spectacle_lecture_11_24_09

spectacle_lecture_11_24_09 - Lecture notes Christians and...

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Lecture notes 11/25/08: Christians and the arena Background: Roman attitudes towards Christians and other religious nonconformists --this is what I had you read from WoR : a discussion of Roman attitudes towards provincials, barbarians, and religious nonconformists --in general, the Romans believed that they were bringing Civilization to the rest of the world, and that the peoples they conquered were better off for it and should be grateful (not an uncommon attitude among imperial powers!) --they encouraged conquered peoples to Romanize, assimilating local religions to Roman religion, building baths and amphitheaters and theaters, teaching Latin --certain groups posed problems for Romanization, though, and the Romans took a harder line with them: the Druids in Britain: o the Romans found their practice of human sacrifice appalling o thus the Druids were banned and persecuted and executed the Jews in Judaea (and elsewhere): o the Jews’ insistence on monotheism was troubling to the Roman Empire’s insistence on its subjects recognizing the Roman pantheon and deified emperors o the Jews were basically given a pass because a) they were so ancient and b) they didn’t proselytize (try to spread their religion to others) Christians: o the Romans thought of Christianity as an ignorant “superstition” o they thought that Christians practiced incest and cannibalism (the Eucharist) o the Romans didn’t like their emphasis on monotheism (which meant refusing to acknowledge Roman gods and deified emperors) o the Romans didn’t like their effort to spread the religion (i.e. proselytizing); this seemed like trying to spread something that undermined the Roman Empire and traditional Greco-Roman cultural institutions o so the Romans executed Christians routinely, especially during certain periods of history --one thing that was unique about Christianity was that, even though it was an offshoot of Judaism, it wasn’t tied to a particular ethnicity and land; anyone could (theoretically) become Christian; the Romans had almost always absorbed the local gods of a place into their own system (except for the Jews, whom they recognized, for the most part, as distinct – but who were not trying to expand themselves), but the Christians weren’t locals to any one place, and they upset traditional ideas about religion being the religion of a people
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