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The World of Late Antiquity, AD 150-750 (1971)

de Peter Brown

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This remarkable study in social and cultural change explains how and why the Late Antique world, between c.150 and c.750 A.D., came to differ from 'Classical civilisation'. These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deep-rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question in world history; how the exceptionally homogeneous Mediterranean world of c. 200 A.D. became divided into the three mutually estranged societies of the Middle Ages: Catholic Western Europe, Byzantium, and Islam. We still live with the results of these contrasts.… (més)
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Anglès (10)  Neerlandès (1)  Suec (1)  Castellà (1)  Totes les llengües (13)
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Buena obra de Peter Brown sobre el desarrollo del mundo y el cambio del eje y la perdida de peso del Mediterraneo producto del Islam. Como ese mundo común que compartía la cultura alrededor del Mediterraneo, fue cambiando y luego rompiéndose ( )
  gneoflavio | Jul 15, 2021 |
In The World of Late Antiquity, Peter Brown is as much an art historian as a historian generally speaking -- and it is his continuous interjection and interpretation of relevant art that differentiates it. The description of the photograph on page 199 of a hexagonal, floral relief ceiling rosette from Khirbat al-Mafjar is typical: "The triumph of the east. The late classical heads are already almost engulfed in the exuberant ornamentation that is derived directly from Persian models. It was this revival of Persian tastes and artistic traditions, rather than any original antipathy on the part of the Muslims, that smothered the Late Antique forms of representational art." Here Brown masterly intertwines art and architecture metaphorically into the historical continuum.

200 pages is just a brief overview of the 600 years of Brown's concern (especially considering the copious photos), but an excellent bibliography allows further study. There is also an excellent timeline. Brown has a fluid, easygoing style that enhances the storytelling aspect of the historian's job without, however, compromising any erudition. Highly recommended. ( )
  RAD66 | Nov 12, 2020 |
Peter Brown set out to describe how many changes converged to produce a very distinctive period of European civilization from about 200 C.E. to about 700 C.E.; how it differed from the classic period of Greek and Roman dominance; and how it helped shaped the Europe of the Middle Ages. Ancient institutions simply disappeared: the Roman Empire had vanished from western Europe by 476 and the Persian Empire had vanished by 655. Europe became Christian and the Near East became Muslim.

One of the main problems of the period was how to maintain a style of life and culture based on the slender coastline of the Mediterranean studded with classical city-states. It was a world always on the brink of starvation. It cost less to transport a cargo of grain from one end of the Mediterranean to the other than to carry it another 75 miles inland. Cultured men of any part of the empire felt more in common with others of their class than to their neighbors, an underdeveloped peasantry. The center of gravity of the empire gradually shifted from Rome eastward to Constantinople.

Even after the sack of Rome by Goths in 410, the western provinces remained a recognizably “sub-Roman” civilization for centuries. But when Islam overran the eastern provinces after 640, they took on an oriental flavor.

Between 240 and 300, the empire faced barbarian invasions and political instability. For many years prior, the area close to the Mediterranean was quite safe and peaceful. But after Persia rose in 224, the Goths in 248, and other war bands along the Rhine after 260, all frontiers of the empire collapsed. The empire was saved by a military revolution. The dead wood of the upper classes was excluded, and men of talent like Diocletian came to the fore.

After the conversion of Constantine to Christianity, most of the civil service was Christian. Notably, they instituted solid money, the solidus.

Christianity, the author posits, extended its appeal after 200 by helping to assuage the anxieties and uncertainties from increasing cosmopolitanism and social change that came with the Roman Empire. Most of all people felt a lack of belonging, and Christianity stepped aggressively into that gap. It filled the need for society so successfully that Christianity expanded exponentially rather than gradually. Christianity offered an exclusive cult, a sense of belonging, and a prescription for living. It offered steady relationships that were - at least professedly - egalitarian. It offered answers and stability where there were none, took on important social roles (such as food supplies for the needy and burial of the dead) and provided an assurance of loving kindness both on earth and for eternal life as a reward for faith. Importantly, Christianity also offered an enemy to explain the problem of evil and to provide a way to overcome it: i.e., the devil and his demon minions. The devil, as Christianity explained it, was “an all-embracing agent of evil in he human race; but he had been defeated by Christ and could be held in check by Christ’s human agents.” Thus, as the author asserts:

“However many sound social and cultural reasons the historian may find for the expansion of the Christian Church, the fact remains that in all Christian literature from the New Testament onwards, the Christian missionaries advanced principally by revealing the bankruptcy of men’s invisible enemies, the demons, through exorcisms and miracles of healing.” (p 55)

From 170 to 312 there was an active debate about religion. Christians were attacked because they neglected the rites of the old paganism. The new mood appealed to the concept of one God rather than to an array of lesser gods. Conversion was intimately connected to revelation. Revelation allowed the uneducated to “know” truths. Philosophers like Plotinus thought that bad because it skipped over serious education and allowed for second-rate counterfeit of traditional academic philosophy.

The 4th century was a time of revival. It is important to note that Christianity grew even more during prosperous times than catastrophic ones. More people participated in the empire in the East than in the West, so enthusiasm for the emperor was firmer.

Paganism survived much later in the East than in the West. The Hellenes in Athens and Alexandria “created the classical language of philosophy in the early Middle Ages, of which Christian, Jewish, and Islamic thought, up to the twelfth century, are but derivative vernaculars.”

Evaluation: This succinct and lucid account of social and cultural change in the Late Antique World maintains interest throughout. He is careful to explain that he cannot commit to “cause and effect” but only seeks to describe how “certain changes coincided in such a way that the one cannot be understood without reference to the other.” The book includes 130 illustrations.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Jul 23, 2020 |
A fascinating exploration of how the differences in population between the West and East of the Roman Empire even during the second century AD led to very different outcomes up to the Arab conquests and beyond. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Nov 26, 2019 |
A dense book for all its brevity, outlining a description of the transition from the Roman Empire of classical thought (Greek and Latin philosophy), which bulks large as the first Mediterranean Empire, through its decline and fragmentation, to create:
1 The West, which descended into local principalities (this is not explored in depth, as the author considers that it has already been written about extensively); and
2 The Eastern Byzantine Empire, which managed to maintain its connection to classical thought, although attacked by the Persian Empire and the first wave of Islamic expansion.

The author explains in his bibliography that this book was originally written as an essay trying to provide greater coverage of the creation of the Byzantine Empire from the Eastern Roman.
Although I do not have sufficient grounding in the history of these times to follow either the detail or test the arguments made, this book provided me with an exciting and dramatic sweeping story. I immediately started reading a book about the creation of Christianity to see how this fitted into the Late Antique story and that is what I ask of a history book, that it interests me and wants me to learn more.
The book was written in 1971 and I understand from other commentary has been subsequently overtaken in some areas by subsequent research, but it provides a great overview of a changing society and provides reasons for those changes. ( )
  CarltonC | Jul 1, 2018 |
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Peter Brownautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Kelly, ChristopherPrefaciautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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[frontispiece] a family group of the fourth century. Gold glass inset in cross.
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This book is a study of social and cultural change.
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This remarkable study in social and cultural change explains how and why the Late Antique world, between c.150 and c.750 A.D., came to differ from 'Classical civilisation'. These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deep-rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question in world history; how the exceptionally homogeneous Mediterranean world of c. 200 A.D. became divided into the three mutually estranged societies of the Middle Ages: Catholic Western Europe, Byzantium, and Islam. We still live with the results of these contrasts.

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