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Ecclesiastical Participation in Cypriot Economies: An Archaeological Perspective

Catherine Keane


The manifestation of religious, social, and economic change is potentially more honest in the material of individual and small-scale life (i.e. agriculture) than in textual references or civic monuments, as it represents on a personal scale the expression of the Christian atmosphere.From the 5thcentury onward, the history of Cyprus is one of wealth, imperial attention, ecclesiastical autocracy, and foreign invasion. The economic presence of the church in late antique Cyprus varies throughout these events, and after the mid-7thcentury invasions, alters to a dispersed population.

This paper surveys the archaeological material immediately surrounding the episcopal structures, specifically the olive oil presses, bread ovens, ceramic kilns, and the copper mines and workshops. The chosen sites demonstrate both the nature of non-liturgical functions at ecclesiastical complexes, and the evidence for participation in local economies.

The focus is on the relative chronology of the industrial installations and the late antique basilicas, but also discusses the church as an imported place in Mediterranean trade, as a pilgrimage industry, and as a supply for the Roman army. The parallels from these sites also relate to the practical adaptations of abandoned or destroyed buildings, the service of a small community, organization of a rural or hinterland topography, and possible participation in pan-maritime trade.

Comparing the intraregional networks of Cyprus as well as complexes across the Mediterranean illuminates the church’s production role in response to the expanding empire’s commercial needs within a small community, and long-term coastal and rural transformations. The disparities in production associated with civic and church entities in such locations can help to contextualize the individual and societal agency in an inconsistently Christianized time.

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Merchants and Markets in Late Antiquity

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