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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters of St. Augustine > Letter 50

Letter 50 (A.D. 399)

To the Magistrates and Leading Men, or Elders, of the Colony of Suffectum, Bishop Augustine Sends Greeting.

Earth reels and heaven trembles at the report of the enormous crime and unprecedented cruelty which has made your streets and temples run red with blood, and ring with the shouts of murderers. You have buried the laws of Rome in a dishonoured grave, and trampled in scorn the reverence due to equitable enactments. The authority of emperors you neither respect nor fear. In your city there has been shed the innocent blood of sixty of our brethren; and whoever approved himself most active in the massacre, was rewarded with your applause, and with a high place in your Council. Come now, let us arrive at the chief pretext for this outrage. If you say that Hercules belonged to you, by all means we will make good your loss: we have metals at hand, and there is no lack of stone; nay, we have several varieties of marble, and a host of artisans. Fear not, your god is in the hands of his makers, and shall be with all diligence hewn out and polished and ornamented. We will give in addition some red ochre, to make him blush in such a way as may well harmonize with your devotions. Or if you say that the Hercules must be of your own making, we will raise a subscription in pennies, and buy a god from a workman of your own for you. Only do you at the same time make restitution to us; and as your god Hercules is given back to you, let the lives of the many men whom your violence has destroyed be given back to us.

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Source. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102050.htm>.

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