Photo by Erich Lessing

August Augustus. This image of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, decorates the centerpiece of the 11th-century Cross of Lothar, preserved in the Treasury of Aachen Cathedral, West Germany. During his highly successful reign (31 B.C. to 14 A.D.), Augustus grappled with a surprisingly modern problem: a Roman “sexual revolution.” Marriage, in the Roman view, was for the purpose of begetting heirs; but for sexual pleasure, the Romans sought satisfaction outside of marriage. At the end of the first century B.C., a large number of Romans were choosing to forego marriage altogether. This led Augustus to proclaim, in 18 B.C., a law that provided tax incentives for marriage and children. By contrast, Paul would address the problem of licentiousness by proposing a revolutionary redefinition of the purpose of marriage.