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Hardcover A Chronicle of the Last Pagans Book

ISBN: 0674129709

ISBN13: 9780674129702

A Chronicle of the Last Pagans

(Part of the Revealing Antiquity Series)

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Un livre excellent a tous egards?Pour ecrire cette chronique, a la fois narrative et explicative, il fallait une immense culture?C'est un immense voyage que nous fait faire Pierre Chuvin, sans jamais... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Accessible yet scholarly overview of a faith's ebb

Pierre Chuvin's "A Chronicle of the Last Pagans": Book Review. This French professor of Greek provides a poignant, scholarly, yet briskly told survey of the decline of paganism in late antiquity. Roughly the two centuries between Constantine around 312 and Justinian span the erosion of the old beliefs and Roman-sponsored state cults. Those living then felt perhaps imperceptibly, most decades, the ebb of what seemed the "natural" faith, but around 392 onward, accelerating before the "fall of Rome" in 410, Christianity under such propagandizers as Augustine, backed by the empire, broke the back of the pagan resistance. Chuvin shows this pivot-point at work. In Alexandria, the Serapeum may not be well-known today, but its fall after a 391 Milan edict prohibited sacrifices to the gods proved for Egyptian believers a catastrophe. Chuvin follows its demolishment, showing how "in the summmer of 392 the god of the Nile inudated the Egyptian countryside as always and fertilized it with his silt, mindless of the sacrileges committed the year before. He did not send torrents of blood or create a hecatomb among the people. The presence of that glimmering ribbon of water must have caused more confusion than we can imagine among all those who, like Libanus, believed the prosperity of the empire depended on the accomplishment of the ancient rites." (68-9) As this passage demonstrates, Chuvin even in B.A. Archer's translation comes across vividly. Other sections discussing the perpetuation of such (today unlikely) centers as Beirut and Gaza as pagan cities show just how long their histories have been as places of worship, cosmopolitan trade, and factional doggedness in the name of ideology. I did find the treatment of emperor Julian too hasty, and would have liked more about Hypatia-- Chuvin finds her not a martyr for paganism so much as a pagan put in a vulnerable position in sectarian riots turned deadly. The book can brush over the more famous characters but it does show you by a close reading of the historical evidence, mainly textual but sometimes archeological or topographical, the often incremental weakening of the pagan cults and the marginalization of believers as gradually they were prevented from serving in the palace or military. The parallels to later medieval "court Jews" for influential pagan advisors later on are suggestive; men of action had to become men of learning as the Christians consolidated power in first the court and then the establishment. The learned were the last sometimes to give in, but under pressure, they did. Those in the countryside stereotyped even back then as "pagani" or "country-dwellers" by the urbanized Roman Christians (if not always the urbane Hellenes who also shared in non-Christian practices on the other side of the Empire) are not only those who became, in later usage "peasants." Chuvin reminds us: "'Pagani' or pagans are quite simply 'people of the place,' town or country, who preserved their local customs, wher

Not much choice

Superb book for anyone interested in this period. It really should be read by all Christians who take their religion seriously. Why? Because the book is very honest and presents an unpleasant picture despite merely stating facts. It is very, very sad...a chronicle of our tremendous loss. It makes you very aware that the magnificent works of art that we now possess are just the tiny bit that escaped the hands of our intolerant ancestors. This book is also valuable for anyone interested in preserving contemporary "endangered" culture. There are similarities here to the actions of the Chinese government in the Cultural Revolution and in Tibet. It is ironic that Christians looked on in horror as Communists persecuted Christians in Poland, but most are quite ignorant of the blood on the hands of their ancestors. I am a Hellenic polytheist, so I am being upfront in having a vested interest. But if you find the subject intriguing, give the book a try, regardless of what side you have found yourself on. After reading this book, many Christians in the reading audience may discover that they didn't have much choice in the matter.

Our Pagan Ancestors

This book is not exactly light reading, and one should already have at least some familiarity with the period of Late Antiquity before tackling it. Also I think that Chuvin pulls a lot of his punches in order to avoid the accusation of being "anti-Christian". After all, he is telling a story that makes Christianity look very bad, indeed. What other Religion in human history has been so relentlessy intolerant - and so "successful" in its supression of other Religions? Chuvin also soft-pedals the evidence for philosophical Paganism surviving to the present - but he makes the case nevertheless. This is an essential book for anyone interested in the real roots of modern Paganism. The Pagans that Chuvin deals with are precisely those classical Pagans whose words, including their prayers, we can still read today. Chuvin is overly careful, in my opinion, to avoid any appearance of being polemical - but he still presents a lot of ammunition for the point of view that modern Paganism is a genuine continuation of the Old Religion. The Pagans that Chuvin portrays were, in fact, already involved in the fight to defend the Old Religion nearly 2,000 years ago!

Who were the last European Pagans?

Funny, I thought the last recorded pagans in Europe were the Lithuanians. They didn't accept until 1387.

The fall of Paganism as viewed by the Pagans themselves!

"A Chronicle of the Last Pagans" is an absolutely masterful work which gives a detailed account of the rise of Christianity and the downfall of Paganism. Both rich in detail and historical accuracy, this volume makes good use of primary sources and tells it's story well. It begins at the time of Constantine and travels through to the reign of Theodosius. Though this is a modern work it is an exceptionally useful resource. Pierre Chuvin has managed to put together a wide variety of sources to create a picture of late antiquity as no other writer has yet been able to do. I found information here that I have not been able to get to easily anywhere else, such as Eastern Pagan survivals lasting well into the 500's AD. Highly recommended!
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