Christian Ethics: The Reception of Cicero in Ambrose’s De officiis

Author: Davidson, Ivor J.
Title: Christian Ethics: The Reception of Cicero in Ambrose’s De officiis
Review/Collection: n David Konstan, Myrto Garani, and Gretchen Reydams-Schils (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Philosophy
Editor: Oxford Academic
Keywords: Héritage - Fortuna - Legacy, Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy
Description: The De officiis of Ambrose of Milan (c. 339–397) represents a significant landmark in early Christian ethics for its self-conscious adaptation of Cicero’s De officiis. This chapter considers what Ambrose was seeking to do in evoking Roman moral philosophy, and the relationship between continuity and change in his reconstruction of Ciceronian-Stoic ideals. Ambrose was a natural admirer of Cicero, deeply formed by his legacy. He also aspired to represent Christian virtue as not only matching but exceeding classical standards. In picking up the structure, style, themes, and reasoning of Cicero’s text while suffusing his own approach with biblical and Christian idiom, Ambrose ventured strategic imitation by way of a sustained contrast, seeking to annex but also to replace Ciceronian-Stoic ethics as a practical guide for public figures in a different cultural world. The attempt to supersede was mixed in its results; Roman philosophy inevitably endured in and beyond its creative Christian reception [Author].