February 2018


Michelle Berenfeld - At Home in the City: Community, Class, and Christianity in the Later Roman Empire

  • Monday, 5 February 2018 - 6:30pm
AAR Lecture Room

The ‘Christianization’ of the Roman empire is a source of fascination for scholars and non-academics alike. It was a major transformation of the ancient world and continues to shape our world today. But it was far from inevitable and did not happen quickly. We moderns tend to highlight the big moments of change or resistance—when an important church was built, when monks took hammers to a temple, when fights broke out between pagans and Christians. These are important stories, but the Roman world did not erupt in mass religious conversion at any one moment. Neither angry monks nor brawling philosophy students converted the empire. The rich and powerful members of the upper classes, who ran that world, arguably did.

In late antiquity, the elite included both Christians and pagans, who lived within a shared physical environment, which they negotiated based on their common cultural background as citizens of the Roman empire. They shared educational histories, social habits, and a common visual language, all of which shaped and decorated not only their lavish houses, but also the churches that they and others eventually built. In this talk, Michelle Berenfeld considers how class and religion intersected in the built environments of late antique neighborhoods in Rome, Carthage, and Athens and how the broad historical processes of the fourth and fifth centuries CE may have been experienced as they were happening on the ground and on a human scale. 

Michelle Berenfeld is the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman/ National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow in Ancient Studies at the American Academy in Rome and John A. McCarthy Associate Professor in Classics at Pitzer College.

The event will be held in English. You can watch it livestreamed at