Archaeology and the Early Church in Southern Greece [Paperback]

Elizabeth Rees (Author)

ISBN: 9781789255751 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2020 | Language: English 216p, H240 x W170 (mm) B/w and colour

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Archaeology and the Early Church in Southern Greece


A study of archaeology and the early Church in Greece is long overdue. So far, no book has been published in English that examines the growth of Christianity in southern Greece from New Testament times until the medieval period, taking into account both contemporary theological expertise and a detailed knowledge of the numerous and exciting current archaeological excavations. Situated between Israel and Italy, Greece is now yielding vital evidence of the development of early Christianity. Mainland Greece and its surrounding islands is a vast region, and I have chosen to focus on an area rich in early Christian remains, namely the region stretching from Athens southwards.

The book examines evidence relating to Christianity in New Testament times, particularly through the writings of St Paul and early theologians, and juxtaposes these texts with recent and current excavations at Corinth, with its twin ports of Kenchreai and Lechaion, and its chief sanctuary beyond the city at Isthmia, where St Paul worked during the celebration of the pan-Hellenic Games. Much of the excavation at Lechaion has been carried out underwater by divers pioneering new methods of preserving submerged material, since most of the harbour is entirely submerged.

Later, particularly from the sixth century onwards, Christian basilicas were built throughout Greece. A number of these are examined, including those at Nemea and Epidaurus. Nemea provides unique evidence of an agricultural community guided by a bishop; numerous Christian artefacts have been excavated at the site. Epidaurus was honoured as the birthplace of the healing god Asclepius, and early Christians inherited and developed these healing skills in unexpected ways. At other locations, monks developed a wide variety of lifestyles that were little known in the Western Church. The archaeology of Christian sites in Greece is a new and unfolding discipline; this book will hopefully encourage scholars and students to take these studies further.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Phoebe of Kenchreai: a generous woman
Chapter 2. Early Christian Kenchreai
Chapter 3. Paul at Isthmia: running for a victor’s crown
Chapter 4. Early Christian Corinth: a troubled community
Chapter 5. Lechaion: a martyrs’ shrine
Chapter 6. Two rural churches: Nemea and Sikyon
Chapter 7. Athens: a daughter church of Corinth
Chapter 8. Healing Gods: Asclepius and Christ

Reviews & Quotes

"The most important findings from archaeological sources are compiled and analysed within their local situation … and local sources are interwoven with a range of texts from different times and places. Through this approach the ancient ruins are filled with life and the continuous rise of Christianity within a multi-religious world becomes recognisable. A well-written book, providing the lay reader with an accessible account of the development of Christian communities in the Eastern Peloponnese and Athens until the 12th century AD."

Current World Archaeology

"This well-illustrated publication sets out to describe the archaeological evidence for early Christianity in the NE Peloponnese, Attica and parts of central Greece ... The book is very accessible and shares some interesting observations and engagement with a range of evidence and contemporary views … Overall, the book reveals the deep respect that the author has for understanding the archaeology of the period in its topographic contexts."
Rebecca Sweetman
Medieval Archaeology (05/10/2022)

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