shrines, the)- made no lMlilin bodily form for them, convinced Uul n was impious to liken higher things (<■■ lower, and that ¡1 was impossible to apprehend Deity except by the intellect Plularch, like Clemenl, cred ited Pythagor as j the i n rl llc iice l >n Nun 1a but, unl ike t lie ment, ml id nothing about Numa's being "aided by che precepts of Moses."
rertultian also knows and cites this presumption of ancient Roman aniconism during the time of King Numa. In the middle of an espee i,iLly vitriolic on the various Roman gods and religions or his day, he refutes 1 Hl- argument lhat Roman religion contributed significantly to Roman prosperity and greatness. Even during the time of Numa, he says4 religion was vain superstition, although ,li least "tioi vl'I a matter nf temples and images." This older Home was "frugal" and its'' 1 □ Lt.-were simple," with no fancy capitals or altars. The Greeks and Etruscans had noi yel flooded ibL- city with (he '^products or their art,"1 Whereas Clement y-.r.^ forward Moses .s-. ilie source of ancient contempt for Idols, conseq u ently align ing philosophy w ith ,111 ciet 11 \ lebrew 1 each i ngs, Tertullian proposes that Christians l- inherited and maintain ancient Roman religious values and thus are more faithful than their idol worshiping neighbors to ^h<-ir own tradition-
This Ir.khliuTial attribution ■> I anicortk ivo i ih 11 ■ M the original Romans continues through ihe fourth and into the fifth century c.e. In Augustine's < iiy of Gcni, ttie legend is attributed to first century p.c.e philosopher and antiquarian V.mtu. According in Augustine, Varro maintained that thc ancicnt Roma is worshiped the gods tor a hundred mvl seventy years without making any images of them, .liuI 11■.11 "if thai habit bad been unntlnued, the worship at would have been conducted with greatei purity." Augustine also says that Varro credit-, i". Jewish aniconi.. tradition as evidence for ilii-. assertion, adding that Varrn lielieved that divine images ultimately led to disrespect tor religion an-,1 that ""those who first set u;- images nt the gods for I be people were responsible for the abolition of rcverenl fear in thci: communities and for the increase of error" because "it was l-.isv to despise the sods because of the insensibility of their images '"
I mi 111l'i on In his encyclopedic tome, however, Augustine cites Varro again as his source but fudges him more negatively, f- r.ee Varro also maintained that when the images nf the i^ods finally were invented, they fashioned in such a way that "those who had been initiated nto the mysteries" could their eyes upon them and "thus apprehend wiih their nunds lIll- trut gods, namely the N illL of the World and il- manifestations/ hurthermore, according to Varro, the human form was cho-iei liji munj uf these slatuti because "ihe human body riost nearly resembles I lie Immortal Spirit,' And, while Augustine acknowledges that the development nf cull images in human form recognized \(mt-thingoftbe constitutive nature of tiod (since the human spirit mosi nearly resembles lhe Immortal Spirit and is contained in the vessel nl ii human hod) . lie alsn disapproves. Ek1 accuses Varro nf losing ilu-insight that had enabled him In see that Romans in the remote past had H'< >ffc w< I pii rer worsh i p, w i r I-.m i i i i m , y s."* ■
While contemporary historians hold different \ oil the question oi Roman aniconism, many argue thai the earliest Roman cult, ("mm 111lb lime of Nuttia to the ascendantj nf llu El Tuscan kings (ahmjt a hundred and seventy years was indeed an imagcless onc,v' Whatever l11hislorical :ruth of the matter, the fact that Christian theologians were able to claim .ml ancient Roman tradition of imageless worship gave them some leverage wiih iliL-i: li ui^. who regarded theit rejection of images as an indication that they were atheists without traditional values \ccordingtoC hristian writers, although ihe Romans eventually lost theii original pm ity of worship, some among them continued lo have an aversion to divine images and subscribed l^ .i Platonic repudiation of .miotic imitation, Aristntelli lateriali.sm, and Stoic monotheism. In ihe first century e.c.i, for example, licero had rid culed the i-.Hl-.i th;M gods have forms that could be fashioned by art and especially chided Epicureans for deeming such images and their gi I > worthy (tl wiip :i i i>:
We have an idea of god implanted in nm mind£> you say,. Yes, and an idea (if Jupiter with a beard, and Minerva in a helmet: but do you therefore believe that those deities are really like that? The tin Earned multitude h surely wiser here— they assign to god not only a man's limbs. For they give him bow, arrows, spear, ¿Meld, trident, thunderbolt: and if they cannot set- what actions the gods perform: yet they cannot conceive of god as entirely inactive . . - but your gods [Epicureans9] not only do no service that you can point U>, but tfeey don't do anything at all. "Godf I Epicurus] says»"1 is free from trouble." Obviously Epicurus thinks a;; spoilt cliildrcn 6ot that idleness i$ tile best thing there is.
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