Dissertation Defense: Joshua Mugler
Candidate Name: Joshua Mugler
Major: Theological and Religious Studies
Advisor: Paul Heck, Ph.D.
Title: A Martyr with Too Many Causes: Christopher of Antioch (d. 967) and Local Collective Memory.
This study focuses on Christopher, the Christian patriarch of Antioch who was killed by Muslim rebels in 967 due to his loyal support of the Muslim ruler against whom they were rebelling. Two years after Christopher’s death, the Byzantine Empire conquered Antioch from the Muslims who had held it for three centuries. The Byzantines began to re-integrate the city into the Empire, imposing their own institutional structures on it and forcing out most of its Muslim population. My research examines the sources—all written by Christians—that preserve and present the complex memory of Christopher’s life and death, considering how their differing accounts were intended to shape the collective memory of their audiences.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Arabic Life of Christopher—the most complete account of Christopher’s life and death—remembers the era of Muslim rule in Antioch in a generally positive way. Written by Ibrāhīm b. Yūḥannā, an imperial bureaucrat and native of Antioch who knew Christopher as a child, the Life shows great appreciation for the reign of Sayf al-Dawla, Christopher’s loyal patron, even though it was written by a Byzantine official under Byzantine rule. I contrast the Life and other Arabic Christian sources to the Byzantine histories written in Greek, which have a very different perspective on events in Antioch. Other, less detailed, sources include entries in Syriac and Arabic liturgical texts and a Greek inscription at the monastery of Qal‘at Sim‘ān.
I argue that Ibrāhīm was critical of Byzantine rule because of imperial efforts to Byzantinize Antioch, seen by many Antiochian Christians as imperial overreach and unacceptable intervention in local affairs. My research challenges scholarly assumptions about the loyalties of Christians in this region, who are commonly divided along Christological lines and assumed to value their religious community above all other forms of identity. For the Christians of Antioch who were dealing with Byzantine imperialism, an inclusive sense of local community and a desire for autonomy was more important than unity with rulers who happened to share their religious affiliation. Their sense of Antioch as a place could be deployed against imperial attempts to reshape their city.
Wednesday, August 14 at 10:00am to 12:00pm
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