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Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine [Paperback]

Robin Lane Fox
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 July 2006

From the second century AD to the conversion of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, Robin Lane Fox's Pagans and Christians in the Mediterranean World gives a fascinating new perspective on an extraordinary era.

The transition from pagan to Christian in the ancient Mediterranean world was a process whose effects we still live with today. How did this monumental conversion come about? How did Christianity compare and compete with the pagan gods in the Roman Empire? This scholarly work, from award-winning historian Robin Lane Fox, places Christians and pagans side by side in the context of civic life and contrasts their religious experiences, visions, cults and oracles.

Leading up to the time of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, the book aims to enlarge and confirm the value of contemporary evidence, some of which has only recently been discovered.

'This brilliant book is a wholly unexpected and central contribution to its subject. What is more it is readable and rereadable, even gripping'
  Peter Levi, Spectator

'Important and learned'
  Financial Times

'A massive and humane study...On my shelf it will rest with pride between Edward Gibbon and Peter Brown'

'On the one hand a magisterial analysis and reconstruction of an apparently remote and alien society, on the other a detailed study of the single most significant process in our history'
  The Times

Robin Lane Fox (b. 1946) is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and a University Reader in Ancient History. His other books include The Classical World, Alexander the Great, Pagans and Christians and The Unauthorized Version. He was historical advisor to Oliver Stone on the making of Stone's film Alexander, for which he waived all his fees on condition that he could take part in the cavalry charge against elephants which Stone staged in the Moroccan desert.

Frequently Bought Together

Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine + The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible + Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their myths in the epic age of Homer
Price For All Three: 32.67

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Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141022957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141022956
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Robin Lane Fox is Britain's most widely admired ancient historian. He was born in 1946 and educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and a University Reader in Ancient History. His other books include Alexander the Great (of which Penguin has now sold over 100,000 copies), Pagans and Christians and The Unauthorized Version. He was historical advisor to Oliver Stone on the making of Stone's film Alexander, for which he waived all his fees on condition that he could take part in the cavalry charge against elephants which Stone staged in the Moroccan desert.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced look at both worlds. 29 Oct 2007
By J. Scott TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a general reader fascinated by the Ancient World, not a historian or scholar. I picked up this book because I'd just finished Fox's highly readable 'The Classical World.'

This book is a 'heavier' read in some ways, but I found it utterly fascinating. The author treats both Pagans and Christians with equal respect, showing the admirable and less-than-admirable characteristics of both. As a Christian reader it gave me a whole new understanding of the world in which the first Christians lived.

The book is never less than scholarly, but even when the going gets heavy, the author throws in little gems that maintain even a general reader's interest. It's also very clear that this book contains a lot of original work and research.

As I read, I frequently found myself scribbling down the title of some work quoted by the author, thinking, 'Oh, that sounds interesting!' As a result, I'm currently reading the fascinating 'Oneirocritica' (Interpretation of Dreams) by Artemidorus, with several other ancient texts on my reading list after that!

The highest praise I can give Pagans and Christians is that, having finished it, I want to read it again as soon as possible and re-enter that weird and wonderful world.

Pagans and Christians is both educational and enjoyable, and I recommend it highly.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Build up to a revolution 2 Sep 2006
In the autumn of 312CE a revolution took place. It was a relatively violent one that had an improbable beginning. The classical world was turned upside down. The old gods were banished. The temples destroyed and ancient festivals and rituals were forgotten or appropriated in a new guise. The revolution extended over the whole of Europe and much of Turkey and Egypt over a period of some two centuries during its most intense and violent phase. The improbable event was emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity - and once this became the "legal franchise" any competition was ostracised or hunted out of existence.

Yet what kind of world was the world of the "Pagan"? This book lovingly brings to life the kind of religion that prevailed in the civilised Western world from around 500BCE to around 400CE and its increasingly fraught relationship through its ups and downs with Christianity. Most of the action centres from 150 to 312CE. Paganism is losely defined and we can see that all it stands for is "other than Christianity". We begin to see the world of the Pagan that existed not just in the areas once occupied by the Romans but also extending east to the Middle East and beyond. Regions that were subsequently overrun by alternative versions of monotheism, perhaps taking their cue from Western Christianity.

This subject would be too vast for any canvas. Noted scholar Robin Lane Fox teases together the most vital threads of Paganism and Christianity, how they were similar, how they differed and how they were united. The book is a monumental work of some 800 plus pages yet we can see that the scope is yet narrow. Nothing here about architecture or specific details of daily life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is my third book by Robin Lane Fox and I read it through my respect for his scholarship regarding the ancient world and curiosity as to how classical religion disappeared so completely (and Christianity flourished) in the lands of the ex Roman Empire.

He doesn't retreat from a complex subject, and evaluates the value of varied sources to build a slow and careful picture of events as they unfolded in the first three centuries after the birth of Christ. The overall work has a more academic feeling than for example his excellent "The Classical World" and it does require a fairly high reader commitment, but the reward is undoubtedly a better understanding of this major turning point in history.

The classical world system was breaking apart, and a new Christianity based world view was replacing it in Europe and the Middle East. It would later fade in the south when confronted by a militant Islam but continue grow throughout Europe and provide the basis for the first proto European states, not to mention the first European settlements in America.

He provides interesting contrasts between late classical religion and early Christianity showing for example the solidity of early Christianity with its bishops, scriptures, moral rectitude and discipline, contrasting it with a rather hazy and sleazy late classicism with its money making cults, sale of priest hoods, divine emperors and absence of guilt or an afterlife. The general decadence of classical religion was a world away from the centuries earlier works of Homer but as RLF shows,,the Odyssey and the Iliad were more like evidence of an ongoing religion rather than scriptures in themselves and they portrayed rather capricious gods that were not so straightforward as a single Christian divinity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An elephant in the room? 28 May 2014
This is a tour-de-force of scholarship providing us with a cornucopia of information about religion in the ancient world during the two centuries before Christianity became dominant. The detailed account of pagan practise is particularly fascinating. The takeover of Christianity can be read here as largely fortuitous. The prospects for dominance by the religion did not look good in the middle of the third century, given that it was not popular in the army or the upper classes, was more popular with women than men, and was mainly confined to cities in the Asian and African parts of the empire. Constantine happened to be associated with Christians amongst his family and advisers. In Roman belief, success in battle depended, at least in part, on the support of a god; so having once associated with the Christian diety, successive victories could work to deepen Constantine's belief.

That said the excellent scholarship of this book still looks to leave an elephant in the room, which is the deeper nature of religion in this period. There are elaborate descriptions of pagan practise, but not much discussion of what they might have been trying to achieve. Similarly there is a dismissive attitude to both the mystery cults and Christian heresies, particularly Gnosticism. The book is not alone in this, but reflects an unfortunate consensus in both academic and popular publications.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I read "Pagans and Christians," when first published as a hardback and enjoyed it. Retiral meant downsizing and many books--too many--had to go, "Pagans and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Fraser
5.0 out of 5 stars Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second...
Full of really interesting and detailled information. Not a "can't put down" book because it promotes reflection and therefore takes longer to read, assimilate and enjoy. '
Published 6 months ago by Amlougheed
3.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible but frustrating
This is a fascinating account of pious and popular pagan religiosity and its continuance and trasformation under the influence of Imperial Christianity. Read more
Published 16 months ago by E. Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars Long and lush
Excellent. Rather long, but perhaps this is necessary to give a fair impression of the lush complexity of paganism and Christianity's development. Read more
Published on 6 April 2012 by Study Shortcuts and Exam Tips from Oxford Grads
5.0 out of 5 stars A damning verdict of the tyrants
Within this book's phenomenal wealth of information, it is sometimes difficult to follow the big picture: Christianity was grafted on the pagan and Jewish (The Old Testament)... Read more
Published on 15 Nov 2010 by Luc REYNAERT
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going
This is a book of two halves, and the author begins by exploring the world in which pagan beliefs flourished. Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2010 by Jeremy
5.0 out of 5 stars Pagans and Christians
Fine book that one feels happy to return to for pleasure and inspiration. And the esteemed author also gave us one of the finest entrepreneurs of recent decades: Martha Lane Fox!
Published on 5 Mar 2010 by Dr Gautam Sen
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