Within this research project the rise and expansion of Christianity have been investigated in a series of regional histories.
The project was started as “Diversity of spaces” in Topoi I and expanded under the current research title in Topoi II. The studies juxtaposing literary and archaeological evidence have yielded a multidimensional view of early Christianity in diverse regions. Increasing Christian presence in specific naturally boarded spaces was studied and resulted in publication of a monograph on Christianity in the Lycus Valley (U. Huttner, Early Christianity in the Lycus Valley ,Brill: Leiden / Boston 2013) up to the 5th century. This book has been discussed by several experts during a major session of the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Language in Atlanta in November 2015.
Epigraphic material is of vital importance for historical studies, especially in regions like Lycaonia where there is no substantial literary or archaeological evidence. To allow for a systematic study of the hundreds of Christian inscriptions in Lycaonia and Phrygia, an epigraphic database was developed in 2008. Within the database, Greek inscriptions considered relevant for the history of the early Christianity have been collected from scattered publications, critically edited, translated and supplied with commentary and images. By nature funerary inscriptions allow one to locate where a person was buried and where his next of kin lived. The registration of the distribution of Christian inscriptions allowed the research team to plot the expansion of Christianity into the central Anatolian space from the late 2nd to the 5th century and to explain the reasons for the initial Christianisation and later domination of this space by the Christian metropolises. The numerous names of Christians in the funerary epitaphs are of different linguistic background. A systematic anthroponomastic analysis and a study of the occupations mentioned on the gravestones revealed much about the identity ascribed to them and the social strata to which they belonged. The focus on gender and family relationships expressed within the inscriptions allowed a study of the role of women within early Christianity. The funerary inscriptions give evidence of the various Christian offices, e.g., deacon and deaconess, presbyter, regional bishop and bishop. The investigation of the attributes given to the clergy mentioned on the monuments opened the way to an investigation on the formal authority of the offices, the personal authority of specific officials and their accomplishment in establishing a system of local, regional and trans-regional “rule” over a vast area.
The results of these research questions within Topoi I and II with reference to central Asia Minor are in press (C. Breytenbach and C. Zimmermann, Early Christianity in Lycaonia and adjacent areas: From Paul to Amphilochius of Iconium) or in preparation (St. Mitchell, Early Christianity in Phrygia; J. Krumm, Early Christianity in Galatia). Pre-publication drafts of “Early Christianity in Lycaonia and adjacent areas” have been presented at the annual meetings of the Societas Novi Testamenti Studiorum in Hungary in 2015 and the Society of Biblical Language in San Antonio in November 2016.
Fundamental Research and Data Collections
In order to write these monographs, the epigraphical database has been invaluable. Since the publication of Christian inscriptions in the fourth volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum by Adolf Kirchhoff (1859), no corpus bringing together within one collection early Christian Greek inscriptions from all regions has appeared. The creation of the epigraphic database and its publication on the platform Edition Topoi is an important step towards closing this gap for Asia Minor and Greece. Following the completion of the work on Lycaonia and Phrygia, the database Inscriptiones Christianae Asiae Minoris (ICAM) started in Topoi I was incorporated into the newly created database Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae (ICG), which now includes more than 3,500 inscriptions from the territories of Asia Minor and mainland Greece. So far, Lycaonia, Galatia, Phrygia, Attica, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, and Macedonia have been entered into the database. During Topoi II the database has been made available in open-access mode under a ‘guest’ login account, and has recently been published on the open-access, scholarly and educational publication and research platform of Edition Topoi: Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae (ICG). This comprehensive epigraphic collection enables the scholarly community to investigate the character and structures of early Christian communities, the role of ecclesiastic authorities in the formation and transmission of early Christian knowledge, and the unstable borderlines of what can be subsumed under the notion of ‘Christian’.
At a conference on “Authority and Identity in Emerging Christianities in Asia Minor and Greece” in October 2015, the epigraphical evidence was brought into interplay with the archaeological and literary evidence. The research agenda was discussed with internationally renowned experts in the fields of early Christianity and late antique epigraphy. The conference particularly contributed to the understanding of the position of Christians within social networks in Late Antiquity and offered new insights into the formation of specifically Christian epigraphic habit. The proceedings of the conference are currently being processed for publication and will appear in 2017. The conference also provided the opportunity to establish a new series on Early Christianity in Greece (ECG). The first volume (J. Ogerau) will cover Macedonia and the second Early Christianity around Athens and Corinth. It is being planned in collaboration with archaeologists and epigraphists working on the Christian material in the cities and their surroundings.
As progress continues to be made on the database, the digital collection in Edition Topoi will be also updated with new editions (ICG 2.0 etc.). Work on other regions of Asia Minor (Caria, Lydia, Cappadocia and Pisidia) and of mainland Greece (Boeotia, Megaris, Phokis, Lokris etc.) is also in progress. In the next stage, new material from Thracia, the Aegean islands and other ‚border’ regions will be included. In June 2017 a conference will be held on “The Rise of Early Christianity in Greece and the Southern Balkans”. Following this conference the volumes of the next stage of the rise of Early Christianity will be planned and commissioned in co-operation with scholars from Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania. Special attention will be given to the destabilising and stabilising role of Christianity in the region around the lower Danube during Late Antiquity.