Again, 12 Ossilago herself is mentioned as she who gives firmness and solidity to the bones of young children. Mellonia is a goddess, strong and powerful in regard to bees, caring for and guarding the sweetness of their honey. Say, I pray you,--that Peta, Puta, Patella may graciously favour you,--if there were no 13 bees at all on the earth then, or if we men were born without bones, like some worms, would there be no goddess Mellonia; 14 or would Ossilago, who gives bones their solidity, be without a name of her own?
I ask truly, and eagerly inquire whether you think that gods, or men, or bees, fruits, twigs, and the rest, are the more ancient in nature, time, long duration? No man will doubt that you say that the gods precede all things whatever by countless ages and generations. But if it is so, how, in the nature of things, can it be that, from things produced afterwards, they received those names which are earlier in point of time? Or were the gods long without names; and was it only after things began to spring up, and be on the earth, that you thought it right that they should be called by these names 16 and titles?
And whence could you have known what name to give to each, since you were wholly ignorant of their existence; or that they possessed any fixed powers, seeing that you were equally unaware which of them had any power, and over what he should be placed to suit his divine might? Not we alone, but truth itself, and reason, say so, and that common-sense in which all men share. For who there who believes that there are gods of gain, and that they preside over the getting of it, seeing that it springs very often from the basest employments, and is always at the expense of others?
Who believes that Libentina, who that Burnus. Who that Limentinus and Lima have the care of thresholds, and do the duties of their keepers, when every day we see the thresholds of temples and private houses destroyed and overthrown, and that the infamous approaches to stews are not without them? Who believes that the Limi 1 watch over obliquities? Who, finally, would believe that Money is a goddess, whom your writings declare, as though she were the greatest deity, to give golden rings, 3 the front seats at games and shows, honours in the greatest number, the dignity of the magistracy, and that which the indolent love most of all,--an undisturbed ease, by means of riches.
But if you urge that bones, different kinds of honey, thresholds, and all the other things which we have either run over rapidly, or, to avoid prolixity, passed by altogether, have 4 their own peculiar guardians, we may in like manner introduce a thousand other gods, who should care for and guard innumerable things.
For why should a god have charge of honey only, and not of gourds, rape, cunila, cress, figs, beets, cabbages? Why should the bones alone have found protection, and not the nails, hair, and all the other things which are placed in the hidden parts and members of which we feel ashamed, and are exposed to very many accidents, and stand more in need of the care and attention of the gods?
Or if you say that these parts, too, act under the care of their own tutelar deities, there will begin to be as many gods as there are things; nor will the cause be stated why the divine care does not protect all things, if you say that there are certain things over which the deities preside, and for which they care. What say you, O fathers of new religions, and powers? Lateranus, the genius of hearths; Limentinus, who presides over thresholds; Pertunda, 6 Perfica, Noduterensis: 7 and do you say that things have sunk into ruin, and that the world itself has changed its laws and constitution, because we do not bow humbly in supplication to Mutunus 8 and Tutunus?
But now look and see, lest while you imagine such monstrous things, and form such conceptions, you may have offended the gods who most assuredly exist, if only there are any who are worthy to bear and hold that most exalted title; and it be for no other reason that those evils, of which you speak, rage, and increase by accessions every day.
And, when invoked by the diviners, do they obey the call, and come when summoned by their own names, and give answers which may be relied on, to those who consult them? We can show that what is said is false, either because in the whole matter there is the greatest room for distrust, or because we, every day, see many of their predictions either prove untrue or baffled expectation to suit the opposite issues.
But let them 11 be true, as you maintain, yet will you have us also believe 12 that Mellonia, for example, introduces herself into the entrails, or Limentinus, and that they set themselves to make known 13 what you seek to learn? Did you ever see their face their deportment, their countenance? May it not happen, may it not come to pass, although you craftily conceal it, that the one should take the other's place, deluding, mocking, deceiving, and presenting the appearance of the deity invoked? If the magi, who are so much akin to 14 soothsayers, relate that, in their incantations, pretended gods 15 steal in frequently instead of those invoked; that some of these, moreover, are spirits of grosser substance, 16 who pretend that they are gods, and delude the ignorant by their lies and deceit,--why 17 should we not similarly believe that here, too, others substitute themselves for those who are not, that they may both strengthen your superstitious beliefs, and rejoice that victims are slain in sacrifice to them under names not their own?
Or, if you refuse to believe this on account of its novelty, 18 how can you know whether there is not some one, who comes in place of all whom yon invoke, and substituting himself in all parts of the world, 1 shows to you what appear to be 2 many gods and powers? Who is that one?
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We may perhaps, being instructed by truthful authors, be able to say; but, lest you should be unwilling to believe us, let my opponent ask the Egyptians, Persians, Indians, Chaldeans, Armenians, and all the others who have seen and become acquainted with these things in the more recondite arts. Then, indeed, you will learn who is the one God, or who the very many under Him are, who pretend to be gods, and make sport of men's ignorance. Even now we are ashamed to come to the point at which not only boys, young anti pert, but grave men also, cannot restrain their laughter, and men who have been hardened into a strict and stern humour.
Your theologians, then, and authors on unknown antiquity, say that in the universe there are three Joves, one of whom has Aether for his father; another, CAElus; the third, Saturn, born and buried 7 in the island of Crete. They speak of five Suns and vie Mercuries,--of whom, as they relate, the first Sun is called the son of Jupiter, and is regarded as grandson of Aether; the second is also Jupiter's son, and the mother who bore him Hyperiona; 8 the third the son of Vulcan, not Vulcan of Lemnos, but the son of the Nile; the fourth, whom Acantho bore at Rhodes in the heroic age, was the father of Ialysus; while the fifth is regarded as the son of a Scythian king and subtle Circe.
Again, the first Mercury, who is said to have lusted after Proserpina, 9 is son of Coelus, who is above all. Under the earth is the second, who boasts that he is Trophonius. The third was born of Maia, his mother, and the third Jove; 10 the fourth is the offspring of the Nile, whose name the people of Egypt dread and fear to utter. The fifth is the slayer of Argus, a fugitive and exile. But there are five Minervas also, they say, just as there are five Suns and Mercuries; the first of whom is no virgin but the mother of Apollo by Vulcan; the second, the offspring of the Nile, who is asserted to be the Egyptian Sais; the third is descended from Saturn, and is the one who devised the use of arms; the fourth is sprung from Jove, and the Messenians name her Coryphasia; and the fifth is she who slew her lustful 11 father, Pallas.
And lest it should seem tedious and prolix to wish to consider each person singly, the same theologians say that there are four Vulcans and three Dianas, as many Aesculapii and five Dionysi, six Hercules and four Venuses, three sets of Castors and the same number of Muses, three winged Cupids, and four named Apollo; 12 whose fathers they mention in like manner, in like manner their mothers, and the places where they were born, and point out the origin and family of each.
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But if it is true and certain, and is told in earnest as a well-known matter, either they are not all gods, inasmuch as there cannot be several under the same name, as we have been taught; or if there is one of them, he will not be known and recognised, because he is obscured by the confusion of very similar names. And thus it results from your own action, however unwilling you may be that it should be so, that religion is brought into difficulty and confusion, and has no fixed end to which it can turn itself, without being made the sport of equivocal illusions.
Jupiter Strong and The Hairy Hippos
For suppose that it had occurred to us, moved either by suitable influence or violent fear of you, 1 to worship Minerva, for example, with the rights you deem sacred, and the usual ceremony: if, when we prepare sacrifices, and approach to make the offerings appointed for her on the flaming altars, all the Minervas shall fly thither, and striving for the right to that name, each demand that the offerings prepared be given to herself; what drawn-out animal shall we place among them, or to whom shall we direct the sacred offices which are our duty?
Do you not see that in all temples 5 the images of Minervas are those of virgins, and that all artists refrain from giving to them the figures of matrons?
For that I am Minerva, begotten of father Pallas, the whole band of poets bear witness, who call me Pallas, the surname being derived from my father. Do you, then, bear the name of Minerva, an impudent parricide, and one defiled by the pollution of lewd lust, who, decking yourself with rouge and a harlot's arts, roused upon yourself even your father's passions, full of maddening desires? Go further, then, seek for yourself another name for this belongs to me, whom the Nile, greatest of rivers, begot from among his flowing waters, and brought to a maiden's estate from the condensing of moisture.
Will she indeed cease to say that she is Minerva, who is named Coryphasia, either to mark her mother, or because she sprung forth from the top of Jove's head, bearing a shield, and girt with the terror of arms? Or are we to suppose that she who is third will quietly surrender the name? Or do you usurp 12 another's rank, who falsely say that you were born a goddess from the head of Jupiter, and persuade very silly men that you are reason? Does he conceive and bring forth children from ms head? That the arms you bear might be forged and formed, was there even in the hollow of his head a smith's workshop?
Or if, as you maintain, it is true that you are reason, cease to claim for yourself the name which is mine; for reason, of which you speak, is not a certain form of deity, but the understanding of difficult questions. Will he not rather go home, and, keeping himself apart from such matters, think it safer to have nothing to do with them, test he should either make enemies of the rest, by giving to one what belongs to all, or be charged with folly for yielding 14 to all what should be the property of one?
We may say the very same things of the Mercuries, the Suns,--indeed of all the others whose numbers you increase and multiply. But it is sufficient to know from one case that the same principle applies to the rest; and, lest our prolixity should chance to weary our audience, we shall cease to deal with individuals, lest, while we accuse you of excess, we also should ourselves be exposed to the charge of excessive loquacity.
What do you say, you who, by the fear of bodily tortures, urge us to worship the gods, and constrain us to undertake the service of your deities? We can be easily won, if only something befitting the conception of so great a race be shown to us. Show us Mercury, but only, one; give us Bacchus, but only one; one Venus, and in like manner one Diana. For you will never make us believe that there are four Apollos, or three Jupiters, not even if you were to call Jove himself as witness, or make the Pythian god your authority.
But some one on the opposite side says, How do we know whether the theologians have written what is certain and well known, or set forth a wanton fiction, 1 as they thought and judged?
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That has nothing to do with the matter; nor does the reasonableness of your argument depend upon this,- -whether the facts are as the writings of the theologians state, or are otherwise and markedly different. For to us it is enough to speak of things which come before the public; and we need not inquire what is true, but only confute and disprove that which lies open to all, and which men's thoughts have generally received.
But if they are liars, declare yourselves what is the truth, and disclose the unassailable mystery. And how can it be done when the services of men of letters are set aside? For what is there which can be said about. Or if you think these of no importance, let all the books be destroyed which have been composed about the gods for you by theologians, pontiffs, and even some devoted to the study of philosophy; nay, let us rather suppose that from the foundation of the world no man ever wrote 3 anything about the gods: we wish to find out, and desire to know, whether you can mutter or murmur in mentioning the gods, 4 or conceive those in thought to whom no idea 5 from any book gave shape in your minds.
But when it is clear that you have been informed of their names and powers by the suggestions of books, 6 it is unjust to deny the reliableness of these books by whose testimony and authority you establish what you say. But perhaps these things will turn out to be false, and what you say to be true.
By what proof, by what evidence, will it be shown?