Sjef van Tilborg, «The Danger at Midday: Death Threats in the Apocalypse», Vol. 85 (2004) 1-23
This paper proposes a new suggestion in the discussion regarding possible death threats in the Apocalypse. It makes a comparison between relevant texts from the Apocalypse and what happens during festival days when rich civilians entertain their co-citizens with (gladiatorial) games. At the end of the morning and during the break special fights are organized. Condemned persons are forced to fight against wild animals or against each other to be killed by the animals or by fire. The paper shows that a number of texts from the Apocalypse are better understood, when they are read against this background.
22 Sjef van Tilborg
mythological applications, once again a relationship is made with the
horrible reality of the mutilation and death which the author of the
book foresees for his readers.
â€œMaturus, Sanctus, Blandina, and Attalus were led into the
amphitheatre to be exposed to the beasts and to give a public spectacle
of the pagansâ€™ inhumanity, for a day of fighting wild beasts
(qhriomaciva) was expressly arranged for our sakeâ€ (Eusebius, Hist.
Eccl. V.1.37 about the martyrs of Lyons). Starting from the very first
Christian literature until far into the 3rd century a relationship is made
between the persecution of Christians and the munera (65). Clement
gives presumably a description of a fatal charade when he writes:
â€œThrough jealousy women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae,
suffering terrible and unholy dignitiesâ€ (1 Clement 6.2) (66). Ignatius
writes in different letters that he is on his way prov" qhriva (in the letter
to the Trallians 10,1 and the Smyrnaeans 4,2) in the simple terms that
he shall go to fight with the wild beasts; in the letter to the Romans (67)
4,1.2; 5,1.2.3 in the more strange formulations that he hopes to be
eaten by the wild animals; that the wild animals may become his
grave). According to the martyrium of Carpus, Papylus of Thyatira and
Agathonice of Pergamum the martyrs, after having first been tortured
(23.24), are finally brought to death in the amphitheater (37.40.44). In
the martyrium of Polycarp something similar happens. In the
beginning of the text the story is about anonymous martyrs who after
having been tortured are led (2,4) to the wild beasts (eij" ta; qhriva),
(65) See KYLE, Spectacles of Death, 155-182; D. POTTER, â€œMartyrdom as
Spectacleâ€, Theater and Society in the Classical World (ed. R. SCODEL) (Ann
Arbor 1993) 53-88 and G.W. BOWERSOCK, Martyrdom and Rome (Cambridge
(66) COLEMAN, â€œFatal Charadesâ€, 66 writes about this text: â€œSince the
mythological Dirce was bound to the horns of a bullâ€¦, it is easy to imagine how
realistically her fate could be re-enacted in the arenaâ€¦And, a group of female
prisoners furnished with jugs would immediately remind the audience of the
Danaids, and they might then be executed in a manner not necessarily
corresponding to any known variant of the storyâ€.
(67) The Letter to the Romans occupies also a special position in a number of
other themata. For an introduction and the bibliography about Ignatius, see Ch.
MUNIER, â€œOÃ¹ en est la question dâ€™ Ignace dâ€™ Antioche? Bilan dâ€™ un siÃ¨cle de
recherches 1870-1988â€, Aufstieg und Niedergang der rÃ¶mischen Welt (Berlin â€“
New York 1993) II. 27.1, 359-484.