Addressed to His Brother Pentadius.
The Preface. – The Plan and Purport of the Whole Epitome,1 and of the Institutions.
Although the books of the Divine Institutions which we wrote a long time since to illustrate the truth and religion, may so prepare and mould the minds of the readers, that their length may not produce disgust, nor their copiousness be burthensome; nevertheless you desire, O brother Pentadius, that an epitome of them should be made for you, I suppose for this reason, that I may write something to you, and that your name may be rendered famous by my work, such as it is. I will comply with your desire, although it seems a difficult matter to comprise within the compass of one book those things which have been treated of in seven large volumes.2 For the whole matter becomes less full when so great a multitude of subjects is to be compressed within a narrow space; and it becomes less clear by its very brevity, especially since many arguments and examples, on which the elucidation of the proofs depends, must of necessity be omitted, since their copiousness is so great, that even by themselves they are enough to make up a book. And when these are removed, what can appear useful, what plain? But I will strive as much as the subject permits, both to contract that which is diffuse and to shorten that which is long; in such a manner, however, that in this work, in which truth is to be brought to light, matter may not seem to be wanting for copiousness, nor clearness for understanding it.3
Chap. I. – Of the Divine Providence.
First a question arises: Whether there is any providence which made or governs the world? That there is, no one doubts, since of almost all the philosophers, except the school of Epicurus, there is but one voice and one opinion, that the world could not have been made without a contriver, and that it cannot exist without a ruler. Therefore Epicurus is refuted not only by the most learned men, but also by the testimonies and perceptions of all mortals. For who can doubt respecting a providence, when he sees that the heavens and the earth have been so arranged, and that all things have been so regulated, that they might be most befittingly adapted, not only to wonderful beauty and adornment, but also to the use of men, and the convenience of the other living creatures? That, therefore, which exists in accordance with a plan, cannot have had its beginning without a plan: thus4 it is certain that there is a providence.
Chap. II. – That There Is but One God, and that There Cannot Be More.
Another question follows: Whether there be one God or more? And this indeed contains much ambiguity. For not only do individuals differ among themselves, but also peoples and nations. But he who shall follow the guidance of reason will understand that there cannot be a Lord except one, nor a Father except one. For if God, who made all things, is also Lord and Father, He must be one only, so that the same may be the head and source of all things. Nor is it possible for the world5 to exist unless all things be referred to one person, unless one hold the rudder, unless one guide the reins, and, as it were, one mind direct all the members of the body. If there are many kings in a swarm of bees, they will perish or be scattered abroad, while
“Discord attacks the kings with great commotion.”6
If there are several leaders in a herd, they will contend until one gains the mastery.7 If there are many commanders in an army, the soldiers cannot obey, since different commands are given; nor can unity be maintained by themselves, since each consults his own interests according to his humours.8 Thus, in this commonwealth of the world, unless there were one ruler, who was also its founder, either this mass would be dissolved, or it could not have been put together at all.
Moreover, the whole authority could not exist in many deities, since they separately maintain their own duties and their own prerogatives. No one, therefore, of them can be called omnipotent, which is the true title of God, since he will be able to accomplish that only which depends upon himself, and will not venture to attempt that which depends upon others. Vulcan will not claim for himself water, nor Neptune fire; nor will Ceres claim acquaintance with the arts, nor Minerva with fruits; nor will Mercury lay claim to arms, nor Mars to the lyre; Jupiter will not claim medicine, nor Æsculapius the thunderbolt: he will more easily endure it when thrown by another, than he will brandish it himself. If, therefore, individuals cannot do all things, they have less strength and less power; but he is to be regarded as God who can accomplish the whole, and not he who can only accomplish the smallest part of the whole.
Chap. III. – The Testimonies of the Poets Concerning the One God.
There is, then, one God, perfect, eternal, incorruptible, incapable of suffering, subject to no circumstance or power, Himself possessing all things, ruling all things, whom the human mind can neither estimate in thought nor mortal tongue describe in speech. For He is too elevated and great to be conceived by the thought, or expressed by the language of man. In short, not to speak of the prophets, the preachers of the one God, poets also, and philosophers, and inspired women,9 utter their testimony to the unity of God. Orpheus speaks of the surpassing God who made the heaven and the sun, with the other heavenly bodies; who made the earth and the seas. Also our own Maro calls the Supreme God at one time a spirit, at another time a mind, and says that it, as though infused into limbs, puts in motion the body of the whole world; also, that God permeates the heights of heaven, the tracts of the sea and lands, and that all living creatures derive their life from Him. Even Ovid was not ignorant that the world was prepared by God, whom he sometimes calls the framer of all things, sometimes the fabricator of the world.10
Chap. IV. – The Testimonies of the Philosophers to the Unity of God.
But let us come to the philosophers, whose authority is regarded as more certain than that of the poets. Plato asserts His monarchy, saying that there is but one God, by whom the world was prepared and completed with wonderful order. Aristotle, his disciple, admits that there is one mind which presides over the world. Antisthenes says that there is one who is God by nature,11 the governor of the whole system. It would be a long task to recount the statements which have been made respecting the Supreme God, either by Thales, or by Pythagoras and Anaximenes before him, or afterwards by the Stoics Cleanthes and Chrysippus and Zeno, or of our countrymen, by Seneca following the Stoics, and by Tullius himself, since all these attempted to define the being of God,12 and affirmed that the world is ruled by Him alone, and that He is not subject to any nature, since all nature derives its origin from Him.
Hermes, who, on account of his virtue and his knowledge of many arts, deserved the name of Trismegistus, who preceded the philosophers in the antiquity of his doctrine, and who is reverenced by the Egyptians as a god, in asserting the majesty of the one God with infinite praises, calls Him Lord and Father, and says that He is without a name because He does not stand in need of a proper name, inasmuch as He is alone, and that He has no parents, since He exists of Himself and by Himself. In writing to his son he thus begins: To understand God is difficult, to describe Him in speech is impossible, even for one to whom it is possible to understand Him; for the perfect cannot be comprehended by the imperfect, nor the invisible by the visible.
Chap. V. – That the Prophetic Women – That Is, the Sibyls – Declare that There Is but One God.
It remains to speak of the prophetic women. Varro relates that there were ten Sibyls, – the first of the Persians, the second the Libyan, the third the Delphian, the fourth the Cimmerian, the fifth the Erythræan, the sixth the Samian, the seventh the Cumæan, the eighth the Hellespontian, the ninth the Phrygian, the tenth the Tiburtine, who has the name of Albunea. Of all these, he says that there are three books of the Cumæan alone which contain the fates of the Romans, and are accounted sacred, but that there exist, and are commonly regarded as separate, books of almost all the others, but that they are entitled, as though by one name, Sibylline books, excepting that the Erythræan, who is said to have lived in the times of the Trojan war, placed her name in her book: the writings of the others are mixed together.13
All these Sibyls of whom I have spoken, except the Cumæan, whom none but the Quindecemviri14 are allowed to read, bear witness that there is but one God, the ruler, the maker, the parent, not begotten of any, but sprung from Himself, who was from all ages, and will be to all ages; and therefore is alone worthy of being worshipped, alone of being feared, alone of being reverenced, by all living beings; – whose testimonies I have omitted because I was unable to abridge them; but if you wish to see them, you must have recourse to the books themselves. Now let us follow up the remaining subjects.
Chap. VI. – Since God Is Eternal and Immortal, He Does Not Stand in Need of Sex and Succession.
These testimonies, therefore, so many and so great, clearly teach that there is but one government in the world, and one power, the origin of which cannot be imagined, or its force described. They are foolish, therefore, who imagine that the gods were born of marriage, since the sexes themselves, and the intercourse between them, were given to mortals by God for this reason, that every race might be preserved by a succession of offspring. But what need have the immortals either of sex or succession, since neither pleasure nor death affects them? Those, therefore, who are reckoned as gods, since it is evident that they were born as men, and that they begat others, were plainly mortals: but they were believed to be gods, because, when they were great and powerful kings, on account of the benefits which they had conferred upon men, they deserved to obtain divine honours after death; and temples and statues being erected to them, their memory was retained and celebrated as that of immortals.
Chap. VII. – Of the Wicked Life and Death of Hercules.
But though almost all nations are persuaded that they are gods, yet their actions, as related both by poets and historians, declare that they were men. Who is ignorant of the times in which Hercules lived, since he both sailed with the Argonauts on their expedition, and having stormed Troy, slew Laomedon, the father of Priam, on account of his perjury? From that time rather more than fifteen hundred years are reckoned. He is said not even to have been born honourably, but to have been sprung from Alcmena by adultery, and to have been himself addicted to the vices of his father. He never abstained from women, or males, and traversed the whole world, not so much for the sake of glory as of lust, nor so much for the slaughter of beasts as for the begetting of children. And though he was unvanquished, yet he was triumphed over by Omphale alone, to whom he gave up his club and lion’s skin; and being clothed in a woman’s garment, and crouching at a woman’s feet, he received his task15 to execute. He afterwards, in a transport of frenzy, killed his little children and his wife Megara. At last, having put on a garment sent by his wife Deianyra, when he was perishing through ulcers, being unable to endure the pain, he constructed for himself a funeral pile on Mount ta, and burnt himself alive. Thus it is effected, that although on account of his excellence16 he might have been believed to be a god, nevertheless on account of these things he is believed to have been a man.
Chap. VIII. – Of Æsculapius, Apollo, Mars, Castor and Pollux, and of Mercurius and Bacchus.
Tarquitius relates that Æsculapius was born of doubtful parents, and that on this account he was exposed; and being taken up by hunters, and fed by the teats of a hound, was given to Chiron for instruction. He lived at Epidaurus, and was buried at Cynosuræ, as Cicero says,17 when he had been killed by lightning. But Apollo, his father, did not disdain to take charge of another’s flock that he might receive a wife;18 and when he had unintentionally killed a boy whom he loved, he inscribed his own lamentations on a flower. Mars, a man of the greatest bravery, was not free from the charge of adultery, since he was made a spectacle, being bound with a chain together with the adulteress.
Castor and Pollux carried off the brides of others, but not with impunity, to whose death and burial Homer bears witness, not with poetical, but simple faith. Mercurius, who was the father of Androgynus by his intrigue with Venus, deserved to be a god, because he invented the lyre and the palæstra. Father Bacchus, after subduing India as a conqueror, having by chance come to Crete, saw Ariadne on the shore, whom Theseus had forced and deserted. Then, being inflamed by love, he united her in marriage to himself, and placed her crown, as the poets say, conspicuously among the stars. The mother of the gods19 herself, while she lived in Phrygia after the banishment and death of her husband, though a widow, and aged, was enamoured of a beautiful youth; and because he was not faithful, she mutilated, and rendered him effeminate: on which account even now she delights in the Galli20 as her priests.
Chap. IX. – Of the Disgraceful Deeds of the Gods.
Whence did Ceres bring forth Proserpine, except from debauchery? Whence did Latona bring forth her twins, except from crime? Venus having been subject to the lusts of gods and men, when she reigned in Cyprus, invented the practice of courtesanship, and commanded women to make traffic of themselves, that she might not alone be infamous. Were the virgins themselves, Minerva and Diana, chaste? Whence, then, did Erichthonius arise? Did Vulcan shed his seed upon the ground, and was man born from that as a fungus? Or why did Diana banish Hippolytus either to a retired place, or give him up to a woman, where he might pass his life in solitude among unknown groves, and having now changed his name, might be called Virbius? What do these things signify but impurity, which the poets do not venture to confess?
Chap. X. – Of Jupiter, and His Licentious Life.
But respecting the king and father of all these, Jupiter, whom they believe to possess the chief power in heaven, – what power21 had he, who banished his father Saturnus from his kingdom, and pursued him with arms when he fled? What self-restraint had he, who indulged every kind of lust? For he made Alcmena and Leda, the wives of great men, infamous through his adultery: he also, captivated with the beauty of a boy, carried him off with violence as he was hunting and meditating manly things, that he might treat him as a woman. Why should I mention his debaucheries of virgins? and how great a multitude of these there was, is shown by the number of his sons. In the case of Thetis alone he was more temperate. For it had been predicted that the son whom she should bring forth would be more powerful than his father. Therefore he struggled with his love, that one might not be born greater than himself. He knew, therefore, that he was not of perfect virtue, greatness, and power, since he feared that which he himself had done to his father. Why, therefore, is he called best and greatest, since he both contaminated himself with faults, which is the part of one who is unjust and bad, and feared a greater than himself, which is the part of one who is weak and inferior?
Chap. XI. – The Various Emblems Under Which the Poets Veiled the Turpitude of Jupiter.
But some one will say that these things are feigned by the poets. This is not the usage of the poets, to feign in such a manner that you fabricate the whole, but so that you cover the actions themselves with a figure, and, as it were, with a variegated veil. Poetic licence has this limit, not that it may invent the whole, which is the part of one who is false and senseless, but that it may change something consistently with reason. They said that Jupiter changed himself into a shower of gold, that he might deceive Danae. What is a shower of gold? Plainly golden coins, by offering a great quantity of which, and pouring them into her bosom, he corrupted the frailty of her virgin soul by this bribe. Thus also they speak of a shower of iron, when they wish to signify a multitude of javelins. He carried off his catamite upon an eagle. What is the eagle? Truly a legion, since the figure of this animal is the standard of the legion. He carried Europa across the sea on a bull. What is the bull? Clearly a ship, which had its tutelary image22 fashioned in the shape of a bull. So assuredly the daughter of Inachus was not turned into a cow, nor as such did she swim across, but she escaped the anger of Juno in a ship which had the form of a cow. Lastly, when she had been conveyed to Egypt, she became Isis, whose voyage is celebrated on a fixed day, in memory of her flight.
Chap. XII. – The Poets Do Not Invent All Those Things Which Relate to the Gods.
You see, then, that the poets did not invent all things, and that they prefigured some things, that, when they spoke the truth, they might add something like this of divinity to those whom they called gods; as they did also respecting their kingdoms. For when they say that Jupiter had by lot the kingdom of Cœlus, they either mean Mount Olympus, on which ancient stories relate that Saturnus, and afterwards Jupiter, dwelt, or a part of the East, which is, as it were, higher, because the light arises thence; but the region of the West is lower, and therefore they say that Pluto obtained the lower regions; but that the sea was given to Neptune, because he had the maritime coast, with all the islands. Many things are thus coloured by the poets; and they who are ignorant of this, censure them as false, but only in word: for in fact they believe them, since they so fashion the images of the gods, that when they make them male and female, and confess that some are married, some parents, and some children, they plainly assent to the poets; for these relations cannot exist without intercourse and the generation of children.
Chap. XIII. – The Actions of Jupiter Are Related from the Historian Euhemerus.
But let us leave the poets; let us come to history, which is supported both by the credibility of the facts and by the antiquity of the times. Euhemerus was a Messenian, a very ancient writer, who gave an account of the origin of Jupiter, and his exploits, and all his posterity, gathered from the sacred inscriptions of ancient temples; he also traced out the parents of the other gods, their countries, actions, commands, and deaths, and even their sepulchres. And this history Ennius translated into Latin, whose words are these: –
“As these things are written, so is the origin and kindred of Jupiter and his brothers; after this manner it is handed clown to us in the sacred writing.”
The same Euhemerus therefore relates that Jupiter, when he had five times gone round the world, and had distributed governments to his friends and relatives, and had given laws to men, and had wrought many other benefits, being endued with immortal glory and everlasting remembrance, ended his life in Crete, and departed to the gods, and that his sepulchre is in Crete, in the town of Gnossus, and that upon it is engraved in ancient Greek letters Zankronou, which is Jupiter the son of Saturnus. It is plain, therefore, from the things which I have related, that he was a than, and reigned on the earth.
Chap. XIV. – The Actions of Saturnus and Uranus Taken from the Historians.
Let us pass on to former things, that we may discover the origin of the whole error. Saturnus is said to have been born of Cœlus and Terra. This is plainly incredible; but there is a certain reason why it is thus related, and he who is ignorant of this rejects it as a fable. That Uranus was the father of Saturnus, both Hermes affirms, and sacred history teaches. When Trismegistus said that there were very few men of perfect learning, he enumerated among them his relatives, Uranus, Saturnus. and Mercurius. Euhemerus relates that the same Uranus was the first who reigned on earth, using these words: “In the beginning Cœlus first had the chief power on earth: he instituted and prepared that kingdom for himself together with his brothers.”23
Chap. XX. – Of the Gods Peculiar to the Romans.
I have spoken of the religious rites which are common to all nations. I will now speak of the gods which the Romans have peculiar to themselves. Who does not know that the wife of Faustulus, the nurse of Romulus and Remus, in honour of whom the Larentinalia were instituted, was a harlot? And for this reason she was called Lupa, and represented in the form of a wild beast. Faula also and Flora were harlots, of whom the one was the mistress of Hercules, as Verrius relates; the other, having acquired great wealth by her person, made the people her heir, and on this account the games called Floralia are celebrated in her honour.
Tatius consecrated the statue of a woman which had been found in the principal sewer, and called it by the name of the goddess Cloacina. The Romans, being besieged by the Gauls, made engines for throwing weapons of the hair of women; and on this account they erected an altar and temple to Venus Calva:24 also to Jupiter Pistor,25 because he had advised them in a dream to make all their corn into bread, and to throw it upon the enemy; and when this had been done, the Gauls, despairing of being able to reduce the Romans by famine, had abandoned the siege. Tullus Hostilius made Fear and Pallor gods. Mind is also worshipped; but if they had possessed it, they would never, I believe, have thought that it ought to be worshipped. Marcellus originated Honour and Virtue.
Chap. XXI. – Of the Sacred Rites of the Roman Gods.
But the senate also instituted other false gods of this kind, – Hope, Faith, Concord, Peace, Chastity, Piety; all of which, since they ought truly to be in the minds of men, they have falsely placed within walls. But although these have no substantial existence outside of man, nevertheless I should prefer that they should be worshipped, rather than Blight or Fever, which ought not to be consecrated, but rather to be execrated; than Fornax, together with her sacred ovens; than Stercutus, who first showed men to enrich the ground with manure; than the goddess Muta, who brought forth the Lares; than Cumina, who presides over the cradles of infants; than Caca, who gave information to Hercules respecting the stealing of his cattle, that he might slay her brother. How many other monstrous and ludicrous fictions there are, respecting which it is grievous to speak! I do not, however, wish to omit notice of Terminus, since it is related that he did not give way even to Jupiter, though he was an unwrought stone. They suppose that he has the custody of the boundaries, and public prayers are offered to him, that he may keep the stone of the Capitol immoveable, and preserve and extend the boundaries of the Roman empire.
Chap. XXII. – Of the Sacred Rites Introduced by Faunus and Numa.
Faunus was the first in Latium who introduced these follies, who both instituted bloody sacrifices to his grandfather Saturnus, and wished that his father Picus should be worshipped as a god, and placed Fatua Fauna his wife and sister among the gods, and named her the good goddess. Then at Rome, Numa, who burthened those rude and rustic then with new superstitions, instituted priesthoods, and distributed the gods into families and nations, that he might call off the fierce spirits of the people from the pursuits of arms. Therefore Lucilius, in deriding the folly of those who are slaves to vain superstitions, introduced these verses: –
“Those bugbears26 the Lamiæ, which Faunus and Numa Pompilius and others instituted, at these he trembles; he places everything in this. As infant boys believe that every statue of bronze is a living man, so these imagine that all things feigned are true: they believe that statues of bronze contain a heart. It is a painter’s27 gallery; nothing is real, everything fictitious.”
Tullius also, writing of the nature of the gods, complains that false and fictitious gods have been introduced, and that from thus source have arisen false opinions, and turbulent errors, and almost old womanly superstitions, which opinion ought in comparison28 with others to be esteemed more weighty, because these things were spoken by one who was both a philosopher and a priest.
Chap. XXIII. – Of the Gods and Sacred Rites of the Barbarians.
We have spoken respecting the gods: now we will speak of the rites and practices of their sacred institutions. A human victim used to be immolated to the Cyprian Jupiter, as Teucer had appointed. Thus also the Tauri used to offer strangers to Diana; the Latian Jupiter also was propitiated with human blood. Also before Saturnus, men of sixty years of age, according to the oracle29 of Apollo, were thrown from a bridge into the Tiber. And the Carthaginians not only offered infants to the same Saturnus; but being conquered by the Sicilians, to make an expiation, they immolated two hundred sons of nobles. And not more mild than these are those offerings which are even now made to the Great Mother and to Bellona, in which the priests make an offering, not with the blood of others, but with their own blood; when, mutilating themselves, they cease to be men, and yet do not pass over to the women; or, cutting their shoulders, they sprinkle the loathsome altars with their own blood. But these things are cruel.
Let us come to those which are mild. The sacred rites of Isis show nothing else than the manner in which she lost and found her little son, who is called Osiris. For first her priests and attendants, having shaved all their limbs, and beating their breasts, howl, lament, and search, imitating the manner in which his mother was affected; afterwards the boy is found by Cynocephalus. Thus the mournful rites are ended with gladness. The mystery of Ceres also resembles these, in which torches are lighted, and Proserpine is sought for through the night; and when she has been found, the whole rite is finished with congratulations and the throwing about of torches. The people of Lampsacus, offer an ass to Priapus as an appropriate victim.30 Lindus is a town of Rhodes, where sacred rites in honour of Hercules are celebrated with revilings. For when Hercules had taken away his oxen from a ploughman, and had slain them, he avenged his injury by taunts; and afterwards having been himself appointed priest, it was ordained that he himself, and other priests after him, should celebrate sacrifices with the same revilings. But the mystery of the Cretan Jupiter represents the manner in which he was withdrawn from his father, or brought up. The goat is beside him, by the teats of which Amalthea nourished the boy. The sacred rites of the mother of the gods also show the same thing. For because the Corybantes then drowned the cry of the boy by the tinkling of their helmets and the striking of their shields, a representation of this circumstance is now repeated in the sacred rites; but cumbals are beaten instead of helmets, and drums instead of shields, that Saturnus may not hear the cries of the boy.
Chap. XXIV. – Of the Origin of Sacred Rites and Superstitions.
These are the mysteries of the gods. Now let us inquire also into the origin of superstitions, that we may search out by whom and at what times they were instituted. Didymus, in those books which are inscribed Of the 230 Explanationof Pindar, relates that Melisseus was king of the Cretans, whose daughters were Amalthea and Melissa, who nourished Jupiter with goats’ milk and honey; that he introduced new rites and ceremonies of sacred things, and was the first who sacrificed to gods, that is, to Vesta, who is called Tellus, – whence the poet says: –
“And the first of the gods,
and afterwards to the mother of the gods. But Euhemerus, in his sacred history, says that Jupiter himself, after that he received the government, erected temples in honour of himself in many places. For in going about the world, as he came to each place he united the chiefs of the people to himself in friendship and the right of hospitality; and that the remembrance of this might be preserved, he ordered that temples should be built to him, and annual festivals be celebrated by those connected with him in a league of hospitality. Thus he spread the worship of himself through all lands. But at what time they lived can easily be inferred. For Thallus writes in his history, that Belus, the king of the Assyrians, whom the Babylonians worship, and who was the contemporary and friend of Saturnus, was three hundred and twenty-two years before the Trojan war, and it is fourteen hundred and seventy years since the taking of Troy. From which it is evident, that it is not more than eighteen hundred years from the time when mankind fell into error by the institution of new forms of divine worship.
Chap. XXV. – Of the Golden Age, of Images, and Prometheus, Who First Fashioned Man.
The poets, therefore, with good reason say that the golden age, which existed in the reign of Saturnus, was changed. For at that time no gods were worshipped, but they knew of one God only. After that they subjected themselves to frail and earthly things, worshipping idols of wood, and brass, and stone, a change took place from the golden age to that of iron. For having lost the knowledge of God, and broken off that one bond of human society, they began to harass one another, to plunder and subdue. But if they would raise their eyes aloft and behold God, who raised them up to the sight of heaven and Himself, they never would bend and prostrate themselves by worshipping earthly things, whose folly Lucretius severely rebukes, saying:31
“And they abase their souls with fear of the gods, and weigh and press them down to the earth.”
Wherefore they tremble,32 and do not understand how foolish it is to fear those things which you have made, or to hope for any protection from those things which are dumb and insensible, and neither see nor hear the suppliant. What majesty, therefore, or deity can they have, which were in the power of a man, that they should not be made, or that they should be made into some other thing, and are so even now? For they are liable to injury and might be carried off by theft, were it not that they are protected by the law and the guardianship of man. Does he therefore appear to be in possession of his senses, who sacrifices to such deities the choicest victims, consecrates gifts, offers costly garments, as if they who are without motion could use them? With reason, then, did Dionysius the tyrant of Sicily plunder and deride the gods of Greece when he had taken possession of it as conqueror; and after the sacrilegious acts which he had committed, he returned to Sicily with a prosperous voyage, and held the kingdom even to his old age: nor were the injured gods able to punish him.
How much better is it to despise vanities, and to turn to God, to maintain the condition which you have received from God, to maintain your name! For on this account he is called anthropos,33 because he looks upward. But he looks upward who looks up to the true and living God, who is in heaven; who seeks after the Maker and Parent of his soul, not only with his perception and mind, but also with his countenance and eyes raised aloft. But he who enslaves himself to earthly and humble things, plainly prefers to himself that which is below him. For since he himself is the workmanship of God, whereas an image is the workmanship of man, the human workmanship cannot be preferred to the divine; and as God is the parent of man, so is the man of the statue. Therefore he is foolish and senseless who adores that which he himself has made, of which detestable and foolish handicraft Prometheus was the author, who was born from Iapetus the uncle of Jupiter. For when first of all Jupiter, having obtained supreme dominion, wished to establish himself as a god, and to found temples, and was seeking for some one who was able to imitate the human figure, at that time Prometheus lived, who fashioned the image of a man from thick clay with such close resemblance, that the novelty and cleverness of the art was a wonder. At length the men of his own time, and afterwards the poets, handed him down as the maker of a true and living man; and we, as often as we praise wrought statues, say that they live and breathe. And he indeed was the inventor of earthenware images. But posterity, following him, both carved them out of marble, and moulded them out of bronze; then in process of time ornament was added of gold and ivory, so that not only the likenesses, but also the gleam itself, might dazzle the eyes. Thus ensnared by beauty, and forgetful of true majesty, sensible beings considered that insensible objects, rational beings that irrational objects, living beings that lifeless objects, were to be worshipped and reverenced by them.
Chap. XXVI. – Of the Worship of the Elements and Stars.
Now let us refute those also who regard the elements of the world as gods, that is, the heaven, the sun, and the moon; for being ignorant of the Maker of these things, they admire and adore the works themselves. And this error belongs not to the ignorant only, but also to philosophers; since the Stoics are of opinion that all the heavenly bodies are to be considered as among the number of the gods, since they all have fixed and regular motions, by which they most constantly preserve the vicissitudes of the times which succeed them. They do not then possess voluntary motion, since they obey prescribed laws, and plainly not by their own sense, but by the workmanship of the supreme Creator, who so ordered them that they should complete unerring34 courses and fixed circuits, by which they might vary the alternations of days and nights, of summer and winter. But if men admire the effects of these, if they admire their courses, their brightness, their regularity, their beauty, they ought to have understood how much more beautiful, more illustrious, and more powerful than these is the maker and contriver Himself, even God. But they estimated the Divinity by objects which fall under the sight of men;35 not knowing that objects which come within the sight cannot be eternal, and that those which are eternal cannot be discerned by mortal eyes.
Chap. XXVII. – Of the Creation, Sin, and Punishment of Man; And of Angels, Both Good and Bad.
One subject remains, and that the last: that, since it usually happens, as we read in histories, that the gods appear to have displayed their majesty by auguries, by dreams, by oracles, and also by the punishments of those who had committed sacrilege, I may show what cause produced this effect, so that no one even now may fall into the same snares into which those of old fell. When God, according to His excellent majesty, had framed the world out of nothing, and had decked the heaven with lights, and had filled the earth and the sea with living creatures, then He formed man out of clay, and fashioned him after the resemblance of His own likeness, and breathed into him that he might live,36 and placed him in a garden37 which He had planted with every kind of fruit-bearing tree, and commanded him not to eat of one tree in which He had placed the knowledge of good and evil, warning him that it would come to pass, that if he did so he would lose his life, but that if he observed the command of God he would remain immortal. Then the serpent, who was one of the servants of God, envying man because he was made immortal, enticed him by stratagem to transgress the command and law of God. And in this manner he did indeed receive the knowledge of good and evil, but he lost the life which God had given him to be for ever.
Therefore He drove out the sinner from the sacred place, and banished him into this world, that he might seek sustenance by labour, that he might according to his deserts undergo difficulties and troubles; and He surrounded the garden itself with a fence of fire, that none of men even till the day of judgment might attempt secretly38 to enter into that place of perpetual blessedness. Then death came upon man according to the sentence of God; and yet his life, though it had begun to be temporary, had as its boundary a thousand years, and that was the extent of human life even to the deluge. For after the flood the life of men was gradually shortened, and was reduced to a hundred and twenty years. But that serpent, who from his deeds received the name of devil, that is, accuser or informer, did not cease to persecute the seed of man, whom he had deceived from the beginning. At length he urged him who was first born in this world, under the impulse of envy, to the murder of his brother, that of the two men who were first born he might destroy the one, and make the other a parricide.39 Nor did he cease upon this from infusing the venom of malice into the breasts of men through each generation, from corrupting and depraving them; in short, from overwhelming them with such crimes, that an instance of justice was now rare, but men lived after the manner of the beasts.
But when God saw this, He sent His angels to instruct the race of men, and to protect them from all evil. He gave these a command to abstain from earthly things, lest, being polluted by any taint, they should be deprived of the honour of angels. But that wily accuser, while they tarried among men, allured these also to pleasures, so that they might defile themselves with women. Then, being condemned by the sentence of God, and cast forth on account of their sins, they lost both the name and substance of angels. Thus, having become ministers of the devil, that they might have a solace of their ruin, they betook themselves to the ruining of men, for whose protection they had come.40
Chap. XXVIII. – Of the Demons, and Their Evil Practices.
These are the demons, of whom the poets often speak in their poems, whom Hesiod calls the guardians of men. For they so persuaded men by their enticements and deceits, that they believed that the same were gods. In fine, Socrates used to give out that he had a demon as the guardian and director of his life from his first childhood, and that he could do nothing without his assent and command. They attach themselves, therefore, to individuals, and occupy houses under the name of Genii or Penates. To these temples are built, to these libations are daily offered as to the Lares, to these honour is paid as to the averters of evils. These from the beginning, that they might turn away men from the knowledge of the true God, introduced new superstitions and worship of gods. These taught that the memory of dead kings should be consecrated, temples be built, and images made, not that they might lessen the honour of God, or increase their own, which they lost by sinning, but that they might take away life from men, deprive them of the hope of true light, lest men should arrive at that heavenly reward of immortality from which they fell. They also brought to light astrology, and augury, and divination; and though these things are in themselves false, yet they themselves, the authors of evils, so govern and regulate them that they are believed to be true. They also invented the tricks of the magic art, to deceive the eyes. By their aid it comes to pass, that that which is appears not to be, and that which is not appears to be. They themselves invented necromancies, responses, and oracles, to delude the minds of men with lying divination by means of ambiguous issues. They are present in the temples and at all sacrifices; and by the exhibition of some deceitful prodigies, to the surprise of those who are present, they so deceive men, that they believe that a divine power is present in images and statues. They even enter secretly into bodies. as being slight spirits; and they excite diseases in the vitiated limbs, which when appeased with sacrifices and vows they may again remove. They send dreams either full of terror,41 that they themselves may be invoked, or the issues of which may correspond with the truth, that they may increase the veneration paid to themselves. Sometimes also they put forth something of vengeance against the sacrilegious, that whoever sees it may become more timid and superstitious. Thus by their frauds they have drawn darkness over the human race, that truth might be oppressed, and the name of the supreme and matchless God might be forgotten.
Chap. XXIX. – Of the Patience and Providence of God.
But some one says: Why, then, does the true God permit these things to be done? Why does He not rather remove or destroy the wicked? Why, in truth, did He from the beginning give power42 to the demon, so that there should be one who might corrupt and destroy all things? I will briefly say why He willed that this should be so. I ask whether virtue is a good or an evil. It cannot be denied that it is a good. If virtue is a good, vice, on the contrary, is an evil. If vice is an evil on this account, because it opposes virtue, and virtue is on this account a good, because it overthrows vice, it follows that virtue cannot exist without vice; and if you take away vice, the merits of virtue will be taken away. For there can be no victory without an enemy. Thus it comes to pass, that good cannot exist without an evil.
Chrysippus, a man of active mind, saw this when discussing the subject of providence, and charges those with folly who think that good is caused by God, but say that evil is not thus caused. Aulus Gellius43 has interpreted his sentiment in his books of Attic Nights; thus saying: “They to whom it does not appear that the world was made for the sake of God and men, and that human affairs are governed by providence, think that they use a weighty argument when they thus speak: If there were a providence, there would be no evils. For they say that nothing is less in agreement with providence, than that in this world, on account of which it is said that God made men,44 the power of troubles and evils should be so great. In reply to these things, Chrysippus, when he was arguing, in his fourth book respecting providence, said: Nothing can be more foolish than those who think that good things could have existed, if there were not evils in the same place. For since good things are contrary to evil, they must of necessity be opposed to each other, and must stand resting, as it were, on mutual and opposite support.45 Thus there is no contrary without another contrary. For how could there be any perception of justice, unless there were injuries? or what else is justice, but the removal of injustice? In like manner, the nature of fortitude cannot be understood. except by placing46 beside it cowardice, or the nature of self-control except by intemperance. Likewise, in what manner would there be prudence, unless there were the contrary, imprudence? On the same principle, he says, why do the foolish men not require this also, that there should be truth and not falsehood? For there exist together good and evil things, prosperity and trouble, pleasure and pain. For the one being bound to the other at opposite poles, as Plato says, if you take away one, you take away both.” You see, therefore, that which I have often said, that good and evil are so connected with one another, that the one cannot exist without the other. Therefore God acted with the greatest foresight in placing the subject-matter of virtue in evils which He made for this purpose, that He might establish for us a contest, in which He would crown the victorious with the reward of immortality.47
Chap. XXX. – Of False Wisdom.
I have taught, as I imagine, that the honours paid to gods are not only impious, but also vain, either because they were men whose memory was consecrated after death; or because the images themselves are insensible and deaf, inasmuch as they are formed of earth, and that it is not right for man, who ought to look up to heavenly things, to subject himself to earthly things; or because the spirits who claim to themselves those acts of religious service are unholy and impure, and on this account, being condemned by the sentence of God, fell to the earth, and that it is not lawful to submit to the power of those to whom you are superior, if you wish to be a follower of the true God. It remains that, as we have spoken of false religion, we should also discuss the subject of false wisdom, which the philosophers profess, – men endued with the greatest learning and eloquence, but far removed from the truth, because they neither know God nor the wisdom of God. And although they are clever and learned, yet, because their wisdom is human, I shall not fear to contend with them, that it may be evident that falsehood can be easily overcome by truth, and earthly things by heavenly.
They thus define the nature of philosophy. Philosophy is the love or pursuit of wisdom. Therefore it is not wisdom itself; for that which loves must be different from that which is loved. If it is the pursuit of wisdom, not even thus is philosophy identical with wisdom. For wisdom is the object itself which is sought, but the pursuit is that which seeks it. Therefore the very definition or meaning of the word plainly shows that philosophy is not wisdom itself. I will say that it48 is not even the pursuit of wisdom, in which wisdom is not comprised. For who can be said to devote himself to the pursuit of that to which he can by no means attain? He who gives himself to the pursuit of medicine, or grammar, or oratory, may be said to be studious of that art which he is learning; but when he has learned, he is now said to be a physician, a grammarian, or an orator. Thus also those who are studious of wisdom, after they had learned it, ought to have been called wise. But since they are called students of wisdom as long as they live, it is manifest that that is not the pursuit, because it is impossible to arrive at the object itself which is sought for in the pursuit, unless by chance they who pursue wisdom even to the end of life are about to be wise in another world. Now every pursuit is connected with some end. That, therefore, is not a right pursuit which has no end.
Chap. XXXI. – Of Knowledge and Supposition.
Moreover, there are two things which appear to fall under the subject of philosophy – knowledge and supposition; and if these are taken away, philosophy altogether falls to the ground. But the chief of the philosophers themselves have taken away both from philosophy. Socrates took away knowledge, Zeno supposition. Let us see whether they were right in doing so. Wisdom is, as Cicero defined it,49 the knowledge of divine and human things. Now if this definition is true, wisdom does not come within the power of man. For who of mortals can assume this to himself, to profess that he knows divine and human things? I say nothing of human affairs; for although they are connected with divine, yet, since they belong to man. let us grant that it is possible for man to know them. Certainly he cannot know divine things by himself, since he is a man; whereas he who knows them must be divine, and therefore God. But man is neither divine nor God. Man, therefore, cannot thoroughly know divine things by himself. No one, therefore, is wise but God, or certainly that man whom God has taught. But they, because they are neither gods, nor taught by God, cannot be wise, that is, acquainted with divine and human things. Knowledge, therefore, is rightly taken away by Socrates and the Academics. Supposition also does not agree with the wise man. For every one supposes that of which he is ignorant. Now, to suppose that you know that of which you are ignorant, is rashness and folly. Supposition, therefore, was rightly taken away by Zeno. If, therefore. there is no knowledge in man, and there ought to be no supposition, philosophy is cut up by the roots.
Chap. XXXII. – Of the Sects of Philosophers, and Their Disagreement.
To this is added, that it50 is not uniform; but being divided into sects, and scattered into many and discordant opinions, it has no fixed state. For since they all separately attack and harass one another, and there is none of them which is not condemned of folly in the judgment of the rest, while the members are plainly at variance with one another, the whole body of philosophy is brought to destruction. Hence the Academy afterwards originated. For when the leading men of that sect saw that philosophy was altogether overthrown by philosophers mutually opposing each other, they undertook war against all, that they might destroy all the arguments of all; while they themselves assert nothing except one thing – that nothing can be known. Thus, having taken away knowledge, they overthrew the ancient philosophy. But they did not even themselves retain the name of philosophers, since they admitted their ignorance, because to be ignorant of all things is not only not the part of a philosopher, but not even of a man. Thus the philosophers, because they have no defence, must destroy one another with mutual wounds, and philosophy itself must altogether consume and put an end to itself by its own arms. But they say it is only natural philosophy which thus gives way. How is it with moral? Does that rest on any firm foundation? Let us see whether philosophers are agreed in this part at any rate, which relates to the condition of life.
Chap. XXXIII. – What Is the Chief Good to Be Sought in Life.
What is the chief good must be an object of inquiry, that our whole life and actions may be directed to it. When inquiry is made respecting the chief good of man, it ought to be settled to be of such a kind, first, that it have reference to man alone; in the next place, that it belong peculiarly to the mind; lastly, that it be sought by virtue. Let us see, therefore, whether the chief good which the philosophers mark out be such that it has reference neither to a dumb animal nor to the body, and cannot be attained without virtue.
Aristippus, the founder of the Cyrenaic sect, who thought that bodily pleasure was the chief good, ought to be removed from the number of philosophers, and from the society of men, because he compared himself to a beast. The chief good of Hieronymus is to be without pain, that of Diodorus to cease to be in pain. But the other animals avoid pain; and when they are without pain, or cease to be in pain, are glad. What distinction, then, will be given to man, if his chief good is judged to be common with the beasts? Zeno thought that the chief good was to live agreeably to nature. But this definition is a general one. For all animals live agreeably to nature, and each has its own nature.
Epicurus maintained that it was pleasure of the soul. What is pleasure of the soul but joy, in which the soul for the most part luxuriates, and unbends itself either to sport or to laughter? But this good befalls even dumb animals, which, when they are satisfied with pasture, relax themselves to joy and wantonness. Dinomachus and Callipho approved of honourable pleasure; but they either said the same that Epicurus did, that bodily pleasure is dishonourable; or if they considered bodily pleasures to be partly base and partly honourable, then that is not the chief good which is ascribed to the body. The Peripatetics make up the chief good of goods of the soul, and body, and fortune. The goods of the soul may be approved of; but if they require assistance for the completion of happiness, they are plainly weak. But the goods of the body and of fortune are not in the power of man; nor is that now the chief good which is assigned to the body, or to things placed without us, because this double good extends even to the cattle, which have need of being well, and of a due supply of food. The Stoics are believed to have entertained much better views, who said that virtue was the chief good. But virtue cannot be the chief good, since, if it is the endurance of evils and of labours, it is not happy of itself; but it ought to effect and produce the chief good, because it cannot be attained without the greatest difficulty and labour. But, in truth, Aristotle wandered far from reason, who connected honour with virtue, as though it were possible for virtue at any time to be separated from honour, or to be united with baseness.
Herillus the Pyrrhonist made knowledge the chief good. This indeed belongs to man, and to the soul only, but it may happen to him without virtue. For he is not to be considered happy who has either learnt anything by hearing, or has gained the knowledge of it by a little reading; nor is it a definition of the chief good, because there may be a knowledge either of bad things, or at any rate of things that are useless. And if it is the knowledge of good and useful things which you have acquired by labour, nevertheless it is not the chief good, because knowledge is not sought on its own account, but on account of something else. For the arts are learnt on this account, that they may be to us the means of gaining support, or a source of glory, or even of pleasure; and it is plain that these things cannot be the chief goods. Therefore the philosophers do not observe the rule even in moral philosophy, inasmuch as they are at variance with one another on the main point51 itself, that is, in that discussion by which the life is moulded. For the precepts cannot be equal, or resembling one another, when some train men to pleasure, others to honour, others indeed to nature, others to knowledge; some to the pursuit, others to the avoiding of riches; some to entire insensibility to pain, others to the endurance of evils: in all which, as I have shown before, they turn aside from reason, because they are ignorant of God.
1 [A specimen of the abridgments made by authors and editors, owing to the great expense of books in manuscript. They have been sources of great injury to literature.]
2 [We have here only a fragment of the Epitome. The rest is lost.]
3 [Christian morals were now to be taught openly in schools: hence the need of such manuals.]
4 Quoniam. This word appears to be out of place, as its proper meaning is “since.” Either it must be taken as above, or, with some editors, the last clause of this chapter may be taken as the beginning of the next chapter – “Since there is a providence,” etc.
5 Rerum summa.
6 Virg., Gerog., iv. 68.
8 Pro moribus. Another reading is “pro viribus,” with all their power.
9 Vates, i.e., the Sibyls.
10 [I shall not multiply references to the seven books, which are so readily compared by turning back to the pages here epitomized.]
12 Quid sit Deus.
13 [See Cyprian on Balaam, vol. 5. p. 502, note 262. A hint as to the qualified inspiration of these women.]
14 The appointed guardians of the Sibylline books. At first there were two; the number was afterwards increased to ten, and subsequently to fifteen, termed Quindecemviri.
15 Pensa quæ faceret. “Pensum” properly signifies the wool daily weighed out and given to each servant.
16 Ob virtutem.
17 Cicero, De Nat. Deor., iii. 22.
18 When Pelias had promised his daughter Alcestis to Admetus, on condition of his coming to her in a chariot drawn of lions and boars, Apollo enabled Admetus to fulfil this condition.
19 Rhea, or Cybele.
20 Galli, the priest of Cybele, were so called: they mutilated themselves, and performed many raving ceremonies.
21 Quid potestatis. Others read “pietatis,” which appears more suitable to the sense of the passage.
22 Tutela. The image of some deity, supposed to be the tutelary guardian of the ship, was usually painted on the stern.
23 From this point the manuscripts are defective to ch. xx.
24 i.e., Venus the bald.
25 i.e., Jupiter the baker.
26 Terriculas. There is another reading, “terricolas.” See note at Institutes, book i. ch. 22, p. 38, supra.
27 See preceding note and reference.
28 Comparari. Others read “compatari.”
29 Ex reponso. The common reading is “ex persona.”
30 Ea enim visa est aptior victima, quæ ipsi, cui mactatur, magnitudine virilis obsceni posset æquari.
31 De Nat. Deor., vi. 52.
32 Quare tremunt. Another reading is, “qua reddunt,” which is unintelligible.
33 ἄνθωπος, man; said to be compounded of ἄνω, τρέπω, and ὤψ, to turn the face upwards. [Needlessly repeated from p. 41. supra.]
34 Inerrabiles. There is another reading, “inenarrabiles,” indescribable.
35 Humanis visibus.
36 Inspiravit ad vitam.
39 Parricidam. The word first means the murderer of a parent or near relative; then simply a murderer.
40 [This is a curious enlargement of the idea as taught elsewhere. See vol. 2. p. 142, this series.]
41 Plena terris. Another reading is, “aut plane terrores.”
42 ἀρχήν. Others read δαιμοναρχίαν , “the power of demons.”
43 Lib. vi. 1.
44 Propter quem homines fecisse dicatur Deus. Others read, “Quem propter homines,” etc.
45 Quasi mutuo adversoque fulta nisu consistere.
46 Appositione. Others read “oppositione.”
47 [Philosophically, not dogmatically, asserted. God’s wisdom in permitting evil (which originated in the fall of free intellects) to last for a season, will vindicate itself in judgment.]
49 De Offic., ii. 2.
50 i.e., philosophy.
51 In ipso cardine. [Horace, Sat., book ii. 6, 71-76.]