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Philo [translated by F.H. Colson, Philo, Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1954]

On Abraham 133-141 [referring to Genesis 19]

The land of the Sodomites, a part of the land of Canaan afterwards called Palestinian Syria, was brimful of innumerable iniquities, particularly such as arise from gluttony and lewdness, and multiplied and enlarged every other possible pleasure with so formidable a menace that it had at last been condemned by the Judge of All. The inhabitants owed this extreme licence to the never-failing lavishness of their sources of wealth, for, deep-soiled and well-watered as it was, the land had every year a prolific harvest of all manner of fruits, and the chief beginning of evils, as one has aptly said, is goods in excess. Incapable of bearing such satiety, plunging like cattle, they threw off from their necks the law of nature and applied themselves to deep drinking of strong liquor and dainty feeding and forbidden forms of intercourse. Not only in their mad lust for women did they violate the marriages of their neighbours, but also men mounted males without respect for the sex nature which the active partner shares with the passive; and so when they tried to beget children they were discovered to be incapable of any but a sterile seed. Yet the discovery availed them not, so much stronger was the force of the lust which mastered them. Then, as little by little they accustomed those who were by nature men to submit to play the part of women, they saddled them with the formidable curse of a female disease. For not only did they emasculate their bodies by luxury and voluptuousness but they worked a further degeneration in their souls and, as far as in them lay, were corrupting the whole of mankind. Certainly, had Greeks and barbarians joined together in affecting such unions, city after city would have become a desert, as though depopulated by a pestilential sickness.

But God, moved by pity for mankind whose Saviour and Lover He was, gave increase in the greatest possible degree to the unions which men and women naturally make for begetting children, but abominated and extinguished this unnatural and forbidden intercourse, and those who lusted for such He cast forth and chastised with punishments not of the usual kind but startling and extraordinary, newly created for this purpose. He bade the air grow suddenly overclouded and pour forth a great rain, not of water but fire. And when the flames streamed down massed in one constant and perpetual rush, they burnt up the fields and meadows, the leafy groves, the overgrowths of the marshland and the dense thickets. They burnt the plainland and all the fruit of the corn and other crops. They burnt the forest-land on the mountains, where trunks and roots alike were consumed. The conflagration reached to byres and houses and walls and all public and private property contained in buildings; and in one day populous cities had become the grave of the inhabitants and fabrics of stone and timber had turned into ashes and fine dust. And when the flame had utterly consumed all that was visible and above ground it penetrated right down into the earth itself, destroyed its inherent life-power and reduced it to complete sterility to prevent it from ever bearing fruit and herbage at all. And to this day it goes on burning, for the fire of the thunderbolt is never quenched, but either continues its ravages or else smoulders. And the clearest proof is what is still visible, for a monument of the disastrous event remains in the smoke which rises ceaselessly and the brimstone which the miners obtain; while the ancient prosperity of the country is most plainly attested by the survival of one of the cities of the neighbourhood and the land round it; for the city is thickly populated and the land rich in corn and pasturage and fertile in general, thus providing a standing evidence to the sentence decreed by the divine judgement.