Ius gentium

As the blood of our martyrs (both Christian and Jewish) will attest, the old Pagan Romans were not relativists, in any recognizable modern sense. They knew our beliefs were in conflict with theirs. But they didn’t want to kill us, they only wanted us to shut up; to knuckle under; to assimilate. We were, in effect, troublesome multiculturals.

They had the equipment with which to think each case through. The jus civile might not apply to us, as we were usually not full Roman citizens. But the jus gentium, or something like “the law of nature,” provided a further backstop for the Roman magistrates. It was, as the Greeks had taught them, the law behind the law — what all men, if even partly civilized, acknowledge to be good and true; and as Henry Maine once expounded, the Romans were capable of being disturbed by conflicts between their own highly codified jus civile and the philosophical jus gentium. This was a key to why, in the end, they cracked, and became Christians themselves.

But we, in our time, have been dealing with a more fundamental challenge to right and equity. We face contemporary “authorities” who believe that things may be asserted with no reason at all, and therefore imposed without any reason. When one comes up against an assertion such as, “gender is a social construct,” one must realize that there are no holds. We are dealing with an “alternative worldview,” which may be enforced by law, and yet which is demonstrably insane. Things cannot be resolved as easily as they were between us and the Romans.

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