William Sterling

Transition from Pagan to Christian

Transition from Pagan to Christian

This lecture was given as part of the Classics Day on Saturday 17th February 2018 at the British Museum and given jointly by lecturers from the museum, the City Lit and University College London.

Using objects from the BM such as the Hinton St Mary mosaic, the Esquiline Treasure, the Mildenhall Treasure, the Hoxne hoard, the Lullingstone villa, the Uley temple of Mercury and the Jonah sarcophagus, examine how the transition from paganism to Christianity was blurred by the continuing use of pagan gods and the honouring pagan forbears.

Constantine accepted Christianity as an official religion of the Roman Empire in 313 by the Edict of Milan but was not baptised until shortly before his death in 337. It was not until Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 that Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire and only under Theodosius II that the destruction of pagan temples was ordered. Even then many were converted into churches rather than destroyed completely and many pagan festivals were simply adopted as Christian ones. During this period many Christian objects continued to have pagan images on them showing that for ordinary people there was no clean break from the past.

The following is the full version of my script

Transition from Pagan to Christian talk final

And here are the slides as a printable document

Pagan to Christian slides as printable handout

The following podcasts from Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time might be of interest


The Roman Empire’s Collapse