The Church and the Roman Empire (AD 301–490)

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

This is the first book published in a new series, Reclaiming Catholic History, though it is the second book in the series. The series is being edited by Mike Aquilina and this first published volume is by him as well. About this series we are told:

“The history of the Catholic Church is often clouded by myth, misinformation, and missing pieces. Today there is a renewed interest in recovering the true history of the Church, correcting the record in the wake of centuries of half-truths and noble lies. Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History series, edited by Mike Aquilina and written by leading authors and historians, bring Church history to life, debunking the myths one era at a time.”

And if the others are nearly as good we are in for 7 excellent volumes. I could hardly put this book down. I spent the better part of 25 years in university, bouncing around schools, and disciplines. I did religious studies courses at both Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and at The University of Waterloo. I graduated with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought. I know this series is being written for a general readership, but I would have loved to have had this book as part of required or recommended reading for a first-year course. The book ends with these words form Mike:

“Since this book is aimed at a nonacademic audience, I’ve tried to keep my citations very simple. The original translations can easily be found at the sites mentioned above. I hope many readers will be inspired to pursue the texts and read the original translations in context.”

But I really believe it would be an excellent course book. But it is written in such a way that any Catholic, any Christian or anyone interested in the history could pick it up and read it with ease. It is not just easy to read it is very engaging. I know much of the history but Aquilina brought it to life in a new way. I was surprised a few times, and laughed more than once. 

The sections in the book are:

Introduction
The Underground
The Revolution
Nicaea
The Empire Christianized
Pope Constantius
The Counterrevolution
The Christian Empire and Beyond
A Tale of Two Bishops
An Age of Titans
Decline and Fall
A Lamp in the Twilight
The End
Acknowledgments
Notes

But each chapter also has two extra sections, Up Close and Personal and You Be The Judge. These sections can appear anywhere in the chapter. The first tends to focus on people, and the second on myths or opinions. 

The book was educational, entertaining, and very enjoyable. It is one of those books I would love to put in the hands of friends and family. And with Mike as the editor of the series I am sure the subsequent volumes will be just as good. It was a wonderful read, and I am already waiting in eager anticipation for the next volume in the series!
Was this review helpful?
As someone who is a beginner to Church history, this series has been an exciting eye-opener. I’ve often heard of various heresies and subsequent ecumenical councils that were convened to clear them up, but it was difficult to keep all of them straight. “The Church and the Roman Empire” lays everything out in easy to understand language with a dramatic flair. There is nothing dry about this series.

“The Church and the Roman Empire (301–490): Constantine, Councils, and the Fall of Rome” by Mike Aquilina is the 2nd book in the Reclaiming Catholic History series. At least I think it is since chronologically it comes after “The Early Church (33–313): St. Peter, the Apostles, and Martyr.”  “The Church and the Roman Empire” was published first, however and is available now!

In “The Church and the Roman Empire” we also meet Constantine and the Roman rulers and Bishops that followed. From the time Christianity was legalized we take many historical twists and turns to the fall of Rome. I enjoyed learning about the personalities of historical figures as well as the ways in which they affected history.

The book moves at a brisk pace which keeps things exciting. Yet the author offers enough information to give us what we need to know. I enjoyed the chronological telling of this series, but the books could certainly be read out of order. They can easily stand alone. Anyone who enjoys history will enjoy “The Church and the Roman Empire.” 

Thank you to NetGalley and Ave Maria Press for providing me with ARC of “The Church and the Roman Empire” in exchange for an honest review.”
Was this review helpful?
This is a simply-written but lively history which dispels many myths about the early Christians, and includes lots of interesting characters and saints, such as Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine.  Aquilina explains the fight between true Christianity and heresies, such as Arianism, and gives a clear account of the several councils.  He tells the history as if it is a story, at times, making the different characters have conversations.



One myth concerns transubstantiation. According to Aquilina, the early Christians all believed in the Real Presence, and there were no arguments against it.  I found this especially interesting.



This book isn't like a textbook at all, and I will be keen to read the rest of the series, and more about some of the famous Christians mentioned in the book.



I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
What a timely book! In our present epoch we desperately need an understanding of Church history to help us navigate the challenges that face an increasingly divided and evolving Catholic Church. This book covers the period during which the Church moved from the persecuted to the establishment with all the challenges connected to that change. (The exact opposite may be happening today in the West!) It also investigates the controversy of the Arian heresy—how it rocked the Braque of Peter and how orthodoxy weathered the storm. Yet this is no dry retelling of the facts. Aquilina’s style is engaging and the book’s format inviting. I particularly appreciate the focus on the individuals who were history makers, and Aquilina presents them as multi-dimensional figures with whom we can relate. I give this book a well deserved five stars.
Was this review helpful?
This book is an easy and entertaining read.  It is a great introduction to this period of history.   Mike Aquilina expertly weaves together historical stories in an engaging way.  It was a hard book to put down, being full of life and action.  The Catholic author has clear opinions on many of the events and topics this book covers.  In saying this, as  a Protestant reader I found this short book interesting and informative.
Was this review helpful?
The Church and the Roman Empire is written for the average person. The style is breezy and conversational. It's a great book for someone looking to better understand how the Church found its way through the persecutions, political intrigues, and heresies of the 4th and 5th Centuries. The presentation includes bits of storytelling, humor, and a number of sidebars on subjects ranging from pilgrimages to the papacy. It's a quick read that succinctly, but effectively, brings to life the major players of the period - Arius, Donatus, Nestorius, Athanasius, Constantine, etc. I quite liked it.
Was this review helpful?
The author displays his deep knowledge of the history of the early Christian church and the Mediterranean cultures among which it struggled to develop. His style, however, is familiar and easy to read. I found myself newly at home with the major figures of that time, and with the theological disputes that shaped their lives; I will never forget again who the two Eusebius were, how they related to Athanasius and the Alexandria and Constantinople churches and to Arius and his followers.
Then intruded the emperors, with all their quirks, meddled in the important Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople. The Arians especially are relevant to our times, as they promoted a watered-down Christ to recently-converted pagans; the legalization of Christianity and declaration of freedom of religion by Constantine made it fashionable to self-identify with Christianity without much real piety or understanding, so they grew rapidly for a time and caused much chaos. We can feel right at home with these stories, so vividly retold here.
Was this review helpful?
... a very interesting book about the Roman Empire -  fascinating.and well written. I live in a city where you can find a lot of Roman stuff, everywhere you dig there are Romans =) I discovered a few new things and I liked to read it. Highly recommended!

Note 2 or A-
Was this review helpful?
For being a relatively short book, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth found here. The author made this book enjoyable to read. It is not just another boring history of the church, as so many books are. This one gives you an insider's view on the history of those involved in making decisions for the church, the ensuing differences of opinion and lets you feel like you are part of the action, getting into the heads of the major players. 

This book is factual, and yet the author still found a way to make it amusing. It would be good for people just learning the history of the church, but also as entertainment for those who already know the basic facts. I'm always happy when an author finds a way to make history exciting and this book definitely falls into that category. 

Recommended. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
An interesting book, well written and fascinating.
I think that the last centuries of the Roman Empire are fascinating and this well researched book helped me to discover some new details.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Was this review helpful?
A very readable history from shortly before Constantine to shortly after the fall of the Western Empire. The period is important in Church history because so much happened. Because of heretics, dogmas were defined. Because of St. Jerome, the Bible was translated into Latin and it's still used today. Some of our greatest saints lived, preached, and wrote during this period.

Aquilina writes concisely and clearly without neglecting important topics and with an eye for telling detail and a bit of humor. This book, which succeeds in telling this history clearly, is free of charged language and presents a Catholic but fair version of events.

It's an excellent introduction to the period and a fine addition to the series.
Was this review helpful?