Research on antiquity

Religious Dissent in the late Roman Empire in 370–450: Alienation, Accommodation, and Adaptation (2019)

The century from c. 350 to c. 450 CE stretches approximately from Constantius II’s reign until the end of Theodosius II’s and covers the most crucial years of Christianization of the Roman Empire. This period witnessed a significant shift from a world of polytheistic religions to one dominated by Christian worship.

However, this shift should not be understood teleologically. In the fourth century, a wide variety of religions, cults, sects, beliefs, and practices co-existed and evolved in the Mediterranean world. This co-existence of different religious groups sometimes led to violence, but these outbreaks seem to have been relatively infrequent and localized. This book explores the impact these changes had on the position and life of different religious groups.

The groups under consideration are pagans and heretics, which are terms of convenience: “pagans” for non-Christians or polytheists, and “heretics” for Christians marked as deviants. Rather than presenting another narrative of Christian-pagan relations, the book provides a detailed analysis of several central themes—limits of legislation, the end of sacrifices, the label of magic, and the categorization of dissidents into groups—tracing key elements and developments in the treatment of dissident religious believers.

By shedding new light on the relations of various religious groups in the fourth and fifth centuries, Religious Dissent in Late Antiquity, 350–450 will be valuable to all scholars of the later Roman Empire and early Christianity.

“Incorporating evidence drawn from archaeology and the law codes, and recent work on the importance of identity formation and boundary maintenance, Kahlos offers a fresh way to understand a range of problems that have bedeviled scholars of this troubled age. Her scholarship is meticulous and comprehensive, and her book will be useful to both beginning and advanced students.”
—H. A. Drake, University of California at Santa Barbara

“Kahlos has explored with great skill and nuance the complex contours of religious conflict in Late Antiquity. At the heart of her study is the question of what happens when the rhetoric of empire and the ‘triumphant’ Christian church meets the realities of local religious beliefs and practices. She works with an impressive breadth and depth of sources, and her book converses critically with contemporary scholarship and makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion.”
—Young Richard Kim, Onassis Foundation USA

Buy: Oxford University Press

Publisher: Oxford University Press / Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity

ISBN: 9780190067250

Recognition and Religion. Contemporary and Historical Perspectives (2019)

This book focuses on recognition and its relation to religion and theology, in both systematic and historical dimensions. While existing research literature on recognition and contemporary recognition theory has been gradually growing since the early 1990s, certain gaps remain in the field covered so far. One of these is the multifaceted interaction between the phenomena of recognition and religion.

Since recognition applies to persons, institutions, and normative entities like systems of beliefs, it also provides a very useful analytic and interpretative tool for studying religion. Divided into five sections, with chapters written by established scholars in their respective fields, the book explores the roots, history, and limits of recognition theory in the context of religious belief. Exploring early Christian and medieval sources on recognition and religion, it also offers contemporary applications of this underexplored combination.

This is a timely book, as debates over religious identities, problematic forms of extremism and societal issues related with multiculturalism continue to dominate the media and politics. It will, therefore, be of great interest to scholars of recognition studies as well as religious studies, theology, philosophy, and religious and intellectual history.

Maijastina Kahlos, Heikki J. Koskinen and Ritva Palmén

Section I: Recognition: Novel Articulations
1 The Recognition of Religion in Public Spaces
Simon Thompson
2 Mediated Recognition: Suggestions towards an Articulation
Heikki J. Koskinen
3 Causes for Lack of Recognition: From the Secular to the Non-Secular
Heikki Ikäheimo

Section II: Historical Struggles for Recognition
4 Early Christians and the Transformation of Recognition
Hartmut Leppin
5 Early Christians on Philosophy: A Religion Seeking Recognition in Greco-Roman Culture
Niko Huttunen
6 Recognition through Persuasion: An Aspect of Late Antique Religious Controversy
Maria del Mar Marcos Sánchez
7 Recognizing the Road: Graeco-Roman Appeals for Religious Diversity in the Late Roman Empire
Maijastina Kahlos

Section III: Medieval and Early Modern Intersections
8 Shame, Self-Evaluation and Recognition in the Middle Ages
Ritva Palmén
9 Aquinas on Recognition Andrea Aldo Robiglio
10 Theological and Legal Arguments for the Non-Recognition and Recognition of the Rights of Infidels in Medieval Sources
Virpi Mäkinen
11 Recognition and Masculinity: Luther on the Song of Songs
Risto Saarinen

Section IV: Roots of Recognition Theory
12 Spinoza, Religion and Recognition
Ericka Tucker
13 Hegel’s Actualist Metaphysics as a Framework for Understanding His Recognition-Theoretic Account of Christianity
Paul Redding

Section V: Limits of Recognition
14 On the Natural Basis and Ecological Limits of Recognition
Arto Laitinen and Teea Kortetmäki
15 Justice, Friendship and Recognition: Reflections on Ancient and Late Ancient Debates
Miira Tuominen

Buy: Routledge

Publisher:​ Routledge: London, 2019.

Editors:​ M. Kahlos, H.J. Koskinen & R. Palmén

ISBN: 9780190067250

Emperors and the Divine – Rome and its Influence (2016)

Emperors and the Divine – Rome and its Influence, ed. M. Kahlos, COLLeGIUM, Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences 20, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies: Helsinki, 2016.

The articles of the present volume Emperors and the Divine analyse the various means by which imperial power was justified. Emperors supported cults of various deities, representing themselves as the guardians of the cosmic order, whether the fragile peace maintained between the human and divine spheres was a pax deorum or pax dei. They aimed to sustain and increase their authority as representatives of the divine, either as the companions and protégés of important gods or as (more or less) divine beings themselves.

In this book, we will learn about the various ways in which the gods, including the Christian deity, were used for political purposes. Moreover, it will be asked how Roman emperors were made divine. Were they really regarded as gods?

We will analyse how conceptions of the emperor as a representative of the divine sphere evolved from the Early Imperial Period to Late Antiquity, proceeding from Augustus to Constantine and the Christian emperors, and even to the rulers of the New Kingdoms. How did the titulature develop and what do these changes tell us about the encounter of religion and politics (if we abide by the use of these modern terms)? Furthermore, we will investigate how different individuals and groups, especially Christian groups, coped with this issue of emperors and the divine.

Introduction: Roman Emperors and the Divine: Shifts and Downshifts
Maijastina Kahlos

Emperors and Their Divine Honours Rhetoric and Divine Honours: On the “Imperial Cult” in the Reigns of Augustus and Constantine
William van Andringa

Emperor Meets Gods: Divine Discourse in Greek Papyri from Roman Egypt
Janneke de Jong

Gods and Emperors at Aigeai in Cicilia
Mika Kajava

Emperors – Legitimation and Criticism Gods of Cultivation and Food Supply in the Imperial Iconography of Septimius Severus
Jussi Rantala

Tertullian’s Criticism of the Emperors’ Cult in the Apologeticum
Tobias Georges

Emperors and Christians – Identity Formation “What Harm Is There for You to Say Caesar Is Lord?” Emperors and the Imperial Cult in Early Christian Stories of Martyrdom
Outi Lehtipuu

The Emperor’s New Images – How to Honour the Emperor in the Christian Empire?
Maijastina Kahlos

Imperial Authority and Divine Knowledge Pontifex Maximus: from Augustus to Gratian – and Beyond
Alan Cameron

Ordering Divine Knowledge in Late Roman Legal Discourse
Caroline Humfress

Emperors – Praise and Mockery Coping with Ancient Gods, Celebrating Christian Emperors, Proclaiming Roman Eternity: Rhetoric and Religion in Late Antique Latin Panegyrics
Chiara O. Tommasi Moreschini

Satirical Apotheosis in Seneca and Beyond
Sari Kivistö

Peer-reviewed open access publication: Helsinki Collegium

Publisher:​ Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies: Helsinki, 2016.

Editor:​ M. Kahlos

ISBN: 978-951-51-2024-3

ISSN: 1796-2986

Spaces in Late Antiquity – Cultural, Theological and Archaeological Perspectives (2016)

Spaces in Late Antiquity – Cultural, Theological and Archaeological Perspectives, eds. J. Day, R. Hakola, M. Kahlos & U. Tervahauta, Routledge: London, 2016.

Places and spaces are key factors in how individuals and groups construct their identities. Identity theories have emphasised that the construction of an identity does not follow abstract and universal processes but is also deeply rooted in specific historical, cultural, social and material environments. The essays in this volume explore how various groups in Late Antiquity rooted their identity in special places that were imbued with meanings derived from history and tradition.

In Part I, essays explore the tension between the Classical heritage in public, especially urban spaces, in the form of ancient artwork and civic celebrations and the Church’s appropriation of that space through doctrinal disputes and rival public performances.

Parts II and III investigate how particular locations expressed, and formed, the theological and social identities of Christian and Jewish groups by bringing together fresh insights from the archaeological and textual evidence.

Together the essays here demonstrate how the use and interpretation of shared spaces contributed to the self-identity of specific groups in Late Antiquity and in so doing issued challenges, and caused conflict, with other social and religious groups.

Day, Hakola, Kahlos and Tervahauta

Part I Cultural Perspectives:
Meddling in the middle? Urban celebrations, ecclesiastical leaders and the Roman emperor in late Antiquity
Classical culture, domestic space and imperial vision in the Cycle of Agathias
Monastic space: the ascetic between sacred and civil spheres in Theodoret of Cyrrhus

Part II Theological perspectives:
Seeing Christ at the holy places
Sacred space, virginal consecration and symbolic power: a liturgical innovation and its implications in late ancient Christianity
The City of God and the place of demons: city life and demonology in early Christianity
Preaching, feasting and making space for a meaning

Part III Archaeological Perspectives:
Galilean Jews and Christians in context: spaces shared and contested in the eastern Galilee in late Antiquity
Performing the sacred in a community building: observations from the 2010-2015 Kinneret regional project excavations in the Byzantine synagogue of Horvat Kur (Galilee)
Thrown into limekilns: the reuse of statuary and architecture in Galilee from late Antiquity onwards

Buy: Routledge

Publisher:​ Routledge: London, 2016.

Editors:​ J. Day, R. Hakola, M. Kahlos & U. Tervahauta

ISBN: 9781472450166

The Faces of the other. Religious Rivalry and Ethnic Encounters in the later Roman world (2012)

The Faces of the other. Religious Rivalry and Ethnic Encounters in the later Roman world, ed. M. Kahlos, Cursor mundi 10, Brepols: Turnhout, 2012.

The foundations of European civilization as we know it today were laid in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. The Faces of the Other: Religious Rivalry and Ethnic Encounters in the Later Roman World traces the roots of the attitudes and argumentation about religious or ethnic otherness in modern western culture. It aims at deepening the historical understanding of attitudes towards otherness as well as cultural and religious conflicts in world history.

The Faces of the Other discusses the conceptions, depictions, and attitudes towards the other in Graeco-Roman antiquity. The book focuses on the perception of otherness, whether other peoples or religions, in the Later Roman Empire as understood broadly, from the first until the fifth century CE. These others are ethnic others such as the Persians, Huns, and the Germanic peoples were to Romans, or religious others such as Jews were to Christians or Christians to Jews, Christians to pagans or pagans to Christians, or different cults to the ‘mainstream’ Romans, or different Christian sects to each other.

IntroductionMaijastiina Kahlos

Part I: Other Religions
Othering in Paul: A Case Study of II Corinthians – Anders Klostergaard Petersen 
Devotion and Deviance: The Cult of Cybele and the Others Within – Marika Rauhala
‘That Ill-formed Little Fox’: Valentinians as the Enemy in Irenaeus’s Against Heresies – Päivi Vähäkangas
Images of the Others in Tertullian – Anders-Christian Jacobsen
From Superstitio to Religio Christiana: Christians as Others from the Third to the Fifth Century – Markus Mertaniemi
The Shadow of the Shadow: Examining Fourth- and Fifth-Century Christian Depictions of Pagans – Maijastiina Kahlos

Part II: Other Peoples
Migrating Motifs of Northern Barbarism: Depicting Gauls and Germans in Imperial Literature –  Antti Lampinen
Ammianus on Foreigners – Benjamin Isaac
Who Is a Good Roman? Setting and Resetting Boundaries for Romans, Christians, Pagans, and Barbarians in the Late Roman Empire – Maijastiina Kahlos

“This intelligent and insightful volume is the result of a collaboration between a group of scholars based in Finland, Denmark and Israel. … This collection offers a strong and fresh contribution to a well-studied problem, …”
The Classical Review

“…, this volume brings together a range of different material but nonetheless remains focused on its overarching concerns. Many of the possible links between the papers are discussed in the second half of the introduction, demonstrating that this book has a relatively high degree of thematic coherence compared to many edited volumes.”
Richard Flower, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Buy: Brepols Publishers

Publisher:​ Brepols: Turnhout, 2012.

Editor:​ M. Kahlos

ISBN: 978-2-503-53999-7

Forbearance and Compulsion: Rhetoric of Tolerance and Intolerance in Late Antiquity (2009)

Most surveys of religious tolerance and intolerance start from the medieval and early modern period, either passing over or making brief mention of discussions of religious moderation and coercion in Greco-Roman antiquity. Here Maijastina Kahlos widens the historical perspective to encompass late antiquity, examining ancient discussions of religious moderation and coercion in their historical contexts.

The relations and interactions between various religious groups, especially pagans and Christians, are scrutinized, and the stark contrast often drawn between a tolerant polytheism and an intolerant Christianity is replaced by a more refined portrait of the complex late antique world.

“Kahlos must be congratulated for having dared, and for having, to a great extent, succeeded in her attempt.”
Guy G. Stroumsa, AHB Online Reviews

“… this is a good and thought-provoking book. It does much more than give an overview over the development of the debate on religious forbearance and compulsion from ca. 250 to ca. 450 CE. It time and again offers fresh perspectives on the rhetoric strategies and events it reports. Students of ancient history and religious studies, theologians and classicists, but also a wider audience generally interested in the topic of religious toleration will want to read this book.”
Jochen Walter, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Buy: Bloomsbury

Publisher:​ Bloomsbury (Duckworth): London, 2009.

ISBN: 9781472502568

Debate and Dialogue: Christian and Pagan Cultures (2007)

This book explores the construction of Christian identity in fourth and fifth centuries through inventing, fabricating and sharpening binary oppositions. Such oppositions, for example Christians – pagans; truth – falsehood; the one true god – the multitude of demons; the right religion – superstition, served to create and reinforce the Christian self-identity.

The author examines how the Christian argumentation against pagans was intertwined with self-perception and self-affirmation. Discussing the relations and interaction between pagan and Christian cultures, this book aims at widening historical understanding of the cultural conflicts and the otherness in world history, thus contributing to the ongoing discussion about the historical and conceptual basis of cultural tolerance and intolerance.

This book offers a valuable contribution to contemporary scholarly debate about Late Antique religious history and the relationship between Christianity and other religions.

“As a contribution not so much to religious history as to the history of ideas, Debate and
Dialogue is a useful, steady, clear piece of scholarship, and deserves the readers its
subject matter will surely draw to it.”
Ramsay MacMullen, in Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft

“…Kahlos has made a valuable contribution not only to the field of history and patristics, but to all who would study religious texts produced in a polemical context. Kahlos’ careful examination of the texts, their use of prior traditions, and their role in early Christianity’s struggle to define itself over against the other has provided a valuable model of how texts such as these reflect not objective reality but reality as it is perceived by the authors. Indeed, Kahlos has provided the guild with a valuable resource not only for understanding Christianity of the fourth and fifth centuries, but polemical religious texts in general.”
The Bible & Critical Theory

“This book offers a valuable contribution to contemporary scholarly debate about Late Antique religious history and the relationship between Christianity and other religions.”
Theological Book Review

Buy: Routledge

Publisher:​ Routledge (Ashgate), 2007.

ISBN: 9780754657132

Vettius Agorius Praetextatus: Senatorial Life in Between (2002)

Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (d. 384) was an erudite Roman senator who lived in the fourth century in the crucial period of external and internal changes and contradictions in the Graeco-Roman world, before the ‘final triumph’ of Christianity. He was never converted to Christianity though the Christianization of the Roman aristocracy was already in process during his lifetime, and until the end of the century, in the years after his death, the Roman aristocracy became, at least nominally, Christian.

This book illuminates the political, cultural and religious atmosphere of the fourth century through the personality of Praetextatus and to survey the coexistence of pagans and Christians in Rome during the period of the transformation through his life.


Religion as a Part of the Aristocratic Code of Life.

Cultural Pursuits.

Death and Immortality.

Saeculum Praetextati: Praetextatus in Macrobius’ Saturnalia: Macrobius’ Saturnalia.

A Holy Man for the Pagans? A Senatorial Life in Between

Buy: Suomen Rooman instituutti

In Italian: Vitrix,

Italian translation “Vettio Agorio Pretestato. Una vita senatoriale nella transizione”, transl. Giuliana Bartoli, Victrix Edizioni: Roma, 2010.

Publisher:​ Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae XXVI, Roma 2002.