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Author Topic: The Last Pagans of Rome.  (Read 2472 times)


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The Last Pagans of Rome.
« on: June 20, 2012, 11:39:50 am »

Title: The Last Pagans of Rome.
Author(s): Alan Cameron
Publisher: Oxford; New York:  Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN-13: 9780199747276
ISBN: 019974727X
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

[SIZE=+1]From the Bryn Mawr Classic Review:[/SIZE]
This impressive book is a masterpiece, result of decades of research in the field of Late Antique Literature and History.1 Alan Cameron provides a sharp and stimulating reassessment of common assumptions about the confrontation between pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity. The book focuses on the members of the ‘pagan’ elite of Rome in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, most of them senators and/or belonging to old Roman families.

Primarily, the author aims at putting an end to what he calls ‘the romantic myth of paganism’ according to which the last pagans of Rome were arrogant aristocrats, passionate about classical literature, champions of old cults and fierce opponents of Christianity. It has long been claimed that a hard core of prominent Roman aristocrats, among them Symmachus, Praetextatus and Flavianus, was behind a cultural and religious pagan revival at the end of the 4th century. This protest movement would have started with the affair of the Altar of the Victory removed from the Senate by Emperor Gratian in 382, and the subsequent loss of public subsidies for the state cults. The pagan spurt would have culminated at the battle by the river Frigidus in 394, opposing the allegedly pro-pagan usurper Eugenius and the pious Theodosius. According to Cameron, none of these common assertions is true and this book aims at refuting each of them. The argumentation is strong and methodical, pulverizing all the long-held assumptions that originated the idea of a pagan revival, closely linked to the resistance against the spread of Christianity. The book is presented in twenty well-balanced chapters that cannot be summarized here due to their length and complexity. We will restrict ourselves to pointing out the major issues raised by the author as well as the main answers he brings forward.

Read the full review at the Bryn Mawr Classic Review web site.

[SIZE=+1]Additional Description:[/SIZE]
Rufinus' vivid account of the battle between the Eastern Emperor Theodosius and the Western usurper Eugenius by the River Frigidus in 394 represents it as the final confrontation between paganism and Christianity. It is indeed widely believed that a largely pagan aristocracy remained a powerful and active force well into the fifth century, sponsoring pagan literary circles, patronage of the classics, and propaganda for the old cults in art and literature. The main focus of much modern scholarship on the end of paganism in the West has been on its supposed stubborn resistance to Christianity. The dismantling of this romantic myth is one of the main goals of Alan Cameron's book. Actually, the book argues, Western paganism petered out much earlier and more rapidly than hitherto assumed.

The subject of this book is not the conversion of the last pagans but rather the duration, nature, and consequences of their survival. By re-examining the abundant textual evidence, both Christian (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Paulinus, Prudentius) and "pagan" (Claudian, Macrobius, and Ammianus Marcellinus), as well as the visual evidence (ivory diptychs, illuminated manuscripts, silverware), Cameron shows that most of the activities and artifacts previously identified as hallmarks of a pagan revival were in fact just as important to the life of cultivated Christians. Far from being a subversive activity designed to rally pagans, the acceptance of classical literature, learning, and art by most elite Christians may actually have helped the last reluctant pagans to finally abandon the old cults and adopt Christianity. The culmination of decades of research, The Last Pagans of Rome will overturn many long-held assumptions about pagan and Christian culture in the late antique West.

[SIZE=+1]Special Notes:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=-1]Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=+1]Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.[/SIZE]
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 01:45:26 pm by RandallS »
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