Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In the late fourth and early fifth centuries Christians actively sought to reimagine the persecutions of the pre-Constantinian era by keeping the memory of the martyrs alive. The cult of martyrs became one tool for navigating present difficulties and establishing a source of legitimacy. As a valuable connection with the past, the cult of martyrs enabled Christian communities to build identity, and bishops could use it to promote the Christianization of the empire. In spite of the cult's widespread popularity, churches imputed widely disparate meanings to the cult. The cult's function in a particular locale was often shaped by that place's specific religious and political context. Chapter one deals with the martyrdom phenomenon, the earliest Christians' views on this phenomenon, and the development of the cult of the martyrs. Chapters two and three investigate the relationship of the cult of martyrs to its Roman cultural context by analyzing suicide martyrdoms and the tendency of bishops to portray the cult as spectacle. Chapters four, five, and six describe the cult's relationship to three notable bishops: Ambrose of Milan (d. 397), John Chrysostom (d. 407), and Augustine of Hippo (d. 430). Though contemporary with one another, these three men all viewed the cult of the martyrs as fulfilling somewhat different needs for their congregations. The last chapter describes the controversy over the cult in Gaul, where some clergy resisted its development.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dietz, Maribel



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History Commons