Riot in Alexandria: Tradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities

Overview

This innovative study uses one well-documented moment of violence as a starting point for a wide-ranging examination of the ideas and interactions of pagan philosophers, Christian ascetics, and bishops from the fourth to the early seventh century. Edward J. Watts reconstructs a riot that erupted in Alexandria in 486 when a group of students attacked a Christian adolescent who had publicly insulted the students' teachers. Pagan students, Christians affiliated with a local monastery, and the Alexandrian ...

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Overview

This innovative study uses one well-documented moment of violence as a starting point for a wide-ranging examination of the ideas and interactions of pagan philosophers, Christian ascetics, and bishops from the fourth to the early seventh century. Edward J. Watts reconstructs a riot that erupted in Alexandria in 486 when a group of students attacked a Christian adolescent who had publicly insulted the students' teachers. Pagan students, Christians affiliated with a local monastery, and the Alexandrian ecclesiastical leaders all cast the incident in a different light, and each group tried with that interpretation to influence subsequent events. Watts, drawing on Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac sources, shows how historical traditions and notions of a shared past shaped the interactions and behavior of these high-profile communities. Connecting oral and written texts to the personal relationships that gave them meaning and to the actions that gave them form, Riot in Alexandria draws new attention to the understudied social and cultural history of the later fifth-century Roman world and at the same time opens a new window on late antique intellectual life.

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Editorial Reviews

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR)
“A noteworthy contribution to the study of Late Antiquity.”
Book News
“Watts makes the people and events vivid and relevant to the reader.”
Journal Of Theological Studies
“A commendable account of campus life, student Christian activism, and episcopal oversight in Alexandria.”
Church History Stds In Christiany And Culture - Thomas Sizgorich
“There is much here to admire.”
Catholic Historical Review - T.D.BARNES
“Edward Watts has written a wide-ranging, thoughtful, and stimulating exploration of what can be learned from a single episode.”
Prudentia - Justin Pigott
“Watts deftly weds a minutely detailed examination of a specific event to wider macro-history.”
European Legacy - Victor Castellani
"Well-researched [and] carefully argued. . . . Watts has an excellent sense of what needs to be explained for non-specialists."
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Edward J. Watts, Associate Professor in the Department of History at
Indiana University, is the author of City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria, winner of the Outstanding Publication Award from the Classical Association of the Midwest and South.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

1. The Anatomy of a Riot

Part 1. Historical Discourse in
Intellectual Communities

2. Personal Legacy and Scholastic Identity

Internal Historical Discourse and Its Transmission: The Example of Eunapius
Defending Communal Historical Discourse: Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus

3. Past, Present, and Future in Late Neoplatonic Historical Discourse
The Life of Isidore and its Sources
Eating, Drinking, and Learning Neoplatonic History
Oral Tradition and Scholastic Identity in the Alexandrian Schools of the 480s
Paralius’s Beating within its Scholastic Context
Fifth-Century Christian Violence in Neoplatonic Communal Memory
Teaching Ethics after the Riot

Part 2. The Past Within and Outside Late Antique Monasteries

4. History and the Shape of Monastic Communities
The Koinonia
The Historia Monachorum and Visitors’ Exposure to Ascetic Oral Traditions
Social Relations and the Power of the Master: Barsanuphius and John

5. Anti-Chalcedonian Ascetics and their Student Associates
The Limits of Ascetic
Influence
Finding the Ascetic and
Intellectual Balance
The Ascetic and Sophistic Mélange of Zacharias Scholasticus
A Student Riot and its Commemoration: The “Life of Paralius”

Part 3. Defining the Alexandrian Bishop

6. Creating the Legend of the Alexandrian Bishop
Mechanisms of Episcopal Power
Athanasius and the Politics of Self-Definition
Athanasius’s Restoration and Redefinition
The Athanasian Historical Legacy

7. Theophilus and Cyril: The Alexandrian Bishop Triumphant
Theophilus and the Historical Character of Athanasius
The Legacy of Theophilus

8. Peter Mongus Struggles with the Past
Chalcedon and the Redefinition of the Alexandrian Bishop
Peter Mongus and Resistance in an Age of Compromise
Peter Mongus and the Beating of Paralius
A Riot’s Aftermath

9. Conclusion

Appendix 1. Dating the Riot
Appendix 2. How Much Should We Trust Zacharias Scholasticus?
Bibliography

Index

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