The unique feature of this track is that it fuses these contemporary concerns with a substantial investigation of the ancient origins of the three traditions, their early interactions, and their mechanisms or rationales for toleration of otherness. An important dimension is the study of ancient social-political discourse, and the tolerance (or not) of Jews and Christians in the Graeco-Roman world.
I will lead the core seminar on Politics, Religion, and Pluralism from Alexander the Great to Theodosius II. This is an in-depth investigation of ancient social-political categories (e.g., ethnos, ancestral traditions, laws and customs, polis, sacrificial cults, philosophical schools, and voluntary associations), in which we consider the possibilities of tolerance, protectiveness, fear of others, expulsion of foreigners, and attraction to foreign ways. The course examines the general scene and also the place of Jewish-Judaean minority populations and Christian associations in that framework. You will have the opportunity to reflect in a sustained way on factors influencing community stances toward others, from a wide variety of angles. The alienness of the ancient world along with its importance for our traditions make it an ideal canvas for exploring the possibilities of human existence. Students who complete this programme will have a solid grounding in ancient religious pluralism as a foundation and reference point for addressing related modern phenomena.
Central questions include these. What limits did the Hellenistic kingdoms and Roman Empire impose on diversity? What sorts of considerations led people to undertake the rigours of migration and resettlement in the ancient Mediterranean? What levels and kinds of cross-cultural interaction (in business, trade, cultural events) occurred in normal times? What happened practically in times of severe crisis? Who was in charge? What was the relationship between political rhetoric and lived reality concerning minority communities?
I am a historian of the eastern Mediterranean under Hellenistic and Roman rule. My latest books are about inter-ethnic conflict (2016) and the categories of ancient social-political discourse or the mapping of ancient peoples (2017).