In this article, I propose the concept of “appropriation,” widely used in cross-cultural contexts, as a new approach to the process of religious transformation in Late Antiquity. This approach has the advantage that it encompasses the entire spectrum of individual responses to the impact of Christianity that characterizes the period. It is thus a particularly dynamic concept, as it accurately takes into account the interactive nature of the process and views it “from the bottom-up,” highlighting human agency. The variety of responses is illustrated by three case studies from Egypt — literature, monumental architecture (temples and churches), and magic — which can be regarded as exemplary for studying similar aspects of the religious transformation process in other areas of the (Eastern) Roman Empire. In each of these cases, the topic has until quite recently been viewed in terms of a “pagan” vs. Christianity framework, which has now been replaced by a more complex picture that exposes to the fullest extent the different forms of appropriation.
This article analyzes three different case studies related to the Graeco-Roman cult of Anubis, located in different historical periods (Early, Middle, and Late Roman Empire) and approached by the study of different types of material (namely literary, epigraphic/archaeological, and iconographic sources). The goal of this study is to explore the social dimension of religious practice, stressing its variety, creativity, multiplicity, fluidity, and flexibility of identities, changes in forms of individuality, and spaces for individual distinction. By means of a detailed inquiry of Mustafa Emirbayer and Ann Mische’s schema of “disaggregation” of agency into three component elements (iteration, projectivity, and presentification), this analysis will stress the historical variability of religious agency and will show how, across time, emerging situations forced religious actors to select among alternative possibilities of action by recovering patterns belonging to past routines and creating new future options that responded to present hopes and fears. The results of this investigation will then be conceptualized according to the methodological framework of the Lived Ancient Religion paradigm.
In early Coptic stories of saints and martyrs, demons are usually prototypical adversaries and side with the devil in his battle against Christ. However, it has been noted that in magical texts of a definitely Christian social origin, demons are sometimes invoked for assistance. Such sources might perhaps be dismissed as unrepresentative of the official theological position of the Alexandrian church, but, as is shown in the present paper, demons are occasionally portrayed as champions of Christ also in more ‘respectable’ texts such as hagiographies of the later 1st millennium AD. This is argued to show that the more nuanced analysis of demons does not represent an early folk undercurrent of Egyptian Christianity, but rather reflects an alternative theological view derived from the idea that God created good and evil for a reason.
How Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399) composed his highly influential treatises of short and succinct chapters (kepahalaia) is bewildering and has been discussed by many scholars. In this essay the literary composition of Evagrius’ To monks in monasteries and communities, or Ad monachos, a typical text of short chapters, is examined from a literary perspective by relating the text to literary conventions, common in late antique literature and in rhetorical handbooks and exercises (progymnasmata). It is demonstrated how the teaching develops gradually in accordance with a pattern for a so-called amplified argument (epicheireme) codified in Pseudo-Hermogenes Progymnasmata. By this arrangement of the teaching, the reader is offered, not just a random taste of various aspects of the monastic life, but a set of specific conclusions to implement or to be aware of practically in the life as monk; conclusions that are perceptible not at just a cursory glance, but at a careful and repeated reading.
This article analyses how Rufinus alters and then extends Eusebius’ church history to draw a narrative continuum of pagan idolatry, tyranny and blood sacrifice across the fourth century. It begins with a taxonomy that illustrates the various ways that Rufinus’ text differs from Eusebius’ and then analyses how Rufinus enhances the levels of cruelty and bloody carnage in his Eusebian source, especially with regards to the tyrannical behaviour of the pagan emperors Maximinus, Maxentius, and Licinius. Lastly, it turns to Rufinus’ account of Eugenius’ uprising and the destruction of the temple of Serapis and shows how Rufinus’ repeated criticism of pagan imperial persecution acts to justify Theodosius’ actions.