Cappadocia might be called the ''badlands'' of the Roman Empire. Its geography situated the city atop a high, rugged plateau, and its people were often characterized (in truth, or not) as a worthless bunch of deceitful, headstrong and backward misfits. Even some modern scholars have concurred: ''That region... bore a sad name for bleak and rural retardation.'' But author Raymond Van Dam contends that Cappadocian connections are critical to a better understanding of Roman rule and the influence of Greek culture in this particular cross-section of late antiquity. As a stop-over between the strongholds of Constantinople and Antioch, Cappadocia was visited by many an emperor and became a religious hub involving the likes of St. Basil of Caesarea, his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa and their mutual friend St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Van Dam's study of this volatile and critical region is divided neatly into three sections: an examination of its nobility and their interaction with each other and outside rulers; the role of the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory and Gregory) as bishops interacting with alternately pagan, heterodox and Orthodox emperors; and the reactions of these same bishops and emperors to the influence of Greek culture in an increasingly Christian society. We'd say it is one of the livelier inspections of 4th century Byzantium you're likely to find.
An Eighth Day View:
Cappadocia had long been a marginal province in the eastern Roman empire, high on a rugged plateau in central Asia Minor and hardly influenced by classical Greek culture. But during the fourth century emperors visited repeatedly as they traveled between Constantinople and Antioch. In Cappadocia they met provincial notables and prominent churchmen, including Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa, and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus. These three Cappadocian Fathers were already competing with local landowners over the distribution of resources. As patrons representing their communities, they negotiated with provincial administrators and presented petitions to the imperial court. They also confronted emperors over Christian orthodoxy and Greek culture."Kingdom of Snow" investigates the impact of Roman rule in a remote province and the fate of Greek culture in an increasingly Christian society. The extensive writings of the Cappadocian Fathers combine to make Cappadocia one of the best-documented regions in the later Roman empire. Raymond Van Dam highlights the sometimes passionate relationships among bishops, local notables, imperial magistrates, and emperors as they struggled to gain prestige and power. In the drama of their personal confrontations they measured themselves and found their identities.