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Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine Paperback – 6 Jul 2006

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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: 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 334,984 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Steampunk TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Oct. 2007
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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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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on 2 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
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 By Baraniecki Mark Stuart on 28 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
I have long wanted to understand how - and why, from a secular perspective - Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, eventually coming to dominate it in a way that paganism never did. Though this book does not offer a satisfying (or even clear) explanation for all that, it is a brilliant exposition of the natures of both forms of religion, polytheism and monotheism, highlighting their similarities and differences. That makes it a must-read for anyone interested in late antiquity. If sometimes overly detailed and pedantic, this book consistently fascinates.

Before Christianity, paganism was defined as things "rustic", of the countryside, rather than a religion. Then, it came to be assigned to people who were not committed through baptism to be a "soldier of Christ". So far as pagan "religion" went, according to Fox, it was an extremely eclectic collection of rituals, cult acts, supernatural beliefs, magic, and philosophies (which had argued themselves into a "stalemate"); they were as varied as local languages and cultures. Its adherents did not subscribe to revealed beliefs, made no exhortations to faith, and were unaccustomed to notions of heresy. Instead, it was simply something that people did, a combination of festivals, gestures to appease (or demand favor from) incomprehensible gods, even dream states that explained occurrences or personal luck. In addition, it was syncretic, absorbing gods and practices no matter what their origin into a polytheistic pantheon and ritual, each temple or shrine offering a multiplicity of possibilities for worship or action. Even the Roman Emperor became a God - his behavior as an agent of unpredictable power or beneficence reflected that of the Olympian gods.
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