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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11.—Concerning the Many Gods Whom the Pagan Doctors Defend as Being One and the Same Jove.

Let them therefore assert as many things as ever they please in physical reasonings and disputations.  One while let Jupiter be the soul of this corporeal world, who fills and moves that whole mass, constructed and compacted out of four, or as many elements as they please; another while, let him yield to his sister and brothers their parts of it:  now let him be the ether, that from above he may embrace Juno, the air spread out beneath; again, let him be the whole heaven along with the air, and impregnate with fertilizing showers and seeds the earth, as his wife, and, at the same time, his mother (for this is not vile in divine beings); and yet again (that it may not be necessary to run through them all), let him, the one god, of whom many think it has been said by a most noble poet,

“For God pervadeth all things,

All lands, and the tracts of the sea, and the depth of the heavens,” 173

—let it be him who in the ether is Jupiter; in the air, Juno; in the sea, Neptune; in the lower parts of the sea, Salacia; in the earth, Pluto; in the lower part of the earth, Proserpine; on the domestic hearths, Vesta; in the furnace of the workmen, Vulcan; among the stars, Sol and Luna, and the Stars; in divination, Apollo; in merchandise, Mercury; in Janus, the initiator; in Terminus, the terminator; Saturn, in time; Mars and Bellona, in war; Liber, in vineyards; Ceres, in cornfields; Diana, in forests; Minerva, in learning.  Finally, let it be him who is in that crowd, as it were, of plebeian gods:  let him preside under the name of Liber over the seed of men, and under that of Libera over that of women:  let him be Diespiter, who brings forth the birth to the light of day:  let him be the goddess Mena, whom they set over the menstruation of women:  let him be Lucina, who is invoked by women in childbirth:  let him bring help to those who are being born, by taking them up from the bosom of the earth, and let him be called Opis:  let him open the mouth in the crying babe, and be called the god Vaticanus:  let him lift it from the earth, and be called the goddess Levana;  let him watch over cradles, and be called the goddess Cunina:  let it be no other than he who is in those goddesses, who sing the fates of the new born, and are called Carmentes:  let him preside over fortuitous events, and be called Fortuna:  in the goddess Rumina, let him milk out the breast to the little one, because the ancients termed the breast ruma:  in the goddess Potina, let him administer drink:  in the goddess Educa, let him supply food:  from the terror of infants, let him be styled Paventia:  from the hope which comes, Venilia:  from voluptuousness, Volupia:  from action, Agenor: p. 71 from the stimulants by which man is spurred on to much action, let him be named the goddess Stimula:  let him be the goddess Strenia, for making strenuous;  Numeria, who teaches to number;  Camoena, who teaches to sing:  let him be both the god Consus for granting counsel, and the goddess Sentia for inspiring sentences:  let him be the goddess Juventas, who, after the robe of boyhood is laid aside, takes charge of the beginning of the youthful age:  let him be Fortuna Barbata, who endues adults with a beard, whom they have not chosen to honor; so that this divinity, whatever it may be, should at least be a male god, named either Barbatus, from barba, like Nodotus, from nodus; or, certainly, not Fortuna, but because he has beards, Fortunius:  let him, in the god Jugatinus, yoke couples in marriage; and when the girdle of the virgin wife is loosed, let him be invoked as the goddess Virginiensis:  let him be Mutunus or Tuternus, who, among the Greeks, is called Priapus.  If they are not ashamed of it, let all these which I have named, and whatever others I have not named (for I have not thought fit to name all), let all these gods and goddesses be that one Jupiter, whether, as some will have it, all these are parts of him, or are his powers, as those think who are pleased to consider him the soul of the world, which is the opinion of most of their doctors, and these the greatest.  If these things are so (how evil they may be I do not yet meanwhile inquire), what would they lose, if they, by a more prudent abridgment, should worship one god?  For what part of him could be contemned if he himself should be worshipped?  But if they are afraid lest parts of him should be angry at being passed by or neglected, then it is not the case, as they will have it, that this whole is as the life of one living being, which contains all the gods together, as if they were its virtues, or members, or parts; but each part has its own life separate from the rest, if it is so that one can be angered, appeased, or stirred up more than another.  But if it is said that all together,—that is, the whole Jove himself,—would be offended if his parts were not also worshipped singly and minutely, it is foolishly spoken.  Surely none of them could be passed by if he who singly possesses them all should be worshipped.  For, to omit other things which are innumerable, when they say that all the stars are parts of Jove, and are all alive, and have rational souls, and therefore without controversy are gods, can they not see how many they do not worship, to how many they do not build temples or set up altars, and to how very few, in fact, of the stars they have thought of setting them up and offering sacrifice?  If, therefore, those are displeased who are not severally worshipped, do they not fear to live with only a few appeased, while all heaven is displeased?  But if they worship all the stars because they are part of Jove whom they worship, by the same compendious method they could supplicate them all in him alone.  For in this way no one would be displeased, since in him alone all would be supplicated.  No one would be contemned, instead of there being just cause of displeasure given to the much greater number who are passed by in the worship offered to some; especially when Priapus, stretched out in vile nakedness, is preferred to those who shine from their supernal abode.



Virgil, Georg. iv. 221, 222.

Next: Chapter 12

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