And Gaul Became Christian – Archaeologies of Conversion in Late Antiquity
It wasn't just the barbarians that changed the face of the late Roman world - the acceptance of the Church in the 4th century meant major social, structural and mental changes.
But how did this conversion occur and how was it manifested?
Our sources simplistically refer to royalty converting and elites following at pace. This is often unquestioned and theoretical studies of conversion remain exceptional. The only existing model combines psychological and sociological explanations and sees religious change as an ongoing, interactive process. However, this bottom-up approach needs to be adapted for the study of conversion in Late Antiquity.
Top-down conversion studies ignore the implications of religious change on all levels of society, whereas archaeological, bottom-up approaches emphasize non-elites and allow discussions of agency and identity re-negotiation. Modern conversion studies have to be pluridisciplinary. I will explore whether theories of agency and psychology can clarify how religious identities are adapted, negotiated, and represented.
The study of late antique conversion has to take into account the specific nature of Roman religion which was embedded in the institutional structure of the antique city. Any theoretical model must be contextualized before being employed to investigate religious transition.
My focus is the late Roman diocese of Lugdunensis Senonia in central Gaul. Urban-rural contrasts are core to the debate: Christianity spread more rapidly through the cities than in the countryside which remained a pagan 'stronghold' into the 5th or 6th centuries. This study reassesses the ways we should explore socio-religious change in Late Antiquity.
Claudia's work will be presented at the Festival of Postgraduate Research 17th May 2012 - view Claudia's festival poster.