Susanna Elm has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Loeb Foundation to support her research during the year 2020/21, when she will take a sabbatical leave. Elm's project, Augustine the Economist, uses two letters by bishop Augustine of Hippo in North Africa, prompted by the rescue of 120 persons to be sold as slaves in 428 CE, to illustrate that Augustine's contemporary invention of original sin, peccatum per originem, commented on fiscal and economic givens of his day. At stake was the personal status, the human condition, of those 120, many of whom inhabited a grey zone caused by recent tax legislation for which Roman law was not equipped: they were neither true slaves (for sale) nor fully free (inalienable). Roman administrators had begun to capture this inherited hybrid status through the concept of origo, which Augustine used to develop his theology of original sin, the inherited human condition of being born free yet bound to sin.
April 9, 2020