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Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA
This new journal covers a broad range of topics related to Late Antiquity, a relatively new historical periodization. Grove Art Online describes it as “A deliberately enigmatic term with chronological, geographic and iconographic connotations. It broke upon English-speaking audiences in 1971, with the publication of Peter Brown’s work, The World of Late Antiquity from Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad.” Generally speaking, the period covers the transition from Roman Empire (or classical period) to the Middle Ages. Fortunately, Studies in Late Antiquity (SLA) is explicit about the journal’s historical scope, 150 – 750 CE.
The question posed in the first issue--Why Does the World Need One More Journal on Late Antiquity?--sent me to Ulrich’s to search for late antiquity publications. Periodicals with “late antiquity” in the title also included the general disciplines of religion, history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, culture or art. The stated goal of Studies in Late Antiquity is to encourage and promote multi- and interdisciplinary research “that emphasizes the interconnectedness of the Mediterranean with other parts of the late ancient world.” Mark Humphries observes in the issue’s Introduction, “As scholars of Late Antiquity, we have grown accustomed to the methodological diversity of our field . . . but because of this very diversity, we rarely find ourselves assembled in a single place.” According to founding editor, Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, the journal aims to publish high quality research articles extending the disciplinary focus of late antiquity studies. In addition to the traditional disciplines such as material culture, with the research on codicology, numismatics and papyrology, there is a call to include science, geography and population studies. The goal also is to expand geographical boundaries for late antiquity to include Africa, Anatolia, Arabia, the Baltic, the British Isles, Central and Western Asia, China, Europe, India, the Mediterranean, Persia, and Scandinavia. There is the stated goal “to extend common knowledge about that historical period and to encourage collaboration.”
In the first issue, the article “Late Antiquity and World History: Challenging Conventional Narratives and Analyses” does just that, with author Mark Humphries looking at the time period within a broader geographical perspective and moving away from the more traditional lens of late antiquity and the Roman Empire, “an essentially western and Eurocentric interpretation of historical development.” The discussion is very different In “From a Classical to a Christian City: Civic Euergetism and Charity in Late Antique Rome.” Euergetism is a socio-political custom of the classic period where the elite would, and were expected, to voluntarily give gifts to the community, “embracing the beneficence of Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors, whose subjects saw such philanthropy as a cardinal virtue of rulers.” The author, Michele Renee Salzman, discusses this philanthropy as classical virtue and later as Christian charity. While fascinating, the term, “euergetism” illustrates the specialized vocabulary used in this area of study. After getting background from the Oxford Classical Dictionary, the article proved to be an accessible and thoughtful read.
In addition to peer-reviewed articles, the journal’s initial issue contains a number of book reviews, with plans to add exhibit reviews. Studies in Late Antiquity is an online-only journal with social media platforms for discussion, such as twitter, instagram, facebook, LinkedIn and youtube. To celebrate this new, groundbreaking quarterly publication, the first issue is available at no charge. Take a look at the sample issue; the title is highly recommended for academic and special libraries supporting a variety of academic disciplines.