IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 1529: Heaven and Hell: Jerusalem and Babylon

Thursday 12 July 2007, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Donna Altimari-Adler, Loyola University Chicago
Paper 1529-bFrom Babylon to the Civitas diaboli paradigm
(Language: English)
Elisa Brilli, Università degli studi di Roma 'La Sapienza' / École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris
Index terms: Anthropology, Biblical Studies, Mentalities
Paper 1529-cBabylon: The Apocalyptic Enemy in the Carolingian Imagination
(Language: English)
Mary Alberi, Department of History, Pace University, New York
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Historiography - Medieval, Language and Literature - Latin, Political Thought

Paper a: In the Book of Revelation 21:2 the Paradise is represented as the Holy City of Jerusalem which comes down from heaven from God. In the like manner, Hell was also imagined as city, or rather a mighty unassailable fortress, totally godless, which usually bore the name of Babylon. These ideas were crystallised and further developed in De civitate Dei by the great thinker and theologian of the Western Church, St Augustine of Hippo (350-430). Apart from theology and art his ideas have largely influenced political thought, in Middle Ages as well as in the Renaissance. In the East, the ideas of the two cities were also present and expressed in art, theological and apocryphal writings, and in political thinking. This paper strives to give an overview of the development of the idea of the two symbolic cities both in theology and art, Western, as well as Eastern.
Paper b: Medieval culture sees biblical corrupted cities like Babylon, Sodom, Nineveh, etc. as examples of human abjection and divine nemesis; therefore, as figurae of the eschatological destiny of damned people. In my talk, I argue that, although each of these cities has his own interpretative tradition, they obtain this symbolic meaning only because they are connected in a system of reciprocal analogies. More precisely, they are considered as particular embodiments of a general model, the civitas diaboli, which was theorised for the first time by St Augustine in the De civitate Dei. This paper discusses the formation of this cultural paradigm and its principal consequences.
Paper c: My paper examines how Carolingian authors identified ‘Babylonian’ tendencies in the morally depraved conduct of contemporary malefactors. For example, the author of an epic poem written c. 790, Hibernicus Exul, deplored the influence of the ‘slippery serpent’, who persuaded humans to violate God’s law by the building of the Tower of Babel, upon the conduct of Charlemagne’s enemy, Duke Tassilo of Bavaria. Theodulf’s Opus Caroli contra synodum likewise disparaged the Byzantine empire as heir to ancient Babylon’s cruelty and idolatry. Alcuin consigned Saxons who refused conversion to Christianity to Babylon’s eternal destruction (Revelation 18.2). My paper will examine how Babylon represented a doomed city, hostile to the Christian order of the Carolingian empire in the works of these and other authors.