During the reign of Tiberius, two rather different visions of the world were set forth.
The first consists of a selection of anecdotes illustrating moral themes, in ten books, produced by a certain Valerius Maximus. Much of made of old Roman virtue and severity. A father executes a son who has charged the enemy without orders, even though he has put the foe to rout. The Roman virtues appear, and the fear of luxury and enervation, which affects the Greek and orientals.
It is a bracing book, in many ways. The picture of virtue given is an impressive one, on the whole. But it is a picture of men attempting to be stoics, and the highest virtue is that of Scipio Africanus and Cato the Younger.
Doubtless the picture was enjoyed by the emperor. Men of power often enjoy reading about the virtues of older days than their own, and the simple, honest peasant and his household. The histories of Livy were written for this sort of audience. The anecdotes doubtless were well-known to all the important people at the centre of the Roman world. It gives a vision of Romanitas, the guiding principles of the world as it was and would be.
The other vision was enunciated by a travelling preacher in the same period, also under Tiberius. He lived far from the centre of power, exercised no political power and was eventually arrested and executed on frivolous charges. His followers recorded his vision, and another compiled another volume, full of interesting anecdotes of the man and his teachings, by the end of the same century. The preacher was, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wonder what Valerius Maximus would have thought, to learn that, in writing his carefully compiled volume, directed to the Great and the Good, he had missed the chance to listen to the Son of God and hear the words that would determine the nature of the world for the next 2,000 years?