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Alienation: The Experience of the Eastern Mediterranean (50-600 A.D.)

Antigone Samellas

This book is a comprehensive study of the experience of alienation in its many and inter-related manifestations as attested in the late-antique East. It situates Christianity’s enduring legacy in its early historical context and explores the way estrangement from all worldly attributes was elevated to the status of a cardinal religious virtue. The author analyzes the reasons for the new faith’s concern for the marginalized and shows the contemporary relevance of social utopia as an antidote to alienation. Christianity’s contradictions are also examined as, in opposing the existing legal order, the followers of the monotheistic religion inadvertently supported the violence of the imperial authority and its laws. Further, the study focuses on the existentialist and psychological dimensions of time-honoured metaphors, such as «Life is a theatre» and «Dead to the world», and investigates mental illness in late antiquity. Finally, the early origins of the modern concept of the self are traced back to the ideological transformations that marked the slow transition from antiquity to the middle ages.