As this year is drawing to a close I start to realise that, for me, it has been a year of late Roman empresses, both with regard to Clerical Exile...
Did the apostles Peter and Paul actually know each other? Among many others, this was one of the questions by our very clever audience at our last film showing, Quo Vadis, and it’s a good one: we simply don’t know! Some sources (the Acts of the Apostles and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians) allude to not entirely amicable encounters in Jerusalem and Antioch. Quo Vadis portrays the two apostles together in Rome, but there is no historical source that confirms their simultaneous presence in the city where they were (allegedly) martyred. But Quo Vadis also captures quite nicely the mobility that characterised – at least according the Acts of the Apostles – the activities of the earliest Christian community. When his anxious Roman followers ask Paul about Peter, he tells them of the hide-and-seek Peter was playing with him during his travels: ‘When I came to Corinth, he had already left…the same in Antioch.. then I heard he had gone to Persia’. The frenetic criss-crossing of the Mediterranean, complete with sometimes violent expulsions from its cities and only imaginable in the globalised world that was the Roman empire, soon became part of the foundation myth of Christianity. It endured, as Quo Vadis shows, to the modern day. However, it also influenced how some late antique exiled clerics saw themselves: in the footsteps of the apostles.
If you are interested in another fictional take on this myth come to our book club on 23 March. We’ll be reading The Kingdom and exploring the modern echoes of the travels of the apostle Paul and his biographer, Luke. Incidentally, in the academic world, the travels of Paul and his missionary activities have been subject to similar kinds of social network analysis as we are using in our project.
Our next film in the Clerical Exile film club, on 28 March, is Constantine and the Cross from 1961, a sword-and-sandal film with all the usual trimmings (battle scenes, Christians in the arena…):
After Quo Vadis’ gruesome chronicling of Christian persecution and Nero’s madness we’re moving on through the Roman ages to another moment of world history: the conversion of a Roman emperor to Christianity! We’re staying with our themes of mobility in the Roman empire, following the emperor Constantine from childhood in Britain, over his rise to power in Gaul (modern-day France), to the battle of the Milvian Bridge just outside Rome in 312 on the eve of which the sign of the cross famously (may have) appeared. In addition, we continue examining the themes of religious conversion, conflict and (in)tolerance. Constantine was, of course, also the emperor who called the Council of Nicaea in 325 which enshrined exile and exclusion as a customary response to religious dissidence in Roman law and practice.
The film will be shown on 28 March at 6pm in the Diamond Lecture Theatre 2. Kate Cooper, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Manchester and director of the research project ‘Constantine’s Dream‘ will be on hand to answer questions afterwards.
Please book your free tickets here.