Commercium Spirituale:“A Spiritual Exchange” Paulinus of Nola and the Poetry of Wealth

  • Peter Brown
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


It is a pleasure, on the occasion of a collection of essays to honor Jeremy duQuesnay Adams, to repay an intellectual debt that I incurred some thirty years ago. On opening his fine book on The Populus of Augustine and Jerome: A Study in the Patristic Sense of Community, my eye fell with gratitude on the following passage, in which he introduced and justified his statistical study of the word populus in two major Patristic authors:

It seems to me that such an examination brings us closer to the ways in which men like Augustine and Jerome formulated their feelings than the scraps of outright theorizing on the subject which we find scattered throughout their diverse works. Some of the most powerful and persistent of human convictions operate just beneath the level of formula construction, and in patterns interestingly different from statements held up for public exhibit. It is not uncommon to find such prejudices (to use Burke’s neutral and honorable term for this kind of sentiment about the right shape of things) pervading the writings of even an accomplished author far more consistently and vividly than do his formal ideas on related topics, and therefore affecting both the prejudices and the ideas of later readers who depend on his categories of language to formulate their own thought.1


Late Antiquity Autumn Leaf Magnificent Expansion Roman Society Elective Affinity 
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© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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