Asia Minor and Achaea were nurseries for Christianity, as the New Testament shows. The churches there were planted, grew and changed in environs which harboured a long history, within cities (Athens and Corinth, Ephesus and Pergumum among them) in which civic pride flourished and a diversity of cultures proliferated. The context for Christians' lives was the empire1 and, for most ofthem, a polis with its rivalries, regional grandees, associations and gathered poor.
Asia Minor is particularly important for understanding the development and diversification of the Christians' religion. Its significant epigraphy includes overtly Christian inscriptions which pre-date Constantine,2 though the Christianity they represent (catholic,3 Montanist/New Prophet,4 Novatianist,5 and others) is often difficult to determine. Inscriptions help to compensate for gaps in terms of Christian writings, art and artefacts.6 Although some may be from the late second century, there is a dearth of them through the third in areas where Christians were (e.g. Asia's western coastal region and Bithynia; cf. Plin. Ep. 10.96; Luc. Alex. 25). Of significance are (1) the openly Christian third-century epitaphs showing 'Christians' well integrated with their pagan neighbours;7 (2) the pre-216 ce epitaph of the Phrygian Abercius (Greek:
2 Gibson, The 'Christians for Christians' inscriptions; Tabbernee, Montanist inscriptions.
3 Ign. Smyr. 8.2 has the earliest reference to 'the catholic church'; cf.M. Polyc. 8.1; 16.2; 19.2.
4 'Montanism' is a later designation for 'the New Prophecy'.
5 On Novatianists in Asia Minor before the fourth century see Tabbernee, Montanist inscriptions, 345-9. Mitchell, Anatolia, vol. 11, 82-3,100-2; see further pt v, ch. 26, below.
6 Snyder, Antepacem; Jensen, 'Art'.
7 Tabbernee, Montanist inscriptions, 62-91; Gibson, 'Christians for Christians' inscriptions; Mitchell, Anatolia, vol. 11, 43, 57; Mitchell with Levick, Monumenta Asiae Minoris antiqua, vol. x (JRSM 7).
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