Ostia in Late Antiquity, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
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Ostia Antica--Rome's ancient harbor. Its houses and apartments, taverns and baths, warehouses, shops and temples have long contributed to a picture of daily life in Rome. Recent investigations have revealed, however, that life at Ostia did not end with a bang but with a whimper. Only on the cusp of the Middle Ages did the town's residents entrench themselves in a smaller settlement outside the walls. What can this new evidence tell us about life in the later Roman Empire, as society navigated an increasingly Christian world? Ostia in Late Antiquity, the first academic study on Ostia to appear in English in almost 20 years and the first to treat the Late Antique period, tackles the dynamics of this transformative time. Drawing upon new archaeological research, and incorporating both material and textual sources, it presents a social history of the town from the third through ninth century. None of this research would have come to fruition without the support and the cooperation of the Italian government and the archaeological community at Ostia, the University of Texas at Austin, the Department of Classics at UT-Austin and the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins
Coming Out Christian in the Roman World, New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2015.
What really happened during the "Fall of Rome"? Many scholars today write about a descent into darkness, about crises that snuffed out the world of gladiators, decimating the economy and with it, all traces of Mediterranean urban life. Such notions of decline never tackle one of the most important realities of all: Life in Rome never came to a dramatic stop. Instead, a small movement rose to such prominence that we still see its pervasive, even dominating presence today. This group transformed society--politically, religiously and culturally. But it was a gradual process, one that happened in fits and starts, until eventually even the Roman emperor "converted" to their side. How did they achieve such a victory? And what happened in the years following their success? Was the rise of Christianity really dependent upon the conversion of everyone else? This book proposes most decidedly that it was not.
Covering four centuries of history, it provides a new narrative of how Christians came to be accepted in ancient Rome--and what happened in the decades that followed their acceptance. Above all, it offers a new, dynamic understanding of what it meant to live through the birth of a Christian empire, where nothing--not even religious conversion or social change--was ever a foregone conclusion. Moving beyond outdated studies that narrate the period as a clash between faiths ("Christians to the lions!"), a sequence of creeds, or a series of military and economic disasters, it shows how being a good Christian and being a good Roman were never entirely opposite ideas.
Above all, it will show how the fractious social wrangling that has been a part of Christianity from its inception ("How much do we accommodate to the world around us?") reached new heights in the late fourth century. This apocalyptic fervor, promoted by a few, would soon lead all of Rome and many of its more accommodating Christians into a world far from the one they had ever known.
Blogs and Letters
(The Intersection of History, Politics and Religion)
"Bound by Books," Letter to the Editor, New York Times Sunday Book Review, September 19, 2011. (In response to Lev Grossman's "From Scroll to Screen," September 4, 2011).
On the Same Latitude as Cairo
(Life in Austin, TX, Except When I'm Not There)
This blog ran from 2007-12.
The Public Augustine
(A Conversation on the World of St. Augustine)
Memoria Romana: Functions of Roman Memory
(Graduate Student/Junior Faculty Conference, 16-18 April 2010, Austin, TX)
The Ostia Synagogue Area Project (OSMAP-UT Austin)
Recent news from the field and the labs at Ostia.