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Cover von: Religious Individualisation in Early Christian Martyrdoms
Manea Erna Shirinian

Religious Individualisation in Early Christian Martyrdoms

Rubrik: Articles
Jahrgang 8 (2022) / Heft 3, S. 317-336 (20)
Publiziert 17.03.2023
DOI 10.1628/rre-2022-0021
Veröffentlicht auf Englisch.
The concept of religious individualisation, which has been widely studied with regard to Western late antiquity, seems to be useful also to study martyrdoms of Asia Minor of mainly the beginnings of the fourth century ce. There are both juxtapositions and parallels: if modern religious individualisation becomes a sort of constituent element of secularisation, individual martyrdoms as recounted by various authors was part of a process of consolidating Christian cult practices into religion or an institutional Church. Of course, these martyrdoms reveal more about portraying practices rather than being reflective of structures, since most early Christian communities were not autonomous, fully fledged institutions at that time: these developed mainly after 325 ce, after Constantine had become emperor and called the bishops to the first Council of Nicaea. As for Christianity, it should be stressed that before becoming an official religion, Christianity made more progress in the provinces than the centres of the Empire. On the other side, primitive Christianity quickly developed a 'cosmopolitan' character in the provinces, moving beyond the provincial or regional character of its agents; religious individualisation became a stereotypical element especially among military officials. Our knowledge about many questions concerning early Christianity and the development of its institutions is limited by a number of different obstacles, one of the most important being the small amount of literature that has survived. That is why the investigation of martyrdom texts as reflected in different surviving translations helps to shed light on miscellaneous questions related to the beginnings of Christianity, as well as to the whole complex of problems encompassed by this topic. The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (320 ce) and the Martyrdom of Eustratios are good examples for demonstrating ideas brought forward here. In both these martyrdom texts, some questions connected with their protagonists' religious and national identity are discussed. We learn that in the Martyrdom of Eustratios martyrs bearing Greek names are of Armenian descent (they have also a second, Armenian name) and sometimes speak Armenian. What arouses curiosity is that this information is attested in the redaction by Symeon Metaphrastes, but absent in the old Armenian translation. The information about martyrdoms preserved in many early Armenian translations made mainly from Greek appears to be significant for learning about the practices of early asceticism and the writing about martyrdoms also because they show an earlier stage of these texts than the ones preserved in the later Greek redaction by Symeon Metaphrastes. In addition, these translations are important because they were composed earlier than any extant manuscript containing their original text. That is why one can say that they show an earlier stage of these texts than the ones preserved in the later Greek redaction. The main aim of this paper is to show that in the early period of Christianity a cosmopolitan attitude was depicted to be more important than any national identity.