The city of God

The City of God: Book 7: Chapters 9-11

Chapter 9

Now let us hear what the pagans understand by Jove or Jupiter, as he is called. He is the god, they tell us, who has power over the causes by which all things happen in the cosmos. A significant task, indeed, as Virgil implies in his famous line, ‘Happy the one who can know the causes of things.’

Why, then, is Janus put above Jove? The answer of the brilliant and learned Varro is: ‘Because Janus is in charge of first things, while Jove has only the highest; therefore, Jove is rightly called the king of all. First things are lower than the highest, because although they come first in time, the highest come first in dignity.’

This would be a good enough answer if we were distinguishing the beginnings and consummations of actions. Thus, to start on a journey is the beginning of an action and to arrive is the consummation. So, too, learning is the beginning of an action and knowledge is the consummation. So in all things the beginnings come first, but the ends are the highest. But, this difference between Janus and Jove has already been discussed.

However, the causes attributed to Jupiter are not actions, but agents; it is impossible that the actions or the beginnings of actions should come before their causes in time. What makes is always before what is made. If, then, to Janus belong the beginnings of actions or facts, these effects cannot be prior to the efficient causes which are attributed to Jupiter. The fact is that nothing happens or begins to happen which is not preceded by an efficient cause. But, what are we to say when we recall that this god, in whose power are all the causes of created natures and of natural things, is called Jove by the people, and is worshiped by them with plays filled with contumely and criminal scandals? Surely, these people are guilty of a worse sacrilege than if they denied that he was a god at all. It would be far better if they had taken any other being, however worthy of their indecent and criminal honors, and substituted this figment to be blasphemed (much as Saturn is supposed to have been fooled by having a stone substituted for Jove when he was about to be devoured by his father). This would have been better than to have one and the same god called thunderer and adulterer, world-ruler and rake, controller of the causes of all natures and natural things and yet lacking in self control.

Another question. If Janus is the cosmos, where among the gods do they place Jupiter? Varro defines the true god as the spirit of the cosmos and its parts; therefore, whatever is other than this is not, in their mind, a true god. Perhaps, then, they will say that Jupiter is the soul and Janus the body of the universe, that is to say, the world that we can see. But, if they put it this way, they will not be able to call Janus a god, since god, even according to themselves, is the spirit of the cosmos and its parts rather than its body. Varro tries to find a way out by asserting that god is the world-spirit and, at the same time, the world itself—but only in the sense that, as a man who is made up of body and soul is called wise in virtue of his soul, so the cosmos is made up of spirit and matter but is called god on account of the spirit. Hence, the body of the universe by itself is not god, but either its soul or the body and soul taken together—so long as it is called god because of the soul and not because of the body.

But, if we say that Janus is the cosmos and Janus is god, must we not say that Jupiter must be a part of Janus if he is to be divine? Yet, the pagans prefer to attribute the universe to Jupiter, as we see in the Virgilian phrase, ‘all things are filled with Jove.’ Hence, for Jove to be a god, and still more, King of the gods, they have to reckon him as the whole universe, reigning over the other gods who are parts of the universe. It is in reference to this conception that Varro, in a treatise On the Worship of the Gods which is not included in the Antiquities, discusses the following lines of Valerius Soranus:

Jupiter, Lord over kings, over things, over gods,
Father and Mother of gods, he is one, he is all.

‘Soranus was right,’ says Varro, ‘in speaking of Jupiter as father and mother,’ since Jupiter is the world and therefore both puts forth and takes back all things that grow just as a father emits seed and a mother receives them. Varro goes on to comment: ‘Soranus is also right in saying that one and all were the same, since the world is one and all things are contained in it.’

Chapter 10

Thus, Janus is the world; and Jupiter is the world; and there is only one world. How, then, can Janus and Jupiter be two distinct gods? Why do they have different temples, altars, shrines, and images? Is it enough that the force of beginnings is different from the force of causes, and that the name of the former is Janus, and Jupiter the name of the latter? Suppose one man has two faculties or two professions in different fields, and that the work of each is different. Do we, therefore, have two judges or two craftsmen?

The truth is that one and the same God has control over both beginnings and causes, but we do not have to think Him as two, merely because beginnings and causes are distinct realities. If the pagans were right in their thinking, they should say that Jupiter is as many different gods as he has names given to him because of his many powers. What is true, of course, is that the things from which the names are taken are many and different, and I shall deal with some of them.

Chapter 11

The pagans have given Jupiter the surnames Victor, Unconquered, Helper, Driver, Establisher, Hundred-Footed Wrestler, Sustainer, Fosterer, Nourisher, and others too numerous to mention. These names were given to one god for a variety of causes and powers. They did not necessarily imply that he was many gods because he had many titles, for example, that he could conquer all and be conquered by none, bringing help to the needy, impelling, establishing, making secure, flooring opponents, holding up the world like a beam, fostering, and breast-feeding all living things.

Of these functions some are significant, others not so, yet the same god is said to perform them all. Of course, as compared with the difference between sustaining the universe and feeding animals at the breast, beginnings and causes are relatively alike, and it was because of these latter that the pagans wanted one world to make two gods, Jupiter and Janus. The former are altogether different in power and dignity, yet the differences did not make two gods, since one and the same Jupiter is called Tigillus as world-sustainer, and Ruminus as breast-feeder.

I might be impertinent in suggesting that offering the breast to suckling animals would better become Juno than Jove, since it was a goddess, Rumina, who was supposed to help Jupiter in this work. In any case, I suppose they could answer that Juno herself is not, in reality, distinct from Jupiter, and their proof would be the lines of Valerius Soranus already cited:

Jupiter, Lord over kings, over things, over gods,
Father and Mother of gods …

But, why did he have to be called Ruminus, since, likely enough, a careful investigation would show that he and the goddess Rumina are one? It was rightly reckoned unworthy of the divine majesty that, in one ear of corn, one god should have care of the core and another of the husk. It is still more unworthy that so lowly a function as feeding animals at the breast should be entrusted to the care of two different divinities, one being Jupiter, King of the cosmos, and the other being—not even his wife—the completely unknown Rumina. The only conclusion possible is that Jupiter is himself Rumina—or perhaps, Ruminus when he is suckling males and Rumina when he is suckling females!
Normally, I should suppose that the pagans were opposed to giving feminine names to Jupiter, but, then, there is the expression in the line of verse, ‘Father and Mother of gods.’ Besides, I think I have read somewhere that, along with his other surnames, he was called Pecunia [Money], Now, Pecunia is one of the minor divine functionaries about whom I spoke in Book IV. So, it is up to the pagans to explain why Jupiter should not be called both Pecunia and Pecunius—since both men and women have money—just as he should be called both Rumina and Ruminus.

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

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