Bronwen Neil, Wendy Mayer, Pauline Allen, & Chris de Wet, ‘Memories of utopia: Destroying the past to create the future (300-650 CE)’, ARC Discovery Project (DP170104595), $396,500.
This project aims to examine the evidence for competing utopian ideologies in early Christianity, which was a prelude to the later clash with Islam from the seventh century onward. Evidence from pagan-Jewish-Christian conflicts in Late Antiquity (300-650 CE) shows that violent destruction of the past is not exclusive to fringe religious groups. These past conflicts are relevant for understanding the conflict in the Middle East, precisely because analysis of the sources shows that, in intra- and inter-religious conflicts in Late Antiquity in this same geographic region, violent destruction of the past was a propensity in mainstream religion.
Bronwen Neil, ‘Dreams, Prophecy and Violence from Early Christianity to the Rise of Islam’, ARC Future Fellowship (FT140100226), $843,142.
In Classical Greco-Roman society dreams or visions were sometimes understood as vehicles of divine revelation. Early Christians and Muslims developed the religious interpretation of dreams, using it to bolster the religious authority of their leaders, who laid claim to the Jewish tradition of prophets who brought messages from God. This project aims to uncover the development of dream interpretation from Classical Antiquity through early Christianity to early Islam and give an understanding of how dreams and visions were used as tools of religious control and as justification of violence against other religions.
Pauline Allen & Bronwen Neil, ‘Negotiating religious conflict: Letters between Rome and Byzantium in the seventh century, an era of crisis’, ARC Discovery Project (DP140101909), $150,000.
Over 1000 letters survive in Greek and Latin from 590 to the end of the seventh century, when the Byzantine empire was at war first with Persia, and then with the Arab forces united under the new faith of Islam. Bishops and Emperors of Rome and Byzantium used letters to negotiate their claims to universal and local power in the course of conflicts over religion. The project will increase our understanding of the ways in which religious conflict was handled through letter-exchange in early Medieval Europe and Byzantium, and what happened when these diplomatic avenues failed. It will shed light on the question of whether the seventh century was really the beginning of the Dark Ages, or a period of cultural regeneration.
Pauline Allen & Bronwen Neil, ‘Crisis Management in Late Antiquity: the Evidence of Episcopal Letters’, ARC Discovery Project (DP1093467), $262,000.
Appropriate responses to environmental and social crises, by individuals, communities, governments, religious and charitable organisations, are increasingly under focus in the twenty‑first century. Understanding the failures of past leaders as well as their successes is crucial for values‑driven policy making. This project reinforces the international reputation of quality Australian research in late‑antiquity studies by anchoring contemporary responses to management of crises such as natural disasters, climate change, population displacement, poverty, religious disputes, violence, and social abuses in their historical antecedents. The project will develop and reinforce existing links with scholars in Japan, Korea, Belgium and South Africa.