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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 10

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 10.—What Opinions Those Have Followed Who Have Set Divers Gods Over Divers Parts of the World.

Why, also, is Juno united to him as his wife, who is called at once “sister and yoke-fellow?” 169   Because, say they, we have Jove in the ether, Juno in the air; and these two elements are united, the one being superior, the other inferior.  It is not he, then, of whom it is said, “All things are full of Jove,” if Juno also fills some part.  Does each fill either, and are both of this couple in both of these elements, and in each of them at the same time?  Why, then, is the ether given to Jove, the air to Juno?  Besides, these two should have been enough.  Why is it that the sea is assigned to Neptune, the earth to Pluto?  And that these also might not be left without mates, Salacia is joined to Neptune, Proserpine to Pluto.  For they say that, as Juno possesses the lower part of the heavens,—that is, the air,—so Salacia possesses the lower part of the sea, and Proserpine the lower part of the earth.  They seek how they may patch up these fables, but they find no way.  For if these things were so, their ancient sages would have maintained that there are three chief elements of the world, not four, in order that each of the elements might have a pair of gods.  Now, they have positively affirmed that the ether is one thing, the air another.  But water, whether higher or lower, is surely water.  Suppose it ever so unlike, can it ever be so much so as no longer to be water?  And the lower earth, by whatever divinity it may be distinguished, what else can it be than earth?  Lo, then, since the whole physical world is complete in these four or three elements, where shall Minerva be?  What should she possess, what should she fill?  For she is placed in the Capitol along with these two, although she is not the offspring of their marriage.  Or if they say that she possesses the higher part of the ether,—and on that account the poets have feigned that she sprang from the head of Jove,—why then is she not rather reckoned queen of the gods, because she is superior to Jove?  Is it because it would be improper to set the daughter before the father?  Why, then, is not that rule of justice observed concerning Jove himself toward Saturn?  Is it because he was conquered?  Have they fought then?  By no means, say they; that is an old wife’s fable.  Lo, we are not to believe fables, and must hold more worthy opinions concerning the gods!  Why, then, do they not assign to the father of Jove a seat, if not of higher, at least of equal honor?  Because Saturn, say they, is length of time. 170   Therefore they who worship Saturn worship Time; and it is insinuated that Jupiter, the king of the gods, was born of Time.  For is anything unworthy said when Jupiter and Juno are said to have been sprung from Time, if he is the heaven and she is the earth, since both heaven and earth have been made, and are therefore not eternal?  For their learned and wise men have this also in their books.  Nor is that saying taken by Virgil out of poetic figments, but out of the books of philosophers,

“Then Ether, the Father Almighty, in copious showers descended

Into his spouse’s glad bosom, making it fertile,” 171

—that is, into the bosom of Tellus, or the earth.  Although here, also, they will have it that there are some differences, and think that p. 70 in the earth herself Terra is one thing, Tellus another, and Tellumo another.  And they have all these as gods, called by their own names distinguished by their own offices, and venerated with their own altars and rites.  This same earth also they call the mother of the gods, so that even the fictions of the poets are more tolerable, if, according, not to their poetical but sacred books, Juno is not only the sister and wife, but also the mother of Jove.  The same earth they worship as Ceres, and also as Vesta; while yet they more frequently affirm that Vesta is nothing else than fire, pertaining to the hearths, without which the city cannot exist; and therefore virgins are wont to serve her, because as nothing is born of a virgin, so nothing is born of fire;—but all this nonsense ought to be completely abolished and extinguished by Him who is born of a virgin.  For who can bear that, while they ascribe to the fire so much honor, and, as it were, chastity, they do not blush sometimes even to call Vesta Venus, so that honored virginity may vanish in her hand-maidens?  For if Vesta is Venus, how can virgins rightly serve her by abstaining from venery?  Are there two Venuses, the one a virgin, the other not a maid?  Or rather, are there three, one the goddess of virgins, who is also called Vesta, another the goddess of wives, and another of harlots?  To her also the Phenicians offered a gift by prostituting their daughters before they united them to husbands. 172   Which of these is the wife of Vulcan?  Certainly not the virgin, since she has a husband.  Far be it from us to say it is the harlot, lest we should seem to wrong the son of Juno and fellow-worker of Minerva.  Therefore it is to be understood that she belongs to the married people; but we would not wish them to imitate her in what she did with Mars.  “Again,” say they, “you return to fables.”  What sort of justice is that, to be angry with us because we say such things of their gods, and not to be angry with themselves, who in their theatres most willingly behold the crimes of their gods?  And,—a thing incredible, if it were not thoroughly well proved,—these very theatric representations of the crimes of their gods have been instituted in honor of these same gods.



Virgil, Æneid, i. 47.


Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 25.


Virgil, Georg. ii. 325, 326.


Eusebius, De Prœp. Evang.  i. 10.

Next: Chapter 11

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