Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine

Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine

Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine

Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine

Excerpt

The theme of this work is the revolution in thought and action which came about through the impact of Christianity upon the Graeco-Roman world. This is a subject of profound importance, but it has not received the attention it deserves, especially perhaps from English-speaking scholars. The reason for this lies partly in the rather special character of the problems involved, partly, however, in the acceptance of a distinction between areas of investigation, which to my mind at least is wholly arbitrary and in no way warranted by the actual course of events. The result is that classical and Christian studies have become dissociated with consequences which are, perhaps, unfortunate for both.

In this work I have ventured to defy the accepted convention and to attempt a transition from the world of Augustus and Vergil to that of Theodosius and Augustine. I am fully aware of my temerity in embarking on such an enterprise. But I have been impelled to undertake it both because of its intrinsic interest and because of the light it throws on subsequent developments of European culture. And I have been emboldened to do so from a sense that, however difficult the religious and philosophic issues to be encountered, they cannot be neglected by the historian except at the cost of missing what is central to the events of the age.

In a subject so vast and intricate it has been necessary to make a somewhat rigid delimitation of the field. I have, therefore, taken as my starting-point the Augustan Empire, with its claim to 'eternity' as a final and definitive expression of classical order. This is not to suggest that the work of Augustus was in any deep sense novel. On the contrary, it was merely the culmination of an effort begun centuries before in Hellas, the effort to create a world which should be safe for civilization; and, from this standpoint, such originality as the emperor exhibited was merely one of method. In this sense, however, his settlement may well be accepted as the last and not least impressive undertaking of what we may venture to call 'creative politics'.

The history of Graeco-Roman Christianity resolves itself largely into a criticism of that undertaking and of the ideas upon . . .

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