Skip to main content

ReLACS 2017

ReLACS

ReLACS (Regional Late Antiquity Consortium Southeast) is a regional workshop on Late Antiquity held annually at Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee, or the University of Kentucky. Download poster here >>

The 2017 meeting will occur on October 19-20, 2017 hosted by the  Program in Classical and Mediterranean Studies , the  Divinity School , and the  Center for Digital Humanities  at  Vanderbilt University   in Nashville. Additional sponsorship has been provided by the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Religious Studies, The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, the Department of History, the Department of History of Art, and the Program in Jewish Studies.

The keynote lecture on October 19th is open to the general public. Participation is open to all scholars and students interested in Late Antiquity broadly defined. Those planning to attend should use the form below to register. There is no cost to attend and lunch will be provided for those who register.

Highlights of the program include the following keynote lecture and professional seminar:

Keynote Lecture: “The Archaeology of Early Christian Monasticism: Evidentiary Problems and Criteria”

Stephen J. Davis, Professor of Religious Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University will open the workshop with a reassessment of what we know (and how we know what we know) about the archaeological evidence for Christian monasticism in the first millennium CE. Assessing the current state of the field, Prof. Davis will first address problems we face in both the identification and the dating of “monastic” sites and then discuss criteria by which we can engage more critically with the material evidence available to us.

Professional Seminar: “Introduction to the Cairo Geniza”

As a new feature to the workshop this year, Phillip I. Lieberman, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Law at Vanderbilt University, will lead a pro-seminar designed to introduce non-specialists to resources for using the Cairo Geniza in teaching and research. The Cairo Geniza comprises the largest collection of documentary materials from the premodern Islamic world and is a critical resource for the social, economic, legal, and political history of the reception of antiquity into the medieval Mediterranean.

Works in Progress Workshop

On Friday, the workshop will feature 6 presentations of work in progress by regional scholars of Late Antiquity. Full schedule below registration form.

Registration Form

Contact

ReLACS 2017 was organized by the following steering committee: David Hunter, University of Kentucky; Gregor Kalas, University of Tennessee; Jacob Latham, University of Tennessee; David Michelson Vanderbilt; Joe Rife, Vanderbilt; Betsey Robinson, Vanderbilt; and Tina Shepardson, University of Tennessee.
Please contact David Michelson with any questions.

Full Schedule

Thursday, October 19, 2017

4:10ReLACS Keynote Address: “The Archaeology of Early Christian Monasticism: Evidentiary Problems and Criteria,” Stephen J. Davis, Yale University (Moderator: Joseph Rife)

This keynote will be held in 203 Cohen Memorial Hall and followed by a light reception. Click for map

Friday, October 20, 2017

All events will be held in the Divinity School Reading Room unless noted.

8:30—Coffee & Continental Breakfast 

9:00—Welcome to ReLACS Workshop Participants, David Michelson, Vanderbilt University

9:15—“The Western Delta in Late Antiquity: Archaeology and History,” Ariel Lopez, Rhodes College (Moderator: Betsey Robinson)

10:00—“The Flesh that Wasn’t: Ascetic Assemblages and the Becoming of Angels,” Katie Kleinkopf, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (This paper will be pre-circulated to the ReLACS listserv. Moderator: Annalisa Azzoni)

10:45—Coffee Break and Tour of Vanderbilt University Center for Digital Humanities.  Click for map.

11:15—“Using Digital Humanities to Solve Early Christian Mysteries: A Re-Examination of the ‘Ascension’ Panel on the Doors of Santa Sabina, Rome,” Lee M. Jefferson, Centre College.  Location: Vanderbilt University Center for Digital Humanities (Moderator: Brad Daugherty)

12:00—Lunch (provided for registered participants)

1:00—Pro-Seminar: “Introduction to the Cairo Geniza,” Phillip I. Lieberman, Vanderbilt University (Moderator: Stephen Davis)

1:45—“Ravaging Warfare and Martial Rape from Late Antiquity to Modernity,” Kathy L. Gaca, Vanderbilt University (Moderator: Tina Shepardson)

2:30—Coffee Break

2:45— “Quoting in the Courtroom: Cyril’s Use of Philosophical Testimony in the  Contra Julianum, Aaron P. Johnson, Lee University (Moderator: Ari Bryen)

3:30—“Peter Beyond Rome: Achilleus of Spoleto, Neon of Ravenna, and the  Epigramma Longum,” Dennis Trout, University of Missouri (Moderator: William Caferro)

4:15—End of Workshop

Abstracts:

 

ReLACS Keynote: The Archaeology of Early Christian Monasticism: Evidentiary Problems and Criteria

Stephen J. Davis, Yale University

This lecture presents a reassessment of what we know (and how we know what we know) about the archaeological evidence for Christian monasticism in the first millennium CE. Assessing the current state of the field, the lecture will first address problems we face in both the identification and the dating of “monastic” sites and then discuss criteria by which we can engage more critically with the material evidence available to us. Stephen Davis is Professor of Religious Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University, specializing in the history of ancient and medieval Christianity, with a special focus on the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. He is the author of several books, including The Cult of St. Thecla: A Tradition of Women's Piety in Late Antiquity (Oxford UP, 2001), The Early Coptic Papacy: The Egyptian Church and Its Leadership in Late Antiquity (American University in Cairo Press 2004), Coptic Christology in Practice: Incarnation and Divine Participation in Late Antique and Medieval Egypt (Oxford UP, 2008), Christ Child: Cultural Memories of a Young Jesus (Yale UP 2014), and Monasticism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP forthcoming). He is also editor of a new series with Fordham University Press, entitled Christian Arabic Texts in Translation (CATT). Since 2006, Stephen has served as the executive director of the Yale Monastic Archaeology Project (YMAP), conducting field work at various sites in Egypt, including Kellia-Pherme and the Monastery of John the Little in the north, and the White Monastery and its associated women’s community in the south.

The Western Delta in Late Antiquity: Archaeology and History

Ariel Lopez, Rhodes College 

The hinterland of Alexandria was the setting for some of the earliest and most important monastic settlements in late antique Egypt. It is this area that produced the famous “sayings of the desert fathers,” and it is in this area, above all, that Christian pilgrims from the Roman Empire encountered Egyptian monasticism. This is the only area of late antique Egypt where monks may be said to have truly turned the desert into a city. This paper aims to set the emergence of these monastic settlements against the longue-durée history of the western Delta. Several recent archaeological surveys have now made it possible to approach the area as a whole. It seems now that the emergence of monastic settlements and the famous martyr shrine of Apa Mena may be part of a larger process of rural expansion on the margins of the desert. This area might be the closest equivalent in Egypt to the famous limestone massif of northern Syria, with wine production taking here the role of olive oil in Syria. 

The Flesh that Wasn’t: Ascetic Assemblages and the Becoming of Angels

Katie Kleinkopf, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

NB: This paper will be pre-circulated shortly before the symposium. Please use the registration form above to receive a copy. 

When writing about the materiality of ascetics, scholars typically focus on the body of the individual, the effect of the place on the body, or the effect of the body on the place.  Rarely, however, are the body and place studied as a single, inextricable, phenomenon.  My dissertation chapter, on the other hand, employs the vocabulary of new materialism to envision early Christian ascetics as assemblages, a hybrid formation that is neither purely subject nor object, and therefore moves fluidly between, and even outside of, human-created binaries.  Specifically, I argue that we must expand our understanding of ascetics as assemblages to encompass three components: the state of the flesh, the type of dwelling, and the presence of other beings (whether human or otherwise). The addition and loss of these members at various times throughout the ascetic’s story reveals how and why ascetic assemblages did not constantly embody the dualisms of gender, mortality, and materiality, but instead assumed alternating qualities depending on the boundaries and composure of their assemblage.  These movements to encompass various states of matter allowed ascetics to begin their traversal of the ultimate dichotomy: that of human and angel.  This chapter explores how ascetic assemblages ceaselessly traversed these binaries until that moment when they could, according to Theodoret of Cyrrhus, join the “angelic choir, [leaving] behind a memory not buried with the body but flowering, flourishing, abiding inextinguishable forever, sufficing to profit those who wish.”

Using Digital Humanities to Solve Early Christian Mysteries: A Re-Examination of the “Ascension” Panel on the Doors of Santa Sabina, Rome

Lee M. Jefferson, Centre College

By examining some Western, particularly Roman, fifth-century cross iconography, my recent research has brought me to the doors of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.  The carved panels depict scenes from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and on one in particular Jesus is performing his signs with a staff including the raising of Lazarus.  Adjacent is another image that seems to feature the ascended Jesus.  Below, between a representation of Peter and Paul (and possibly an image of Mary or Mater Ecclesia) is a descended clipeus or shield.  Much debate has been focused on what is depicted within this shield, creating a mystery of sorts.  It could be a cross or perhaps a portion of a rho from the symbol of the chi-rho (the doors have undergone several restorations).  There is a strong possibility that rather than a cross or a chi-rho, the panel depicts the miracle-working staff of Jesus.  I have been involved in photogrammetry options to map the panel in question at Santa Sabina and examine it closely.  My presentation will outline and discuss this project, and also how digital humanities and other methods can aid our research in early Christianity and Late Antique history.  

ReLACS Pro-Seminar: Introduction to the Cairo Geniza

Phillip I. Lieberman, Vanderbilt University


This ReLACS session is designed to introduce non-specialists to resources and tools for using the Cairo Geniza in teaching and research. The Cairo Geniza comprises the largest collection of documentary materials from the premodern Islamic world and is a critical resource for the social, economic, legal, and political history of the reception of antiquity into the medieval Mediterranean. Prof. Lieberman is the author of The Business of Identity: Economics, Culture, and the Jews of Medieval Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2014), a study which draws on legal documents from the Geniza to reconceive of life in the medieval Islamic marketplace and proposes an alternative model for using the Geniza documents as a tool for understanding daily life in the medieval Islamic world as a whole.

Ravaging Warfare and Martial Rape from Late Antiquity to Modernity

Kathy L. Gaca, Vanderbilt University


By my argument, ravaging is a gendered and age-based organized violence rightly classified as warfare in ancient Greek and Roman historiography. The violence proceeds thus. For a people targeted as a resistant or rebellious enemy, the aggressors must kill in combat or massacre either all the fighting-age males or, alternatively, all the males without exception, little boys and infants too. Then they must capture for rape and enslavement the girls and women wanted alive from the attacked people, while killing the rest of the female captives or leaving them likely to die. This focused aggression against the girls and women is demographically significant per attacked people, for fighting-age men constituted only about 25% of the populace. Ravaging therefore has as one of its main goals the structured dispossession of a people’s captured and enslaved girls and women, mainly young women.  To develop this historicist critique further, in my paper I bring to the fore pivotal observations from Ammianus, Synesius, and Procopius about the organization and significance of ravaging and martial rape in late antiquity.  I also show the relevance of their observations for appreciating the ongoing hold of these martial practices in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Quoting in the Courtroom:  Cyril’s Use of Philosophical Testimony in the Contra Julianum

Aaron P. Johnson, Lee University

The ten extant books of Cyril’s response to Julian’s Against the Galilaeans contain a wealth of quotations from earlier non-Christian philosophical sources, which he artfully juxtaposed with quotations from Julian’s work.  Cyril did so, at least in part, to bypass a prohibition in the preface of the long-dead emperor’s polemic in which Christian respondents were forbidden to make counter-attacks until they had successfully defended themselves of the charges against them in his imaginary courtroom scenario.  Written over half a century later (c.420-430), Cyril’s Against Julian resonates with the concern of his early fifth-century contemporaries, Augustine (in the City of God) and Theodoret (in the On the Cure of Greek Diseases), to exhibit a mastery of the pagan intellectual traditions as well as to use selective quotation from authors within those traditions as a defense of Christian truth claims.  Unlike Augustine or Theodoret, however, Cyril chose to target a single anti-Christian text and, in so doing, felt the need to quote from several sources that would otherwise be entirely lost (and even unknown) to us today.  The paper proposed here hopes to highlight key features of Cyril’s citational method through a focus upon his quotations from philosophers, in particular his quotations from Porphyry of Tyre and Alexander of Aphrodisias that are unique to Cyril among Greek Christian authors.  I hope thereby both to illuminate material of great interest within this understudied text and to exhibit one of the many ways in which Cyril actively nurtured a distinctively Christian intellectual culture within fifth-century Alexandria.

Peter Beyond Rome: Achilleus of Spoleto, Neon of Ravenna, and the Epigramma Longum

Dennis Trout, University of Missouri

During the fourth century, imperial and episcopal initiatives in church building and image making began to transform Rome into the city that would in time be widely identified as the special home of Peter and Paul. In the following century Rome’s bishops articulated further policies and positions meant to secure the city’s Petrine heritage. In this period inscribed poetry emerged as one novel medium for advancing these claims to ecclesiastical and doctrinal leadership. Elsewhere in Italy, however, other bishops also turned to the carmen epigraphicum to stake claims on Peter. This paper will highlight the efforts of two bishops, Achilleus of Spoleto (c. 419) and Neon of Ravenna (c. 450-73), to articulate in monumental verse their own bids for Petrine credentials. At Spoleto, Achilleus constructed an extra-mural basilica dedicated to Peter, to whom, he noted in epigraphic verse, God had once said “let you be Peter, since I will establish upon you / the house that I am now building throughout the world” (ICI 6.46.7-8). A few decades later, Neon constructed a magnificent multi-conch dining hall within Ravenna’s episcopal palace complex and decorated it with images and poetry that extolled Peter, upon whom, his verses announced, Christ had “established the firm foundations of his house” (CIL 11.259.13). In sum, this chapter explores how two fifth-century bishops, Achilleus and Neon, employed building projects and the public verses inscribed within them to contest Roman exclusivity and promote a more ecumenical framing of Christ’s commission of Peter in Matthew’s gospel.

 

Subscribe to the Late Antiquity Southeast Listserv

 

Anyone interested in further information about ReLACS workshops is invited to subscribe to our e-mail list.

To subscribe, send an email to  listserv@list.vanderbilt.edu  with the command “SUBSCRIBE LATE-ANTIQUITY-SOUTHEAST” in the body of your message. This list is a public listserv intended as a regional e-mail list to connect ReLACS scholars (including students) throughout the southeastern United States. Messages publicize regional meetings or other regional collaborations of interest to the list.

Visiting Nashville

VANDERBILT'S HOMETOWN of Nashville is a vibrant, engaging city known proudly as "Music City, U.S.A."

Located a little more than a mile from downtown, the university’s students, faculty, staff and visitors frequently cite Nashville as one of the perks of Vanderbilt. Learn More >>