CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA was an early Greek Christian writer and presbyter who flourished in Alexandria in the late C2nd AD. A number of religious essays, including the Recognitions, were attributed to him. However, since authorship is in doubt, the work is more properly assigned to the nomenclature Pseudo-Clement. For students of mythology, Book 10 of the Recognitions is of particular interest, for here the author presents a number of myths and mythical genealogies, some of which are not preserved elswhere, in his critique of the ancient gods. The original Greek text of the Recognitions is now lost, and survives only in a Latin translation made by Rufinus, Presbyter of Aquileia, in the C4th AD. Some of the text, and especially the mythic names, are corrupt.
Ante-Nicene Library Volume 8. Translated by Smith, Rev. Thomas. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh. 1867
A fascimile reproduction of this translation, published by Elibron Classics, is still in print and available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the translation of Recognitions, the series contains the collected works of Clement and other early Christian writers.
NOTE: Only the first part of Book 10 of the Recognitions is presented here, that consisting of the Christian argument against the pagan gods.
RECOGNITIONS 10.5 - 41
17. Gentile Cosmology
18. Family of Saturn
19. Their Destinies
20. Doings of Jupiter
21. A Black Catalogue
22. Transformations of Jupiter
23. Why a God?
24. Folly of Polytheism
25. Dead Men Deified
27. Inconsistency of Poytheists
30. Cosmogony of Orpheus
31. Hesiod's Cosmogony
32. Allegorical Interpretation
33. Allegory of Jupiter
34. Other Allegories
37. Like Gods, Like Worshippers
41. Explanation of Mythology
EXHORTATIONS 1 - 2
EXHORTATIONS 3 - 5
RECOGNITIONS BOOK 10. 16 - 41, TRANSLATED BY REV. THOMAS SMITH
Chapter XVI. Would that All God's People Were Prophets.
But when I was about to speak, Niceta, biting his lip, beckoned to me to be silent. And when Peter saw him, he said: "Why would you repress his liberal disposition and noble nature, that you would have him be silent for my honour, which is nothing? Or do you not know, that if all nations, after they have heard from me the preaching of the truth, and have believed, would betake themselves to teaching, they would gain the greater glory for me, if indeed you think me desirous of glory? For what so glorious as to prepare disciples for Christ, not who shall be silent, and shall be saved alone, but who shall speak what they have learned, and shall do good to others? I wish indeed that both you, Niceta, and you, beloved Aquila, would aid me in preaching the word of God, and the rather because those things in which the Gentiles err are well known to you; and not you only, but all who hear me, I wish, as I have said, so to hear and to learn, that they may be able also to teach: for the world needs many helpers, by whom men may be recalled from error." When he had spoken thus, he said to me: "Go on then, Clement, with what you have begun."
Chapter XVII. Gentile Cosmogony.
And I immediately rejoined: "Seeing that when you were disputing at Tripolis, as I said, you discoursed much concerning the gods of the Gentiles profitably and convincingly, I desire to set forth in your presence the ridiculous legends concerning their origin, both that you may not be unacquainted with the falsehood of this vain superstition, and that the hearers who are present may know the disgraceful character of their error. The wise men, then, who are among the Gentiles, say that first of all things was chaos; that this, through a long time solidifying its outer parts, made bounds to itself and a sort of foundation, being gathered, as it were, into the manner and form of a huge egg, within which, in the course of a long time, as within the shell of the egg, there was cherished and vivified a certain animal; and that afterwards, that huge globe being broken, there came forth a certain kind of man of double sex, which they call masculo-feminine. This they called Phanetas, from appearing, because when it appeared, they say, then also light shone forth. And from this, they say that there were produced substance, prudence, motion, and coition, and from these the heavens and the earth were made. From the heaven they say that six males were produced, whom they call Titans; and in like manner, from the earth six females, whom they called Titanides. And these are the names of the males who sprang from the heaven: Oceanus, Coeus, Crios, Hyperion, Iapetus, Chronos, who amongst us is called Saturn. In like manner, the names of the females who sprang from the earth are these: Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Tethys, Hebe [Phoebe].
Chapter XVIII. Family of Saturn.
"Of all these, the first-born of the heaven took to wife the first-born of earth; the second the second, and in like manner all the rest. The first male, therefore, who had married the first female, was on her account drawn downwards; but the second female rose upwards, by reason of him to whom she was married; and so each doing in their order, remained in those places which fell to their share by the nuptial lot. From their intercourse they assert that innumerable others sprang. But of these six males, the one who is called Saturn received in marriage Rhea, and having been warned by a certain oracle that he who should be born of her should be more powerful than himself, and should drive him from his kingdom, he determined to devour all the sons that should be born to him. First, then, there is born to him a son called Aides, who amongst us is called Orcus; and him, for the reason we have just stated, he took and devoured. After him he begot a second son, called Neptune; and him he devoured in like manner. Last of all, he begot him whom they call Jupiter; but him his mother Rhea pitying, by stratagem withdrew from his father when he was about to devour him. And first, indeed, that the crying of the child might not be noticed, she made certain Corybantes strike cymbals and drums, that by the deafening sound the crying of the infant might not be heard.
Chapter XIX. Their Destinies.
"But when he understood from the lessening of her belly that her child was born, he demanded it, that he might devour it; then Rhea presented him with a large stone, and told him that that was what she had brought forth. And he took it, and swallowed it; and the stone, when it was devoured, pushed and drove forth those sons whom he had formerly swallowed. Therefore Orcus, coming forth first, descended, and occupies the lower, that is, the infernal regions. The second, being above him-he whom they call Neptune, is thrust forth upon the waters. The third, who survived by the artifice of his mother Rhea, she put upon a she-goat and sent into heaven.
Chapter XX. Doings of Jupiter.
"But enough of the old wife's fables and genealogy of the Gentiles; for it were endless if I should set forth all the generations of those whom they call gods, and their wicked doings. But by way of example, omitting the rest, I shall detail the wicked deeds of him only whom they hold to be the greatest and the chief, and whom they call Jupiter. For they say that he possesses heaven, as being superior to the rest; and he, as soon as he grew up, married his own sister, whom they call Juno, in which truly he at once becomes like a beast. Juno bears Vulcan; but, as they relate, Jupiter was not his father. However, by Jupiter himself she became mother of Medea [Hebe]; and Jupiter having received a response that one who should be born of her should be more powerful than himself, and should expel him from his kingdom, took her and devoured her. Again Jupiter produced Minerva from his brain, and Bacchus from his thigh. After this, when he had fallen in love with Thetis, they say that Prometheus informed him that, if he lay with her, he who should be born of her should be more powerful than his father; and for fear of this, he gave her in marriage to one Peleus. Subsequently he had intercourse with Persephone, who was his own daughter by Ceres and by her be begot Dionysius, who was torn in pieces by the Titans. But calling to mind, it is said, that perhaps his own father Saturn might beget another son, who might be more powerful than himself, and might expel him from the kingdom, he went to war with his father, along with his brothers the Titans; and having beaten them, he at last threw his father into prison, and cut off his genitals, and threw them into the sea. But the blood which flowed from the wound, being mixed with the waves, and turned into foam by the constant churning, produced her whom they call Aphrodite, and whom with us they call Venus. From his intercourse with her who was thus his own sister, they say that this same Jupiter begot Cypris, who, they say, was the mother of Cupid.
Chapter XXI. A Black Catalogue.
"Thus much of his incests; I shall now speak of his adulteries. He defiled Europa, the wife of Oceanus, of whom was born Dodonæus; Helen, the wife of Pandion, of whom Musæus; Eurynome, the wife of Asopus, of whom Ogygias; Hermione [Eurynome], the wife of Oceanus, of whom the Graces, Thalia, Euphrosyne, Aglaia; Themis, his own sister, of whom the Hours, Eurynomia, Dice, Irene; Themisto, the daughter of Inachus, of whom Arcas; Idæa, the daughter of Minos, of whom Asterion; Phœnissa, the daughter of Alphion, of whom Endymion; Io, the daughter of Inachus, of whom Epaphus; Hippodamia and Isione, daughters of Danaus, of whom Hippodamia was the wife of Olenus, and Isione of Orchomenus or Chryses; Carme, the daughter of Phœnix, of whom was born Britomartis, who was an attendant of Diana; Callisto, the daughter of Lycaon, of whom Orcas; Lybee, the daughter of Munantius, of whom Belus; Latona, of whom Apollo and Diana; Leandia, the daughter of Eurymedon, of whom Coron; Lysithea, the daughter of Evenus, of whom Helenus; Hippodamia, the daughter of Bellerophon, of whom Sarpedon; Megaclite, the daughter of Macarius, of whom Thebe and Locrus; Niobe, the daughter of Phoroneus, of whom Argus and Pelasgus; Olympias, the daughter of Neoptolemus, of whom Alexander; Pyrrha, the daughter of Prometheus, of whom Helmetheus; Protogenia and Pandora, daughters of Deucalion, of whom he begot Æthelius, and Dorus, and Melera, and Pandorus; Thaicrucia, the daughter of Proteus, of whom was born Nympheus; Salamis, the daughter of Asopus, of whom Saracon; Taygete, Electra, Maia, Plutide, daughters of Atlas, of whom respectively he begot Lacedæmon, Dardanus, Mercury, and Tantalus; Phthia, the daughter of Phoroneus, of whom he begot Achæus; Chonia, the daughter of Aramnus, of whom he begot Lacon; Chalcea, a nymph, of whom was born Olympus; Charidia, a nymph, of whom Alcanus; Chloris, who was the wife of Ampycus, of whom Mopsus was born; Cotonia, the daughter of Lesbus, of whom Polymedes; Hippodamia, the daughter of Anicetus; Chrysogenia, the daughter of Peneus, of whom was born Thissæus.
Chapter XXII. Vile Transformation of Jupiter.
"There are also innumerable adulteries of his, of which no offspring was the result, which it were tedious to enumerate. But amongst those whom we have mentioned, he violated some being transformed, like a magician. In short, he seduced Antiope, the daughter of Nycteus, when turned into a satyr, and of her were born Amphion and Zethus; Alcmene, when changed into her husband Amphitryon, and of her was born Hercules; Ægina, the daughter of Asopus, when changed into an eagle, of whom Æacus was born. So also he defiled Ganymede, the son of Dardanus, being changed into an eagle; Manthea, the daughter of Phocus, when changed into a bear, of whom was born Arctos; Danæ, the daughter of Acrisius, being changed into gold, of whom Perseus; Europa, the daughter of Phœnix, changed into a bull, of whom were born Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon; Eurymedusa, the daughter of Achelaus, being changed into an ant, of whom Myrmidon; Thalia, the nymph, being changed into a vulture, of whom were born the Palisci, in Sicily; Imandra, the daughter of Geneanus, at Rhodes, being changed into a shower; Cassiopeia, being changed into her husband Phœnix, and of her was born Anchinos; Leda, the daughter of Thestius, being changed into a swan, of whom was born Helen; and again the same, being changed into a star, and of her were born Castor and Pollux; Lamia, being changed into a lapwing; Mnemosyne, being changed into a shepherd, of whom were born the nine Muses; Nemesis, being changed into a goose; the Cadmian Semele, being changed into fire, and of her was born Dionysius. By his own daughter Ceres he begot Persephone, whom also herself he defiled, being changed into a dragon.
Chapter XXIII. Why a God?
"He also committed adultery with Europa, the wife of his own uncle Oceanus, and with her sister Eurynome, and punished their father; and he committed adultery with Plute, the daughter of his own son Atlas, and condemned Tantalus, whom she bore to him. Of Larisse, the daughter of Orchomenus, he begot Tityon, whom also he consigned to punishment. He carried off Dia, the wife of his own son Ixion, and subjected him to perpetual punishment; and almost all the sons who sprang from his adulteries he put to violent deaths; and indeed the sepulchres of almost all of them are well known. Yea, the sepulchre of this parricide himself, who destroyed his uncles and defiled their wives, who committed whoredom with his sisters, this magician of many transformations, is shown among the Cretans, who, although they know and acknowledge his horrid and incestuous deeds, and tell them to all, yet are not ashamed to confess him to be a god. Whence it seems to me to be wonderful, yea, exceeding wonderful, how he who exceeds all men in wickedness and crimes, has received that holy and good name which is above every name, being called the father of gods and men; unless perhaps he who rejoices in the evils of men has persuaded unhappy souls to confer honour above all others upon him whom he saw to excel all others in crimes, in order that he might allure all to the imitation of his evil deeds.
Chapter XXIV. Folly of Polytheism.
"But also the sepulchres of his sons, who are regarded amongst these the Gentiles as gods, are openly pointed out, one in one place, and another in another: that of Mercury at Hermopolis; that of the Cyprian Venus at Cyprus; that of Mars in Thrace; that of Bacchus at Thebes, where he is said to have been torn in pieces; that of Hercules at Tyre, where he was burnt with fire; that of Aesculapius in Epidaurus. And all these are spoken of, not only as men who have died, but as wicked men who have been punished for their crimes; and yet they are adored as gods by foolish men.
Chapter XXV. Dead Men Deified.
"But if they choose to argue, and affirm that these are rather the places of their birth than of their burial or death, the former and ancient doings shall be convicted from those at hand and still recent, since we have shown that they worship those whom they themselves confess to have been men, and to have died, or rather to have been punished; as the Syrians worship Adonis, and the Egyptians Osiris; the Trojans, Hector; Achilles is worshipped at Leuconesus, Patroclus at Pontus, Alexander the Macedonian at Rhodes; and many others are worshipped, one in one place and another in another, whom they do not doubt to have been dead men. Whence it follows that their predecessors also, falling into a like error, conferred divine honour upon dead men, who perhaps had had some power or some skill, and especially if they had stupefied stolid men by magical phantasies.
Chapter XXVI. Metamorphoses.
"Hence there has now been added, that the poets also adorn the falsehoods of error by elegance of words, and by sweetness of speech persuade that mortals have been made immortal; yea more, they say that men are changed into stars, and trees, and animals, and flowers, and birds, and fountains, and rivers. And but that it might seem to be a waste of words, I could even enumerate almost all the stars, and trees, and fountains, and rivers, which they assert to have been made of men; yet, by way of example, I shall mention at least one of each class. They say that Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, was turned into a star; Daphne, the daughter of the river Lado, into a tree; Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo, into a flower; Callisto into the constellation which they call Arctos; Progne and Philomela, with Tereus, into birds; that Thysbe in Cilicia was dissolved into a fountain; and Pyramus, at the same place, into a river. And they assert that almost all the stars, trees, fountains, and rivers, flowers, animals, and birds, were at one time human beings."
Chapter XXVII. Inconsistency of Polytheists.
But Peter, when he heard this, said: "According to them, then, before men were changed into stars, and the other things which you mention, the heaven was without stars, and the earth without trees and animals; and there were neither fountains, nor rivers, nor birds. And without these, how did those men themselves live, who afterwards were changed into them, since it is evident that, without these things, men could not live upon the earth? "Then I answered: "But they are not even able to observe the worship of their own gods consistently; for every one of those whom they worship has something dedicated to himself, from which his worshippers ought to abstain: as they say the olive is dedicated to Minerva, the she-goat to Jupiter, seeds to Ceres, wine to Bacchus, water to Osiris, the ram to Hammon, the stag to Diana, the fish and the dove to the demon of the Syrians, fire to Vulcan; and to each one, as I have said, is there something specially consecrated, from which the worshippers are bound to abstain, for the honour of those to whom they are consecrated. But were one abstaining from one thing, and another from another, by doing honor to one of the gods, they incur the anger of all the rest; and therefore, if they would conciliate them all, they must abstain from all things for the honour of all, so that, being self-condemned by a just sentence before the day of judgment, they should perish by a most wretched death through starvation.
Chapter XXVIII. Buttresses of Gentilism.
"But let us return to our purpose. What reason is there, yea, rather, what madness possesses the minds of men, that they worship and adore as a god, a man whom they not only know to be impious, wicked, profane – I mean Jupiter – incestuous, a parricide, an adulterer, but even proclaim him publicly as such in their songs in the theatres? Or if by means of these deeds he has deserved to be a god, then also, when they hear of any murderers, adulterers, parricides incestuous persons, they ought to worship them also as gods. But I cannot understand why they venerate in him what they execrate in others." Then Peter answered: "Since you say that you cannot understand it, learn of me why they venerate wickedness in him. In the first place, it is that, when they themselves do like deeds, they may know that they shall be acceptable to him, inasmuch as they have but imitated him in his wickedness. In the second place, because the ancients have left these things skilfully composed in their writings, and elegantly engrafted in their verses. And now, by the aid of youthful education, since the knowledge of these things adheres to their tender and simple minds, it cannot without difficulty be torn from them and cast away."
Chapter XXIX. Allegories.
When Peter had said this, Niceta answered: "Do not suppose, my lord Peter, but that the learned men of the Gentiles have certain plausible arguments, by which they support those things which seem to be blameworthy and disgraceful. And this I state, not as wishing to confirm their error (for far be it from me that such a thing should ever come into my thought); but yet I know that there are amongst the more intelligent of them certain defences, by which they are accustomed to support and colour over those things which seem to be absurd. And if it please you that I should state some of them-for I am to some extent acquainted with them – I shall do as you order me." And when Peter had given him leave, Niceta proceeded as follows.
Chapter XXX. Cosmogony of Orpheus.
"All the literature among the Greeks which is written on the subject of the origin of antiquity, is based upon many authorities, but especially two, Orpheus and Hesiod. Now their writings are divided into two parts, in respect of their meaning, – that is the literal and the allegorical; and the vulgar crowd has flocked to the literal, but all the eloquence of the philosophers and learned men is expended in admiration of the allegorical. It is Orpheus, then, who says that at first there was chaos, eternal, unbounded, unproduced, and that from it all things were made. He says that this chaos was neither darkness nor light, neither moist nor dry, neither hot nor cold, but that it was all things mixed together, and was always one unformed mass; yet that at length, as it were after the manner of a huge egg, it brought forth and produced from itself a certain double form, which had been wrought through immense periods of time, and which they call masculo-feminine, a form concrete from the contrary admixture of such diversity; and that this is the principle of all things, which came of pure matter, and which, coming forth, effected a separation of the four elements, and made heaven of the two elements which are first, fire and air, and earth of the others, earth and water; and of these he says that all things now are born and produced by a mutual participation of them. So far Orpheus.
Chapter XXXI. Hesiod's Cosmogony.
"But to this Hesiod adds, that after chaos the heaven and the earth were made immediately, from which he says that those eleven were produced (and sometimes also he speaks of them as twelve) of whom he makes six males and five females. And these are the names that he gives to the males: Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Chronos, who is also called Saturn. Also the names of the females are: Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Tethys. And these names they thus interpret allegorically. They say that the number is eleven or twelve: that the first is nature itself, which also they would have to be called Rhea, from Flowing; and they say that the other ten are her accidents, which also they call qualities; yet they add a twelfth, namely Chronos, who with us is called Saturn, and him they take to be time. Therefore they assert that Saturn and Rhea are time and matter; and these, when they are mixed with moisture and dryness, heat and cold, produce all things.
Chapter XXXII. Allegorical Interpretation.
"She therefore (Rhea, or nature), it is said, produced, as it were, a certain bubble which had been collecting for a long time; and it being gradually collected from the spirit which was in the waters, swelled, and being for some time driven over the surface of matter, from which it had come forth as from a womb, and being hardened by the rigour of cold, and always increasing by additions of ice, at length was broken off and sunk into the deep, and drawn by its own weight, went down to the infernal regions; and because it became invisible it was called Aides, and is also named Orcus or Pluto. And since it was sunk from the top to the bottom, it gave place to the moist element to flow together; and the grosser part, which is the earth, was laid bare by the retirement of the waters. They say, therefore, that this freedom of the waters, which was formerly restrained by the presence of the bubble, was called Neptune after the bubble attained the lowest place. After this, when the cold element had been sucked down to the lower regions by the concretion of the icy bubble, and the dry and the moist element had been separated, there being now no hindrance, the warm element rushed by its force and lightness to the upper regions of the air, being borne up by wind and storm. This storm, therefore, which in Greek is called kataigin, they called Aegis – that is, a she-goat; and the fire which ascended to the upper regions they called Jupiter; wherefore they say that he ascended to Olympus riding on a she-goat.
Chapter XXXIII. Allegory of Jupiter, Etc.
"Now this Jupiter the Greeks would have to be called from his living, or giving life, but our people from his giving succour. They say, therefore, that this is the living substance, which, placed in the upper regions, and drawing all things to itself by the influence of heat, as by the convolution of tile brain, and arranging them by the moderation of a certain tempering, is said from his head to have produced wisdom, whom they call Minerva, who was called Athênê by the Greeks on account of her immortality; who, because the father of all created all things by his wisdom, is also said to have been produced from his head, and from the principal place of all, and is represented as having formed and adorned the whole world by the regulated admixture of the elements. Therefore the forms which were impressed upon matter, that the world might be made, because they are constrained by the force of heat, are said to be held together by the energy of Jupiter. And since there are enough of these, and they do not need anything new to be added to them, but each thing is repaired by the produce of its own seed, the hands of Saturn are said to be bound by Jupiter; because, as I have said, time now produces from matter nothing new: but the warmth of seeds restores all things according to their kinds; and no birth of Rhea – that is, no increase of flowing matter – ascends further. And therefore they call that first division of the elements the mutilation of Saturn, because he cannot any more produce a world.
Chapter XXXIV. Other Allegories.
"And of Venus they give forth an allegory to this effect. When, say they, the sea was put under the air, and when the brightness of the heavens shone more pleasantly, being reflected from the waters, the loveliness of things, which appeared fairer from the waters, was called Venus; and she, it, being united with the air as with her, its, own brother, so as to produce beauty, which might be the object of desire, is said to have given birth to Cupid. In this way, therefore, as we have said, they teach that Chronos, who is Saturn, is allegorically time; Rhea is matter; Aides – that is, Orcus – is the depth of the infernal regions; Neptune is water; Jupiter is air – that is, the element of heat; Venus is the loveliness of things; Cupid is desire, which is in all things, and by which posterity is propagated, or even the reason of things, which gives delight when wisely looked into. Hera – that is, Juno – is said to be that middle air which descends from heaven to earth. To Diana, whom they call Proserpine, they hand over the air below. They say that Apollo is the Sun himself, which goes round the heaven; that Mercury is speech, by which a reason is rendered for everything; that Mars is unrestrained fire, which consumes all things. But not to delay you by enumerating everything, those who have the more abstruse intelligence concerning such things think that they give fair and just reasons, by applying this sort of allegory to every one of their objects of worship."
Chapter XXXV. Uselessness of These Allegories.
When Niceta had thus spoken, Aquila answered: "Whoever he was that was tile author and inventor of these things, he seems to me to have been very impious, since he covered over those things which seem to be pleasant and seemly, and made the ritual of his superstition to consist in base and shameful observances, since those things which are written according to the letter are manifestly unseemly and base; and the whole observance of their religion consists in these, that by such crimes and impieties they may teach men to imitate their gods whom they worship. For in these allegories what profit can there be to them? For although they are framed so as to be decent, yet no use is derived from them for worship, nor for amendment of morals.
Chapter XXXVI. The Allegories an Afterthought.
"Whence it is the more evident that prudent men, when they saw that the common superstition was so disgraceful, so base, and yet they had not learned any way of correcting it, or any knowledge, endeavoured with what arguments and interpretations they could to veil unseemly things under seemly speech, and not, as they say, to conceal seemly reasons under unseemly fables. For if this were the case, surely their statues and their pictures would never be made with representations of their vices and crimes. The swan, which committed adultery with Leda, would not be represented, nor the bull which committed adultery with Europa; nor would they turn into a thousand monstrous shapes, him whom they think better than all. And assuredly, if the great and wise men who are amongst them knew that all this is fiction and not truth, would not they charge with impiety and sacrilege those who should exhibit a picture or carve an image of this sort, to the injury of the gods? In short, let them present a king of their own time in the form of an ox, or a goose, or an ant, or a vulture, and let them write the name of their king upon it, and set up such a statue or figure in a public place, and they will soon be made to feel the wrong of their deed, and the greatness of its punishment.
Chapter XXXVII. Like Gods, Like Worshippers.
"But since those things rather are true which the public baseness testifies, and concealments have been sought and fabricated by prudent men to excuse them by seemly speeches, therefore are they not only not prohibited, but even in the very mysteries figures are produced of Saturn devouring his sons, and of the boy hidden by the cymbals and drums of the Corybantes; and with respect to the mutilation of Saturn, what better proof of its truth could there be, than that even his worshippers are mutilated, by a like miserable fate, in honour of their god? Since then these things are manifestly seen, who shall be found of so little sense, yea, of such stolidity, that he does not perceive that those things are true concerning the unfortunate gods, which their more unfortunate worshippers attest by the wounding and mutilation of their bodies?
Chapter XXXVIII. Writings of the Poets.
"But if, as they say, these things, so creditably and piously done, are dispensed by so discreditable and impious a ritual, assuredly he is sacrilegious, whoever either gave forth these things at first, or persists in fulfilling them, now that they have unhappily been given forth. And what shall we say of the books of the poets? Ought not they, if they have debased the honourable and pious deeds of the gods with base fables, to be forthwith cast away and thrown into the fire, that they may not persuade the still tender age of boys that Jupiter himself, the chief of the gods, was a parricide towards his parents, incestuous towards his sisters and his daughters, and even impure towards boys; that Venus and Mars were adulterers, and all those things which have been spoken of above? What do you think of this matter, my lord Peter? "
Chapter XXXIX. All for the Best.
Then he answered: "Be sure, beloved Aquila, that all things are done by the good providence of God, that the cause which was to be contrary to the truth should not only be infirm and weak, but also base. For if the assertion of error had been stronger and more truth-like, any one who had been deceived by it would not easily return to the path of truth. If even now, when so many wicked and disgraceful things are related concerning the gods of the Gentiles, scarce any one forsakes the base error, how much more if there had been in it anything seemly and truth-like? For the mind is with difficulty transferred from those things with which it has been imbued in early youth; and on this account, as I said, it has been effected by divine providence, that the substance of error should be both weak and base. But all other things also divine providence dispenses filly and advantageously, although the method of the divine dispensation, as good, and the best possible, is not clear to us who are ignorant of the causes of things."
Chapter XL. Further Information Sought.
When Peter had thus said, I Clement asked Niceta that he would explain to us, for the sake of instruction, some things concerning the allegories of the Gentiles, which he had carefully studied; "for," said I, "it is useful that when we dispute with the Gentiles, we should not be unacquainted with these things." Then said Niceta: "If my lord Peter permits me, I can do as you ask me." Then said Peter: "To-day I have given you leave to speak in opposition to the Gentiles, as you know." And Niceta said: "Tell me then, Clement, what you would have me speak about." And I said to him: "Inform us how the Gentiles represent matters concerning the supper of the gods, which they had at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. What do they make of the shepherd Paris, and what of less Juno, Minerva, and Venus, between whom he acted as judge? What of Mercury? and what of the apple, and the other things which follow in order? "
Chapter XLI. Explanation of Mythology.
Then Niceta: "The affair of the supper of the gods stands in this wise. They say that the banquet is the world, that the order of the gods sitting at table is the position of the heavenly bodies. Those whom Hesiod calls the first children of heaven and earth, of whom six were males and six females, they refer to the number of the twelve signs, which go round all the world. They say that the dishes of the banquet are the reasons and causes of things, sweet and desirable, which in the shape of inferences from the positions of the signs and the courses of the stars, explain how the world is ruled and governed. Yet they say these things exist after the free manner of a banquet, inasmuch as the mind of every one has the option whether he shall taste aught of this sort of knowledge, or whether he shall refrain; and as in a banquet no one is compelled, but every one is at liberty to eat, so also the manner of philosophizing depends upon the choice of the will. They say that discord is the lust of the flesh, which rises up against the purpose of the mind, and hinders the desire of philosophizing; and therefore they say that the time was that in which the marriage was celebrated. Thus they make Peleus and the nymph Thetis to be the dry and the moist element, by the admixture of which the substance of bodies is composed. They hold that Mercury is speech, by which instruction is conveyed to the mind; that Juno is chastity, Minerva courage, Venus lust, Paris the understanding. If therefore, say they, it happens that there is in a man a barbarous and uncultivated understanding, and ignorant of right judgment, he will despise chastity and courage, and will give the prize, which is the apple, to lust; and thereby, ruin and destruction will come not only upon himself, but also upon his countrymen and the whole race. These things, therefore, it is in their power to compose from whatever matter they please; yet they can be adapted to every man; because if any one has a pastoral and rustic and uncultivated understanding, and does not wish to be instructed, when the heat of his body shall make suggestions concerning the pleasure of lust, straightway he despises the virtues of studies and the blessings of knowledge, and turns his mind to bodily pleasures. And hence it is that implacable wars arise, cities are destroyed, countries fall, even as Paris, by the abduction of Helen, armed the Greeks and the barbarians to their mutual destruction."
Note: Much of the mythological matter finds a parallel in the discussion with Appion (Homily IV -Vl.), but there is no direct agreement in the two works from this point to chap. 52. Comp. Homily XX. II.