Controlling Contested Places: Late Antique Antioch and the Spatial Politics of Religious Controversy

Controlling Contested Places: Late Antique Antioch and the Spatial Politics of Religious Controversy

by Christine Shepardson

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From constructing new buildings to describing rival-controlled areas as morally and physically dangerous, leaders in late antiquity fundamentally shaped their physical environment and thus the events that unfolded within it. Controlling Contested Places maps the city of Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) through the topographically sensitive vocabulary of cultural geography, demonstrating the critical role played by physical and rhetorical spatial contests during the tumultuous fourth century. Paying close attention to the manipulation of physical places, Christine Shepardson exposes some of the powerful forces that structured the development of religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the late Roman Empire.

Theological claims and political support were not the only significant factors in determining which Christian communities gained authority around the Empire. Rather, Antioch’s urban and rural places, far from being an inert backdrop against which events transpired, were ever-shifting sites of, and tools for, the negotiation of power, authority, and religious identity. This book traces the ways in which leaders like John Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Libanius encouraged their audiences to modify their daily behaviors and transform their interpretation of the world (and landscape) around them. Shepardson argues that examples from Antioch were echoed around the Mediterranean world, and similar types of physical and rhetorical manipulations continue to shape the politics of identity and perceptions of religious orthodoxy to this day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520303379
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Christine Shepardson is Lindsay Young Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

List of Roman Emperors and Bishops of Antioch

Timeline of Key Events

Introduction: The Lay of the Land

1. The Power of Prestigious Places: Teaching and Preaching in Fourth-Century Antioch

2. Burying Babylas: Place-Marketing and the Politics of Memory 

3. Being Correctly Christian: John Chrysostom’s Rhetoric in 386–87 

4. Transformative Transgressions: Exploiting the Urban/Rural Divide

5. Mapping a Textured Landscape: Temples, Martyrs, and Ascetics 

6. Elsewhere in the Empire

Conclusion: Controlling Contested Places



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