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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Romans Provided Gods for Birth, Nay, Even Before Birth, to Death. Much Indelicacy in This System.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XI.—The Romans Provided Gods for Birth, Nay, Even Before Birth, to Death. Much Indelicacy in This System.

And you are not content to assert the divinity of such as were once known to you, whom you heard and handled, and whose portraits have been painted, and actions recounted, and memory retained amongst you; but men insist upon consecrating with a heavenly life 953 I know not what incorporeal, inanimate shadows, and the mere names of things—dividing man’s entire existence amongst separate powers even from his conception in the womb: so that there is a god Consevius, 954 to preside over concubital generation; and Fluviona, 955 to preserve the (growth of the) infant in the womb; after these come Vitumnus and Sentinus, 956 through whom the babe begins to have life and its earliest sensation; then Diespiter, 957 by whose office the child accomplishes its birth. But when women begin their parturition, Candelifera also comes in aid, since childbearing requires the light of the candle; and other goddesses there are 958 who get their names from the parts they bear in the stages of travail. There were two Carmentas likewise, according to the general view: to one of them, called Postverta, belonged the function of assisting the birth of the introverted child; while the other, Prosa, 959 executed the like office for the rightly born.  The god Farinus was so called from (his inspiring) the first utterance; while others believed in Locutius from his gift of speech. Cunina 960 is present as the protector of the child’s deep slumber, and supplies to it refreshing rest. To lift them (when fallen) 961 there is Levana, and along with her Rumina. 962 It is a wonderful oversight that no gods were appointed for cleaning up the filth of children. Then, to preside over their first pap and earliest drink you have Potina and Edula; 963 to teach the child to stand erect is the work of Statina, 964 whilst Adeona helps him to come to dear Mamma, and Abeona to toddle off again; then there is Domiduca, 965 (to bring home the bride;) and the goddess Mens, to influence the mind to either good or evil. 966 They have likewise Volumnus and Voleta, 967 to control the will; Paventina, (the goddess) of fear; Venilia, of hope; 968 Volupia, of pleasure; 969 Præstitia, of beauty. 970 Then, again, they give his name to Peragenor, 971 from his teaching men to go through their work; to Consus, from his sugp. 140 gesting to them counsel. Juventa is their guide on assuming the manly gown, and “bearded Fortune” when they come to full manhood. 972 If I must touch on their nuptial duties, there is Afferenda whose appointed function is to see to the offering of the dower; but fie on you! you have your Mutunus 973 and Tutunus and Pertunda 974 and Subigus and the goddess Prema and likewise Perfica. 975 O spare yourselves, ye impudent gods! No one is present at the secret struggles of married life. Those very few persons who have a wish that way, go away and blush for very shame in the midst of their joy.



Efflagitant cœlo et sanciunt, (i.e., “they insist on deifying.”)


Comp. Augustine, de Civ. Dei, vi. 9.


A name of Juno, in reference to her office to mothers, “quia eam sanguinis fluorem in conceptu retinere putabant.” Comp. August. de Civ. Dei, iii. 2.


Comp. August. de Civ. Dei, vii. 2, 3.


Comp. August. de Civ. Dei, iv. 11.


Such as Lucina, Partula, Nona, Decima, Alemona.


Or, Prorsa.


“Quæ infantes in cunis (in their cradle) tuetur.” Comp. August. de Civ. Dei, iv. 11.


Educatrix; Augustine says: “Ipse levet de terra et vocetur dea Levana” (de Civ. Dei, iv. 11).


From the old word ruma, a teat.


Comp. August. de Civ. Dei, iv. 9, 11, 36.


See also Tertullian’s de Anima, xxxix.; and Augustine’s de Civ. Dei, iv. 21, where the god has the masculine name of Statilinus.


See Augustine, de Civ. Dei, vi. 9 and vii. 3.


Ibid. iv. 21, vii. 3.


Ibid. iv. 21.


Ibid. iv. 11, vii. 22.


Ibid. iv. 11. [N.B.—Augustine’s borrowing from our author.]


Arnobius, adv. Nationes, iv. 3.


Augustine, de Civ. Dei. [iv. 11 and 16] mentions Agenoria.


On Fortuna Barbata, see Augustine, de Civ. Dei, iv. 11, where he also names Consus and Juventa.


Tertullian, in Apol. xxv. sarcastically says, “Sterculus, and Mutunus, and Larentina, have raised the empire to its present height.”


Arnobius, adv. Nationes, iv. 7, 11; August. de Civ. Dei, vi. 9.


For these three gods, see Augustine, de Civ. Dei, vi. 9; and Arnobius, adv. Nationes, iv. 7.

Next: The Original Deities Were Human--With Some Very Questionable Characteristics. Saturn or Time Was Human. Inconsistencies of Opinion About Him.

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