Friday, 17 May 2019

Ethan Gannaway: ​Seeing the Poor in Ambrose of Milan

In his De officiis, Ambrose presents the famous episode in Lawrence’s life when he presents the poor as the treasures of the church.[1] A rather similar instance appears in Valerius Maximus, who recounts Cornelia presenting her children as her jewels.[2] In a censure of wealth and greed, these episodes demand the audience see persons ordinarily overlooked, and to see them as valuable members of the community. Recent scholarship is pursuing this very topic. Among a number of relatively recent works on poverty, Robert Knapp’s Invisible Romans (Harvard, 2011) and Kim Bowes’ archaeological work on Roman peasants in Tuscany have provided new evidence to view the marginalized. In this paper, I will explore how Ambrose made the invisible, undesirable, morally corrupt poor into visible and valued individuals. Was Ambrose's misericordiathe semiotic key to perceive the poor as more than mere stomachs to be fed, if noticed at all? Did one need the key only once or constantly to see the poor? If the latter, would the result be a loss in the human dignity of the poor? Did this continuousmisericordia, in other words, threaten to undermine Ambrose's positively refashioned image of the poor as significant if not leading members of the ecclesiastical city?

[1] De off. 2.28.140.[2] De paupertate 4.4.

No comments:

Post a Comment