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Stutz, Jonathan (2020): Mocking Parades and the Place of Pagan Statuary in Late Antique Alexandria. In: Zeitschrift für Antikes Christentum-Journal of Ancient Christianity, Vol. 24, No. 2: pp. 270-288
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Abstract

With the present paper I would like to discuss a particular form of procession which we may term mocking parades, a collective ritual aimed at ridiculing cultic objects from competing religious communities. The cases presented here are contextualized within incidents of pagan/Christian violence in Alexandria between the 4th and 5th centuries, entailing in one case the destruction of the Serapeum and in another the pillaging of the Isis shrine at Menouthis on the outskirts of Alexandria. As the literary accounts on these events suggest, such collective forms of mockery played an important role in the context of mob violence in general and of violence against sacred objects in particular. However, while historiographical and hagiographical sources from the period suggest that pagan statues underwent systematic destruction and mutilation, we can infer from the archaeological evidence a vast range of uses and re-adaptation of pagan statuary in the urban space, assuming among other functions that of decorating public spaces. I would like to build on the thesis that the parading of sacred images played a prominent role in the discourse on the value of pagan statuary in the public space. On the one hand, the statues carried through the streets became themselves objects of mockery and violence, involving the population of the city in a collective ritual of exorcism. On the other hand, the images paraded in the mocking parades could also become a means through which the urban space could become subject to new interpretations. Entering in visual contact with the still visible vestiges of the pagan past, with the temples and the statuary of the city, the "image of the city" became affected itself by the images paraded through the streets, as though to remind the inhabitants that the still-visible elements of Alexandria's pagan topography now stood as defeated witnesses to Christianity's victory.