Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Superstition and Lasciviousness

I had never heard of Naphtali Lewis until I started researching Roman Egypt. The era of Roman dominion over Egypt is apparently not all that popular among scholars as there is not much accessible writing on it outside of the academy.

I bought Lewis’ book, Life in Egypt under Roman Rule, for a couple reasons. The first was research for a serious of invisible posts I have been writing on a character called Sarapion. I invented this particular Sarapion as an anachronistic guide through the world of fourth century Egypt which I hope will expand my understanding of the human environment of Egypt in Late Antiquity.

The other reason is to get a better understanding of the holy men of fourth century Egypt, who’s lives were buttressed by the human environment of Egypt during the declining influence of the Roman Empire. Getting to know the human environment will help me to understand better the holy men which I have encountered in The Lives of the Desert Fathers, and who fascinate my sense for the fantastic.

In Egypt in the fourth century, demons manifested themselves in very real ways in the lives of the populace and the holy men were considered a sort of front line in the war between humanity and the demons. Many of these holy men were not only uneducated but even illiterate. They couldn’t read the Bible, but memorized Psalms that were recited. One holy man read the first few verses of the Psalms and went out in the desert for three years to pray, presumably with no more knowledge of Christianity than he received from those three verses. Christianity was a living religion at that time. For all the talk about having a relationship with God that comes out of Evangelical camps today, these holy men had actual relationships with God.

More at Omnia Omnibus