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Arnobius of SiccaReligious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian$

Michael Bland Simmons

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198149132

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198149132.001.0001

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(p.335) Appendix IV

(p.335) Appendix IV

Arnobius of Sicca
Oxford University Press

The data given below are examples of Arnobius’ apparent response to Porphyry’s accusation that the tenets of the Christian faith cannot be proved on the basis of tangible evidence. They demonstrate how Arnobius, in addition to Eusebius and Augustine, has turned Porphyry’s argument against him. See Chapter 10 esp. §III.

Adv. nat. 3. 6: due to foul myths about the gods the pagans demonstrate that they do not exist; 3. 7: Cicero should be refuted, rebutted, and proved to be speaking impiously; if pagans wish to show by examination that the stories about the gods are true, they fear the evidence of the truth: 3. 7. 14: ‘veritatis testificationem’; 3. 23: concept of tutelary deities is not based on certified truth: 1. 12: ‘non explorata Veritas comprehendit’; 3. 32: he maintains ‘on sure grounds’ (1. 15: ‘si ratione profertur et adseveratur certa’) that certain deities do not exist; 3. 34: he ascertains, establishes, and shows the truth of the matter that Diana, Ceres, and Luna cannot be the same goddess; again like Porphyry’s criticism of the Christians, Arnobius in 3. 37 argues that diversity of opinion as to the exact identity of the muses proves that (i.e. this is a sign) it is the pagans who know nothing about the truth; if the fact were ‘clearly known, the voice of all would be one and the agreement of all would tend towards and reach the conclusion of the same belief; cf. 3. 38. 1–4: ‘Quonam modo igitur religionis potestis integrare vim plenam, cum circa ipsos erretis deos, aut ad venerabiles invitare nos cultus, cum nihil nos certi de ipsorum numinum comprehensione doceatis?’; 3. 39 f.: no agreement about the identity of the deities; 3. 42: uncertain and conflicting notions of deities; a thousand different views; it is manifestly clear that it is the pagans who cannot say anything certain about the deities; he begins by pointing out that it is evident from the pagans’ books that they are confused about the deities; how can they ask a god for help if it cannot be ascertained and established which to invoke?; 3. 44: a demand that the pagans stand upon one harmonious opinion about the gods, otherwise they destroy by conflicting notions the confidence in the whole system; 4. 3: Christians cannot determine whether the pagans have discovered the truth; 4. 5: they must clarify the meaning of ‘gods on the left’ for the understanding; 4. 7: the facts of their beliefs bring pagans to understand the truth, i.e. their concepts of deity are imagined falsities; 4. 15: it is true, certain, and ‘demonstrated from the testimony of acknowledged fact’ that pagan concepts of deity are confused; 4. 17: we can demonstrate the same regarding the Mercuries, etc.; 4. 18: concepts of deities are taken directly from the pagans’ writings; 4. 27: if checked and proven beyond doubt, his argument reveals that the deities are of a human race (before (p.336) R3); 4. 30: Christians clearly demonstrate that pagans shamefully treat their deities; 5. 8: he uses the ‘careful computations’ of Varro, that ‘investigator of antiquity’, to show that the Great Mother was recently born; 5. 15: it would be stupid to demand proofs of these silly myths; 5. 16: rites of the Great Mother, have they ‘been verified and found worthy of credence?’; 5. 20: he makes clear to pagans how they insult the deities; 5. 30: if a true examination is made, it is the pagans who are the real atheists; 5. 31: it is clear they provoke divine anger; 5. 33: the need to examine (1. 16: ‘inspicere’ cf. 1. 2. 1) the allegorical method; 5. 39: it is established that the mysteries refer to actual historical events, thus one cannot allegorize the immoral/illogical elements found therein; 6. 14. 4 ff.: ‘Quidnam est istud, homines, quod ipsi vos ultro in tam promptis ac perspicuis rebus voluntaria fallitis et circumscribitis caecitate?’; 6. 26: it is proven and established that fear of the images is nothing; 7. 4: a sacrificial theory examined and thoroughly investigated; cf. 7. 5; 7. 19: the proof and discovery of an inquiry about sexual distinctions among the gods: these concepts are ‘most foolish delusions’; 7. 26: proof that antiquity did not find incense necessary; without reason, ‘sine ullis…rationibus’ this practice has been introduced in modern times; 7. 30: pagans know in their hearts that Christians speak the truth about the sacrifices; ‘and the reason is, with you a custom having no basis in reason takes precedence rather than the reality of things looked into and appraised in a search for the truth’: 11. 18–21: ‘primum quia apud vos valet nullam habens consuetudo rationem quam rerum inspecta natura veritatis examinatione ponderata’; 7. 39: he now comes to his central thesis: a close inspection (‘inspicere’) must be made to ascertain whether the pagan deities of the myths actually exist; 7. 41: these stories are believed to have the character of the miraculous (11. 1 if.: ‘miraculi speciem…habere creduntur’), which is the basis of Porphyry’s attempts to prove the credibility of the myths: the reader is asked to review pp. 274 ff. supra for the Porphyrian connection; yet the stories only have a ‘resemblance to truth’ (1. 6: ‘veritatis similitudine’); he then adds (11. 7 ff.): ‘Ceterum si penitus intueri res facías, personas et personarum volueris voluntates, nihil esse repperies diis dignum…’; 7. 43: ‘if you weigh the circumstances thoroughly’; 7. 44: after investigating the facts of the story of Jupiter and the dancer, he concludes (11. 44–8): ‘Quae si penitus cuneta et sine ulla partium gratificatione pendantur, non tantum longe longeque ab diis esse repperiuntur aliena, verum (a) quovis homine sentiente communia nec ad studium veri rationum cognitionibus erudito.’; 7. 44: on the importation of Aesculapius: Arnobius states that a close analysis of the pagans’ statements, as the result of demonstrating from their own authorities, reveals the fact that he was not a deity; 7. 44: the ‘tested truth’ of the annals shows that only a snake was sent to Rome (11. 64–7): ‘Ex Epidauro tamen quid est aliud adlatum nisi magni agminis coluber? Fidem si annalium sequimur et exploratam eis adtri-buimus veritatem, nihil’; and finally 7. 45. 16 f.: ‘Non arbitramur evincere atque obtinere vos posse, Aesculapium ilium fuisse serpentem,’, which is again (p.337) interesting because (1) Porphyry demanded the same kind of rational proof, and not just a foolish belief, from the Christians to show that their beliefs were true, and he used the same kind of rational arguments; (2) Porphyry (and later Neoplatonists in North Africa) used this same story of Aesculapius’ importation from Epidaurus (v. ch. 9, pp. 259 f. supra, for the evidence appearing in Civ. Dei) to offer proof of the credibility of pagan religious concepts of the deities; (3) the basis of this proof was the miracles recorded in the annals (cf. Arnobius’ reference to pagans’ belief that the stories have a miraculous character in 7. 41, and the ‘tested truth’ of the annals concerning the Aesculapius myth in 7. 44.