Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of by Peter Brown

By Peter Brown

The Christianisation of the Roman international lies on the root of recent Europe, but on the time it was once a tentative and piecemeal strategy. Peter Brown's research examines the standards which proved decisive and the compromises which made the emergence of the Christian 'thought world' attainable. He indicates how modern narratives wavered among declarations of definitive victory and a sombre feel of the power of the pre-Christian earlier, reflecting the hopes and fears of alternative generations confronted with assorted social and political occasions. He examines the social elements which muted the pointy intolerance which pervades the modern literary proof, and he indicates how Christian holy males have been much less representatives of a effective and intransigent religion than negotiators, at flooring point, of a operating compromise among the hot religion and conventional methods of facing the supernatural international.

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Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of the Roman World

The Christianisation of the Roman international lies on the root of recent Europe, but on the time it used to be a tentative and piecemeal strategy. Peter Brown's learn examines the criteria which proved decisive and the compromises which made the emergence of the Christian 'thought world' attainable. He exhibits how modern narratives wavered among declarations of definitive victory and a sombre feel of the energy of the pre-Christian earlier, reflecting the hopes and fears of alternative generations confronted with assorted social and political occasions.

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In a tense interview in the broiling sun on a barge in the middle o f the Danube, in 369, the Gothic king, Athanaric, had indicated in no uncertain terms to Valens that he and his tribe would not be pushed around. 21 On both occasions, the context o f Themistius’ speech effectively cancelled out its content. Such speeches were not resonant statements o f principle. They were usually no more than making the best o f a bad job. They were discreet, but unmistakable, signals o f failure. Admirable though such senti­ ments might be, they were not invariably welcome in an empire that valued momentum and that genuinely feared infirmity of purpose in high places.

Stressing as it did an uncompromising authenticity in person-to-person relations, it deliberately looked through the heavier social and intellectual reasons for consent to religious beliefs, that played an important role in the life and imagination o f most ancient persons — that is, respect for the weight o f tradition and for the binding force o f civic loyalties. Not even philosophers maintained such an extreme stance on all occasions. 16 Philosophers did, at least, add one important cognitive dimension to their position.

It was a lapse in good taste. 33 Included in the Historia Tripartita of Cassiodorus, passages such as this enjoyed an unexpected afterlife in Western Europe. They re-emerged, in the Reformation, first with Johann Brenz and, a little later, in Sebastian Castellio’s Concerning Heresies, as prize exhibits in the sixteenth-century debate over the imposition o f the death penalty on dissenters. ,‘* In this manner, the opening o f the modern debate on religious tolerance was fuelled by a characteristically late Roman portrayal o f a breach in decorum.

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