Karl Kautsky

Foundations of Christianity

Book Two: Society In The Roman Empire

III. Thought and Sentiment in the Age of the Roman Empire


But, the defenders of Christianity will say, this description is one-sided and therefore untrue. It is true that Christians were only men and could not avoid the degrading influences of their environment. But that is only one side of Christianity. We also find that it develops a morality that rises far above that of antiquity, a sublime humaneness extending to everything that has a human figure, low as well as high, foreigner as well as fellow countryman, enemy as well as friend; that it preaches the brotherhood of men of all classes and races. This morality is not to be explained by the times in which Christianity arose; it is all the more remarkable for the fact that it was preached in an era of the deepest moral decadence; here, they say, is where historical materialism breaks down, here we have a phenomenon that is explicable only in terms of the sublimity of a person rising above the condition of space and time, of a divine man, or to use the modern jargon, a superman.

That is what our “idealists” say.

How does that fit with the facts? First take charity toward the poor and humaneness toward slaves. Are these two phenomena really confined to Christianity? It is true that we do not find much charity in classical antiquity. The reason is very simple: charity presupposes poverty on a mass scale. The mental life of antiquity, however, had its roots in communistic conditions, in the common property of the Markgenossenschaft, the community, the household, which gave their members a right to the common products and means of production. It was rare that there was any occasion for alms.

We must not confuse hospitality with charity. Hospitality was a universal practice in antiquity. It represents however a relationship between equals whereas charity presupposes social inequality. Hospitality cheers both guest and host. Charity elevates the man who gives it, and lowers and mortifies the man that receives it.

In the course of history a mass proletariat began to form in some large cities, as we have seen. But this group possessed or obtained political power and used it to get a share in the means of enjoyment that came to the wealthy and to the state from slave labor and the plunder of the provinces. Thanks to democracy and their political power these proletarians did not need charity; for this requires not only mass poverty but also the absence of political rights and power on the part of the proletariat, and these conditions were present for the first time to any great extent in the time of the emperors. It is no wonder that it was just then that the idea of charity began to prevail in Roman society. But it did not come from any supernatural higher morality of Christianity.

At the beginning of their rule the Caesars still found it advisable to buy off not only the army but the proletariat of the capital as well with bread and circuses. Nero in particular did wonders in this respect. In many large cities of the provinces as well the effort was made to keep the lower classes quiet in this way.

This did not last long. As the society grew poorer, government expenditures had to be cut down, and the Caesars began, naturally, with the proletarians, whom they no longer feared. There was also the need to cope with the growing shortage of labor power. If bread was no longer distributed, the able-bodied proletarians would have to look around for work, perhaps by binding themselves to the great landholders as coloni, hereditary tenants.

But it was precisely the need for labor power that now gave rise to new forms of subsidies.

Under the emperors all the old social organizations disintegrated, not only the Markgenossenschaften but the households and the enlarged families as well. Everyone thought only of himself; blood relationships went by the board with political ones; readiness to make sacrifices for relatives disappeared along with public spirit. Orphan children suffered especially. Without parents they were now defenceless in the world, with nobody to take them in. Another factor increasing the number of waifs was the fact that, as everyone became poorer and self-sacrifice decreased, people tended more and more to get away from the burden of a family. Some managed this by staying single, by relying on prostitution, the male branch of which flourished enormously; others sought at least to avoid having children from their marriages. Both methods contributed mightily to depopulation and the lack of labor power, and so to the further impoverishment of society. Many who had children found it the most convenient thing to get rid of them by exposure. This exemplary practice became widespread, despite repeated prohibitions. It became more and more urgent on the one hand to take care of the waifs and on the other to take care of the children of poor parents at home. These tasks occupied the early Christians to a great extent. The care of orphans was constantly on their minds. Both sympathy and the need for workers and soldiers contributed to insuring the upbringing of orphans, foundlings and proletarian children.

Even in the time of Augustus we find efforts in this direction; in the second century of our era these efforts become practical. The emperors Nerva and Trajan were the first who initiated foundations, at first in Italy, on the basis of having estates either bought by the state and rented out, or given out on mortgages. The proceeds from the rents and mortgages were to go for the rearing of poor children, especially orphans. [12]

At Hadrian’s coronation he expanded this institution, which had been organized for 5,000 children under Trajan. Later emperors went still further. In addition to this, a municipal institution came into existence. The oldest private orphanage we know of dates from the time of Augustus. Helvius Basila, a former praetor, left the citizens of Atina in Latium $22,000 to provide bread for children (unfortunately the number is not given). [13] By Trajan’s time many such foundations are mentioned. A rich lady, Caelia Macrina of Tarracina, whose son had died, contributed a million sesterces ($5o,ooo) so that a hundred boys and a hundred girls could be supported on the interest; in the year 97 Pliny the Younger founded an asylum in his native city Comum (now Como), in which the yearly revenues of an estate worth 5oo,ooo sesterces were devoted to the support of poor children. He founded schools, libraries and so forth.

All these foundations however, were not able to counteract the depopulation of the Empire. That had its basis deep in economic conditions, and increased with the decay of the economy. The general impoverishment finally took away the means of continuing the care of the children; along with the state the charitable institutions went bankrupt.

Müller reports on this development:

“Their existence can be traced for almost 180 years. Hadrian saw to it that the children should be better covered. Antoninus Pius appropriated more money for this purpose. Inscriptions giving thanks were devoted to him in 145 by the boys and girls in question in Cupramontana, a city in Picenum, and in 161 by the children of Sestinum in Umbria. To attest Marcus Aurelius’s activity in the same field there is a similar dedication from Ficulea in Latium. In the first years of his reign this foundation seems to have been at its height; then it went steeply down with the decline of the Empire. As the result of his constant military needs, which led him to auction off the crown jewels, ornaments and other valuables, he seems to have withdrawn the capital funds of the institutions and transferred the payment of the interest to the government treasury. Under Commodus, however, the treasury was for nine years unable to meet its obligations, and Pertinax was not able to pay the arrears and had to cancel them. However the position of the foundations seems to have been improved later. At the end of the third century we still find official references to these institutions. That, however, is the end. Under Constantine they no longer existed.” [14]

The increasing poverty destroyed the foundations, but not the idea of charity, which increased along with the growing misery. This idea is by no means peculiar to Christianity or confined to it; Christianity shared it with its era, and was led to it not by moral elevation but by economic decline.

With the sense of charity and the respect for it there came another less attractive quality, ostentation of the alms one gave. An example is Pliny, just mentioned. We know of his benevolent institutions only through himself; he has described them at length in writings, meant to be published. When we see how Pliny peddles his feelings and what admiration he has for his own nobility, it does not seem to us a proof of the ethical grandeur of the “golden age” of the Roman Empire, its happiest time, as Gregorovius, with most of his colleagues, calls it, but rather a proof of the vain frivolity of the period, an edifying addition to its priestly arrogance and pious hypocrisy.

Niebuhr condemns Pliny most sharply, for his “childish vanity” and “dishonorable baseness”.

As for humaneness towards slaves, which is supposed to be another quality peculiar to Christianity, the situation is quite the same as in the case of charity.

To begin with it must be noted that Christianity, at least in the form in which it became the official religion, never had any notion of opposing slavery in principle. It in no way tended towards its abolition. The fact that under Christianity the exploitation of slaves for money profit came to an end had reasons that had nothing to do with any religious ideas. We have already seen these reasons. The basic one was the military decline of Rome, which cut off the supply of cheap slaves and took the profit out of exploiting them. Slavery for luxury however outlasted the Roman Empire; in fact, along with Christianity there arose a new sort of slaves in the Roman world, the eunuchs, who played a great part under the Christian emperors from Constantine on. We find them already at the court of Claudius, Nero’s father (Suetonius, Tiberius Claudius Drusus, chaps. 18, 44).

The idea of putting an end to slavery never occurred to the free proletarians. They tried to improve their lot by milking the rich and the government without doing any work themselves, and this was possible only by means of exploiting slaves.

It is significant that, in the communistic state of the future which Aristophanes ridicules in his Ecclesiazusae, slavery continues. The distinction between rich and poor disappears, but only for the freemen; for them everything becomes common property, including the slaves, who carry on production. This is only a joke, but it is an accurate reflection of the way the ancients thought.

We find similar notions in a pamphlet on the reasons for the prosperity of Attica, dating from the fourth century B.C., to which Pöhlmann refers in his Geschichte, previously cited.

As Pöhlmann puts it, this pamphlet demands “a vast extension of the government’s economic activity to commerce and production.” Above all government purchase of slaves for the silver mines. The number of these government slaves should be increased so much that finally there would be three slaves to every citizen. Then the state would be able to assure each of its citizens at least a minimum subsistence. [15]

Professor Pöhlmann is of the opinion that this brilliant proposal is typical of the “collectivist radicalism” and “democratic socialism” that wants to nationalize all the means of production in the interests of the proletariat. Actually what it is typical of is the nature of the ancient proletariat and the interest it had in maintaining slavery; but Pöhlmann’s conception and presentation of it is typical of the shallowness of bourgeois scholarship, for whom any nationalization of property, even property in men, is “collectivism,” every step taken in the interests of the proletariat is “democratic socialism,” no matter whether this proletariat belongs to the exploiters or the exploited.

The interest which the Roman proletariat had in slavery is shown by the fact that even in the revolutionary actions they never showed opposition to the principle of property in human beings. Hence we occasionally find even the slaves ready to crush a proletarian uprising. It was slaves, led by aristocrats, that gave the death-blow to the proletarian movement of Caius Gracchus. Fifty years later Roman proletarians under the leadership of Marcus Crassus crushed the rebellious slaves led by Spartacus.

Nobody thought seriously of a general abolition of slavery; but the way in which slaves were handled was another matter. Here it must be granted that under Christianity the attitude toward slavery became much more humane and the human rights of slaves came to be recognized, in sharp contrast to the wretched state of the slaves at the beginning of the Empire, when, as we have seen, the body and the life of the slave were at the mercy of any whim of his master, who often made the most atrocious use of his rights.

There is no doubt that Christianity firmly opposed this sort of treatment of slaves. But that is not to say that in this it went against the spirit of its time, that it was alone in its defence of the slaves.

What class claimed the right to unrestricted misuse and murder of slaves? Naturally, the class of rich landholders, above all the aristocracy.

But the democracy, the common people, who owned no slaves, did not have the same interest in the right to mistreat slaves as the great slave-owners did. At any rate, so long as the order of small farmers (who too held slaves) or at least the traditions of this order were predominant in the Roman people, it felt no urge to defend the slaves.

Gradually a swing in public opinion was built up, not because of the ennoblement of morality but because the composition of the Roman proletariat had changed. There were fewer and fewer free-born Romans and especially small farmers in their ranks, and more and more freedmen, who too shared in Roman citizenship and under the Empire ended by constituting the majority of Rome’s population. There were many reasons for emancipation. Many a man who was childless (and that was often the case in those days, when people were more and more afraid of the burdens of marriage and children) was impelled by caprice or kindness to liberate his slaves after his death by a clause in his will. Often an individual slave was freed during the master’s lifetime as a reward for special services, or out of vanity, for a man who manumitted many slaves got the reputation of being wealthy. Other slaves were liberated out of political considerations, since in most cases the freedman remained in dependence on his master as a client, but had political rights. Thus he increased his master’s political influence. Finally slaves might be allowed to save up and buy their liberty, and many a master did good business in this way by having a slave he had worked to the bone buy himself free for a price that would enable the master to buy a fresh slave with full strength.

With the growth of the number of slaves in the population the number of freedmen grew as well. The free proletariat was now recruited not so much from the farmers but from slaves, and stood in political opposition to the slave-holding aristocracy, from which it wanted to win political rights and political power which could lead to such tempting economic gains. It is no wonder that a fellow-feeling with the slaves began to spring up in the Roman democracy just at the time that the excesses of the slaveholders against their human beasts of burden were at their height.

There was another circumstance tending in the same direction.

When the Caesars came to power, their household, like that of every noble Roman, was run by slaves and freedmen. No matter how deep the Romans might have sunk, a free-born citizen would have held it beneath his dignity to descend to personal service even for the most powerful of his fellow-citizens. The household of the Caesars however now became the Imperial court, and their house servants became officials of the Imperial court, who began to form a new administrative apparatus alongside the traditional republican one. It was the new government which more and more took care of the actual business of the business and rule of the state, while the offices that had come down from republican times became more and more empty titles that gratified vanity but gave no real power.

The slaves and freedmen of the emperor’s court became the rulers of the world, and hence, by means of embezzlement, extortion and bribery, the world’s most successful exploiters. Friedländer’s excellent Sittengeschichte des kaiserlichen Rom, which we have often cited, well says: “The riches that came to them because of their privileged position were a principal source of their wealth. At a time when the freedmen’s opulence was proverbial, few could compete with these servants of the emperor. Narcissus owned 400 million sesterces [$20,000,000], the greatest fortune known in antiquity; Pallas 300 million [$15,000,000]. Callistus, Epaphroditus, Doryphorus and others had treasures not much smaller. When the emperor Claudius once complained about the low level of the imperial treasury, it was said in Rome he would have more than enough if he were to be taken into partnership by his two freedmen, Narcissus and Pallas.”

In actual fact one of the sources of income of many emperors was forcing rich slaves and freedmen to share the proceeds of their frauds and extortions with them.

“The emperor’s freedmen, owning so much money, surpassed the Roman magnates in pride and pomp. Their palaces were the most splendid in Rome; Juvenal says that the palace of Claudius’s eunuch Posides outshone the Capitol; the rarest and most precious objects were piled up extravagantly there ... However the imperial freedmen adorned Rome and other cities of the monarchy with splendid and useful structures. Cleander, the powerful freedman of Commodus, devoted a part of his tremendous fortune to building houses, baths and other edifices useful to individuals and to whole municipalities.”

This rise of many slaves and liberated slaves seemed all the more startling compared with the financial decline of the old landowning aristocracy. And just as today the bankrupt hereditary aristocrats hate and despise the rich Jews in their hearts, and yet flatter them when they have to, so also was the case with the imperial slaves and freedmen.

“The highest aristocracy of Rome vied in honoring and courting the all-powerful servants of the emperor, no matter how deeply these scions of old and famous houses despised and abhorred men who came from hated stocks and were indelibly stained with the shame of servitude, and in more than one respect were legally beneath the free-born beggar.”

Externally the position of the emperor’s servants was very modest, completely subordinate to the high-born title-bearers.

“Actually the relationship was quite different, often quite the opposite, and the utterly despised ‘slave’ had the satisfaction of seeing ‘the free and noble admire them and call them fortunate,’ of having the greatest men of Rome humble themselves before them; few dared to treat them as serving-men ... In crude flattery a family tree was invented for Pallas which traced his ancestry back to the king of Arcadia of the same name; and a descendant of the Scipios proposed an address of thanks in the Senate because this scion of a royal house had put aside his ageold nobility for the good of the state and condescended to become the servant of a prince. On the motion of one of the consuls (52 A.D.) the praetorian insignia and a considerable gift of money (15 million sesterces) were awarded to him.”

Pallas accepted only the former. For this the Senate voted Pallas a resolution of thanks.

“This decree was set up on a bronze tablet next to a statue of Julius Caesar in armor, and the possessor of 300,000,000 sesterces praised as a model of strict unselfishness. L. Vitellius, the father of the emperor of the same name, a man of very high position and of a rascallity which even in that time caused astonishment, honored gold statues of Pallas and Narcissus among his domestic deities ...

“But nothing shows the position of these former slaves so well as the fact that they could marry the daughters of noble houses, even houses related to the emperor, and this in an era when the pride of the nobility in their ancient origin and a long series of noble ancestors was tremendous.” [16]

In this way the Roman citizens, the masters of the world, came to be ruled by slaves and erstwhile slaves and bow the knee before them.

It is clear what a tremendous effect this must have had on the attitude of the time toward slavery in general. The aristocrats may have hated the slaves all the more, the more they had to bow down before some of them; the mass of the people began to respect the slave, and the slave to respect himself.

In addition, Caesarism had come to the fore in the struggle of the democracy, itself largely made up of former slaves, against the aristocracy of the great slave-owners. The latter were not so easy to buy off as the propertyless masses, and formed the only considerable rival to the newly founded Caesarian government; the great slave-owners constituted the republican opposition in the Empire, so far as one existed. Slaves and freedmen on the other hand were the emperor’s most faithful supporters.

The effect of all this was the formation, not only in the proletariat but also in the imperial court and in the circles in which the court set the tone, of an attitude favorable to the slaves; this attitude was strongly expressed by court philosophers as well as by proletarian street preachers.

Without taking the space to cite such statements, we give only one case: the favor the bloody Nero showed toward slaves and freedmen. This kept him in constant conflict with the aristocratic Senate which, no matter how servile it was toward particular powerful freedmen, in general wanted the most rigorous regulations against slaves and freedmen. Thus in the year 56 the Senate desired to break the “arrogance” of the freedmen by giving the former owner the right to take liberty from freedmen who proved to be “worthless,” that is not slavishly obedient enough, toward him, Nero opposed this proposal in the most vigorous way. He pointed out how important the order of freedmen had become and how many knights and even senators had been recruited from their midst, and recalled the old basic Roman principle that whatever differences there might exist among the different classes of the nation, freedom must be the common good of all. Nero offered a counter-proposal, that the rights of the freedmen should not be abridged, and forced the cowardly Senate to accept it.

The situation was more difficult in the year 61. The city prefect Pedanius Secundus was murdered by one of his slaves. The expiation of such a deed required, according to the old aristocratic law, the execution of all the slaves who were in the house at the time of the murder, in this case no fewer than 400 people, including women and children. Public opinion called for milder treatment. The masses of the people stood firmly for the slaves; it seemed as though the Senate itself would be carried away by the general attitude. Then Caius Cassius came forward, the leader of the republican opposition in the Senate, and a descendant of one of the murderers of Caesar. In a fiery speech he warned the Senate not to let itself be cowed and yield to gentleness. It was only through fear that the dregs of humanity were to be held in check. This agitator’s speech had an overwhelming effect; no one in the Senate contradicted him. Nero himself was intimidated and thought it best to remain silent. The slaves were all executed. But when the republican aristocrats, emboldened by this success, introduced a bill in the Senate to have the freedmen who had lived under one roof with the condemned slaves deported from Italy, Nero got up and declared that even if sympathy and pity were not to soften the old custom, at least it should not be made more rigorous; and the bill was defeated.

Nero also appointed a special judge who, as Seneca tells us, “was to inquire into cases of abuse of slaves by their masters and set bounds to the savagery and caprice of the masters as well as their stinginess with food.” The same emperor restricted the gladiatorial games and sometimes, as Suetonius relates, would not let any gladiator be killed, not even if he was a condemned criminal.

Similar tales are told of Tiberius. Facts like these show clearly the fruitlessness of writing history with a moralistic or political bias with the aim of measuring men of the past with the moral or political standards of today. Nero, the murderer of his mother and wife, who out of kindness grants slaves and criminals their lives; the tyrant who defends freedom against the republicans; the debauched maniac who practices the virtues of humanity and charity to the saints and martyrs of Christianity, who feeds the hungry, gives the thirsty to drink, clothes the naked – recall his princely generosity toward the Roman proletariat –, who stands up for the poor and the wretched: this historical figure defies any attempt to judge him by an ethical standard. Difficult and senseless as it is to try to decide whether Nero was a good fellow at bottom or a rascal, or both, as is generally held to be the case today; it is just as easy to understand Nero and his actions, those we sympathize with and those that revolt us, as results of his times and his position.

The mildness of the imperial court and the proletariat alike toward the slaves must have been strongly supported by the fact that the slave was no longer a cheap commodity. This led, on the one hand, to an end of that aspect of slave labor that had always given rise to the worst brutalities, namely their exploitation for profit. There remained only luxury slavery, which had always been milder. Moreover, the scarcer and dearer slaves became, the greater the loss caused by the early death of a slave, the harder he was to replace.

A final factor in the same direction was the increasing disinclination to military service, which made many cities shrink more and more from bloodshed, together with internationalism, which taught that every man should be held as equal without distinction of descent, and thus tended to destroy national differences and oppositions.




We have already pointed out the extent to which world commerce spread under the Empire. A network of magnificent roads linked Rome with the provinces and one province with another. The movement of trade was especially favored by the peace that existed within the Empire after the perpetual wars of the cities and states against one another and then the civil wars that had occupied the last centuries of the republic. As a result the navy could be entirely used against the pirates; piracy in the Mediterranean, which had never really ended, was now over. Weights, measures and coinage were uniform over the entire Empire: all these factors considerably helped commerce among the various parts of the Empire.

This commerce was primarily a personal matter. Postal service, at least for private messages, was not well-developed, and anyone who had business abroad had to go there and do it in person much more frequently than is the case today.

All this brought the nations living around the Mediterranean closer together and smoothed out their differences. It never to be sure got to the point where the whole Empire formed a completely uniform body. Two halves could always be distinguished, a Western, Romanized, Latin-speaking half and an Eastern, Hellenized, Greek-speaking half. As the forces and the traditions of world-ruling Rome died away and Rome was no longer the capital of the Empire, these two parts separated in politics and religion.

At the beginning of the Empire, however, there was no question of any impairment of the unity of the empire. At that time too the difference between the conquered nations and the ruling community began to disappear. The more the people of Rome degenerated, the more the Caesars thought of themselves as rulers of the whole Empire, as masters of Rome and the provinces, not as rulers of the provinces in the name of Rome. Rome got itself fed by the provinces, aristocracy and people alike, but was not able to furnish enough soldiers and officials for governing the provinces; thus Rome constituted an element of weakness, not of strength, for the empire of the Caesars. What Rome took from the provinces was so much lost for the Caesars, and with nothing in exchange. Thus in their own interests the emperors were driven to counteract the privileged position of Rome in the Empire and finally to put an end to it.

Roman citizenship was now freely given to the provincials. We see them entering the Senate and filling high offices. The Caesars were the first to put the principle of the equality of all men irrespective of origin into practical application: all men were equally their slaves and were valued by them only to the extent they could be made use of, whether they were senators or slaves, Romans, Syrians or Gauls. Finally, at the beginning of the third century the fusion and levelling of the nations had gone so far that Caracalla could venture to confer Roman citizenship on all the inhabitants of the provinces and thus do away with the last formal distinction between the former masters and the former subjects, after all actual differences had long since ceased to exist. It was one of the most contemptible emperors who thus gave such open expression to one of the noblest ideas of the time, an idea that Christianity would like to claim for itself; and contemptible too was the motive that drove the despot to his action: need of money.

Under the republic the Roman citizens had been free from taxes from the time conquered provinces began to yield booty and good profits. “Aemilius Paullus brought 300,000,000 sesterces into the treasury from the Macedonian booty after defeating Perseus, and from this time on the Roman people were free of taxes.” [17] But from Augustus on growing financial stringency had led to reimposing more and more tax burdens on the Roman citizens. The “reform” of Caracalla now made Roman citizens out of the provincials so that in addition to the taxes they had been paying they would be subject to those of Roman citizens, which the imperial financial wizard immediately thereafter doubled. In return he increased the military budget by 15 million dollars. No wonder that he could not make ends meet with only one financial “reform” and needed others, the most important among them being debasement and counterfeiting of the coinage on the most shameless scale.

The general decadence got worse so fast that the Romans, having ceased to furnish soldiers, soon were unable to furnish competent officials. We can trace this in the emperors themselves. The first emperors were still descendants of old Roman aristocratic families of the Julian and Claudian gens. But by the time the Julian dynasty had come to its third emperor, he was a madman, Caligula; and with Nero the Roman aristocracy showed the bankruptcy of its ability to govern. Nero’s successor Galba came from a Roman patrician clan, but he was followed by Otho, of a noble Etruscan family and by Vitellius, a plebeian from Apulia. Finally, Vespasian, who founded the Flavin dynasty, was a plebeian of Sabine origin. But the Italian plebeians soon proved themselves to be as corrupt and incapable of rule as the Roman aristocrats, and the miserable Domitian, Vespasian’s son, was followed, after the brief interregnum of Nerva, by the Spaniard Trajan. With him there begins the rule of the Spanish emperors which lasted almost a hundred years, until it too, with Commodus, showed its political bankruptcy.

After the Spaniards came Septimius Severus, the founder of an African-Syrian dynasty; after the murder of the last emperor of this dynasty, Alexander Severus, Maximinus, a Thracian of Gothic origin, took the crown the legions offered him, a foreboding of the time when Goths were to rule in Rome. More and more the provinces were involved in the general decomposition, and more and more new barbarian, non-Roman blood was needed to infuse new life into the dying Empire; not only the soldiers, but the emperors, had to be found further and further away from the centers of civilization.

Above, we saw slaves as court officials rule over free men; now we see provincials and even barbarians set over the Romans as emperors, as beings honored with divine worship. All the race and class prejudices of pagan antiquity had to disappear, and the feeling of the equality of everyone come more and more to the forefront.

This feeling appeared in many minds early, before the conditions we have been depicting became a commonplace. Cicero was already writing (De officiis, 3, 6): “Anyone who asserts that fellow-citizens must be taken into consideration but not foreigners breaks the general bond of the human race, and with it destroys charity, liberality, kindness and justice.” Our ideological historians, naturally, here too take the cause for the effect and the effect for the cause, and look for the cause of the humanization of manners and the broadening of the nation into the concept of humanity in sentences like the above, which the “pious” find in the gospels and the “advanced” in heathen philosophers; the trouble is merely that at the apex and peak of the “noble and sublime” spirits that are supposed to have brought about this revolution in men’s minds we find such bloodthirsty degenerates and tyrants as Tiberius, Nero and Caracalla, along with a line of frivolous, pretentious, fashionable philosophers and frauds, of the kind we have come to know in the younger Pliny, Apollonius of Tyana and Plotinus.

The nobler Christians, by the way, had no trouble in adapting themselves to this fine society. Just one example. Among the many concubines, male and female, that the emperor Commodus (180-192) kept (a harem of 300 girls and as many boys is spoken of), Marcia had the honor of the first place. Marcia was a pious Christian and foster-daughter of Hyacinthus, an elder in the Christian community in Rome. Her influence was so great that she was able to have a number of deported Christians freed. Nevertheless, little by little she got tired of her imperial admirer; perhaps his bloodthirstiness made her fear for her own life. At any rate, she took part in a conspiracy against his life and undertook to execute the murderous plan; on the night of December 31, 192 the upright Christian gave her unsuspecting lover a poisoned drink. When this did not take effect soon enough, the emperor, already unconscious, was strangled.

As typical as this episode is the story of Calixtus, a protege of Marcia:

“This Calixtus had a special knack for business and in an earlier period of his life had been a banker. At first he was the slave of a noble Christian who entrusted a large sum of money to him to use in a banking business. After the slave had misappropriated the many deposits that widows and other believers had made in the bank on the strength of the solid reputation of the master, and the bank was on the brink of failing, the master asked for an accounting. The unfaithful servant fled, was captured and sent by his master into the treadmill. Released at the entreaty of Christian brethren and then sent by the prefect to the Sardinian mines, he won the favor of Marcia, the most influential mistress of the emperor Commodus; he was released on her recommendation and soon was chosen bishop of Rome.” [18]

Kalthoff thinks it possible that the gospel stories of the unjust steward who “made himself friend of the mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke, 16, verses 1 to 9) and of the woman sinner to whom “her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (Luke, 7, verses 36 to 48) were taken into the evangels in order to “lend churchly explanation and sanction” to the dubious personalities of Marcia and Calixtus, who played such a role in the Christian community at Rome.

Another contribution to the history of the origin of the gospels.

Calixtus was not the last bishop and pope who owed his office to a courtesan, just as the murder of Commodus was not the last act of Christian violence. The savagery and bloodthirstiness of many popes and emperors since the “sainted” Constantine is well known.

The “softening and ennoblement of manners” that came in with Christianity was therefore of a peculiar kind. To understand its limitations and contradictions, we must look at its economic roots. The fine moral doctrines of the time do not explain it.

And the same is true for the internationalism of the period.




World trade and political levelling were two great causes of the growth of internationalism; and yet it would have been impossible, in the same degree, without the dissolution of all the ties that held the old communities together, but also kept them apart from each other. The organizations that had determined the entire life of the individual in antiquity, and given him support and direction, lost all importance and vigor under the Empire: both those which were based on ties of blood, like the gens or even the family, and those which were based on territorial links, on living together on a common ground, like the Markgenossenschaft and the commune. This was the reason, as we have seen, why men, now without such moral support, looked to models and leaders, even to saviors. It also provided the incentive for men to create new organizations better adapted to their new needs than the traditional forms, which became more and more of a burden.

At the end of the republic the trend to form clubs and associations, mainly for political purposes but also for mutual aid, was conspicuous. The Caesars dissolved them; despotism is afraid of nothing so much as social organizations. Its power is greatest when the state is the only social organization and the citizens stand to it only in the relation of isolated individuals.

Caesar “suppressed all societies except those which came down from the remotest antiquity,” says Suetonius (Caesar, chap. 42). Of Augustus he says: “Many parties (plurimae factiones) were organized under the name of a new college and practiced all sorts of misdeeds ... He dissolved the colleges, with the exception of those that were age-old and recognized by law.” [19]

Mommsen finds these measures very praiseworthy. He sees Caesar, the tricky and unscrupulous conspirator and gang-leader, as a “true statesman,” who “served the people not for reward, not even for the reward of their love,” but “for the blessings of the future and above all for permission to save and rejuvenate his nation.” [20] To understand this conception of Caesar, it must be remembered that Mommsen’s work was written in the years after the June massacres of 1848 (the first edition appeared in 1854), when Napoleon III was being hailed by many liberals, especially German ones, as the savior of society and Napoleon had brought the Caesar cult into fashion.

After the end of political activity and the suppression of the political clubs, the urge towards organization turned to more innocent unions. Guilds and mutual aid societies for cases of sickness, death and poverty, voluntary fire companies, but also plain social clubs, dining clubs, literary societies and the like sprang up like mushrooms. But Caesarism was so suspicious that it could not tolerate even such organizations; they might serve to cover up more dangerous associations.

In the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan there are letters in which Pliny recounts a conflagration that devastated Nicomedia, and recommends the formation of a voluntary fire company of not more than 150 men; these would be easy to watch. Trajan found this too dangerous however, and refused his assent. [21]

[Later letters (No. 117 and No. 118) show us that even gatherings of persons on the occasions of marriages or other festivities of rich people, at which money was distributed, seemed to Pliny and Trajan as involving danger to the state.

But our historians exalt Trajan as one of the best emperors.

The instinct for organization found itself compelled under these circumstances to engage in underground activities. The discovery of such, however, meant the death penalty for those participating. It is evident that mere amusements or even advantages accruing only to the individual, though they involved an improvement in his personal situation, could not be strong enough to impel any man to risk his neck. Only such organizations could maintain themselves as had for their goal something that transcended mere personal advantage, that would endure even if the individual perished; but such organizations could only gain in power if this goal corresponded to a strong and universally appreciated social] interest and need, a class or general interest, an interest strongly felt by large masses and capable of making the strongest and most unselfish members of the masses risk their lives to satisfy it. In other words, the only organizations that could exist under the Empire were those that had a broad social goal, a high ideal. It was not the desire for practical advantage or immediate interests but only the most revolutionary or the most ideal of motives that could give an organization the strength to live.

This idealism has nothing in common with philosophical idealism. Large social goals can be set on the basis of the materialist philosophy too; in fact, it is only the materialist method, proceeding from experience and studying the necessary causal connections of our experiences, that can lead to the formulation of great social aims that are free of illusions. But under the Empire all the social prerequisites for such a method were absent. It was only by way of a moralistic mysticism that the individual of that time could rise above himself and set himself goals beyond personal and momentary well-being, or in other words, that way of thought that is know as religious. The only societies that maintained themselves under the Empire were religious ones, but it would be taking a mistaken view of them to let the religious form, the moralistic mysticism obscure the social content underlying all these associations which gave them their strength: the desire for a solution to the hopeless existing conditions, for higher forms of society, for close cooperation and mutual support on the part of the individuals lost in their isolation who drew new joy and courage from their coming together for high purposes.

These religious associations introduced a new division in society just at the time when the Mediterranean world was shifting from the concept of nationality to that of humanity. The purely economic organizations, aimed at helping the individual in one particular respect, did not free him from existing society or give his life new content. It was different, however, with the religious associations, which under religious garb strove toward a great social ideal. This ideal was in completest contradiction to existing society, not in one point only but in every jot and tittle. The defenders of this ideal spoke the same language as their compatriots and yet were not understood by them; at every step the two worlds, the old anti the new, collided at their boundaries, although they lived in the same country. A new opposition arose among men. Just as Gauls and Syrians, Romans and Egyptians, Spaniards and Greeks were beginning to lose their national individuality, there arose the great opposition between believers and unbelievers, saints and sinners, Christians and heathen that soon split the world in two down to its foundations.

The sharper the strife, the greater the intolerance and fanaticism which are naturally involved in any conflict; these are necessary elements of progress and development, when they inspire and strengthen the progressive forces. We do not mean by intolerance here the forcible suppression of propaganda for any inconvenient opinion, but energetic rejection and criticism of every other view and energetic defence of one’s own. Only cowards and idlers are tolerant in this sense, when the large general interests of life are at stake.

It is true that these interests are constantly changing. What was a vital question but yesterday may be a matter of indifference today, not worth fighting over. On such a point the fanaticism that was a necessity only yesterday is today a waste of energy, and so very harmful.

The religious intolerance and religious fanaticism of many of the growing Christian sects was one of the forces that made social development go forward, as long as large social aims could get to the masses only in religious garb, that is from the time of the Empire down to the Reformation. These qualities become reactionary and nothing more than a means to block progress once the religious way of thinking has been replaced by the methods of modern investigation, so that it is no longer cultivated except by backward classes, levels and regions, and is no longer capable of cloaking new social goals.

Religious intolerance was quite a new trait in the way of thinking characteristic of ancient society. Though they were intolerant nationalistically and disliked the foreigner or enemy, whom they enslaved or killed even if he had not fought in battle against them, it never occurred to them to think less of anyone because of his religion. Cases that seem to be religious persecution can be reduced to complaints of a political nature.

It was the new way of thinking, arising in the era of the Emperors which brought religious intolerance with it, and on both sides, Christians as well as pagans; in the latter case, of course, not against every strange religion but only against that which propagandized a new social idea under the cloak of religion, an idea in complete contradiction to the existing social order.

Apart from that the pagans remained true to the religious tolerance they had been used to; indeed, the international trade of the Empire led to internationalism in religious rites as well. The foreign merchants and other travelers brought their gods with them everywhere. And strange gods were more highly thought of at that time than the home-grown sort, which had shown they were of no use. The feeling of desperation, arising out of the general rack and ruin, led to doubting the old gods as well and brought many of the bolder and more independent spirits to atheism and scepticism, to doubting all divinity and even all philosophy. The fainter-hearted and weaker however were driven, as we have seen, to look for a new savior in whom they could find support and hope. Many thought they had found saviors in the Caesars, and raised them to the status of gods. Others thought it safer to turn to gods who had counted as such for a long time but had not been tested in the locality as yet. Outlandish cults came into fashion.

In this international competition of the gods the Orient defeated the West, partly because the oriental religions were less naive and had more urban philosophical depth, for reasons that we shall have occasion to discuss later; and partly because the East was industrially superior to the West.

The old civilized world of the Orient was industrially far superior to the West when it was conquered and plundered, first by the Macedonians and then by the Romans. It might be thought that the international exchanges that took place thereafter might have brought about industrial exchange as well and brought the West up to the Eastern level. The contrary was the case. We have seen that from a certain point on there sets in a general decline of the ancient world, a consequence in part of the predominance of forced labor over free, and in part of the plundering of the provinces by Rome and usury capital. But this decline went forward more rapidly in the West than in the East, so that the relative cultural superiority of the latter increased rather than diminished from the second century of our era up to the year 1000, more or less. Poverty, barbarism and depopulation progressed faster in the Occident than in the Orient.

The cause of this phenomenon is to be looked for mainly in the industrial superiority of the East and the steady increase in the exploitation of the working classes all over the Empire. The surpluses they produced flowed chiefly from the provinces to Rome, the center of the great exploiters. But to the extent that the surplus accumulated there took the form of money, the lion’s share went back to the Orient; for the East alone produced the luxury goods desired by the exploiters. It furnished the slaves, but also industrial products like glass and purple in Phoenicia, linen and textiles from Egypt, fine woolens and leather goods from Asia Minor, rugs in Babylonia. And the decreasing fertility of Italy made Egypt the granary of Rome, for, thanks to the floods that covered its fields every year with fresh fertile mud, the farms of the Nile valley were inexhaustible.

A large part of what the Orient supplied, it is true, was taken from it by force in the form of taxes and usurious interest, but there still remained a considerable part that had to be paid with the proceeds of the exploitation of the Occident, which grew poorer in the process.

Commerce with the East extended beyond the borders of the Empire. Alexandria grew rich not only through dealing in Egyptian industrial products but also through acting as middleman for the trade with Arabia and India, while from Sinope on the Black Sea a trade route to China was opened up. Pliny estimates in his Natural History that each year about a hundred million sesterces ($5,000,000) left the Empire for Chinese silks, Indian jewels and Arabian spices. Without any equivalent worth mentioning in the form of goods, and without any debts on the part of foreign countries in the form of tribute or interest, the whole sum had to be paid in precious metals.

With the oriental wares, the oriental merchants too pressed toward Rome, and with them their cults. These cults were suited to the needs of the West in view of the fact that they had arisen in the Orient in similar social circumstances, although not of such a desperate degree as those that now prevailed over the entire Empire. The notion of salvation through a deity whose favor is gained by the sacrifice of earthly pleasures was common to most of these cults now rapidly spreading through the Empire, especially the Egyptian worship of Isis and the Persian cult of Mithra.

“The worship of Isis had entered Rome in Sulla’s time and won imperial favor under Vespasian. She had spread to the far West and gradually won enormous popularity and importance, first as a goddess of health, and more narrowly of healing ... Her cult was full of pompous processions, along with self-mortifications, penitences and rigorous observances, and above all mysteries. Religious longing, hope for atonement, craving for violent penance, and hope to win blessed immortality by devotion to a deity were the factors that favored the acceptance of such strange cults into the world of Graeco-Roman gods, which had hitherto had little in common with these mysterious ceremonies, fanatical ecstasy, magic, self-renunciation and boundless devotion to the deity, resignation and penance as preliminary conditions to purification and consecration. Still more powerful, however, especially in the armies, was the secret cult of Mithra, likewise with the promise of salvation and immortality. It first became known under Tiberius.” [22]

Indian ideas too entered the Roman empire. For example, Apollonius of Tyana, whom we have mentioned, travelled to India only to study the philosophical and religious teachings there. We have heard of Plotinus, too, who, in order to make a closer study of Persian and Indian wisdom, went to Persia.

All these ideas and cults did not go unnoticed by the Christians struggling for salvation and exaltation; they had a powerful influence in the origin of the rites and legends of Christianity.

“The Church Father Eusebius contemptuously spoke of the Egyptian cult as ‘scarab wisdom’; and yet the myth of the Virgin Mary is only an echo of the myths that were native to the banks of the Nile.

“Osiris was represented on earth by the bull Apis. Now as Osiris himself had been conceived by his mother without the assistance of a male god, so his earthly representative had to be born of a virgin heifer without the assistance of a bull. Herodotus tells us that the mother of Apis was impregnated by a sunray; according to Plutarch it was a moonray.

“Like Apis, Jesus too had no father, but was conceived by a heavenly ray of light. Apis was a bull, but represented a god; Jesus was a god that was represented by a lamb. Now Osiris too was often represented with a ram’s head.” [23]

In the third century, when Christianity was already very strong, a scoffer was of opinion that there was no great difference in Egypt between Christians and heathen: “A man that worships Serapis in Egypt is also a Christian, and those that call themselves Christian bishops worship Serapis as well; every Grand Rabbi of the Jews, every Samaritan, every Christian priest is also a magician, a prophet, a quack doctor (aliptes). Even when the patriarch comes to Egypt, some ask him to pray to Serapis, others ask that he pray to Christ.” [24]

The story of the birth of Christ, as we find it in Luke, shows Buddhist traits.

Pfleiderer remarks that the author of the gospel did not invent this story, no matter how apocryphal it is; he rather took it from legends “that had come to him in some way or other,” perhaps primeval legends common among the peoples of the Near East. “For we find the same legends, sometimes with amazingly similar traits, in the story of the childhood of the Indian savior Gautama Buddha [fifth century B.C. – K.K.]. He too is born miraculously of the virgin queen Maya, into whose spotless body the heavenly luminous essence of Buddha entered. At his birth too heavenly spirits appeared and sang this song of praise: ‘A wonderful hero is born, one without compare. Weal of the world, full of pity, today thou spreadest thy good-will over all the universe. Let joy and contentment come to all creatures, that they may be calm, masters of themselves, and happy.’ He too is brought to the temple by his mother to learn to perform the rites of the law; there he is found by the old hermit Asita, whom an intuition had sent down from the Himalaya; Asita foretells that this child will become Buddha, the savior from all evils, he who leads to freedom and light and immortality ... And finally the brief description of the way in which the royal child increased daily in spiritual perfection and bodily beauty and strength – quite in the way that the Jesus child is described in Luke 2, verses 40 and 52.” [25]

“And of Gautama too as an adolescent instances of early wisdom are recounted, among others that once he was separated from his family at a festival and later after a feverish search found by his father in the midst of a circle of holy men, deep in pious contemplation; he admonished his amazed father to seek for higher things.” [26]

Pfleiderer lists further elements that had been taken up into Christianity from other cults, for example from the Mithra worship. We have already spoken of his reference to the prototype of the last Supper that was “one of the Mithra sacraments” (op. cit., p. 130). The doctrine of the Resurrection too contains pagan elements.

“Here perhaps may be traced the effects of popular notions of the god dying and reborn, as they were prevalent at that time in the Near Eastern cults of Adonis, Attis, Osiris, under various names but generally basically similar. In the Syrian capital of Antioch, where Paul labored for a long time, the main holiday was the festival of Adonis in spring; first the death of Adonis (‘the Lord’) and the burial of his body, represented by a picture, were celebrated to the wild laments of women. On the next day (in the Osiris festival it was the third day and in the Attis festival the fourth day after the death) the news was broadcast that the god lived, and he (a picture) was brought to light, etc.” [27]

But Pfleiderer points out, correctly, that Christianity did not merely absorb these heathen elements but adapted them to its unitary world view. For Christianity could not accept strange gods just as they came; its monotheism, if nothing else, stood in the way.




But monotheism, the belief in a single god, was not something peculiar to Christianity alone. And here too it is possible to get at the economic roots from which this idea came. As we have seen, the inhabitants of the big cities had lost contact with nature; all the traditional organisations, in which the individual had previously found moral support, had disappeared; and preoccupation with the ego became the main object of thought, which turned from study of the external world into grubbing around inside one’s personal feelings and needs.

The gods had originally served to explain what happened in nature, whose laws were not understood. These events were extremely numerous and of all kinds. To explain them all sorts of gods had to be postulated, dreadful and cheerful, brutal and tender, male and female. As knowledge of the regular causal connections in nature progressed, the individual deities became more and more superfluous. But they had struck too deep roots in people’s ways of thought over the centuries and entered too deeply into their every-day concerns, and knowledge of nature was still too fragmentary, for it to be able fully to put an end to the belief in gods. The gods merely kept being shifted from one sphere of activity to another; they changed from being constant comrades of men to extraordinary marvelous phenomena, from dwellers on earth to dwellers in supermundane regions, in heaven; from being active, energetic workers and fighters, tirelessly moving the world, to contemplative onlookers of the world theatre.

In the end, the progress of natural science would have completely done away with them, had not the formation of the large cities and the economic decline, which we have described, caused men to turn away from nature and thrust the study of spirit through spirit into the foreground of thought; that is, instead of scientific study of mental experience and events as a whole the individual’s own mind became the source of all wisdom about himself, and this in turn the source of all wisdom generally. No matter how variegated and changeable the movements and needs of the soul might be, the soul itself seemed to be something simple and indivisible. The souls of others proved to be just like one’s own soul. A scientific view would have concluded from all this that all mental activity followed regular laws. But just at that time there began the collapse of the old moral supports, and that lack of support that appeared to men as freedom, freedom of the will for the individual. The unity of mind in all men seemed explicable only on the hypothesis that it was everywhere a portion of the same mind, the one mind whose emanation and copy forms the indivisible and incomprehensible soul in each individual. This general soul or world soul is not in space, and neither is the individual soul. But it is present and active in all men, and hence present everywhere and all-knowing. Even the most secret thoughts are known to it. The predominance of the moral interest over the natural, which was the basis for assuming this world soul, gave it a moral character. The world soul became the totality of all the moral ideals that then concerned men. In order to achieve this, it had to be freed from the corporeality that adheres to the soul of man and clouds its morality. In this way the concept of a new deity arose. This could only be a single one, corresponding to the unity of the soul of the individual, in contrast to the plurality of the gods of antiquity, which corresponded to the multiplicity of the natural events outside us. And the new deity was outside of nature and above nature, and existed before nature, which it had created, whereas the old gods had been a part of nature and no older than nature.

But no matter how purely psychic and moral the new spiritual interest of men appeared, they could not abstract from nature altogether. And since natural science declined at the same time, the assumption of super-human personal intervention was resorted to once more. The higher beings that interfered in the course of nature were now no longer sovereign gods, as before; they were subordinate to the world soul in the same way as, according to the ideas of that time, nature was under God and the body under the soul. They were beings intermediate between God and men.

The course of political development gave support to this way of thinking. The downfall of the republic of gods in heaven went hand in hand with the downfall of the republic in Rome; God became the omnipotent emperor of the other world, and like Caesar he had his court, the saints and angels, and his republican opposition, the devil and his legions.

In the end the Christians came to divide God’s heavenly bureaucracy, the angels, into ranks and classes just as the emperors classified their terrestrial bureaucracy; and the same pride of place seems to have ruled among the angels as among the emperor’s officials.

Since the time of Constantine the courtiers and officials of the state had been classified in various degrees, each with a distinctive title: Thus we have 1. the gloriosi, the glorious ones, as the consuls were called. 2. The Nobilissimi, the most noble; this name was given to princes of the blood. 3. The patricii, or barons. After these ranks of the nobility came the higher grades of the bureaucracy. 4. The illustres, the famous. 5. The spectabiles, the eminent. 6. The clarissimi, the notable. Below these again: 7. The perfectissimi, the most perfect. 8. The egregii, the outstanding. 9. The comites, or companions.

The heavenly court is organized in exactly the same manner. Our theologians have precise information on this subject.

Thus, for example, the Kirchenlexikon der katholischen Theologie (published by Wetzer and Welte, Freiburg i.B., 1849) tells in its article Angel of the large number of angels, and continues:

“Many doctors believe, after the example of St. Ambrose, that the number of angels is to the number of man as 99:1; for the lost sheep in the parable of the good shepherd (Luke 15, verse 7) signifies the human race, and the 99 sheep that were not lost represent the angels. In this innumerable multitude the angels constitute various classes, and the church also pronounced against Origen’s opinion, according to which all spirits are equal with respect to substance, power, etc., at the second council of Constantinople in the year 553, strongly asserting the diversity of angels. The church knows nine choruses of angels, each three in turn constituting another chorus. They are: 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Thrones, 4. Dominations, 5. Virtues, 6. Powers, 7. Principalities, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.” [28]

“This much seems to be beyond all doubt, that the angels, in the narrow sense of the word, are the lowest but most numerous class, while the Seraphim are the highest in rank but the fewest in number.” And so it goes on earth as well. There are only a few Excellencies, but whole masses of ordinary letter-carriers.

We read further:

“in relation to God the angels live in intimate and personal communion with him; and their relationship to him is shown in unending homage, in humble submission, in a love that knows no exception and renounces everything outside of God, in full and joyful dedication of their entire being, in unceasing thanks and inward adoration, as well in perpetual praise, in constant glorification, in reverential exaltation, in holy jubilation and enraptured rejoicing.”

This joyful obsequiousness is precisely what the emperors required of their courtiers and officials. It was the ideal of Byzantinism.

We see that the picture of a single God, that took form in Christianity, received as large a contribution from imperial despotism as from philosophy, which had been tending towards monotheism more and more ever since Plato.

This philosophy conformed so closely to the general longings and way of feeling, that it soon passed into the consciousness of the masses. Thus in Plautus, a writer of comedies of the third century B.C. who only put very popular wisdom into the best possible form, we find passages like the following pleas of a slave asking for a favor:

“There is, you know, a God who hears and sees
All that we do; and as you treat me here,
He’ll see your son is likewise treated there.
If you do well, ’twill be to your advantage;
If ill, he’ll deal impartially with you.”
(The Captives, Act II, Scene 2. Allison’s translation)

This is a quite Christian conception of God. But it is still a naive monotheism, one that unreflectingly leaves the old gods still existing. It never occurred even to the Christians to deny the existence of the old gods, just as they accepted so many heathen miracles without question. Yet their God suffered no other god along with him; he wanted to be sole ruler. If the heathen gods would not submit to him and become part of his court, the only role left them was that played by the republican opposition under the first emperors, for the most part a pretty shabby one. All it consisted of was trying to play some trick or other on the omnipotent ruler now and then and stir up honest subjects against him, without any hope of overthrowing the ruler but merely of irritating him.

But even this intolerant and peremptory monotheism, never for an instant doubting the superiority and omnipotence of its God, was something that Christianity found all ready to its hand, not among the pagans to be sure but in a little nation of a peculiar sort, the Jews, who had developed the belief in a savior and the duty of mutual aid and strong cohesiveness far more strongly than any other nation or class of the population of its time, and thereby gave far more satisfaction to needs strongly felt in that period. Judaism therefore gave powerful impetus to the new doctrine which was growing out of those needs, and furnished it with some of its most important elements. It is only after we have gone forward from our general treatment of the Roman-Hellenic world of the Empire to consider Judaism in particular that we shall have traced all the roots from which Christianity grew.




12. See B. Matthias, Römische Alimentarinstitutionen und Agrarwirtschaft, Jahrbuch für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, 1885, VI, pp. 503f.

13. A. Müller, Jugendfürsorge in der römischen Kaiserzeit, 1903, p. 21.

14. Op. cit., p.7f.

15. Pöhlmann, Geschichte des Antiken Kommunismus, II, pp. 252f.

16. Friedländer, Sittengeschichte Roms, I, pp. 42–47.

17. Pliny, Natural History, XXXIII, 17.

18. Kalthoff, Die Entstehung des Christentums, p. 189.

19. Octavianus Augustus, Chapter xxxii.

20. Römische Geschichte, III, 476.

21. Pliny, Letters, X, 423 and 43.

22. Hertzberg, Geschichte des römischen Kaiserreichs, p. 451.

23. Lafargue, Der Mythus von der unbefleckten Empfängnis, Neue Zeit, XI, No. 1. p. 849.

24. Cited in Mommsen. Römische Geschichte, V, 585.

25. Pfleiderer, Urchristentum, I, 412.

26. Pfleiderer, Entstehung des Christentums, l98f.

27. Op. Cit., p. 147.

28. The word angelus originally meant nothing more than “messenger”.


Last updated on 28 January 2021