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Religions of Late Antiquity Seminar










Michaelmas Term 2020



The Religions of Late Antiquity Seminar (formerly the Patristics Seminar) meets on Mondays in even weeks of term from 2-3.30pm. The seminar gathers graduate students, scholars and visiting scholars in the University interested in religions of late antiquity (Christianity, Judaism, cults of the Greco-Roman and near eastern worlds) and their interactions. It shares a common interest with the Cambridge Late Antiquity Network Seminars (CLANS), which engage with the late antique and early medieval periods from a range of disciplines and interdisciplinary perspectives (including Classics, History, Theology and Religious Studies). It is chaired by Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe.


In Michaelmas 2020 the seminar will meet as a reading group to discuss early Christian responses to disease (pandemic, epidemic, endemic and other) in late antiquity. In four sessions we will examine some extracts from some key Latin, Greek, and Syriac texts of the third to sixth centuries CE, ranging from ecclesiastical histories and hagiographies, to ‘magical’ texts, to letters and treatises. All texts will be made available in translation to enable those with some or no ancient languages to participate. All colleagues, MPhil and PhD students in RoLA or other areas (such as Classics, History and Philosophy), from within and outside the faculty, are warmly welcome. The seminar will be conducted online: please email Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe ( for copies of the weekly readings, and for a link to the zoom meeting.



Session 1 – Disease and persecution

Extracts from letters of Dionysius of Alexandria (in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History), and Cyprian, On Mortality


Session 2 – Disease and ‘magic’

Extracts from John Chrysostom, Against the Judaizing Christians; examples of some healing amulets


Session 3 – Disease and asceticism

Extracts from the Syriac Life of Simeon Stylites, and from Palladius, Lausiac History


Session 4 – Disease in a sick world

Extracts from Cyprian, To Demetrianus, and from the Chronicle of Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite