The issue of religious freedom versus the role of the state in social affairs is a contemporary issue, and also one that has been wrestled with for centuries.
On Wednesday, April 4, the St. Ambrose University center for the study of Saint Ambrose of Milan will present a keynote address about one of the first great church-vs-state debates as part of a symposium on Saint Ambrose.
The symposium also will explore the cultural tradition and religious innovation in the works of Saint Ambrose. It will take place in the John Lewis Boardroom of Ambrose Hall and all symposium events are free and open to the public.
The 6 p.m. keynote address by Christina Sogno, PhD, an associate professor of the classics at Fordham University in New York, will follow a day of discussion that will begin at 2 p.m.
In her keynote address Sogno will examine the exchange between Saint Ambrose of Milan and the pagan senator Symmachus, who debated the restoration of a pagan altar to the Roman Senate against the objections of Christian senators.
"This is not something that is just esoteric or for professionals in this very narrow field," said Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant '80, PhD, the symposium organizer. "It couldn't be more relevant, especially in the context of today's issues.
"Lessons to be learned, for sure," Fr. Grant added. "It's not as if you can say ‘Ambrose solved that problem and here's how he solved that and we can apply it to today.' It's not anywhere near that straightforward. But it is interesting to consider that Ambrose was the frontline of this same issue about the relationship between the church and the state more than 1,600 years ago."
Sogno is the author of "Q. Aurelius Symmachus: a Political Biography" and co-editor of "From the Tetrarchs to the Theodosians: Later Roman History and Culture."
She has written several book reviews, encyclopedia entries and has presented at the City University of New York (CUNY); University of California, Berkeley; and at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Sogno, who earned her doctorate in classics and history from Yale University, Cornell University and University of California, Irvine, and is currently engaged in research on curiosity in Roman society and literature.
Additional symposium sponsors include the SAU Student Government Association, the Baecke Foundation, and the St. Ambrose University academic departments of Political Science, History and Theology.