The Devil and the Flesh

In March 1971, the newly established Center for Byzantine Studies at Birmingham University held a seminar on the subject of the role of the ascetic in the early Byzantine world. At the end came what was apparently a second draft (the first having been read at Oxford) of a paper, …

The Triumph of Sin

Few revolutions in this century have had so profound an effect on humanity as the revolution in social attitudes. Since 1900 the status of women and ideas of sexuality, marriage, and divorce have undergone changes as far-reaching as they are irreversible. Accompanying these has been the progressive but by now …

The Lost Cause

Like other heroes of lost causes, the emperor Julian will always have his admirers. General Lee surrendering the Army of Virginia to Grant’s forces at the Appomattox Courthouse, Julian killed in battle against the Persians—both symbolized irrevocable defeat of the cause they had nobly championed. In Julian’s case, the cause …

The Gnostic Secrets

The story of the study of early Christianity since the 1930s is the story of great archaeological discoveries. The Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi, not far from Luxor in the Nile valley, take their place alongside the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Manichaean texts found by Karl Schmidt in a …

Christians vs. Christians

Will Christianity survive the year 2000 as a major religion of mankind? Two generations ago such a question would have been outrageous. On the one hand, Fortress Vatican presided over by the saintly Pius X, on the other, the great missionary conference held in Edinburgh in 1910 each in its …

Frustrated Father

In the final decades of the fourth century, Latin Christianity produced three great leaders, whose actions and ideas have influenced Western Christendom to this day. Ambrose of Milan’s excommunication of the emperor Theodosius I in 391 for allowing 7,000 innocent citizens of Thessalonica to be massacred by his troops asserted …

A New Jesus?

Chance finds have played a significant part in revolutionizing the study of New Testament origins and the early Church. It was the German scholar Karl Holl, for instance, who in 1933 discovered the first manuscript texts within the Roman Empire of the sayings of the Persian heresiarch Manichaeus among the …

Success Story

When in AD 229 the historian Dio Cassius died, the Greco-Roman world was still materially and spiritually secure. “We live round a sea like frogs round a pond,” Socrates had told his Athenian friends, and seven centuries later this was still true. The outlying provinces of the Roman empire, Dacia …

2500 Years of Human History—in Five Books

In August, 338 B.C., the formidable national army of Philip of Macedon confronted the allied forces of Athens and Thebes on the plain of Chaeronea at the approaches of Thebes. The ensuing battle was short and sharp. By evening the allied forces had scattered and the victor had entered Thebes.

Worshipping the Red Mushroom

One of the most famous Upper Paleolithic paintings discovered in the great cave at Lascaux depicts a schematic figure of a bird-headed man, penis erect, holding his hands outstretched in the direction of a mortally wounded bison. The combination of imitative magic and fertility rite represented in that scene underlies …

The Fall of Rome

It is now nearly forty years since Ferdinand Lot composed his masterly La Fin du Monde antique et le début du Moyen Age, covering the history of Europe in all its aspects from the age of Diocletian to that of Mahomet. This work, however, like Rostovtzeff’s Social and Economic History …