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Old December 12th, 2012, 05:54 AM   #1

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Question Rise of Christianity and fall of the paganism


Hopefully this is a right subforum for this topic but I'd like to know why I am not worshipping Odin, Zeus or any other pagan god.

Here is what I have gathered so far: Jesus, a pretty rebellious and revolutionary person was born in Judea in around year 0 or at least a cult of that named person / god /whatever have been spreading since then. Apparently this new religion was very appealing to disenfranchised segments of population. Then comes Constantine the Great and makes the already widespread Christianity a official(?) state religion of the Roman Empire because of realpolitiks or whatevers. The actions of Julian the Apostate were just a futile and hopeless last dying breath of Paganism. Lot of the other rulers after Constantine also started to use Christianity as rallying cry or amalgam to rule their nice little empires, kingdoms and villages. And rest is history.

I'd like to know what people that are interested and knowledgeable on this subject have to say about this battle between Christian god and pagan gods. Book recommendations are also more than welcome. Thanks for reading.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 06:03 AM   #2

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Since I don't have time for a lengthy reply to a massive and worthy topic, I'll make some book recommendations:

Fundamental:

The Last Pagans of Rome: Alan Cameron: 9780199747276: Amazon.com: Books
The Last Pagans of Rome: Alan Cameron: 9780199747276: Amazon.com: Books


Very one-sided, but still useful:

Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries: Professor Ramsay MacMullen: 9780300080773: Amazon.com: Books
Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries: Professor Ramsay MacMullen: 9780300080773: Amazon.com: Books


Very, very important for Christianity's role in the power structures of the later Roman empire, and a good balance to MacMullen:

Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Curti Lecture Series): Peter Brown: 9780299133443: Amazon.com: Books
Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Curti Lecture Series): Peter Brown: 9780299133443: Amazon.com: Books


One of the best sourebooks I've ever seen, although it's rather small.

Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World): A.D.(Doug) Lee: 9780415138932: Amazon.com: Books
Pagans and Christians in Late Antiquity: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World): A.D.(Doug) Lee: 9780415138932: Amazon.com: Books


For Constantine, the first has a good selection of introductory material, the second is a bit dated but remains a standard work:

The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine: Amazon.ca: Noel Lenski: Books
The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine: Amazon.ca: Noel Lenski: Books


Constantine and Eusebius: Amazon.ca: Timothy D. Barnes: Books
Constantine and Eusebius: Amazon.ca: Timothy D. Barnes: Books


Last edited by Kirialax; December 12th, 2012 at 06:09 AM.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 06:28 AM   #3

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Thanks a lot! Are those books suited to a total layman like me (I have in my life read total of 3-4 books about ancient world)? Even the first one, the one with most non-scholarly and colorful cover, The Last pagans of Rome, has this bit in its most helpful Amazon review:

Quote:
First a warning to general readers. This is not an introduction or narrative along the lines of Pierre Chuvin's A Chronicle of the Last Pagans. Although the author writes with great clarity, and translates most of the Latin he quotes, this is a dense, scholarly, and highly argumentative book that presupposes considerable knowledge and interest on the part of the reader.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 06:58 AM   #4

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The Pagans and Christians sourcebook is excellent for a beginner, as it provides a lot of context and references to other materials. The sections are also nice and short, so you don't get bogged down in translation of texts that will at first seem a bit tedious and odd. The 'Cambridge Companion to Constantine' is also a good introduction. The articles are written by important names in the field, cover a wide variety of topics, and are only 20-30 pages each. 'Last Pagans of Rome' is a scholarly tome. MacMullen is easy to read, but I wouldn't read just that book since it's fairly one-sided. Brown's book is dense but short.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 07:57 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
Hopefully this is a right subforum for this topic but I'd like to know why I am not worshipping Odin, Zeus or any other pagan god.
That is simple. because your ancestors converted to Christianity. As for why they converted, it is also rather simple: most probably (like 99%) because their lord/chieftain/prince converted. As to why lord/chieftain/prince converted, it also rather simple: because they were emulating more powerful lord/chieftain/prince nearby. And the most powerful lord/chieftain/prince in the neighbourhood was Roman emperor. Why Roman emperor converted? Simple: he had a dream he will win battle for throne under sign of Christ. He did order it to be pained it on shields of his soldiers and he won.

Simple and straightforward (save one strange dude called Julian).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
Here is what I have gathered so far: Jesus, a pretty rebellious and revolutionary person was born in Judea in around year 0 or at least a cult of that named person / god /whatever have been spreading since then. Apparently this new religion was very appealing to disenfranchised segments of population.
No, it gathered support all around all strata of society, including nobility. However it did found initially somehow strong support among women than was usual.

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Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
Then comes Constantine the Great and makes the already widespread Christianity
Wrong, Christianity was perhaps well spread but not widespread. It was rather small obscure sect by time of Constantine and civil war he competed in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
a official(?) state religion of the Roman Empire
Wrong, he did not made it official religion of state. That happened only few emperors later. He however did it preferred one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
because of realpolitiks or whatevers
Wrong. He did it because Jesus helped him win important battle. Powerful god indeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
The actions of Julian the Apostate were just a futile and hopeless last dying breath of Paganism.
Debatable. After Julian was killed in battle, army initially proposed throne to one of his pagan generals. He refused so army turned to one Christian general. He accepted and became next emperor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
Lot of the other rulers after Constantine also started to use Christianity as rallying cry or amalgam to rule their nice little empires, kingdoms and villages. And rest is history.
I doubt any administrative advantages Christianity could brought to their kingdoms and chiefdoms was apparent to most of them. They started to worship Christian God because it was God of most important and powerful state around they all wanted to emulate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
I'd like to know what people that are interested and knowledgeable on this subject have to say about this battle between Christian god and pagan gods. Book recommendations are also more than welcome. Thanks for reading.
Battle was quit one sided. It is easy to accept Christian God if you are pagan. It is sort of natural. However it is impossible to accept any pagan god once you are Christian.

Moreover Christianity have much more advanced concept of God. It is hard to go back to using stone knife once you tried out steel one.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 08:41 AM   #6

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Thanks for the answers, Arras. Some of your points raise more questions than they answer, but the main point I take is that this Constantine fella was pretty important playa when it comes to Christianity...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirialax View Post
The Pagans and Christians sourcebook is excellent for a beginner, as it provides a lot of context and references to other materials. The sections are also nice and short, so you don't get bogged down in translation of texts that will at first seem a bit tedious and odd. The 'Cambridge Companion to Constantine' is also a good introduction. The articles are written by important names in the field, cover a wide variety of topics, and are only 20-30 pages each. 'Last Pagans of Rome' is a scholarly tome. MacMullen is easy to read, but I wouldn't read just that book since it's fairly one-sided. Brown's book is dense but short.
Thank you. I placed my trust on your expertise and ordered Pagans and Christians.

Last edited by Omar Giggle; December 12th, 2012 at 08:56 AM.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 09:55 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
Thanks for the answers, Arras. Some of your points raise more questions than they answer,
That is what good history always does More you know, more questions you ask

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Originally Posted by Omar Giggle View Post
but the main point I take is that this Constantine fella was pretty important playa when it comes to Christianity...
Definitely. Second most important fella after Jesus himself Funny thing is that it is not sure he was really Christian himself.

Last edited by arras; December 12th, 2012 at 10:01 AM.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 01:20 PM   #8

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Firstly, christianity wasn't really a new religion - it started as one man's attempt (foretold in the scriptures) to reform Judaism (a new covenant). Mainstream Judaism rejected him and his followers just kept going on.

Circumstances of the time meant they would survive - other than not treating the roman emperor as a god, early christians were the model citizens - they kept the peace and they paid their taxes (giving to caeser what is caeser's?).

Even before the times of Jesus an increasing number of Roman citizens were tired of their pantheon of gods and asking the question was there something more meaningful (sound familiar?). Judaism was gaining popularity with its idea of one true god. There were many Roman citizens from all over the empire in Judaea learning learning it, coming to know it.

Judaism was limited in its ability to service a wider population because of its connection to the land and its priests to a family line. Christianity did not have those limitations, so early christianity got the one up because it was a bridge to Judaean concepts for non-Jews.

Christianity spread slowly and it was 300 years before it got its first political recognition. Its biggest challenge was the 7th century with the rise of Islam which had many similarities - 5 of the "7 churches of christianity" converted to islam.

Religions like Judaism, christianity and Islam, Hindu and Buddhist, really do paint a much bigger picture. Complex and sophisticated societies need complex and sophisticated belief systems. Once established they are hard to change or replace, and it'll have to be by something bigger.
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Old December 12th, 2012, 01:23 PM   #9

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I think the Baltic People were the last to be Christianized in Europe :

The Last Pagans in Europe ? The Balts

Christianization_of_Lithuania Christianization_of_Lithuania


The Pagan Lithuanian Empire

There were Crusades within Europe as well

The Northern Crusades: Europe's Last Pagan Kingdoms
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Old December 12th, 2012, 02:20 PM   #10

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Personally, the way I see it is that there is the possibility that the biblical Jesus didn't actually ever exist. Many of the early forms of Christianity were highly metaphorical and philosophical in nature. There was a definite connection with the philosophies of Greece, just as there was with Judaism.

On Paganism... The word "Pagan" is similar to what we would call "bumpkin" or "hillbilly." and largely focused on ritualistic wishing of sorts, and the early Christians saw this as ignorant and superstitious (ironic that superstitions crept back into Christian culture at various points, a little bit of leftover paganism in a way).

While Christianity was a popular religion among the slaves, it was clear that a lot of its early followers were EXTREMELY well educated in classical philosophy. I also see a lot of evidence, that despite some of the modern trends, that many early brands of Christianity were highly ethical in nature.

One almost certain attribute of Christianity was that the early Christians were extreme liberals - to use an anachronistic term. A bit weird to think of it that way when today the Conservative branches are much larger. In Canada, the largest liberal branch is the United Church of Canada, which has 3-5 million followers... Catholicism in Canada is about 12 million.
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