Firmicus Maternus

The Christian writer Firmicus Maternus, about the middle of the fourth century AD, addressed a tract to the Emperors Constantius and Constans, uring the eradication of paganism.

The Errors of the Pagan Religions

ch. IV

The Persians and all the Magi who inhabit the borderlands of Persia reverence the fire, and give to it the primary place among all the elements. These then regard the fire as possessed of a double energy, assigning its character, to each sex, and expounding the essential substance of the fire under the figure of a man and woman. The woman they represent with three faces and girded with huge snakes... while in the worship of the hero who drove off the bulls they transfer his rites to the cult of the fire, as his poet has recorded for us when he wrote:

Mystic priest of the captured bulls, skilful son of a noble sire.

To him they give the name Mithras, and celebrate his rites in secret caves, that shrouded in the dim obscurityof the darkness they may shun the touch of the pure and glorious light. Truly an ill-omened exaltation of a deity! a hateful recognition of a barbarian rite! to deify one whose criminal acts your confess. When you affirm therefore that in the temples the Magian rites are duly performed after the Persian ceremonial, why do you confine your approval to these Persian rites alone? If you think it not derogatory to the Roman name to adopt Persian cults and Persian laws.

The Errors of the Pagan Religions

ch. IV

The pass-word of a second mystery cult of foreign origin is the god from the rock. Why do you shame your profession by transferring this sacred and revered name to the heathen rites? Different indeed is the Stone which God in confirmation of his pledged word promissed to send to Jerusalem. Under the figure of the sacred stone the Christ is represented to us. Why this deceitful and dishonourable transference of a revered name to unclean superstitions?... As for the stone of their idolatrous worship of which they use the title "God from the rock" what prophetic utterance has told thereof? To whom has that stone brought healing and mercy?