The papers in this volume were presented at a Mellon-Sawyer Seminar held at the University of Oxford in 2009-2010, which sought to investigate side by side the two important movements of conversion that frame late antiquity: to Christianity at its start, and to Islam at the other end. Challenging the opposition between the two stereotypes of Islamic conversion as an intrinsically violent process, and Christian conversion as a fundamentally spiritual one, the papers seek to isolate the behaviours and circumstances that made conversion both such a common and such a contested phenomenon. The spread of Buddhism in Asia in broadly the same period serves as an external comparator that was not caught in the net of the Abrahamic religions. The volume is organised around several themes, reflecting the concerns of the initial project with the articulation between norm and practice, the role of authorities and institutions, and the social and individual fluidity on the ground. Debates, discussions, and the expression of norms and principles about conversion conversion are not rare in societies experiencing religious change, and the first section of the book examines some of the main issues brought up by surviving sources. This is followed by three sections examining different aspects of how those principles were - or were not - put into practice: how conversion was handled by the state, how it was continuously redefined by individual ambivalence and cultural fluidity, and how it was enshrined through different forms of institutionalization. Finally, a topographical coda examines the effects of religious change on the iconic holy city of Jerusalem.

part |64 pages


chapter 1|20 pages

Christian Conversion in Late Antiquity

Some Issues

chapter 2|26 pages

Christians and Others

The Conversion Ethos of Late Antiquity

part |76 pages

Practice I

chapter 4|28 pages

From Unholy Madness to Right-mindedness

Or How to Legislate for Religious Conformity from Decius to Justinian 1

chapter 5|28 pages

From Constantine the Great to Emperor Wu of the Liang

The Rhetoric of Imperial Conversion and the Divisive Emergence of Religious Identities in Late Antique Eurasia

part |76 pages

Practice II

chapter 7|20 pages

Narratives of Violence

Confronting Pagans *

chapter 8|12 pages

Mind the Gap

Accidental Conversion and the Hagiographic Imaginary in the First Centuries A.H. *

chapter 10|20 pages

Conversion, Apostasy, and Penance

The Shifting Identities of Muslim Converts in the Early Islamic Period

part |64 pages

Practice III

chapter 12|26 pages

How to Get Rid of Venus

Some Remarks on Jerome's Vita Hilarionis and the Conversion of Elusa in the Negev

part |38 pages

Building Jerusalem