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An inextinguishable memory: 'pagan' past and presence in early Christian writing

Lossl, Josef 2014. An inextinguishable memory: 'pagan' past and presence in early Christian writing. In: Harrison, Carol, Humfress, Caroline and Sandwell, Isabella eds. Being Christian in Late Antiquity: A Festschrift for Gillian Clark, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 74-89.

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Abstract

This chapter looks at ways in which memory was generated, preserved and reconstructed in Classical Antiquity and Early Christianity through the use of and reference to stone memorials and inscriptions, items, which played a particularly strong role in the process of constructing memory in Classical and Late Antiquity. Stone memorials, 'steles', as Phrasikleia's example shows, could assume personal properties and thus exert influence over later generations through their fame ('kleos'). In the case of the (possibly fictional) Agnostos Theos inscription on the Areopagus (Acts 17:23) this fame was used to construct a (positive!) relationship between a pre-Christian Greek (i. e. 'pagan') religion and Christianity. This relationship was personified in the (perhaps also fictional) newly converted Areopagite Dionysius. In the sixth century AD, when 'Paganism' had been 'defeated' by Christianity, the figure of Dionysius could still be used to construct the pseudonymous authorship of a group of theological works which were strongly influenced by the philosophy of the pagan Neoplatonist Damascius as well as Pauline thought. Thus 'Paganism' itself is something like a palimpsest in late antique Christianity, a faded inscription in a stone memorial that is long forgotten, or perhaps never existed.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199656035
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:57
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/88342

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