A Plea For the Christians

 Chapter I.—Injustice Shown Towards the Christians.

 Chapter II.—Claim to Be Treated as Others are When Accused.

 Chapter III.—Charges Brought Against the Christians.

 Chapter IV.—The Christians are Not Atheists, But Acknowledge One Only God.

 Chapter V.—Testimony of the Poets to the Unity of God.

 Chapter VI.—Opinions of the Philosophers as to the One God.

 Chapter VII.—Superiority of the Christian Doctrine Respecting God.

 Chapter VIII.—Absurdities of Polytheism.

 Chapter IX.—The Testimony of the Prophets.

 Chapter X.—The Christians Worship the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 Chapter XI.—The Moral Teaching of the Christians Repels the Charge Brought Against Them.

 Chapter XII.—Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism.

 Chapter XIII.—Why the Christians Do Not Offer Sacrifices.

 Chapter XIV.—Inconsistency of Those Who Accuse the Christians.

 Chapter XV.—The Christians Distinguish God from Matter.

 Chapter XVI.—The Christians Do Not Worship the Universe.

 Chapter XVII.—The Names of the Gods and Their Images are But of Recent Date.

 Chapter XVIII.—The Gods Themselves Have Been Created, as the Poets Confess.

 Chapter XIX.—The Philosophers Agree with the Poets Respecting the Gods.

 Chapter XX.—Absurd Representations of the Gods.

 Chapter XXI.—Impure Loves Ascribed to the Gods.

 Chapter XXII.—Pretended Symbolical Explanations.

 Chapter XXIII.—Opinions of Thales and Plato.

 Chapter XXIV.—Concerning the Angels and Giants.

 Chapter XXV.—The Poets and Philosophers Have Denied a Divine Providence.

 Chapter XXVI.—The Demons Allure Men to the Worship of Images.

 Chapter XXVII.—Artifices of the Demons.

 Chapter XXVIII.—The Heathen Gods Were Simply Men.

 Chapter XXIX.—Proof of the Same from the Poets.

 Chapter XXX.—Reasons Why Divinity Has Been Ascribed to Men.

 Chapter XXXI.—Confutation of the Other Charges Brought Against the Christians.

 Chapter XXXII.—Elevated Morality of the Christians.

 Chapter XXXIII.—Chastity of the Christians with Respect to Marriage.

 Chapter XXXIV.—The Vast Difference in Morals Between the Christians and Their Accusers.

 Chapter XXXV.—The Christians Condemn and Detest All Cruelty.

 Chapter XXXVI.—Bearing of the Doctrine of the Resurrection on the Practices of the Christians.

 Chapter XXXVII.—Entreaty to Be Fairly Judged.

Chapter XX.—Absurd Representations of the Gods.

If the absurdity of their theology were confined to saying that the gods were created, and owed their constitution to water, since I have demonstrated that nothing is made which is not also liable to dissolution, I might proceed to the remaining charges. But, on the one hand, they have described their bodily forms: speaking of Hercules, for instance, as a god in the shape of a dragon coiled up; of others as hundred-handed; of the daughter of Zeus, whom he begat of his mother Rhea; or of Demeter, as having two eyes in the natural order, and two in her forehead, and the face of an animal on the back part of her neck, and as having also horns, so that Rhea, frightened at her monster of a child, fled from her, and did not give her the breast (θηλή), whence mystically she is called Athêlâ, but commonly Phersephoné and Koré, though she is not the same as Athênâ,65    i.e., Minerva. who is called Koré from the pupil of the eye;—and, on the other hand, they have described their admirable66    Or, “have accurately described.” achievements, as they deem them: how Kronos, for instance, mutilated his father, and hurled him down from his chariot, and how he murdered his children, and swallowed the males of them; and how Zeus bound his father, and cast him down to Tartarus, as did Ouranos also to his sons, and fought with the Titans for the government; and how he persecuted his mother Rhea when she refused to wed him, and, she becoming a she-dragon, and he himself being changed into a dragon, bound her with what is called the Herculean knot, and accomplished his purpose, of which fact the rod of Hermes is a symbol; and again, how he violated his daughter Phersephoné, in this case also assuming the form of a dragon, and became the father of Dionysus. In face of narrations like these, I must say at least this much, What that is becoming or useful is there in such a history, that we must believe Kronos, Zeus, Koré, and the rest, to be gods? Is it the descriptions of their bodies? Why, what man of judgment and reflection will believe that a viper was begotten by a god (thus Orpheus:—

“But from the sacred womb Phanes begat

Another offspring, horrible and fierce,

In sight a frightful viper, on whose head

Were hairs: its face was comely; but the rest,

From the neck downwards, bore the aspect dire

Of a dread dragon”67    Fragments.);

or who will admit that Phanes himself, being a first-born god (for he it was that was produced from the egg), has the body or shape of a dragon, or was swallowed by Zeus, that Zeus might be too large to be contained? For if they differ in no respect from the lowest brutes (since it is evident that the Deity must differ from the things of earth and those that are derived from matter), they are not gods. How, then, I ask, can we approach them as suppliants, when their origin resembles that of cattle, and they themselves have the form of brutes, and are ugly to behold?

Eἰ μὲν οὖν μέχρι τοῦ φῆσαι γεγονέναι τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ ἐξ ὕδατος τὴν σύστασιν ἔχειν τὸ ἀπίθανον ἦν αὐτοῖς τῆς θεολογίας, ἐπιδεδειχὼς ὅτι οὐδὲν γενητὸν ὃ οὐ καὶ διαλυτόν, ἐπὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἂν παρεγενόμην τῶν ἐγκλημάτων. ἐπεὶ δὲ τοῦτο μὲν διατεθείκασιν αὐτῶν τὰ σώματα, τὸν μὲν Ἡρακλέα, ὅτι θεὸς δράκων ἑλικτός, τοὺς δὲ Ἑκατόγχειρας εἰπόντες, καὶ τὴν θυγατέρα τοῦ ∆ιός, ἣν ἐκ τῆς μητρὸς Ῥέας καὶ ∆ήμητρος ἢ δημήτορος τὸν αὐτῆς ἐπαιδοποιήσατο, δύο μὲν κατὰ φύσιν [εἶπον] ἔχειν ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ ἐπὶ τῷ μετώπῳ δύο καὶ προτομὴν κατὰ τὸ ὄπισθεν τοῦ τραχήλου μέρος, ἔχειν δὲ καὶ κέρατα, διὸ καὶ τὴν Ῥέαν φοβηθεῖσαν τὸ τῆς παιδὸς τέρας φυγεῖν οὐκ ἐφεῖσαν αὐτῇ τὴν θηλήν, ἔνθεν μυστικῶς μὲν Ἀθηλᾶ κοινῶς δὲ Φερσεφόνη καὶ Κόρη κέκληται, οὐχ ἡ αὐτὴ οὖσα τῇ Ἀθηνᾷ τῇ ἀπὸ τῆς κόρης λεγομένῃ· τοῦτο δὲ τὰ πραχθέντα αὐτοῖς ἐπ' ἀκριβὲς ὡς οἴονται διεξεληλύθασιν, Κρόνος μὲν ὡς ἐξέτεμεν τὰ αἰδοῖα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κατέρριψεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἅρματος καὶ ὡς ἐτεκνοκτόνει καταπίνων τῶν παίδων τοὺς ἄρσενας, Ζεὺς δὲ ὅτι τὸν μὲν πατέρα δήσας κατεταρτάρωσεν, καθὰ καὶ τοὺς υἱεῖς ὁ Oὐρανός, καὶ πρὸς Τιτᾶνας περὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς ἐπολέμησεν καὶ ὅτι τὴν μητέρα Ῥέαν ἀπαγορεύουσαν αὐτοῦ τὸν γάμον ἐδίωκε, δρακαίνης δ' αὐτῆς γενομένης καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς δράκοντα μεταβαλὼν συνδήσας αὐτὴν τῷ καλουμένῳ Ἡρακλειωτικῷ ἅμματι ἐμίγη (τοῦ σχήματος τῆς μίξεως σύμβολον ἡ τοῦ Ἑρμοῦ ·άβδος), εἶθ' ὅτι Φερσεφόνῃ τῇ θυγατρὶ ἐμίγη βιασάμενος καὶ ταύτην ἐν δράκοντος σχήματι, ἐξ ἧς παῖς ∆ιόνυσος αὐτῷ· ἀνάγκη κἂν τοσοῦτον εἰπεῖν· τί τὸ σεμνὸν ἢ χρηστὸν τῆς τοιαύτης ἱστορίας, ἵνα πιστεύ σωμεν θεοὺς εἶναι τὸν Κρόνον, τὸν ∆ία, τὴν Κόρην, τοὺς λοιπούς; αἱ διαθέσεις τῶν σωμάτων; καὶ τίς ἂν ἄνθρωπος κεκριμένος καὶ ἐν θεωρίᾳ γεγονὼς ὑπὸ θεοῦ γεννηθῆναι πιστεύσαι ἔχιδναν– Ὀρφεύς· ἂν δὲ Φάνης ἄλλην γενεὴν τεκνώσατο δεινήν νηδύος ἐξ ἱερῆς, προσιδεῖν φοβερωπὸν Ἔχιδναν, ἧς χαῖται μὲν ἀπὸ κρατὸς καλόν τε πρόσωπον ἦν ἐσιδεῖν, τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ μέρη φοβεροῖο δράκοντος αὐχένος ἐξ ἄκρου– ἢ αὐτὸν τὸν Φάνητα δέξαιτο, θεὸν ὄντα πρωτόγονον (οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐκ τοῦ ᾠοῦ προχυθείς), ἢ σῶμα ἢ σχῆμα ἔχειν δράκοντος ἢ καταποθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ ∆ιός, ὅπως ὁ Ζεὺς ἀχώρητος γένοιτο; εἰ γὰρ μηδὲν διενενηνόχασιν τῶν φαυλοτάτων θηρίων (δῆλον γὰρ ὅτι ὑποδιαλλάσσειν δεῖ τῶν γηΐνων καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ὕλης ἀποκρινομένων τὸ θεῖον), οὐκ εἰσὶν θεοί. τί δὲ καὶ πρόσιμεν αὐτοῖς, ὧν κτηνῶν μὲν δίκην ἔχει ἡ γένεσις, αὐτοὶ δὲ θηριόμορφοι καὶ δυσειδεῖς;