Author Topic: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??  (Read 3758 times)

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Offline Timos

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Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« on: December 10, 2005, 09:40:36 PM »
I am in the middle of reading an excellent book title "Greece: Places and History". Its really an excellent book except it doesn't give as much justice as it should to the byzantine era as it does to the classical era of Greece and as such it stated "...it was Christianity, imposed as the state religion by Constantine, that destroyed the very foundations of Hellenism." The author does not really give reasons why he says this just some Byzantine history.

Is this in any way true? I would think in a very minimal way: yes but for the most part: NO. Yes, because foe example during the early Chirstian times, converted pagans to Christianity sought to purge anything "pagan" from their culutre in an effort to Christianize it. In the Parthenon temple of Athena in Athens,the book states that the statue of Athena "mysteriously disappeared during Byzantine times." For all we know the gold used on Athena could now be an ancient censer on Mt. Athos. The author does not explicity state that this was the case. I'm just saying that this "disappearance" could definitely have been about Christianis getting rid of the pagan stuff. The same goes in Alexandria. In the great temple of Serapis, some greek philosopehrs were there including the mathametician Hypatia...while she was there the Patriarch ordered the destruction of the temple and the killing of the pagans inside including Hypatia.

I know someone will ocrrect me on some miniscule historical detial which I left out or lied about so I'm sorry...I'm not a historian, just an amateaur history buff :)

How far can we believe that Christianity was the demise of the Roman Empire? On the other side of the table, Christianity defintiely boosted the Roman Empire. Constantine the Great unified East and West, magnificent architecture like Agia Sophia was created, art thrived in the form of iconography and secular byzantine imperial art works such as frescoes of the imperial court or of village life and animals etc.

Perhaps people believe this because they see Hellenistic art at its height in the sculptures and paintings of the human form such as the Venus of Milo (the one with her arms cut off) which definitly had little or no place in the Byzantine christian era.

Are you lost yet? Yeah so just ignore my rambling and please tell me what you think.

GB,
         Timos

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2005, 10:11:09 PM »
If we think of this destroyed Hellenism as the worship of the mythological Greek gods, then it was done in before Christian rose to prominence by the tendency for philosophers to conflate all gods and goddess into one general divine principle. While outward appearances of polytheism may have survived until Christians destroyed them, the ancient Greek beliefs were already gone.

Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2005, 10:11:54 PM »
I don't think that Christianity and Earthly Emopires are really compatable.
Christ founded a Kingdom which is "not of this world":
[bible]John 8:23[/bible]
[bible]John 14:27[/bible]
[bible]John 1:10[/bible]
[bible]John 15:19[/bible]
[bible]John 17:9[/bible]
[bible]John 18:36[/bible]
If you're living a happy life as a Christian, you're doing something wrong.

Offline Timos

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2005, 10:16:39 PM »
CRCulver, ok that makes a lot of sense. I seemed to forget about that. Thats the same reason why Aristotle was put to death for "corrupting the youth of the city."

ozgeorge, I was referring to Christian thought: the way in which Christians at the time viewed themselves and their prior identity as "pagans." I was NOT referring to the beliefs of Christianity.

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2005, 10:18:01 PM »
I don't think that Christianity and Earthly Emopires are really compatable.
Christ founded a Kingdom which is "not of this world":

While the Byzantine Empire et al. could have never become the perfect kingdom of God that awaits believers at the eschaton, earthy Christian rulers do have a responsibility to make things as safe as possible for Christian beliefs. That's why the bishops charged the emperor with enforcing the decisions of ecumenical councils by exiling the leaders of heresies and forbidding the assembly of heretical groups. This expectation has lasted for almost two thousand years and is closely bound with the infallible ecumenical councils, and thus can safely be assumed to belong to Holy Tradition.

Offline CRCulver

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2005, 10:18:31 PM »
CRCulver, ok that makes a lot of sense. I seemed to forget about that. Thats the same reason why Aristotle was put to death for "corrupting the youth of the city."

It was Socrates who was put to death, and for different reasons.

Offline Timos

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2005, 10:55:52 PM »
lol OPPS, my bad! How can I mess up this bad? Oh well thank God this is not a test.

Offline Fr. George

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2005, 11:54:31 PM »
It is my impression that the Church's position is that Christianity perfected Hellenism; that before the culture was baptized by the Faith, Hellenism was incomplete.  Yes, the pagan elements of pre-Christian Hellenism were eliminated, but it is the position in Western thought that this signals the end of Hellenism; that the Empire was "byzantine" - versus the Church, which sees this period as the real Hellenism
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Offline Cyril of New York

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2005, 08:51:46 AM »
The claim that Christianity was responsible for the decline of the Roman Empire is usually voiced by two camps: A. Those who are unabashedly anti-Christian, and B. Those whose knowledge of history is viewed entirely through the lens of the Western paradigm (which accounts for about 98 percent of the Western hemisphere, I'm afraid) This can be traced to  either a deliberate distortion and erasure of entire historical records (the Vatican) or complete ignorance of their existence in the first place (Protestantism). Consider: every history class and textbook that I was exposed to (and I'm willing to wager that this applies to almost all other readers of this post) in my rather humble public school education stated that the Fall of the Empire occured in 476 A.D., with no mention of Constantinople and the prominence it held for centuries. There was no "Byzantine" Empire. It's inhabitants had always called themselves Romans, and while Western Europe, only Christian in a superficial sense, languished in the Dark Ages, Constantinople was the most brilliant and advanced civilization of its time, lasting well into the 15th century. This fact has been lost on many Christian, particularly Protestant, apologists who are left tongue-tied when enemies of Christianity point out things like the Crusades, the backwardness of medieval Europe, and so forth.

Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2005, 12:48:09 PM »
Quote
"...it was Christianity, imposed as the state religion by Constantine, that destroyed the very foundations of Hellenism."

Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion, he merely tolerated Christianity (Edict of Milan, 313), restored the property that had been confiscated, and eventually granted Christiniaty additional powers that other religions didn't normally have. There was nothing especially unique or "imposing" about these powers, other religions (e.g., Judaism) had also been given special allowances during the history of the early Roman Empire. It was Emperor Theodosius, 40 or 50 years after Constantine died, that (thank the Lord) made Christianity the state religion. That has nothing to do with the fall of the Western half of the empire though, no matter what certain famous "historians" and other writers might say.
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Offline Veniamin

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2005, 02:22:29 PM »
I'm still waiting on GiC to see the title of this thread and have a litter of kittens. ;)
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Offline DavidH

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2005, 03:01:04 PM »
I don't think that Christianity and Earthly Emopires are really compatable.
Christ founded a Kingdom which is "not of this world":

   The "world" refers to fallen, unredeemed people and society which base theirselves and values without any reference to Christ. People and societies who do seek to base themselves on Christian Truth are respectively Christians and Christian societies. And just as no Christian person perfectly models the Truth niether has any Christian society perfectly modeled the Truth. But we should no more cease trying to form a Christian society because it won't be perfect than we should cease trying to be Christians because WE won't get it perfect.
  To say that Christianity and earthly societies are not compatible is really like saying Christians and earthlings are not compatible. We remain both earthlings and members of our societies when we convert with a responsibility to let the Light shine in as many ways as possible whether personally or corporately.
  A Christian who bases his life on following Christ is truly "not of this world" because he lives in opposition to its principles. A society which bases its life on following Christ is also "not of this world" because its principles are diametrically opposed to fallen man's.
  It is from Protestantism that we get the idea that everything is an "it": grace is an "it" for them ("unmerited favor") while for the Orthodox grace is God's uncreated energies; the Church is an "it" (a human institution") for them while for us the Church is the Body of Christ; Tradition is an "it" for them (a bunch of man-made rules) but for us it is the living presence of our holy Fathers today. So the Protestants and post-Enlightenment philosophers also make the State an "it" but for the Holy Fathers EVEN THIS is to be baptized, sanctified and converted- even as we were- so that all things may as far as possible reflect the Divine Will.
   This is what the Church tried to do with the Roman Empire. Just as in Christ our old man is dead (although we still sin) and the new man is to walk in a God-pleasing manner; so in the Empire the old man died (pagan hellenism) and the new man (Christianized Hellenism) sought to walk in a God-pleasing manner- although it still sinned in spite of its ideals.

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Offline Timos

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2005, 04:41:49 PM »
Thnx for all your responses. I tend to agree with most of you who said that it was mostly Western world which ignored or did not know about the Byzantine empire. I don't even remember learning about the byzantine emprie in passing. Italians were so proud of being from the Roman Empire, and when I mentioned the Byzantine empire, they had a strange confused look which said, I don't know and I don't care.

As for the backwardness of Western Europe, ok maybe medically and socially it was backward, but it was a very religious time where everyone or mostly everyone went to Mass a lot and had the church as the centre of their lives (even if they did not necessarily want it to be). Art and architecture was superb such as the gothic and earlier romanesque style, and painting and sculptures.

Offline Bizzlebin

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Re: Christianity destroyed Hellenism and the Roman Empire??
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2005, 05:57:22 PM »
  ÃƒÆ’‚ The "world" refers to fallen, unredeemed people and society which base theirselves and values without any reference to Christ. People and societies who do seek to base themselves on Christian Truth are respectively Christians and Christian societies. And just as no Christian person perfectly models the Truth niether has any Christian society perfectly modeled the Truth. But we should no more cease trying to form a Christian society because it won't be perfect than we should cease trying to be Christians because WE won't get it perfect.
ÂÂ  To say that Christianity and earthly societies are not compatible is really like saying Christians and earthlings are not compatible. We remain both earthlings and members of our societies when we convert with a responsibility to let the Light shine in as many ways as possible whether personally or corporately.
ÂÂ  A Christian who bases his life on following Christ is truly "not of this world" because he lives in opposition to its principles. A society which bases its life on following Christ is also "not of this world" because its principles are diametrically opposed to fallen man's.

I utterly agree! While we must not love the fallen world, neither must we cut ourselves off from humanity. How can we be a light to the world if we are indifferent to the sufferings of others and choose to do nothing because "the kingdom is not of this world?"
Fashions and opinions among men may change, but the Orthodox tradition remains ever the same, no matter how few may follow it.

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