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From Classical Learning to Christian Culture: Oriental Monarchs in the Latin West, 200-700

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

My project explores the transition from Classical learning to Christian culture in the period 200-700 by examining the western reception of oriental monarchs. I argue that later Christian literary culture came to create its own texts and contexts for famous historical characters, such as Semiramis of Babylon and Cyrus II, as well as many other ancient rulers. Christian writings on oriental royalty reveal a distinctiveness from the Classical Traditions of Greece and Rome because the monarchs were well established in, or had immediate affinities for, both the Old Testament scriptural texts and the Classical Graeco-Roman tradition. In trying to join these together, Christian tradition became self-conscious in its ideas and literature with implications for the western Middle Ages and beyond.

Why

This project represents a full-scale investigation to several neglected areas of early Christian thought, Latin literature, and the early European reception of the East. By exploring notable monarchs, I will consolidate previous scholarship across various disciplines, such as Classics and Theology, that in many ways remain disconnected. For late antique historians and scholars of later Latin literature, the results of the project will have widespread implications for our understanding of the late antique literary tradition in early Europe. For theologians, the project will provide an insight to a large group of Christian texts that are left unstudied, despite being an important step for medieval theology. My project will thus produce cross-disciplinary results.

How

My principal methodological approach involves an in-depth literary analysis of the textual record in the Latin language. This research involves engagement with a wealth of overlooked, technical genres of later Latin literature, such as chronicles and biblical commentaries. Since the parameters of the corpus (200-700) encompass a significant amount of data, I will demarcate the corpus by using corpus linguistics. This approach involves word searching, cataloguing, and annotation of selected concepts or terms. I will collate and analyse this evidence systematically: by region (e.g. Persia, India); by cities (e.g. Babylon); by famous individuals (e.g. Xerxes, Chandragupta); and thematically (e.g. general or unique cultural features, cross-cultural patterns of thought).

SSR

While the academic output contributes to several academic fields, my project has wider implications for how we are to understand religious expression and cultures, not only in the past, but also today. I plan to promote the publicly with a podcast in which I will focus primarily on the ideas of religion and kingship in the formation of Europe, and I will draw parallels with the long-standing Danish monarchy, a topic of much debate. I will also set up an online platform for the historical individuals in XML-coding, which I will make open access. The public platforms will be useful tools for scholars and laypersons, who are unaware of, or unable to access, the lesser-known texts in the original language. These texts may also provide useful teaching resources in higher education.