Susan R. Holman

in The Hungry are Dying

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139129
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834310 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology


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This chapter places Basil of Caesarea's fourth‐century famine relief activities within the broader spectrum of the history of famine relief and the physiology of starvation. It summarizes what is known of his response to the famine of 368–69 ce and compares his sermon “In time of famine and drought” with a sixth‐century famine chronicle by Ps. Joshua the Stylite and Philagathos's eleventh‐century sermon on famine, considering these three texts in light of modern medical and sociological studies on starvation and hunger typology. Basil's texts from the famine crisis show him exercising a priest–bishop's politics of power, by evoking vivid images of the destitute compared with mourning infants, by insisting that the hungry are suffering unjustly, and by demanding grain donations as both a ceremonial gift exchange and an act of redemptive almsgiving.

Keywords: almsgiving; Basil of Caesarea; drought; famine; gift exchange; hunger typology; Joshua the Stylite; Philagathos; relief; starvation physiology

Chapter.  19405 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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