Material evidence of religious violence

honor the gods

I’ve been talking to people recently about what the material evidence of a major change in society looks like. Today, I will briefly discuss the example of the material evidence of the change in religion that occurred in Late Antiquity, when Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire.

This change was brought about by not just by consensual conversion, but also by coercion and violence. Temples and devotional art were destroyed, houses and towns were ransacked, adherents of traditional religion were persecuted, and the full weight of Imperial law was brought down upon those who resisted.

The material evidence for this religious revolution is like a crime scene. We can see the distinctive marks on statues, reliefs, and inscriptions from repeated blows with blunt or sharp instruments,. Sometimes works of devotional art or dedicatory inscriptions were reduced to fragments, testimony of the perpetrator’s emotional state during the attack…

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