Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Anglais) Broché – 31 octobre 1996
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This book covers that period of history called "Late Antiquity". This is a euphamism for the time when the Roman Empire simultaneously became Christian and fell apart. Of course only the western part of the empire completely fell apart as soon as it became Christian - while the eastern part (which is what Bowersock is primarily interested in) simply entered into a prolonged irreversible decline.
The book begins with a look at John of Ephesus - a mid 6th century Christian missionary in western Anatolia who was horrified to find 1500 (by his estimate) active Pagan places of worship. To make things even worse, these Temples and shrines all sent representatives to study and "receive the law" at a central main Temple. Like this story, much of the book has a "regional" focus, and Bowersock's main thesis is that "Hellenistic" culture had made itself right at home throughout large parts of "the east" - and that this Hellenism never really replaced the local cultures so much as it became the language through which various local cultures not only expressed themselves, but were able to communicate with each other.
Bowersock is explicitly, and illogically, opposed to the idea that Late Antiquity was characterized by a struggle between Paganism and Christianity. He even goes so far as to promote one of his pet theories (to which he has devoted a whole other book) that Julian's desire to revive Paganism was both ill-conceived and completely at odds with "real" Paganism. Julian, according to Bowersock, was never really a Pagan, but rather a misguided Christian who just tried to create a completely new kind of Paganism that was really nothing but a mirror image of fundamentalist Christianity. In other words Julian was some kind of Late Antique Satanist! Despite Bowersocks loopy ideas about Paganism, this is nevertheless a wonderful little book that provides a wealth of information about some of the ways in which Paganism persisted even as Christianity "triumphed".