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Wow, talk about decadence. Just finished Anthony Burgess' Kingdom of the Wicked, about the Roman Empire during the first years of Christianity. (To give myself extra immersion, I also watched the old Masterpiece Theatre series I, Claudius in my spare time -- Patrick Stewart as a Very Sexy Evil Guy with hair!! Mr Ollivander as mad emperor Caligula!! Squee!! -- and tried to think in Latin. I am apparently a method reader.)

Anyhoo, the book was great fun. The history of Christianity as told by...perhaps P. J. O'Rourke? Or Bill Bryson? Here's a sample, about Paul and his efforts to convert the men of Ephesus, a hotbed of goddess worship. The craftsmen who make the little icons of Diana/Artemis are none too pleased with this idea:

So Demetrius and some of his fellow craftsmen held a meeting in Demetrius' workshop the following morning. This was a large shed full of fires, where some men poured molten metal into moulds and others cracked cold moulds open to reveal the smirking godlingess. Demetrius said:

"Look, friends, this is our trade. This is how we make our money."

"In your instance, a lot of money."

Demetrius ignored that. "We're all involved in the worship of the goddess, blessed be her holy name and sacred influence. This man Paul is telling everybody that there's no such thing as gods made by hand. Before we know where we are he'll have the damned temple pulled down and the traffic stopped."


"You know what I mean. The holy pilgrimages from all over Greece and Asia. This is our bread, friends."

"He's blaspheming against precious metal. So we --?"

"Stop him."

Thus it was that Paul and some of his fellow Christians were dragged to the Ephesian temple by the militant guild of silversmiths, aided by a rabble that did not need to be hired, for the gratuitous manhandling of foreigners is always both a virtue and a pleasure in provincial towns where, anyway, there is little to do in the evenings. Silas, fearful in the ruddy flare of the torches, seeing the mound of the goddess' huge belly threatening twenty feet above his eyes, panicked in the belief that they were to be sacrificed to her, Christian blood to be smeared laboriously over her polymastic or multimammial rotundity. He began to hit out...The mob, always suggestible, hit out too in the same directions, and one brawny lad shouted to Paul, "That's right, give to these impious Cretans or whatever they do be called!"

Heeeee. It's all (so far as I can tell) accurate historically in terms of events, but the dialog and attitudes were great fun. Not that Paul and the rest of the apostles aren't sincere, just that they're a bit muddle-headed; for example, everyone's puzzled when Paul starts to get suspicious of women (heh, go figure).

So next I'm going to tackle Gore Vidal's Julian, a historical novel about the Emperor Julian's changes to Christianity some 300 years later. With all this Roman stuff I feel I should be nibbling grape leaves. I have drunk a lot of wine lately, does that count?



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