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The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire

The Making of a Christian Aristocracy: Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire

Paperback

By (author) Michele Renee Salzman

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 227mm x 25mm | 528g
  • Publication date: 25 October 2004
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674016033
  • ISBN 13: 9780674016033
  • Illustrations note: 18 tables
  • Sales rank: 1,014,640

Product description

What did it take to cause the Roman aristocracy to turn to Christianity, changing centuries-old beliefs and religious traditions? Michele Salzman takes a fresh approach to this much-debated question. Focusing on a sampling of individual aristocratic men and women as well as on writings and archeological evidence, she brings new understanding to the process by which pagan aristocrats became Christian, and Christianity became aristocratic. Roman aristocrats would seem to be unlikely candidates for conversion to Christianity. Pagan and civic traditions were deeply entrenched among the educated and politically well-connected. Indeed, men who held state offices often were also esteemed priests in the pagan state cults: these priesthoods were traditionally sought as a way to reinforce one's social position. Moreover, a religion whose texts taught love for one's neighbor and humility, with strictures on wealth and notions of equality, would not have obvious appeal for those at the top of a hierarchical society. Yet somehow in the course of the fourth and early fifth centuries Christianity and the Roman aristocracy met and merged. Examining the world of the ruling class--its institutions and resources, its values and style of life--Salzman paints a fascinating picture, especially of aristocratic women. Her study yields new insight into the religious revolution that transformed the late Roman Empire.

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Author information

Michele Renee Salzman is Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside.

Review quote

There is much to praise here. Salzman makes a coherent and believable case, and argues it well. She provides statistical derivatives of her database in the form of tables, from which others may form further conclusions...[Salzman] has elucidated one piece of the puzzle, and provided a wealth of data and approaches for others to take outstanding questions forward. -- Malcolm Choat Scholia Reviews 20030101 The Making of a Christian Aristocracy An indispensable study of what the 'average' aristocrat would have experienced in coming to call upon Jesus instead of Jupiter...it accurately and articulately details the Christianization of the empire's leading families. -- David Vincent Meconi Journal of Early Christian Studies This fascinating and important book...discusses the social origins and career paths of the aristocratic men--and the family involvements of the women--who converted to Christianity, and concludes by exploring 'the emperor's influence on aristocratic conversion' and 'the aristocrats' influence on Christianity'...Salzman's work is important not just for the study of the early church but for the study of the whole history of Christianity. The class distinctions which she so ably explores were significant not only for early Christians, but also for the medieval church and the Reformation church. -- Robert M. Grant Christian Century This is a fine book, genuinely paradigm-shifting and splendidly argued...remarkably firm and convincing. It offers a major addition to our knowledge of late antiquity. -- John Moorhead Journal of Religious Studies

Table of contents

Preface 1. Approaches to a Paradox 2. Defining the Senatorial Aristocracy 3. Aristocratic Men: Social Origins 4. Aristocratic Men: Career Paths 5. Aristocratic Women 6. The Emperor's Influence on Aristocratic Conversion 7. The Aristocrats' Influence on Christianity Tables Appendix 1: Sources, Criteria, and Variables for the Database Appendix 2: Names and Religious Affiliation of Aristocrats in the Study Appendix 3: Sources for the Database-Addenda and Corrigenda to PLRE Appendix 4: High Office Holders Abbreviations and Frequently Cited Works Notes Index