5/20/15

5/20 The Pace of Change

Peter Brown, <The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity>, Harvard UP, 2015

Preface, pp. viii-ix:

"However, the issue of the pace of change in the religious imagination is crucial. It is difficult enough for secular historians of Rome and of the world after Rome to measure the pace of change in well-known institutions and social structures. For some scholars the pace of change in the later empire seems to have been vertiginous. Others do not accept this view. Historians continue to disagree as to whether the fall of Rome marked a drastic rupture in the flow of Western history, or whether this fall was only one transformation among many - and not the most disastrous one at that. Their disagreement shows how difficult it is to measure the pace of change in a complex society. To put it briefly: Is the pace of change in the last centuries of Rome to be measured only by a brisk series of dates - by the reigns of emperors, the dates of battles, and the course of well-known barbarian invasions? Or are these dates no more than so many whitecaps on the surface of a wider ocean whose tides run at a different speed from that of the more obvious political and military events - sometimes faster, sometimes much slower?"

宗教想像中的變化,以什麼樣的步調發生?這個問題至關重要。就連測量既有的制度與世俗社會結構這件事,已經夠讓研究羅馬帝國及其身後的世界的歷史學家們頭疼了。有些學者認為晚期帝國中發生的變化快得令人目眩,其他人則不接受這樣的觀點。學者們至今爭論不休,為羅馬帝國之滅亡是否可算作西方歷史長河中的一個劇烈轉折,抑或這一事件僅僅是諸多重大轉型過程中的一個,而且大概還算不上是最富災難性的。他們的爭論顯示:在複雜社會中考量變化發生的步調有多麼困難。簡而言之:羅馬的最後一兩個世紀,僅僅應該被這樣一些急風驟雨般的時點來劃分嗎?皇帝們的統治年數、戰役的日期、或是眾所週知的野蠻人入侵事件?又或者,這些時點不過像是寬廣海面浮現出來的點點白浪花,而大海深處湧動著的潮流,正以與那些顯而易見的政治與軍事事件全然不同的速度推進著--有時快些,有時則遠遠更為緩慢?

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