Coming Out Christian in the Roman World:
How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire is now available from Bloomsbury Press in both the U.S. and the U.K.
“A genuinely thought-provoking and imaginative book.” — Peter Thonemann, The Wall Street Journal
“[Douglas] Boin is a gifted writer with the rare ability to bring ancient history before modern eyes.” — Greg Carey, The Christian Century
“Boin offers a highly original approach to the social and religious anxieties that seized Jesus’ followers in the years after his death. The result is not just another new study of early Christianity. Coming Out Christian in the Roman World takes the history of the Roman empire into a wholly new direction.” — Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
“In this well written and engaging book about late antiquity, Boin provides us with a thought provoking new take on the origins of Christianity with explanatory power for how we think about ourselves today. Anyone who wonders or worries about religious freedom in the modern world should read Coming out Christian.” — Candida Moss, author of The Myth of Persecution
“Boin is an entertaining guide, leading the reader through complex texts, materials, and events with a panoptic gaze, an engaging pace, and humor—like Morgan Freeman narrating March of the Christians.” — John David Penniman, Marginalia (LA Review of Books)
“The author provides some thought-provoking points and successfully begins a dialogue with conventional wisdom on this subject. … A great conversation starter with plenty of room for more research and elaboration.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Was it all blood and martyrdom, or was there peaceful tolerance on both sides? How is it possible that there was something in the middle? Boin tackles the question masterfully and broadens our understanding of early Christianity.” — Alicia de los Reyes, Patheos.com
“A very thorough and detailed picture of what it was like for a Christian living in the early Roman Empire…Very well written.” — Lisa Covington, Manhattan Book Review
“This is a refreshing argument with much to support it.” — Choice Reviews
The supposed collapse of Roman civilization is still lamented more than 1,500 years later—and intertwined with this idea is the notion that a fledgling religion, Christianity, went from a persecuted fringe movement to an irresistible force that toppled the empire. The “intolerant zeal” of Christians, wrote Edward Gibbon, swept Rome’s old gods away, and with them the structures that sustained Roman society.
Unfortunately, such tales are simply untrue to history and ignore the most important fact of all: life in Rome never came to a dramatic stop. Instead, a small minority movement rose to transform society—politically, religiously, and culturally—but it was a gradual process, one that happened in fits and starts over centuries. Drawing upon a decade of recent studies in history and archaeology, and on his own research, Boin opens up a wholly new window onto a period we thought we knew. His work is the first to describe how Christians navigated the complex world of social identity in terms of “passing” and “coming out.” Many Christians lived in a dynamic middle ground. Their quiet success, as much as the clamor of martyrdom, was a powerful agent for change.
“The appearance … of Douglas Boin’s Ostia in Late Antiquity is … a very welcome development and begins to fill an important gap in the study of ancient Ostia. Boin skillfully weaves together material and textual evidence to show theories that Ostia experienced “decline” or rapid Christianization in the third and fourth centuries are generally unfounded.” — Brent Nongbri, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
“Don’t be fooled by its nondescript title: Ostia in Late Antiquity compellingly…engages some of the most important debates in late antique history.” — Jacob Latham, Classical Journal
“Ostia in Late Antiquity will be valuable to both students and scholars, not least for its English summary of more than a decade’s worth of archaeological data as well as its up-to-date bibliography…. Boin’s work clearly demonstrates that Rome’s traditional religions remained an important part of civic identity in an increasingly Christian landscape.” — Simon Barker, American Journal of Archaeology
“In this compelling study, Boin eschews a catastrophic view of the transformation of Roman urban space during Late Antiquity in favor of a more nuanced and gradualist model … By embracing nuance, and through his frank acknowledgement that both continuity and change characterized urban life in this period, Boin has produced a forceful riposte to the catastrophic school. Highly recommended.” — G. I. Halfond, Choice
“The content is rich and thought provoking…. Boin’s book is a very welcome, innovative, and critical addition to [Russell] Meiggs’ Ostia (1973). It will certainly interest a wide range of readers.” — Bouke van der Meer, Journal of Roman Studies
“…ambitious and important for clarifying the early Christian and Jewish town.” — Michael Mulryan, Journal of Late Antiquity
Ostia Antica: Rome’s ancient harbor. Its houses and apartments, taverns and baths, warehouses, shops, and temples have long contributed to a picture of daily life in Rome. Recent investigations have revealed, however, that life in Ostia did not end with a bang but with a whimper. Only on the cusp of the Middle Ages did the town’s residents entrench themselves in a smaller settlement outside the walls. What can this new evidence tell us about life in the later Roman Empire, as society navigated an increasingly Christian world?
Ostia in Late Antiquity, the first study on Ostia to treat the Late Antique period, tackles the dynamics of this transformative time. It presents a social history of the town from the third through ninth century.