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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Part I

  • Irene van Renswoude, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 19-130


This chapter investigates narrative representations of free speech in early Christian martyr acts written between c. 150 and the end of persecution in 313. It discusses both pagan and Christian models that inspired authors of early Christian martyr acts to represent the speech and behaviour of martyrs in a certain manner. One of the issues the authors addressed was how a Christian should behave when he or she stood trial before secular authorities, and what measure of frank speech was appropriate in this situation. Early Christian martyrs are often presented as respectful, polite and reticent towards authorities during interrogation. We also see a clear preference for plain speech over studied rhetoric. The chapter addresses the question of whether new interpretations of parrhesia that we find in these martyrdom narratives should be seen as indicative of a growing reluctance among Christians to criticise those in power, or as part of a process of acculturation.