Domitian and the early fathers of the church

Harmes, Marcus (2009) Domitian and the early fathers of the church. Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, 5. pp. 35-54. ISSN 1449-9320


This paper interprets the tradition of persecution of Christians by the emperor Domitian (reigned 81-96CE), as narrated and interpreted by fathers of the church including Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Clement of Rome and Eusebius. This paper argues that the portrayal of Domitian in Christian sources relates to the integration of the church with Roman civil authorities. Study of this persecution reveals that members of the early church showed their willingness to obey civil authorities. Historians have long pointed out that Domitian provided an example of a 'bad' emperor which encouraged Christians’ obedience to emperors who did not persecute Christians. This paper takes this point further, suggesting that patristic sources not only distinguished between good and bad emperors, but made good emperors out of bad ones, insisting on conversions and
patronage from the imperial court. Using distinctive features of the patristic records of the Domitianic persecution, including records of his victims, this paper reconstructs how patristic writers integrated church and state, locating Christians at the very centre of
imperial power.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 19858
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to paper due to publisher copyright restrictions.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Mass Communication
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2011 08:02
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2017 06:26
Uncontrolled Keywords: Domitian (Emperor of Rome AD81-96); christianity; early church; fathers of the church; Roman history
Fields of Research : 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210307 European History (excl. British, Classical Greek and Roman)
21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210306 Classical Greek and Roman History
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only