Frame 3b. Mentality in Syriac chronicles and martyr acts

(Aim 1)

Participants: Doc. Witold Witakowski, Doc. Mats Eskhult, Prof. Frands Herschend, Dr Mats Cullhed.

Study Field: Under Roman rule, in the beginning of the CE, our study area saw a third dynamic period of urbanism, this time of autonomous cities. In the 6th CE century, this period and a very large number of urban settlements come to an end. In the 3rd century Christianity spread in Edessa by then a suzerain state under Rome. Early Christian congregations were town-based and the Church in essence an urban institution. In fact the concept Paradise relates itself to the ideology of the temple-city e.g. in Mar Ephrem’s 4th c. description of Paradise. In Syriac chronicles and martyr acts we meet daily life and ideological change in the Late Antique city as well as oppression and persecution. The sense of decline and disaster is imminent. The flood at Edessa in 201 was kept in memory for centuries. In 501 locusts had devoured the corps and the town was filled with beggars and beast of pray fell upon single men on the road. Half a century later, c. 540 CE lasted for eight years and was followed by an outbreak of bubonic plague. The descriptions are interesting because they are contemporary and truly predicting the actual end of many urban communities.

Activities: Survey of archaeological and written material related to Edessa and the Syriac sources.

Deliverables: A case study of the development of religion, in part fundamental beliefs, in a stagnating urban milieu. A case study of the way the members of the congregations of a non-establishment ideology see the crisis and breakdown of a society.

Future perspective: The development of a better understanding of the effects of knowledge segregation in urban societies under stress.