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A Threat to Public PietyChristians, Platonists, and the Great Persecution$
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Elizabeth DePalma Digeser

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801441813

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801441813.001.0001

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From Permeable Circles to Hardened Boundaries

(p.1) Introduction
A Threat to Public Piety

Elizabeth DePalma Digeser

Cornell University Press

This book traces the origins of the so-called Great Persecution, the Roman Empire's last and longest campaign compelling Christians to uphold traditional religious norms. Executed by the emperor Diocletian in the year 303 and lasting until 313, the Great Persecution seemingly conforms to a stereotype of Romans as persecutors and Christians as victims before the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312. Yet this familiar image is not consistent with the presence of Christian courtiers in Diocletian's entourage. This book challenges the view held by most historians that the Great Persecution was inevitable, noting that Christians and Hellenes had lived, learned, and worked side by side for forty years before they became sharply divided by the turn of the century. It argues that Iamblichus of Chalcis played a key role in this shift, explaining how his dispute with Porphyry of Tyre laid the foundations that supported the Great Persecution.

Keywords:   Persecution, Roman Empire, Christians, Diocletian, Christianity, Hellenes, Iamblichus of Chalcis, Porphyry of Tyre

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