Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Minucius Felix/The Octavius of Minucius Felix/Chapter 6

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix
by Minucius Felix, translated by Robert Ernest Wallis
Chapter 6
155894Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix — Chapter 6Robert Ernest WallisMinucius Felix

Chapter VI.—Argument:  The Object of All Nations, and Especially of the Romans, in Worshipping Their Divinities, Has Been to Attain for Their Worship the Supreme Dominion Over the Whole Earth.

“Since, then, either fortune is certain or nature is uncertain, how much more reverential and better it is, as the high priests of truth, to receive the teaching of your ancestors, to cultivate the religions handed down to you, to adore the gods whom you were first trained by your parents to fear rather than to know[1] with familiarity; not to assert an opinion concerning the deities, but to believe your forefathers, who, while the age was still untrained in the birth-times of the world itself, deserved to have gods either propitious to them, or as their kings.[2]  Thence, therefore, we see through all empires, and provinces, and cities, that each people has its national rites of worship, and adores its local gods:  as the Eleusinians worship Ceres; the Phrygians, Mater;[3] the Epidaurians, Æsculapius; the Chaldæans; Belus; the Syrians, Astarte; the Taurians, Diana; the Gauls, Mercurius; the Romans, all divinities.  Thus their power and authority has occupied the circuit of the whole world:  thus it has propagated its empire beyond the paths of the sun, and the bounds of the ocean itself; in that in their arms they practise a religious valour; in that they fortify their city with the religions of sacred rites, with chaste virgins, with many honours, and the names of priests; in that, when besieged and taken, all but the Capitol alone, they worship the gods which when angry any other people would have despised;[4] and through the lines of the Gauls, marvelling at the audacity of their superstition, they move unarmed with weapons, but armed with the worship of their religion; while in the city of an enemy, when taken while still in the fury of victory, they venerate the conquered deities; while in all directions they seek for the gods of the strangers, and make them their own; while they build altars even to unknown divinities, and to the Manes.  Thus, in that they acknowledge the sacred institutions of all nations, they have also deserved their dominion.  Hence the perpetual course of their veneration has continued, which is not weakened by the long lapse of time, but increased, because antiquity has been accustomed to attribute to ceremonies and temples so much of sanctity as it has ascribed of age.

Footnotes edit

  1. “To think of rather than to know” in some texts.
  2. Neander quotes this passage as illustrating the dissatisfied state of the pagan mind with the prevailing infidelity at that time.
  3. Or, “the great mother” [i.e., Cybele.  S.].
  4. Or, “which another people, when angry, would have despised.”