Heirs of Roman Persecution : Studies on a Christian and Para-Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity book cover
1st Edition

Heirs of Roman Persecution
Studies on a Christian and Para-Christian Discourse in Late Antiquity

ISBN 9781032088198
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
362 Pages

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Book Description

The subject of this book is the discourse of persecution used by Christians in Late Antiquity (c. 300–700 CE).

Through a series of detailed case studies covering the full chronological and geographical span of the period, this book investigates how the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity changed the way that Christians and para- Christians perceived the hostile treatments they received, either by fellow Christians or by people of other religions. A closely related second goal of this volume is to encourage scholars to think more precisely about the terminological difficulties related to the study of persecution. Indeed, despite sustained interest in the subject, few scholars have sought to distinguish between such closely related concepts as punishment, coercion, physical violence, and persecution. Often, these terms are used interchangeably. Although there are no easy answers, an emphatic conclusion of the studies assembled in this volume is that “persecution” was a malleable rhetorical label in late antique discourse, whose meaning shifted depending on the viewpoint of the authors who used it.

This leads to our third objective: to analyze the role and function played by rhetoric and polemic in late antique claims to be persecuted. Late antique Christian writers who cast their present as a repetition of past persecutions often aimed to attack the legitimacy of the dominant Christian faction through a process of othering. This discourse also expressed a polarizing worldview in order to strengthen the group identity of the writers’ community in the midst of ideological conflicts and to encourage steadfastness against the temptation to collaborate with the other side.

Table of Contents




  1. Éric Fournier The Christian Discourse of Persecution in Late Antiquity: An
  2. Introduction.

    Part I: The Later Roman Empire of the 4th and 5th Centuries

  3. Elizabeth Depalma Digeser Breaking the Apocalyptic Frame: Persecution and the Rise of
  4. Constantine.

  5. Nathaniel Morehouse Begrudging the Honor: Julian and Christian Martyrdom.
  6. Maijastina Kahlos A Misunderstood Emperor? Valens as a Persecuting
  7. Ruler in Late Antique Literature.

  8. Byron MacDougall Theologies under Persecution: Gregory of Nazianzus and
  9. the Syntagmation of Aetius.

  10. Adam Ployd For Their Own Good: Augustine and the Rhetoric of
  11. Beneficial Persecution.

  12. Mattias Brand In the Footsteps of the Apostles of Light: Persecution and
  13. the Manichaean Discourse of Suffering.

    Part II: Post-Roman Kingdoms of the Western Mediterranean (5th and 7th Centuries)

  14. Éric Fournier ‘To Collect Gold from Hidden Caves.’ Victor of Vita and the
  15. Vandal ‘Persecution’ of Heretical Barbarians in Late Antique North Africa.

  16. Samuel Cohen ‘You Have Made Common Cause with their Persecutors’:
  17. Gelasius, the Language of Persecution, and the Acacian Schism.

  18. Éric Fournier Everyone but the Kings: The Rhetoric of (Non-)Persecution in
  19. Gregory of Tours’ Histories.

  20. Molly Lester Persecutio, Seductio, and the Limits of Rhetorical Intolerance in
  21. Visigothic Iberia.

    Part III: Eastern Mediterranean in the 5th-7th Centuries

  22. Rebecca S. Falcasantos The City a Palimpsest. Rewriting Arian Violence in Fifth-
  23. Century Historiography.

  24. Jason Osequeda The Name of Ill-Omen: Basiliscus and the Church in
  25. Constantinople.

  26. Christine Shepardson Martyrs of Exile: John of Ephesus and Religious
  27. Persecution.

  28. Ryan Strickler Persecution and Apostasy: Christian Identity during the
  29. Crises of the Seventh Century.

    Concluding Reflections

  30. Wendy Mayer Heirs of Roman Persecution: Common Threads in the

Discursive Strategies across Late Antiquity.


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Éric Fournier is Professor of History at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Wendy Mayer is Associate Dean for Research and Professor at University of Divinity, Australian Lutheran College.