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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16.—That If the Gods Had Really Possessed Any Regard for Righteousness, the Romans Should Have Received Good Laws from Them, Instead of Having to Borrow Them from Other Nations.

Moreover, if the Romans had been able to receive a rule of life from their gods, they would not have borrowed Solon’s laws from the Athenians, as they did some years after Rome was founded; and yet they did not keep them as they received them, but endeavored to improve and amend them. 110   Although Lycurgus pretended that he was authorized by Apollo to give laws to the Lacedemonians, the sensible Romans did not choose to believe this, and were not induced to borrow laws from Sparta.  Numa Pompilius, who succeeded Romulus in the kingdom, is said to have framed some laws, which, however, were not sufficient for the regulation of civic affairs.  Among these regulations were many pertaining to religious observances, and yet he is not reported to have received even these from the gods.  With respect, then, to moral evils, evils of life and conduct,—evils which are so mighty, that, according to the wisest pagans, 111 by them states are ruined while their cities stand uninjured,—their gods made not the smallest provision for preserving their worshippers from these evils, but, on the contrary, took special pains to increase them, as we have previously endeavored to prove.



In the year a.u. 299, three ambassadors were sent from Rome to Athens to copy Solon’s laws, and acquire information about the institutions of Greece.  On their return the Decemviri were appointed to draw up a code; and finally, after some tragic interruptions, the celebrated twelve tables were accepted as the fundamental statutes of Roman law (fons universi publici privatique juris).  These were graven on brass, and hung up for public information.  Livy, iii. 31–34.


Possibly he refers to Plautus’ Persa, iv. 4. 11–14.

Next: Chapter 17

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