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Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict (POD)

by Christopher Haas Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 520 pages
AU$92.00 NZ$94.78
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Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book of the Year

Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity's most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria's bustling urban milieu.

Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria's neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city's religious and ethnic blocs — Jews, pagans, and Christians — he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups' struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed — a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other.

Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration — a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

List of IllustrationsAcknowledgments1. Introduction2. The Urban Setting"The Most Glorious City of the Alexandrians"Civitas Opulema3. The Social WorldThe Social HierarchyCivic Institutions: Windows on Alexandrian SocietyAdministration and CoercionTopography and Society: The Via Canopica4. The Jewish CommunityTracing an Elusive PresencePhilo's WorldThe Great Divide: The Jewish Revolt of 115-117A Tenuous RecoveryThe Fourth-Century CommunityThe Contours of Jewish-Christian Conflict5. The Pagan CommunityProblems of DefinitionUrban Topography and Late Antique PaganismThe Sociology of Paganism in Late Antique AlexandriaThe Downfall of SerapisThe Pagans of Fifth-Century Alexandria6. The Christian Community: The Interior Landscape and the Civic LandscapeObstacles to UnderstandingModes of ConversionThe Christians of House DThe Christianization of Public Space7. The Inner Life of the Christian Community: Clergy and PeopleThe "Seven Eyes of God"Laos Theou8. Community and Factionalism in the Christian Community"Radiant and Inexpressible Power"The Desert and the City: Monastic Opposition to Episcopal AuthorityThe Contours of Schism: The Arians of Alexandria9. Intercommunal Conflict during Late AntiquityThe Alexandrian Riots of 356 and George of CappadociaCyril and His Opponents, 412-415Ecclesiastical Stasis and the Marginalization of the Pagans in the 480s10. Conclusions11. Epilogue: From Roman Alexandria to Islamic al-lskandartyyahAppendix Chronological Table of Emperors, Prefects, and Patriarchs: Fourth and Fifth CenturiesList of AbbreviationsNotesIndex

"A valuable and much needed contribution to the study of Alexandria and late antiquity... Haas has produced a vivid and interesting portrait."

Christopher Haas is an associate professor of history at Villanova University.