The city of God

The City of God: Book 4: Chapters Eleven and Twelve

Chapter 11

On the basis of every argument drawn from physical phenomena and from their discussions, let the learned pagans maintain all they please about Jove. Now, let him be the soul of this material world, filling and moving the vast structure of the universe, formed and compounded of four elements, or of as many as they please. Now, let Jupiter yield some parts of it to his sister and brothers. Again, let him be the ether embracing the underlying air, Juno. Now, let him be the entire sky and air together, and let him with fertile rains and seeds fecundate the earth—his wife and mother at the same time, for this is no scandal among the gods. Finally, not to run through all their theories, let him be the unique god to whom, according to the thinking of many, the celebrated poet refers when he says: ‘God pervades all lands and all depths of the sea, all heights of the heavens.’

Let him be Jupiter in the ether, Juno in the air, Neptune in the sea, Salacia in the depths of the sea, Pluto in the earth, Proserpina in the lower world, Vesta on domestic hearths, Vulcan in the forgers’ furnace, the sun, moon and stars in the heavens, Apollo in the soothsayers, Mercury in commerce, the initiator as Janus, the terminator as Terminus. Let him be Saturn in time, Mars and Bellona in wars, Bacchus in the vineyards, Ceres in the wheatfields, Diana in the forests, Minerva in intellects. Finally, let him even be, if I may say so, in the horde of common gods. As Liber, let him preside over male seed; as Libra, over female. Let him be Dispater, who brings infants into the world; let him be the goddess Mena, appointed to supervise women’s periods, and Lucina, invoked by women in childbirth. Let him come to the aid of the newly born by lifting them from the lap of the earth, and be called Ops; let him open the mouths of wailing babies, and be called the god Vaticanus; let him lift them from the ground, and be called the goddess Levana; and, by guarding the cradles, be called Cunina. Let none but himself be in those goddesses who foretell the destinies of the newly born, and are called Carmentes.

Let him preside over chance events as Fortune, and as the goddess Rumina let him nurse the suckling, for ruma was the ancient word for breast. As the goddess Potina, let him administer drink; as the goddess Educa, proffer food. From the terror of infants, let him be called Paventia; from sudden hope, Venilia; from lust, Volupia; from activity, Agenoria; from the impulses that drive a man to excessive activity, the goddess Stimula; by inspiring energy, the divinity Strenua; by teaching to count, Numeria; by teaching to sing, Camena.

For the counsels he gives, let him be Consus; for suggesting good judgments, the goddess Sentia. Let him be the goddess Juventas, who takes charge of the entry into youth after a boy has assumed the toga. Let him also be Fortuna Barbata, who puts a beard on those grown to manhood—although, if they really wished to honor grown men they would have addressed a male divinity by a male name, Barbatus from his beard, like Nodutus from the knots, or, least, they would not have called him Fortuna, since he had a beard, but Fortunius. As the god Jugatinus, let Jupiter join couples in marriage; when the virgin wife’s girdle is loosed, let him be invoked as the goddess Virginiensis. Let him be Mutunus, or Tutunus, known among the Greeks as Priapus.

If the pagans are not ashamed of it, let the one Jupiter be all the things I have said, and all the things I have not said—for there is much I could not say. Let him be all these gods and goddesses, whether they are all parts of him, as some would have it, or powers, as those believe who like to conceive of him as the world-soul. This latter is the view of their great and very learned men.

If this be true—I do not yet inquire just what the situation is—what could the Romans lose if, with a wiser economy, they should worship one God? What part of His creation would be despised if He himself were adored? If it is to be feared that some parts of Jupiter would be enraged for being passed over or ignored, then it is not true, as they maintain, that he is the all-embracing total life of one life-giving being, who contains all the other gods as being his powers, or members, or parts. But if one part can become angry, another be pacified, and a third be irritated—independently of one another—then, each has its own life distinct from the rest.

On the other hand, if it be maintained that all parts together, that is, the totality of Jove himself, could be angered if his parts were not worshiped also, individually, that is talking sheer nonsense. No single one of those parts would be overlooked as long as the object of worship is the very totality which contains them all. To avoid endless details, let me observe that when they assert that all the heavenly bodies are parts of Jove, that all have life and rational souls, and that all are most certainly gods, there are certain things they overlook. They do not see, for example, how many gods remain without worship, how many have no temples or altars built to them, and to how few of the heavenly bodies they thought of dedicating such things, and of offering special sacrifices. If, therefore, the stars are wrathful because each is not given its own special worship, do not the pagans dread to live under the wrath of the entire heaven, since they appeased only a few gods?

But, if their worship comprises all the gods because all are contained in the Jove they honor by that procedure, they could invoke them all in the person of the one Jove. In this way, no one would become offended, since, as part of that unity, no one would be slighted. This would be preferable to worshiping only a few, thereby giving just cause of resentment to those who are ignored, and who are far more numerous. Their resentment would be particularly justified if, among the worshiped ones shining in splendor, they saw Priapus in his obscene nakedness given a primary place.

Chapter 12

What can be said of another absurdity? It should stir men of intelligence, and even the ordinary man—for no intellectual genius is needed here—to lay aside bitter contention, and face squarely this question: Is God the soul of the world, and is the world as the body of this soul in such wise that the two together make up a living organism composed of body and soul? Does this God, like nature’s womb, so to speak, contain all things in Himself, so that His soul, which vitalizes the entire mass, is the source of the life and the soul of all living things, according to the lot determined for each one at birth? Does nothing remain which is not a part of God?

If this be true, does anyone fail to see how impious and blasphemous is the conclusion that follows: When anyone tramples on anything, he tramples on God; when he kills any living thing, he kills God! I refuse to set forth all the conclusions which thinking men can draw, but which they cannot express without shame.

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

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