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Both its practices and the cultural ideals they expressed were important to pagans, Jews, Christians of different kinds, and Manichees.

Richard Finn presents for the first time a combined study of the major ascetic traditions, which have been previously misunderstood by being studied separately. He examines how people abstained from food, drink, sexual relations, sleep, and wealth; what they meant by their behaviour; and how they influenced others in the Graeco-Roman world.

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Against this background, the book charts the rise of monasticism in Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria, and North Africa, assessing the crucial role played by the third-century exegete, Origen, and asks why monasticism developed so variously in different regions. Categories: History. ISBN Series: Key Themes in Ancient History. File: PDF, 1.


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Richard Finn presents for the 1st time a combined study of the major ascetic traditions, which have been previously misunderstood by being studied separately. Get A Copy. Kindle Edition. Published first published July 1st More Details Original Title. Other Editions 8. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

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  • Shelves: religion. The purpose of this book is to broadly trace the pagan, Jewish and Christian sources of ascetic theory and practice up through the mid-fifth century CE. In so doing, the reader is made aware of how various and radically contextualized such self-disciplinary practices were. Thus, while a Cynic might engage in public masturbation or fornication in order to overcome subservience to public opinion, and a Jew might enforce conjugal sex as a duty, a Christian might eschew such behavior, even the very The purpose of this book is to broadly trace the pagan, Jewish and Christian sources of ascetic theory and practice up through the mid-fifth century CE.

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    Thus, while a Cynic might engage in public masturbation or fornication in order to overcome subservience to public opinion, and a Jew might enforce conjugal sex as a duty, a Christian might eschew such behavior, even the very thought of it, by means of castration. Indeed, this, the late antique development of Christian asceticism, its roots and expressions, is the focus of his study. Despite the emphasis on Christianity which occupies two-thirds of the text, Finn does do some justice to the complexity of the ancient Mediterranean world.

    For him there is no normative Christianity, nor Judaism, nor paganism. Each was complex.

    Each, often along multiple streams, shifted course, merging and dividing. Each interacted, both internally with its variants, and externally with the others, these interactions taking various forms in different places and at different times. Thus Philo, Clement or Origen could be at once influenced by pagan philosophy and by their own ostensible religious confessions; thus Augustine could migrate through the worlds of Neoplatonism and Manichaeism to end as a North African bishop of a, regionally considered, minority Christian sect.

    Our view of antique asceticism is, of course, restricted by our sources. First, the very ability to read and write, to have access both to literature and to literary audiences, tends already towards a distorting cosmopolitanism. We don't know much directly, and certainly not objectively by any modern standards, of actual popular practices and beliefs. Second, the filters of language, of cultural prejudice, and of political history have favored some testimonies, some texts, over others.

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    Third, given the constraints of the author's own expertise and avowedly limited purposes, very little attention is paid to the contributions made from outside the Graeco-Roman world. The limitation of sources result also in the limitations of this study.