B.C. and A.D.: The Christian Philosophy of History

After the sack of Rome by the Goths in the year 410, the Roman world experienced some of the unease that afflicts Western civilization today; S.G.F. Brandon describes how the late Roman world found assuagement in the writings of Saint Augustine.

In the year 410 the Gothic leader Alaric made a sudden attack on the city of Rome: seizing it with amazing ease, he pillaged it. The shock to the civilized world was tremendous. Although barbarian peoples had long violated the provinces of the Roman Empire, and had even invaded Italy, to all men Rome was still the “Eternal City.” Now the proud imperial metropolis was overthrown and ravaged.

Faced with a catastrophe so great, many sought its cause, not in the military unpreparedness of the capital, but in something more sinister and disturbing. Rome had achieved world mastery when she had served Jupiter Capitolinus and her other ancient gods; but under the Emperor Constantine (312-337) an alien religion, Christianity, had received imperial recognition.

Under his successors this favour was progressively extended: in 356 Constantius prohibited all pagan sacrifices and closed the temples, and in 382 Gratian ordered the final removal of the altar that stood before the statue of Victory in the Senate House. This last act was taken by those still loyal to the old religion as a fatal affront to both the faith and traditions of their ancestors.

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