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I study the intersection of religion and philosophy with Roman politics, as well as the process of “conversion” in Late Antiquity. My latest book, A Threat to Public Piety: Christians, Platonists, and the Great Persecution (Cornell 2012), explores the interactions of Platonist philosophers and Christian theologians in the period leading up to the Great Persecution of AD 303-11. My new research explores the questions surrounding the emperor Constantine’s move to become sole emperor. Why was his grasp of the West and the Balkans stable enough to allow him to move east (even though the Gallic empire had been a breakaway regime)? To what extent can the material culture of Gallia Belgica help scholars understand how people there might have responded to Constantine’s self- presentation? Increasingly in my research, I am interested in exploring the relevance of theories of identity formation and cultural entanglement first used by historians to study the southwest US borderlands. **If you are interested in pursuing graduate work with me, please contact me directly through email.**
Research and Teaching Interests:
Research: Roman socio-cultural history, especially in the third-fifth century CE
Teaching: The History of Rome and its empire from the founding of the city through Late Antiquity; History of Christianity
The Once and Future King: Constantine’s Apocalyptic Empire—This project takes seriously Lactantius’ insinuation in the Divine Institutes’ apocalyptic Book Seven that Constantine is the incarnation of the heavenly king foretold in Revelation. It puts that and other contemporary views of Constantine, Christian and “pagan,” including the emperor’s visions of himself as the incarnation of Apollo and the instrument of God, in dialogue with local interests in Gaul, Italy, Africa and the Balkans, including what I can glean from local material culture. The book will thus help readers see the extent to which Constantine appealed to a constituency beyond committed Christians, but also how the emperor’s theology and politics diverged from the orthodox, episcopal view so dominant in our sources.
Collaboration and Community: Motives for Religious Conflict–This project studies the relationship between perceived collaboration during the Great Persecution (303-11) and charges of heresy in its aftermath. Focusing on Donatism in North Africa (usually categorized as a schism) and “Arianism” which originated in Alexandria, Egypt, but dominated the eastern Mediterranean for much of the fourth century, I’m exploring the extent to which ostensibly religious conflict has its roots in political, economic, regional and social differences.
A Threat to Public Piety: Christians, Platonists and the Great Persecution. Cornell University Press, 2012.
The Making of a Christian Empire: Lactantius and Rome. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000. Paperback, released 2012.
The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the Early Islamic World, ed. with Justin Stephens, R. M. Frakes. London: I. B. Tauris, 2010; paperback, released 2020 (Bloomsbury).
Religious Identity in Late Antiquity, R. M. Frakes and Elizabeth Digeser, edd. Toronto: Edgar Kent, 2006.
Articles and Book Chapters (past two years)
“The Violent Legacy of Constantine’s Militant Piety.” For Religious Violence in the Ancient World, edited by Jitse Dijkstra and Christian Raschle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 228-248.
“Apollo, Christ, and Mithras: Constantine in Gallia Belgica.” In Reconsidering Roman Power: Roman, Greek, Jewish and Christian Perceptions and Reactions. Katell Berthelot, ed. Rome: Ecole Française de Rome Open Edition Books, 2020.
“Breaking the Apocalyptic Frame: Persecution and the Rise of Constantine.” In Heirs of Roman Persecution: Studies on a Christian and Para-Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity, ed. Eric Fournier and Wendy Mayer (Routledge, 2019), 25-43.
“Lactantius.” For Great Christian Jurists and Legal Collections in the First Millennium, edited by Philip Reynolds. Cambridge Studies on Law and Christianity: Great Christian Legal Thinkers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, June 2019).
“Crisis as Opportunity: Urban Renewal and Christianization in Constantine’s Gaul,” Religion in the Roman Empire 5 (2019): 103-124.
HIST 2A: Introduction to World History (Ancient)
HIST 112A: Roman Imperialism (founding to mid-Republic)
HIST 112C: Disaster & Reform (3-4C CE)
HIST 112D: Late Antiquity
HIST 112E: Roman Law
HIST 114A: History of Early Christianity to 800 CE
201E: Advanced Historical Literature (topics vary: Roman Imperialism, Roman Revolution, Late Empire, Late Antiquity)
213AB: Research Seminar in Roman History (recent topics: Religious Violence in the Ancient World, Ephesus as a Borderlands Community, the Ancient City)
Honors and Professional Activities:
2015- present: Founding Editor and now Co-Editor-in-Chief of Studies in Late Antiquity (UC Press)
2015: UCSB Crossroads Grant (with Profs. James Brooks, Mary Hancock, Stuart Smith and Greg Wilson)
since 2014: Area Editor for the Oxford Classical Dictionary (online), Christianity.
2011: UC Humanities Research Institute, Ancient Borderlands Multi-Campus Research Grant.
since 2010: Director of the California Consortium for the Study of Late Antiquity
2008: UCSB Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award (for 2007-2008)
2008: Member, Advisory Board for the Journal of Early Christian Studies
2004: McGill University History Students Association Award for Excellence in Teaching.
2003-2006: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant