From Shame to Sin

From Shame to Sin

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    From Shame to Sin
    Book Description:

    The transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian is one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center was sex. Kyle Harper examines how Christianity changed the ethics of sexual behavior from shame to sin, and shows how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-07456-9
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[xii])
  3. Introduction From City to Cosmos
    (pp. 1-18)

    THE SEXUAL CULTURES of the classical world have been the object of unfailing interest, scholarly and otherwise. The reason for this fascination is not far to seek. Surely here, it might seem, in an age without doubt about simple pleasures, where desire was unchanneled by the narrows of sexual orientation, before guilt and penance, was an essentially different way of thinking about the morality of desire. In short, the sexual cultures of the Greeks and Romans have proven endlessly fascinating because they lie before the great watershed of Christianization. The Christian revolution in sexual morality, so the story goes, ushered...

  4. CHAPTER ONE The Moralities of Sex in the Roman Empire
    (pp. 19-79)

    In the last of a long series of threats to her chastity, the heroine of a second-century Greek novel, Leucippe, stood in imminent danger of suffering sexual violence at the hands of a man claiming to be her master. The romantic novel, the characteristic literary invention of the Roman Empire, was a genre built out of such theatrical endangerments to feminine chastity. In the scene of her attempted rape, Leucippe is threatened by Thersander, a caricature of a villain whose very name means “Savage Man.” Leucippe, a freeborn girl of unparalleled beauty, has been enslaved by pirates and sold to...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Will and the World in Early Christian Sexuality
    (pp. 80-133)

    In the romance of Achilles Tatius, the heroine Leucippe personifies the white horse of Plato’s chariot, capable of lifting the soul to the loftiest heights; it was an ambitious vision of conjugal eros, in which the most profound stirrings of the body not only connected man with the divine forces that replenished the earth but also offered personal transcendence. A little more than a century after Achilles Tatius wrote his novel, Plato’s chariot of the soul reappears, now in a dialogue written by a Christian. Methodius, bishop of Olympus in Lycia, wrote the Christian answer to Plato’s Symposium, in which...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Church, Society, and Sex in the Age of Triumph
    (pp. 134-190)

    As Methodius, author of the Christian Symposium, was being tried and martyred at Patara in June of 312, the armies of an ambitious western emperor were marching south through Italy. That emperor, Constantine, had recently experienced a celestial vision that he soon came to understand as a message from the Christian God. By the end of October his troops, with crosses painted on their shields, had destroyed his western rival and left Constantine as the sole ruler of the western provinces. Tolerance for Christianity, and then official favoritism, soon followed. In the aftermath of Constantine’s conversion, a small, increasingly articulate,...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Revolutionizing Romance in the Late Classical World
    (pp. 191-236)

    In the days leading up to his execution, with confrontation hanging over the atmosphere like a leaden sky, Jesus relayed to the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem the startling message that they would be preceded into the kingdom of heaven by tax-collectors and prostitutes. The charismatic Galilean rabbi had earned a reputation for his charitable attitude toward society’s out-casts, and it was known on solid authority that he went so far as to share a table with them. Almost four centuries later the radical benevolence of Jesus had lost none of its original charge, in part because he had...

  8. CONCLUSION Sex and the Twilight of Antiquity
    (pp. 237-244)

    IN THE COLORFUL treasury of monastic tales known as The Spiritual Meadow, written down sometime around AD 600, we meet two brothers following the ascetic life who have sworn never to be separated from each other. One of them sensed himself falling victim to the lures of the flesh and asked his partner to release him from their oath of spiritual camaraderie. “I am being dragged into fornication, and I want to return to the world.” His brother would not release him from their bond but instead accompanied him “into the city,” standing right outside the door of the “den...

  9. Abbreviations
    (pp. 247-258)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 259-298)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 299-300)
  12. Index
    (pp. 301-304)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)