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Ancient And Early Christian West

For the ancient Hebrews, shalom signified a state of prosperity and well-being as well as security. The Greek word, eirēnē from which we get the word irenic, also denotes the contentment and fruitfulness that comes from concord and harmony. Order (tranquillitas ordinis), quiet (quies), and repose (otium) inhere within the Latin word pax, which Romans sought and maintained as a higher good. Altars to peace were erected by both Greeks and Romans, and the Stoic view of the universe visualized an intrinsic natural harmony, which the virtuous endeavored to restore. In all of these ancient conceptualizations, there was a belief that an Eden-like time of peace had existed before war and disorder disrupted it. Peace, then, was understood mostly as a cessation of the chaos of the created disorder, including war. While it may have been the natural state of humankind at one time, in the early twenty-first century it is an idyll that can only be approximated by a good government that can ensure the security necessary for the achievement of concord and personal well-being.

The corresponding development of just-war ideas provided a program for realizing peace, or the restoration of order. Strict guidelines were erected in an attempt to prevent any behavior, especially by governments, that would be disruptive, unless it resulted in the ultimate acquisition of peace. While the earliest Christian writers eschewed war altogether, seeing it as contrary to the "way of love" taught by Christ, by the third century some Christians were fighting in Roman wars without compunction. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) did much to establish the components of the just war that would affect subsequent attitudes toward war in the West; but he also more fully defined what peace meant in a Christian context. For this early church father, peace was largely a spiritual concept. In his famous City of God, as well as in other works, Augustine incorporated the earlier Greek, Roman, and Jewish elements and contended that peace is essentially a right relationship with God that, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, will advance love and concord among human beings. The earthly city is a fallen one and original sin will prevent temporal peace from being established fully; thus, only when Christ returns to judge humanity will true, lasting peace be possible. By removing true temporal peace from the realm of possibility, Augustine bequeathed to the European Middle Ages a concept that was relatively idealistic and millennialistic, even as he sought to mitigate the horrors of warfare with a rigorous just-war doctrine.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPeace - Ancient And Early Christian West, Western Middle Ages, Renaissance And Reformation, The Modern West