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Lactantius' account of Constantine's vision doesn't say anything about the labarum. He probably meant, in fact, that Constantine was instructed to inscribe the shields of his soldiers with a staurogram.
The Copernicus section seems kind of odd to me. Copernicus isn't saying that there will be very many religious scholars attacking him who are so ignorant of astronomy - look at all the qualifiers like 'perhaps'. If they are exceptions, then it's fair to oppose to them another exception, Lactantius. The section seems to be about attacking Copernicus's statement. (Really, assigning blame? That's not very NPOV.) --Gwern(contribs) 03:01 11 November2009 (GMT)
This quote from Copernicus is very interesting. I have a hard time believing that Lactantius was really a flat-earther. Can anyone provide a reference to Lactantius's writings where he mocks ancient geography? Rwflammang (talk) 19:07, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
The section seems odd because it isn't explained properly; it's just plopped in there. Rather striking is the comment by one scholar that Copernicus "used Lactantius as a whipping boy for mistaken cosmology." And this passage includes some explanation and the citation from Lactanius, Div. Inst. 3.24, which is here in English. I'm afraid L. does seem to be ridiculing the notion of the earth as globe, because if it were such, the people on the bottom would fall off. See this introduction to the Institutiones for a brief explanation of Lactantius as a flat-earther. To be fair, L.'s criticisms are rather more specific than that, and are directed at the concept of the antipodes and at cosmological systems that conceive of the soul in a manner contrary to Christian belief:
But if you inquire from those who defend these marvellous fictions, why all things do not fall into that lower part of the heaven, they reply that such is the nature of things, that heavy bodies are borne to the middle, and that they are all joined together towards the middle, as we see spokes in a wheel; but that the bodies which are light, as mist, smoke, and fire, are borne away from the middle, so as to seek the heaven. I am at a loss what to say respecting those who, when they have once erred, consistently persevere in their folly, and defend one vain thing by another; but that I sometimes imagine that they either discuss philosophy for the sake of a jest, or purposely and knowingly undertake to defend falsehoods, as if to exercise or display their talents on false subjects. But I should be able to prove by many arguments that it is impossible for the heaven to be lower than the earth, were is not that this book must now be concluded, and that some things still remain, which are more necessary for the present work.
The "salad spinner" model of the universe is operational in several ancient philosophers, including a version in Plato's Myth of Er. Having backed himself into this position, Lactantius is less than admirable when he tries to get out of it by saying "whatever, if I had time I could explain it." Buckets of ink have been spilled on this, some trying desperately to defend Lactantius, others unfairly generalizing medieval Christian ignorance from it. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:28, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
Many thanks for that reference. Rwflammang (talk) 22:54, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with the recent editor who deleted this section. The passing reference that Copernicus makes to him does not justify a whole subsection with a block quote. A passing mention to Copernicus with a reference is all that is needed, if, indeed, even that is needed. Rwflammang (talk) 22:13, 7 May 2011 (UTC)
I have to agree with this, it seems to me blatant case of WP:UNDUE. The only context in which it entres is through a reception angle, but even there, with moderation, especially because the position of Lactantius was by no means isolated among the Church Fathers.Aldux (talk) 22:58, 9 May 2011 (UTC)
Actually, mocking the Ptolomaic model of the universe is rather unusual for a Church Father, and that does seem to be what he is doing in the reference that Cynewolf provided above, although there is no very clear "money quote" in the rambling essay that says, "the earth is flat". That makes it hard to know exactly what to do with these references or how to work them into the article. But it seems to me that a whole section is over the top. Rwflammang (talk) 00:52, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
I know this may sound a bit strange, and there was never unanimity or even close unanimity on the issue, but while an open attack is a bit rare what we can call the idea of a "flat earth" isn't: the point is well exposed by Cyril Mango that claims that the idea of a round earth was minoritarian in Byzantine culture due to the influence of figures like Basilius of Caesarea; but then, I'm afraid we may end being led astray in discussing the topic too much in detail.Aldux (talk) 02:07, 10 May 2011 (UTC)
Lactantius wasn't a 'Church Father' - he was an educated Roman rhetorician not a theologian - a 'layman' if the term had meaning at the time. His rant against a round earth was typical of many Romans around then and was certainly picked up by others who had less interest in it, such as Augustine and was still current in the 15th century. Certainly the quote was out of context and I agree that a passing reference is enough. Chris55 (talk)
OK per the issue. Regarding the "Church father" thing, that's how he is commonly called in many collections of writings and patristic studies; but I won't insist. More important there seems to be a solid consensus by now to remove the piece, so I'll proceed.Aldux (talk) 16:59, 11 May 2011 (UTC)
Fair enough - I see the New Advent website includes him, even tho the WP article doesn't!) But it does include "eminent Christian teachers" which would obviously cover him. Chris55 (talk) 09:44, 12 May 2011 (UTC)
Chris55, could you give examples of Romans contemporary with Lactantius who weren't Christian and who ranted that the earth wasn't round? My vague understanding of this is that it had to do with some ongoing intellectual debate over "Antipodes," but I don't know enough to find out more. Names might help me track it down. Thanks. Cynwolfe (talk) 12:20, 12 May 2011 (UTC)