Info

The social class of Christians

The early Christian community of Rome drew its membership from the artisans and freedmen living in large tenement blocks (insulae), and from freedmen and slaves working in the imperial household, particularly in the time of Com-modus, Septimius Severus and their successors. Most non-servile Christians in Rome and elsewhere were peregrini, expatriate citizens of the towns and their territories of the Roman orient. They enjoyed neither Roman citizenship nor Latin rights until the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212, the edict of emperor Caracalla that granted citizenship to most free residents of the empire. Before 212 Christians fell under the jurisdiction of the praetor peregrinus, who administered the large migrant population in Rome, most of them Greek-speaking easterners. The Latin-speaking Christians of late second-century Rome were African provincials. The low social status of Christians led to their victimisation in periodic persecutions designed to rid the urban centre of 'bad people' (mali homines) - individuals and groups who flouted the social norms, and abhorred public entertainments and religious festivals.

In the waning years of the tetrarchy,49 there were Christians in every sector of social, economic and cultural life. Christian grammarians, rhetoricians and philosophers - like Arnobius of Sicca, Lactantius and Gregory Thaumaturgus -practised their professions at important urban centres. Men of grammatical education served as civil servants (Caesariani) in the offices of the imperial palaces, provincial governors and imperial estates.50 One of them was Marcus Aurelius Prosenes (d. 217), an imperial freedman who became chamberlain of Commodus, and administrator in several departments ofthe emperor's private fisc. His funerary inscription mentions his reception apparently by the Christian divinity (receptus ad deum).51 A Christian soldier named Aurelius Mannos is memorialised by a funerary inscription at Eumeneia in Phrygia: he was a cavalryman and horse-archer holding the special office of a draconarius, 'bearer of the dragon standard' in the office ofCastrius Constans, who was civil governor of Phrygia and Caria shortly after 293.52 Eusebius mentions Adauctus, a senior manager of the imperial estates in the time of Diocletian, and Dorotheus, a presbyter of the church of Antioch, who was put in charge of the imperial purple dye workshops in Tyre, a politically sensitive position. In the provinces, city councillors (curiales, bouleutai) are named in the inscriptions, particularly

50 Frend, Martyrdom and persecution, 447.

52 ILS 8881.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment