The Seven Books of Arnobius Against the Heathen. (Cont.)Book III. (Cont.)

Arnobius (Cont.)

40. Nigidius taught that the dii Penates were Neptune and Apollo, who once, on fixed terms, girt Ilium136 with walls. He himself again, in his sixteenth book, following Etruscan teaching, shows that there are four kinds of Penates; and that one of these pertains to Jupiter, another to Neptune, the third to the shades below, the fourth to mortal men, making some unintelligible assertion. Caesius himself, also, following this teaching, thinks that they are Fortune, and Ceres, the genius Jovialis,137 and Pales, but not the female deity commonly received,138 but some male attendant and steward of Jupiter. Varro thinks that they are the gods of whom we speak who are within, and in the inmost recesses of heaven, and that neither their number nor names are known. The Etruscans say that these are the Consentes and Complices,139 and name them because they rise and fall together, six of them being male, and as many female, with unknown names and pitiless dispositions,140 but they are considered the counsellors and princes of Jove supreme. There were some, too, who said that Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva were the dii Penates, without whom we cannot live and be wise, and by whom we are ruled within in reason, passion, and thought. As you see, even here, too, nothing is said harmoniously, nothing is settled with the consent of all, nor is there anything reliable on which the mind can take its stand, drawing by conjecture very near to the truth. For their opinions are so doubtful, and one supposition so discredited141 by another, that there is either no truth in them all, or if it is uttered by any, it is not recognised amid so many different statements.


41. We can, if it is thought proper, speak briefly of the Lares also, whom the mass think to be the gods of streets and ways, because the Greeks name streets laurae. In different parts of his writings, Nigidius speaks of them now as the guardians of houses and dwellings; now as the Curetes, who are said to have once concealed, by the clashing of cymbals,142 the infantile cries of Jupiter; now the five Digiti Samothracii, who, the Greeks tell us, were named Idoei Dactyli. Varro, with like hesitation, says at one time that they are the Manes,143 and therefore the mother of the Lares was named Mania; at another time, again, he maintains that they are gods of the air, and are termed heroes; at another, following the opinion of the ancients, he says that the Lares are ghosts, as it were a kind of tutelary demon, spirits of dead144 men.


42. It is a vast and endless task to examine each kind separately, and make it evident even from your religious books that you neither hold nor believe that there is any god concerning whom you have not145 brought forward doubtful and inconsistent statements, expressing a thousand different beliefs. But, to be brief, and avoid prolixity,146 it is enough to have said what has been said; it is, further, too troublesome to gather together many things into one mass, since it is made manifest and evident in different ways that you waver, and say nothing with certainty of these things which you assert. But you will perhaps say, Even if we have no personal knowledge of the Lares, Novensiles, Penates, still the very agreement of our authors proves their existence, and that such a race147 takes rank among the celestial gods. And how can it be known whether there is any god, if what he is shall be wholly unknown?148 or how can it avail even to ask for benefits, if it is not settled and determined who should be invoked at each inquiry?149 For every one who seeks to obtain an answer from any deity, should of necessity know to whom he makes supplication, on whom he calls, from whom he asks help for the affairs and occasions of human life; especially as you yourselves declare that all the gods do not have all power, and150 that the wrath and anger of each are appeased by different rites.


43. For if this deity151 requires a black, that152 a white skin; if sacrifice must be made to this one with veiled, to that with uncovered head;153 this one is consulted about marriages,154 the other relieves distresses, – may it not be of some importance whether the one or the other is Novensilis, since ignorance of the facts and confusion of persons displeases the gods, and leads necessarily to the contraction of guilt? For suppose that I myself, to avoid some inconvenience and peril, make supplication to any one of these deities, saying, Be present, be near, divine Penates, thou Apollo, and thou, O Neptune, and in your divine clemency turn away all these evils, by which I am annoyed,155 troubled, and tormented: will there be any hope that I shall receive help from them, if Ceres, Pales, Fortune, or the genius Jovialis,156 not Neptune and Apollo, shall be the dii Penates? Or if I invoked the Curetes instead of the Lares, whom some of your writers maintain to be the Digiti Samothracii, how shall I enjoy their help and favour, when I have not given them their own names, and have given to the others names not their own? Thus does our interest demand that we should rightly know the gods, and not hesitate or doubt about the power, the name of each; lest,157 if they be invoked with rites and titles not their own, they have at once their ears stopped against our prayers, and hold us involved in guilt which may not be forgiven.


44. Wherefore, if you are assured that in the lofty palaces of heaven there dwells, there is, that multitude of deities whom you specify, you should make your stand on one proposition,158 and not, divided by different and inconsistent opinions, destroy belief in the very things which you seek to establish. If there is a Janus, let Janus be; if a Bacchus, let Bacchus be; if a Summanus,159 let Summanus be: for this is to confide, this to hold, to be settled in the knowledge of something ascertained, not to say after the manner of the blind and erring, The Novensiles are the Muses, in truth they are the Trebian gods, nay, their number is nine, or rather, they are the protectors of cities which have been overthrown; and bring so important matters into this danger, that while you remove some, and put others in their place, it may well be doubted of them all if they anywhere exist.





136 The MS reads immortalium, corrected in the edd. urbem Ilium.

137 Supposed to be either the genius attending Jupiter; the family god as sent by him; or the chief among the genii, sometimes mentioned simply as Genius.

138 Lit., “whom the commonalty receives.”

139 Consentes (those who are together, or agree together, i.e., councillors) and Complices (confederate, or agreeing) are said by some to be the twelve gods who composed the great council of heaven; and, in accordance with this, the words una oriantur et occidant una might be translated “rise and sit down together,” i.e., at the council table. But then, the names and number of these are known; while Arnobius says immediately after, that the names of the dii Consentes are not known, and has already quoted Varro, to the effect that neither names nor number are known. Schelling (über die Gotth. v. Samothr., quoted by Orelli) adopts the reading (see following note), “of whom very little mention is made,” i.e., in prayers or rites, because they are merely Jove’s councillors, and exercise no power over men, and identifies them with the Samothracian Cabiri – Κάβειροι and Consentes being merely Greek and Latin renderings of the name.

140 So the MS and all edd. reading miserationis parcissimae, except Gelenius, who reads nationis barbarissimae – “of a most barbarous nation;” while Ursinus suggested memorationis parc. – “of whom very little mention is made,” – the reading approved by Schelling.

141 Lit., “shaken to its foundations.”

142 Aeribus. Cf. Lucretius, ii. 633-636.

143 The MS reads manas, corrected as above by all edd. except Hild., who reads Manias.

144 The MS reads effunctorum; LB. et funct., from the correction of Stewechius; Gelenius, with most of the other edd., def.

145 The MS and first ed. omit non.

146 Lit., “because of aversion.”

147 Lit., “the form of their race.”

148 i.e., ignorabitur et nescietur.

149 The MS reads consolationem – “for each consolation,” i.e., to comfort in every distress.

150 The MS omits et.

151 The dii inferi.

152 The dii superi.

153 Saturn and Hercules were so worshipped.

154 Apollo.

155 The MS, first five edd., and Oehler read terreor – “terrified;” the other tor., as above, from the conjecture of Gifanius.

156 Cf. ch. 40, note 137. It may further be observed that the Etruscans held that the superior and inferior gods and men were linked together by a kind of intermediate beings, through whom the gods took cognizance of human affairs, without themselves descending to earth. These were divided into four classes, assigned to Tina (Jupiter), Neptune, the gods of the nether world, and men respectively.

157 So LB., Hild., and Oehler, reading nomine ne; all others ut, the MS having no conjunction.

158 Lit., “it is fitting that you stand in the limits of,” etc.

159 i.e., Summus Manium, Pluto.