Chrisitianizing harmonies : the transformation of sound in late antiquity

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In the early fourth century CE, the Roman emperor Constantine embraced Christianity and initiated the Christianization of the Roman Empire. In this revolution, old institutions lost power, while new social, political, and religious forces emerged. This dissertation explores one major aspect of this revolution that has not appeared in scholarly narratives about the transformation of the Roman Empire in late antiquity: sound. It argues that the Christianization of pagan sound was a central feature of the Constantinian revolution. To convert the Empire to Christianity, Christians sought to transform the soundscape, or acoustic environment, from the realm of pagan gods into a vast cathedral resonating with harmonies for Christ. In other words, perceiving the non-Christian world as out of calibration like a poorly tuned instrument, Christians endeavored to retune the world from dissonant and demonic paganism into a Christian consonance that would govern the new Christian Empire. Taking many forms, these harmonizing efforts produced a multivocal soundscape that consisted of psalm singing, shouting, silencing demonic outbursts, and even belching. In sum, late antiquity hosted a polyphonous chorus of Christian voices all participating in the great harmonizing work of Jesus as they Christianized the soundscape of the world.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2023; ©2023
Publication date 2023; 2023
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author Abbott, Philip J
Degree supervisor Penn, Michael Philip
Thesis advisor Penn, Michael Philip
Thesis advisor Elm, Susanna
Thesis advisor Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva
Thesis advisor Parker, Grant Richard, 1967-
Degree committee member Elm, Susanna
Degree committee member Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva
Degree committee member Parker, Grant Richard, 1967-
Associated with Stanford University, School of Humanities and Sciences
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Religious Studies


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Philip J. Abbott.
Note Submitted to the Department of Religious Studies.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2023.

Access conditions

© 2023 by Philip Abbott
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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