Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Art & Archaeology of Mediterranean World

First Advisor

Robert Ousterhout


This dissertation documents late antique (fourth to seventh century CE) Christian responses to earlier, pagan inscriptions at sanctuaries, as seen in the archaeological record. I argue that Christians in Greece and Asia Minor neither ignored nor unthinkingly destroyed older inscriptions, but rather were generally tolerant toward these legible reminders of the pagan past, selectively editing them only occasionally. In order to clarify the types of inscriptions that Christians encountered on temple walls and architraves, I have assembled the first catalog of inscriptions on temples, which reveals that the majority of texts inscribed on sacred structures between the seventh century BCE and the third century CE were, counterintuitively, not about religion, but rather civic matters: political privileges, economic/territorial rights, and elite social structures. This data further reveals regional variations and chronological trends in the ancient practice of inscribing temples, including a proclivity for the practice in Caria and a break in the Roman imperial period from the Hellenistic habit of inscribing important documents on temples. Christian reception of these inscribed texts is explored in depth at six sites: Ankara, Sagalassos, Labraunda, the Corycian Cave (Cilicia) Clifftop Temple, Aizanoi, and Aphrodisias. Inscriptions on temples at these sites have been overlooked in late antique scholarship because of disciplinary biases. Art historical/archaeological studies have traditionally fixated on the original appearance of monuments rather than their full lifespan, while epigraphic publications often treat texts as historical data rather than elements of larger, trans-temporal architectural settings. Each of these sites shows a different approach toward the older inscriptions, including preservation in place, reuse, modification, and erasure. I argue that the civic-focused nature of the majority of inscribed texts on temple walls inflected late antique conceptualization of temples and provided a counterbalance to the negative, polemical depiction of temples presented in hagiographical texts. This study therefore adds a new facet to our understanding of Christianization between the ancient Roman and early Byzantine periods.

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