Debate & Dialogue


Maijastina Kahlos (Doctor philosophiae, Institutum Classicum, University of Helsinki)
Research project funded by the Finnish Academy 2000-2005

DD1.jpgThe results of the research project are presented in the monograph Debate and Dialogue – Christian and Pagan Cultures c.380-430 published by Ashgate in 2007.


The research project focuses upon moments of debate and dialogue respectively in Latin Christian polemics against polytheists, polytheistic cults and all the aspects and phenomena in social and cultural life that were defined as ‘pagan’. Various genres of Christian writing between 380-430 (and even beyond) are surveyed, just to mention a few here. Polytheists were rebuked in anonymous poems as well as in Paulinus of Nola’s carmen 19 and Prudentius’ Contra Symmachum. An anonymous writer, often called Ambrosiaster, reproaches pagans in his theological tractate Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti as well as Maximus of Turin and Zeno of Verona do in their sermons. Augustine of Hippo criticizes classical pagan tradition in several tractates and attacks the old gods e.g. in De divinatione daemonum (On Divination of Demons). The debate between pagans and Christians culminates in Augustine’s De civitate Dei in which he tries, not only to refute pagans, but also to convince hesitating Christians. Similarly, the church historian Orosius composed a history against pagans, (Historia adversus paganos). Christian writers, e.g. Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and Paulinus of Nola, also contemplate on their relationship with classical tradition in their letters. Many themes, topoi and binary oppositions recurrent in the Christian literature in 380-430 are compared with similar elements in earlier Christian apologetics as well as in contemporary Greco-Roman literature in general.


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