The Law of Change, or Mutation, Universal.
Draw we now our material from some other source, lest Punichood either blush or else grieve in the midst of Romans. To change her habit is, at all events, the stated function of entire nature. The very world [13] itself (this which we inhabit) meantime discharges it. See to it Anaximander, if he thinks there are more (worlds): see to it, whoever else (thinks there exists another) anywhere at the region of the Meropes, as Silenus prates in the ears of Midas, [14] apt (as those ears are [15] ), it must be admitted, for even huger fables. Nay, even if Plato thinks there exists one of which this of ours is the image, that likewise must necessarily have similarly to undergo mutation; inasmuch as, if it is a "world," [16] it will consist of diverse substances and offices, answerable to the form of that which is here the "world:" [17] for "world" it will not be if it be not just as the "world" is. Things which, in diversity, tend to unity, are diverse by demutation. In short, it is their vicissitudes which federate the discord of their diversity. Thus it will be by mutation that every "world" [18] will exist whose corporate structure is the result of diversities, and whose attemperation is the result of vicissitudes. At all events, this hostelry of ours [19] is versiform, -- a fact which is patent to eyes that are closed, or utterly Homeric. [20] Day and night revolve in turn. The sun varies by annual stations, the moon by monthly phases. The stars -- distinct in their confusion -- sometimes drop, sometimes resuscitate, somewhat. The circuit of the heaven is now resplendent with serenity, now dismal with cloud; or else rain-showers come rushing down, and whatever missiles (mingle) with them: thereafter (follows) a slight sprinkling, and then again brilliance. So, too, the sea has an ill repute for honesty; while at one time, the breezes equably swaying it, tranquillity gives it the semblance of probity, calm gives it the semblance of even temper; and then all of a sudden it heaves restlessly with mountain-waves. Thus, too, if you survey the earth, loving to clothe herself seasonably, you would nearly be ready to deny her identity, when, remembering her green, you behold her yellow, and will ere long see her hoary too. Of the rest of her adornment also, what is there which is not subject to interchanging mutation -- the higher ridges of her mountains by decursion, the veins of her fountains by disappearance, and the pathways of her streams by alluvial formation? There was a time when her whole orb, withal, underwent mutation, overrun by all waters. To this day marine conchs and tritons' horns sojourn as foreigners on the mountains, eager to prove to Plato that even the heights have undulated. But withal, by ebbing out, her orb again underwent a formal mutation; another, but the same. Even now her shape undergoes local mutations, when (some particular) spot is damaged; when among her islands Delos is now no more, Samos a heap of sand, and the Sibyl (is thus proved) no liar; [21] when in the Atlantic (the isle) that was equal in size to Libya or Asia is sought in vain; [22] when formerly a side of Italy, severed to the centre by the shivering shock of the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian seas, leaves Sicily as its relics; when that total swoop of discission, whirling backwards the contentious encounters of the mains, invested the sea with a novel vice, the vice not of spuing out wrecks, but of devouring them! The continent as well suffers from heavenly or else from inherent forces. Glance at Palestine. Where Jordan's river is the arbiter of boundaries, (behold) a vast waste, and a bereaved region, and bootless land! And once (there were there) cities, and flourishing peoples, and the soil yielded its fruits. [23] Afterwards, since God is a Judge, impiety earned showers of fire: Sodom's day is over, and Gomorrah is no more; and all is ashes; and the neighbour sea no less than the soil experiences a living death! Such a cloud overcast Etruria, burning down her ancient Volsinii, to teach Campania (all the more by the ereption of her Pompeii) to look expectantly upon her own mountains. But far be (the repetition of such catastrophes)! Would that Asia, withal, were by this time without cause for anxiety about the soil's voracity! Would, too, that Africa had once for all quailed before the devouring chasm, expiated by the treacherous absorption of one single camp! [24] Many other such detriments besides have made innovations upon the fashion of our orb, and moved (particular) spots (in it). Very great also has been the licence of wars. But it is no less irksome to recount sad details than (to recount) the vicissitudes of kingdoms, (and to show) how frequent have been their mutations, from Ninus the progeny of Belus, onwards; if indeed Ninus was the first to have a kingdom, as the ancient profane authorities assert. Beyond his time the pen is not wont (to travel), in general, among you (heathens). From the Assyrians, it may be, the histories of "recorded time" [25] begin to open. We, however, who are habitual readers of divine histories, are masters of the subject from the nativity of the universe [26] itself. But I prefer, at the present time, joyous details, inasmuch as things joyous withal are subject to mutation. In short, whatever the sea has washed away, the heaven burned down, the earth undermined, the sword shorn down, reappears at some other time by the turn of compensation. [27] For in primitive days not only was the earth, for the greater part of her circuit, empty and uninhabited; but if any particular race had seized upon any part, it existed for itself alone. And so, understanding at last that all things worshipped themselves, (the earth) consulted to weed and scrape her copiousness (of inhabitants), in one place densely packed, in another abandoning their posts; in order that thence (as it were from grafts and settings) peoples from peoples, cities from cities, might be planted throughout every region of her orb. [28] Transmigrations were made by the swarms of redundant races. The exuberance of the Scythians fertilizes the Persians; the Phoenicians gush out into Africa; the Phrygians give birth to the Romans; the seed of the Chaldeans is led out into Egypt; subsequently, when transferred thence, it becomes the Jewish race. [29] So, too, the posterity of Hercules, in like wise, proceed to occupy the Peloponnesus for the behoof of Temenus. So, again, the Ionian comrades of Neleus furnish Asia with new cities: so, again, the Corinthians with Archias, fortify Syracuse. But antiquity is by this time a vain thing (to refer to), when our own careers are before our eyes. How large a portion of our orb has the present age [30] reformed! how many cities has the triple power of our existing empire either produced, or else augmented, or else restored! While God favours so many Augusti unitedly, how many populations have been transferred to other localities! how many peoples reduced! how many orders restored to their ancient splendour! how many barbarians baffled! In truth, our orb is the admirably cultivated estate of this empire; every aconite of hostility eradicated; and the cactus and bramble of clandestinely crafty familiarity [31] wholly uptorn; and (the orb itself) delightsome beyond the orchard of Alcinoüs and the rosary of Midas. Praising, therefore, our orb in its mutations, why do you point the finger of scorn at a man?


[13] Mundus.

[14] See Adv. Herm., c. xxv. ad fin. (Oehler).

[15] As being "the ears of an ass."

[16] Mundus. Oehler's pointing is disregarded.

[17] Mundus. Oehler's pointing is disregarded.

[18] Mundus. Oehler's pointing is disregarded.

[19] Metatio nostra, i.e., the world.

[20] i.e., blind. Cf. Milton, P. L., iii. 35, with the preceding and subsequent context.

[21] Alluding to the Sibylline oracles, in which we read (l. iii.), Kai Samos ammos ese, kai Delos adelos and again (l. iv.), Delos ouk eti delos, adela de panta tou Delou (Oehler).

[22] See Apolog., c. xi. med.; ad Nat., l. i. c. ix. med.; Plato, Timæus, pp. 24, 25 (Oehler).

[23] Oehler's apt conjecture, "et solum sua dabat," is substituted for the unintelligible "et solus audiebat" of the mss., which Rig. skilfully but ineffectually tries to explain.

[24] The "camp" of Cambyses, said by Herod. (iii. 26) to have been swallowed up in the Libyan Syrtes (Salm. in Oehler). It was one detachment of his army. Milton tells similar tales of the "Serbonian bog." P.L., ii. 591-594.

[25] Ævi.

[26] Mundi.

[27] "Alias versura compensati redit;" unless we may read "reddit," and take "versura" as a nominative: "the turn of compensation at some other time restores."

[28] This rendering, which makes the earth the subject, appears to give at least an intelligible sense to this hopelessly corrupt passage. Oehler's pointing is disregarded; and his rendering not strictly adhered to, as being too forced. If for Oehler's conjectural "se demum intellegens" we might read "se debere demum intellegens," or simply "se debere intellegens," a good sense might be made, thus: "understanding at last" (or, simply, "understanding") "that it was her duty to cultivate all (parts of her surface)."

[29] Comp. Genesis 11:26xii. 5 with Acts 7:2-4, 15, 45, and xiii. 17-19.

[30] Sæculum.

[31] Oehler understands this of Clodius Albinus, and the Augusti mentioned above to be Severus and his two sons Antonius and Geta. But see Kaye, pp. 36-39 (ed. 3, 1845).

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