I started translating Firmicus Maternus some months ago, in what feels like a different world. But it has sat on my desktop since, looking at me, and yesterday I did some more. It was painless, so I will probably carry on.
There is already a perfectly good English translation of this curious anti-pagan work from AD 350-ish. But of course it is not online. Is it worth my while translating stuff that already exists? We all know that offline publishing is doomed. One day it will come online. Is it worth me using up my life in a piece of work that will be futile?
But Firmicus Maternus is important, because of how he is used online. In the online wars, hate-filled atheists routinely sneer at the unwary “Jesus is merely Mithras repackaged” — or Attis, or Osiris, or Hercules, or whoever. Not that they know anything about pagan mythology; they just like the psychological cosh of producing a long list of supposed deities, which it would take a lot of effort to research. Indeed yesterday I saw listed, as a deity who lived, died and was resurrected, “pistis sophia”! Yes, really I did — that relatively well-known gnostic text being proclaimed with the utmost confidence as a pagan deity.
People need access to Firmicus. So… I’ll probably persist.