The Jews and Christians of imperial Asia Minor, the literary and material evidence

Date
2002
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Bennett, Julian
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Bilkent University
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English
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Abstract

This paper examines the effect of two religions on Asia Minor during the Roman Imperial period. The Jews existed long before the Christians, and although Judaism and Christianity greatly differed from each other to the Romans they seemed similar, they believed in one God and would not worship any other being, not even the emperor. People of both faiths and identity lived and managed to develop in an environment that was at times hostile. The first part of the thesis focuses on the Jews, when they came, how they developed and what we know of them from literary and material evidence. The second part is on the Christians, how their faith spread to Asia Minor, how they survived the persecutions and the evidence they left behind at a time when their religious practices and faith were considered illegal by the Roman government. The nature of the evidence for both groups are very different, for this reason a comparison is not possible. However it is impossible to study one without the other as they effect each other. Asia Minor proves to be a place where both religions prospered and its cosmopolite nature and topography provided protection for the followers of these religions that were so ‘different’ from the average Roman citizen. This study not only brings together important representatives of the available literary evidence but also most of the material evidence that has so far been discovered. All evidence in its own way reveals a desire to preserve an identity that is attached to their faith, not only to protect but also to proclaim.

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