Sunday, December 22, 2013

Slavery, freedom, and the body

In the latest NYRB, there's a fascinating review of a book with a provocative thesis about sexuality, slavery, and freedom in ancient Rome and the early era of Christianity.

The book is From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity by Kyle Harper. The reviewer is historian Peter Brown. It begins:
One of the most lasting delights and challenges of the study of the ancient world, and of the Roman Empire in particular, is the tension between familiarity and strangeness that characterizes our many approaches to it. It is like a great building, visible from far away, at the end of a straight road that cuts across what seems to be a level plain. Only when we draw near are we brought up sharp, on the edge of a great canyon, invisible from the road, that cuts its way between us and the monument we seek. We realize that we are looking at this world from across a sheer, silent drop of two thousand years. [More]
 One question is to what extent that silence can be ever so slightly lifted by listening carefully.

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