Augustine on the Fall of America, uh, Rome

St. Paul, Minnesota

The rich looting the poor, who wallow in a depraved, borderline pornographic popular culture that glorifies violence. Property meaning more than people; people orgying in consumption. Life as a party; money and objects as the only values. America in 2011? No — Rome in 400!

Here’s how Augustine describes the waning days of the Roman Empire, around 400, in his City of God (Book II, Chapter 20):

“This is our concern, that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. Let kings estimate their prosperity, not by the righteousness, but by the servility of their subjects. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbor, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement. Let these be reckoned the true gods, who procure for the people this condition of things, and preserve it when once possessed.” [w/ some edits]

Augustine wrote the City of God in response to pagan claims that Christianity had caused the sack of Rome by the Vandals because it prohibited the worship of pagan (i.e., non-Trinitarian) gods. The first part is a very long, detailed recital of the many, many atrocities that occurred in the Roman Empire before Christ. He accuses his accusers — really very angrily, in the style of Ancient verbal combat — of revising history to suit their present thesis.

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2 responses to “Augustine on the Fall of America, uh, Rome

  1. Hey! That’s not Minneapolis…it’s Saint Paul!

  2. Nice catch – thanks Keith – I changed the caption.

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