Peter Brown

Irish historian (1935- )

Peter Robert Lamont Brown (C.E.1935 – living), Irish historian and academic.

Peter Brown in 2011

Peter Brown Quotes:


The late ancient world:

  • The «Hellenes» amaze us because, although open to the spiritual disturbances of their age, they turned to ancient methods to find a solution to the anxieties of the present. Their placid faith in a tradition stemming from Plato and continually evolving was perhaps the most reassuring aspect of late ancient civilization. In fact, many classical and enlightened societies had collapsed under the weight of their own traditionalism, leaving immediate successors only a memory of anxieties and nightmares. If this did not happen in the Roman Empire, it was largely due to the "Hellenic Renaissance" and the dialogue between its proponents and the new Christian aristocratic intellectuals. (Part 1, chapter II, pp. 56-57)
  • Plotinus he had attempted to deepen his knowledge of the exotic philosophy of the Persians and Indians. Only later in life did he indulge, with ever greater tranquility, in Plato's ancient dialectics. The appeal of his writings comes from being the work of a troubled and anxious man who found his way through harsh, rational discipline and achieved calm and clarity in adulthood. (Part 1, chapter II, p. 57)
  • Having supported the relationship between the visible and the invisible, between the inexpressible internal world and its significant manifestation in the external world, having asserted that the soul was able to give meaning to natural things: this was the service rendered by Plotinus to his contemporaries and successors. (Part One, chapter II, p. 59)
  • [...] the model of Charlemagne's renewed Roman empire was not Augustus, but Justinian, the devout Catholic depicted in the mosaics of San Vitale. Justinian was the direct, if inadvertent, ancestor of the idea that a "Christian republic", a Holy Roman Empire, would always exist in Western Europe to serve the interests of the papacy and to ensure the libertas of the Catholic church . (Part 2, chapter I, p. 108)
  • 800 miles south of the Byzantine frontier, in Mecca, a city of the Hejaz, a middle-aged man, after a mediocre career as a merchant, began wandering disconsolately among the sinister hills outside the city. In C.E.610, this man, Muhammad, began to have visions. He narrated these visions in metrical form and constituted his Qur'an, "recitation". Strengthened by these experiences he gathered a community around himself: the Umma, the "people of Allah". Within twenty years Muhammad and his Umma had established themselves as rulers of Mecca and nearby Medina, and as the main party of the Arabian Peninsula. (Part 2, chapter III, p. 155)

Secularism, postmodern mythology; from the interview with Lorenzo Fazzini,, October 10, C.E.2009.

  • We Europeans have guiltily built the fracture between Europe and Islam, while instead the roots of these two worlds have been intertwined for a millennium.
  • We must candidly admit that we have created a 'dark age' to feel superior to the past.
  • The "golden age" is the exception, normal history is "grey".
  • Benedict XVI is right when he says that the West has "become Christian". The equation "Christian=Western", historically, is blasphemy.


  • Peter Brown, The Late Antique World. From Marcus Aurelius to Mohammed (The World of Late Antiquity. From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad), translation by Maria Vittoria Malvano, Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, Turin, C.E.1974. ISBN 88-06- 38901-7

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