“The Sea Is Beautiful in The Eyes of God Because It Surrounds the Islands”: Christianizing the Seascape of Cyprus, Balearics, Chios and Naxos in the Early Byzantine Era

The sea has been capturing the attention of societies and has often been regarded as a bridge for communication between landscapes, as well as a space which is socio-politically constructed. Although, the Christianization of the Aegean Islands, especially the Dodecanese and the Cyclades, have been widely discussed in terms of the transformation of rural and urban landscapes, the sea is generally perceived as a surrounding, liquid and constantly changing area. However, for those who were living on or near the sea or people who traversed it, the sea became inevitably and intimately familiar space which can provide infinite clues about socio-political and socio-economic aspects of Christianization of the Aegean Islands.

As the current histography has been delving into the Christianization of the Aegean Islands in terms of landscape and monumentalized manifestations of Early Christianity, it seems that the Aegean provides mutual relationships between its islands and with the coastal and internal regions of both Anatolia and Greece due to the their communication networks, proximities and trade, pilgrimage and missionary activities which were made possible by the maritime routes in terms of Christianization.

This paper examines the meaning and extension of Christianizing the seascape over three important islands of Aegean Sea; Mytilene, Chios and Naxos as they remained central to the sea and inter-Mediterranean maritime routes during the passage between 4th and 7th centuries by focusing on missionary activities and ecclesiastical buildings in order to see that the effectiveness of the maritime networks and the impacts of the Patriarchate on the Christianization of the aforementioned islands. Through such an investigation, this paper argues that the Christianization of seascape projected an image of a Christian society not only for the local benefits but also for imperial interests.

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