The Maccabean Martyrs and Our Time

The Greek conquerors who persecuted the seven sons in 2 Maccabees, whose martyrdom will be read out this Sunday in the Ordinary Form, considered themselves to be bringing civilization to the barbarian world. Recall Plutarch’s praise of the civilizalizing effect of Alexander’s conquests:

[Regard] Alexander’s discipline, and you shall see how he taught the Hyrcanians the conveniency of wedlock, introduced husbandry among the Arachosians, persuaded the Sogdians to preserve and cherish—not to kill—their aged parents; the Persians to reverence and honor—not to marry—their mothers. Most admirable philosophy! which induced the Indians to worship the Grecian Deities, and wrought upon the Scythians to bury their deceased friends, not to feed upon their carcasses… No sooner had Alexander subdued Asia, than Homer became an author in high esteem, and the Persian, Susian, and Gedrosian youth sang the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles. Among the Athenians, Socrates, introducing foreign Deities, was condemned to death at the prosecution of his accusers. But Alexander engaged both Bactria and Caucasus to worship the Grecian Gods, which they had never known before. Lastly, Plato, though he proposed but one single form of a commonwealth, could never persuade any people to make use of it, by reason of the austerity of his government. But Alexander, building above seventy cities among the barbarous nations, and as it were sowing the Grecian customs and constitutions all over Asia, quite weaned them from their former wild and savage manner of living. The laws of Plato here and there a single person may peradventure study, but myriads of people have made and still make use of Alexander’s. And they whom Alexander vanquished were more greatly blessed than they who fled his conquests. For these had none to deliver them from their ancient state of misery; the others the victor compelled to better fortune.

If they lived nowadays they would say that they were on “the right side of history,” and that the Jews were “bigots,” enslaved to “life-denying superstitions.” Current proponents of politically correct views of human life and morals have not yet resorted to torture to liberate ignorant bigots from their superstitions, but who knows what the future holds?

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