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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 15

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 15.—Concerning Certain Stars Which the Pagans Have Called by the Names of Their Gods.

But possibly these stars which have been called by their names are these gods.  For they call a certain star Mercury, and likewise a certain other star Mars.  But among those stars which are called by the names of gods, is that one which they call Jupiter, and yet with them Jupiter is the world.  There also is that one they call Saturn, and yet they give to him no small property besides,—namely, all seeds.  There also is that brightest of them all which is called by them Venus, and yet they will have this same Venus to be also the moon:—not to mention how Venus and Juno are said by them to contend about that most brilliant star, as though about another golden apple.  For some say that Lucifer belongs to Venus, and some to Juno.  But, as usual, Venus conquers.  For by far the greatest number assign that star to Venus, so much so that there is scarcely found one of them who thinks otherwise.  But since they call Jupiter the king of all, who will not laugh to see his star so far surpassed in brilliancy by the star of Venus?  For it ought to have been as much more brilliant than the rest, as he himself is more powerful.  They answer that it only appears so because it is higher up, and very much farther away from the earth.  If, therefore, its greater dignity has deserved a higher place, why is Saturn higher in the heavens than Jupiter?  Was the vanity of the fable which made Jupiter king not able to reach the stars?  And has Saturn been permitted to obtain at least in the heavens, what he could not obtain in his own kingdom nor in the Capitol?

But why has Janus received no star?  If it is because he is the world, and they are all in him, the world is also Jupiter’s, and yet he has one.  Did Janus compromise his case as best he could, and instead of the one star which he does not have among the heavenly bodies, accept so many faces on earth?  Again, if they think that on account of the stars alone Mercury and Mars are parts of the world, in order that they may be able to have them for gods, since speech and war are not parts of the world, but acts of men, how is it that they have made no altars, established no rites, built no temples for Aries, and Taurus, and Cancer, and Scorpio, and the rest which they number as the celestial signs, and which consist not of single stars, but each of them of many stars, which also they say are situated above those already mentioned in the highest part of the heavens, where a more constant motion causes the stars to follow an undeviating course?  And why have they not reckoned them as gods, I do not say among those select gods, but not even among those, as it were, plebeian gods?


Next: Chapter 16

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