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Horrible? Indeed. Hypocritical, even.
on 17 November 2010
This book was unfortunately a serious disappointment. The reason is that it claims to be something that it is not. For much of the book, the authors entertain us with various sordid tales of what the Romans were like. This is much as advertised and definitely a guilty pleasure for the intended audience of this book. However, towards the end of the book a very different motivation appears. First, the authors focus upon the story of the bravery of a group of Christians who were slaughtered by the Romans and, then, go on to make a series of factually incorrect claims about the morally superior behaviour of the Christians, making it sound like they put an end to the reprehensible behaviour the audience was enjoying descriptions of until that very point. The moralising tone is doubly out of place. Firstly, within this books it is as false as titillating morality plays about fallen women. Secondly, while the Christians might have stopped the persecution of those who were of the officially recognised church (hardly a surprise), the persecution of the members of other religions, as well as of Christians whose faith was deemed heretical, continued and, indeed, gained ferocity. Many of the ways the ancient Christians were treated are all too similar to the treatment of the Jews in the Christian centuries that followed.
In the end one is left with the impression that the authors tried to turn this potentially fun little book into a pean for the morally superior Christians. They would have done better had they showed the true continuity of horrors. They could have started by making clear that Emperor Constantine, whom they mention as one of the cruelest, was made a Saint of the Catholic Church for converting to Christianity - thereby simply converting the persecuted into the persecutors.
The book leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. I would not recommend it.