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Over onsFaculteit Godgeleerdheid en GodsdienstwetenschapAgenda

Ancient World Seminar: Birgit van der Lans (Bergen) – "Christians and the written media of imperial government in the Antonine period"

Wanneer:ma 20-03-2017 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (Oude Boteringestraat 38), room 130
Christians and the written media of imperial government in the Antonine period
Christians and the written media of imperial government in the Antonine period

Around the mid-second century CE, Christians reportedly began to approach the Roman emperors through petitions and speeches to complain about the opposition they were experiencing and about false accusations and unfair trials when Christians were brought before the Roman courts. While in some cases we only hear of such individuals through later authors like Eusebius, in other cases writings survive that are packaged as the petitions (Justin Martyr’s 1 Apology) or diplomatic speeches (Athenagoras’ Legatio) addressed to the Antonine emperors. The discussion about the form these texts take has focused on questions of authenticity: were they meant to be delivered to and read by the emperor, or rather designed for an internal Christian readership? Yet deciding for either reality or fiction does not sufficiently appreciate the cultural choices underlying the framing of texts. This paper discusses these Christian writings in the framework of the Roman system of petition and response and the variegated uses made by subjects of the texts generated by interactions with the imperial government. Building on recent approaches that question rigid boundaries between documents and literature, it borrows concepts from media theory that help us better understand the creative appropriation of documents and its implications for our understanding of Roman political culture.

Birgit van der Lans researches the relation between religion and diplomacy in the Roman world as a guest researcher at the University of Bergen (Norway) and works on a PhD thesis on Jews and Christians in first-century Rome at the University of Groningen. She is currently co-organising an exhibition on ancient Palmyra at Bryggens museum in Bergen.