28953 - Ancient Christian Literature (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

At the ending of the courses, the student will be acquainted of the literary production processes in ancient Christianity between I and VIII centuries, starting from the authors and their writings, in relation with classical literatures and with the 'Fortleben' in Middle Ages and modern times.

Course contents

The way to contemplation in the escape from the world: the De fuga saeculi by Ambrose of Milan.

Ambrose of Milan lived in the fourth century; he was a man of government and a very influential bishop, as well as a refined intellectual and a profound connoisseur of the Greek and Latin, Christian and profane literary tradition, as well as of the biblical texts. He represents a complex and crucial figure in the transition to the great Christian literature between fourth and fifth century. Among his works, the De fuga saeculi - starting from Old Testament texts, and with many references to Philo’s and Origen’s exegesis - develops a theme that will have a great following in the subsequent history of Christian theological thought: the flight from the world through contemplation .

The program of the course will be developed as follows:

1st part (10 hours):

– Ambrose of Milan: biography, cultural education, works;

– the De fuga saeculi in the context of previous Christian literature on the same topic; the De fuga saeculi in the context of Ambrose’s writings;

2nd part (20 hours):

– literary structure, philosophical and theological contents of the De fuga saeculi ;

– reading of the Latin text of the De fuga saeculi, translation and commentary.


1) Texts:

– (Critical edition of the De fuga saeculi ): C. Schenkl, CSEL 32/2, Wien 1897, pp. 163-207 (the text will be uploaded in the didactic material).

2) Studies:

a) Introduction to Ambrose of Milan; at student’s choice:

  • C. Moreschini, Ambrogio, in C. Moreschini – E. Norelli (a c. di), Storia della Letteratura Cristiana Antica Greca e Latina, Morcelliana, Brescia 1995, II*, pp. 376-401);
  • L.F. Pizzolato, Ambrogio, in AAVV, Dizionario degli scrittori greci e latini, Marzorati, Milano 1988, I, pp. 47-54;
  • Paolino, Vita di Ambrogio, in C. Mohrmann – A.A.R. Bastiaensen (a c. di), Vita di Cipriano, vita di Ambrogio, vita di Agostino, Mondadori, Coll. L. Valla, Milano-Roma 1975 (e rist.), pp.…;
  • M. Pellegrino (a c. di), Paolino di Milano, Vita di Ambrogio, Studium, Roma 1961.

b) (Introduction, translation and commentary to the De fuga saeculi )

  • G. Banterle (a c. di), Sant’Ambrogio, Opere esegetiche IV (Sancti Ambrosii Mediolanensis opera, 4), Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milano – Città Nuova Editrice, Roma 1980, pp. 10-13 (introd.); 71-133 (it. tr. with Latin facing text from the critical edition of Schenkl, without apparatus);
  • C. Gerzaguet (a c. di), Ambroise de Milan, La fuite du siècle, Les éditions du Cerf [Sources Chrétiennes, 576], Paris 2015 (French translation);
  • M.P. McHugh (a c. di), St. Ambrose, Flight from the World, in Id. (a c. di), Saint Ambrose. Seven Exegetical Works, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C. [The Fathers of the Church, vol 65], 1972, 279-326 (English translation).

Teaching methods

Lectures; use of bibliographic and electronic databases.

Assessment methods

a) The students who attend lessons will be able to read and translate the De fuga saeculi in the original Latin text (required for students of Classics). With the help of a commentary (see Bibliography, Studies, point [b]), of the Introduzione generale (see Bibliography, Studies, point [a]), they will be able to comment the text of the De fuga saeculi from an historical, philosophical, and theological point of view.

b) The students who cannot attend lessons will study the same program as the students who attend lessons; they will substitute lesson notes with two essays by choice from the following (which will be uploaded in the didactic material):

  • J. Fontaine, Ambrogio di Milano, maestro di vita, in Id., La letteratura latina cristiana, Il Mulino, Bologna 1973, pp. 85-98;
  • A. Bonato, Il ruolo universale del sacerdozio di Cristo nell’allegoria delle città-rifugio (fug. saec. 2,5-13; 3,14-16). Una rilettura dell’esegesi filoniana da parte di Ambrogio, in “Studia Patavina” 36 (1989) 57-87;
  • P. Courcelle, Plotin et saint Ambroise, in “Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire anciennes” 24 (1950) 29-56;
  • R.J. Halliburton, The Concept of fuga saeculi in St. Augustine, “Downside Review 85 (1967) 249-261;

D.T. Runia, Ambrose of Milan, in Id., Philo in Early Christian Literature. A Survey, Van Gorcum, Assen – Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1993, pp. 291-311.

Teaching tools

Lectures; seminars; use of electronic databases; PC.

Office hours

See the website of Antonio Cacciari