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Kilian Mallon (Stanford), "Religion at the End of Empire: church construction, labor mobilization, and social power in the Late Antique western Mediterranean"

May 10, 2019 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
Bldg. 110, Rm. 112

This event is free and open to the public.

In this dissertation I explore how church construction produced new forms of economic life and social power in three regions during Late Antiquity: the Po Valley, the Ebro Valley, and the Rhône Valley from 300–600 CE. I argue for a series of economic-religious shifts defined by changes in construction processes, location, form, and scale. My goal is to help bridge the divides in the field of Late Antiquity between those who study social and economic life and those who study religious life, and to measure the importance of human and material mobilization in creating the Christian built environment. I begin by tracking the history of scholarly divergences between archaeologists working on early Christianity and those working on Late Antique socio-economics. I then characterize the economic history of these regions under the themes of integration, state capacity, transaction costs, and social relations. I show that our sources do not tell us what we need for an archaeology of church building and labor due to structural and narratological biases, making energetics approaches based on archaeological evidence essential. I show how authorities responded to crisis in the 5th century with increased concentration of power in fewer and fewer cities. Despite recent scholarly moves away from central ecclesiastical structures, I conclude that church construction by bishops and central episcopal structures should not be underestimated as an important source of both economic practices and social power.

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Department of Classics
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