This article investigates the involvement of Christians in local public life before the time of Constantine through a phenomenological approach, based on the observation of behaviors and of style of interactions in public contexts. It thus explores how the practical conduct of Christian local elites acting as civic officials could be framed as conventional, in their religious group as well as in their sociopolitical milieu, with minor arrangements allowing for ease in public roles and interactions. This study consequently outlines interpretative paths regarding epigraphical evidence as well as sources less often used by historians of cities for the time preceding the legalization of Christianity. Comparing different types of sources from several areas of the empire and asserting methodological principles first exemplified by the study of an inscription from Kios (Bithynia), this study identifies a variety of behaviors by Christian local elites and of interactions with their civic environment: although barely visible, these modes of conduct emerge in the examination of sources if attention is not focused on conflictual events in the context of the persecution beginning in 303. Despite its rarity, evidence regarding Christians in local public contexts thus emerges as historically significant. This pattern of Christian participation in civic life is perceptible in some regions of the empire in the second part of the third century and reflects a specific moment in the long life of the postclassical city.

In 303 or 304, in Oxyrhynchos, a woman named Sarapias received from her husband Coprēs a letter about their affairs. This household was a Christian one; Coprēs notably explained that to appear in court in Alexandria in order to settle a legal case about a tract of land, he was “compelled to sacrifice”—a consequence of the edict of 23 February 303. That demand is also attested in Caesarea in Cappadocia, or in Bithynia, bringing about a disastrous result for the Christians involved. Such was not the case for Coprēs: he explains in a very direct manner that in Alexandria he “made a power of attorney to [his] brother”—certainly a pagan friend of his. This kind of attitude, as Annemarie Luijendijk reminds us while commenting on this letter, was utterly condemned in 306 by Peter of Alexandria. She concludes: “Coprēs does not seem concerned about the church-related effects of his actions, at least not in his short epistle to Sarapias. He may, of course, have had no idea about ecclesiastical repercussions, like those we read in the canon.”1

Coprēs was a landowner, possibly from an affluent family. His nonchalant reaction was appropriate to address the mundane problems inherent to a notable’s life, in the context of a persecution. It also exemplifies one of the numerous adjustments that, even under less pressing circumstances, were available to a Christian notable acting on the public scene in his terrestrial city.2 In the cities of the empire, the members of the elites participating in local government were certainly among the most exposed to episodes requiring acts or attitudes not meeting the prescriptions of their religious leaders, such as oath-taking and the accomplishment of rituals and attendance to festivals including prayers and sacrifices to the gods. More generally, the interactions of Christians with their mainly polytheist environment and their visibility in the multiple aspects of their life are explored by historians of religions in the Roman world. The vigor of religious prescriptions, as is widely acknowledged now, does not reflect the everyday behaviors by the Christians. In many social interactions, they could pragmatically cope with the consumption of sacrificial meat; in addition, unlike Coprēs, who found himself in a context of repression, they did not usually face mandatory religious acts.3 But civic officials did, and it has been hypothesized that the fulfillment of some of their municipal duties could only proceed from an imperative context, which would be the only way to explain the “compromise” readable in some canons of the so-called synod of Elvira in Spain.4 But of particular interest is the point of view of Coprēs, who reacted expediently and without repudiating his faith: he found an arrangement that, although rejected by Christian authorities because it was apparently widely used, at least seemed to him (and his wife) acceptable regarding both his faith and his preoccupations as a landowner; it is also unknown to what extent the other participants in the case were deceived by his behavior, or if it only appeared to all of them as a convenient way to settle the case, in spite of the circumstances.5

This type of reaction—a stratagem that Coprēs felt to be both convenient and innocuous—and its traces in the sources we possess invite us to consider further the case of Christian officials in the Graeco-Roman cities, through a phenomenological approach based on the observation of behaviors and styles of interaction in public contexts. Successive prosopographical inquiries have identified, prior to the time of Constantine, Christian local magistrates or members of the civic senates. The involvement of these individuals in public life may sometimes have resulted from a mere state of affluence, but sometimes also from their interest and willingness to play a public role.6 At that time, civic life obviously proceeded with the adequate public rituals toward the gods of the local pantheons, rituals constitutive to the very texture of the civic world until 311–313 and the legalization of Christianity. This decision de facto transformed public cult into merely an option, and no longer a structural element in the self-representation of civic communities and their fate.7 But at the end of the third century, the civic frame still solidly encompassed everyone’s life, with its specific institutions and social interactions, in the same way as it had at the beginning of the third century when Tertullian both admired that system and rejected some of its aspects.8 Civic communities were still configured by their traditional institutional and religious activities, although, in some regions, in a less brilliant way than had been previously the case, notably concerning public benefactions and their celebration.9

This study aims at uncovering how the conduct of Christian local elites acting as civic officials could be framed as conventional, both in their religious affiliation and their larger sociopolitical milieu, with only minor arrangements allowing for relative ease in their public interactions. To that end, it will consider evidence for public conduct of local elites from various provinces across a range of different corpora, and it will scale up from a granular approach to a comprehensive interpretation of the seeming normalcy or even fluidity (as I shall argue) surrounding the presence of Christians in public life in certain civic contexts. This inquiry also complements en passant the prosopography of Christian officials in the cities of the empire, east and west, with the analysis of vivid snapshots from hagiographic and epigraphic sources that attest to Christians within the upper social strata of the cities.10 As for the practical issues raised by the presence of Christian local citizens in public and institutional roles, the effects of long sedimentation of successive rules—either imperial or ecclesiastical—are considered, as well as the results of ratiocinations reflecting behaviors less marginal, and even normalized over time. Far from being anecdotal, this series of observations gives historical substance to the attitudes of Christian members of the local elites.11

The paper begins with an assessment of the interpretation to be given of the infrequency of epigraphic attestations of Christians in civic roles in the pre-Constantinian period (section 2). I suggest that this paucity of evidence should not be understood as an indication that local Christian elites preferred either to conceal their religious identities or to refrain from holding public offices. I then analyze a recently published funerary inscription from Kios in Bithynia, which provides important additional data regarding elite Christians in public life from prosopographical and cultural perspectives (section 3). Insofar as nothing in the inscription points to religious tension or conflict, it adds further evidence that some Christian notables served in official capacities on behalf of their fellow citizens in the region of the Propontis on the eve of the persecution (section 4). In the western part of the empire, too, recent progress in the interpretation of evidence as well as a new review of some data attests to the civic roles played by some Christians and allows us to avoid characterizing such circumstances as restricted to only a few rare cities with Greek cultural heritage (section 5). I then offer specific insight regarding the conditions that laid the groundwork for the existence of these situations. While the “peace of the churches,” only attested in our sources as the restitution of their property to (Egyptian) churches by Gallienus, may have had some effects,12 I would instead emphasize the evolving norms regarding religious acts visible in imperial legislation, and the few guidelines and rules enacted by Christian authorities regarding the question of civic duties (section 6). Finally, strategies devised by the actors themselves regarding these circumstances are examined: their implementation was apparently considered by them, most of the time, as doing no harm (section 7).

The inscriptions that reflect active participation of Christian elites in the Anatolian cities before the era of Constantine are few: less than a dozen.13 In Africa, to my knowledge, not a single such attestation exists. And yet, this rarity should come as no surprise and does not permit us to generalize about the concealment of Christian identity or the deliberate dissociation of all Christians from their local contexts. On the contrary: the very fact that any evidence exists that nonpolytheists served civic functions is itself remarkable. As a matter of fact, several factors that limit the visibility of this phenomenon must be considered in order to assess the meaning of the rarity of direct epigraphic evidence.

In the first instance, the evidence for such a conjunction of personal social status and religious choice relies on funerary inscriptions, in which only specific formulas point to a Christian context. Historical interpretation of some of these inscriptions is an uncertain exercise.14 It is also unknown in what proportion Christians felt the need to express their religious identities on their funerary monuments; an absence of overt expressions of this identity does not necessarily indicate deliberate concealment.15 Thus, Édouard Chiricat rightly suggests that the “crypto-Christian” inscriptions of Phrygia should be considered as using simple and banal linguistic ambiguities since the function of the epitaphs is not to state clearly the faith of the deceased.16 For this reason, it would be both methodologically safer and more precise not to categorize—by a supposed contrast with identified Christian (or Jewish) notables—the remainder of the corpus of inscriptions from the second half of the third century as describing the activities of “pagan” notables per se.17

In addition, it is not at all typical for funerary inscriptions to give clues about the civic careers of those whom they commemorate (whereas more indications can be gained about statuses such as bouleutēs or gerōn). In this respect, the inscriptions of Heliodōros the gerousiarchēs, which will be analyzed ahead, and of Demetrianos of Klaudioupolis, who fulfilled all “the politeia” and was first archōn and agōnothetēs, constitute remarkable attestations.18

Moreover, for our line of inquiry, Christian onomastics is not a rewarding field: in Asia Minor few names appear as typically Christian before the fourth century.19 In another way, too, the unmarked names of many Christians also contribute to the underestimation of their presence in public contexts.

The final difficulty is based on the fact that the amount of evidence about civic life in the third century decreased compared to previous periods. It is against this background that the number of inscriptions indicating Christian notables should be assessed. This general decline, though, may not even be the most significant parameter, as there was no reason for any individual to mention their religious belief in a public inscription. I could find only one possible exception of a Christian couple celebrated in a public inscription; even here, however, the identification, which is based on onomastics, remains tentative.20

What can be said with a firm foundation is that, during the third century, some members of the local elites found ways to accommodate Christian identity, a bouleutic status, and, in some cases, fulfillment of local functions, including those normally endowed with religious or athletic significance. It is unwise to assume that such a conjunction of Christian affiliation and of nonmarginality in their “terrestrial” city would have been, in and of itself, exceptional and bewildering. This petitio principii may lead us to overinterpret the circumstances of the death of some Christians, while also overlooking crucial developments in the institutional and social environment that allowed for cases in which Christians did hold public offices.21 While the numerical prevalence of such situations cannot be assessed with any degree of certainty, we can nonetheless outline, if only partially, their visibility, their position, and their interactions with their fellow citizens and fellow believers. Rather than thinking, by definition, of participation in civic activities as paradoxical or exceptional,22 it is more appropriate to consider how this attitude could be registered as a conventional behavior (which did not exclude the fact that being visibly Christian could, on occasion, prove to be dangerous), and to pursue the inquiry about their conduct, as Christians, on the local scene.

In 2017, Mehmet Alkan and Johannes Nollé published the funerary inscription of Heliodōros, a councilor (bouleutēs) of Perinthos, renamed Herakleia.23 The inscription was carved on a sarcophagus that was discovered during work on the sewage system of the modern town of Gemlik, probably in what was an ancient necropolis. This text, clearly visible on the pictures provided by the editors, presents several linguistic characteristics and grammatical and syntactical errors that obfuscate its meaning. For the sake of comprehension, I present the complete Greek text of the inscription and an English translation, followed by a detailed discussion of how it illuminates the interactions of Christians with their civic environment:

Ed. Mehmet Alkan and Johannes Nollé, “Heliodorus and the Fate of a Christian Councilman of Perinthos during the Great Persecution,” Gephyra 14 (2017): 117–32 (Denis Feissel, Bulletin épigraphique, 2018, 446; Bernadette Puech, L’Année épigraphique, 2017, 1368).

Aὐρ. Εἰκ̣άδιος Ἡλιοδώρου, βουλευτοῦ καὶ γερου|σιάρχου νέας Ἡρακλίας τῆς πρὸς Θρᾴκην, διὰ πολ|λ⌈ῆ⌉{λ}ς εὐεργεσίας καὶ ἀνυπερβλήτου χάριτος, | καὶ ἐνορκείζομε τοὺς δούλους τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν |5 κρίνοντα ζῶντας καὶ νεκροὺς μηδένα ἕτερον | ἀνῦξε μηδὲ ἐπιβου⌈λ⌉εῦσαι τοῦ ἀκι<λι>δάοτου | πατρός μου Ἡλιοδώρου διὰ τὸ οὕτω ἑαυτὸν | ἐπιδημήσαντα δεδουλῶσσθε τῷ Θεῷ ἀντὶ πο|λλῶν καμάτων χάριν ἔχιν τοῦτο τὸ σόριν· τούτων |10 δὲ πάντων ἐκέλευσα προντίστριαν εἶναι Aὐρ. | Πολυχρονίαν Ἡλιοδώρου.

ll.2–3, stone: ΠΟΛ|ΛΑΛΣ (A.-N.: ΠΟ/|ΛΑΛΣ); ll.4–5: τὸν |5κρίνοντα instead of τοῦ κρίνοντος (confusion of genitive and accusative, also in I.Kios, 7); l.6, stone: ΕΠΙBΟΥΔΕΥΣΑΙ; l.6: ἀκιδάοτου, for ἀκηδεύτου (A.-N., unburied); ἀκηλιδώτου (F., with the parallel of MAMA, 8.321), ἀκι<λι>δάοτου (P.), as pure.

I, Aurelius Eikadios, son of Heliodōros, councilor and gerousiarch of New Herakleia bordering Thrace, in consideration of his great service and of his unsurpassed charity, also implore the slaves of God, who will judge the living and the dead, that no other person open or attack (this tomb of) my father Heliodōros, who is unstained, as during his sojourn (on Earth) he was a slave of God, so that he should have this sarcophagus in reward for his numerous pains; of all of this, I ordered that Aurelia Polychronia, daughter of Heliodōros, should be the guardian.

In the existing translations and commentaries on this inscription, various interpretations have been offered regarding the conditions surrounding the death of Heliodōros, the identities of the author of the euergesia and charis (Eikadios or Heliodōros?) mentioned in l.3 and of their recipient (Kios, Perinthos, or the Christian communities of one of these cities), the adjective ἀκιδάοτου, and the meaning of ἐπιδημήσαντα and δεδουλῶσσθε τῷ Θεῷ. In contrast with the assumption made by Alkan and Nollé, that Heliodōros died during the Great Persecution under Diocletian, I argue that the primary clue to the comprehension of the inscription is its pregnant use of Christian idioms that are fully integrated with expressions of Heliodōros’s civic identity as a proud official in his city, wholly untouched by religious persecution. As we shall see, a close reading of this inscription enriches our view of the pre-Constantinian Christian elites of Perinthos / “New” Herakleia.

The mention of benefactions is an initial point of surprise (ll.2–3: διὰ πολ|λ⌈ῆ⌉{λ}ς εὐεργεσίας καὶ ἀνυπερβλήτου χάριτος). Very few benefactions in favor of fellow citizens are known from this period (either at the end of the third or at the beginning of the fourth century), and always in public, honorific inscriptions, as had also been the case throughout the High Empire.24 For those reasons, I think it most probable that the benefactions mentioned in this epitaph were not intended for any civic community. Consequently, with the exclusion of a civic recipient because of the overall context, it can be assumed that this expression described a beneficial behavior for the Christian groups in the city. This interpretation makes better sense of the singular used for εὐεργεσία. The association of the two words ἀνυπερβλήτου χάριτος, a grandiose expression better suited for the gifts from God or from the powerful, finds parallels in Christian authors, and thus it appears as a reminiscence of a shared vocabulary inside these groups.25 In this Christian context, it seems plausible to retain the meaning “charity” for χάρις. The generosity of Heliodōros toward the group of the Christians (possibly of Kios as well as Herakleia) gave more weight to the pledge of Eikadios for the care of his father’s tomb. Its mention is certainly one of the earliest epigraphic attestations in Asia Minor of, most likely, gifts to the poor.26

Several expressions in the inscription are early epigraphic attestations of Christian wording. The phrase “the slaves of God” (ll.4 and 8: τοὺς δούλους τοῦ Θεοῦ, and δεδουλῶσσθε τῷ Θεῷ) is often to be found in the New Testament, and this Bithynian occurrence is among its earliest known uses in epigraphic evidence.27 The mention of God judging the living and the dead (ll.4–5: τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν κρίνοντα ζῶντας καὶ νεκροὺς), originating in the New Testament, was finally included in the Nicene creed; it can be paralleled with several pre-Constantinian epitaphs from Perinthos.28 Closely associated with the service of God is the mention of a “sojourn” (l.8: ἐπιδημήσαντα). All previous commentators understand this word to mean “coming to a place” and to refer to the visit of Heliodōros in Kios. Because of its proximity with the characterization of Heliodōros as “a slave of God,” another way to understand the phrase is to connect it to the broader Christian tenor of the inscription. In Christian usage, ἐπιδημέω has been transposed to refer to Christian conceptions of the world: one was only a temporary resident on earth, before joining one’s celestial fatherland. This use is known in later Greek inscriptions in the west.29 A related idiom had already appeared in Hebrews 11.13, where parepidēmoi is associated with xenoi. In 1 Peter 2.11, the same word is associated with paroikoi; in the “Second epistle,” erroneously attributed to Clement and dating to the second century, epidēmia describes the sojourn “of the flesh” on earth, ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ (5.5), and appears as a synonym of ἡ παροικία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου (5.1). In the writings of the Greek theologians, epidēmia is found relating to Jesus or to the divine Logos coming to reside among men, or to bodies and their terrestrial living, in contrast to the soul.30 The term, however, is not used in the Epistle to Diognetus, which appears to originate in Asia Minor. In its famous description of the way of life of Christians in their cities (5), their paradoxical citizenship is characterized by the opposition of the words politēs and xenos or paroikoi. The scriptural parepidēmeō can be found in the Life of Polycarp (30), a fictive biography of the Smyrnian bishop dating from the late-third or fourth century.31 The following δεδουλῶσσθε τῷ Θεῷ of l.8 can thus be understood as “he was a slave of God” while he was living, which is reminiscent of Romans 6.22. But in contrast to Paul’s letter, I doubt that this phrasing in the inscription is meant to convey the idea of the conversion of Heliodōros, as the inchoative aspect of the perfect progressively faded in the koinē.32 I would instead suggest that the scriptural phrases or expressions that recur within the inscription reflect formulaic Christian usage rather than specific textual allusions.

Finally, κάματοι (l.9) can describe either the suffering endured, and, in a more general way, the life conduct of Heliodōros or the source of revenue that covered expenses, hence his benefactions. The latter meaning can be found in a funeral inscription of Perinthos dating from the third century.33 Nevertheless, insofar as the whole passage conveys moral and religious arguments rather than material ones—previously mentioned in ll.2–3—and insofar as χάριν ἔχιν suggests a reward for a certain way of life, in connection with the mention of the service of God, the translation as “pains” or “behavior” in life is to be preferred, as Alkan and Nollé have likewise proposed.34

The phrasing of this inscription thus appears to reflect contemporary Christian usage. This pattern should, in my view, be interpreted as a sign of the vivid and shared culture of that group. Other Christians would choose to use the metaphor of the athletic competition, mediated through Paul.35 The weak linguistic skills demonstrated in the inscription nevertheless need to be reconciled with this unusual manipulation of Christian wording. Papyrological evidence indicates that, within Christian educational contexts, high value was placed on the memorization of whole passages of scripture. In their study of the declaration of the properties of the church in Chysis (Egypt) dating to 304, which was submitted by a reader who declared that he was unable to write, Malcolm Choat and Rachel Yuen-Collingridge conclude that “this period brings increasingly frequent references to a type of education which was concerned not with training in writing, but rather with providing detailed instruction in the Scriptures.”36 Our inscription, though in many ways puzzling, may likewise offer rare testimony to the intermediate level of literacy that characterized the culture of some individuals in a small group of Christians around the Propontis at this time. Much like the reader of Chysis, who was literate in the Scriptures mainly as a result of both memorization and basic ability to read, Eikadios also appears to possess a middling cultural level, which was specifically characterized by relatively weak grammatical and syntactical skills. At the same time, these Christian topoi, which are usually not to be found in the funerary discourse, also attest to the constitution of a “stable” and “solid” collective identity.37

The identification of Heliodōros and his son as Christians raises the question of how they articulated their religious beliefs in the other aspects of their life. Like other funerary inscriptions that offer evidence for the involvement of Christians or Jews in the public life of their cities, this inscription makes visible the dual facets of Heliodōros’s public identity both as Christian and as local official. In daily life as well, there is no ground to hypothesize that local elites selectively suspended or concealed either facet, depending on the people or groups they were interacting with at any given time. Far from being in tension with one’s Christian affiliation, assertions of civic spirit were a valued aspect of this funerary discourse. This inscription reveals that, at least in the case of Heliodōros, Christian identity was fully compatible with his larger social milieu, whether in the context of his death and burial or of his participation in civic life.

Indeed, the treatment of the body of the deceased is noteworthy for its conventional character.38 The decoration on the sarcophagus, especially the use of garlands and bucrania, is wholly unremarkable. Moreover, the sarcophagus is a reused one, as was customary at the end of the third century.39 In the external presentation of the sarcophagus, only the inscription, if it was read further than the first two or three lines, indicated the religious affiliation of its possessor.40 Nothing in the inscription allows the modern scholar to hypothesize anything other than an average life that was lived in full compliance with the norms of two milieus, which were apparently quite compatible in the eyes of at least some of their members.41

The strongest signal about the relationships of Heliodōros to his social environment is the inscription’s explicit mention of his civic achievements, as bouleutēs and gerousiarchēs. The status of bouleutēs is more frequently labeled in the epitaphs during the High Empire and well into the fourth century, including, in the third and fourth centuries, in Christian and Jewish epitaphs.42 In this case, Heliodōros was seated among the other senators of the “New Herakleia,” in the new Diocletianic province of Europa. Also, as a president of the gerousia, which was a major institutional body in the cities of the Roman East, Heliodōros found himself at the heart of the civic economy of honors and of the individual and collective memory of the notables.43 Heliodōros’s involvement in civic life thus testifies to his personal interest in communal activities, in accordance with his familial interests and the available modes of personal accomplishment in a public context.

This inscription thus adds firm evidence regarding both the religious culture and social identity of a member of the elite of Perinthos at a very precise time. On the one hand, the indication that Herakleia was by then no more in Thrace but “bordering Thrace” places the inscription after the implementation of Diocletian’s administrative reforms that began in 293. On the other hand, as Perinthos had already been renamed as Herakleia in 286, and because, unlike with some other cities, the novelty of this name never evolved into a fixed denomination, the qualifier “New” suggests a date not too distant from that event.44 The mention of an office such as gerousiarchēs provides yet another sound argument to date the inscription before the time of Constantine, because in the first two decades of the fourth century a generalized decline of interest in the commemoration of traditional civic functions can be observed.45 The inscription thus predates rather than follows the Diocletianic persecution and its relapses, which were followed a few years later by the adverse political climate during the end of the domination of Asia Minor by Licinius, as is suggested by the tenth and eleventh canons of the Council of Nicaea.

Heliodōros thus found himself at the intersection of two groups: Christians and civic elites. As I show in this section, these can be more precisely defined, and not unsatisfactorily either, given the general state of the evidence regarding notables at the end of the third century and Christians before the Constantinian era. Heliodōros consequently appears in a less singular way, both in the civic context of his home city of Herakleia and in Kios, where he died.46 I review here the evidence for the interactions of Christians and polytheists on the public scene in this city using inscriptional evidence alongside a close reading of the Passio of Philip, bishop of Herakleia, during the persecution of Diocletian.

Recent discoveries in the area of Kios enable us to reconstruct the setting of the ultimate moments in the life of Heliodōros.47 It is a rarity at that time to be able to name some members of the local elite in Asia Minor, such as Aurelius Theodosius, a prōteuōn in the city.48 Similarly, a certain Aurelius Numerius was a local councilor, as his funerary inscription states.49 The penalty for the violation of his tomb amounted to the huge sum of 100,000 HS. The dating of his sarcophagus cannot be postponed further to the end of the third century, given the archaeological context of its discovery. Whereas social notability appeared prominently in the funerary inscriptions of all three of these individuals, their religious affiliations are visible only in the case of Heliodōros.

We know of another prominent citizen from the territory on the border of the cities of Kios and Nikaia. Villages set up an honorific inscription to Aurelius Marcianus, who had been an advocate for the city, a boulographos and bithyniarchēs, who is described as a “benefactor” of the people, in the fourth year of the reign of Diocletian and Maximianus, which was in 287/88. The inscription also mentions his wife, Aurelia Stephanē.50

Perinthos, henceforth Herakleia, is still a more revealing place for the inquiry into Christians in the cities surrounding the Propontis at the end of the third century.51 From the same time and milieu as Heliodōros, one notices Flaouios Diogenēs, who was an exactor in the imperial mint that opened in the city in 292/93. He was also a Christian, as his funerary inscription indicates.52 Hagiographic sources, such as the Passio of the bishop Philip of Herakleia, help complete the picture of the interactions of Christian members of the local elites with their civic environment.53 Philip, one of the famous saints of the region, was martyred during the Great Persecution, at Hadrianopolis in Thrace. The Latin version of his Passio, the only to survive, took inspiration from a text in Greek, itself based on a text of first-hand nature, as shown by Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri.54 The text opens with a search of the local church of Herakleia by provincial authorities for Christian books and ritual objects. This episode, which is typical of the Diocletianic persecution, is paralleled in the remarkable document constituted by the acts of Munatius Felix in 303, which were read during the trial of Silvanus of Cirta in 320. In Herakleia, ornaments (possibly decorated tegulae) were ripped off the roof of the church, the sacred books and the liturgical objects seized, and the scriptures burnt in the town’s forum.55

A subsequent episode also took place in the forum, where Bassus, the governor, questioned the bishop, who refused to sacrifice; the governor then turned to the deacon Hermēs and interrogated him, as was usual, about his name and his status. Hermēs admitted to being a local senator, a bouleutēs.56 Diverse reactions from the crowd watching the examination, from sadness to fury, are noted. Philip was beaten on the way to the prison, while Hermēs, the local senator, was not subject to physical abuse.57 Still more telling of this versatile environment is the fact that, after a few days in prison, a certain Pancratius offered to keep the prisoners in custodia libera, which means that they were assigned to custody at his house while he himself acted as a guarantor. This action likewise hints at the inclusion of elite Christians within the local civic fabric and accords well with the remark of the jurist Ulpian that “he did not think that those who have been placed in some position of rank ought to be confined in the public prison.”58 But this arrangement was short-lived: too many visitors were coming to meet them, so Philip and Hermēs were eventually sent back to the public prison.

During another examination led by Iustinus, who had replaced Bassus, Hermēs also specified that he was born as a Christian. According to Franchi de’ Cavalieri, the fact that Hermēs was a Christian from birth “did not prevent him, like many other Christians at the end of the third century, from accepting the office of magistrate and the dignity of decurion in his homeland.”59 The decision to serve on the town council was actually shaped by a diverse range of factors and did not result from mere compulsion. We need only to look at the example of the well-born young man Gregory of Neocaesarea (also known as Gregory Thaumaturgus), who chose a role different from the traditional ones on the public scene of his native city, becoming a Christian bishop rather than holding civic offices.60

After seven months, the Passio shifts its narrative setting to the city of Hadrianopolis, apparently following the governor’s conventus tour. Delays in judgement and transfers of prisoners, following the governor, were not unusual.61 The point requiring explanation is that Hadrianopolis is known to have been at some point the capital of the new province of Haemimontus. The most economical way to explain why the same governor moved from Herakleia to Hadrianopolis is that Haemimontus and Thrace had not yet separated—and actually, Haemimontus is not attested in the sources before the fourth century.62 This fact fits very well with the denomination of Herakleia in the inscription of Heliodōros: Herakleia is, in fact, pros Thrakēn, that is “bordering Thrace,” simply because a long stretch of the region that would become the province of Haemimontus bordered Thrace and in 303 still belonged to the province of Europa.63 From a methodological point of view, it is interesting to see a trait of historical geography in an inscription illuminated by a hagiographic account.64 We can thus ascertain that Haemimontus began to exist only after 303; this delay corresponds to the evolving nature of Diocletian’s administrative reforms.65 The Passio thus confirms that the denomination pros Thrakēn in the Heliodōros inscription would have been in use during a very narrow window of time (although its terminus ante quem cannot be precisely established). This evidence adds another decisive argument for the dating of the inscription at the end of the third century or to the first few years of the fourth at the very latest.

During another examination in Hadrianopolis, the officium of the governor tried to help Hermēs. According to the narrator, he received this treatment because he had been a magistrate, appreciated both by the assistants (the apparitores) of Iustinus and by “all the men” for having provided some help to members of his bureau.66 This rarely visible atmosphere of good relations needs to be investigated, either as a tale crafted after the fact or as testimony of unproblematic social interactions between Christians and their fellow citizens during the preceding years.67 In some cases at least, I would argue for the latter option, that, indeed, these brief vignettes allow us in to glimpse the easygoing relationship that could obtain in the late third century between Christians and their surrounding environment. They most assuredly did not belong to the favorite repertoire of the later hagiographers, as defined by Hippolyte Delehaye, nor do they add edifying value to the narrative of passiones regarding the attitudes of the martyrs. Because of the nonideological or even awkward nature of such episodes within the wider context of later hagiographic literature, I believe that this passage stands as a remnant of narratives written in the time of the persecutions. It may only seem to us as noteworthy because passages of this type were often overwritten or edited out in subsequent revisions or translations of the initial text.68

Such good relations are also, but only rarely, exemplified in patristic literature. According to Ignatius of Antioch, Polybius, the bishop of the Trallians, was appreciated by the atheoi for his gentleness, praotēs. Courtesy and mutual appreciation can also be found in the Passio of Nestor, a bishop in Pamphylia, who, when arrested, was kindly invited by local senators to enter the bouleutērion and to sit among them so that he would not suffer any violence from the crowd.69 Pionios had been visited in his prison in Smyrna by Christians and pagans alike.70 Courtesy and thoughtfulness in public interactions form a background that points to a certain fluidity and easiness on the public scene. A final hint at a local elite milieu that included Christians is given at the end of the narrative, when, following the execution of Philip and Hermēs and the disposal of their bodies in the River Ebros, a group of Christians used nets to catch the bodies and then temporarily buried the bodies in the garden of a villa belonging to an affluent brother.71

All these elements—six Christian funerary inscriptions in Herakleia dating to the end of the third century,72 the existence of a church, Hermēs’s status as bouleutēs and magistrate, the quality of his interactions within a civic context, and finally the case of Heliodōros—are indications of the position of some Christians and of Christianity more generally within local topography and society. To a certain extent, I would describe their identities as Christians as well as committed stakeholders in civic life as socially normalized. Tensions and conflicts between Christians and their social environment, in the cases reviewed here and before 303, are simply not visible, if they took place at all.

The specific evidence from the region around the Propontis suggests that this style of civic ambiance flourished against a political background in which the imperial presence had been growing over a generation since Nicomedia had been turned into an imperial capital. The edict of February 303, which is only indirectly known, was specifically aimed at Christians invested with honores or administrative responsibilities.73 Up until the months immediately preceding the persecution, during which Lactantius says Diocletian was hesitant about the decision he had to make, the personal prospects of these individuals were not harmed by the fear of violent repression or attack (perhaps unlike their predecessors in Asia during the reign of Marcus Aurelius).74

As we shall see in the next two sections, more evidence and contextualization can be gained from an examination of the social dynamics in the Latin West and of the rules—established both by Christians and by the Roman state—regarding Christian participation in civic activities.

In Africa, as in Asia, the late third century saw both the growth of Christian communities as well as the ongoing vitality of civic life. For this part of our inquiry, I think it will be useful to collect some prosopographical references and specific cases, which to my knowledge have never been assembled in one place. These sources reveal a neglected field of inquiry regarding interactions between Christians and their non-Christian neighbors in public life. I focus on evidence for Christians among local elites, with a special effort to identify their performance of civic functions and the social interactions resulting from that public involvement.

Some of the evidence for elite Christians in Africa is oblique. This is the case with the recent proposal by Christophe Hugoniot about the status of Tertullian, who would have been a local senator in Carthago, albeit one who would have opposed the web of public duties that would have accompanied that position and would have expressed no interest in local magistracies.75 Another case is suggested by Michel Christol’s useful comparison of the names cited in the Letters of Cyprian with names known in epigraphic sources. As a matter of fact, the first letter of Cyprian makes known the decision, taken in a Carthaginian council preceding his episcopate, that a Christian should not choose a priest as a guardian for a minor. This ruling was meant to preserve a clerk’s capacity to lead a life protected from secular activities, according to a tradition that finds its origin in the rules about the tribe of the Levites, who consecrated themselves to the cult of the Divine. This letter had been written after the designation of a priest as a tutor, by a relative, in the city of Furnos Maius. Both belonged to the gens Geminia, which also gave a bishop to the town; this same gens is known through an honorific inscription to one of its other members.76

Further evidence from this African context can be gleaned. It is better not to be conclusive about Augustine’s references to the social milieu of a certain martyr named Crispina, and her felicitas terrena, a vague characterization corresponding to noble descent, wealth, and married status.77 Another piece of evidence may point to a better documented situation: Sabine Fialon has noted that in the Passio of Mammarius and his companions, a certain Libosius is described as a prior civitatis.78 This title finds parallels in a few African inscriptions.79 It is also likely that a member of the senatorial order, a certain M. A. I. Severianus, had chosen to adhere to Christianity at the end of the third century, in Caesarea in Mauretania Caesariensis, as shown by a remarkable Christian epigram; he may have been a relative of a martyr named Severianus, who was also known in this town, unless both documents refer to the same person.80 If the first hypothesis that he was a relative to the martyr is correct, this would point to the adherence to Christianity by several members of the same family, just as in the case of the gens Geminia. This family profile has important ramifications for our conception of the civic environment.

Whereas Tertullian firmly rejects civic participation, the evidence relating to the gens Geminia and to Libosius suggests that this stance was far from universal among wealthy Christians, some of whom chose to participate in the first ranks, and even in the government, of their cities. The case of the Geminius who nominated a member of his family as a guardian is also telling of the complex loyalties that they navigated. As Michel Christol has emphasized, Geminius’s social rank left him few options other than to designate a relative for this role, which was the customary practice in the small world of the local elite, even if it ran counter to the provisions of a church council. The choice of a venerable figure as a guardian, which no doubt appeared to Geminius financially prudent is comparable to the decision of some upper-class Romans, in the third quarter of the third century, to appoint the philosopher Plotinus as a tutor for their children.81

While the tensions between internal ecclesiastical prescriptions and the habits and expectations of the urban elite could at times prove almost unmanageable, even such cases permit us to find traces of Christians belonging to other layers of the civic government. In his letter De lapsis in 251, Cyprian criticized the materialistic lust demonstrated by far too many clergymen before the outbreak of the persecution, their loose lifestyle, and their “languid, sleeping faith”:

Too many bishops…made no account of the ministration which God had entrusted to them, and took up the administration of secular business; they left their sees, abandoned their people, and toured the markets in other territories on the look-out for profitable deals. While their brethren in the Church went hungry, they wanted to have money in abundance, and acquired landed estates by fraud, and made profits by loans at compound interests.82

In his treatment of this passage, Werner Eck argued that these “procuratores” were private ones, tasked with the supervision of the landed properties of affluent and absentee landlords, rather than public ones, as had previously been asserted.83 But another interpretation is possible: these episcopi were probably urban-based individuals, rather than private procuratores in the country. Their behavior might be compared to that of the rich Christians described by Clement of Alexandria at the end of the second century: their public functions may have included oversight of the countryside.84 For example, surveillance of the markets in the city and on its territory is described as a duty of the magistrates in the Flavian municipal law from Spain.85 It is equally possible that Cyprian’s account, which dwells only on the defective aspects of their activity and generally not on any social condition, is referring to a more modest social context: these morally bankrupt bishops could alternatively have been members of a second-tier local elite, stemming from less affluent families, but active in local affairs. In the municipal milieu, people who engaged in banking activities or sought enrichment through the acquisition of landed property, as described by Cyprian, and groups participating in the governance of the cities could be mostly the same.86

Other sources relating to ancestors of Gregory of Tours, which to my knowledge have not been used in studies of the civic world of the Roman West, likewise recount a story that illuminates other kinds of interactions between Christians and civic elite at the end of the third century. The first piece of evidence stems from the Histories, in the late sixth century, in a passage where Gregory of Tours wrote about the beginnings of Christianity in Avaricum, the capital city of the Bituriges Cubi, in Gallia Aquitania.87 The account opens with a vignette concerning the first group of locals to join the emerging Christian community following the arrival of Christian preachers, after the middle of the third century:88

One of their disciples went to the city of Bourges and preached to the people that Christ our Lord had come to save mankind. Only a few believed him. These were ordained as priests. They were taught how to chant psalms, and they were given instruction in building churches and in celebrating rites due to Almighty God. As yet they had little chance of building a church, so they asked for the use of the house of one of the townsfolk so that they could make a church of it (Sed illis parvam adhuc aedificandi facultatem habentibus, cives cuiusdam domum, de qua ecclesiam faciant, expetunt). The senators and the other leading men of the place were still committed to their own heathen religion, and those who had come to believe in God were from the poorer classes, in accordance with what our Lord said when he rebuked the Jews: ‘The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you’ (Mat. 21, 31). They did not obtain the use of the house for which they had asked; and they therefore went to see a man called Leocadius, the leading senator of Gaul, who was of the same family as that Vettius Epagathus who, as I have already told you, suffered martyrdom in Lyons in the name of Christ. They told him of their Christian faith and explained what they wanted. ‘If my own house,’ he replied, ‘which I possess in Bourges, were worthy of being put into such a use, I would be willing to offer it to you.’ When they heard him they fell at his feet. They said that his house was indeed suitable to be used for religious ceremonies and they offered him three hundred golden pieces for it, together with a silver salver. Leocadius accepted three of the golden coins for luck and refused the rest. Up to this moment he had believed in heathen gods, but now he became a Christian and turned his house into a church. This is now the most important church in the town of Bourges, constructed with great skill and famous for the relics of Stephen, the first martyr.

This text is important for the genealogy it recounts and its shared memory and also for the information it gives about the insertion of religious groups in the civic fabric and their patronage. I address each of these points in turn.

The issue of genealogical background is illuminated by a passage in the Life of Gallus, about the bishop of Clermont in Auvergne and the uncle of Gregory himself. This text offers a complementary account regarding the high status of Gallus’s parents, Georgius and Leucadia. Leucadia bore the name of her illustrious ancestor and is said to have been a descendant of the famed Vettius Epagathus of Lyon, who was executed with the martyrs in 177. Gregory recalls the affluence and prominence of the couple—the “first family of the city”—only then to underline his uncle’s distaste for earthly possessions.89 By contrast, the social status of Vettius Epagathus is less clear. In his depiction in the letter of the church of Lyons transmitted through the Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius, Vettius Epagathus is referred to as ἐπίσημος. This word describes modes of behavior and personal appearance that are linked to both education and social standing. According to the narrative, those close to the governor’s tribunal who heard his speech recognized him, but the young man aroused disapproval with his defense of the group of Christians. This characterization is not consistent with the social status of a libertus, a hypothesis that has been proposed.90 Rather, his acquaintance with civic values, language, and behavior is far closer to those of the deacon, bouleutēs, and former magistrate Hermēs who lived in New Herakleia a century later.91

The emergence and social context of the Christians in the city of Bourges at the end of the third century is also clarified by a passage from Gregory’s Glory of the Confessors, which relates the story of a certain Lusor, the son of Leocadius, who lived in Dolensi (modern Déols), Biturigi termini vico.92 Most interestingly, Gregory describes Lusor’s sarcophagus as a magnificent sepulcher in Paros marble located in the crypt of the church of Déols down to his own day. The sarcophagus can, in fact, still be seen nowadays in the same place. Decorated with hunting scenes, which follow the “new” style that was typical of the end of the Tetrarchy, this monument belongs to the category of the Treibjagdsarkophage, some of which are known to have been used by Christians.93 Lusor had supposedly died just after his baptism.94 In accordance with the practices and norms governing the social milieu of Leocadius, the house he reportedly gave to the Christians was only one of his many possessions; the link to Déols, on the territory of the civitas Biturigum, could certainly be explained as reflecting his possession of a villa and its domain in an area that, according to some archaeological data, did not experience significant disruption or instability at the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century.95 The family, one of the most distinguished in Gaul, was linked, through the possession of domus and domains, to several cities—Lyons, Clermont, and Bourges are mentioned in several extracts—and was in a position to select the cities or the domains in which its members spent time and wished to be buried. Once again, this profile is in accordance with what is known of the multiple local attachments that the highest social strata of the provinces and of the empire would seek to maintain during the third century.96

The genealogy fragmentarily retraced by Gregory is accepted by specialists.97 It can be added that the rare cognomen Leocadius is found in epigraphic documents, notably in Mogontiacum with C. Valerius Leucadius, decurio of the cives Romani. Other attestations exist in Lyons and Spain.98 Although the story and especially the genealogy are perfectly in keeping with Gregory’s rhetorical agenda, they also are quite consistent with contemporary onomastic data and social practices.99 In late third-century Gaul, the social rank of Leocadius would have been one of the highest among the first Roman senators of the Gallic provinces. From Herakleia to Caesarea in Mauretania and to Avaricum, a few and often oblique traces yet provide avenues for us to trace the appearance of a possible position in the highest ranks of the cities of the Roman West, which was associated with untraditional religious options and with the patronage of this Christian group.

And yet, in a world that could not foresee the drastic evolutions of the beginning of the fourth century, this choice does not seem to have presented insurmountable obstacles to their presence among the elites nor to have shaken the sheer sense of normalcy, or even the conventionality of their participation in the life of cities, as magistrates, councilors, or as patrons. With these insights in mind, we can now turn to consider the modalities of the developing visibility and agency of Christians on the public scene.

This section analyzes the new rules—both explicit and implicit—that were enacted by religious authorities and by the emperors up to and including the late third and early fourth centuries to regulate the proper performance of public rites by holders of public office. I shall argue that these innovations facilitated the uncoupling of the fulfillment of an office from the performance of certain rituals as well as the adaptation of some civic offices to the personal choices of their holder. These possibilities proceed from different lines of thought. On the one side, Christians had developed strategies for navigating daily life and for meeting their civic obligations in ways that would be acceptable to their non-Christian neighbors as well as the imperial authorities. The fluctuating rules that were formulated by Christian authorities did not strictly forbid active participation, but they did not really offer any practical solutions either. At the same time, imperial laws regulating oath-taking as well as the fulfillment of public functions by Jews provided a precedent for greater latitude in the fulfillment of some public rituals and oaths, although the degree to which this model was applied to Christian civic elites remains uncertain.

The question of how individuals affiliated with the Christian movement should engage in public civic life was taken up by Christian writers themselves, with varying answers. In his treaty De idolatria (On Idolatry), Tertullian alluded to a heated discussion (hinc proxime disputatio oborta est) that had recently been ignited among the Christians of Carthage regarding the fulfillment of honores.100 While he himself doubts that it would be possible to fulfill honores without committing “idolatry,” he mentions that some Christians cite the precedents of Joseph and Daniel, who had served the kings of Egypt and Babylonia, in order to defend their own participation in public life.

But generally, the question of participation in the civic government is a subordinate one in the writings of the Greek theologians of the second and third centuries. Ecclesiastical rules diverged when it came to this question,101 as did the views of several of the prominent Christian authors. Certainly, they did not issue unequivocal condemnations of civic involvement, even while they also did not promote it, as had Philo of Alexandria for the Jews of Alexandria a century or two earlier.102 Origen concluded his Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) with a refutation of Celsus’s criticism that Christians hold themselves aloof from civic affairs. Origen counters that the best men among the Christians ought to dedicate themselves to the service of their religious brethren, rather than to the civic community as such.103 This position is paralleled by the decision of the African bishops, known through the first letter of Cyprian, that no one should nominate a priest for a guardianship. The famous Epistle to Diognetus also promoted what can be defined as the paradoxical citizenship of the Christians, who took part in everything but at the same time were strangers to their city because of their belonging to the celestial polis (5).

In the far west of the empire, the earliest of the so-called canons of Elvira, which likely antedate the Diocletianic persecution, were addressed to the dominant classes of the Spanish cities.104 Canons 2–4 deal with the subject of being a catechumen, or already baptized, and acting as a flamen, with the alternative possibilities of being the editor of games or of sacrificing. The best scenario, from a Christian point of view, was when a catechumen had given games but abstained from sacrifice, though things got worse once one was baptized. As Duchesne wisely stated already in 1887, “by delaying one’s baptism, one could more easily fulfill public functions.”105 In the most favorable cases, if no sacrifices had been performed, the flamen who was a catechumen could be baptized after three years. A sacerdos would have to wait two years before being reintegrated into the Christian community (canon 55) and a duumvir one year (canon 56).

From the provisions mentioned here, it can be observed that the holder of a public priesthood could apparently accomplish his civic functions without personally enacting a sacrifice, even if this may not have been the most common case. Josep Vilella describes this posture as “passive,” and consequently harmless. Similarly, the duumviratus is presented as if it carried no significant religious content that might significantly compromise the standing of a Christian officeholder; one need only abstain from the church during the year of charge.106

The seeds of this debate regarding the appropriateness of Christians holding public office, which is only a minor issue among the numerous questions that emerged regarding the interactions of Christians with their world, can be traced back into the second century. Between the second and the early fourth century, no unequivocal prohibition was formulated by the ecclesiastical authorities. Similarly, shifting imperial norms offered spaces of accommodation that could enable the participation of individuals who did not comply fully with the fulfillment of traditional rituals. There is an extensive scholarship on the evolution of sacrificial practices during the latter part of the third century.107 But, in addition to this religious change, a gradual dissociation between public office and sacrifice or oath-taking seems to have become possible.

An imperial constitution that bears on the relationship between public rituals and civic offices has received little attention from that point of view. Dated to the beginning of the third century, and promulgated by Septimius Severus and Caracalla, it allowed Jews to fulfill public functions without having to perform duties that ran counter to their religious beliefs, described as “Iudaica superstitio.108 This vocabulary was not necessarily meant as denigrating: in the middle of the second century, Antoninus Pius had decreed that any oath taken on someone’s propria superstitio should be considered valid. It is impossible to say whether Antoninus Pius had in mind here a reference to the Jews. But given that imperial legislation could encompass the religion of the Jews in the word superstitio, the law could certainly be interpreted that way. Interestingly, the Antonine law also designated further latitude concerning oath-taking by admitting that the egregii, as well as ill people, could take an oath at home in front of an official instead of publicly.109 This provision could facilitate personal adaptations in the practice of oath-taking. Remarkably, it permitted the removal from public sight of a moment that normally mattered to the whole community, especially as the oath-taking of magistrates involved the gods of the city or of the empire (i.e., the divi) or the genius of the emperor and was performed in front of an assembly of the people according to the provisions of the Lex Irnitana from the time of Domitian.110

The provision by Caracalla and Severus was intended for the Jewish population of the empire. Most scholarly treatments of the law once presupposed that being a magistrate in a city had by that time become such a burden that the emperors had to force Jews to assume public positions. But the law should instead be understood within quite a different context: as historians of the Roman cities have shown, public positions were still valued during the Severan period in cities across the empire—from Galilee to Asia Minor and Africa.111 This provision explicitly articulated the manner in which a public function might be accomplished without the performance of any specific religious act. Nevertheless, its actual application in civic life, not to mention the extent to which it could have created a new habit of occasional public actions by magistrates without any specific religious ritual, remains unknown.

When Tertullian mentioned the justification sought by certain Christians for their participation in civic life on the basis of the precedent set by biblical figures such as Joseph and Daniel, he also hinted at the fact that some people in his town had found ways to accommodate public functions by some “special grace” (gratia aliqua) or by “adroitness” (astutia) so as to not commit any “idolatrous” act. This stratagem of “adroitness” carries some cardinal implications for the practical manner in which Christians could accommodate their official duties while deploying strategies that would mitigate the risks to their spiritual well-being or secure their standing within their religious community. They could thus navigate the civic world to which they belonged and do so not reluctantly but with abiding commitment to public service. The figures of Hermēs and Heliodōros as well as the Christians alluded to by Tertullian are all representative of this posture toward public life. Often skirting imperial legislation and ecclesiastical regulation, such men could continue to fulfill their public duties while still maintaining good standing within their Christian communities and assuaging their own conscience, by deciding that such an “adroitness” was not a spiritual peril. This stance accords perfectly with the position adopted by Coprēs from Oxyrhynchos, with whom we began.112

The development of these modest strategies of everyday life can be traced in some sources that describe the conduct of Christians on the public scene when facing the acute problem of participation in sacrifice or even the consumption of sacrificial meat. Canons of the synod of Ancyra, in 314, thus describe, though evidently in a restrained way, the stratagems and ruses pursued by these Christians under hostile circumstances. The fifth canon enacted that the Christian who had consumed sacrificial meat, if done publicly with a sad face and in mourning attire, should be submitted to three years as a prostrator; meanwhile, the seventh canon ruled that those who had been “to a heathen feast in a place appointed for heathens, but who had brought and eaten their own meats” could be received back into the community after two years. The display of sadness was an attitude that reflected the climate of the persecutions. But this is not the case for the ruling regarding the consumption of meats brought from home, a customary maneuver.113

Stratagems can also be found in some rabbinic sources, which were equally engaged in defining adequate behaviors in a polytheist world. In a city such as Sepphoris in Galilee, which was flourishing at the beginning of the third century, Jews and polytheists interacted daily. As in any Greek city, the theater polarized communal life—and rabbinic literature had to deal with Jews going to the theaters of the non-Jews (Tosefta Avodah Zarah 2.5). Large houses were lavishly decorated with mosaic floors illustrating classical themes, such as the mythological cycle in the third-century House of Dionysus, which some historians such as Ze’ev Weiss believe was owned by Jews from the upper strata of the city.114 According to a Palestinian tradition preserved in the Babylonian Talmud, the “house of Rabbi” had to offer sacrifices on pagan festival days. This rule has been explained by Sacha Stern.115 Rabbi bore the title of nasi, Patriarch, and certainly came from an aristocratic Galilean family. As in any city, the local elites could be required to participate in the funding of public religious activities, but Rabbi pursued various strategies for discharging this civic obligation, which had been a great embarrassment to him. He might donate an animal for sacrifice on the day following a festival; he might give the animal already slaughtered; or, finally, he might donate money to obtain a dispensation—maybe as a fine. This passage is thus a “vestige of the awkward social realities with which Rabbi and his house, in early third-century Galilee, had been forced to contend with.”116

Other attitudes are best seen as prophylactic gestures. Rank-and-file Christians could even approach animal sacrifice itself in a more flexible way than many of the apologists. In his Exhortation to Martyrdom, Origen thus judged it necessary to remind some of his contemporaries that the smoke of the sacrifices fed the demons and that, as Christians, they should understand what he described was fact and not a dispensable belief.117 A barely “demonized” view of sacrifice is suggested by what appears to be the customary presence of Christian servants at the sacrifices, on the orders of Diocletian, in the east. Their making of the sign of the cross—which was noticed by the audience only in a context of growing tensions—was usually less a provocation than a prophylactic and inconspicuous habit that had allowed them to attend such events.118 A couple centuries later, Procopius of Gaza congratulated the organizer of races in the hippodrome for having allowed his faith to vanquish his social position and his municipal duties, as he had not even cast a glance at the races.119 These minor adjustments were barely perceptible to the contemporary observer, especially under nonconflictual circumstances, and often also escape the modern analyst. But such behaviors—looking away from an illicit sight, finding a substitute to fulfill one’s ritual duties, paying a fine, or bringing one’s own meat during occasions in which sacrificial meat was to be consumed—could secure the involvement of some Christians in public life, at least under normal circumstances, possibly at no or minimal cost to the internal dynamics at play within the group of fellow Christians and without the risk of offending the local citizenry. Some of these stratagems also allowed the ritual obligations that were inherent in holding public office to be accomplished, even if only in an accommodated form.

Local elites acting on the public scene might engage in other idiosyncratic behaviors, which came under scrutiny only under specific circumstances.120 Even within the Roman senatorial class, peculiar attitudes regarding public religion could be tolerated.121 Under certain circumstances, of course, one might have to show more discretion or change one’s habits. Thus, Seneca, who had eaten no meat as a youngster when following the precepts of Pythagoreanism, changed his way when his father asked him to conform to Tiberius’s new policy that required more traditional attitudes.122

Except under specific circumstances, elites who did not comply with traditional rituals could usually accommodate their public duties. They were not limited to narrow options, such as withdrawal or passivity. They could choose to fulfill only the most acceptable civic functions, for example avoiding public priesthoods, as can be seen from the provisions of Elvira.123 Indeed, we have reviewed abundant evidence for the existence of a set of practices that subtly allowed for flexibility in the discharge of public duty, while being perceived most of the time as wholly innocuous and unremarkable. Antonine and Severan rulings about oath-taking may have occasionally facilitated some public interactions, while in everyday situations oath-taking could be accommodated by Christians.124

These strategies, at times delicate and almost invisible and at times more sophisticated, emerged organically from local needs and conditions; their repetition—from one place to another, from one generation to another—generated a set of relatively stable habits and attitudes that consistently conditioned how Christians navigated public life from the mid-third century to the early years of the fourth when their position in the upper ranks of the cities becomes visible in documentation.

Civic life in the Roman Empire of the end of the third century (and maybe earlier in some places) should be considered in a more variegated light than is usually the case in the institutional studies about the world of the cities. Some minority identities existed, and could be included within these societies, even in their most traditional and institutional precincts. Most of the stratagems mentioned allowed individuals to engage in public activities, even when these required acts that were deemed problematic by their religious leaders. Besides, the concealment of one’s religious belief was simply not a possibility in cities of any size, at least for those active in the public sphere. The accommodations described above made their Christian identity unobtrusive on the public scene, but certainly not invisible. For that reason, the presence of Christians in public life, of which their civic environment was surely aware, is characteristic of an ephemeral age of the ancient city, before the Constantinian era and the legalization of Christianity.

Indeed, Lactantius attributed to Diocletian precisely this view, that being a Christian and belonging to the local elite were congruent. In Lactantius’s staging, Diocletian declared to Galerius that he would be satisfied if only the main administrators of the empire and the soldiers were non-Christian.125

Of course, it is well known that opposing trends also existed in this period and were driven not only by the demands of imperial governance. The persecution in 303 was apparently supported by the religious authorities of the oracular sanctuary of Didyma. These oracles are indicative of the states of mind of the local elite, some of whom did view their neighbors in a negative light. In Chalcedonia, the Passio of Euphemia tells of the hostility of a local sophist, Ampelianus, toward the Christians.126

The situation of the Christians in the Propontis region at the end of the third century, as in other regions, was far more varied than our habituated image of interreligious conflict. Cohabitation, more or less visible, even on the public scene, had sometimes found its way toward some form of fragile equilibrium and normalcy. This historical moment, even if transient, offers a mutated, yet recognizable, expression of the ancient city, at a time when it was still rooted in its traditional institutions.

  • AASS = Acta sanctorum, 68, vols. 1643–1940.

  • AE = L’Année épigraphique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1888–).

  • ALA = Charlotte Roueché, Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity: The Late Roman and Byzantine Inscriptions, revised second edition, 2004,

  • BHG = François Halkin, Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca, 3rd ed. (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1957).

  • BHL = Bibliotheca hagiographica Latina antiquae et mediae aetatis (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1898–1901).

  • Bull. ép. = “Bulletin épigraphique,” in Revue des études grecques (Paris: Association pour l’encouragement des études grecques, 1888–).

  • CCSL = Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (Turnhout: Brepols, 1954–).

  • CIL = Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (Berlin: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissensschaften).

  • ICG = Cilliers Breytenbach and Christiane Zimmermann, eds., Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae: A Digital Collection of Early Christian Inscriptions from Asia Minor and Greece (Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2016),

  • I.Didyma = Albert Rehm, Didyma. Zweiter Teil, Die Inschriften (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1958).

  • I.Ephesos = Die Inschriften von Ephesos, Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 11–17 (Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 1979–84).

  • I.Kios = Thomas Corsten, Die Inschriften von Kios, Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 29 (Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 1985).

  • I.Klaudioupolis = Friedrich Becker-Bertrau, Die Inschriften von Klaudiu Polis, Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 31 (Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 1986).

  • I.Perinthos = Mustafa Hamdi Sayar, Perinthos-Herakleia (Marmara Ereglisi) und Umgebung: Geschichte, Testimonien, griechische und lateinische Inschriften (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1998).

  • I.Side = Johannes Nollé, Side im Altertum: Geschichte und Zeugnisse, Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 43–44 (Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 1993 and 2001).

  • IGRavenna = Maria Bollini, Iscrizioni greche di Ravenna (Faenza: Fratelli Lega, 1975).

  • IJO 2 = Walter Ameling, Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis II: Kleinasien (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004).

  • LCL = Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1911–).

  • LSA = R. R. R. Smith and Bryan Ward-Perkins, eds., Last Statues of Antiquity Database (University of Oxford, 2012),

  • MAMA = Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1928–).

  • Milet 6.1 = Peter Herrmann, Inschriften von Milet, Bd. 6, t. 1A, Inschriften n. 187–406 (Nachdruck aus den Bänden 1.5–2.3), B. Nachträge und Übersetzungen zu den Inschriften n. 1–406 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1997).

  • MGH, SRM = Monumenta Germaniae historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum (Hanover, Berlin: 1826–).

  • PG = Jacques-Paul Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca (1857–66).

  • RICM = Denis Feissel, Recueil des inscriptions chrétiennes de Macédoine du IIIe au VIe siècle (Athens: École française d’Athènes, 1983).

  • SC = Sources chrétiennes (Paris: Cerf, 1942–).

  • SEG = Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (Leyde: Brill).

  • TIB Ostthrakien = Andreas Külzer, Ostthrakien (Eurōpē), Tabula Imperii Byzantini 12 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008).

* The premise of this essay was first presented in June 2019 in Toulouse, in a meeting in honor of Nicole Belayche and organized by Corinne Bonnet (ERC Mapping Ancient Polytheism), where it greatly benefited from the remarks of the audience. It was amply developed when I was a Herodotus Fund member in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton). I thank for their precious remarks all the participants of the seminar of Ancient Studies organized by Angelos Chaniotis, where I presented some data in March 2020, and especially Peter Brown, who generously provided me with invaluable insights and read a preliminary version of this text, as well as Angelos Chaniotis, Mary Farag, Christopher Jones, and Esen Ogus. Lastly, I want to thank Nicole Belayche, Ra‘anan Boustan, Jan Bremmer, and the anonymous reviewers for Studies in Late Antiquity for their feedback in the final stages of the drafting of this essay.


See Annemarie Luijendijk, “Papyri from the Great Persecution: Roman and Christian Perspectives,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 16 (2008): 341–69 at 357–64 (citation 363) about P.Oxy. 31.2601. On the Edict of 303 (only known through summaries by Christian authors): Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum 13; Latin text and French translation in Lactance: De la mort des persécuteurs, trans. Jacques Moreau, vol. 1, SC 39 (Paris: Cerf, 1954), 91–92; Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 8.2.4, 9.9a.2; Greek text and French translation in Eusèbe de Césarée: Histoire ecclésiastique, Livres VIII–X, trans. Gustave Bardy, t. 3, SC 55, 4th ed. (Paris: Cerf, 1993), 7, 65. On Iulitta in Caesarea in Cappadocia: Basil of Caesarea, Homilia in Martyrem Iulittam (PG 31:240–41). On Bithynia: François Halkin, “Passion du saint martyr Agathonique,” in Saints de Byzance et du Proche-Orient: Seize textes grecs inédits, ed. and trans. François Halkin, Cahiers d’orientalisme 13 (Geneva: Patrick Cramer, 1986), 49–64 at 50–51 chap. 2 (BHG 39z); see also the third canon of the synod of Ancyra in 314, in Périclès-Pierre Joannou, ed., Les canons des synodes particuliers, t. 1.2. of Discipline générale antique (IVeIXe siècles) (Rome: Tipografia Italo-Orientale “S. Nilo,” 1962), 56–73 at 58.


See, for example, Origen, Contra Celsum 8.74; Greek text and French translation from Origène: Contre Celse, Livres 7 and 8, ed. Marcel Borret, SC 150 (Paris: Cerf, 1969), 349–50, for the contrast between “a celestial and divine city” and “the lesser cities” (αἱ ἐλάχισται πόλεις).


On the mechanisms of inclusion and coexistence: Stefan Alkier and Hartmut Leppin, eds., Juden—Heiden—Christen? Religiöse Inklusionen und Exklusionen im Römischen Kleinasien bis Decius (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018). On the discrepancy between Tertullian’s prescriptions and the worldly ways of lives of the Christians: Éric Rebillard, Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity. North Africa, 200–450 CE (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012), 9–33. On the consumption of meat: Éric Rebillard, “Vivre avec les païens, mais non mourir avec eux: Le problème de la commensalité des chrétiens et des non-chrétiens (Ier–IVe siècles),” in Les frontières du profane dans l’Antiquité tardive, ed. Éric Rebillard and Claire Sotinel (Rome: École Française de Rome, 2010), 151–76. On the elusive expectation of participation in public rituals under current circumstances: Éric Rebillard, “Les autorités romaines et la question de la participation des chrétiens aux sacrifices et fêtes publics aux trois premiers siècles de notre ère,” Archives de sciences sociales des religions 182 (2017): 17–27, and in civic contexts in the east, Nicole Belayche and Anne-Valérie Pont, “Participations civiques et appartenances religieuses: Termes et conditions de l’enquête,” in Participations civiques des juifs et des chrétiens dans l’Orient romain (Ier–IVe siècles), ed. Nicole Belayche and Anne-Valérie Pont (Geneva: Droz, 2022), 8–17.


See Wolfgang Wischmeyer, Von Golgotha zum Ponte Molle: Studien zur Sozialgeschichte der Kirche im dritten Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992), 75, who cites the attitude of Coprēs as a case of “Kompromisse einer Übergangszeit” (compromises of a transitional period). But it is only in retrospect that this time can be labeled as “transitional,” which also changes the appreciation of the act itself, less a “compromise” than a convenient adaptation in the eyes of the lay Christian. On the collection of canons of the so-called synod of Elvira, see my note 104.


Coprēs uses “Christian scribal practices,” such as nomina sacra and isopsephy, in his letter, which also reveals a level of education (Luijendijk, “Papyri from the Great Persecution,” 358).


Prosopographical survey of Christians involved in civic activities: Wischmeyer, Von Golgotha zum Ponte Molle, 85; Paul McKechnie, “Christian City Councillors in the Roman Empire before Constantine,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 5 (2009): article 1; Alexander Weiss, Soziale Elite und Christentum: Studien zu ordo-Angehörigen unter den frühen Christen (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015); Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli, Servire due padroni: Una genealogia dell’uomo politico Cristiano (50–313 e.v.) (Brescia: Editrice Morcelliana, 2018), 329–36; Sylvain Destephen, “Civic Participation and Christianity in Asia Minor: The Epigraphic Evidence,” in Belayche and Pont, Participations civiques, 141–71; in the same volume, Katherine Blouin, “Les sources papyrologiques et la participation de juifs et de chrétiens à la vie civique dans l’Égypte romaine,” 173–204, and Avshalom Laniado, “Appartenances religieuses et participation civique dans l’Orient romain: L’apport des sources hagiographiques,” 247–350. About Phrygia, see my note 46.


Hervé Inglebert, “De la cité rituelle païenne à la communauté sacramentelle chrétienne (300–600),” in Religious Practices and Christianization of the Late Antique City (4th–7th Century), ed. Aude Busine (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 221–37.


Claude Lepelley, “Ubique respublica: Tertullien, témoin méconnu de l’essor des cités africaines à l’époque sévérienne,” in L’Afrique dans l’Occident romain (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1990), 403–21.


Africa: Lepelley, Les cités de l’Afrique romaine au Bas-Empire, t. 1, La permanence d’une civilisation municipale (Paris: Études augustiniennes, 1979); Asia Minor: Anne-Valérie Pont, La fin de la cité grecque: Métamorphoses et disparition d’un modèle politique et institutionnel local en Asie Mineure, de Dèce à Constantin (Geneva: Droz, 2020).


Such method and its results are best exemplified in the seminal works by Louis Robert, in particular in Hellenica: Recueil d’épigraphie, de numismatique et d’antiquités grecques, vols. 11–12 (Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1960), 414–39; Louis Robert, “Malédictions funéraires grecques,” Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 122, no. 2 (1978): 241–89 at 243–53; Louis Robert, “Une vision de Perpétue martyre à Carthage en 203,” Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 126, no. 2 (1982): 228–76; Louis Robert, ed. and trans., Le martyre de Pionios, prêtre de Smyrne, mis au point et complété par Glen Warren Bowersock and Christopher Prestige Jones (Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1994).


The types of Christian political men delineated by Urciuoli do not correspond to the experience of local people recruited in the local ordo for the conventional reasons that they had some level of affluence, adhered to civic values, showed interest in the government of the cities, and appear to us not to have engaged in theorization about their civic participation (Urciuoli, Servire due padroni, 185–231). In addition, Urciuoli’s inquiry results in qualifying the presence of Christian notables in civic functions as “eccentric, yet not impossible.” This remark is found in an article that is primarily an English translation of Servire due padroni, 281–303 = Urciuoli, “Tertullian, the Bishops of Elvira, and the Precession of Simulacra: Unpacking Strategies of a Christian Political Engagement before Constantine,” in From Jesus to Christian Origins, ed. Adriana Destro and Mauro Pesce (Turnhout: Brepols, 2019), 477–500 at 485; in this case, these notables were not “troubled by the socio-existential problems evoked, fashioned, and faced by Tertullian alone [in De idolatria]” (at 489). By contrast, in this article, I argue that, except in the uncommon “maximalist” position adopted by very few (to borrow the word used by Urciuoli in “Tertullian,” 478), the public roles played by these elites were considered to be both consistent with their social milieu and acceptable to their religious group, even if, to be sure, the difficulties raised by public participation in specifically religious rituals or religiously tainted public actions were perceived, and explicitly addressed by this Christian social elite. Lastly, the stratagems collated in this article mostly differ from the ones examined by Urciuoli, with a different interpretation, in sections 6 and 7, of the gratia and astutia mentioned in Tertullian, De idolatria 17 (cf. Urciuoli, “Tertullian,” 480–85); Latin text in Tertullianus: Opera II. Opera montanistica, ed. August Reifferscheid and Georg Wissowa, CCSL 2 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1954), 1117–18. Another case of members of a Christian family who discharged local functions and “led an entirely worldly life, at least to the outside, in no way distinguishable from their pagan peers,” has recently been analyzed in Sabine R. Huebner, “The First Christian Family of Egypt,” in Empire and Religion in the Roman World, ed. Harriet I. Flower (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 117–38, citation at 133.


Rescript of Gallienus and legal situation in the following decades: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 7.13, 15.1 (Bardy, Eusèbe, SC 41:187–89): εἰρήνη ἁπανταχοῦ τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν οὔση. See Rajko Bratož, “Forma e contenuto della tolleranza religiosa dall’editto di Gallieno all’editto di Galerio,” in Costantino prima e dopo Costantino: Constantine before and after Constantine, ed. Giorgio Bonamente, Noel Lenski, and Rita Lizzi Testa (Bari: Edipuglia, 2012), 25–46 at 25–39.


McKechnie, “Christian City Councillors,” centered on Phrygia; Destephen, “Civic Participation and Christianity.” Surprisingly, this dossier has not been included in ambitious studies about the sociology of pre-Constantinian Christian communities (e.g., Wischmeyer, Von Golgotha zum Ponte Molle; Weiss, Soziale Elite; Urciuoli, Servire due padroni). Some uncertainty remains regarding the date of some inscriptions, either from the third century or later, and sometimes even their association with Christians (e.g., ICG 182, 963).


For a good example of over-interpretation, see the case explained by Daniele Summa, “The Christian Epigraphy of Cyprus,” in Early Christianity in Asia Minor and Cyprus: From the Margins to the Mainstream, ed. Stephen Mitchell and Philipp Pilhofer (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 226–51 at 231. In Cyprus, only one Christian inscription is known with a high degree of certainty for the period before the Constantinian era.


This view of a possible deliberate avoidance is expressed by Georgios Deligiannakis, The Dodecanese and the Eastern Aegean Islands in Late Antiquity, AD 300–700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 12: “Moreover, pre-Nicene Christians seem to avoid adopting a specifically Christian vocabulary on their tombstones.” See also Sylvain Destephen, “La christianisation de l’Asie Mineure jusqu’à Constantin: Le témoignage de l’épigraphie,” in Le problème de la christianisation du monde antique, ed. Hervé Inglebert, Sylvain Destephen, and Bruno Dumézil (Paris: Picard, 2010), 159–94 at 164.


Édouard Chiricat, “The ‘Crypto-Christian’ Inscriptions of Phrygia,” in Roman Phrygia: Culture and Society, ed. Peter Thonemann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 198–214 at 203 and 213–14.


See for example the inscriptions from Kios discussed ahead.


I.Klaudioupolis, 44 (not in ICG).


Thomas Corsten, “‘Christliche’ Namengebung in Kleinasien,” in Die Christianisierung Kleinasiens in der Spätantike, ed. Walter Ameling (Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2017), 473–89. For the situation in the Roman West, see Iiro Kajanto, Onomastic Studies in the Early Christian Inscriptions of Rome and Carthage (Helsinki: Akademiska Bokhandeln, 1963); Henri-Irénée Marrou, “Problèmes généraux de l’onomastique chrétienne,” in L’onomastique latine: Actes du colloque international organisé à Paris du 13 au 15 octobre 1975, ed. Noël Duval, Colloques internationaux du Centre national de la recherche scientifique 564 (Paris: Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1977), 431–35.


Milet 6.1.339, describes the funding by a certain Makarios of the renovation of the “Faustina baths” in Miletos, as well as his military prowess during the Gothic invasions. He was married to Eucharia and had been an asiarchēs. While the inscription was engraved in the fourth century, he lived at the end of the third century (see ALA 3, 13–14). Albert Rehm remarked that his name “klingt christlich” (sounds Christian) while his wife’s name was actually Christian. In my opinion, his functions should not induce us to exclude the idea that he was a Christian (pace Ulrich Huttner, ICG 1795), as is suggested by the evidence of the inscription of the Christian agonothetēs from Klaudioupolis. But it may be that use of these names was not wholly restricted to Christians at that time. Eucharia is much rarer than the name Makarios. The other Eucharia known to us is attested in a third-century funerary inscription in Maroneia (AE 2005, 1364); the daughter of a bouleutēs named Eusebius, she also had married a local councilor; the daughter’s and father’s names may be Christian (but we cannot be certain). An early Christian tomb is to be noted in Ephesos (I.Ephesos, 2221, not in ICG nor in Destephen, “La christianisation de l’Asie Mineure”), belonging to a certain M. Aurelius Eucharis. On the names Eucharios and Eucharis in a Christian context, see Tomasz Górecki and Adam Łajtar, “Eine Bronzekanne mit der Inschrift ΕΥΧΑΡΙΟΣ im World Museum Liverpool,” in Vom “Troglodytenland” ins Reich der Scheherazade: Archäologie, Kunst und Religion zwischen Okzident und Orient, Festschrift für Piotr O. Scholz zum 70. Geburtstag, ed. Magdalena Długosz (Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2014), 259–73. In the present state of research in onomastics, the evidence should be judged as inconclusive. On the other hand, if Rehm’s intuition were to be corroborated, this inscription would be the only document of public nature referring to pre-Constantinian times with Christians recognizable by their onomastics.


An interesting funerary inscription from Apameia in Pisidia, made for an individual who had traveled throughout the empire (SEG 48.1552), dated to the end of the third century, was shown by Jones and Feissel to refer to the expansion of Christianity in the city: Bull. ép., 2002, 619; Denis Feissel, Chroniques d’épigraphie byzantine (1987–2004) (Paris: Collège de France—CNRS, Centre de Recherche d’Histoire et de Civilisation de Byzance, 2006), no. 376. It had been interpreted as alluding to persecutions (Gregory H. Horsley, The Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the Burdur Archaeological Museum, British Institute at Ankara Monograph 34 [London: The British Institute at Ankara, 2007], no. 316). For another case of such misinterpretation, see Stephen Mitchell, “Maximinus and the Christians in A.D. 312: A New Latin Inscription,” Journal of Roman Studies 78 (1988): 105–24 at 105n4, on the miserable death of the shepherd Gennadeios (MAMA, 1.157); see a correct interpretation in Adolf Wilhelm, “Griechische Grabinschriften aus Kleinasien. IV. Märtyrer?” Sitzungsberichte Berlin (1932): 370–91 at 375–76 (= Kleine Schriften: Abteilung I, Akademieschriften zur griechischen Inschriftenkunde [1895–1951], Teil 2 [1895–1937] = Opuscula. 8.1.2 [Leipzig: Zentralantiquariat der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1974], 826–47), and Peter Thonemann, “Poets of the Axylon,” Chiron 44 (2014): 191–232 at 204. To this evidence add the case of Heliodōros, discussed in section 3.


Weiss, Soziale Elite, 181–87; see the categorizations by Urciuoli, Servire due padroni, 185–231.


Many details, relating to the administrative context or to some linguistic aspects of the inscription, have been clarified by the editors of the text and by its commentators and need no further explanation.


It is sufficient to open any corpus of inscriptions from Asia Minor to be convinced of this fact; attested benefactions in Asia Minor at the end of the third century: Pont, La fin de la cité grecque, 211–19.


Origen, De Oratione, 1.1; Greek text in Origenes Werke, ed. Paul Koetschau, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 3, vol. 2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1899), 297: ἀνυπέρβλητος χάρις (“unsurpassed grace”); also in SEG 58.1463.B at l.9, a lead tablet with a Christian prayer, maybe of Bithynian provenance. The translation as “unsurpassed charity” was first suggested to me by Christopher Jones; Puech, in AE, 2017, 1368, proposes “complaisance insurpassable.”


For discussion of gifts to the poor in the Roman world, see Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 59–61. The mention of the civic functions of Heliodōros is logically followed by the narrative of his own other merits, which is why his tomb should be guarded closely.


New Testament: e.g., Acts 16.17 and Titus 1.1 (Paul “slave of God”); in epigraphic material: ICG 872 (Isauria, 200/300); ICG 1087 (Phrygia, Prymnessos, 200/300); ICG 1360 (212/400); ICG 1510 (Galatia, 200/350). Used in an adverse meaning to designate the cult of the idols: ad Diognetum 2.10; Greek text and French translation in Lettre à Diognète, ed. Henri-Irénée Marrou, SC 33 bis, 2nd ed. (Paris: Cerf, 2013), 56–57.


New Testament: 2 Timothy 4.1; 1 Peter 4.5. Perinthos: I.Perinthos, 185, 186, 199; dating: Destephen, “La christianisation de l’Asie Mineure,” 168n33. See also Feissel, Bull. ép., 2000, 816, on the dating of some Christian inscriptions from Perinthos. On the krisis of God, see Robert, Hellenica 11–12, 406.


On an inscription from Turris Libisonis, see Feissel, Chroniques d’épigraphie byzantine, no. 1076 (Sardinia and Rome); Giovanni Marginesu, “Le iscrizione greche cristiane della Sardegna,” La Parola del Passato 58 (2003): 372–96 at 380 no. 2; Christopher P. Jones, “Epigraphica VI–VII,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 144 (2003): 157–63 at 158n7. But in Syria, the word refers to residing by the side of God and corresponds to migravit (ad Dominum); see Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais, “Inscriptions grecques chrétiennes de Syrie,” in Mémorial Monseigneur Joseph Nasrallah, ed. Pierre Canivet and Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais (Damascus: Institut Français du Proche-Orient, 2006), 37–89 at 87. The first meaning given in Geoffrey William Hugo Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961–68) is also “go home,” “go to dwell permanently,” figuratively “in Heaven,” differing from this epigraphic example and contemporary inscriptions (see Ovacık, territory of Termessos: SEG 46.1681 at ll.4–5).


For example, Clement: Stromateis; Greek text and French translation from Clément d’Alexandrie: Stromate VI, ed. Mgr Patrick Descourtieux, SC 446 (Paris: Cerf, 1999), 220–21; Paedagogus 2.8.75, Greek text and French translation from Clément d’Alexandrie: Le Pédagogue, Livre II, trans. Claude Mondésert and ann. Henri-Irénée Marrou, SC 108 (Paris: Cerf, 1965), 148–49; Origen, Contra Celsum 1.51, l. 22 (Borret, Origène, SC 132:216–17).


A late third-century date is suggested in Anthony Gelston’s review of Alistair Stewart-Sykes, The Life of Polycarp: An Anonymous Vita from Third-Century Smyrna, Journal of Theological Studies 55, no. 1 (2004): 338–39. But Éric Rebillard, Greek and Latin Narratives about the Ancient Martyrs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 85–86, suggests a date in the fourth century because Eusebius fails to mention the text. While no firm date can be established, some scenes are still suggestive of a third-century context, such as the calls in favor of the meeting of an “ekklēsia pandēmos,” or the modalities of coexistence described in § 30, in a discourse by a strategos positing that the Christians can go their way and fulfil their rites, “with an untroubled mind,” while the rest of the citizens and foreigners “perform sacred rites and sacrifices” to “the divine” (to theion). On to theion as a generalizing reference, see Clifford Ando, “The Rites of Others,” in Roman Literary Cultures: Domestic Politics, Revolutionary Poetics, Civic Spectacle, ed. Alison Keith and Jonathan Edmondson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016), 254–77.


Geoffrey Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers, 2nd ed. (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 176. A different interpretation by Feissel, Bull. ép., 2018, 446: “he began to serve God while he was residing (in Kios).”


I.Perinthos, 153. Cf. Christopher P. Jones, “New Late Antique Epigrams from Stratonicea in Caria,” Epigraphica anatolica 42 (2009): 145–51 at 149; Jones, “Sardis: A New Look at Its History and a New Corpus of Its Inscriptions,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 33 (2020): 836–39 at 839. See also the epigram from Miletos discussed above, Milet 6.1.339 at l.13 (“expense”). For the discussion of the epigraphic evidence and vocabulary found in this inscription, I am particularly grateful to Christopher Jones and Angelos Chaniotis.


In a Christian context: RICM, 179 (Thessalonike, fourth–fifth century) and IGRavenna, 17 (seventh century); in a funerary epigram with references to the traditional polytheist religion, I.Perinthos, 214 (first–second century).


Jean-Yves Strasser, “Une expression agonistique chez saint Paul et dans trois inscriptions anatoliennes,” Revue des études grecques 129 (2016): 369–403; in the narratives of the martyrdoms of Perpetua and Pionios: Robert, “Une vision de Perpétue,” 255–56, 264–66, 272–73 (discussed by Brent D. Shaw, “Doing It in Greek: Translating Perpetua,” Studies in Late Antiquity 4, no. 3 (2020): 309–45 at 331–32 and n79) and Robert, Le martyre de Pionios, 56, 120.


Malcolm Choat and Rachel Yuen-Collingridge, “A Church with No Books and a Reader Who Cannot Write: The Strange Case of P.Oxy. 33.2673,” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 46 (2009): 109–38 at 127; see Raffaella Cribiore, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996), 153–56.


On the positive role of the stereotype, see Hélène Ménard, “Violences polysémiques et construction mémorielle: La Passion de Salsa de Tipasa,” Antiquité tardive 22 (2014): 235–42 at 236.


At ll.6–7, Alkan and Nollé instead interpreted τοῦ ἀκιδάοτου πατρός μου Ἡλιοδώρου as meaning that Heliodōros was not yet buried when the epitaph and the sarcophagus were put in place: ἀκιδάοτου would have stood for ἀκηδεύτου. This translation both relied on and supported the hypothesis of the editors that Heliodōros had been killed during the Great Persecution. Feissel underlined the incongruity inherent to the situation of such a sarcophagus being purchased and the funeral inscription engraved on it despite its deceased recipient not being buried in it. Feissel suggested instead a qualifying adjective of the moral purity of Heliodōros, such as ἀκηλιδώτου, with a reference to MAMA, 8.321, and the comment that this word was used by both Jews and Christians.


I am indebted on this point to Esen Ogus; see Guntram Koch and Hellmut Sichtermann, Römische Sarkophage (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1982), 509–14; Guntram Koch, “Überlegungen zum Ende der Sarkophag-Produktion in Kleinasien,” Adalya 20 (2017): 323–45.


On the proximity in the same necropoleis of Christians and polytheists, see Mark Joseph Johnson, “Pagan-Christian Burial Practices in the Fourth Century: Shared Tombs?” Journal of Early Christian Studies 5 (1997): 37–59; according to the editors of its inscription, the tomb of Heliodōros is certainly the first discovered one from a necropolis of Kios.


There is no need to elaborate much on the banality of the names of the people mentioned here; note that Polychronios/a is found in the third and fourth centuries in polytheist, Christian, and Jewish milieus (e.g., in Aphrodisias: Angelos Chaniotis, “The Jews of Aphrodisias: New Evidence and Old Problems,” Scripta Classica Israelica 21 [2002]: 209–42 at 218, 225, 235). On Christian onomastics, see Corsten, “‘Christliche’ Namengebung.”


See Ameling, “‘Jewish Inscriptions’ and Civic Participation,” in Belayche and Pont, Participations civiques, 85–140. On epigrams mentioning Christians and not easily assignable to the third or fourth century, see Pont, La fin de la cité grecque, 480n221.


The gerousia was frequently vested with the role of memorializing leading citizens in honorific inscriptions. See Nikos Giannakopoulos in Bull. ép. 2009, 139; Vasilka Gerasimova-Tomova, “Die Administration der Städte in Thrakien während des 1.–3. Jahrhunderts u. Z. (im Gebiet des heutigen Bulgarien),” in Aleksander Fol, ed., Actes du IXe Congrès d’épigraphie grecque et latine (Sofia: Terra antiqua balcanica, 1987), 239–46; also Ennio Bauer, Gerusien in den Poleis Kleinasiens in hellenistischer Zeit und der römischen Kaiserzeit: Die Beispiele Ephesos, Pamphylien und Pisidien, Aphrodisias und Iasos (Munich: Utz, 2014), 317, about the supposedly latest attestation in Asia Minor; to be compared with the inscriptions mentioning the gerousiai of neighborhoods that honored Bryonianus Lollianus and his family in Side, during the Diocletianic period (I.Side, nos. 105–110). On the importance of that institution in third-century Asia Minor, according to numismatic evidence: Katharina Martin, Demos, Boule, Gerousia: Personnifikationen städtischer Institutionen auf kaiserzeitlicher Münzen aus Kleinasien, teil 1–2 (Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt, 2013). A Jewish notable is known as bouleutēs and member of the gerousia in Phrygia (IJO 2, 186; ICG 1025), as was the Christian athlete Helix from Eumeneia (ICG 1050; commentary by Robert, Hellenica 11–12, 423–24). The Christian reference in the inscription ICG 889 (Isaura Nova, Lykaonia), suggested only by the initial ἐνθάδε κεῖται, is doubtful; if Christian, I do not think pace Ulrich Huttner that the mere mention of the deceased as being the “crown of the gerousia” should induce us to date it to the fourth century.


TIB Ostthrakien, 399; Alkan and Nollé, “Heliodorus,” 120–21 (also about the fact that Herakleia is nowhere else attested as “New”). See also the remarks ahead about the steps of the administrative division of Thrace, with references at note 62, with the evidence of the Passio of Philip.


See Anne-Valérie Pont, “Dernières mentions des magistratures et des liturgies traditionnelles dans les cités d’Asie Mineure: Habitus épigraphique et vie institutionnelle locale à la fin du IIIe et au début du IVe siècle,” Chiron 47 (2017): 35–55.


Another rather well-known regional context with Christian local elites is Phrygia: see notably Robert, Hellenica 11–12, 414–39; Mitchell, “An Epigraphic Probe into the Origins of Montanism,” in Thonemann, Roman Phrygia, 168–96 at 192–93.


Enver Sağir, Huseyin Uzunoğlu, and Koncagül Hançer, “Three New Sarcophagi from Kios (Gemlik),” Gephyra 8 (2011): 31–44.


I.Kios, 39. The fine for the violation of this tomb was labeled in silver pounds, a currency found in inscriptions from the end of the third century on: see RICM, 295; about the title, also employed in the first two centuries, Sophia Zoumbaki, “On the Vocabulary of Supremacy: The Question of Proteuontes Revisited,” in Pathways to Power: Civic Elites in the Eastern Part of the Roman Empire, ed. Francesco Camia and Athanasios Rizakis (Athens: Scuola archeologica italiana di Atene, 2008), 221–39.


SEG 61.1044. The two other sarcophagi that were discovered at the same time and in line with it are dated, according to the phrasing of their inscription and enclosed material, to the end of the second or beginning of the third century.


I.Kios, 7; LSA, 294 (Ulrich Gehn). The inscription, which is one of the very few documents attesting to benefactions at that time in Asia Minor, is phrased inconsistently in the same manner as the inscription of Heliodōros, with a misuse of the genitive instead of the accusative. It was discovered on the northern shore of the Askanios Lake, not far from the place where a funerary inscription makes known a group of Christians, presumably from a pre-Constantinian date (I.Kios, 120).


Feissel, Bull. ép., 2000, 816, about the epigraphic corpus published by Sayar. Further elements in Destephen, “La christianisation de l’Asie Mineure,” 159–60n3.


I.Perinthos, 185. See my note 66 for an example of a passage from the civic to the bureaucratic milieu.


For previous bibliography and other examples of Christians known as such in their cities at the end of the third century, Laniado, “L’apport des sources hagiographiques,” 255–87.


BHL 6834; Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri, “La passio di San Filippo, vescovo di Eraclea,” Note agiografiche 9 (1953): 53–136 at 63–64; see also Timothy David Barnes, The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), 184, 188. About the possible historical value of composite pieces, or of Latin versions, see the assessment in Pont, La fin de la cité grecque, 33–38.


Passio Philippi episcopi, 4–5. This scene is paralleled notably in Africa, as reminded by Franchi de’ Cavalieri, “La passio di San Filippo,” 73–74.


Passio Philippi episcopi, 7.4; see Laniado, “L’apport des sources hagiographiques,” 321–22, no. 12.


Passio Philippi episcopi, 6.4; 7.14.


Digesta Trans. and remarks by Julia Hillner, Prison, Punishment and Penance in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 127. See also Digesta 48.3.1. Two other episodes of custodia libera follow, in Herakleia and in Hadrianopolis: Passio Philippi episcopi, 10.3 and 10.6, are marked with more confusion, or abbreviation by the Latin redactor (see Franchi de’ Cavalieri, “La passio di San Filippo,” 99).


Franchi de’ Cavalieri, “La passio di San Filippo,” 98 (my translation), commenting on Passio Philippi episcopi, 9.9.


For more complete discussion, see Pont, La fin de la cité grecque, 219–20.


For example, Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 101.2.2, in Augustinus: Enarrationes in Psalmos CI–CL, ed. Eligius Dekkers and Johannes Fraipont, CCSL 40, 2nd ed. (Turnhout: Brepols, 1990), 1439: martyres post iudices per provincias circumeuntes; other references in Edmond Le Blant, Les actes des martyrs: Supplément aux Acta Sincera de dom Ruinart (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1882), 109–10; Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 603.


Earliest attestation of Haemimontus: uncertain, see Velizar Velkov, Cities in Thrace and Dacia in Late Antiquity (Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1977), 62; Boyan Dumanov, “Thrace in Late Antiquity,” in A Companion to Ancient Thrace, ed. Julia Valeva, Emil Nankov, and Denver Graninger (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 91–105 at 91.


Alkan and Nollé, “Heliodorus,” 121, do not refer to this evidence which induces to suppose a fragmentation of the former province of Thrace in at least two steps.


The geographical value of some hagiographic narratives is also exemplified in Louis Robert, Villes d’Asie Mineure: Études de géographie ancienne, 2nd ed. (Paris: De Boccard, 1962), 95, 102, about Satala in Lydia.


For Asia Minor, see Constantin Zuckerman, “Sur la liste de Vérone et la province de Grande Arménie, la division de l’Empire et la date de création des diocèses,” in Mélanges Gilbert Dagron, ed. Vincent Déroche, Denis Feissel, and Cécile Morrisson (Paris: Collège de France, Centre de recherche d’histoire et civilisation de Byzance, 2002), 617–37.


Passio Philippi episcopi, 10.14–15. Comments by Franchi de’ Cavalieri, “La passio di San Filippo,” 102. The famous epitaph of the bishop M. Iulius Eugenius thus describes the fate of the son of a local councilor, who worked in the officium of the governor of Pisidia Valerius Diogenes before being arrested and tortured, under Maximinus; these two milieus were permeable (MAMA, 1.170).


Ignatius, To the Trallians, 3.2–3; Greek text and French translation from Ignace d’Antioche: Lettres—Lettres et Martyre de Polycarpe de Smyrne, trans. Pierre-Thomas Camelot, SC 10 bis, 4th ed. (Paris: Cerf, 2007), 98–99. On the date and on the authenticity of the letters as records of actual debates, see Enrico Norelli, “Χριστιανισμός e χριστιανός in Ignazio di Antiochia e la cronologia delle sue lettere,” in Gesù e la storia: Percorsi sulle origini del cristianesimo, ed. M. Beatrice Durante Mangoni, Marco Vitelli, and Dario Garribba (Napoli: Il Pozzo di Giacobbe, 2015), 171–89, esp. 171–77.


For this traditional répertoire, see Hippolyte Delehaye, Les passions des martyrs et les genres littéraires, 2nd revised ed. (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1966).


This scene is present only in the Latin version (BHL 6068), whereas the Greek texts overlook the civic setting (BHG 1328). Franchi de’ Cavalieri judged the courtesy excessive: “Osservazioni sopra alcuni atti di martiri da Settimo Severo a Massimo Daza,” Nuovo Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana 10 (1904): 5–40 at 12.


Martyrium Pionii 12.1 (Robert, Le Martyre de Pionios, 26); in the edition provided by Otto Zwierlein, Die Urfassungen der Martyria Polycarpi et Pionii und das Corpus Polycarpianum, vol. 1 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 97, this passage belongs to the additions supposedly done by Pseudo-Pionius, around 400. But see Rebillard, Greek and Latin Narratives, 48, who rejects the foundation of this analysis. The narratives of Life of Polycarp (see my note 31 for its date) and Life of Gregory the Wonderworker by Gregory of Nyssa also retrace relationships coined by mutual interest between civic community and the local bishop (Pont, La fin de la cité grecque, 89, 220).


Passio Philippi episcopi, 15.


See my notes 51 and 52; I.Perinthos, 167, 168 (see Bull. ép. 1958, 45), 184, 185, 186, 219.


See references in my note 1.


According to Melito of Sardis, affluent Christians in the region were regularly accused and harassed by greedy opponents. See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.5–11 (Bardy, Eusèbe, SC 31:209–11); Christopher P. Jones, “Christian Apologists and the Antonine Emperors,” Arys 16 (2018): 333–45. Christian senators from the pre-Constantinian time are collated in Werner Eck, “Das Eindringen des Christentums in den Senatorenstand bis zu Konstantin d. Gr.,” Chiron 1 (1971): 381–406; on other, inferior, official duties, see Alexandru Madgearu, “A Note on the Christians’ Presence in the Sacer Comitatus before 313 A.D.,” Aevum 75 (2001): 111–17.


Christophe Hugoniot, “Tertullien décurion de Carthage?,” Revue des études tardo-antiques 7 (2017–18): 11–28, on Apologeticum 42.5; Latin text in Tertullianus: Opera I, Opera catholica, Adversus Marcionem, ed. Eligius Dekkers, CCSL 1 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1954), 157: “Non in publico Liberalibus discumbo.”


Michel Christol, “Notables et chrétiens: Les enseignements des Lettres de Cyprien de Carthage,” Cahiers du Centre Gustave-Glotz 27 (2016): 361–76.


Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos 137.7 (Dekkers and Fraipont, Augustinus); evidence cited by Sabine Fialon, Mens immobilis: Recherches sur le corpus latin des actes et des passions d’Afrique romaine (IIe–VIe siècles) (Paris: Institut d’Études augustiniennes, 2019): 142. About the Acts: Paul Monceaux, “Les Actes de sainte Crispine martyre à Théveste,” in Mélanges Boissier: Recueil de mémoires concernant la littérature et les antiquités romaines dédié à Gaston Boissier (Paris: Albert Fontemoing, 1903): 383–89; and for another comparison with the elements provided by Augustine, as well as with the social position of Perpetua, see Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri, “Osservazioni sopra gli Atti di santa Crispina,” in Nuove note agiografiche, “Studi e Testi 9” (Roma: Tipografia Vaticana, 1902): 23–35 at 28–29, expressing skepticism of the social notations made by Augustine.


AASS Iunii 2, 265.


Altava (Mauretania Caesariensis), AE 1957, 67; civitas A[-] (Africa Proconsularis), CIL 8.23662. The phrasing and meaning are close to that of princeps civitatis (or coloniae): in Altava again, AE 1933, 57. The name Libosus/a is found in Lambaesis (CIL 8.3526, 8.18199; Albert Ballu, “Fouilles archéologiques d’Algérie en 1905,” Bulletin archéologique du comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, 1906, 212).


CIL 8.20958L, and Martyrologium Hieronymianum, X Kal Feb. (AASS Novembris, 2, 2, 57); Yvette Duval, Loca sanctorum Africae: Le Culte des martyrs en Afrique du IVe au VIIe siècle, vol. 1 (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1982), 380–83, no. 179 with references, for the dissociation of the two Severiani; they are assimilated by Eck, “Das Eindringen des Christentums,” 390–91; see also Christine Hamdoune, Parure monumentale et paysage dans la poésie épigraphique de l’Afrique romaine (Bordeaux: Ausonius, 2016), no. 43.


Porphyry, Vita Plotini 9, translation from Plotinus: Porphyry on Plotinus. Ennead I, trans. A. H. Armstrong, LCL 440 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969), 30–31.


Cyprian, De lapsis 6; Latin text and French translation from Cyprien de Carthage: Ceux qui sont tombés, ed. and trans. Graeme Wilber Clarke, Michel Poirier, and Maurice Bévenot, SC 547 (Paris: Cerf, 2012), 138–41 with references n6; Latin text and English translation in Maurice Bévenot, Cyprian: De Lapsis and De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 9–11: “episcopi plurimi…divina procuratione contempta procuratores rerum saecularium fieri; derelicta cathedra, plebe deserta, per alienas provincias oberrantes negotiationis quaestuosae nundinas aucupari; esurientibus in ecclesia fratribus, habere argentum largiter velle, fundos insidiosis fraudibus rapere, usuris multiplicantibus faenus augere.”


Werner Eck, “Christen im höheren Reichsdienst im 2. und 3. Jhdt?,” Chiron 9 (1979): 449–64 at 456–64.


Clement, Paedagogus; Greek text and French translation from Clément d’Alexandrie: Le Pédagogue, Livre III, trans. Claude Mondésert and Chantal Matray, notes Henri-Irénée Marrou, SC 158 (Paris: Cerf, 1970), 122–23: ἐμπολιτευόμενοι καὶ ἄλλας τινὰς τῶν κατ’ ἀγρὸν διοικούμενοι πράξεις.


Lex Irnitana 19, the aediles; Lex Irnitana 76, the surveillance of the territory by the duumviri (text in AE 1986, 333).


Illicit occasions of personal enrichment in public affairs: Mireille Corbier, “Cité, territoire, fiscalité,” in Epigrafia: Actes du colloque international d’épigraphie latine en mémoire d’Attilio Degrassi pour le centenaire de sa naissance (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1991), 629–65. About the economic mentality of the local elites, see Jean Andreau, “Vie financière dans les deux moitiés de l’Empire romain: remarques comparatives,” in Laurea internationalis: Festschrift für Jochen Bleicken zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. Theodora Hantos (Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 2003), 9–25; L. Caecilius Jucundus from Pompei, who sought public contracts with the city in a variety of domains, provides a nice example of these businessmen; see Jean Andreau, Les affaires de Monsieur Jucundus (Rome: École Française de Rome, 1974). In my opinion, he may have been a local decurio: the Lex Malacitina only forbids the magistrates, their families, and some civic employees from making public contracts with their city (ch. J; Latin text and French translation in AE 1986, 333).


This passage is not discussed in Eck, “Das Eindringen des Christentums,” nor in Yves Burnand, Primores Galliarum: Sénateurs et chevaliers romains originaires de Gaule de la fin de la République au IIIe siècle (Brussels: Latomus, 2005–10).


Gregory of Tours, Histories 1.31, in Gregorii episcopi Turonensis: Libri historiarum X, ed. Bruno Krusch and Wilhelm Levison, MGH, SRM 1.1, 2nd ed. (Hanover: Hahnsche Buchandlung, 1951), 24; trans. Lewis Thorpe, Gregory of Tours: The History of the Franks, Penguin Classics (London: Penguin Books, 1974), 87–88. This passage contradicts, about the identification of the missionaries in Avaricum, what the same Gregory says about Ursinus in Gloria Confessorum, 79 (Gregorii episcopi Turonensis miracula et opera minora, ed. Bruno Krusch, MGH, SRM 1.2, new ed. [Hanover: Hahnsche Buchandlung, 1969]). The discrepancy does not invalidate the familial and social notations, which are of interest here. See also Jean Dubois, “L’emplacement des premiers sanctuaires de Paris,” Journal des savants (1968): 5–44 at 21–22, about the localization of the cathedral of Bourges, and the greater interest of the familial transmission about Leocadius by comparison with the ecclesiastical tradition about Ursinus.


Vita Patrum 6.1, in Krusch, Gregorii, MGH, SRM 1.2; Vettius Epagathus: Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.1.9–10 (Bardy, Eusèbe, SC 41:8–9).


Wischmeyer, Von Golgotha zum Ponte Molle, 78, with previous references, argues for his being a Roman knight, an eques. Episēmos as a qualifier for reputation and brilliance in a public context: see its use in Artemidōros of Daldis, Oneirocritica 2.30.5–6 and 4.49.9–12, in Artemidori Daldiani Onirocriticon Libri V, ed. Roger A. Pack (Leipzig: Teubner, 1963), 153 and 276.


Passio Philippi episcopi 11.16–17 (attempt to convert the audience, contrarily to Pionios who had refused to talk in front of a supposedly illiterate and agitated crowd); another display of a different kind of eloquence, with references to Homer, can be found in the discourse of Quadratus, presumably under Valerianus, in Nicomedia: Charles De Smedt, Guglielmo Van Hooff, and Joseph De Backer, “Sancti Codrati seu Quadrati martyris acta integra nunc primum edita, ex codice leidensi Graeco suppleto versione Slavica,” Analecta Bollandiana 1 (1882): 447–69 at 451 ch. 3 (BHG 359).


Gregory of Tours, Glory of the Confessors (Krusch, Gregorii, MGH, SRM 1.2:90).


See a synthesis in John Crook, The Architectural Setting of the Cult of Saints in the Early Christian West (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 60–61; iconographical analysis: Bernard Andreae, Die Sarkophage mit Darstellungen aus dem Menschenleben, vol. 2, Die römischen Jagdsarkophage (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1980), 111–33, and cat. no. 27.


About the ceremonies taking place in Late Antiquity near the monument, Brigitte Beaujard, Le culte des saints en Gaule: Les premiers temps, d’Hilaire de Poitiers à la fin du VIe siècle (Paris: Cerf, 2000), 337, 364, 490.


Christophe Batardy, Olivier Buchsenschutz, and Françoise Dumasy, eds., Le Berry Antique: Atlas 2000, Supplement 21, Revue archéologique du Centre de la France (2001), 192.


For analysis and examples of that phenomenon, see François Chausson, “Pour une histoire des patrimoines sénatoriaux en Occident (Rome, Italie, Sicile),” in Propriétaires et citoyens dans l’Orient romain, ed. François Lerouxel and Anne-Valérie Pont (Bordeaux: Ausonius, 2016), 289–311.


Beaujard, Le culte des saints, 169; Martin Heinzelmann, Gregory of Tours: History and Society in the Sixth Century, trans. Christopher Carroll (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); see Timothy David Barnes, “Another Forty Missing Persons (A.D. 260–395),” Phoenix 28 (1974): 224–33 at 228; Ralph Mathisen, “PLRE II: Suggested Addenda and Corrigenda,” Historia 31 (1982): 364–86 at 377.


AE 1990, 745.


Comparable memory of a religiously mixed family in the third century in MAMA, 4.221 (Apollonia, in Pisidia).


Tertullian, De idolatria 17 (Reifferscheid and Wissowa, Tertullianus, 1954); about Daniel’s position, also Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel 2.10; Latin text and French translation from Hippolyte de Rome: Commentaire sur Daniel, ed. and trans. Maurice Lefèvre, intro. Gustave Bardy, SC 14 (Paris: Cerf, 2006), 142–43. The same questions are also debated in Tertullian, De corona militis (On the Military Garland), 11; total refusal in De Pallio (On the Mantle), 5. See my note 11 about a different interpretation.


Laniado, “L’apport des sources hagiographiques,” 248–52.


Philo, On Flight and Finding, translation in Philo: Volume V, trans. F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker, LCL 275 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934), 26–31.


Origen, Contra Celsum 8.74–75 (Borret, Origène, SC 150:348–53); see Eck, “Christen im höheren Reichsdienst,” 454–55.


These early canons belong to first nucleus of a total of three subgroups that make up the whole. On the composition of the canons from an earlier collection of canons and the pre-Constantinian dating of this earliest stratum, see Maurice Meigne, “Concile ou collection d’Elvire?,” Revue d’Histoire ecclésiastique 70 (1975), 361–87 (I do not, however, follow his conclusions about the late dating of canons 55 and 56); also José Fernández Ubiña, “Le concile d’Elvire et l’esprit du paganisme,” Dialogues d’Histoire ancienne 19 (1993), 309–18 at 313; Josep Vilella and Pere-Enric Barreda, “Los cánones de la Hispana atribuidos a un concilio iliberritano: Estudio filológico,” Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 78 (2002), 545–79 (collection of canons, but none of them predating the Constantinian era); Miguel J. Lázaro Sanchez, “L’état actuel de la recherche sur le concile d’Elvire,” Revue des Sciences religieuses 82 (2008), 517–46 (with a bibliography about the unitarian thesis). Because the canons discussed here (2–4, 55–56) are consistent with pre-Constantinian conditions of civic life, I argue that their initial conception dates from the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century (see my note 106); Urciuoli, “Tertullian,” 489–500, also studies this material.


Louis Duchesne, “Le concile d’Elvire et les flamines chrétiens,” in Mélanges Renier: Recueil de travaux publiés par l’École Pratique des Hautes Études (Section des Sciences historiques et philologiques) en mémoire de son président Léon Renier (Paris: F. Vieweg, 1887), 159–74 (my translation). For the translation of munus as “ofrenda,” see Vilella and Barreda, “Los cánones,” 552 (but in ILS 6623 from Hispellum, munus refers to gladiatorial shows, and this translation seems adequate).


Canons 4 (sise a sacrificiis abstinuerint), 55 (qui tantum coronas portant nec sacrificant nec de suis sumptibus aliquid ad idola praestant), and 56. Meigne, “Concile ou collection d’Elvire?,” 376 and n1, errs about the dating of canon 56 as it is not comparable to canon 7 of Arles; a pre-Constantinian date is all the more convincing that there was no reason to exclude a magistrate from the church after Christianity was legalized, and public cult became an option, pace Vilella, “Canons du pseudo-concile d’Elvire et Code Théodosien: L’interdiction des sacrifices païens,” in Empire chrétien et Église aux IVe et Ve siècles: Intégration ou « concordat » ? Le Témoignage du Code Théodosien. Actes du colloque international, ed. Jean-Noël Guinot and François Richard (Paris: Cerf, 2008), 211–37 at 230 and n105, citing the canons under discussion here. Wischmeyer, Von Golgotha zum Ponte Molle, 75, gives a different interpretation (priesthoods and duumvirate are presented as mandatory functions that one could not evade; McKechnie, “Christian City Councillors,” offers the same line of interpretation).


Jan Bremmer, “Transformations and Decline of Sacrifice in Imperial Rome and Late Antiquity,” in Transformationen paganer Religion in der Kaiserzeit. Rahmenbedingungen und Konzepte, ed. Michael Blömer and Benedikt Eckhardt (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 215–56.


Digesta “Eis, qui Iudaicam superstitionem sequuntur, divi Severus et Antoninus honores adipisci permiserunt, sed et necessitates eis imposuerunt, qui superstitionem eorum non laederent.” Cited in Weiss, Soziale Elite, 171–72; see Anne-Valérie Pont, “Citoyenneté et participation civique des juifs et des chrétiens d’après les règlements grecs et romains, d’Auguste au IVe siècle,” in Belayche and Pont, Participations civiques, 60–65 no. 6, on this provision.


Digesta, 12.2.15.


Lex Irnitana 25 and 26: the oath should be made by the new magistrates during a contio of the people.


Such understanding is also implied in Capucine Nemo-Pekelman, Rome et ses citoyens juifs (IVe–Ve siècles) (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2010), 30; Werner Eck, “Die Teilnahme von Juden am politisch-administrativem Leben der Selbstverwaltungsgemeinden im Westen des römischen Reiches und der Konstantinische Erlass von 321 für die CCAA (= Köln),” in “Religio licita?” Rom und die Juden, ed. Görge Hasselhoff and Meret Strothmann (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017), 203–21 at 215.


About penance, see Kevin Uhalde, “The Sinful Subject: Doing Penance in Rome,” Studia Patristica 44 (2010): 405–14. On “psychological sustainability,” see Urciuoli, “Tertullian,” 498.


Corinthians 8, 10.14–32 also offered some possible accommodations with the consumption of meat possibly coming from a sacrifice, when invited to someone’s place or when buying meat from the butcher, but also for feasts. The attitude to be adopted was then to be dictated by the visibility of the consumption and its possible influence on a Christian brother. Acts 15.29 give stricter guidelines.


Rina Talgam and Ze’ev Weiss, The Mosaics of the House of Dionysos at Sephhoris, Qedem 44 (Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology, 2004), 128–30, for the position of Weiss, which differs from the one expressed by Talgam at 130–31.


Sacha Stern, “Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 16a—Jews and Pagan Cults in Third-century Sepphoris,” in Talmuda de-Eretz Israel: Archaeology and the Rabbis in Late Antique Palestine, ed. Steven Fine and Aaron Koller (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 205–24.


Stern, “Babylonian Talmud,” 224.


Origen, Exhortatio ad Martyrium, 45; Greek text in Origenes Werke, ed. Paul Koetschau, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 2, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1899), 41–42.


Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum 10 (Moreau, Lactance, SC 39.1:88–89).


Procopius of Gaza, Monody 1.4 (Op. 14); Greek text and French translation from Procope de Gaza: Discours et Fragments, trans. Eugenio Amato and Pierre Maréchaux, Collection des Universités de France 503 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2014), 460; see Laniado, “ L’apport des sources hagiographiques,” 298n214.


At the beginning of the second century, although they criticized some forms of the public cult, Epicureans and Stoics did not necessarily show their doctrine ostensibly: Plutarch, On Stoic Self-Contradictions 1034C, translation from Plutarch, Moralia: Volume XIII, Part 2, trans. Harold Cherniss, LCL 470 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 422–23. Negative views about sacrifices are better known at the end of the third century (Bremmer, “Transformations,” 227).


Rogatianus, a disciple of Plotinus, abandoned his senatorial career and renounced all of his possessions on the eve of being invested as a praetor: Porphyry, Vita Plotini 7 (Armstrong, Plotinus, LCL 440:26–28).


Seneca, Epistles to Lucilius 108.22, translation from Epistles: Volume III, Epistles 94–124, trans. Richard M. Gummere, LCL 77 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925), 242–45.


Eck, “Das Eindringen des Christentums,” 401–2.


Choat and Yuen-Collingridge, “Church with No Books,” 123–25, detail the adjustments regarding oath-taking used by Christians; note Tertullian, De idolatria, 23 (at 124n61). On Jews and oath-taking, based on epigraphic documentation attesting to similar fluidity and nonconflictual situation, see Nicole Belayche, “Serment et acculturation dans l’Orient romain au travers de quelques témoignages épigraphiques,” in Le serment: 1. Signes et fonctions, ed. Raymond Verdier (Paris: CNRS Éditions, 1992), 159–68.


Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum 11.3: “satis esse si palatinos tantum ac milites ab ea religione prohiberet.” In February 303 the edict finally deprived Christians of any dignitas and honor, including the municipal milieu (see my note 1).


Peter Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), 37–38. Didyma: Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum 11.7 (Moreau, SC 39, 90); Eusebius, Vita Constantini 2.50, 54, Greek text established by Friedhelm Winkelmann, Eusebius Werke 1.1, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, 2nd ed. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1991) and French translation in Eusèbe de Césarée: Vie de Constantin, ed. Luce Pietri and Marie-Joseph Rondeau, SC 559 (Paris: Cerf, 2013), 290–93 and 324–25; I.Didyma, 306; Chalcedonia: BHG 619d.