The recently discovered History of the Episcopate of Alexandria implies an early and swift expansion of Christianity along the main traffic arteries of Egypt and confirms indirectly the anecdotes narrated by Eusebius about thriving Christian communities in the Egyptian hinterland from the times of Demetrius (189-232) on. The scattered and late papyrological evidence for Christians seems to tell a different story, however. Have we potentially overlooked something?
While most research has focused so far on the papyri from Oxyrhynchus, the Arsinoite nome is by far the most richly documented region of Egypt during the first three centuries of Roman rule. Where, if not there, should we look for evidence for the earliest stirrings of Christianity in rural Egypt? This paper discusses evidence from the Arsinoite for the spread of Christianity, local Christian leaders, the many facets of Christian identity, and the part Christians played in the fabric of the province’s social and political life.
Sabine R. Huebner is Professor of Ancient History and Head of the Doctoral Program in Classical Civilizations at the University of Basel in Switzerland. This spring she teaches as Visiting Professor in the Humanities Council and Stewart Fellow at the Department of Religion at Princeton. Her research focuses on social and religious history and the everyday life of the common people in the Roman world. She has written books on The Family in Roman Egypt (Cambridge 2013), The Clergy in Later Roman Asia Minor (Der Klerus in der Gesellschaft des spätantiken Kleinasiens, Stuttgart 2005) and Papyri, Everyday Life, and the Gospels (Cambridge 2018, in press). She co-edited Growing up Fatherless in Antiquity (Cambridge 2009), The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Ancient History (Oxford 2012), Inheritance, Law and Religion in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (Paris 2014), Mediterranean Families in Antiquity (Oxford 2016) and The Single Life in the Roman and Later Roman Worlds (Cambridge 2018).