Picking Up the Pieces: Refiguring Jerusalem and Rome in Late Antiquity
According to the notice alert, the symposium explores how Jerusalem and Rome were re-invigorated as actual urban spaces and re-imagined in cultural memory over the course of late antiquity in response to the disruptive crises each experienced. Rather than following the narrative of the decline that has so often been applied to the fate of the post-classical city, the four papers to be presented at the symposium take their lead from scholars like Annabel Wharton who have highlighted the ongoing and dynamic transformation of the ancient Mediterranean city in the late Roman and early Byzantine period (third to sixth centuries). While Jerusalem and Rome are exceptional in many respects, each also provides an excellent lens through which to consider the cultural strategies and resources available to those who might seek to maintain the sacral status of cities facing historical rupture.
As the remains of both literary and material culture attest, Jerusalem and Rome could be revitalized in a wide variety of ways: through alternations in the ritual use of space; through the restoration of their architectural monuments or their replication elsewhere; through pilgrimage or through the dispersal of relics and other sacred artifacts; and, in all cases, through the narration—and ongoing renarration—of local histories. The symposium will thus illuminate how Jerusalem and Rome would survive antiquity not only as living cities in their own right, but perhaps more importantly as primary models in Western culture for
the construction and authorization of urban spaces as arenas of political and religious power and meaning.
I would suggest that the reclaiming of sacral status through pilgrimage, narration and as an arena for political and religious power and meaning is doing very well for Jerusalem at present as the united eternall capital of the Jewish people.