Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Public and Domestic Violence in Chrysostom's Community

Peter Brown describes late antiquity as “a world characterized by a chilling absence of legal restraints on violence in the exercise of power.”  Many studies on structural and institutional violence in the ancient world have been published. In this paper, however, I will focus only on one-on-one violence in public and private space in Chrysostom’s community. Chrysostom advises his congregation, for example, that should they hear “any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God, they should go up to him, rebuke him, and should it be necessary to inflict blows, they should not spare not to do so” (De stat 1.32). He also tells about instances of spousal violence. In one specific case the neighbours were running to the house because of the cries and wailing of a wife who was beaten by her husband (Hom. 1 Cor 26.7). Pauline Allen, Wendy Mayer and others have shown that Chrysostom’s writings can serve as a window to provide us a glimpse into fourth- and fifth-century social life. One has to be aware, of course, of the fact that Chrysostom also made some very radical comments merely for rhetorical effect. Nevertheless, Chrysostom’s writings can shed light upon the role of violence in his community.

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