Publication details

Uncovering the Secret of Christian Success in Terms of Spatial Network Analysis: Introducing the GEHIR project


KAŠE Vojtěch GLOMB Tomáš

Year of publication 2017
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The documented spatial distribution of Christianity at the beginning of the fourth century CE strikingly resembles to the spatial distribution of the material evidence associated with the cult of Isis a century or two earlier. Our paper aims to answer why the network of Christian congregations continued to flourish onward while the Isiac network crashed. A closer look at the data reveals one important difference navigating us further when answering this question: Since early Christians were prolific producers of texts, the reconstructed spatial distribution of their congregations is, too, primarily based upon information from texts. Nevertheless, Christians overcome any of their rivals in the number of texts they produced. It appears that instead of erecting archaeologically detectable monuments, Christians invested their energy into the production and exchange of texts. As an implication of this, we hypothesise that although Christians definitely were not unique in forming a Mediterranean-wide social network, relying heavily on textual exchange gave them better chance to function as a global entity, what lead to their final success. We use quantitative data when comparing the spatial distribution of Christianity and the cult of Isis to demonstrate that relying on texts could make the Christian network much easier to maintain than the Isiac network lacking advantages associated with this medium. We expect this difference would become of special historical significance in times of population decrease or economic crisis, i.e. under conditions arising in the Empire repeatedly from the end of the second century onward. Therefore, on the contrary to the scholarly accounts seeking the main reasons for the success of Christianity in its belief system or in the altruistic behavior of its adherents, we find support for the hypothesis which sees the main advantage of Christianity simply in the medium it adopted for maintaining its social and trans-congregational ties.
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