How a Welsh Childhood Inspired Former MP's Book on Romans and Religion; He's a Veteran Former MP Who Served under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan. So What Prompted Denzil Davies to Devote Five Years of His Life to a Study of the Roman Empire? RACHAEL MISSTEAR Reports

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Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR

IT'S an idea that has been percolating around Denzil Davies' head for the past 67 years, since a snippet of conversation picked up at a Welsh chapel embedded itself in his mind.

Now the former Labour MP has finally published the fruits of his lifelong obsession - a book about how Christianity defeated all odds to become the faith of the Roman Empire.

Mr Davies said inspiration for The Galilean and The Goose came from his childhood years when he attended chapel in Cynwyl Elfed near Carmarthen, where he grew up.

Mr Davies, who qualified as a barrister after studying law at Oxford, served as a minister in the Treasury under both Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, and was Shadow Defence Secretary during four years of Mrs Thatcher's premiership.

He has written several legal text books but this is his first exploring religion.

The work, which took five years of research, explores the three centuries when Christianity overtook Greek paganism to become the faith of the Roman Empire, from the birth of the Galilean, Jesus Christ, to the death of the Emperor Julian - the "Goose" who failed to restore Greek pagan religion.

Mr Davies, 72, who stood down from his Llanelli seat in 2005, said he attended church but would not describe himself as a devout Christian.

He said he had been inspired by overhearing discussions of chapel deacons who knew about the rise of Christianity from religious texts, but not the historical context, and from lessons at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Carmarthen, where study of Greek and Roman had bypassed development of Christianity.

"It's funny how these things come back to you. I was sitting in the House of Commons Library one day reading The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by English historian Edward Gibbon. It suddenly stuck me: how did Christianity become the official religion of the Roman Empire? "I found it so fascinating as to how pagan religion came to decline and Christianity become so prolific."

"I thought I would bring the two together and relate the history of Christianity to what was going on in the Roman Empire," said Mr Davies.

He said the interesting points raised in his book included his belief that the mother of the Emperor Constantine was Christian because she gave her daughter the Greek name for resurrection. …