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Intercommunal Space in Late Antiquity

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IntercommunalSpace (Intercommunal Space in Late Antiquity)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2016-01-01 do 2017-12-31

This fellowship challenged popular and academic stereotypes to show how different religious groups managed, for the most part, to live peacefully alongside each other during late antiquity. We live in an era of increasing intercommunal tension and polarisation, making it important to examine how religious communities interactedin the reality of everyday life in late antiquity, a period from which many contemporary religious identities, especially those of recent incomers to Europe, were developed. Archaeological and historical discoveries relating to late antiquity can challenge assumptions made about how we approach such issues. They can inform our own approaches to the place of religion in public life, at least by challenging current origin myths and prejudices about the historical experience of different groups. Late antiquity offers an intercommunal experience of shared civic space and of the absence of ghettos, a different model to the Middle Ages of Christian Europe or Medieval Islam. The research objective was to explore the daily reality of intercommunal living within late antique cites, through an examination of urban space beyond religious buildings, particularly those areas were people chose, rather than had to, mingle. It included large baths, theatres, hippodromes, school, libraries, latrines and hospitals. It sought to track the survival of related classical monumental buildings and traditional activities in Mediterranean cities during the 4th to early 7th c. and also to see to what extent different religious identities were expressed within them. This work drew on previous research by the author which considered 'public space' , i.e. places where different groups could not avoid mingling. Enough data was collected to establish the persistence of theatres, large baths, latrines and public libraries in the 4th c. almost everywhere, and in the 5th-7th c. in the East, via repair and new construction, from archaeology, literary sources and inscriptions. Spaces were Christianised with symbols and only minor changes to sculptural assemblages. Christianity became dominant but within cities that maintained legal, civic and property opportunities for other confessions. The dissemination objectives were: (i) To promote the empirical study of the secular archaeology of the late antique city in French excavations, whilst absorbing the full range of non-archaeological specialisms available in Paris pertinent to everyday life; (ii) To promote secular public space in late antique cities to the public, supported by visualisation. Academic dissemination objectives were successfully achieved via the holding of lectures and conferences and participation in workshops (Paris, Cairo) with interested parties, on the subject of excavation method (Paris), spolia analysis (Paris), visualisation (Paris) of secular public space and on the archaeology of pagan temples (Paris). There was also considerable interest after invited lectures on my visualisation and excavation work in Reading, Munich and Vienna. Public dissemination objectives is currently being achieved via an ongoing bilingual blog supported by 3-D artistic visualisation production.
Catalogues of textual references have been assembled on baths, theatres, amphitheatres, hippodromes/circuses, latrines, schools, libraries and hospitals, using hagiography, chronicles, legal texts, personal letters and other sources, providing some idea of the use of these spaces. Corpuses of inscriptions have also been studied for evidence of repairs and function. Forty-seven archaeological sites were visited, in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria, to observe repairs to public buildings and to look for use, especially signs and graffiti relating to religious identity. It was not possible to visit the main target regions of Turkey and Tunisia. To compensate for the incomplete nature of my data on intercommunal space, I decided to delay writing my monograph and returned to my previous work on the parallel topic of 'public space' (fora/agorai, streets, shops and markets etc) to examine the phasing and dating, expanding the work by two new volumes. This produced some fundamental methodological principles and a subtle awareness of the phasing of East Mediterranean sites, where it became clear that many archaeologists had mixed up different phases to produce a single messy late antique phase. 500,000 words of new research text were produced on 'public space' during the MC EF. The methodological advances produced a valuable step forward in relation to the MC investigation, for which, provisional results have emerged (see next section). Public Space in Late Antique City is published in Spring 2018 (3 vols Bril). I have published an article on phasing and dating on Ostia. I intend to put my catalogue of sites available on the web within the next two years. I will publish a volume of lectures for a general audience in 2019 as part of an ENS visiting professorship.
A large numbers of repairs and adaptions of theatres were documented for Tunisia, Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, especially relating to their conversion into arenas, the provision of water supplies for aquatic spectacles or the addition of 'seats of honour'. These repairs are most known in the 4th c. in the West, but continue at Rome and in some cities of the East into the 6th c. Seat reservations in entertainment buildings were recorded for different social groups including religious confessions, such as Samaritans, Jews and Old Jews were revealed. Libraries and schools could be traced within larger bath buildings in the 4th c., but only in lecture rooms could be associated with baths in the 6th c., and then only at Alexandria, around baths rather than part of them. New public latrines (where people relieved themselves collectively, in open halls with many seats) were built throughout the period. In one case, overtly Christian decoration can be seen in a latrine (Magnesia ad Meandrum). However, late poetry texts dedicating building works use non-confessional language to describe the function of latrines at a practical and even spiritual level, as a place to meditate on the transience of food. In terms of Christian presence, a few baths for healing the sick were established, with a definite charitable mission, but otherwise Christian influence in larger baths was related to graffiti or decorative crosses, as traditional bathing behaviour continued. Schools are hard to trace at a civic level beyond the early 5th c., but in larger cities, higher education, with a wide-range of subjects, though favouring legal studies, can be seen across the 6th c. East. There is no evidence of Christian attempts to restrict access to schools, hospitals or baths. Amongst religious symbols in these public spaces, crosses, especially graffiti crosses, are dominant. Menorahs are known in Asia Minor and parts of the Levant, but pagan symbols such as the double axe of Zeus are very circumscribed. The inscribing of crosses seems to date no earlier than ca. 400, and mainly after the legal restrictions on paganism were complete, not from a period of active competition.
The Palaestra of Ostia, port of Rome A.D. 387. (©Will Foster/Luke Lavan VLAC team).