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May 25, 2023

In your essay for HIST 113: Religion and Empire, you will delve into a thought-provoking debate between traditional Roman religion and Christianity during the fourth century. The Memorial of Symmachus and a letter of St. Ambrose offer valuable insights into this historical dialogue. Symmachus staunchly defends the traditional Roman religion, emphasizing its cultural significance and advocating for the restoration of ancient rites such as the Altar of Victory. Conversely, Ambrose challenges these traditions, asserting the moral authority of Christianity and critiquing the polytheistic beliefs of Roman tradition. This debate highlights the divergent perspectives of Romans and Christians on religious practices and underscores the clash between polytheism and monotheism. Through a careful analysis of these texts, we gain valuable insights into the complex religious dynamics of late fourth-century Rome and the evolving relationship between tradition and innovation in religion.

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