from: How the Irish Saved Civilization The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from
the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, 1995.
"Thomas Cahill studied at New York's Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University,
and Fordham University with some of America's most distinguished literary and biblical
scholars. He founded The Cahill and Company Catalogue, much beloved by book
readers, and is now director of religious publishing at Doubleday."
'Though his effete contemporaries compared Ausonius [c. 310 - c. 395] to Virgil [70 - 19 B.C.E.] and Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.], practically all others have found themselves in agreement with the robust opinion of Gibbon [1737 - 1794]: "The poetical fame of Ausonius condemns the taste of his age."
How could a grown man have spent so much time so foolishly? Well, it's what everyone else was doing. This is a static world. Civilized life, like the cultivation of Ausonius's magnificent Bordeaux vineyards, lies in doing well what has been done before. Doing the expected is the highest value--and the second highest is like it: receiving the appropriate admiration of one's peers for doing it.
Though Ausonius is a Christian convert, as his "Oratio" shows, HIS
CHRISTIANITY IS A CLOAK TO BE DONNED AND REMOVED, AS NEEDED. IT
WAS, no doubt, WHAT EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING.' .
[Comment: CHRISTIANISM ("CHRISTIANITY") (WAS) IS COMMONLY (much more
importantly than the piety) SITUATIONAL POLITICS ["EXISTENTIAL CANNIBALISM",
ETC.!]! "A CLOAK TO BE DONNED AND REMOVED, AS NEEDED."]. [See: #2, 29
("duplicity"; "feigners"), 36 ("complicity"); #7, 190 ("Imperialism"); etc.].
"Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.], born in the century before Christ, exercised his techniques when republican Rome, in all its vigor, welcomed public men. Augustine [354 - 430] loved Cicero [see #2, 19], as did the whole Latin world, which placed the Roman orator just below Virgil on the divinity charts. (Jerome [c. 342 - 420], the cantankerous translator of the Latin Bible, awoke one night in a frenzied sweat: he had dreamed that Christ had condemned him to hell for being more a Ciceronian than a Christian.) The ancients held the practical use of words in much higher regard than we do, probably because they were much closer to the oral customs of prehistoric village life--so clearly reflected in Nestor's speech to the Greek chieftains in the Illiad [ascribed to Homer (8th century B.C.E.)] and in Mark Antony's [c. 83 - 30 B.C.E.] speech over Julius Caesar's [100 or 102 - 44 B.C.E.] body--in which the fate of an entire race may hang on one man's words." .
"Though it would be cynical and ahistorical to conclude that conversions to
Christianity in late antiquity were made only for the sake of political advancement or
social convenience, it would be naive to imagine that Christianity swept the empire only
because of its evident spiritual superiority. Certainly, the [those!] Christians of the first
three centuries, whose adherence to Christianity could easily prove their death warrant,
were devout and extraordinary. But FROM THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE [Emperor
306 (312) - 337], THE VAST MAJORITY OF CHRISTIAN CONVERTS WERE FAIRLY
SUPERFICIAL PEOPLE. Despite Augustine's enormous influence on subsequent
history, the bland, detached, calculating Ausonius was a far more typical Christian of
the late empire than was the earnest bishop of Hippo [Augustine]." [125-126].
'The first three public libraries had been established at Rome under the reign of
Augustus [1st Roman Emperor: 27 B.C.E. - 14 C.E. (63 B.C.E. - 14 C.E.)], and by the
time of Constantine there were twenty-eight. By the end of the fourth century, if we
are to believe one writer, Ammianus Marcellinus [c. 330 - 395], who may be indulging
in hyperbole, "Bibliotecis sepulcrorum ritu in perpetuum clausis" ("The libraries, like
tombs, were closed forever"). By the end of the fifth century, at any rate, the
profession of copyist had pretty much disappeared, and what books were copied were
copied personally by the last literate nobles for their own dwindling libraries. In the
sixth century, Pope Gregory established a kind of library at Rome. Gregory, the
most towering continental figure of his time and rightly called "the Great," took as dim a
view of the pagan classics as Aldhelm [c. 639 - 709 (West Saxon abbot of
Malmesbury)], and could read no Greek. His library was a poor one. Even so, the
RESENTFUL; illiterate mob tried to destroy its few books during a famine, for by now
the Catholic bishops had become like islands in a barbarian sea....' [181-183].
'The casual Roman attitude toward slavery...is well illustrated by the famous anecdote about Pope Gregory the Great's [c. 540 - 604 (Pope 590 - 604)] first encounter with Englishmen. He notices them on sale while passing through the Roman market and, taken by their blond beauty, asks what manner of men they are. "Angli" (Angles or Englishmen), comes the reply. Witty Gregory indulges himself in a pun, saying they are aptly named for they look like angeli, angels. He goes on to make two more puns and resolves to see that the English are evangelized. But he leaves the captives to be sold.' .
'As we, the people of the First World, the Romans of the twentieth century, look out across our Earth, we see some signs for hope, many more for despair. Technology proceeds apace, delivering the marvels that knit our world together--the conquering of diseases that plagued every age but ours and the consequent lowering of mortality rates, revolutions in crop yields that continue to feed expanding populations, the contemplated "information highway" that will soon enable all of us to retrieve information and communicate with one another in ways so instant and complete that they would dazzle those who built the Roman roads, the first great information system.
But that road system became impassable rubble, as the empire was overwhelmed by POPULATION EXPLOSIONS beyond its borders. So will ours. Rome's demise instructs us in what inevitably happens when impoverished and rapidly expanding populations, whose ways and values are only dimly understood, press up against a rich and ordered society. More than a billion people in our world today survive on less than $370 a year, while Americans, who constitute five percent of the world's population, purchase fifty percent of its cocaine. IF THE WORLD'S POPULATION, WHICH HAS DOUBLED IN OUR LIFETIME, DOUBLES AGAIN BY THE MIDDLE OF THE NEXT CENTURY, HOW COULD ANYONE HOPE TO ESCAPE THE CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES--THE WRATH TO COME? But we turn our backs on such unpleasantness and contemplate the happier prospects of our technological dreams....' [216-217].