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Yale University Press
Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries / Edition 1

Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries / Edition 1

by Ramsay MacMullenRamsay MacMullen


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The slaughter of animals for religious feasts, the tinkling of bells to ward off evil during holy rites, the custom of dancing in religious services—these and many other pagan practices persisted in the Christian church for hundreds of years after Constantine proclaimed Christianity the one official religion of Rome. In this book, Ramsay MacMullen investigates the transition from paganism to Christianity between the fourth and eighth centuries. He reassesses the triumph of Christianity, contending that it was neither tidy nor quick, and he shows that the two religious systems were both vital during an interactive period that lasted far longer than historians have previously believed.

MacMullen explores the influences of paganism and Christianity upon each other. In a rich discussion of the different strengths of the two systems, he demonstrates that pagan beliefs were not eclipsed or displaced by Christianity but persisted or were transformed. The victory of the Christian church, he explains, was one not of obliteration but of widening embrace and assimilation. This fascinating book also includes new material on the Christian persecution of pagans over the centuries through methods that ranged from fines to crucifixion; the mixture of motives in conversion; the stubbornness of pagan resistance; the difficulty of satisfying the demands and expectations of new converts; and the degree of assimilation of Christianity to paganism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300080773
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 10/11/1999
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Persecution, describing the determination of the Christian leadership to extirpate all religious alternatives, expressed in the silencing of pagan sources and, beyond that, in the suppression of pagan acts and practices, with increasing harshness and machinery of enforcement.
The Cost to the Persecuted, describing the successive layers of paganism which came under threat of destruction, what each had brought to religious life, and what was lost to the extent those layers were destroyed.
Superstition, describing how best to understand the transition of the classical religious thought-world to the medieval and Byzantine, with newly dominant ideas henceforth controlling the relations between paganism and Christianity.
Assimilation, describing the reception by the church of pagan acts and practices along with pagan converts, and how these helped to shape Christianity.
Notes 161(86)
Bibliography 247(30)
Index 277

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