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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 2

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 2.—That It is Quite Contrary to the Usage of War, that the Victors Should Spare the Vanquished for the Sake of Their Gods.

There are histories of numberless wars, both before the building of Rome and since its rise and the extension of its dominion; let these be read, and let one instance be cited in which, when a city had been taken by foreigners, the victors spared those who were found to have fled for sanctuary to the temples of their gods; 34 or one instance in which a barbarian general gave orders that none should be put to the sword who had been found in this or that temple.  Did not Æneas see

“Dying Priam at the shrine,

Staining the hearth he made divine?” 35

Did not Diomede and Ulysses

“Drag with red hands, the sentry slain,

Her fateful image from your fane,

Her chaste locks touch, and stain with gore

The virgin coronal she wore?” 36

Neither is that true which follows, that

“Thenceforth the tide of fortune changed,

And Greece grew weak.” 37

For after this they conquered and destroyed Troy with fire and sword; after this they beheaded Priam as he fled to the altars.  Neither did Troy perish because it lost Minerva.  For what had Minerva herself first lost, that she should perish?  Her guards perhaps?  No doubt; just her guards.  For as soon as they were slain, she could be stolen.  It was not, in fact, the men who were preserved by the image, but the image by the men.  How, p. 3 then, was she invoked to defend the city and the citizens, she who could not defend her own defenders?



The Benedictines remind us that Alexander and Xenophon, at least on some occasions, did so.


Virgil, Æneid, ii. 501–2.  The renderings of Virgil are from Conington.


Ibid.. ii. 166.



Next: Chapter 3

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