Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
Early Church Fathers
ATHENAGORAS: Chapter XXI.—Impure Loves Ascribed to the Gods.
Chapter XXI.—Impure Loves Ascribed to the Gods.
But should it be said that they only had fleshly forms, and possess blood and seed, and the affections of anger and sexual desire, even then we must regard such assertions as nonsensical and ridiculous; for there is neither anger, nor desire and appetite, nor procreative seed, in gods. Let them, then, have fleshly forms, but let them be superior to wrath and anger, that Athênâ may not be seen
“Burning with rage and inly wroth with Jove;” 765
nor Hera appear thus:—
Could not contain her rage.” 766
And let them be superior to grief:— p. 139
“A woful sight mine eyes behold: a man
I love in flight around the walls! My heart
For Hector grieves.” 767
For I call even men rude and stupid who give way to anger and grief. But when the “father of men and gods” mourns for his son,—
“Woe, woe! that fate decrees my best belovd
Sarpedon, by Patroclus hand to fall;” 768
and is not able while he mourns to rescue him from his peril:—
“The son of Jove, yet Jove preservd him not;” 769
who would not blame the folly of those who, with tales like these, are lovers of the gods, or rather, live without any god? Let them have fleshly forms, but let not Aphrodité be wounded by Diomedes in her body:—
“The haughty son of Tydeus, Diomed,
Hath wounded me;” 770
or by Arês in her soul:—
“Me, awkward me, she scorns; and yields her charms
To that fair lecher, the strong god of arms.” 771
“The weapon pierced the flesh.” 772
He who was terrible in battle, the ally of Zeus against the Titans, is shown to be weaker than Diomedes:—
“He raged, as Mars, when brandishing his spear.” 773
Hush! Homer, a god never rages. But you describe the god to me as blood-stained, and the bane of mortals:—
“Mars, Mars, the bane of mortals, stained with blood;” 774
and you tell of his adultery and his bonds:—
“Then, nothing loth, th enamourd fair he led,
And sunk transported on the conscious bed.
Down rushed the toils.” 775
Do they not pour forth impious stuff of this sort in abundance concerning the gods? Ouranos is mutilated; Kronos is bound, and thrust down to Tartarus; the Titans revolt; Styx dies in battle: yea, they even represent them as mortal; they are in love with one another; they are in love with human beings:—
“Æneas, amid Idas jutting peaks,
Immortal Venus to Anchises bore.” 776
Are they not in love? Do they not suffer? Nay, verily, they are gods, and desire cannot touch them! Even though a god assume flesh in pursuance of a divine purpose, 777
he is therefore the slave of desire.
“For never yet did such a flood of love,
For goddess or for mortal, fill my soul;
Not for Ixions beauteous wife, who bore
Pirithöus, sage in council as the gods;
Nor the neat-footed maiden Danäe,
A crisius daughter, her who Perséus bore,
Th observd of all; nor noble Phœnix child;
. . . . . . nor for Semele;
Nor for Alcmena fair; . . .
No, nor for Ceres, golden-tressèd queen;
Nor for Latona bright; nor for thyself.” 778
He is created, he is perishable, with no trace of a god in him. Nay, they are even the hired servants of men:—
“Admetus halls, in which I have endured
To praise the menial table, though a god.” 779
And they tend cattle:—
“And coming to this land, I cattle fed,
For him that was my host, and kept this house.” 780
Admetus, therefore, was superior to the god. prophet and wise one, and who canst foresee for others the things that shall be, thou didst not divine the slaughter of thy beloved, but didst even kill him with thine own hand, dear as he was:—
“And I believed Apollos mouth divine
Was full of truth, as well as prophets art.”
(Æschylus is reproaching Apollo for being a false prophet:)—
“The very one who sings while at the feast,
The one who said these things, alas! is he
Who slew my son.” 781
Hom., Il., iv. 23.
Ibid., iv. 24.
Ibid., xxii. 168 sq.
Ibid., xvi. 433 sq.
Ibid., xvi. 522.
Ibid., v. 376.
Hom., Od., viii. 308 sq., Popes transl.
Hom., Il., v. 858.
Hom., Il., xv. 605.
Hom., Il., v. 31, 455.
Hom., Od., viii. 296–298, Popes transl.
Hom., Il., ii. 820.
[οἰκονομίαν. Kaye, p. 174. And see Paris ed., 1615.]
Hom., Il., xiv. 315 sqq.
Eurip., Alcest., 1 sq.
Ibid., 8 sq.
From an unknown play of Æschylus.
Next: Chapter XXII.—Pretended Symbolical Explanations.