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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11.—Of the Statue of Apollo at Cumæ, Whose Tears are Supposed to Have Portended Disaster to the Greeks, Whom the God Was Unable to Succor.

And it is still this weakness of the gods which is confessed in the story of the Cuman Apollo, who is said to have wept for four days during the war with the Achæans and King Aristonicus.  And when the augurs were alarmed at the portent, and had determined to cast the statue into the sea, the old men of Cumæ interposed, and related that a similar prodigy had occurred to the same image during the wars against Antiochus and against Perseus, and that by a decree of the senate, gifts had been presented to Apollo, because p. 48 the event had proved favorable to the Romans.  Then soothsayers were summoned who were supposed to have greater professional skill, and they pronounced that the weeping of Apollo’s image was propitious to the Romans, because Cumæ was a Greek colony, and that Apollo was bewailing (and thereby presaging) the grief and calamity that was about to light upon his own land of Greece, from which he had been brought.  Shortly afterwards it was reported that King Aristonicus was defeated and made prisoner,—a defeat certainly opposed to the will of Apollo; and this he indicated by even shedding tears from his marble image.  And this shows us that, though the verses of the poets are mythical, they are not altogether devoid of truth, but describe the manners of the demons in a sufficiently fit style.  For in Virgil, Diana mourned for Camilla, 136 and Hercules wept for Pallas doomed to die. 137   This is perhaps the reason why Numa Pompilius, too, when, enjoying prolonged peace, but without knowing or inquiring from whom he received it, he began in his leisure to consider to what gods he should entrust the safe keeping and conduct of Rome, and not dreaming that the true, almighty, and most high God cares for earthly affairs, but recollecting only that the Trojan gods which Æneas had brought to Italy had been able to preserve neither the Trojan nor Lavinian kingdom rounded by Æneas himself, concluded that he must provide other gods as guardians of fugitives and helpers of the weak, and add them to those earlier divinities who had either come over to Rome with Romulus, or when Alba was destroyed.


Footnotes

48:136

Æneid, xi. 532.

48:137

Ibid. x. 464.


Next: Chapter 12

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