Art: Between Olympus and Golgotha

Early Christian art reflects struggle of the old gods with the new

One of the great dramas of history was enacted between the 3rd and 7th centuries A.D.: the slow collapse of Rome, the fading of its empire and, with it, the death of the classical world. The age of Christianity was officially brought to term when the Emperor Constantine formally embraced the new faith and in A.D. 324-330 moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople. But across the still vast spread of the imperial territories, which ran from the Euphrates to Gibraltar, there was no clean break with the old religions....

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