Edward J. Watts

in Riot in Alexandria

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780520262072
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945623 | DOI:

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At first glance, the riot that inflamed Alexandria in the spring of 486 looks like yet another eruption of the pagan–Christian violence which often troubled this notoriously excitable city in the fourth and fifth centuries. The Paralius riot arose out of a set of tensions that are far better attested than those which fed other late antique Alexandrian riots. As both pagan and Christian sources suggest, the initial fuel for the violence came from a conflict between the beliefs and personal identifications of individual students studying philosophy, rhetoric, and grammar in Alexandria's large complex of auditoria. Many students in these classrooms felt a strong connection to their teachers and an obligation to defend their reputations. Peter Mongus's intervention in the riot, his decision to expand the violence to include a pagan shrine in Menouthis, and his call for an additional imperial investigation into Alexandrian paganism had an important short-term symbolic consequence. The riot and its aftermath also show that intellectuals, ascetic groups, and ecclesiastical leaders interpreted contemporary circumstances and incorporated them into their communal histories in different fashions.

Keywords: Alexandria; riot; Paralius; students; teachers; paganism; intellectuals; ascetics; ecclesiastical leaders; Peter Mongus

Chapter.  4246 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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