Forbearance and Compulsion

Duckworth 2009.

Maijastina Kahlos

Forbearance and Compulsion explores the history of religious tolerance and intolerance in the late Roman Empire, about 250-500 C.E.

Forbearance and Compulsion contributes to the research of the religious and ideological changes that occurred in the Roman world in 250-500 as the Empire was Christianized. The purpose of the book is to outline fundamental changes but also continuities in the history of tolerance and intolerance.

Forbearance and Compulsion aims at analyzing late antique discussions on religious tolerance in their historical contexts. Therefore, it is important to take earlier Greco-Roman religious thinking, attitudes and discussions into account in this book (in the Introduction and in the individual chapters). For instance, in the case of the so-called edict of Milan, the historical background of the proclamation of religious forbearance will be traced.

Forbearance and Compulsion analyzes the relations between different religious groups in the late Roman world, particularly Christians and pagans, but also Jews, Manicheans and other minor groups. The book aims at deepening understanding of later, modern and early modern discussions on religious liberty and of the roots of the contemporary multicultural Western culture. Furthermore, the book endeavours to enhance historical understanding of the religious conflicts – ancient, recent and on-going – in world history.

Forbearance and Compulsion contributes to the recent research on religious changes and identities in Late Antiquity. Researchers have discussed specific issues of Greco-Roman tolerance in some scholarly articles. However, to my knowledge there is no monograph on religious tolerance and intolerance in Greco-Roman Antiquity, focussing on the Late Roman Empire. Therefore, my book is innovative in discussing the issue in length and taken as a whole. Several monographs, discussing tolerance in European history or in world history, often abstract the Greco-Roman ideas of religious tolerance and disconnect them from their proper historical context. Forbearance and Compulsion aims at filling this considerable gap.

Forbearance and Compulsion traces some fundamental changes and continuities in the late antique thinking in 250-500. The overriding theoretical framework of the book is determined by recent developments in the historical, literary, and social sciences (e.g., discourse analysis, new rhetoric, research on images, discussion on the “other”). Rhetorical techniques and tools of argumentation and persuasion employed both in appeals for tolerance and in the polemic of intolerance will be thoroughly scrutinized.  The rhetorical structures of appeals and polemic will be unfolded, and similarities and differences in pagan and Christian writings are detected and analyzed.

Maijastina Kahlos


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