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Christians and Pagans in the Ancient World

"The Church's attitude toward classical culture during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries was not merely one of indifference; it was one of hostility. It has often been written that the Church, while it could change the religion of the Roman world, and even the morals of the people, could not create a new educational system. The method of teaching in the schools still remained pagan, and many of the textbooks also were pagan, and "through this door almost all pagan antiquity passed." But this is an exaggeration. The preservation of culture in western Europe, after the ancient libraries were closed, was not due to the Church. 'What preserved the Latin classics for us, an expert (F.W. Hall, Classical Review, Feb-Mar, 1922, p.32) has said, was "the efforts of the pagan nobles of the Theodosian epoch-the 'anti-Christian Fronde,' as they have been called. These men kept alive the ancient learning long enough for the Christian Church to recover its senses and breed up men of the type of Cassiodorus in the place of the early fanatics.(p.41)

"By the fifth century paganism was dead, but the pagan spirit as embodied in classical literature was perpetuated, and some at least--and that perhaps the best--of the ancient classical literature was perserved and cherished, in the libraries of those few bishops who were cultivated enough and brave enough to flout the Church's wrath. Such a one was Sidonius Apollinaris (431-489), bishop of Clermont in Roman Gaul. While it would be harsh to say that his Christianity was insincere, it is quite clear he wore his religion lightly, and was a humanist and a pagan at heart. His Letters are a mine of information concerning the cultivation of the classical tradition, at least in Gaul, in the fifth century, and also give us an interesting view of the interior arrangements of a Roman library of the age....(p.43)

"The continuity of ancient Greek literature was better preserved [in the Eastern Roman Empire] than was that of Latin literature in the West. In the East few of the clergy, except the monks, were actuated by a violent prejudice against classical literature because of its pagan nature and origin.(p.45,46)
Ancient Libraries by James Westfall Thompson, (p.41,43, 45, 46)
"Two church fathers who were most influential in cultivating an interest in pagan learning among Christians were Augustine and Cassiodorus. Augustine tells us that he felt a desire to attain to spiritual truths through secular knowledge and that, while awaiting baptism at Milan, he occupied himself with the composition of manuals on seven disciplines. The project was not carried very far, but the partial remains of his writings on the disciplines had a significant influence upon later Christian authors. Cassiodorus did complete a book on the secular disciplines Institutiones II to complete his book on spiritual learning Institutiones I, and, significantly enough, it was Book II that had the wider circulation in manuscripts and exercised the greater influence upon intellectual developments in the West. The important of Cassiodorus in keeping alive an interest in classical learning and in the ultimate preservation of the manuscript texts of classical Latin authors can hardly be overemphasized. (p.6)

"It was Cassiodorus who convinced the clergy that the pagan classics had a rightful place in Christian education. M. R. James, in CMH, III, 486, calls Cassiodorus "the greatest individual contributor to the preservation of learning in the West" and says that but for him it is quite possible that no Latin classic except the works of Vergil would have come down to us in complete form.... (p.7)
Martianus Capella and the seven liberal William Harris Stahl and Richard Johnson.
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