Theories of Roman religious change

“According to Bagnall, the story of the rise of Christianity has traditionally been told in terms of contest and conflict with Roman paganism. Markus is one among many contemporary scholars who have challenged this view: “The image of a society neatly divided into “Christian” and “pagan” is the creation of late–fourth century Christians, and has been too readily taken at its face value by modern historians”. Graeco-Roman polytheism was not one uniform entity, nor were its many versions uniformly hostile to Christianity.

Edward Gibbon wrote the first version of the top-down conflict model in 1776. He saw Constantine as driven by “boundless ambition” and a desire for personal glory to force Christianity on the rest of the empire in a cynical, political move. 


Psychological explanations of Christianization are most often based on a belief that paganism declined during the imperial period causing an era of insecurity and anxiety. These anxious individuals were seen as the ones who sought refuge in religious communities which offered socialization. For most modern scholars, this view can no longer be maintained since traditional religion did not decline in this period, but remained into the sixth and seventh centuries, and there is no evidence of increased anxiety. Psychologist Pascal Boyer says a cognitive approach can account for the transmission of religious ideas and describe the processes whereby individuals acquire and transmit certain ideas and practices, but cognitive theory may not be sufficient to account for the social dynamics of religious movements, or the historical development of religious doctrines, which are not directly within its scope.”


Unlike some, I don’t think there’s any need here to invoke either Saidin, a Pleistocene version of Middle Earth, or cultural evolution of Valyrian Steel.


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Kocaeli Üniversitesi Psikolojik Danışmanlık ve Rehberlik

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