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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 13

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 13.—By What Right or Agreement The Romans Obtained Their First Wives.

How is it that neither Juno, who with her husband Jupiter even then cherished

“Rome’s sons, the nation of the gown,” 140

nor Venus herself, could assist the children of the loved Æneas to find wives by some right and equitable means?  For the lack of this entailed upon the Romans the lamentable necessity of stealing their wives, and then waging war with their fathers-in-law; so that the wretched women, before they had recovered from the wrong done them by their husbands, were dowried with the blood of their fathers.  “But the Romans conquered their neighbors.”  Yes; but with what wounds on both sides, and with what sad slaughter of relatives and neighbors!  The war of Cæsar and Pompey was the contest of only one p. 49 father-in-law with one son-in-law; and before it began, the daughter of Cæsar, Pompey’s wife, was already dead.  But with how keen and just an accent of grief does Lucan 141 exclaim:  “I sing that worse than civil war waged in the plains of Emathia, and in which the crime was justified by the victory!”

The Romans, then, conquered that they might, with hands stained in the blood of their fathers-in-law, wrench the miserable girls from their embrace,—girls who dared not weep for their slain parents, for fear of offending their victorious husbands; and while yet the battle was raging, stood with their prayers on their lips, and knew not for whom to utter them.  Such nuptials were certainly prepared for the Roman people not by Venus, but Bellona; or possibly that infernal fury Alecto had more liberty to injure them now that Juno was aiding them, than when the prayers of that goddess had excited her against Æneas.  Andromache in captivity was happier than these Roman brides.  For though she was a slave, yet, after she had become the wife of Pyrrhus, no more Trojans fell by his hand; but the Romans slew in battle the very fathers of the brides they fondled.  Andromache, the victor’s captive, could only mourn, not fear, the death of her people.  The Sabine women, related to men still combatants, feared the death of their fathers when their husbands went out to battle, and mourned their death as they returned, while neither their grief nor their fear could be freely expressed.  For the victories of their husbands, involving the destruction of fellow-townsmen, relatives, brothers, fathers, caused either pious agony or cruel exultation.  Moreover, as the fortune of war is capricious, some of them lost their husbands by the sword of their parents, while others lost husband and father together in mutual destruction.  For the Romans by no means escaped with impunity, but they were driven back within their walls, and defended themselves behind closed gates; and when the gates were opened by guile, and the enemy admitted into the town, the Forum itself was the field of a hateful and fierce engagement of fathers-in-law and sons-in-law.  The ravishers were indeed quite defeated, and, flying on all sides to their houses, sullied with new shame their original shameful and lamentable triumph.  It was at this juncture that Romulus, hoping no more from the valor of his citizens, prayed Jupiter that they might stand their ground; and from this occasion the god gained the name of Stator.  But not even thus would the mischief have been finished, had not the ravished women themselves flashed out with dishevelled hair, and cast themselves before their parents, and thus disarmed their just rage, not with the arms of victory, but with the supplications of filial affection.  Then Romulus, who could not brook his own brother as a colleague, was compelled to accept Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines, as his partner on the throne.  But how long would he who misliked the fellowship of his own twin-brother endure a stranger?  So, Tatius being slain, Romulus remained sole king, that he might be the greater god.  See what rights of marriage these were that fomented unnatural wars.  These were the Roman leagues of kindred, relationship, alliance, religion.  This was the life of the city so abundantly protected by the gods.  You see how many severe things might be said on this theme; but our purpose carries us past them, and requires our discourse for other matters.


Footnotes

48:140

Virgil, Æn. i. 286.

49:141

Pharsal. v. 1.


Next: Chapter 14

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