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Martyrdom in Late Antiquity (300–450 AD) History and Discourse, Tradition and Religious Identity (22 to 24 February 2011)


Martyrdom featured prominently in the lives of late antique Christian communities of the fourth and fifth centuries. The “Great Persecution” of the early fourth century and, later on, inner-Christian conflicts, brought forth a considerable number of martyrs and martyr cults and martyr texts. Within the context of these martyr cults a large number of texts originated: calendars, martyrologies, passiones, sermons. In the past these texts have been studied primarily for the historically reliable information they might contain about the martyr and the martyr cult (cf. the work of the Bollandists). More recently, they have also been approached in their own right (e.g. what was the aim of their author(s)? How did these texts contribute to the development of the religious identity of their readers/hearers (cf. martyr as example/identification figure)? During the past decades, also the performative, protreptic and artistic features of the texts increasingly gained recognition. While not neglecting these texts’ value as historical sources, this Göttingen symposium on late antique martyrdom texts inserts itself primarily in the latter set of approaches. By examining a number of single texts, it is hoped to shed new light on the martyrological and hagiographical discourse of late antiquity and to investigate to question why the martyrs gained such prominence just after the end of persecution.

The Workshop was initiiated by Fellow Prof. Dr. Johan Leemans(Research Professor for Christianity in Late Antiquity, Catholic University of Leuven; Fellow Lichtenberg-Kolleg 2010/11) and the Associate Prof. Dr. Peter Gemeinhardt (Professor for Church History, University of Göttingen, Associate Lichtenberg-Kolleg 2010/11).