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K. Hopkins, 69; Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge

March 16, 2004|From Associated Press

LONDON — Keith Hopkins, a historian who brought an innovative sociological approach to the study of ancient Rome, has died, his college said Monday. He was 69.

Hopkins died of cancer March 8 in Cambridge, eastern England, where he was emeritus professor of ancient history at Cambridge University.

Born in London in 1934, Morris Keith Hopkins studied classics at King's College, Cambridge, then taught sociology at Leicester University, the London School of Economics, the University of Hong Kong and Brunel University before returning to King's College in 1985.

There he brought his background in sociology to the study of ancient history. Books such as "Conquerors and Slaves" and "Death and Renewal" used sociological techniques, including the study of patterns of behavior and demographic and economic models, in a bid, Hopkins wrote, "to reveal how Romans thought."

"A World Full of Gods," a study of the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, used elements of fiction and reportage to bring the ancient world to life. In the book, Hopkins depicted ancient Pompeii through the eyes of two 21st-century time travelers and scripted a mock television docudrama about a 2,000-year-old Jewish sect.

Hopkins' unorthodox approach had its critics as well as fans.

In response to criticism, he wrote that "to re-experience the thoughts, feelings, practices, and images of religious life in the Roman Empire, in which orthodox Christianity emerged in all its vibrant variety, we have to combine ancient perceptions, however partial, with modern understandings, however misleading."

Hopkins is survived by his wife, Jennifer, three daughters and two sons.

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