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In this provocative book Éric Rebillard challenges many long-held assumptions about early Christian burial customs. For decades scholars of early Christianity have argued that the Church owned and operated burial grounds for Christians as early as the third century. Through a careful reading of primary sources including legal codes, theological works, epigraphical inscriptions, and sermons, Rebillard shows that there is little evidence to suggest that Christians occupied exclusive or isolated burial grounds in this early period.
In fact, as late as the fourth and fifth centuries the Church did not impose on the faithful specific rituals for laying the dead to rest. In the preparation of Christians for burial, it was usually next of kin and not representatives of the Church who were responsible for what form of rite would be celebrated, and evidence from inscriptions and tombstones shows that for the most part Christians didn't separate themselves from non-Christians when burying their dead. According to Rebillard it would not be until the early Middle Ages that the Church gained control over burial practices and that "Christian cemeteries" became common.
In this translation of Religion et Sépulture: L'église, les vivants et les morts dans l'Antiquité tardive, Rebillard fundamentally changes our understanding of early Christianity. The Care of the Dead in Late Antiquity will force scholars of the period to rethink their assumptions about early Christians as separate from their pagan contemporaries in daily life and ritual practice.
Much of the modern world's knowledge of criminal court trials in the Late Roman Republic derives from the orations of Cicero. His eleven court trial speeches have provided information about the trials and the practices of the time period. Records of the prosecution's case are lost; these speeches, our only transcripts of the time, were delivered by the defense. The Case for the Prosecution in the Ciceronian Era attempts to restore the judicial balance by depicting the lost side of the trial. Guided by Cicero's argument, Michael C. Alexander recreates the prosecution's case against the defendants in the trials. Organized into eleven chapters, each detailing one trial, the core of the work discusses the different dimensions of each trial, the circumstances surrounding the cases, those involved, the legal charges and allegations made by the prosecution, the ways in which the prosecution might have countered Cicero's rebuttal and the outcome. There is also a discussion concerning particular problems the prosecution may have faced in preparing for the trial. This book reveals strong points in favor of the prosecution; justifies the hope of the prosecutor, a private citizen who had volunteered to undertake the case; and asks why the prosecutors believed they would come out victorious, and why they eventually failed. The Case for the Prosecution in the Ciceronian Era draws on ancient rhetorical theory and on Roman law to shed light on these events. It will interest historians and classicists interested in Ciceronian oratory and those intrigued by legal history. Michael C. Alexander is Associate Professor of History, University of Illinois, Chicago.
Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks
Though Greece is traditionally seen as an agrarian society, cattle were essential to Greek communal life, through religious sacrifice and dietary consumption. Cattle were also pivotal in mythology: gods and heroes stole cattle, expected sacrifices of cattle, and punished those who failed to provide them. The Cattle of the Sun ranges over a wealth of sources, both textual and archaeological, to explore why these animals mattered to the Greeks, how they came to be a key element in Greek thought and behavior, and how the Greeks exploited the symbolic value of cattle as a way of structuring social and economic relations.
Jeremy McInerney explains that cattle's importance began with domestication and pastoralism: cattle were nurtured, bred, killed, and eaten. Practically useful and symbolically potent, cattle became social capital to be exchanged, offered to the gods, or consumed collectively. This circulation of cattle wealth structured Greek society, since dedication to the gods, sacrifice, and feasting constituted the most basic institutions of Greek life. McInerney shows that cattle contributed to the growth of sanctuaries in the Greek city-states, as well as to changes in the economic practices of the Greeks, from the Iron Age through the classical period, as a monetized, market economy developed from an earlier economy of barter and exchange.
Combining a broad theoretical approach with a careful reading of sources, The Cattle of the Sun illustrates the significant position that cattle held in the culture and experiences of the Greeks.
Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.
Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being
In Centaurs and Amazons, Page duBois offers a prehistory of hierarchy. Using structural anthropology, symbolic analysis, and recent literary theory, she demonstrates a shift in Greek thought from the fifth to the fourth century B.C. that had a profound influence upon subsequent Western culture and politics. Through an analysis of mythology, drama, sculpture, architecture, and Greek vase painting, duBois documents the transition from a system of thought that organized the experience of difference in terms of polarity and analogy to one based upon a relatively rigid hierarchical scheme. This was the beginning of "the great chain of being," the philosophical construct that all life was organized in minute gradations of superiority and inferiority. This scheme, in various guises, has continued to influence philosophical and political thought. The author's intelligent and discriminating use of scholarship from various fields makes Centaurs and Amazons an impressive interdisciplinary study of interest to classicists, feminist scholars, historians, art historians, anthropologists, and political scientists.
Performing Politics in Rome between Republic and Empire
In Ceremony and Power, Geoffrey Sumi is concerned with the relationship between political power and public ceremonial in the Roman Republic, with particular focus on the critical months following Ceasar's assassination and later as Augustus became the first emperor of Rome. The book traces the use of a variety of public ceremonies, including assemblies of the people, triumphs, funerals, and games, as a means for politicians in this period of instability and transition to shape their public images and consolidate their power and prestige. Ultimately, Sumi shows that the will of the people, whether they were the electorate assembled at the comitia, the citizen body at the contio, the spectators at the theater, the crowd at the triumph, or mourners at a funeral, strongly influenced the decisions and actions of Roman aristocrats.
An Augustan Age in China
During the last two centuries BCE, the Western Han capital of Chang'an, near today's Xi'an in northwest China, outshone Augustan Rome in several ways while administering comparable numbers of imperial subjects and equally vast territories. At its grandest, during the last fifty years or so before the collapse of the dynasty in 9 CE, Chang’an boasted imperial libraries with thousands of documents on bamboo and silk in a city nearly three times the size of Rome and nearly four times larger than Alexandria. Many reforms instituted in this capital in ate Western Han substantially shaped not only the institutions of the Eastern Han (25–220 CE) but also the rest of imperial China until 1911. Although thousands of studies document imperial Rome’s glory, until now no book-length work in a Western language has been devoted to Han Chang’an, the reign of Emperor Chengdi (whose accomplishments rival those of Augustus and Hadrian), or the city's impressive library project (26-6 BCE), which ultimately produced the first state-sponsored versions of many of the classics and masterworks that we hold in our hands today. Chang’an 26 bce addresses this deficiency, using as a focal point the reign of Emperor Chengdi (r. 33–7 bce), specifically the year in which the imperial library project began. This in-depth survey by some of the world’s best scholars, Chinese and Western, explores the built environment, sociopolitical transformations, and leading figures of Chang’an, making a strong case for the revision of historical assumptions about the two Han dynasties. A multidisciplinary volume representing a wealth of scholarly perspectives, the book draws on the established historical record and recent archaeological discoveries of thousands of tombs, building foundations, and remnants of walls and gates from Chang’an and its surrounding area.
Mathematics, Astronomy, and the Early History of Eclipse Reckoning
Lunar and solar eclipses have always fascinated human beings. Digging deep into history, Clemency Montelle examines the ways in which theoretical understanding of eclipses originated and how ancient and medieval cultures shared, developed, and preserved their knowledge of these awe-inspiring events. Eclipses were the celestial phenomena most challenging to understand in the ancient world. Montelle draws on original research—much of it derived from reading primary source material written in Akkadian and Sanskrit, as well as ancient Greek, Latin, and Arabic—to explore how observers in Babylon, the Islamic Near East, Greece, and India developed new astronomical and mathematical techniques to predict and describe the features of eclipses. She identifies the profound scientific discoveries of these four cultures and discusses how the societies exchanged information about eclipses. In constructing this history, Montelle establishes a clear pattern of the transmission of scientific ideas from one culture to another in the ancient and medieval world. Chasing Shadows is an invitingly written and highly informative exploration of the early history of astronomy.
In Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity, Jeremy M. Schott examines the ways in which conflicts between Christian and pagan intellectuals over religious, ethnic, and cultural identity contributed to the transformation of Roman imperial rhetoric and ideology in the early fourth century C.E. During this turbulent period, which began with Diocletian's persecution of the Christians and ended with Constantine's assumption of sole rule and the consolidation of a new Christian empire, Christian apologists and anti-Christian polemicists launched a number of literary salvos in a battle for the minds and souls of the empire.
Schott focuses on the works of the Platonist philosopher and anti- Christian polemicist Porphyry of Tyre and his Christian respondents: the Latin rhetorician Lactantius, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, and the emperor Constantine. Previous scholarship has tended to narrate the Christianization of the empire in terms of a new religion's penetration and conquest of classical culture and society. The present work, in contrast, seeks to suspend the static, essentializing conceptualizations of religious identity that lie behind many studies of social and political change in late antiquity in order to investigate the processes through which Christian and pagan identities were constructed. Drawing on the insights of postcolonial discourse analysis, Schott argues that the production of Christian identity and, in turn, the construction of a Christian imperial discourse were intimately and inseparably linked to the broader politics of Roman imperialism.
For too long, the study of religious life in Late Antiquity has relied on the premise that Jews, pagans, and Christians were largely discrete groups divided by clear markers of belief, ritual, and social practice. More recently, however, a growing body of scholarship is revealing the degree to which identities in the late Roman world were fluid, blurred by ethnic, social, and gender differences. Christianness, for example, was only one of a plurality of identities available to Christians in this period.
In Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE, Éric Rebillard explores how Christians in North Africa between the age of Tertullian and the age of Augustine were selective in identifying as Christian, giving salience to their religious identity only intermittently. By shifting the focus from groups to individuals, Rebillard more broadly questions the existence of bounded, stable, and homogeneous groups based on Christianness. In emphasizing that the intermittency of Christianness is structurally consistent in the everyday life of Christians from the end of the second to the middle of the fifth century, this book opens a whole range of new questions for the understanding of a crucial period in the history of Christianity.