Saturday, August 20, 2016

The modern political liberalism of late antique Rome

"'The laws should punish offences against another's property, not offences against a man's own personal character.  No one should be brought to trial except for an offence, or threat of offence, against another's property, house, or person; but anyone should be free to do as he likes about his own, or with his own, or with others, if they consent.'"

"Quid alienae uineae potius quam quid suae uitae quisque noceat, legibus aduertatur.  Nullus ducatur ad iudicem, nisi qui alienae rei domui saluti uel cuiquam inuito fuerit inportunus aut noxius; ceterum de suis uel cum suis uel cum quibusque uolentibus faciat quisque quod libet."

     Augustine, De civitate Dei ii.20, as trans. Henry Bettenson.  Augustine is channeling Roman pagans "unconcerned about the utter corruption of their country".  I was put onto this by John Milbank, Theology and social theory:  beyond secular reason, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA:  Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 405:  "It is clear, then, that Augustine does not endorse, indeed utterly condemns, every tendency towards a view of personhood as 'self-ownership', and of ownership itself as unrestricted freedom within one's own domain."  Latin from CSEL 40.1, ed. Dombart & Kalb (1899), p. 87 l. 24-p. 88 l. 2.
     And yet, as De civitate Dei ii.20 intimates, this concern for the property, houses, and persons of others was extended only to the superior (and respectably licentious) rich, not prostitutes, their inferiors, or any concerned for and/or expressive on the subject of the true spiritual good of the former.

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