Peter Brown describes Late Antiquity as ‘a world characterized by a chilling absence of legal
restraints on violence in the exercise of power’. Among numerous studies investigating
structural and institutional violence in the ancient world, this article, however, investigates
one-on-one violence in private and public spaces in Chrysostom’s community. Chrysostom
advises his congregation, for example that should they hear: ’any one in the public thoroughfare,
or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God, they should go up to him, rebuke him, and
should it be necessary to inflict blows, they should not spare not to do so (De stat 1.32)’. He also
considers instances of spousal violence. In one specific case the neighbours came running to
the house in response to the cries and wailing of a wife who was beaten by her husband (Hom.
1 Cor 26.7). Pauline Allen, Wendy Mayer and others have shown how Chrysostom’s writings
act as a window affording us a glimpse of social life in the fourth and the 5th century. Although
scholars know that Chrysostom would sometimes make very radical comments merely for
rhetorical effect, his writings nevertheless shed light upon the role of violence in his community.
Nkosi, N.G.; Van der Wath, Anna Elizabeth(Unisa Press, 2012)
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