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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: A Disgraceful Feature of the Roman Mythology. It Honours Such Infamous Characters as Larentina.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter X.—A Disgraceful Feature of the Roman Mythology. It Honours Such Infamous Characters as Larentina.

I hasten to even more abominable cases. Your writers have not been ashamed to publish that of Larentina.  She was a hired prostitute, whether as the nurse of Romulus, and therefore called Lupa, because she was a prostitute, or as the mistress of Hercules, now deceased, that is to say, now deified. They 945 relate that his temple-warder 946 happened to be playing at dice in the temple alone; and in order to represent a partner for himself in the game, in the absence of an actual one, he began to play with one hand for Hercules and the other for himself. (The condition was,) that if he won the stakes from Hercules, he should with them procure a supper and a prostitute; if Hercules, however, proved the winner, I mean his other hand, then he should provide the same for Hercules. The hand of Hercules won. That achievement might well have been added to his twelve labours!  The temple-warden buys a supper for the hero, and hires Larentina to play the whore. The fire which dissolved the p. 139 body of even a Hercules 947 enjoyed the supper, and the altar consumed everything. Larentina sleeps alone in the temple; and she a woman from the brothel, boasts that in her dreams she had submitted herself to the pleasure of Hercules; 948 and she might possibly have experienced this, as it passed through her mind, in her sleep. In the morning, on going out of the temple very early, she is solicited by a young man—“a third Hercules,” so to speak. 949 He invites her home. She complies, remembering that Hercules had told her that it would be for her advantage.  He then, to be sure, obtains permission that they should be united in lawful wedlock (for none was allowed to have intercourse with the concubine of a god without being punished for it); the husband makes her his heir. By and by, just before her death, she bequeathed to the Roman people the rather large estate which she had obtained through Hercules. After this she sought deification for her daughters too, whom indeed the divine Larentina ought to have appointed her heirs also. The gods of the Romans received an accession in her dignity. For she alone of all the wives of Hercules was dear to him, because she alone was rich; and she was even far more fortunate than Ceres, who contributed to the pleasure of the (king of the) dead. 950 After so many examples and eminent names among you, who might not have been declared divine? Who, in fact, ever raised a question as to his divinity against Antinous? 951 Was even Ganymede more grateful and dear than he to (the supreme god) who loved him?  According to you, heaven is open to the dead. You prepare 952 a way from Hades to the stars.  Prostitutes mount it in all directions, so that you must not suppose that you are conferring a great distinction upon your kings.


Footnotes

138:945

Compare Augustine, de Civ. Dei, vi. 7.  [Tom. vii. p. 184.]

138:946

Æditum ejus.

139:947

That is, when he mounted the pyre.

139:948

Herculi functam. “Fungi alicui” means to satisfy, or yield to.

139:949

The well-known Greek saying, ῎Αλλος οὗτος ῾Ηρακλῆς.

139:950

Pluto; Proserpine, the daughter of Ceres, is meant. Oehler once preferred to read, “Hebe, quæ mortuo placuit,” i.e., “than Hebe, who gratified Hercules after death.”

139:951

Tertullian often refers indignantly to this atrocious case.

139:952

Subigitis.


Next: The Romans Provided Gods for Birth, Nay, Even Before Birth, to Death. Much Indelicacy in This System.

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