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Teachings of Augustine and the Roman Aristocracy

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Rome has been a warrior state in the late aristocracy. It embarked for almost two centuries of constant imperial expansion. The victories and the expansions caused serious issues like human sufferings, bloodshed and money loss. Tens of thousands of the conquered people paid taxes to the Roman state whereas the Roman soldiers spent years and years fighting overseas.

As part of the late Roman aristocracy, I have been facing many individual and collective issues in the society. Being a female member, I have always been more sensitive to my surroundings, which convinced me to read literature and writings to have a prosperous and a more sophisticated and peaceful society.

The discipline in the Roman army was found to be really disreputable. If a unit was found disobedient or not so brave in a war, one in ten soldiers were selected and brutally killed by their former comrades. Important to note, this was not just a myth to terrify the freshly selected recruits, it was actually observed. Roman soldiers even killed each other for their common goods.

The Roman philosophy of war and army

In contrast to the Roman philosophy of war and army, as I read, Augustine emphasized on peace and harmony. He convinced that Christians should not be completely against war. He stated that peacefulness in the face of critical wrongdoing, which can only be handled with violence, would be considered a sin. Defending oneself and others may be necessary at times, particularly when it has been authorized by a lawful authority. In short, he was of the opinions that a war should not be pre-emptive but defensive in order to restore peace. A war should be just and legitimate for a good cause. According to Augustine, The purpose of all wars is peace” (Shedd 59).

Women in ancient Rome were considered weak and were not able to vote or hold any political position. They had a minor and limited public role. Women were married at early ages like 11 to 12 years and were forced to give births to as many children as they could since they were never sure how many of them would be able to survive. Infertility in women was a basis for divorce, and at times, women offered divorce so that their husbands could re-marry and have their children form some other woman. They always wanted a son to carry the family’s name. Women captured during war were treated as slaves and were used to fulfil their sexual desires. Women could not make a choice of having their children or not, they only had to obey what their husbands told them to. Women were not allowed to teach in Church or baptize.

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According to Augustine, the act of eating the forbidden fruit by Adam with his wife was considered as an act of companionship and equality. His rules and regulations helped women play their role in Church. Augustine remained the theologian for the Western Christian tradition for women. He encouraged the role of women in church and the society without ignoring the responsibility of raising their children well.

Augustine had quite clear and precise anthropological views. He was of the opinion that a human being is a union of two substances: the body and the soul. He has described the concept of body and soul union as marriage, and that initially both the substances were in peace but as soon as they unite, they experience combat between each other.

According to his philosophy, the body is a three-dimensional substance which is composed of four essentials whereas the soul is dimensionless. The soul has the power to rule the body. Unlike Plato and Descartes, Augustine was not preoccupied to explain the union of the soul and the body in much detail.

Explaining of evil by Augustine

Augustine’s idea of virtue inspired me a lot. According to him, anything that came into existence was good and God being the ground of existence is perfect along with everything that he created. He stated that “Evil has no positive nature, but the loss of virtue has been named evil” (Augustine 115).

He further explained that evil always injures, and the injury by evil is the deficiency of virtue. If there is no deficiency, there would be no evil and hence no injuries. He says that all that is corrupted is derived from the loss of virtue.

Moreover, he observed that one cannot choose evil as there has been no evil thing created by God to choose. According to his theology, one can only turn away from good, but this would make him go from a greater good to the lesser one. “For when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil; not because that is evil for which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked.” (Shedd 97)

Hence, evil, according to him, is an act of choosing the lesser good, and the source of evil is the free will of the people. The world that has never been used by evil would be a good place to live, but it cannot be the best place. He believed that the best of all worlds would be the place where evil will facilitate the development of virtues. This world can be made by population of souls which will be purified by overcoming evil with good. Evil is momentary whereas the virtue that will result would be eternal.

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