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ANF03. Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian
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Chapter XVIII.732732    Comp., The Apology, c. 50 [p. 54, infra.]—Christians Charged with an Obstinate Contempt of Death.  Instances of the Same are Found Amongst the Heathen.

The rest of your charge of obstinacy against us you sum up in this indictment, that we boldly refuse neither your swords, nor your crosses, nor your wild beasts, nor fire, nor tortures, such is our obduracy and contempt of death. But (you are inconsistent in your charges); for in former times amongst your own ancestors all these terrors have come in men’s intrepidity733733    A virtute didicerunt. not only to be despised, but even to be held in great praise. How many swords there were, and what brave men were willing to suffer by them, it were irksome to enumerate.734734    With the “piget prosequi” to govern the preceding oblique clause, it is unnecessary to suppose (with Oehler) the omission here of some verb like “erogavit.” (If we take the torture) of the cross, of which so many instances have occurred, exquisite in cruelty, your own Regulus readily initiated the suffering which up to his day was without a precedent;735735    Novitatem…dedicavit. a queen of Egypt used wild beasts of her own (to accomplish her death);736736    Tertullian refers to Cleopatra’s death also in his tract ad Mart. c. iv. [See this Vol. infra.] the Carthaginian woman, who in the last extremity of her country was more courageous than her husband Asdrubal,737737    This case is again referred to in this treatise (p. 138), and in ad Mart c. iv. [See this Volume, infra.] only followed the example, set long before by Dido herself, of going through fire to her death. Then, again, a woman of Athens defied the tyrant, exhausted his tortures, and at last, lest her person and sex might succumb through weakness, she bit off her tongue and spat out of her mouth the only possible instrument of a confession which was now out of her power.738738    Eradicatæ confessionis. [See p. 55, supra.] But in your own instance you account such deeds glorious, in ours obstinate.  Annihilate now the glory of your ancestors, in order that you may thereby annihilate us also. Be content from henceforth to repeal the praises of your forefathers, in order that you may not have to accord commendation to us for the same (sufferings). Perhaps (you will say) the character of a more robust age may have rendered the spirits of antiquity more enduring. Now, however, (we enjoy) the blessing of quietness and peace; so that the minds and dispositions of men (should be) more tolerant even towards strangers. Well, you rejoin, be it so: you may compare yourselves with the ancients; we must needs pursue with hatred all that we find in you offensive to ourselves, because it does not obtain currency739739    Non invenitur. among us. Answer me, then, on each particular case by itself. I am not seeking for examples on a uniform scale.740740    Eadem voce. Since, forsooth, the sword through their contempt of death produced stories of heroism amongst your ancestors, it is not, of course,741741    Utique. The ironical tone of Tertullian’s answer is evident. from love of life that you go to the trainers sword in hand and offer yourselves as gladiators,742742    Gladio ad lanistas auctoratis. (nor) through fear of death do you enrol your names in the army.743743    We follow Oehler in giving the clause this negative turn; he renders it: “Tretet nicht aus Furcht vor dem Tode ins Kriegsheer ein.” Since an ordinary744744    Alicui. woman makes her death famous by wild beasts, it cannot but be of your own pure accord that you encounter wild beasts day after day in the midst of peaceful times. Although no longer any Regulus among you has raised a cross as the instrument of his own crucifixion, yet a contempt of the fire has even now displayed itself,745745    Jam evasit. since one of yourselves very lately has offered for a wager746746    Auctoravit. to go to any place which may be fixed upon and put on the burning shirt.747747    Vestiendum incendiale tunica. If a woman once defiantly danced beneath the scourge, the same feat has been very recently performed again by one of your own (circus-) hunters748748    Inter venatorios: “venatores circi” (Oehler). as he traversed the appointed course, not to mention the famous sufferings of the Spartans.749749    “Doubtless the stripes which the Spartans endured with such firmness, aggravated by the presence of their nearest relatives, who encouraged them, conferred honour upon their family.”—Apology, c. 50. [See p. 55, supra.]


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