In 1971, Peter Brown published his groundbreaking book, The World of Late Antiquity and thereby inaugurated a new area of study. Of course long before The World of Late Antiquity, scholars of the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Near East, and Iranian lands researched the period between the second and eighth centuries of the Common Era. Yet it was Brown who encouraged scholars to take another look at a period that he argued was crucial for the development of religion, culture, politics, law, art, and numerous other phenomena that ultimately evolved into many of the dominant cultural formations that we recognize today. Notwithstanding its formal chronological boundaries (which might arguably be stretched to the ninth and even tenth centuries CE), the field of Late Antiquity includes a dizzying variety of scholars who research this pivotal moment in history – including historians of various stripes (social, cultural, political, religious, and intellectual), archaeologists, art historians, students of philosophy, linguists, and scholars of different textual corpora (early Islamic texts, rabbinics, patristics, late antique Greek and Latin literature, Middle Persian literature). The geographical and cultural vastness of Late Antiquity requires ongoing dialogue and collaboration between these different scholars. It is a task that virtually no one can take on alone.
The Hebrew University and other Israeli universities are blessed with many talented scholars who work on their own corners of Late Antiquity. With the support of The Martin Buber Society of Fellows and the Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center (from 2013, after Secunda finished his time at Scholion, the Buber society alone has funded this program) , Drs. Uriel Simonsohn (Haifa University, formerly of the Buber Society Fellow) and Shai Secunda (Buber Society of Fellows, formerly of Scholion) organized “The Group for the Study of Late Antiquity” (GSLA) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem with the aim of creating an ongoing forum in which “late antiquitists” might exchange findings and ideas and thereby participate in a dynamic intellectual community. The group has held monthly seminars (three each semester) on The Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus since 2012, consisting of textual/material study and discussion. Each meeting is led by a scholar working on a different area of Late Antiquity, and includes a discussion-based seminar that presents specific texts or artifacts and a relevant thesis. The seminars attract a robust and diverse group of scholars affiliated with different universities and academic programs both within Israel and abroad.
Ahead of the 2014-2015 academic year, the GSLA, now organized by Dr. Secunda and Yitz Landes (MA student in Talmud and Halakha with an emphasis in the study of Late Antiquity) has joined forces with The Hebrew University’s Program for the Study of Late Antiquity.
See here for the current schedule of seminars for the 2014-2015 academic year.