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MIAMI UNIVERSITY The Graduate School

Certificate for Approving the Dissertation

We hereby approve the Dissertation

of

Adam C. Chambers

Candidate for the Degree:

Doctor of Philosophy

Edwin Yamauchi

Charlotte Newman Goldy

Mary Kupeic Cayton

Steven L. Tuck

Graduate School Representative James C. Hanges

ABSTRACT

RE-CENTERING THE TEMPLE: THE ORIGIN AND EXPANSION OF THE DECAPOLIS CHURCHES, 4 TH TO 7 TH c. CE

by Adam C. Chambers

This study examines the emergence and expansion of church construction in the Decapolis from

the fourth to the seventh centuries.

period suggests a significant Christian presence in cities on the fringes of the eastern provinces. The

understanding of the development of Christianity in these cities has been limited to brief analyses in the

discussion of archaeological remains, and historical assessments have tended to overstate the conflict

between pagans and Christians until the traditional cult were eventually defeated as a predominant theme

of the fourth century. More recent research has challenged this concept, arguing that it relies on the

biased accounts of Christian writers and indicating that older cults survived well into the fifth and sixth

century in the eastern provinces, particularly within the countryside. While edicts issued by Constantine

began the process by which traditional Roman cults were directly challenged, the Theodosian mandates

created an atmosphere in the East that became intolerant of residual paganism. In the Decapolis cities,

this ushered in a period that would bring about a large expansion of churches.

The number of churches in these communities during the Byzantine

This study argues that the churches of the Decapolis from the fourth to the seventh century were

at the center of discourse between Christian authorities and non-Christians on the periphery that focused

on the continuities and discontinuities with classical culture as a process of re-sacralizing religious and

civic spaces within the city. They were also essential in redefining group identities of the community.

Theoretical perspectives addressing sacred space and postcolonial perspectives of group identity

formation provide insight into this process that reshaped these communities into Byzantine cities,

reflecting the complex relationships between church and state that had developed in the post-

Constantinian period. While it may be suggested that the church construction in these cities was related

to the Christianization of the region, often understood to mean the conversion of its inhabitants, a more

significant factor was their continuity with classical society suggesting the necessity of a more nuanced

understanding of the origin of the churches in these communities. The churches in the Decapolis emerged

and expanded, in part, because of their capacity to fulfill certain civic functions once the province of the

local temple that were necessary for the religious and social cohesion of eastern cities.

RE-CENTERING THE TEMPLE: THE ORIGIN AND EXPANSION OF THE DECAPOLIS CHURCHES, 4 TH TO 7 TH c. CE

A DISSERTATION

Submitted to the Faculty of

Miami University in partial

fulfillment of the requirements

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of History

by

Adam C. Chambers

Miami University

Oxford, Ohio

2009

Dissertation Director: Dr. Edwin Yamauchi

UMI Number: 3377866

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©

Adam C. Chambers

2009

Table of Contents

List of Tables

 

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Background of the Research

 

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Theory and

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Contribution of the Present

 

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Summary of

 

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Chapter 1

Temples and Churches in the East before Constantine

 

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Temples in Eastern Civic Life: Greek and Hellenistic

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Temples in Eastern Civic Life: Roman

 

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Churches in the East: Pre-Constantinian Period

 

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Chapter 2

Temple to Church in Eastern Cities: 4 th to 7 th c. CE

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Constantinian Period: Challenges to Church Construction in

 

the East

 

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Theodosian Period: Christianization and Church Construction

 
 

in the East

 

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The Period of Justinian: Golden Age of Church Expansion

 
 

in the East

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Chapter 3

Churches of the Decapolis: 5th to 7th c. CE: Central-plan Churches

 

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Background of the Decapolis

 

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Churches of the Decapolis

 

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Spaces of Contested Meanings

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Central-plan and Cruciform Churches in the

 

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Abila

 

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Gadara

 

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Scythopolis-Beth Shean

 

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Gerasa

 

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Chapter 4

Churches of the Decapolis: 5th to 7th c. CE: Basilica-plan Churches

 

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Heliopolis-Baalbek

 

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Hippos-Sussita .

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Abila

 

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Gadara .

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Scythopolis-Beth Shean

 

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Gerasa .

 

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Pella .

 

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Philadelphia-Amman

 

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Other Decapolis Cities and Regional Cities

 

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Conclusion

 

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229

Appendix:

Synagogues

in the Decapolis

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Glossary

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iv

List of Tables

Tab. 4.1

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Tab. 4.2

Tab. 4.3

General Church Data Notable Features

. Furniture and Associated Structures

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v

List of Figures

Fig. 1.1.

Top plan of the domus ecclesiae at Dura-Europos

 

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Fig. 1.2.

Isometric drawing of the domus ecclesiae

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Fig. 1.3.

Stages (isometric) of the Church of St. Peter at Capernaum

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Fig. 1.4.

Phases of the Church of St. Peter at Capernaum

41

Fig. 3.1.

Map of the Decapolis in Byzantine period

92

Fig. 3.2

Antiochene civic life around the “Workshops of the Martyrion.”

 

99

Fig. 3.3.

Fig. 3.4.

Fig. 3.5.

Fig. 3.6.

Reliquary, Qalat Seman, 5 th -6 th c. CE. Water tunnel inscription mentioning the name of the city

Proposed plan of Abila .

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Fig. 3.7.

Fig. 3.8.

. Reliquary recovered from south room

Map of Gadara

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Fig. 3.9

Top plan of Octagonal Church and southern chapel

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Fig. 3.10.

Topographical map of Scythopolis-Beth Shean

126

Fig. 3.11.

Top plan of the Church of the Prophets, Apostles, and

 

131

Fig. 3.12.

 

133

Fig. 3.13.

Fig. 3.14.

Prophets, Apostles, and Martyrs mosaic floor Top plan of the Church of St. John the Baptist complex

Baptistery of Church of St. John Baptist complex

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Fig. 3.15.

Mosaics of Church of St. John Baptist featuring Nilotic motifs

 

138

Fig. 3.16.

Theodore and his wife at the Cosmas and Damianus church at Gerasa

 

139

Fig. 3.17.

Top plan of the Mortuary Church

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Fig. 3.18.

Topographical map of the citadel of Philadelphia-Amman

 

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Fig. 3.19.

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Fig. 4.1.

Fig. 4.2.

Fig. 4.3.

Top plan of the Church of St. George Drawing of the basilica at Baalbek

Map of Hippos-Sussita

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Fig. 4.4.

Top plan of Northwest Church

 

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Fig. 4.5.

Lower reliquary in the martyrion chapel of Northwest Church

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Fig. 4.6.

Restored chancel screens and posts in Northwest Church

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Fig. 4.7

Mosaics depicting a screw press in church at Umm al-Rasas

159

Fig. 4.8.

Mosaic of press with workmen at a church in Madaba

159

Fig. 4.9.

A bronze polykandelon also found in the diaconicon

160

Fig. 4.10.

Inscription commemorating donation of Hedora (Heliodora?)

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Fig. 4.11.

Inscription in the Northwest Church mentioning benefactor Petros

Top plan of Area D

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Fig. 4.12.

Inscription for deaconess Antona (Antonia?), Northwest Church

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Fig. 4.13.

Plan of the Northeast Church

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Fig. 4.14.

Fig. 4.15.

Northeast Church viewed from the southeast Top plan of the Area A church

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170

Fig. 4.16.

Fig. 4.17.

Statuary of Artemis in remains of Area A church

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Fig. 4.18.

Red marble colonnette found in the remains of the Area D Church

 

176

Fig. 4.19.

Opus sectile flooring of Area D church’s nave

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vi

Fig. 4.20

Opus tessalatum flooring border pattern

 

176

Fig. 4.21.

Mosaics featuring various vegetal motifs

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Fig. 4.22.

Conversion of five-aisled church

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Fig. 4.23.

Fragmentary mosaic inscription from nave of five-aisled church

Phases of Civic Church .

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Fig. 4.24.

Top plan of the chapel G in the monastery of Kuria Maria

183

Fig. 4.25.

Overhead view of mosaic floors of Chapel G of the monastery

184

Fig. 4.26.

Top plan of the Cathedral at Gerasa

188

Fig. 4.27.

Cross-section of the Church of St. Theodore from south

191

Fig. 4.28.

Southwest baptistery of Church of St. Theodore

191

Fig. 4.29.

Top plan of the Procopius Church

193

Fig. 4.30.

Inscription of dedication mentioning an official, Procopius

194

Fig. 4.31.

Top plan of the Synagogue Church

195

Fig. 4.32.

Jewish motifs featured in mosaics of the Synagogue Church

196

Fig. 4.33.

Top plan of the Church of SS. Peter and Paul

198

Fig. 4.34.

Northern aisle inscription of the Church of SS. Peter and Paul

199

Fig. 4.35.

Top plan of the Propylaea Church

203

Fig. 4.36.

Mosaic medallion of the diaconicon of the Propylaea Church

204

Fig. 4.37.

Top plan of the Church of St. Genesius

207

Fig. 4.38.

Fig. 4.39.

West Church reconstruction

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215

Fig. 4.40.

. Column inscription found in the church

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216

Fig. 4.41.

Fig. 4.42.

Top plan of Cathedral at Cathedral’s chancel from the west

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220

Fig. 4.43.

Top plan of the Church of St. Elianos

 

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vii

List of Abbreviations

ADAJ

Annual of the Department of Antiquities, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

AJA

American Journal of Archaeology

Anec

Procopius, Anecdota, trans. H. B. Dewing, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 6,

Antiq.

London and Cambridge 1993 Josephus, Flavius. Jewish Antiquities, trans. H. Thackeray and R. Marcus,

BA

Cambridge, Mass. and London 1998 Biblical Archaeologist

BAR

Biblical Archaeological Review

BASOR

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research

Build.

Procopius, Buildings, trans. H. B. Dewing, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 7,

Chron.

London and Cambridge 1993 George Synkellos. Chronographica, trans. W. Adler and P. Tuffin,

CIL

Oxford 2002 Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum

CTh

Codex Theodosianus, The Theodosian Code and Novels and the

DOP

Sirmondian Constitutions, trans. C. Pharr, Princeton 1952 Dumbarton Oak Papers

ECA

Eastern Christian Art

Eus. EH

Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, trans. K. Lake, Loeb

Eus. Life

Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass. 2001 Eusebius of Caesarea. Life of Constantine, trans. Averil Cameron and

Eus. On.

Stuart George Hall, Oxford and New York 1999 Eusebius of Caesarea. Onomasticon, trans. R. S. Notley and Z. Safrai,

Ep. Pan.

Boston 2005 Epiphanius, Panarion, trans. F. Williams, New York 1987

Ev. EH

Evagrius Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, trans. M. Whitby, Liverpool

2000

Geog.

Ptolemy, Claudius. Geographia, trans. E. L. Stevenson, New York and

HTR

Toronto 1991 Harvard Theological Review

Hist.

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eds. E. Stern, A. Levinson-Gilboa, and J. Aviram, Jerusalem 1993 Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin

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NPNF 2

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Meyers, New York 1997. Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement

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1844

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xvii; Ecclesiastica Historia, ed. R. Hussey, New York 1992 Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. J. G. Migne, PG vol. l, xvii; NPNF

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ix

To Patricia

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my advisor, Edwin Yamauchi, for his encouragement and support of my research. His commitment to scholarly excellence has been a source of inspiration to me in

my work dealing with the history of the church in the Decapolis region.

enriched by the involvement of James C. Hanges and Steven L. Tuck, both of whom provided

guidance and insights that enhanced the clarity and focus of my discussion. I am also grateful to Charlotte Newman Goldy and Mary Kupeic Cayton for their contributions in the fine-tuning of the argument and the editing process. I owe much to the late W. Harold Mare, the fomer director of excavations at Abila of the Decapolis, and to Covenant Theological Seminary, for the opportunity to be involved in the

excavation of the churches at Abila.

provide much appreciated interest and encouragement for my research. Through the Abila excavation, I have had the opportunity to work with fine scholars, including Reuben Bullard, W. W. Winter, and Bastiaan Van Elderen. Finally, I am thankful for my family and friends who have never wavered in their support

of me during this project. My father, Roger Chambers, demonstrated what it meant to be an excellent scholar and a man of character and integrity. I will always be grateful for having had

his example to follow.

Chambers, and my sisters and brother, their families, and my wife’s family, all of whom have been a source of encouragement during my years of study. Above all, this work is dedicated to my wife and best friend, Patricia, without whom this would have remained a dream.

This study was

Dr. Mare’s successor, David Chapman, continued to

I have also been blessed by the love and support of my mother, Linda

xi

Introduction

In the sixth-century CE, the Byzantine writer Choricius described his visit to the Church of St. Sergius in the city of Gaza in Palestine where he was captivated by a wall mosaic that provided a backdrop for the chancel in the eastern end, the center of ritual space. 1 After describing certain outstanding interior features, he turned his attention to the central apse over the altar, which was decorated with a colorful mosaic depicting a pious assembly. At the center sat the Virgin Mary and Child against a background of gold and silver mosaic surrounded by a noteworthy group of local religious and political officials. On the extreme right was the figure of Stephen, the provincial governor and founder of the church, standing over the gathering with his

right hand resting on the shoulder of the bishop, the city’s chief religious official, positioned next

The image is intriguing not only as a decorative feature of the

church’s interior, but also for the insight it provides into the role of church buildings for

communities in the region of Palestine during the Byzantine period.

his mother Mary at the center of the mosaic was common in church decorations as an expression of the theological perspectives of the day. The image of the provincial governor was a reminder of the complex political relationship that the church had with the state after the fourth century. He rested his hand on the local bishop who was positioned between the governor and the Savior. The glittering image had been created with gold and silver mosaics, suggesting the considerable resources invested for this embellishment of the church. The mosaic highlighted the prominently positioned governor and the bishop. Centered over the altar where attention was focused during the holy rites, it reminded celebrants of the piety of the benefactors who had provided the house of worship. The mosaic of the Church of St. Sergius at Gaza provides insight into the complex social and political meanings that had developed around church buildings in eastern cities after the

reign of Theodosius I at the end of the fourth century.

churches founded from private residences and structures outside of the sphere of legalized

to the Virgin and the Christ-child.

The depiction of Jesus and

It represents a striking contrast to the

1 J. W. Crowfoot, Early Churches in Palestine (College Park, MD: McGrath, 1971, c. 1941), 112. Cf. R W. Hamilton in PEFQS, 1930, 181 ff.

1

religions of the Roman Empire. Within a short span of time, churches had not only become legalized, but were decorated with such images that featured a Roman provincial official in an

intimate pose with a bishop and the founder of Christianity. It highlights not only the emergence of physical structures that came to represent the Christian faith, but how these structures could, at the same time, embody the political weight of the Roman government. Constantine had set in motion the events that would lead to Christianity becoming the state religion of the empire. Eusebius would have us believe that “paganism” was overthrown with the Christians’ change of fortune that brought about the dramatic defeat of old cults. Despite this narrative, the traditional cults of the empire continued to persist especially among the elites in the government and in the provinces, and in rural regions of the empire. While some imperial churches were built primarily at certain Christian centers in the East, they were not prevalent in many smaller cities, like those of the Decapolis. After Theodosius, the pressures of edicts against residual paganism forced non-Christians to engage churches and their potential for

meeting the social and religious needs that had once been the province of the local temple.

discourse, at first between Christians and non-Christians, and later among Christianized Romans brought about a natural transition of shared meanings from one religious structure to another. This study argues that the origin and expansion of the churches in the Decapolis after the fourth century can be explained in part because of their capacity to embody certain meanings and functions once held by classical temples that were necessary for the religious and social cohesion of eastern communities. In the pre-Constantinian period, temples were the central structures in most cities in the east, serving not only ritual functions for the welfare of the community, but also a variety of political and religious functions. During the Roman period, their relationship with the state deepened with the emperor’s role, after Augustus assumed the title of pontifex maximus, expanding the emperor’s role to include the chief priest of the state. When Christianity

came on the scene in the first century, the followers of the new religion organized with little need or desire, for distinguishable public structures, such as temples. After Constantine, churches came under the direct sponsorship of the emperor in some cases, and came to assume many of

the roles once held by temples. But still they were not built in many eastern cities

fourth to the seventh century, the region of the Decapolis (“Ten Cities”), a collection of cities in the region of Palestine and the Transjordan which shared a common classical heritage, experienced the emergence of significance church construction that, at times involved the direct

This

From the

2

supplanting of Roman shrines.

suggest that these structures were central to these communities, but in many cases the quantity and quality of construction seems to be more than a matter of providing sufficient assembly space. It suggests other factors, along with the effects of “Christianization,” that were driving these building of churches in these communities. This study seeks to address several key questions: What led to the origin and expansion of churches in the Decapolis cities from the fifth to the seventh c. CE? Was it simply a reflection of large Christian communities, or were there other reasons for their quantity and quality? Who was building these churches and for whom? What purpose or functions did they serve in these communities? What needs were they designed to meet? Finally, how were these related to the Christianization of these communities, and more importantly, what was the nature of this “Christianization”?

The significant number of churches and their various features

Background of the Research This study seeks to address these questions from a perspective that has thus far been either limited or missing in scholarly analysis. In some cases, the analysis of the physical and

literary evidence has been hampered by certain biases that remain resilient in the scholarship of

this period.

continuity between the Greek and Roman world and Byzantine society, which has led to underestimating, or understating, the continuing presence and influence of traditional cults and

their shrines in the post-Constantinian period in eastern communities.

suggests that the persistence of classical religion played a major role in the limitation of church

construction in the fourth century, despite the position of Christianity as the favored religion of

the empire.

attempt to explain their meaning for the communities where they were constructed. Studies of Christian architecture of the Byzantine East, and of the Decapolis cities in particular, have long followed a pattern of technical discussions of the architecture and features, but rarely have engaged in analysis of their meaning in the historical context in which they emerged. This study contests a scholarly perspective that objects to the idea of continuities existing between classical society and the Christian world. Scholarship of the early Byzantine era, especially of the western empire, has often downplayed the impact of classical cults as an

In particular, my study questions the school of thought that downplays the idea of

This study instead

It also seeks not only to discuss the physical remains of church buildings, but to

3

influential factor shaping society after Constantine took over control of the empire and its religious life at the beginning of the fourth century CE. Some schools of thought about traditional Roman cults in the fourth century include the perspective that assumes that classical religions as having little significance in the social scene after Constantine. Scholars favoring this approach set the expansion of Christianity against the decline of “pure” Roman society and religion. In this sense, the underlying, value-ladened motif (à la Edward Gibbon or Voltaire) sets in stark contrast the decline of the noble, traditions of Roman religion with the rise of Christianity (the narrow, unsophisticated usurper cult). To some extent this mindset persists in the scholarship of this period. Peter Brown in his study of the cult of the saints minimizes the connection between Roman antecedents in ritual and structure and later Christian practices. 2

While John Liebeschuetz acknowledges that Christianity was “Romanized,” his study indicates that this involved essentially a “rejection of the ancestral religion of Rome.” 3

In the history of archaeology, this perspective has manifested itself in some unfortunate ways. A significant Constantinian church that this study considers had been located in the

courtyard of the largest temple in the East, the temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus at Heliopolis-