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Chapter VIII. 585 —The Calumny Against the Christians Illustrated in the Discovery of Psammetichus. Refutation of the Story.

We are indeed said to be the “third race” of men. What, a dog-faced race? 586 Or broadly shadow-footed? 587 Or some subterranean 588 Antipodes? If you attach any meaning to these names, pray tell us what are the first and the second race, that so we may know something of this “third.”  Psammetichus thought that he had hit upon the ingenious discovery of the primeval man. He is said to have removed certain new-born infants from all human intercourse, and to have entrusted them to a nurse, whom he had previously deprived of her tongue, in order that, being completely exiled from all sound of the human voice, they might form their speech without hearing it; and thus, deriving it from themselves alone, might indicate what that first nation was whose speech was dictated by nature. Their first utterance was Bekkos, a word which means “bread” in the language of Phrygia: the Phrygians, therefore, are supposed to be the first of the human race. 589 But it will not be out of place if we make one observation, with a view to show how your faith abandons itself more to vanities than to verities. p. 117 Can it be, then, at all credible that the nurse retained her life, after the loss of so important a member, the very organ of the breath of life, 590 —cut out, too, from the very root, with her throat 591 mutilated, which cannot be wounded even on the outside without danger, and the putrid gore flowing back to the chest, and deprived for so long a time of her food? Come, even suppose that by the remedies of a Philomela she retained her life, in the way supposed by wisest persons, who account for the dumbness not by cutting out the tongue, but from the blush of shame; if on such a supposition she lived, she would still be able to blurt out some dull sound. And a shrill inarticulate noise from opening the mouth only, without any modulation of the lips, might be forced from the mere throat, though there were no tongue to help. This, it is probable, the infants readily imitated, and the more so because it was the only sound; only they did it a little more neatly, as they had tongues; 592 and then they attached to it a definite signification. Granted, then, that the Phrygians were the earliest race, it does not follow that the Christians are the third. For how many other nations come regularly after the Phrygians? Take care, however, lest those whom you call the third race should obtain the first rank, since there is no nation indeed which is not Christian. Whatever nation, therefore, was the first, is nevertheless Christian now. 593 It is ridiculous folly which makes you say we are the latest race, and then specifically call us the third. But it is in respect of our religion, 594 not of our nation, that we are supposed to be the third; the series being the Romans, the Jews, and the Christians after them. Where, then, are the Greeks? or if they are reckoned amongst the Romans in regard to their superstition (since it was from Greece that Rome borrowed even her gods), where at least are the Egyptians, since these have, so far as I know, a mysterious religion peculiar to themselves? Now, if they who belong to the third race are so monstrous, what must they be supposed to be who preceded them in the first and the second place?



Compare The Apology, c. viii.


Cynopæ. This class would furnish the unnatural “teeth,” and “jaws,” just referred to.


Sciapodes with broad feet producing a large shade; suited for the “incestuous lust” above mentioned.


Literally, “which come up from under ground.”


Tertullian got this story from Herodotus, ii. 2.


Ipsius animæ organo.




Utpote linguatuli.


This is one of the passages which incidentally show how widely spread was Christianity.


De Superstitione.

Next: The Christians are Not the Cause of Public Calamities: There Were Such Troubles Before Christianity.