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

The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage
Near-Death Experiences, Ancestor Cult, and the Archaeology of Paradise

ISBN 9780367139643
Published January 11, 2019 by Routledge
240 Pages

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Book Description

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.

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




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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.


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