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By J. G. A. Pocock

Pocock is without doubt one of the nice writers of heritage. In his heritage of histories he unlocks riddles and quandaries of the various Enlightenments that underlie Gibbon.

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Additional info for Barbarism and Religion, Vol. 4: Barbarians, Savages and Empires

Sample text

When the legions or the guards destroyed sons and mothers together, there came to be emperors who were ‘barbarians’ in the sense then usual: the fierce giant Maximin, Philip the robber from the desert. These were not invading chieftains, but soldiers in the Roman service; the armies had been barbarised (or the warriors civilised) before the barbarians fought their way across the frontiers. But the barbarian soldiers came from the wastelands outside the empire, not from the civilised and corrupt cities which lay mostly, but not wholly, within it.

In the succeeding volume, however, we shall find both the early Fathers and their early-modern exponents deeply concerned with the penetration of Christian belief by philosophies like this, and the growth of a Christian philosophy to control it. The moderns asked whether the earliest heresies, Gnosticism and Arianism, had been produced by misapplications of a Platonist idea of creation, or by elements of a Zoroastrian dualism that lay further back and might account for Pythagoras and Plato himself.

56 [As for enthusiasm and imposture, I think Zoroaster cannot be discharged of guilt. I call him an enthusiast, who, persuaded of a truth or a falsity, displays exclusive zeal for it and, not authorised by any divine mission, claims for it absolute truth and irresistible authority. Enthusiasm in this sense makes men fanatics in religion, just as in philosophy or politics. When a man from his private cell sets up a tribunal and claims to govern the human race, reform its opinions and regulate its choices, I do not hesitate to call him an enthusiast.

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