Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century

Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century

Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century

Pagan City and Christian Capital: Rome in the Fourth Century

Synopsis

The critical century between the arrival of Constantine and the advance of Alaric in the early fifth century witnessed dramatic changes in the city of Rome. In this book Dr Curran has broken away from the usual notions of religious conflict between Christians and pagans, to focus on a numberof approaches to the Christianization of Rome. He surveys the laws and political considerations which governed the building policy of Constantine and his successors, the effect of papal building and commemorative constructions on Roman topography, the continuing ambivalence of the Roman festalcalendar, and the conflict between Christians over asceticism and 'real' Christianity. Thus using analytical, literary, and legal evidence Dr Curran explains the way in which the landscape, civic life, and moral values of Rome were transformed by complex and sometimes paradoxical forces, laying thefoundation for the capital of medieval Christendom. Through a study of Rome as a city Dr Curran explores the rise of Christianity and the decline of paganism in the later Roman empire.

Excerpt

Papers and books about Christianising the Roman Empire ought
not to be encouraged… The concept is so big an aspect of Late
Antiquity as to be all but beyond the control of the historian, and
admits of so many layers of meaning and varieties of interpretation
that it is in danger of becoming meaningless. If and when we have
arrived at some understanding of the term, and of what factors may
have led people to change to being Christians from having been
something else, it is still hard to know what it would mean to any
individual to shift religious allegiance in the generations after
Constantine.

Such well-judged circumspection has become more necessary than ever for students of late antiquity. The most innovative and important scholarship for a generation has recently subjected 'Christianity', 'paganism', 'religion', and 'conversion' to unprecedented historical scrutiny. Under rigorous examination, old certainties have subsided. The 'triumph of Christianity' has been unmasked as a deterministic model created by fifth-century churchmen; the vigour and complexity of ancient religious beliefs have been meticulously presented alongside the thoughts and activities of ancient people who called themselves Christian; and the 'desecularization' of ancient culture has been brilliantly charted, detailing how Christian ascetical thinking decamped from the wastes of the eastern Mediterranean to settle in the communities of early modern Europe.

The spirit of this book is informed by these new perspectives and complexities of recent research, but its scope is more narrowly focused. The subject here is the nature of the change which shaped the topography and society of the city of Rome during the fourth century AD. My researches have been prompted and enlightened by three great scholars of the city. Charles Piétri's magisterial Roma Christiana,

D. Hunt, 'Christianising the Roman Empire: The Evidence of the Code', in
J. Harries and I. Wood (eds.), The Theodosian Code (London: Duckworth, 1993),
143–58. Here, 143.

See P. Brown, Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of the Roman
World
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); MacMullen, Christianity and
Paganism;
Markus, End.

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