Homer, An Incitement to Vice

Augustine, Confessions 1.16:

“But woe to you, river of human morality! Who will resist you? For how long will you not run dry? How far will you churn the sons of Eve out into that great and dreadful sea, which is difficult to cross even in a boat? Was it not in you that I read of Jupiter thundering and adulterating? Surely he could not do both of these things, but it is done up in such a way that he has the power to imitate real adultery, while false thunder plays the pimp. Who among our travelling teachers could hear, with a steady ear, a man shouting and declaiming right in front of him, ‘Homer used to depict these things and transfer human qualities to the gods; I wish that he had transferred divine qualities to us’? But it is more truly stated that while he was depicting these things, it was by attributing divine qualities to wicked men, so that their crimes would not be considered crimes, and so that whoever did commit those crimes would seem to have imitated not ruined men, but rather, the celestial gods.”

Ottaviano Nelli, St. Augustine Arriving in Carthage

sed vae tibi, flumen moris humani! quis resistet tibi? quamdiu non siccaberis? quousque volves Evae filios in mare magnum et formidulosum, quod vix transeunt qui lignum conscenderint? nonne ego in te legi et tonantem Iovem et adulterantem? et utique non posset haec duo, sed actum est ut haberet auctoritatem ad imitandum verum adulterium lenocinante falso tonitru. quis autem paenulatorum magistrorum audit aure sobria ex eodem pulvere hominem clamantem et dicentem: ‘fingebat haec Homerus et humana ad deos transferebat: divina mallem ad nos’? sed verius dicitur quod fingebat haec quidem ille, sed hominibus flagitiosis divina tribuendo, ne flagitia flagitia putarentur et ut, quisquis ea fecisset, non homines perditos sed caelestes deos videretur imitatus.

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