In this history of the late antique period, which appeared earlier in the five-volume series A History of Private Life, Peter Brown shows the slow shift from one form of public community to another--from the ancient city to the Christian church. In the four centuries between Marcus Aurelius (161-180) and Justinian (527-565), the Mediterranean world passed through a series of profound transmutations that affected the rhythms of life, the moral sensibilities, and the sense of the self of the inhabitants of its cities, and of the countryside around them.
[Late Antiquity] is a scintillating essay. Brown brilliantly arranges his intuitions around the central theme of the 'public' classical city being replaced by the internalized Christian city of another, non-secular world. That becomes the central pattern of explanation for changes in attitude to sexuality, and for the development of unprecedented respect for sexual purity as an attribute of nuns, monks and bishops.
Peter Brown is Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Emeritus, at Princeton University.