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Pagans and Christians Paperback – January, 1988

22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Fox, a lecturer in Ancient History at Oxford, presents a detailed and scholarly account of Christianity and paganism prior to Constantine. He decribes pagan oracles, festivals, and cultic practices as they related to civic and community life in third-century Roman Empire; then, comparing these with Christian practices, he discusses the possible reasons for Christianity's ultimate triumph. Along the way, certain misconceptions are dispelled: Roman paganism was not dying out, as is sometimes supposed, nor was early Christianity primarily a religion of slaves. In fact, the Church had elements that made it unexpectedly attractive to all classes. The chapter on Constantine gives new insight into the reasons for his conversion. An excellent and readable account of a fascinating subject. Highly recommended. C. Robert Nixon, MLS, West Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Re-creates the world from the second to the fourth century AD, when the Graeco-Roman gods lost their dominion and Christianity, with the conversion of Constantine, triumphed in the Mediterranean world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 799 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (January 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060628529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060628529
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Fox has written a definitive, if not THE definitive, study of the transition from Greco-Roman paganism to a Christian Empire. Fox paints a picture of a thriving pagan worldview, and debunks the view that paganism in late antiquity was already on its deathbed when Christianity came onto the scene. The book is divided into three major sections. The first examines the the nature of paganism in the Hellenistic World, and explores what it meant to "practice pagan religion" in the 3rd century Roman Empire. Fox pays considerable attention to the role of oracles in expounding pagan theology, and provides a more concrete study of how the ancients viewed the gods than I have seen elsewhere. In the second section of the book, Fox turns to the early Christians. He fleshes out the social and economic situation under which Christianity developed. The concerns and attitudes of 3rd century Christians are seen to be very different from those of their modern counterparts. Early Christians are seen to have had an obsessive, perhaps pathological, concern with sexuality and martydom that to modern sensibilities will seem extreme, even to a committed Christian. Fox considers such questions as to how quickly Christianity spread, how widespread it was in the generation before Constantine (not very), and who was likely to become Christian. Fox also considers why Christians were persecuted, while other groups (Jews, for instance) were not. In the final section of the book, Fox turns to the figure who proves to be most responsible for the triumph of Christianity--the emperor Constantine. Constantine is seen to have played a pivotal role in organizing the church, settling doctrinal disputes, and aggressively promoting the new religion, at the expense of the established paganism.Read more ›
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Dr. James Gardner VINE VOICE on March 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
For a period of 400 years, Paganism and Christianity existed side by side, competing for the hearts and purses of the people of the Mediteranean world. What happened and how the Christians ultimately triumphed has been the subject of several books, none as exhaustive and detailed as the current text. The intrigues between these two forces (discussed at some length), as well as the internictine fights within each of them (not discussed at the length I would have liked) is a great area for study, and Fox provides lots of examples.

The great weakness of this book is that the writing style is unusual. It is not completely dry (as some historical texts can be), yet it does not flow easily either. The author seems to mix styles, even within chapters, making it difficult to adjust one's reading style to his writing style. The result is that reading more than a few dozen pages at a time is difficult to do, and I notice that I am not alone among the reviewers to identify this problem.

From my own personal perspective, I found it more useful to go through the author's detailed index and then choose subjects which were of interest to me (e.g., Constantine and the Cross, Vestal Virgins, etc), and then read those segments.

There's definitely lots of good information in this book. Harvesting it is the problem.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on December 13, 2005
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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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Balbach on April 16, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a masterpiece of historical writing. However for reasons I will explain below, it can be a difficult book to read, so if you find yourself getting bogged down, here is some guidence on one way to approach it. I believe it is out of print and not as popular as it could be for lack of understanding what kind of book this is.

First, read the Amazon review by "A Reader" from 2000 below, which provides an excellent high-level summary and context. Next, understand this is an academic history book by a professional historian, it is a "survey", it is not a narrative. While one can read it cover to cover word for word, it is not required, and except for the most dedicated, it would present a challenge of time and energy. This is a survey of Paganism and Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, up to the time of Constantine.

The book is laid out in 3 sections (as described by "A Reader" below) and a total of 13, very long, chapters. Each Chapter is broken in to sections, 3 to 5 each, labeled simply (I, II, III..). The trick is to decipher what each chapter, and section, is about. Fox gives his Chapters obtuse names, and sadly doesnt name the sections at all, however, he does provide guidence for the patient reader: By reading the first few paragraph intro, and the last few paragraphs summary, of each section and chapter, one can determine what that section is about. In this way its possible to get a lay of the land cover to cover in a few hours. Then, go back and read those sections you are most

interested in, underlining interesting phrases (the book is full of gold quotable nuggets), and come back to or skim the rest later. I give it 4 stars because of the vauge Table of Contents, otherwise this is a history classic.
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