Rassegna di Storia del Nord Africa. Storie dal basso: recenti ricerche di storia sociale sull’Africa tardoantica
In: Quaderni di Archeologia della Libya: 21, 2018
The article deals with a topic that has become central to the study of Late Antique social history, i.e. the degree to which commoners and peasants wielded political power and fostered political initiatives, as it can be reconstructed from a relatively abundant literary dossier. Two recent books centred on such topic are discussed vis-à-vis Shaw’s reconstruction of the rise in violence in Late Antique Christian Africa. The conclusions reached in the present article are rather negative: we cannot disentangle popular culture from its representation given by the members of the elite, and no direct connection can be safely made between archaeology and the picture of relative well-being it conveys with supposedly corresponding higher levels of popular participation in the social arena. We do see, on the contrary, a new and explicit interest of laymen and representatives of the Church in speaking and manipulating whole sectors of Roman society that had previously remained at the margins of the public discourse and elite culture.