Final Public Oral Exam: Walter F. Beers

"The Tottering House of the World": The Ruralization of the Miaphysite Church in the Works of John of Ephesus (c. 507 - 88 C.E.)
Thursday, August 18, 2022, 1:00 pm3:00 pm
Julis Romo Rabinowitz, Room 301


Event Description


Jack Tannous, adviser
William Chester Jordan
Helmut Reimitz
David G. K. Taylor, University of Oxford

Location (Hybrid):

Julis Romo Rabinowitz 301 (RSVP required) or Zoom


This dissertation uses the works of Syriac historian and hagiographer John of Ephesus as a springboard to propose a new social history of the anti-Chalcedonian or Miaphysite movement, placing religious developments in the sixth-century east Roman empire for the first time within their larger socioeconomic context. In this period, Miaphysitism, a sectarian movement that originated in episcopal factionalism surrounding the Council of Chalcedon (451), lost its influence in major urban centers in favor of the pro- Chalcedonian imperial church. At the same time, Miaphysitism became increasingly dominant in many rural areas of the Roman near east, and Miaphysite monasteries became nodal points for a new, extra- urban episcopal hierarchy. I argue that this process of ruralization was a consequence of the post- Constantinian aristocracy’s penetration into these same rural areas, as elite landowners engaged in aggressive projects of estate-building and development for cash-cropping. The resulting socioeconomic tensions precipitated practical alliances and ideological realignment among dispossessed peasant smallholders, threatened local elites, and Miaphysite clergy and monks—who offered a version of Christianity that had begun to distance itself from the marriage of church and empire.

John of Ephesus was born in the foothills of the Taurus, and as a teenager joined a monastery at Amida (mod. Diyarbakır). He and his fellow monks were victims of Roman state efforts to stamp out Miaphysitism in the region, and they spent much of the 520s and 530s as itinerants in rural southeastern Turkey. In about 542, John moved to Constantinople and became the abbot of an expatriate Miaphysite monastery there. At the same time, he embarked on a twenty-five-year career as a “missionary” in superficially Christianized rural southwestern Turkey. In about 565, he retired again to the imperial capital to write and to take on a leadership role in the developing Miaphysite community. John’s sociocultural remove from the city’s Grecophone elite, and his continued contact with and interest in events in the eastern borderlands, make his writings a unique source for east Roman history in the sixth century and the formative period of the Miaphysite church.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Non-Princeton community members are asked to attend virtually using Zoom. Princeton in-person attendees are asked to submit the RSVP form prior to attending.

Lee Horinko
Area of Interest
Eastern Christianity
Late Antiquity
Middle East and North Africa
Scholarly Series
Dissertation Defense