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Orosius, Book 1

      Chapters 3-19 :   the period before the foundation of Rome  

Adapted from the translation by I.W. Raymond (1936). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.   


Previous chapters (1-2)

[3] L   After the fashioning and adornment of this world, man, whom God had made upright and immaculate, became defiled by sin. As a consequence, the human race, because it had become depraved by its lusts, was also corrupted. A just punishment then followed directly upon man's unlawful use of his liberty. 2 This sentence of God, Creator and Judge, delivered against man because of his sin and against the earth because of man, and lasting as long as the human race shall inhabit this earth, we all, even though unwilling, affirm by our very denials and sustain by our admissions. And even those who would reject its truth because they are unwilling to hearken to the words of faith confirm it by that weakness which is born of their obstinacy. 3 Subsequently, as the truthful writers of the Scripture declare, the sea overflowed the land, a flood covering the entire earth was let loose, only sky and sea remained, and the whole human race was destroyed. Only a few, because of their faith, were saved in the Ark so that they might be the founders of a new race. 4 Other writers, too, have testified to this truth. Though ignorant of the past and even of the very Creator of the ages, they have nevertheless learned about the flood by drawing logical inferences from the evidence offered by stones which, encrusted with shells and often corroded by water, we are accustomed to see on far-away mountains. 5 Although I could bring forward other arguments of this sort, which are worthy of mention and accurate in point of truth, let these two principal ones suffice concerning the transgression of the first man and the condemnation of his offspring and his life, and thereafter concerning the destruction of the whole human race. 6 I shall make this reservation: if pagan historians have discussed these subjects, we shall extend our account to cover their treatment. 

[4] L   One thousand three hundred years before the founding of the City, Ninus, the first king of the Assyrians, as my opponents wish him to be considered, was led on by his lust for dominion to wage wars abroad. For fifty years he maintained a reign of bloodshed throughout all Asia. 2 Starting from the south and from the Red Sea, he laid waste and subjugated the territory in the extreme north along the Euxine Sea. He taught barbaric Scythia, hitherto an unwarlike and inoffensive country, to quicken into action her dormant spirit of ferocity, to become conscious of her strength, to drink not as heretofore the milk of domestic animals but the blood of men, and in the end to conquer even as she was being conquered. 3 Finally he engaged in battle with Zoroaster, the king of the Bactrians, and after defeating him slew him. This was the same man who they say invented the art of magic. Later Ninus himself, while storming a rebellious city, was struck by an arrow and died. 

4 His wife Semiramis succeeded him on the throne. She had the will of a man and went about dressed like her son.For forty-two years she kept her own people, lusting for blood from their previous taste of it, engaged in the slaughter of foreign tribes. 5 Not satisfied with the boundaries that she had inherited from her husband, who was the only king of that age to be warlike and who had acquired these lands in the course of fifty years, the woman added to her empire Ethiopia, which had been sorely oppressed by war and drenched with blood. She also declared war upon the people of India, a land which nobody ever had penetrated excepting herself and Alexander the Great. 6 To persecute and slaughter peoples living in peace was at that time an even more cruel and serious matter than it is today; for in those days neither the incentive for conquest abroad nor the temptation for the exercise of cupidity at home was so strong. 

7 Burning with lust and thirsty for blood, Semiramis in the course of continuous adulteries and homicides caused the death of all those whom she had delighted to hold in her adulterous embrace and whom she had summoned to her by royal command for that purpose. She finally most shamelessly conceived a son, godlessly abandoned the child, later had incestuous relations with him, and then covered her private disgrace by a public crime. 8 For she prescribed that between parents and children no reverence for nature in the conjugal act was to be observed, but that each should be free to do as he pleased. 

[5] L   Tacitus, too, among others, mentions that one thousand one hundred and sixty years before the founding of the City the region which bordered on Arabia and which at that time was called Pentapolis was burnt, even below its surface, by a fire from heaven. 2 This is what he says: "Not far from there lie the plains, which, they say, were once fertile and were the sites of great cities, but which later were burnt by lightning. It is said that traces of this disaster still remain, but that the earth itself, which looks fruitful, has lost its powers of fertility." {Histories, 5.7} 3 Although at this point, as if he were unaware of it, he said nothing about cities having been burnt because of the sins of mankind, yet a little later, as if he had forgotten his purpose, he adds this statement: 4 "For my own part, although I am willing to admit that those famous cities of old were destroyed by fire from heaven, yet I still hold the opinion that it was the exhalations from the lake that infected and poisoned the land." 5 By this statement he has admitted, although loath to do so, that he had known and agreed with me about the burnt cities, which undoubtedly were destroyed by fire as a punishment for their sins. Thus he has openly proved that he did not lack a trustworthy source of knowledge but merely a willingness to express his belief. I will now explain this more fully. 

6 On the border of Arabia and Palestine, where the mountains, as they disappear on each side, merge into the fields which lie below them, were five cities - Sodom, Gomorrah, Adama, Soboim, and Segor. 7 Of these, Segor was small, whereas the others were large and spacious. For the soil near these cities was fertile, and the Jordan River, spreading out through the plains and dividing them into convenient sections, served to increase the productivity of the land. 8 But this very abundance of resources brought evils upon the entire region because the inhabitants misused their blessings. For out of abundance grew luxury, and out of luxury came such shameful passions that men rushed to commit vile practices upon their own sex without even taking into consideration place, condition, or age. 9 Therefore God in His anger rained fire and brimstone upon this land, and by burning its inhabitants and cities pronounced upon the entire region a sentence of eternal ruin to serve as a witness of His judgment for future generations. 10 Thus, although the contour of the region is even now visible, it is found covered with ashes. The sea has flowed over and at the present time covers the middle of the valley that the Jordan once watered. 11 So great was God's displeasure, aroused by matters which the inhabitants had held to be petty, that, because the people had misused their blessings and turned the fruits of His mercy to the nourishment of their passions, the very land itself, on which these cities were built, was first burnt by fires, later overwhelmed by waters, and finally vanished from the sight of men into eternal condemnation. 

[6] L   Therefore, if it be now agreeable, let those who spit as much as they can upon Christ, whom we ourselves have shown to be the Judge of the centuries, distinguish between the cases of Sodom and Rome and let them compare their punishments. To these matters I must not again give special consideration, since they are known to all. 2 And yet how gladly would I accept their opinions if only these people would faithfully acknowledge what they really feel. 3 Although they murmur now and then about Christian times (and this only in out-of-the-way places) I do not think that this ought to be taken too seriously, since the feelings and general views of the entire Roman people may be learned from the expression of their unanimous judgment. 4 The Roman people, indeed, have unmistakably borne witness that the disturbance which for a short time interrupted their customary pleasures was of but slight importance, for they freely cried out, "If we are given our circus back again, we have suffered nothing." That is to say, the swords of the Goths had accomplished nothing at Rome if the Romans might still be allowed to be spectators at the circus games. 5 Yet possibly the explanation is, as many in our age believe, that those who have long been freed from care regard even the slightest anxiety as an intolerable burden; they are the type of people who consider those gentle admonitions, by which we all from time to time are reproved, still more severe than the punishments exacted in other times about which they have only heard or read. 6 At any rate, I remind them of the fate of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, so that they may learn and understand in what way God has punished sinners, in what way He can punish them, and in what way He will punish them. 

[7] L   One thousand and seventy years before the founding of the City, the Telchines and Caryatii fought a stubborn battle against Phoroneus, king of the Argives, and against the Parrhasians. The course of the struggle fluctuated, and the battle ended without decision. 2 In a battle shortly afterward, these Telchines were defeated and fled from their native land; ignorant of the true state of affairs they seized the island of Rhodes, which was earlier called Ophiussa, in the belief that it was a place of safety and that they were cutting themselves off completely from contact with the whole civilised world. 

3 One thousand and forty years before the founding of the City, a raging flood brought great destruction upon almost all the province of Achaia. Inasmuch as this flood took place in the days of Ogygius, who was the founder and king of Eleusis at this time, it was he who gave the name to the place and to the era. 

[8] L   The historian Pompeius, through Justin who made an epitome of his work, informs us that one thousand and eight years before the founding of the City, Egypt experienced first a period of unusual harvests, so rich as to excite disgust, and then a continuous period of unbearable famine, which Joseph, a just and wise man, relieved by divine foresight. Among other things Justin states: 

2 "Joseph was the youngest of his brothers who, fearing his superior ability, kidnapped him and sold him to foreign merchants. 3 After being brought by them to Egypt he there became a master of the arts of magic by reason of his exceptional native ability, and in a short time was a favourite of the king himself. Joseph was also skilled in prodigies and was the first to establish the science of interpreting dreams; no branch of divine or human law seems to have been unknown to him. 4 So true was this that when he foresaw a future barrenness of the land many years before it actually came to pass, he had the produce of the fields stored up. So remarkable were the instances of his skill that his words of advice seemed to come from God rather than from man. 5 His son was Moses who, besides inheriting his father's knowledge, was also graced with a comely appearance. But the Egyptians, who were suffering from scabies and tetter, when warned by an oracle, drove Moses out of the land and also the others who were affected by the disease, lest the pestilence should gradually spread among a greater number."   {Histories, 36.2

Such then is Justin's statement. 

6 Now this same Moses, who according to the testimony of these historians was a man of wisdom and understanding, wrote quite fully and accurately about these events, as he naturally would about happenings in which he and his people were participants. Therefore we must first supplement the lack of knowledge on the part of these men by his trustworthiness and authority, which even they recognise; 7 secondly, we must confute the deceit and malice of the Egyptian priests, who by cunning (and this is perfectly evident) attempted to bury in oblivion the memory of the manifest wrath and mercy of the true God. To be specific, these priests told a confused story in order not to cast reproach upon their own idols. For by telling the truth they would have proved that they should worship that God, who by His counsel had foretold their disasters and who by His help had enabled them to escape them. Perhaps we might give a kindlier interpretation and say that they had forgotten the truth. 8 For through the foresight of that Joseph of ours, who was a servant of the true God and who was dutifully and zealously concerned about the welfare of his Lord's people, they themselves as priests had plenty of produce; but because they were false priests, they did not suffer when the rest were hungry. 9 In truth, "Whoever is satisfied, forgets; whoever suffers, remembers."  {Cicero, Pro Murena, 42}

Although the histories and registers are silent, nevertheless the land of Egypt itself is a witness which offers evidence of that age. In those days the country was brought under the king's power and was restored to its own cultivators; from that time to the present day, it has regularly paid a tax of a fifth part of its entire produce. 10 It was during the reign of the Diopolitan king, whose name was Amasis, that the great famine came to Egypt. This was also the time that Baleus was ruling over the Assyrians and Apis over the Argives. 11 The seven years of famine, however, were preceded by seven years of plenty. Exercising his usual shrewdness, our Joseph collected and stored the surplus of these years. This surplus ordinarily would have perished through neglect in proportion to the bountifulness of the crop. He thus saved all Egypt. 12 He amassed all the money for Pharaoh and all the glory for God, rendering, by his just stewardship, "tribute to whom tribute was due and honour to whom honour." {Romans, 13.7} He acquired the flocks, lands, and wealth of all, in accordance with a fixed agreement with them; and in return for a fifth of their property he released those who had sold both themselves and their lands in exchange for a grant of [grain]. 13 Who would believe that this Joseph, whom God had placed over the Egyptians as the author of their deliverance, should have been so quickly forgotten that a little while later the Egyptians would condemn his sons and entire kinship to slavery, would inflict hardships upon them, and would crush them by massacres? 14 Hence we must not be astonished if there are some men in our own age who, though they would remove the sword hanging over their necks by pretending to be Christians, either never mention or else defame the very name of Christ, through Whom alone they are saved, and maintain that they are sorely oppressed in Christian times. In reality they are made free by the benefits which these times confer upon them. 

[9] L   Eight hundred and ten years before the founding of the City, Amphictyon, the third king after Cecrops, reigned at Athens. In his time a flood carried away most of the population of Thessaly, although some were saved by taking refuge on the mountains, especially on Mount Parnassus, whose environs were then ruled over by Deucalion. 2 Because he supported and fed the refugees who came to him on rafts and who were resting upon the twin ridges of Parnassus, Deucalion is said to have saved the human race. 3 Plato {Timaeus, 22.c} is a witness that in those days numerous plagues and terrible diseases afflicted Ethiopia and reduced the population almost to a state of desolation. 4 And, lest perchance anyone should think that there was any interval between the time of God's wrath and the visitation of war's fury, let it be known that it was at this time that Father Liber conquered India and drenched it with blood. He filled this land with slaughter and polluted it with lusts, and all of this despite the fact that the people of India never offended others and wished only to live the quiet lives of slaves. 

[10] L   Pompeius and Cornelius bear witness to the fact that in the eight hundred and fifth year before the founding of the City the Egyptians were oppressed by unspeakable evils and intolerable plagues. The disagreement in the testimony of these historians disturbed me somewhat, though both declared that the following facts relating to the Jews should be recorded. 2 For Pompeius - or Justin - has this to say: 

"When the Egyptians were suffering from scabies and ringworm, they took warning from an oracle and drove Moses and all those diseased from the boundaries of Egypt, so that the pestilence might not gradually spread among a greater number of people. After he had become leader of the exiles, Moses stealthily carried off the sacred vessels of the Egyptians, who, when they tried to recover them by force of arms, were compelled by storms to return home."   { Justin, Histories, 36.2

3 Cornelius, however, speaks about the same events as follows: 

Most authors agree that when leprosy, which horribly disfigures the bodies of its victims, had broken out throughout Egypt, King Bocchoris consulted the oracle of Ammon and, upon asking for a remedy, was ordered to cleanse his kingdom and to drive away to other lands this race of men because it was hateful to the gods. 4 So the Jewish people were sought out in their dwellings and gathered together. Afterward, when they were abandoned in the desert and all of the exiles, except Moses, were downcast and weeping, it was he who warned them not to look for any assistance from the gods or from men but to place their trust in themselves under the guidance of the heaven-sent leader. By his aid they would first cast off the burden of their present miseries."   { Tacitus, Histories, v. 3

5 Thus Cornelius tells us that the Jews were forcibly driven into the desert by the Egyptians; but later, when evidently off his guard, he adds that in Egypt they had cast off the burden of their miseries with the help of their leader Moses. Therefore it is clear that certain prompt measures taken by Moses have been concealed. 6 Justin likewise asserts that when Moses was driven out with the rest of the people he took away by stealth the sacred vessels of the Egyptians and that when the Egyptians strove to recover these by force of arms they were compelled by storms to stop and to return home. Justin then has recorded something more, though not all of the story, which Cornelius has concealed. 7 Since both, therefore, have given testimony to the greatness of Moses as a leader, his deeds and words should be taken on his own testimony just as he has related them. 

8 The Egyptians then began to torture the people of God, that is, the race of that Joseph by whose efforts they had been preserved. Previously they had oppressed and forced this people to do the work of slaves. When by a cruel edict the Egyptians also compelled them to slay their own children, God, through Moses as His spokesman, commanded that His people be set free so that they might serve Him. 9 God then inflicted harsh punishments on the Egyptians for their contempt and stubbornness. Overburdened and worn out at last by ten plagues, the Egyptians now compelled the Jews, whom they had been unwilling to let go earlier, to hasten their departure. 10 After waters turned into blood had brought to the Egyptians, parched as they were from thirst, a remedy for their suffering which was far worse than the suffering itself; after creeping frogs had spread horrid filth over everything clean or unclean; after the whole air had become alive with glowing gnats from which no one could escape; 11 after dog-flies had run about the interior parts of their bodies, moving in a loathsome manner and bringing sharp pains as severe as they were disgusting; after all the flocks and cattle had been suddenly destroyed in a general carnage; after running sores and festering ulcers, or, as they themselves preferred to say "scabies and ringworm," had broken out all over their bodies; 12 after hail (and there was fire mingled with the hail) had beaten down man, beast, and tree; after swarms of locusts had devoured everything and had attacked even the very roots and seeds of the plants; after a darkness had come that was dreadful with its apparitions, so dense that it could be felt, and so lasting that it brought death; 13 and finally, after the first-born had perished throughout all Egypt and all the people were passing through a common period of mourning, those who had not yielded before to God when He commanded, yielded now when He punished. But their repentance was insincere. Soon afterward they dared to pursue the exiles and paid with their lives for their impious obstinacy. 14 For the king of the Egyptians led his entire army, which included chariots and horsemen, against the wanderers. The size of the army may be inferred from this evidence, or at least chiefly therefrom, that at one time six hundred thousand men fled in terror before it. 15 But the God who protects the oppressed and chastises the stubborn suddenly divided the waters of the Red Sea. On each side of the path that was opened, He formed the waters into motionless walls like unto mountains. He held these walls in position so that the good, encouraged by the hope that their journey was nearing its end, might enter unharmed upon the path leading to safety of which they had despaired, while the wicked should enter a pitfall where they would unexpectedly meet their death. 16 After the Hebrews had thus passed in safety over the dry passage, the masses of stationary water collapsed behind them, overwhelming and destroying the whole host of Egypt together with its king. The entire province, which had previously been afflicted with plagues, was emptied by this final slaughter. 17 Even at the present day there remain unmistakable evidences of these events. For the tracks left by the chariots and the ruts made by the wheels are visible not only on the shore but also in the deep as far as the eye can see; and if by chance these marks are at times disturbed, accidentally or purposely, Divine Providence at once restores them to their former appearance with the help of the wind and waves. 18 Thus if a man be not taught the fear of God by the study of revealed religion, that fear may be borne in upon him by this example of God's wrath. 

19 In those days also the heat was so continuous, oppressive, and intense, that it is said that the sun, after passing through the regions of the heavens outside of its regular course, did not visit the earth with its warmth but scorched it with fire. Neither the Ethiopians, who were more used to heat than other peoples, nor the Scythians, who were unaccustomed to it, could endure this raging heat beating down upon them. In accounting for this phenomenon, some people would not concede to God His own ineffable power, but sought worthless, petty explanations and invented the absurd story of Phaethon. 

[11] L   During the seven hundred and seventy-fifth year before the founding of the City, in the course of the quarrel between Danaus and his brother Aegyptus, the daughters of the former murdered the fifty sons of the latter. Later Danaus himself, the instigator of these many crimes, was driven from the kingdom which he had won by so many shameful deeds. He then betook himself to Argos and there persuaded the Argives to help him in a despicable act: for he drove Sthenelas from his kingdom and made himself king, even though Sthenelas had welcomed him when he was an exile and in need. 

2 The hospitality extended by the bloody tyrant Busiris in Egypt was barbarous and his religion was still more barbarous; it was his custom to drink to the health of his gods, who were partners in his crimes, with the blood of his innocent guests. I wonder whether this practice seemed as detestable to the gods themselves as it undoubtedly seemed to men. 3 In those days, too, a parricide was added to the incest involving Tereus, Procne, and Philomela. More detestable than either of these crimes was the meal which is horrible to mention: for in avenging her sister Philomela, whose honour Tereus had violated and whose tongue he had torn out, Procne killed her own little son and Tereus, his father, ate him. 4 In those same times Perseus travelled from Greece to Asia where, after a long and difficult campaign, he subdued some barbarian tribes. Now a conqueror, Perseus gave his own name to one of the conquered tribes, and henceforth these people were called Persians. 

[12] L   But I am forced to confess that in the interest of reaching the end of my book, I have left out many details concerning the evil conditions of the age and have abbreviated everything, since in no way could I have ever passed through so thick a forest of evils unless I had hastened my journey by frequent leaps. 2 Inasmuch as the Assyrian kingdom was governed by about fifty kings and was hardly ever at peace during the one thousand one hundred and sixty years that elapsed before the reign of Sardanapalus (offensive and defensive wars were always being waged) what purpose will be served if I attempt to recall these events by enumerating them, to say nothing of describing them? 3 This is especially so since I must discuss the deeds of the Greeks, and above all I must survey those of the Romans. Neither is there any need for me to recount the disgraceful deeds of Tantalus and Pelops, which become even more disgraceful in the telling. 4 You will recall how the Phrygian king Tantalus most scandalously seized Ganymedes, the son of Tros, king of the Dardanians, and how he took him into his disgusting embrace. The poet Phanocles confirms the story and also mentions the fact that a great war arose on this account. 5 Perhaps Phanocles tells this story because he wished this same Tantalus to appear as the servant of the gods when he corrupted the stolen boy in his own home in order to prepare him for the lust of Jupiter. Tantalus, indeed, did not hesitate to serve up even his own son Pelops at Jupiter's banquets. 

6 Likewise one grows weary of referring to the struggles, however great they may have been, of this Pelops against Dardanus and the Trojans. We are accustomed to hear them repeated so often in stories that no one pays much attention to them. 7 I am also omitting those stories about Perseus, Cadmus, the Thebans, and the Spartans, which Palaephatus describes as he follows their winding course through mazes of successive evils. 8 I am silent about the disgraceful crime of the Lemnian women. I pass over the lamentable flight of Pandion, the king of the Athenians. I conceal the hatreds, debaucheries, and parricides of Atreus and Thyestes, which even the gods detested. 9 I omit Oedipus, the slayer of his father, the husband of his mother, the brother of their children, his own stepfather. I prefer to be silent about how the brothers Eteocles and Polynices attacked each other, each one striving to be the murderer of the other. 10 Nor do I wish to call to mind Medea, "smitten by a savage love," who rejoiced in the slaughter of her little children, or anything else that was done in those days. One may guess how much men then suffered from the fact that even the stars are said to have fled. 

[13] L   In the five hundred and sixtieth year before the founding of the City, the Cretans and Athenians engaged in a bitter struggle in which both sides suffered disastrous losses. The Cretans were victorious and made their triumph even bloodier by cruelty, 2 handing over some children of noble Athenian parentage to be devoured by the Minotaur. I do not know whether it would be more accurate to describe this creature as a man with the qualities of a wild beast or as a beast with the qualities of a human being. But the Cretans fattened this misshapen monster on these noble children who had been torn away from their native land. 3 In those same days the Lapiths and Thessalians struggled in contests no less famous. 4 In his first book, "Concerning Incredible Tales," Palaephatus relates that the Lapiths believed and asserted that the Thessalians were themselves centaurs because, when their horsemen rushed here and there in battle, horse and man appeared to be one body. 

[14] L   Four hundred and eighty years before the founding of the City, Vesozes, the king of Egypt, eager to make war against the South and the North (regions separated by almost the whole heaven and the whole sea) or to annex them to his kingdom, first declared war upon the Scythians. He had previously sent ambassadors to bid them obey his laws. 2 In answer, the Scythians told the ambassadors that Vesozes, who was already an extremely wealthy king, had stupidly undertaken war against a poor people and that he himself ought to fear this war more than they, because it was clear that the uncertain issues of the struggle promised only losses instead of rewards. They further declared that they would not await his attack, but would on their own initiative go forward to plunder his army. 

3 There was no delay, for deeds followed these words. First the Scythians forced Vesozes himself to flee back in terror to Egypt. Then they attacked his army, which was now without a leader, and captured all of its war equipment. If they had not been prevented by the swamps from entering Egypt, they would have ravaged that entire country. 4 Returning at once they exacted tribute from Asia, whose people had been the victims of repeated slaughter and massacre and which was now in a state of complete subjection. They remained at war in Asia for fifteen years until they were recalled by the demand of their wives, who threatened to allow their neighbours to become the fathers of their children unless their husbands returned. 

[15] L   Meanwhile among the Scythians, two young men of the royal family, Plynos and Scolopetius, were driven from their home by a faction of the nobility. They took with them a large band of young men and founded a settlement on the coast of Cappadocia Pontica near the Thermodon River and close to the Themiscyrian Plains. From that base they plundered the nearby lands for a long time, until their neighbours finally united for common action, led them into ambush, and slaughtered them. 2 Violently agitated by their own exile and by the loss of their husbands, their wives took up arms and killed the men who survived so that the common lot of widowhood might unite all of them in one purpose. Enraged against the enemy, these women then destroyed their neighbours and at the cost of their own blood exacted vengeance for their dead husbands. 3 Later they obtained peace by force of arms and entered into marital relations with foreigners. They put their sons to death as soon as they were born, but brought up their daughters carefully. They burned off the right breasts of these girls so that they might discharge arrows without hindrance. For this reason these women were called Amazons. 

4 The two queens of these Amazons, Marpesia and Lampeto, divided the army into two parts and drew lots to decide which should carry on war and which should guard the homeland. 5 When the Amazons had subdued most of Europe and had captured some cities of Asia as well - they themselves became founders of Ephesus and other cities  - the principal part of their army, laden with rich booty, was then recalled home. The rest of the army, which had remained with Queen Marpesia to protect their empire in Asia, was cut to pieces in battle with the enemy. 

6 Sinope, the daughter of Marpesia, took her place. As a crowning achievement to her matchless reputation for courage, she remained a virgin to the end of her life. 7 So great was the admiration and fear spread by her fame among peoples already alarmed that even Hercules, when he was ordered by his master to bring the weapons of the queen, certain that he would have to face inevitable peril, gathered together the pick of the noble youth of all Greece and prepared nine vessels of war. After estimating his forces, he was still not satisfied and preferred to proceed against the queens suddenly and to surround them when they had no suspicion of attack. 

8 Two sisters, Antiope and Orithyia, were ruling the kingdom at this time. Arriving by sea, Hercules overcame them when they were off their guard, unarmed, and indolent from the care-free existence of peaceful times. Among the large number slaughtered or captured were the two sisters of Antiope, of whom Hercules kept Melanippe while Theseus took Hippolyte. 9 Theseus married Hippolyte, but Hercules returned Melanippe to her sister Antiope and received as the price of her ransom the weapons of the queen. 10 After the reign of Orithyia, Penthesilea became ruler of the kingdom, and the accounts of her courage exhibited among men during the Trojan War have come down to us. 

[16] L   O grief! The shame of human error! Women, fleeing from their native land, entered, overran, and destroyed Europe and Asia, the largest and most powerful sections of the world. For almost a hundred years they kept control of these lands by overthrowing many cities and founding others. The blame for the oppression of the times was nevertheless not to be imputed to the utter worthlessness of men. 2 On the contrary, recently these Getae, who are at present also called Goths (Alexander publicly said that they must be shunned, Pyrrhus dreaded them, and even Caesar avoided them), after stripping their homes bare and abandoning them, united their forces in one body and invaded the Roman provinces. After proving themselves to be a menace over a long period of time, these barbarians made a request to obtain an alliance with Rome - an alliance which they could have won by force of arms. 3 They asked only enough land for a small settlement, not a location which they themselves might choose, but one which we should grant them. These barbarians who were free to take for themselves as much as they wanted, since the whole world was subdued and lay open to them, these barbarians, I say, requested this favour. They who alone were feared by unconquered kingdoms offered now their services to protect the Roman Empire. 

4 Since in their blindness the pagans do not see that these things were brought to pass by Roman virtue, and won through the {Christian} faith of the Romans, they do not believe and are unwilling to acknowledge, though they realize it, that it was through the mediation of the Christian religion, which unites all peoples in the recognition of a common faith, that those barbarians became subject to the Romans without a conflict - those men whose wives had destroyed the greater part of the earth with measureless slaughter. 

[17] L   But four hundred and thirty years before the founding of the City, the abduction of Helen, the covenant of the Greeks, the assembly of a thousand ships, then the ten years' siege, and lastly the celebrated destruction of Troy, is well known to all. 2 That war was waged for ten years with the utmost cruelty. The most renowned poet Homer in his glorious song has clearly shown what nations and how many peoples were caught in the path of that hurricane and destroyed. It is not our concern to unfold again the story in sequence, since that would take a long time and besides it is well known to everybody. 3 If there is really any justification for my critics being displeased with the present state of affairs, whatever their condition, let those who have learned about the length of that siege, the savagery and massacre accompanying the overthrow of the city, and the state of bondage that followed, consider the enemies of Rome. For although these enemies might have pursued the Romans through all lands with troops prepared to attack, they were led by the hidden mercy of God to follow these same Romans over all seas and even to offer hostages in order to obtain peace. And lest people think that their actions were motivated only by love of a quiet life, behold them offering to risk their lives against other tribes to maintain the Roman peace. 

[18] L   Moreover, in the next few years came the events that followed the arrival of Aeneas in Italy after he had fled from Troy, that is, the strifes he aroused, the kinds of wars he provoked over a period of three years, and the number of peoples he involved in hatred and ruthlessly overthrew. All these have been imprinted upon our memories by the instruction received in our elementary schools. 2 And interspersed with these events were the exiles and shipwrecks of the Greeks, the disasters of the Peloponnesians at the time when Codrus died, the uprisings of the barbarian Thracians in new wars, and the general disorders throughout all Greece and Asia. 

[19] L   In the sixty-fourth year before the founding of the City, Sardanapalus reigned over the Assyrians. He was their last king and a man more corrupt than a woman. Arbatus, who was his prefect at that time and in authority over the Medes, cursed his king when he saw him dressed in the garb of a woman spinning purple cloth in the midst of a flock of harlots. Soon afterward the Median people rose in revolt and forced Sardanapalus to go to war. When he was defeated, he threw himself upon a burning pyre. The kingdom of the Assyrians then gave way to that of the Medes. 2 After many wars had broken out on all sides (to discuss them in due order does not seem to me to be at all appropriate) the sovereignty passed through various stages in a cycle first to the Scythians, next to the Chaldeans, and finally back again to the Medes. 3 It is not necessary to describe in detail the number of disasters and massacres of peoples that occurred and also the many wars that arose in the course of which over and over again many great monarchies changed hands. 

4 After these events, Phraortes ruled over the Medes. He consumed twenty-two years of his reign in continual warfare with the Assyrians and the Persians. 5 His successor was Diocles, a man expert in arms and constantly engaged in war. On the death of Diocles, Astyages received a greatly enlarged empire. 6 Lacking a male heir, he adopted his grandson Cyrus, who was a Persian by birth. As soon as Cyrus grew into manhood, he gathered together a band of Persians and declared war upon his grandfather. 7 Furthermore, Astyages had forgotten the crime which a short while before he had committed against Harpagus. He had killed the latter's only little son and had served him to his father at a banquet; and in order that none of a father's great sorrow over the loss of his child might be lessened through happy ignorance, he tauntingly emphasised the gruesome character of the banquet by displaying the hands and head of the child to his father. 8 Forgetting what he had done, Astyages entrusted the highest command of the war to this same Harpagus who, upon receiving command of the army, at once betrayed him and turned over the army to Cyrus. 

When Astyages learned of this, he assembled his troops and marched against the Persians. He began a battle which was the more fiercely contested because he announced to his men that whoever became afraid and attempted to withdraw from battle would be put to the sword. 9 When the battle line of the Persians was compelled to yield ground gradually under the attack of the Medes who, because of this threat, were fighting furiously, the mothers and wives of the Persians blocked their path and begged them to return to the battle. The women exposed their nakedness to all, lifting up their dresses and asking whether the men wished to take refuge in the wombs of their mothers or of their wives. 10 Shamed by this action, the men returned to battle, made an attack, and forced their pursuers to flee. In this engagement Astyages was taken prisoner. Cyrus deprived him of his kingdom only and put him in charge of the powerful nation of the Hyrcani. Astyages indeed had no wish to return to the Medes. This was the end of the Median Empire. 11 The states that paid tribute to the Medes, however, revolted from Cyrus; and this was the cause and source of many wars against him.

[20] L   At that time Phalaris the Sicilian set up a tyranny and began to plunder the people of Agrigentum. 2 He was cruel in his designs and even more cruel in their execution; he perpetrated all kinds of outrages upon innocent people. At length, though unjust himself, he discovered a man whom he punished justly. 3 For a certain Perillus, a worker in bronze, who professed friendship for the tyrant, conceived a work befitting the latter's cruelty. He constructed a brazen bull in whose side he ingeniously fashioned a door that would allow those condemned to be thrust inside the animal. Thus, when the imprisoned victim was roasted by a fire placed underneath, the vacuum of the hollow bronze would magnify his tortured cries and this abominable wonder made the cries seem like the bellowing of cattle, not the groans of men. 4 Phalaris was delighted with the contrivance, but detested its inventor. It furnished the opportunity for both vengeance and cruelty, for he punished the maker in his own invention. 

5 There was also among the Latins in a somewhat earlier age a king named Aremulus who prospered by a career of crime and impiety over a period of eighteen years. But by divine judgment he was struck by a bolt of lightning and paid at an early age a penalty long overdue. 

6 Let the Latins and Sicilians now choose whether they would prefer to have lived in the days of Aremulus and Phalaris or in these Christian times. In the former times these tyrants tortured to death innocent people; in the latter, the Roman emperors, who were among the first to be converted to the Christian religion, did not demand punishment even for the injuries committed by the tyrants themselves, after their overthrow had brought good to the Republic. 

[21] L   Thirty years before the founding of the City, the Peloponnesians and the Athenians waged a great war into which both peoples entered with their full strength and enthusiasm. Each side was finally forced by mutual destruction to withdraw from combat and to terminate the war, as if both had been defeated. 2 At this time a tribe of Amazons, accompanied by the Cimmerians, made a sudden incursion into Asia and wrought severe, prolonged, and widespread devastation and carnage. 

3 Twenty years before the founding of the City, the Lacedaemonians involved in ruin the entire resources of Greece by waging a war of untiring fury against the Messenians, because the latter had rejected their maidens during the offering of a solemn sacrifice. 4 The Lacedaemonians had bound themselves by great curses and had pledged themselves by solemn vows never to return home until they had captured Messena. Nevertheless they were recalled home when they had become weary from the siege which, though lasting ten years, had brought them none of the fruits of victory. They were also moved by the complaints of their wives who drew attention to their long widowhood and the danger of their becoming sterile. 5 After deliberating on the matter, they became fearful that with no possibility of begetting children their own perseverance would promote their ruin even more than the Messenian War. They therefore sent back to Sparta those selected soldiers who, after taking the oath of allegiance, had come to the army as reinforcements. These soldiers were allowed to have promiscuous relations with all the women, a license infamous enough and not of any real use. 6 But the Lacedaemonians persevered in their plan, captured the Messenians by fraud, and reduced them to slavery. When they had suffered cruel domination, scourgings, and chains for a long while, the Messenians shook off the yoke, took up arms, and renewed hostilities. 

7 The Lacedaemonians chose the Athenian poet Tyrtaeus to be their leader in this war. After being routed in three battles, they made good their losses by adding to their army a band of slaves who had been granted their freedom. 8 Even then they thought that they ought to give up the struggle because of threatening danger, but they were again inflamed by a poem composed by their poet and leader Tyrtaeus. When he recited the poem before the assembly of the people, they at once rushed again into the struggle. Their feelings were so greatly stirred when they attacked that hardly ever has a bloodier battle raged. 9 Although the Lacedaemonians finally won the victory, the Messenians renewed the struggle a third time. Neither did the Lacedaemonians delay. Each side brought many troops to supplement its own forces. The Athenians prepared to attack the Lacedaemonians in a new quarter while the latter were engaged elsewhere. 10 But the Lacedaemonians did not remain passive. Though they themselves were embroiled with the Messenians, they dispatched Peloponnesian troops to engage the Athenians in battle. The Athenians, who had sent a small fleet to Egypt, could not match the enemy's strength and were easily defeated in a naval engagement. Later when this fleet had returned and the Athenian forces had also been strengthened by the flower of their troops, they challenged the victors to battle. 

11 Abandoning the campaign against the Messenians, the Lacedaemonians turned their arms against the Athenians. A long and severe war followed in which there was a succession of victories and defeats, and it was uncertain which side would be victorious; finally, while the issue was still hanging in the balance, both withdrew from the fray. 12 (It must be most clearly understood that it was Sparta herself that was given the title of the state of Lacedaemon, and hence the Lacedaemonians are called Spartans.) 13 When the Lacedaemonians were later recalled to the Messenian War, they made an agreement with the Thebans, in order that the Athenians might not have any rest in the interim. They promised to restore to the Thebans the rule over the Boeotians, which the latter had lost in the days of the Persian War, on the condition that the Thebans would undertake a war against the Athenians in their behalf. 14 So great a fury possessed the Spartans that, even though they were already engaged in two wars, they would not refuse to undertake a third, provided they could obtain new allies against their enemies. 

15 Alarmed by such a storm of wars, the Athenians chose two leaders: Pericles, a man of proven courage, and Sophocles, a writer of tragedies. Dividing their forces, the Athenians, ravaged far and wide the territories of the Spartans and added many cities of Asia to the Athenian Empire. 16 From this beginning the struggles continued for fifty years on land and sea with victory ever doubtful, until the Spartans, with their wealth dissipated and their confidence completely shattered, were regarded as disgraced even by their own allies. 

17 But we think of little moment those afflictions which lay so heavily upon Greece. What we at present find difficult to bear is any interference whatsoever in our pleasures or any restraint placed upon our passions, even for a moment. 18 There is this difference, however, between men of that age and of this: the men of that age endured with patience those unbearable burdens because they were born and raised amid them and knew no better times, whereas men of our age, accustomed to perpetual peace in a life of tranquillity and pleasure, are disturbed by every little cloud of anxiety that envelops them. 19 If only they would pray to Him who can end this period of unrest, trifling though it be, and to whom they owe this continued peace which was unknown to other ages! 

20 Remembering that I promised (when I was limiting the order of my narrative by some sort of division) to tell the history of the world from the creation to the foundation of the City, 21 let me here bring to an end this book, which has set forth the story from the foundation of the world. My following book then may begin from the foundation of the City. It will contain the account of the evils of those days, which became more closely intertwined, just as men indeed grew more versed and skilled in wickedness. 

Book 2


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