I’ve been drafting my paper for the annual meeting of the North American Patristics Society.
The paper is called, “Marrou, the Algerian War and the excavation of the basilica at Hippo”.
I’m speaking on the afternoon of Friday (26th May) in a panel on “Landscapes: Context and Representation.” (Programme pdf)
Below is the abstract. I enjoy writing abstracts, but they always come out oddly.
At the third Oxford Patristics Conference in 1959 Henri-Irénée Marrou presented a report on the recent excavations of the basilica at Hippo. This was published in Revue des études augustiniennes the following year. At the start of this report Marrou makes brief reference to the developing war in Algeria and attaches to his reflections a tag from Lucan as it appears in City of God: plus quam ciuilia bella. He then recapitulates the history of archaeological exploration at this site, situating it within the wider temporal and spatial ordering of the French Empire. Over the course of the next forty pages or so he outlines the reconstruction of the basilica and its situation in the topography of Hippo. Augustine, of course, haunts this landscape and so Marrou concludes the report with another Augustinian citation, this time from Retractationes: plura quaesita quam inuenta sunt, et eorum quae inuenta sunt pauciora firmata. With Lucan Marrou raises the spectre of civilisational collapse; in the figure of Augustine, he reminds us of the ambiguity of all testimony about the past. This paper will track the interaction of these two themes as Marrou reports his encounter with the ruined city of Hippo. It will conclude by suggesting that these twin themes are not only manifested in the ruins of Late Antiquity, but can be traced in the wider francophone response to the Algerian War.