ridiculing pagan idols]... As teacher on this point, I shall produce to you
the Sibyl prophetess: "Not the oracular lie of Phoebus, Whom silly men called
God, and falsely termed Prophet; But the oracles of the great God, who was
not made by men's hands, Like dumb idols of Sculptured stone."
She also predicts the ruin of the temple, foretelling that that of the Ephesian
Artemis would be engulphed by earthquakes and rents in the ground, as follows:
"Prostrate on the ground Ephesus shall wail, weeping by the shore, And seeking
a temple that has no longer an inhabit ant."
She says also that the temple of Isis and Serapis would be demolished and
burned: "Isis, thrice-wretched goddess, thou shalt linger by the streams
of the Nile; Solitary, frenzied, silent, on the sands of Acheron."
Then she proceeds: "And thou, Serapis, covered with a heap of white stones,
Shalt lie a huge ruin in thrice-wretched Egypt."
But if you attend not to the prophetess, hear at least your own philosopher,
the Ephesian Heraclitus, upbraiding images with their senselessness: "And
to these images they pray, with the same result as if one were to talk to
the Walls of his house." For are they not to be wondered at who worship stones,
and place them before the doors, as if capable of activity? They worship
Hermes as a god, and place Aguieus as a doorkeeper. For if people upbraid
them with being devoid of sensation, why worship them as gods? And if they
are thought to be endowed with sensation, why place them before the door?
The Romans, who ascribed their greatest successes to Fortune, and regarded
her as a very great deity, took her statue to the privy, and erected it there,
assigning to the goddess as a fitting temple--the necessary. But senseless
wood and stone, and rich gold, care not a whir for either savoury odour,
or blood, or smoke, by which, being at once honoured and fumigated, they
are blackened; no more do they for honour or insult. And these images are
more worthless than any animal. I am at a loss to conceive how objects devoid
of sense were deified, and feel compelled to pity as miserable wretches those
that wander in the mazes of this folly: for if some living creatures have
not all the senses, as worms and caterpillars, and such as even from the
first appear imperfect, as moles and the shrew-mouse, which Nicander says
is blind and uncouth; yet are they superior to those utterly senseless idols
and images. For they have some one sense,--say, for example, hearing, or
touching, or something analogous to smell or taste; while images do not possess
even one sense. There are many creatures that have neither sight, nor hearing,
nor speech, such as the genus of oysters, which yet live and grow, and are
affected by the changes of the moon. But images, being motionless, inert,
and senseless, are bound, nailed, glued,--are melted, filed, sawed, polished,
carved. The senseless earth is dishonoured by the makers of images, who change
it by their art from its proper nature, and induce men to worship it; and
the makers of gods worship not gods and demons, but in my view earth and
art, which go to make up images. For, in sooth, the image is only dead matter
shaped by the craftsman's hand. But we have no sensible image of sensible
matter, but an image that is perceived by the mind alone,--God, who alone
is truly God.