DepositMonks and Empire: Asceticism and Political Disengagement in Late Antiquity

Unlike other modes of Christianity in late antiquity, monks and nuns in the eastern part of the Roman Empire practiced a careful disengagement from imperial politics. While political figures tried to draw monks into their spheres of influence and use their popular power for political ends, monks practiced political renunciation in almost all instances. The only exceptions occurred when something interfered with their ability to practice asceticism; in those instances, monks viewed politics as a tool to ensure their freedom. This disengagement mirrors monastic reluctance to become involved in ecclesiastical politics, and is part of the impetus to retreat in late antique monasticism. The Roman Empire was the location of ascetic practice, not the proper concern of Christian monks.

DepositAn Intertextual Journey in Prudentius, Peristephanon 9

This paper investigates the influence of the Aeneid on the ninth poem of Prudentius’ Peristephanon. In the poem, Prudentius is on his way to Rome when he discovers the tomb of St Cassian, and an account of the saint’s passion follows. The framing narrative employs some of the conventions of pilgrimage literature, while the poem as a whole contains allusions to Vergil’s Aeneid, and I argue that through these allusions Prudentius models his journey to Rome on the travels of Aeneas. This can be seen as part of Prudentius’ larger project to map Christian sites of interest onto the Roman empire.

Deposit‘The Most Beautiful Jewesses in the Land’: Imperial Travel in the Early Christian Holy Land

This essay examines the ways in which Jews were encoded into the holy land travel literature of the Christian Roman Empire (fourth through sixth centuries) as a means of naturalising and authenticating new modes of Christian, imperial power. Postcolonial criticism is used to analyse pilgrimage texts of the holy land (the Bordeaux pilgrim, Egeria, the Piacenza pilgrim) in order to explore various modes of constructing imperial Christian identity through use of the ‘figural Jew’ of ancient Palestine.

Deposit‘What Has Rome to do with Bethlehem?’ Cultural Capital(s) and Religious Imperialism in Late Ancient Christianity

The re-evaluation of classical education (paideia) recurred throughout the Roman period, reaching a particularly fevered pitch during the late fourth century, as the empire became Christian. The political consequences of Christian learning become particularly clear in the debate between two learned, Latin-speaking Christians who translated Greek works: Jerome and Rufinus. In the course of their acrimonious conflict over the theological legacy of Origen, these two prominent intellectuals resorted to name-calling: Jerome accused Rufinus of being unlearned, and Rufinus claimed that Jerome’s erudition signalled impiety. These accusations over education, culture, and linguistic expertise convey a deeper anxiety over the nature of knowledge and power at the dawn of the Christian Roman Empire. To what extent can Christians appropriate and transform the knowledge of ‘others’? When is translation an act of piety and when it is an act of hubris? What kinds of cultural capital will be valued in a newly Christian world, where classical paideia is valued and held suspect at the same time?

MemberChristian Oertel

I am a medieval historian working preferably on the peripheries of medieval latin Europe (Scandinavia, Central Europe). I have written my PhD thesis on the cult and veneration of St Erik of Sweden following his way from a local saint around Uppsala in the late 12th century to the royal patron of the Swedish realm in the 15th. For my PostDoc project I turned to late medieval Bohemia and am currently working on the ruling praxis of Wenceslaus IV (“the Lazy”) during the last decade before his dethronement as king of the Holy Roman Empire.

DepositFrom Constantinople to the Frontier: The City and the Cities

From Constantinople to the Frontier: The City and the Cities provides twenty-five articles addressing the concept of centres and peripheries in the late antique and Byzantine worlds, focusing specifically on urban aspects of this paradigm. Spanning from the fourth to thirteenth centuries, and ranging from the later Roman empires to the early Caliphate and medieval New Rome, the chapters reveal the range of factors involved in the dialectic between City, cities, and frontier. Including contributions on political, social, literary, and artistic history, and covering geographical areas throughout the central and eastern Mediterranean, this volume provides a kaleidoscopic view of how human actions and relationships worked with, within, and between urban spaces and the periphery, and how these spaces and relationships were themselves ideologically constructed and understood.