My wife was telling her garden club friends about our fall trip to Rome. She told them how moving it was to be under the Arch of Titus, and to see the relief that shows the Menorah and the only altar of the true God being carried in a pagan triumph,


and to see the medals that were struck to commemorate the war:  Judea Capta, possibly made from the melted down Menorah.


  They lamented that there had never been peace in the Middle East. 

She replied that she had also seen the new installation the Ara Pacis, which was built Augustus. It has rather a charming relief of the whole family, including the imperial children, in procession to the altar of peace.

  They were then surprised that there had been any peace at all. My wife then began, “Now it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.” She said you could hear a pin drop.   As Plutarch says:  Janus also has a temple at Rome with double doors, which they call the gates of war; for the temple always stands open in time of war, but is closed when peace has come. The latter was a difficult matter, and it rarely happened, since the realm was always engaged in some war, as its increasing size brought it into collision with the barbarous nations which encompassed it round about. But in the time of Augustus it was closed, after he had overthrown Marc Antony… 

I thought it was a commonplace, but apparently not everyone knows that there was a period pf peace when Christ was born. As Milton says in his Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,


But he her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyd Peace,
    She crown’d with Olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphear
His ready Harbinger,
    With Turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing,
And waving wide her mirtle wand,
She strikes a universall Peace through Sea and Land.

No War, or Battails sound
Was heard the World around,
    The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The hooked Chariot stood
Unstain’d with hostile blood,
    The Trumpet spake not to the armed throng,
And Kings sate still with awfull eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.

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