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Were Pagan Temples All Smashed Or Just Converted Into Christian Ones?

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tags: religion, Pagan Temples



How and why were pagan temples converted into Christian churches in the later Roman empire? New research focused on the city of Rome suggests a more peaceful transition from paganism to Christianity, rather than the clash, bash and "fall" championed for hundreds of years.

In a new article in the Journal of Late Antiquity,  ancient historian Feyo Schuddeboom argues that while the conversion of pagan temples into churches "has traditionally been explained as a symbol of Christian triumph over pagan religions", we should perhaps begin to see these changes to temples as more pragmatic. Put simply: Why smash when you can renovate? 

The image of incensed early Christian mobs destroying Greco-Roman temples comes in part from the early modern period. Back in the late 18th century, armchair historian Edward Gibbon provided a view of temple destruction that had lasting repercussions. In his epic work, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire he described the tearing down of the Serapeum in Alexandria as illustrative of the empire as a whole. He also described it as a direct assault on Roman idolatry: "The compositions of ancient genius, so many of which have irretrievably perished, might surely have been excepted from the wreck of idolatry for the amusement and instruction of succeeding ages." As Schuddeboom points out, it was not until much later that historians began to more systematically look at the archaeological remains of pagan temples and to present a reasoning for their destructions.

Read entire article at Forbes


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