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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1009: Late Antique Texts and Christian Identities

Wednesday 5 July 2023, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Robert Wiśniewski, Instytut Historyczny, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Paper 1009-aFrom ROTAS to SATOR: The Christianisation of a Magic Square
(Language: English)
Mark Saltveit, Palindromist Magazine, Middlebury, Vermont
Index terms: Epigraphy, Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Latin, Manuscripts and Palaeography
Paper 1009-bEntangled Priests: Social and Economic Interconnectedness of Clergy in Late Antique Egypt
(Language: English)
Joanna Wegner, Instytut Archeologii, Uniwersytet Warszawski
Index terms: Daily Life, Ecclesiastical History, Economics - Rural, Local History
Paper 1009-cBuilding a Transregional Christian Community in Late Antiquity: The Epistolary Networks of Augustine of Hippo
(Language: English)
Carmen Angela Cvetković, University of St Andrews
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Social History

Paper -a:
This paper builds on recent archeological finds to present a new understanding of the much-discussed SATOR or ROTAS word square. The 'PATERNOSTER anagram' theory, long discredited, saw the Roman-era version of the square - always beginning with ROTAS - as a hidden Christian symbol. On the contrary, it disappeared from the Western European archaeological record precisely when Roman emperors became Christian, implying suppression. I center the role of Coptic culture in transforming it to Christian meaning, always starting with cατωρ, from the 6th century. on. Only in the 9th century did it re-enter Western Europe as the SATOR square.

Paper -b:
Documents on papyri preserved from late antique and early Arab Egypt (4th-8th century) offer invaluable insights into the activities of clergy that took place outside the church. From them, we learn of the various ways in which clerics engaged with fellow members of (mainly rural) society. The paper will seek to explore the diverse modes of social and economic participation, from assisting individuals in legal acts to representing village communities. A close assessment of papyrological material will allow us to come closer to an understanding of what clerical status meant in practice.

Paper -c:
It is widely acknowledged that Augustine of Hippo (357-430) was an extremely well connected late ancient Christian bishop. Evidence about Augustine´s social connections is scattered throughout his impressive body of writings, but it is especially his letter collection that bears testimony both to the breadth of his social network and to his networking skills. Yet despite providing fascinating glimpses into the often intricate dynamics of interpersonal relationships of late ancient Christian and Roman elites, so far there have been only sporadic attempts to understand how he actually succeeded in constructing and expanding his social networks by means of letter writing. Modern approaches to the study of interpersonal relationships such as social network analysis (SNA) have been dismissed as inadequate for studying Augustine's fragmentary epistolary corpus, because of the lack of big data. While weighing on the advantages and challenges of using social network theory to interpret Augustine's epistolary corpus this paper argues that qualitative approaches informed by insights from social anthropology and relational sociology might prove helpful when trying to understand how Augustine initiated, maintained or put an end to social relationships.