Richard Lim presents a working paper on ‚Public Spectacles and Christianizing Urban Cultures in Late Antiquity‘

This Kolloquium text is part of an ongoing study of the transformations in public life in Roman metropolitan cities during Late Antiquity. The culture of public spectacles long continued to play a constitutive role in the cultural self-identities of the Roman urban populace despite Christianization and ecclesiastical condemnations. I show in this paper how the plebs urbana assumed participatory roles in making themselves ‘belongers’ in urban spaces by engaging with the culture of spectacles throughout the city notwithstanding their typical characterization as passive spectators in ancient and modern accounts.  I examine, in particular, the phenomenon of urban talk and related forms of sociability that came into being around the culture of Roman public spectacles even beyond the dedicated entertainment structures of the hippodrome, theatre and amphitheatre and explore how these persistent cultural forms shaped even the lives of urban Christians, a prime case in the reciprocal formation of religion and urbanity. How ordinary Late Antique Christians came to regard themselves as at once sophisticated urban inhabitants, proud members of a Roman metropolis and, at least by their own lights, upstanding followers of Christ in the context of their interactions with this urban culture of public spectacles has important implications for the way we conceptualize the processes of Christianization, secularization, de-paganization and de/re-sacralization in Late Antiquity.