In the difficult years of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, under the blows of the barbarians, some Christian writers, strangely enough, regarded the barbarians’ celebration as a progress for history. The pagans, who were then many, saw in these terrible invasions of barbarians on civilization punishment for the refusal of the ancient cult and blamed the Christians for this. However, pious Christians tried to explain the innumerable calamities that God brought down, not only from Alaric. but also small barbarian leaders who destroyed the empire.
The mournful question of what caused the fall of the great Rome and what will happen to Europe after this was an unsolvable mystery for that time. The largest church writer of the 5th century, Blessed Aurelius Augustine. for forty
Aurelius Augustine the Blessed. The fresco of the VI century in the chapel of Sancta-Sanctorum, Lateran (Rome)
Blessed Augustine was by birth a Roman from Carthage. In his youth, he led a long and vicious life. At first Augustine was carried away by Manichaeism. then he studied astrology; but in his spirit there was much asceticism, and through a long struggle he came to Christianity. The meeting with Bishop Ambrose made Aurelius Augustine a Christian; he became a zealous neophyte, and then became bishop of the city of Hippo and in a short time became famous as the best writer of the western church. He initiated the development of Catholic theology, and so far his work “On True Religion” serves as a kind of code for pious Catholics. In addition, Augustine introduced into it the idea of predestination, which then took advantage of the era of the Reformation. Good literary preparation, a careful study of the works of Cicero made Augustine a brilliant writer. His style is dominated by the wonderful techniques of Latin classics.
The work of Aurelius Augustine “On the City of God,” written in 414 and 415 years. has an important historical, political and social significance. Augustine established a close connection between barbarism and Christianity. He gives the whole future history to barbarism, that is, to the new world, for which a new religion is prepared. Blessed Augustine notes with the indulgence of devastation, murder, robbery; all this was repeated when the conquest of Rome. He is surprised at this mercy of the barbarians and attributes it to the influence of the Lord Himself. He is amazed that the vast basilicas were appointed barbarian leader for people who sought refuge from pogrom and destruction. In the book “On the City of God,” Aurelius Augustine draws a parallel between the barbaric invasions of the 5th century, the invasion of the Gauls and the Procripts of Mary and Sulla. Are those demons in whom you believe, save you from disasters? asks Augustine Romans. Goose or God owes the Capitol to salvation from the Gauls? Where were your gods during the defeat of the last Roman emperors; where were the gods during all your misfortunes?
Our power began recently, Augustine says of Christianity; she has no connection with such debauchery and depravity. Your ancestors, he says of the pagans, made war a trade and enslaved the neighboring peoples of the East. Luxury, bribery and debauchery were the natural consequences of Roman victories. The idleness of the Romans was the result of the overflow of slaves of Italy. We, not Christians, have filled Italy with slaves; we did not place them below animals; we did not force them to do the work that the cattle were supposed to carry. As for us, we preach a different teaching. We, Christians, did not impose chains on the inhabitants of the enslaved cities. We did not force the owners to leave their property and flee; We have not corrupted your people with free food, circuses and theaters; we did not destroy the senate and the aristocracy; not we have weakened the Legions. forcing them to fight among themselves; we were not the first to humiliate Rome. Is not Diocletian. asks Augustine in the pages of “The City of God,” the first set an example for the humiliation of Rome, moving the capital to Nicomedia? Your emperors handed out the rights of citizenship to all nations; they themselves destroyed patriotism. Not we, Augustine continues, ran the army, which for over ninety-two years gave us more than thirty emperors and as many aspirants.
Medieval manuscript of the works of Augustine the Blessed. Italy 15th century
To unite the different peoples of the empire, we must create something more than worldly ties; these bonds were found only in Christianity. And here comes the “City of God,” “the kingdom of God.” The purifying fire of the barbarians will exterminate paganism and make it worthy of the city of God. This millennium is for God’s kingdom. In the renewed walls of the city of God there will be no ambition, a thirst for glory; there will reign peace and justice; there will come a holy life about the Lord. Augustine proclaimed that a new world was coming, a new story.
That’s what the Christians had to answer to the Gentiles and that’s the essence of Saint Augustine’s brilliant work. The Church holds all responsibility for the misfortunes of the Gentiles. Moreover, the Church from the pages of the “City of God” removes the Romans from the history and reins of the empire, betrays the barbarians, and therefore looks condescendingly at the persecutors, if only these persecutors are Christians. It should be noted that Augustine at the end of his life, when the book “On the City of God” became famous, should have repented of his words.
What was formulated by Augustine became a conviction in the Roman West. From this faith, as it were, the policy of the West. The Byzantine East was still careful not to believe it. In the West it was decided that the empire should give way to barbarian kingdoms. The learned theologians of the West with the book “On the City of God” in their hands supported the rule of the barbarians and for this they received, of course, great rights and privileges. The two beginnings, barbarism and the church, unite and go hand in hand. That’s why the medieval history took such a clerical character.
Especially the Augustinian teaching was accepted in Gaul, where there were very many barbarians. Prosper, a theologian from Aquitaine, the book “On the City of God” in verse and, above all, he himself wrote a special essay on the calling of peoples, where he rejoices at the grandiose coup d’état that took place in his time. Christian preachers tried to praise the dignity of the barbarian leaders. Each of them strove to be friendly with the barbarous king, but at the same time he felt sympathy in the depths of his heart toward the Romans.