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Alexandria in Late Antiquity

Topography and Social Conflict

Christopher Haas

Publication Year: 1996

Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity's most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians—among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria's bustling urban milieu. Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria's neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city's religious and ethnic blocs—Jews, pagans, and Christians—he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups' struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed—a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other. Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration—a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Ancient Society and History

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. xvii-xviii

...kindness and wisdom of a number of individuals. They have gener ously contributed to this project, either by commenting on portions of it or by steering me toward further avenues of inquiry: Roger Bagnall, Robert Btanchi, Peter Brown, Alan Cameron, Michael Carr, son, Zsolt Kiss, Ludwig Koenen, Jean Marc Lepillez, Adele Linden-...

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One: Introduction

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pp. 5-18

Justinian was furious. For nearly ten years he had promoted careful administrative reforms in the empire's provinces. Yet one region in his vast domain still seemed to ignore the emperor's directives. Even though the allimportant tax revenues continued to flow uninterruptedly...

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Two: The Urban Setting

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pp. 19-44

Throughout the autumn and spring of 2 9 7 / 9 8 , the anxious inhabitants of Alexandria looked out from their eastern walls onto the standards and tents of Diocletian's siege camp. The emperor, on his part, was attempting to crush a rebellion in Egypt which...

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Three: The Social World

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pp. 45-90

Alexandria's prosperity during late antiquity resulted from its role as an important center of production and international trade. As a consequence, the city was able to sustain a population which could rival that of the Urbs Aetema, and surpass that of many...

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Four: The Jewish Community

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pp. 91-127

After five centuries of periodic conflict, tensions between Alexandrian Jews and Gentiles reached a violent climax in late 414/early 415. Beginning with a disturbance in the theater, a spiral, of threats and intimidation escalated until, one night, a group of Alexandrian Jews set upon their Christian neighbors in a street...

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Five: The Pagan Community

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pp. 128-172

By the 480s, the Roman Empire in the west was breaking up into the barbarian kingdoms of the early Middle Ages, In Gaul, Clovis had become king of the Salian Franks. In Italy, the boy-emperor Romulus Augustulus had been deposed by Odovacer at Ravenna, Both Cassiodorus and Boeihius...

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Six: The Christian Community: The Interior Landscape and the Civic Landscape

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pp. 173-214

A popular Alexandrian story of the early seventh century told of two men who had been convicted of murder. The older of the two had implicated the younger one. They were led off to execution by the prefect's guard to a place outside the city, near a ruined temple of the god Kronos....

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Seven: The Inner Life of the Christian Community: Clergy and People

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pp. 215-244

The services marking Holy Week in Alexandria must have been noisy, crowded affairs. To handle the throng of worshipers and encourage their quiet attention during the service, the deacons separated themselves into two groups. One group acted as ushers and discreetly removed crying infants and talkative adults. Another group remained at the door of the nave, ready to assist the doorkeepers at the outer door of the church in case the press of the...

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Eight: Community and Factionalism in the Christian Community

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pp. 245-277

There is no doubt that Peter Is refusal to sit upon the patriarchal throne was the source of considerable consternation among the Alexandrian laity. Wh was Peter so resistant to the will of the people? In this instance, the vox populi ran up against the...

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Nine: Intercommunal Conflict During Late Antiquity

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pp. 278-330

The people [demos] in general are an inflammable material, and allow very trivial pretexts to foment the flame of commotion, and not. in th least degree that of Alexandria, which presumes on its numbers— chiefly an obscure and promiscuous rabble—and vaunts forth its im pulses, with excessive audacity. Accordingly, it is said that everyone who...

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Ten: Conclusions

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pp. 331-336

Intercommunal relations in Alexandria had passed through several distinct phases prior to Diocletian's capture of the city in 298. During the early Roman period, tensions remained high between the dominant pagan majority and Alexandria's sizable Jewish community. Although the Romans were able to maintain...

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Eleven: Epilogue: From Roman Alexandria to Islamic Al-Iskandariyyah

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pp. 337-352

In the parish of Segny [a small town ol sixth-century Gaul], a certain girl of high rank in the world was seized upon by a cruel demon; she was not only shut up in a convent but even bound with iron chains. When many people, in the usual attempts to cure her, twined formulas of exorcism round her neck (the authors [of these formulas] being personally unknown...


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pp. 353-354


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pp. 355-358


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pp. 359-482


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pp. 483-494

E-ISBN-13: 9780801870330
E-ISBN-10: 080187033X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885419
Print-ISBN-10: 0801885418

Page Count: 520
Illustrations: 38 illus.
Publication Year: 1996

Series Title: Ancient Society and History