The Moralia on Job
Book 31, ch. 44-45 [§ 85-92]
On the Capital Vices

 The Moralia on Job. BMM S0321-c. 1190

It is often said - inaccurately - that in the following text Gregory condensed the Eight Deadly Thoughts of Evagrius and Cassian into the Seven Capital Sins of Western medieval Christian thought.

44 [85]. He smells the battle from afar. (Job 39:25)

XLIV 85. Procul odoratur bellum.

For, to ‘smell the battle from afar,’ is to discern from preceding causes, what combats of vices follow. For because, (as has been already frequently said,) a thing which is not seen, is discerned by its ‘smell’, to smell the battle from afar is to search out lurking wickedness, as if sniffing with our nose, by looking forward with our thoughts.

Bellum namque procul odorari est ex causis praecedentibus quae vitiorum pugnae subsequantur agnoscere. Quia enim, sicut jam saepe dictum est, odore res non visa cognoscitur, bellum procul odorari est, sicut flatu narium, sic provisione cogitationum, nequitias latentes indagare.

[...] The nose of the Church is therefore rightly said to be like the tower in Lebanon; because while the far-seeing discernment of the saints, being placed on high, looks anxiously on all sides, it discovers a fault before it arrives; and as it watchfully marks it beforehand, so it boldly avoids it. Hence Habakkuk says, I will stand upon my watch. (Hab. 2:1)

 [619D]  [...] Recte ergo nasus Ecclesiae turri in Libano similis dicitur, quia sanctorum provida discretio dum sollicite circumquaque conspicit in altum posita, priusquam veniat culpa deprehendit, eamque quo vigilanter praenotat, eo [620A] fortiter declinat. Hinc Habacuc ait: Super custodiam meam stabo (Habac. II, 1). [Vet. XXXI.]

Hence Jeremiah, admonishing every chosen soul says, Set up for yourself a watch-tower, arrange bitter [things] for yourself.

Hinc uniuscujusque electi animam Jeremias admonens, dicit: Statue tibi speculam, pone tibi amaritudines (Jerem. XXXI, 21).

For, to set up for one’s self a watchtower, is to foreknow by elevated deliberations the coming battle with the vices. And the mind (mens) of an Elect person arranges bitter [things] for itself when, beholding evils in ambush, [although] firmly rooted in the peace afforded by the virtues, it refuses to relax [its guard].

Speculam quippe sibi statuere est ventura vitiorum certamina ex alta consideratione praenoscere. Sibique electi mens amaritudines ponit, quando 1035 et in virtutum pace constituta, dum mala insidiantia conspicit, secura quiescere non consentit.

[86]. Rather, he resolves

86. Primo autem

[1] first, not to do evil, and

[2] second, not to do good recklessly:

ne mala quaelibet,

secundo vero loco considerat ne bona incaute faciat;

and thus [1] after straightening what was deformed,

he [2] strives also to subject to himself his very virtues, lest, by passing beyond his mind’s control they transform into the sin of [self-]exaltation.

et postquam prava subegerit,

 ipsa etiam sibi subjicere recta [620B] contendit, ne si mentis dominium transeant, in elationis culpam vertantur.

For since, as has before been said, evils frequently spring from good deeds, through the vice of negligence; he observes with watchful zeal how [:]

Quia enim, sicut superius dictum est, plerumque ex bonis per incuriae vitium mala nascuntur, vigilanti studio contemplatur quomodo

[1] arrogance rises from learning,

[2] cruelty from justice,

[3] carelessness from tenderness,

[4] anger from zeal,

[5] sloth from gentleness.

ex doctrina arrogantia,

ex justitia crudelitas,

ex pietate remissio,

ex zelo ira,

ex mansuetudine torpor oriatur.

And, when he perform these good deeds, he observes that these enemies are by, these means able to rise against him.

Cumque bona haec agit, quod hi contra se hostes per haec exsurgere valeant conspicit.

[1] For when he is labouring diligently in acquiring learning, he anxiously prepares his mind for the struggle with arrogance.

Nam cum adipiscendis doctrinae studiis elaborat, mentem sollicite contra certamen arrogantiae praeparat.

[2] And when he desires to punish justly the faults of offenders, lie most skilfully avoids the severity of punishment exceeding the measure of justice.

Cum culpas delinquentium juste ulcisci desiderat, sagacissime evitat ne modum justitiae crudelitas vindictae transcendat.

[3] When he endeavors to restrain himsel by tenderness, he carefully provides not to be overcome by any relaxation of discipline.

Cum pietate frenare se nititur, solerter prospicit ne qua disciplinae dissolutione vincatur.

[4] When he rouses himself by the stimulants of proper zeal, he takes special care that the flames of anger are not kindled within him more than is necessary

Cum se recti zeli stimulis excitat, [620C] summopere providet ne plus quam necesse est irae se flamma succendat.

[5] When he controls himself with great tranquillity of gentleness, he keeps careful watch, not to be chilled by torpor

Cum magna mansuetudinis tranquillitate se temperat, vigilanter observat ne torpore frigescat.

Since, therefore, in the thought[s] of the spiritual soldier every vice is detected before it can sneak in secretly, it is rightly said of the horse of God; He smells the battle from afar. For he considers what a crowd of iniquities would rush on him, were he to allow ever so few sins to enter within him.

Quia ergo spiritalis militis cogitatione omne vitium prius quam subrepere possit aspicitur, recte de equo Dei dicitur: Procul odoratur bellum. Perpendit etiam quae turba iniquitatum proruat, si mala ad se ingredi vel pauca permittat.

And so it therefore follows:

Unde et sequitur:



45. [87]. The exhortation of the captains, and the howling of the army. (Job 39:25)

CAPUT XLV.. Exhortationem ducum, et ululatum exercitus.

In regard to the tempting vices that fight against us in invisible contest on behalf of that pride which reigns over them; some of them go first like captains, while others follow, as in an army.

Tentantia quippe vitia, quae invisibili contra nos praelio regnanti super se superbiae militant, alia more ducum praeeunt, alia [620D] more exercitus subsequuntur.

For all faults do not occupy the heart with equal access. But while the greater and the few surprise a neglected mind, the smaller and the numberless pour themselves upon it in a whole body.

Neque enim culpae omnes pari accessu cor occupant. Sed dum majores et paucae neglectam mentem praeveniunt, minores et innumerae ad illam se catervatim fundunt.

Pride, Queen of Sins, and her Seven Vicious Generals


For when pride, the queen of sins, has fully possessed a conquered heart, she surrenders it immediately to seven principal sins, as if to some of her generals, to lay it waste. And an army in truth follows these generals, because, doubtless, there spring up from them importunate hosts of sins. Which we set forth the better, if we specially bring forward in enumeration, as we are able, the leaders themselves and their army.

Ipsa namque vitiorum regina superbia cum devictum plene cor ceperit, mox illud septem principalibus vitiis, quasi quibusdam suis ducibus devastandum tradit. Quos videlicet duces exercitus sequitur, quia ex eis procul dubio importunae vitiorum multitudines oriuntur. Quod melius ostendimus, si ipsos duces atque [621A] exercitum specialiter, ut possumus, enumerando proferamus.

For [0] pride is the root of all evil, of which Scripture attests, saying, Pride is the beginning of all sin. (Ecclus 10:15)

Radix quippe cuncti mali superbia est, de qua, Scriptura attestante, dicitur: Initium omnis peccati est superbia (Eccli. X, 15).

But from this poisonous root seven principal vices surely shoot forth as its first progeny, namely:

Primae autem ejus soboles, septem nimirum principalia vitia, de hac virulenta radice proferuntur, scilicet

[1] vain glory;

[2] envy;

[3] anger;

[4] gloominess;

[5] avarice;

[6] gluttony;

[7] lust.

inanis gloria,








For, since He grieved that we were held captive by these seven vices of pride, our Redeemer came to the spiritual battle of our liberation full of the sevenfold spirit of grace.

Nam quia his septem superbiae vitiis nos captos doluit, idcirco Redemptor noster ad spiritale liberationis praelium spiritu septiformis gratiae plenus venit.

88. But each of these [vices] has its own individual army to hurl against us.

88. Sed habent contra nos haec singula exercitum suum.

[1] For from vain glory there arise disobedience, boasting, hypocrisy, contentions, obstinacies, discords, and the presumptions of novelties.

Nam de inani gloria inobedientia, jactantia, hypocrisis, contentiones, pertinaciae, discordiae, [621B] et novitatum praesumptiones oriuntur.

[2] From envy there spring hatred, whispering, detraction, exultation at the misfortunes of a neighbour, and affliction at his prosperity.

De invidia, odium, susurratio, detractio, exsultatio in adversus proximi, afflictio autem in prosperis nascitur.

[3] From anger are produced strifes, swelling of mind, insults, clamour, indignation, blasphemies.

De ira, rixae, tumor mentis, contumeliae, clamor, indignatio, blasphemiae proferuntur.

[4] From gloominess there arise malice, rancour, cowardice, despair, slothfulness in fulfilling the commands, and a wandering of the mind on unlawful objects.

De tristitia, malitia, rancor, pusillanimitas, desperatio, torpor circa praecepta, vagatio mentis 1036 erga illicita nascitur.

[5] From avarice there spring treachery, fraud, deceit, perjury, restlessness, violence, and harduesses of heart against compassion.

De avaritia, proditio, fraus, fallacia, perjuria, inquietudo, violentiae, et contra misericordiam obdurationes cordis oriuntur.

[6] From gluttony are propagated foolish mirth, scurrility, uncleanness, babbling, dulness of sense in understanding.

De ventris ingluvie, inepta laetitia, scurrilitas, immunditia, multiloquium, hebetudo sensus circa intelligentiam propagantur.

[7] From lust are generated blindness of mind, inconsiderateness, inconstancy, precipitation, self-love, hatred of God, affection for this present world, but dread or despair of that which is to come.

De luxuria, caecitas mentis, inconsideratio, inconstantia, praecipitatio, amor sui, odium Dei, affectus praesentis saeculi, horror autem vel desperatio [621C] futuri generantur.

Because, therefore, seven principal vices produce from themselves so great a multitude of vices, when they reach the heart, they bring, as it were, the bands of an army after them. But of these seven, five namely are spiritual, and two are carnal.

Quia ergo septem principalia vitia tantam de se vitiorum multitudinem proferunt, cum ad cor veniunt, quasi subsequentis exercitus catervas trahunt. Ex quibus videlicet septem quinque spiritalia, duoque carnalia sunt.

89. But they are, each of them, so closely connected with other, that they spring only the one from the other.

89. Sed unumquodque eorum tanta sibi cognatione jungitur, ut non nisi unum de altero proferatur.

For the first offspring of [0] pride
[1] vain glory,

and this, when it has corrupted the oppressed mind, presently begets [2] envy.

Prima namque superbiae soboles inanis est gloria,

quae dum oppressam mentem corruperit, mox invidiam gignit,

Because doubtless while it is seeking the power of an empty name, it feels envy against any one else being able to obtain it.

quia nimirum dum vani nominis potentiam appetit, ne quis hanc alius adipisci valeat tabescit.

[2] Envy also generates [3] anger;

Invidia quoque iram generat,

because the more the mind is stabbed by the inner wound of envy, the more the gentleness of tranquillity is also lost.

quia quanto in erno livoris vulnere animus sauciatur, tanto etiam mansuetudo tranquillitatis amittitur;

And since a suffering member is, as it were, touched, the hand of opposition is more oppressively felt.

et quia quasi dolens membrum [621D] tangitur, idcirco oppositae actionis manus velut gravius pressa sentitur.

From [3] anger there arises [4] gloominess

Ex ira quoque tristitia oritur,

because the more extravagantly the agitated mind strikes itself, the more it confounds itself by condemnation ; and when it has lost the sweetness of tranquillity, nothing supports it but the grief resulting from agitation.

quia turbata mens quo se inordinate concutit, eo addicendo confundit: et cum dulcedinem tranquillitatis amiserit, nihil hanc nisi ex perturbatione subsequens moeror pascit.

[4] Gloominess diverts off into [5] avarice:

Tristitia quoque ad avaritiam derivatur,

since, when the disturbed heart has lost the satisfaction of joy within, it seeks outside for sources of consolation; and it is all the more anxious to possess external goods since it has no interior joy to which it may return.

quia dum confusum cor bonum laetitiae in semetipso intus amiserit, unde consolari debeat foris quaerit; et tanto magis exteriora bona [622A] adipisci desiderat, quanto gaudium non habet ad quod intrinsecus recurrat.

But after these, there remain behind two carnal vices, [6] gluttony and [7] lust.

Post haec vero duo carnalia vitia, id est ventris ingluvies et luxuria, supersunt.

But it is plain to all that [7] lust springs from [6] gluttony,

Sed cunctis liquet quod de ventris ingluvie luxuria nascitur,

when in the very distribution of the members, the genitals appear placed beneath the belly. And hence when the one is inordinately pampered, the other is doubtless excited to wantonness.

dum in ipsa distributione membrorum ventri genitalia subnexa videantur. Unde dum unum inordinate reficitur, aliud procul dubio ad contumelias excitatur.

90. But the captains are well said to exhort, the armies to howl, because the first vices force themselves into the deluded mind as if under a kind of reason, but the countless vices which follow, while they hurry it on to every kind of madness, confound it, as it were, by bestial clamour.

[Vet. XXXII.] 90. Bene autem duces exhortari dicti sunt, exercitus ululare, quia prima vitia deceptae menti quasi sub quadam ratione se inserunt, sed innumera quae sequuntur, dum hanc ad omnem insaniam pertrahunt, quasi bestiali clamore confundunt.

For [1] vainglory is accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying: “You should aim at greater things, so that when you have surpassed many in power, thou may also be able to benefit many.”

Inanis namque gloria [622B] devictum cor quasi ex ratione solet exhortati, cum dicit: Debes majora appetere, ut quo potestate valueris multos excedere, eo etiam valeas et multis prodesse.

[2] Envy is likewise accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying: “In what way are you inferior to this or that person? Why then are you not equal or superior to them? What things can you do that they cannot do? They should therefore not be either superior or even equal to you.”

Invidia quoque devictum cor quasi ex ratione solet exhortari, cum dicit: In quo illo vel illo minor es? cur ergo eis vel aequalis, vel superior non es? Quanta vales quae illi non valent? Non ergo tibi aut superiores esse, aut etiam aequales debent.

[3] Anger is likewise accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying: “The things done to you cannot possibly be borne with equanimity: no, indeed, to patiently tolerate them is a sin ; for if you dost not resist them with fierce indignation, they are afterwards heaped on you without measure.”

Ira etiam devictum cor quasi ex ratione solet exhortari, cum dicit: Quae erga te aguntur aequanimiter ferri non possunt, imo haec patienter tolerare peccatum est, quia etsi non eis cum magna exasperatione resistitur, contra te deinceps sine mensura cumulantur.

[4] Gloominess is likewise accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying, “What reason do you have for rejoicing, when you endure so many wrongs from  your neighbors ? Consider how mournfully you must regard everyone who has turned against you with such bitter bile.”

Tristitia quoque devictum cor quasi ex ratione solet exhortari, cum dicit: Quid habes unde gaudeas, [622C] cum tanta mala de proximis portas? Perpende cum quo moerore omnes intuendi sunt qui in tanto contra te amaritudinis 1037 felle vertuntur.

[5] Avarice is likewise accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying, “It is a very blameless thing, that thou desirest some things to possess; because thou seekest not to be increased, but art afraid of being in want; and that which another retains for no good, thou thyself expendest to better purpose.

Avaritia quoque devictum animum quasi ex ratione solet exhortari, cum dicit: Valde sine culpa est, quod quaedam habenda concupiscis, quia non multiplicari appetis sed egere pertimescis; et quod male alius retinet, ipse melius expendis.

[6] Gluttony is likewise accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying, “God has created all things clean, in order to be eaten, and what else does one do who refuses to satisfy himself with food, except contradict the gift that is given him.?”

Ventris quoque ingluvies devictum cor quasi ex ratione solet exhortari, cum dicit: Ad esum Deus omnia munda condidit, et qui satiari cibo respuit, quid aliud quam muneri concesso contradicit?

[7] Lust is likewise accustomed to urge the conquered heart, as if by means of reason, saying, “Why not open yourself up to your own pleasure, when you cannot know what may happen to you? The time you have been given should not be wasted in [wistful] longings, since you cannot know how quickly it may pass. For if God had not wanted human beings to unite in the pleasure of sexual intimacy He would not at the beginning of the human race have made them male and female. (Gen 1:27)

Luxuria quoque devictum cor quasi ex ratione solet exhortari, cum dicit: Cur te in voluptate tua modo non dilatas, cum quid te sequatur ignoras? Acceptum tempus in desideriis [622D] perdere non debes, quia quam citius pertranseat nescis. Si enim misceri Deus hominem in voluptate coitus nollet, in ipso humani generis exordio masculum et feminam non fecisset (Genes. I, 27).

This is the exhortation of captains, which incautiously admitted into the secret place of the heart, uses employs that intimacy to persuade one to do wrong.

Haec est ducum exhortatio, quae dum incaute ad secretum cordis admittitur, familiarius iniqua persuadet.

And a howling army then truly follows: because when the wretched soul, first captured by the principal vices, is then twisted into madness by multiplied wrongdoing, it is then devastated with animal cruelty.

Quam videlicet exercitus ululans sequitur, quia infelix anima semel a principalibus vitiis capta, dum [623A] multiplicatis iniquitatibus in insaniam vertitur, ferali jam immanitate vastatur.

91. But the soldier of God, skilfully anticipating the inevitable battle with the vices, smells the battle afar off; because while he considers, with anxious thought, what power the leading evils possess to persuade the mind, he detects, by the wisdom of his “sense of smell”, the exhortation of the captains [i.e. capital vices].

91. Sed miles Dei, quia solerter praevidere vitiorum certamina nititur, bellum procul odoratur, quia mala praeeuntia, quid menti persuadere valeant, dum cogitatione sollicita respicit, exhortationem ducum naris sagacitate deprehendit.

And foreseeing them from afar he perceives the subsequent confusion of wrongdoing, detecting, as it were, “by his sense of smell” the howling of the army.

Et quia a longe praesciendo subsequentium iniquitatum confusionem conspicit, quasi ululatum exercitus odorando cognoscit.

Because, then, we have learned, that either the preacher of God, or any soldier in the spiritual contest, is described in the account of the horse, let us now behold the same person under the signification of a bird ; that we, who have learned his strength by the horse, may learn his contemplation also by the bird. For since we have heard in the description of the greatness of the horse, how much a holy man endures through patience against the assaults of vices, let us now  learn by the appearance of birds, how high he soars by contemplation.

Igitur quia vel praedicatorem Dei, vel quemlibet spiritalis certaminis militem descriptum equi narratione cognovimus, nunc eumdem iterum in avis significatione videamus, ut qui per equum didicimus ejus fortitudinem, etiam per avem discamus illius [623B] contemplationem. Quia enim per descriptam equi magnitudinem audivimus quantum contra certamina vitiorum vir sanctus per patientiam tolerat, nunc per avium speciem cognoscamus quantum per contemplationem volat. Sequitur:

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