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Almsgiving in the Later Roman EmpireChristian Promotion and Practice 313-450$
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Richard Finn OP

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199283606

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199283606.001.0001

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Christian and Classical

Christian and Classical

(p.221) 6 Christian and Classical
Almsgiving in the Later Roman Empire

Richard Finn Op

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at how Christian and classical patterns of benefaction interacted in the moral authority and writings of three major Christian thinkers: Basil of Caesarea, civic patron, bishop, and founder of a famous hostel for the destitute, the Basileiados; Ambrose of Milan, who adapted many of Basil's themes and diatribes on almsgiving for a Latin audience; and Jerome, the fierce advocate of a radical asceticism. Old and new patterns generated controversy over the proper form of Christian generosity towards the poor on the part of bishops, virgins, and lay patrons. Partly in response to such controversy, leading churchmen revised an older moral philosophy to stress the cooperative nature of Christian almsgiving and its superiority over pagan ethics.

Keywords:   Ambrose of Milan, Basil of Caesarea, Basileiados, benefaction, diatribe, Jerome, patron, generosity

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