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Letters and CommunitiesStudies in the Socio-Political Dimensions of Ancient Epistolography$
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Paola Ceccarelli, Lutz Doering, Thorsten Fögen, and Ingo Gildenhard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198804208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198804208.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Letters and Communities
Author(s):

Paola Ceccarelli

Lutz Doering

Thorsten Fögen

Ingo Gildenhard

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198804208.003.0001

The Introduction surveys scholarly work on letter-writing in the ancient world. While generally of a high standard and often interdisciplinary in nature, bridging such fields as Near Eastern and Jewish Studies, Biblical Studies, Patristics, and Classics, research on ancient epistolography often marginalizes the role of letters in constituting and sustaining communities of various stripes (political, social, ethnic, religious, philosophical). The introduction explores various reasons for this oversight (the overriding importance given to face-to-face communication in public settings, the apparently ‘private’ nature of corresponding via letters, its low rank in the hierarchy of genres, and the marginal status this aspect of letter-writing has in ancient epistolary theory) before outlining why letters played such a vital role in ancient community-building, with an emphasis on long-distance communication, permanence, and the genre’s ideological flexibility and strong pro-social outlook. The second half offers a narrative of the volume, with summaries of its thirteen case studies.

Keywords:   ancient letters, epistolography, communal aspects, communities, history of research

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