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Ecclesiastical Organisation and Christian Topography of the Lower Danube during Late Antiquity (3rd-8th Centuries AD) – DANUBIUS

DANUBIUS

Ecclesiastical Organisation and Christian Topography of the Lower Danube during Late Antiquity (3rd-8th Centuries AD)

The study of Christianisation in one of the regions of the Roman Empire among the last to be Romanised and among the most subject to «barbarian migrations«

The main objective of the DANUBIUS project is to offer the first comprehensive historical and archaeological synthesis on the Christianisation of the Danubian world in more than a century. Since it would be impossible to study the whole Danube in the time allowed by a single JCJC project, it was decided to focus on the last reaches of the river to be lost to the «Barbarians«, which is also the Danubian region best documented from literary sources, viz. the Lower Danube, as the first phase of a more ambitious research programme. This region corresponds to the Late Roman provinces of Dacia Ripensis, Moesia Secunda and Scythia, or to modern Eastern Serbia, Northern Bulgaria and Southeastern Romania. The chronological focus of the project is a very extended Late Antiquity, from the 3rd century, which saw the first evidence of the existence of clergy in the region, to the 8th century, during which the Byzantine episcopal hierarchy definitely gave way to a new ecclesiastical order.

The answer to the research question will be given by the development of a GIS-Atlas model, which will be structured around three work packages: 1- establishment of an analytic database of the archaeological and epigraphic sources of Christianity in the Lower Danube; 2- participation in the archaeological explorations of the Late Roman fortress of Zaldapa (Krushari, Bulgaria), in order to complement the database of the first work package with a case study in the field; 3- compilation of a Christian prosopography of the Lower Danube, which constitutes a fundamental initial stage for the historical study of its ancient Churches. All these tools will bring us closer to a «total history« of the Christianisation of the Eastern Danubian Roman provinces, as that history is studied in the light of archaeological testimonies and the latter are analysed with regard to the written sources. The three work packages, united through a GIS model, will be the laboratory for innovative conceptual tools and a new synthesis.

While DANUBIUS is only halfway through, the research program has already attracted a high level of interest within the international scientific community. Thus, several cooperation agreements with institutions from Central and Eastern Europe have been signed since the start of the project or are currently in the signing phase. In addition, the first version of the computer platform, for the compilation of databases, has been produced, within the framework of a partnership with the start-up KIWI SOFTWARE (https://kiwisoftware.fr). The International Archaeological Mission in Zaldapa (Canada: UQAR / France: University of Lille; HALMA-UMR 8164 research centre / Bulgaria: Sofia University «Sv. Kliment Ohridski«; Regional Historical Museum of Dobrich; Municipality of Krushari, Bulgaria) has also given several particularly convincing results for the project, fully demonstrating that the region is at the centre of the phenomenon studied for the entire Lower Danube. Finally, a new multilingual historical and archaeological collection has been created at Brepols (Turnhout): «Rome and After in Central & Eastern Europe« (RomA).

As a direct consequence of the many results already obtained, the prospects for the rest of the project are already very promising. Along with the continuation of the data compilation, the evolution of the platform to allow the development of the GIS-Atlas with all the planned functionalities is currently the other main challenge. This development will still be done in partnership with KIWI SOFTWARE, but this time in full association with the Chronocarto (https://www.chronocarto.eu) and ArkeoGIS (https://arkeogis.org) projects. In addition, another GIS model, more specific for Zaldapa, is also being developed with the same partners. The acquisition of a Lidar at the end of autumn 2020, covering the entire site as well as a corridor up to the Bulgarian-Romanian border, should enrich it. Negotiations with possible future Romanian partners are also currently underway, to extend Lidar to one or more ancient sites located not far from Zaldapa, in order to understand how they are related to each other. In fact, a great interregional collaboration is thus taking shape around the main research question of the project.

At this stage of the project, the work of DANUBIUS has already given rise to several multi-partner and single-partner communications, in national and international conferences. Seven papers have also been published (1 in a peer-reviewed journal, 4 in collective works, 2 in pop-science magazines) and several others are in press, while a collective volume has been published under the aegis of the project («Archaeology of a World of Changes«, Oxford, 2020) and at least three more are in preparation. To this is added a weekly seminar, in association with the HALMA-UMR 8164 research centre and entitled «Constantinople in Late Antiquity«, which is organised around themes related to the research programme, as well as an annual summer school for master's and doctoral students, which took place for the first time in 2019. In addition, DANUBIUS was an official partner of the International Conference «Hieronymus Noster«, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from October 23 to 26, 2019, and was the organiser of the «Christianity at the Frontiers« session of the 26th EAA Annual Meeting, which was planned to take place in Budapest, Hungary, from August 26 to 30, 2020, but which was transformed into a virtual congress. Other similar activities were planned for 2020, including a major international symposium in Lille – A Danubio ad Gothiam –, but most of them have been postponed to 2021, due to the global health situation.

The Danubian provinces of the Later Roman Empire (the area between present day eastern Bavaria and the Romanian Dobruja) are not well known, due to the paucity of literary sources from or about that region. Yet it was regularly at the centre of the great political, military and religious events of Late Antiquity, when the fate of the Empire was played out in the context of the great invasions/migrations. Located on a critical point of the Empire's borders, these provinces had an important network of fortifications, around which was organised the Romanisation of the territory. Thus, most of its episcopal sees lie directly on the so-called "limes", in military camps which became towns. In addition, the episcopate was the most stable and durable Roman institution in the region, since it was the only one to survive the successive invasions. Nevertheless, the question of Christianisation has not resulted in any complete synthesis since Jacques Zeiller's "Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l'Empire romain" (Paris, 1918). Thus, the DANUBIUS project will reconsider the question in the light of the scientific advances made in the last hundred years, both in terms of archaeology and history, for the period between the 3rd century, which saw the first evidence of the existence of a clergy in the region, and the 8th century, during which the Byzantine episcopal hierarchy gave way to a new ecclesiastical order. It would be clearly impossible to study all the Danubian provinces in only three years. Therefore, this project - which is the first stage of a long-term research program - is focusing on the last reaches of the Danube to be lost by Constantinople, which is also the part of the river which is best documented from literary sources, viz. the Lower Danube (the Late Roman provinces of Dacia Ripensis, Moesia Secunda and Scythia). To do so, it has been decided to develop a geographic information system (GIS) model of the episcopal sees and other Christian sites, structured around three axes. The first axis foresees the establishment of an analytic database of the sources of Christianity in the Lower Danube. This database, which will bring together all material and written published traces of that religion, will constitute the main core for the development of the GIS model, with the intention that it should be at the same time useful to archaeologists, historians and epigraphists. The second axis is planned around the archaeological explorations of the Late Roman fortress of Zaldapa (Krushari, Bulgaria), through conventional excavations, as well as non-invasive techniques of investigation. The field results of that case study, which began in 2014, will complement the database of the first axis. The third axis was conceived in order to offer a first historical interpretation of the sources collated in the first axis database, through the compilation of a Christian prosopography of the Lower Danube, while offering the foundation for a historical study of its ancient ecclesiastical organisation. Two formats will be produced: 1- a computer database is planned for the period between the 3rd century and the year 787; 2- a printed version, extending to the whole "Dioecesis Thraciarum", will be derived from that database, stopping in the year 641, as a volume of the "Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire" series. All these tools will bring us closer to a "total history" of the Christianisation of the Eastern Danubian provinces of the Roman Empire, as that history will be studied in the light of archaeological testimonies and the latter will be analysed with regard to the written sources.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Dominic Moreau (Histoire, Archéologie, Littérature des Mondes Anciens)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

HALMA Histoire, Archéologie, Littérature des Mondes Anciens
Universitet „Prof. d-r Asen Zlatarov“ - Burgas
SU Sofiyski universitet „Sv. Kliment Ohridski“
RIM Silistra Regionalen istoricheski muzey - Silistra
RIM Varna Regionalen istoricheski muzey - Varna
UAIC Universitatea „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” din Iasi
Institutul de Arheologie „Vasile Pârvan” - Bucharest
Instituti i Arkeologjisë
UQAR Université du Québec à Rimouski
Univerza v Ljubljani
University of Leicester
AI Arheološki institut - Belgrade
GWZO Leibniz-Institut für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa

Help of the ANR 181,976 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2018 - 36 Months

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