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40.3.Grey

Recent studies of violence in the ancient Mediterranean world have stressed just how radically under-theorized the phenomenon is in modern scholarly literature. In response to this, they have identified a particular aspect or expression of violence, and used that as a foundation for generating a theoretical framework for understanding violent behavior more generally. But what relationship does general, generalized, or everyday violence have to the more reified, bounded forms of violence that have been the subject of scholarly attention to date? How should we best interpret the place of violence within households and communities, and its relationship to “non-violent” means of communication and interaction? If we accept the proposition that the ancient world was, on the whole, a more violent world to live in than the one in which we live, what implications does that realization have for our analysis of everyday life in antiquity? It will be the purpose of this paper to explore these questions, focusing principally upon the written sources from Augustine’s Africa. I will examine the relationships, boundaries, and transitions between violence and other social strategies for expressing or effecting the goals or objectives of an individual, household, or community. In particular, I will explore moments where the movement from “non-violent” to “violent” acts—and in some instances, back again—follows a trajectory that is shocking or unexpected to modern observers. I will argue that in the ancient Mediterranean world, violence need not necessarily be interpreted as a last-order option, or even a particularly unusual or paradigm-shifting tactic, but, rather, as simply one element in a complex, and perhaps not completely cohesively and hierarchically organized, set of possibilities. Such an approach offers much to the social historian of everyday life in antiquity.

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