Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Intimations of Christianity among the Romans

     "'You must forgive me, Nicolaus; I know that you will disagree, and that you have no way to voice your disagreement; but I have in late years sometimes thought that it might be possible to construct a system of theology or even a religion around the idea of love, if that idea were extended somewhat beyond its usual application, and approached in a certain way.'"

     Octavius Caesar to Nicolaus of Damascus, 10 August A.D. 14, as imagined by John Williams; Augustus, Book III ((New York:  New York Review of Books, 2015 [1971]), 293).  "'Now that I am no longer capable of it, I have been examining that mysterious power that in its many varieties existed within me for so many years.  Perhaps the name that we give to the power is inadequate; but if it is, so are the names, spoken and unspoken, that we give to all the simpler gods.'"
     Augustus then runs through some of the loves:  the erotic love of the opposite sex, the erotic love of the same sex (an imprisonment within the self, 294), friendship (the self-realizing platonic contemplation of "the mystery of the other"), the love of children (one's own, one's adopted, and children in general), "the love of the scholar for his text, the philosopher for his idea, the poet for his word" (both "the highest" and, "as a love of power", "the basest form of love"), and "the Father of [his] Country" for Rome (the Daughter to which he sacrificed his own, 295).