Catherine Michael Chin, "Life: The Natural History of an Early Christian Universe" (U California Press, 2024)


A vivid and intimate glimpse of ancient life under the sway of cosmic and spiritual forces that the modern world has forgotten.

Life: The Natural History of an Early Christian Universe (U California Press, 2024) immerses the reader in the cosmic sea of existences that made up the late ancient Mediterranean world. Loosely structured around events in the biography of one early Christian writer and traveler, this book weaves together the philosophical, religious, sensory, and scientific worlds of the later Roman Empire to tell the story of how human lives were lived under different natural and spiritual laws than those we now know today.

This book takes a highly literary and sensory approach to its subject, evoking an imagined experience of an ancient natural and supernatural world, rather than merely explaining ancient thought about the natural world. It mixes visual and literary genres to give the reader a sensory and affective experience of a thought-world that is very different from our own. An experimental intellectual history, Life invites readers into the premodern cosmos to experience a world that is at once familiar, strange, and deeply compelling.

Mike Chin is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of California Davis.

Michael Motia is a Lecturer in the Religious Studies and Classics Department at UMass Boston (

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Michael Motia

Michael Motia teaches in Religious Studies and Classics at UMass Boston.

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