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Pagans and Christians Paperback – International Edition, July 25, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robin Lane Fox is Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford, and was until 2014 Reader in Ancient History in Oxford University. He is the author of Pagans and Christians (1986), The Unauthorised Version (1992) and many books on classical history, including Alexander the Great (1973), The Classical World (2005) and Travelling Heroes (2008), all of which have been widely translated. He has been the gardening correspondent of the Financial Times since 1970.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin UK (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141022957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141022956
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,838,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. J. Snyder on October 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Late paganism was moribund, decrepit and sclerotic; it had no chance against the rise of Christianity.

Well, so goes the historical myth.

But, not true, says Robin Lane Fox; certainly not true in the countrysides of the Roman Empire, which, by the way, was the last place in which Christianity took hold.

Fox paints a rural, and urban, Roman Imperium where, aside from the skepticism of some philosophers, some form of pagan belief remained vital even years after Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea.

Fox concentrates on the various Roman provinces of Asia Minor, and focuses on the second century. The combination of choices is very good for comparison and contrast work between paganism and Christianity. The countryside here was more densely populated than in most of the empire; this more densely rural demographic meant that rural didn't necessarily mean rustic. And, as this was the prime growth area of early Christianity, Fox is able to put this growth in context, and ask, and even tentatively answer, some questions about that growth.

The second century is the right time, too, getting into the era of the first Christian consolidations of doctrine, the first wave of post-biblical books being written, and so forth.

An excellent, eye-opening, and in-depth book.
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A brilliant discussion by a gifted ancient history expert. While his book tends to focus more on the Pagans, the treatment of both groups is balanced--and in great detail.
If you want to know about the world that Jesus, Peter, Paul the Apostle and the other early Christians lived and worked in, this is your read. You will learn things that I've not seen anywhere else.
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