Any consideration of the processes and progress of conversion in late antiquity needs to start by considering the framework within which the term ‘late antiquity’ is currently understood. The following contribution (which concentrates on Christianity) thus falls into three parts – first, observations about ‘late antiquity’, next, comments on various issues surrounding the topic of conversion, and finally some thoughts on methodology. Since I am not an Islamicist, I cannot offer here the comparativist approach that is surely now needed more than ever before, except to urge the desirability of a parallel assessment dealing with the topic of conversion to Islam in the early period of its existence in the light of the many recent additions to the scholarship on both Christians and Islam in the early period. To return to the theme of Christian conversion, or what is often termed the ‘Christianization’ of the Roman empire, here too the parameters have dramatically shifted since the classic studies of earlier scholars such as Adolf Harnack.1 Not only has there been an explosion in the very field of ‘late antiquity’, with an emphasis on religion and the various forms of religious expression; there has also been a corresponding increase in the attention paid to both Judaism and paganism (or polytheism) in late antiquity, with profoundly differing views being expressed. Within the sphere of the study of Christianity itself in late antiquity, a very marked ‘turn to the east’, to embrace both west and east Syrian Christianities, has been accompanied by greatly increased interest in the proceedings, management and reception of major and minor church councils and the theological splits and rivalries of the fifth to seventh centuries,2 as well as a revisionist understanding of the working of law, including religious

1 See below, n. 23, with Jan N. Bremmer, The Rise of Christianity through the Eyes of Gibbon, Harnack and Stark, Valedictory Lecture (Groningen, 2010).