The City of God
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"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. [...] 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 do you mean by seizing the whole earth; because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor'."--The City of God (5th century) by St. Augustine
The City of God, also known as De Civitate Dei contra Paganos, "The City of God against the Pagans") is a book written in Latin by Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century, dealing with issues concerning God, martyrdom, Jews, and other Christian philosophies.
Augustine wrote the treatise to explain Christianity's relationship with competing religions and philosophies, and to the Roman government with which it was increasingly intertwined. It was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning their Roman religion. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to provide a consolation of Christianity, writing that, even if the earthly rule of the empire was imperilled, it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph — symbolically, Augustine's eyes were fixed on heaven, a theme repeated in many Christian works of Late Antiquity.
Despite Christianity's designation as the official religion of the empire, Augustine declared its message to be spiritual rather than political. Christianity, he argued, should be concerned with the mystical, heavenly city the New Jerusalem - rather than with Earthly politics.
The book presents human history as being a conflict between what Augustine calls the City of Man and the City of God (a conflict that is destined to end in victory of the latter). The City of God is marked by people who forgo earthly pleasure and dedicate themselves to the promotion of Christian values. The City of Man, on the other hand, consists of people who have strayed from the City of God. The two cities are not meant to represent any actual places or organizations, though Augustine clearly thought that the Christian Church was at the heart of the City of God.
While the book is framed by discussion of these themes, it is largely made up of various digressions on philosophical subjects and presentations of flaws in pagan religions upon which Augustine wished to comment.