Chapter XVI.—Inventors of Useful Arts Unworthy of Deification. They Would Be the First to Acknowledge a Creator. The Arts Changeable from Time to Time, and Some Become Obsolete.
Well, but 1073 certain men have discovered fruits and sundry necessaries of life, (and hence are worthy of deification). 1074 Now let me ask, when you call these persons “discoverers,” do you not confess that what they discovered was already in existence? Why then do you not prefer to honour the Author, from whom the gifts really come, instead of converting the Author into mere discoverers? Previously he who made the discover, the inventor himself no doubt expressed his gratitude to the Author; no doubt, too, he felt that He was God, to whom really belonged the religious service, 1075 as the Creator (of the gift), by whom also both he who discovered and that which was discovered were alike created. The green fig of Africa nobody at Rome had heard of when Cato introduced it to the Senate, in order that he might show how near was that province of the enemy 1076 whose subjugation he was constantly urging. The cherry was first made common in Italy by Cn. Pompey, who imported it from Pontus. I might possibly have thought the earliest introducers of apples amongst the Romans deserving of the public honour 1077 of deification. This, however, would be as foolish a ground for making gods as even the invention of the useful arts. And yet if the skilful men 1078 of our own time be compared with these, how much more suitable would deification be to the later generation than to the former! For, tell me, have not all the extant inventions superseded antiquity, 1079 whilst daily experience goes on adding to the new stock? Those, therefore, whom you regard as divine because of their arts, you are really injuring by your very arts, and challenging (their divinity) by means of rival attainments, which cannot be surpassed. 1080
We insert this clause at Oehlers suggestion.145:1075
The incident, which was closely connected with the third Punic war, is described pleasantly by Pliny, Hist. Nat. xv. 20.145:1077
“Antiquitas” is here opposed to “novitas,” and therefore means “the arts of old times.”145:1080
In æmulis. “In,” in our author, often marks the instrument.