because they lick up what is about to become blood? they do not absolutely eat infants, but rather those that are grown up. Your crimes ought to |35 blush before us Christians, who do not reckon the blood even of animals among articles of food, who abstain even from things strangled and from such as die of themselves, lest we should in any way be polluted even by blood which is buried within the body. Again, among the trials of the Christians you offer them sausages actually filled with blood, being of course perfectly aware that the means you wish to employ to get them to abandon their principles is in their eyes impermissible. Further, how absurd it is for you to believe that they, who you are assured, abhor the blood of beasts, are panting for the blood of man, unless perchance you have found the former more palatable! Indeed this thirst for blood, like the little altar and the incense-box, should have been itself applied as a means of testing the Christians. For they would then be distinguished by their desire for human blood, in the same way as by their refusal to sacrifice; being otherwise deserving of rejection, if they had refused to taste, just as if they had sacrificed. And you would at any rate have had no lack of human blood at the hearing and condemnation of prisoners. Again, who are more incestuous than those whom Jupiter himself has taught? Ctesias records that the Persians have sexual intercourse with their own mothers. The Macedonians, too, are suspect, because on first hearing the tragedy of Oedipus, they ridiculed his grief at the incest of which he had been guilty, saying: Il montait sa mère. And now reflect what an opening is left to mistakes to bring about incestuous unions, for which the wide range of profligacy supplies opportunity. In the first place there is your exposure of your children, to be brought up by some passing stranger out of pity, and your surrender of them to be adopted by parents better than yourselves. The memory of a progeny thus cast off must some time or other be lost, and when once the error has rooted itself, the transmission of the incest will proceed farther and farther, as the family grows gradually with the crime. In the second place, everywhere, at home, abroad, across the seas, lust is in attendance, whose promiscuous impulses can easily beget children to you unawares in some place or other, even from however small a portion of the seed, so that a family, which has thus become scattered, may through the varied intercourse of men meet its own past, and may yet fail to recognise in it the mixtures of incestuous blood. We on the contrary are guarded from this result by a scrupulously faithful chastity, and we are as safe from the chance of incest as we are from debauchery and every excess in wedded life. Some are even much safer, as they withstand all possibility of this mistake by virgin continence, old men in |37 years, children in innocence. If you considered such to be the case among yourselves, you would in consequence see clearly that it was not the case among the Christians. The same eyes would have reported both alike. But the two kinds of blindness easily combine: those who do not see what really is, naturally think they see what is not. I will show this to be the case throughout. Now I will speak about more open sins.
CHAP. X. You accuse us of refusing to worship the gods, and to spend money on sacrificing for the emperors. It follows that we refuse to sacrifice for others on the same principle that we refuse even to sacrifice for ourselves, viz. by refusing once for all to worship the gods. Consequently we are charged with sacrilege and treason. This is the main point in the case, nay it is the whole case, and certainly worthy of investigation, if neither prejudice nor unfairness is to be the judge, the one despairing of the truth, the other objecting to it. We cease to worship your gods, from the moment we learn that they are no gods. This therefore is what you ought to demand, that we should prove that they are no gods, and therefore not to be worshipped, because then only would it have been our duty to worship them, if they had been gods. Then too the Christians would have deserved punishment, if it were certain that those whom they did not worship, because they thought they had no existence, were gods after all. 'But to us,' you say, 'they are gods.' We make application and appeal from you to your conscience; let that judge us, let that condemn us, if it is able to deny that all these gods of yours were human beings. If conscience shall itself contest this, it will be refuted from its own documents of ancient times, from which it has learned of them, for they give evidence preserved to our day both of the communities in which they were born and of the districts in which they did some work of which they have left traces, and in which they are shown actually to have been buried. Now shall I run over them one by one, so many and so great as they are, new, old, barbarian, Greek, Roman, strangers, captives, adopted, individual, common, male, female, country, city, naval, military? It needs leisure even to follow out their titles, even to sum up all in brief, not that you may learn but that you may be reminded of them: for certainly you play the part of those that have forgotten. Previous to Saturn there is no god among you, from him dates the origin of all deity or at least of the more powerful and better known divinity. Therefore what is established with regard to the origin, will be valid also with regard to the later time. With regard to Saturn therefore, if we make appeal to what we can |39 learn from literature, neither the Greek Diodorus nor Thallus nor Cassius Severus nor Cornelius Nepos, nor any other recorder of such ancient beliefs, has proclaimed him anything but a man; if to proofs from facts, I find nowhere more reliable proofs than in Italy itself, in which Saturn after many expeditions and after a residence in Attica took up his abode, having been welcomed by Janus, or Janes, as the Salii prefer to call him. The mountain which he had inhabited was called Saturnian, the city, the bounds of which he had marked out with stakes, is even to this day Saturnia, finally the whole of Italy was named Saturnian, in succession to the name Oenotria. With him it was that accounts began and the impress of a human figure upon a coin, and thus it is that he presides over the treasury. But if Saturn was a man, he was of course sprung from a man, and because he was sprung from a man, it follows that he did not come from heaven or earth. But when a man's parents were unknown, it was easy to call him a son of those whose sons we also can all of us be considered; for who would not call heaven and earth father and mother respectively out of reverence and respect? even in accordance with human custom, by which unknown persons or those who appear unexpectedly are said to have come upon us from heaven. Thus it is that Saturn who appeared suddenly happened everywhere to be called divine; indeed the common people call those also 'sons of earth' whose origin is uncertain. I say nothing of the fact that till then men were so unsophisticated, that they were stirred by the appearance of any new man, as if it were divine, since to-day men who are already cultivated deify those who a few days before they confessed by a public funeral were dead. Enough now about Saturn, though in few words. We will show that even Jupiter was himself as much man as he was sprung from man, and that in succession the whole swarm of his descendants were as mortal as they were like the seed from which they sprang.
CHAP. XI. And since you have established the custom of maintaining that they were deified after death, in spite of the fact that you dare not deny them to have been men, let us review the causes that have led to this result. In the first place of course, you must admit that there is some superior god, a sort of proprietor of deity, who has made gods out of men. For neither could they have taken to themselves a deity which they did not possess, nor could anyone else have offered it to those who did not possess it unless he possessed it in his own right. If there was no one to make them gods, it is in vain that you assume their deification to have taken place, |41 while you deny the maker. Of course if they had been able to make themselves gods, they would never have been men, possessing as they did the command of a higher state. Therefore, if there is anyone who makes gods, I return to my examination of the causes for making gods out of men, and I can find none, unless it be that that great god desired servants and helpers in discharge of his divine duties. But to begin with it is unworthy of him that he should need the service of anyone, especially of a dead man, since, if he were likely to need the service of a dead person, it would have been a worthier course to have made some god from the first. But I see no room for such aid either. For the whole body of the world, whether unborn or unmade, as Pythagoras believed, or born and made, as Plato believed, was surely found to have been once for all arranged and equipped and ordered in its present structure entirely under the guidance of reason. That could not be imperfect which has perfected all things. Nothing was waiting for Saturn and Saturn's race. Men will show themselves fools if they are not convinced that, from the beginning, rains fell from heaven, stars twinkled, the greater lights have shown their power, thunders have roared, and Jove himself has feared the thunderbolts which you place in his hand; moreover every sort of crop sprang forth in abundance from the soil before the days of Bacchus and Ceres and Minerva, nay even before that first man, if there were such, because nothing devised for the preservation and support of man could be introduced later than his own appearance. Lastly, the gods are said to have discovered, not to have originated, these necessaries of life. That however which is discovered, existed, and that which existed will not be counted as his who discovered it, but as his who originated it; for it existed before it was found. But if Bacchus is a god because he pointed out the vine, Lucullus, who first made cherries from Pontus known to Italy, has been unfairly treated, in that he was not for that reason deified, as the originator of a new kind of fruit, because he pointed it out. Wherefore, if the universe has existed from the beginning, both equipped and furnished with definite plans for carrying out its functions, this reason for promoting humanity to divinity falls to the ground, because the positions and powers that you have divided amongst them existed as much from the beginning, as they would also have existed, even if you had not appointed these gods of yours. But you turn to another reason, and reply that divinity was conferred upon them by way of rewarding their deserts. And hence you grant, I suppose, that that god-making deity excels in justice, since he apportioned so great |43 a reward neither rashly nor unworthily nor wastefully. I wish therefore to review their merits, to see whether they are of such a kind as to warrant their elevation to heaven, and not rather their abasement to the lowest hell, which, when you please, you affirm to be a prison of infernal punishment. For it is there that are wont to be thrust away all that were undutiful to parents, guilty of incest towards sisters, adulterers of wives, abductors of maidens, polluters of boys, and those who rage, kill, steal, deceive, and whoever are like some god of your own, not one of whom you will be able to prove free from taint of crime or fault, unless you deny his humanity. But, to make it impossible for you to deny that they were men, there are also these characteristics which do not allow the belief that they became gods afterwards either. For if, you sit in judgment for the punishment of such, if all the good among you reject the intercourse, the conversation, the company, of the evil and the base, and yet that great god has admitted their fellows into a partnership in his own majesty--why then do you condemn those whose fellows you worship? Your justice implies chastisement in heaven. To please your gods you must convert your worst criminals into gods! The deification of their equals is a compliment to them. But to omit further consideration of this disgrace, suppose they were honest and pure and good; yet how many better men have you left in the lower world! a Socrates distinguished for wisdom, an Aristides for justice, a Themistocles for generalship, an Alexander for glory, a Polycrates for good fortune, a Croesus for wealth, a Demosthenes for eloquence. Which of those gods of yours is worthier and wiser than Cato, a juster man or a better soldier than Scipio, who more eminent than Pompey, more fortunate than Sulla, wealthier than Crassus, more eloquent than Cicero ? How much more worthily would he have waited to adopt these as gods, especially as he had foreknowledge of these better ones to come! He was in a hurry, I suppose, and closed the doors of heaven once for all, and is doubtless blushing now when he hears the complaints of better men grumbling in the lower world.
CHAP. XII. I say no more now about this point, knowing that the truth itself will enable me to prove to you what they are not, when I have shown you what they are. With regard then to your gods, I see only the names of certain dead men of old time, about whom I hear tales, and I recognise sacred rites derived from the tales. With regard, however, to the images themselves, I have no fault to find except that the materials |45 are sisters to ordinary vessels and tools, or are made from the same vessels and tools, changing their destiny as it were by dedication, the wantonness of art transforming them, and that too in the most insulting way involving a sacrilege in the work itself. Thus it may be in truth a solace especially to us who are punished on account of the gods themselves, a solace, I say, in our punishment, that they themselves also go through the same experience for their making. You place the Christians on crosses and stakes: what image is not first moulded in soft clay laid on a cross and a stake ? it is on a gibbet that the body of your god is consecrated first of all. You tear the sides of the Christians with claws, but upon your gods axes and planes and files are more vigorously applied all over their bodies. We lay down our necks: your gods are without a head until lead and glue and nails have been applied. We are cast out to wild-beasts, to the very beasts which form the train of Bacchus and Cybele and the Carthaginian goddess of Heaven. We are cast into the fire: so also are they, while the ore from which they are taken is refined. We are condemned to the mines and quarries: it is from thence your gods get their origin. We are banished to islands: in an island also it is usual for some god of yours either to be born or to die. If any divinity is thus confirmed, then those who are punished are deified, and punishments will have to be spoken of as tokens of divinity. But clearly your gods do not feel these injuries and insults involved in their formation, as neither do they feel the homage they receive. Oh the impious words, the sacrilegious abuse! gnash your teeth at them, and foam with rage! You are the same people who blamed Seneca when with more bitterness and at greater length he argued against your superstition. Consequently, if we do not worship cold statues and figures, which have a strong likeness to the dead they represent, images of which kites and mice and spiders have a correct idea, did not the renouncing of a discovered error deserve praise rather than punishment? For can we be thought to inflict injury on those who, we feel sure, do not exist at all? That which does not exist, can suffer nothing from any one, because it has no existence.
CHAP. XIII. 'But to us they are gods,' you say. If that be so, how is it that you on the contrary are found impious, sacrilegious, and irreligious towards your gods ? you who neglect those whose existence you take for granted, who destroy those whom you fear, who mock even those whom you avenge? Consider if my statement is false. In the first place, when |47 some of you are worshipping one god, some another, of course you slight the feelings of those whom you do not worship: preference of one is impossible without insult to another, since one cannot even choose without implied blame. It follows therefore that you lightly esteem those of whom you disapprove, and whom you do not fear to offend by your disapproval. For, as I hinted above, the position of each god depended on the opinion of the senate. He was no god, whom a man, when consulted, had declined to deify, and by his refusal had condemned. Your household gods, whom you call Lares, you deal with according to your household rights, pledging, advertising, changing them, sometimes from a Saturn into a cooking-pot, sometimes from a Minerva into a ladle, as each god happens to be worn and damaged with long adoration, as each master has found a more sacred deity in his domestic need. Your public gods you profane equally by public authority, while you keep them as sources of revenue in the auction-catalogue. Thus the Capitol, thus the vegetable market is attended by the bidders; under the same voice of the crier, under the same spear, under the same entry made by the quaestor, divinity is knocked down to the highest bidder. But indeed lands charged with tribute are cheaper, and persons rated at a tax are less noble (for these are the marks of serfdom): but the gods who bring in more tribute are more holy, or rather those who are more holy, bring in more tribute. Their majesty is made a matter of profit. Religion goes begging about the taverns. You demand payment for the ground on which a temple stands, for permission to approach the sacred place; you cannot be acquainted with the gods for nothing, they have their price. What do you do at all to honour them, which you do not also bestow on your dead? Both alike have their temples and altars. The dress is the same, the ornaments on their dress the same. The god corresponds in age, skill, and business to the dead man. What difference is there between a funeral feast and a banquet to Jupiter ? between a sacrificial and a funeral chalice ? an undertaker and a soothsayer? for a soothsayer also attends upon the dead. But you worthily confer the honour of divinity on emperors when dead, since even in their lifetime you assign it to them. Your gods will give you credit for it, nay rather they will thank you for making their masters equal to them. But when you worship Larentina. a common whore--would it were at least a Lais or a Phryne--, among the Junos and the Cereses and the Dianas, when you hallow the name of Simon Magus with the statue and inscription of a holy god, when you make some court page a member of the college of gods; although the |49 old gods are no nobler, yet they will consider it an insult paid to them from you, that this privilege, which antiquity conferred on them alone, has been allowed to others also.
CHAP. XIV. I am unwilling8 to go further and review your sacred rites. I do not say what is your method in sacrificing, which leads you to slaughter every worn-out, putrefying and mangy creature, to cut off all the useless parts from the prime and sound beasts, the little heads and the hoofs, which even at home you would have set apart for slaves or dogs, your placing on Hercules' altar of not even a third part of the tithe that is due to him. I will rather praise your wisdom in rescuing something of what is in danger of being lost. But when I turn to your literature, whence you derive instruction in practical wisdom, and the duties of gentlemen, what ridiculous situations do I find! gods engaged like pairs of gladiators and fighting desperately together on account of the Trojans and the Achaeans, Venus wounded by an arrow from a human hand, because she wished to snatch her son Aeneas, when almost killed, from the same Diomede (who had wounded herself); Mars reduced almost to a shadow by thirteen months in chains, Jupiter rescued by the agency of some monster from meeting the same violence at the hands of the other divinities, and at one time weeping the misfortune of Sarpedon, at another burning with shameful lust for his sister, and telling her the while of the mistresses in the long past, none of them so much loved as she. Since that time what poet may not be found calumniating the gods, on the authority of the chief of his craft ? One makes over Apollo to king Admetus to feed his flocks, another lets out Neptune's services in building to Laomedon. There is also the great lyric poet (I mean Pindar), who sings that Aesculapius was deservedly punished with a thunderbolt by reason of his greed, which made him practise the healing art injuriously. Jupiter is evil, if the thunderbolt is his, devoid of natural feeling for his grandson, and jealous of the skilled practitioner. Such stories ought never to have been revealed if true; if false, ought never to have been invented, among really religious people. Nor do the writers of tragedies or comedies refrain from publishing in their prologues the sorrows or wanderings of the family of some god. I say nothing of the philosophers, being quite content with Socrates, who, in mockery of the gods, swore by the oak and the goat and the dog. But (say you) Socrates was condemned for that very reason, because he tried to do away with the gods. |51 Plainly! because the truth has long, or rather always, been an object of hatred. Nevertheless, when the Athenians, from remorse for the sentence they had passed, not only afterwards punished the prosecutors of Socrates but also placed a golden statue of him in a temple, the reversal of the condemnation gave a new testimony to Socrates. But Diogenes too made some witticism at Hercules' expense, and the Roman Cynic, Varro, introduces a whole host of headless Joves (or Jupiters as they ought perhaps to be called).
CHAP. XV. The rest of your licentious wits also work for your pleasures through the dishonour of the gods. Examine the farces of the Lentuli and Hostilii, and consider whether it is the buffoons or your gods whose jokes and tricks you are laughing at; such subjects as an adulterous Anubis, a masculine Moon, Diana scourged, the will of the deceased Jupiter read aloud, and three starving Herculeses held up to ridicule. Moreover the writings of the playwrights also give form to all their filthiness. The Sun-god mourns his son cast from heaven, while you rejoice, and Cybele sighs for her disdainful shepherd, while you are no whit ashamed, and you can endure to listen to the song which tells the sins of Jupiter, and the trial of Juno, Venus and Minerva by the shepherd. What of the fact that a mask representing a god of yours covers the head of a branded and notorious person, that an unclean body prolonged for this accomplishment by emasculation represents a Minerva or a Hercules--is not their majesty outraged and their divinity prostituted, while you applaud? You are clearly more religious in the amphitheatre, where your gods in like manner dance on human blood, on the marks of punishments undergone, providing plots and narratives for criminals, save and except that criminals often put on the character of your gods themselves also. We have sometimes witnessed the mutilation of Attis, the famous god of Pessinus, and a man who was burning alive had personated Hercules. We have laughed too amidst the sportive atrocities of the midday combatants, at Mercury testing apparent deaths with a branding-iron; we have likewise seen Jupiter's brother dragging down the corpses of gladiators with a hammer in his hand (to finish those who were not quite dead). But who could even inquire into these absurdities one by one? If they disquiet the honour of the gods, if they obliterate all traces of divinity, surely they take their rise in the contempt, both of those who practise such things and of those for whom they practise them. But those you will say are mere shows. |53 If however I were to add--what will be equally admitted by the consciences of all--that adulteries are arranged in the temples, that panders ply their trade among the altars, that often in the very rooms of sacristans and priests, under the same fillets and sacred caps and purple vestments, lust is satisfied while the incense is burning, I know not whether your gods may not find more reason to complain about you than about the Christians. Certainly those guilty of sacrilege are always of your number. For the Christians do not know the temples even by day. Perhaps they might also rob them themselves, if they themselves also did reverence to them. What then do they worship who do not worship such things ? Already indeed it is easy to be understood that those are worshippers of the truth who are not worshippers of a lie, and that they no longer err in a matter in which the recognition of previous error taught them to give it up. Grasp this fact first, and thence gather the whole order of our mystery, first however rejecting certain false notions.
CHAP. XVI. For you, too, like some others, have dreamed that an ass's head is the object of our worship. The fancy of such a deity was put into their minds by Cornelius Tacitus, who in the fifth of his Histories, having begun his account of the Jewish War with an account of the origin of the race, and having also discussed at his pleasure alike the origin itself and the name and religion of the race, records that the Jews, having been freed or, as he thought, exiled from Egypt, when they were weakened through thirst in the deserts of Arabia, where water was very scarce, employed some wild asses to guide them to a spring, thinking that they would probably be seeking water after food, and on that account consecrated the form of a similar animal. And hence I think it was presumed that we, too, being thus allied to the Jewish religion were taught to do reverence to the same image. But indeed it is the same Cornelius Tacitus, truly the most inventive of romancers, who in the same history records that Gnaeus Pompeius, after capturing Jerusalem and thus going to the temple to investigate the secrets of the Jewish religion, found no image therein. And to be sure, if the object of worship was represented by some figure, this would have been most appropriately shown in its own shrine, the rather that the worship, however vain, had no fear of strangers to witness it; only the priests were allowed to approach, while the gaze of the rest was forbidden by a curtain spread out over it. And yet you will not deny that you pay divine honours to |55 all beasts of burden, as well as to asses, heads and bodies both, along with their own goddess Epona. Perhaps our fault consists in the fact that amongst the worshippers of cattle and beasts of all kinds we worship the ass alone.
But he too who thinks that we adore the cross will be our fellow-worshipper. When some piece of wood is propitiated, no matter for the fashion as long as the quality of the material is . the same, no matter for the form as long as the god is bodily in the image. And yet what a great difference there is between the upright of a cross and the Athenian Pallas or the Egyptian Ceres, who stand forth formless, a rough stake, a shapeless bit of wood! Every piece of wood that is fixed in the ground in an erect position is part of a cross; we, perhaps, worship an unmutilated and complete god. I have said that the sculptors of your gods make a beginning with a cross: but you also worship Victories, although, in trophies, crosses form the inside part. The whole religion of the Roman camp consists in worshipping the standards, in swearing by the standards, and in setting the standards above all the gods. All those rows of images on the standards are but as necklaces of crosses; those pennons on the ensigns and banners are the robes of crosses. I commend your scrupulous attitude: you would not dedicate crosses that were bare and undraped. Others, certainly with greater semblance of nature and of truth, believe the sun to be our god. If so, we shall perhaps be classed with the Persians, although we do not worship a representation of the sun on a linen cloth, since everywhere we have the sun himself within his own hemisphere. Lastly the suspicion arises from the knowledge that we turn to the east in prayer. But many of you too with an affectation of sometimes worshipping heavenly bodies move your lips towards the rising sun. Likewise if we give rein to joy on Sundays, in a far different way from sun worship, we are only second to those who devote Saturday (Sabbath) to idleness and feasting, and who also deviate from the Jewish custom of which they are ignorant. But recently in this city, what is really a new representation of our god has been made public, since a certain criminal, hired to trick the wild beasts, exhibited a picture with an inscription to the following effect: 'The Christian God, the Offspring of an Ass.' He had asses' ears, one foot hoofed, was dressed in the toga and carried a book. We laughed both at the name and the figure. But they were bound to worship at once a two-formed divinity, because they have welcomed, as gods, creatures with heads both of dog and of lion, with the horns of a goat and a ram, others with goats' bodies from the loins downwards, and like serpents |57 from the legs, and with wings on the foot or the back. I have stated these methods more fully, to avoid passing over, as it were purposely, any rumour without rebutting it. All these false opinions we have now cleared away and proceed to turn9 to the proof of our religion.
CHAP. XVII. The object of our worship is one God, who through the word by which he commanded (that they should exist), the reason by which he arranged them, the power by which he could (carry out his will), fashioned out of nothing all this mass with all its apparatus of elements, bodies and spirits, for an ornament to his own greatness, whence it is that the Greeks also have applied the name ko&smoj (ornament) to the universe. He is invisible, though he may be seen; incomprehensible, though he is represented to men through his grace; inestimable, though he can be estimated through the human senses; therefore is he the true and the mighty God. What is capable, however, of being generally seen, of being grasped, of being valued, is less both than the eyes by which it is caught, than the hands by which it is touched, and the thoughts by which it is discovered; but that which is immeasurable is known only to itself. This is what makes God valued, while yet he is incapable of valuation. Thus it is that the power of his greatness presents him as both known and unknown to men. And this is the substance of their offence, that they refuse to recognise him of whom they cannot be ignorant. Do you wish that we should prove this from his own works, so many and of such a character, by which we are restrained, upheld, delighted; nay even by which we are terrified, or should we prove it even from the evidence of the soul itself ? Although weighed down by the prison of the body, though confined by evil customs, though emasculated by lusts and passions, though enslaved to false gods, yet, when it recovers its senses, as after surfeit, as after sleep, as after some illness, when it becomes conscious of its own health, it names God, for the sole reason that he alone is by nature the true God. 'Good God,' 'Great God' and 'Which may God grant' are expressions used by all. That he is also a judge is attested by the words: 'God sees,' 'I commend to God,' and 'God will recompense me.' O evidence of the natural Christianity of the soul! For when uttering these words it looks not to the Capitol, but to the sky. It knows indeed the place of abode of the living God; from him and from there10 it descended. |59
CHAP. XVIII. But that we might more fully and more seriously approach to himself as well as to his arrangements and purposes, he added a literary document, in case any one should wish to inquire about God, and having inquired to find him, and having found him to believe on him, and having believed to serve him. For from the beginning he hath sent into the world men overflowing with the divine spirit, and worthy by their justice and innocence to know God and to make him known, in order that they might preach him as the only god who founded the universe, and formed man from the soil,--for this is the true Prometheus, who ordered the world by fixed arrangements and endings of seasons,--who afterwards proclaimed signs of his majesty in judgment by water and fire, who laid down statutes for the gaining of his favour; who has appointed rewards for those that know not, those that neglect, and those that keep his laws; in order that when this world shall have come to an end11 he may adjudge his worshippers to the reward of eternal life, and the irreligious to a fire no less continuous and lasting, having raised all those that have died from the beginning and given them a new form and called to an account for the recompense of each man's deserts. We too once laughed at this: we sprang from your ranks; Christians are made Christians, and not born such. Those whom we have called preachers are named prophets from their office of foretelling. Their words and likewise their wonderful deeds, which they performed to produce belief in the Godhead, remain in the storehouses of literature, nor are these now hidden. Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus, a most learned king with a keen appreciation of all literature, in his zeal for libraries, in which, I suppose, he rivalled Pisistratus, amongst other historical monuments, which were rendered famous either by antiquity or curiosity of some kind, at the instance of Demetrius of Phalerum, the most approved grammarian of the time, to whom he had entrusted the chief care of the matter, asked books from the Jews also, writings peculiar to themselves and in their own language. For the prophets were always taken from among themselves and had always addressed themselves as being a people belonging to God in accordance with the favour shown to their fathers. Hebrews was the name formerly given to those now called Jews. Consequently both their literature and language are Hebrew. But that there might be no deficiency of knowledge, this also was granted by the Jews to Ptolemy, seventy-two translators being allowed, whom Menedemus also, the philosopher, a champion of (divine) |61 providence, admired, in consequence of their community of view (on this subject). Aristaeus also has declared this to you. So he (Ptolemy) left these records behind, made accessible in the Greek idiom. To this very day the libraries of Ptolemy are shown in the Serapeum with the Hebrew literature itself. But the Jews too read it publicly: this liberty they have on payment of a tax, and there is common access to them every Sabbath. He who listens will find God: he also who is at pains to understand will be compelled to believe also.
CHAP. XIX. The first authority is claimed for these sacred books by their extreme antiquity. Among you also the claiming of belief on the score of time amounts to a religion. [Authority is given to literature by extreme age. For the prophet Moses, who began from the past his account of the creation of the world and the growth of the human race and afterwards the power of the flood which avenged the unrighteousness of that age, was the first to proclaim by prophecy down to his own time, and then through his own exploits, representations of the things to be, (was the first) also in whom a chronological order arranged from the beginning has given us a calculation of time. He is found to be about three hundred years earlier than the date at which Danaus, the most ancient (hero) known to you, crossed to Argos, he is found to be about a thousand years earlier than the Trojan war, which means that he is as much earlier than Saturn himself. For according to Thallus' history, in which it is recorded that Bel12, king of the Assyrians, and Saturn, king of the Titans, fought with Jupiter, it can be shown that Bel antedated the destruction of Trpy by three hundred and twenty-two years. It was through this Moses also that the Jews received from God that law peculiar to themselves. After his time in succession much was recorded by other prophets also who are older than your records; for even he who prophesied last either preceded somewhat or was at least contemporaneous with your philosophers, and even with your lawgivers. For in the reigns of Cyrus and Darius lived Zechariah, at which time Thales, the earliest of the natural philosophers, stirred no doubt by the words of the prophets, could give no definite answer about the Godhead to the questions of Croesus. To the same king Solon declared, in much the same words as the prophets, that he must look to the end of a long life. So clearly can it be seen from a backward glance that he (Solon) derived both your laws and your philosophy from the Jewish law and the divine teaching. What comes first must of necessity be the |63 seed. Hence it is that you have certain tenets either in common with us or like ours. It is from sophia (wisdom) that the love of it has got the name 'philosophy,' and from prophecy that the imitation of it has borrowed the divination of the poets. If men found anything that was glorious, they corrupted it to make it their own. Even fruits have degenerated from the quality of the seed. In many further ways I might join issue on the antiquity of the sacred writings, were it not that they derive a greater weight of credibility from the strength of their truth than from the records of their age. For what will support its evidence more powerfully than the daily testing of a whole age, when the arrangements of kingdoms, the fall of cities, the destruction of nations, the situations at particular times, correspond exactly to the prophecies about them made thousands of years before? Hence our hope, at which you laugh, receives fresh life, and our confidence, which you call assurance, is strengthened. For it is natural that an examination of the past should lead us to put confidence in the future. The same13 words prophesied both past and future, the same writings have signified them. Time, which among us seems to be divided into parts, is but one in those writings. Consequently all that remains unverified is already for us verified, because it was prophesied along with those events which were then in the future and have (since) been verified. You also have, if I am not mistaken, a Sibyl. I mention her because this name of the true prophetess of the true God has been everywhere used beyond all others, who seemed to have the gift of prophecy, as14 your Sibyls have falsely employed the name instead of the true one, even as your gods also have done.] All beings therefore and all materials, beginnings, arrangements, channels of each ancient writing of yours, likewise very many races and cities distinguished in history and hoary in records, further the very forms of the letters, the indicators and guardians of facts, and--I believe that as yet I have been putting it too feebly--your very gods I say, the very temples and oracles and sacred rites, are sometimes centuries antedated by one prophet's book, in which the treasure of the whole Jewish religion, and hence of ours also, seems to have been placed. If meantime you have heard of some Moses, he is as old as the Argive Inachus: by almost four hundred years--actually seven less--he precedes Danaus who is himself too the oldest among you, and he is about a thousand |65 years earlier than the overthrow of Priam; I might also add 'and Homer too' by more than 500 years, seeing I have authorities for this statement. With regard to the other prophets also, although they are later than Moses, are not the very latest of them nevertheless found to be earlier than your earliest philosophers, legislators and historians ? By what successions these statements can be proved it is not so much a difficult as it is an immense task for us to set forth, nor is it really difficult, but at this stage it would take too long. We should have to settle ourselves down to many documents with calculating movements of the fingers, we should have to unlock the archives even of the most ancient peoples, the Egyptians, the Chaldaeans, the Phoenicians. We should have to call in fellow-citizens of those by whom this knowledge has been supplied, some Egyptian Manetho and some Chaldean Berosus, but also Hiram the Phoenician, king of Tyre; their successors also, Ptolemy of Mendes' and Menander of Ephesus and Demetrius of Phalerum and King Juba and Apion and Thallus, and either to confirm or refute these, the Jew Josephus, the native champion of Jewish antiquities. The census-books of the Greeks must also be compared, that what things were done at what time or the sequence of events may be made known, so as to throw light on the chronology of historical events; we must make excursions into the histories and literature of the world. And yet we have already brought forward about half of our proof, when we have given a sprinkling of the means by which they can be proved. But it is better to postpone (our proof), lest we should either accomplish less in our haste or digress too far in our treatment.
CHAP. XX. In place of this deferred proof I now offer you something more, the majesty of the Scriptures, if we cannot prove them to be divine because of their age, if their age is questionable. Nor is this to be learnt slowly or from some other source; your instructors are before your eyes; the world and the age and the course of history. Whatsoever is taking place, was prophesied; whatsoever is now seen, was heard of: the swallowing up of cities by the earth, the encroachment on islands by the sea, the slaughters caused by foreign and domestic wars, the clash of kingdoms upon kingdoms, the devastation produced by famine and pestilence, and all local disasters and the great frequency of deaths; the humble are exalted and the lofty abased; the growing infrequency of justice, the growing frequency of injustice, the decay of the care for all noble lessons, the deviations in, the functions of the seasons and the duties of the elements, the disturbance in the shape of natural objects |67 both by prodigies and by portents, (all) are written (down) with foresight. While we experience them, they are being read; while we examine them, they are being proved true. The truth of prophecy is, I think, a reliable evidence of divinity. Therefore it is thus that amongst us the belief also in future events is safe, being already of course proved true, because they were prophesied along with those things that are daily verified; the same words sound, the same letters mark them, the same spirit impels them, time is an unity to prophecy when foretelling the future. Among men perhaps it is marked off into periods, while it is being completed, while the present is calculated from the future, then the past from the present. What is our sin, I pray you, in believing the future also, as we have already learned through two stages to believe it ?
CHAP. XXI. But since we have stated that this sect is supported by most ancient Jewish documents, though very many know on our own declaration also that it is comparatively new, belonging as it does to the time of Tiberius, perchance on this ground a further inquiry may be made into its nature, viz. that it conceals some of its own arrogance under the shadow of a most famous religion, or one that is at any rate permitted by law, or because in addition to the question of its age we have no relation with the Jews either with regard to distinctions of meats, or the sanctity of special days or the distinctive bodily mark itself or the sharing of the name with them, which would of course be our duty if we were the property of the same god. Even the common people now know Christ as a human being, such as the Jews judged him (to be), so that it is easier for any one to believe that we are worshippers of a man. But we are neither ashamed of Christ, seeing that we rejoice to be reckoned as his servants and condemned with him, nor is our idea of God different from that of the Jews. We must therefore say something about Christ as God. The Jews had long enjoyed favour with God, for among them the justice and loyalty of their ancestors at the beginning were remarkable; whence the greatness of their race and the glory of their kingdom flourished and so great happiness, that from the words of God, by which they were taught, they were warned beforehand as to the gaining of his favour and the avoidance of his displeasure. But how greatly they transgressed, being puffed up by confidence in their fathers to leave the true path, and profanely turning aside from their training! Even if they themselves did not admit the fact, their ruinous situation to-day would prove it. Scattered in all directions, straggling, exiles from their own |69 soil and sky, they wander over the world without either man or God for their king; they are not allowed even as strangers to greet the land of their fathers even to the extent of stepping on it. While holy voices threatened them with this beforehand, at the same time all were continually urging, that in the last stages of time God would then choose for himself from every race, community and region worshippers much more faithful to whom to transfer his favour, which would be actually fuller by reason of the capacity of a more developed teaching. He came therefore, that being, Christ, the Son of God, who it was foretold would come from God to reform and illuminate the world. The Son of God therefore was announced as ruler and master of this grace and dispensation, the enlightener and the leader of the human race, not indeed born under such circumstances, that he should blush at the name of son or at his father's seed; it was not through incestuous connexion with a sister nor through the debauching of a daughter or of another's wife that he got a god for father, a lover scaly or horned or feathered or changed into a shower of gold, like Danae's. These shameful deeds of Jupiter are the gods you worship. But the Son of God has his mother as the result of no unchastity; even she, whom he seems to have (for mother), had not married. But I will first explain his nature, and thus the character of his birth will be understood. We have already proclaimed that God constructed this totality of the universe by word and reason and power. Among your philosophers also it is a settled belief that Logos, which means word and reason, is the fashioner of the universe. For Zeno lays it down that this maker, who fashioned everything in order, is the same that is called also fate and god and the mind of Jupiter and the inevitableness of all things. These Cleanthes combines in the Spirit, which he maintains pervades the universe. And we also ascribe Spirit as its true essence to word and reason and likewise to power, by which we have proclaimed thatGodhas constructed everything, in which are present both word when declaring and reason when arranging and power when accomplishing. We have learnt that this Spirit came forth from God and by this forth-coming is begotten and has therefore been called Son of God, and God from unity of nature. For Spirit is also God. Also, when a ray is projected from the sun, it is a part of the whole; but the sun will be in the ray, because the ray belongs to the sun and is not separated from, it by nature but stretches out from it. Spirit comes from Spirit and God from God as light is kindled from light. The parent-stem remains whole and unlessened in substance, even if you borrow a number of offshoots of its character from it: |71 so also that which has come forth from God, is God and the Son of God, and both are one. So the Spirit that comes from Spirit and the God that comes from God brought about the number two, as regards the measure (of the possession of being), in grade not in unchangeable condition, and it did not separate from the source, but came out from it. This ray, therefore, of God, as was always foretold15 in the past, coming down into a certain virgin and being formed into flesh in her womb, is born man mixed with God. The flesh having been informed with breath is nourished, grows up, speaks, teaches, works, and is Christ. Meantime accept this story, which is like your own, while I show how he is proved to be Christ and who they are among you who have previously supplied hostile tales of that kind to destroy a truth of this kind. The Jews too knew that Christ was to come, seeing that it was to them that the prophets used to speak. For even now they are looking out for his arrival, nor is there any greater cause of disagreement between us and them than the fact that they do not believe that he has already come. For as two advents of his have been indicated, the first, which has already been fulfilled (in every predicted detail), in the humility of his human creation, the second, which precedes the end of the world, in the loftiness of the manifested Godhead, they by misunderstanding the first, have thought the second, which (having been more clearly prophesied16) they expect, to be the only one. It was the desert of their transgression that they should not understand the original advent, for if they had understood, they would have believed, and if they had believed they would have attained safety. They themselves read it thus written, that they have lost their wisdom and understanding and the use of their eyes and ears. It followed therefore that he whom they had assumed to be merely man because of his humility, they regarded as a magician from his power, when by a word he cast out demons from men, restored light to the blind, cleansed the lepers, braced up the paralytic again, and even by a word restored the dead to life, ruled the elements themselves, quelling storms and walking upon seas, showing that he was the word of God (that is the Logos), that original, first-born word, attended by power and reason and supported by spirit, the selfsame who was both making and had made everything by a word. At his teaching, however, by which the teachers and leading men among the Jews were refuted, they were so angered, especially because a vast crowd was turning aside to him, that in the end they prosecuted him, and by the violence of |73 their partisanship forcibly obtained from Pontius Pilate, who at that time was governing Syria on behalf of the Romans, Jesus' surrender for crucifixion. He himself also had foretold that they would do so; a small thing, if the prophets had not also foretold it earlier. And further, on being crucified he displayed many signs peculiar to that death. For he released his spirit of his own accord with a word, anticipating the duty of the executioner. At the same moment daylight was withdrawn, though the sun was then marking the middle of his course. Those who did not know that this also had been prophesied17 with regard to Christ, thought that it was an eclipse; and yet you have that overshadowing of the sky recorded in your secret records. Then the Jews took him down, laid him in a tomb, and further surrounded it with a large band of soldiers, to guard it carefully, lest his disciples might remove the corpse by stealth, because he had foretold that on the third day he would rise again from death, and thus escape those who suspected them. But lo, on the third day there was a sudden earthquake and the massive stone which had blocked the entrance to the tomb was rolled back; the guard dispersed in panic, though no disciples appeared, and nothing was found in the tomb except the grave clothes. Nevertheless, the rulers, whose interest it was both to spread a wicked tale and to recall from the faith their tributaries and dependents, spread abroad the report that he had been stolen by his disciples. For neither did he show himself to the crowd, lest the irreligious might be freed from their mistake, and also in order that belief, which is destined to receive no little reward, should be strengthened by difficulty. However with certain disciples he lived in Galilee, a district of Judea, for forty days, teaching them what they were to teach. Then, having ordained them to the duty of preaching throughout the world, he was taken up to heaven in a cloud, much more truly than people like Proculus are wont to assert among you about Romulus. All these things with reference to Christ, Pilate, who himself also in his own conscience was now a Christian, reported to the then emperor Tiberius. But even the emperors would have believed on Christ, if either emperors had not been necessary to the world or if it had been possible for Christians too to be emperors. His disciples also scattered throughout the world in accordance with the order of their teacher God. They themselves too having gladly suffered much at the hands of persecuting Jews, of course for their confidence in the truth, at last through the cruelty of Nero sowed the seed of Christian martyrdom at Rome. |75 But we will show you that the very persons whom you worship are reliable witnesses of Christ. It is a great point, if, to make you believe the Christians, I can employ those on whose account you now disbelieve them. Meantime this is the order of our teaching, this the beginning both of our sect and name together with that of its founder. Let no one now charge us with dishonour, let no one believe any other thing than this, because it is not permitted to any one to tell lies about his own religion. For from the moment that a man says anything is worshipped by him other than what he worships, he denies what he worships, and transfers both worship and honour to another, and by transferring he now no longer worships that which he denied. We affirm and affirm openly and, torn and bleeding, as we are, under your torture, we cry aloud, 'We worship God through Christ.' Suppose him to be a man: it is through him and in him that God desires himself to be known and worshipped. But to reply to the Jews, they themselves too were taught to worship the Lord through the man Moses: and to meet the objections of the Greeks, Orpheus at Pieria, Musaeus at Athens, Melampus at Argos, Trophonius in Boeotia bound men by initiations: to turn my attention to you also, the rulers of the nations, Numa Pompilius, who loaded the Romans with most irksome superstitions, was a man. Let it be allowed to Christ to imagine divinity to be his own possession, not as a mere name by which he was to tone down to a true humanity a barbarous herd, by making them awe-struck at the crowd of so many divine powers that had to be appeased, as Numa did, but so as to open to the recognition of the truth the eyes of men already refined and deceived by their very refinement. Seek then and see whether this divinity of Christ be true. If it is that on the learning of which any one is reformed and becomes good, it follows that the unreal (divinity) must be given up, as all that method in particular has been found out, which hiding itself under names and representations of dead persons does by certain signs and wonders and oracles work belief in its own divinity.
CHAP. XXII. And further we say that there are certain spiritual substances; nor is the name unusual. The philosophers are familiar with daemons, since Socrates himself waited on the will of a daemon. Why not ? A daemon is said to have actually attached itself to him since boyhood, evidently to dissuade him from good. All the poets know them, even the untaught rabble makes constant use of them for cursing; for they utter even the name of Satan, the chief of this evil class, .as it were from the soul's innate knowledge, with the same |77 word of cursing. Plato also did not deny tlie existence of angels: even the magi are ready to bear witness to both names (i.e. spirits and angels). Nay we learn in sacred literature the story how, from certain angels polluted of their own free-will, a yet more polluted race of spirits arose, condemned by God along with the founders of their stock and along with him whom we have called the chief. Now it will be enough to explain the course of their work. Their business is the destruction of man; thus did the wickedness of spirits begin at the beginning of things with a view to the ruin of man. Therefore while it is true that they inflict on bodies both diseases and some severe accidents, they also inflict on the soul sudden and strange aberrations of violent madness. Their wonderful subtilty and fineness of texture give them access to both parts of man. Spiritual agencies have great power, so that being invisible and intangible18 they show themselves rather in their effect than in their action; if fruit, if ground-crops are through some secret fault in the atmosphere nipt in the bud, killed in the seed, seriously damaged when ripe, and if the air attacked in some hidden way exhales its pestilential draughts. Then by the same obscure contagion the breathing of daemons and of angels (upon us) works corruptions of the mind also, in attacks of raving madness and disgraceful paroxysms of folly or cruel lusts attended by various errors, of which the most signal is this by which it recommends these gods to the enthralled and deluded minds of men, that it may obtain for itself also proper diets of fumes and blood, offered to statues and images. And what more exquisite pasture could it have than by its deceptive legerdemain to turn away man from thinking on true divinity? How it works these very tricks I will explain. Every spirit is winged. So are angels and daemons. Consequently in a moment they are everywhere, to them the whole world is one place; what is being done in any place it is as easy for them to know as to report. Their swiftness is believed to betoken divinity, because their substance is unknown. Thus they sometimes wish to be regarded as the authors also of what they report; and , they certainly are so at times in the case of evil, but never of good things. Even the counsels of God they in the old days picked up from the words of the prophets, and in these days they gather them from the lessons of Scripture they hear. So it is that gleaning from them certain responses with regard to dates they enviously ape the divinity, while they steal the oracles of God. In the sphere of oracles, moreover, people like Croesus and Pyrrhus know with what ingenuity they adapt ambiguities to |79 events. But it was in the way we have mentioned above that the Pythian Apollo reported the boiling of a tortoise with the flesh of a sheep; a moment had taken him to Lydia. From the fact that they inhabit the air and from the neighbourhood of the stars and from their dealings with the clouds they are able to have knowledge of the preparations in heaven, so that they can even promise rains which they already feel. They are also clearly sorcerers19 in their treatments of disease. For they first injure, and then prescribe remedies to excite wonder, whether simply new or absolutely opposed to the usual practices, after which they cease to injure, and are (thus) believed to have effected a cure. Why then should I speak of other subtilties or even powers of spiritual deception ? the appearances of the Castors, and the water borne in a sieve, and the ship propelled by a girdle, and the beard made red at a touch,--so that stones might be believed to be divinities, and the true God should not be sought after?
CHAP. XXIII. Moreover, if magicians also call forth apparitions and dishonour the souls of those already dead, if they put children to death to get an oracular utterance, if they perform many wonders with mountebank trickery, if they also let loose dreams, having to stand by them the power of angels and spirits once for all invited, through whom both goats and tables have been wont to give oracles, how much more would that power of its own initiative and on behalf of its own business exert itself with all its strength to carry out the same work, which it performs to serve the business of another! Or if both angels and daemons work the same things as your gods also work, where then lies the preeminence of divinity, which must of course be believed to be superior to every (other) power? Will it not then be more fitting to assume that it is the persons themselves who make themselves gods, since they display the same actions which produce belief in divinity, than to imagine that the gods are merely on a level with angels and daemons? A distinction is made, I suppose, according to the difference of localities, so that from their temples you judge those to be gods, whom in other places you do not call gods; so that one who flies through sacred towers is considered to suffer from one kind of madness, while one who leaps over the houses in the neighbourhood is considered to suffer from another, and one power is declared to exist in him who cuts off his organs of generation or his arms, and another in him who cuts off his tongue. The result of the madness is alike in both cases and there is one |81 method only of incitement. But enough of words; from this point onward there must be a presentation of the thing itself, by which we shall show that the nature of gods and daemons is one. Let any one be produced in this very place under your tribunals, who it is well known is under the influence of a daemon; that spirit, if ordered by any Christian to speak, will as readily confess itself a daemon, because it is true, as elsewhere a god because it is untrue. Let someone likewise be brought forward from among those who are thought to be under the influence of a god, men who by breathing on altars acquire a divine power from the odour of the sacrifice, who are cured by exhaling, and force an utterance as they pant. This very Maiden of the Heavens, the promiser of rains, this very Aesculapius, the discoverer of cures, the ministers of another day to Socordius, Tenatius and Asclepiodotus, men doomed to die-- unless they confess themselves daemons, not daring to lie to a Christian, forthwith shed the blood of that most insolent Christian! What could be more evident than a fact like this ? what more trustworthy than this demonstration? The simplicity of truth is for all eyes to see, its own excellence supports it, suspicion is impossible. Do you say this result comes from magic or some deception of that kind? You will not say it, (even) if your eyes and ears allow you. But what can be insinuated against that which is set forth in its naked simplicity ? If, on the one hand, they are truly gods, why do they say falsely that they are daemons ? is it that they may please us ? If so, then your divinity is already subject to Christians, and that is not to be considered divinity which is subject to a man, and (if aught can add to the disgrace) to its actual foes. If on the other hand they are daemons or angels, why do they answer that they play the part of gods elsewhere? For, just as those who are considered gods would have refused to call themselves daemons, if they had been truly gods, of course lest they should depose themselves from their high dignity, so also these whom you know at once to be daemons, would not dare elsewhere to pose as gods, if those gods whose names they usurp were gods of any sort at all, since they would be afraid to misuse those higher dignities which, without doubt, they would also have to dread. Therefore this divinity which you hold fast is non-existent: for, if it existed, it would neither be claimed by spirits in confession, nor denied by gods. Since then both sides agree to our admission, denying that the gods exist, you must recognise that there is one class only, viz. daemons, but that it is on both sides. You must now seek for fresh gods, since those you had assumed to exist, you learn are daemons. But by this same aid from us, |83 from these same gods of yours, who reveal not only this, that neither they themselves nor any others are gods, you immediately learn this also, namely who is truly God, and whether it is he and he alone whom we Christians profess to believe, and whether he ought to be believed and worshipped as the belief and teaching of the Christians is laid down. They will say at the same time: 'And who is that Christ with his story? was he a man of ordinary condition ? was he a magician ? was he after death stolen from the tomb by his disciples ? Is he now at last among the shades below ?' Is he not rather in the heavens, and to come thence with a movement of the whole universe, with trembling of the world, with mourning of all (but not of the Christians), as the power of God and the breath and word and wisdom and reason of God, and the Son of God? Whatsoever you laugh at, let them also (i.e. the daemons) laugh at it with you; let them deny that Christ will judge every soul that has been since the beginning of time, each having its body restored to it. Let them say that instead of this tribunal a Minos perhaps and a Ehadamanthus, according to the agreement of Plato and the poets, were allotted to this duty; let them at least repudiate the stigma of their own disgrace and condemnation. They report that they are unclean spirits, a fact which ought to have been understood even from their diet, blood and smoke and the putrid sacrifices of cattle, and the polluted tongues of the soothsayers themselves. Let them deny that on account of their wickedness they were fore-ordained to the same day of judgment with all their worshippers and agencies. Yet all this rule and power of ours over them derives its strength from the naming of Christ, and from the mention of those things which they look for as impending over them from God, through Christ the Judge. Fearing Christ in God and God in Christ, they are subject to the servants of God and Christ. Thus from our touch and from our breath being carried away by the thought and vision of that fire, they even leave the bodies of men at our order, unwilling and discomfited and ashamed at your presence. Believe them when they speak the truth about themselves, ye who believe them when they lie. No one lies to bring disgrace, but rather to bring honour upon himself. Credence is more readily given to those who confess against themselves than to those who deny in defence of themselves. Further these testimonies from your own gods have been wont to make Christians; because, the more we believe them, the more we believe in Christ as Lord. They themselves excite belief in our scriptures, they themselves build up trust in our hope. To the best of my belief, you even propitiate them with the blood of Christians. They would therefore |85 be unwilling to lose those who are so profitable and so dutiful to them as you are, if only that they might not be driven away from you one day by the Christians, if it were in their power to speak falsely in the presence of a Christian who wished to prove the truth to you.
CHAP. XXIV. All this confession of theirs, by which they deny that they are gods and by which they answer that there is no other God but one, whose servants we are, is sufficient to refute the charge of signal violation of the Roman religion. For if there are assuredly no gods, then assuredly there is no religion either; and if there is no religion, because assuredly there are no gods either, assuredly neither can we be charged with violation of religion. On the contrary the reproach has recoiled on yourselves, who, worshipping a lie, commit the crime of real irreligion against the truth, not only by neglecting the true worship of the true God, but by attacking it also. Now, even though it were allowed that those gods exist, do you not coincide with the general opinion that there is one higher and more powerful, a sort of head of the universe of absolute power and sovereignty? For very many also distribute the divine power in such a way as to wish the rule of the highest lordship to be in the hands of one, while his functions are in the hands of many, as Plato describes the great Jupiter in heaven, attended by a host alike of gods and of daemons, and held it thus to be right that the procurators and prefects and governors (in general) should be alike respected20. And yet what crime is committed by him who applies both his exertions and his hope rather to the winning of favour with Caesar, and does not allow the name God, just as he would not allow the name Emperor in the case of any leading man, since it is judged a capital offence both to use and to listen to the use of the name for any one but Caesar ? Let one worship God, another Jupiter; let one hold out suppliant hands to the sky, another to the altar of Fides; let one, if such is your opinion, count the clouds while he prays, another the panels of the ceiling; let one dedicate to his God his own life, another the life of a goat. Beware, too, lest this also should be combined with the charge of irreligion, the taking away of the liberty of worship and the forbidding of the choice of a god, so that I sh'ould be prevented from worshipping him whom I will, but should be compelled to worship (another) against my will. No being, not even a man, will desire to be worshipped by an unwilling person; and yet even the Egyptians were allowed the power of such a foolish superstition, for the deification of |87 birds and beasts, and the condemnation to death of any one who had killed a god of this sort. Each province also and city-state has its own god, as Syria has Astartes, as Arabia Dusares, as the Norici have Belenus, as Africa has Caelestis, Mauretania its own chieftains. It is a list of Eoman provinces that I have given, I think, and yet their gods are not Roman, because they are not more worshipped at Rome than those who throughout Italy itself also are ranked as gods from municipal consecration: Deluentinus of Casinum, Visidianus of Narnia, Ancharia of Asculum, Nortia of Volsinii, Valentia of Ocriculum, Hostia of Sutrium, Juno of the Falisci, who also received the surname (Curritis) in honour of Father Curis. But we alone are debarred from a religion of our own. We offend the Romans and are not considered Romans because we do not worship the god of the Romans. It is well that there is a God of all, to whom willy nilly we all belong. But among you it is lawful to worship anything except the true God, as if He to whom we all belong were not rather the God of all.
CHAP. XXV. I think I have now given sufficient proof about true and false divinity, since I have shown how the proof holds together, not only by discussions or reasonings, but also by the evidence of those very beings whom you believe to be gods, so that nothing now needs to be revised for the present purpose. Since, however, a special reference has been made to the Roman name, I will not pass over the controversy, provoked by the prejudiced assertion that the Romans owing to their scrupulous piety have been raised to such a height of glory, as to have gained dominion over the world, and to have proved the existence of their gods by the fact that those flourish beyond all others who beyond all others are mindful of their duty to them. This reward was paid, forsooth, by the Roman gods in gratitude. The extension of the empire was due to Sterculus and Mutunus and Larentina! For I could not suppose that foreign gods wished more favour shown to a foreign race than to their own, and gave the land of their fathers, in which they were born, grew up, were ennobled and were buried, to those from across the sea. Let Cybele see to it, if she learned to love the city of Rome as the memorial of the Trojan race, her own native race forsooth, which she had guarded against the arms of the Greeks, if she had the forethought to desert to the avengers, who, she knew, would subdue Greece, the vanquisher of Phrygia. Therefore even in our time she has exhibited a signal proof of honour conferred on Rome, when on the removal of Marcus Aurelius from the conduct of |89 public affairs, by death, at Sirmium on the seventeenth of March, that most holy high-priest (of Cybele) on the twenty-fourth of that same March, on which he made a libation of impure blood, mutilating his arms also, none the less issued the usual orders for the safety of the emperor Marcus, though his life was already ended. Oh slothful messengers! Oh sleepy despatches! whose fault it was that Cybele had no earlier news of the emperor's demise, so as to prevent the ridicule of such a goddess by the Christians. But even Jupiter would not immediately have allowed his own Crete to be upset by the Roman fasces, forgetting the Idaean cave and the Corybantic cymbals and the pleasing odour of his nurse there. Would he not have preferred his own grave there to any Capitol, so that the land which covered the ashes of Jupiter should rather rule over the world ? Would Juno have wished that the Carthaginian city, 'which she loved next to Samos,' should be destroyed by the race of the sons of Aeneas (above all others) ? To the best of my knowledge:
'Here stood her chariot: hero, if Heav'n were kind,
The seat of awful empire she design'd.'
The unhappy wife and sister of Jupiter could not prevail against the fates! It is evident 'Jupiter himself depends on destiny.' Yet the Romans have not offered so much honour to the fates which gave up Carthage to them against the will and prayer of Juno, as they have to the common whore Larentina. It is certain that a number of your gods were kings. Therefore, if they have the power of conferring rule, from whom had they received it, when they themselves reigned ? Whom had Saturn and Jupiter worshipped? Some Sterculus, I suppose. But what did the Romans do later with their native gods, even if some did not reign? Yet the country was ruled by others, not yet their worshippers, seeing they were not yet regarded as gods. Consequently it is the prerogative of others to confer a kingdom, because kingly rule existed much earlier than these gods had their names engraved. But how foolish it is to attribute the glory of the Roman name to the deserts of piety, when your religion has developed since the time of the Empire or even since the time of the kingdom! Come now, has the growth of the state led to the advance of piety? No; for although Numa first formulated superstitious curiosity, nevertheless it was not till later that the divine element among the Romans consisted either of images or of temples; piety was frugal and the ceremonies were inexpensive, and there was no Capitol striving to reach the sky, but only improvised altars made of turf, and vessels which were still of common |91 pottery, and the sacrificial odour from them, and the god himself--nowhere to be seen. For at that time the talents of the Greeks and Etruscans had not yet flooded the capital to execute commissions for statues. Consequently the Romans were not religious before they were great, and therefore their religion was not the cause of their greatness. Further, how can it be on account of religion that they are great, seeing it was the want of religion which made them great? For unless I am mistaken, every kingdom or empire is gained by wars and extended by victories. Again, wars and victories are generally at the cost of the capture and destruction of cities. That business cannot be carried out without harm to gods. Walls and temples are involved in common ruin, citizens and priests are alike slaughtered, and there is no difference in the plundering of sacred and profane wealth. Therefore the sacrilegious acts of the Romans are as many in number as their trophies; they have triumphed as often over gods as over nations, their spoils in war are no more numerous than the images of captive gods that still remain. They therefore endure to be worshipped even by their enemies, and they decree an empire without end to those whose injuries, rather than their acts of worship21, they should have repaid. But those who are without feeling, it is as harmless to injure, as it is idle to worship. Certainly it is beyond belief, that those should have progressed on account of their religious merits, who, as we have hinted, have either grown by injury done to religion or have inflicted injury on religion by their growth. Even those whose kingdoms have been combined to make up the sum of the Roman Empire, were not without religions at the time when they lost their kingdoms.
CHAP. XXVI. See therefore, whether it is not he who regulates kingdoms, whose is both the world that is ruled, and the man himself that rules; whether it is not he that fixed the alternations of power at their actual dates in the world's history, who was before all time and made the history of the world the embodiment of time and seasons; whether it is not he who raises or crushes states, under whom the race of men existed at one time without states. Why are you led astray? Rome in her rude state is older than certain of its gods, it ruled before it raised such a wide circuit as the Capitol. The Babylonians too had reigned before the pontiffs, and the Medes before the Quindecimviri, and the Egyptians before the Salii, the Assyrians before the Luperci, the Amazons before the Vestal Virgins. Finally, if it is the religious rites of Rome that confer kingdoms, |93 Judea would never have reigned in the past, since she disdained all these ordinary divinities; and yet ye Romans for some time honoured her God with victims, her temple with gifts and her people with treaties, nor would you ever have ruled over her, if she had not sinned against God and finally against Christ also.
CHAP. XXVII. This meets the charge of injury to your gods, since we cannot be supposed to injure that which we have shown to be non-existent. Therefore when we are challenged to sacrifice, we make a stand against it on the strength of our conscience, whereby we are assured who those are to whom these services extend under the profanation of images and the deification of human names. But some think it madness that, when we might both sacrifice at the time and depart uninjured, while retaining our own private opinions, we should prefer stubbornness to safety. Forsooth you are giving us advice how to take advantage of you; but we recognise the source of such hints, who it is that prompts all this, and how at one time by cunning advice, at another by harsh cruelty, he is working towards the overthrow of our firmness. Assuredly that spirit of daemonic22 and angelic nature, which, being our enemy on account of its separation (from God) and being jealous on account of the favour of God (shown to us), wars against us from the fortress of your minds, which by a secret influence are regulated and equipped for all that perversity of judgment and unfairness of cruelty which we began to describe at the outset. For although all the power of daemons and spirits of that kind is subject to us, yet like worthless people and slaves they sometimes mingle obstinacy with fear, and are eager to injure those, of whom at another time they are afraid: for even fear breathes hatred. Furthermore their hopeless state, arising from the fact of their being foredoomed, gleans from the delay of punishment the solace of enjoying their evil disposition during the meantime. And yet when they are seized they are subdued and yield to their fate, and those whom they attack afar off, they supplicate when they are nigh. Therefore when, like rebellious slaves, confined in barracoons or prisons or mines or quarries or suffering any other penal servitude of this kind, they break out against us in whose power they are, knowing full well both that they are ill-matched and that they are thus all the more undone, we resist them against our will as equals and attack them in return, continuing in that which they attack, and we never triumph over them more than when we are condemned for the persistence of our belief. |95
CHAP. XXVIII. Since however it might easily seem unjust that free men should be forced against their will to perform sacrifice (for at other times also a willing mind is enjoined for the performance of religious duty), it would assuredly be thought absurd, if any one were compelled by another to pay respect to gods, whom he was bound to appease for his own sake without any urging, lest it might at once be open to him to say by the right of freedom: 'I do not want Jupiter to be propitious to me; who are you ?' 'Let Janus meet me with angry looks from any face he likes; what business have you with me?' You were framed of course by the same spirits to compel us to sacrifice for the safety of the emperor, and the necessity for coercion was as much imposed on you as the obligation of incurring danger by refusal was imposed on us. We have come then to the second charge, that of injury done to a more sacred majesty, since you worship the Caesar with greater dread and more calculating fear than you do Olympian Jove himself. And deservedly, if you only knew. For who among the living is not better than any dead man you like ? But even this is not done by you from reason, so much as from regard to authority which acts on the spur of the moment; to such a degree in this matter also will you be found irreligious towards your gods, in showing more dread of human power. Finally among you a man will sooner commit perjury by all the gods than by the one genius of Caesar.
CHAP. XXIX. First then let it be agreed, whether these to whom sacrifice is offered can confer safety on the emperors or on any other man, and then charge us with treason, if angels or daemons, in essence most depraved, work any benefit, if the lost save, if those that are condemned acquit, if finally, the dead (such as ye know your gods to be) are guardians of the living. If so, they would first at all events guard their own statues and images and temples, which I believe the soldiers of the Caesars keep safe by night pickets. I think moreover that the very materials of these come from the mines of the Caesars, and that the erection of whole temples depends on the will of the Caesar. Further, many gods have experienced the wrath of Caesar. It supports my case, if they have also found him propitious, when he confers upon them some free gift or privilege. How then can they, who are in the power of the Caesar, and who entirely belong to him, have the safety of the Caesar in their power, so as to appear able to grant that (safety), which they themselves would more easily gain from the Caesar? Therefore it is that we offend against the majesty |97 of the emperors, because we do not subject them to their own creatures, because we do not make sport of the duty of (praying for) their safety, since we do not think that it lies in hands soldered with lead. But you are the irreligious people, who seek it where it is not, ask it of those who cannot give it, passing over him in whose power it is. Furthermore you persecute those who know how to ask it, who can also obtain it, since they know how to ask.
CHAP. XXX. For we invoke on behalf of the safety of the emperors a God who is everlasting, a God who is real, a God who is living, whom even the emperors themselves prefer should be propitious to them beyond all others. They know who gave them empire, they know, as human beings, who gave them life also, they feel that he is the only God, in whose power alone they are, to whom they are second, after whom they are first, before all and above all gods. Why not ? since they are above all men, who of course are alive and take precedence of the dead. They reflect how far the strength of their, empire extends, and thus they understand God; they recognise that they are strong through him, against whom they have no strength. Let the emperor then subdue heaven, let him lead heaven captive in his triumph, let him set his watch, let him impose his tribute on heaven. He cannot; he is great for the reason that he is only less than heaven. For he himself belongs to Him whose are both heaven and all created things. He derives his position of emperor from the same source from which he derived his humanity before he became emperor. He gets his power from the source from which he gets his breath. Thither the Christians look up, with hands spread out because innocent, with head uncovered, because we are not ashamed, finally without a prompter, because we pray from the heart. We pray always for all the emperors, that they may have a long life, a safe rule, a family free from danger, courageous armies, a faithful senate, loyal subjects, a peaceful world, all that a man and a Caesar pray for. These things I cannot pray for from any one else than from him from whom I know I shall get them, since he himself alone can give them, and I am he to whom the obtaining is due, his slave, who alone worship him, who on account of his teaching am put to death, who offer him a rich and greater victim than he himself commanded, prayer arising from a pure body, from an innocent soul, from the Holy Spirit, not grains of incense costing a penny, the tears of an Arabian tree, nor two drops of unmixed wine, nor the blood of an unsound ox, anxious for death, and after all these stains a conscience |99 also that is foul; so that I wonder, when the victims are tested among you by vicious priests, when any one judges the hearts rather of the victims than of the sacrificers themselves. Therefore let hooks thus dig into us while our hands are spread out to God, let crosses suspend us, let fires play about us, let swords behead us, let wild-beasts leap upon us; the very attitude of the praying Christian is ready for every kind of capital punishment. This is your duty, ye excellent governors, wrench out a soul that is praying to God for the emperor. The crime will be found there, where is the truth of a God and piety to him.
CHAP. XXXI. Now they tell us that we have fawned upon the emperor and uttered lying prayers, of course with the view of escaping violence. Clearly this deception is to our benefit; for you allow that we make good whatever point we defend. You therefore who have thought that we care nothing for the safety of the Caesars, look into our Scripture, the oracles of God, which we ourselves do not conceal and many accidents bring into the hands of strangers. Know from these that we are taught to the point of superfluity of kindness even to pray God for our enemies and to entreat benefits for our persecutors. Who are to a greater extent enemies and persecutors of the Christians than those about whose majesty we are arraigned? But even by name and clearly: 'Pray,' says (the scripture), 'for kings and for chiefs and for powers, that all things may be at peace for you.' For when the empire is shattered, and when the other parts of it also are shattered, we too of course, although the crowd considers us foreigners, are involved in some quarter of the disaster.
CHAP. XXXII. There is also another greater necessity for us to pray for emperors, even for the whole state of the Empire and the fortunes of Rome, since we know that the great force which is threatening the whole world and the end itself of world-history which threatens terrible afflictions is being kept back by the respite granted to the Roman empire. Therefore we are unwilling to experience this, and while we pray for its postponement we are favouring the long continuance of Rome. But we also swear, though not by the genii of the Caesars, yet by their safety, which is more divine than any genii. Do you not know that genii is a name for daemones and for daemonia, a diminutive word derived from.it? We look up to the judgment of God in the emperors, for He set them over the races of the world. We know that that is in them which God willed, and so we wish that also to be safe which God willed, and we consider |101 that to be a great oath. But demons, that is genii, we have been accustomed to adjure, in order to drive them out of men, not to swear by them, in order to confer the honour of divinity upon them.
CHAP. XXXIII. But why should I say more about the religious attitude and the loyalty of the Christians towards the emperor? We are bound to look up to him as the one whom our Lord has chosen. I should be justified in saying: the Caesar is more ours (than yours), as having been appointed by our God. Accordingly, as he is mine, I work more for his safety, since I not only ask it from Him who is able to grant it, or because I who ask it am such an one as deserves to obtain it, but also because by lowering the greatness of the Caesar as compared with that of God, I commend him the more to God, to whom alone I subject him. But 1 subject him to Him, to whom I do not make him equal. For I will not call the emperor God, whether it is because I am unable to lie, or whether I do not dare to mock him, or because he himself will not even wish to be called God. If he be a man, it is man's interest to yield to God; let him be content to be styled emperor. This also is a great name, bestowed upon him by God. He who calls the Caesar God, denies him to be what he is, an emperor; unless he be a man, he is not emperor. That he is a man he is reminded even when he is riding in his triumphal chariot. For a hint comes to him from the rear: 'Look behind you! Remember that you are a man!' And surely he is all the more carried away by the thought of his resplendent glory, that a reminder of his lot is necessary to him. He were smaller (than he is), if he were then called God, because he would not be truly so called. He who is recalled to himself lest he should think himself God, is the greater.
CHAP. XXXIV. Augustus, the creator of the empire, refused even to be called Lord: for this too is a surname of God. Of course I shall call the emperor lord, but. with the usual spelling, and only when I am not forced to call him Lord with a capital, in place of God. But I am free so far as he is concerned; for I have but one Master, the almighty and eternal God, the same who is also his God. How can he who is father of his native city be its lord? Moreover, the name which suggests affectionate care is more pleasing than that which suggests authority. Even of a household men are called fathers rather than lords. So far is it from being a right of the emperor to be called God, which is incredible [except] by a flattery that |103 is not merely base but baneful. It is just as if having an emperor, you were to call another [by the same title]; will you not bring upon you the great and implacable hatred of the existing emperor, a hatred to be dreaded even by him to whom you have given the title? Be loyal towards God, you who wish Him to be propitious to the emperor. Cease to believe in another god, and so to describe him as a god, who has need of God. If such a flattery, calling a man a god, is not ashamed of the falsehood, let it at least be afraid of the ill-luck of so doing. It is the opposite of a blessing to call the Caesar god before his deification.
CHAP. XXXV. On these grounds then the Christians are regarded as public enemies, because they do not offer to the emperors either useless or lying or ill-advised honours, because men of true religion celebrate even their regular festivals conscientiously rather than wantonly. It is forsooth an important duty, to bring out hearths and couches into the public street, to feast parish by parish, to efface the city under the guise of a tavern, to produce mud by wine23, to run about in crowds for the committal of outrages, insults and incitements to lust. Is it thus that public joy is expressed by public disgrace? Does such behaviour become the festal days of emperors, which befits not other days ? Shall those who observe order out of regard to Caesar, abandon it on account of Caesar, and shall loyalty grant a licence for immorality, and religion give occasion to indulgence? Verily we deserve to be condemned! For why do we, chaste, sober and honest people, fulfil the vows and joys of the Caesars? Why on the festal day do we not cover over our door-posts with bay garlands or violate the day with lamps? Is it an honourable practice, when a public festival demands, to clothe your house with the garb of some new brothel? I should like however to show your faithfulness and truth in the matter of this cult also of a second majesty, with reference to which we Christians are arraigned on a second charge of sacrilege, because we do not celebrate in your company the annual festivals of the Caesars in a manner in which neither sense of fitness nor modesty nor chastity allows them to be celebrated, but which the opportunity of pleasure rather than any worthy reason has prompted, lest perchance here too those who are unwilling that we should be considered Romans, but only as enemies of the Roman emperors, should be found worse than the Christians. I appeal to the citizens of Rome themselves, to the native |105 populace of the seven hills, I charge you to say whether that Roman tongue spares any Caesar belonging to it24. Witness not the Tiber only but the training-schools of wild beasts as well. Again, if nature had drawn over our breasts some transparent substance 'through which the light could pass, who is there whose heart would not appear to be engraved with the likeness of one new Caesar after another, presiding over the distribution of a dole ? Even at that hour at which they shout: 'May Jupiter add years to thine from ours!'
These words the Christian is just as unable to utter as he is to pray for this in the case of a new Caesar. But it is the mob, you say. Though it is the mob, yet they are Romans, and none demand the Christians for punishment more eagerly than the mob. No doubt the other classes of society, in proportion to their authority, are religious from conviction; nothing hostile breathes from the senate itself, from the knights, from the army, from the palace itself. Whence come the Cassii and the Nigri and the Albini? Whence those who besiege Caesar between the two bay-trees? Whence those who practise gymnastic exercises in order to strangle him? Whence those who rush armed into the palace, more reckless than all the number of the Sigerii and Parthenii ? All come from among the Romans, if I am not mistaken, that is, from among the pagans. And yet all these traitors up to the actual outbreak of disloyalty were both sacrificing for the safety of the emperor and swearing by his genius, some out of doors, others within, and of course they were giving the name of public enemies to the Christians. But even those who are now daily revealed as the accomplices or abettors of criminal factions, the gleanings that still remain after the vintage of parricides, how they decked out their doors with the freshest and most luxuriant bay-trees, how they darkened their porches with the tallest and brightest lamps, with what elegant and splendid couches did they divide up the market-place among themselves, not that they might celebrate the joy of the people, but that they might now learn private prayers in a ceremony connected with another and might install both a copy and a picture of their hope, while changing mentally the name of the emperor! These same dutiful services are paid also by those who consult astrologers and soothsayers and augurs and magicians about the lives of the Caesars, which arts, as having been introduced by the apostate angels and forbidden by God, the Christians never employ even for their own concerns. Moreover, who needs to |107 inquire into the safety of Caesar, except he who meditates or desires something against it, or who hopes and waits for something to follow after? For one does not consult about friends with the same feeling as about masters. The solicitude of kinship is of a different nature from that of servitude.
CHAP. XXXVI. If this is so, that those are found out to be enemies who were called Romans, why are we, who are but thought to be enemies, denied to be Romans? We cannot be at the same time non-Romans and enemies, since those who were considered Romans are found to be enemies. The fact is that the loyalty and worship and faith that are due to the emperors do not consist in services such as even enmity can perform rather as a cloak to itself, but in those habits, which are as truly demanded by the godhead as they must be shown towards mankind in general. For indeed it is not to the emperors alone that such services of good will are due from us. No benefit that we accomplish pays any regard to special individuals, because it is to ourselves that we perform it, and we do not snatch at payment from a man either of praise or of reward, but from God, who exacts and rewards impartial kindness. We are the same to the emperors as we are to our neighbours. For we are forbidden to wish evil, to do evil, to say evil, to think evil, about any one without distinction. Whatsoever is not permitted against the emperor, neither is it permitted against any one; and what is permitted against no one, is perhaps all the more forbidden against him whom God has made so great.
CHAP. XXXVII. If we are ordered, as we said above, to love our enemies, whom have we left to hate ? Likewise, if when injured we are forbidden to retaliate, lest by our action we should put ourselves on the level of our enemy, whom can we injure? For consider this matter yourselves. How often do you rage fiercely against the Christians in obedience partly to your own feelings, partly to the laws? How often also, passing you over, does the hostile rabble of its own right attack us with stones and fires? With the very rage of Bacchanals, they do not spare Christians even when they are dead, nay from the rest of the tomb, from the sort of refuge that death affords, they would drag them away, cut them up, tear them to pieces, when they are already decomposed, when already not even entire. Yet what instance did you ever note25 of our retaliation |109 upon you for injuries inflicted on us who are so united and so stout-hearted even to death, when even a single night with a few little torches could effect abundant vengeance, if it were allowable amongst us to wipe out wrong with wrong? But a truce to the thought that a sect actuated by the spirit of God should either be avenged by the torch of man or should shrink from suffering that by which it is tested. For if we wished to play the part also of declared enemies, and not merely that of secret avengers, should we lack the force of numbers and of troops ? The Moors and the Marcomani and the Parthians themselves, or any races of whatsoever size, which are limited nevertheless to one place and to their own territory, are I suppose more numerous than we are whose region is coextensive with the whole world! We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled all that is yours, cities, islands, fortified towns, country towns, centres of meeting, even camps, tribes, classes of public attendants, the palace, the senate, the forum ; we have left you only your temples. For what war should we not have been fitted and ready, even if we had been unequal in forces, we, who are so willing to be butchered, if it had not been more permissible according to this teaching of ours to be slain than to slay? We could also, unarmed, and not rebellious but merely disagreeing, have fought against you, using only the weapon of the ill-will which our separation creates. For if such a mass of men as we are had broken off from you and gone to some distant corner of the world, the loss of so many citizens, of whatever sort, would assuredly have shamed your rule, nay rather would have punished it even by the very fact of its desertion. Without doubt you would have been panic-stricken at your solitude, at the silence of business and the death-like stupefaction of the world; you would have had to seek subjects to rule over. More enemies would have remained to you than subjects. Now as a matter of fact you have fewer enemies, in consequence of the multitude of the Christians, owing to the fact that nearly all the citizens you have in nearly all the cities are Christian. But you have chosen to call them enemies of the human race rather than of human error. Moreover, who would have snatched you from those secret enemies that everywhere play havoc with your minds and health ? I mean from the incursions of spirits, which we drive from you, without reward and without price. This alone would have been sufficient for our vengeance, that an empty tenement was then left open to unclean spirits. Further, without even a thought of the compensation required for so great a protection, you have preferred to consider as enemies a class which is not only harmless to you, but even |111 necessary, people that palpably are enemies, yet not indeed of the human race, but rather of error.
CHAP. XXXVIII. Furthermore was not a somewhat gentler attitude also more fitting, namely the enrolment of this sect among the legal associations, seeing it commits no such crime as is wont to be feared from illegal associations? For unless I am mistaken, the reason for preventing associations derives its force from forethought as to public order, lest the state should be split up into factions. This result would easily disturb the elections, the assemblies, the senates, public meetings, even the shows, by the rival clash of partisanship, since even already men had begun to regard their deeds of violence as for sale and hire, and a means of earning a livelihood. But to us who are dead to all the zeal for fame and position, there is no need for meeting together, nor is there anything more foreign to us than affairs of state. We recognise the world as one commonwealth belonging to all. Your shows likewise we shun just as much as their beginnings, which we know arise from superstition, since we pass by even the events themselves which are their occasion. We have nothing to say, or see or hear, in connexion with the madness, of the circus, the immodesty of the theatre, the ferocity of the arena, the vain-glory of the gymnasium. In what do we offend you, if we prefer different pleasures? If we refuse to be taught how to enjoy pleasure, it is our loss, perhaps, not yours. But we reject what pleases you, nor do our pleasures delight you. But the Epicureans were permitted to maintain some reality of pleasure, that is calm of mind, and for the Christian's pleasure there are great tasks.
CHAP. XXXIX. I will now at once proclaim the actual26 occupations of the Christian association, in order that I who rejected the idea that they were evil may show that they are good. We are a corporation with a common knowledge of religion, a common rule of life, and an union of hope. We come together for meeting and assembly, in order that having formed a band as it were to come before God we may encompass him with prayers. This violence is pleasing to God. We pray also for the emperors, for their ministers and those in authority, for the state of the world, for general quiet, for the postponement of the end. We meet to call one another to remembrance of the Scripture, if the aspect of affairs requires us either to be forewarned or to be reminded of anything. In any case we feed |113 our belief on holy words, we raise our hope, we strengthen our confidence, we clinch the teaching none the less by driving home precepts. There too are pronounced exhortations, corrections and godly judgments. For our judgment too is delivered with great weight, as among those who are sure that they are acting under the eye of God, and there is the greatest anticipation of the future judgment, if any one has so sinned, as to be banished from the communion of prayer and assembly and all holy fellowship. We are governed by the most approved elders, who have obtained this office not by purchase, but on testimony; for indeed nothing of God is obtainable by money. Even if we have a kind of treasury, this is not filled up from a sense of obligation, as of a hired religion. Each member adds a small sum once a month, or when he pleases, and only if he is willing and able; for no one is forced, but each contributes of his own free will. These are the deposits as it were made by devotion. For that sum is disbursed not on banquets nor drinking bouts nor unwillingly on eating-houses, but on the supporting and burying of the poor, and on boys and girls deprived of property and parents, and on aged servants of the house, also on shipwrecked persons, and any, who are in the mines or on islands or in prisons, provided it be; for the cause of God's religion, who thus become pensioners of their confession. But the working of that kind of love most of all brands us with a mark of blame in the eyes of some. 'See,' they say, 'how they love one another'; for they themselves hate one another; 'and how they are ready to die for one another'; for they will be more ready to kill one another. But also they rage at us for calling one another brethren, for no other reason, I suppose, than because among themselves every name indicating blood relationship is assumed from affection. But we are also your brothers, by right of nature, the one mother, although you are little deserving of the name men, because you are evil brothers. But how much more worthily are those both called and considered brethren who have recognised one Father, namely God, who have imbibed one spirit of holiness, who from one womb of the same ignorance have quaked before one light of truth! But we are perhaps regarded as less legitimate for the reason that no tragedy proclaims aloud our brotherliness, or because we are brothers as the result of household possessions, which among you generally break up the relationship of brothers. And so we, who are united in heart and soul, have no hesitation about sharing a thing. Among us all things are common except wives. In this matter alone we dissolve partnership, in which alone all other men practise partnership, who not only use the wives |115 of friends, but also most patiently supply their own to their friends, in accordance, I believe, with the well-known teaching of ancient sages and philosophers, the Greek Socrates and the Roman Cato, who shared their wives with friends, those wives whom they had married, perhaps with their consent, to bear children in other households also. For what care could they have for chastity, which their husbands had given away so lightly! What an example of Athenian philosophy, of Roman seriousness! A philosopher and a censor both acting the part of procurers! What wonder is it then that so great affection is outraged! For you also revile our little dinners as extravagant also in addition to being disgraced by crime. It was about us of course that Diogenes uttered his saying: 'The Megarians buy food as if they were to die to-morrow, but they build as if they were never to die!' But one sees a mote more easily in another's eye than a beam in one's own. The air becomes sour with so many tribes, parishes and guilds belching. The Salii will need a money-lender when they are to dine: the public accountants will sum up the expenditure of the tithes and offerings to Hercules; at the Apaturia, the Dionysia, and the Attic mysteries a levy of cooks is proclaimed, at the smoke of a Sarapis banquet the firemen will be aroused. It is only the dining-room of the Christians that is objected to. Our dinner shows its significance by its name: it is called by the name which amongst the Greeks means affection. Whatsoever be its cost, it is a gain to incur expense in the name of religion, since by this refreshment we help those who are in need, not in the way that among you parasites eagerly strive for the glory of enslaving their freedom at the price of a belly that has to be filled amid insults; but in the way that with God greater regard is paid to them of low degree. If the purpose of our entertainment is honourable, form your estimate of the remainder of our rule from its motive. As it is concerned with our religious duty, it allows nothing base, nothing disorderly. We do not recline until we have first partaken of prayer to God; only so much is eaten as to satisfy hunger; only as much is drunk as becomes the chaste. Appetite is satisfied so far as is consistent with the remembrance that they have to worship God even in the night; they talk as those who know that the Master is listening. After the bringing in of water for washing the hands, and lights, each is invited to sing publicly to God as he is able from his knowledge of holy scripture or from his own mind; thus it can be tested how he has drunk. In like manner prayer closes the feast. The meeting then breaks up, not into riotous bands for assaulting the innocent, nor into disturbances in the streets, nor for outbursts of |117 lasciviousness, but to the same care for orderliness and modesty, as those who have fed, not so much on meats as on instruction in righteousness. This meeting together of Christians would have been deservedly illegal, I admit, if it were the same as the illegal, deservedly to be condemned, if any one complains of it with the same accusation as is made about clubs. For whose ruin have we ever met? We are the same when gathered together as we are when scattered, we are as a body what we are also as individuals, injuring no one, paining no one. When worthy, when good men come together, when the pious and pure are gathered together, it is to be called not a club, but a council chamber.
CHAP. XL. But on the contrary the name of faction is to be applied to those who conspire to foment hatred against good and worthy persons, who cry aloud against the blood of the innocent, pretending forsooth in defence of their hatred that foolish excuse besides, that the Christians are to blame for every public disaster, every misfortune that happens to the people. If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky is rainless, if there is an earthquake, a famine, a plague, immediately the cry arises, 'The Christians to the lion!' What! so many to one (lion) ? I pray you tell me: before the time of Tiberius, that is, before the coming of Christ, how many disasters smote the world or particular cities? We read that Hiera, Anaphe and Delos and Rhodes and Ophiusa27 were ruined with many thousands of persons. Plato also mentions that a land greater than Asia or Africa was snatched away by the Atlantic Ocean. But an earthquake also drained the Corinthian sea, and the force of the waves cut off Lucania and banished it to bear the name of Sicily. These things of course could not happen without harm to the inhabitants. But where were at that time, I will not say, the Christians who think nothing of your gods, but your gods themselves, when a flood overwhelmed the whole world, or, as Plato supposed, only the plains? For, that your gods are later than the catastrophe of the flood, is attested by the very cities in which they were born and died, or even which they founded; for otherwise they would not have remained to-day, if they had not been later than that disaster. Palestine had not yet received its Jewish swarm from Egypt, nor yet had the beginning of the Christian sect settled there, when a shower of fire burnt up the neighbouring regions of Sodom and Gomorrha. |119 The land still smells of fire, and if any tree bears fruit there, it can only be looked at, but when touched it turns to ashes. But neither did Tuscany nor Campania even in those days complain about the Christians when fire from heaven flooded Vulsinii, and fire from its own mountain Pompeii. No one as yet worshipped the true God at Rome, when Hannibal by means of the Roman rings measured by bushel the extent of the slaughter he had inflicted at Cannae. All your gods were worshipped by all, when the Senones had seized the Capitol itself. And fortunately any misfortune that happened to cities involved temples in the same disasters as the city walls, which enables me now to prove that such disasters do not come from the gods, because they come upon themselves also. The human race has always deserved ill of God: in the first place indeed as neglecting its duty towards him, whom though it understood partly, it did not search out, but also devised for itself other deities besides to worship; in the second place because, by not seeking out the teacher of uprightness and judge and avenger of guilt, it has grown in all vices and crimes. But if it had sought him out, it would have followed that, when it had sought him, it might learn to know him, and when it recognised him it might worship him, and when it had worshipped him it might find him by experience to be propitious rather than wrathful. Therefore we ought now also to know that the same god is angry, as always in the past also, before Christians received their name. Seeing that it enjoyed his blessings, which were displayed before it fashioned gods for itself, why should it not understand that evils also come from him, to whom it was not conscious that the blessings belonged ? It is guilty of that towards which it is also ungrateful. And yet if we were to compare the disasters of old, those of the present day are slighter, since God gave the Christians as his gift to the world. For from that time uprightness has moderated the injustices of the world and likewise men have begun to be intercessors with God. For example, when summer weather keeps the winter from rains, and the crops are a subject of anxiety, you to be sure, feeding daily and yet immediately ready to resume your meals, while the baths, the taverns and the brothels are busy, sacrifice offerings to Jupiter for rain, order the people to go for a season with bare feet, seek the heaven at the Capitol, and watch for clouds from its panelled roofs, turning away both from God himself and from heaven itself. But we, parched with fastings and pinched with every sort of self-restraint, separated from all bread necessary to life, wallowing in sackcloth and ashes, importune heaven with reproach, we |121 touch the heart of God, and when we have wrested mercy (from Him), Jupiter gets the honour.
CHAP. XLI. You therefore are dangerous to human affairs, you are to blame for public misfortunes, drawing them always upon us, since you despise God and worship statues. For Surely it is more likely that one who is neglected should get angry rather than those who are worshipped. Otherwise they are indeed most unfair, if on account of the Christians they injure their own worshippers also, whom they ought to keep unaffected by the deserts of the Christians. 'This,' you say, 'is to retort on your own god also, if he himself allows his own worshippers also to be injured on account of the profane.' Learn first his plans, and you will not then retort. For He who has once for all ordained an everlasting judgment after the end of the world, does not hasten the separation, which is a circumstance of the judgment, before the end of the world. Meanwhile he deals impartially with the whole human race, both as indulging and reproving; he wished that good and evil should be shared alike by his own servants and by the wicked, so that, by an equal partnership, all might have experience both of his gentleness and of his sternness. Because we have thus learnt these things in his own company, we love his gentleness and we fear his sternness, while you on the contrary despise both; and it follows that all the plagues of the world come from God on us, it may be, for warning, but on you for punishment. And yet we are not really injured at all, in the first place because we have no concern in this life except to depart from it as speedily as possible, in the second place because, if any misfortune is brought upon us, it is attributed to your deserts. But even if some troubles touch us also as being connected with you, we rejoice more in the recognition of the divine prophecies, which of course strengthen the assurance and confidence of our hope. But if it be the case that all these evils come upon you on our account from those whom you worship, why do you continue to Worship beings so ungrateful and so unjust, whose duty it was rather to help and defend you in the suffering coming from the Christians, since it was their duty to keep you apart from the deserts of the Christians ?
CHAP. XLII. But we are arraigned also on a different charge of injuries inflicted, and we are said to be unprofitable in business matters. How can this be true of men who live with you, who enjoy the same food, have the same manner of life, and dress, the same requirements for life? For we are |123 neither Brahmins nor Indian gymnosophists, dwellers in the forests, and exiles from ordinary life. We remember the gratitude we owe to God our Lord and Creator; we reject no fruit of his works; though it is true we refrain from the excessive or wrong use of them. Consequently we cannot dwell together in the world, without the market-place, without the shambles, without your baths, shops, factories, taverns, fairs and other places of resort. We also sail with you and serve in the army and we till the ground and engage in trade as you do, we join our crafts, we lend our services to the public for your profit. How we can seem unprofitable to your business affairs, when we live with you and by you, I do not know. But if I do not frequent your rites, nevertheless even on your holiday I am a human being. I do not bathe at dawn on the days of the Saturnalia, lest I should lose both night and day ; nevertheless I bathe at a proper and healthful hour, which will keep me warm and ruddy; I can be stiff and sallow enough after my last bath when dead. I do not recline at table in public at the Liberalia, as is the custom of those who contend with the beasts when partaking of the last meal of their lives; yet I dine anywhere28 on your supplies. I do not buy a garland for my head. What difference does it make to you, how I employ flowers which are none the less purchased ? I think they are more pleasing when free and unbound and trailing everywhere. But even if we have them combined into a garland, we know a garland by the nose; let those who have perfumed locks see to it. We do not meet together at the public shows: if nevertheless I want what is advertised at those meetings, I will take them more freely from their own places. We absolutely refrain from buying incense; if the Arabias complain, let the Sabaeans know that their wares are used in greater quantity and at greater cost for the burial of Christians than for the fumigating of gods. 'Exactly,' you say, 'the revenues of the temples are daily failing; how few people now cast in pieces of money!' Yes, for we are not able to bring help both to men and to your gods when they beg, nor do we think that we ought to share with others than those who ask. So, let Jupiter himself hold out his hand and receive his share, while meantime our pity spends more street by street than your religion does temple by temple. But your other revenues will give thanks to the Christians, who pay down what they owe, in accordance with the belief by which we abstain from appropriating what is another's, so that, if the question is raised how much is lost to the revenues through the dishonesty and lying of your returns, a calculation can easily |125 be made, as a complaint of one sort is balanced by the gain coming from all other calculations.
CHAP. XLIII. I will readily confess what sort of people can perhaps truly complain of the unprofitableness of the Christians. First will come the procurers, the pimps, the bullies, then the assassins, the poisoners, the magicians; likewise the diviners, the soothsayers, the astrologers. To be unprofitable to these is great profit. And yet whatsoever loss there is to your property through this sect, can be balanced by some protection afforded by them. At what price do you value, I do not say, those who have the power to drive out evil spirits from you now--I do not now say those who. offer their prayers for you also before the true God, because perhaps you do not believe in Him, but those from whom you have nothing to fear?
CHAP. XLIV. But indeed there is a loss to the state, as great as it is real, to which no one pays any regard, an injury to the state of which no one takes account, when in our persons so many just men are wasted, so many innocent men are squandered away. For we now appeal to your records of proceedings, ye who daily preside over the trials of prisoners, who by passing sentences erase the charges out of the calendar. So many guilty persons are examined by you on various charges: what assassin there, what cutpurse, what sacrilegious person or debaucher or thief of the baths, is there among them who is also described as a Christian? Or, when Christians are prosecuted on their specific charge (i.e. the charge of Christianity), who among them is also such as so many criminals are? It is with your own people that the prisons are always steaming, your own people who make the mines re-echo to their sighs, the wild beasts are always stuffed with the same, and from among them too the givers of shows always find herds of criminals to feed. No one there is a Christian, unless he is nothing but a Christian; or, if he be also anything else, he is already no longer a Christian.
CHAP. XLV. We alone therefore are free from guilt. What wonder, if it is inevitable ? For indeed it is inevitable. Taught innocence by God, we both know it perfectly, seeing it has been revealed by a perfect teacher, and guard it faithfully, as committed to us by an observer who cannot be slighted. But to you man's judgment has handed down uprightness, man's tyranny, too, has commanded it: thence it is that you belong to a discipline which is neither complete nor really to be feared |127 in view of the reality of innocence. A man's knowledge for the pointing out of what is really good, is just as great as his authority for exacting it: the former is just as easily deceived as the latter is slighted. And further which is the more comprehensive, to say: 'Thou shalt do no murder,' or to teach: 'Do not even become angry' ? What is more absolute, to forbid adultery, or even to bar man from the solitary desire of the eyes? Which shows a deeper experience, the prohibition from evil-doing, or the further prohibition from evil-speaking? Which shows better instruction, not to permit injury, or not even to allow retaliation for injury? Provided, however, you know that your very laws also, which seem to tend in the direction of uprightness, have borrowed their form from the divine law as the older pattern. We have spoken already about the age of Moses. But how little is the authority of human laws, since a man has a chance both to escape them, and very often to lie hid in his crimes, and sometimes to set them at nought, sinning involuntarily29 or of necessity ? Reflect also on them in view of the shortness of any punishment, which will not in any case last beyond death. So also Epicurus makes light of all torture and pain, by declaring indeed that if slight it is contemptible, while if great it will not last long. In very truth we who are examined before God who searches all, we who look forward to everlasting punishment from Him as our due, are the only ones who attain uprightness, both in view of the fullness of knowledge and in view of the difficulty of concealment and in view of the greatness of the torture, which is not lasting only but everlasting, fearing Him, whom even he himself who judges the fearful will have to fear, that is, fearing God, not the pro-consul.
CHAP. XLVI. We have maintained our ground, I think, against the denunciation of all charges, which clamours for the blood of the Christians. We have shown our whole position, and in what ways we can prove it to be such as we have shown, by the trustworthiness, of course, and the antiquity of our sacred writings, and also from the confession of spiritual powers. Who will dare to refute us, not by skill in words, but by the same method, by which we established our proof, namely on the ground of truth? But while our truth is displayed to every man, meantime unbelief, confounded as it is by the goodness of this sect, which has now become known to experience, as well as from intercourse with it, does not of course regard it as a divine question, but rather as a kind of philosophy. Philosophers also, |129 they say, give the same advice and make the same professions, uprightness, justice, endurance, sobriety, chastity. Why then are we not similarly made equal to them in the freedom and impunity accorded to our teaching, if we are compared with them in teaching? Or why are they also as our equals not forced to perform duties, the non-performance of which by us results in our trial? For who forces a philosopher to sacrifice, or to swear, or to expose useless lamps at midday ? Nay rather, they both openly demolish your gods and they even blame your superstitions in their writings, and you praise them for it. Very many of them even bark at the emperors, while you submit to it, and they are more readily rewarded with statues and salaries than sentenced to the wild-beasts. And deservedly; for they are surnamed philosophers not Christians. This name philosophers does not put daemons to flight. Why should it be otherwise, since philosophers consider that daemons come next after the gods ? It is a saying of Socrates: 'If the daemon permit!' He also, when he showed something of true wisdom in denying the gods, yet just at the close of his life ordered a cock to be sacrificed to Aesculapius, I believe out of respect to his father, because Apollo declared Socrates the wisest of men. Oh ill-advised Apollo! He gave a testimonial for wisdom to that man who denied the existence of the gods. With whatsoever vehemence truth is hated30, in that degree does he offend who sets it forth as the result of his belief; he however who adulterates, while pretending love for it, gains favour most of all on this account among the persecutors of the truth. Philosophers affect the truth by mockery and corruption with hostile intent, and by imitation corrupt it like those who snatch at praise, Christians both seek after the truth of necessity and display it in its purity, like those who care for their own salvation. So neither in knowledge nor in morality are we on a level, as you suppose. For what certainty was there in the reply which Thales, the first of natural philosophers, made to Croesus when he questioned him with regard to divinity, although he had often employed to no purpose the extension of time allowed him for deliberation? But any Christian labourer both finds and sets forth God and then ascribes to him in deed all that is sought for in God, although Plato asserts that the maker of the universe is not easily found and when found is with difficulty explained to the multitude. Moreover if we make our appeal on the point of chastity, I read that a part of the Athenian sentence was pronounced31 against Socrates as a corrupter of youth. |131 Nor does the Christian change the female sex [i.e. the natural use of the woman]. I know the harlot Phryne ministered to the lustful embraces of Diogenes. I am informed too that a certain Speusippus of Plato's school died in the act of adultery. A Christian remembers his sex when thinking of his wife alone. Democritus, by blinding himself because he could not look on women without lust and was pained if he did not possess them, declares his incontinency by his attempted cure. But the Christian, though he preserve his sight, sees no women, because he is blinded against lust in his heart. If I were to defend him on the score of humility, behold Diogenes with muddy feet tramples down the proud couches of Plato with a pride of his own; a Christian shows no arrogance even towards the poor. If I were to contend on the score of moderation, behold Pythagoras at Thurii, and Zeno at Priene, both aim at a tyranny, but the Christian does not even aspire to a magistracy in a country-town. If I were to meet you on the ground of endurance, Lycurgus chose death by starvation, because the Spartans altered his laws; a Christian even when condemned gives thanks. If I draw a comparison in loyalty, Anaxagoras denied a deposit made by the enemy; a Christian even among strangers is called faithful. If I were to take my stand on sincerity, Aristotle disgracefully ousted his intimate friend Hermias: a Christian does not injure even his enemy. The same Aristotle by ruling Alexander so disgracefully, rather fawns upon him, as Plato is praised by Dionysius for gluttony. Aristippus lives the life of a profligate in purple under a great appearance of gravity, and Hippias is killed while planning treachery against the state. No Christian ever attempted this revenge for his own friends though scattered abroad with all possible cruelty. But it will be said that some even from amongst our own people deviate from the rule of discipline; they then cease to be regarded as Christians among us, whereas those philosophers in spite of such deeds continue in the name and respect accorded to wisdom. Further, what likeness is there between the philosopher and the Christian, the disciple of Greece and the disciple of heaven, the trader in reputation and the trader in salvation, the doer of, words and the worker of deeds, the builder up and the destroyer of things, the friend and the enemy of error, the corrupter and the restorer and exponent of truth, its thief and its guardian?
CHAP. XLVII. Truth is older than everything else, if I |133 mistake not, and the antiquity of the divine literature already established is so far helpful to my argument in that it makes it credible that this was the storehouse for all later wisdom. And if I were not now reducing the size of this book, I might run on to prove this also. What poet, what philosopher is there, who has not drunk at all from the fountain of the prophets? It is from thence therefore that the philosophers have watered the thirst of their genius, that what they have taken from our writings may put us on a level with them. Thence, too, I fancy, philosophy was even banished by certain peoples, as by the Thebans, the Spartans and the Argives. While they are striving to imitate our doctrines, being both greedy as men with a lust, as we have said, of fame and of eloquence only, anything they took offence at in the holy scriptures, such is their inquisitiveness, they have at once rewritten it to suit their own fancy, neither sufficiently believing their divine character, which would prevent them from garbling them, nor yet sufficiently understanding them, as being even then somewhat obscure, and darkened even to the Jews themselves, whose property they were believed to be. For even when the truth was in simple form, all the more did that cavilling spirit of man, disdaining belief, begin to falter, and thus they confounded in uncertainty even that which they had found certain. For having found only that there was a God, they disputed about him not as they found him revealed, but as to his character, his nature and abode. Some aver that he is incorporeal, others corporeal, as the Platonists and Stoics respectively; some think him to consist of atoms, others of numbers, as was thought by Epicurus and Pythagoras (respectively), others of fire, as Heraclitus thought: and the Platonists indeed (believe him) to take care of the world, but the Epicureans on the contrary hold him to be inactive and unemployed, and, if I may say so, non-existent as far as human affairs are concerned, while the Stoics believe him to be situated outside the world, where, like a potter, he makes this mass to revolve from without, but the Platonists that he was inside the universe, and that he remains inside that which he directs like a steersman. In the same way they differ also about the universe itself, as to whether it was created or uncreated, whether it will die or last for ever; so also about the condition of the soul, which some maintain is divine and eternal, and others perishable, as each thought, so he either introduced a new opinion or modified an old one. Nor can any wonder that the ingenuity of philosophers |135 has perverted the Old Testament. Certain men from their stock have by their opinions falsified even this more modern Testament of ours after the views of philosophers, and from the one way have caused many oblique and intricate paths to diverge. I should like to make this remark, lest any one should think that the notorious variety in our sect should seem to put us on an equality with the philosophers in this respect also, and condemn truth out of the variety of defences32. We, however, at once lay down to the corrupters of our faith that the rule of the truth is that which comes from Christ, passed on through his followers, somewhat later than whom these different garblers will be proved to have existed. Everything against the truth is built up from the truth itself, this rivalry being due to the spirits of error. By them the corruptions of this sort of wholesome teaching are instigated, by these even certain fables have been let loose, such as by their likeness should weaken belief in the truth or win it rather for themselves, leading a man to suppose that he must not believe the Christians for the reason that he must not believe either poets or philosophers, or should think that he must put more belief in poets and philosophers because he can put none in Christians. Thus we are laughed at when we preach that God will judge. For so do both poets and philosophers place a tribunal in the world below. And if we were to threaten a hell, which is a storehouse of secret fire for subterranean punishment, we are similarly laughed to scorn. For so also is Pyriphlegethon a river among the dead. And if we were to name paradise, a place of celestial delight appointed to receive the spirits of the saints, separated from the knowledge of the common world by a sort of wall consisting of that fiery zone, if so, the Elysian fields have already anticipated the belief. Whence comes it, I pray you, that these things are so like the poets or philosophers ? Only from our mysteries; if from our mysteries, then, as being taken from the earlier, ours are more reliable and more to be believed, whose copies even find credence; if from their own inventions, our mysteries will then be regarded as copies of the later, which is not borne out by the plan of things; for never does the shadow precede (in time) the body or the copy the reality.
CHAP. XLVIII. Come now, if any philosopher were to assert, as Laberius does with regard to the doctrine of Pythagoras, |137 that a man is made out of what was once a mule, and the snake out of what was once a woman, and should by force of eloquence have twisted all arguments to support that opinion, will he not gain assent and establish belief in abstaining even from animal food for that reason? Would any one be fully persuaded to abstain, lest perchance in buying beef he should be purchasing a bit of some ancestor of his ? But indeed, if a Christian were to promise that man would be made again from man and that very Gaius would be reproduced from Gaius, the people will rather insist on stoning him, and will not even come to hear him. If there rules any method for the reincarnation of souls, why should they not return into the same nature, since restoration means this, to be that which it had been? Now they are not the very souls that they had been, because they have not been able to be that which they were not, unless they were to cease to be that which they had been. There will be need also for many topics treated in a leisurely way, if we would be playful in this direction, for instance, what kind of beast any particular person might appear likely to be changed into. But we are more concerned with our defence; we lay it down that it is of course a much more worthy belief that man should be refashioned from man, given person for any given person, as long as it be a human being, so that the same kind of soul may be reinstated into the same rank, even if it be not into the same outward . form. Assuredly, because the reason of restoration is what is appointed by judgment, of necessity the very same man, who had existed before, will be brought before the judgment seat, that he may receive from God the verdict on his good or evil deserts. Hence the bodies also will be again presented, both because the soul alone apart from material substance, that is the flesh, cannot suffer anything, and because whatsoever souls are doomed to suffer from the judgment of God, they have not deserved it apart from that flesh, within which they did everything. 'But how,' you say, 'can matter that has suffered dissolution be made to appear ?' Consider thyself, O man, and thou wilt find it not incredible. Reflect what thou wert, before thou hadst a being: assuredly naught; for if thou hadst been aught thou wouldst remember it. Thou therefore who wast nothing before thou wert, and who also becamest nothing, when thou didst cease to be, why couldst thou not be brought again to life from' nothingness by the will of the very same Author, who willed that thou shouldest be from naught ? What novelty will happen to thee ? Thou who wert not, earnest into being: when a second time thou shalt not be, |139 thou shalt come into being. Give, if thou canst, a reason why thou wast created, and then ask how thou wilt come to be. And yet thou wilt of course more easily become what thou at one time wast, because with equal ease thou becamest what thou wast never at any time. There will be doubt felt, I believe, about the strength of God, who planted (in the void) this so great body of the universe from that which had never been, as well as from the death of emptiness and void, animated by the spirit which gives life to all souls, itself also stamped by the example of human resurrection for evidence to you. Light, though daily destroyed, shines again, and the shades of night in like manner departing come up in its place, stars die and come to life again, the seasons when they are ending are beginning, fruits are brought to perfection and again return; assuredly seeds, unless they decay and fall to pieces, do not spring up in rich fruitfulness, all things are preserved by perishing, all things are formed again from death. Thou, O man, a name of such might, if thou wouldst understand thyself, learning even from the inscription of the Pythian priestess, thou who art lord of all that die and rise again, wilt thou die to this end, so as to perish for ever ? Into whatever substance thou shalt have been resolved, whatsoever material has destroyed thee, swallowed thee up, effaced thee, wasted thee to nothing, it will give thee back (to life). Nothingness itself belongs to him to whom the whole also belongs. 'Therefore,' you say, 'one must always be dying and always rising again.' If the Lord of the world had so appointed, it would have been against your will that you would experience that law of your creation. But as matters are, he has appointed it exactly as he declared. That same Reason which constructed the universe out of diversity, so that all things should consist of rival substances under the bond of unity, as of empty and solid, of animate and inanimate, of things tangible and intangible, of light and darkness, of life itself and death, the same Reason has also so disposed the whole course of existence as to make time consist of two parts so determined and distinct, that this first part in which we dwell should flow down in an age of time from the beginning of things to the end, but that the second part which we await should be extended to an endless eternity. When therefore the end and mid boundary, which yawns between, has come, so that even the fashion of the universe itself has passed away, which is equally a matter of time, spread like a curtain in front of that system of eternity, then will the whole human race be restored to settle what of good or evil it has earned in this life, and |141 thereafter to pay it down through an endless eternity. And therefore it is neither death at once, nor a recurring resurrection, but we shall be the same as now, nor different afterwards; worshippers of God indeed and ever with God, clothed upon with the special nature of eternity; but the profane and those who are not perfect before God, in the punishment of an equally lasting fire, having from its very nature a supply, divine of course, of imperishable quality. The philosophers also know the difference between a secret and a common fire. Thus that which is for human use is far different from that which ministers to the judgment of God, whether it draws down thunderbolts from heaven, or belches fire from the earth through the mountain craters; for it consumes not what it burns, but renews even while it destroys. Thus the mountains endure though always burning, and he who is stricken with fire from heaven is safe from being reduced to ashes by any other fire. And this will be a witness of eternal fire, this an example of everlasting judgment, continually feeding its own punishment: the mountains are burned and yet endure. What shall we say of the guilty and of the enemies of God ?
CHAP. XLIX. These are the things which in us alone are Called vain assumptions, but in the philosophers and poets are instances of the highest knowledge and of extraordinary ability. They are wise, we are foolish; they are worthy of honour, we of ridicule, nay more than that, of punishment too. Let the opinions we hold be false and deserving of the name of prejudice, but yet they are necessary; let them be foolish, but yet they are advantageous, since those who believe them are constrained to become better men, from fear of everlasting punishment and hope of everlasting refreshment. Therefore it is inexpedient that those things should be called false, or regarded as foolish, which it is expedient should be presumed to be true; on no ground whatever ought that to be condemned which is beneficial. It is in you therefore that we find this very prejudice which condemns the useful. Hence our belief cannot be foolish, and, assuredly, even if it were false and foolish, it is nevertheless injurious to no one; for it is like many other things on which you inflict no penalties, unreal and fictitious things, which are not prosecuted nor punished, as being harmless; but indeed against such errors judgment ought to be pronounced, if at all, by ridicule, not by swords and fires and crosses and wild-beasts; in which unjust cruelty not only this blind rabble exults and insults, but certain of your own selves also, who aim at popularity with the |143 mob through injustice, make a boast of it. As if all the power you have over us were not of our own free choice! Surely it is only if I will it to be so, that I am a Christian; you will therefore condemn me, only if I will to be condemned; since the power you have over me, you do not possess unless I will it, your power therefore belongs to my will, not to your own authority. So also the mob vainly rejoices at the way in which we are tormented; for in the same way the joy is ours, which they claim for themselves, as we prefer to be condemned rather than to fall away from God: while, on the contrary, those that hate us ought to mourn, not to rejoice, because we have attained that which we have chosen.
CHAP. L. 'So,' you say, 'why do you complain that we persecute you, if you wish to suffer, since you ought to love those by whose means you suffer what you wish ?' Certainly we wish to suffer, but in the way in which a soldier also suffers war. Nobody indeed willingly suffers, since both panic and danger are inevitably to be faced; and yet the man who complained about battle fights with all his strength and rejoices when he conquers in battle, because he attains both glory and booty. Our battle is that we are summoned before tribunals, to fight there for the truth at the risk of our lives. But to obtain that for which one has struggled is a victory, a victory that carries with it both the glory, of pleasing God, and the spoil, which is eternal life. But, you will say, we are convicted; yes, but it is after we have won the day; therefore we have conquered, when we are killed. Thus we escape, when we are convicted. You may call us now 'faggoted' and 'axle-men,' because bound to a stake the length of half an axle we are burned by the faggots surrounding us. This is the garb of our victory, this our garment decked with palm-leaves, such is the chariot in which we triumph. Naturally therefore we do not please those whom we conquered; for that is the reason why we are regarded as desperate and reckless men. But this desperation and recklessness in your midst exalts the standard of virtue in the cause of glory and renown. Mucius gladly left his right hand on the altar; 'Oh loftiness of spirit!' Empedocles freely gave his whole body to Etna's fires at the instance of the people of Catana: ' Oh what strength of mind!' We read of some foundress or other of Carthage who sacrificed her second marriage to the funeral-pyre: 'Oh noble encomium of chastity!' Regulus, lest his own single life should be spared in exchange for so many enemies, suffers tortures all over his body: 'What |145 a brave man, what a conqueror even in captivity!' Anaxarchus, when he was being pommelled to death with a barley pestle, kept saying: 'Pound, pound away: for it is the bodily coating of Anaxarchus, not Anaxarchus himself, that you are pounding!' 'Oh the great-souled philosopher, who could actually joke about such a death as his!' I leave out those who bargained for fame with their own swords or some other milder form of death. For, lo, even rivalries of tortures are crowned by you. An Athenian harlot who had already wearied out the executioner, at last bit through her tongue and spat it out into the face of the cruel tyrant, that she might spit out her own voice also, to prevent her from being able to confess the names of the conspirators, even in case she might give in and desire to do so. Zeno of Blea, being consulted by Dionysius as to what was the benefit of philosophy, when he had replied: 'Contempt of death,' without showing feeling he was thereupon exposed to the scourges of the tyrant and continued to seal his opinion even up to the point of death. Assuredly the scourges of the Spartans, embittered, as they were, under the eyes even of cheering relatives, confer upon the family a reputation for endurance, in proportion to the blood they have shed. Here is a glory licensed because human, to which neither reckless prejudice nor desperate persuasion is ascribed in despising death and every sort of cruelty, to which it is allowed to endure more for one's city, for the empire, and for friendship, than it is allowed to endure for God! And yet for all these you cast statues and write inscriptions and engrave titles to last for ever; certainly you yourselves also, in so far as you can, in a certain sense confer resurrection on the dead by means of your monuments; while he who hopes for a real resurrection from God, if he suffer for God, is thought insane. But go on thus, ye excellent governors, and you will be all the more popular with the mob if you sacrifice Christians to their wishes: crucify, torture, condemn, annihilate us: your injustice is a proof of our innocence. It is for that reason that God allows us to suffer these things. For quite recently by condemning a Christian woman to the lust of man rather than to a lion, you confessed that the stain upon chastity is reckoned more heinous among us than any punishment and any death. Nor yet doth your cruelty, though each act be more exquisite than the last, profit you; it is rather an attraction to our sect. We spring up in greater numbers the more we are mown down by you: the blood of the Christians is the seed of a new life. Many among yourselves exhort men to the |147 endurance of pain and death, as Cicero in the Tusculans, Seneca in his book on Chances, Diogenes, Pyrrho and Callinicus. But yet words do not find so many disciples as the Christians do by their teaching by deeds. That very obstinacy, with which you upbraid us, is a lesson. For who is there that is not stirred up by the consideration of it to ask what there is within it ? Who does not join us when he has asked? who when he has joined us, does not eagerly desire to suffer, that he may buy back the whole favour of God, that he may procure all indulgence from him by the payment of his own blood ? For all sins are forgiven to this action. Hence it is that in the same place we give thanks to your judgments. As there is an enmity between what is of God and what is of man, when we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by God.
[Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.] J.B.M.=John E. B. Mayor. Note that the 'corrigenda' have been incorporated in the text without note.
1. p.5 1 Reading libel (J. B. M.).
2. p.9 1 See G. A. T. Davies in Journ. Theol. Stud. (April) 1913.
3. p.9 2 So the MSS, but surely ut 'as to' should be read (cf. Plin. etc.).
4. p.13 1 J. B. M. conjectures scelera.
5. p.27 1 Reading caetra with Schrörs.
6. p.31 1 Reading patris nostri.
7. p.33 1 Reading sacratos.
8. p.49 1 Reading Nolo.
9. p.57 1 Conuersuri, the certain emendation of J. B. M. for conuersi of MSS.
10. p.57 2 A stop at uiui.
11. p.59 1 Read prodacto with J. E. B. M.
12. p.61 1 Reading Belum.
13. p.63 1 Reading eaedem.
14. p.63 2 Reading sicut. [Others read habemus nos and sciunt, which seem to make better sense, especially if we read sciant <autem> or sed before sicut. "But let your Sibyls know that they have taken a false name from the true one." J. B.M.]
15. p.71 1 Read praedicebatur.
16. p.71 2 Read praedictum.
17. p.73 1 Read praedictum.
18. p.77 1 The reference is to all the senses other than sight.
19. p.79 1 Reading Venefici. (For the confusion, cf. Aug. serm. 163 § 2.)
20. p.85 1 Joining to previous sentence, as grammar requires.
21. p.91 1 Spell correctly adulationes.
22. p.93 1 Read daemonicae, probably the only form known to Tertullian.
23. p.103 1 J. B. M. reading uinum luto, 'thicken your mud with wine.'
24. p.105 1 not?.
25. p.107 1 Reading denotastis.
26. p.111 1 ipsa, J. B. M. ipse, cett.
27. p.117 1 Reading Ophiusam for Co insulas.
28. p.123 1 ubiubi.
29. p.127 1 inuoluntate.
30. p.129 1 Read odio.
31. p.129 2 pronuntiatam.
32. p.135 1 But with defectionem uindicet ueritatis 'should claim that the truth has failed.'
This page has been accessed by people since 29th June 2002.
|Return to the Tertullian Project||Index page||About these pages|