Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict (Ancient Society and History) Reviews

Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict (Ancient Society and History)

Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity’s most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians—among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria’s bustling urban milieu.

Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria’s neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city’s religious and ethnic blocs—Jews, pagans, and Christians—he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups’ struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed—a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other.

Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration—a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

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1 Comment so far »

  1. "drhathoway" said,

    Wrote on November 20, 2011 @ 9:03 am

    14 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Alexandria: Second City of the Roman Empire, September 15, 2001
    By 
    “drhathoway” (Cranston, Rhode Island United States) –

    In this well organized and information filled study on Late Antique Alexandria, Haas presents a city second only to Rome in population(probably) which surpassed Rome in education and perhaps culture. While his title would lead you to believe that there are a lot of maps, most of the topographical references deal with intercoommunal conflict and travel systems within the city. He admits that no one really knows exactly what the city looked like since archaelogical excavations are very difficult to undertake in modern day Alexandria.
    The strengths of the book are in the vast amount of knowledge presented on the christian community and also in shedding new light on the intercommunal conflict. He does not take the position that intercommunal violence was the norm. My only criticisms of the book are a lack of a true bibliography, though there are extensive endnotes and also that he does not do enough with Paganism and especially Judaism in late antique Alexandria although that is mostly due to the lack of primary sources. Do not expect this book to talk about Alexandria in the wider context of Late Antiquity. Although there is some mention of Alexandria’s extensive shipping industry and trading connections, most of the work deals with events that took place within Alexandria. A must have book for those interested in Late Antiquity, Roman Egypt, or Roman cities.

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