SF and Late Antiquity

Luna II

In 1959 the Soviet satellite Luna II lifted off from the Kazakh steppes. At the very edge of the atmosphere, on the threshold of deep space, it released a cloud of sodium vapour so bright it could be seen from the Earth. A day later its plunge into the surface of the Moon was observed by the astronomers it had left behind on Earth. The probe was a tremendous success and a testament to Soviet primacy in space. In particular, it demonstrated that the USSR had the capacity to direct a craft through the vacuum between worlds and deliver it effectively (if violently) to its destination. This was a capability that would be critical in the next stage of the space race, for clear guidance is required if one is to study heavenly things. Continue reading “SF and Late Antiquity”


Upcoming paper: EHS Winter Meeting

Not Cambridge, but somewhere close by. Photo by Tamara Polajnar. CC BY-NC 2.0

This weekend (14th January 2017) I’ll be attending the Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society in chilly Cambridge.

The theme this year is Church and Empire.

I’ll be up on my hind hooves, giving a paper entitled ‘The Influence of the Algerian War (1954–62) on Francophone Study of Late Antiquity’.

Satisfyingly vague.

Say hello if you see me.

Ruling the Empire and its readers

An example of imperial order. Basilica Cistern. Theophilos Papadoulos. CCBY-NC-ND 2.0

This blog is part of a wider project looking at the connections between early Christianity and modern colonialism. It comes from a couple of ideas I had while writing a chapter that was recently published on Junillus Africanus and the rules that he thought governed the text of the Bible. Understanding these linguistic rules is necessary, he believed, for understanding the Bible. While focussed on the biblical text, Junillus’s book tells us something about how rule and governance themselves were understood in the Roman Empire.

In the sixth century CE, Justinian, the ruler of the Roman Empire, tried to bring order to the Christian Church. One man who worked closely with Justinian at this time was Junillus Africanus, who acted as Justinian’s quaestor (a sort-of spokesman and drafter of imperial laws). As a legal expert, Junillus also agreed to write a book of divine rules to help people read the Bible. Like the Empire itself, Junillus explained, the Bible was governed by a clear set of rules, the understanding of which would allow the astute reader to prosper in this ordered kingdom.

Continue reading “Ruling the Empire and its readers”