This book demonstrates that living martyrdom was an important spiritual aspiration in the late antique Latin west and argues that, consequently, attempts to define, study, or locate martyrdom must move away from conceptualizations that require or center on death.
After an introduction that traces the persistence of "living martyrs" as real objects of spiritual devotion and emulation across the span of Christian history and discusses why such martyrs have been overlooked, the book focuses on three significant authors from the late ancient Latin west for whom martyrdom did not require death: the Spanish poet Prudentius (c. 348–413), the senator-turned-ascetic Paulinus of Nola (353–431), and the influential North African bishop Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Through historically and literarily contextualized close readings of their work, this book shows that each of these three authors attempted to create a new paradigm of martyrdom focused on living, rather than dying, for God. By focusing on these living martyrs, we are able to see more clearly the aspirations and agendas of those who promoted them as martyrs and how their martyrological discourse illuminates the variety of ways that martyrdom is and can be mobilized (in any era) to construct new, community-creating worldviews.
Living Martyrs in Late Antiquity and Beyond is an important resource for historians of Christianity, scholars of religious studies, and anyone interested in exploring or understanding martyrological discourse.
Introduction: Rethinking Martyrdom
Chapter 1. Destabilizing Death: Prudentius’s Peristephanon
Chapter 2. Modeling the Living Martyr: Witness in and Through Poetry
Chapter 3. Paulinus of Nola and the Living Martyr
Chapter 4. Making Martyrs in the Nolan Countryside
Chapter 5. Non Poena Sed Causa
Chapter 6. Augustine and the Life of Martyrdom
Conclusion: Surviving Martyrdom: History, Historiography, and Power