To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Pondering the miraculous deeds of the early Christian saints and martyrs in his City of God, St. Augustine queried, “Why can the dead do such great things?”1 Robert Bartlett's magisterial study takes up this question by examining the veneration of the holy dead from the age of the martyrs through the Protestant Reformation. While its center of gravity is medieval Europe, the book's long scope and comparative dimensions make it relevant to historians and scholars of religion across a broad chronological and geographic spectrum. Alongside its erudition, Bartlett's study is also remarkably accessible—full of engaging stories, good humor, and profound insight into human nature as well as social practice.
Discussion of mission in east Roman or Byzantine history has typically focused on imperial ambitions, royal conversions, and a “top-down” approach to Christianization. The Christian emperor, the earthly image of the heavenly king, had been called by God to propagate the faith and civilize the barbarians. Toward this end he sent out emissaries to foreign potentates, and the conversion of the ruler was soon followed by the Christianization of his people. Such narratives largely ignore missionaries “from below,” deemed “accidental” evangelists, and focus instead on imperially sponsored or “professional missionaries.” Several recent studies have added nuance to the traditional picture by devoting increased attention to mission from below or presenting Christianization as a process comprising multiple stages that spanned several centuries. Building on my own previous article on this theme, the present essay will reexamine narratives of unofficial mission on the eastern frontiers, in particular accounts of captive women credited with converting whole kingdoms to the Christian faith. In each case a female ascetic has either been taken prisoner or has lived for some time as a captive in a foreign land just beyond east Roman borders. The woman's steadfast adherence to her pious way of life, performance of apostolic signs, and verbal testimony to faith in Christ move the ruler and his people to accept the Christian God.
The significance of captives in the history of empire has come to the fore in several recent books and articles. Linda Colley starts her intriguing study of this theme with the stories of two famous, if legendary, British captives—Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver—explaining how each represents a different conception of empire: the former a shipwrecked ex-slave turned conqueror and colonizer; the latter an overseas adventurer who is captured, humiliated, and terrorized but ultimately transformed by the values of his captors into a critic of his own society. Far from the heroes of Defoe and Swift, female captives featured in conversion accounts on the east Roman frontiers represent another response to captivity in a very different imperial world—that of the Roman and Iranian empires of late antiquity. These protagonists neither came to dominate the kingdoms in which they were held nor assimilated the culture of their captors but maintained their identity, their customs, and their religion in captivity. Indeed, these captives went further still, actually transforming the peoples and governments under which they were held from their very positions of subordination.
Toward the end of the third century Bishop Narcissus of Jerusalem retired to the desert to escape the burdens and intrigues of the episcopate and devote himself to the “philosophic life.” By the sixth century we find much more often the reverse phenomenon—monks, with alleged unwillingness, abandoning the peace and solitude of the desert to engage in active episcopal careers. The intervening period saw the phenomenal spread of the monastic movement and its gradual assimilation by the hierarchy of the church. Monasteries contained rising numbers of ordainedpriests and deacons, and bishops were increasingly chosen from the ranks of monks. This process accelerated in the Christian East to such an extent that from the sixth century on monasteries are said to have served as virtual “seminaries for bishops.”
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.