Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Arnobius/Adversus Gentes/Book III/Chapter XL

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40. Nigidius taught that the dii Penates were Neptune and Apollo, who once, on fixed terms, girt Ilium[1] with walls. He himself again, in his sixteenth book, following Etruscan teaching, shows that there are four kinds of Penates; and that one of these pertains to Jupiter, another to Neptune, the third to the shades below, the fourth to mortal men, making some unintelligible assertion. Cæsius himself, also, following this teaching, thinks that they are Fortune, and Ceres, the genius Jovialis,[2] and Pales, but not the female deity commonly received,[3] but some male attendant and steward of Jupiter. Varro thinks that they are the gods of whom we speak who are within, and in the inmost recesses of heaven, and that neither their number nor names are known. The Etruscans say that these are the Consentes and Complices,[4] and name them because they rise and fall together, six of them being male, and as many female, with unknown names and pitiless dispositions,[5] but they are considered the counsellors and princes of Jove supreme. There were some, too, who said that Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva were the dii Penates, without whom we cannot live and be wise, and by whom we are ruled within in reason, passion, and thought. As you see, even here, too, nothing is said harmoniously, nothing is settled with the consent of all, nor is there anything reliable on which the mind can take its stand, drawing by conjecture very near to the truth. For their opinions are so doubtful, and one supposition so discredited[6] by another, that there is either no truth in them all, or if it is uttered by any, it is not recognised amid so many different statements.


  1. The ms. reads immortalium, corrected in the edd. urbem Ilium.
  2. Supposed to be either the genius attending Jupiter; the family god as sent by him; or the chief among the genii, sometimes mentioned simply as Genius.
  3. Lit., “whom the commonalty receives.”
  4. Consentes (those who are together, or agree together, i.e., councillors) and Complices (confederate, or agreeing) are said by some to be the twelve gods who composed the great council of heaven; and, in accordance with this, the words una oriantur et occidant una might be translated “rise and sit down together,” i.e., at the council table. But then, the names and number of these are known; while Arnobius says, immediately after, that the names of the dii Consentes are not known and has already quoted Varro, to the effect that neither names nor number are known. Schelling (über die Gotth. v. Samothr , quoted by Orelli) adopts the reading (see following note), “of whom very little mention is made,” i.e., in prayers or rites, because they are merely Jove’s councillors, and exercise no power over men, and identifies them with the Samothracian Cabiri—Κάβειροι and Consentes being merely Greek and Latin renderings of the name.
  5. So the ms. and all edd. reading miserationis parcissimæ, except Gelenius, who reads nationis barbarissimæ—“of a most barbarous nation;” while Ursinus suggested memorationis parc.—“of whom very little mention is made,”—the reading approved by Schelling.
  6. Lit., “shaken to its foundations.”