Christian Life From Pliny to Constantine

      What was Christian life like between the famous letter of Pliny until the reign of Constantine?
      Christian life between Pliny's letter and the reign of Constantine was a constant stream of persecution, but the level of persecution through the ages fluctuated from the barely noticeable to the highly dangerous. Pliny's letter to the Emperor Trajan inquired about the empire's legal stance on Christians, how they were to be found, and what kind of punishment they should receive. Trajan's response told Pliny that Christians ought not to be sought out, but if their practices happened to be observed, then Christianity was punishable by death – meaning that the empire had adopted a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding Christianity.
     Later emperors, however, were not so relaxed in their persecutions. There were several emperors, such as the military-appointed Diocletian and the famously mad Nero, who actively sought out Christians and had them tortured and killed for their faith. Diocletian's persecution, which lasted from 303AD to 305AD, became known as the Great Persecution. But even in times of relative peace Christians had to live in a state of constant vigilance, because even when Christians were not actively being sought out for their faith, Christianity was still officially a crime. Christian persecution finally came to an end with the reign of the Emperor Constantine, who believed that he had been told in a dream to carry a cross, the symbol of Christianity, into battle. His victory on the battlefield convinced him that Christianity was the true religion, and his subsequent baptism put an end to the persecutions of Christians throughout the empire.


Cicero's Rhetoric

      How important was the rhetorical context of Cicero's orations: his listeners' fear of Catiline's conspiracy and army?
      Cicero's rhetoric was his major advantage in his case against Catiline. Cicero, who was equipped with very little real proof, had to rely on his skill with words and rhetoric in order to ensure the success of his case against Catiline. Cicero was a master of rhetoric. With it he was able to stir the emotions of his listeners to fear Catiline and his army; without it he would not have got very far in trying to put a stop to Catiline's conspiracy. The rhetorical context of Cicero's orations was possibly the most important and effective factor in his arguments against Catiline.


Cicero's Writings Against Catiline

      If you had been Catiline, what would you have said to undermine Cicero's case?
      Cicero's case against Catiline was primarily based on intimidation. Cicero employed many tactics to discredit Catiline which involved descriptions of Catiline's despicable behavior, loose morals, and selfish ideals in order to paint a picture of Catiline that was unfavorable at best and loathsome at worst. Cicero approached the matter this way because, in his case, he presents very little real proof. What he was trying to accomplish was the destruction of Catiline's character and reputation, because he knew that his concrete evidence was very slim. If I had been Catiline, I would have attempted to undermine Cicero's case by demanding he back up his accusations with proof before the Senate, which of course Cicero would have been unable to do. If I could prove by Cicero's lack of proof that I was innocent of his accusations, then Cicero's case would have very little real weight.

Christian Teachings vs. Religions of the Past

      How would you compare the teachings of Christianity to the values cherished by earlier civilizations (particularly the Greeks, and the values expressed in Homer's works)? Conversely, can you see anything in common between Christianity and some of the great ancient thinkers we have discussed?
      Christianity is interesting in its teachings because it was one of the very first religions that taught of a single, all-powerful God (as stated clearly in John 1:1-5), whereas most religions before it had been founded on ideas of many gods, each of whom had power over only a handful of aspects of life. The Greek pantheon is an excellent example of this, containing such familiar gods of myth as Apollo (god of the sun), Athena (goddess of wisdom, war, and homemaking), and Zeus (king of the gods). This is the most obvious difference between the teachings of Christianity and the religions of earlier civilizations: the belief in one all-powerful God rather than many lesser gods.
      Another significant difference is the attitudes of the deities themselves. The Greeks believed in gods that were rather childish in their behavior; they were selfish, easily angered, and prone to scheming against each other and the humans they were meant to rule over. Christianity teaches that God is wise, all-knowing, just and fair, and does not give in to the temper-tantrum-like outbreaks that characterized the Greek pantheon.
      There are similarities between Christianity and older religions and beliefs, because Christian teachings embody all that humans value as good and virtuous thinking and behavior. Honesty, love, kindness and charity, as well as many other positive values, are encouraged by both Christianity and several older religions. But while most older religions required strict obedience to a ritualistic set of laws in order to be "right" with one's gods, Christianity teaches that one only has to be saved and made clean by the grace of God – no sacrifices, rituals, or ceremonial laws to keep.
      While similarities between Christianity and older belief systems do exist, I feel that the differences are greater, because there has never been a religion like Christianity since its founding with the birth of Jesus Christ, and there was never one before (save the religion of the Jews, which shared the same teachings and values of Christianity but with more ceremonies and rituals – all of which were made obsolete after the birth of Jesus Christ fulfilled the coming of the Messiah for the Jews).


Ethical Cause and Effect in Both Works and Days and The Eumenides

      How does the view of ethical cause and effect in history in Works and Days compare with the furies' view in The Eumenides?
      Works and Days by Hesiod provides an interesting comparison to Aeschylus' Eumenides, since both works of literature deal with many of the same themes of revenge, honesty, hard work, and ethics. Works and Days attempts to teach the reader what actions will lead to a good life (as well as what actions will lead to a poor and unhappy life). Eumenides, although it uses much the same concept, is more focused and candid in its warnings of a bad life rather than promises of a good.
      In Works and Days, Hesiod admits that it is morally permissible to take revenge on someone if they have wronged you. Eumenides agrees with this idea, as two major characters of the play use revenge to get back at those who have wronged them. Clytemnestra's husband sacrifices their daughter, so in revenge Clytemnestra commits adultery with another man and later kills her husband. Her son Orestes, once he finds out what his mother has done, takes revenge on her by killing her. Eumenides deals with which revenge was correct. According to the Furies, who play a major part in Eumenides, it was Clytemnestra's, and they spend most of the play trying to get Orestes punished for his revenge against his mother.
      Honesty is dealt with in both Works and Days and Eumenides. Hesiod believes that being honest is one of the actions that will result in a good and happy life. Morally speaking, being honest is the right thing to do under any circumstance, and this is illustrated in Eumenides when Orestes decides to be honest in the face of the Furies' condemnation about why he killed his mother.
     Hard work is also an important part of both pieces of literature. Hesiod points out, through many different examples, how hard work will pay off and lead to a good and happy life. Hard work, he says, will make one comfortable at the very least and may even lead to wealth, if applied correctly. He gives ideas on how to apply the principles of hard work to one's life, explaining in detail how to make the most of one's resources and labor. Hard work certainly paid off for the Furies in Eumenides. Although their primary goal – which was to have Orestes punished for the murder of his mother – was not achieved, they succeeded in becoming revered gods of Athens, an outcome which the city had offered to them as a sort of compromise.
      Works and Days and The Eumenides are filled with many such similarities and contrasts. They are fascinating complements to each other, and of course, they are outstanding works of literature in their own right.

Seneca's Letters to Lucilius and the Ara Pacis Augustae

      According to Seneca, what is man's unique good? How should a good man conduct himself?
      Seneca wrote in his Letters to Lucilius that he believes man's unique good to be reason, the power to think and to judge. None of the animals or other creatures of earth possess this capability, and for Seneca, that makes it man's defining characteristic and thus his unique good. Seneca writes that a good man must always behave according to reason; a good man must act with honor at all times and must be willing to do things that might be displeasing to him for honor's sake. Seneca believes that reason leads to virtue; thus, a good man is one whose defining characteristic of reason has led him to conduct his life with virtue.

      Read further about one of the Roman works of art you studied, and in about 125 words discuss the additional details you find out.
      The Ara Pacis Augustae (which translates to "Altar of the Augustan Peace), commonly known as the Ara Pacis, is a work of Roman art that was commissioned by the Senate in 13 BC to honor Augustus's military victories, which had brought peace to the Roman public. It was dedicated to the Roman goddess of Peace and the altar served as the location of many sacrifices to Peace. It served as a kind of monument to Roman civil religion, which involved paying homage Rome and her leaders rather than the mythic Greek gods that Rome had also adopted. The walls of the Ara Pacis are decorated with highly detailed relief work, depicting various scenes of Roman peace and prosperity which the altar was meant to commemorate.


The Augustan Settlement and Virgil's Aeneid

      What was the Augustan Settlement?
      The Augustan Settlement was Augustus's way of presenting the idea to the public that under his rule, the Roman Republic was being restored and that there was no single absolute ruler, even though that's precisely what Augustus himself wanted to be. Under the Augustan Settlement, Augustus received ultimate control over a certain number of territories, which were known as "imperial provinces" and whose regional governors were chosen by Augustus himself. In order to maintain the balance, Augustus also had several "senatorial provinces," whose governors were appointed by lot every year. Augustus reserved the right to appoint military tribunes and tax collectors, declare war, and make treaties, in exchange for which he restored power to traditional magistracies and reinstated consular elections. Rome remained primarily under Augustus's power, but he managed it in such a way that, for the Roman public, it seemed as if the Republic of old had indeed made a comeback.

      What is the basic story of The Aeneid? Why do you think this great literary work has also been called an exercise in political propaganda?
      The Aeneid is an epic tale written by Virgil about a man named Aeneas, a citizen of Troy. The Aeneid focuses on Aeneas's life after the destruction of Troy by the Greeks in The Iliad. Aeneas then goes on to found the city of Rome, which eventually becomes a great empire that subjugates the Greeks. Although Virgil during his lifetime did not think that The Aeneid was worthy of being read (and in fact wished it destroyed after his death), Emperor Augustus ordered the work published because he felt that it was a useful piece of political propaganda. The Aeneid casts Rome in a positive light, especially its main character Aeneas, who is a figure very similar to Augustus himself. The Aeneid was meant to make its audience sympathetic to Rome and particularly to Rome's emperor.

The Struggle of the Orders and Tiberius Gracchus

     What specific changes occurred in Roman society as a result of the Struggle of the Orders?
      The Struggle of the Orders was a significant time in Roman history, when society was divided into two major classes: the Plebeians and the Patricians. Patricians were powerful and wealthy and controlled Rome's political scene, while Plebeians were the "servant" class, and the freedoms they were afforded were few and insignificant. There was no shifting between the classes: in order to be a Patrician, you had to be born a Patrician. No matter how hard the Plebeians tried to lobby for their freedoms and rights, the Patricians were only ever concerned with their own affairs over their servants'. The only things that the Plebeians truly owned with which they could effectively rebel were their own bodies – because the lower class greatly outnumbered the upper, the Plebeians decided to peaceably leave Rome altogether, depriving the entire upper class of their servants and subjects.
     Having proven that they did indeed have some sway over the Patricians, who immediately begged for them to return, the Plebeians went back to Rome with a new resolve to change the way they were being treated. Because of this peaceful struggle, some things in Roman society were changed for the Plebeians: Intermarriage between the classes was allowed for the first time, allowing one to enter a class he had not been born into, the practice of enslaving those who owed you debts was abolished, and by the year 342 BC a Plebeian was actually made a Roman consul.

     Why did Tiberius Gracchus attract so much suspicion from the Roman Senate?
      Tiberius Gracchus was a Roman tribune who was fond of doing things the wrong way, meaning that he would do things the way he deemed would be most efficient instead of sticking to traditional means. The first notable instance of this occurred when the soldiers of the Roman military were returning from the Punic Wars, only to find their land ravaged by the struggles of the war. Desperate not to starve, many of these soldiers sold off their land, expecting to find jobs in the cities – not realizing that most of the jobs they would have done were already being done by slaves. Faced with this new joblessness, the veterans tried to re-enlist in the army, only to be told that they could not enlist since they had no land. Rome was left with a lot of poor, hungry, jobless veterans who had nowhere to go and nothing to do. Tiberius Gracchus sought to change this by taking land from wealthy individuals whom he deemed did not need it, and distributing it among the veterans. Not only would the soldiers now have land to work, but their possession of land would make them eligible to join the military again, thus swelling Rome's army with thousands of men who were grateful and indebted to Tiberius Gracchus.
      But instead of going to the Senate with this proposal, as was the traditional route, Tiberius Gracchus went directly to the Concilium Plebis, a move which angered the Senate so much that even when the Concilium Plebis voted to pass the proposal, the Senate refused to fund it. Cut short of funds, it looked as if the plan would have to be dropped – except soon afterward, the kingdom of Pergamum was passed into the control of Rome when its king died. Tiberius Gracchus now decided to tax Pergamum directly in order to fund his project, which made the senate even angrier because he – as a tribune – had no legal power to levy taxes. Tiberius Gracchus's fellow tribune, Marcus Octavius, on a prompt from the Senate, finally decided to veto the project – which only made Tiberius Gracchus see him as an obstacle to be removed. Soon afterward Marcus Octavius was deposed as tribune by Tiberius Gracchus's deciding vote, leaving the path clear for Tiberius's Gracchus's plans.
      The final blow came when Tiberius Gracchus ran for a second term as tribune in order to see his plan carried out, a move which was forbidden by Roman law. The Senate was now fed up with him and the trouble he was causing them. At last, at a political meeting with the tribune, the Senate witnessed Tiberius Gracchus make a gesture which they interpreted as calling for a crown – when in reality he had merely been communicating to his friends that he thought he was in danger by gesturing to his head, but the irate Senate did not see it that way. They broke the legs off chairs and beat Tiberius Gracchus to death with them.