Arnaldo Momigliano and me

I’m trying to make all my reading right now do double duty – and since I’m teach 3 chronologically neighboring courses next semester that’s not difficult. I just packed a book of Arnaldo Momigliano reprints for the trip down to DC – On Pagans, Jews, and Christians (1987 – most of these are articles from the last 15 years of his life). He was always good on history and historiography – and what he has to say about Judaism in the Roman Empire is useful to me for both the Roman Art & Power course and early Christian (which I call First Christian Millennium – up to but not emphasizing Romanesque). The articles on “The Disadvantages of Monotheism for a Universal State” and “Some Preliminary Remarks on the ‘Religious Opposition’ to the Roman Empire” are both essential.
If I have time on the way back I’ll read more of Ittai Gradel’s Emperor Worship and Roman Religion, which is looking very interesting (after about 20 pages).
Both of these authors are interested in what really goes on in Roman religion – and if we can even use the word religion usefully about Romans. Gradel is pretty clear that it’s a word with an inherently christianizing meaning – which doesn’t mean that it’s useless or wrong, but that it must be handled carefully.
Two of the big topics of Roman Art & Power are Augustus’s Altar of Peace and the emperor cult. One of the things I’m going to have everyone do this time through is write a short paper about a coin (shades of T.S.Burns, for those of you who’ve known me too long) and imperial cultus. Last time I didn’t require the exercise, but one of the best things I got all semester was a short paper on a coin showing Augustus’s wife (or widow, and that was the point – was she the wife or mother of the emperor at the time of the striking?) Livia as SALUS AUGUSTA, which means something like “Imperial Welfare.”
This also helps me teach First Christian Millennium by reminding me in considerable detail what it is Christians are refusing to do in sacrificing to the emperor.

2 thoughts on “Arnaldo Momigliano and me

  1. That really sounds like some interesting reading. I wish I had time to delve into them. You also brought back fond memories of the art history class I took my freshman year in college.

  2. Just so I can get somewhere near the topic, please help me understand what it is that Christians are sacrificing to the emperor, and what it is that they are refusing to do. It’s too late and I’m far to involved in survival to attend college, but the subject of opposition to the empire has a parallel in today’s news.
    Dan Patterson
    Arrogant Infidel
    …..It’s big and complicated, but I think an initial analogy is to ask what is it that certain types of Mennonites (and 7th Day Adventists, too??) are doing when they refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance or swear oaths in court. These people can be seen negatively as rejecting the whole society by refusing to participate in a ritual that everyone else sees as harmless and almost meaningless – why not just swear a little oath? In the Roman world at some times and in some places that could get you killed. The Christians said that burning incense in front of a statue or painted portrait of the emperor was worshiping an idol and they wouldn’t do it. Or most of them wouldn’t. –MCT

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