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message 1: by Manny (last edited Jan 19, 2020 05:45PM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
Subchapters:
- Summation of Book I
- The Disasters that Afflicted Rome Prior to the Coming of Christ
- The Failure of the Gods to Provide Moral Guidance: the Rites of the Mother of the Gods
- Did the Gods Sponsor any Public Teaching of Virtue
- The Fables of the Poets and the Shows in the Theaters
- The Greeks and Romans on the Poets and Actors
- Plato on the Poets
- The Natural “Justice and Goodness” of the Romans
- Roman Morality, the Constraint of Fear, and the Destruction of Carthage
- The Issue of Justice and Scipio’s Definition of a Republic
- Scipio’s Definition of a Republic
- Cicero: The Republic Has Perished
- The God’s Failure to Save the Republic
- Had the God’s Withdrawn
- The Gods and the Civil Wars: Marius
- The Gods and the Civil Wars: Sulla
- The Example of the Gods: a Supposed Divine Authority for Human Immorality
- Did the Gods Provide a Secret Moral Teaching?
- Christianity’s Public Teaching
- An Exhortation to the Romans to Abandon their False Gods

Book II was absolutely fascinating. Picking up from Book I, where Augustine delineates historical events in the life of Rome, showing that good and bad things happen to both good and bad people, Augustine outlines the history of Rome as a failure of the Roman people to maintain virtue, and that the deities on which they believed failed first to provide a moral foundation and second were actual examples of lack of virtue. The gods themselves were the source of degradation. The gods then were no gods but demons.


message 2: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
How is everyone doing? I didn't realize how much Roman history is referenced in City of God, and how his thesis depends on it. It so happens that I'm a ancient Roman history buff, so the references are second nature to me. I don't know if your edition has satisfactory notes. I could elaborate and provide an overview of the Roman history. Do you think it would help? Or is everyone clear on the history?


message 3: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1282 comments Mod
I am still catching up...


message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan | 191 comments I appreciate all historical background/info. No one’s comments/input is ever a wasted effort to me!


message 5: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I appreciate all historical background/info. No one’s comments/input is ever a wasted effort to me!"

OK, I'm off from work tomorrow. I'll try to find an hour to put together an overview of Roman history, at least the highlights that Augustine references.


message 6: by Susan (new)

Susan | 191 comments Relax and enjoy your day off first Manny! If you don’t get around to it, no worries!


message 7: by Lawanda (new)

Lawanda Manny wrote: "Subchapters:
- Summation of Book I
- The Disasters that Afflicted Rome Prior to the Coming of Christ
- The Failure of the Gods to Provide Moral Guidance: the Rites of the Mother of the Gods
- Did t..."


Manny isn't there a typo? Don't you mean Subchapters: Summation of Book II, not Book I?


message 8: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
No Lawanda it’s not a typo. The first sub chapter of Book II is a summation of Book I. I just doubled checked. Book II is the only book where it summarizes the previous book. I think I remember seeing somewhere that there was a time gap between the two books. So maybe Augustine felt the need to review Book I. The sub chapter “Summation of Book I” covers numbered sections 2 and 3 of Book II. It’s not like that in your edition?


message 9: by Lawanda (new)

Lawanda Manny wrote: "No Lawanda it’s not a typo. The first sub chapter of Book II is a summation of Book I. I just doubled checked. Book II is the only book where it summarizes the previous book. I think I remember see..."

Sorry, Manny you are right. Thanks for clearing up my confusion. I see now what you are saying and my edition is identical to yours.


message 10: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
In order to fully grasp the conclusions St. Augustine makes on Roman history, a short primer is in order. I am an ancient Roman history buff, so I do have most of these events and personages at my fingertips, but I am not a scholar. So if something doesn’t ring true, double check me. Wikipedia has everything on ancient Roman history, and it’s fairly reliable.

The first thing I would suggest in grasping Roman history is to understand its major divisions. You can divide the history into four major categories: the founding legends, the Royal period, the Republic, and the Empire. I would also break down the empire into four periods: the first two centuries, sometimes identified as the Pax Romana, the third Century, the fourth century, and the fifth century. The distinctions within those centuries don’t fall neatly into hundred year periods, but it’s easier to conceptualize the transitions by identifying a particular century. Just like in our current history we think of the 19th century as having ended with the start of World War I, the markers of their centuries extend or contract from the century mark.

If you ever read Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid, you would know that Romans considered their roots to have been with Troy, and the diaspora from the city’s collapse led to settling on the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy. The leader of that particular diasporic group was Aeneas, son of Anchises, part of Troy’s royal household, and the goddess Venus. Aeneas, referred to as Pius Aeneas because of his devotion to the gods, his family, and his country, became the model Roman, a man who sacrificed and suffered for his countrymen. Aeneas was held to be a man of the upmost virtue, and that virtue would echo down the centuries of Roman self-awareness. This is why Augustine in City of God is frequently alluding to virtue, or lack of, in the Roman people. He is not just criticizing from a Christian perspective, but he is throwing back in their faces their inability to live up to their own ideals.

Generations after Aeneas settled in the Tiber, the god Mars had relations with an unknown woman, and born from that issue were twins, Romulus and Remus. On their birth, the woman abandoned the twins but they are saved when a she-wolf suckles them and raises them. To this day the city of Rome is identified by an image of a she-wolf suckling two human boys. The boys grew strong and fierce, founded the city of Rome, and then argued, upon which Romulus kills his brother Remus, and so the name of the city comes from the victorious brother. The founding of the city is held to be 753 B.C., and that was the year zero on Roman calendar, just as the birth of Christ is the zero for our current calendar. That founding date was part of their consciousness, just as the founding year of our Revolutionary War. In order to fill this city, Romulus invited a wide spectrum of people to move in, but when it turned out that there was an imbalance of men over women, they devised a scheme to abduct the women from a nearby town of the Sabine people, which led to war. Fratricide, abduction, rape (though that’s disputed), and war, so you can already see a degradation from virtue.

The second period was the royal period, stemming from Romulus as king, and the subsequent six kings that would rule. Many of the traditions and religious rituals of Rome would be established in this period, and the great families that would lead the Republic originated during this period. These kings solidified Rome’s prominence by expansion and conquest of the city-states within Latium, that central region around Rome. While the first six kings were viewed in the model of Aeneas, that is disciplined and austere, the seventh king, Tarquin, is noteworthy in his deviation. Apparently power went to his head and he became a tyrant, and a group from the prestigious families, including the king’s very nephew, Lucius Junius Brutus, would assassinate the king and form the Republic, a government led by members of the great families in a legislative body. So great was their disdain of monarchy that even the whiff of one man attempting to gain too much power over the other families could lead to retribution. In addition to the legislative body, the Republic formed the office of Counsel to serve as the executive branch, but instead of a sole person as chief executive, there were two simultaneous men serving as Counsels, and the term lasted only one year, and no counsel could serve successive terms. Now can you imagine two counsels simultaneously governing? Both had to agree on any policy going forward. It would be as if we had two presidents simultaneously, and they would be of opposite political parties, and they had to run for election every year. The system was made for gridlock, but such was the fear that a tyrant would ever rule over them again. The concept of monarchy was completely disdained during the Republic.

The Republic had one traumatic event early in its history, the sack of Rome in 390 B.C. by a Gallic tribe that had crossed over the Alps and settled in Northern Italy. The casus belli was some incident between the Gauls and a Roman family but it may have been a contrived event because the nearby city-states joined with the Gauls to pounce on Rome. The city was sacked, an event that would not happen again in over seven hundred years with the Visigoths in 410 AD, the very incident that inspired Augustus to write City of God. So shocked that their supposed allies had joined the Gauls in opposition, the Roman leaders vowed never to let such circumstances happen again. After regrouping, consolidating their power, and punishing their former allies, the Romans reflected that the incident was a result of lack of preparedness, too much trust in alliances, and a falling away from the Aeneas model of virtue. Rome set out on conquest of the surrounding areas, which ultimately swallowed up the Italian peninsular. It was here that Rome became a militaristic society, here refined the art of war and battle and diplomacy. When you read their battle plans, you get the sense they made war into a science.

With Rome now dominating the Italian peninsular in the third century BC, there were two growing powers in the western Mediterranean, Rome and Carthage, a Semitic seafaring people that had settled in what is now Tunisia. Carthage had conquered North Africa and had spread into what is now Spain. Carthage had been a sea power. Rome was now expanding into the Mediterranean with the absorption of Corsica and Sardinia, and the two came to a head over Sicily. I’m not going to detail the three Punic Wars, but suffice it to say that the first was mostly a naval war, the second was the defeat of Carthage’s great general Hannibal, and the third was an annihilation of the city of Carthage because Rome felt it could never trust them. Augustine makes a number of references to the Scipio family. The Scipio family was one of the great families of Rome and several of the members rose to the challenge during the Punic Wars. Hannibal crossing the Alps and defeating Rome in several battles on the Italian peninsular was just as traumatic as sack by the Galls. After those defeats Rome pursued a two prong approach: wear Hannibal down on the peninsular while cutting off his logistic support from Spain. Publius Cornelius Scipio was given the responsibility of defeating Hannibal’s Spanish allies, and he did so masterfully through battle and diplomacy, and in time Hannibal could do nothing but retreat to Africa. And finally to conclude the war, Scipio brought his army to the gates of Carthage where he met Hannibal head on and defeated him at the Battle of Zama. Scipio was given the title of Scipio Africanis, the conqueror of Africa.

Scipio was seen as a man of unparalleled virtue, another man in the mold of Aeneas. Virtuous men were seen as what saved Rome, and virtue landed it its empire. With the defeat of Carthage Rome controlled the whole western half of the Mediterranean. It’s only rival now lay to the East in the remnants of the Alexander the Great’s Hellenistic empire. Slowly that too would be taken. Several of the battles were led by other members of the Scipio family. It’s very easy to get confused between the various Scipios. Even Augustine gets confused. I have a note at one point in City of God that Augustine attributes some conquest to Scipio Nasica (actually there were four different Scipio Nasicas) when it was actually a different Scipio. Wikipedia lists twenty different male Scipios in the history of Rome and couple of female. The wives and mothers of some of these Scipios were also seen as models of virtue. Finally the Third Punic War was just a sham to destroy Carthage once and for all. The penalties exacted on Carthage were impossible to pay, so ultimately Carthage just balked. Just as Rome could never trust her allies after the sack from the Gauls, it could never trust Carthage and had decided that Carthage was an existential threat by her very existence. So they sacked the city, killed or scattered its inhabitants and as legend has it, sowed salt into the land so it could never grow produce again. The general who led that final destruction was Scipio Aemilianus, the adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus.

I think I remember Augustine pointing to this final destruction of Carthage as one of Rome’s moments of lack of virtue. Carthage at that point had been reduced to a minor entity, and so it was quite the bully for Rome to destroy her. It occurred to me when I read Augustine’s criticism that Augustine was from Carthaginian area. A good century after Carthage had been destroyed, a new city was built by Rome at the spot and they now felt comfortable enough to call it by the same name. Augustine was born in that area (about four hundred years later), lived for a time in Carthage, and became a bishop in a nearby town. Though he was Roman, and everyone in the area was Roman, I wonder if he had any sensitivities for the original Carthaginians.

This is taking a lot longer than I anticipated, and I’m not even up to the breakdown of the Republic. Let me pause here and in time I will finish out the Roman history. Stay tuned.


message 11: by Susan (new)

Susan | 191 comments Thank you so much Manny, for taking the time.


message 12: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 562 comments I'm halfway through Book ll. I am fascinated by his comments on the theater and actors, having taught theater as well as English and worked in community theater. After high school my classmates expected I would go into that but I majored in English and got certified to teach. Part of my reason was I had already been exposed to some of the raunchiness of theater in the early 60's and I'm seeing in Augustine's criticism of theater in his time that "the more things change, the more they stay the same.". And let me just throw this out there: the ancient Greek theater grew out of religion--the roots are in the Dionysian rituals. We can still draw many comparisons between live theater and church services.


message 13: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "Thank you so much Manny, for taking the time."

You're welcome. I love ancient Roman history. I enjoy talking/writing about it. ;)


message 14: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
Madeleine wrote: "I'm halfway through Book ll. I am fascinated by his comments on the theater and actors, having taught theater as well as English and worked in community theater. After high school my classmates exp..."

I wonder what Augustus would have thought of Shakespeare.


message 15: by Frances (new)

Frances Richardson | 532 comments Manny and Madeleine, you have given us so much. Thank you.


message 16: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 562 comments Manny, I believe Augustine would have appreciated Shakespeare on many levels, and I think he would have delighted in the medieval mystery and miracle plays as well, especially for their entertaining way of teaching morality.


message 17: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 562 comments Thank you, Frances, and so have you!


message 18: by Madeleine (new)

Madeleine Myers | 562 comments And Manny, thank you for that brilliant summary!


message 19: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments Thank you, Manny, for the history lesson. I have to admit that my knowledge of ancient Rome is quite lacking.


message 20: by Manny (last edited Jan 22, 2020 09:00AM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
You're welcome all. And I'm not finished yet. I'll continue the rest for Book III.

You definitely need to understand how virtue was integrated into the Roman's understanding of their history. And though I've never read them directly, I understand it comes right out of the Roman historians, Livy, Sallust, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch. Augustine mentions several of them in City of God. Even today, the common - I would even call it folkloric - understanding of why the Roman Empire fell is corruption, lasciviousness, and lack of discipline. In short, the failure to be virtuous. Augustine is really developing this argument.

Let me just add, that's not why Rome really fell, but that's the common notion.


message 21: by Galicius (last edited Jan 22, 2020 10:52AM) (new)

Galicius | 438 comments Manny wrote: "In order to fully grasp the conclusions St. Augustine makes on Roman history, a short primer is in order. I am an ancient Roman history buff, so I do have most of these events and personages at my ..."

I enjoyed your summary of BC Roman history. It helps in orienting St. Augustine’s work to his previous millennium. He refers to it so much that at times it reminds me of Dante’s encyclopedia of allusions to the history prior to his time.


message 22: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3569 comments Mod
Galicius, it’s almost a recapitalization of Roman history, only through the lens of a critical Roman Christian.

Not finished with BC Roman history yet. I haven’t even gotten to Marius, Sulla, and Julius Caesar. Augustine mentions the first two often in book ii.

Out of curiosity, is your Goodreads name, Galicius, taken from Roman history or literature?


message 23: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 1282 comments Mod
It is almost eerie how the decadence of Rome parallels our time.

#9: The lewdness of comedy could never have been suffered by audiences, unless the customs of society had previously sanctioned the same lewdness.

#26: ...a bold impurity fills the ear of the people with noisy clamour; in private, a feigned chastity speaks in scarce audible whispers to a few: an open stage is provided for shameful things, but on the praiseworthy the curtain falls: grace hides, disgrace flaunts: a wicked deed draws an overflowing house, a virtuous speech finds scarce a hearer, as though purity were to be blushed at, impurity boasted of. Where else can such confusion reign, but in the devil's temples? Where, but in the haunts of deceit? For the secret precepts are given as a sop to the virtuous, who are few in number ; the wicked examples are exhibited to encourage the vicious, who are countless.



message 24: by Susan (new)

Susan | 191 comments Kerstin wrote: "It is almost eerie how the decadence of Rome parallels our time.

That is all I could think of the whole time....kind of like when you read the Bible and just keep realizing, nothing really changes...



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