Coming Out Christian in the Roman World (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2015).

Available from amazon.com

Amid all the stories of catastrophic collapse and urban ruin that accompany tales about the “Fall of Rome,” we often forget one important fact: Life in Rome never came to a dramatic stop. Instead, a small movement rose to such prominence that we still see its pervasive, even dominating presence today. This group transformed society — politically, religiously and culturally. But it was a gradual process, until eventually even the Roman emperor “converted” to their side. Who were they? They were Christians. How did they do it?

Some people believe martyrdom led to the “triumph of the Church” or that Christians eventually succeeded in evangelizing Rome.  This book offers a different explanation. It shows how many people in the Roman Empire could be both Christian and Roman at the same time. Over the course of centuries, their small acts of creative compromise led to new legal rights and greater social visibility, so much so that the “triumph of Christianity” had little to do with the wholesale conversion of Rome. Their story is still relevant today, as is what happened next.

Drawing upon the author's new research into the world of "pagans" and Christians, it shows how the fractious social wrangling that has characterized Christianity from its inception (“How do we live as Christians in the world around us?”) would soon polarize Rome’s minority Christian community irrevocably — and change the Roman Empire for everyone else.

Ostia in Late Antiquity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Available from amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Ostia Antica--Rome's ancient harbor. Its houses and apartments, taverns and baths, warehouses, shops and temples have long contributed to a picture of daily life in Rome. Recent investigations have revealed, however, that life at Ostia did not end with a bang but with a whimper. Only on the cusp of the Middle Ages did the town's residents entrench themselves in a smaller settlement outside the walls. What can this new evidence tell us about life in the later Roman Empire, as society navigated an increasingly Christian world? Ostia in Late Antiquity, the first academic study on Ostia to appear in English in almost 20 years and the first to treat the Late Antique period, tackles the dynamics of this transformative time. Drawing upon new archaeological research, and incorporating both material and textual sources, it presents a social history of the town from the third through ninth century. None of this research would have come to fruition without the support and the cooperation of the Italian government and the archaeological community at Ostia, the University of Texas at Austin, the Department of Classics at UT-Austin and the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins

Blogs and Letters

Religious Dirt
(The Intersection of History, Politics and Religion)

"Bound by Books," Letter to the Editor, New York Times Sunday Book Review, September 19, 2011. (In response to Lev Grossman's "From Scroll to Screen," September 4, 2011).

On the Same Latitude as Cairo
(Life in Austin, TX, Except When I'm Not There)
This blog ran from 2007-12.

The Public Augustine

(A Conversation on the World of St. Augustine)

Memoria Romana: Functions of Roman Memory
(Graduate Student/Junior Faculty Conference, 16-18 April 2010, Austin, TX)

The Ostia Synagogue Area Project (OSMAP-UT Austin)
Recent news from the field and the labs at Ostia.