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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Constellations and the Genii Very Indifferent Gods. The Roman Monopoly of Gods Unsatisfactory. Other Nations Require Deities Quite as Much.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XV.—The Constellations and the Genii Very Indifferent Gods. The Roman Monopoly of Gods Unsatisfactory. Other Nations Require Deities Quite as Much.

It would be tedious to take a survey of all those, too, whom you have buried amongst the constellations, and audaciously minister to as gods. 1057 I suppose your Castors, and Perseus, and Erigona, 1058 have just the same claims for the honours of the sky as Jupiter’s own big boy 1059 had. But why should we wonder? You have transferred to heaven even dogs, and scorpions, and crabs. I postpone all remarks 1060 concerning those whom you worship in your oracles. That this worship exists, is attested by him who pronounces the oracle. 1061 Why; you will have your gods to be spectators even of sadness, 1062 as is Viduus, who makes a widow of the soul, by parting it from the body, and whom you have condemned, by not permitting him to be enclosed within your city-walls; there is Cæculus also, to deprive the eyes of their perception; and Orbana, to bereave seed of its vital power; moreover, there is the goddess of death herself. To pass hastily by all others, 1063 you account as gods the sites of places or of the city; such are Father Janus (there being, moreover, the archer-goddess 1064 Jana 1065 ), and Septimontius of the seven hills.

Men sacrifice 1066 to the same Genii, whilst p. 145 they have altars or temples in the same places; but to others besides, when they dwell in a strange place, or live in rented houses. 1067 I say nothing about Ascensus, who gets his name for his climbing propensity, and Clivicola, from her sloping (haunts); I pass silently by the deities called Forculus from doors, and Cardea from hinges, and Limentinus the god of thresholds, and whatever others are worshipped by your neighbours as tutelar deities of their street doors. 1068 There is nothing strange in this, since men have their respective gods in their brothels, their kitchens, and even in their prison. Heaven, therefore, is crowded with innumerable gods of its own, both these and others belonging to the Romans, which have distributed amongst them the functions of one’s whole life, in such a way that there is no want of the other 1069 gods. Although, it is true, 1070 the gods which we have enumerated are reckoned as Roman peculiarly, and as not easily recognised abroad; yet how do all those functions and circumstances, over which men have willed their gods to preside, come about, 1071 in every part of the human race, and in every nation, where their guarantees 1072 are not only without an official recognition, but even any recognition at all?



Deis ministratis.


The constellation Virgo.


Jovis exoletus, Ganymede, or Aquarius.


He makes a similar postponement above, in c. vii., to The Apology, cc. xxii. xxiii.




Et tristitiæ arbitros.




Diva arquis.


Perhaps another form of Diana.


Faciunt = ῥίζουσι.


This seems to be the meaning of an almost unintelligible sentence, which we subjoin: “Geniis eisdem illi faciunt qui in isdem locis aras vel ædes habent; præterea aliis qui in alieno loco aut mercedibus habitant.” Oehler, who makes this text, supposes that in each clause the name of some god has dropped out.


Numinum janitorum.




Immo cum.





Next: Inventors of Useful Arts Unworthy of Deification. They Would Be the First to Acknowledge a Creator. The Arts Changeable from Time to Time, and Some Become Obsolete.

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