Benjamin Kolbeck (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

Christians and Soldiers: The experience and representation of Roman military interaction with early Christian communities.

My project examines the complexity of interaction between the Roman military and early Christian communities, between the time of Jesus and the end of the fourth century A.D. Such interaction was important for the lived experience of early Christians – for most inhabitants of the Roman empire, especially in the east, soldiers would have been among the most visible symbols of Roman power – but it was also of intellectual interest to early Christian authors exploring the Roman state’s relationship with the Church. As such, Christian literature, from its earliest examples, contains numerous accounts of soldier/Christian interaction, many of which are violent, but equally many are ambiguous, or even positive in nature.

Traditionally, these two sides of the picture – social reality, and intellectual history – have been treated separately, and by separate disciplines. However, as research questions, they are clearly related and the problems they throw up are deeply integrated with one another. This project shall therefore treat the issues as interconnected, bringing a much needed historical perspective to the intellectual history angle, and, conversely, attacking the social history discussion armed with a firm grasp of the source’s literary constructions.

Treating the reality of soldier/Christian interaction and its presentation in an interconnected fashion will deliver a deeper, more accurate understanding of both. This project will demonstrate the changing ways Rome state dealt with an increasingly powerful minority group, and how this experience was constructed by that group’s discourse.

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