Christian Gaza in Late Antiquity

Christian Gaza in Late Antiquity

Christian Gaza in Late Antiquity

Christian Gaza in Late Antiquity


This valuable collection of thirteen studies provides an overview of recent research on central issues concerning the history of late antique Gaza. Several essays address various aspects of the continuity of pagan culture in Christian Gaza, festivals, spectacles, and the classical legacy of the fifth and sixth centuries, thus highlighting the public life of the city as a unique synthesis of the new and old worlds. Several articles deal with central topics pertaining to the monastic life developed in the region of Gaza and its vicinity between the fourth and seventh centuries. More specifically, they explore the rich Correspondence of Barsanuphius and John, the spiritual leaders of this monastic community. Two papers furnish an archeological survey of the monasteries of Gaza, and a discussion on the geographical and administrative aspects of its territory. Certain articles focus on the anti-Chalcedonian resistance of this monastic center in the wake of the council of Chalcedon, while others tackle the change of its stance in the time of Emperor Justin (518-527). In sum, this book covers a relatively neglected chapter in the complex and fascinating Christian history of the Holy Land.


In mid-October 2000 a conference on Christianity in the region of Gaza in late antiquity was to take place in Jerusalem and Gaza. The groundwork had been laid during the time of rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians, and hopes for future collaboration between Arab and Israeli scholars were high. Many scholars from various countries shared our enthusiasm for this topic—hitherto relatively neglected—and expressed their willingness to participate in the conference. Unfortunately, two weeks before the opening day, the al-Aqsa intifada broke out, resulting in the indefinite postponement of the conference. This book is based on some of the papers originally intended for the conference. Its aim is to launch a discussion on this ancient center of Christianity. Most of the articles are revised versions of the original papers; a few, however—for various reasons—retain their original informal nature, that of a conference presentation.

Gaza and its environs were the last pagan stronghold in late antique Palestine. From the early fifth century on, the city developed into a flourishing and important Christian center with a celebrated school of rletoric and leading monastic communities scattered around it.

Much scholarly energy has been devoted to exploring the transition from paganism to Christianity in Gaza as well as its school of rhetoric and its prominent figures. Sporadic studies have treated the Gazan monastic center, and since the 1960s, new editions of texts and modern translations of its literature have appeared, thanks especially to the efforts of the monks of Solemes. Nevertheless the picture we have of this flourishing Christian community remains partial, and the story of Christianity in Gaza and its surroundings merits further investigation of the various aspects of its social, spiritual, and material history. The last decade has witnessed a growing interest in the topic, especially on the part of young scholars; several have chosen the topic for their dissertations and some of them have contributed to this volume.

It is not by chance that the book opens with a study of pagan culture in Gaza. Pagan festivals and spectacles survived well into the city's Christian era, forging its public life into a unique synthesis of the new and old worlds. Nicole Belayche's detailed depiction of pagan festivals in fourth-century Gaza testifies to pagan vitality in the city up to the beginning of the fifth century. She demonstrates the extent to . . .

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