Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Controlling Contested Places

Controlling Contested Places: Late Antique Antioch and the Spatial Politics of Religious Controversy

Christine Shepardson
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 315
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Controlling Contested Places
    Book Description:

    From constructing new buildings to describing rival-controlled areas as morally and physically dangerous, leaders in late antiquity fundamentally shaped their physical environment and thus the events that unfolded within it.Controlling Contested Placesmaps the city of Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) through the topographically sensitive vocabulary of cultural geography, demonstrating the critical role played by physical and rhetorical spatial contests during the tumultuous fourth century. Paying close attention to the manipulation of physical places, Christine Shepardson exposes some of the powerful forces that structured the development of religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the late Roman Empire.Theological claims and political support were not the only significant factors in determining which Christian communities gained authority around the Empire. Rather, Antioch's urban and rural places, far from being an inert backdrop against which events transpired, were ever-shifting sites of, and tools for, the negotiation of power, authority, and religious identity. This book traces the ways in which leaders like John Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Libanius encouraged their audiences to modify their daily behaviors and transform their interpretation of the world (and landscape) around them. Shepardson argues that examples from Antioch were echoed around the Mediterranean world, and similar types of physical and rhetorical manipulations continue to shape the politics of identity and perceptions of religious orthodoxy to this day.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95798-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Roman Emperors and Bishops of Antioch
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xx-xxii)
  8. Introduction: The Lay of the Land
    (pp. 1-30)

    From constructing new buildings to describing places controlled by their rivals as morally and physically dangerous, early Christian leaders fundamentally shaped their physical environment and thus the events that unfolded within it. Historical narratives that overlook the manipulation of physical places have obscured of the powerful forces that structured the development of early Christianity. the city of Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey) through some of the sensitive vocabulary of cultural geographers will demonstrate critical role of physical and rhetorical spatial contests in this city during the tumultuous fourth and fifth centuries C.E. The strength of theological claims and political support were...

  9. 1 The Power of Prestigious Places: Teaching and Preaching in Fourth-Century Antioch
    (pp. 31-57)

    The Greek sophist Libanius recounts in his autobiography the struggle that he faced when he returned to his hometown of Antioch in the middle of the fourth century, intending to teach there after years abroad. At first confined to teaching in his home to a small group of students, he eventually acquired a classroom at the edge of the marketplace (agora), and then finally the coveted right to lecture at thebouleutērion,the city hall, where he gained numerous students, and his authority increased exponentially. Libanius’s manipulation of Antioch’s places also reveals itself through the numerous interactions that he narrates...

  10. 2 Burying Babylas: Place-Marketing and the Politics of Memory
    (pp. 58-91)

    In the midst of the intra-Christian controversies in fourth-century Antioch, Christians undertook to acquire and redefine not only other Christians’ places, but also places associated with Greek and Roman gods and with Judaism. The emperor Julian’s interest in rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple inflamed Christian anti-Jewish rhetoric around the empire,¹ and his support of places and practices associated with the gods further complicated Christians’ relations with their neighbors in Antioch.² These latter tensions increased during the conflict involving Daphne’s famous oracular temple of Apollo. Although other scholars have used the complex history of Babylas’s relics as an example of fourth-century contests...

  11. 3 Being Correctly Christian: John Chrysostom’s Rhetoric in 386–87
    (pp. 92-128)

    In fourth-century Antioch religious communities overlapped: Christianity and traditional temple cult sometimes competed for venues, such as at the martyrion of Babylas in Daphne; some Christians shared with Jews a respect for Jewish scripture and local synagogues; and Christians competed among themselves for control over the city’s churches. In the face of the multilayered and highly politicized significance of so many local places, Christian leaders such as John Chrysostom, in the vocabulary of modern geographers, named these complex intersections as places of clearly negative or positive value in an attempt to construct and spread a particular religious orthodoxy. Antioch in...

  12. 4 Transformative Transgressions: Exploiting the Urban/Rural Divide
    (pp. 129-162)

    John Chrysostom strongly tied religious identity to Antioch’s physical places, and this is true also of the distinction that he made between the rural space around the city and the urban space within its walls. Although scholars have demonstrated that geographical boundaries are often more permeable than rhetorical descriptions of them allow,¹ boundaries nevertheless ideologically separate places from one another, distinguishing one side from the other in ways that accumulate cultural significance.² It should, therefore, come as no surprise when rhetorical descriptions of mass boundary crossings depict them as transforming the places on either side, as those who are seen...

  13. 5 Mapping a Textured Landscape: Temples, Martyrs, and Ascetics
    (pp. 163-203)

    Beyond church buildings and synagogues, Antioch’s urban and rural landscape was populated by a variety of smaller places of religious ritual, from a host of temples of all sizes to a growing number of Christian martyr shrines scattered across the landscape. Also, Christian ascetics increasingly settled in the surrounding region, their live bodies drawing pilgrims to them in ways similar to the relics of earlier saints.¹ Like Libanius’s classrooms, the locations of Babylas’s relics, churches, and synagogues, these temples, shrines, and saints (living and dead) also shaped topography and identity within Antioch’sterritorium,particularly through the ways in which Libanius,...

  14. 6 Elsewhere in the Empire
    (pp. 204-240)

    The investigation of fourth-century Antioch has revealed that the manipulation, and particularly the narrative construction, of topography played a significant role in shaping the increasing visibility of Christianity in urban and rural contexts, as well as in establishing the type of Christianity that became most prominent. The transference of relics, especially the final transfers of Babylas and the saints buried in the floor of the martyrion at the Romanesian Gate, granted more authority to Bishop Meletius’s community in Antioch, while diminishing the authority of the temple of Apollo and of local homoian Christians. John Chrysostom’s numerous rhetorical efforts further shaped...

  15. Conclusion: Controlling Contested Places
    (pp. 241-254)

    Perceptions of places are socially constructed and profoundly influential, shaping understandings of the past and thus also expectations for the future. Fourth-century Antioch is a particularly rich site of spatial construction and change, in part because of its complex history during late antiquity, when religious and political upheavals altered the cityscape, in part because of its prominence within empirewide conversations, and in part because so much textual evidence regarding Antioch survives. Thanks to Libanius, John Chrysostom, and Theodoret, it is possible to investigate these decades of Antioch’s history in much more depth and from more perspectives than is usually possible...

    (pp. 255-282)
    (pp. 283-288)