Virtuous pagan

Virgil. Fresco from the Annunciation Cathedral in Moscow.

Virtuous paganism is a concept in Christian theology analogous to that of the "righteous gentile" in Judaism. It addressed the problem of pagans who were never evangelized and consequently during their lifetime had no opportunity to recognize Christ, but nevertheless led virtuous lives, so that it seemed objectionable to consider them damned. Prominent examples are Socrates, Cicero, Trajan, and Virgil. The Roman Catechism issued by the Council of Trent, based on the opinion of Thomas Aquinas, asserted that these souls were waiting in a limbo between heaven and hell, and were freed at Christ's Harrowing of Hell.

A modern Catholic rendering of this is known as anonymous Christian in the theology of Karl Rahner. Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy places a number of virtuous pagans to the first circle of hell (analogous to Limbo), including Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, and notably also

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