Robin Lane Fox is Britain's most widely admired ancient historian. He was born in 1946 and educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and a University Reader in Ancient History. His other books include Alexander the Great (of which Penguin has now sold over 100,000 copies), Pagans and Christians and The Unauthorized Version. He was historical advisor to Oliver Stone on the making of Stone's film Alexander, for which he waived all his fees on condition that he could take part in the cavalry charge against elephants which Stone staged in the Moroccan desert.
Fox, a lecturer in Ancient History at Oxford, presents a detailed and scholarly account of Christianity and paganism prior to Constantine. He decribes pagan oracles, festivals, and cultic practices as they related to civic and community life in third-century Roman Empire; then, comparing these with Christian practices, he discusses the possible reasons for Christianity's ultimate triumph. Along the way, certain misconceptions are dispelled: Roman paganism was not dying out, as is sometimes supposed, nor was early Christianity primarily a religion of slaves. In fact, the Church had elements that made it unexpectedly attractive to all classes. The chapter on Constantine gives new insight into the reasons for his conversion. An excellent and readable account of a fascinating subject. Highly recommended. C. Robert Nixon, MLS, West Lafayette, Ind.