The great persecution

The proceedings of the fifth international patristic conference, Maynooth, 2003

D. Vincent Twomey SVD & Mark Humphries, editors

Hardback €45.00
Catalogue Price: €50.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-161-5
July 2009. 176pp.

‘Despite the breadth of topics covered in this volume, the three groups of essays centred on the causes of the persecution, on understanding the Christian mentality and finally on the effects of the persecution ensure a certain structure for this book. V. Twomey’s “Concluding Reflection: The Perennial Importance of the Great Persecution for Politics and Religion” attempts to draw out some conclusions from the Conference’s exploration of the Great Persecution … Our understanding of the cultural and moral issues of today’s society can gain from engaging with a similar conflict seventeen hundred years ago', Declan Lawell, Yearbook of the Irish Philosophical Society (2010).

‘The title refers to the persecution of Christians instigated by the Roman emperor Diocletian in AD 303. It was one of the most traumatic events in early Christianity and was all the more terrible as it came after a period when Christianity had been relatively tolerated. The long-term significance of the persecution was its failure as it marked the last sustained attempt by the pagan Roman authorities to stamp out the new religion and paved the way for its ultimate acceptance. As such it constitutes an important episode in the history of Christianity. The contributors to this conference consider the episode of all angles', Books Ireland (September 2009)

‘Eight papers by scholars of theology, history, and classics ponder one of the most traumatic experiences of the early church, the Great Persecution begun by the emperor Diocletian and his tetrarchic colleagues in AD 303, just when Christians had relaxed into a long respite from official persecution. The topics include philosophical objections to Christianity on the eve of the Great Persecution, preparation for martyrdom in the early church, Eusebius of Caesarea’s conception of the persecutions as a key to reading his Historia ecclesiatica, and the origin of the cult of Saint George', Reference & Research Book News (November 2009).

‘The volume really is good in parts. Mark Humphries makes a valiant and intelligent attempt to get inside 'the mind of the persecutors” (pp 11-32) … David Woods offers a characteristically sharp and provocative discussion of “the origin of the cult of St George”’, T.D. Barnes, Journal of Theological Studies (April 2010)

‘This is a fine collection of essays on topics germane to the period of the Great Persecution (c.303-11), but which contains much of wider interest and not a few gems … The editors are to be congratulated on ensuring that the proceedings of this important symposium continue to appear in print … the soon-to-be published proceedings of the sixth and seventh patristic conferences should thus be eagerly awaited', Salvador Ryan, Irish Theological Quarterly (July 2010)

‘This book is packed with many new insights that will provide the basis for what is hoped to be renewed interest into this important phase in the history of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christendom. The preface by the editors provides a brief and succinct statement about the importance of the official Roman action under Diocletian to rid Christians from the Empire, both as an historical event and a point of theological discourse … these essays stand alone as full and competent examinations of their respective topics … Scholars of early Christianity should welcome this volume because of the balance struck between examinations of Roman context and Christian reaction to the event. This work, it is hoped, is the beginning of a new attention and reinterpretation for the twenty first century of the lasting impact that the Great Persecutions continues to exert', Dennis P. Quinn, Bryn Mawr Classical Review (September 2010)

‘This collection of articles is a useful repository of discussions on the topic of martyrdom and in particular the so-called Great Persecution of Diocletian', Aideen Hartney, Classics Ireland (2009).

‘Represents a valuable addition to the substantial scholarship that already exists on the subject of the so-called Great Persecution unleashed by Diocletian in 303 [and] casts new light on a number of aspects related more broadly to the persecutions and the phenomenon of martyrdom', André F. Basson, The Classical Review (September 2010).

'This is a finely-produced volume which offers stimulating insights on a traumatic and pivotal period in the history of the church – a period whose shadow reaches as far as current debates on the relationship between church and state’, David Hutchinson Edgar, Search: a Church of Ireland journal (Autumn 2010).