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The Glory and, sadly, the Gory of Rome

young woman taking pictures at the Pantheon, Rome

Rome is the vibrant capital of Italy, with a long and complicated history, dating back to the 8th century BCE.

The founding of Rome is understood in terms of two mythic tales. One about Romulus and Remus. The other about Aeneas. The Romulus and Remus myth seems to have mostly won out. Any popular videos I’ve seen about Rome tell about their being suckled by a she-wolf but ignore the tale of Aeneas. Such is life… and history.

I’m not a Roman historian so, rather than spend days rewriting something I’m only mildly interested in, I have highlighted some main points here. Readers wanting more could also check out the lively podcast at Spotify: The History of Rome (mobile).

The Capitoline she-wolf with the boys Romulus ...

The Capitoline she-wolf with the boys Romulus and Remus. Museo Nuovo in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Roman Religion before the time of Christ is quite engaging. It overlaps with Greek myth. The strong-armed Romans borrowed much from Greek culture, which they admired for its sublimity.

But Roman Religion also has its own quirks—including the belief in personal deities for almost every occasion, divination, and from a contemporary perspective, irrational superstitions.

I strongly recommend John Ferguson’s The Religions of the Roman Empire.¹  Also, Sir J. G. Frazer’s The Golden Bough² offers some intriguing theories about pagan priestly succession in ancient Rome.

According to Frazer, a potentially new priest challenges and ultimately slays an old priest. So being a priest is not exactly a cushy job in some corners of ancient Rome. This didn’t apply to all pagan priests. I’ve highlighted the story here.

Pre-Christian Rome fell in the 5th century to Germanic invaders. In the 6th century Rome became an important center for the Christian Church, with Vatican City on the West bank of the Tiber river.

When the Roman Empire was at its peak, the city of Rome symbolized worldly power and also of the cruel persecution of the early Christians. Ironically, the geographic focal point for the persecution of Christians eventually became the worldwide center for Christianity and later, with the East-West Schism and Protestantism, for Catholicism.

The “Hammer or Witches” was a disturbed and irrational ‘manual’ supported by leading theological universities. It told how to identify and torture witches. It was a bestseller, second only to the Bible for almost 200 years.

The historian Arnold Toynbee and others observe that soon after the Christian Romans gained power, they began persecuting individuals (heretics and witches) just as the pagan Romans had previously persecuted Christians.

Toynbee believes it is mostly power – and the greed and arrogance that goes with it – that is responsible for this barbarous behavior among human beings. Religious justifications are just window dressing. The real cause of persecution is human brutishness and misery.

How many people like this do we know today? Is it any wonder we usually don’t want to have anything to do with them!

In 1871 Rome became the capital of modern Italy.

¹ Chances are you don’t have to pay $40 for this book. It’s in most major libraries. And secondhand and remaindered booksellers tend to sell it for under $10. I once saw it in used paperback for a dollar.

²  This is a huge, multi-volume work but there are several abridged versions.

Related » Acts of the Apostles, Aeneas, Aeneid, Julius Caesar, Church FathersMythic Inflation, Romulus and Remus, Vestal Virgin


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Stoicism

essential works of stoicism: CHRIS DRUMM

Image: CHRIS DRUMM via Flickr

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants ― Epictetus¹

Stoicism is a Greek philosophical school founded by Zeno of Citium, c. 300 BCE. The Stoics believed that mankind is superior to animals by virtue of our reason. The good life is lived in accord with nature; whereas evil is an unpleasant aspect of nature.

The Stoics felt it important to know about the existence of, and control one’s reaction to, evil. So thoughts and understanding are not enough. The superior person behaves right, which (apparently) makes him or her immune to suffering. This is a slightly different take on the well-known Christian doctrine, Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.²

The Stoics saw the Greek gods in terms of cosmic forces, a view resembling a modern approach to mythology. The afterlife was generally not believed in. However, the Stoics did subscribe to an eternal return, an idea also mentioned in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.

The philosopher Epictetus, the Roman statesman Seneca and Emporer Marcus Aurelius are usually regarded as Stoics. Wikipedia elaborates:

English: Ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Cit...

Ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later Stoics—such as Seneca and Epictetus—emphasized that, because “virtue is sufficient for happiness”, a sage was immune to misfortune. This belief is similar to the meaning of the phrase “stoic calm”, though the phrase does not include the “radical ethical” Stoic views that only a sage can be considered truly free, and that all moral corruptions are equally vicious.[1]

From its founding, Stoic doctrine was popular with a following in Roman Greece and throughout the Roman Empire — including the Emperor Marcus Aurelius — until the closing of all pagan philosophy schools in 529 AD by order of the Emperor Justinian I, who perceived them as being at odds with Christian faith

¹ http://futurelawyer.typepad.com/futurelawyer/2015/05/stoic-quote-of-the-day.html

² http://biblehub.com/matthew/10-16.htm

Related Posts » Heap of Sand Paradox, Hellenistic, Logos, Suicide