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International Conference "Living the End of Antiquity - Individual Histories from Byzantine to

The Arab conquest of Egypt, accomplished in 642 with the capture of Alexandria, initiated a new step in the country’s history. Once again Egypt fell to the influence of a foreign power, and yet again, like with previous regime changes, we know little about institutional and organizational changes the new rulers imposed when they came into power. The general scientific consensus assumes that numerous social, religious and economic phenomena survived the first decades of Muslim rule in Egypt. However, in-depth scientific scrutiny of the administrative, social, and economic changes is still missing for this crucial transition period from Antiquity to early Medieval history.

The period of time in focus, i.e., from the late 6th until the 8th century, is one of the least explored periods of Egypt’s history in the 1st millennium CE. This is partly owed to the fact that in the past, interdisciplinary cooperations were not given high priority, and even thematically close study fields such as Arabic and Greek papyrology did not form common study or research units. It is important to approach these issues on a micro and macro level, which requires analysis from a broad scope of study fields such as papyrology, history, numismatics, archaeology, religious and cultural studies, philology, and legal studies. Only a full appraisal of all relevant evidence allows us to analyze continuities and disruptions during the transition from Christianity to Islam. The conference intends to bridge this gap between neighboring disciplines and thus to give researchers from different fields of Byzantine and early Islamic studies a platform for mutual scientific and personal exchange. To address this challenge, the envisaged conference will apply an interdisciplinary and comparative methodology.

At this conference, internationally established experts as well as young scholars will focus on change and continuity from late Antique to early Islamic Egypt through individuals’ experience, putting particular emphasis on continuities and disruptions during transition from the Classical to the post-Classical world. By focussing on individuals we aim to combine a ‘compartmented’ analysis (based on categories such as religion, administration, economics, etc.) with a trans-categorical approach (individuals). The purpose of the conference is therefore to insist on the plurality that is inherent to the dialectic of change and continuity. The adoption of an individual-centered perspective allows, on one hand, to exemplify a system and, on the other, to concentrate on aspects of diversity inside that system and, consequently, to better mirror the circumstantial character of change and/or continuity.

Participants will discuss ‘change’ from administrative, religious, economic, and social points of view. To this end, each panel will include speakers from different disciplines and chronological core areas discussing the impact of the Arab conquest through the eyes of individuals.

As a starting point we choose the reign of Justinian in the 6th century as a time when documentary, literary, and legal sources are comparably abundant. An end point of the period evaluated can reasonably be set at the end of the 8th century: while the new regime started to consolidate during this century, the fading of Greek sources – if taken as symbolizing late Antique culture – around that time suggests an even more obvious ‘end’ of the supposed transition from late Antique to early Islamic culture.

The envisaged collaborative effort enjoys the best conditions for filling this gap by closely focusing on individuals within Egyptian society, and, for the first time, giving as much attention to the Byzantine period as to the early Islamic instead of using the first one as a mere introduction to the second or, at the opposite, alluding to the second only in the conclusion. In the end, participants will be able to assess if and why these transformations are of such significance to mark the end of Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

FECHA/DATE/DATA: 16-17-18/05/2017

LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Kollegienhaus (Basel, Switzerland)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: The SNSF-Project: "Change and Continuities from a Christian to a Muslim Society -- Egyptian Society and Economy in the 6th to 8th Centuries" (2016 - 2018)

INFO: web -



Thursday, May 18

14:15Sabine R. Huebner (Basel)

Welcome address

Panel I: Servants To The Rulers, Masters Of The Land: Governors, Provicial Authorities, And Great Landowners
Chair: Matthias Stern

14:30James Keenan (Loyola, Chicago)

“The Will of Flavius Phoibammon and the Late Antique Mentalité.”

15:00Roberta Mazza (Manchester)

“Portrait of a Landlord: Flavius Strategius II and the Justinian Turning Point.”

15:30Anne Boud’Hors (Paris)

“Completing the Figure of Papas, Pagarch of Edfou at the End of the 7th Century: the Contribution of the Coptic Documents.”

16:00Coffee break

Chair: Isabelle Marthot

16:30Andreas Kaplony (Munich)

“Kitābī hāḏā ‘This my writ’: the Official Speaking as an Individual in Arabic Documents up to 800 and Beyond.”

17:00Alon Dar (Ben Gurion, Beer-Sheva)

“The Eye of the Viceroy: Change and Continuity in the Conquest of Egypt from the Perspective of ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ.”

17:30General discussion

18:00Apéro (Rosshof, Petersgraben 51)

Friday, May 19
Panel II: Village Authorities And Leading Families: Hinges At The Meeting Point Of State And Society
Chair: W. Graham Claytor

9:30Lajos Berkes (Heidelberg)

“The Notary Paulos and the Last Greek Legal Documents from Islamic Egypt.”

10:00Lucian Reinfandt (Vienna)

“Petosiris the Scribe.”

10:30Coffee break

Chair: Matthias Müller

11:00Loreleï Vanderheyden (Paris)

“The Figure of Apollos, Father of Dioscorus, in the light of Coptic letters from Aphrodito (6th c. A.D.).”

11:30Jennifer Cromwell (Copenhagen)

“A Village Scribe on the Eve of Change.”

12:00General discussion


Panel III: Patterns Of Daily Life In A Time Of Change
Chair: Sabine Huebner

14:30Nicoletta de Troia (Rome)

“Living on the Edge of the Empire at the End of the Late-Roman Period. The Kharga Oasis sites as a case study.”

15:00Roger Bagnall (New York University)

“Family Histories in Pre-transition Villages.”

15:30Judith Evans Grubbs (Emery, Atlanta)

“Slave and Free in Egypt at the End of Antiquity.”

16:00Coffee break

Chair: Eugenio Garosi

16:30Ariette Papaconstantinou (Reading)

“Women of Substance: Case Studies from Different Walks of Life.”

17:00David Powers (Cornell, Ithaca)

“The Abolition of Adoption in Islam.”

17:30Coffee break

20:00Dinner “Zum Isaak”

Saturday, May 20
Panel IV: Serving God: Bishops, Clergy, Monks, And Nuns
Chair: Stefanie Schmidt

10:00Alain Delattre & Naïm Vanthieghem (Paris/Bruxelles)

“Monks and Monasteries in the Early Islamic Period: Insights from Documentary Sources.”

10:30Moḥamed Naṣr (King Faysal, al-Hufūf)

“The Relationship between Islamic Authority and the Christian Clergy in Egypt during 7th c. CE in Light of the Papyri.”

11:00Coffee break

11:30Maya Müller (Basel)

“A Coptic Citizen Orders a Joseph Tunic in Early Islamic Egypt (cuff trimming Museum der Kulturen Basel III 17088).”

12:00Luise M. Frenkel (São Paulo)

“Egyptian Female Coenobitic Monasticism during the Early Arab Conquest: Maximus the Confessor on Alexandrian Nuns in Exile.”

12:30Final discussion

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