The Christian heaven is Roman?

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The Christian heaven is Roman?

From: A-Brief-History-of-Heaven-Blackwell-2003


The human longing for consolation in the face of death may be traced back to classical times. Perhaps the most distressing aspect of death isthat of separation – being forcibly, and it might seem irreversibly, cut off from close friends andrelatives, never to see them again. Classic mourning rites and funeral ornaments point to the senseof desolation that traditionally accompanied the death of a significant other. The Hellenistic worldhad become accustomed to the Hades myth, which portrayed Charon as ferrying the dead across the river Styx to the underworld for the fee of one obol – a coin which was placed in the mouth of a dead person for this purpose. Once on the other side, the dead person took part in a family reunion. This basic belief undergirds two of Cicero’s more important dialogues, On Old Age and perhaps more importantly Scipio’s Dream. In this latter work, Cicero portrays Scipio meeting prominent Roman citizens in paradise, who take advantage of the occasion to lecture him on political ethics.

Yet the work takes on a new tone as Cicero describes Scipio’s reunion with his father.
I now saw my dead father, Paulus, approaching, and I burst into tears. My father put his arms around me and kissed me, urging me not to weep. When, with effort, I held back my tears, I managed to say, “Since this, my dear father, is the true life, . . . why must I remain on earth? Why can I not join you?” “That cannot happen,” my father replied, “unless God, who rules all you see around you here,frees you from your confinement in the body. Only then can you gain entrance to this paradise. You see, human beings are brought into existence in order to inhabit the earth, which is at the centre ofthis holy place, this paradise.”

This classic scenario of a family reunion in the world to come impacted on Christian writings of the era. Cyprian of Carthage, a martyr-bishop of the third century, tried to encourage his fellow Christians in the face of suffering and death at times of persecution by holding before them a vision ofheaven, in which they would see the martyrs and apostles, face to face. More than that; they would be reunited with those who they loved and cherished. Heaven is here seen as the “native land” of Christians, from which they have been exiled during their time on earth. The hope of return to their native land, there to be reunited with those who they knew and loved, was held out as a powerful consolation in times of trial and suffering.

Odd to find Cicero describing what churches claim is a uniquely Christian view of heaven and using god in the singular. Cicero a closet Christian? Or was monotheism further along in Rome than is usually thought?