Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict

Article excerpt

Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict. By Christopher Haas. [Ancient Society and History.] (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1997. Pp. xviii, 494. $45.00.)

When one looks at the pathetic archaeological remains so far uncovered at Alexandria, it is difficult to imagine the magnificent city described by ancient literary sources. Add to this the paucity of documentary evidence from Alexandria and the Delta, the result of the destruction of papyri by the dampness of those areas. To do a comprehensive study of late antique Alexandria, it is necessary to rely heavily on literary sources. Christopher Haas's attempt to present a comprehensive history of Alexandria highlights all these problems. But the book is also an example of what can be accomplished when limitations are recognized, and the surviving data are carefully scrutinized for what can be recovered from the history of this center of trade, church politics, and intellectual life, the political capital of one of Rome's richest and most volatile regions.

A noteworthy strength of the book lies in its successful attempt to locate historical events in both their physical and social contexts. For the former this is difficult because so much of ancient Alexandria has been obliterated, and clues to the plan of the city remain hidden under subsequent construction, with a few exceptions like the excavated portion of Kom el-Dikka, a modest neighborhood that gives some insight into the lives of people lower on the social ladder than those we usually encounter in literary documents. Following a topographical account of the city, Haas moves to an analysis of its social structures, and closes the chapter by positing the effects of the city's topography on the maintenance of control and display of political power by the magistrates and magnates who ran the city. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.