1. [XIII. M.] But 5 now let this suffice about such things; and let us once again return
to man and reason,—gift divine, from which man has the name of rational animal.
Less to be wondered at are the things said of man,—though they are [still] to be admired. Nay, of all marvels that which wins our wonder [most] is that man has been able to find out the nature of the Gods and bring it into play.
2. Since, then, our earliest progenitors were in great error, 1—seeing they had no rational faith about the Gods, and that they paid no heed unto their cult and holy worship,—they chanced upon an art whereby they made Gods [for themselves]. 2
To this invention they conjoined a power that suited it, [derived] from cosmic nature; and blending these together, since souls they could not make, [they set about] evoking daimons souls or those of angels; [and thus] attached them to their sacred images and holy mysteries, so that the statues should, by means of these, possess the powers of doing good and the reverse.
3. For thy forebear, Asclepius, the first discoverer of medicine, to whom there is a temple
hallowed on Libyas Mount, 1 hard by the shore of crocodiles, 2 in which his cosmic man 3 reposes, that is to say his body; for that the rest [of him], or better still, the whole (if that a man when wholly [plunged] in consciousness of life, 4 be better), hath gone back home to heaven,—still furnishing, [but] now by his divinity, the sick with all the remedies which he was wont in days gone by to give by art of medicine.
4. Hermes, which is the name of my forebear, whose home is in a place called after him, 5 doth aid and guard all mortal [men] who come to him from every side. 6
As for Osiris [spouse]; how many are the blessings that we know Isis bestows when shes propitious; how many does she injure when shes wrath!
For that the terrene and the cosmic Gods are
easily enraged, in that they are created and composed of the two natures.
5. And for this cause it comes to pass that these are called the “sacred animals” by the Egyptians, and that each several state 1 gives service to the souls of those whose souls have been made holy, 2 while they were still alive; so that [the several states] are governed by the laws [of their peculiar sacred animals], and called after their names.
It is because of this, Asclepius, those [animals] which are considered by some states deserving of their worship, in others are thought otherwise; and on account of this the states of the Egyptians wage with each other frequent war.
1. Asc. And of what nature, O Thrice-greatest one, may be the quality of those who are considered terrene Gods?
Tris. It doth consist, Asclepius, of plants, and stones, and spices, which contain the nature of [their own] divinity.
And for this cause they are delighted with repeated sacrifice, with hymns, and lauds, and
sweetest sounds, tuned to the key of Heavens harmonious song. 1
2. So that what is of heavenly nature, 2 being drawn down into the images by means of heavenly use and practices, may be enabled to endure with joy the nature of mankind, and sojourn with it for long periods of time.
Thus is it that man is the maker of the Gods.
3. But do not, O Asclepius, I pray thee, think the doings of the terrene Gods are the result of chance.
The heavenly Gods dwell in the heights of Heaven, each filling up and watching oer the rank he hath received; whereas these Gods of ours, 3 each in its way,—by looking after certain things, foretelling others by oracles and prophecy, foreseeing others, and duly helping them along,—act as allies of men, as though they were our relatives and friends.
380:5 The first six paragraphs of this chapter are quoted in Latin, with two slight verbal variants, by Augustine, De Civitate Dei, xxiv., xxvi.
381:1 Ménard thinks he can distinguish the hand of a Christian scribe in this sentence, which he translates with great freedom, “qui ségaraient dans lincrédulité.” A more careful translation, however, does not seem to favour this hypothesis. Hermes says simply that primitive mankind were ignorant of the Gods, and so in error.
381:2 That is, images. Cf. xxx. above; and C. H., xvii.
382:1 Cf. xxvii. 3 above.
382:2 In monte Libyæ circa littus crocodilorum. Does this refer to a Crocodilopolis (κροκοδείλων πόλις, Ptol., iv. 5, § 65)? And if so, to which of these cities, for there were several? The best known of these is Arsinoë in the Faiyyūm; but there was also another down south, in the Thebaid, on the W. bank of the Nile, lat. 25° 6', of which remains are still visible at Embeshanda, on the verge of the Libyan desert. See Smiths Dict. of Gk. and Rom. Geography (London, 1878), sub voc.
382:3 Presumably his mummy.
382:4 In sensu vitæ.
382:5 Hermopolis therefore (compare Lact., D. Institt., i. 6); that is to say, Hermopolis Magna (Ἑρμοῦ πόλις μεγάλη), the modern Eshmūn, on the left bank of the Nile, about lat. 27° 4'.
382:6 To get wisdom. Augustines quotation ends here.
383:1 Or city. For the animal cult of the Egyptians, see Plutarch, De Is. et Os., lxxii. ff.
383:2 Or consecrated.
384:1 Cf. “Gods song” in xiii. 2 above.
384:2 Namely, the nature of the Gods.
384:3 The terrene Gods; the daimones of C. H., xvi. 14.