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The Fading of Three Christian Virtues

Portrait of a Woman Inspired by Lucretia by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1533 [National Gallery, London]
Portrait of a Woman Inspired by Lucretia by Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1533 [National Gallery, London]
Christianity brought three new virtues into the ancient Greco-Roman world: chastity, humility, and love of neighbor. Without them, life in our Western world would have been quite different.

(1) Before Christianity, chastity had been a virtue – a feminine virtue only. Men were expected to be temperate in their sexual activities, but not truly chaste. It wouldn’t be held against a man that he committed fornication, or visited a brothel; and not much held against him if he committed adultery or had homosexual relations with a slave. But if he neglected military or political duties because he was distracted by an adulterous affair – that would be held against him.

By contrast, it was very shameful for an unmarried woman to lose her virginity and for a married woman to have sexual relations with anybody except her husband – except in Sparta, where women were free to commit adultery in order to help populate the city. Lucretia was a model Roman woman. She was so chaste that she committed suicide rather than live with the shame of having been raped.

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