The Last Pagans of Rome

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Oxford University Press, Nov 30, 2010 - History - 896 pages
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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 overturns many long-held assumptions about pagan and Christian culture in the late antique West.

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User Review  - jsburbidge - LibraryThing

An extensive, exhaustive, and persuasive treatment of the Roman Pagans - and strictly Roman, distinguished from not only the Greek east but from other Latin areas such as Gaul or North Africa - at the ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cemanuel - LibraryThing

I've tried a couple of times to write a full-on review like I usually do and keep ending up with something so long that I have a feeling nobody will read it. Instead I'm going to sum this up with what ... Read full review


CHAPTER 1 Pagans and Polytheists
CHAPTER 2 From Constantius to Theodosius
CHAPTER 3 The Frigidus
CHAPTER 4 Priests and Initiates
CHAPTER 5 Pagan Converts
CHAPTER 6 Pagan Writers
CHAPTER 7 Macrobius and the Pagan Culture of His Age
CHAPTER 13 Correctors and Critics II
CHAPTER 14 The Livian Revival
CHAPTER 15 Greek Texts and Latin Translation
Vergil and His Commentators
CHAPTER 17 The Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus I
CHAPTER 18 The Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus II
CHAPTER 19 Classical Revivals and Pagan Art
CHAPTER 20 The Historia Augusta

CHAPTER 8 The Poem against the Pagans
CHAPTER 9 Other Christian Verse Invectives
CHAPTER 10 The Real Circle of Symmachus
CHAPTER 11 The Pagan Literary Revival
CHAPTER 12 Correctors and Critics I
The Poem against the Pagans

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About the author (2010)

Alan Cameron is Charles Anthon Professor Emeritus of Latin at Columbia University. His previous books include Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius, The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes, Callimachus and his Critics, and Greek Mythography in the Roman World. He is the winner of the 2013 Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies and Archaeology of the British Academy.

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