MINUCIUS FELIX


Very little is known about the Christian author Minucius Felix. In his work "Octavius" the conversation is recorded between two Christian converts, Octavius and Minucius, and the pagan lawyer Caecilius. The conversation takes place on the beach of Ostia, and a stroll through Ostia to the beach is described. The dialogue was probably written in the early third century. The text is discussed in detail by Meiggs (Roman Ostia, 490-492).


II. Nam negotii et visendi mei gratia Romam contenderat, relicta domo, coniuge, liberis, et -- quod est in liberis amabilius -- adhuc annis innocentibus et adhuc dimidiata verba temptantibus, loquellam ipso offensantis linguae fragmine dulciorem. Quo in adventu eius non possum exprimere sermonibus, quanto quamque inpatienti gaudio exultaverim, cum augeret maxime laetitiam meam amicissimi hominis inopinata praesentia. Igitur post unum et alterum diem, cum iam et aviditatem desiderii frequens adsiduitatis usus implesset et quae per absentiam mutuam de nobis nesciebamus, relatione alterna comperissemus, placuit Ostiam petere, amoenissimam civitatem, quod esset corpori meo siccandis umoribus de marinis lavacris blanda et adposita curatio: sane et ad vindemiam feriae iudiciariam curam relaxaverant. Nam id temporis post aestivam diem in temperiem semet autumnitas dirigebat. Itaque cum diluculo ad mare inambulando litori pergeremus, ut et aura adspirans leniter membra vegetaret et cum eximia voluptate molli vestigio cedens harena subsideret, Caecilius simulacro Serapidis denotato, ut vulgus superstitiosus solet, manum ori admovens osculu, labiis pressit. II. For the sake of business and of visiting me, Octavius had hastened to Rome, having left his home, his wife, his children, and that which is most attractive in children, while yet their innocent years are attempting only half-uttered words, a language all the sweeter for the very imperfection of the faltering tongue. And at this his arrival I cannot express in words with how great and with how impatient a joy I exulted, since the unexpected presence of a man so very dear to me greatly enhanced my gladness. Therefore, after one or two days, when the frequent enjoyment of our continual association had satisfied the craving of affection, and when we had ascertained by mutual narrative all that we were ignorant of about one another by reason of our separation, we agreed to go to that very pleasant city Ostia, that my body might have a soothing and appropriate remedy for drying its humours from the marine bathing, especially as the holidays of the courts at the vintage-time had released me from my cares. For at that time, after the summer days, the autumn season was tending to a milder temperature. And thus, when in the early morning we were going towards the sea along the shore (of the Tiber), that both the breathing air might gently refresh our limbs, and that the yielding sand might sink down under our easy footsteps with excessive pleasure, Caecilius, observing an image of Serapis, raised his hand to his mouth, as is the custom of the superstitious common people, and pressed a kiss on it with his lips.
III. Tunc Octavius ait: "Non boni viri est, Marce frater, hominem domi forisque lateri tuo inhaerentem sic in hac inperitiae vulgaris caecitate deserere, ut tam luculento die in lapides eum patiaris inpingere, effigiatos sane et unctos et coronatos, cum scias huius erroris non minorem ad te quam ad ipsum infamiam redundare." Cum hoc sermone eius medium spatium civitatis emensi iam liberum litus tenebamus. Ibi harenas extimas, velut sterneret ambulacro, perfundens lenis unda tendebat: et, ut semper mare etiam positis flatibus inquietum est, etsi non canis spumosisque fluctibus exibat ad terram, tamen crispis tortuosisque ibidem erroribus delectati perquam sumus, cum in ipso aequoris limine plantas tingueremus, quod vicissim nunc adpulsum nostris pedibus adluderet fluctus, nunc relabens ac vestigia retrahens in sese resorberet. Sensim itaque tranquilleque progressi oram curvi molliter litoris iter fabulis fallentibus legebamus. Haec fabulae erant Octavi disserentis de navigatione narratio. Sed ubi eundi spatium satis iustum cum sermone consumpsimus, eandem emensi viam rursus versis vestigiis terebamus, et cum ad id loci ventum est, ubi subductae naviculae substratis roboribus a terrena labe suspensae quiescebant, pueros videmus certatim gestientes testarum in mare iaculationibus ludere. Is lusus est testam teretem iactatione fluctuum levigatam legere de litore, eam testam plano situ digitis comprehensam inclinem ipsum atque humilem quantum potest super undas inrotare, ut illud iaculum vel dorsum maris raderet enataret, dum leni impetu labitur, vel summis fluctibus tonsis emicaret emergeret, dum adsiduo saltu sublevatur. Is se in pueris victorem ferebat, cuius testa et procurreret longius et frequentius exsiliret. III. Then Octavius said: "It is not the part of a good man, my brother Marcus, so to desert a man who abides by your side at home and abroad, in this blindness of vulgar ignorance, as that you should suffer him in such broad daylight as this to give himself up to stones, however they may be carved into images, anointed and crowned; since you know that the disgrace of this his error redounds in no less degree to your discredit than to his own." With this discourse of his we passed over the distance between the city and the sea, and we were now walking on the broad and open shore There the gently rippling wave was smoothing the outside sands as if it would level them for a promenade; and as the sea is always restless, even when the winds are lulled, it came up on the shore, although not with waves crested and foaming, yet with waves crisped and cuffing. Just then we were excessively delighted at its vagaries, as on the very threshold of the water we were wetting the soles of our feet, and it now by turns approaching broke upon our feet, and now the wave retiring and retracing its course, sucked itself back into itself. And thus, slowly and quietly going along, we tracked the coast of the gently bending shore, beguiling the way with stories. These stories were related by Octavius, who was discoursing on navigation. But when we had occupied a sufficiently reasonable time of our walk with discourse, retracing the same way again, we trod the path with reverted footsteps. And when we came to that place where the little ships, drawn up on an oaken framework, were lying at rest supported above the (risk of) ground-rot, we saw some boys eagerly gesticulating as they played at throwing shells into the sea. This play is: To choose a shell from the shore, rubbed and made smooth by the tossing of the waves; to take hold of the shell in a horizontal position with the fingers; to whiff it along sloping and as low down as possible upon the waves, that when thrown it may either skim the back of the wave, or may swim as it glides along with a smooth impulse, or may spring up as it cleaves the top of the waves, and rise as if lifted up with repeated springs. That boy claimed to be conqueror whose shell both went out furthest, and leaped up most frequently.
IV. Igitur cum omnes hac spectaculi voluptate caperemur, Caecilius nihil intendere neque de contentione ridere, sed tacens, anxius, segregatus dolere nescio quid vultu fatebatur. Cui ego: "Quid hoc est rei? cur non agnosco, Caecili, alacritatem tuam illam et illam oculorum etiam in seriis hilaritatem requiro?" Tum ille: "Iam dudum me Octavi nostri acriter angit et remordet oratio, qua in te invectus obiurgavit neglegentiae, ut me dissimulanter gravius argueret inscientiae. Itaque progrediar ulterius: de toto integro mihi cum Octavio res est. Si placet, ut ipsius sectae homo cum eo disputem, iam profecto intelleget facilius esse in contubernalibus disputare quam conserere sapientiam. Modo in istis ad tutelam balnearum iactis et in altum procurrentibus petrarum obicibus residamus, ut et requiescere de itinere possimus et intentius disputare." Et cum dicto eius adsedimus, ita ut me ex tribus medium lateris ambitione protegerent: nec hoc obsequi fuit aut ordinis aut honoris, quippe cum amicitia pares semper aut accipiat aut faciat, sed ut arbiter et utrisque proximus aures darem et disceptantes duos medius segregarem. IV. And thus, while we were all engaged in the enjoyment of this spectacle, Caecilius was paying no attention, nor laughing at the contest; but silent, uneasy, standing apart, confessed by his countenance that he was grieving for I knew not what. To whom I said: "What is the matter? Wherefore do I not recognise, Caecilius, your usual liveliness? And why do I seek vainly for that joyousness which is characteristic of your glances even in serious matters?" Then said he: "For some time our friend Octavius' speech has bitterly vexed and worried me, in which he, attacking you, reproached you with negligence, that he might under cover of that charge more seriously condemn me for ignorance. Therefore I shall proceed further: the matter is now wholly and entirely between me and Octavius. If he is willing that I, a man of that form of opinion, should argue with him, he will now at once perceive that it is easier to hold an argument among his comrades, than to engage in close conflict after the manner of the philosophers. Let us be seated on those rocky barriers that are cast there for the protection of the baths, and that run far out into the deep, that we may be able both to rest after our journey, and to argue with more attention." And at his word we sat down, so that, by covering me on either side, they sheltered me in the midst of the three. Nor was this a matter of observance, or of rank, or of honour, because friendship always either receives or makes equals; but that, as an arbitrator, and being near to both, I might give my attention, and being in the middle, I might separate the two.