“What has the Emperor to Do with the Church?”

Michael Gaddis

in There Is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780520241046
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930902 | DOI:
“What has the Emperor to Do with the Church?”

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This chapter describes the Diocletian, the Great Persecution, Christian martyrdom, and then the religious policies of Constantine, with particular attention to his dealings with the early Donatists. It also examines the motives and justifications behind pagan emperors' persecution of Christians, and argues that some of the same attitudes toward violence and coercion persisted under the Christian empire. Moreover, it describes the formation of Christian concepts of martyrdom that cast a shadow over the religious conflicts of later generations. The end of persecution had been accompanied by an even more dramatic development: for the first time in history, an emperor had openly embraced Christianity. Constantine's mention—and dismissal—of martyrdom not only implies his awareness that lethal force was necessary, but also suggests that he anticipated how the Donatists might have responded to coercive violence. Violence used for the sake of unity shatters that unity.

Keywords: Diocletian; Christian martyrdom; Constantine; Donatists; persecution; violence; coercion; Christian empire; Christianity

Chapter.  17688 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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