The Celtic Literature Collective

Tertullian on Celts subjects

De Anima For instance, the Nasamones consult private oracles by frequent and lengthened visits to the sepulchres of their relatives, as one may find in Heraclides, or Nymphodorus, or Herodotus; and the Celts, for the game purpose, stay away all night at the tombs of their brave chieftains, as Nicander affirms.

Tertullian, De Anima. translated by Peter Holmes, D.D. 1869

Ad Nationes
Chapter XI.-The Absurd Cavil of the Ass'shead Disposed of.
In this matter we are (said to be) guilty not merely of forsaking the religion of the community, but of introducing a monstrous superstition; for some among you have dreamed that our god is an ass's head,-an absurdity which Cornelius Tacitus first suggested. In the fourth book of his histories, where he is treating of the Jewish war, he begins his description with the origin of that nation, and gives his own views respecting both the origin and the name of their religion. He relates that the Jews, in their migration in the desert, when suffering for want of water, escaped by following for guides some wild asses, which they supposed to be going in quest of water after pasture, and that on this account the image of one of these animals was worshipped by the Jews. From this, I suppose, it was presumed that we, too, from our close connection with the Jewish religion, have ours consecrated under the same emblematic form. The same Cornelius Tacitus, however,-who, to say the truth, is most loquacious in falsehood-forgetting his later statement, relates how Pompey the Great, after conquering the Jews and capturing Jerusalem, entered the temple, but found nothing in the shape of an image, though he examined the place carefully. Where, then, should their God have been found? Nowhere else, of course than in so memorable a temple which was carefully shut to all but the priests, and into which there could be no fear of a stranger entering. But what apology must I here offer for what I am going to say, when I have no other object at the moment than to make a passing remark or two in a general way which shall be equally applicable to yourselves? Suppose that our God, then, be an asinine person, will you at all events deny that you possess the same characteristics with ourselves in that matter? (Not their heads only, but) entire asses, are, to be sure, objects of adoration to you, along with their tutelar Epona; and all herds, and cattle, and beasts you consecrate, and their stables into the bargain! This, perhaps, is your grievance against us, that, when surrounded by cattle-worshippers of every kind we are simply devoted to asses!

Tertullian, Ad Nationes. translated by Peter Holmes, D.D.

Apologeticus Adversus Gentes pro Christianis
[A]nd so even to the Aegyptians the right has been allowed to indulge so vain a superstition as the consecration of birds and beasts, and to inflict capital punishment on any one who should kill a god of this kind. Every province also and state has its own god; as Syria has Atargatis, Arabia Dusares, the Norici have Belenus, Africa has Caelestis, Mauritania its own Princes. I have named, I believe, Roman provinces, and yet I have not mentioned Roman gods as being worshipped in them; for at Rome these gods are no more worshipped than those which throughout Italy itself also are created gods by municipal consecration; such as Delventinus, the god of the Casinienses, Visidianus of the Narnienses, Ancharia of the Aesculani, Nortia of the Volsinienses, Valentia of the Ocriculani, Hostia of the Sutrini, Juno of the Falisci, in honour of her father Curis, whence she received her cognomen. It is only we who are excluded from a right of possession in a religion of our own. We offend the Romans, and are not regarded as Romans, because we do not worship a god of the Romans. Well is it that He is the God of all, Whose we all are, whether we wish it or no. But with you a right exists to worship whatever you wish except the True God, as if He were not especially the God of all, Whose we all are.

Q. S. F. Tertulliani Apologeticus Adversus Gentes pro Christianis. Edited, with Introduction and Notes, by T. H. BINDLEY, M.A., Merton College, Oxford. (Clarendon Press.) 1890.

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