Salvian the Presbytery was not impressed with the post-Constantinian Roman empire. In his treatise on The Governance of God (translated in Writings of Salvian the Presbyter F ), he denounced the vices of the majority of believers: “The Church herself, which should be the appeaser of God in all things, what is she but the exasperator of God? Beyond a very few individuals who shun evil, what else is the whole assemblage of Christians but the bilge water of vice? How many will you find in the Church who are not either a drunkard or a beast, or an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a robber, or a debauchee, or a brigand or a murderer? And, what is worse than all this, they do all these things almost unceasingly.”

The official Christianity only made things worse: “We offend God all the more under the name of religion, because, having been placed in religion, we continue to sin.” The empire was not conquered by the barbarians; rather, “the vices of our bad lives have alone conquered us.” He went on the specify: “The gluttony of nearly all is a raging vortex: the life of all is almost a brothel. Why should I speak of brothels? I even think that a brothel is less criminal (than the men whom I have in mind.) For the prostitutes who are in them do not know the marriage bond and therefore do not stain that of which they are ignorant. Indeed, their shamelessness is deserving of punishment, but they are not held guilty of adultery. Add to this, that brothels are few and there are few prostitutes who have condemned themselves to a most unhappy life in them.” More numerous than prostitutes were the ranks of corrupt officials.

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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