The city of God

The City of God: Book 3: Chapters Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six

Chapter 25

It was surely with a feeling for paradox that the Senate ordered a temple in honor of Concord to be erected on the very spot where the bloody riot broke out and cost the lives of so many citizens, high and low. It was meant as a witness of the penalty paid by the Gracchi, a warning to strike the eyes and stir the memories of demagogues. Actually, the raising of a temple to that goddess merely made the gods a laughing-stock—for, surely, if Concord had been in the city, it would not have been torn by so many disorders. Unless, of course, we prefer to say that the goddess Concord, guilty of deserting the lives of her fellow citizens, deserved to be shut up in that temple, as in a prison.

If they had wanted to be in accord with history, they should rather have built a temple in honor of Discord. There is no real reason why Concord should be a goddess and Discord not, or why, according to Labeo’s distinction, the one should not be good and the other bad. In fact, the only reason that led Labeo to make the distinction was that in Rome he saw a temple dedicated to Fever as well as to Health. According to that reasoning, a temple should have been built not only to Concord, but also to Discord.

In fact, the Romans took a risk in choosing to live under the frown of so evil a goddess. They forgot that the cause of Troy’s destruction was ultimately to be traced to Discord’s displeasure. It was because she was not invited with the other gods that she caused a quarrel among the three goddesses by throwing the golden apple among them. This was the beginning of the rift among the gods, the triumph of Venus, the rape of Helen, and the destruction of Troy. It may be, then, that she resented the slight of not being thought worthy of a temple along with the other gods, and on that account kept the city in such turmoil. Imagine her anger when she saw a temple dedicated to her rival on the spot of the notorious massacre, that is, on the very scene of her own exploit!

When I ridicule these absurdities, the pagan scholars and sages rage with indignation. Yet, the devotees of the good and the bad gods cannot escape the Concord and Discord dilemma. Either they discarded these divinities in favor of Fever and Bellona, in whose honor they built temples in the old days, or they worshiped them also. In this case, Concord deserted them, and raging Discord flung them headlong into civil war.

Chapter 26

As an impressive curb to rebellion, they chose to set the Temple of Concord before the eyes of agitators as a reminder of the death penalty inflicted on the Gracchi. If any proof of the futility of this device were needed, it may be found in the greater evils that followed. From that time on, the demagogues strove, not to avoid the example set by the Gracchi, but to outdo their designs. Thus acted Lucius Saturninus, the tribune of the people, and Gaius Servilius, the praetor, and, some years afterward, Marcus Drusus. The revolts which these men engineered were the signal for the horrible massacres that immediately followed, and for the social wars that broke out later. Convulsed by these conflicts, Italy was reduced to indescribable ruin and its population decimated.

On the heels of the social wars followed the servile and the civil wars. The battles fought and the blood shed are beyond description. Almost all the nations of Italy, the backbone of the Roman Empire, were beaten down as though they were barbarians. Even the historians have scarcely found words to describe what happened when a handful of gladiators, less than seventy in number, started the servile war: the mass of slaves, mad with rage, that swelled their numbers, the many Roman generals they slew, the cities and regions they devastated as they swept on. That was not the only war of slaves. Hordes of slaves also ravaged the province of Macedonia, and, later, Sicily and the maritime coast. It is impossible to find words fit to describe the numberless and frightful robberies they committed, and the formidable piratical raids on the shipping lanes.

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII

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