Expectations of Immortality in Late Antiquity (Aquinas by A. H. Armstrong
By A. H. Armstrong
Publication by way of Armstrong, A. H.
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Extra info for Expectations of Immortality in Late Antiquity (Aquinas Lecture)
Augustine. Page 45 In more than one passage Augustine specifies that the Agonistici specialized in causing the maximum disruption at pagan festivals, where they used to mount an unstoppable charge upon the band of musicians, the symphoniaci, who were a normal feature of pagan religious occasions. The Agonistici made a concerted rush, and smashed the instruments of the orchestra. They would also assault iuvenes, the collegium of young men who used to parade in full armour at religious festivals.
To sing hymns in honour of their heroes and celebrate, more africano, in plentiful potations of wine. Since the time and the place presumably coincided with the pagan festivals at which the marytydoms first occurred, the confrontations must have tended to be annual and so a recurrent cycle. Hence their cry "Deo Laudes". They were echoing the dying words of Christian martyrs like Cyprian. 38 It was not till the Christians had the big battalions on their side, after the conversion of the Emperors, that bishops led mobs to destroy pagan shrines.
But what is important is that the detachment from the pursuit of worldly goods, the liberation from fears and passionate obsessive desires produced by seeing their transitory objects in the light of death, will enable us to live well here and now. This is why "learning to die" is important for all the philosophical traditions. It is, as we have seen, as important for the Epicureans who dogmatically denied any life after death as it is for the Platonists who had strong expectations of immortality; and, perhaps more significantly, it is equally important for the very large number of reflective persons in between whose positions were a good deal less definite.