Chapter 29.—Of the Falsity of the Augury by Which the Strength and Stability of the Roman Empire Was Considered to Be Indicated.
For what kind of augury is that which they have declared to be most beautiful, and to which I referred a little ago, that Mars, and Terminus, and Juventas would not give place even to Jove, the king of the gods? For thus, they say, it was signified that the nation dedicated to Mars,—that is, the Roman,—should yield to none the place it once occupied; likewise, that on account of the god Terminus, no one would be able to disturb the Roman frontiers; and also, that the Roman youth, because of the goddess Juventas, should yield to no one. Let them see, therefore, how they can hold him to be the king of their gods, and the giver of their own kingdom, if these auguries set him down for an adversary, to whom it would have been honorable not to yield. However, if these things are true, they need not be at all afraid. For they are not going to confess that the gods who would not yield to Jove have yielded to Christ. For, without altering the boundaries of the empire, Jesus Christ has proved Himself able to drive them, not only from their temples, but from the hearts of their worshippers. But, before Christ came in the flesh, and, indeed, before these things which we have quoted from their books could have been written, but yet after that auspice was made under king Tarquin, the Roman army has been divers times scattered or put to flight, and has shown the falseness of the auspice, which they derived from the fact that the goddess Juventas had not given place to Jove; and the nation dedicated p. 80 to Mars was trodden down in the city itself by the invading and triumphant Gauls; and the boundaries of the empire, through the falling away of many cities to Hannibal, had been hemmed into a narrow space. Thus the beauty of the auspices is made void, and there has remained only the contumacy against Jove, not of gods, but of demons. For it is one thing not to have yielded, and another to have returned whither you have yielded. Besides, even afterwards, in the oriental regions, the boundaries of the Roman empire were changed by the will of Hadrian; for he yielded up to the Persian empire those three noble provinces, Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria. Thus that god Terminus, who according to these books was the guardian of the Roman frontiers, and by that most beautiful auspice had not given place to Jove, would seem to have been more afraid of Hadrian, a king of men, than of the king of the gods. The aforesaid provinces having also been taken back again, almost within our own recollection the frontier fell back, when Julian, given up to the oracles of their gods, with immoderate daring ordered the victualling ships to be set on fire. The army being thus left destitute of provisions, and he himself also being presently killed by the enemy, and the legions being hard pressed, while dismayed by the loss of their commander, they were reduced to such extremities that no one could have escaped, unless by articles of peace the boundaries of the empire had then been established where they still remain; not, indeed, with so great a loss as was suffered by the concession of Hadrian, but still at a considerable sacrifice. It was a vain augury, then, that the god Terminus did not yield to Jove, since he yielded to the will of Hadrian, and yielded also to the rashness of Julian, and the necessity of Jovinian. The more intelligent and grave Romans have seen these things, but have had little power against the custom of the state, which was bound to observe the rites of the demons; because even they themselves, although they perceived that these things were vain, yet thought that the religious worship which is due to God should be paid to the nature of things which is established under the rule and government of the one true God, “serving,” as saith the apostle, “the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for evermore.” 181 The help of this true God was necessary to send holy and truly pious men, who would die for the true religion that they might remove the false from among the living.