1st Edition

Living Martyrs in Late Antiquity and Beyond Surviving Martyrdom

By Diane Fruchtman Copyright 2023

    This book demonstrates that living martyrdom was an important spiritual aspiration in the late antique Latin west and argues that, consequently, attempts to define, study, or locate martyrdom must move away from conceptualizations that require or center on death.

    After an introduction that traces the persistence of "living martyrs" as real objects of spiritual devotion and emulation across the span of Christian history and discusses why such martyrs have been overlooked, the book focuses on three significant authors from the late ancient Latin west for whom martyrdom did not require death: the Spanish poet Prudentius (c. 348–413), the senator-turned-ascetic Paulinus of Nola (353–431), and the influential North African bishop Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Through historically and literarily contextualized close readings of their work, this book shows that each of these three authors attempted to create a new paradigm of martyrdom focused on living, rather than dying, for God. By focusing on these living martyrs, we are able to see more clearly the aspirations and agendas of those who promoted them as martyrs and how their martyrological discourse illuminates the variety of ways that martyrdom is and can be mobilized (in any era) to construct new, community-creating worldviews.

    Living Martyrs in Late Antiquity and Beyond is an important resource for historians of Christianity, scholars of religious studies, and anyone interested in exploring or understanding martyrological discourse.

    The Introduction of this book is available for free in PDF format as Open Access from the individual product page at www.routledge.com. It has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

    Introduction—Rethinking Martyrdom, 1. Destabilizing Death: Prudentius’s Peristephanon, 2. Modeling the Living Martyr: Witness in and Through Poetry, 3. Paulinus of Nola and the Living Martyr, 4. Making Martyrs in the Nolan Countryside, 5. Non Poena Sed Causa, 6. Augustine and the Life of Martyrdom, Conclusion—Surviving Martyrdom: History, Historiography, and Power.


    Diane Shane Fruchtman is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey.

    "Though others have written about the interweaving of Christian identity and martyrdom and the inculcation of a martyrological way-of-life, there is a welcome sharpness to Fruchtman’s work that refines the terms and allows readers to see the stakes... Fruchtman’s detailed study of the role of martyrial consciousness in Christian self-fashioning and spiritual regimen is an important intervention in the conversation and must-read for students and scholars of Christian martyrdom."Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    "Fruchtman’s method is close to the ground. She recovers the imaginative reality of living martyrdom by paying attention to, and taking seriously, the linguistic and rhetorical choices of her authors; she is especially sensitive to moments of fissure, incongruity, or excess that signal modes of changing perceptions, and she is equally sensitive to context as a way to control her evidence... This is a terrific book."Journal of Early Christian Studies

    "The monograph...is definitively an original contribution of high quality to the field of late antiquity and will, I am confident, have an impact on martyrdom scholarship." Church History