Christopher J. Cornthwaite (Neda & Franz Leipen Fellow, The Canadian Institute in Greece; Ph.D. Candidate, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto), “In the Shadow of Home: Jews, Syrians, and Religion in Delos and Corinth 200BCE-100CE”
The story of a roaming evangelist who made Corinth a main port of call on his Mediterranean tour is woven into our cultural mythology. But Paul’s success in Corinth came from more than his apparent passion as an itinerant preacher. The community in which Christianity spread there was formed before Paul’s arrival, already gathering as an immigrant religion at the nexus of a trans-Mediterranean trade route. Furthermore, Christianity was only one of many immigrant religions from the Levant that came west and attracted a large following beyond the boundaries of its ethnos. The sanctuary of the Syrian goddess (Atargatis) on Delos a hundred years earlier has a remarkably similar story. Brought to Delos by a Syrian priest, her worship outgrew the Syrian diaspora there, attracting outsiders as it moved on toward Rome. This talk compares how and why these two groups grew and attracted outsiders and how they negotiated the problems of identity that new members created. It then puts them in the broader contexts of religion and migration in the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean.