Literary Geography in Late Antiquity


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation studies Romans' geographical knowledge as well as contexts for its acquisition during the late Empire (250-550). It ascertains that the most prevalent kind of geographical knowledge among educated Romans was literary geography, the elucidation of place-names found in classical poetry and myths. It was the only kind of geography taught in late Roman schools and provided the imperial elite with a frame of reference that transcended local geographical lore. This project also traces how intellectuals in this period created a typically Christian geographical knowledge by using techniques current in Roman schools to explain the geography of the Scripture to an uninitiated audience, and how efforts to include this new knowledge in the curriculum were defeated by conservative school teachers.