Kendra Eshleman, assistant professor of classical studies
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Representative publication: “Defining the Second Sophistic: Philostratus and the Construction of the Second Sophistic,” Classical Philology (forthcoming)
I’m interested in the construction of intellectual communities, both Christian and non-Christian, in the early Roman Empire. Early Christians were at great pains to differentiate themselves from their Greco-Roman environment, and we usually oblige them by studying Roman history without them. In fact, although Christian polemicists are usually treated separately from contemporary philosophers, orators, physicians, and jurists, they were all wrestling with a common problem: determining who was entitled to engage in the group’s activities and reap the rewards of membership, without any institutional mechanisms for making or enforcing such decisions. My research explores the remarkably similar set of strategies that Christians struggling to define orthodoxy, celebrity orators competing for prestige and tax breaks, and doctors arguing about who was qualified to practice medicine all brought to bear on this shared problem.