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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter XXXI.—Argument:  The Charge of Our Entertainments Being Polluted with Incest, is Entirely Opposed to All Probability, While It is Plain that Gentiles are Actually Guilty of Incest.  The Banquets of Christians are Not Only Modest, But Temperate.  In Fact, Incestuous Lust is So Unheard Of, that with Many Even the Modest Association of the Sexes Gives Rise to a Blush.

“And of the incestuous banqueting, the plotting of demons has falsely devised an enormous fable against us, to stain the glory of our modesty, by the loathing excited by an outrageous infamy, that before inquiring into the truth it might turn men away from us by the terror of an abominable charge.  It was thus your own Fronto18181818    [Fronto is called “our Cirtensian” in cap. ix. supra; and this suggests that the Octavius was probably written in Cirta, circaa.d. 210.  See supra, p. 178.] acted in this respect:  he did not produce testimony, as one who alleged a charge, but he scattered reproaches as a rhetorician.  For these things have rather originated from your own nations.  Among the Persians, a promiscuous association between sons and mothers is allowed.  Marriages with sisters are legitimate among the Egyptians and in Athens.  Your records and your tragedies, which you both read and hear with pleasure, glory in incests:  thus also you worship incestuous gods, who have intercourse with mothers, with daughters, with sisters.  With reason, therefore, is incest frequently detected among you, and is continually permitted.  Miserable men, you may even, without knowing it, rush into what is unlawful:  since you scatter your lusts promiscuously, since you everywhere beget children, since you frequently expose even those who are born at home to the mercy of others, it is inevitable that you must come back to your own children, and stray to your own offspring.  Thus you continue the story of incest, even although you have no consciousness of your crime.  But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all.  We practise sharing in banquets, which are not only modest, but also sober:  for we do not indulge in entertainments nor prolong our feasts with wine; but we temper our joyousness with gravity, with chaste discourse, and with body even more chaste (divers of us unviolated) enjoy rather than make a boast of a perpetual virginity of a body.  So far, in fact, are they from indulging in incestuous desire, that with some even the (idea of a) modest intercourse of the sexes causes a blush.  Neither do we at once stand on the level of the lowest of the people, if we refuse your honours and purple robes; and we are not fastidious, if we all have a discernment of one good, but are assembled together with the same quietness with which we live as individuals; and we are not garrulous in corners, although you either blush or are afraid to hear us in public.  And that day by day the number of us is increased, is not a ground for a charge of error, but is a testimony which claims praise; for, in a fair mode of life, our actual number both continues and abides undiminished, and strangers increase it.  Thus, in short, we do not distinguish our people by some small bodily mark, as you suppose, but easily enough by the sign of innocency and modesty.  Thus we love one another, to your regret, with a mutual love, because we do not know how to hate.  Thus we call one another, to your envy, brethren:  as being men born of one God and Parent, and companions in faith, and as fellow-heirs in hope.  You, however, do not recognise one another, and you are cruel in your mutual hatreds; nor do you acknowledge one another as brethren, unless indeed for the purpose of fratricide.


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