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The Last Pagans of Rome Hardcover – December 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"The Last Pagans of Rome is a book of a generation. A model of erudition and integrity of argument, it is also a book that will be with us for many generations to come."--Peter Brown, New York Review of Books

"As befits a scholar whose work in this area since 1964 includes countless articles and reviews and six books, the weighing of ancient evidence and modern scholarly opinion in The Last Pagans of Rome is meticulous. It is also controlled by the broader understanding of cultural processes and human motivations that makes a thinking senior scholar a scholar worth reading rather than a scholiast who has made it to old age."--Tom Palaima, Times Higher Education

"This impressive book is a masterpiece, result of decades of research in the field of Late Antique Literature and History. Alan Cameron provides a sharp and stimulating reassessment of common assumptions about the confrontation between pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity. We must hope that people will take the time to read right through this very dense and rich book, which will undoubtedly become essential reading in the field of late Antique literature, religions, and history."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Alan Cameron provides students of historical inquiry with one of the finest examples of methodology in this magnum opus. He proves that he has few equals in the interpretation of the events surrounding the transition of Roman culture from predominantly pagan to predominantly Christian. The Last Pagans of Rome is an important work that will become a dog-eared necessity in the teaching of late antiquity. Few who manage to digest its contents will argue against the might and mastery of Cameron's conclusions."--The Councilor: The Journal of the Illinois Councilor for the Social Studies

"Alan Cameron's Last Pagans of Rome is one of the best and most important books ever published on the Later Roman Empire or Late Antiquity, and it has profound consequences for our understanding of the culture of the entire Greco-Roman world. It represents the summation of decades of original contributions by one whose best published work is the equal in quality and significance to that of any classical scholar living or dead."--Timothy Barnes, University of Edinburgh

"A work of sheer brilliance that will endure for a long time in view of its definitive presentation of central issues in the story of Christianity and paganism in late antiquity. Cameron takes his reader on an exhilarating journey through debates on religion, literature, politics, art, and ancient antiquarian scholarship. Its cumulative power is immense, and all its chapters, with their vast arsenal of learning and bibliography, are beautifully interconnected. There is nothing like it, and there will not be for generations to come."--G. W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"Encyclopedic in its learning and relentless in its argument, Alan Cameron's Last Pagans of Rome is a landmark in late Roman studies...a breath-taking sortie across the cultural landscape of fourth- and early fifth-century Rome."--Classical Journal

"[T]here should be no doubt of the importance of Cameron's conclusions...Alan Cameron's brilliant and persuasive account offers an alternative view of a cultured aristocracy whose interest in the classical tradition was shared by educated Christians across the Mediterranean world, and who posed no real threat to the Empire's new religion."--The Times Literary Supplement

"...written in a highly detailed but remarkeably readable manner with prose that is sometimes humorous other times blunt, but always engaging."--Dennis P. Quinn

About the Author

Alan Cameron is Charles Anthon Professor Emeritus of Latin at Columbia University. His previous books include Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius, The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes, Callimachus and his Critics, and Greek Mythography in the Roman World. He is the winner of the 2013 Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies and Archaeology from the British Academy.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019974727X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199747276
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 1.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,295,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By SkookumPete on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
First a warning to general readers. This is not an introduction or narrative along the lines of Pierre Chuvin's A Chronicle of the Last Pagans. Although the author writes with great clarity, and translates most of the Latin he quotes, this is a dense, scholarly, and highly argumentative book that presupposes considerable knowledge and interest on the part of the reader.

Alan Cameron has for some decades been one of the great scholars of late antiquity. His breadth of knowledge and ability to tease the truth out of fragmentary sources have enabled him to produce many influential articles and books. I was going to say "groundbreaking," but that would not be quite the right word: instead, Cameron has a talent for tearing apart the structures that others have built and erecting something more durable in their place.

With his latest and biggest book Cameron takes on the question of the extent of any "pagan reaction" to the final triumph of Christianity in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, in particular among the Roman aristocracy. The book ranges widely in the author's quest to destroy the "romantic myth" that the last pagan senators were "fearless champions of senatorial privilege, literature lovers, and aficionados of classical...culture as well as the traditional cults."

Along the way he shakes up many long-held assumptions. For instance, he makes the case that too much weight has been given to the famous laws in the Theodosian Code that have been taken as general prohibitions against pagan worship.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Alan Cameron's "The Last Pagans of Rome" is a large-scale, learned study of the relationship between Christians and pagans in the late Fourth Century A.D. of the Roman Empire. I was interested in this book because of the insight I thought it would offer on religion and change. I have read and learned from many authors who were deeply read in and influenced by ancient history. I have myself a working knowledge of ancient philosophy but, alas, little knowledge of ancient history. I am familiar with popular culture and the tendency in some people in a post-religious age to view Christianity unfavorably in comparison with the paganism it displaced. An example of this tendency, I think, is the recent movie, "Agora" which has a marginal relationship to the themes of this book.

Cameron's book helped me a great deal with my questions and interests and did more. A leading and extensively published classical scholar, Cameron is Charles Anthon Professor Emeritus of Latin at Columbia University. With its detail, erudition, and consideration of many sources and competing points of view, the book will be difficult for generalists such as myself. The more a reader brings to the book in terms of prior knowledge of the period, the better will be the understanding. Yet, the book will reward the effort required to read it. I found a recent review of Cameron's book by Peter Brown, Professor of History at Princeton, titled "Paganism: What We Owe the Christians" helpful to my reading. Brown's review appears in the April 7, 2011, New York Review of Books, p.68.

In 312 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. The "last pagans of Rome" for Cameron, are the nobles of late fourth-century Rome.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Henry on June 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I want to let readers know (if they already don't) that they are missing something if they pass by Alan Cameron's The last Pagans of Rome based upon comments like the one from from scholarboy to the effect that it is disorganized, too long, etc, and hard to understand.
The work is an extensive examination of the pagans of the fourth century and it examines the evidence, artistic, architectural, literary, and historical. In particular, it aims to re-examine the evidence concerning the fourth-century "pagan revival" which has been a cherished strongpoint of many classical, and especially, art historians. One of the broad claims was that there was a sort of last stand against Christianity, with the relevant pagans going down in a blaze of glory. This has a long and strong historiographical tradition behind it, as well as considerable religious sentiment. (the idea of Christian triumphalism). Much of the Cameron's work is devoted to basically dismantling this extremely influential and long-lived thesis. The arguments on both sides are based upon very specialized artistic works (mainly ivories) and important literary pieces, such as the Historia Augusta. Cameron examines these works and others because they are the pillars, so to speak for the thesis of a so-called 'pagan revival' which he concludes there is little or no evidence. Cameron is arguing against a long historiographical tradition.
This is a subject which has been discussed (see R. Syme, and many art historians) but always with the conclusion that yes, there probably was a pagan revival. (around 360-380 A.D.) This work puts paid to that idea, and is the most evidence I have seen accumulated that discusses the problem. Cameron is ruthless.
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