Grammar and Christianity in the Late Roman World

Grammar and Christianity in the Late Roman World

Catherine M. Chin
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 280
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    Grammar and Christianity in the Late Roman World
    Book Description:

    Between the years 350 and 500 a large body of Latin artes grammaticae emerged, educational texts outlining the study of Latin grammar and attempting a systematic discussion of correct Latin usage. These texts-the most complete of which are attributed to Donatus, Charisius, Servius, Diomedes, Pompeius, and Priscian-have long been studied as documents in the history of linguistic theory and literary scholarship. In Grammar and Christianity in the Late Roman World, Catherine Chin instead finds within them an opportunity to probe the connections between religious ideology and literary culture in the later Roman Empire. To Chin, the production and use of these texts played a decisive role both in the construction of a pre-Christian classical culture and in the construction of Christianity as a religious entity bound to a religious text. In exploring themes of utopian writing, pedagogical violence, and the narration of the self, the book describes the multiple ways literary education contributed to the idea that the Roman Empire and its inhabitants were capable of converting from one culture to another, from classical to Christian. The study thus reexamines the tensions between these two idealized cultures in antiquity by suggesting that, on a literary level, they were produced simultaneously through reading and writing techniques that were common across the empire. In bringing together and reevaluating fundamental topics from the fields of religious studies, classics, education, and literary criticism, Grammar and Christianity in the Late Roman World offers readers from these disciplines the opportunity to reconsider the basic conditions under which religions and cultures interact.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0157-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. 1 Introduction: Toward Tyranny
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book is a very long answer to a very short question: How did literate Romans of the fourth and fifth centuries come to the idea that there was such a thing as Christianity? On its face the question seems naïve. There was, in this period, a dramatic growth in the numbers of people, buildings, books, and public events that were called, at least in some contexts, Christian; historians now conventionally refer to this period as one in which the Roman Empire was Christianized. The question that this book attempts to answer, however, is not whether people or places called...

  4. 2 Imagining Classics
    (pp. 11-38)

    Learning to read is always a matter of learning to read something. Late ancient grammarians formed their discipline by teaching their students how to read the classics—or rather, by teaching their students how to read in a way that created classics. A wealth of material survives from late ancient grammatical culture, and the reading practices described in this material had a profound effect on late ancient ideologies of literacy and literature. Although the specific connection between these practices and ideologies is seldom studied,¹ the idea of a shared literary culture was constructed and maintained in the technologies of language...

  5. 3 From Grammar to Piety
    (pp. 39-71)

    Modern disciplinary boundaries separate literary history from religious history, and the study of language from the study of belief. For premodern readers, these distinctions did not apply. We have already seen that ancient linguistic practice took literature as both its beginning and its end. It did the same, we will see, with religion. The grammarian’s practices of breaking down texts and of listing performed two complementary tasks: first, the creation of abstract bodies of knowledge and, second, the implication of subjects in relation to those bodies. In the previous chapter I examined the primary relationship between the projected subjects and...

  6. 4 Displacement and Excess: Christianizing Grammar
    (pp. 72-109)

    Literate Christian Romans read Virgil and Homer. At least some literate non-Christian Romans read the Bible.¹ The idea that one body of texts was the exclusive possession of one religious group, and another body of texts the possession of another, should puzzle us, in a literary and social context that did not enforce the segregation of books or readers along religious lines. Yet this idea was promoted by a number of late ancient readers: we have seen it already in the writings of Augustine and Julian the Apostate, briefly examined in Chapter 3. I will now examine in greater detail...

  7. 5 Fear, Boredom, and Amusement: Emotion and Grammar
    (pp. 110-138)

    If the academic practice of grammar construed Christianity and paganism as ideal entities manifested in physical texts, how, in turn, did grammatical schooling contribute to the construction of pagan and Christian people in late antiquity? How did late ancient authors’ thoughts about grammatical education affect the way they or their readers might have imagined the manifestation of religious identity?¹ The affective language surrounding schooling and the learning of grammar reveals a great deal about how the learner is positioned with respect to these larger ideological questions. Three specific tropes of emotion surround grammar and contribute to the constitution of a...

  8. 6 Grammar and Utopia
    (pp. 139-169)

    Grammatical imagination changed the landscape of the Roman Empire. Classicizing and Christianizing writings about grammarians and the uses of the ars grammatica located religious and cultural difference in Roman places through the language of space and geography.¹ As we have already seen, patristic writers’ use of the trope of spoiling the Egyptians, and their configuration of pagan learning as foreign, imply a spatial removal of Christianity from the classical, although they do not exploit the language of space fully: they neither claim that certain geographical locations are more Christian or pagan than others nor suggest that Christian removal from the...

  9. Epilogue: Christianization and Narration
    (pp. 170-174)

    Grammarians do not always tell stories, but grammar does allow stories to be told. In this book I have attempted to use grammatical literature as a starting point for understanding how individuals were formed in relation to large-scale cultural stories: not only narratives like that found in the Aeneid but also the narratives implied by the very act of reading the Aeneid. This exploration has ranged across a very broad swath of intellectual territory, from learning the alphabet to the benefits of pilgrimage to the apotheosis of Philology herself. I cannot claim that this coverage has been exhaustive, and I...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 175-244)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 245-260)
  12. Index
    (pp. 261-270)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 271-272)