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From Pagan And Puritan: The “Octavius” of Minucius, Freely Translated by Arthur Aikin Brodribb, London: George Bell & Sons; 1903; pp. 80-90.

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[The omitted portions, deemed too offensive by Brodribb, have been inserted in red notes in brackets, however euphemistic they in turn may be, from the Loeb Edition of Tertullian’s Apology, De Spectaculis with Minucius Felix, translated by Gerald H. Rendall, based on the unfinished version by W. C. A. Kerr, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931. — Elf.Ed.]

NOTE 1, page 3, line 4.

SERAPIS, or Osiris, was one of the Egyptian deities which, as Minucius says in another passage, had become Roman also. In his second chapter, Gibbon writes: “Rome, the capital of a great monarchy, was incessantly filled with subjects and strangers from every part of the world, who all introduced and enjoyed the favourite superstitions of their native country. Every city in the empire was justified in maintaining the purity of its ancient ceremonies; and the Roman senate, using the common privilege, sometimes interposed to check this inundation of foreign rites. The Egyptian superstition, of all the most contemptible and abject, was frequently prohibited; the temples of Serapis and Isis demolished, and their worshippers banished from Rome and Italy. But the zeal of fanaticism prevailed over the cold and feeble efforts of policy. The exiles returned, the proselytes multiplied, the temples were restored with increasing splendour, 82 and Isis and Serapis at length assumed their place among the Roman deities. Nor was this indulgence a departure from the old maxims of government. In the purest ages of the commonwealth, Cybele and Aesculapius had been invited by solemn embassies; and it was customary to tempt the protectors of besieged cities by the promise of more distinguished honours than they possessed in their native country. Rome gradually became the common temple of her subjects; and the freedom of the city was bestowed on all the gods of mankind.”

NOTE 2, page 12, line 11.

This reference to the Parthians is part of the internal evidence as to the date of the book. The words are, ut Parthos signa repetamus. Repeteremus would seem more natural, but the great majority of the editors refuse to alter the MS. reading from the present to the past tense. Crassus lost the standards in the year B.C. 53; they were restored to Augustus in B.C. 20. The use of the present tense implies an existing state of war, and suggests the expedition of L. Aurelius Verus against the Parthians during the years 162 to 165. The old and well-known phrase, “recovering standards,” seems to be applied to the new war.

NOTE 3, page 14, line 26.

The reading of Baehrens has been followed.


NOTE 4, page 15, line 13.

As many of the early Christians in Rome were Jews, they inherited, sot to speak, the prejudices with which the Jewish race was regarded by other nations. Whatever seemed ridiculous or odious in a Jew was imputed also to the Christian. It will be enough to say that the charges brought forward by Caecilius were due to the public ignorance both of Judaism and of Christianity.

Tacitus, giving a general account of the Jews in the fifth book of his history, says that in the course of their sojourn in the wilderness a troop of wild asses led them to a spring of water. He adds: “In their holy place they have consecrated an image of the animal by whose guidance they found deliverance from their long and thirsty wanderings.”

There was been discovered at Rome, rudely scratched upon an ancient wall, the figure of a crucified man with the head of an ass. Another figure stands by as if in prayer, and underneath is a scrawl, “Alexamenos is worshipping God.”

It may be noted that even in these days the ritual murder of children is occasionally alleged against the Jews by their ignorant enemies in parts of south-eastern Europe. Tacitus at least does them the justice to state that “it is a crime among them to kill any new-born infant.”


NOTE 5, page 15, line 17.

In this sentence, only the purport of the Latin is indicated.

[The Loeb translation has:“ Others say that they actually reverence the private parts of their director and high-priest, and adore his organs as parent of their being.”]

NOTE 6, page 16, line 13.

The references to Fronto of Cirta suggest that he was alive at the time of the dialogue. He lived from about 100 to 170.

NOTE 7, page 16, line 18.

In the Latin, instead of the words that ask this question, a description of the scene is given.

[The Loeb translation has: “There, after full feasting, when the blood is heated and drink has inflamed the passions of incestuous lust, a dog which has been tied to a lamp is tempted by a morsel thrown beyond the range of his tether to bound forward with a rush. The tale-telling light is upset and extinguished, and in the shameless dark lustful embraces are indiscriminately exchanged; and all alike, if not in act, yet by complicity, are involved in incest, as anything that occurs by the act of individuals results from the common intention.”]

NOTE 8, page 17, line 11.

The reading of Baehrens is here followed.

NOTE 9, page 20, line 7.

The reading of Baehrens is here followed.

NOTE 10, page 23, line 21.

This seems to be the sense of a sentence which, if literally translated, would convey no meaning to an English reader. The Latin is: “ecquid ad haecaitaudet Octavius, home Plautinae prosapiae, ut pistorum praecipuus, ita postremus philosophorum?” “What reply can Octavius venture to make; a scion of the old Plautine stock, like his forebear, the first of bakers, but certainly the worst of philosophers?” The words homo Plautinae prosapiae indicate a 85 quarrelsome or aggressive person; for Caecilius has not forgotten the disparaging remark of Octavius which provoked the dispute. Plautus, in the poverty of his younger days, had been a pistor. Perhaps a sneer is intended at journeymen and small tradesmen, and the classes from whom the Christians at that time were mainly recruited. The manuscript has pistorum, but, as this reading is not free from difficulty, various other words have been suggested by editors who have thought the manuscript patient of almost any emendation. Christianorum, from the contracted form XPianorum; juris consultorum, from the contraction ICtorum; and disertorum, from dis’torum, have been conjectured. Either of these would help the translator, but the fact that Plautus was a pistor is a cogent, if not an overpowering argument for the manuscript reading.

NOTE 11, page 27, line 22.

The reading of Baehrens has been followed.

NOTE 12, page 40, line 15.

It is strange that so cultivated a man as Minucius should accept the shallow rationalism of Euhemerus as accounting sufficiently for the pagan deities. Paganism, as he saw it, was far advanced in its decadence, and deserved his contempt; but he can hardly have failed to recognize in its origin something more than an easily explained imposture.


NOTE 13, page 44, line 8.

The translation omits the succeeding sentences.

[The Loeb translation has: “Of Cybele and Dindyma it is a shame to speak: unable to satisfy the affections of her luckless paramour — for mothering of many gods had made her plain and old — she reduced the god to impotence, and in deference to this fable her Galli priests inflict the same disablement upon their bodies.”]

NOTE 14, page 45, line 2.

The reading of Baehrens has been followed.

NOTE 15, page 47, line 3.

This passage on idols is closely paralleled by Clemens Alexandrinus in his Protrepticon, an appeal to the Greeks written at the end of the second century. He says: “Your idols must rank below the lowest animals. . . . Many animals cannot see, or hear, or make a sound; molluscs, for instance, cannot; but they live and grow, and are affected by the changes of the moon, while images do nothing at all, but are simply passive under the rough hand of the workman and the processes of manufacture. . . . Birds, again, such as swallows, and others come in flocks and befoul the images without the slightest reverence for Olympian Jove, Aesculapius of Epidaurus, Minerva Polias, or Egyptian Serapis. . . . Parian marble is beautiful, but it is not yet Neptune. Ivory is beautiful, but it is not yet Jupiter. Matter always needs the help of art, while God needs nothing. Apply art to matter, and it receives form. It may be intrinsically valuable, but it is its form that renders it an object of veneration. It comes to this, then, that your statue is gold or wood, or stone — earth, in fact, if you regard 87 its ultimate origin — which has derived its form from the workman.”

NOTE 16, page 49, line 4.

In this sentence the Latin is paraphrased.

[The Loeb translation has: “For some rites the wreath is laid by a woman with one husband, for others by a woman with several, or ceremonial hue and cry is made for one still more promiscuous in her attachments. Or take the man who pours libations of his own blood, and from his own wounds draws supplication — would he not be better without religion than religious in this fashion? and propitiatory self-mutilation — is it not an insult to God? if God wanted eunuchs, could he not produce, not make them?”]

NOTE 17, page 51, line 23.

In this, and in the preceding sentence only the purport of the Latin is indicated.

[The Loeb translation has: “But perhaps your virgins were more chaste, or your priests more reUgious. Nay, but in more of the virgins than not, who committed indiscretions with men, no doubt without the knowledge of Vesta, immorahty was brought home; and among the rest impunity resulted not from stricter chastity, so much as more fortunate indulgence. And where are more lewd bargains made, assignations arranged, and adulteries planned, than by priests among the altars and sanctuaries? Lust gratifies its flames in the chambers of the sacristans more often than in the houses of ill-fame.”]

NOTE 18, page 53, line 21.

This is one of the passages on which Gibbon, in his fifteenth chapter, bases his remarks on the daemons. To that chapter we may refer the reader, reminding him, however, of Guizot’s pertinent observation that “Gibbon has too often allowed himself to consider the peculiar notions of certain Fathers of the Church as inherent in Christianity.”

The Magi were the priests of the Medes and Persians; but in the Acts of the Apostles, and here, the word is used in a secondary sense for those who practiced occult or magical arts, perhaps combining sleight-of-hand with the wonders of elementary natural science.

NOTE 19, page 59, line 14.

This represents the purport of three sentences that are unfit for translation.

[The Loeb translation has: “And yet these same Egyptians, like most of you, stand in no more awe of Isis than of a pungent leek, or of Serapis than of a breaking of wind.

“The man who fakes up stories of our adoring the privates of a priest is only trying to foist his own abominations upon us. Indecencies of that kind may be countenanced, where modesty in any kind of sexual relation or exposure is unknown. But faugh! . . . their obscenities are more revolting than modem refinement can stomach, or servitude endure.”]


NOTE 20, page 60, line 27.

Trophies were usually made by setting up the arms and armour of the vanquished on a short pole or stump. In this way, the semblance of a human figure was, of course, produced.

NOTE 21, page 63, line 10.

This represents the purport of five sentences that are not translated.

[The Loeb translation has: “In this way your own Fronto did not produce evidence as on affidavit, but spattered abuse like an agitator. The truth is such practices originated with your own people. Among the Persians the law approves unions with mothers; in Egypt and at Athens marriage with sisters is legal; your legends and tragedies glory in tales of incest, which you read and listen to with reHsh; the gods you worship have incestuous relations with a mother, a daughter, or a sister. No wonder then that among you cases of the same offence are often exposed, and constantly practised. Without knowing it you may incur the risk of ilUcit connexions; with promiscuous amours, with children begotten here or there; with frequent expjosure of legitimate children to the mercy of strangers, you inevitably return upon your own tracks and go wrong with children of your own. Unwittingly you involve yourselves in a tragedy of guilt.”]

NOTE 22, page 64, line 6.

In his fifteenth chapter Gibbon gives an estimate of the number of the Christians in Rome about fifty years later than the time of Minucius. He says: “The Church of Rome was undoubtedly the first and most populous of the empire; and we are possessed of an authentic record which attests the state of religion in that city about the middle of the third century, and after a peace of thirty-eight years. The clergy, at that time, consisted of a bishop, forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, as many sub-deacons, forty-two acolytes, and fifty readers, exorcists, and porters. The number of widows, of the infirm, and of the poor, who were maintained by the oblations of the faithful, amounted to 1,500. From reason, as well as from the analogy of Antioch, we may venture to estimate the Christians of Rome at about 50,000. The populousness of that great capital cannot, perhaps, be exactly ascertained; 89 but the most modest calculation will not surely reduce it lower than a million of inhabitants, of whom the Christians might constitute at the most a twentieth part.”

NOTE 23, page 68, line 23.

This appears to be the sense of a corrupt passage, as to the reading of which no two editors are agreed.

NOTE 24, page 71, line 22.

A lacuna occurs here, according to Baehrens. Grammatically, the words on either side of the lacuna may be read together as one complete sentence; but there is little or no logical connexion between them.

NOTE 25, page 75, line 27.

A corrupt sentence, tentatively and conjecturally emended by many editors. The English is but a paraphrase of its apparent meaning.

NOTE 26, page 76, line 25.

This clause of the sentence paraphrases two clauses that are unfit for translation.

[“In your stage plays there is the same wild passion, with indecencies still more prolonged; at one a farcer describes or acts adulteries; at another an actor expends his forces on the amours which he depicts; by masquerading their intrigues, their sighs, and their hates, he brings disgrace upon your gods.”]

NOTE 27, page 78, line 18.

The reading of Baehrens has been followed.


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[The end of the online text
Pagan and Puritan:
The “Octavius” of Minucius
translated by Arthur Aikin Brodribb]


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