Robert Wiśniewski’s Lecture on Stealing and Preventing Theft in Late Antique Cities
On Wednesday, the 25th of October, we inaugurated the Erfurt Lectures on Late Antiquity: our new series focusing on the fascinating and complex epoch, stretching between the fourth and the early ninth centuries. Our guest was Robert Wiśniewski, professor for ancient history at the University of Warsaw and a renowned scholar of Early Christianity. His talk, “Stealing and Preventing Theft in Late Antique City” took us on a journey through the late antique societies of the Mediterranean. How did people try to avoid being robbed and how did they react when it happened? Wiśniewski, drawing from a complex and varied set of sources (including letters, petitions, hagiography and inscriptions) focused on the interface of religion and society, showing how people used various strategies like divination or seeking help from religious figures. Theft in his lecture appeared to us as a complex societal phenomenon, shaking the sometimes fragile trust in local communities. As the lecture attracted both students and scholars from the university, we had a lively discussion afterwards on the ways in which theft impacts both historical and modern societies. It was great to see people working on different epochs engage with late antiquity, seeking parallels and differences as well as giving a broader context for the problems at hand. Seeing religion and urbanity interacting in sometimes surprising places, Wiśniewski’s lecture provided a fitting opening for the series.
We are very grateful for professor Wiśniewski’s lecture and hope that ELLA will become a staple in the academic landscape of Erfurt. We will be back on the 29th of November with Sabine Panzram’s (Hamburg) talk “‘From civitas to madîna’? Urbanität im spätantiken Hispanien”. If you want to consult our full program you can find it under this link.