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Education and Religion in Late Antiquity: An Introduction

ByPETER GEMEINHARDT, LIEVE VAN HOOF AND PETER VAN NUFFELEN

In a famous passage in his Letter 22 to the virgin Eustochium, written in 384, Jerome reports how he once dreamed that he was brought to trial, Christ himself being the judge. When he declared to be a Christian, Christ replied: ‘You are lying! You are a Ciceronian, not a Christian, for wherever your treasure is, there will be your heart.’ Utterly shocked, young Jerome swore that he would never again dare to possess or even read pagan writings – ‘and if I ever do so, I have denied you’;1 that is, he would have acted like Peter disowning Jesus during the trial at Pilate’s court. Addressing Eustochium, Jerome pointed out that a Christian virgin should avoid any contact with and contamination by the texts commonly used at the grammar and rhetorical schools, and instead acquire a genuinely Christian education, for ‘what has Horace to do with the Psalter? what Virgil with the Gospels? what Cicero with the Apostle?’2 To put it simply: away with all the pagan stuff!