John Henry Newman’s engagement with classical antiquity is one of the less fully researched areas of his work. An examination of Newman’s shifting relationship with the classics sheds valuable light both on his own religious concerns and on broader tensions and trends in Victorian Christian culture. This article initiates three lines of inquiry. First, it examines, one by one, several distinct and competing conceptions of classical pagan antiquity which Newman employed in his writings. Second, it considers Newman’s views on the continuing practical application of classical literature and learning. Third, it looks specifically at the novel Callista, the only book that Newman wrote which is set wholly against the backdrop of the pagan Graeco-Roman world. It may be seen that Newman’s relationship with the classics forms a microcosm of how Victorian Christian society struggled by turns to align itself with and to distance itself from differing visions of classicism and paganism. His works exemplify the diverse ways in which his culture could praise and criticise the classical world.