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5. When he was living at Rome he wrote 2936 a treatise on the preservation of virginity, which all the pagans and enemies of God, all apostates and persecutors, and whoever else hate the Christian name, vied with one another in copying out, because of the infamous charges and foul reproaches which it contained against all orders and degrees among us, against all who profess and call themselves Christians, in a word, against the universal church; and also because this man declared that the crimes imputed to us by the Gentiles, which were before supposed to be false were really true, and indeed that much worse things were done by our people than those laid to their charge. First, he defames the virgins themselves of whose virtue he professed to be writing, speaking of them in these words: 2937

“Some of them change their dress and wear the costume of men, and are ashamed of the sex in which they were born; they cut their hair short, and raise their heads with the shameless stare of eunuchs. There are some who put on Cilician jackets, 2938 and with hoods made up into shape, make themselves like horned owls and night birds, as if they were becoming babies again.”

There are a thousand such calumnies, and worse than these, in the book. He does not even spare widows, for he says of them, 2939 “They care for nothing but the belly and what is next it;” and he adds many other obscene remarks of this kind. As to the whole race of Solitaries, it would take too long to give the passages written by him in which he attacks them with the foulest abuse. It would be a shame even to recount the indecent attacks which he makes upon the Presbyters and the deacons. I will, however, give the beginning of this violent invective, by which you may easily imagine what a point he reaches in its later stages. 2940

“There are some,” he says, “of my own order, who only seek the office of Presbyter or deacon so that they may have more license to visit women. They care for nothing but to be well dressed, to be well scented, to prevent their feet from being loose and bulging. Their curly hair bears the mark of the crisping iron; their fingers sparkle with rings; and they walk on tiptoe, for fear a fleck of mud from the road should touch their feet. When you see them, you would take them for bridegrooms rather than clerics.”

He then goes on to hurl his reproaches against our priests and ministers, specifying their faults, or rather their crimes; and to represent the access allowed them to married ladies not only in a disgraceful light, but so as to seem positively execrable: and after having cut to pieces with his satirical defamation the whole race of Christians, he does not even spare himself, as you shall presently hear.



See letter xxii. to Eustochium. In it Jerome pointed out the worldliness of professing Christians, and the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of many of the clergy and monks.


Letter xxii. c. 27 (end).


Of goats’ hair, used by soldiers and sailors.


Letter xxii. c. 29 (middle).


Id. c. 28.

Next: In his anti-Ciceronian dream he promised never to read or possess heathen books.