CHRISTIANITY IN THE ROMAN FORUM: TERTULLIAN AND THE APOLOGETIC USE OF HISTORY BY MARK S. BURROWS Tertullian's Apology entered no empty world. The arena of late anti- quity bristled with debates regarding the nature of religion, society, and the gods. As the empire expanded, those discussions inevitably came to question the status of "new" or "foreign" religions, such as Chris- tianity. If we can rely on Dio Cassius' report of Maecenas' speech to the emperor Augustus, we have an early record of the Roman distrust of such aberrations: "Those who attempt to distort our religion you should abhor and punish, not merely for the sake of the gods, but because the emergence of new divinities in place of the old persuades many to adopt foreign practices, from which spring up conspiracies, factions, and political clubs which are far from profitable to a monar- chy."' Within this world which was skeptical of intrusions on the hallowed ground of "tradition," Tertullian's treatise was by no means the first attempt at a Christian apology. Such responses could already by this time look to the precedent of a developing genre. Before this apologist's contribution had appeared, Christian apologetics already claimed a mature
Vigiliae Christianae – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1988
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