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HUI216 (Spring 2009)1 HUI216 Italian Civilization Andrea Fedi.

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Presentation on theme: "HUI216 (Spring 2009)1 HUI216 Italian Civilization Andrea Fedi."— Presentation transcript:

1 HUI216 (Spring 2009)1 HUI216 Italian Civilization Andrea Fedi

2 HUI St. Augustine ( )St. Augustine He was born in Thagaste (now Suk Arras, Algeria), and died in Hippo (South of the modern Bona) Was he a Berber?Berber St. Monica was St. Augustine's mother. She was a Christian, while St. Augustine's father was a pagan In Chapt of book 9 of St. Augustine's Confessions, we can read about the circumstances of her death, in Milan, in the year 387, and we learn more about the relationship between mother and son. You can read the passage, if you want, at ii.html ii.html

3 HUI2163 St. Augustine ( ): the Manicheans, St. Ambrose Augustine was influenced by the Manichean heresy Manicheans emphasized the battle of good vs. evil, considered two almost equal powersManicheans The temptation to embrace a dualistic vision of the universe, where everything is so reassuringly black and white, where two powerful forces such as Good and Evil fight over the control of human history, has always been very strong That simplification presupposes reasons to be Christian that appear easier to understand and, most importantly, easier to represent in the routines of daily life. It is less complicated to think of oneself as a soldier fighting a constant battle against sin and sinners, in life and in society, than it is to find God's call and also meaningful, creative ways to infuse one's faith in the diverse fields and activities of life Augustine taught grammar and rhetoric in Thagaste, Carthage, Rome, then Milan (385) In Milan he met Ambrose, the city's bishop. From him he learned about the allegorical interpretation of the Bible and of life in general

4 HUI2164 St. Ambrose and the allegorical interpretation of the Bible The allegorical interpretation is based on the assumption that the Bible was directed by God to the Church in general, not just to a single group in a specific place, or to a community that lived during a certain time Everything in it has always meaning, and nothing is ever out of date or inapplicable to the present God is constantly speaking to his creatures through his book (and through reality (nature and history) The Christian has simply to uncover the hidden truth that is relevant for his/her own individual experience In the explanation of the Bible, Ambrose and the Fathers of the Church move constantly from the literal and historical interpretation of the text to a variety of allegorical interpretations

5 HUI2165 St. Ambrose and the allegorical interpretation of faith and life Both the Bible and human life are seen as having multiple layers of signification: through the Bible and through all kinds of events God is communicating with each individual "In allegorical exegesis the sacred text is treated as a mere symbol, or allegory, of spiritual truths. The literal, historical sense, if it is regarded at all, plays a relatively minor role, and the aim of the exegete is to elicit the moral, theological or mystical meaning which each passage, indeed each verse and even each word, is presumed to contain" (J.N.D. Kelly) An example from the Old Testament: the allegorical interpretation of the episode of Jonah in the belly of the whale does not take away from the reality of Jonah's experience, and yet at the same time that story is read also as a prophecy of Jesus' death and resurrection, the belly symbolizing the tomb in which his body rested for three days

6 HUI2166 St. Augustine: the conversion 386: after a friend's visit, St. Augustine goes into his garden. He hears a child's voice repeating "Tolle, lege" ["Take up and read"]. He picks up St. Paul's epistles, and opens it at Rom. 13Rom. 13 In line with the allegorical interpretation of reality, we have to assume that the child's voice is really that of the neighbor's son, and yet those words are also spoken to Augustine by God, indirectly, because nothing ever happens by chance Reality is in itself a book with multiple meanings, multiple levels of signification: everything has a literal and a historical meaning, but also speaks of something else Of course this view is somewhat distant from our modern reasoning, and medieval literature, where allegory is present everywhere, can be difficult to read and easy to misunderstand or to oversimplify

7 HUI2167 St. Augustine: after the conversion St. Augustine's Confessions Contains autobiographical chapters, which constitute probably the first modern autobiography (as a history of the heart, not just a journal of material events) Easter of 387: he is baptized by Ambrose Back in Africa he becomes a priest, then the Bishop of Hippo

8 HUI2168 Benozzo Gozzoli, San Gimignano (Tuscany): "Take up and read" (1465)

9 HUI2169 Benozzo Gozzoli, San Gimignano (Tuscany): "The baptism of St. Augustine" (1464)

10 HUI Augustine on grace and salvation, on the sack of Rome Often based on St. Paul's teachings Central is the idea that without the grace of God one cannot be saved Free will vs. predestination: see the following article from the Catholic encyclopedia: Even Martin Luther belonged to the Augustinian order De civitate Dei (413-26): on God and the Roman empire The City of God was written in the years following the sack of Rome by the Visigoths (410 CE) St. Augustine decided to provide a systematic examination of Roman history He explains how God intervened in the development of the Roman Empire (under which Jesus was to be born)

11 HUI21611 St. Augustine on God and the Roman Empire Romans were able, in his view, to maintain unity, peace and stability so that humankind would be ready to accept the gospel Augustine defends the Christian faith from the accusations of those who saw in the sack of Rome a sign of the weakness of the new God accepted by the Romans, a God who seemed unable or unwilling to protect the city and its inhabitants, in spite of the fact that the majority of them had converted to Christianity during the previous 100 years Augustine's ideas on the relationship between Roman and Christian history, and the pages he devoted to praising the virtues of the Romans, especially those from the age of the Republic, ended up promoting the acceptance of Greco-Roman civilization in medieval society/culture

12 HUI21612 How St. Augustine read the classics A passage that Prof. Donnell likes to quote often, shows how much Augustine believed in the fundamental harmony existing between Greco- Roman philosophy, specifically Platonism, and the Christian faith. It is a paragraph from the 7th book of the Confessions, in which Augustine explained how he found the words of the prologue to the gospel of St. John inside the book written by a disciple of PlatoDonnell Thou procuredst for me…certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin. And therein I read, not indeed in the very words, but to the very same purpose, enforced by many and diverse reasons, that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...

13 HUI21613 How St. Augustine read the classics...the Same was in the beginning with God: all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made: that which was made by Him is life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. And that the soul of man, though it bears witness to the light, yet itself is not that light; but the Word of God, being God, is that true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. … But, that He came unto His own, and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, as many as believed in His name; this I read not there. ok07http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/jod/augustine/Pusey/bo ok07

14 HUI21614 Why Augustine read and valued the classics It is undeniable that many of the Scriptures in the New Testament clearly show the influence that Greek culture already had on some of the authors of those texts, namely St. John, the apostle Paul and, to a certain extent, Luke Paul and Luke certainly had studied in schools and with teachers that were familiar with principles of Greek philosophy as well as of classical rhetoric In the case of John, very little we know for sure about his education, but that he had read books written by the disciples or followers of Plato or even those written by Plato himself there is no doubt, and biblical studies have pointed out that he was also a master in the use of rhetorical devices such as irony

15 HUI21615 Why Augustine read and valued the classics So it doesn't seem unreasonable that St. Augustine had recognized and that he valued the influence of classical philosophy on the Scriptures This discovery must have shown him the way to reconcile values and ideas of the Greeks and the Romans with the new Christian ideology, which was originally, by virtue of its roots, essentially different from anything ever conceived in Greek or Roman culture Finally we cannot overlook the fact that St. Augustine had been first a brilliant student and then for many years in teacher of rhetoric, one of the disciplines that really define classical culture

16 HUI21616 St. Augustine: metaphors that he popularized and that are still popular among Christians Life itself is like a book, or a divine scripture everywhere we turn our eyes there are signs the world can be read as an endless allegory Life is a journey, or a pilgrimage the final destination (Heaven or Hell) is much more important than the single steps or the path taken to get there The city of God vs. the city of man 1) the ideal community of the saints and believers 2) the society of those overly concerned with earthly values, like the community created by Cain, the first biblical city, after he had killed his brother; or the one founded by Romulus, another who had murdered a sibling heaven vs. earth = spirit vs. body

17 HUI21617 The 4 Latin doctors of the Church, in a medieval manuscript: Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory

18 HUI21618 The Temporal Reward Which God Granted To The Romans (from St. Augustine's The city of God, 5.15) With regard to those to whom God did not intend to give eternal life with His holy angels in His own celestial city..., if He had also withheld from them the terrestrial glory of that most excellent empire, a reward would not have been rendered to their good arts, -- that is, their virtues, -- by which they sought to attain so great glory Compare to the episode of Limbus in Dante's Inferno, in The Divine Comedy

19 HUI21619 Examples of the extraordinary virtues of the ancient Romans, from The city of God...another Roman chief, Torquatus, slew his son, not because he fought against his country, but because, being challenged by an enemy, he through youthful impetuosity fought, though for his country, yet contrary to orders which his father had given as general;Torquatus and this he did, notwithstanding that his son was victorious, lest there should be more evil in the example of authority despised, than good in the glory of slaying an enemy if, I say, Torquatus acted thus, wherefore should they boast themselves, who, for the laws of a celestial country, despise all earthly good things, which are loved far less than sons?

20 HUI21620 Examples of the virtues of the Romans: Mucius If Mucius, in order that peace might be made with King Porsenna, who was pressing the Romans with a most grievous war, when he did not succeed in slaying Porsenna, but slew another by mistake for him, reached forth his right hand and laid it on a red-hot altar,...so that Porsenna, terrified at his daring, and at the thought of a conspiracy of such as he, without any delay recalled all his warlike purposes, and made peaceMucius if, I say, Mucius did this, who shall speak of his meritorious claims to the kingdom of heaven, if for it he may have given to the flames not one hand, but even his whole body, and that not by his own spontaneous act, but because he was persecuted by another?

21 HUI21621 Ferdinand BolFerdinand Bol, Titus Manlius Torquatus Beheading His Son ( ), Rijksmuseum AmsterdamTitus Manlius Torquatus Beheading His Son

22 HUI21622 RubensRubens, Mucius Scaevola and Porsenna (1620, Budapest)

23 HUI21623 Giambattista TiepoloGiambattista Tiepolo, Mucius Scaevola ( ), Würzburg

24 HUI21624 The virtues of the Romans, from The city of God These despised their own private affairs for the sake of the republic, and for its treasury resisted avarice, consulted for the good of their country with a spirit of freedom, addicted neither to… crime nor to lust By all these acts… they pressed forward to honors, power, and glory; they were honored among almost all nations; they imposed the laws of their empire upon many nations; and at this day, both in literature and history, they are glorious among almost all nations There is no reason why they should complain against the justice of the supreme and true God, they have received their reward

25 HUI21625 Christianity and Roman civilization The mission of the Roman empire in Dante's The Divine Comedy The Roman Republic in Dante's The Divine Comedy when Dante, the protagonist of the Comedy, reaches the center of the earth, where Satan is, he finds there the three worst sinners in human history: while the first, Judas, is an obvious choice, the other two, Brutus and Cassius (who had conspired to kill Julius Caesar), can only be understood in the context of the deep appreciation of classical civilization by medieval intellectuals, appreciation which was shaped and fostered by scholars such as St. Augustine The preservation of Roman/Greek culture architecture and terminology: duomo (dome), cathedral (

26 HUI21626 St. Augustine and medieval culture Augustine, with a few others, was instrumental in convincing the Christian community that Greco- Roman civilization, in its greatest manifestations, was largely compatible with Christian ideology Therefore Medieval society was based on the combination of the Roman heritage and Christian culture Original Greco-Roman elements found their ways in religious poems, such as those written by St. Francis of Assisi and by Dante Theology and classical philosophy the philosophical theories of Aristotle and Plato were often use to confirm and explain, or even to provide the foundation of Christian theology

27 HUI21627 The Christian Church and Roman culture The Christian church borrowed ideas and practices from Roman culture from the Roman arts and architecture, the typology and the terminology for different kinds of Churches from the Roman government and administration, the attires of priests and bishops just consider some of the mosaics in Ravenna, [6th century CE] in this image, priests are on your right and members of the court are on your left: notice the many similarities

28 HUI21628 Conclusions By suggesting that the success of the Roman Empire was part of God's plan, and that it was not by chance that Jesus was born under Roman authority, Augustine established the premise for the preservation of Greek and Roman culture in an integrally Christian society such as that of the Middle Ages It is true that classical culture was at times and in different places ignored or misunderstood during the Middle Ages, but it is a fact that, among other things, the Church itself invested valuable resources in the construction and the maintenance of libraries that included scores of classical texts

29 HUI21629 Conclusions Medieval scholars and theologians may have at times attacked or rejected classical philosophers and pagan poets, but they seldom questioned their importance, a fact that seems almost natural now, but which was extraordinary in ancient times, considering how many civilizations have come and gone leaving so few traces (other than those rediscovered thanks to modern archeology) The fact that a poet like Dante, more than 800 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, could give so much relevance in his Divine comedy to its culture and its representatives is a real paradox, one that Augustine is at least partially responsible for see for example the treatment of the Roman Empire in the sixth Canto of Paradise,


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