Sacred Texts  Christianity  Early Church Fathers  Index  Previous  Next 

Chapter V.—The vain pretensions of false gods.

But concerning those who think that they shall share the holy and perfect name, which some have received by a vain tradition as if they were gods, Menander in the Auriga says:—

“If there exists a god who walketh out
With an old woman, or who enters in
By stealth to houses through the folding-doors,
He ne’er can please me; nay, but only he
Who stays at home, a just and righteous God,
To give salvation to His worshippers.”

The same Menander, in the Sacerdos, says:—

“There is no God, O woman, that can save
One man by another; if indeed a man,
With sound of tinkling cymbals, charm a god
Where’er he listeth, then assuredly
He who doth so is much the greater god.
But these, O Rhode, are but the cunning schemes
Which daring men of intrigue, unabashed,
Invent to earn themselves a livelihood,
And yield a laughing-stock unto the age.”

Again, the same Menander, stating his opinion about those who are received as gods, proving rather that they are not so, says:—

“Yea, if I this beheld, I then should wish
That back to me again my soul returned.
For tell me where, O Getas, in the world
’Tis possible to find out righteous gods?”

And in the Depositum:—

“There’s an unrighteous judgment, as it seems,
Even with the gods.”

And Euripides the tragedian, in Orestes, says:—

“Apollo having caused by his command
The murder of the mother, knoweth not
What honesty and justice signify.
We serve the gods, whoever they may be;
But from the central regions of the earth
You see Apollo plainly gives response
To mortals, and whate’er he says we do.
I him obeyed, when she that bore me fell
Slain by my hand: he is the wicked man.
Then slay him, for ’twas he that sinned, not I.
What could I do? Think you not that the god
Should free me from the blame which I do bear?”

The same also in Hippolytus:—

“But on these points the gods do not judge right.”

And in Ion:—

“But in the daughter of Erechtheus
What interest have I? for that pertains
Not unto such as me. But when I come
With golden vessels for libations, I
The dew shall sprinkle, and yet needs must warn
Apollo of his deeds; for when he weds
Maidens by force, the children secretly
Begotten he betrays, and then neglects
When dying. Thus not you; but while you may
Always pursue the virtues, for the gods
Will surely punish men of wickedness.
How is it right that you, who have prescribed
Laws for men’s guidance, live unrighteously?
But ye being absent, I shall freely speak,
And ye to men shall satisfaction give
For marriage forced, thou Neptune, Jupiter,
Who over heaven presides. The temples ye
Have emptied, while injustice ye repay.
And though ye laud the prudent to the skies,
Yet have ye filled your hands with wickedness.
No longer is it right to call men ill
If they do imitate the sins 2607 of gods; 2608
Nay, evil let their teachers rather be.”

And in Archelaus:—

“Full oft, my son, do gods mankind perplex.”

And in Bellerophon:—

“They are no gods, who do not what is right.”

And again in the same:—

“Gods reign in heaven most certainly, says one;
But it is false,—and let not him
Who speaks thus, be so foolish as to use
Ancient tradition, or to pay regard
Unto my words: but with unclouded eye
Behold the matter in its clearest light.
Power absolute, I say, robs men of life
And property; transgresses plighted faith;
Nor spares even cities, but with cruel hand
Despoils and devastates them ruthlessly.
But they that do these things have more success
Than those who live a gentle pious life;
And cities small, I know, which reverence gods,
Submissive bend before the many spears
Of larger impious ones; yea, and methinks
If any man lounge idly, and abstain
From working with his hands for sustenance,
Yet pray the gods; he very soon will know
If they from him misfortunes will avert.”

And Menander in Diphilus2609

“Therefore ascribe we praise and honour great
To Him who Father is, and Lord of all;
Sole maker and preserver of mankind,
And who with all good things our earth has stored.”

The same also in the Piscatores:—

“For I deem that which nourishes my life
Is God; but he whose custom ’tis to meet
The wants of men,—He needs not at our hands
Renewed supplies, Himself being all in all.” 2610

The same in the Fratres:—

“God ever is intelligence to those
Who righteous are: so wisest men have thought.”

And in the Tibicinæ:—

“Good reason finds a temple in all things
Wherein to worship; for what is the mind,
But just the voice of God within us placed?”

p. 293 And the tragedian in Phrixus:—

“But if the pious and the impious
Share the same lot, how could we think it just,
If Jove, the best, judges not uprightly?”

In Philoctetes:—

“You see how honourable gain is deemed
Even to the gods; and how he is admired
Whose shrine is laden most with yellow gold.
What, then, doth hinder thee, since it is good
To be like gods, from thus accepting gain?”

In Hecuba:—

“O Jupiter I whoever thou mayest be,
Of whom except in word all knowledge fails;”


“Jupiter, whether thou art indeed
A great necessity, or the mind of man,
I worship thee!”



κακά in Euripedes, καλά in text.


[See Warburton’s Divine Legation (book ii. § 4), vol. ii. p. 20. Ed. London, 1811.]


These lines are assigned to Diphilus.


The words from “but” to “all” are assigned by Otto to Justin, not to Menander.

Next: Chapter VI.—We should acknowledge...