This innovative study uses one well-documented moment of violence as a starting point for a wide-ranging examination of the ideas and interactions of pagan philosophers, Christian ascetics, and bishops from the fourth to the early seventh century.
Edward J. Watts reconstructs a riot that erupted in Alexandria in 486 when a group of students attacked a Christian adolescent who had publicly insulted the students' teachers.
Pagan students, Christians affiliated with a local monastery, and the Alexandrian ecclesiastical leaders all cast the incident in a different light, and each group tried with that interpretation to influence subsequent events. Watts, drawing on Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac sources, shows how historical traditions and notions of a shared past shaped the interactions and behavior of these high-profile communities.
Connecting oral and written texts to the personal relationships that gave them meaning and to the actions that gave them form, Riot in Alexandria draws new attention to the understudied social and cultural history of the later fifth-century Roman world and at the same time opens a new window on late antique intellectual life.