Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/16

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THOU ART PETER

Southern Germany and the Balkans to the Black Sea. To the south it extended from Morocco across "Algiers and Tunis to Egypt; and it went eastward across Central Asia, Syria and Palestine to the Tigris and the Euphrates. The political calm which rested on the World Empire was like the quiet of a summer's day, in which all that lives can grow and thrive. Caesar Augustus, it was declared, had brought the answer to every prayer: he was the father of the fatherland, the saviour of the whole human race. Men sang the praises of the Pax Romana, the peace which all earth owed to Rome. This peace had been created through might and wisdom, with the merciless sword and the ploughshare of ordering law. And now all peoples appeared to be free for the task of fashioning their own inward happiness.

Deep yearning was abroad and the hour ripe for satisfaction of that yearning. But there was a melancholy sky over the still waters, and under them stirred the serpents of human passion. The world was noisy with dissatisfaction, and Orient and Occident joined in the search for a redeemer from distress. Just what was this distress? The money then in circulation bore the image of the Greek goddess of plenty, symbolized by the cornucopia, . or that of Victory with lance poised over the victim of the victor. Nevertheless that money passed through hands that knew no peace. For, no matter how many gods of East and West peopled the heavens, money itself remained the real divinity of those times. During the pauses in the chase after the good things of life, one realized that life itself had escaped. Earnest men looked sadly at the world. They saw that culture had been degraded, because it, like all else, was served only for money's sake; that luxury made more victims than even war did; and that the Pax Romana took more from a people than it gave. By Her- cules! life itself was declining lust was now in its place! The Empire was safe from without, but its citizens were oppressed and threatened from within.

Neither scholars, poets, philosophers, critical fatalists or satirists bear such eloquent testimony to the sodden despair which rested on the late first century of the Empire as does the general resurgence o religions. Thanks to the cosmopolitan spirit, the freedom of inter- course, and the dominance of the common Greek language, the East could carry its gods, its teachings and its initiating rites to the West.


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