Must Historians Count?
To provide an informed context for the study of a society, it is generally recognized that numbers are important, and efforts have been made to establish the population of the Roman Empire by various demographic methods. It is an entirely different matter to try to determine the proportion of a subgroup in the empire, such as Jews or Christians. This chapter discusses the need for numbers, the adequacy of definitions for terms such as “pagan,” “Jew,” and “Christian,” and whether the category of religion is a meaningful one for making distinctions among these groups in the Roman Empire, as well as the validity of the Christian effort to reduce the considerable diversity and variety of Greco-Roman religious sensibilities into one common, undifferentiated mass.
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