The Embarrassment of Blood

Laura Nasrallah

in Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738960
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918676 | DOI:
The Embarrassment of Blood

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Laura Nasrallah analyzes first- and second-century discourses concerning human sacrifice, both in contemporary Roman art and in the language of Roman and Christian writings. She identifies four major discursive sites in which sacrifice was thematized: first, in polemical accusations of human sacrifice; second, in discussions of humans as appropriate living, rational sacrifices to the gods, if those humans are philosophically and theologically trained; third, in the context of interpretations of Christ’s death; and, finally, in the rarely discussed theological realm of Roman political-religious life. Focusing on this final category, Nasrallah emphasizes how a strong link between war and human sacrifice haunts the literary and sculptural imagery of this period; visually, on the altar of the Temple of the Flavian Emperors at Ephesus and on the Column of Trajan at Rome, as well as in the literary texts of Tatian and Plutarch, among others.

Keywords: human sacrifice; Roman sacrifice; war; ideology; art; Roman empire; Christianity

Chapter.  10412 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Religion

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