Share
Explore BrainMass

Rome & Christianity

Discuss how the relationships between patrician and plebian defined and expressed the ideals of duty and authority in Roman culture. How did the Republican virtues of Rome change when Rome expanded its territory in the first century B.C.? Did the emergence and growth of Christianity contribute to the decay of "Roman virtue"? Consider the ways Christianity came into conflict with the Roman State Religion. Take a look at the letter from Pliny to Trajan at Peter Kirby's collection of Early Christian Writings (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html).

Solution Preview

Not entirely sure why the other guy abandoned you. But it works out for the best, since this is a big area of mine. But be warned: I have a tendency to go on and on.
Remember too that these opinions and views are mine and mine alone. You may do what you will with them. Keep them, modify them, and reject them - but always in your own words.

Discuss how the relationships between patrician and plebeian defined and expressed the ideals of duty and authority in Roman culture. How did the Republican virtues of Rome change when Rome expanded its territory in the first century B.C.? Did the emergence and growth of Christianity contribute to the decay of "Roman virtue"? Consider the ways Christianity came into conflict with the Roman State Religion. Take a look at the letter from Pliny to Trajan at Peter Kirby's collection of Early Christian Writings.

By about 200 BC, the battles between plebeian and aristocracy were over. A joint elite was created. It should not be inferred that the lower classes were powerless. Rome was more or less a meritocracy. If you contributed to the defense of the borders, you were worthwhile. Many authors refuse to make any distinction here at all, since these were not really legal (or useful) categories. Senators, in fact, as the Republic crumbled, were quite vulnerable. Emperor Aurelian murdered dozens of them around 220 AD. Plebeians could be quite wealthy, and depending on land investments, patricians could be quite poor.

The natural law theory of Cicero was based around one notion: duty rules over all. Yet, this idea is insufficient to tell us how to behave. Duty implied this: that you do nothing that comes at the expense of someone else. This could also include NOT punishing a criminal. Cicero was enough of a Platonist to realize that punishing a criminal is a very good thing, since it might serve to rehabilitate the criminal and reestablish order in the republic. Cicero did not make any class distinctions (though he was class conscious). By the time of Cicero, the Republic was falling apart. Concepts of early Stoic duty went beyond classes. Civil war, political instability, economic inequalities and currency debasement forced a) a unity of classes around patriotism and the empire, b) the equalization of any and all who can contribute to the defense of the empire, and c) an ethic of duty that stressed a basic egalitarian concept of justice.

The virtues of Rome changed a bit in practice by the time of Christ, since Rome had reached its natural limit: Spain in the west, Britain in the northwest, the German forests to the north, and the Asian tribes to the east, Persia to the southeast and the Sahara desert to the south. The problem was that once expansion ended the flow of slaves and war rewards began to dry up. Land was slowly monopolized by the wealth classes, especially after the Punic wars were over. Borders became more permeable and wealth shifted to the east. By far, the wealthiest cities in the empire were Alexandria and Antioch.

Virtues changed in practice, but not in theory. Emperor Marcus Aurelius could still explicate the stoic virtues even late in the empire. Duty was the one and only concern, that is, duty to the state. Stoicism, the way Emperor Marcus grasped it, was based on the concepts that a) power was not something to be sought, it was a burden, not a privilege, b) that one's duty was the prime directive, and your own life is meaningless when compared to the empire, thus, c) dying in the performance of your duty is a normal part of life. Finally, d) defending the empire in any capacity was meritorious because it maintained order. ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses how the relationship between patrician and plebian defined and expressed the ideals of duty and authority in Roman culture.

$2.19