I’m writing this on the morning of December 17. If I have any clue as to how to time-delay posts, by the time you read this I’ll be on a hospital table getting my first new body part (prepping my life for this has reduced my time to post or comment the past few days). I’ve thought of bringing my laptop to the hospital and have about decided not to. Anyway, for the next couple of weeks one of three things may happen; I may be bored once I get home and send out buckets of posts; I may send out buckets of posts but be so narc’d on painkillers that once I sober up I’ll read what I wrote in my drug-induced state and delete them in horror or; I won’t be posting much of anything for several weeks. Much of this will depend on how comfortable I am sitting in my home office chair. Though I have an air card, wireless keyboard, wireless mouse and the thought of hooking my laptop up to my big-screen TV so I have full computer access from my recliner has crossed my mind (to this point I’ve rejected that option – I think it would qualify me as the laziest man in the world).
Anyway, I’m about a hundred pages from finishing Alan Cameron’s The Last Pagans of Rome. I’m hoping to put up a review if I’m sober enough and wanted to get something off my chest before I put it together.
I have a tendency to purchase, almost exclusively, newer books on history. At this point in time my wishlist numbers 881 books. I have various criteria I use when I’m considering what to buy (my to-read list of books on my shelves is 159 so whether I need more books is another topic for discussion). Among those is how recently it was published. At this point, if a book, other than a primary/contemporary source, was published prior to 2000 it’s highly unlikely that I’ll end up buying it (new – used is another story). I want the most recent information. I’ve mentioned before how this has resulted in my neglecting to buy books which I’ve found to be extremely valuable. It has also occasionally resulted in a situation I’ll use Cameron to illustrate.
Much of Cameron is concerned with debunking what he considers to be an inaccurate depiction of pagan revivals; periods after 382 where pagans organized some sort of concerted resistance to Christianity. I’ll discuss the specifics (hopefully) in more detail in the review.
The problem is that I’ve never read anything which has argued for this sort of revival. Now I haven’t read a ton of secondary stuff covering the early part of this time period (for Cameron this mostly covers from Gratian’s removal of the Altar of Victory from the Senate House in 382 to Macrobius’ Saturnalia written around 430) but I have read some. And I’ve read several sources from the period (in translation) such as Prudentius, Ausonius, and Claudian. I don’t recall them as being overly concerned with a Pagan revival. In fact, without checking my notes, the foremost impression Prudentius’ Contra Symmachus has left me with is the level of respect the author shows for Symmachus, though he disagrees with Pagan beliefs.
Based on what Cameron footnotes, it appears that this type of thinking was more prevalent among historians in the 1990’s and earlier. If it has been at the forefront of more recent books, it hasn’t been in what I’ve read. This may change as I read more deeply into the period but when I began reading Cameron and found out what he intended to argue, or counter-argue to be more precise, my initial response was, “Huh?”. I simply had not read anything arguing for a pagan revival during the 50 years after Gratian removed the Altar of Victory (and removed public support for Pagan rituals).
This has occasionally happened before. The main reason I decided to post on it is that I don’t want to talk about it in any detail later as I think it will detract from my review, but I know I’ll have the urge to say something. This has now been said and is not something I need to cover in depth later.
I’ll catch you folks on the other side after I gain the ability to set off airport metal detectors (and walk rather than lurch).