Empires Ancient and Modern

Christopher Bryan

in Render to Caesar

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780195183344
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835584 | DOI:
Empires Ancient and Modern

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There are differences as well as parallels between Roman and post-enlightenment imperial experiences. Romans had many shared assumptions in common with those they colonized. Later strife between Christianity and Rome was not because Christians were or were perceived as political rebels. It was about religion. Romans accused Christians of superstitio and meant it. Pax Romana depended upon pax deorum. Rome’s part was pietas — honoring the gods. Christians (atheoi), by refusing to honor the gods, endangered the empire. Roman imperium was often violent and exploitative, though not more so than other polities of its time; it also had positive elements, notably a measure of peace and security. Men like Pliny, Virgil, and P. Petronius regarded defense of Roman peace as a matter of honor. We must beware of colonizing the past. Jesus, Josephus, Romans, and Jews should be listened to for their own sake before we attempt to apply what they say to ourselves.

Keywords: Atheoi; Honor; Imperium; Jews; Rome; Pax deorum; Pax Romana; Pietas; Superstitio; Virgil

Chapter.  4707 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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