The present collection of twenty-five studies represents the general theme of ’continuity and change’, as applied to various topics connected with the rich heritage of Syriac culture. These studies cover the period from the early third to the fourteenth centuries, with an incidental excursion into modern times. The focal areas are early Syriac Christianity and its Umwelt and the later West Syrian and East Syrian traditions. Most of the contributions deal with historical subjects, with the general theme elaborated in two different directions: first, ecclesiastical history, monasticism, hagiography and theology, and second, secular history, literature, scholarship, ideas and religions. In a more specific sense the contributions focus on patterns of cultural continuity and change, such as the influence and reception of Greek secular and theological culture and literature, developments within early and later Syriac asceticism, religious controversy, the interaction between different religious communities, and the effects of major political and social changes on the cultural and religious life of the various Syriac communities. One of the most radical political changes in the Middle East concerns the Arab conquest and the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Some authors explicitly discuss the consequences of these changes for the Christian (Syriac and Armenian) populations. The effects of these historical events on intellectual, social and economic life are some of the topics discussed in this connection. Of particular interest is the number of newly edited Syriac texts in this volume, which make available translations of Greek theological works, works resulting from the reception of pagan philosophy, and magic texts reflecting popular belief (Peeters 1999)
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