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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 4

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 4.—Of the Asylum of Juno in Troy, Which Saved No One from the Greeks; And of the Churches of the Apostles, Which Protected from the Barbarians All Who Fled to Them.

Troy itself, the mother of the Roman people, was not able, as I have said, to protect its own citizens in the sacred places of their gods from the fire and sword of the Greeks, though the Greeks worshipped the same gods.  Not only so, but

“Phoenix and Ulysses fell

In the void courts by Juno’s cell

Were set the spoils to keep;

Snatched from the burning shrines away,

There Ilium’s mighty treasure lay,

p. 4

Rich altars, bowls of massy gold,

And captive raiment, rudely rolled

In one promiscuous heap;

While boys and matrons, wild with fear,

In long array were standing near.” 43

 In other words, the place consecrated to so great a goddess was chosen, not that from it none might be led out a captive, but that in it all the captives might be immured.  Compare now this “asylum”—the asylum not of an ordinary god, not of one of the rank and file of gods, but of Jove’s own sister and wife, the queen of all the gods—with the churches built in memory of the apostles.  Into it were collected the spoils rescued from the blazing temples and snatched from the gods, not that they might be restored to the vanquished, but divided among the victors; while into these was carried back, with the most religious observance and respect, everything which belonged to them, even though found elsewhere.  There liberty was lost; here preserved.  There bondage was strict; here strictly excluded.  Into that temple men were driven to become the chattels of their enemies, now lording it over them; into these churches men were led by their relenting foes, that they might be at liberty.  In fine, the gentle 44 Greeks appropriated that temple of Juno to the purposes of their own avarice and pride; while these churches of Christ were chosen even by the savage barbarians as the fit scenes for humility and mercy.  But perhaps, after all, the Greeks did in that victory of theirs spare the temples of those gods whom they worshipped in common with the Trojans, and did not dare to put to the sword or make captive the wretched and vanquished Trojans who fled thither; and perhaps Virgil, in the manner of poets, has depicted what never really happened?  But there is no question that he depicted the usual custom of an enemy when sacking a city.


Footnotes

4:43

Virgil, Æneid. ii. 761.

4:44

Though levis was the word usually employed to signify the inconstancy of the Greeks, it is evidently here used, in opposition to immanis of the following clause, to indicate that the Greeks were more civilized than the barbarians, and not relentless, but, as we say, easily moved.


Next: Chapter 5

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