Nearly all writers of history (Greek as well as Latin) who have perpetuated in their various works the deeds of kings and peoples for the sake of forming an enduring record have commenced their histories with Ninus, the son of Belus and king of the Assyrians. Indeed, these historians with their very limited insight would have us believe that the origin of the world and the creation of man was without beginning. Yet they definitely state that kingdoms and wars began with Ninus, as if forsooth the human race had existed up to that time in the manner of beasts and then, as though shaken and aroused, it awoke for the first time to a wisdom previously unknown to it. For my part, however, I have determined to date the beginning of man's misery from the beginning of his sin, touching only a few points and these but briefly.
From Adam, the first man, to Ninus, whom they call "The Great" and in whose time Abraham was born, 3,184 years elapsed, a period that all historians have either disregarded or have not known. But from Ninus, or from Abraham, to Caesar Augustus, that is, to the birth of Christ, which took place in the forty-second year of Caesar's rule, when, on the conclusion of peace with the Parthians, the gates of Janus were closed and wars ceased over all the world, there were 2,015 years. During this later period, whether one considers the men of action or the historians, the labors of all of them, both literary and active, were lavishly expended. My subject, therefore, requires a brief mention of at least a few facts from those books which, in their account of the origin of the world, have gained credence by the accuracy with which their prophecies were later fulfilled. I used these books not because I purpose to press their authority upon anyone, but because it is worth while to repeat the common opinions that we ourselves all share.
In the first place, we hold that if the world and man are directed by a Divine Providence that is as good as it is just, and if man is both weak and stubborn on account of the changeableness of his nature and his freedom of choice, then it is necessary for man to be guided in the spirit of filial affection when he has need of help; but when he abuses his freedom, he must be reproved in a spirit of strict justice. Everyone who sees mankind reflected through himself and in himself perceives that this world has been disciplined since the creation of man by alternating periods of good and bad times. Next we are taught that sin and its punishment began with the very first man. Furthermore, even our opponents, who begin with the middle period and make no mention of the ages preceding, have described nothing but wars and calamities. What else are these wars but evils which befall one side or the other? Those evils which existed then, as to a certain extent they exist now, were doubtless either palpable sins or the hidden punishments for sin. What, then, prevents us from unfolding the beginning of this story, the main body of which has been set forth by others, and from showing, if in briefest outline, that the earlier period, which, we have pointed out, covered far more centuries than the latter, underwent the same kind of miseries?
I shall, therefore, speak of the period from the creation of the world to the founding of the City, and then of the period extending to the principate of Caesar and the birth of Christ, from which time dominion over the world has remained in the hands of the City down to the present day. So far as I can recall them, viewing them as if from a watchtower, I shall present the conflicts of the human race and shall speak about the different parts of the world which, set on fire by the torch of greed, now blaze forth with evils. With this in mind, I believe I must describe first the world itself, which the human race inhabits, how it was divided by our ancestors into three parts, and what regions and provinces compose its divisions. In this way when the theaters of war and the ravages of diseases shall be described, whoever wishes to do so may the more easily obtain a knowledge not only of the events and their dates but of their geography as well.
2. Our elders made a threefold division of the world,which is surrounded on its periphery by the Ocean. Its three parts they named Asia, Europe, and Africa. Some authorities, however, have considered them to be two, that is, Asia, and Africa and Europe, grouping the last two as one continent.
Asia, surrounded on three sides by the Ocean, stretches across the whole East. Toward the west, on its right, it touches the border of Europe near the North Pole, but on its left it extends as far as Africa, except that near Egypt and Syria it is bounded by Mare Nostrum, which we commonly call the Great Sea.
Europe begins, as I have said, in the north at the Tanais River, where the Riphaean Mountains, standing back from the Sarmatian Sea, pour forth the Tanais flood. The Tanais, sweeping past the altars and boundaries of Alexander the Great to the territories of the Rhobasci, swells the Palus Maeotis, whose immense overflow spreads afar into the Euxine Sea near Theodosia. From the Euxine near Constantinople a long narrow body of water leads to the sea which we call Mare Nostrum. The Western Ocean forms the boundary of Europe in Spain at the very point where the Pillars of Hercules stand near the Gades Islands and where the Ocean tide comes into the straits of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Africa begins with the land of Egypt and the city of Alexandria. On the shore of that Great Sea, the waters of which touch all the continents and the lands in the center of the earth, we find the city of Paraetonium. From there the boundaries of Africa lead through districts which the inhabitants call Catabathmon, not far from the camp of Alexander the Great above Lake Chalearzus, whence they pass near the lands of the Upper Avasitae and across the deserts of Ethiopia to reach the Southern Ocean. The western boundary of Africa is the same as that of Europe, that is, the entrance of the Strait of Gades; its furthest boundaries are the Atlas Range and the islands which people call Fortunate.
Now that I have given briefly the three great continents of the world, I shall also take pains, as I promised, to point out the divisions of the continents themselves.
Asia has at the center of its eastern boundary on the Eastern Ocean the mouths of the Ganges River; to the left we find the Promontory of Caligardamana, to the southeast of which lies the island of Taprobane. From this point the Ocean is called the Indian Ocean. To the right of the Imavian Mountains, where the Caucasian Chain ends, we find the Promontory of Samara, northeast of which lie the mouths of the Ottorogorra River. From this point the Ocean is called the Serian Ocean.
In this region lies India, the western boundary of which is the Indus River, which empties into the Red Sea, and the northern boundary of which is formed by the Caucasian Range; the other sides, as I have said, are bounded by the Eastern and the Indian oceans. This land has forty-four peoples, not including either those who dwell on the island of Taprobane, which has ten cities, or those who live on the many other densely populated islands.
Between the Indus River on the east and the Tigris River, which lies to the west, are the following territories: Arachosia, Parthia, Assyria, Persida, and Media, by nature rough and mountainous lands. On the north they are bounded by the Caucasian Range, on the south by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, while in the center flow their principal rivers, the Hydaspes and the Arbis. In these regions are twenty-three tribes. It is all commonly spoken of as Parthia, although the Sacred Scriptures often call the whole area Media.
Between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is Mesopotamia, beginning in the north between the Taurian and Caucasian ranges. To the south we meet in order, first Babylonia, then Chaldaea, and lastly Arabia Eudaemon, a narrow strip of land facing east and lying between the Persian and Arabian gulfs. Twenty-eight peoples live in these lands.
Syria is the name generally given to the land that extends from the Euphrates River on the east to Mare Nostrum on the west, from the city of Dagusa on the boundary between Cappadocia and Armenia near the place where the Euphrates rises on the north, as far south as Egypt and the end of the Arabian Gulf. This gulf extends southward in a long and narrow furrow which abounds with rocks and islands; from the Red Sea, that is, from the Ocean, it stretches in a westerly direction. The largest provinces of Syria are Commagene, Phoenicia, and Palestine, not including the lands of the Saraceni and the Nabathaei, whose tribes number twelve.
At the head of Syria is Cappadocia, which is bounded on the east by Armenia, on the west by Asia, on the northeast by the Themiscyrian Plains and the Cimmerian Sea, and on the south by the Taurian Mountains. Below these mountains lie Cilicia and Isauria extending as far as the Cilician Gulf, which faces toward the island of Cyprus.
Asia Regio, or, to speak more correctly, Asia Minor, exclusive of the eastern part where it touches Cappadocia and Syria, is surrounded on all sides by water; on the north by the Euxine, on the west by the Propontis and Hellespont, and on the south by Mare Nostrum. Here towers Mount Olympus.
Lower Egypt is bounded by Syria and Palestine on the east, by Libya on the west, by Mare Nostrum on the north, and by the mountain called Climax, Upper Egypt, and the Nile on the south. This river seems to rise from the shore where the Red Sea begins at the place called Mossylon Emporium. Thence it flows west for a long distance, forming in its midst the island called Meroe; finally, bending to the north, swollen by seasonal floods, it waters the plains of Egypt. Some authors say that it rises not far from Mount Atlas and gradually disappears in the sands, from which, after a short interval, it flows out into a vast lake and then glides eastward through the Ethiopian Desert toward the Ocean, and finally, turning to the left, flows down to Egypt. Of a truth there is a great river of this kind which has such an origin and such a course and which truly begets all the monsters of the Nile. The barbarians near its source call it the Dara, but by the other inhabitants it is called the Nuhul. This river, however, is swallowed up in a huge lake in the land of the people called Libyo-Egyptians, not far from the other river which, as we have said, rushes forth from the shore of the Red Sea, unless, as may be the case, it pours from a subterranean channel into the bed of that river which flows down from the east.
Upper Egypt stretches far to the east. On the north is the Arabian Gulf, on the south the Ocean. On the west its boundaries begin at Lower Egypt, and on the east it is bounded by the Red Sea. In this region are twenty-four peoples.
Now that I have described the southern part of all Asia,it remains for me to take up the remaining lands, working from east to north.
The Caucasian Range rises first in the territories of the Colchi, who dwell above the Cimmerian Sea, and in the lands of the Albani, who live near the Caspian. Indeed, as far as its eastern extremity it seems to be one range, though it has many names. Some wish to consider these mountains part of the Taurian Range, because as a matter of fact the Parcohatras Range of Armenia, lying between the Taurian and Caucasian, is believed to form an unbroken chain with the other two ranges. The Euphrates River, however, proves that this is not the case, for, springing from the foot of the Parcohatras Mountains, it bends its course southward, veering constantly to the left, but keeping the Taurian Range on the right. The Caucasus in the territories of the Colchi and the Albani, where there are also passes, are called the Caucasian Mountains. From the Caspian passes to the Armenian Gates or to the source of the Tigris River, between Armenia and Iberia, they are called the Acroceraunian. From the source of the Tigris to the city of Carrhae between the Massagetae and the Parthi they are named the Ariobarzanes. From the city of Carrhae to the town of Cathippus, between the Hyrcani and the Bactriani, they are called the Memarmalian. There amomum grows in abundance. The nearest range to the Memarmalian is called the Parthau. From the town of Cathippus to the village of Saphri in the intervening lands of the Dahae, Sacaraucae, and the Parthyenae are the peaks of the Oscobares. There the Ganges River rises and asafoetida grows. From the source of the Ganges River to the sources of the Ottorogorra River on the north, where lie the Paropamisadae Mountains, we find the Taurian Range. From the sources of the Ottorogorra to the city of Ottorogorra between the Chuni Scythians and the Gandaridae are the Caucasian Mountains. The farthest range is the Imavus between the Eoae and the Passyadrae, where the Chrysorhoas River and the Promontory of Samara meet the Eastern Ocean. In the lands that extend from the Imavus Mountains (that is, from the eastern tip of the Caucasian Range) and from the right division of the East where the Serian Ocean lies as far as the Promontory of Boreum and the Boreum River, and thence to the Scythian Sea on the north, to the Caspian Sea on the west, and to the wide range of the Caucasus on the south, there are the forty-two tribes of the Hyrcanians and Scythians, who, on account of the barrenness of the extensive lands of the country, wander far and wide.
The Caspian Sea rises from the Ocean in the northeast. The shores and the lands on both sides of it in the vicinity of the Ocean are considered to be desert and uncultivated. Thence, toward the south, the sea extends through a long channel, until, spreading out over a great area, it ends at the foothills of the Caucasian Mountains. In the lands from the Caspian Sea on the east, along the edge of the Northern Ocean as far as the Tanais River and the Palus Maeotis on the west, to the shores of the Cimmerian Sea on the southwest, and to the heights and passes of the Caucasus on the south, there are thirty-four tribes. The nearest region is usually called Albania, while the more distant territory near the sea and the Caspian Mountains is called the land of the Amazons.
The boundaries of Asia have been described as briefly as possible. Now I shall let my pen wander through Europe as far as it is known to man.
Europe begins at the Riphaean Mountains, the Tanais River, and the Palus Maeotis, all of which lie toward the east. Its territories extend along the shores of the Northern Ocean to Gallia Belgica and the Rhine River, which flows in from the west, and thence to the Danube. This last river is also called the Hister; it starts from the south, and, flowing to the east, empties into the Pontus. The lands of Europe in the East are first, Alania; in the middle, Dacia (there we also find Gothia); and finally, Germania, the main part of which is held by the Suebi. In all there are fifty-four tribes.
Now I shall describe the lands between Mare Nostrum and the Danube, a river which separates these lands from the territories of the barbarians.
The boundaries of Moesia are on the east the mouth of the Danube River, on the southeast Thrace, on the south Macedonia, on the southwest Dalmatia, on the west Histria, on the northwest Pannonia, and on the north the Danube again.
Thrace is bounded on the east by the Gulf of Propontis and the city of Constantinople, which was formerly called Byzantium, on the north by part of Dalmatia and a gulf of the Euxine Sea, on the west and southwest by Macedonia, and on the south by the Aegean Sea.
The boundary of Macedonia on the east is the Aegean Sea, on the northeast Thrace, on the southeast Euboea and the Macedonian Gulf, on the south Achaia, on the west the Acroceraunian Mountains, lying on the narrows of the Adriatic Gulf opposite Apulia and Brundisium; to the west is Dalmatia, to the northwest Dardania, and to the north Moesia.
Achaia is almost entirely surrounded by water; its boundaries are the Myrtoan Sea on the east, the Cretan Sea on the southeast, the Ionian Sea on the south, the islands of Cephalenia and Cassiopa on the southwest and west, the Corinthian Gulf on the north. On the northeast a narrow ridge of land joins it to Macedonia, or rather to Attica. This place is called the Isthmus and on it is Corinth, which is not far distant from the city of Athens to the north.
Dalmatia is bounded on the east by Macedonia, on the northeast by Dardania, on the north by Moesia, on the west by Histria, the Liburnian Gulf, and the Liburnian Islands, and on the south by the Adriatic Gulf.
The boundaries of Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia are on the east Moesia, on the south Histria, on the southwest the Poenean Alps, on the west Gallia Belgica, on the northwest the source of the Danube and the boundary that separates Germany from Gaul between the Danube and Gaul, and on the north the Danube and Germany.
The territory of Italy extends from the northwest to the southeast, having on the southwest the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the northeast the Adriatic Gulf. That part of Italy which borders on and forms one mass with the continent is walled in by the barriers of the Alps which rise from the Gallic Sea above the Ligurian Gulf. The Alps limit first the territories of the Narbonese and then Gaul and Raetia, until they sink in the Liburnian Gulf.
Gallia Belgica has as its eastern boundaries the Rhine River and Germany; as its southeastern, the Poenean Alps; as its southern, the province of Narbo; as its western, the province of Lugdunum; as its northwestern, the Britannic Ocean; and as its northern boundary the island of Britain.
Gallia Lugdunensis, very long but extremely narrow, half surrounds the province of Aquitania. On the east it is bounded by Belgica and on the south by part of the province of Narbo, where the city of Aries is situated and the Rhone River empties into the Gallic Sea.
The province of Narbo, a part of the Gauls, is bounded on the east by the Cottian Alps, on the west by Spain, on the northwest by Aquitania, on the north by Lugdunum, on the northeast by Belgica Gallia, and on the south by the Gallic Sea, which lies between Sardinia and the Balearic Islands. The Stoechades Islands lie in front of the southern coastline of this province, where the Rhone River empties into the sea.
The province of Aquitania is formed into a circle by the slanting course of the Liger River, which for almost its entire length serves as a boundary of the province. On the northwest the province touches that ocean which is called the Aquitanian Gulf; to the west it borders on Spain, to the north and east on Lugdunum, and to its southeast and south lies Narbo.
Spain, taken as a unit, is formed by its natural contour into a triangle and is almost an island owing to the fact that it is surrounded by the Ocean and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its first corner, facing east, is walled in on the right by the province of Aquitania and on the left by the Balearic Sea, and is wedged in next to the territories of the Narbonese. The second corner extends toward the northwest. There in Gallaecia is situated the city of Brigantia, which raises its towering lighthouse, one of the few notable structures in the world, toward the watchtower of Britain. Its third corner is at the Gades Islands, which face to the southwest and look toward the Atlas Mountains across the intervening gulf of the ocean.
The Saltus Pyrenaei forms the boundary of Hither Spain, beginning on the east and extending on the northern side as far as the territory of the Cantabri and the Astures; from this point on through the territory of the Vaccaei and Oretani, which lies to the west, Carthage, which is situated on the coast of Mare Nostrum, determines the boundary.
Further Spain has on the east the Vaccaei, Celtiberi, and Oretani; on the north and west the Ocean; and on the south the Strait of Gades. This strait belongs to the Ocean, and through it Mare Nostrum, which is called the Tyrrhenian Sea, enters.
Inasmuch as there are in the Ocean islands called Britain and Ireland, which are situated opposite the Gauls in the direction of Spain, they will be briefly described.
Britain, an island in the Ocean, extends a long distance to the north; to its south are the Gauls. The city called Portus Rutupi affords the nearest landing place for those who cross the water. From this point Britain faces directly the territories of the Menapi and Batavi, which are located not far from the land of the Morini in the south. This island is eight hundred miles long and two hundred miles wide.
In the limitless ocean which stretches behind Britain are the Orcades Islands, of which twenty are deserted and thirteen inhabited.
Next comes the island of Thule, which is separated from the others by a great space and is situated in the middle of the Ocean toward the northwest; it is known to only a few.
Ireland, an island situated between Britain and Spain, is of greater length from south to north. Its nearer coasts, which border on the Cantabrian Ocean, look out over the broad expanse in a southwesterly direction toward far-off Brigantia, a city of Gallaecia, which lies opposite to it and which faces to the northwest. This city is most clearly visible from that promontory where the mouth of the Scena River is found and where the Velabri and the Luceni are settled. Ireland is quite close to Britain and is smaller in area. It is, however, richer on account of the favorable character of its climate and soil. It is inhabitated by tribes of the Scotti.
The island of Mevania, its next door neighbor, is itself fair sized and possesses a rich soil. It, too, is inhabited by tribes of the Scotti.
These are the boundaries of all the countries of Europe.
As I have said earlier, when our ancestors stated that Africa must be considered the third part of the world, they did not consider the comparative sizes of the continents but followed their actual divisions. Indeed this Great Sea, which originates in the Western Ocean, by inclining more to the south has limited the area of Africa and made the continent narrower between its own waters and those of the Ocean. Hence there are even some who, although they think that Africa is equal in length to Europe, yet at the same time considering her to be much narrower, believe it inappropriate to call this continent the third part. They have preferred, therefore, by allotting Africa to Europe, to call the continent a part of the latter. Furthermore, much more land remains uncultivated and unexplored in Africa because of the heat of the sun than in Europe because of the intensity of the cold, for certainly almost all animals and plants adapt themselves more readily and easily to great cold than to great heat. There is an obvious reason why Africa, so far as contour and population are concerned, appears smaller in every respect; owing to her natural location the continent has less space and owing to the bad climate she has more deserted land. The provinces and peoples of Africa may be described as follows:
After Egypt, the next province of Africa that I shall describe is Libya Cyrenaica and Pentapolis. This region begins at the city of Paraetonium and the Catabathmon Mountains, from which, following the sea, it extends as far as the Altars of the Philaeni. The territory behind it, which reaches to the Southern Ocean, is inhabited by the Libyo-Ethiopian and Garamantian peoples. Egypt is on the east, the Libyan Sea on the north, the Greater Syrtis and the country of the Troglodytes on the west (opposite the Troglodytes is the island of Calypso), and the Ethiopian Ocean on the south.
The province of Tripolis is also called Subventana or the country of the Arzuges, as these people are generally called throughout the length and breadth of Africa. In this province the city of Leptis Magna is situated. Tripolis is bounded on the east by the Altars of the Philaeni which are between the Greater Syrtis and the country of the Troglodytes, on the north by the Sicilian Sea, or rather by the Adriatic, and the Lesser Syrtis, on the west by Byzacium as far as the Lake of Salinae, on the south by the lands of the barbaric Gaetuli, Nathabres, and Garamantes, whose territories stretch as far as the Ethiopian Ocean.
Next are the provinces of Byzacium, Zeugis, and Numidia. To begin, Zeugis is not the name of one conventus, but we find that it was the general name of a whole province. Byzacium, then, with the city of Hadrumetum, Zeugis with Magna Carthago, Numidia with the cities of Hippo Regius and Rusiccada, are bounded on the east by the Smaller Syrtis and the Lake of Salinae, and on the north by Mare Nostrum, which faces toward the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. These provinces are bounded on the west by Mauretania Sitifensis and on the south by the Uzarae Mountains behind which the Ethiopian peoples wander about as far as the Ethiopian Ocean.
Mauretania Sitifensis and Mauretania Caesariensis border to the east on Numidia, to the north on Mare Nostrum, to the west on the Malva River, to the south on Mount Astrixis, which separates the fertile soil from the sands that stretch as far as the Ocean. In this desert the Gangines Ethiopes roam.
Mauretania Tingitana is the last part of Africa. This region is bounded on the east by the Malva River, on the north by Mare Nostrum as far as the Strait of Gades which is confined between the two opposite promontories of Abyla and Calpe, on the west by the Atlas Range and the Atlantic Ocean, on the southwest by the Hesperian Mountains, on the south by the territory belonging to the tribes of the Autololes, who are now called Galaules and who inhabit the lands which extend as far as the Western Ocean.
This is the boundary line of the whole of Africa. Now I shall set forth the locations, names, and sizes of the islands which are in Mare Nostrum.
The island of Cyprus is surrounded on the east by the Syrian Sea which people call the Gulf of Issus, on the west by the Sea of Pamphylia, on the north by Aulon of Cilicia, and on the south by the Syrian and Phoenician seas. In extent it is one hundred and seventy-five miles in length and one hundred and twenty-five miles in width.
The island of Crete is bounded on the east by the Carpathian Sea, on the west and north by the Cretan Sea, on the south by the Libyan Sea, which people also call the Adriatic. It is one hundred and seventy-two miles long and fifty miles wide.
The islands of the Cyclades are these: the first, on the east, is Rhodes, then on the north Tenedos, on the south Carpathus, and finally on the west Cythera. These islands are bounded on the east by the shores of Asia, on the west by the Icarian Sea, on the north by the Aegean Sea, and on the south by the Carpathian Sea. The entire number of the Cyclades is fifty-four. These islands extend from north to south five hundred miles, from east to west two hundred miles.
The island of Sicily has three promontories: the first, called Pelorus, faces toward the northeast, and its nearest city is Messana; the second, called Pachynum, on which is the city of Syracuse, faces toward the southeast; the third, called Lilybaeum, is inclined to the west and on it is a city of the same name. The distance from Pelorus to Pachynum is one hundred and fifty-eight miles, and that from Pachynum to Lilybaeum one hundred and eighty-seven miles. Sicily is bounded on the east by the Adriatic Sea and on the south by the African Sea, which is opposite the land of the Subventani and the Lesser Syrtis. On the west and on the north it is bounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea, which extends on the north as far as the eastern strait of the Adriatic Sea. This strait divides the lands of the Tauromenitani in Sicily from those of the Bruttii in Italy.
The islands of Sardinia and Corsica are divided by a small strait twenty miles in width. The southern part of Sardinia, which faces Numidia, is inhabited by the Caralitani; its northern part, which faces the island of Corsica, by the Ulbienses. Sardinia is two hundred and thirty miles long and eighty miles wide. To the east and northeast of the island is the Tyrrhenian Sea, which faces toward the harbor of the city of Rome, to the west the Sardinian Sea, to the southwest the Balearic Islands situated far away, to the south the Numidian Gulf, and to the north, as I have said, Corsica.
The island of Corsica has many corners because of its numerous promontories. This island, bounded on the east by the Tyrrhenian Sea and harbor of the City, on the south by Sardinia, on the west by the Balearic Islands, and on the northwest and north by the Ligurian Gulf, is one hundred and ten miles long and twenty-six miles wide.
There are two Balearic Islands, the larger and the smaller. On each of these are two towns. The larger island, toward the north, faces the city of Tarraco in Spain; the smaller, the city of Barcelona. The island of Ebusus lies near the greater. On the east these islands face Sardinia, on the northeast the Gallic Sea, on the south and the southwest the Mauretanian Sea, and on the west the Iberian Sea.
These then are the islands situated in the waters of the entire Great Sea from the Hellespont to the Ocean, which because of their culture and history, are considered more famous.
I have completed my survey of the provinces and islands of the whole world as briefly as I could. Now, so far as I am able to give them, I shall make known the local disasters of individual nations as they arose in an unending stream from the beginning, and I shall discuss their nature and their origin as well.
3. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 trangression of the first man and the condemnation of his offspring and his life, and thereafter concerning the destruction of the whole human race. I shall make this reservation: if pagan historians have discussed these subjects, we shall extend our account to cover their treatment.
4. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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." 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: "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." 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.
On the border of Arabia and Palestine, where the mountains, as they disappear on each side, merge into the fields which He below them, were five cities—Sodom, Gomorrah, Adama, Soboim, and Segor. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. And yet how gladly would I accept their opinions if only these people would faithfully acknowledge what they really feel. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 civilized world.
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. 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:
Joseph was the youngest of his brothers who, fearing his superior ability, kidnapped him and sold him to foreign merchants. 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 favorite 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. 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. 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.
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 want of knowledge on the part of these men by his trustworthiness and authority, which even they recognize; 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. 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 Master'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. In truth, "Whoever is satisfied, forgets; whoever suffers, remembers."
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. It was during the reign of the king Diopolita, 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. 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. 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." 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]. 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? 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. 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. 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. Plato is a witness that in those days numerous plagues and terrible diseases afflicted Ethiopia and reduced the population almost to a state of desolation. 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 Father Liber drenched with blood an India which had already been reduced to subjection. 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. 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. For Pompeius—or possibly Justin—has this to say:
When the Egyptians were suffering from scabies and tetter, 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]
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. 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]
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. After waters turned into blood had brought to the Egyptians, parched as they were from thirst, relief from suffering 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 ciniphes from which no one could escape; 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 murrain; after running sores and festering ulcers, or, as they themselves preferred to say "scabies and tetter," had broken out all over their bodies; 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; and finally, after the first-born had been slaughtered 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. 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 once six hundred thousand men fled in terror before it. 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 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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 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.
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. 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 embellished with a dish too 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. In those same times Perseus traveled 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. But I am forced to confess that in the interest of anticipating 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. 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? 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 are even more disgraceful when told. 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. 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 Jove. Tantalus, indeed, did not hesitate to employ at Jove's banquets even his own son Pelops.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, 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. In those same days the Lapithae and Thessalians struggled in contests no less famous. In his first book, "Concerning Incredible Tales," Palaephatus relates that the Lapithae 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. Four hundred and eighty years before the founding of the City, Vesozes, the king of Egypt, eager to engage in war with 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. 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.
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. 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 neighbors to become the fathers of their children unless their husbands returned.
15. 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 neighbors finally united for common action, led them into ambush, and slaughtered them. 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 neighbors and at the cost of their own blood exacted vengeance for their dead husbands. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. Theseus married Hippolyte, but Hercules returned Melanippe to her sister Antiope and received as the price of her ranson the weapons of the queen. 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. 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. 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. By proving themselves to be a menace over a long period of time, these barbarians hoped upon their request to obtain an alliance with Rome—an alliance which they could have won by force of arms. 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 favor. They who alone were feared by unconquered kingdoms offered now their services to protect the Roman Empire.
Since in their blindness the pagans do not see that these things were brought to pass by Roman virtue, and won through the faith [Christian] 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. We ought to treat briefly 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.
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. 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. Lacking a male heir, he adopted his nephew 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 adopted father. 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 emphasized the gruesome character of the banquet by displaying the hands and head of the child to his father. 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. 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. 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. 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. At that time Phalaris the Sicilian set up a tyranny and began to plunder the people of Agrigentum. 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. 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 would send forth a sound corresponding, in its funereal tone, to that of its namesake. This abominable wonder made the cries seem like the bellowing of cattle, not the groans of men. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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 outraged their virgins during the offering of a solemn sacrifice. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. (It must be most clearly understood that it was Sparta herself that was given the title of the Lacedaemonian state and hence the Lacedaemonians are called Spartans.) 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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!
Remembering that I promised (even though I limit 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, 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, forasmuch as men indeed grew more versed and skilled in wickedness.