Following my last post, I find that the Life of Porphyry of Gaza, by Mark the Deacon, is online. Mango states (p.56):
At Gaza there stood in the center of town a nude statue of Aphrodite which was the object of great veneration, especially on the part of women. When, in 402, Bishop Porphyry, surrounded by Christians bearing crosses, approached this statue, “the demon who inhabited the statue, being unable to contemplate the terrible sign, departed from the marble with great tumult, and, as he did so, he threw the statue down and broke it into many pieces.” We may doubt that the collapse of the statue was altogether spontaneous.
The text is here and reads (slightly modernised):
59. But when we came into the city, in the place that is called the Four Ways, there was a statue of marble which they said was a statue of Aphrodite; and it was upon a base of stone, and the form of the statue was of a woman, naked, and having all her shame uncovered. And all they of the city did honour to the statue, especially the women, kindling lamps and burning incense. For they reported concerning it that it gave answers in dreams unto those who wished to make trial of marriage, but they deceived each other, speaking falsely. And often, being bidden by the demon to make a contract of marriage, they were so unfortunate that they ended up in divorce, or lived together in an evil way. These things we learned from those who turned aside from error and acknowledged the truth.
60. But some of the idolaters also, being unable to bear the calamity of the grievous marriages to which they had been led by the bidding of the demon of Aphrodite, were indignant and confessed the deceit. For that is what the demons do: deceive and say nothing at all that is true; for it is not in them to know for sure, but by guesses they delude and win over the people who are enslaved to them. For how can they speak truly who are fallen away from the truth? Even if they happen to prophesy something correctly, it is by chance that this happens, even as among men it often happens that one foretells concerning a matter and by chance it happens. When therefore they foretell the event correctly by accident, seeing that this is only seldom, we marvel; but though they continually get it wrong, of this we are silent. Thus much concerning demons and their error.
61. Now when we had come out of the ship into the city, as has been said, when we came to the place where was this idol of Aphrodite (but the Christians were carrying the precious wood of Christ, that is to say the figure of the Cross), the demon that dwelt in the statue beholding and being unable to suffer the sight of the sign which was being carried, came forth out of the marble with great confusion and cast down the statue itself and broke it into many pieces. And it happened that two men of the idolaters were standing beside the base on which the statue stood, and when it fell, it split the head of the one in two, and for the other it broke his shoulder and wrist. For they were both standing and mocking at the holy multitude.
62. And many of the Greeks when they beheld the sign which had come to pass, believed, and mingled with the layfolk and entered with them into the holy church which is called Peace. …
Mango’s suggestion that Porphyry and his followers actually vandalised the statue is a little odd; surely it defeats the point of the story?