Using pagan prose fiction produced in Greek and Latin during the early Christian era, Bowersock investigates the complex relationship among perceived and presented "historical" and "fictional" truths. Bowersock's superb lecturing style is successfully transferred into writing with force and eloquence, as he weaves accounts from a wide range of sources into his text, illuminating social attitudes of the period and persuasively arguing that fiction of the period was influenced by the emerging Christian Gospel narratives.
In the second half of the first century emerges a new kind of fiction including outlandish tales of travel, romance and comic novels. Bowersock concentrates on secular literature, illuminating not only its literary motifs, but also reconstructing the societal context as one engrossed in fabrications and all kinds of revisions or rewriting. Using these less familiar materials as his points of reference, he reads into familiar Christian material, making linkages and casting new light on familiar subjects, as well as providing some provocative interpretations of familiar Christian texts.
Bowersock uses close historical and literary analyses of specific passages of works, and pays attention to larger and more general issues and questions around the relationship between fiction and history and how we read them. This book will be of basic intellectual concern to all raised in the environment of Christian belief.
G. W. Bowersock is Professor of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Among his many books are Roman Arabia (1983) and Hellenism in Late Antiquity (1990).
"Bowersock's fascinating lectures add much to the new perception of the early empire as a time of experiment and cultural cross-fertilization."—Averil Cameron, author of Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire
"An exhilarating exploration of the multicultural world of the Roman empire. . . . Did the Latin and Greek 'novels' (from the comic Satyricon , contemporary with Nero and Paul, onwards through the whole range of romantic narratives) with their exotic locations and dramatic incident, draw on Christian belief in resurrection and the Eucharist? . . . Bowersock dissects the body of the evidence with a skeptical scalpel and magically restores it intact and alive."—Susan Treggiari, author of Roman Marriage: Iusti Coniuges from the Time of Cicero to the Time of Ulpian
"Conceived in admirably broad and imaginative terms and treated with erudition and boldness in equal parts. Fiction as History, controversial as some of its conclusions may seem, opens up a whole new vein in scholarship in this field, and shows that the ancient novel is worth the attention of not only literary scholars but historians as well. A much-needed book."—B. P. Reardon, editor of Collected Ancient Greek Novels