The city of God

The City of God: Book 4: Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen

Chapter 15

Let our accusers consider, therefore, that perhaps it is not fitting for good men to rejoice in the extent of their power. For, what really increased the empire’s expansion was the wickedness of those against whom wars were justly waged. The empire would, indeed, have remained small if the peace and fair-dealing of their neighbors had provoked no wars. Thus, in a happier state of human relations, all kingdoms would remain small, and rejoice in their neighborly concord. Thus, also, there would have been in the world a great many nations, as there are many families in a city. Hence, wars and conquests may rejoice unprincipled men, but are a sad necessity in the eyes of men of principle. However, it would be still more unfortunate for wrong-doers to dominate just men; so, even this necessity may properly be regarded by good men as fortunate.

But, beyond doubt, it is a greater blessing to have a good and friendly neighbor than to have to subdue one who has taken up arms against you. It is a sign of bad will to desire a detestable and dangerous neighbor, just to have someone to conquer. If, therefore, by waging, not unscrupulous and criminal, but just, wars, the Romans succeeded in building up a mighty empire, why should not the wickedness of others be adored as a goddess? In fact, we know that such wickedness had much to do with the expansion of the empire. It aroused obnoxious people, against whom just wars might be waged, with consequent additions to the empire. Why, then, should not the wickedness of foreign nations be accounted a goddess, if Fear, Dread, and Fever deserved to be divinized by the Romans?

Hence, as a result of the activity of these two divinities, the Wickedness of others and the goddess Victory, when Wickedness caused wars, Victory brought them to a successful issue, and the empire grew mightier even while Jove was taking a holiday. For, what was there left for him to do, while those gifts which might be regarded as coming from his hands were themselves considered gods, called gods, worshiped as gods, and supplicated for favors? He, too, might indeed have a part to play here, if he were called Empire, as she is called Victory. Or, if the Empire is Jove’s gift, why is not Victory also so regarded? That would certainly have been the case, if, instead of a stone figure in the Capitol, people acknowledged and adored the true ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’

Chapter 16

What most astonishes me is that pagans attached a divinity to every object and to almost every motion. They instituted public rites for all these gods and goddesses. Thus, they called Agenoria the goddess who stirred to action; Stimula, the one who spurred on to excessive action; Murcia, the one who went to the other extreme and held a man back from action, making him murcidus, as Pompeius says, that is, inordinately languid and inactive; and Strenua, who impells to vigorous action. But, strange to say, they paid no such honor to the goddess Repose, although there was a temple to Quies outside the Colline Gate. Was this neglect a sign of a restless spirit, or did it, rather, mean that the man who insisted on worshiping that mob of gods—or, rather, demons—could not find that rest to which the true Physician invites us in the words: ‘Learn of Me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest for your souls’?

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

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