A Companion to Late Antiquity

A Companion to Late Antiquity

A Companion to Late Antiquity

A Companion to Late Antiquity

Synopsis

An accessible and authoritative overview capturing the vitality and diversity of scholarship that exists on the transformative time period known as late antiquity.
  • Provides an essential overview of current scholarship on late antiquity - from between the accession of Diocletian in AD 284 and the end of Roman rule in the Mediterranean
  • Comprises 39 essays from some of the world's foremost scholars of the era
  • Presents this once-neglected period as an age of powerful transformation that shaped the modern world
  • Emphasizes the central importance of religion and its connection with economic, social, and political life
  • Winner of the 2009 Single Volume Reference/Humanities & Social Sciences PROSE award granted by the Association of American Publishers

Excerpt

As we approach Late Antiquity in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a number of questions arise. We must ask ourselves not simply what is it that we see – that is, what does Late Antiquity look like, how do we define it, what shape does it currently take? – but also why do we see what we see? To what degree does the way in which we approach Late Antiquity shape the picture that we receive? This leads to a deeper question: what drives us to approach Late Antiquity in the particular ways that we do? What are the historical and ideological underpinnings of the approaches that were taken in the past or that we now exploit? These last two questions are explored at length in the chapters by Papaioannou, Leyser, Vessey, Ando, Rebenich, and Brandt (and touched on in Trout, Francis, Harley, Burton, Gillett, Halsall, Drijvers, and Lim). It is on the second question (how does the way in which we approach Late Antiquity shape the picture that we receive?) and its related issues that I want to focus here. My purpose is to raise awareness of how our approach to the field is a significant factor in shaping our perception, to learn what kinds of questions to ask of what we see, and to provide some understanding of the limitations of the methodologies, approaches, and theories that we apply. in this respect, the chapter is at its heart a consciousness-raising exercise, a warning to those about to enter the world of Late Antiquity that everything may not be as it at first appears.

Approaching the Evidence

As a first step in engaging with these particular issues, let us explore some of the problems that arise from the different types of evidence that are available to us, since the nature of the evidence itself and the methodological problems associated with interpreting it can significantly determine our approach. Essentially, the evidence available to scholars of Late Antiquity divides into two kinds: material sources . . .

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