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July 13th, 2019

City of Demons

City of Demons

Violence, Ritual, and Christian Power in Late Antiquity

Dayna S. Kalleres

Oakland, CA: University of California Press, October 2015. 392 pages. $95.00. Hardcover. ISBN 9780520276475.

Mgr. Illya Bey,



The ancient cities were inhabited much more densely than the modern city dweller can imagine. In addition to livestock and other animals, which served either for food or for amusement, the cities, streets, and houses were also full of those who, being nonmaterial//intangible [I mean ‘demons’] filled houses and streets with themselves. That is about the spirits and demons presented in everyday life—both in paintings and statues—and manifested in all kinds of omens.
It is precisely this fight—against demons—that a sizable portion of ascetic literature is devoted to. Although written by monks, for monks, and thus not originally intended to be read within the city walls, a quote from the apostle Paul—"[f]or we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but ... against spiritual wickedness" (Eph. 6: 12)—completely reflects the mentality of that era.
Until now, when receiving the sacrament of baptism in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the baptizand is called upon to renounce Satan by spitting and blowing at him; and even if these are only symbolic actions, they take place on the physical level. In addition, during the anointing the adept rubbed with oil like an athlete before the battle, and subsequently called the “Christ's warrior.” Such practices reflect the echoes of struggle against the pagan (demonic) heritage, and against hordes of demons, that existed in the Empire in the post-Constantine era. It was around this time, that the cult of warriors began to form. Kalleres points out that it was in the post-Constantine era that the Christian identity of the persecuted Church was replaced by the identity of the imperial Church, and Christians were no longer simply believers, but became soldiers of the army of Christ, for whom—and not vice versa—imperial orders were projected.
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