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English 10, Lesson 125 – Saint Augustine’s View on Christianity

For the past few weeks, I have been reading works by Saint Augustine.  If you read my last essay, you will know that Saint Augustine was a very influential person in Christianity.  In his works, he talked a lot about the City of God and the City of Man.  In this essay, I am going to talk about how his views on these two ‘cities’ can show readers how he viewed Christianity’s role in history.

Before I begin, I would like to first talk about the City of God and the City of Man.  When I first started reading his works, I assumed City of God was heaven and the City of Man was Earth.  But as I continued to read, I realized that these ‘cities’ are not places, but groups of people.  The City of God is comprised of people who believe in God and follow the Bible.  The City of Man is all of humanity, believers and non-believers.

Augustine believed that those who belong to the City of God should not create empires on Earth since they will be able to create bigger and better empires in heaven.  He used the example of Rome’s fall to prove his point.

When Rome fell in 476 AD, many blamed the Christians.  People claimed that the Christians ways had made Rome soft and kind-hearted, which led to their demise.  But Augustine defended Christianity saying that if the people of Rome had converted to Christianity, they might have survived.  He said that Rome did not belong to the City of God.  Therefore Rome did not have the protection of God, which is why they fell.

As you can see, Augustine’s view for Christians was essentially to abandon society and turn to God.  From what I understand, the City of Man will one day collapse, but the City of God is eternal.  The City of God is under God’s protection and no one can hurt you if you are under His protection.  Therefore, abandon society and turn to the City of God.

Thanks for reading!


English 10, Lesson 70 – Optimism in Livy and Ovid

This week in class, I read History of Rome by Livy and Metamorphoses by Ovid.  In both books, the authors incorporated Roman mythology and their own thoughts of the human race.   In this essay, I am going to talk about the basis of optimism in each book.

To make the comparison more clear, I am going to examine each book one at a time.

In History of Rome, Livy focused on the horrible things that happened in history.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of these incidents.  He wrote about poverty in the early days of Rome, and how the rich can never be trusted because of their greed.  He wrote about how Romulus would kidnap women from neighboring towns to be wives for Roman men when the population started to dip.  He wrote about the assault of women and of riots that were ended with violent force.  From his writing, it is obvious that he did not have hope for humankind.  Personally, I thought that he seemed to be ashamed to be a part of the human race by the way he described the events.

In Metamorphoses by Ovid, he starts by outlining the evolution of man, which was very similar to Hesiod’s view from Works and Days.  Like Livy, he believed that wealth caused men to be corrupt which led to killing and evil.  He wrote of a being called Jove, who seemed to be his idea of God.  He described how Jove hated men and thought the best course of action was to kill them all with a flood, except for two righteous people: Pyrrha and Deucalion.  Pyrrha would create women and Deucalion would produce men.  I am sure you can see the similarities to the stories of Noah and the flood and the creation of mankind through Adam and Eve.

As you can see, Livy had a very pessimistic view of mankind and humans in general.  He decided that all men were corrupt and they were doomed.  In Ovid’s case, he agreed that humans were corrupt and evil, but believed that a new, pure line could come from Pyrrha and Deucalion.

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 65 – Rhetorical Context of Cicero’s Orations

In my last essay, I described the story of Cicero and Catiline and the drama that unfolded.  However, I am sure a lot of you are wondering how Cicero managed to get a man exiled through pure rhetoric.  That cannot be possible, right?

In the beginning, Cicero threw vague accusations at Catiline, blaming him for conspiracy and uprising against the empire.  He turned the whole city against Catiline, then told him that he would not take legal action, but the Senate might.  He pretended to be concerned for Catiline and convinced him that his best option was to leave the city altogether.

Once Catiline left, Cicero then used his silver tongue to convince everyone that what he was doing was out of concern for the empire and the people.  He assured them that because of Catiline’s departure the threat was lessened, but not gone.

Cicero continued to paint Catiline and his ‘followers’ as monsters.  He made them look evil and disloyal to the empire.  He convinced the Senate, and the people, that they had to take care of his followers or he might return with an army and take revenge against them.

The people believed Cicero’s words and threw themselves into a state of panic, which let Cicero manipulate them in whatever way he wanted to.  The people themselves were blinded by their fear, unable to see how Cicero was twisting his words to make people comply.

As you can see, Cicero had the skill of rhetoric.  Though his schemes were horrible and his accusations unjust, you have to admit that he was a smart man.  He convinced everyone that the threat was a (probably) innocent man, when it was really him who was the threat.  This is a perfect example of the saying ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing.’

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 85 – Miracles of Jesus

This week in class, I read the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament.  The book described how Jesus would perform miracles to prove to the people that he really was a prophet of God.  In this essay, I am going to talk about how important these miracles are.

In the book, there were many miracles listed.  Jesus would heal the paralyzed and ill.  He was known to scare away evil spirits that possessed people, or calm the wind and seas.  There were even stories that he would bring the dead back to life and could produce enough food to feed thousands from one meal.  Stories of these marvellous, and seemingly impossible, miracles spread through the land and many started to come from Rome to meet Jesus and see his miracles with their own eyes.

I personally think that the miracles Jesus performed were important for two reasons.  One, it gave him publicity and a reputation.  These stories motivated people to come see and listen to what he has to say.  Two, it proved that he truly was a prophet of God.  After all, if a person claimed to be a prophet of God, you would want some proof to know that they are not a crazy person.

As you can see, the miracles Jesus performed were very important to the spread of his reputation during the beginning of his ministry.  Much like now, you need publicity to get you known, and even trusted, by the world.

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 80 – Horace’s Personal Views

This week in class, I read the works of Horace, who was a Roman poet.  Like Ovid, it was easy to see his views and opinions through his writing.  In this essay, I am going to talk about his personal views and ethics.

At first, I thought Horace was a pessimistic and moody man who was obsessed with death.  He didn’t seem to view life as anything other than a sport.  The only major and inevitable event in your life is death.  But as I kept reading his works, I realized that he was actually a very sensible man and we share common views. 

The only correct analysis from my first impression of Horace was that he was definitely obsessed with death.  Despite this, he did not seem concerned about legacy and inheritance.  He did not believe in worrying about what happens in the world after you die.  After all, it does not concern you anymore.

Because of his unconcerned attitude to what happens after death, he did not understand why others would kill and lie for wealth.  His view, like mine, was to not equate wealth to your worth and if you somehow found yourself in possession of wealth, do not hoard it.  It will not help you in the afterlife. 

He also had a very strong belief in delivering justice.  He advised to not view other people’s faults too harshly.  Instead, view their shortcomings like you would view your own.  He also believed that punishments against those who broke the law should be fitting.  To deny a just punishment is to deny justice.

As you can see, Horace was a very smart and practical man.  He did not seem greedy or self-absorbed.  Out of all my reading assignments for this class, Horace’s poems were my absolute favorite.  I related to a lot of his views and his poems were beautiful.  Should I be concerned my views align with those of a Roman poet from 2000 years ago?

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 60 – Catiline and Cicero

This week in class I read the story of Catiline and Cicero.  In the story, Cicero accused Catiline of being a threat to the development of Rome and the Senate as a whole.  Because of all of the accusations, Catiline was forced to leave Rome for his safety.  In this essay, I am going to talk about what Catiline should have done to prove Cicero wrong.

For those that are not familiar with the story, Marcus Cicero was a well-known Roman politician and lawyer who served as a consul in 63 BC.  He was famous for his rhetoric, which is what eventually brought Catiline down.  Catiline, who was a member of the Senate at the time, had private organizations on the side, which became the basis of Cicero’s allegations.

Cicero started to hurl accusations at Catiline in front of the Senate, but they were so vague that it was impossible to prove their truth.

It is unclear in the oration if Catiline was allowed to talk while Cicero was presenting his ‘case’ to the Senate, but if I were Catiline I would have demanded that Cicero show some evidence to the crimes that he claimed I committed.

I find it extremely odd that throughout the whole ordeal, Catiline never once denied the claims Cicero was declaring.  If he did, it was never written, but Catiline had many opportunities to demand proof or to show the Senate that his private organizations were not a threat to Rome.

In my mind, the only reason Catiline never did anything was because Cicero’s accusations may have had some truth to it, and he was afraid of getting outed.  In the end though, it did not matter.  Catiline was asked to leave Rome and spent the rest of his life as an exiled man.

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 55 – The Court Systems in Works and Days Vs. The Eumenides

Throughout the past few weeks of the English 10 course, I have read multiple Greek plays and literary works.  The two works I will be concentrating on in this essay are the Works and Days by Hesiod and The Eumenides by Aeschylus.  In this essay, I am going to compare the cause and effects of events in each story.

Works and Days is a book written by Hesiod dedicated to his brother, Perseus, who bribed the court into giving him all of their deceased father’s property.  Hesiod felt cheated out of his property and wrote the book in an attempt to make his brother see that what he did was wrong.  Hesiod stated that he thought the court was not comprised of righteous people and that the two of them should settle the matters between themselves.

The Eumenides is a play in a trilogy called The Oresteia following Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, and how he avenged his father’s murder.  Agamemnon was murder by his wife and her lover, who were later killed by Orestes.  In the play, Orestes called upon the gods to defend him from the Furies, spirits who were tormenting him because he killed his mother.  Orestes had faith in the court to deliver the punishment they see fit.

Personally, I think that the comparison of courts is not completely fair.  Firstly, the crimes being discussed in each work were not equal.  In Works and Days the crime is having something stolen by a family member.  In The Eumenides the crime is murdering a family member.  I am not condoning stealing from a family member, but compared to a murder, it feels insignificant.  Secondly, the court in Works and Days were made up of humans, while the court in The Eumenides was comprised of gods, who were supposedly more pious than humans.

As you can see, the characters in each story had very different opinions on their court systems.  Hesiod did not trust the system, while Orestes had complete faith in the system.  Perhaps Orestes trusted his court system because the gods were judging him and not humans who could be bribed.

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 50 – Orestes’ Actions

This week in class I read the second book in the Greek play trilogy The Oresteia.  This play is called The Libation Bearers and it focuses on Orestes, banished son of the deceased Agamemnon, getting revenge on his mother for murdering his father.

In the play, the Greek god Apollo tells Orestes to murder his mother and her new lover to avenge his father.  Desperate to deliver some sort of honour for his father, Orestes agrees and kills his mother and step-father.

After reading multiple Greek plays in English and History class, I have realized that all of the characters are very emotional.  They also do not seem to have the same morals as people today do and let their emotions decide their actions.  With this in mind, I wonder how Orestes would have acted if he lived in the 21st century.

If Orestes lived in 2022, he would, hopefully, have a more logical mindset that is not centred around death.  Seeing as nowadays we do not follow the Greek gods, the event of Apollo instructing him to commit murder can be disregarded.

I believe that Orestes would have tried to find a way to get proof against his father’s murderers.  In the play, it is not stated if Agamemnon’s murderers left any evidence behind, but I can imagine that Orestes would have tried to find evidence of the crime if he was not already aiming for murder.

Orestes would have brought the case to court with evidence, real or fake, to present to the judge.  He would have done anything to put his mother and step-father in jail, even if he must lie to do so.

In the play, Orestes was portrayed as a strong young man that wanted to avenge his father.  I have no doubt that if he did not talk to Apollo, he would have figured out a more logical and less bloody way to bring justice against his mother and step-father.

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 75 – Ovid’s View of the Gods

This week in class, I read Metamorphoses by Ovid.  The book is a compilation of short stories about the various Greek gods and their escapades.  In this essay, I am going to talk about what I learned about Ovid’s views of the gods from how he writes about them.

Throughout the book it is clear that Ovid views gods as beings that have more power than humans, but have the emotions and volatility of humans.  Like humans, they have no control or responsibility of their emotions or sexual passions.

In one of the stories, Cupid makes Apollo fall madly in love with a human girl named Daphne.  The poor woman becomes so overwhelmed by Apollo’s attempts to gain her favor that she prays to become a laurel tree to escape him, leaving a heartbroken Apollo to mourn the ‘death’ of his love.

In another story, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, Latona, becomes thirsty and goes to a nearby pool for a drink of water.  However, there are men at the pool who tell her that she cannot drink.  Latona prays to the heavens to help her, and the men are turned to frogs as punishment for denying a goddess a drink.

There are several other stories with similar themes, but the most common ones are humans being turned into objects of nature by the gods.  Another very common theme is innocent humans getting caught in the petty fights of the gods.

However, there is one story that has a different theme from the others.  In this story Ovid shows how volatile gods’ emotions can be and how desperate they are to enforce their power over man.  In this story, a satyr (a mythical creature that is half-man and half-goat) named Marsyas, challenges Apollo to a flute duel, and names the other gods the judges of the contest.  Apollo accepts the challenge, and his fellow gods rule him as the winner (obviously). They tell Apollo to do what he wants to with Marsyas, leading to the flaying and death of the satyr.

I personally think that it is very foolish to challenge a god to something and appoint his friends as the judges, but I also think that Apollo did not need to kill Marsyas because of a flute contest.

After reading Metamorphoses this week, I think it is safe to say that Ovid did not think highly of the gods or their actions.  Humans frequently got involved with the gods’ affairs by sheer luck, or unluckiness.  Those that try to discredit the gods or wrong them are quickly punished, usually being turned into a being of nature where they cannot cause trouble.

Thanks for reading!

English 10, Lesson 45 – Aeschylus’ View of the Trojan War

This week in class I started reading the first play in a Greek trilogy called The Oresteia.  The particular play I am reading is called Agamemnon.  The Oresteia is a trilogy centred on the events of the Trojan War.  In this essay, I am going to talk about what we can learn about the author’s view on the war based on what he wrote.

Firstly, who is the author of these plays?  The author’s name is Aeschylus. He was considered to be the “father of tragedy” and wrote over 90 plays.  Unfortunately, only seven plays survived the tests of time, and there is debate over whether some of these seven plays were written by Aeschylus.

The play I read this week is the first in the trilogyThe play focuses on the Greek hero Agamemnon and his son, Orestes, during the Trojan War.

In the beginning of the play, Agamemnon expresses his desire for favourable winds for the Greek soldiers he was sending to Troy. To ensure this, he believed he would have to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to the gods.  The description of her murder is horrifying, even if it is written in old English. 

The chorus does not say that the sacrifice of Iphigenia is wrong. Rather, it is Agamemnon’s attitude towards the sacrifice that was inappropriate.  Aeschylus describes Agamemnon’s attitude as “profane” during and after the incident.

Because of Agamemnon’s “unholy” attitude towards the sacrifice, the gods did not answer his prayers and made the journey difficult for the soldiers.  Aeschylus describes it as “casting a shadow over the soldiers.”

Once they landed in Troy, the war dragged on for a long and bloody ten years. The play described how the war ended with no clear winner. Instead, there was a stalemate where each side lost more than they gained.

Many plays during that time romanticised the Trojan War only focusing on the heroes and victories.  Aeschylus, however, focused on the more gory and unpleasant reality of the war.  There was no clear winner and both sides suffered terrible losses.