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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 7

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 7.—Of the Destruction of Ilium by Fimbria, a Lieutenant of Marius.

And surely we may ask what wrong poor Ilium had done, that, in the first heat of the civil wars of Rome, it should suffer at the hand of Fimbria, the veriest villain among Marius’ partisans, a more fierce and cruel destruction than the Grecian sack. 130   For when the Greeks took it many escaped, and many who did not escape were suffered to live, though in captivity.  But Fimbria from the first gave orders that not a life should be spared, and burnt up together the city and all its inhabitants.  Thus was Ilium requited, not by the Greeks, whom she had provoked by wrong-doing; but by the Romans, who had been built out of her ruins; while the gods, adored alike of both sides, did simply nothing, or, to speak more correctly, could do nothing.  Is it then true, that at this time also, after Troy had repaired the damage done by the Grecian fire, all the gods by whose help the kingdom stood, “forsook each fane, each sacred shrine?”

p. 46

But if so, I ask the reason; for in my judgment, the conduct of the gods was as much to be reprobated as that of the townsmen to be applauded.  For these closed their gates against Fimbria, that they might preserve the city for Sylla, and were therefore burnt and consumed by the enraged general.  Now, up to this time, Sylla’s cause was the more worthy of the two; for till now he used arms to restore the republic, and as yet his good intentions had met with no reverses.  What better thing, then, could the Trojans have done?  What more honorable, what more faithful to Rome, or more worthy of her relationship, than to preserve their city for the better part of the Romans, and to shut their gates against a parricide of his country?  It is for the defenders of the gods to consider the ruin which this conduct brought on Troy.  The gods deserted an adulterous people, and abandoned Troy to the fires of the Greeks, that out of her ashes a chaster Rome might arise.  But why did they a second time abandon this same town, allied now to Rome, and not making war upon her noble daughter, but preserving a most steadfast and pious fidelity to Rome’s most justifiable faction?  Why did they give her up to be destroyed, not by the Greek heroes, but by the basest of the Romans?  Or, if the gods did not favor Sylla’s cause, for which the unhappy Trojans maintained their city, why did they themselves predict and promise Sylla such successes?  Must we call them flatterers of the fortunate, rather than helpers of the wretched?  Troy was not destroyed, then, because the gods deserted it.  For the demons, always watchful to deceive, did what they could.  For, when all the statues were overthrown and burnt together with the town, Livy tells us that only the image of Minerva is said to have been found standing uninjured amidst the ruins of her temple; not that it might be said in their praise, “The gods who made this realm divine,” but that it might not be said in their defence, They are “gone from each fane, each sacred shrine:”  for that marvel was permitted to them, not that they might be proved to be powerful, but that they might be convicted of being present.



Livy, 83, one of the lost books; and Appian, in Mithridat.

Next: Chapter 8

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