The Catholic Book Club discussion

15 views
Sword and Serpent > 5. Christian persecution

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Manuel (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
What do you think of the way the persecution against Christians in Diocletian time is described? Is it true to history?


message 2: by Fonch (new)

Fonch | 1443 comments I have the impression that the climate of hate is very real, and it is a hard work for the part of the autor. Now we are in a very close situtation in the muslim countries, and in comunist countries, and in the western countries we are not pursued, but we are rejected and the politicians fight against the catholic religión. For me it is one of the strong points of the novel.


message 3: by John (new)

John Seymour | 1968 comments Mod
I am not an expert on the Diocletian persecution by any means, but from what I have read of it, the book is fairly accurate in the way it portrays the start of the persecution. I assume this becomes a more intense part of the story as the trilogy progresses. What was interesting to me was the idea that Marshall conveyed that the Diocletian persecution is not so much a new thing, but an intensification of existing background persecution. For example, having Jurian and Mariam's father murdered by his own legion for refusing to sacrifice to the gods before a battle.


message 4: by Manuel (last edited Jun 05, 2018 03:50AM) (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
I think that the persecution against Christians at the time of the novel is somewhat exaggerated. Roman Law was the best legacy the Roman Empire gave to the future. Killing people in their homes or in the street without a trial, as described in chapters 7 and 27 would be unthinkable. Also, the martyrdom of Ayzebel in chapter 22 is little credible, for the authorities wouldn't have been interested in a slave girl.

Chapter 7 is specially incredible. The murder of Jurian's mother and the priest Eugenius by a soldier under Casca's orders would never have been allowed. Casca would have lost his career in the legions, even though he was the son of a legate, specially so because he had as a witness against him, no less than a tribune (Varro).

According to history, around the year 299, when the novel starts, no legionary was killed because he was a Christian. They were either dismissed or reduced in rank.

The edict ordering the execution of every person refusing to sacrifice to the gods was not promulgated until the year 304, five years after the beginning of this novel.


message 5: by Manuel (last edited Jun 05, 2018 03:58AM) (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Fonch wrote: "I have the impression that the climate of hate is very real..."

In fact, most of the reasons given to make Christians hateful to the people had stopped working around the year 300. The lower classes no longer believed them. The hate against Christians came not from the people, but from the government, specially Diocletian, Galerius and their entourage. In fact, Diocletian was milder than Galerius, and at the time of the first edict against Christians in 303, he recommended that it should be applied without bloodshed. His advise was not always followed, however.


message 6: by Fonch (new)

Fonch | 1443 comments Manuel wrote: "Fonch wrote: "I have the impression that the climate of hate is very real..."

In fact, most of the reasons given to make Christians hateful to the people had stopped working around the year 300. T..."


I totally agree with Alfonseca, i only disagree in one thing. We are seeing at this moment the mass hated the christians, and a lot of the persecutions were forced for the hatred of the people. The people used to guilt the christians of the all evils. Sometimes the emperor was tolerant and the problem was the governors, who started the persecution themselve for instance Calixtos was murdered by a pagan priest in the age of the peaceful Alexander Severus.
The persecution acquired a new model with Decius, who inspired the rest of the emperor. Decius want to resurrect the paganism, because e thought that he would save the Empire. He struggled the bishops and the important christian charges. More than look for the exeution he looked for the apostasy. He caused a lot of damage to the christians, because with Decius, and Diocletian there were a lot of apostasies, and there was to admit these people again, prooking several heresies montanism, Novatius, and the Donatism. The best novel about Decius is Félix de Lusitania (Félix de Lusitania #2)
by Jesús Sánchez Adalid, Jose Sanchez Adalid. The problem is not translated to English. The problem is that somebody did not do the sacrifice but to escape of the martyrdom they bought dcuments saying that they will do the sacrifices in the honor of the emperr. My friend Alfonseca told in his amaizing novel "The Emerald Tablet" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...


message 7: by Manuel (last edited Jun 05, 2018 11:57AM) (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Fonch wrote: "The persecution acquired a new model with Decius, who inspired the rest of the emperors..."

Yes, Decius started the all-around Christian persecutions (previous ones had been mostly local), and Valerian continued, but his son and successor Galienus stopped them. During about 40 years they were rare, and then came back in full force with Diocletian and Galerius. This last persecution was the worst, and their intention was to eradicate the Christian religion.


message 8: by Fonch (new)

Fonch | 1443 comments Manuel wrote: "Fonch wrote: "The persecution acquired a new model with Decius, who inspired the rest of the emperors..."

Yes, Decius started the all-around Christian persecutions (previous ones had been mostly l..."


Totally truth. In the case of Valerian, he was a superstitious man. He believed in magic, and fortune telling. He was a general with Decius. The consellor of Valerian was a magician call Macrianus, who promote the ersecution against the christians. In this persecution was executes Saint Cyprianus.


message 9: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 719 comments I wondered whether a couple details were accurate. Was "accusations" the actual term for confession on one's death bed?
Mari uses "Saints!" as a common exclamation--as she's in the human company of several people we now recognize as saints.


message 10: by Manuel (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
I think "accusation" is mainly used when one accuses someone else, while "confession" is used to accuse oneself, thus being a synonym to "self-accusation." Perhaps Marshall uses this word to emphasize Jurian's confusion about Christianity.

Yes, I found the Saints! exclamation somewhat inappropriate. Mari says it seven times, Jurian two, Menas two, Cyricius one and Eugenius (a priest) one. Especially the last, which is actually the first in the book.


message 11: by Fonch (new)

Fonch | 1443 comments It is logical that there were saints, because there were more persecutions. When the martyrs are usual. It is not strange that the cult of the saints were typical. This thing will change when the christianity was tolerated, and it was the state`s religión.


message 12: by Manuel (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Fonch wrote: "It is logical that there were saints, because there were more persecutions. When the martyrs are usual. It is not strange that the cult of the saints were typical. This thing will change when the c..."

Fonch, you didn't get it. We were speaking about the use of the word Saints as an exclamation, not about the cult of saints.


message 13: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 719 comments Not Jurian's confusion; the term was used by his mother and the priest Eugenius.


message 14: by Fonch (last edited Jun 13, 2018 08:41AM) (new)

Fonch | 1443 comments Manuel wrote: "Fonch wrote: "It is logical that there were saints, because there were more persecutions. When the martyrs are usual. It is not strange that the cult of the saints were typical. This thing will cha..."

I am sorry for my mistake. I did not repair in this, but i think that this mistake it is owe to the autor lives in the 21th century. It is a phrase made, that the autor employs in his routine. However in my opinión this thing did not change anything. The novel was excellent.


message 15: by Manuel (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "Not Jurian's confusion; the term was used by his mother and the priest Eugenius."

Jurian says the exclamation in chapter 38, when he meets Menas after Mari's death:

Jurian coughed and punched Menas' arm until he let go. "Saints, Menas, I was only gone..."


message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 719 comments I was talking about "accusations," not "saints"


message 17: by Manuel (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "I was talking about "accusations," not "saints""

Sorry, I mis-interpreted you. What I meant was that the priest and Jurian's mother use accusations as a synonym of confession, and Jurian's confusion about Christianity does not let him understand what they are talking about. I think Marshall used the little used term to emphasize that fact.


message 18: by Taylor (new)

Taylor Marshall | 5 comments Manuel writes:

"According to history, around the year 299, when the novel starts, no legionary was killed because he was a Christian. They were either dismissed or reduced in rank."

This is not quite the case. We have examples:

Saint Mercurius, a Roman officer, was martyred in AD 250.

Saint Maurice, commander of the Theban legion, was martyred in AD 287 for his faith (along with his Christian soldiers)

There were 10 Roman Persecutions. The Diocletian was the tenth one. There were many persecutions prior and belonging to the Roman military was the most vulnerable place to be a for a Christian (besides being a bishop).

Regarding "Accusations" and "Confession". During this time, "confessio" in Latin meant to affirm Christ unto death as a martyr. This is why crypts in Roman Churches are called the "confessio". It's where the martyr is buried. Later it came to mean to affirm Christ as a living martyr (but as one who didn't die) as in "confessors."

Up until Vatican II, one would say: "Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been 3 weeks since my last confession, and I ACCUSE myself of the following sins...."

Mari and others invoking saints would be completely universal by AD 299. The cult of the saints is in full effect by this time. She is not referring to be the people around her. She is referring to those she believes to be in heaven.


message 19: by Manuel (last edited Jun 16, 2018 10:08AM) (new)

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Taylor wrote: "Manuel writes:

"According to history, around the year 299, when the novel starts, no legionary was killed because he was a Christian. They were either dismissed or reduced in rank."

This is not quite the case. We have examples..."


Yes, I was aware of the previous persecutions. If you re-read my paragraph you have quoted, you'll see I say that "around 299... no legionary was killed." Around 299, in Diocletian's time, not in the time of Decius.

You may have a point, however, about St. Maurice, although in fact they were executed because they refused to obey orders (the order was to persecute other Christians).


message 20: by Fonch (new)

Fonch | 1443 comments Manuel wrote: "Taylor wrote: "Manuel writes:

"According to history, around the year 299, when the novel starts, no legionary was killed because he was a Christian. They were either dismissed or reduced in rank."..."


In the novel of Chateaubriand "Martyrs" appeared the case of Saint Victor, and we have the case of Saint Sebastian although i do not know the reason of his martyrdoom, although the most probable that he was murdered by being christian. Wiseman spoke about Cromatius in his novel Fabiola.
Although there was not cult i have the impression that the christians considered to the martyrs heroes, and his cult increased fastly. About repliying Jill sometimes the priest say to the sinner that he accussses of some particular sin.


back to top