The Moment of Reckoning: Death and Violence in Late Ancient Christian Culture


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships


Near Eastern Studies and History


This project describes a trope that emerged in Christian culture after the start of the fourth century CE. It is well known that in the cultural environment established by the legalization of Christianity, late ancient Christians produced elaborate historical narratives that emphasized their identity with martyrs of the previous two centuries. At that same time, however, Christians were also focusing their intellectual and literary attention on the moments immediately before and after death, investing the subjective experience of death with emotional and moral weight. This new Christian conception of death as a moment of reckoning supported yet another novel development in late ancient Christian culture: the adoption of force to dominate others, particularly religious opponents.