Pagans and Christians (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
There is an admonition from historian Herbert Butterfield that the task of the historian is not to study the origins of things but to analyze how the past came to be our present. Pagans and Christians is a monumental analysis of the transition from the pagan Roman world to the Christian empire. Robin Lane Fox sets for himself the difficult and at times all but impossible task of re-creating the feel and force behind pagan culture in the second and third centuries. To this he adds a comprehensive view of the nascent Christian culture and a reevaluation of the significance of Constantine’s conversion, presenting a challenge to the traditional historical view that Christianity met deep-seated needs among the people that the dying Greek and Roman gods could not fill. Lane Fox maintains that pagan (that is, nondoctrinal and nonorthodox from a Christian perspective) religion was far from decaying in the century leading up to Constantine and that the Christian triumph said more about the nature of Christianity than about any lack in paganism.
Part 1 describes life in the pagan empire, especially as it centered on civic duty and cultic ritual. Part 2 details the spread (not necessarily the numerical expansion) of Christianity, and part 3 traces the centrality of Constantine in the rise of the Church and the change from a pagan to a Christian culture.
Much of the archaeological evidence the author considers did not exist a mere lifetime ago....
(The entire section is 3225 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
Booklist. LXXXIII, December 15, 1986, p. 605.
Kirkus Reviews. LIV, November 15, 1986, p. 1700.
Library Journal. CXXII, January, 1987, p. 94.
London Review of Books. IX, February 5, 1987, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. January 25, 1987, p. 9.
National Review. XXXVIII, December 31, 1986, p. 57.
The New York Review of Books. XXXIV, March 12, 1987, p. 24.
The New York Times Book Review. XCII, February 1, 1987, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXX, November 21, 1986, p. 42.
The Times Literary Supplement. February 20, 1987, p. 179.
(The entire section is 62 words.)