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St. Augustine’s City of God vs the Rot of the Roman Empire

This is the second part of Matt Ehret’s ongoing trilogy on Universal history.

The first lecture in the series probed the growth of the oligarchical system via a network of cults throughout the Babylonian empire as it transitioned to Persia as a seat of a globally extended empire. Within the context, the story was told of a small nucleus of humanist resistance which emerged in the wake of a new form of government and culture established by the figure of Solon of Athens and the Ionian city states that waged a miraculous freedom struggle against Persia’s vast hordes of mercenaries and slaves.

It was through Solon’s example of a living philosopher king which inspired all later humanist factions within Ancient Greece and beyond sought to emulate in later generations- not the least of which was Socrates’ student Plato who created his Academy specifically for that purpose.

In this lecture second lecture, we pick up where we left off by reviewing the reality shock faced by the Persian-centered oligarchy upon its defeat under the hand of a student trained by leaders of Plato’s academy- Alexander the Great.

Upon the dissolution of Alexander’s empire into factionalized zones of influence after only 13 years of existence, the oligarchy and their network of cults required safer terrain from which to operate. It was this intention which animated the severing of the 250 year alliance that been maintained between Carthage and the Roman Republic. With the destruction of this alliance during the 3rd Punic War, Rome become ripe to host the oligarchical parasite and its network of ruling cults. Despite the efforts of a few Platonic humanists like Cicero, Rome’s fate was sealed as she plunged into a new paradigm of hedonism and zero sum thinking.

By following through the transition of Rome from a republic into an empire spreading its system of decadence, slavery and war across the world, a context is created to both 1) understand the internal failures intrinsic to that parasitical system that led to its eventual collapse which were criticized by Cicero before his assassination, and 2) also the emergence of a new sect within Judaism that came to be known as Christianity.

After presenting this historic backdrop, a better appreciation for St. Augustine’s life and work during the last days of the western Roman empire can occur as we focus on Augustine’s life and his ‘Republic’ aka: ‘The City of God’.

Supplementary reading

How Jesus Christ and His Followers Saved Civilization (p. 16 of Campaigner 1980)

Cynthia Chung’s How to Conquer Tyranny and Avoid Tragedy

Augustine’s writings

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