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Title: Foundation myths in late antique Syria and Mesopotamia : the emergence of Miaphysite political thought 400-600 A.D.
Author: Wood, Philip John
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2007
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The thesis examines the effects of Christianisation upon regional identity and political thought in the eastern Mediterranean in the fifth and sixth centuries. The historiography has emphasised the centripetal side of this process. But this thesis also draws attention to the centrifugal effects of Christianisation. The Syriac-speaking world could manufacture foundation myths to develop a cultural independence within the Roman Empire and to limit and, ultimately, to challenge the prestige of the emperor. I begin by examining the centripetal effects of Christianisation in the ecclesiastical histories of the fifth century and, in the Syrian provinces, in Theodoret of Cyrrhus Historia Religiosa. I argue that Christianity provided a more extensive means of classifying the peoples of the empire, both to exclude heretics and to monitor and judge the religious practices of provincial populations that had rarely been the concern of an earlier 'paideia'. In Theodoret's case, his attempts to control the reputations of provincial holy men are also a symptom of a more widespread cultural trend in the fifth century, namely the increasing importance and prestige of the Syriac language and the customs and histories of its users. This trend operates most starkly in the invented histories of the city of Edessa, the 'Doctrina Addai', which I examine with the aid of comparisons from more modern history. In the second half of the thesis I examine how a sense of local orthodoxy and ascetic prestige was used to criticise the empire during the Miaphysite movement, firstly in the city of Edessa, in the 'Julian Romance', and then in the whole of the Miaphysite east, centred on Mesopotamia, in John of Ephesus' 'Lives of the Eastern Saints'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Oxford University, 2007 Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available