NONFICTION

The Final Pagan Generation

Univ. of California. 2015. 320p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780520283701. $34.95; ebk. ISBN 9780520959491. REL
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It was fairly simple to be a pagan worshipper in ancient Rome—at least until the tide shifted in favor of Christianity. Watts's (history, Univ. of California San Diego; Riot in Alexandria) latest work provides great insight into the everyday practices of the devout in the fourth century as well as the turbulent and often cruelly violent transition from traditional pagan worship to Christianity in the Roman Empire. Watts's writing is certainly well researched and proficient, providing detailed accounts of civic life at the time along with candid analysis of empirical politics. There is a lot to learn in this volume, not just about a tricky cultural transition but also about a way of life that will be at turns greatly familiar and completely foreign to modern readers. While the prose may be somewhat academically inclined for casual readers, the text is awash with well-organized historical information including detailed accounts of educational systems, public policies, religious practices, and family life. It is truly a comprehensive picture and because of the prodigious notes and sources, a great jumping-off point for deeper research into the era.
VERDICT A wonderfully meticulous resource for researchers interested in the lives of worshippers rather than the mythology of religion.
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