The 21 studies in this volume, which deal with issues of social and intellectual history, religion and historical methodology, explore the ways whereby over the course of a few hundred years -roughly between the second and the fifth centuries A.D.- an anthropocentric culture mutated into a theocentric one. Rather than underlining the differences between a revamped paganism and the emergent Christian traditions, the essays in the volume focus on the processes of osmosis, interaction and acculturation, which shaped the change in priorities among the newly created textual communities that were spreading across the entire breadth of the late antique oecumene. The main issues considered in this connection include the phenomena of textuality and holy scripture, canonicity and exclusion, truth and error, prophecy and tradition, authority and challenge, faith and salvation, holy places and holy men, in the context of the construction of new orthodox readings of the Greek philosophical heritage. Moreover the volume suggests that intolerant attitudes, which form a characteristic trait of monotheisms, were not an exclusive preserve of Christianity (as the Enlightenment tradition would insist), but were progressively espoused by pagan philosophers and divine men as part of the theory and practice of Hellenism's theological koine. Efforts to establish the monopoly of a revealed truth against any rival claims were transversal to the textual communities which emerged in late antiquity and remodelled the intellectual and spiritual landscape of the Greater Mediterranean.
Polymnia Athanassiadi is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Athens, Greece.