The Gospels As Ritualized Sites Of Memory In Late Ancient Imperial Culture

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James Watts


Archival Studies;Book History;Roman Empire

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Religion


This dissertation examines the intersection of Christian and imperial cultural memory in the physical Gospel book as a "site of memory." It considers the origins of the Gospels as archival notebooks in early Christianity in their ritualized setting in early Christian liturgy. It compares the ritualization of these archives of Christian memory with Roman sites of memory in the early Empire that established imperium in the Mediterranean. The dissertation also explores the related issues of imperial and divine power as manifest through material things, the rhetoric of seeing and iconicity, and the invented tradition of Christian orthodoxy. The dissertation demonstrates that the Christian Gospels and Roman sites of memory, despite vast differences in their intended functions and original uses, both established imperium. The Gospels' imperial iconicity was not based on their function as texts of spiritual enlightenment in late ancient Christianity, but on the fact that the production of Gospels as material cultural objects depended on Roman cultural exemplars and ideological rhetoric.


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