Mr. O Donnell tells the familiar story of Christianity s heroic age of expansion, from Constantine to Theodosius, with verve and wit. Wall Street Journal
For hundreds of years, religious and spiritual pluralism thrived in the Roman Empire. In the fourth century, however, as Christianity became the state religion, Christians developed the concept of the pagan to stigmatize and ostracize those who refused to devote themselves to the Christian god. These pagans were Greeks, Romans, Gauls, and Syrians who chose to piously observe the traditions of their ancestors.
Pagans uncovers how the ancient and deeply rooted religious traditions of these polytheistic Romans were undermined and suppressed by the rise of Christianity in little more than a hundred years. James J. O Donnell explores the foundational features of Roman religion and culture, paints fresh portraits of iconic historical figures including Constantine, Julian, and Augustine and breathes new life into the defining tensions of the era: Rome versus the East, civilization versus barbarism, plurality versus unity, rich versus poor, and tradition versus innovation.
In this nuanced account of religious repression, O Donnell offers an iconoclastic history of religion that tells an exciting new story that is deeply relevant to the way we think about religion in our own time."