Advanced Studies in Ancient History

History 280A/285A

Fall 2015
Day & Time: 
Thursdays 2-5

On Wealth.  As exemplified by the publication of Peter Brown's Through the Eye of a Needle, questions relating to the conceptualization and treatment of poverty and the poor in a Christianized later Roman Empire have been of considerable importance in recent scholarship.  A closer look -- for example at the subtitle fo Brown's work -- makes it clear that wealth rather than poverty lies at the heart of these issues.  Phrased differently, since most of our sources were written by persons who possessed things, who were in fact wealthy, both in relative and absolute terms, at stake was not so much the issue of how to be Christian and poor, but how to be Christian and wealthy.  How should wealth be managed and distributed in a Christian imperial context?  What did it mean to be Christian and wealthy -- given that wealth included obligations with regard to governance, both in one's own household and within the empire, for example through the administration of justice, but also through engagement in military affairs?  Who were the poor to whom wealth should be distributed and who made those decisions?  Who owned the churches?  How should wealth be appropriately displayed?  Such questions were of particular concern to bishops, but not only to them:  every member of the Christian Roman elite, male and female, was confronted with the issue of "Christian" wealth management.  We will focus on the anonymous treaty On Wealth, the anonymous writing On Military Problems, and on the Salvian of Marseilles' To the Church and On the Government of God, augmented by works of Ambrose and Augustine, to address such questions, taking our cues from Peter Brown's magnum opus.


Course Books

Through the Eye of A Needle by P. R.L Brown Princeton 2012. ISBN: 13 978-0691152905 Required
Pelagius: life and letters by B.A. Rees Boydell Press (October 15, 1998). ISBN: 978-0851157146 Required
Book of Pontiffs, The: Liber Pontificalis - Translated Texts for Historians by Raymond Davis Liverpool University Press . ISBN: 978-1846314766 Required