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The inspiration for this volume comes from the work of its dedicatee, Brent D. Shaw, who is one of the most original and wide-ranging historians of the ancient world of the last half-century and continues to open up exciting new fields for exploration. Each of the distinguished contributors has produced a cutting-edge exploration of a topic in the history and culture of the Roman Empire dealing with a subject on which Professor Shaw has contributed valuable work. Three major themes extend across the volume as a whole. First, the ways in which the Roman world represented an intricate web of connections even while many people's lives remained fragmented and local. Second, the ways in which the peculiar Roman space promoted religious competition in a sophisticated marketplace for practices and beliefs, with Christianity being a major benefactor. Finally, the varying forms of violence which were endemic within and between communities.
The Introduction traces the main themes of the volume: boundaries and networks, religious innovation, and violence as an agent of societal change. It offers a tribute to the inspirational scholarship and intellectual influence of Brent Shaw. An analysis of the Demna mosaic from Cap Bon in North Africa is used as an example of the types of overlapping topics that inspired Brent Shaw and this volume.