Memories of Utopia : The Revision of Histories and Landscapes in Late Antiquity book cover
1st Edition

Memories of Utopia
The Revision of Histories and Landscapes in Late Antiquity

ISBN 9781138328679
Published November 21, 2019 by Routledge
300 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

These essays examine how various communities remembered and commemorated their shared past through the lens of utopia and its corollary, dystopia, providing a framework for the reinterpretation of rapidly changing religious, cultural, and political realities of the turbulent period from 300 to 750 CE.

The common theme of the chapters is the utopian ideals of religious groups, whether these are inscribed on the body, on the landscape, in texts, or on other cultural objects. The volume is the first to apply this conceptual framework to Late Antiquity, when historically significant conflicts arose between the adherents of four major religious identities: Greaco-Roman 'pagans', newly dominant Christians; diaspora Jews, who were more or less persecuted, depending on the current regime; and the emerging religion and power of Islam. Late Antiquity was thus a period when dystopian realities competed with memories of a mythical Golden Age, variously conceived according to the religious identity of the group. The contributors come from a range of disciplines, including cultural studies, religious studies, ancient history, and art history, and employ both theoretical and empirical approaches. This volume is unique in the range of evidence it draws upon, both visual and textual, to support the basic argument that utopia in Late Antiquity, whether conceived spiritually, artistically, or politically, was a place of the past but also of the future, even of the afterlife.

Memories of Utopia will be of interest to historians, archaeologists, and art historians of the later Roman Empire, and those working on religion in Late Antiquity and Byzantium.

Table of Contents

Part I: Writing and rewriting the history of conflicts

1. Curating the past: The retrieval of historical memories and utopian ideals

Bronwen Neil

2. Julian’s Cynics: Remembering for future purposes

Philip Bosman

3. Memories of trauma and the formation of an early Christian identity

Jonathan P. Conant

4. Augustine’s memory of the 411 confrontation with Emeritus of Cherchell

Geoffrey D. Dunn

Part II: Forging a new utopia: Holy bodies and holy places

5. Purity and the rewriting of memory: Revisiting Julian’s disgust for the Christian worship of corpses and its consequences

Wendy Mayer

6. Constructing the sacred in Late Antiquity: Jerome as a guide to Christian identity

Naoki Kamimura

7. Utopia, body, and pastness in John Chrysostom

Chris L. de Wet

Part III: Rewriting landscapes: Creating new memories of the past

8. Memories of peace and violence in the late-antique West

Bronwen Neil

9. Two foreign saints in Palestine: Responses to religious conflict in the fifth to seventh centuries

Pauline Allen and Kosta Simic

10. Remembering the damned: Byzantine liturgical hymns as instruments of religious polemics

Kosta Simic

11. Paradise regained? Utopias of deliverance in seventh-century apocalyptic discourse

Ryan W. Strickler

12. Ausonius, Fortunatus, and the ruins of the Moselle

Chris Bishop

Part IV: Memory and materiality

13. Spitting on statues and saving Hercules’s beard: The conflict over images (and idols) in early Christianity

Robin Jensen

14. Athena, patroness of the marketplace: From Athens to Constantinople

Janet Wade

15. Transformation of Mediterranean ritual spaces up to the early Arab conquests

Leonela Fundic


Rajiv K. Bhola

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Bronwen Neil, FAHA, is professor of ancient history at Macquarie University, Australia, and research associate of the department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa. She is director of the Centre for Ancient Cultural Heritage and Environment (CACHE) at Macquarie University. Her publications on Late Antiquity include studies of letter-writing, gender, bishops of Rome, dream interpretation, and hagiography.

Kosta Simic (PhD Australian Catholic University, 2018) is a sessional lecturer and postdoctoral researcher in the School of Theology at the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane. He has published two books and several articles on Byzantine hymnography.


"This collection of essays examines the centrality of memory to the making and maintenance of utopian ideals. The editors make a strong case for the importance, and also the fragility of memory in Late Antiquity... Hopefully the excellent essays in this volume will be the start of a wider conversation about how the writers and artisans of late antiquity rewrote their past and their landscapes in order to remember their way to an idealized future." - Bryn Mawr, Classical Review

"This collection of essays, conceived and edited by Bronwen Neil and Kosta Simic, focuses on the interplay of "memory" and "utopianism" in the culture and thought of late antique Christianity. The editors suggest that utopian beliefs dominated the relationship." -Charles W. Hedrick, sehepunkte