CHAPTER III

INTELLECTUAL LIFE AFTER THE INVASIONS

1. The Tradition of Antiquity1

It is needless to insist upon the increasing decadence of intellectual life and of the ancient culture after the 3rd century. This decadence was visible everywhere, in science, art, and letters. It was as though the very mind of man were suffering from degeneration. Pessimism and discouragement were universal. Julian's attempt at restoration was a failure, and after him the genius of antiquity no longer sought to escape from the grip of Christianity.

The new life of the Church long retained the vesture of the pagan life, which was never made for it. It still conformed to a literary tradition whose prestige it respected. It retained the poetry of Virgil and his school, and the prose of the orators. Although the content was different, the containing vessel was unchanged. The appearance of a Christian literature was much later in date than the birth of Christian sentiment.

The official and definitive triumph of Christianity under Constantine did not coincide with its actual victory, which was already won. It no longer encountered any opposition. Adhesion to the new faith was universal, but it was only upon a minority of ascetics and intellectuals that its hold was really complete. Many were drawn into the Church by interest: men of rank, like Sidonius Apollinarius, in order to retain their social influence, while the poor and needy sought shelter in it.

For many men of that time the life of the spirit't was no longer the life of antiquity, but it had not yet become Christian, and it is easy to understand that for such people there was no literature

____________________
1
This is naturally no more than a brief survey, which does not profess to do more than show that the ancient tradition was continued.

-118-

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