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Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity
Studies in Text Transmission

By Dirk Rohmann

Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity
Paperback, 370 pages $49.95
Published: 1st October 2017
ISBN: 9781481307826
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All History, Ancient History & Archaeology

Only a small fraction of ancient literature survives—less than one percent, estimates reveal. While the reasons vary, it is an irony that Christianity, often regarded as responsible for the proliferation and spread of books and book culture, was likewise active in suppressing and destroying books in Late Antiquity.

Author Dirk Rohmann assembles the evidence for the role played in book-burning by Christian institutions, writers, and saints during the Roman Empire. Rohmann analyzes a broad range of literary and legal sources, paying special attention to which genres and book types were likely to be targeted. Rohmann concludes that, in addition to heretical, magical, astrological, and anti-Christian books, other less obviously subversive categories of literature were also vulnerable to destruction and censorship through prohibition of manuscript copying. These texts included works from materialistic philosophical traditions, texts that were to become the basis for modern philosophy and science.

While book-burning functioned as a recognized cultural practice, and Rohmann acknowledges the wide variety of motivations at work in the various practices of censorship, he ultimately asks to what extent Christian book-burning and accompanying practices negatively affected the survival of pagan and pre-Christian literary and philosophical texts. Christianity’s rejection, even obliteration, of books—so contrary to its own worldview—testifies both to the perilous nature of texts in transmission as well as to the enduring cultural and ideological power of the written word.

"Rohmann has richly and innovatively researched his topic. This is a book from which specialists will learn much, and yet it will be a fascinating tour for the general student of late antiquity and early Christian history. A tour de force of principled scholarship."

—David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities, Baylor University

Dirk Rohmann is Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Wuppertal.

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 370 pages
 9in x 6in

  HIS002000, HIS054000, REL015000
 Baylor University Press

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