Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World / Edition 1

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Overview

The first book of its kind, this richly informative and comprehensive guide to the world of late antiquity offers the latest scholarship to the researcher along with great reading pleasure to the browser. In eleven comprehensive essays and in over 500 encyclopedic entries, an international cast of experts provides essential information and fresh perspectives on the history and culture of an era marked by the rise of two world religions, unprecedented political upheavals that remade the map of the known world, and the creation of art of enduring glory.

By extending the commonly accepted chronological and territorial boundaries of the period--to encompass Roman, Byzantine, Sassanian, and early Islamic cultures, from the middle of the third century to the end of the eighth--this guide makes new connections and permits revealing comparisons. Consult the article on "Angels" and discover their meaning in Islamic as well as classical and Judeo-Christian traditions. Refer to "Children," "Concubinage," and "Divorce" for a fascinating interweaving of information on the family. Read the essay on "Barbarians and Ethnicity" and see how a topic as current as the construction of identity played out in earlier times, from the Greeks and Romans to the Turks, Huns, and Saxons. Turn to "Empire Building" to learn how the empire of Constantine was supported by architecture and ceremony.

Or follow your own path through the broad range of entries on politics, manufacturing and commerce, the arts, philosophy, religion, geography, ethnicity, and domestic life. Each entry introduces readers to another facet of the postclassical world: historic figures and places, institutions, burial customs, food, money, public life, and amusements. A splendid selection of illustrations enhances the portrait.

The intriguing era of late antiquity emerges completely and clearly, viewed in a new light, in a guide that will be relished by scholars and general readers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

Reading Late Antiquity one has a sense of the tearing down of barriers which have divided what should be a seamless web of the past. History does not in reality confine itself to neatly separate areas and departments—Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Coptic, Arabic, Germanic—in the way that universities do...Late Antiquity keeps to a very high standard of scholarship and it will please a wide range of serious readers.
— Jasper Griffin

Joint Association of Classical Teachers

The specific objective of this volume, with its distinguished editorship, is to enable students of the Late Roman Empire and the centuries that followed to perceive the period from c.250 AD to c.800 AD as a particular period in its own right, with characteristics, derived from the Roman and Sassanid Empires, that are peculiar to this period…A blockbuster such as this may appear daunting to the student but if it finds its way to some library shelves, even in a few schools, it is likely to be not so much a guide as a support, stimulus and challenge to the already-guided.
— Stephen Kern

Times Literary Supplement

A magnificent Guide to the post-classical world in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
— Rosamond McKitterick

Classical Association News
This is a richly informative volume on the history and culture of the postclassical period from about 250 to 800 CE...[this] book is a pleasure for the serious scholar and browser alike.
Times Higher Education Supplement

To fathom the cross-currents and undertows of the "post-classical" world while throwing out lifelines to the novice is no mean task, and the three editors have risen to this challenge with flair and discrimination...Cross-cutting between the public domain and private lives and drawing on such sources as Egyptian papyri and archaeology, the essays present varieties of experience in a three-dimensional way and make substantive contributions to scholarly debate.
— Jonathan Shepard

Wall Street Journal

Some books are like the Grand Bazaar: a maze of twisting byways where every corner promises surprise. Late Antiquity is such a book. Modestly calling itself a guide, this sumptuous volume shows the way not only to exotic and often vanished locales, but also to the emperors and caliphs, kingdoms and dynasties, ascetics and voluptuaries, and even the ordinary citizens of that complex and tortuous half-millennium (from 250 to 800 A.D.) in which our own spiritual and intellectual world first took recognizable shape. More than 200 experts have contributed, but the guide displays none of the numbing sameness that so often discourages the reader of scholarly monographs. Alongside succinct articles on Augustine or on ships (with a fine line-drawing of a Byzantine double-oared vessel) or on Jerusalem, there are treatments of bed-chambers, camels, prayer and even pornography, among other topics.
— Eric Ormsby

Washington Post Book World

[A] vade mecum for anybody drawn to what we used to call the Dark Ages, that swirling, little-understood period form the 3rd to the 8th centuries.
— Michael Dirda

Washington Times

The result of the editors' decision to provide not an encyclopedia but a 'guide' is a brilliant success...The 11 brilliant and provocative essays which constitute the first section of the book discuss with fresh insight and in depth the ways in which the people of these turbulent centuries appropriated and manipulated the past; how the philosophers wrestled with the concept of 'the self,' one for which the Latin and Greek languages had no word; the life of religious (mainly Christian) communities; the formation of the concept of nationality among the new peoples settling in what had been the Roman empire of the West; the nature and dynamics of war in the period; empire building (especially the eastern Roman empire founded by Constantine in 323 A.D.); Christian triumph and controversy; Islam; and finally The Good Life, a survey of domestic property drawing on new archaeological material...The rest of the book, over 400 of its 780 pages, offers more than 500 articles in encyclopedic form, covering a wealth of topics not treated, or not treated in detail, in the essays...These entries are endlessly fascinating.
— Bernard Knox

Boston Book Review

A proper educational guide cannot tell us what we need to know, but it can provide a map and a direction by which we may progress. Late Antiquity is, in this respect, the epitome of educational guides for the earnest student of history...Brown, Bowersock, and Grabar have all contributed seminal works in the figures and institutions that shaped and informed this vibrant, and previously obscured, time. To their credit, they have done for late antiquity what Niels Bohr did for the quantum electron: they discovered, or, more accurately, uncovered it. Late Antiquity is half encyclopedia, half textbook, and a whole world of scholarship. With 11 thematic essays and over 500 encyclopedic entries, Late Antiquity contains a starting point for the student and a crucial resource for the scholar.
— Paul-Jonathan Bensen

Choice

The editors of this handsome and inviting volume have each helped kindle the recent explosion in postclassical studies with important contributions on the creeds and cultures of the first millennium CE. Late Antiquity offers casual browsers and learned specialists alike a unique introduction to the summation of current scholarship on the period that has for too long been held as 'the unraveling of a once glorious...civilization' or 'a violent and hurried prelude to better things'...Highly recommended.
— B. Juhl

Providence Sunday Journal

This era is analyzed and illustrated with encyclopedic thoroughness and precision in Late Antiquity...The metaphysical tension and clash of cultures of Late Antiquity reminds one of our own; Late Antiquity is, unintentionally, a mirror of the 21st century. Edited by distinguished scholars G. W. Bowersock, Oleg Grabar and Peter Brown, this volume heralds a new discipline and extends a welcome to non-scholars as well.
— Tom D'Evelyn

Christian Century

When Arnaldo Momigliano was at the University of Chicago he use to argue that we should teach not 'church history' but just 'history.' This is the implicit view of most of the contributors to this large, well-illustrated volume. The editors urge readers to use this impressive guide 'with enterprise and patience,' especially by choosing the right terms to look up. Eleven well-constructed essays on major themes in the modern study of late antiquity precede the book's brief, solid and up-to-date encyclopedia-style articles...Their book will be of great interest to everyone concerned with the origins of modern religion, politics and culture.
— Robert M. Grant

Commonweal

Covers the interlocked worlds of Rome, Byzantium, the Persian Empire, and the newly emerging culture and kingdoms connected to the rise of Islam . . . The essays touch not only on big ideas and big movements but also on what the many discrete researches, ranging from literary criticism to anthropology, tell us.
— Lawrence S. Cunningham

American Reference Books Annual

The authors provide an integrated view of the world during this period instead of looking at historical happenings in an isolated context…The themes are broad and expand the reader's perspective. Topics include habitat, war, religious communities, "the good life," and more.
— Adrienne Antink

New York Review of Books - Jasper Griffin
Reading Late Antiquity one has a sense of the tearing down of barriers which have divided what should be a seamless web of the past. History does not in reality confine itself to neatly separate areas and departments--Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Coptic, Arabic, Germanic--in the way that universities do...Late Antiquity keeps to a very high standard of scholarship and it will please a wide range of serious readers.
Joint Association of Classical Teachers - Stephen Kern
The specific objective of this volume, with its distinguished editorship, is to enable students of the Late Roman Empire and the centuries that followed to perceive the period from c.250 AD to c.800 AD as a particular period in its own right, with characteristics, derived from the Roman and Sassanid Empires, that are peculiar to this period…A blockbuster such as this may appear daunting to the student but if it finds its way to some library shelves, even in a few schools, it is likely to be not so much a guide as a support, stimulus and challenge to the already-guided.
Times Literary Supplement - Rosamond McKitterick
A magnificent Guide to the post-classical world in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Jonathan Shepard
To fathom the cross-currents and undertows of the "post-classical" world while throwing out lifelines to the novice is no mean task, and the three editors have risen to this challenge with flair and discrimination...Cross-cutting between the public domain and private lives and drawing on such sources as Egyptian papyri and archaeology, the essays present varieties of experience in a three-dimensional way and make substantive contributions to scholarly debate.
Wall Street Journal - Eric Ormsby
Some books are like the Grand Bazaar: a maze of twisting byways where every corner promises surprise. Late Antiquity is such a book. Modestly calling itself a guide, this sumptuous volume shows the way not only to exotic and often vanished locales, but also to the emperors and caliphs, kingdoms and dynasties, ascetics and voluptuaries, and even the ordinary citizens of that complex and tortuous half-millennium (from 250 to 800 A.D.) in which our own spiritual and intellectual world first took recognizable shape. More than 200 experts have contributed, but the guide displays none of the numbing sameness that so often discourages the reader of scholarly monographs. Alongside succinct articles on Augustine or on ships (with a fine line-drawing of a Byzantine double-oared vessel) or on Jerusalem, there are treatments of bed-chambers, camels, prayer and even pornography, among other topics.
Washington Post Book World - Michael Dirda
[A] vade mecum for anybody drawn to what we used to call the Dark Ages, that swirling, little-understood period form the 3rd to the 8th centuries.
Washington Times - Bernard Knox
The result of the editors' decision to provide not an encyclopedia but a 'guide' is a brilliant success...The 11 brilliant and provocative essays which constitute the first section of the book discuss with fresh insight and in depth the ways in which the people of these turbulent centuries appropriated and manipulated the past; how the philosophers wrestled with the concept of 'the self,' one for which the Latin and Greek languages had no word; the life of religious (mainly Christian) communities; the formation of the concept of nationality among the new peoples settling in what had been the Roman empire of the West; the nature and dynamics of war in the period; empire building (especially the eastern Roman empire founded by Constantine in 323 A.D.); Christian triumph and controversy; Islam; and finally The Good Life, a survey of domestic property drawing on new archaeological material...The rest of the book, over 400 of its 780 pages, offers more than 500 articles in encyclopedic form, covering a wealth of topics not treated, or not treated in detail, in the essays...These entries are endlessly fascinating.
Boston Book Review - Paul-Jonathan Bensen
A proper educational guide cannot tell us what we need to know, but it can provide a map and a direction by which we may progress. Late Antiquity is, in this respect, the epitome of educational guides for the earnest student of history...Brown, Bowersock, and Grabar have all contributed seminal works in the figures and institutions that shaped and informed this vibrant, and previously obscured, time. To their credit, they have done for late antiquity what Niels Bohr did for the quantum electron: they discovered, or, more accurately, uncovered it. Late Antiquity is half encyclopedia, half textbook, and a whole world of scholarship. With 11 thematic essays and over 500 encyclopedic entries, Late Antiquity contains a starting point for the student and a crucial resource for the scholar.
Choice - B. Juhl
The editors of this handsome and inviting volume have each helped kindle the recent explosion in postclassical studies with important contributions on the creeds and cultures of the first millennium CE. Late Antiquity offers casual browsers and learned specialists alike a unique introduction to the summation of current scholarship on the period that has for too long been held as 'the unraveling of a once glorious...civilization' or 'a violent and hurried prelude to better things'...Highly recommended.
Providence Sunday Journal - Tom D'evelyn
This era is analyzed and illustrated with encyclopedic thoroughness and precision in Late Antiquity...The metaphysical tension and clash of cultures of Late Antiquity reminds one of our own; Late Antiquity is, unintentionally, a mirror of the 21st century. Edited by distinguished scholars G. W. Bowersock, Oleg Grabar and Peter Brown, this volume heralds a new discipline and extends a welcome to non-scholars as well.
Christian Century - Robert M. Grant
When Arnaldo Momigliano was at the University of Chicago he use to argue that we should teach not 'church history' but just 'history.' This is the implicit view of most of the contributors to this large, well-illustrated volume. The editors urge readers to use this impressive guide 'with enterprise and patience,' especially by choosing the right terms to look up. Eleven well-constructed essays on major themes in the modern study of late antiquity precede the book's brief, solid and up-to-date encyclopedia-style articles...Their book will be of great interest to everyone concerned with the origins of modern religion, politics and culture.
Commonweal - Lawrence S. Cunningham
Covers the interlocked worlds of Rome, Byzantium, the Persian Empire, and the newly emerging culture and kingdoms connected to the rise of Islam . . . The essays touch not only on big ideas and big movements but also on what the many discrete researches, ranging from literary criticism to anthropology, tell us.
American Reference Books Annual - Adrienne Antink
The authors provide an integrated view of the world during this period instead of looking at historical happenings in an isolated context…The themes are broad and expand the reader's perspective. Topics include habitat, war, religious communities, "the good life," and more.
Wall Street Journal
Some books are like the Grand Bazaar: a maze of twisting byways where every corner promises surprise. Late Antiquity is such a book. Modestly calling itself a guide, this sumptuous volume shows the way not only to exotic and often vanished locales, but also to the emperors and caliphs, kingdoms and dynasties, ascetics and voluptuaries, and even the ordinary citizens of that complex and tortuous half-millennium (from 250 to 800 A.D.) in which our own spiritual and intellectual world first took recognizable shape. More than 200 experts have contributed, but the guide displays none of the numbing sameness that so often discourages the reader of scholarly monographs. Alongside succinct articles on Augustine or on ships (with a fine line-drawing of a Byzantine double-oared vessel) or on Jerusalem, there are treatments of bed-chambers, camels, prayer and even pornography, among other topics.
— Eric Ormsby
Commonweal
Covers the interlocked worlds of Rome, Byzantium, the Persian Empire, and the newly emerging culture and kingdoms connected to the rise of Islam . . . The essays touch not only on big ideas and big movements but also on what the many discrete researches, ranging from literary criticism to anthropology, tell us.
— Lawrence S. Cunningham
Joint Association of Classical Teachers
The specific objective of this volume, with its distinguished editorship, is to enable students of the Late Roman Empire and the centuries that followed to perceive the period from c.250 AD to c.800 AD as a particular period in its own right, with characteristics, derived from the Roman and Sassanid Empires, that are peculiar to this period…A blockbuster such as this may appear daunting to the student but if it finds its way to some library shelves, even in a few schools, it is likely to be not so much a guide as a support, stimulus and challenge to the already-guided.
— Stephen Kern
Choice
The editors of this handsome and inviting volume have each helped kindle the recent explosion in postclassical studies with important contributions on the creeds and cultures of the first millennium CE. Late Antiquity offers casual browsers and learned specialists alike a unique introduction to the summation of current scholarship on the period that has for too long been held as 'the unraveling of a once glorious...civilization' or 'a violent and hurried prelude to better things'...Highly recommended.
— B. Juhl
Providence Sunday Journal
This era is analyzed and illustrated with encyclopedic thoroughness and precision in Late Antiquity...The metaphysical tension and clash of cultures of Late Antiquity reminds one of our own; Late Antiquity is, unintentionally, a mirror of the 21st century. Edited by distinguished scholars G. W. Bowersock, Oleg Grabar and Peter Brown, this volume heralds a new discipline and extends a welcome to non-scholars as well.
— Tom D'Evelyn
Christian Century
When Arnaldo Momigliano was at the University of Chicago he use to argue that we should teach not 'church history' but just 'history.' This is the implicit view of most of the contributors to this large, well-illustrated volume. The editors urge readers to use this impressive guide 'with enterprise and patience,' especially by choosing the right terms to look up. Eleven well-constructed essays on major themes in the modern study of late antiquity precede the book's brief, solid and up-to-date encyclopedia-style articles...Their book will be of great interest to everyone concerned with the origins of modern religion, politics and culture.
— Robert M. Grant
Washington Times
The result of the editors' decision to provide not an encyclopedia but a 'guide' is a brilliant success...The 11 brilliant and provocative essays which constitute the first section of the book discuss with fresh insight and in depth the ways in which the people of these turbulent centuries appropriated and manipulated the past; how the philosophers wrestled with the concept of 'the self,' one for which the Latin and Greek languages had no word; the life of religious mainly Christian communities; the formation of the concept of nationality among the new peoples settling in what had been the Roman empire of the West; the nature and dynamics of war in the period; empire building especially the eastern Roman empire founded by Constantine in 323 A.D.; Christian triumph and controversy; Islam; and finally The Good Life, a survey of domestic property drawing on new archaeological material...The rest of the book, over 400 of its 780 pages, offers more than 500 articles in encyclopedic form, covering a wealth of topics not treated, or not treated in detail, in the essays...These entries are endlessly fascinating.
— Bernard Knox
Times Literary Supplement
A magnificent Guide to the post-classical world in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
— Rosamond McKitterick
Boston Book Review
A proper educational guide cannot tell us what we need to know, but it can provide a map and a direction by which we may progress. Late Antiquity is, in this respect, the epitome of educational guides for the earnest student of history...Brown, Bowersock, and Grabar have all contributed seminal works in the figures and institutions that shaped and informed this vibrant, and previously obscured, time. To their credit, they have done for late antiquity what Niels Bohr did for the quantum electron: they discovered, or, more accurately, uncovered it. Late Antiquity is half encyclopedia, half textbook, and a whole world of scholarship. With 11 thematic essays and over 500 encyclopedic entries, Late Antiquity contains a starting point for the student and a crucial resource for the scholar.
— Paul-Jonathan Bensen
Washington Post Book World
[A] vade mecum for anybody drawn to what we used to call the Dark Ages, that swirling, little-understood period form the 3rd to the 8th centuries.
— Michael Dirda
New York Review of Books
Reading Late Antiquity one has a sense of the tearing down of barriers which have divided what should be a seamless web of the past. History does not in reality confine itself to neatly separate areas and departments--Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Coptic, Arabic, Germanic--in the way that universities do...Late Antiquity keeps to a very high standard of scholarship and it will please a wide range of serious readers.
— Jasper Griffin
American Reference Books Annual
The authors provide an integrated view of the world during this period instead of looking at historical happenings in an isolated context…The themes are broad and expand the reader's perspective. Topics include habitat, war, religious communities, "the good life," and more.
— Adrienne Antink
Times Higher Education Supplement
To fathom the cross-currents and undertows of the "post-classical" world while throwing out lifelines to the novice is no mean task, and the three editors have risen to this challenge with flair and discrimination...Cross-cutting between the public domain and private lives and drawing on such sources as Egyptian papyri and archaeology, the essays present varieties of experience in a three-dimensional way and make substantive contributions to scholarly debate.
— Jonathan Shepard
Eric Ormsby
Late Antiquity is alive with such observations.
Wall Street Journal
Library Journal
The editors of this work, all Princeton scholars, have accomplished a worthy goal in broadening our understanding of a significant period of history; through inclusion of the early expansion of Islam, they have extended late antiquity by some 150 years. Their new time line begins around 250 C.E., when the Roman Empire was in crisis and the Sassanians, a militant new dynasty, had arisen in Iran. By 313, the Roman Empire's civil and military institutions had been totally transformed, and a strong central goverment with imperial aspirations had also altered Iran and Iraq. By the year 800, the Church in Europe drew its organization from the civil institutions of the late Roman Empire, the Islamic Caliphate of the Abbasids had adopted the court ceremonies of the Sassanians to reinforce their authority, and Byzantium was ruled by the direct successors of Caesar Augustus. Making extensive use of new archaeological discoveries, this work challenges old assumptions and should help renew interest in this era. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.--Robert James Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Jasper Griffin
A handsome and informative book [that] enlightens us about that long, difficult and often neglected period, the postclassical world…Late Antiquity keeps to a very high level of scholarship and it will please a wide range of serious readers.
The New York Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674511736
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1999
  • Series: Harvard University Press Reference Library Series , #9
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 802
  • Sales rank: 1,451,045
  • Product dimensions: 8.34 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 1.66 (d)

Meet the Author

G. W. Bowersock is Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Peter Brown is Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Princeton University. Among his publications is The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, 200-1000 A.D.

Oleg Grabar was Professor Emeritus of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Remaking the Past
Averil Cameron

Sacralization and Desacralization
Béatrice Caseau

Philosophical Tradition and the Self
Henry Chadwick

Religious Communities
Garth Fowden

Barbarians and Ethnicity
Patrick J. Geary

War and Violence
Brent D. Shaw

Empire Building
Christopher Kelly

Christian Triumph and Controversy
Richard Lim

Islam
Hugh Kennedy

The Good Life
Henry Maguire

Habitat
Yizhar Hirschfeld

Alphabetical Guide

Abbreviations

Contributors

Illustration Credits

Index

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