Carceral studies tends to operate with a model that imagines the birth of the prison and the limited-term prison sentence as happening in the late 18th century in Europe and North America. This lecture challenges this model by showing evidence of limited-term sentences of incarceration in Late Antiquity. It explores the historical context of the emergence of placing criminalized persons in carceral geographies for a certain amount of time. It connects the origins of limited-term sentences of incarceration to practices of convict labor and to emerging Christian ideas of hell and punishment.

Matthew Larsen received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2017 and currently is a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in the Princeton Society of Fellows and a Lecturer in the Department of Religion at Princeton University.  He is the author of Gospels Before the Book (OUP, 2018), which won a Manfred Lautenschläger award, as well as recent and forthcoming articles on carceral practices and geographies. He is currently writing a book manuscript on early Christians and the history of incarceration as well as a sourcebook on incarceration in Mediterranean antiquity.