Early Christian Martyrdom

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the accounts by Eusebius of Caesarea (c260-339 AD) and others of the killings of Christians in the first three centuries after the crucifixion of Jesus. Eusebius was writing in a time of peace, after The Great Persecution that had started with Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD and lasted around eight years. Many died under Diocletian, and their names are not preserved, but those whose deaths are told by Eusebius became especially celebrated and their stories became influential. Through his writings, Eusebius shaped perceptions of what it meant to be a martyr in those years, and what it meant to be a Christian.

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  • Candida Moss No other episodes
    Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham
  • Kate Cooper 3 episodes
    Professor of History at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • James Corke-Webster 2 episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Classics, History and Liberal Arts at King's College London

Reading list

  • Dying to Be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian Martyr Texts
    L. Stephanie Cobb (Columbia University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • The Voice of the Victim: Gender, Representation, and Early Christian Martyrdom
    Kate Cooper (Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 1998)
  • Eusebius and Empire: Constructing Church and Rome in the Ecclesiastical History
    James Corke-Webster (Cambridge University Press, 2019) Google Books →
  • The History of the Church
    Eusebius (trans. G.A. Williamson) (Penguin, 1989) Google Books →
  • Martyrdom and Noble Death
    Jan Willem van Henten and Friedrich Avemarie (Routledge, 2002) Google Books →
  • Eusebius: Understanding Classics
    Aaron Johnson (Bloomsbury, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Christian Martyrdom
    Paul Middleton (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020) Google Books →
  • Martyrdom: A Guide for the Perplexed
    Paul Middleton (T&T Clark, 2011) Google Books →
  • The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom
    Candida Moss (HarperCollins, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Myth of the Neronian persecution
    Brent Shaw (Journal of Roman Studies, 2015)

Related episodes

Programme ID: m0016ptt

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0016ptt

Auto-category: 270 (Christian church history)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 303 AD, the Roman emperors began the great persecution of Christians, and it was eight years before they restored their right to worship.