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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 10.—What Varro Reports About the Term Areopagus, and About Deucalion’s Flood.

Marcus Varro, however, is not willing to credit lying fables against the gods, lest he should find something dishonoring to their p. 366 majesty; and therefore he will not admit that the Areopagus, the place where the Apostle Paul disputed with the Athenians, got this name because Mars, who in Greek is called ἌΑρης, when he was charged with the crime of homicide, and was judged by twelve gods in that field, was acquitted by the sentence of six; because it was the custom, when the votes were equal, to acquit rather than condemn.  Against this opinion, which is much most widely published, he tries, from the notices of obscure books, to support another reason for this name, lest the Athenians should be thought to have called it Areopagus from the words” Mars” and “field,” 1137 as if it were the field of Mars, to the dishonor of the gods, forsooth, from whom he thinks lawsuits and judgments far removed.  And he asserts that this which is said about Mars is not less false than what is said about the three goddesses, to wit, Juno, Minerva, and Venus, whose contest for the palm of beauty, before Paris as judge, in order to obtain the golden apple, is not only related, but is celebrated in songs and dances amid the applause of the theatres, in plays meant to please the gods who take pleasure in these crimes of their own, whether real or fabled.  Varro does not believe these things, because they are incompatible with the nature of the gods and of morality; and yet, in giving not a fabulous but a historic reason for the name of Athens, he inserts in his books the strife between Neptune and Minerva as to whose name should be given to that city, which was so great that, when they contended by the display of prodigies, even Apollo dared not judge between them when consulted; but, in order to end the strife of the gods, just as Jupiter sent the three goddesses we have named to Paris, so he sent them to men, when Minerva won by the vote, and yet was defeated by the punishment of her own voters, for she was unable to confer the title of Athenians on the women who were her friends, although she could impose it on the men who were her opponents.  In these times, when Cranaos reigned at Athens as the successor of Cecrops, as Varro writes, but, according to our Eusebius and Jerome, while Cecrops himself still remained, the flood occurred which is called Deucalion’s, because it occurred chiefly in those parts of the earth in which he reigned.  But this flood did not at all reach Egypt or its vicinity.


Footnotes

366:1137

Ἀρης and πάγος.


Next: Chapter 11

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