'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

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Charles Wilson
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by Charles Wilson » Sun Oct 07, 2018 7:18 pm

Very nice. Thank you, MrMac!

CW

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MrMacSon
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:48 pm


7 ... From an historical point of view, the evidence for any persecution of Christians under Domitian is feeble.15 For Rome, Xiphilinos’ excerpt of the third-century historian Cassius Dio (the sources of Dio’s negative version of Domitian are difficult to identify)16 points to religious arguments employing the concept of ta ton Ioudaion ethe in the persecution of members of the senatorial class and possibly beyond. This, however, relates to the very last year of Domitius’ reign. I do not wish to enter into the discussion of John’s ‘Apocalypsis’. Its dating is itself subject to the problem of circularity.17 But even admitting a Domitian date does not attest to more than some local conflicts in Asia Minor. Despite the negative portrait of the emperor in the senatorial and later Christian historiography and by Pliny,18 it is most probable that the enthusiastic image conveyed by the poets Martial (who, however, never had direct access to the emperor)19 and Statius was more representative of popular feeling than the formers’ accusations, even if the poets’ readership has to be surmised in the ranks of an upper class rather than the larger populace directly addressed by Domitian with the help of games and military spectacles rather than the employment of poets.20


Jörg Rüpke (2012) 'Sacrifice in the afterlife: Flavian innovations in the concept of priesthood and their repercussions in the treatise “Epistle to the Hebrews”' Revue de l’histoire des religions, 5-30


15 Joachim Molthagen, “Die Lage der Christen im römischen Reich nach dem 1. Petrusbrief: Zum Problem einer domitianischen Verfolgung.” Historia 44, 1995, 422-458.

16 See Christiana Urner, Kaiser Domitian im Urteil antiker literarischer Quellen und moderner Forschung. Diss. Augsburg 1993, 49 f.

17 cf. Ulrike Riemer, Das Tier auf dem Kaiserthron? Eine Untersuchung zur Offenbarung des Johannes als historischer Quelle. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 114. Stuttgart 1998, 7-11.

18 For the latter and his underrated reception see Urner 1993, 319.

19 Jens Leberl, Domitian und die Dichter: Poesie als Medium der Herrschaftsdarstellung. Hypomnemata 154. Göttingen 2004, 343.

20 The latter is stressed by Leberl 2004, 344 f.; Ruurd R. Nauta, Poetry for Patrons: Literary Communication in the Age of Domitian. Mnemosyne suppl. 206. Leiden 2002, 327-335, likewise underlines the fact, that poetic honouring of the emperor need not imply personal imperial patronage; A.J. Boyle, “Introduction: Reading Flavian Rome.” In: id.; J. W. Dominik (edd.), Flavian Rome: Culture, Image, Text. Leiden: Brill, 2003, 41, speaks of the new theatricality of the Flavian and in particular Domitianic period.

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24 ... In their poems, Domitian’s contemporaries Statius and Martial —flatterers, maybe, but highly valued poets at the same time— paint the image of a popular emperor —maybe charismatic more by office than personality—, construing his imperial authority by use of religious media, too. Religious language and devotion is a genuine means of answering to this, the top of rhetorical flattery and genuine admiration, grateful and awesome at the same time. Honouring somebody above average meant to get to the inventory of honouring the gods, to replace bronze by gold statues, to move the statue inside a temple, to compare actions not with other human ones but with those of the gods. Glamour and eccentricity, visibility and arrogance might have put off members of the old elites and some intellectuals – criticism and executions are attested and elite historiographers like Tacitus indulged in such opposition and make us love their narratives and insinuations. But why should researchers living in today’s society doubt such phenomena’s attractiveness to a majority of contemporaries?

25 In such a perspective, imperial cult should not be seen in isolation. For the emperors, receiving cult and performing cult are necessary complements. Piety and religious activities indicated the importance of the religious field and invited its being treated by others. Filling religious roles was, as I have shown in the beginning, part of the stock of public political roles, even before the imperial age. The competition with precursors and possible co-runners led to modification, intensification and innovation. Augustus filled and stressed a wide range of religious roles, not all related to priestly functions: The important role of the emperor as performer of sacrifice was not usually dependent on a sacerdotal office. Titus’ and Domitian’s stress on the supreme pontificate must be seen as an innovation.

https://journals.openedition.org/rhr/7831

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Secret Alias
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by Secret Alias » Fri Apr 12, 2019 3:26 pm

the persecution happened. Holocaust denier logic
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John2
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by John2 » Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:49 pm

Neither of those links mention Hegesippus, who I've come to regard as one of the best sources for early Christianity, which I guess is convenient since he says Domitian persecuted Christians in EH 3.20.1-7:
1. Of the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord's brother according to the flesh.

2. Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to the Emperor Domitian by the Evocatus. For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand denarii, half of which belonged to each of them.

4. And this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes
and supported themselves by their own labor.

5. Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies and the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor.

6. And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works.

7. Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them, but, despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the Church.
And this account is in keeping with what Seutonius says in Domitian 12:
Besides other taxes, that on the Jews was levied with the utmost rigour, and those were prosecuted who without publicly acknowledging that faith yet lived as Jews, as well as those who concealed their origin and did not pay the tribute levied upon their people. I recall being present in my youth when the person of a man ninety years old was examined before the procurator and a very crowded court, to see whether he was circumcised.
As noted in the second link you gave above:
No pagan writer of the time ever accused Domitian, as they had Nero, of persecuting Christians. Pliny, for example, served as a lawyer under Domitian and wrote in a letter to Trajan (r. 98–117 C.E.) that he was never present at the trial of a Christian (Letters 10.96.1). This is a strange claim for one of Domitian’s former officials if Christian persecution were so prevalent. The archaeologist Julian Bennett, who has written a biography of Trajan, also fails to mention any general persecution of Christians at this time. Domitian’s execution of Clemens has sometimes been linked to the senator’s apparent “atheism,” a term sometimes given to Christians. However, there is no “smoking gun” linking Clemens’s death to Christian persecution. So Jones concludes, “No convincing evidence exists for a Domitianic persecution of the Christians.”


But I don't think there was a clear distinction between Jews and Christians in Domitian's time. Notice in Hegesippus above that Domitian was concerned with Jude's grandsons being "descendants of David" and feared the (Jewish) Messiah (aka "Christ") like Herod had in Mt. 2.

This is illustrated (in my view) by Dio Cassius, who refers to Domitian's persecution of Flavius Clemens and "many others" who had "drifted into Jewish ways" in 67.14, and I'm in the camp that views Flavius Clemens as being Clement of Rome and I think that this is the persecution of the Church that Hegesippus refers to above:
...Domitian slew, along with many others, Flavius Clemens the consul, although he was a cousin and had to wife Flavia Domitilla, who was also a relative of the emperor's. The charge brought against them both was that of atheism, a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned. Some of these were put to death, and the rest were at least deprived of their property. Domitilla was merely banished to Pandateria.
When it's done and over, Lord, a man is just a man.

andrewcriddle
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by andrewcriddle » Sat Apr 13, 2019 4:52 am

The number of Christians who died for their faith under Domitian was probably small.

However, it does seem likely that the official position of Christians changed for the worse under Domitian.

From the Letter of Pliny we learn that Pliny regards Christianity as illegal although he is unsure of the precise legal issues. There must be some precedent for Pliny to take this position and the most likely is a decision under Domitian that Christians were not covered by the toleration given to Judaism. (The main other possibility is that Pliny's position is based on the anti-Christian actions of Nero but this seems unlikely.

We llearn from Pliny that some of the Christian suspects had renounced Christianity tweny five (or more than twenty) years previously. This would go back to the time of Domitian and may involve people dropping Christianity when Domitian made it clear that the state regarded the new faith as illegitimate.

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arnoldo
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by arnoldo » Sun Apr 14, 2019 8:45 am

John2 wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 4:49 pm
. . .
But I don't think there was a clear distinction between Jews and Christians in Domitian's time. Notice in Hegesippus above that Domitian was concerned with Jude's grandsons being "descendants of David" and feared the (Jewish) Messiah (aka "Christ") like Herod had in Mt. 2.

This is illustrated (in my view) by Dio Cassius, who refers to Domitian's persecution of Flavius Clemens and "many others" who had "drifted into Jewish ways" in 67.14, and I'm in the camp that views Flavius Clemens as being Clement of Rome and I think that this is the persecution of the Church that Hegesippus refers to above:
...Domitian slew, along with many others, Flavius Clemens the consul, although he was a cousin and had to wife Flavia Domitilla, who was also a relative of the emperor's. The charge brought against them both was that of atheism, a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned. Some of these were put to death, and the rest were at least deprived of their property. Domitilla was merely banished to Pandateria.
As an aside, Thomas Herron writes that 1 Clement 1:1 mention of “sudden and repeated calamities” is not a reference to Domitian persecution. Rather, these repeated calamities were a reference to upheaval in Rome during the Year of the Four Emperors. Allegedly, the writer was trying parallel the turmoil in Rome with the turmoil in the Corinthian church. By removing the alleged connection between Domitian persecution and 1: Clement 1:1 Thomas J Herron argues that 1 Clement was written pre 70 A.D.

*ETA*
The following excerpt regarding the identity of Clement being a former slave of Flavius Clemens is from Conflict at Rome: Social Order and Hierarch in Early Christianity by James S. Jeffers
Dio’s sources may have confused Judaism and Chrstianity, or the Roman authorities may have made this error. The worship practices of Christians, especially if they were Jewish christians, probably looked Jewish to the casual observer.

Someone like Clement, a man living in Rome with a Latin name but whose native tongue was Greek, was almost certainly an ex-slave of a Roman citizen. Freedmen might prefix the praenomne of their master, but they did not take his cognomen. . . suggested that the author of 1 Clement was a former slave of the T. Flavius Clemens mentioned above. He based this on the similarity of names, and the belief that Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla were Christians. . .

Last edited by arnoldo on Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

John2
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by John2 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:10 pm

arnoldo wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2019 8:45 am

As an aside, Thomas Herron writes that 1 Clement 1:1 mention of “sudden and repeated calamities” is not a reference to Domitian persecution. Rather, these repeated calamities were a reference to upheaval in Rome during the Year of the Four Emperors. Allegedly, the writer was trying parallel the turmoil in Rome with the turmoil in the Corinthian church. By removing the alleged connection between Domitian persecution and 1: Clement 1:1 Thomas J Herron argues that 1 Clement was written pre 70 A.D.
Since I take Clement of Rome to be Flavius Clemens, I view 1 Clem. 1:1 as referring to the time of Domitian. It can't be proven, but it at least works with the assumption that Clement was Flavius Clemens. And it (or at least some other persecution of Christians) seems more likely to me than the Year of Four Emperors, since Clement says, "the sudden and repeated calamities and reverses which are befalling us" (or "ourselves"), and the only "us" mentioned up to this point are "the Church of God which sojourneth in Rome."
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Bernard Muller
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:42 pm

Another possibility (the one I favor) of the time of these calamities is 80-81.
See http://historical-jesus.info/gospels.html#1clement

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John2
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Re: 'Domitian and the Persecution That Didn’t Happen'

Post by John2 » Wed Apr 17, 2019 10:34 am

arnoldo cited Jeffers:
Dio’s sources may have confused Judaism and Chrstianity, or the Roman authorities may have made this error. The worship practices of Christians, especially if they were Jewish christians, probably looked Jewish to the casual observer.

Someone like Clement, a man living in Rome with a Latin name but whose native tongue was Greek, was almost certainly an ex-slave of a Roman citizen. Freedmen might prefix the praenomne of their master, but they did not take his cognomen. . . suggested that the author of 1 Clement was a former slave of the T. Flavius Clemens mentioned above. He based this on the similarity of names, and the belief that Flavius Clemens and Flavia Domitilla were Christians. . .
While I think do think Christians "probably looked Jewish to the casual observer" during the first century CE, I think they "probably looked Jewish" to themselves as well. For context, just because Josephus believed (or at least proclaimed that) Vespasian was the Messiah doesn't mean he stopped identifying as being Jewish. The same goes for Jewish and Gentile Christians during this period. And if the latter were interested in the Jewish God and Messiah (regardless of who they thought the Messiah was or their level of interest in and observance of the Torah), then they had, for all intents and purposes from really anyone's perspective, "drifted into Jewish ways" as per Dio Cassius regarding Domitian's persecution of Flavius Clemens and "many others."

The Jewish Encyclopedia notes the blurred line between Jews and Christians during this period.
An early branch of the imperial Flavian house was at one time inclined toward Judaism and Christianity. Even Titus Flavius Sabinus, Vespasian's elder brother, led during his last years a life that may be called Jewish or Christian. One of his four children, Titus Flavius Clemens, later consul and martyr, married Flavia Domitilla, who was a granddaughter of his uncle, the emperor Vespasian, and therefore a cousin of Titus and Domitian. Clemens' two children, called Vespasian and Domitian, were educated by the famous Quintilian ("Institutio Oratoria," iv. 1, § 2), and were secretly destined as successors to Domitian (Suetonius, "Domitian," § 15). This arrangement, however, was disturbed when it became known that both Clemens and Domitilla leaned toward the despised "Oriental superstition." Dion Cassius relates that Domitian had many persons executed, including the consul Flavius Clemens and his wife, Flavia Domitilla, although both were his own relations.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/artic ... -domitilla

To me everytihng falls into place with the assumption that Flavius Clemens was Clement of Rome (and, in my view, also the Clement Paul mentions in Php. 4:3 shortly before he sends special greetings from "those of Caesar's household"). Flavius Clemens, aka Clement of Rome, had (through Paul) "drifted into Jewish ways" (along with "many others") and was persecuted for it by Domitian. And at some point before his execution he wrote 1 Clement (which of course mentions Paul).
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