Theses Doctoral

Money, Power, Respect: Charity and the Creation of the Church

SanPietro, Irene

Despite the long-recognized connection between poverty and charity, and the scholarly attention paid to the culture of charity, there have been very few studies that have yielded the kind of quantitative results that would enable scholars of antiquity to assess the sources and impact of church wealth gained from non-elites. I ask three questions: (1) Who was asked to give? (2) Who could afford to give? (3) Who did, in fact, give? Three bodies of evidence offer answers: (1) The the patristic corpus suggests targets of solicitation as well as a rhetorical strategy for encouraging donation, (2) household economic models give a sense of how potential donors could generate disposable in- come through ascetic practice, and (3) a selection of small donations, specifically Christian small silvers, can be valued in a way that permits conjecture regarding the social profile of donors in late antiquity. Pursuing charity in this way offers the opportunity to get past ecclesiastical self- representation and gaps in evidence by looking at the underlying structures of the phenomenon. This in turn promises a clearer idea of the relationship between charity and philanthropy, placing church institutions back in their social context.


  • thumnail for SanPietro_columbia_0054D_11914.pdf SanPietro_columbia_0054D_11914.pdf binary/octet-stream 9.45 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Classical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Harris, William V.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014