"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Imperial Violence in and for Christian Constantinople

I have previously and recently spoken of some of the things I learned from the late Byzantine historian Robert Taft, not least at a conference together in 2011. At that gathering, I recall him very firmly underscoring the fact that when given the opportunity, each and every Christian group or church throughout history has abused its power to enforce its views on other Christians, from the imperial violence against so-called non-Chalcedonians in Egypt, Syria, or Armenia, to Henry VIII in England, to Catholics against Jews in Italy, and so on down the line. "Nobody has clean hands," Taft underscored very bluntly.

Along comes a new book to remind us of this, and its focus on Constantinople, when we are today seeing Christian temples there being turned into mosques again, makes Rebecca Stephens Falcasantos' Constantinople: Ritual, Violence, and Memory in the Making of a Christian Imperial Capital (University of California Press, 2020, 238pp.) very timely indeed. About this book the publisher tells us this:

As Christian spaces and agents assumed prominent positions in civic life, the end of the long span of the fourth century was marked by large-scale religious change. Churches had overtaken once-thriving pagan temples, old civic priesthoods were replaced by prominent bishops, and the rituals of the city were directed toward the Christian God. Such changes were particularly pronounced in the newly established city of Constantinople, where elites from various groups contended to control civic and imperial religion.
Rebecca Stephens Falcasantos argues that imperial Christianity was in fact a manifestation of traditional Roman religious structures. In particular, she explores how deeply established habits of ritual engagement in shared social spaces—ones that resonated with imperial ideology and appealed to the memories of previous generations—constructed meaning to create a new imperial religious identity. By examining three dynamics—ritual performance, rhetoric around violence, and the preservation and curation of civic memory—she distinguishes the role of Christian practice in transforming the civic and cultic landscapes of the late antique polis.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are never approved. Use your real name and say something intelligent.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...