chapter  3
19 Pages

Christianity, citizenship and education: From antiquity to Enlightenment and its aftermath

Edward Gibbon’s Enlightenment treatise The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire set the tone for the eighteenth-century ideas of social and political progress through the faded glories of a classical imperial past. Decline and Fall is thus as much an Enlightenment vision of humanity’s future as it is a historical study: looking back on the fall of Rome and the emergence of Christianity from its ruins; and, with the optimism of Enlightenment looking forward to a time when religious obscurantism is abandoned, where the lost glories of Rome, republic and rationalism are resurgent. The initial volume of Gibbon’s work was published in 1776, the year of the Declaration of American Independence. Decline and Fall, many years in the writing, was a book of its time, seeming auspiciously to serve the needs of its enlightened audience at the dawn of a new age.