The Sinner of Saint Ambrose Author:Robert Raynolds Selected by the Book of the Month Club. — Raynold's won the Harper's prize for another novel; he was also a friend of Thomas Wolfe. The massive "What Historical Novel Do I Read Next?"found the novel to be convincing in its portrait of the political,social,and domestic details of the end of the Roman Empire in the West. — This "religious stor... more »y" as our "hero" says, is told by a Roman aristocrat,Gregory Julian [born in 373],as he nears the end of his life[c.440s]. He was a politician, soldier, priest,and bishop. "I..sometimes called myself...:The Favorite of Venus, The Sinner of Saint Ambrose, The Murderer of Stilicho, The Outcast of Saint Augustine, or The Betrayer of Rome...symbolized..dramatic phases in my life".
Ambrose,Bishop of Milan when it was headquarters for the Roman armies of the West,was both the great teacher of Saint Augustine and the humbler of the Roman Emperor Theodosius "The Great" whose edicts of intolerance,inspired by Ambrose,probably had much to do with the fatal weakening of the empire.
The narrator is well placed to tell this story of the end of times for: "My father was a zealous Pagan and[his betrothed's]mother was an extreme Christian". Also, our "hero's" first name was given in honor of his mother's mother being related to the great Christian philosopher Gregory of Nazianzus. His last name "Julian" is of that clan which included the famous and infamous last Pagan emperor of Rome[died 363],Julian "The Apostate".
This is a story of the times when the greatest library in the world,in Alexandria,is destroyed by a fire; when the Emperor Theodosius orders all non-Christian and heretical books destroyed; when the Germanic Vandal-Roman general,Stilicho takes over,admirably,in the west until he is falsely accused and murdered by the likes of "our hero" as the Huns[and eventually Attila] ravage the east after the "heretical" Visigoth's, fleeing the Huns are treated badly by the empire and defeat the Romans,killing the Emperor Valens near Constantinople. The Visigoths besiege Rome as the "heretical" Germanic Franks take over in what is now northern France,and the Vandals,Alans,and Sciri move through the Roman provinces into Spain/Portugal and on into the Roman provinces of north Africa. A British revolt ends Roman rule in Britain;and then the Saxons and Angles invade. The female Platonic philosopher Hypatia is skinned alive with oyster shells by a "Christian" mob in Alexandria. Saint Augustine dies within his Vandal-besieged city of Hippo[in today's Algeria]in 430 A.D.« less