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Constructing a Christian identity: a social network perspective on the discourse of almsgiving between 357 and 430 AD

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posted on 28.03.2022, 23:57 by Nicole Moffatt
To the modern reader Christianity’s ascendency appears to have been a forgone conclusionby the fourth century. However its survival was still dependent on the creation and embedding of a distinctly Christian identity within Roman society. This paper considers ‘almsgiving’, with its origins in both Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures, as one facet in the construction of that emerging identity. A corpus of some thirteen hundred letters provides the outline of a network of Church leaders and Christian elite whose discourse on the form and function of a new ‘almsgiving’ traversed the Empire. Using network analysis, this study maps and analyses the flow of discourse and the structure which supported it. The research finds the network developed from a process of preferential attachment, whereby the larger the number of individuals a person corresponded with, the higher the probability that any newcomers to the network would be attracted to join it through them. This structure strongly influenced the speed and process by which information was diffused within the network. It provided the bishops with considerable power to promoting redemptive almsgiving over others forms, thereby supporting the continuation of the traditional patron/client relationship between rich and poor.


Table of Contents

Volume 1. Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Tracing ancient networks through letters -- Chapter 3. Almsgiving and identity -- Chapter 4. Social network analysis and methodology -- Chapter 5. Results and discussion -- Chapter 6. Conclusion -- Volume 2. Appendix A. Social network analysis : definitions -- Appendix 2. Prosopographical table -- Appendix 3. Reconciliation of Ambrose's letters.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 63-84

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Kenneth Parry


Copyright Nicole Moffatt 2014. Copyright disclaimer: http://mq.edu.au/library/copyright




1 online resource (2 volumes in one (xvi, 223 pages)) diagrams, tables

Former Identifiers

mq:69706 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/1256948