‘Unde ergo,’ inquitis, ‘tantum de vobis Famae licuit, cuius testimonium suffecerit forsitan conditoribus legum?’ quis, oro, sponsor aut illis tunc aut exinde vobis de fide Famae? nonne haec est ‘Fama malum, quo non aliud velocius ullum’ [cf. Vergil, Aen. 4.174] ? cur malum, si vera semper sit? non mendacio plurimum? quae ne tum quidem, cum vera defert, a libidine mendacii cessat, ut non falsa veris intexat adiciens, detrahens, varietate confundens. quid, quod ea condicio illi, ut nonnisi quod mentitur perseveret? tamdiu enim vivit quamdiu non probat quicquam, siquidem approbata cadit et quasi officio nuntiandi functa decedit; exinde res tenetur, res nominatur, nec quisquam dicit verbi gratia: ‘hoc Romae aiunt factum,’ aut ‘fama est illum provinciam sortitum,’ sed: ‘ille provinciam sortitus est,’ et ‘hoc factum est Romae.’
(Tertullian, Ad Nationes 1.7)

You will say, how is it possible that such a hideous reputation has grown up around you Christians as to convince our lawmakers of its testimony? And I shall ask who was the advocate for your lawmakers in their own time and for you in the present time to vouch for this reputation? Could it perhaps have been: ‘Rumor, an evil of matchless speed’? But why evil, if it is always true? Is it in fact not largely false? Even when it reports the truth, it does not set aside its lust for lying. Rumor weaves falsehood in with the truth by a process of addition, subtraction and scrambling. She can maintain her existence only by lying. She lives on only as long as she fails to prove anything. As soon as a rumor is proven to be true, it expires. Having conveyed its message, it departs. When the report is real and is declared a fact no one will say, ‘They say that this happened in Rome.’ Or, ‘Rumor has it that he has been assigned a province.’ Rather, it will be said, ‘This happened in Rome.’ Or ‘He has been assigned a province.’ (tr. Quincy Howe)



Certe quidem ipse orbis in promptu est, cultior de die, et instructior pristino. omnia iam pervia, omnia nota, omnia negotiosa; solitudines famosas retro fundi amoenissimi oblitteraverunt, silvas arva domuerunt, feras pecora fugaverunt, harenae seruntur, saxa panguntur, paludes eliquantur, tantae urbes quantae non casae quondam. iam nec insulae horrent nec scopuli terrent; ubique domus, ubique populus, ubique respublica, ubique vita. summum testimonium frequentiae humanae: onerosi sumus mundo, vix nobis elementa sufficiunt, et necessitates arctiores, et querellae apud omnes, dum iam nos natura non sustinet. revera lues et fames et bella et voragines civitatum pro remedio deputanda, tamquam tonsura insolescentis generis humani; et tamen, cum eiusmodi secures maximam mortalium vim semel caedant, numquam restitutionem eius vivos ex mortuis reducentem post mille annos semel orbis expavit.
(Tertullian, De Anima 30.3-4)

Surely it is obvious enough, if one looks at the whole world, that it is becoming daily better cultivated and more fully peopled than anciently. All places are now accessible, all are well known, all open to commerce; most pleasant farms have obliterated all traces of what were once dreary and dangerous wastes; cultivated fields have subdued forests; flocks and herds have expelled wild beasts; sandy deserts are sown; rocks are planted; marshes are drained; and where once were hardly solitary cottages, there are now large cities. No longer are (savage) islands dreaded, nor their rocky shores feared; everywhere are houses, and inhabitants, and settled government, and civilized life. What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race; and yet, when the hatchet has once felled large masses of men, the world has hitherto never once been alarmed at the sight of a restitution of its dead coming back to life after their millennial exile*.

* An allusion to Plato’s notion that, at the end of a thousand years, such a restoration of the dead, took place. See his Phaedrus, p. 248, and De Republ. x. p. 614.

(tr. Peter Holmes, with his note)


Giovanni Strazza, La vergine velata, 185x
Giovanni Strazza, La vergine velata

Ambiunt virgines hominum adversus virgines dei, nuda plane fronte temerarie in audaciam excitatae, et virgines videntur, quae aliquid a viris petere possunt, nedum tale factum, ut scilicet aemulae earum, tanto magis liberae quanto Christi solius ancillae, dedantur illis! ‘scandalizamur’, inquiunt, ‘quia aliter aliae incedunt’, et malunt scandalizari quam provocari. Scandalum, nisi fallor, non bonae rei, sed malae exemplum est, aedificans ad delictum; bonae res neminem scandalizant nisi malam mentem. si bonum est modestia, verecundia, fastidium gloriae, soli Deo captans placere, agnoscant malum suum, quae de tali bono scandalizantur. quid enim? si incontinentes dicant se a continentibus scandalizari, et continentia revocanda est? et ne multinubi scandalizentur, monogamia recusanda est? cur non magis hae querantur scandalo sibi esse petulantiam, impudentiam ostentaticiae virginitatis? propter huiusmodi igitur capita nundinaticia trahantur virgines sanctae in ecclesiam, erubescentes, quod cognoscantur in medio, paventes, quod detegantur accersitae quasi ad stuprum? non minus enim et hoc pati nolunt. omnis publicatio virginis bonae stupri passio est. et tamen vim carnis pati minus est, quia de officio naturae venit; sed cum spiritus ipse violatur in virgine sublato velamine, didicit amittere, quod tuebatur. o sacrilegae manus, quae dicatum deo habitum detrahere potuerunt!
(Tertullian, De Virginibus Velandis 3.3-8)

In contrast with the virgins of God, the virgins of this world go around with foreheads distinctly uncovered, having been roused to a rash audacity. They are considered virgins who are able to ask anything from men, much less the following example, in order that their rivals (with so much more freedom as servants of Christ alone) certainly are surrendered to them. ‘We are scandalized,’ the [virgins without veils] say, ‘because the others go about differently [than we do],’ and they choose to be scandalized rather than challenged. A scandal, unless I am mistaken, is not an example of a good situation but of a harmful one, creating an offence. Good situations scandalize nobody, except [those with] an evil mind. If restraint, reserve, aversion to the spotlight, striving to please God alone is good, let them who are scandalized by such goodness realize their own evil. So what if those lacking self-control say that they are scandalized by those with self-control! Should self-control be revoked? Lest the polygamists be scandalized, must monogamy be objected to also? Why do these [virgins with self-control] not complain more that the petulance and shamelessness of ostentatious virginity is an offence to themselves? Therefore, on account of the availability of heads of this kind, must pure virgins be dragged into the church, being ashamed because they are recognized in public, trembling because they are uncovered, summoned as if to their defilement? For they are no less willing to suffer even this. Every confiscation [of the veil] of a virtuous virgin is the suffering of defilement, and yet to suffer physical violence is less [terrible] because it comes from a natural bodily function. But when the spirit itself is violated in a virgin by her veil having been taken, she learns to cope with the loss of what she was guarding. O sacrilegious hands that have been able to remove the appearance that was dedicated to God! (tr. Geoffrey D. Dunn)




Quid nunc, si est Romanitas omni salus, nec honestis tamen modis ad Graios estis? aut, ni ita est, unde gentium, in provinciis melius exercitis, quas natura agro potius eluctando commodavit, studia palaestrae, male senescentia et cassum laborantia et lutea unctio et pulverea volutatio, arida saginatio? unde apud aliquos Numidas, etiam equis caesariatos, iuxta cutem tonsor, et cultri vertex solus immunis? unde apud hirtos et hirsutos tam rapax a culo resina, tam furax a mento volsella? prodigium est, haec sine pallio fieri; illius est haec tota res Asiae. quid tibi, Libya et Europa, cum xysticis munditiis, quas vestire non nosti? revera enim quale est Graecatim depilari magis quam amiciri? habitum transferre ita demum culpae prope est, si non consuetudo, sed natura mutetur. sat refert inter honorem temporis et religionem; det consuetudo fidem tempori, natura deo.
(Tertullian, De Pallio 4.1.1-4.2.1)

But now, if Romanity is to the benefit of all, why are you nonetheless inclined to the Greeks, even in less honourable matters? Or if this is not the case, from where else in the world is it that in provinces that are better trained, adapted by nature rather for conquering the soil, there are exercises of the wrestling-school (thereby lasting into a bad old age and labouring in vain), and unction with mud, and wallowing in the dust, and living on a dry diet? From where else is it that with some Numidians, who even wear their hair long due to horses, the barber comes close to the skin and just the crown remains exempt from the knife? Whence is it that with hairy and hirsute men the resin is so rapacious at the arse, the tweezers are so ravenous at the chin? It is a marvel that all this happens without the pallium! To it belongs this whole habit of Asia. What do you, Libya and Europe, have to do with athletic elegances when you do not know how to clothe them? Really, what is it like to use the Greek way in depilation rather than in dress? The transfer of clothing only approaches a fault if it is not convention that is changed, but nature. There is an important difference between the honour due to time and to religion. Let convention faithfully follow time, nature God. (tr. Vincent Hunink)


Coronant et publicos ordines laureis publicae causae, magistratus vero insuper aureis, ut Athenis, ut Romae. Superferuntur etiam illis Etruscae. hoc vocabulum est coronarum quas
gemmis et foliis ex auro quercinis ab Iove insignes ad deducendas tensas cum palmatis togis sumunt. sunt et provinciales aureae, imaginum pro numero capita maiora quaerentes. sed tui ordines et tui magistratus et ipsum curiae nomen ecclesia est Christi. illius es concriptus in libris vitae. illic purpurae tuae sanguis Domini, et clavus latus in cruce ipsius; illic secures, ad caudicem iam arboris positae; illic virgae ex radice Iesse.
(Tertullian, De Corona Militis 13.1-2)

For state reasons, the various orders of the citizens also are crowned with laurel crowns; but the magistrates besides with golden ones, as at Athens, and at Rome. Even to those are preferred the Etruscan. This appellation is given to the crowns which, distinguished by their gems and oak leaves of gold, they put on, with mantles having an embroidery of palm branches, to conduct the chariots containing the images of the gods to the circus. There are also provincial crowns of gold, needing now the larger heads of images instead of those of men. But your orders, and your magistracies, and your very place of meeting, the church, are Christ’s. You belong to Him, for you have been enrolled in the books of life. (Philippians 4:3) There the blood of the Lord serves for your purple robe, and your broad stripe is His own cross; there the axe is already laid to the trunk of the tree (Matthew 3:10); there is the branch out of the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). (tr. Sidney Thelwall)