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Reviving the Ascetic Ideal in the Eastern Mediterranean: Entangled Memories of Early Egyptian Monasticism in Medieval Syriac, Arabic, and Armenian Christianity (969-1375 CE)


RevIdEM combines new insights from Cultural Memory Studies, Mediterranean Intellectual History, and Manuscript Studies, in order to provide the first comprehensive analysis of the monastic revival in the Eastern Mediterranean between 969 and 1375 CE. Challenging traditional avenues of research, RevIdEM will focus on the metanarratives ('myths') about the origins of Christian monasticism in Egypt (4th century CE), and their later reception in the culturally complex environment of the Medieval Mediterranean. The project reappraises this ample medieval engagement with late antique asceticism as an original intellectual endeavour spanning linguistic and political boundaries. To the same end, RevIdEM will tap the enormous potential of the large number of Syriac, Arabic, and Armenian ascetic manuscripts produced in this time frame as new sources for the religious, cultural and social history of the region. Essential information on the scribes, readers, users and circulation of these documents will be collected in an online database. By interpreting this hitherto neglected corpus of sources as focal points of ‘cultural memory making’, RevIdEM will explain the lasting success and wide-ranging impact of the Egyptian ascetic ideal in the Medieval Mediterranean. The project will thus pinpoint the role of cultural memory as the main catalyst of the monastic revival. In order to achieve these objectives, the team will focus on carefully selected case studies from Northern Syria, Egypt, and Armenian Cilicia, exploring the ways in which the monastic authors, scribes and compilers of these regions constructed and disseminated their narratives of early desert asceticism. By revaluing the cultural, social and political significance of monastic life in the medieval Levant and highlighting the role of metanarratives and cultural memory as engines of historical change, the results of RevIdEM will represent a major paradigm shift in the study of Mediterranean History.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 496 657,50
Universitatsring 1
1010 Wien

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Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00