Augustine’s “Misericorditer”: Benevolent Severity In Correcting One’s Enemies

I have recently learned of an interesting doctrine articulated by St. Augustine in one of his letters.  The letter in question is Epistula 138, and I should describe briefly its context.  One of Augustine’s friends was a pagan senator in Rome named Volusian; his mother happened to be a Christian, but he was not.  The sack of Rome by Alaric in 410 A.D. had been a deeply shocking event for everyone in the Roman world, no matter what their religion was.  There was very much an atmosphere of despair.  People wondered how such a thing could have happened to what seemed the strongest military state in the world.

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Age Of Spectacle: Chariot Races, The Hippodrome, And The Four Factions

To understand fully the social environment in which the eastern Roman empire operated, we must have some grasp of the unique culture surrounding Constantinople’s Hippodrome in the centuries that followed the disappearance of the Roman empire in the west.  In Byzantium, sport and politics achieved a strange admixture that has no exact historical parallel anywhere else; sport influenced politics, and politics guided sport.  It was a peculiar world, but one that makes sense once we understand the conditions that existed at the time.  We begin with the arena itself.

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The Fragility And Perishability Of Knowledge (Podcast)

In this podcast we discuss how fragile and perishable knowledge can be. We comment on the loss of Latin literature in the West, and the dissipation of the holdings of the Alexandrian library of the Ptolemies. It is clear that even a short period of neglect can result in the loss of a catastrophic quantity of irreplaceable knowledge. Every generation must safeguard, respect, and promote the legacy of the past, so that future epochs are not deprived of their cultural inheritance.  It only took about 200 years of neglect for the majority of Latin literature to become lost to history.  In the east, the great library of Alexandria, along with that of Pergamum, withered away from a combination of apathy, neglect, and the vicissitudes of time.  What lessons can be learned from these sobering facts?

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Preserving Something For Time To Make Better

Before I explore the main subject of this essay, I wanted to relate a tale about Alexander the Great’s leadership acumen.  The historian Arrian relates an event that he believes best distills Alexander’s genius for command.  It can be found in VI.26 of his History of Alexander.  When Alexander and his army were passing through the Gedrosian desert (a part of what is now Baluchistan), they ran low on water and began to be tormented by extreme thirst.  Water was almost nowhere to be found, and it would be some time before they could reach a reliable aquifer.

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Friedrich Schlegel, The Sanskrit Language, And The Beginnings Of Comparative Philology

The great antiquity and depth of Indian civilization had been known to Europe and the Middle East for many centuries; yet the precise contours of Indian advances in mathematics, literature, and philosophy were hidden behind the veils of preconception and confusion.  We know that the caliph Harun Al-Rashid, in Baghdad in the 9th century A.D., commissioned translations of some prominent works of Indian literature, but such knowledge remained in the hands of scholars and was not widely diffused.  Things began to change gradually with the advancement in geographic, scientific, and commercial knowledge in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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