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Forum Antiquum Lecture Spring 2022: 'Christiani et Ceteri. The Treatment of Christians in the Roman Empire'

Thursday 3 March 2022
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Vossius Room

The history of Christianity in the Roman Empire has long been regarded as one of persecution, of brave martyrs, and of the cruel Roman officials throwing them to the lions. At the same time, this level of repression is usually regarded as extremely rare in the otherwise almost proverbially religiously tolerant Roman world: something about the early Christian movement was apparently so strange and threatening to the Roman population that it elicited a uniquely violent response. 

In this talk, Renske Janssen will strongly nuance these central assumptions by placing the legal interactions between Christians and the Roman authorities back into their wider historical and administrative contexts. Where did measures against Christians come from, what were their exact contents, and how were they enforced? She will argue that these measures were strongly rooted in common administrative practices of the imperial period, and that the factors that shaped the legal position of early Christians were in fact hardly unique. Janssen will further illustrate this by drawing comparisons between the treatment of Christians and that of two contemporary marginalized religious groups, namely diviners and Jewish communities.

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