Thursday, 7 February 2019
Gianna Zipp: Tyranny and its punishment in Lact. mort. pers. 13,1, 14,3 and 42,1-3
In my paper I want to examine the link between a tyrantʼs actions and his punishment from God in Lactantiusʼ Death of the Persecutors. In his treaties about the wrongness of persecuting Christians, Lactantius focuses on the tetrarchs, known best to his contemporaries: Diocletian, Galerius, Maximianus, and Maximinus Daia. These enemies of God are punished by God himself in different ways. All of these punishments, however, are suitable to their respective character and their specific actions. To show this, I want to compare the edict Diocletian ushers against Christians, the characterisation Lactantius gives of him, and his demise following the damnatio memoriaeof his colleague – and by default of himself. Diocletians edict is designed to strip Christians from their rights and social status, rendering them little more than slaves. This punishment can be seen as even more extreme when we take into account the characterisation Lactantius gives of the tetrarch: Diocletian is vain and always concerned about his own public image.To him, status is of the utmost importance.So in the end, when Maximianus dies, all his statues and pictures are destroyed and so are those of Diocletian as most portray both emperors. This is, I want to argue, the ultimate form of punishment for an emperor like Diocletian, who ruled for twenty years and wanted to present himself as a great imperator. He loses all his social status and will never be remembered as the great emperor he strived to be remembered as. On the contrary: he will be forgotten.