Christianity and Hellenism

Henry, Martin (2005) Christianity and Hellenism. Irish Theological Quarterly, 70 (4). p. 366.

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Horace’s celebrated remark, ‘Grecia capta ferum victorem cepit’ (‘Greece, once captured, took her barbarous captor captive’), was made in relation to the influence of Greek culture (especially poetry) on the civilization of Rome. Rome had come to dominate Greece militarily in the second century BC and had absorbed the country into its own political sphere of influence, making it a Roman province. But culturally Greece’s influence on Rome was vast, especially in the fields of philosophy and literature. Hence Horace’s famous dictum. But a surely weightier historical irony occurred in the centuries after Horace (65-8 BC) when, in the shape of Christianity, a small Jewish sect infiltrated the Greco-Roman world and eventually came to dominate it. This is acknowledged even by those, like Gibbon (who saw the Christian conquest of the Roman Empire as ‘the triumph of barbarism and religion’) and Nietzsche (‘Christianity robbed us of the harvest of the ancient world’ [The Anti-Christ]), who, in different measures, abhorred this triumph as one of the great disasters to befall humanity.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Hellenism, Christianity, Greco-Roman world
Academic Unit: St Patrick's College, Maynooth > Faculty of Theology
Item ID: 650
Depositing User: Martin Henry
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2007
Journal or Publication Title: Irish Theological Quarterly
Publisher: Pontifical University Maynooth
Refereed: Yes

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