☞Please note that Quiz #2 will be available starting Thursday, May 30 at 12:30 and is due NO LATER than Thursday, June 6 at 5:00 PM. To refresh your memories as to what will be on this quiz, please re-read the Description of the Quizzes.
This week we will consider 'religious freedom' in ancient Rome. The notion of 'religious freedom' doesn't have quite the same resonance in the Roman world as it does in ours, largely because of the nature of Roman religion generally. With the advent of Christianity the situation changes somewhat, and although we are not going to get too deep into Christian Rome, we'll consider some of the early ramifications of it.
As a sort of introduction to Roman thinking about religion, please read Cicero, Laws 2.7-69 (pp. 123-49 in your text). Please NOTE that the crucial part of this is Chapters 18-22 (pp. 128-31)...not that you're looking for the easy way out!
Then we'll consider one especially well known instance of 'religious repression' during the Republic, as evidenced through the Senatorial Decree on the Bacchanalia of 186 BC. Please read the description of this -- but most importantly, the translation -- on the Wikipedia page about it. Click HERE. Scroll all the way down for the translation.
This will take us, most likely, through Tuesday, at which point, and into Thursday, we'll turn to the Roman response to Christianity. We'll come at this through a famous letter by Pliny (Letter 10.96), written to the emperor Trajan in AD 112, when Pliny was a governor in the Roman province of Bithynia and was asking what to do about the Christians. We'll also read Trajan's brief response (Letter 10.97). You may find the texts of both of these letters HERE.
→Now, as you can imagine, early Christianity is a very large topic, and what the 'Christian' view of 'freedom' is, and its relevance to the question of freedom in Rome, is a somewhat distinct topic from Christianity and freedom of religion at Rome. For the most part, I shall focus on the latter; but I don't want to ignore the former, since it constitutes an important if not crucial component of the way freedom came to be thought of and valued in 'Western' civilization. There are two readings associated with this -- one from St. Augustine, and the other from Patterson:
St. Augustine (AD 354-430), an excerpt from his The Free Choice of the Will. Here is a pdf of the entire essay, BUT you ONLY have to read Book 1, Chapter 16 through Book 2, Chapter 1 (pp. 105-110). You are of course...free...to read all of it, but this excerpt will give you a sampling of the nature of the discussion (which, as you can guess from the title, is about the nature of 'free will').
NB: If you know nothing about St. Augustine, you might find it useful to read the good Wikipedia article about him HERE.
In connection with this, please read Patterson pp. 187-90 on Epicureanism and 'free will'. It is, in fact, on the issue of 'free will' that I wish to concentrate -- especially as Augustine conceives of it, but as you'll see, the notion has its roots in Greek philosophy.
→This part is essentially optional: Patterson Part Four, Chaps. 16-19. These are important chapters in their own right, though they focus generally on Christianity -- 'mankind's only universal religion of freedom' (Patterson p. 263) -- and more specifically on the views and writings of Paul. These are essentially tangential to the issue of libertas at Rome. I'll address only a few of the things Patterson has to say, esp. in his Chapter 19. This is interesting reading, and while I encourage you to try to read all four chapters, if you need to limit yourself, Chaps. 16 and 19 are the most germane, with 19 perhaps the most significant for our purposes.
One thing you might think about as you read through the material this week is this: why is religious freedom not especially a big deal in ancient Rome? what is there about Roman religion that seems not to invite much controversy? Conversely, why should the rise of Christianity change things?
I raise this next question in one of the two options for this week's paper: 'free will' becomes an important talking point among early Christian writers (the St. Augustine reading will give you a taste of this). How does this strike you as different from the Roman views of libertas you've encountered thus far? Or is it?