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Religions of Late Antiquity MPhil Pathway

Religions of Late Antiquity

Lent Term 2019

Christians in Late Antique Alexandria

Course Coordinator: Dr Thomas Graumann

In late antiquity, the city of Alexandria was, and had long been, a crucible of religious traditions.  It also developed into one of the most important centres of Christian social and cultural life, and theological reflection.  The emergence of Christianity as a leading social, cultural and intellectual force – in conversation and conflict with other religious and social groups, and intellectual traditions – between the late third and fifth centuries is the main focus of Classes in 2018/19.  Through the prism of the city and some of her major thinkers central themes in the history of late ancient Christianity may be studied in exemplary fashion.

These concern (among others) questions of theological dispute and the shaping of orthodoxy; distinct theological topics of lasting relevance, esp. the Trinity and Christology; the cultural and institutional development of ‘theology’ as a system of knowledge; the importance of rivalries and alliances between major Christian centres and their leaders, classical educational, rhetorical and philosophical traditions and their reception, accommodation and rejection by Christians; competition and violence between Christians and non-Christians, and between Christian factions; and many more.  With these and related themes the study of Christianity in Alexandria, in its interaction with other religions and traditions, serves up a rich menu of both specialist and general interest that allows students to develop and focus on a distinct topic for their research, while gaining insights into the wider late antique socio-cultural and intellectual context, and encountering a range of research questions, methodologies and approaches.

Classes 2019

1.  Origen: Scripture, Theology and the emergence of an ‘Alexandrian’ tradition

2.  Athanasius: The Theology and Politics of Nicene Orthodoxy

3.  Theophilus-Cyril-Dioscorus: Christology, Authority and Power

4.  The City and the Desert: Egyptian Asceticism

Possible essay topics

Candidates will write an essay in one of the general areas listed below.  Specific essay title must be decided in consultation with supervisors, and approved by the course director(s), and the degree committee.  Each essay must include close engagement with (at least) one primary source:

  • Orthodoxy and power;
  • Religious competition and violence;
  • Religious identity and conversion;
  • A topic in the Alexandrian theological tradition;
  • Christian thought and the philosophical/classical tradition;
  • Genres of Christian literature – composition and circulation;
  • Reading, reception and refutation: the (textual and intellectual) relationship between two major Alexandrian thinkers;
  • Institutional, social and cultural characteristics of the Alexandrian Church;
  • Alexandria and its relationship to another major centre of Christianity (e.g. Rome, Constantinople, Antioch) in the fourth and fifth centuries.


Current students and supervisors can access the Faculty’s Moodle page by clicking on the image below.