The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage: Near-Death Experiences, Ancestor Cult, and the Archaeology of Paradise, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage

Near-Death Experiences, Ancestor Cult, and the Archaeology of Paradise, 1st Edition

By Stephen E. Potthoff


240 pages

Look Inside
Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780367139643
pub: 2019-01-11
SAVE ~$9.99
Hardback: 9781138182981
pub: 2016-12-02
SAVE ~$33.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315646121
pub: 2016-12-01
from $24.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage explores how the visionary experiences of early Christian martyrs shaped and informed early Christian ancestor cult and the construction of the cemetery as paradise. Taking the early Christian cemeteries in Carthage as a case study, the volume broadens our understanding of the historical and cultural origins of the early Christian cult of the saints, and highlights the often divergent views about the dead and post-mortem realms expressed by the church fathers, and in graveside ritual and the material culture of the cemetery. This fascinating study is a key resource for students of late antique and early Christian culture.


A rich, interdisciplinary study, The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage is an important read for anyone interested in the development of Christianity in the late Roman Empire. As Stephen Pothoff shows us, paradoxically, it is through the examination of death – its ubiquity and attendant rituals, the need to mourn and bury the dead, the creation of cemeteries and cemeterial churches – that third-century North African Christianity comes alive. The author walks us into the thought-worlds of these Christians – their dreams, aspirations, and sure knowledge of what awaited them after death – through his careful study of their literature, epitaphs, material culture, and the archaeology they left behind, unlocking new worlds for us to explore.

-Professor Nicola Denzey Lewis, Brown University, USA

Table of Contents


List of Figures


Chapter 1: Rebirthing Paradise in the Sacred Space of Vision and Cemetery

Chapter 2: Ghosts, Graveside Dining, and Dreams of Paradise: Mediterranean Ancestor Cult in the Early Christian Period

Chapter 3: Mediterranean Ancestor Cult in Carthage: Hungry Ghosts and the Roman Cemetery as Other World

Chapter 4: Dining, Divining, and Divorcing the Dead: The Age of Tertullian and Perpetua

Chapter 5: The Age of Cyprian: Burial Clubs and Banquets in Paradise

Chapter 6: The Age of Augustine: Burial ad sanctos, Graveside Parties, and the Abodes of Body and Soul after Death

Chapter 7: Christian Burial ad sanctos at Carthage: Pressing on to Heaven in the Paradisal Realm of the Cemetery

Chapter 8: Refreshment and Reunion in the Garden of Light: Sculpting Paradise at the Grave




About the Author

Stephen E. Potthoff is Associate Professor of Peace Studies, Religion, and Philosophy at Wilmington College, Ohio, USA. His research focuses on early Christianity and other ancient religions, as well as Native American spirituality and culture, dreams, and near-death visionary experience.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in the Early Christian World

Routledge Studies in the Early Christian World offers monographs and edited collections which explore the most cutting-edge research in Early Christianity. Covering all aspects of world of early Christianity, from theology, archaeology and history, to urbanism, class, economics, and sexuality and gender, the series aims to situate these early Christians within the wider context of Late Antiquity.

Comprising both regional studies and broader thematic surveys, this series explores what changed with the advent of Christianity, what remained the same, and how early Christians interacted with, made sense of, and shaped the world around them. Aimed at early Christian scholars, classicists and historians alike, Studies in the Early Christian World is an invaluable resource for anyone researching this fascinating period.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies