The seeds that eventually grew into this volume were sown in articles I published as long ago as 1966 and 1977. It was in the 1980s that I first had the idea of turning my approach to the so-called pagan reaction into a book, and it was then that I began compiling the information on subscriptions that now fills chapters 12–14 It was also then that I came up with the title, which, as my ideas progressed, has turned out to be more ironic than I originally intended. It would (I suspect) have been a very different book if I had written it then. But I had not yet thought out all the issues to my own satisfaction, and other projects (mostly Greek) beckoned more insistently. Yet I never gave up on the last pagans, and at the turn of the millennium decided that the moment had come to pick up the threads again. The last decade or so has not only seen much important new work, but also the unexpected discovery of important new texts.
I have incorporated radically revised versions of three early articles, and substantially revised and updated the unpublished drafts of chapters 12–14 I more than once toyed with the idea of publishing the material on subscriptions separately, but in the end decided that, despite their bulk, they formed an essential part of the argument of Last Pagans, a perspective that would have been lost in a separate publication. All the rest has been written in the last few years. Chapters 17–18 were added at a late stage, provoked by the continuing emphasis in recent continental scholarship on the entirely lost (and surely trivial) history of Nicomachus Flavianus. At first I thought of publishing them separately, but given the ever increasing importance accorded this history in modern writing on the “pagan reaction,” they too belong in this book.
My debt to the published work of Alföldi, Barnes, Bloch, Brown, Chastagnol and Paschoud (among many others) will be obvious. Many friends have sent me books and offprints, supplied information, commented on drafts or discussed problems with me over many years. I think particularly of Tim Barnes, Glen Bowersock, Christopher Jones, Franca Ela Consolino, Bob Kaster, Arnaldo Marcone, John North, Lellia Cracco Ruggini, Rita Lizzi Testa, Michele Salzman, Peter Schmidt, and Jim Zetzel. I am especially grateful to Michele for organizing a symposium on my views in May 2008 (and to Carmela Franklin for hosting it at the American Academy in Rome); and to Tim for generously taking the time to give the entire penultimate version of the manuscript a thorough critical reading, saving me from many errors.