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Kirchengeschichte: Alte Kirche, Christliche Archäologie


Pilhofer, Philipp


Das frühe Christentum im kilikisch-isaurischen Bergland. Die Christen der Kalykadnos-Region in den ersten fünf Jahrhunderten.


Berlin u. a.: De Gruyter 2018. XVII, 345 S. m. 35 Abb. = Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 184. Geb. EUR 119,95. ISBN 978-3-11-057381-7.


Julien M. Ogereau

How did Christianity expand and develop in the Kalykadnos re-gion in the first five centuries CE, and what impact did it have on its social, cultural, and political environment? This is the question Ph. Pilhofer, a doctoral fellow with the Excellence Cluster 264 Topoi, Berlin, from 2013 to 2017, endeavours to answer in this slightly re-vised version of his doctoral dissertation, which was submitted at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2017. P. proposes to address the topic from a »religionsgeographisch« perspective that examines all the available material evidence, be it literary, epigraphic, or ar­chaeological, against its topographical background.
He begins by defining the chronological (I–V CE) and geographical boundaries of his study (2–6; cf. maps 1.1, 1.2, 2.4, 2.7), and by reviewing briefly the current state of scholarship and previous archaeological explorations of Kilikia and southern Isauria (7–12). In a second chapter, he then provides a detailed geographic and historical overview of the region traversed by the Kalykadnos river, paying special attention to its political history, the ethnic and socio-cultural identity of its population, and its indigenous and Graeco-Roman religious outlook.
In a third chapter, he investigates the evidence for Jewish communities in the area, from which some of the early Christians might have originated in the first and second centuries (cf. 97–98), and with which they continued to interact in subsequent centuries. While a few literary sources generally attest the presence of Jews in Kilikia from at least the third century BCE (65–70), it is mostly archaeolog-ical remains such as synagogue ruins, sarcophagi decorated with Jewish symbols, and a handful of second-to-sixth-centuries CE in-scriptions, that give us some insight on how well Jews living on the Kilikian coast were integrated in local society (70–83). Generally speaking, cultural and identity boundaries between Jews, Chris-tians, and Pagans, appear to have been flex-ible and permeable – hence the difficulty of differentiating them in the material record at times – though this did not necessarily lead to religious syncretism (cf. 86–89).
Chapter four, the longest of all, examines the early Christian sources in chronological order, starting from the first century (from which little primary evidence has survived), and continuing unto the fourth and fifth centuries (to which the bulk of the epigraphic and archaeological material belong). Given the wealth of the avail-able evidence, P. here focuses on what is pertinent to the development of bishoprics, the emergence of the Christian epigraphic habit, and the distribution of churches throughout the area. To begin with, he discusses the foundation of the first Christian communities in the region (as evidenced in the New Testament), in particular on the south-eastern coast, and the possible role and impact of the apostle Paul in disseminating the gospel during his fourteen-year stay in Tarsus at a time when Kilikia was far from enjoying the full benefits of the pax Romana (95–130). While he considers it un-likely that Paul went much further than Seleukia or Ninika-Klaudiopolis, subsequent evangelists were certainly successful in im­planting churches throughout the Isaurian-Kilikian inland. Pre-Constantinian evidence of missionary activity and church foun­dations is scarce however (cf. 130–54), which challenges the view that the Kalykadnos region was Christianised early on. The process intensified in the third and fourth centuries (mostly on the coastline), as is attested by the unusual proliferation of various cults of saints and martyrs, which suggests that the churches were not spared from the waves of persecutions of the third century (136–54). It culminated in the fifth and sixth centuries which were char-acterised by the progressive disappearance of non-Christians from the material records, the construction of hundreds of churches (e specially under the emperor Zenon, the Isaurian), the rise of monasticism, and the explosion of Christian inscriptions (num-bering in the hundreds), of the cult of the saints (under the impulse of local bishops; on this topic see now Nowakowski, Inscribing the Saints in Late Antique Anatolia, Warsaw 2018, published coterminously), and of the number of bishoprics, none of which, except that of Seleukia (which flourished under bishop Basileios), were much influential in the theological and ecclesiastical controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries (154–203).
Finally, a penultimate chapter investigates the two regional martyrial cults of Thekla and Konon of Bidana and explores their importance in shaping regional Christian identity and liturgical traditions. P. offers a detailed overview of the literary tradition and documen-tary evidence for the two patron saints of the Kalykadnos region, who became, respectively, a role model for female monks and a protector of the Isaurian chora. He also illustrates how their sanctuaries at Seleukia and Bidana, an unidentified village near Isaura, became im­portant regional and cross-regional pilgrimage centres in the fifth century, which helped consolidate episcopal power and contributed further to the Christianisation of the Isaurian-Kilikian interior.
Overall, P. is to be commended for his original historical reconstruction of early Christianity in the Kalykadnos region, the very first of its kind to be published. His critical analysis of the primary evidence is comprehensive and compelling, his knowledge of the local topography is impressively acute, and his historiographical skills are surprisingly sharp (for a young scholar), whilst remaining sensitive to methodological issues. The end result is a well-struc-tured and balanced study that is finely written, carefully edited, a nd illustrated throughout with relevant original texts, photographs, and useful maps – a critical edition of the martyrdom of Konon of Bidana will appear later in a separate publication. To say, by way of conclusion, that it represents a major improvement from A. von Harnack’s cursory treatment of the question in Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (41924: 776–79) would be an understatement. Until more extensive and systematic archaeological explorations are undertaken, it is likely to remain the reference work on the topic.