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?"



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