Title: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire
Name: Michael Gaddis
History Department
145 Eggers Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse NY 13244
(315) 443-4832 or fax (315) 443-5876
Year: 1998
Type: Dissertation Fellowship

"There is no crime for those who have Christ"--a claim made by the fifth-century Egyptian monk Shenoute--neatly expresses a paradigm of religious extremism, a belief that righteous zeal for God trumped considerations of worldly law. Religious conflict, and the attitudes that drove it, form the subject of this research. The temporal and chronological focus of this study is the Christian Roman Empire, a unique environment shaped by the marriage of Christian ideology and Roman imperial power. The new relationship between church and state raised complicated and unprecedented questions of secular power, spiritual authority, and moral legitimacy. I have chosen to investigate these larger concerns through a particular study of the role of violence in the religious conflicts of the time. I have sought to explore what violence meant to those involved, both actors and victims, how it was experienced, represented, justified or contested. I define two broad categories of religious violence. On the one hand, what I call the violence of the center, through which secular and ecclesiastical authorities express their preference for unity and consensus; they justify their fundamentally coercive violence in corrective or "disciplinary" terms, believing themselves to act "for the greater good" of their subjects. On the other hand, extremist violence, reflecting a sharp sense of division between good and evil, truth and falsehood, directed against perceived enemies of the faith (pagans, Jews, heretics) but also used to expose the "pretense" and hypocrisy of a too-tolerant establishment seen as Christian in name only. I follow the tension between these competing worldviews through approximately a century and a half, from Constantine to the Council of Chalcedon.