The project “Polyphony of Late Antique Christianity“ started work on October 1, 2015 supported by the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. It explores the diversity of Christianity in Late Antiquity, especially the period from the 4th century until the arrival of Islam. In order to better understand long term processes of development, the analysis includes forms of early Christianity and investigates persistence and transformation of other religious practices in Antiquity.
One core area of our project lies in the exploration of the diversity of Christianity in Late Antiquity from a deliberately historical perspective. In addition to examining different forms of Christianity within the Roman Empire, the project also concentrates on so-called “Oriental Christianities". The principal texts of these Christianities were not written in Latin or Greek, but e.g. in Armenian, Syriac, Georgian, Coptic and ancient Ethiopian languages and their intellectual centers often lay outside of the Roman Empire. Our particular focus is on linguistic, intellectual, religious and political exchanges between Christian cultures both inside and outside the Roman Empire, in order to gain a global and nuanced perspective on the history of late antiquity.
Our second area of research focuses on how to integrate Christianity and its developments in Late Antiquity into a global historical context. Particular attention is paid to the relationship of religion and empire. To what degree does a universal religion support the stability of empires or does it pose a counterbalance? Was tolerance more likely to prevail in an empire due to its diversity? Or did empires in fact promote religious minorities that depended on the goodwill of the ruler?