During the fourth century, the Roman Empire was transformed from a place full of gods, cults, temples and rituals into a Christian state. This transition has often been described as a rapid and violent process, with bands of zealous monks tearing down false idols, powerful bishops holding sway over the emperors, and many of the empire’s inhabitants forced to convert.

In fact, as David Walsh will discuss in this talk, the reality behind this image was more complex, for while clashes between Christians and pagans did occur there were also important long-term developments in Greco-Roman ‘paganism’ that brought about significant changes in attitudes towards rituals and temples. David will also explore how for many conversion to Christianity did not mean leaving the old ways behind, but rather led to a melding of traditional Roman religious practices and their new faith – proving once again that old habits die hard.   

Dr David Walsh works for Canterbury Archaeological Trust and is an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of Kent, where he taught Classical and Archaeological Studies for three years. He also undertook his PhD at Kent, which looked at the development and demise of the Mithras Cult in third to fifth centuries AD. David’s thesis was published as a monograph in 2018, and he has also written various articles on temples in the Roman Empire, as well as hosting a podcast ‘Coffee and Circuses’ in which he discusses with guests their work on the ancient world.

Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com