Forgan Smith (building 1), The University of Queensland, St Lucia
Venue: Forgan Smith (building 1), The University of Queensland, St Lucia.

Persecution, Christian Identity, and Authority in the Age of the Antonines

In the first and second centuries AD, Roman provincial authorities tried and executed Christians who refused to recant their beliefs. Modern scholars of ancient history generally accept that these persecutions were local responses based on decisions made by governors and their subjects, driven by local concerns. The imperial court at Rome was by and large completely disinterested in the prerogatives of the Christians, and didn't see them as either relevant or a potential threat to central power. The persecutions were not carried out by imperial edict, and most emperors were unconcerned about how provincial governors dealt with Christians, as long as the provinces themselves remained peaceful. Early Christian authors, on the other hand, depict these persecutions as broad in scale and directed by the emperors themselves, as part of a concerted effort by Rome to stamp out Christianity. This paper will examine the importance of the texts for the creation and promulgation of Christian identity and expansion of their communities, with a particular focus on the period of the Antonines and what the dynamic tells us about imperial authority.