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Rome and the Ghassānids: Comparative Perspectives on Conversion, Boundaries and Power in Near Eastern Borderlands

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, the recipients of "civilising" influences frequently found ways to manage their incorporation into the oikoumene and adapt or adjust to the multifaceted influences that conversion brought with it. The conversion encounters between steppe Arabs and the wandering holy men who, on the basis of extant narratives, introduced them to the new religion, formed an aspect of the larger process of cultural interaction between Roman and barbarian. It explores the creation and maintenance of a "middle ground" as both the locus and product of the conversion encounters themselves. Through resistance, characterized less by rejection than adaptation, the Jafnids were able to mitigate these social processes and protect the familiar cultural boundaries linking them to the Ghassānid confederation, and, in turn, the confederation to the steppe, the relationship which formed a powerful part of historical pre-borderland identity and which offered an opportunity to remain separate and distinct from Rome.

Keywords: cultural boundaries; Eastern Borderlands; Ghassanid confederation; Jafnids; oikoumene; Rome; steppe Arabs

10.1163/9789004258273_015
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