Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gay Marriage Destroyed Ancient Rome! (Serio??)

» For a more detailed look at this topic, please see my more recent post:  We've Been Warned (Again): Gayness Destroyed Rome!  

The following post is in reply to an anonymous comment received on 1 July.  The comment can be viewed here.

"The gays did this!  It's all because of the gays!"
One of my pet peeves is historical inaccuracy, and I'm sorry but your comment on the Roman Empire simply isn't true.  The decline of Rome encompassed a period of about 300 years, during which time many factors contributed to its gradual dissolve.  Same-sex marriage, however, was not one of them.

At the time of the Empire's end in 476AD, same-sex marriage was actually illegal.  It had been banned since the year 342, and the penalty for entering into such a marriage was death.  By the year 390 the emperor Theodosius decreed that same-sex acts of any kind were illegal.  The punishment:  burning at the stake.

In its early days, Roman society had been more tolerant of same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriages were performed among the upper class and aristocracy.*  As the Christian Church gained more acceptance and favor in the 4th-century, however, the views of certain very strict bishops became influential -- especially after emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the state religion, in 380.

But Christianity didn't start out homophobic or anti-same-sex relationships; in fact there are records of same-sex unions being performed in the early Church, several bishops were in monogamous same-sex relationships, and there are even two Byzantine saints who were a male-male couple.  Within 300 years of Christ's death, however, Christianity was becoming more and more intolerant of anything that violated its limited understanding of "natural order."  Sex in any form that could not produce children was deemed "against nature," including sex with a barren woman, oral sex, and even masturbation!  This was especially true as the Church became more and more powerful and unified with the State.

Coincidentally, this patriarchal intolerance also meant bad news for women.  The early church (prior to approx. 200AD) saw women active as church leaders, missionaries, pastors, and apostles, and afforded women a great deal of freedom and influence.  But the male-dominated church hierarchy quickly became ever conservative and stubborn, influenced more by the surrounding culture than by the teachings of Christ.

In 325 women were formally banned from the clergy.  They became increasingly labeled by theologians as the root of all evil, "creatures of lust," weak and fickle.  By the 400s the only way women were allowed to participate in any type of ministry was to become a celibate nun.  The oppression of sexual minorities went hand in hand with the oppression and silencing of women, and all "in the name of God."

The fall of Rome was caused by a long period of civil wars, rebellion, waves of foreign invasions, outlandish corruption, a string of tyrannical rulers and assassinations, economic collapse, and eventual collapse of the central government.  Same-sex marriage was an afterthought, and by that time had already been illegal for over 130 years.

Interestingly, the Empire's demise coincided with the time that Rome became an officially Christian empire (all religions except Christianity were essentially outlawed in 391), so it could be more logical to argue that adopting Christianity as the state religion led to Rome's collapse.  Of course that's not true, but neither is it true that Rome collapsed simply because same-sex marriages were allowed in its early period.

I don't mean to sound like a professor, but I just wanted to set the record straight!

*Both religious and civil marriage ceremonies of any kind were expensive, accompanied by a celebratory feast and paid musicians.  Therefore the lower classes (the common masses) typically practiced a type of marriage known as "usus," wherein a couple simply moved in together.  After one year they were considered married, though there was no official legal document

Please also see here for a more in-depth discussion.



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