The City of God: Book 1: Chapter Two

BOOK ONE

Chapter Two

The chronicles are filled with wars waged before Rome was founded, and since it rose and grew to be an empire. Let the pagans read these chronicles, and then adduce one single instance of a city falling into the hands of a foe disposed to spare men seeking refuge in the temples of their gods. Or let them even point to a single barbarian chieftain who captured a town and then ordered his soldiers not to kill those caught in any of the temples. Did not Aeneas see Priam cut down before the altar, ‘polluting with his blood the altar fires of his own consecration?’ And did not Diomedes and Ulysses ‘cut down the sentries in the towered height; since they grasped the holy image and dared with bloody hands to touch the maiden chaplets of the goddess’? Nor did that which follows come true: ‘Since then the hope of Greece ebbed and slid away.’ For, after this, they conquered; after this, they wiped out Troy with fire and sword; after this, they cut off Priam’s head before the altar to which he fled. Nor did Troy perish because it lost its Palladium—Minerva. And what had Minerva herself first lost that she should perish? The guardians of her statue? To be sure, once they were slain, Minerva could be taken away. It was not the effigy that guarded the men, but the men who guarded the effigy. For what earthly reason was Minerva worshiped as the protector of the land and people, when she could not even protect the guards of her temple?

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

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