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The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire Paperback – August 23, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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This fascinating and important book…discusses the social origins and career paths of the aristocratic men―and the family involvements of the women―who converted to Christianity, and concludes by exploring ‘the emperor’s influence on aristocratic conversion’ and ‘the aristocrats’ influence on Christianity’… Salzman’s work is important not just for the study of the early church but for the study of the whole history of Christianity. The class distinctions which she so ably explores were significant not only for early Christians, but also for the medieval church and the Reformation church. (Robert M. Grant Christian Century)

There is much to praise here. Salzman makes a coherent and believable case, and argues it well. She provides statistical derivatives of her database in the form of tables, from which others may form further conclusions… [Salzman] has elucidated one piece of the puzzle, and provided a wealth of data and approaches for others to take outstanding questions forward. (Malcolm Choat Scholia Reviews 2003-01-01)

An indispensable study of what the ‘average’ aristocrat would have experienced in coming to call upon Jesus instead of Jupiter…it accurately and articulately details the Christianization of the empire’s leading families. (David Vincent Meconi Journal of Early Christian Studies)

This is a fine book, genuinely paradigm-shifting and splendidly argued…remarkably firm and convincing. It offers a major addition to our knowledge of late antiquity. (John Moorhead Journal of Religious Studies)

An impressive piece of work. Salzman has produced the most complete quantitative study of conversion of aristocrats to date. I particularly liked her concluding chapter on their influence on Christianity. She shows that fourth-century bishops adopted the rhetoric of ‘nobility’ and ‘honor’ in their preaching and writing in a way that appealed to aristocrats. (Elizabeth Clark, Duke University)

An important and carefully crafted book with much that is new to say about the ways, means, and speed by which the Late Roman Empire came to convert to Christianity in the wake of Constantine’s change of allegiance. Salzman constantly strives to turn numbers into real people and real lives, to set her findings as fully as possible in political, social, and cultural context. And her writing is clear and effective. (Peter Heather, University College London)

Review

An impressive piece of work. Salzman has produced the most complete quantitative study of conversion of aristocrats to date. I particularly liked her concluding chapter on their influence on Christianity. She shows that fourth-century bishops adopted the rhetoric of "nobility" and "honor" in their preaching and writing in a way that appealed to aristocrats. (Elizabeth Clark, Duke University) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016033
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,598,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Michele Salzman intends for her book to supplement earlier studies of the late Roman period. She tries to discern what factors served to expedite the conversion from paganism to Christianity of an "entrenched autonomous aristocratic culture" (xii). Salzman proffers that it is her purpose "to place the senatorial aristocracy at the center of analysis . . . [in order] to understand how the Roman aristocracy became Christian in the fourth century. Hence . . . [Salzman focuses] on the culture and institutions of the aristocracy and the key differences among aristocrats" (xiii). Salzman's purpose is to explain how, "during the course of the fourth and fifth centuries these two forces ' Christianity and the aristocracy ' met and merged. This conjunction ' the process by which pagan aristocrats became Christian and Christianity became aristocratic ' is the subject of this book" (3). She states: "The late Roman political world was more complicated and less centrifugal than this top- down interpretive model suggests. There were other sources of political power and influence than that of the emperor. The imperial court, the church, the `collegia', the senate, the military, and the provincial elites all exercised power and influence. Individual aristocrats had ties to one or other of these political groups. Even emperors desired to maintain their ties with the aristocracy. Thus, to comprehend the political dimension of religious change, we need a deep understanding [an understanding of the social and cultural world in which they live] of the aristocrats who faced these political forces in their daily lives" (xii).Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Salzman bases much of her argument on quantitative data. Her main conclusion is that the aristocracy only became predominantly Christian by the reign Theodosius, some sixty years after Constantine's death, primarily because it became a way to advance in society. It is certainly a plausible, and perhaps even likely case for a complicated subject. Worth the read for anyone interested in Roman history and religion, and Christianity.
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