chapter  3
The Earliest Hospitals in Byzantium, Western Europe, and Islam
ByPeregrine Horden
Pages 28

What difference did hospitals make? A question of that form has a distinguished pedigree in late antique studies. E. A. Judge reported in 1980: ‘when I once told A. H. M. Jones that I wanted to find out what difference it made to Rome to have been converted [to Christianity], he said he already knew the answer: None.’ In 1986 Ramsey MacMullen published a more open-minded enquiry into the possible impact of the newly established religion on fourth-century changes in secular life. He took as his title ‘What Difference Did Christianity Make?’ My appropriation of MacMullen’s phrasing pays oblique homage – not only to him, but to Peter Brown, who has taught us that it may not be the appropriate question to ask of the period. The implied imagery of Christianity as a single powerful tide progressively sweeping away the vestiges of paganism, and thus effecting a distinct and measurable difference, owes too much to the primary-colored triumphalist narrative of Christianization bequeathed to us by fifth-century historians. It does not reflect the complex grisaille of the actual religious history of the fourth and fifth centuries. 1