The Address of Q. Sept. Tertullian, To Scapula Tertullus, Proconsul of Africa. Tr. by Sir David Dalrymple (1790)




















                         DAV. DALRYMPLE.


I Offer to the Public a Version of the Address of TERTULLIAN to SCAPULA.  The merit of the original is well known.  It contains many circumstances respecting the state of the Church soon after the commencement of the third century, and therefore may be reckoned among the valuable Remains of Christian Antiquity.

The traces of a wild imagination are not so discernable in the Address to SCAPULA, as in the other works of TERTULLIAN.  The topics which he uses, seem, in general, well chosen, and judiciously enforced.|vi

As the original is printed along with the version, the learned reader will have an opportunity of comparing them, and of detecting the errors which may have been committed in the attempt to render Tertullian into English.  The attempt, in itself, was difficult, and became more so by a fancy of mine, which, without pretending to justify it, I must communicate to my readers.

Whether William Duke of Normandy conquered England as a kingdom, or only acquired it as an inheritance, it is no part of my present business to inquire.  This much, however, is certain, that the Norman |vii conquest or acquisition had violent effects on the English language, for, at that aera, French words and phrases rushed in, and well  nigh overwhelmed the Anglo-Saxon dialect.

It occurred to me that, between Anglo-Saxon and Latin, a few pages might be composed without the aid of French auxiliaries, and this produced the following version, a version which, perhaps, loses more by the singularity of its style, than it gains by the grave and solemn air produced from the blending of old English and Latin.

For the better understanding of the sense of Tertullian, many Notes and Illustrations became necessary.  After |viii  I had availed myself of the aid of former commentators, I found that much, especially as to the historical part, remained without explanation.  The attempt made to supply this deficiency, is submitted to the candour of the reader.

While engaged in the drawing up of those Notes, I had occasion to remark some strange inaccuracies in the work of a celebrated Historian; and I have used the liberty of pointing them out.  Even  in the first volume of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and independently of the two famous chapters, there is a wide field for literary and historical criticism.






OF a truth, we Christians do not mightily fear or dread aught which we undergo from those who know us not; forasmuch as when we became of this sect, we thereby |2  bound ourselves to let out our very lives in the warfare belonging to it.  We look not only for the reward which God proffers, but we also fear his threatenings against those who live after another way.  Furthermore, we strive against your utmost cruelty, crowding uncalled before you, and happier on being found guilty than when we are dismissed; and, therefore, have we sent unto you this little book, not that we fear aught for ourselves or our well-wishers, but that we fear for you and for all our foes.

This is the rule of our faith, that we love those who hate us, and that we beseech God to bless those who afflict us; and herein lies that goodness which is peculiar to us.  All men love those who love them, Christians alone those who hate them.  We, who bewail your |3 want  to knowledge, who mourn over the wanderings of mankind, who foresee what will befal, and see daily its tokens, we must needs break forth, and, after this way, put in writing the things of which ye will not give us leave to speak before you.

We worship the One God, whom, by nature, ye all know, at whose lightnings and thunders ye all quake, whose loving-kindnesses gladden you all.  Others also there are whom ye believe to be gods, and whom we know to be daemons.  But it belongeth of right unto mankind, that every one may worship as he thinketh best; nor doth the religion of any man harm or help another.  Neither indeed is it the business of religion to compel religion, which ought to be taken up willingly, and not against the |4 will: a willing mind is looked for even from him who sacrificeth; and, therefore, should ye indeed compel us to sacrifice, that would do nought for your gods; of the unwilling they would not have sacrifice, unless they were wayward.  God is not so; and He, who is true, dealeth all things rightly unto the profane and unto his own; and, therefore, hath he set a day of doom everlasting for those whom he loveth, and for those whom he loveth not.

Ye think us sacrilegious, and yet ye have never found us to be guilty of theft, much less of sacrilege; while those who do plunder temples, do also swear by the gods and worship them.  Such men are not Christians, nevertheless they are found to be sacrilegious.  It would be too long for me to unfold |5 in how many other ways all your gods are scoffed at, and made light of by their worshippers themselves.

Again, we are branded with the name of men untrue to the State.  No Christian, however, was at any time found in fellowship with Albinus, or Niger, or Cassius; while the man who but yesterday, swore by the genius of the Caesars, who, for their health, made and became bound to make sacrifices, and who had often doomed the Christians to die, even they were found untrue to the Caesars.  Christians have no hatred or ill-will at any man, and least of all at Caesar; for knowing him to be set up by their God, they must needs love him, and shew him worship, and with his welfare, and the welfare of the Roman state, while the times which now are shall last, |6 and so long shall that state last: Thus do we give worship unto Caesar, so far and in such a way as is lawful for us and is fit for him, as a man nex to God, and having from God whatever he hath, and as only less than the true God.  This he himself ought to wish, for he is greater than all others, in that he is less than the one and the tue God.  So also is he greater than your gods, for he beareth sway over them.  Furthermore, we indeed sacrifice for the health of Caesar; but we do this unto our God and his, and after that way which He hath willed, by the invocating of him in the way of supplication only.  For He, the maker of the world, standeth in no need of any sweet smells, or of the blood of aught; these are the food of daemons.  As for daemons, we not only abhor them, but we overcome |7 and draw them forth daily, and we drive them out of men, as is known unto very many of yourselves.  We, of all others, most fitly beseech God for the health of Caesar, seeing that we ask of Him who can bestow it; and, in truth, it may be plain enough to you, that we behave ourselves after the rules of heaven-taught forbearance, since being so many, and reckoned nearly the most in every city, we nevertheless, live in stillness and moderation, better known, perhaps, singly than as a body, and no otherwise known at all, than as men who have laid aside their former sins.  But far be it from us, that we should repine at what we wish to bear, or that we should plot aught to seek that retaliation ourselves which we look for from God.  Nevertheless, as we have said already, we must needs mourn |8 for this, that no city which hath shed our blood shall be held guiltless.  Thus, while Hilarion was President, the multitude called out together, speaking of the threshing-floors where we bury our dead, "No threshing-floors;" and there were none, for the harvest was never brought in!  Moreover, in the rain of last year it was seen what ought to befall mankind, as in old times a flood came for the unbelief and evil deeds of men.  And what those fires threatened, which, not long ago, hung over the walls of Carthage throughout the night, they know who saw them; and the former thunder, what tidings it brought, they know whose hearts were thereby hardened.  All these are the tokens of the impending wrath of God, which it behoves us, in whatever way we can, |9 to set forth and foretel, and meanwhile to beseech Heaven that the evil may reach no farther; but they who misunderstand such tokens shall feel, in fit time, that it will reach over all, and be the great and the last evil. Again, the sun, with his light almost put out, in the district of Utica, was indeed portentous.  That could not have been owing to any eclipse, for he was then in his altitude and house.  Ye have astrologers, ask of them!

We might also lay before you the end of some Presidents, who, at last, came to know, that, in their afflicting of the Christians, they had sinned.  Vigilius Saturninus, foremost in this city amongst our persecutors, became blind; and, in Cappadocia, Claudius Herminianus, being angry that his wife had gone over to our sect, wrought much ill to the |10 Christians.  But, wasted by the plague, forsaken of his friends in his own house, and, while yet alive, swarming with worms, he thus spake: "Let no one know of this, lest the Christians be glad over me."  And then, having seen his transgression, in that by torture he had made some to fall off from the faith, he died almost a Christian; and Caecilius Capella, at the overthrow of Byzantium, called out, "Now, Christians, be glad."

SCAPULA, thou mayest think, that there are men of this kind, whom no evil hath hitherto overtaken.  Nevertheless we wish that thy sickness, which followed soon after Mavilus of Adrumentum was by thee doomed to fight with lions, may have been only a warning; yet now, when, in a like time, it hath come back, may not blood have put in its |11 claim?  Think, however, of what is to come. ---- We mean not to affright thee, whom we fear not.  My single wish is, that we Christians could shield all men from evil, by admonishing them, "not to war against God."  Thou mayest do the duties of thy station, and yet remember humanity, were it but for this, that thou also art under the rule of another; and what else hath Caesar prescribed unto thee, but that thou should'st doom to death those who acknowledge that, by the laws, they are worthy of death, and that thou should'st, through tortures, elicite a like acknowledgement from those who with-hold it?

So, by urging men to say what, of themselves, they have already said, ye set at nought the mandates of Caesar, and ye bear testimony that we are |12 guiltless, whom ye will not find guilty on our own acknowledgement. ---- In striving to overwhelm us, ye invade innocency itself.  But have not many Presidents, although more heard-hearted and bloody than you, connived at us?  Such was Cincius Severus, who at Tisdra did himself shew a way whereby the Christians might make answer, and yet go free: such also was Vespronius Candidus, who dismissed a Christian, saying, "Were I to yield to the call of the multitude, uproar might arise."  Thus, when a man having been slightly tortured, fell off from the faith, Asper did not require him to sacrifice; and he had said at first, "Sorry am I that such business should have fallen to my share."  Pudens too dismissed a Christian who had been sent to him; and understanding the |13 accusation to be spiteful and vexatious, he tore it, and professed that, by the mandates of Caesar, he could try no man without an accuser.

Thine advocates, SCAPULA, could, as is their bounden duty, suggest all this unto thee, those very advocates, who, however they may rail against us, are much beholden to the Christians; for the amanuensis of one, having been thrown headlong by a daemon, was freed, and, in like wise, others had a kinsman and a young lad healed; and how many are there of good station, for I speak not now of the vulgar, who by us have been either relieved from daemons, or healed of distempers?

Severus himself, the father of Antoninus, was mindful of us, for he sought out the Christian Proculus, (the steward |14 of Euhodus, and who by oil had formerly healed his master), and kept him while he lived in the Palace.  Antoninus, himself fostered by a Christian, knew Proculus well.  Besides, Severus was so far from harming the women and the men of high station whom he knew to be of our sect, that he spake in their praise, and he also staid the multitude when maddemed against us.

Moreover, Marcus Aurelius, while warring with the Germans, impetrated plentiful rain, in the great drought, through the supplications which the Christians of his host made unto God; and indeed at what time have not great droughts given way to our fastings and supplications?  Then the multitude shouted together, giving thanks unto "the God of gods, who alone is mighty." |15 And thus, by the appellation of Jupiter, did they bear witness unto our God.

Furthermore, we keep not back that which has been deposited in our hands, we violate no one's marriage-bed, we deal conscientiously with our wards, we help the needy, and we never retort evil for evil.  Let those who untruly give out that they are of our sect, look to themselves; we know them not.  In a word, who is there that hath aught to say against us, and when is a Christian called to answer at law, unless for his religion?  A religion which, after so long time and inquiry, no man hath evinced to be incestuous, or defiled with blood.  For behaviour thus harmless, and for such integrity, for righteousness, for modesty, for faithfulness, for truth, for the living God, are we burnt.  The |16 sacrilegious are not so dealt with, neither are outlaws, nor those, how many soever, who have been found false to the state.  Nay, at this very time, it is with the sword alone that the Presidents of Leon and of Mauritania persecute the Christians; and such, by the first mandates of Caesar, was the doom for delinquents of this kind.  But the more desperate the fight, the greater are the rewards "to him which overcometh;" and your bloody deeds work our glory.

Take heed, SCAPULA, lest we, who undergo such unutterable hardships, should all of us at once break forth and shew, that so far from dreading, we spontaneously call for tortures.  While Arrius Antoninus was zealously persecuting the Christians in Asia, they came uncalled, and in one body, before him. |17  Having doomed some few of them to death, he said uto the rest, "Wretches, if ye must needs die, have you not crags and halters!"  Should the Christians here act like those of Asia, what wouldst thou do to so many thousands, men and women, young and old, and of every station, yielding themselves up uncalled at thy tribunal!  How great fires and how many swords would then be needed, and what would Carthage herself, to be decimated by thee, then  undergo, when each one might recognise, in the croud, his kinsmen and his bosom-friends; when, perhaps, thou mightest see senators like thyself, and matrons, and men of the first repute, and the kinsmen and friends of thine own friends!  Wherefore, if thou wilt not spare us, spare thyself, and if not |18 thyself, spare Carthage, spare the whole Province, which, as soon as they meaning towards us was understood, became obnoxious to the insults of the soldiery, and each man in it to the malevolence of his foes.  We have no Lord but God alone; he is before thine eyes, neither can he be hid; but against him thou canst not do aught.  Moreover, they whom thou thinkest to be thy lords are men, and, at some time, they shall die; but this sect shall remain, reared into a more stately and stronger building by what you think will overthrow it.  For every one beholding such wonderful endurance, becomes perplext in his mind, and then is led eagerly to inquire what Christianity is; and on his finding out, he follows THE TRUTH.





Nos quidem neque expavescimus ... [Latin omitted]



P.1 l.3

SCAPULA TERTULLUS.  There is extant a rescript addressed by Marcus Antoninus, and his son Commodus, Scapulae Tertyllo Praesidi, l. 14. Dig. de officio Praesidis.  Every antiquary knows, that Tertullus and Tertyllus are different ways of spelling the same name.

Hence it appears that Scapula Tertullus was high in office towards the latter end of the reign of Marcus Antoninus.

Prosper Aquinas [Chronicon] places Tertullus and Clemens as Consuls in the third or fourth year of the Emperor Severus, and so also the Fasti Idatiani.  The Fasti Consulares Anonymi, published by |34 Cardinal Noris, bear A.U.C. 948.  A.C.N. 195. "Tertullo et Clemente Coss."  There is extant in Gruter, Inscript. p. 1027. N. 4. the delineation of a stone dug up at Ostia, which bears the following words: "P. Martio. Quir. Philippo, ---- tribuno fabrum navalium Portens.  Corpus fabrum navalium Ostiens. Quibus ex S.C. coire licet, Patrono optimo, P.P."  On the right side of this stone there is added, "Dedicata iii. Idus April. Scapula Tertullo et Tineio Clemente conss."  Pamelius ad Tertul. p. 68 (a) says, that this stone is preserved in the Farnese palace at Rome; and, to add one evidence more, mention is made of "Oratio  Severi Augusti, in Senatu recitata, Tertullo et Clemente Consulibus," l. 1. 1. Dig. de Rebus eorum qui sub tutela, &c.  The discourse was read in the Senate [in Senatu recitata]," by reason of the absence of the emperor |35 on his military expeditions.  And this, by the way, shews the great trust which he resposed in Scapula Tertullus.

In the treatise of Tertullian, now under consideration, we find Scapula Tertullus President, or, to speak with more accuracy, Proconsul of Africa.

One is naturally led to inquire for some further particulars of the history of a man who bore a high office under Marcus Antonius; who remained secure, if not distinguished, throughout the times of Commodus; who obtained the dignity of Consul from Severus in the early part of that reign; and who, even at its conclusion, held the government of Africa.  

There is a passage in Julius Capitolinus, which appears applicable to Scapula Tertullus.  The historian says, that Marcus Antonius was blamed for having promoted the paramours of his wife Faustina to various eminent offices.  |36 Tertullus stands first in the list of the persons of promoted.  I subjoin the passage, which contains many remarkable circumstances: "Crimini ei datum est quod adulteros uxoris promoverit, Tertullum, et Utilium, et Orphitum, et Moderatum, ad varios honores: quum Tertullum etiam prandentem cum uxore deprehenderit.  De quo mimus in scena, praesente Antonino, dixit, quum stupidus nomen adulteri uxories a fervo quaereret, et ille diceret ter Tullus, et adhuc stupidus quaereret, respondit, jam dixi ter Tullus  dicitur." Hist. Aug. Script. p. 34.  It seems unnecessary to give a translation of this chronique scandaleuse.

If we suppose Scapula Tertullus to have been a man of sixty-three or sixty-four when Tertullian addressed him, there will be no anachronism in the ranking him among the favourites of Faustina; and thus the passage in Julius Capitolinus, and l. 14. D. de |37 Officio Praesidis, already quoted, will serve to illustrate each other.

P.1. l. 9. 10

"When we became of this sect," [cm ad hanc sectam venerimus].  The followers of different philosophers were called "philosophorum sectae, familiae, disciplinae." In imitation of this, Tertullian applies the phrase, "haec secta," to the disciples of Christ; and,  presently after, he calls their institutions "disciplina."

P. 2. l. 1

"We thereby bound ourselves to let out our very lives in the warfare belonging to it." [ut etiam animas nostras auctorati in has pugnas accedamus].  This alludes to the practice of gladiators, who contracted to fight.  The version does not express the energy of the original: "To let out life," is an aukward and an ambiguous phrase; "we hire our lives," might sound better; but, in |38 modern English at least, "to hire," is "conducere," and not "locare."

P. 3. l. 17

"Neither indeed is it the business of religion to compel religion," [sed nec religionis est cogere religionem]. "Lest," Pamelius says, "any one should chance to pervert this passage, as if it meant to admit license to sects, it is proper to take notice of an opinion of the author, in the beginning of the treatise called Scorpiace, [or the Antidote], which is altogether contrary to such liberty."  ["Ne quis fort locum hunc detorqueat ad sectarum licentiam, adnotata venit auctoris sententia earundem libertati prorsus contraria," p. 69. edit. Rigalt.]

Licentia, in Latin, may signify the same thing as libertas; but, as it is generally used in a bad sense, it would have been expedient to repeat the word instead of varying it.  The varying of terms commonly |39 happens, when an author unintentionally puts the change on himself, or intentionally on his readers.

The Antidote prescribed by Pamelius is in these words: "It is fit that heretics be compelled to their duty, and not enticed; their obstinacy ought to be vanquished, not soothed;" ["ad officium haereticos compelli, non inlici dignum est; duritia vincenda est, non suadenda," p. 488.]

This expression appears harsh in language and sentiment.  But granting it to imply all that Pamelius imagines, it proves, at most, that "Tertullian contradicted himself."  Such a proposition cannot be found strange to any one who is so well acquainted with the works of that learned and capricious African, as to be able to write commentaries on them.

The words, taken in general, might also prove, that Tertullian, when heated |40 in controversy, spake a language different from that which he used in an address for the Christians at large to a Roman governor.

One might easily retort the observation of Pamelius thus: "Lest any one should chance to pervert this passage in Scorpiace, as if it meant to recommend intolerance, it is proper to take notice of an opinion of the author in the beginning of the treatise to Scapula, which is altogether contrary to such intolerance."

The truth is, that in the preface to Scorpiace, Tertullian speaks not of intolerance at all.  At that time, as is well known, the Christians of Africa were miserably divided on an important point, not of metaphysics, but of practice.  Some were of opinion, that persecution ought to be avoided; and perhaps they went |41 too far in the means which they used for the avoiding of it: Others again were of opinion, that it ought rather to be courted; and perhaps they too, in their honest zeal, went to the other extreme. The former were naturally led to depreciate martyrdom, or to employ expressions capable of being so interpreted.  The latter, while extolling martydom, grew lavish in the commendations of every martyr.

Tertullian espoused the opinions of the severer party, and undertook to confute its adversaries.  Full of confidence, probably brought by him from the bar into the church, he imagined that in every cause which he patronized, would be won.  Hence in the like triumphant style, he attacked the heresies of Marcion, and vindicated the extravagancies of Montanus and his followers.

Keeping this in view, we shall easily |42 perceive the meaning of the phrase, that "Heretics must be compelled to their duty," and of the other lofty expressions to which Pamelius alludes.  Tertullian made no doubt, that he should, by dint of argument, if a colloquial term may be used, subdue his antagonists, and lead them captives to  his system.

Indeed when the state of the Christian church in that age is considered, it seems unreasonable to suppose that Tertullian meant to speak of any thing else than the efficacy of his own arguments. The times had not yet arrived, when the Princes of the earth, by wholesome severites, "compelled heretics to their duty," and the State became an executioner for the Church.

P. 5. l. 7.

"Albinus."  An account of him, ascribed to Julius Capitolinus, is to be found in Hist. Aug. Script. Salmasius peremptorily ascribes it to Spartian; and Mr Gibbon |43 implicitly follows Salmasius, v. 1. p. 134. not. 17. "Spartianus," says he, "in his indigested collections, mixes up all the virtues and all the vices that enter into the human composition, and bestows them on the same object."

This criticism seems much too severe.  In the delineating of the manners of Albinus, the author, be he Julius Capitolinus, or be he Spartian, quotes the accounts given of him by Aelius Cordus, Marius Maximus, and by the Emperor Severus himself in his memoirs.  Those accounts are, no doubt, inconsistent; but what could an author do, who, living at a later period, had no knowledge of Albinus, other than what he learned from more early historians?  It is true, that he might have first formed an hypothesis, and then have selected whatever was favourable to the reputation of Albinus, or unfavourable, just as best suited his |44 purpose.  But this would have been to make history, not to write it.  Unacquainted with such refinements, the historian has set down every thing that he found related, either in praise or dispraise, of the unsuccessful usurper.

We moderns have one art, among others, which the ancients knew not: what we are unwilling to place in the text, we huddle into notes; and thus, without any disparagement to ourselves, we may either tell the same story in two different ways, or alternately assume a doubtful or a decisive tone.

Not meaning to be the historian of Albinus, I cannot stay to examine all the portraits which have been drawn of him.  [...more, to p.139....]

NB: The note headings of page and line number are centered in the original, and not bold or underlined.  I modified the online text for readability.  

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