Liberty Matters

What Thou Meanest by Seizing the Whole Earth?

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As regards St. Augustine, he writes in The City of God,
Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.” [26]
This, it must be admitted, was a profound insight into the true nature of states, and stands in sharp contrast to classical antiquity.
George admires the “laissez-faire” morality of the Roman Empire. It is possible for those with different standards to disagree. In fact, that morality was through and through pornographic. It included, for instance, the posting of erect phalluses in front of homes. Men openly carried amulets of the male genitals around their necks and touched them often, for luck. Much worse were the filthy blood games in the arena, the favorite pastime of the Roman populace. There the crowd eagerly witnessed and cheered the horrible deaths of unarmed victims as well as fighters, savoring each detail. The Church put an end to all that. One may be excused for sympathizing with G.K. Chesterton when he wrote that, given the moral standards prevalent in the Roman Empire, a period of cleansing of society was called for.
All three of the “Abrahamic” religions were persecutors when they had the upper hand. Islam, of course; Judaism at the time of Jesus and His Apostles. The major Christian denominations were also oppressors, with the notable and noble exception of the Baptists, to their great credit. The world-historical difference that Catholicism made is this: regardless of its intentions, it played a critical role during crucial centuries in thwarting state power. This could only have been accomplished by an independent, international, and powerful Church. In this way, the Church enabled the growth of freedom and classical liberalism in the West, as testified to by the scholars I cited in my original post and left unaddressed by George.
[26] Philip Schaff, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Vol. II St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, LL.D. (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Co., 1887). BOOK IV. 1 </title/2053/152949/2734396>. This quote was also feature iin one of the "Quotes of the Week" on the OLL </quote/200>.