The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius Between Rome and Iran

The Barbarian Plain: Saint Sergius Between Rome and Iran

Hardback Transformation of the Classical Heritage

By (author) Elizabeth Key Fowden

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  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Hardback | 246 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 226mm x 25mm | 431g
  • Publication date: 30 November 1999
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520216857
  • ISBN 13: 9780520216853
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: 17 figures, including b/w photographs and line illustrations, 3 maps

Product description

During the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. there arose on the Euphrates frontier, between the empires of Rome and Iran, a city girded with glittering gypsum walls. Within these walls stood a great church, a shrine for the relics of Saint Sergius, who was martyred there, at Rusafa, in the early fourth century. Around Rusafa stretched the 'Barbarian Plain,' inhabited by Rome's Arab allies, many of whom revered the saint. Elizabeth Key Fowden examines the rise of the cult of Sergius in late antiquity, drawing on literary accounts, inscriptions, archaeology, images, and the landscape itself to construct a many-faceted picture of the role of religion in this frontier society. Focusing on the socio-cultural as well as the political dimensions of the Sergius cult, her study sheds light on the lives of the ordinary faithful, as well as on religion's place in the strategic calculations of hostile empires. Beginning with a detailed analysis of the surviving accounts of the martyrdom of Sergius, Fowden provides a discussion of Syrian Rusafa-Sergiopolis, traces the spread of the Sergius cult in Syria and Mesopotamia, and provides a provocative interpretation of the relation between the saint's presence at Rusafa and his role in frontier defense. She also discusses Arab Christianity in the context of late Roman culture in the East, as well as the continuation of the Sergius tradition after the Muslim conquest, emphasizing the changes and continuities brought by the rise of Islam.

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Author information

Elizabeth Key Fowden is a Research Fellow at the Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity in Athens, Greece.

Review quote

"Fowden has brought this world brilliantly to life. . . An important and original book. It crosses many of the academic frontiers which have grown up between history and archaeology, Byzantine and Islamic. This is new and exciting stuff." --"Times Literary Supplement