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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 18

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 18.—With What Reason They Who Think Felicity and Fortune Goddesses Have Distinguished Them.

What shall we say, besides, of the idea that Felicity also is a goddess?  She has received a temple; she has merited an altar; suitable rites of worship are paid to her.  She alone, then, should be worshipped.  For where she is present, what good thing can be absent?  But what does a man wish, that he thinks Fortune also a goddess and worships her?  Is felicity one thing, fortune another?  Fortune, indeed, may be bad as well as good; but felicity, if it could be bad, would not be felicity.  Certainly we ought to think all the gods of either sex (if they also have sex) are only good.  This says Plato; this say other philosophers; this say all estimable rulers of the republic and the nations.  How is it, then, that the goddess Fortune is sometimes good, sometimes bad?  Is it perhaps the case that when she is bad she is not a goddess, but is suddenly changed into a malignant demon?  How many Fortunes are there then?  Just as many as there are men who are fortunate, that is, of good fortune.  But since there must also be very many others who at the very same time are men of bad fortune, could she, being one and the same Fortune, be at the same time both bad and good—the one to these, the other to those?  She who is the goddess, is she always good?  Then she herself is felicity.  Why, then, are two names given her?  Yet this is tolerable; for it is customary that one thing should be called by two names.  But why different temples, different altars, different rituals?  There is a reason, say they, because Felicity is she whom the good have by previous merit; but fortune, which is termed good without any trial of merit, befalls both good and bad men fortuitously, whence also she is named Fortune.  How, therefore, is she good, who without any discernment comes—both to the good and to the bad?  Why is she worshipped, who is thus blind, running at random on any one whatever, so that for the most part she passes by her worshippers, and cleaves to those who despise her?  Or if her worshippers profit somewhat, so that they are seen by her and loved, then she follows merit, and does not come fortuitously.  What, then, becomes of that definition of fortune?  What becomes of the opinion that she has received her very name from fortuitous events?  For it profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune.  But if she distinguishes her worshippers, so that she may benefit them, she is not fortune.  Or does, Jupiter send her too, whither he pleases?  Then let him alone be worshipped; because Fortune is not able to resist him when he commands her, and sends her where he pleases.  Or, at least, let the bad worship her, who do not choose to have merit by which the goddess Felicity might be invited.

Next: Chapter 19