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The Lives of ObjectsMaterial Culture, Experience, and the Real in the History of Early Christianity$
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Maia Kotrosits

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226707440

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226707617.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

Tertullian of Carthage and the Materiality of Power

Tertullian of Carthage and the Materiality of Power

Coauthored with Carly Daniel-Hughes

Chapter:
(p.85) 4 Tertullian of Carthage and the Materiality of Power
Source:
The Lives of Objects
Author(s):

Maia Kotrosits

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226707617.003.0005

How much of the current picture of the Roman empire, and Christians within in, is built on fantasy? The writings of Tertullian of Carthage, a third century writer from Roman North Africa, show an obsession with Roman officials and juridical procedures. But they have been read by scholars through a narrow frame: Christian martyrological discourse. This chapter illustrates how Tertullian’s juridical scenes are about something else and more: they participate in the fantastical imaginations that the Roman empire ignited in its colonial subjects through a combination of presence (via material objects) and physical distance or absence (in the running of the provinces). The chapter argues that Tertullian’s stories of Roman authorities in confrontation with Christians does not arise from his actual experiences, but rather from other literature. Arguing from the dearth of evidence for Christian communities at all in Tertullian’s time and place, this chapter suggests that Tertullian’s writings are not a window into Christian social conditions. Instead, these letters are working out the ambiguities of colonial belonging, and Tertullian’s claim to the term Christian and his attachments to juridical scenes have much to say about the fantasy life of power and the lures of disciplinary justice.

Keywords:   Roman law and justice, martyrdom, fantasy, Tertullian of Carthage, Roman bureaucracy, Roman propaganda, confession inscriptions, ancient novels, fantasy, power

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