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Late Antique Paganism: Adaptation Under Duress

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the ways in which worshippers of the old gods adapted to the new world order of the 4th c. Roman empire, where emperors, through various pronouncements, consistently attacked elements of their religious infrastructure and rituals. This included forbidding divination sacrifices, temple funding, and eventually led to the temples definitive closure. This led to a privatisation of pagan worship and then to secrecy, a process difficult to detect in the archaeological record. Early medievalists tend to write about paganism of the 7th and 8th c. as if it was intrinsically similar to the cults of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The Constantinian laws forbidding private sacrifices and divination targeted only the higher echelons of late antique society, those members of the elite who could be a threat to the emperor and benefit from his fall.

Keywords: Constantinian; late antique society; paganism; Roman empire



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