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Ambrose Notes

History Notes > Augustine and the Last Days of Rome: 370-450 Notes

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Monish Kulkarni Ambrose: Political Letters and Speeches from J.H Liebeschuetz 72,73, 75, 75A, 76, 77 General Introduction o Ambrose was born in 339, Trier to a father, Ambrose, who was prefect of Gaul (c. 339) o Though senatorial, may have been "self-made": his father died in around 340. o Family had one Christian martyr, the virgin Soeteris + Marcellina (Ambrose's sister) made a profession of virginity o Educated in Rome in liberal studies o Attained a thorough rhetorical education ? could read Greek!
o Professional career:
? Advocate at court to prefect at Sirmium
? Served then as senator to Probus
? Probus was a committed Christian
? Must have helped in Ambrose's election to bishop of Milan in 374. o Arian controversy
? Constantine noticed rift in Church over problem of defining unity and separateness of God the Father and Jesus the Son.
? Greek bishops sympathised with Arius who said Jesus was subordinate to God and that there had been a time when he did not exist. (he was part of the creation)
? Council of Nicaea (325) put pressure on Emperor ? he said Father and Son belonged to the same substance.
? Despite this, Anathasius, Bishop of Alexandria, rejects this
? branded an Arian
? By 361, Constantius had succeeded in having most bishops united around Homoian definition, yet this soon breaks down and goes back to Nicene Christianity.
? Auxentius of Milan is one of the last great Homoian bishops
? he resisted several attempts to depose him.Letters on the Altar of Victory Introduction to Epistulae 72, 72A and 73 o After Actium battle (31 BC), Augustus set up in the senate house a statue and an altar of Victory.
? On this altar, senators had traditionally burnt incense and offered libations before meetings

Monish Kulkarni
? After various degradations of the senate (antagonistic towards majority pagan senators) a delegation sent to Gratian
? Yet Damasus draws a counter-petition signed by Christian senators o By Summer 384, Gratian was dead and the 13-year old Valentinian II became Emperor
? Symmachus, in the situation of relative weakness (bear in mind that Praetextatus is now the highest civil official in the West [praetorian prefect of Italy, Illyricum and Africa]
and a pagan.) writes this third petition to reverse Gratian's measures. o Ambrose hears this petition and writes a letter to the emperor opposing the request
? He was successful and details his full refutation of Symmachus' arguments in Collection( Ep. 73)

72 o Bishop Ambrose, to the most blessed princeps and most Christian emperor Valentinian o 1."As all people that are under the dominion of Rome serve you, emperors and princes of this world, so you yourselves serve almighty God and the holy faith"
? Emperor is subject to Christianity o 2. o You must worship God with unwavering "zeal and devotion to the faith". o 3. o As you are bound in dedication to God, it is your duty to prevent the restoration of the Altar to pagan deities and provide "money for the expenses of impious sacrifices" o 4. o The pagans, who spilled out blood and massacred us, are now the ones asking for money and privileges1!
o 5. o Abolish the privileges!
? The privileges have been annulled by the whole world, most recently by Gratian "of august memory"
? "do not tear down what has been decided in accordance with our faith" o 6. 1 Privileges not for Vestal Virgins. These are ones involving immunity from compulsory public service. Ambrose claims these were used to trap Christians by making them commit apostacy in order to avoid troublesome and expensive duties.

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