Budapest, Hungary

Late Antique Political Theology from the Early Church to the Byzantine Era

when 21 July 2022 - 30 July 2022
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 550

The course addresses a multidisciplinary and, at the same time, neglected topic in the history of Late Antiquity: the complex developments in the theories of legitimacies of power. Key concepts are the Empire and the Church, and their rivalry can be formulated as the struggle between the “kingdom of God” and earthly power, or in modern terms, the sacred and the secular. Various strategies had been evolved concerning this relationship, the Hellenistic, the Jewish, the various Christian ideas, and at the end of the period, the absolute theocracy of Islam. The subject has many subfields worth exploring, from the development of the imperial cult to the early liturgies to the political theology of Byzantine historiography.

Christianity offered a dominant intellectual motivation in the period. The political character of the Church quickly became clear to the representatives of the dominant Hellenistic polity of the period, the Roman Empire. By the second half of the first century CE, the Roman authorities became aware of the threat to the legitimacy of the Empire by this new, then not legitimate religion (religio illicita).

What were the reasons for the conflict, and how did it play out in the “Long Late Antiquity”? The relation of Christianity to the political sphere was by far not simple, as the constant concern about this shows it during the two millennia. The so-called “Constantinian turn”, or rather the development of imperial orthodoxy, emerged as a contrast to the opposing trend of the rejection of the Empire, represented by the City of God by Augustine. What happened before and after the “Christian turn” of the fourth century, when Christianity moved slowly from being a persecuted “sect” to the privileged religion of the Empire? How did it impact the legitimacy of the political order, and how did this change affect Christian conceptions of the secular polity? Again, how did early Islam develop its own emphatically theocratic idea in the context of Judaism and Christianity?

Course leader

Gyorgy Gereby, Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Target group

This summer school addresses MA and PhD students with interest in the emerging field of Political Theology in Late Antiquity. Advanced BA students will also be considered.

The course requires minimal knowledge of the political and religious context of Late Antiquity. It is desirable, but not mandatory, that students have intermediate knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek.

Course aim

Since early Islam has been long considered as part of the ‘Long Late Antiquity,’ building on the successful first summer school, which covered the interval from the formation of the Church to the times of Justinian, we decided to organize a second edition, with a wider spectrum of topics and a broader chronological span.

Credits info

2 EC
CEU Summer University awards a certificate of attendance upon successful completion of the course. In order to gain this certificate, participants will be expected to attend and actively participate in all classes and complete assignments required by the course.

Our courses offer ECTS points, which may be accepted for credit transfer by the participants' home universities. Those who wish to obtain these credits should inquire about the possible transfer at their home institution prior to their enrollment. The Summer University Office will send a transcript to those who have fulfilled all the necessary course requirements and request one.

Fee info

EUR 550: payable until May 28
EUR 500: payable until April 30


The Open Society University Network is offering scholarships on a competitive basis for currently enrolled students and employees of OSUN member institutions. If admitted, fee waivers are available for students of CIVICA institutions.