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
2. Julian’s Cynics: Remembering for future purposes
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
6. Constructing the sacred in Late Antiquity: Jerome as a guide to Christian identity
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
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
11. Paradise regained? Utopias of deliverance in seventh-century apocalyptic discourse
Ryan W. Strickler
12. Ausonius, Fortunatus, and the ruins of the Moselle
Part IV: Memory and materiality
13. Spitting on statues and saving Hercules’s beard: The conflict over images (and idols) in early Christianity
14. Athena, patroness of the marketplace: From Athens to Constantinople
15. Transformation of Mediterranean ritual spaces up to the early Arab conquests
Rajiv K. Bhola
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.