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centres (and that were themselves often in competition) exerted much influence on village culture. But Christianisation involves not so much 'influence on' as 'appropriation by' - even 'synthesis of': local religious leaders actively assemble a coherent religious world from those central ideas and religious forms and from surrounding traditions of sacred sites, efficacious ritual, and holy people. It is a dialectic not unlike what anthropologists like Robert Red-field and McKim Marriott have observed in India, Mexico and the Andes as 'great' and 'little traditions'.2

Each of these cultural modes, moreover, the local and the central/literate, will also construct a discrete 'heathenism': that is, a notion of the old, repudiated, and potentially insidious religious ways that lie on the periphery of proper or acceptable religious practice. This was a particularly complex cultural endeavour in late Roman Egypt, for 'religion' everywhere had for centuries comprised a locally coherent conglomerate of familiar images, divine names, shrines, and ritual experts from Egyptian as well as from Greek and Roman traditions. Even if the basic frame of reference was most often Egyptian, the gods might be hailed in inscriptions and papyri as Kronos or Aion, Nemesis or Aphrodite or Demeter. For many intellectuals in Egypt - whether traditional or Christian in religious orientation - the gods, their cults and mythologies, were most cogently discussed in their Hellenistic guises. Thus, in the process of constructing a non-Christian sphere of religious practice recognisable from the centre, leaders typically pointed to the use of statuary, devotion to old gods by their Egyptian or (most often) Greek names, the perpetuation of official cults (but with Greek caricatures of sacrifice), or practically anything different from official practice. Even heterodox notions of Christ might fall under the label 'heathen'. In the local world, 'heathenism' may comprise the ancient temple precincts and their priestly rites, or sometimes religious practices perceived as Hellenic, but usually not devotions at minor shrines or the gestures, lore and festival times that pervaded late antique social experience. Across late antique Egyptian culture, heathenism emerged as an artificial and perpetually shifting construction only occasionally corresponding to real native religion as it persisted through the fourth and fifth centuries. For this reason, lest readers imagine a real constituency behind the term, we will use the archaic term 'heathen' (rather than the more typical 'pagan') to designate the image of native religion cultivated among Christian writers.

2 Robert Redfield, The folk culture of the Yucatan and Peasant society and culture; McKim Marriott, 'Little communities in an indigenous civilization'; Michael J. Sallnow, Pilgrims of the Andes.

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