Friday, December 23, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Since austerity is now the order of the day, Greeks are doing the sensible thing and beginning to barter. Aristotle thought it was the only system that kept the world honest.
At the centre of Aristotle’s thinking lay a concept dear to him — the purpose for which something was designed (its telos). So, the purpose of a shoe was to wear it. That was its ‘use-value’. Bartering it for something else did not change that: the shoe was still a shoe, with a specific use. If you did not wear it, someone else would. In return for the shoe, you would be receiving a commensurate item — a cloak, a pot, a mattock — which you would also put to the use for which it was made. Aristotle agreed there was a problem about the commensurability of any barter — how would you equalise the use-value of a shoe/bed/house? — but that did not affect the principle.
Now bring money into the equation. Aristotle’s point here was that it added a further dimension to the idea of use. Take medicine. Doctors used it to provide health. But if the doctor also used it to make money, health, a good per se, was no longer the sole aim: it was also a means to a further end — making a profit. So what were the priorities?
Further, the fact that anything from health to education could be turned into money suggested that the stock of wealth was infinite; believe that, and making money became life’s goal. But how ‘good’ was the activity of generating profit by compromising the use of something good in itself?
Aristotle knew about furthering trade by credit and loans. But his was an ethical, not economic, analysis. Barter keeps one honest because it puts equality, not profit, at the heart of all exchange. It does not judge the worth of any activity by its profit/loss potential, nor make financial accumulation the sole arbiter of life’s value.
But money in Aristotle’s time did at least derive directly from use-value. He would be aghast at today’s myriad instruments for producing fantasy money on the back of other fantasy money, and not a bit surprised by the consequences.
Newcastle University library, happily removing academic journals from the shelves to the (apparent) cheers of the academics (Letters, 12 November), is well behind the pace. Michael Wilding, an Australian correspondent, writes that Sydney University’s Fisher Library is planning to chuck out 500,000 books and journals to make room for, of course, more computers.
The first libraries we hear of are found in the Near East and, like Ashurbanipal’s (c. 650 bc), were mainly for internal reference purposes. That contained about 1,500 titles, with warnings against theft, maltreatment and late return. Libraries of the sort we would recognise began with the ancient Greeks. The finest of all was founded in Egyptian Alexandria in the 3rd century bc by the Greek king Ptolemy. His purpose was to outdo Athens as the intellectual centre of the Mediterranean, and his money ensured he did. Acquiring or copying texts went on at a phenomenal rate. Eventually it held nearly 500,000 rolls. Others got the idea, and rival scholarly libraries sprang up in Antioch and Pergamum, poaching top directors. They were a matter of national pride.
But they were not public libraries. These came with the Romans, martial conquerors of Greece but Greece’s cultural captives. Julius Caesar planned Rome’s first (39 bc). Emperors endowed them in large numbers, and by ad 350 there were 29 in Rome alone. You could not borrow the rolls, except by bribing the librarian, but you could make copies. Nowadays librarians rejoice that you can gawp, one page at a time, at a screen.
Mr Wilding likens modern librarians’ purges in favour of computerised literature to the Gutenberg revolution, when anything that was judged unworthy of becoming a printed book was lost forever, or to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, where books are rewritten to match state requirements — so easy on a computer. To that extent one must applaud another Australian university’s decision to bury books in landfill sites. When an electronic storm wipes out every computer and its contents, it will become the new Oxyrhynchus.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The title of Boris’s forthcoming book on the people of London claims that it is ‘the city that made the world’. Whoa back, steady on, now. Surely Boris means Rome, centre of a vast ancient empire, not to mention the worldwide Catholic Church?
When the poet Martial described the opening of the Colosseum in ad 80, he observed the vast throng gathered in it and wondered if there was any race so remote, so barbarous that it was not represented — Thracians, Sarmatians (from the Danube), Britons, Arabs, Sygambrians (a German people), Ethiopians, ‘their voices a babel, yet one, when they call you, emperor, true father of the fatherland’. The emperor indeed had the whole wide world in his hands, and the peoples of the world knew it. So did the animals from all over the empire on display for their pleasure — bears, rhinos, lions, tigers, elephants.
The city used the world’s materials — Aswan granite, Numidian and Phrygian marble — and the poor enjoyed its produce: bread baked with wheat from North Africa, fish from Gibraltar, utensils of copper mined in Spain, wine from France. Wives of the rich, seated on Indian ebony or teak inlaid with African ivory, adorned themselves in silks from China, diamonds and pearls from India and cosmetics from southern Arabia.
It was not just Romans like Ovid who claimed that ‘the world and the city of Rome occupy the same space’. The Gallic poet Rutilius said that Rome offered the vanquished a share in their justice, thus ‘making a city out of what was once the world’. The Greek Aristides argued that all you had to do was to look at the city to understand how the world was ruled by it; indeed, you could visit the whole world simply by visiting Rome. Rome not merely made the world (cosmotrophos was sometimes applied to it, ‘nurturer of the cosmos’); it was the world.
A final, glorious conceit: roads out of Rome marked only the distance from the city, not to anywhere. All that counted was how near or far you were from it. Not even Boris would dare to do that for London. Would he?
It seems most odd to become so agitated about the (very few) filthy rich when the (large numbers) of very poor should be the centre of the welfare state’s concerns. But if one wants to fleece the rich, a quid pro quo always helps, as the ancient Greeks knew.
Every year in Athens, the richest 300 citizens could be instructed to carry out a leitourgia, lit. ‘work for the people’, i.e. a personal obligation in service of the state (origin of our ‘liturgy’). The wealth in property that qualified a man for such a duty was 3-4 talents (18-24,000 drachmas). This duty could involve anything from equipping a trireme for a year to underwriting dramatic productions. These did not come cheap. A working man’s wage was 1 dr. a day. One of the cheapest liturgies was staging a choral show at 300 dr.; putting on a stage production could cost 3,000 dr.; and running a trireme for a year 5,000 dr. and more.
The rich, however, are a hard-headed lot, and Athenians were no different. What if old X down the road had more money than Y, but Y was landed with the leitourgia? Y could choose to challenge X to an antidosis, an exchange of property. If X agreed, Y would carry it out; if not, X would carry it out (if, that is, he lost the court-case he would bring, disputing Y’s claim).
But there was a competing, even more powerful, emotion involved: desire for public acclaim, with all the kudos and political benefit that brought. Greek literature is full of examples of the rich citing the number of leitourgiai they had carried out, and at what expense, to demonstrate the fine service they had done for the community.
If the adult male citizen population was 60,000, the top 300 would account for one 1 in 200. Today’s taxpayers number 30 million. The top 300 would equal 1 in 100,000 — about right for the really stinking rich? And what endless hilarity the antidoseis (pl.) would provide! But, as an ancient orator said, ‘The greatest leitourgia that one can perform for the city is to live, day by day, a life of orderly self-restraint’. Or fund Classics for All...
The French justified Greece’s entry into the EU by claiming that they ‘could not say no to the country of Plato’. You bet they couldn’t.
In the Republic, Plato outlined his utopia. This was not a practical construct, but a vision of an imaginary, ideal community whose purpose was to act as a model for how things might be. He did this by sketching a picture of the educational and moral underpinning that went into making a good human and extrapolating from that an institutional programme that would create the good state.
The consequence was twofold. First, Plato had to show up the deficiencies of existing constitutions, to demonstrate there was no future in them. Democracy in particular, the system under which Plato lived in Athens, came in for special contempt. The EU could not agree more.
Second, Plato assumed it was worth any price to impose his vision of the perfect state, because it represented the best that humans on earth could ever achieve. But the noble vision of ‘goodness’ at its heart was ultimately tyrannical, because it denied freedom. Moral purity was to be imposed by Plato’s indoctrinated Guardians.
The EU too had a noble political vision — Europe at peace — but put economic progress at its heart. The result was the imposition by indoctrinated EU Guardians of a regulatory/financial tyranny invented by economists and controlling all the main economic levers. Such a system, as many pointed out at the time, could not work, as we are now discovering to our multi-trillion euro cost. Thanks a lot.
Yet, locked in its own make-believe shadow-world, the EU still clings to its own hype and is currently trying to solve the economic catastrophe of its own making by putting in power in countries that it has destroyed the very people who created that catastrophe in the first place — EU economists! Plato would be laughing his himation off. His famous allegory of men locked into the shadow-world of an underground cave, dogmatically refusing to open their eyes to the real world above, could not have been more exquisitely realised.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Last time Pericles showed how a real politician dealt with the severe austerity measures he had persuaded the Athenians to adopt if they were to win the battle against Sparta in 431 BC (i.e. abandon their lands and come to live inside Athens’ protective walls): he pointed out these measures meant that he and the rich would lose their vast properties and the income they generated. The Greek parliament, which obviously reads the Spectator, promptly slapped on a property tax. Politicians especially will be very keen to pay it to prove they are not the cushioned shysters Athenians take them to be.
But in summer 430 BC it got worse.
A man may be personally well off, Pericles says, but if his country is ruined, he is ruined too; so you must rally to the state’s defence, otherwise you will lose grip on our common security. Again, he is a man who, loving his country and being above corruption (as Athenians knew), would never speak up for sectional interests; for ‘if a leader is corrupt, this one fault puts all his other qualities up for sale.’
The fact is, he goes on, you have failed the test of endurance when the going gets rough. You run the risk of being doubly inferior to your forefathers, who both made Athens great and kept it so – all of which you are now throwing away; ‘those who encourage such a state of mind have no place here’.
Today’s Athenians are fighting (as they see it) their own corrupt governing class for its abject servitude to
The Great Debate about whether people of the same sex should be allowed to ‘marry’ would have bewildered the Romans, and not because they had any hang-ups about that style of sexual behaviour either.
For legal purposes, Romans defined the familia (‘household’) as Roman citizens, joined in lawful marriage, producing legitimate children and with some property to transmit by inheritance. But as the Latin matrimonium (our ‘matrimony’) makes clear, the main point about marriage is that it is all about the mater, ‘mother’. The family gives its daughter into matrimonium, the husband leads, receives and keeps his wife in matrimonio. The Latin for ‘wife’, uxor (cf. our ‘uxorious’), seems to be etymologically related to a Sanskrit word meaning ‘sprinkle with seed’.
‘[Marriage] was ordained for the procreation of children’, says the Anglican Prayer Book, and a Roman would have agreed: ‘the state cannot survive without numerous marriages’, says Aulus Gellius. The production of legitimate citizen children was the basic purpose. This was the only way to continue the family blood-line, its traditions, its worship, its privileges and (as Romans stress) its support for the old. Romans were well aware of these wider advantages. As the first century ad Stoic Musonius writes, there must be ‘perfect companionship and mutual love... both in health and sickness and under all conditions, since it was with desire for this as well as having children that both entered upon marriage’.
We live in a world where marriage is no longer seen as essential for the production of children. Legitimacy is not the serious matter it was in the ancient world. Citizenship, again, is a matter of residence almost as much as of blood-line. The main question, then, is how far we need any more the term ‘marry’ to define the sort of institution the Romans described. If we do, then by definition the production of children will be at the heart of it; and whatever else one may want to say about same-sex relationships, the production of children can hardly be said to be their purpose.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Too big not to fail
Commentators bang on endlessly about the desirability of a ‘global world’, with every economy linked seamlessly to every other. But when it goes wrong, as it has done in the last three years, the painful consequences are equally global. Ask the Romans.
The Roman empire stretched from Britain to Iraq and from the Rhine-Danube to the northern edges of the Sahara desert. At its largest extent (c. ad 117) it probably comprised about 50 to 60 million people and covered 2.5 million square miles. When Rome took over a province, the local elites continued to run the show, as they had always done, but now under the ultimate jurisdiction of Rome’s governor and his remarkably small staff. The one fixed condition was that Rome got its taxes and could station its army there, when needed (in fact, only Britain required a constant legionary presence). Otherwise Rome applied no unitary control. It was up to the governor to lay down the ground-rules. Not even Rome’s legal system was imposed, let alone its coinage, or anything else.
But even under such a loosely centralised regime, the consequence, intended or not, of 700 years of Roman provincial government was a prosperous economic network stretching across the whole empire: flag-makers from Syria worked for the Roman army in South Shields; high-quality pottery from southern Gaul found its way to Africa, Spain, Italy, Britain, Germany and Denmark; and as ice-cap pollution levels show, metal-working (lead, copper and silver) was on a scale to be matched only from the 16th century onwards.
But in the fifth century the empire in the West collapsed. Germanic tribes, harried by Huns, poured into Europe, and Rome was unable to stop them. They established their own kingdoms, taxes stayed local and Rome, starved of money to pay its army, could no longer enforce its authority. The wider consequence was the complete breakdown of the empire-wide economic links that had brought such prosperity to the West. This dramatic economic collapse lasted some 200 years.
As we too are now finding, the bigger the structure, the more catastrophic and wide-ranging the disaster when it all caves in.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
If the Libyans really do want to move from forty-two years of tyranny to a western-style ‘democracy’, i.e. an elective oligarchy, they will need a friendly tyrant to help them make the transition. In his Politics, Aristotle offers some top tips on the subject.
Aristotle distinguished two sorts of turannos: one who, knowing that the people hated him, rendered them incapable of moving against him (Gaddafi), and the other who manoeuvred to make the people unwilling to move against him. The former protected his rule by three main strategies: (i) stamping out anyone with any independence of mind or spirit, (ii) ensuring no one had any trust or confidence in anyone else, and (iii) depriving his subjects of the chance of building up a power base. So he kept the people leaderless, obsequious, uneducated, disassociated, poor, working and under a constant watchful eye
The alternative tyrant, Aristotle went on, wished no less to maintain his power over those who did and did not want to be ruled by him – ‘his permanent, fundamental principle’ – but did so by different means: (i) he appeared more like a responsible manager of a household than a tyrant, (ii) he led a life of moderation, as a trustee of public resources, and (iii) he embraced men of drive and ability so that they did not feel they could do better under a different regime. By the same token, he took care that his subjects did not feel ill-used by him, because such people did not spare themselves. Here Aristotle quotes the fifth century BC philosopher Heraclitus: ‘Anger is a difficult enemy: he buys with his life’. Finally, (iv) he did all in his power to keep both rich and poor onside and reconciled to him and to each other. In this way, Aristotle concluded, the alternative tyrant ensured that he ruled over ‘better men, because they are not reduced to impotent submission’, and therefore had a chance of staying in power for longer.
Aristotle strongly disapproved of tyrants. But if one was necessary, he thought it an improvement that he should be ‘not wicked, but only half-wicked’.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
There has been considerable comment on the severity of the punishments handed out to the looters in the recent riots. In Aristotle’s Problems, most of which, admittedly, is not by the great man, a stern justification is mounted.
The problem is posed as follows: ‘Why is it that, if someone steals from a public bath or gymnasium or market-place or anywhere like that, the penalty is death, but if from a private dwelling, it is twice the value of what was stolen?’
In the case of the private house, Aristotle offers three arguments: first, it has walls and locks, and it is possible to set a guard; second, it rests with the owner whom to admit and whom to exclude. But in a public place, there are no such physical safeguards, nor does one have any choice about who is allowed into a bath or gym or not. Aristotle then adds a third: those who steal from public places will care nothing about their public reputation, and therefore be unreformable, while those who steal from private homes may be known to the owner and want to retain their reputation by returning the goods.
In the case of theft from public places, Aristotle again proposes a range of answers. First, and most important, not only does the victim suffer private loss, but the city is discredited, ‘in exactly the same way as responsible public behaviour brings it the greatest honour’ — and here he draws a parallel with the heavy penalties imposed on those who insult legal and other public authorities, but none on those insulting an individual.
He also adds that if one loses property in private, one can bear the misfortune in private; but if in public, there is the prospect of the humiliation the victim will have to bear in addition to the loss. The example Aristotle cites is that of a man whose clothes are stolen at the public baths: ‘it is embarrassing enough to have to walk home in the nude anyway, quite apart from being laughed at, which is worse than any loss’.
This, of course, was a time when self-help and a man’s public reputation, whatever his circumstances, were the order of the day…
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
The Murdoch family keep on saying ‘sorry’, but the popular feeling is that they should be saying they feel ashamed. That, however, suggests they have a sense of shame in the first place.
For Homer’s heroes, shame (aidôs) and its counterpart honour (timê) were the two most powerful forces that controlled their behaviour on and off the battlefield. Aidôs was an emotion, derived from heroes’ image of themselves, that was acutely responsive to the way other people thought about them. The major difference with our world is that Homeric aidôs was prospective. It was not what you felt after you had failed; it is what you summoned up to ensure you did not fail. ‘Put aidôs in your hearts’, Homeric heroes urged on their men, as they went into battle. ‘I shall not retreat like a coward’, said Trojan Hector to his wife Andromache. ‘I would feel aidôs before the Trojan men and long-gowned women if I did.’
The root of the word timê was financial — your positive value to the world you lived in. This lay in serving your society (and so yourself) by winning on the battlefield. It was desire for timê, accrued over a lifetime, that gave the heroes the chance of winning the greatest prize of all — kleos, the reputation that lived on after their death.
People’s reaction to Murdoch’s sleazy empire is equally Homeric. The word is nemesis — the anger a man feels at someone’s failure to feel due aidôs at what is understood to be shameful behaviour. This gets to the heart of the outrage felt at Murdoch and his journalists. For them, timê lay in getting the big headline story, irrespective of the consequences for anyone’s feelings. There was no glimmer of aidôs holding them back — why should there be, when the timê they desired was getting the scoop in the first place? Was that not their job?
That is the world of Murdoch and the rest of them — a world without aidôs except in its own self-serving, journalistic terms.
As for the police, whose timê is surely defined by their commitment to the lawful conduct of society, words almost fail.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Since the emperor is going through a bad patch at the moment, his News International slaves had better watch out. One bloodbath may not be enough for the old monster. They can expect to have to bend even more obsequiously to his commands over the coming months if their positions are to remain secure.
Imperial life was a nightmare for Romans. They needed all the self-defence mechanisms they could muster against its insecurities. The emperor Caligula, Seneca tells us, imprisoned the son of Pastor, a distinguished Roman, because of his foppish hairstyle. Pastor begged for his life, so Caligula immediately had the son executed, but invited Pastor to dinner the same day. Pastor turned up, old and gout-ridden as he was, and ate and drank as if nothing had happened, without signs of grief or remorse. ‘Why, you ask?’ Seneca goes on, and answers: habebat alterum — he had another son.
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus (once a slave) pointed out the humiliations involved: ‘If you wish to be consul, you must stay up all night, run back and forth, kiss hands, say and do many slavish things, send many people gifts and, to some, presents every day.’ Even so, he goes on, ‘the emperor might die; or what if he became your enemy?’ But Epictetus understood the lure of it all: ‘No one loves the emperor, but we do love riches, a tribunate, a praetorship, a consulship. When we love and hate and fear these things, those who dispense them must necessarily be our masters.’
An old courtier explained as follows how he had survived so long for one in his position: ‘By accepting insults and expressing gratitude for them’. So whatever his courtiers’ feelings about his recent behaviour, Murdoch can look forward to even more servile adulation from them than normal: they know which side their bread is buttered, and they want to keep it that way. Their careers are at risk. But for the actual staff of News International, of course, no sweat: the emperor will now shine his Sun on them on Sundays too. Which is precisely the problem gnawing away at those poor old MPs.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
If Romans had had such a concept as a ‘right to life’, their jurists would have dealt with the question whether it should be possible to lose it. Given that the salus (safety/security/well-being) of the people should be the ultimate law (Cicero), one can guess what their answer would be. But whatever one’s view of bin Laden’s tragic passing, al-Qa’eda’s preference for settling disputes with the bomb and gun throws up a juicy prospect: there is a vacancy for a new mastermind.
The collapse of the Roman republic in the 1st century BC was down to dynasts such as Marius, Sulla, Pompey and Caesar using the might of soldiers loyal to them, and not the state, to impose their own will on the Senate. As Cicero lamented to Brutus, ‘We are made a mockery by the whims of soldiers and arrogance of their generals. Everyone demands as much political power as the army at his back can deliver. Reason, moderation, law, tradition, duty count for nothing.’ Vicious civil war was the disastrous consequence.
But the emergence of a ‘constitutional’ imperial system under Rome’s first emperor Augustus did not affect this very basic Roman instinct. When Nero committed suicide in AD 68, there was no obvious successor. Four generals promptly fought it out for supremacy, each briefly declared emperor in turn, until Vespasian settled the matter. During the 3rd century AD, increasing pressure on Rome’s borders from Germans in the north and Persians in the east made professional soldier emperors the fashion. In the hundred years before Constantine (312), there were more than 60 emperors, or people declared emperor; in 238 alone there were technically six. And this was Rome!
If that is anything to go by, and bin Laden, as well as being a figure-head, really was as central to the organisation as the Americans claim, it may be that we should put serious behind-the-scenes efforts into encouraging the Egyptian al-Zawahiri and the Americo-Yemeni al-Awlaki to blow each other to bits for the top job — but only on the very purest of ideological grounds, of course.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The public razzmatazz surrounding the royal wedding is not the sort of thing Romans went in for on such occasions, but their approval for marriage was unconditional.
It was military triumphs and generals returning loaded with gold and silver that triggered the great public celebrations. Marriage in the Roman world was, for the most part, a private affair. A legal digest defined it as ‘a joining together of a man and a woman, and a partnership for life in all areas, a sharing in human and divine law’. So whatever family interests may have been in play—and Roman aristocratic marriage often looks like a business deal—marriage ultimately depended on the personal will of the couple involved, affectio maritalis bringing and keeping them together. Naturally, marriages broke down, but the ideal was there.
Further, the family home was a holy place, generating strong emotional feelings. The god Limentinus protected the threshold, Forculus the doors and Cardea the hinges (!). The continued worship of the family gods was of prime importance, centred round each household’s Lārēs (guardians), Penātēs (penus, ‘provisions’), and Genius locī (the male spirit of the family’s tribe, gēns, personified in the head of the family).
In this the household reflected its close ties with the state: for Rome too was a ‘family’, with its state Lares and Penates, and the emperor its Genius loci. But though the state never intervened to ratify marriage, it did define the conditions under which children were deemed legitimate—through citizen marriage alone. Further, in the absence of children, it encouraged adoption to keep lines going—not of babies either, but of adults, usually males. The first emperor Augustus, himself adopted by Julius Caesar, had great trouble lining up a suitable successor. It was finally his adopted son Tiberius who took over.
So while Romans would applaud the forthcoming marriage—what could be more important than the head of state’s line?—they would think it an insult that it conferred no greater legitimacy on its offspring than any other union.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Recent cases over Christians refusing gay couples hotel accommodation and Christian couples wanting to adopt have brought Christian belief into conflict with the law. The Christians have lost. Lord Justice Laws, arguing in 2010 that Christian belief was ‘subjective’, laid a marker for those judgments by drawing a distinction ‘between the law’s protection of the right to hold and express a belief, and the law’s protection of that belief’s substance or content’.
In classical Athens, a number of charges could be brought against individuals on religious grounds, under the general heading of asebeia (‘impiety’). These included perversion of ritual, desecrating religious property, revealing ‘mystery’ cults, entering holy places when disenfranchised, introducing new divinities and expressing certain opinions about the gods.
What, then, was Greek religion’s ‘substance or content’ that was felt to need such protection? Despite the absence of any divinely inspired texts for guidance, it was the virtually universal belief that gods were unpredictably hostile or benevolent, and that the listed infractions guaranteed their hostility. Since the state subscribed to those beliefs, it was a matter of simple self-protection to uphold them in law. Plato in his Laws reached the same conclusion. For him, gods were the benevolent upholders of moral virtue. So anyone who tried to persuade people otherwise had to be punished, for society’s general well-being.
Lord Justice Laws’s judgment applied to beliefs which he characterised as ‘subjective’. Since Athenian society did not regard its beliefs on asebeia as subjective, an Athenian Laws would presumably have ruled differently. But is the real legal distinction between an individual’s beliefs, which (whether subjective or not) must by definition be private, and their application to justiciable public situations, e.g. when you own a hotel or want to adopt? If so, Christians might console themselves by accepting the judgments, and reflecting on the behaviour of early Christians. On the ‘Render unto Caesar’ principle, they argued that Christians obeyed the law far more rigorously than pagans ever did.