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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 4

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 4.—The Inferior Gods, Whose Names are Not Associated with Infamy, Have Been Better Dealt with Than the Select Gods, Whose Infamies are Celebrated.

However, any one who eagerly seeks for celebrity and renown, might congratulate those select gods, and call them fortunate, were it not that he saw that they have been selected more to their injury than to their honor.  For that low crowd of gods have been protected by their very meanness and obscurity from being overwhelmed with infamy.  We laugh, indeed, when we see them distributed by the mere fiction of human opinions, according to the special works assigned to them, like those who farm small portions of the public revenue, or like workmen in the street of the silversmiths, 259 where one vessel, in order that it may go out perfect, passes through the hands of many, when it might have been finished by one perfect workman.  But the only reason why the combined skill of many workmen was thought necessary, was, that it is better that each part of an art should be learned by a special workman, which can be done speedily and easily, than that they should all be compelled to be perfect in one art throughout all its parts, which they could only attain slowly and with difficulty.  Nevertheless there is scarcely to be found one of the non-select gods who has brought infamy on himself by any crime, whilst there is scarce any one of the select gods who has not received upon himself the brand of notable infamy.  These latter have descended to the humble works of the others, whilst the others have not come up to their sublime crimes.  Concerning Janus, there does not readily occur to my recollection anything infamous; and perhaps he was such an one as lived more innocently than the rest, and further removed from misdeeds and crimes.  He kindly received and entertained Saturn when he was fleeing; he divided his kingdom with his guest, so that each of them had a city for himself, 260 the one Janiculum, and the other Saturnia.  But those seekers after every kind of unseemliness in the worship of the gods have disgraced him, whose life they found to be less disgracful than that of the other gods, with an image of monstrous deformity, making it sometimes with two faces, and sometimes, as it were, double, with four faces. 261   Did they wish that, as the most of the select gods had lost shame 262 through the perpetration of shameful crimes, his greater innocence should be marked by a greater number of faces? 263



Vicus argentarius.


Virgil, Æneid, viii. 357, 358.






Quanto iste innocentior esset, tanto frontosior appareret; being used for the shamelessness of innocence, as we use “face” for the shamelessness of impudence.

Next: Chapter 5

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