The Seer's Vision
of an Unbroken World
In considering the linguistic unity of Revelation, I have thus far been concerned with the shape of the language itself: how words, phrases, sentences, and larger forms are related in Revelation through narrative and metaphoric devices or through liturgical language. The language of the seer, however, yields other secrets than its own shape; it also transmits a vision of the world or a construction of reality. The choice of terms is important here. The vision transmitted by the seer is not merely a "literary world" or a "symbolic universe"—a vision separate from the everyday life of John and his audience. The seer is constructing an encompassing vision that includes everyday, social realities in Asia Minor.
The seer's vision or his construction of reality becomes accessible to us through the language he uses. Thus, in discussing the seer's vision of an unbroken world, our focus remains on the language of the Book of Revelation; but now our concern is with the semantics of that language (its meaning and reference) rather than its syntax (the structure and relationships of phrases and sentences). In the jargon of some linguists, the shift is from linguistic signs as signifiers to linguistic signs as signified. In saying that, we must be careful. The shift does not involve a turn outward, for example, to the "social, historical situation." That is a further step to be explored in part 3. The seer's vision of the world is discovered through exploring the semantics of his language. That exploration is a step in the direction of understanding the social situation of Christians in Asia Minor, but the compass here remains the linguistic construction of the seer.
By understanding the seer's vision as an unbroken world, I offer an alternative to some recent theories about the Book of Revelation. Several scholars uncover a world of conflict in Revelation, a conflict between the seer's religious faith and his experience of Roman society (see chap. 1 and App. A). According to "conflict" theorists the syntax of Revelation alternates from sections of the text affirming religious victory, salvation, and Christian dominion to sections acknowledging social persecution, Christian defeat, and Roman dominion. As we saw in chapter 3, the interconnectedness of the seer's language raises questions about that kind of analysis. The intertwining of narrative and metaphoric elements makes it impossible to divide the text into sets of oppositions. Rather than alternating between clearly demarcated sections of woe and weal, the seer's language is unified syntactically.
A person may, however, write in a style that is unified syntactically and at the same time construct a world of conflict and opposition. So we may pose the following questions about the Book of Revelation: What vision of reality becomes transparent in the seer's apocalyptic language? Does the seer envision a world in which certain elements are in essential conflict with other elements? Does integration and interconnectedness occur only on the syntactical level in the Book of Revelation and not on the semantic level? On the semantic level—the level of meaning and reference—does the seer's language disclose a world of conflict, tension, and crisis? If it does, the interconnections of the syntactical aspects of the seer's language would disguise and dissemble; they would be hiding a world of conflicts and contradictions. However odd that notion may appear, that is the assumption of certain kinds of structural analyses of the Book of Revelation: the interconnections of the seer's language are intended to hide the serious conflicts and contradictions to which the seer alludes in his writing. In the technical language of structural analysis, the surface structure mediates and blurs the tensions and conflicts in the deep structure of the text. 1
In order to delineate the shape and contours of the seer's world I shall rely heavily on the term boundary. As I unravel the spatial metaphor boundary in the following sections, the structure and organization of the seer's world should become clear. It is a complex structure, and that complexity will be clarified by locating the fundamental distinctions and discriminations (i.e., boundaries) the seer makes as he constructs a comprehensive vision of reality. The focus on boundary will also provide opportunity to note the nature of the distinctions the seer makes; that is, distinctions between objects or qualities may be absolute and categorical, or they may be relative, with one object blending into the next. I shall argue that the seer's distinctions (boundaries) are of the latter kind, not absolute, firm, or hard, but, rather, blurred and soft.
Since boundary will recur in different contexts in what follows, I should comment on the term itself. Boundary is a term associated with space and spatial demarcations. In common usage boundary refers to the outside perimeter of a space: my property is bounded by a curb on the front and a fence behind, that is, the curb and the fence mark the extent of my property, the limits of my land. This common usage of boundary as an "outside" limit or perimeter depends on the perspective of one who is inside the boundaries. From an "inside" position boundaries mark the limits of my property; and if the boundary fence is high enough that I cannot see over it, my dog and I will experience the boundary as the limit or extent of space. If, however, I fly over my land in an airplane, the boundaries will be seen quite differently: from that lofty perspective those boundaries mark out and separate my property from other property. Rather than the boundary being a limit or an outside perimeter, a boundary is seen as a mark between two things. In fact, without the boundary the two things might not be distinguishable. Without the fence there would not be two properties, only one. Thus, one can say that a boundary not only marks differences, it creates them. A boundary separates and delineates, thereby making a difference where otherwise there would be no difference.
In considering the boundaries that delineate the contours of the seer's world, I view that world from above, as from an airplane. From that viewpoint his boundaries are not outer limits but dividers that create differences and distinctions among the objects in his world. Just as we can learn about how land is controlled by noting where boundaries are placed, so we can learn about the seer's world—fundamental distinctions, values, commitments—by noting where he places boundaries and thereby creates differences. No sharp distinctions need be made between spatial boundaries in the seer's world (heaven, earth, sun, rivers) and boundaries in other sets of relations. Boundary can be used in any analysis that locates a set of relations as a "topographical arrangement in space" (Jaspers 1970, 177).
To put it differently, a boundary is formed when two different qualities, objects, or forces come together. 2 A social boundary divides life inside the Christian community from life outside. By paying attention to that social boundary, one can learn a lot about how the Christian community is defined and differentiated from other social groupings. A literary boundary can be located at Revelation 4:1; two different types of literature come together there: seven messages to the seven churches (1:9-3:22) and the ensuing visions (4:1-11:19). By paying attention to literary boundaries in the Book of Revelation, one learns about the structure of the seer's book. One can map out values and morality in John's world by locating divisions between good and evil, that is, where the boundaries between good and evil occur. Insofar as the distinction between good and evil depends upon those boundaries— without them the distinction could not be made—one can also see from the boundaries how the author of the Book of Revelation creates the categories of good and evil as they relate to his world vision.
In brief, I seek to map out the seer's world comprehensively. By mapping the regions, distinctions, and differentiations in the seer's vision of reality, I shall locate boundaries in the seer's world; and those boundaries, in turn, will disclose some of the fundamental structures and networks of relations central to the seer's construction of reality. By proceeding in that manner, I will never abstract the fundamental structures and networks from the specific distinctions and discriminations that the seer makes in his world construction.
Boundaries in Expected Places
The seer recognizes commonplace boundaries. He delineates a three-story universe: earth, heaven above the earth, and the abyss below (see Rev. 5:3). Divine forces come down from heaven, and evil forces come up from the abyss. The seer's celestial realm contains the familiar objects of sun, moon, stars, and sometimes the atmospherics of thunder, lightning, and hail. Birds inhabit the sky (more precisely, "midheaven"; see 6:12-13, 8:13, 12:1, 19:17). With respect to earth there are refer ences to hills and islands, wilderness, and various types of water-bodies such as seas, lakes, and streams (e.g., 1:9, 6:14, 7:17, 8:9, 9:14, 12:6, 12:17, 16:20, 19:20). A few plants are mentioned: trees, grass, and plants in general, all of which are specially protected from evil forces. 3
The seer mentions animals such as horses, lions, birds, leopards, bears, and frogs (e.g., 6:2, 9:8, 13:2, 16:13, 19:17). Humans are classified as peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations. 4 The seer also mentions social classifications such as kings, great ones, rulers of a thousand, the wealthy, the strong, merchants, and those sitting on horses; most of these are associated with evil. People are also contrasted as small and great, wealthy and poor, free and slave (see 6:15, 13:16, 18:3, 19:18). No male/female contrast is made. When considering godly, faithful people, the seer's categories become more refined. He refers to prophets, servants, fellowservants, brethren, apostles, saints, "my people," and those fearing God, great and small (see 10:7, 11:10, 18:20, 19:5, 21:3, 22:9).
Sometimes these objects in nature and human characters combine in striking ways to form hybrids. Those hybrids exist in the seer's world as clearly definable objects, but they transgress the normal categories of animal, vegetable, and mineral. By transgressing those ordinary boundary distinctions, the seer creates awesome figures of divinity as well as of monstrous evil. The creator God who sits upon the throne is described by means of images of precious stones, jasper, and carnelian and a rainbow that looks like an emerald (4:3). Heavenly figures around the throne appear like a lion, an eagle, an ox, and a man—all with six wings and full of eyes (4:6-8). A mighty angel comes down from heaven wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, with a face like the sun and legs like pillars of fire (10:1). A woman appears in heaven clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and twelve stars on her head (12:1).
The red dragon of chapter 12 has ten horns and seven heads as well as a tail that sweeps down one-third of the stars of heaven to earth (12:3-4; only evil forces seem to have tails, cf. 9:10, 19). The beast from the sea has ten horns and seven heads. It is like a leopard, its feet are like a bear's, and its mouth is like a lion's (13:1-2). The locusts that come up through the opening from the bottomless abyss combine a stinger like a scorpion and an appearance like horses, though with human faces, women's hair, and lions' teeth (9:7-10).
Blurred Boundaries among Godly Forces
Although the descriptions of God, heavenly creatures, and demonic forces mix categories that are normally kept separate, each of those divine and demonic beings is distinct and separate. In mapping out the different creatures around the throne or the various beasts from the abyss, one finds that each has a distinctive outline that can be drawn in darker hues, like boundaries on a map. Moreover, each has a distinctive place within the three-story universe: the divine forces belong in heaven; evil forces belong below the earth; and earth becomes a place of conflict between the two. Earth contains creatures (primarily humans) who can be identified with either the godly or the evil forces located elsewhere in the universe.
John creates a world with distinct levels and clearly delineated characters; he also presents those levels and characters in such a manner that they invite comparison. For example, beings in different spheres of the universe may share certain characteristics, so that they are bound together even though they are separated by the stories of the universe. So an effulgence (?'^t'???) radiates around the one sitting upon the throne (4:3); later that same radiance is present around the head of one of his emissaries (10:1). The face of that same emissary is "like the sun," a simile which earlier refers to the appearance of the one John saw in his inaugural vision (1:16) and later to the clothing of a woman (12:1). Through that common language, connections and correspondences are made among God on the throne, his Christ, his angels, and other godly beings. Although each may be outlined separately on a map of John's world, each shares common characteristics with the others. Thus, as one becomes familiar with John's creatures, the contours of one evoke the contours of others.
Insofar as Christians are called to imitate their Lord, they come to share characteristics with him. As Christ conquered, so do Christians (3:4-5, 3:21). Moreover, both Christ and Christians conquer through blood. The brethren conquer Satan through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their witness; "they did not love their souls even unto death" (12:11, cf. 6:9). The innumerable crowd before the throne came through the great tribulation and victoriously stood before God with their clothes made white through blood (7:11-17). Sacrificial language, which underlies most of those references, becomes explicit at 14:4 where the 144 thousand "redeemed from mankind" are designated "first fruits for God and the Lamb." 5 Christ and his followers share not only sacrificial associations but also royal priestly characteristics, that is, characteristics of the sacrificer as well as the sacrificed. Both Christ and his followers are "priests to our God" (5:10). 6 Followers also share the royal status of sonship and they are given "a name which no one knows," a parallel to Jesus (see 2:17, 21:7, 19:12).
John also connects the characters in his three-story universe in more subtle ways. The characteristics of certain humans correspond to the characteristics of divine creatures or heavenly places; that is, godly humans have features homologous to divine creatures or divine places or even God himself. Homologous relations are best known from the field of biology, where homologies refer to similar structures with a common origin, for example, the wing of a bat and the foreleg of a mouse. In religious studies, Mircea Eliade has used the term homology to show how religious man is a microcosm of larger cosmic structures (see Eliade 1959, 16670). In the Book of Revelation, one finds homologies other than in the microcosm/ macrocosm relationship. Thus, I use the term to refer to any correspondence of structure, position, or character in the different dimensions of John's world. These homologous relations contribute to the blurring of boundaries in the Apocalypse.
John, for example, creates homologies among certain kinds of clothing, holiness, certain colors, and just deeds. God is holy (??s?s? or ??????), as are his angels, faithful humans, and a city (see 11:2, 11:18, 14:10, 15:4, 16:5). Divine holiness becomes apparent when God reveals is just deeds (t? d??a??µat?, 15:4). Just deeds are also attributed to "holy humans" (?? ??????, 19:8). "Holy humans," or saints, thus function on the human plane as God's holiness on the divine plane. Further, the just deeds of the saints are identified with the bright, clean, linen garment worn by the Bride of the Lamb (ß?ss???? ?aµp??? ?a?a???, 19:7-8). 7 A clean, linen garment is also worn by the seven angels who pour out the seven bowls of plagues (????? ?a?a??? ?aµp???, 15:6) and by the heavenly army supporting the warring Word of God (ß?´?ss???? ?????? ?a?a???, 19.14). 8 Clothing reflects inner qualities and essential characteristics of those who wear them. Jesus urges the Laodiceans to buy from him white clothing (???µ?t?a ?????) to wear, so that the shame of their nakedness not be revealed (3:18). Because of the connection between inner and outer, garments are to be "kept" (t????, 16:15)—a verb used elsewhere in Revelation only in connection with commandments, works, and words (e.g., 1:3, 2:26, 3:10, 12:17, 22:7). Christians at Sardis should not stain (µ?????) their garments but rather walk in white (?? ??????^?) with Jesus (3:4). 9
As seen from this last example regarding the worthy Sardians, whiteness relates homologously to proper garments, righteous deeds, and holiness. The color is first introduced in the inaugural vision, where Jesus' hair is white as white wool, like snow (1:14). In the messages to the churches, those conquering at Pergamum are promised new names written on a white stone (2:17), those not stained at Sardis will walk with Jesus in white (3:4-5), and those at Laodicea are urged to buy white garments to cover their nakedness (3:18). 10 Elsewhere throughout Revelation the twenty-four elders wear white garments (4:4)—as do the slain ones under the altar (6:11); the innumerable crowd before the throne whose garments were made white in the blood of the Lamb (7:9, 14); and the army of the Word of God (19:14). Those people share their colors with the white horse coming forth at the opening of the first seal (6:2, cf. 19:11, 14); the white cloud upon which the one like a Son of Man sat (14:14); and the great white throne of judgment (20:11). The color white thus substitutes in position or structure on the color plane for just judgment, righteous reward, and holiness—themes that span heaven and earth as well as the present and the eschaton.
Blurred Boundaries among Evil Forces
With regard to evil forces the following scenes are the most important: the blowing of the fifth trumpet, which reveals a star falling from heaven and opening the shaft of the bottomless pit (9:1-6); the war against the two prophets by the beast ascending from the bottomless pit (11:7); the sign of the great red dragon, his war in heaven and on earth (12:3-17); the beast from the sea to whom the dragon gives power (13:1-10); the beast from the earth who receives power from the beast of the sea (13:11-18); the scarlet beast with the harlot rider (17:1-14); and the Devil bound and loosed in the bottomless pit (20:1-10).
Several common activities connect these demonic forces: ascending from the bottomless pit; making war against the godly; conquering; deceiving; blaspheming; evoking wonder and worship; having authority, power, and kingship. These forces also share common features, that is, seven heads, ten horns, redness, and certain nomenclature. Sometimes they relate in more subtle ways to each other. At 9:11 the angel ruling the abyss is called Apollyon. Revelation 17:8 rings changes on abyss/ Apollyon, for there the scarlet beast goes up from the abyss to apoleian ("destruction"). 11 That repeated association blends the angel ruling the abyss (9:11) with the scarlet beast from the abyss (17:8). Through numerical equivalence in the plague sequences—the fifth trumpet and the fifth bowl—a connection is also made between the angel ruling the abyss and the beast from the sea (9:11, 16:10-11). 12 The various beasts described in the Book of Revelation are thus variations on one another. So, for example, the beast from the abyss—introduced abruptly in 11:7— is a transformation or manifestation of the ruler of the abyss in 9:11. At 16:13 a new evil is introduced in the form of a false prophet, but he is not all that new in Revelation, for he shares characteristics with the beast from the earth in 13:11. 13 Through these associations, the identities of the following are blended together, that is, the boundaries separating them are not absolute and hard: Apollyon (9:11); beast from the abyss (11:7); beast from the sea (13:1); beast from the land (13:11); false prophet (16:13); scarlet beast (17:3); the dragon, ancient serpent, Devil, and Satan (20:2, 7); and the opponent of Michael (12:9).
The Great Whore Babylon shares several qualities and functions with those beasts and with other evil forces. Like the beast from the sea, she is incomparable (18:18, cf. 13:4). She shares the color scarlet with the evil beast (17:3-4, 18:16). She causes deception among the nations (18:23), as do the beasts. As sorcerer and one committing abominations, she shares qualities with those evil ones who cannot enter the New Jerusalem (17:5; 18:23; 21:8, 27; 22:15). Finally, she "falls" and becomes a "haunt" (???a??, 18:2), just as Satan is cast into a "prison" (???a??, 20:7). 14
Like the forces of good, those evil figures have their followers. The kings of the earth are frequently linked to one of these demonic figures (e.g., 9:7, 17:12, 19:19). Others are identified with the demonic by an iconic stamp on the right hand or forehead, which in connection with the beast of the earth (equals false prophet) is said to provide the economic freedom of buying and selling (13:16-17). They are deceived by the false prophet to worship the beast (19:20), but ultimately they shall share with the other demonic forces torment of fire and sulfur (14:9-11).
Finally, there are striking homologies between opponents of the faithful in the seven churches and demonic figures elsewhere in the Apocalypse. The nomenclature of evil is used several times in the letters: those at Smyrna are warned that the Devil is about to throw some in prison (2: 10). The Devil is, of course, the dragon of chapter 12, who reappears in chapter 20; the prison (???a??), moreover, in which the Smyrnians are about to be thrown is a horror like the one from which Satan is loosed in chapter 20 and the one into which the Great Whore falls (18:2). Satan's throne at Pergamum (2:13) forms a homologue with the throne of the beast (9:11, 16:10); references to the deep things of Satan (2:24) and to the synagogue of Satan (2:9, 3:9) also link the church's opposition to the demonic. Those of the synagogue of Satan claiming to be Jews blaspheme (2:9), which is otherwise done only by the beast from the sea and the scarlet beast. The prophetess Jezebel, a teacher of whom John does not approve, deceives those at Thyatira—an activity practiced only by Satan, the beast of the earth, and Babylon the Whore. Moreover, her teachings include the practice of fornication; elsewhere in the Apocalypse that term is associated with Babylon the Great Whore (Rev. 17-19), the Balaamites (2:14), and those who at the eschaton have to stay outside the New Jerusalem (22:15) and burn in the lake of sulfur (21:8). Thus, prophetic groups in the churches, Babylon the Great Whore, and those condemned at the eschaton share characteristics and function homologously in their respective planes.
Blurred boundaries among forces of evil, on the one hand, and godly forces, on the other, could simply reinforce the notion that there are sharp contrasts in the Book of Revelation between those two camps: Satan and his followers versus God and his faithful. The two groups are set in opposition, and readers/hearers are called on to decide for one or the other. Those with the mark of the beast are thrown into the lake of fire, the second death (19:20, 20:14); and those whose names are in the Lamb's book of life shall enter into the New Jerusalem (21:27). The Laodiceans are called on to display a clear-cut position: be either hot or cold but not lukewarm (3:15-16). Much of the Apocalypse describes conflict between those two groups of forces: those in the churches against their adversaries, two prophets against the beast, woman against dragon, saints against the beasts, witnesses against the Whore Babylon, riders on white horses against false prophet. Their conflicts are described with military language of warring, battles, armies, weapons, victories, and defeats. 15
Although the seer marks his boundaries well—often as battle lines—those boundaries between good and evil are not hard and impenetrable borders separating the two into separate, limited spheres. Even here distinctions are blurred and boundaries are soft. Evil contrasts with the godly, but evil is not of a fundamentally different order from good. Humans belong to the earthly plane, the divine belong to heaven above, and the demonic belong to the plane below; but those three tiers of the seer's universe are not separated absolutely. Social categories on earth are not impassable, for there are not absolutely bounded divisions among humans. Even divisions of time—past, present, and future—cannot be hardened into "the evil present" and "the blessed future."
Soft Boundaries between Good and Evil
At points in the Book of Revelation, the Lamb and various beasts form dyadic relationships, that is, they become doubles, split images of some more fundamental wholeness. One of the heads of the beast from the sea is described "as slain" (13:3); the same expresson is used of the Lamb in the throne scene (5:6). 16 Further, the beast is healed of his mortal wound so that he lives. By dying and yet living (13:14) he is comparable to Jesus who became a corpse and lived (2:8). 17 A similar pattern is repeated in the description of the scarlet beast who was, and is not, and is to come (17:8). The Lamb and the beast from the sea also share a similar hierarchical position in their respective communities: each is an agent to a higher sovereign (3:21; 12:10; 13:2, 4), yet each is worthy in his own right to receive power and authority from those below (5:12, 17:13); and each wears the royal insignia of diadems (13:1, 19:12, cf. 12:3). Each thus serves as icon of the sovereign above (3:14, 13:14-15) while forming a worshipping community around himself (cf. Schüssler Fiorenza 1981, 134) with the mark of the beast and the seal of the Lamb functioning homologously in their respective communities.
Soft boundaries also separate feminine images of good and evil. Babylon and Jerusalem—feminine images of cities—embody homologues and similar qualities. Both are clothed with fine linen and bedecked with gold, jewels, and pearls (18:16; 19:8; 21:18-19, 21), and both function as sexual partners in their respective systems (18:3, 19:7-8). Great city usually refers to Babylon (Rev. 17-18) but may refer to either Babylon or Jerusalem (16:19); and Jerusalem, the city of God, can even be understood "spiritually" as "Sodom and Egypt" (11:8). 18 In this transformation of Jerusalem Christian interpretation is clearly at work, but the prophets of old also refer to such a metamorphosis of the holy city (cf. Lam. 4:6, Isa. 13:19, Jer. 22:6). 19 The fluidity between godly and demonic cities in the seer's visions points to a common structure within good and evil in the Apocalypse. 20
Woman in the Apocalypse also moves fluidly between good and evil. At 12:14 the woman who recently gave birth—clearly a figure embodying godly associations—flees into the wilderness from the dragon. In the next reference to wilderness, John is introduced in the Spirit to the woman on the scarlet beast full of blasphemous names (17:3). If the wilderness passages are taken strictly sequentially, the good woman has been transformed in the wilderness into the evil woman on the beast. Wilderness would thus function symbolically as a place similar to chaos with transformational potential for judgment, deliverance, nourishment, punishment, death, and rebirth (12:6, 17:16, cf. Thompson 1978, 95-96, 193). 21
Even God and Satan, the epitome of good and evil respectively, are not separated by hard, impervious boundaries. Several common aspects blur their boundaries, especially images and symbols related to sovereignty and worship. As God is enthroned, so is Satan (2:13, 4:2). Satanic locusts have golden crowns on their heads like the twenty-four elders around the throne of God (4:4, 9:7), and God and Babylon the Whore are said to rule as king or queen (15:4, 17:18). As supernatural forces with their own spirits (16:14, 22:6), both God and demonic forces are worshipped and glorified (4:11, 13:4, 15:4, 18:7). Through a word play on the Greek word ??µ??, God and the Whore offer a similar wine drink to others: all the nations and the kings of the earth drink from the wine of the ??µ?? of her fornication (14:8, 18:3), and God will give to her and to all those worshipping the beast a drink from the wine of the ??µ?? of his wrath (14:10, 16:19). The translation ( RSV ) of her ??µ?? as "impure passion" and of God's as "wrath" reflects the play on the word and one way the seer uses word plays to relate apparently opposing forces.
Soft Boundaries between Spatial Planes
Although humans belong to the earthly plane, the divine belong to heaven above, and the demonic belong to the plane below, those three levels of the seer's universe are not separated absolutely. Creatures descend or ascend through the universe; and as they pass through the different levels, they are transformed in other ways. Movement through spatial planes functions as a transformational experience.
Utilizing the image of an open door, John describes his ascent to heaven (4: 1).
As he ascends, he is transformed simultaneously from earth to heaven, from a normal to a "spiritual" psychological state, and from the present to the future. Space, time, and psychological state are assimilated to one another, forming a series of correspondences among different planes (4:2). "Going up" (spatial plane) forms a homology with "in the spirit" (psychological plane) and with an eschatological vision (temporal plane). 22 Once translated into heaven, John is able to see such heavenly visions as the throne of God; the three series of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls; the fall of Satan and various demonic forces; conflict between divine and demonic armies; and finally, the New Jerusalem.
Elsewhere a cloud becomes the means of moving through the heaven/earth boundary. At 1:7 John declares that Jesus will come on a cloud (cf. 14:14); at 10:1 an angel comes down from heaven clothed in a cloud; and the two witnessing prophets in chapter I 1 go up to heaven on a cloud (11:12). Otherwise, movement to and from heaven is signified simply by verbs of motion. John and the two prophets "ascend" (??aßa???) from earth to heaven (4:1, 11:12). Angels "descend" (?ataßa???) from heaven (10:1, 18:1, 20:1)—as do the New Jerusalem (3:12, 21:2), fire (20:9), hail (16:21), and the Devil (12:12). Fire from the altar is thrown (8:5) or poured out (16:2) upon the earth from heaven; in its transformational descent the fire becomes a destructive force. 23
Passage also occurs between earth and that demonic sphere below the earth. By opening that shaft to the abyss below (cf. the "open door" to heaven), locusts from that demonic plane pass onto the earth (9:1), or Satan and his surrogates move back and forth from earth to the realm below. 24 Through images of locks, keys, chains, seals, loosing, and binding John is able to describe controlled movement between earth and Hades (9:1, 20:1-3). Since the realm below represents not only the demonic but also death, movement to and from that realm may also occur in the form of transformation from death to life, or resurrection. 25
The demonic plane can claim no independent reality, for it derives from the heavenly, divine plane above. Demonic power becomes operative on earth when a "star" fallen from heaven is given a key to open the shaft to the abyss below (9: 1). This "star"—in origin from heaven—is apparently later identified as the angel Abaddon or Apollyon, who rules over the bottomless pit (9:11)—and still later as the scarlet beast (17:8).
In chapter 12 a similar transformation occurs when Satan "falls" from heaven. Between two versions of a story about conflict between the evil red dragon and the good pregnant woman, the seer inserts a narrative about the heavenly origin of Satan, the ancient serpent and great dragon called the Devil (12:7-12). 26 It is a striking narrative, for it tells how Satan—the most powerful and concentrated image of evil in Revelation—once served in the divine court. Satan, the ancient serpent, the Devil, emerges here as a transformation of heavenly, divine realities. More specifically, that dragon (hypostatized evil) served in heaven as judge and assessor, that is, as a judicial dimension of God and his heavenly powers (12:10, cf. Job 1:6-12, 1 Enoch 40:7). 27 Through transformational symbols of descent and conflict Satan—whose authority and power lie behind all other evil forces in Revelation—is seen to metamorphose from the divine. 28
Soft Boundaries in Social Categories
The transformational movement through space has its homologues in the churches of Asia Minor. Social categories distinguishing faithful from unfaithful are not bounded by impassable borders. Furthermore, the social categories are themselves a mixture of different statuses. Those at Laodicea, for example, appear rich, prosperous, and faithful; but they are in reality poor, wretched, pitiable, and naked (3:17); and those at Smyrna appear to be poor but are really rich (2:9). 29 The faithful are admonished lest they fall: first loves may be abandoned (2:4-5); those once alive may become dead (3:1); faithfulness is called for (2:10, 19); garments must be kept (16:15). Only those who persevere to the end will conquer (2:10-11). On the other side, the faithless are urged to be transformed through the alchemy of repentance (µ?t????a, cf. 2:5, 16). A deceiving, self-acclaiming prophetess like Jezebel, who functions and has attributes like the beasts and the dragon, can repent along with her followers (2:21-23). Even the most blasphemous have the possibility of transformation through repentance and can cross the boundary from unfaith to faith (16:9, 11). All can "open the door" (3:20). In the New Jerusalem the probabilities of change diminish, but even there the unfaithful may still have the possibility of repentance. Just as there is ultimately no fundamental dualism between heaven and earth, so there is no final "dualistic division of humanity." 30
Soft Boundaries in Time
Time takes a curious turn in the Book of Revelation, for past, present, and future are not separated by fixed, absolute boundaries. The seer, rising above time as in an airplane, takes a transcendent view and traces the past, the present, and the future on his temporal map. Boundaries in the future are as visible to him as boundaries of the past, and those future boundaries share characteristics and homologies with present and past. John sees both "what is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:19), and John's God is "the one who is and was and is to come" (1:4, 2:8). The seer's temporal map is analogous to a conductor's score: the conductor "sees" all parts of the score, that which has been played, that which is being played, and that which will be played. Moreover, the spatial arrangement of time in a musical score discloses patterns, motifs, and variations among past, present, and future. The seer, like the conductor, can range freely through time, catching patterns and motifs in his mapping of the aeons. Time can thus be understood as a "topographical arrangement in space," for John portrays the temporal "end" as a detailed mapping of space, that is, as a city let down from heaven.
From the seer's transcendent view of time there is no hard division between the present age and the age to come. No hard boundary separates "the new heavens and new earth" (Rev. 21:1) from the "first heaven and the first earth." The "new" emerges in time as a transformation of the "old." As the first disappears (21:1, ?p????a?), the new comes into being (21:1, 2, 5). 31 The one on the throne declared, "Behold, I make all things new [?a???]" (21:5). The "new" contrasts with the "old"; but there is a continuity of substance, whether it be a name (2:17), a song (5:9, 14:3), or heaven and earth (21:1). 32 ?a???? ("new") could better be translated "renewal" or even "restoration," for the portrayal of the "new" borrows heavily from descriptions of paradise from of old. Then the seer was told, "?????a?" (21:6), a term translated variously as "It is done," "All is over," or "These words are already fulfilled." This term, however, also signifies transformation or metamorphosis. Elsewhere in Revelation it is used to indicate transformation into the Spirit (1:10), transformation from life to death (1:18), the sun into blackness (6:12), and water into blood (8:8). The perfect tense of this verb in 21:6 can thus be translated, "All has been transformed." By means of these terms the seer describes "a drastic transformation of existence" typical of eschatological portrayals in the New Testament, but he suggests no sharp dualism between this age and the age to come (see Beardslee 1970, 228). 33
That eschatological transformation completes what has occurred in the coming of the Christ and is occurring in Christian existence. In a manner distinctive to Revelation the description of the coming of Christ in glory is laced with images of death and the cross. In the Gospels apocalyptic announcements (e.g., Mark 13) are in form and content clearly delineated from the Passion narrative and descriptions of Christ's weakness and humiliation. 34 Paul also keeps the irony of present Christian existence clearly separate from apocalyptic phenomena: humiliation, crucifixion, weakness, and foolishness are not part of Paul's apocalyptic scenarios (1 Cor. 1, 4:8-13; 2 Cor. 4:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15, 1 Thess. 4:16). In Revelation, however, the apocalyptic Christ comes as "the pierced one" (1:7) and the messianic "Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David" is revealed as "the slain Lamb" who is worthy through being slain (Rev. 5:1-14). From the seer's first vision to the final victory of the Word of God seated on a white horse and clothed in a garment soaked in blood (19:13), imagery of sacrifice, blood, and death permeates the visions of the mighty apocalyptic figure. Through that mixing of imagery, Jesus' parousia overlays his "first coming" to produce a picture of a mighty warrior as a crucified Lamb. The first and second "coming" of Christ cannot be differentiated as two distinct eras with a clear boundary between them; the second is a radical transformation begun with the first.
There is a permanence to the crucified Lamb that cannot be captured by locating the crucifixion in time, for example "under Pontius Pilate" or "in the first century of the Common Era." To put it differently, the crucifixion is much more than a momentary event in history. That permanence is captured in the Book of Revelation through spatial, not temporal, imagery. The "slain Lamb" appears not only on earth but also in heaven, close to the throne (5:6). The Lamb was not slain at a particular moment in time; rather the Lamb was slain before time. The seer describes that time in spatial language: the Lamb was slain "from the foundation of the world" (13:8, cf. 17:8). The crucifixion is enfolded in the "deep," permanent structures of the seer's vision, and it unfolds in the life of Jesus and those who are his faithful followers. Christian imitation of Jesus through martyrdom and suffering and the homologies formed between Jesus and his followers can thus be seen as temporal unfoldings of a "deeper" order in the seer's world.
Just as John's eschatological visions (time) can be portrayed spatially as a city, so place (topos) is not a fixed, bounded space but a situation with a temporal dimension: in Revelation place is bound up with destiny and contingency. The woman flees into the wilderness to a place prepared for her (12:6, 14); no place is found for the Devil in heaven after the battle with Michael (12:8); if the Ephesians don't repent, their lampstand will be removed from its place (2:5). Items in nature such as islands and hills—even heaven and earth—do not have fixed places (6:14, 20:11).
Homologies connect the heavenly throne (space), the eschatological Jerusalem (time), and the earthly temple at Jerusalem (space). The precious stones in the heavenly throne scene (4:3, 6) derive not from traditional throne descriptions in apocalyptic literature but from descriptions of the eschatological Jerusalem (Rev. 21:11, 18-20, cf. lsa. 54:12). Only the throne (4:2) and the New Jerusalem (21:16) are predicated by the Greek verb ???^µa?, indicating "situatedness" or "fixed location of place" (in contrast to topos above). In the temple at Jerusalem (11:1-2) a spatial boundary divides the temple proper from the court outside. The court can be profaned by the nations, but the temple cannot. So with the New Jerusalem "nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life" (21:27, cf. 21:8). Yarbro Collins suggests that the courtyard/temple boundary also parallels the earthly/heavenly boundary in the Apocalypse (1984, 68). The Jerusalem temple and the eschatological city are further linked by the activity of measuring, for only in relation to those two is a measuring rod (???aµ??) mentioned (11:1, 21:15). Parallels between heavenly throne scenes in the Apocalypse and the Jerusalem temple are fairly obvious (cf. Thompson 1969, 337). Heavenly sacrifices create smoke so thick that no one can enter the temple (15:8). Inside the heavenly temple stands the ark of the covenant or the tent of witness (11:19, 15:5). Through such homologies the sacral space of the Jerusalem temple, the heavenly throne scenes, and the eschatological Jerusalem are overlaid in the mapping of the seer's world. Not only are distinctions blurred among past, present, and future, but also time and space are related as coordinates of a common order.
Transformations, Inner Structures, and Ratios
At the beginning of the discussion on boundary I noted that from a transcendent position, such as in an airplane, a boundary appears not as a limit or outside perimeter but as a divider marking differences. It is from this lofty position that we have mapped boundaries, locating distinctions and categories fundamental in the seer's world. These categorical distinctions in space, time, gender, or moral qualities are created by the seer. For example, he distinguishes between good and evil, heaven and earth, or faithful and nonfaithful in distinctive ways. Thus, as a worldmaker, the seer not only marks differences, he creates differences. He creates a three-story universe rather than a universe with four or seven tiers. He delineates in great detail distinctions among those faithful to God (e.g., prophets, servants, apostles, saints). He blends color, gender, and moral terms to create feminine figures of purity or corruption. In brief, the seer creates a distinctive world by marking out differences that are established at and by boundaries. Boundaries may thus be understood as places where differences touch one another: a boundary is formed when two different qualities, objects, or forces are contiguous. A boundary sets up how these differences are delineated and how "solid" the separation is between them.
In the seer's world we have seen that the boundaries are not very "solid"; they are soft boundaries that blur sharp distinctions. So, for example, the boundary between Christ and Christians is not impervious. Godly objects share characteristics and homologues such as holiness, whiteness, and linen. The various beasts ring changes on each other as they process through the book. More striking are the soft boundaries between good and evil. Beasts and Lamb form dyads; Bride and Whore form counterparts; Jerusalem and Babylon become confused; Satan derives from an aspect of the divine.
As we explored these blurred relations and soft boundaries, the term transformation crept into the discussion. Thansformation became especially prominent when we traced movement across boundaries—whether spatial, social, or temporal. Heaven remains separate from earth, and earth from the abyss, but doors open to allow John and other beings to move between one plane and another. Social boundaries are not hard and fixed. The faithful may "fall," and the faithless may repent. Even the boundary between this aeon and the age to come blurs differences on either side: the new is a transformation of the old, begun with the crucifixion of Jesus which has been "from the foundation of the world."
A boundary separates differences, but it is possible to cross over the boundary. Crossing, however, involves a transformation; characters do not pass through the open door of boundaries and remain untouched. When Satan descends, he is transformed; so is John when he ascends. Passage through a boundary simultaneously transforms the object from what is on one side to what is on the other, that is, earth to heaven, faithfulness to unfaithfulness, good to evil. The phrase transformational boundary describes this particular aspect of a boundary situation; that is, a boundary not only locates where differences touch each other; it becomes a place where differences can be transformed into each other.
There is a dynamism to boundaries in the Book of Revelation. Boundaries do not fix limits beyond which it is impossible to pass. Rather, they locate the place where transformations occur, allowing a flow across planes, eras, social categories, or moral values. At the most fundamental level, the seer envisions reality as a world in process, a flow of becoming, a sequence of transformations that unfolds into various planes, eras, qualities, and objects. 35
From considering the transformational aspect of the seer's boundaries one could conclude that the seer's world is a muddle of confusion—that anything can be changed into anything and that transformations occur randomly and without design or guidance. One wonders, Are there forces or channels guiding the transformations that occur at the seer's boundaries, or are they random and directionless occurrences? The answer is easy: there are guiding forces. Getting at those guiding forces, however, is not so easy. An important clue to guiding forces is given in the earlier discussion of homologies. There we noted that homologies contributed to the blurring of boundaries, for different aspects of John's world are brought into relation with one another, for example, spatial movement, psychological state, and moral character are simultaneously transformed when the seer goes into heaven.
The blurring is not, however, random: homologies point to similarities in the transformations that occur; a definitive relationship is formed between going up into heaven and entering a spiritual state, or moving down from heaven and entering a demonic state. The contour or shape of one boundary is replicated in another. Those replicated contours point the way to fundamental structures and guiding channels in the seer's world. Put differently, the set of relations formed at one boundary is similar to the set of relations formed at another. They are similar because there is an inner structure implicated in every boundary situation that unfolds in all boundary situations.
Measures and Numbers
The seer's use of numbers illustrates how relationships and sets of relationships rather than individual characteristics disclose inner structures of his world. First of all, the seer seems to view numbers and their measurements as an entree into the essential structure of a thing. Measurements of the temple (11:1-2) or the number of the beast (13:18) reveals something fundamental, the essence—at least for those who have understanding and wisdom (13:18, 17:9).
The activity of measuring occurs only two times in the Apocalypse: in connection with the New Jerusalem (21:15-17) and the temple of God (11:1-2). 36 Measuring the New Jerusalem and the temple is not primarily a way of comparing them with some external unit of measure such as a cubit stick. In fact, in chapter 11 no mention is made of an external unit such as cubits or stadia. Measurement is bound up with what is intrinsic to the object being measured. For example, only the temple proper, the altar, and those worshipping—all of which reflect the sanctity of the holy place—are measured. That which is not holy is not appropriately measured in the same measurement. Ezekiel makes the same connection between measurement and sanctity in Ezek. 40-48: there descriptions of measuring alternate with descriptions of the holiness of temple, city, and land. The extent of measurement marks the boundary, in the cases of both Ezekiel and Revelation 11, of that which is essentially holy. 37 The actual numbers in measurements—for example the 144, 12, and 1,000 in the New Jerusalem and the sealed of the tribes—outwardly correspond to an inner, essential measure rather than to some external standard of measurement. 38
A number such as that of the beast 666 may be a numerical code to be translated into some name such as Nero, Domitian, or Hitler, but if so, the code book has been lost. Moreover, a specific number does not necessarily carry a particular significance in the Apocalypse: six does not necessarily signify "evil and incompleteness," nor seven "completeness and fulfillment" (Sweet 1979, 14-15). The creatures around the heavenly throne have six wings, and the dragon, along with the first beast, has seven heads. More often in the Book of Revelation, measures and numbers disclose inner structures. As Sweet suggests, numbers embody "structural elements of the cosmos," manifested in their relations and ratios (1979, 14). If the sixes in the number of the beast are linked to the sixth seal, sixth trumpet, and sixth bowl—all of which allude to the great, prepared day of the wrath of God on which final conflicts with evil occur—the number is associated with penultimacy and evil destruction.
The repetition of the numbers 12, 144, and 1,000 in 7:4-8 and 21:16-17 creates meaning by connecting "people of God" to "the eternal sanctuary provided by God" (Mounce 1977, 381). More specifically, the 144 cubits of the wall of the city connect to the 144 thousand sealed ones redeemed by God (7:4-8); and the incomparably larger cubed city—twelve thousand stadia long, wide, and high—relates to the great multitude that cannot be counted (7:9-12). Or if that specific connection cannot be sustained, the following ratio can be: 144 cubits of wall are to the 144 thousand redeemed as the twelve-thousand-stadia city-cube is to the totality of those redeemed. 39 In that way the individual measurements of wall and city, which make no sense as specific, individual dimensions, take on significance.
Boundaries and Ratios
The term ratio is often limited to relationships among numbers, but it need not be. The same is true with the term rational. Both derive from the same Latin root and may refer to numbers, but both ratio and rational belong to the sphere of another cognate, reason. All of those cognates refer to fundamental insight a person gains after seeing essential connections and fundamental structures. Newton's insight into gravitation can be expressed as a universal proportion or ratio: as the apple falls, so the moon, and so everything (see Bohm 1983, 21); and that universal proportion discloses something essential in the Newtonian worldview. To grasp essential ratios is to comprehend aspects of an inner structure that unfolds to create a comprehensive vision of the world (see Bohm 1983, 20).
Ratio is a useful term for underscoring the importance of relationships and sets of relationships rather than individuals per se. Just as individual numbers do not disclose insight into the seer's world, so one specific boundary situation does not disclose an understanding of inner structures of the seer's world. Those inner structures are comprehended by comparing boundary situations. As we saw earlier, there are similarities in the contours or shapes of boundaries in the Book of Revelation ; thus there are similarities among the transformations that occur at different boundaries in that book. Those similarities in contours and transformations derive from inner, guiding structures that can be formulated as ratios and universal proportions in the seer's world. Thus, by tracing ratios or proportions throughout boundary situations in every dimension of the seer's world, one can disclose fundamental aspects of the structure of that world: God is to Satan as the Lamb is to the beast, as the faithful are to those who deceive, as the Christian minority is to the larger Roman world; heaven is to earth as the eschatological future is to the present, as the temple is to the space around it, as cultic activity of worship is to everyday activity, as being in the Spirit is to normal consciousness. Ratios and proportions can be formed among social, political, religious, theological, and psychological aspects of the seer's vision because all of those aspects unfold an order implicated and replicated throughout the seer's world.
Relationships and transformations at boundary situations tend to be either of two kinds: homologies or contrasts. One of them is usually more prominent. For example, in the letter to those at Smyrna a homology is made between Satan and those who claim to be Jews (2:9), whereas in chapter 12 the "descent of Satan" transforms an aspect of heaven into its contrasting opposite. Both homologies and contrasts are, however, implicit in every boundary situation. Those who claim to be Jews are homologous to Satan because they oppose true Christians who are homologous to God. Satan's "fall" which transforms him into an opponent of God is homologous to the "fall" of Christians such as those at Ephesus (2:5) and contrasts to the reverse movement of "repentance" offered to Jezebel (2:21). 40 Ratios may be formed among any of those various elements: God is to Satan as the faithful (true Jews) are to those who claim to be Jews. Those Jews are to Satan as the faithful are to God. God is to those Jews as Satan is to the faithful. In brief, boundaries channel a discrete segment of "flow" or "becoming" into a homologous or contrasting element along lines consonant with that inner structure reflected at every boundary. Conversely, by tracing the various ratios among homologues and contrarieties, one discloses the fundamental structure implicated in every boundary.
Sexual expressions in Revelation can illustrate that disclosure. Babylon the Great can boast of many sexual exploits. All the kings of the earth fornicate with her, and those dwelling on earth become drunk from the wine of her sexual passion (14:8, 17:2, 18:3). Babylon is therefore called the Great Whore (17:1), full of abominations and uncleannesses from her fornication (17:4). She destroys the earth by her fornicating (19:2). The same term (p??????) is used of Jezebel, the prophetess at Thyatira, who deceived "my servants" into fornicating and who does not seem to want to repent from her fornication (2:20-21, cf. 2:14). Implicit in this homology is a contrasting element to complete the ratio: Babylon is to Jezebel as X is to the faithful Christians. X is, of course, the Bride of the Lamb, who is clothed in fine, bright, pure linen (19:7-8) and who comes down from heaven as the eschatological Jerusalem (21:9-10). 41
A related homologue occurs in descriptions of eschatological events of judgment and salvation: fornicators experience the "second death," namely, burning in the lake of fire and sulfur (21:8), which is apparently equivalent to dwelling outside the city gates of the heavenly Jerusalem (22:15). 42 Those condemned to the second death contrast with those at Smyrna who conquer (2:11) and with those who share the "first resurrection" and reign as priests with Christ for a thousand years (20:6). 43 They are obviously the ones who will live inside the New Jerusalem, participating in such activities as eating of the tree of life in the restored paradise of God (see 2:7). Fornication is to nonfornication as being outside the New Jerusalem is to being inside the city, as being outside the church proper is to being inside the church proper. 44
As can be seen from this examination of sexuality, almost any boundary in the seer's world can unwind through quantum leaps into religious, social, political, and psychological realities. No one boundary or one kind of boundary can claim a privileged position in that unwinding. Every boundary reiterates every other as proportions are formed among heavenly worship and Christian celebration, appreciation of Roman culture and demonic excess, political power and insubordination before God, Jewish claims and apostasy to Satan, church boundaries and the boundaries of paradise, or ironic kingship and Christian witness. Any and every object that John encounters gains meaning by taking its place on a boundary in the seer's world and entering into his network of homologies and contrarieties.
In the seer's world boundaries do not seem to reinforce fundamental conflicts and antagonisms between religious promises and social disappointments, bodily mortality and spiritual hopes of immortality, or natural impulses and cultural demands; rather, boundaries provide points of transaction whereby religious promises, social encounters, biological givens, and cultural demands undergo mutual adjustments, form homologous relations, and contribute to the coherence, integrity, and wholeness of Christian existence.
If there was irreconcilable contradiction among religious, social, biological, and cultural dimensions of Christian existence, the seer would be affirming that at the most fundamental level of reality there is an eternal, fixed metaphysical dualism. Such a view is antithetical to John's. Only God is Pantocrator (eg., 11:17), and the kingdom of this world has always been, however implicitly, the kingdom of the creator God (see 4:11, 11:15). The syntax and liturgical setting of 11:15 underscore that there is no spatial or temporal dualism between the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. God creates and sustains all things. Transformations and changes permeate every boundary and break down every distinction because there is an underlying dynamic system into and out of which all distinctions fold and unfold. God's dynamic power may flow into rebellious vortices and opposing whorls, but ultimately everything and every power derives from and depends upon God. He is the process that binds past, present, and future; heaven, earth, and subterranean demonic forces; faithful followers, apostates, and infidels. For that reason, this monistic flow of divinely ordered being can never quite be compartmentalized into creature and creator, God and Satan, this age and the age to come, or heaven and earth. That is the unbroken world disclosed through the language of the Apocalypse.
This examination of the seer's vision of the world suggests that it does not contain fundamental conflicts. One element or dimension of the vision is not pitted against another; and terms such as conflict, tension, and crisis do not characterize his vision. Revelation discloses in its depth or innerness a wholeness of vision consonant with the intertexture found at the surface level of his language. At all levels signifiers, signifieds, deep structures, and surface structures form homologies, not contradictory oppositions. The logic of the vision does not progress from oppositions to their resolution. Rather, in all its aspects the language speaks from unbroken wholeness to unbroken wholeness.
ROMAN SOCIETY AND THE PROVINCE OF ASIA
6 Domitian's Reign:
History and Rhetoric
The separation of the seer's language from the social order is an artificial one. John's language—its shape, its genre, the vision it transmits—communicates a message, and that communication is a social act that takes its place in the social order. However visionary John's writing is, it does not operate in a symbolic universe apart from the world of actual, social relations. Moreover, the social order does not exist as a given, simply to be observed with the aid of proper historical tools. The social order is a construction for a person contemporary with it. How much more so for a historian working nineteen centuries later! The historian reconstructs events, imagines social connections, and extrapolates from limited sources so as to construct a plausible order of society. There is room for alternative constructions on issues both small and great. In brief, the "social historical situation" is an imaginative construction built from a critical reading of primarily linguistic evidence—books, speeches, inscriptions, and coins.
In the following chapters I offer a plausible reconstruction of Domitian's reign (chap. 6), social organization in the province of Asia (chap. 9), and the place of Jews and Christians in that province (chaps. 7 and 8). This social order, reconstructed almost entirely from sources other than the Book of Revelation, will provide further evidence that the seer and his audience did not live in a world of conflict, tension, and crisis. Christians lived quiet lives, not much different from other provincials. The economy, as always, had its ups and downs; and the government kept the peace and demanded taxes.
Most scholars today date Revelation to the early 90s CE, the last years of Domitian's principate or rule (see chap. 1). John, of course, was not writing in Domitian's capital; he wrote in the Roman province of Asia, approximately a thousand miles from Rome; nonetheless, the Roman emperor set the direction of political and economic conditions in the provinces. If the Emperor Domitian was a megalomaniacal tyrant, as most commentators on Revelation assume, that perception of Domitian shapes the construction of the social order in the Asian province, which in turn shapes the commentary on the Book of Revelation. If another portrait emerges from a critical examination of the sources, the commentary on Revelation will have to be modified.
First of all, however, a comment needs to be made about the relationship between early Christian and Roman sources. Put simply, commentators on the Book of Revelation (perhaps more generally on early Christianity) tend to approach Roman writings more naively than Christian writings. Frend, for example, writes that historians of the early Christian period have to work on two levels: "that of prophecy and eschatology" when involved with Christian writings and "that of human activity and events" with classical (Roman) authors. Frend concludes, "only seldom ... do these levels coincide. For the rest, Jerusalem and Babylon move on different planes" (Frend 1981, 183-84). Such a sharp distinction between the two types of sources cannot be made; for Christian sources tell us about human activity and events, and classical authors do not simply report human events. A quotation from Pliny or Suetonius or Tacitus raises thorny historiographic problems and does not directly reflect social and historical realities. In short, the following inquiry into Domitian and his reign is also an exercise in reading Roman historical sources. There is considerable detail on Domitian not related directly to the Book of Revelation, but that detail is necessary in order to present convincingly an alternative view of Domitian and his reign. I shall first present aspects of the standard portrait of Domitian, then an assessment of that portrait along with an alternative.
The Portrait of Domitian in Standard Sources
An official portrait of Domitian was drawn a few years after his death by a circle of writers around Pliny the Younger that included Tacitus and Suetonius. This portrait, created in the early years of Trajan's reign, became the standard for most portrayals of Domitian from the second century to the present. Pliny, a Roman author and senator born around 60, refers to Domitian in several of his letters, which were published from about 105-9. 1 Domitian plays a greater role in Pliny's Panegyricus to Trajan, delivered in 100. The Roman historian Tacitus, slightly older than Pliny, refers to Domitian in the Agricola (written around 98), the Gerinania (98-99), and book 4 of the Histories (100-110). Unfortunately, the last books of the Histories, which included Domitian's reign, are not extant. Pliny and Tacitus were good friends who corresponded about hunting, writing, and oratory (see Plin. in Ep. 1.6, 1.20, 7.20, 8.7, 9.10). Pliny took great pride in being a friend of Tacitus and contributing to the Histories. He sent Tacitus information about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, in 79 ( Ep. 6.16, 20) and also about the trial of Baebius Massa in 93 (7.33). Pliny writes to Tacitus, "I am delighted to think that if posterity takes any interest in us the tale will everywhere be told of the harmony, frankness, and loyalty of our lifelong relationship" (7.20). 2
Suetonius was a younger member of Pliny's circle, born circa 70. Pliny helped him at the bar ( Ep. 1.18); in purchasing property (1.24); and in gaining a military tribunate, though Suetonius turned it down (3.8). Suetonius probably served as an assistant to Pliny during his special appointment under Trajan to Bithynia; in a letter from there Pliny asks for special privileges to be granted to Suetonius who "is not only a very fine scholar but also a man of the highest integrity and distinction. I have long admired his character and literary abilities, and since he became my close friend, and I now have an opportunity to know him intimately, I have learned to value him the more" (10.94). 3 Suetonius wrote Lives of the Caesars (from Julius to Domitian) around 120. Those three authors and rhetors set the terms for the understanding and remembering of Domitian's reign. 4
About a century later (215-20) Dio Cassius wrote his histories. Dio, a senator from Bithynia, claims to have read many books on Roman history, no doubt including the works of Suetonius, if not Tacitus and Pliny (see Millar, 1964, 34-38, 85-86). Dio's account of Domitian's reign is no longer extant, but we do have Zonaras' twelfth-century epitome, which supplements Dio with other works (see Millar 1964, 2-3). 5
These sources paint Domitian as evil, almost without qualification. Suetonius, the most generous among the sources, says that Domitian began his reign with some "leniency and self-restraint" but that those qualities "were not destined to continue long, although he turned to cruelty [ saevitia ] somewhat more speedily than to avarice" ( Dom. 10.11). 6 Dio Cassius, writing about a century later, tends to make even more extreme comments about Domitian. He says that Domitian was from the start "not only bold and quick to anger but also treacherous and secretive," traits that resulted in impulsive and crafty behavior (67.1).
The "standard" sources for Domitian and his reign are as follows:
Tacitus Agricola (98)
Pliny the Younger Panegyric (100 CE)
Dio Chrysostom (c. 40-112) Discourses
Juvenal Satires (115-27)
Suetonius Lives of the Caesars (c. 120)
Dio Cassius Roman History (c. 215)
Philostratus (170-245) Lives of the Sophists
Life of Apollonius of Tyana
The most relevant emperors and their reigns are listed in the Chronology, p. xi.
Among those writers saevitia —savageness, cruelty, barbarity, fury—is a favorite term for describing Domitian and his reign. He loved to be flattered; but he himself was fond of no one, although he liked to appear fond of someone when he was about to kill him (Dio Cass. 67.1.1, 67.4.2). 7 Thus, through devious cunning he sometimes appeared to do good and to express love. So Tacitus writes that when Domitian recalled Agricola (Tacitus's father-in-law) from Britain, Domitian greeted him "as his manner was, with affected pleasure and secret disquiet," for Domitian had "decided that it was best for the present to put his hatred in cold storage" (Tac. Agr. 39). Later, when Agricola was on his death bed, Domitian sent physicians down from the palace with regularity, but Tacitus suggests that he did this in order to keep an eye on him (Agr. 43). 8 When Agricola died, Domitian expressed sorrow, as even Tacitus has to admit: Domitian "paraded the semblance of a sorrowing heart; his hate was now no longer anxious, and it was his temperament to hide joy more easily than fear" ( Agr. 43).
The standard historical sources characterize Domitian as mad, too. Sometimes the madness is reported in a light vein. For example, it is said that Domitian used to impale flies on a stylus in solitude, hence the joke, "Where is Domitian? ... He is living in retirement, without even a fly to keep him company" (Dio Cass. 65.9.4-5, Suet. Dom. 3.1). But his madness is also given as the cause of his tyranny and selfimportance. As Suetonius says, "From his youth he was far from being of an affable disposition, but was on the contrary presumptuous and unbridled both in act and in word" ( Dom. 12.3). His tyrannical nature, writes Suetonius, became apparent in 69 when he briefly "ruled" in Rome before his father, Vespasian, returned from Egypt: "He exercised all the tyranny of his high position so lawlessly, that it was even then apparent what sort of a man he was going to be" ( Dom. 1.3). When in 81 Domitian claimed the throne (after the death of his brother Titus), his tyrannical nature dominated. Pliny describes the palace under Domitian as the "place where ... that fearful monster built his defences with untold terrors, where lurking in his den he licked up the blood of his murdered relatives or emerged to plot the massacre and destruction of his most distinguished subjects. Menaces and horror were the sentinels at his doors ... always he sought darkness and mystery, and only emerged from the desert of his solitude to create another" (Pan. 48.3-5). He claimed the office of censorship perpetually and he dominated the consulship (see Pan. 58.3); he employed twenty-four, not twelve, lictors (heralds who announced the approach of the emperor) and wore "triumphal garb whenever he entered the senate house" (Dio Cass. 67.4.3). In brief, as Pliny says in one of his letters, Domitian displayed "a tyrant's cruelty and a despot's licence" (Ep. 4.11.6).
According to the same sources Domitian also engaged in excessive sexual activity. His were unbridled passions (Tac. Hist. 4.68). Suetonius comments that Domitian "was excessively lustful. His constant sexual intercourse he called bed-wrestling, as if it were a kind of exercise. It was reported that he depilated his concubines with his own hand and swam with common prostitutes" (Suet. Dom. 22.1). Apparently Domitian was bisexual, for Suetonius mentioned that Claudius Pollio used to exhibit a letter that he had preserved from the hand of Domitian as a youth, promising Claudius an assignation; he even reports that Domitian was debauched by his successor, Nerva ( Dom. 1.1). Dio Cassius simply comments that Domitian was "profligate and lewd towards women and boys alike" (67.6.3). In that regard, authors play down Domitian's statesmanship in 69 and say that he used his tempo rary authority and power merely for "debauchery and adulteries" (Tac. Hist. 4.2, cf. Agr. 7). He carried on "with the wives of many men," including the wife of Aelius Lamia, a woman he later married (Suet. Dom. 1.3, Dio Cass. 65.3.4). Writers especially enjoy gossiping about Domitian's relations with Julia, the daughter of his brother, Titus. Suetonius says that while Julia was still a young virgin, she was offered to Domitian in marriage; but he refused. Later, when she became the wife of another, he seduced her; and after the death of her husband and her father, he "loved her ardently and without disguise, and even became the cause of her death by compelling her to get rid of a child of his by abortion" ( Dom. 22.1). 9
Early Career and Family Relations
When Vespasian was declared emperor in 69, he was still in Egypt, and his elder son, Titus, was busy in Israel bringing an end to the Jewish rebellion. Domitian, Vespasian's younger son, was thus given a brief stint at governing in Rome until Vespasian could return. As we have seen, Roman authors do not speak favorably about that brief period of power. They also use it to show that Domitian was alienated from his father and brother. Domitian is described as power-hungry and as one whom Vespasian had to reprimand. In response to all the offices that Domitian had appointed while Vespasian was in Egypt, Vespasian thanked his son (ironically) for permitting him to hold office and not dethroning him (Dio Cass. 65.2.3). 10 Dio Cassius writes that when Domitian met his father—not at Rome but in the southern Italian town of Beneventum—he was ill at ease, since he knew what he had done and what he planned to do, and sometimes he even feigned madness (65.9.3). 11 After that, Vespasian required Domitian to live at home and to follow in a litter the emperor's chair and that of his brother Titus (Suet. Dom. 2.1, cf. Tac. Hist. 4.5, Dio Cass. 65.10.1). In response to these pressures Domitian avoided all public service. Tacitus writes, "When Domitian realized that his youth was treated contemptuously by his elders, he abandoned the exercise of all imperial duties, even those of a trifling character and duties which he had exercised before; then, under the cloak of simplicity and moderation, he gave himself up to profound dissimulation, pretending a devotion to literature and a love of poetry to conceal his real character and to withdraw before the rivalry of his brother, on whose milder nature, wholly unlike his own, he put a bad construction" (Hist. 4.86, cf. Suet. Dom. 2.2).
The sources suggest that Titus, the elder brother, was also the favored son. Titus had a mild nature and was well disposed towards Domitian, but after Vespasian died and Titus became emperor (in 79), Domitian continually plotted against Titus (Tac. Hist. 4.52; Suet. Tit. 9.3, Dom. 2.3). Suetonius gives a heartrending account of the brothers Flavian: "Although his brother [Domitian] never ceased plotting against him, but almost openly stirred up the armies to revolt and meditated flight to them, he [Titus] had not the heart to put him to death or banish him from the court, or even to hold him in less honour than before. On the contrary, as he had done from the very first day of his rule, he continued to declare that he was his partner and successor, and sometimes he privately begged him with tears and prayers to be willing at least to return his affection" (Tit. 9.3). At Titus's unexpected, early death (in 81), Dio Cassius reports that Domitian mourned, but it was only pretense: "He delivered the eulogy over him with tears in his eyes and urged that he be enrolled among the demi-gods—pretending just the opposite of what he really desired" (67.2.6, cf. 67.2.4). Earlier Dio Cassius says that according to some when Titus was deathly ill, "Domitian, in order to hasten his end, placed him in a chest packed with a quantity of snow, pretending that the disease required, perhaps, that a chill be administered" (66.26.2, cf. Philostr. VA 6.31-32). 12
Through this rendition of Domitian's relations with his father and brother, Domitian's reign is isolated from that of Titus and Vespasian. He is presented as different from them, a threat to them, and a brother unworthy of them. 13 A friend of Titus could not be a friend of Domitian (see Plin. Ep. 4.9.2); Domitian "outdid himself in visiting disgrace and ruin upon the friends of his father and of his brother. It is true, he issued a proclamation confirming all the gifts made to any persons by them and by other emperors; but this was mere vain show; ... for he regarded as his enemy anyone who had enjoyed his father's or his brother's affection beyond the ordinary or had been particularly influential" (Dio Cass. 67.2.1-2). After Domitian gained power in 81, Dio Cassius says that praising Titus was equivalent to reviling the emperor (67.2.5). These sources can thus praise the Flavian house and still censure Domitian: "This house was, it is true, obscure and without family portraits, yet it was one of which our country had no reason whatever to be ashamed, even though it is the general opinion that the penalty [i.e., death] which Domitian paid for his avarice and cruelty was fully merited" (Suet. Vesp. 1.1).
Domitian's Public Rule
During his fifteen-year reign (81-96), Domitian made campaigns against the Chatti, the Dacians, and the Sarmatians—all of whom lived along the ill-defined northern borders of the empire along the Rhine or Danube. As a consequence of the campaign against the Chatti, Domitian took the name Germanicus. The standard literary sources, in predictable fashion, dismiss Domitian's successes among the Germans. Domitian's return, comments Dio Cassius, "filled him with conceit as if he had achieved some great success" (67.3.5). He goes on to say that Domitian did not so much as see any hostilities in his German campaign (67.4.1). Tacitus says that Domitian gained more triumphal awards than victories ( Germ. 37, cf. Plin. Pan. 11.4). In contrast to Agricola, who had real success in Britain, Domitian's triumphs were "counterfeit," "a laughingstock: he had in fact purchased, in the way of trade, persons whose clothes and coiffure could be adapted to the guise of prisoners" (Tac. Agr. 39). Pliny comments that even rivers played a part in Domitian's shame—"the Danube and Rhine were delighted for their waters to play their part in our disgrace" (Pan. 82.4).
During the latter years of his rule Domitian became—according to these sources—an "object of terror and hatred to all" (Suet. Dom. 14.1). His reign is described as a period of confusion, slaughter, and disorder (Latin strages, Tac. Agr. 45). Tacitus is grateful that his father-in-law did not live to see that political disorder, "to see the Senate-house besieged, the Senate surrounded by armed men, ... [and] consulars butchered" (Agr. 45, cf. Plin. Pan. 76.5). Everywhere were informers ( delatores ) who would indiscriminately make charges of treason against those who had committed no crime. 14 The latter years of Domitian's reign are also said to be in economic disarray: Domitian overspent funds on "grand and costly entertainments," for he loved to appear "in half-boots, clad in a purple toga ... wearing upon his head a golden crown with figures of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva" (Suet. Dom. 4.1, 4). His massive building program contributed to the empire's reduction "to financial straits" ( Dom. 5, 12.1). Because of his financial need, no property was safe from seizure (see Dom. 12.1). Dio Cassius says that Domitian even had people drugged secretly in order to get their estates (67.4.5), and Pliny refers to forged wills ( Pan. 43.1). Domitian is said to have plundered the provinces for the same reason; thus the provincials lived in terror of disaster whenever he traveled through (Plin. Pan. 20.4). Military affairs were also in disorder. Pliny refers to his experience in the military at Syria in the Domitianic period, when "merit was under suspicion and apathy an asset, when officers lacked influence and soldiers respect, when there was neither authority nor obedience and the whole system was slack, disorganized and chaotic, better forgotten than remembered" (Ep. 8.14.7, cf. Pan. 18.1, Dio Cass. 67.3.5).
This chaos in the social and cultural realms became manifest in the larger, cosmic world. Domitian, who at the end was anxious and worried, "disquieted beyond measure by even the slightest suspicions," was given several omens (Suet. Dom. 14.2). Lightning struck the temple of Jupiter and the Flavians, the palace, and the emperor's own bedroom ( Dom. 15.2). Inscriptions on one of his triumphal statues were torn off; Fortuna of Praeneste sent back a most dire omen ( Dom. 15.2). Soothsayers announced the day of his death. 15 Rusticus, whom Domitian had killed earlier, appeared to him in a dream with a sword (Dio Cass. 67.16.1). Then, according to Suetonius, in the midst of all this chaos and disorder, two portents brought assurance: a raven perched on the capitol cried out, "All will be well." And Domitian dreamed "that a golden hump grew out on his back" (Suet. Dom. 23.2). A new, golden age was coming, but not during the reign of Domitian. His, according to our standard sources, was a time of strages —confusion, disorder, and chaos.
Assessing the Standard Sources
This standard portrait of Domitian is clearly not drawn by neutral observers. At every opportunity the writers defame Domitian by emphasizing his evil actions, by attributing malicious motivation to good deeds, or by omitting favorable aspects of his reign. They present private information and psychological motivation about Domitian to which they could not possibly have access. Moreover, their maligning of Domitian is contradicted in almost every instance by epigraphic and numismatic evidence as well as by prosopography, the study of biographies and public careers of senators during Domitian's reign. The standard sources distort virtually every area of Domitian's public and state activity during the time of his emperorship.
Early Career and Family Relations
As we have seen, Domitian's early career, especially his temporary rule (praetorship) in 69, showed his colors, indicating "what sort of a man he was going to be" (Suet. Dom. 1.3). Because of Domitian's forced withdrawal from public life at such an early age (about eighteen years old), the standard sources can claim that when Titus unexpectedly died in 81, Domitian came to the principate or emperorship ill-qualified. Furthermore, Domitian's antipathy towards the friends of either Vespasian or Titus meant that he could not have any trusted advisers for his principate.
Several different kinds of evidence do not square with that rendition of Domitian's early career and that account of his relationships with his father and brother. Tacitus himself indicates that in 69 Domitian performed well many acts of public politics. When Domitian entered the senate in 69, Tacitus writes that he spoke briefly and in moderate terms of his father's and brother's absence and of his own youth; his bearing was becoming; and the confusion that covered his face was regarded as a mark of modesty (Hist. 4.40). 16 The senate passed a motion made by Domitian to restore former emperor Galba's honors. When asked to locate and punish informers, Domitian judiciously replied that "on a matter of such importance he must consult the emperor" (Hist. 4.40). Moreover, Domitian took the lead in the senate, when one group began accusing another of being informers and supporters of recently past regimes "in recommending that the wrongs, the resentments, and the unavoidable necessities of the past be forgotten" (Hist. 4.44); later he made a conciliatory motion that the "consulships which Vitellius had conferred" be canceled (Hist. 4.47). Also, Domitian reassured the army at the time when cohorts and legionaries were being restored and reintegrated (Hist. 4.46). Such activity belies the portrait of Domitian as a royal playboy. 17
From 70 to 81 Domitian did write poetry and probably philandered. 18 But he continued to have a role in the political life of the empire. Neither Vespasian nor Titus sought to exclude Domitian from official duties. Vespasian was committed to the establishment of a dynasty; he had said to the senate "that either his sons would succeed him or he would have no successor" (Suet. Vesp. 25). Vespasian emphasized this dynastic policy through coinage. Kenneth Waters points out that "a lengthy series of Domitianic coins begins early in the reign" of Vespasian and another series continues until 79, when Vespasian died. Similar coinage continues through Titus's short reign. 19 Inscriptions around the empire in the 70s indicate that Domitian held public offices, including the consulate, regularly. 20 Titus and Domitian were jointly chosen to be highest municipal officers around Aquinum in Latium sometime in the early 70s. 21 From Cures in the Sabine region there is a dedicatory inscription to Domitian from sometime between 73 and 76, with the offices of consul ... priest of all colleges, and princeps juventutis (Dessau, ILS 267). The last title, which marks a person as a future emperor, is attributed to Domitian in other inscriptions as well (see Newton 1901, 28, 222). In sum, during the reigns of his father and brother, Domitian received the training of a future emperor. 22
When Domitian acceded to the principate in 81, he not only sanctioned his brother's status of deity, he "seems to have done more for the cult of Titus, than Titus had done for that of Divus Vespasianus" (K. Scott 1975, 62). 23 Domitian completed the temple begun for Vespasian and dedicated it to the cult of Vespasian and Titus; he also built the Porticus Divorum and dedicated the triumphal arch commemorating the Jewish War (K. Scott 1975, 62-63). Most important, he built the Flavian Temple on the site of his birthplace. Statius praises Domitian for consecrating "to his father's line lights that will truly endure, a Flavian heaven" ( Silv. 4.3.18-19, cf. K. Scott 1975, 64-65). Statius and Martial, poets during Domitian's reign, wrote freely in praise of Titus and Vespasian. 24 They would not likely have done this if Domitian viewed praising Titus as equivalent to reviling himself, as Dio Cassius asserts (67.2.5). Nor does Domitian dismiss all who received honor from his father and brother, as Dio Cassius claims (67.2.1-2). Quintilian had been given special favor under Vespasian as a publicly paid teacher, and Domitian chose him to train the sons of Flavius Clemens, who at that time were heirs designate.
Finally, Domitian's relations with Titus's daughter, Julia, were not as clear-cut as suggested by the standard sources. If indeed she died because Domitian forced her to have an abortion, Martial's epigram at the birth of Domitian's son is puzzling : "Julia [already dead] with her own snow-white finger shall draw thy golden threads, and spin for them all the fleece of Phryxus' ewe" (Mart. 6.3, cf. 6.13, 9.1). It is difficult to see how such a destiny would be viewed as propitious had Julia died in forced abortion. Moreover, inscriptions honor Julia and Domitia jointly. 25 There is point to K. Scott's remark, "I cannot help feeling that normal affection between uncle and niece might have been distorted by the scandal-mongers and enemies of the ruler into the story [of incest] which has come down to us" (1975, 76). 26
Domitian's Public Rule
Earlier in this chapter I reviewed what Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio Cassius had to say about Domitian's public rule. They speak with a unified, negative voice. In contrast to those post-Domitian condemnations Quintilian, Frontinus, Statius, Martial, and Silius Italicus—writers from the time of Domitian—praise Domitian's military exploits and successes. "Who could sing of war better," writes Quintilian, "than he who wages it with such skill?" ( Inst. 10.1.91); and Silius Italicus refers to Domitian's successes in Germany as outdoing the exploits of Vespasian and Titus (Pun. 3.607). Martial also compares Domitian's victories against the Chatti favorably with Vespasian and Titus's "Idumaean triumph" (Mart. 2.2, cf. 4.3). Frontinus gives more substance to Domitian's abilities, as he describes the various strategies through which Domitian succeeded against the Chatti: concealing the true reason for his departure from Rome (Str. 1.1.8), fighting on foot (2.3.23), advancing the frontier (1.3.10), and compensating for land taken—"The renown of his justice won the allegiance of all" (2.11.7). 27 Both Martial and Statius remark on Domitian's modesty for refusing a triumph after the Sarmatian campaign (Mart. 8.15, 78; Stat. Silv. 3.3.171, 4.1.34-39, 4.3.159). The writers contemporary with Domitian praise their emperor richly, as Pliny and Dio Chrysostom do their Emperor Trajan. 28
More important for early Christian history is the general characterization of Domitian's reign as repressive, cruel, and savage ( saevissima dominatio ) and Domitian himself as a suspicious, insecure tyrant, feared and hated by all, who aggrandized himself with new forms of imperial worship. 29 That characterization allows for historians to make a "mark" in early Christian history for dating Christian documents and for seeing them as in some way a response to Domitian's "reign of terror." 30 With regards to the Book of Revelation, Domitian's supposed demand that all call him "Our Lord and God" ( dominus et deus noster ) is seen as influencing the language of the seer at Revelation 4:11 (see chap. 1). This characterization of Domitian and his reign, thus, deserves careful assessment.
Domitian and the Imperial Cult
The imperial cult preceded Domitian by many reigns; it came in with the empire itself. 31 Peoples of the eastern Mediterranean, where worship and deification of rulers had a long history, integrated the worship of Augustus into their public cults. 32 In Rome, too, worship of the emperor developed early, albeit out of a sacral tradition different from the East's. In Rome it evolved from the private worship of household gods and the heads of families as well as from Eastern influence. 33 Even the Roman elite participated in the cult of the emperor, recognizing both Augustus and Julius as divine. Hopkins puts it succinctly: "Several modern historians of Rome have dismissed the evidence of our sources as glib flattery or an insincere exaggeration. Perhaps much was, but that does not explain it away. The idea of the emperor's divinity and close association with the divine persisted and was fostered by Roman notables" (1978, 213).
The imperial cult also continued long after Domitian. As Waters says, "All the evidence undoubtedly points to an increasing emphasis on the divinity of the emperor ; this was inevitable, a process which had begun long before Domitian and would continue almost uninterruptedly for two centuries" (1964, 74). That process included Trajan, the modest emperor of Pliny and Dio Chrysostom. Legends and depictions of his coins reflect the imperial cultic tradition; 34 under Trajan the provincials sacrificed to his image, just as they had sacrificed to the images of his predecessors (K. Scott 1932, 164). Like his predecessors, Trajan deifies his relatives, both his natural and adoptive fathers as well as a sister (Plin. Pan. 89). 35 Pliny witnesses to the imperial cult under Trajan. In Bithynia wine and incense are offered to Trajan's statue (Plin. Ep. 10.96.5), and Pliny himself sets up a statue of Trajan, along with images of former emperors, in a temple built specifically for the imperial cult (Ep. 10.8-9). In a letter to Caninius Rufus, who plans to write an epic about Trajan's Dacian wars, Pliny admonishes him to "call the gods to your aid, and among the gods that one [ et inter deos ipso ] whose exploits, achievements and wisdom you are going to celebrate" (Ep. 8.4.5, cf. also Pan. 14.2). Pliny regularly refers to Trajan as dominus in his correspondence with the emperor and often speaks devoutly about him. For example, "The people of Nicaea, Domine, have officially charged me by your immortal name and prosperity [ per aeternitatem tuam salutemque ], which I must ever hold most sacred, to forward their petition to you" (Ep. 10.83). 36 Dio Chrysostom uses a Greek synonym of dominus ("lord") when he boasts, probably about Smyrna, that the god of that city had been the first to proclaim Trajan "master of the world" ( Or. 45.4). 37
Those references to Trajan become important when we consider how authors condemn Domitian for receiving the same titles and for deifying his relatives. With regard to the latter, Pliny goes to great lengths to contrast noble Trajan's act to that of evil Domitian (Pan. 10.4-6, 11.1-4). Arrogant Domitian required titles such as deus, dominus, tyrannus, and despotes, whereas modest Trajan requests civis, parens, pater, and homo. 38
Authors from Trajan's or later times especially condemn Domitian for demanding the title "Our Lord and God" ( dominus et deus noster ). Suetonius says that Domitian delighted "to hear the people in the amphitheatre shout on his feast day: 'Good Fortune attend our Lord and Mistress [ domino et dominae ]'" ( Dom. 13.1; cf. Plin. Pan. 33.4, 52.6). Suetonius states that Domitian had his procurators send out letters in the name of "Our Lord and God" ( dominus et deus noster) and that "the custom arose of henceforth addressing him in no other way even in writing or in conversation" ( Dom. 13.2, cf. Dio Cass. 67.4.7, 67.13.4). Writers also mention the inordinate number of statues of himself that Domitian had erected: "Every approach and step, every inch of the precinct was gleaming with silver and gold" (Plin. Pan. 52.3). Dio Cassius, who writes the story a century later, speaks with greater hyperbole: "Almost the whole world ... was filled with his images and statues constructed of both silver and gold" (67.8.1).
If the statements of these authors writing after Domitian's reign reflect accurately the situation at the time of Domitian, we should expect to find the dominus et deus noster title in writings from his time. Fortunately, we have from Domitian's last years works of both Statius and Quintilian commissioned or requested by Domitian himself. If Domitian demanded that he be called "Our Lord and God," as Suetonius and others say, these works should reflect that requirement.
They do not. In a poem celebrating Domitian's seventeenth consulship in 95one year before his death—Statius refers to the emperor as Caesar, Germanicus, parens, Augustus, and dux but never as either dominus or deus ( Silv. 4.1). In the same year Statius writes a poem for the opening of the Domitian Road by celebrating Domitian with similar titles— Caesar, dux, maximus arbiter, and parens. 39 At the beginning of the Achilleid, published in 95-96, Statius addresses Domitian simply as vates and dux (Achil. 1.14-19). 40 In the preface to book 4 of the Institutio Oratoria Quintilian acknowledges the honor of tutor that is conferred upon him "by such divine appreciation [ judiciorum caelestium ]," by "the most righteous of censors," and by the "prince" (princeps) ( Inst. 4, pref. 2--3). Some form of dominus or deus would have been natural here if the climate of the times had demanded it. Quintilian does continue by calling upon the aid of "all the gods and himself [Domitian] before them all [ omnes... deos ipsumque in primis ] ... for there is no deity [ numen ] that looks with such favour upon learning" ( Inst. 4, pref. 5). Such lofty language is, however, much the same as Pliny urges Caninius Rufus to use with Trajan: Proinde jure vatum invocatis dis, et inter deos ipso, cuius res opera consilia dicturus es" (Ep. 8.4.5). Thus, neither Statius nor Quintilian, each of whom was writing as an official close to the throne at the end of Domitian's reign, uses the titles we would expect, given the statements of Pliny and other standard sources of Domitian's reign. Moreover, among the many inscriptions, coins, and medallions from the Domitianic era there are no references to Domitian as dominus et deus (Viscusi 1973, 94). 41 Finally, we must note the counterevidence from Statius, who writes that when Domitian was acclaimed dominus at one of his Saturnalia, "this liberty alone did Caesar forbid them" ( Silv. 1.6.81-84).
In order to reconcile this conflicting evidence, Kenneth Scott proposes a temporal explanation: the longer Domitian reigned the more tyrannical he became. Early in his reign, for example at the time of the banquet mentioned by Statius, "Domitian wished to be considered a princeps, a constitutional ruler" (1975, 103). Later in his reign, however, he claimed the powers of a dominatio (tyranny) and became a megalomaniac, demanding the honors of a god (p. 109). For evidence, Scott can only turn to the poet and epigrammatist, Martial; for as we have seen, neither Statius nor Quintilian, writers close to the throne, hints at any shift to a dominatio or to Domitianic demands for divine address. In Martial's earliest work he refers to dominus as a term of reproach, but in his fifth book of Epigrams (c. 89) he uses both dominus and deus as titles for Domitian (K. Scott 1975, 107, 109; Mart Spect.; Mart. 5.5, 8; 7.2, 5, 34; 8.2, 82; 9.28, 66). Later, in the second edition of book 10, published in the early reign of Trajan, Martial disavows the flatteries that caused him to speak shamelessly of Domitian as Lord and God ( dominus deusque ). He goes on to contrast Domitian the dominus with Trajan the imperator and senator (Mart. 10.72). Scott interprets Martial's repudiation of earlier usage of dominus et deus as an indication that here "Martial ... revealed his true sentiments" about Domitian's dominatio (1975, 110). Implicit in Scott's remarks is the assumption that Martial uses the dominatio terminology in the latter years of Domitian's reign because of official pressure from the crown, a point difficult to maintain in the face of the evidence cited above from Statius and Quintilian. 42
An alternative explanation better accounts for the use of dominus ("Lord") and deus ("God") in Martial. As Keith Hopkins has pointed out, "Power is a two-way process; the motive force for the attachment between the king and the gods does not come from the ruler alone" (1978, 198). Martial, a poet who sought, but never gained, entrance into Domitian's inner court, approaches power from below. As a potential beneficiary, Martial probably uses extravagant titles to show his devotion to Domitian, just as he later uses extravagant language of repudiation to show his devotion to Trajan (10.72). Other potential beneficiaries approaching power from below also probably used titles such as dominus and deus and were eager to display their zeal for Domitian. So, for example, in Epigrams 7.34, where Martial is praising the builder of Nero's baths, he himself is concerned with a possible response by the malicious crowd who may say, "What do you set above the many structures erected by [Domitian] our Lord and God [ dominus deusque ]?" Martial here concerns himself not with Domitian but with the crowd who are also the ones calling Domitian dominus deusque. They—perhaps including lower-echelon procuratorswere the ones who used such titles during Domitian's reign. The danger lies not with imperial policy but with popular opportunism among those seeking benefits from Domitian (see Thompson 1984, 472-73). From a climate of quick accusations made by people approaching power from below one cannot assume imperial repression and tyrannical madness.
A critical examination of the claims made by the standard post-Domitian sources on Domitian's demand to be called dominus et deus noster in light of evidence from Domitian's reign suggests that the post-Domitian sources do not reflect politi cal realities from the time of Domitian accurately. Domitian did not encourage divine titles such as dominus et deus noster, nor is there evidence that Domitian had become a mad tyrant seeking divinization. The presence of the imperial cult, especially in Asia Minor, is not here being questioned; it had been a significant force in the social life of the Asian province from the time of Augustus. There is no indication, however, that Domitian modified the imperial cult by demanding greater divine honors than either his predecessors or successors (see Prigent 1974, 45583).
Domitian's Saevissima Dominatio
The standard sources written from the time of Trajan or later also assert—as evidence for Domitian's most savage tyranny ( saevissima dominatio )—that he indiscriminately made charges of disloyalty ( impietas ) and treason ( majestas ) and planted informers (delatores) everywhere. 43 No doubt Domitian, like every other emperor, had his informers; perhaps, as McDermott and Orentzel say, informers were necessary to the Roman legal system (1977, 26). It is not evident, however, that Domitian abused his use of them. Josephus praises Domitian in the Antiquities for not accepting accusations against him by certain Jews, and he writes that Domitian "gave command that a servant of mine, who was a eunuch, and my accuser, should be punished" (Joseph. Vit. 76). 44 In a section where Suetonius still has some good things to say about Domitian, he writes that Domitian "checked false accusations designed for the profit of the privy purse and inflicted severe penalties on offenders ; and a saying of his was current that an emperor who does not punish informers hounds them on" ( Dom. 9.3). Suetonius limits that saying to the first part of Domitian's reign, before he turned cruel and avaricious ( Dom. 10.1). Dio Cassius refers to a version of the same saying but explains it away on different lines: Domitian would instigate informers to give evidence but then have them punished so "that they alone should appear to have been the authors of the wrongdoing. It was with this same purpose that he once issued a proclamation to the effect that, when an emperor fails to punish informers, he himself makes them informers" (Dio 67.1.4). The saying itself fits with the evidence from Josephus; the explanations by those retrospective writers make the saying compatible with the view of Domitian standardized in Trajan's reign.
Authors writing after Domitian's death in 96 associate Domitian's informers with his arbitrary charges of treason ( majestas ). Pliny says that Domitian brought charges of majestas to "incriminate men who had committed no crime" ( Pan. 42.1). "It was enough," Suetonius writes, "to allege any action or word derogatory to the majesty of the prince [ majestas principis ]" ( Dom. 12.1). Any offense to the princeps was an offense to the state; even a slighting of Domitian's gladiators, according to Pliny, could bring recriminations (Pan. 33.3-4). 45 Suetonius says that Flavius Sabinus was killed because a crier inadvertantly announced him as emperor elect instead of consul ( Dom. 10.4). 46 Pliny's friends, Senecio, Junius Arulenus Rusticus, and Helvidius Priscus the Younger were killed by Domitian for, respectively, writing a life of Helvidius Priscus the Elder, publishing eulogies of Paetus Thrasea and Helvidius Priscus the Elder, and writing a play about Paris and Oenone that really censured Domitian's divorce ( Dom. 10.3-4). 47 Dio Cassius reports that the sophist Maternus was killed because he referred to tyrants in a practice speech (67,12.5). 48
Quintilian, however, writes (towards the end of Domitian's reign) in unequivocal terms about the evil of tyranny: "Suppose a man to have plotted against a tyrant and to be accused of having done so. Which of the two will the orator, as defined by us, desire to save? And if he undertakes the defence of the accused, will he not employ falsehood with no less readiness than the advocate who is defending a bad case before a jury?" ( Inst. 12.1.40). Regarding the danger of speaking favorably about Paetus Thrasea, Martial (during Domitian's reign) refers to "great" ( magnus ) Thrasea in book 1 and to Thrasea's "constancy" ( constantia ) in book 4 (Mart. 1.8, 4.54.7). 49 The critic Peter Howell is surprised that Martial could still refer to Thrasea and stoic virtue at such a late date, for by this time (88-89) Domitian should be a mad tyrant (1980, 126). Sherwin-White sums up nicely: "In all these cases [of Pliny's friends] the anecdotal sources relate only isolated elements of the charges against the accused. The elder Helvidius had formed a faction out of his friends and relatives against Vespasian," and Domitian "made a clean sweep of the Helvidian coterie, late in his reign, after trying to placate them with high office or the offer of it" (1966, 243).
Throughout Domitian's reign Martial refers favorably to people like Paetus Thrasea and Caesonius Maximus from the reigns of Claudius and Nero, and to Cato, Pompey the Great, and Brutus—figures from the past who championed free speech and senatorial power. 50 Furthermore, although Martial praises Caesar Domitian for reviving the Lex Julia against adultery, he also pokes fun at it and even criticises it implicitly. To Faustinus he writes, "Since the Julian law, Faustinus, was reenacted for the peoples, and Chastity was commanded to enter our homes, 'tis the thirtieth day—perhaps less, at least no more—and Telesilla is now marrying her tenth husband. She who marries so often does not marry; she is adulteress by form of law; by a more straightforward prostitute I am offended less" (Mart. 6.7). 51 Suetonius says that Domitian was "so sensitive about his baldness, that he regarded it as a personal insult [ contumelia ] if anyone else was twitted with that defect in jest or in earnest" ( Dom. 18.2). Yet Martial freely ridicules Labienus (5.49), Phoebus (6.57, 12.45), and Marinus (10.83) because they are bald. Szelest shows that those elements in Martial's epigrams help to explain why Martial was never accepted into Domitian's inner circle, but those same elements witness to the freedom in Domitian's reign to laud the opposition and to comment on Domitian and his social programs. 52
Neither Pliny nor Tacitus limits Domitian's violence ( saevitia ) to the last years of his reign; Tacitus describes the whole fifteen-year reign of Domitian as one of violence ( Agr. 3, cf. Plin. Pan. 52.7); only its intensity shifted. Scholars, however, generally tend to follow Suetonius' schema of a good emperor gone bad; Suetonius gives no precise time when the shift to evil occurred, but the standard portrait usually marks it around 89, after the revolt of Saturninus. 53 Brian Jones (1979) has shown the difficulties with that schema. We need only summarize his prosopographical analyses.
Saturninus's revolt in Upper Germany in 89 resulted in some reorganization of the army and punishment of rebellious officers, but it was a military, not a senatorial, affair (B. Jones 1979, 30-32, 35). No policy shift in appointments occurs after 89 to suggest greater conflict with the senate or a suspicious, fearful attitude on the part of Domitian. A few years later there was conflict between Domitian and the Helvidians: several members of that coterie were killed or exiled, and philosophers were expelled from Rome, probably in 93 (see Sherwin-White 1966, 763-71). Not long before Domitian was murdered, Epaphroditus and Flavius Clemens were killed. Those few unconnected facts, however, offer no basis for assuming an "everincreasing ferocity" by Domitian. In 95, for example, Lucius Maximus, whom Dio Cassius (67.11) suggests worked against Domitian in the Saturninus revolt by burning incriminating papers, received a second consulship, the only one in Domitian's reign. In contrast to Pliny's comments that Domitian himself dominated the consulship, the records show that Domitian took only three consulships in the last eight years of his reign; in 96, the year of his death, Domitian was not consul. 54 As Waters observes, "The aristocracy, the post-Augustan nobility that is to say, continued to receive the consulships to the very end" (1964, 66). Domitian's assassination was a palace affair and did not involve the senate or the praetorian prefects. Some senators may have rejoiced at his death, but the body as a whole did not. Silius Italicus—member of a wealthy, prominent senatorial family—shows genuine admiration for Domitian long after his death. 55 Domitian had no heir, and with the advent of a new dynasty there was sufficient support to abolish his memory by erasing his name on monuments, inscriptions, and the like. According to Fulvio Grosso, however (as cited by Brian Jones), for the empire as a whole only thirtyseven percent of the inscriptions are effaced, suggesting "that not all senators agreed with the official decision" and "that it was by no means implemented universally." 56 There is no reliable information on the number of senators who opposed Domitian at any time during his reign. Prosopographical analyses show, however, that Domitian "gradually abandoned the Flavian monopoly of the ordinary consulships," that he promoted deserving senators, and that he tried to mollify his opposition by honoring them with suffect consulships (i.e., appointments made during the year) (B. Jones, 1973, 91). Those would not seem to be the policies of a cruel tyrant, suspicious of those around him and fearful of sharing power.
Trajan's Reign as a New Era
Those who establish the official view of Domitian write in the early years of the reign of Trajan. What they say about Domitian's reign does not square with epigraphic, numismatic, and prosopographical evidence from the Domitianic period. Furthermore, their assertions about Domitian are disconfirmed in the writings from Domitian's rule. What they say about Domitian is shaped by their situation under Trajan. To understand why they shape Domitian's portrait the way they do, we must inquire more fully into the period of transition between Domitian and Trajan.
Continuities and Discontinuities
In contrast to the upheaval that came with the change of dynasties in 69, the transition from Domitian, the last of the Flavians, to Trajan and the Antonines went smoothly. After the brief, ineffectual reign of Nerva (96-97), Trajan became emperor in 98. Analyses of prosopography and imperial policy show how smoothly the transition was made. Administrative personnel remained much the same. Careers of talented public officials such as Gnaius Octavius Titinius Capito, Fabricius Veiento, and Corellius Rufus, as well as Pliny and Tacitus, continue uninterrupted in the transition. 57 Syme notes that "apart from persons related by blood or marriage, Trajan's most powerful allies [were sought] among the consuls of the last decade of Domitian's reign.... Next after the recent consuls come the men of praetorian rank, commanding legions or governing provinces in the last years of Domitian" (1958, 1:50-51). 58 Trajan also followed Domitian in electing more senators from the East and using more equestrian officials. Imperial policy continued along the same lines: autocracy in relation to the senate, the assumption of imperial titles and use of legends on coins, 59 road building in the East, prohibition of vines, policy toward Christians, use of Domitian's newly established offices for cities, and perhaps even in the basic strategies of military and foreign policies. 60 Moreover, Trajan uses Domitian's official correspondence and imperial decisions as precedents for his dealing with Asian problems (see Plin. Ep. 10.58, 60, 65, 66, 72).
Nerva and Trajan were not strangers to the Flavians. Nerva received his first consulship in 71 as colleague with Vespasian and his second in 90 with Domitian. The whole of Trajan's record of public life ( cursus honorum ) occurred under the Flavians: quaestor in 78, praetor in circa 84, then to the Seventh Legion. During his time there he apparently helped to suppress the mutiny of Saturninus in 89, and in 91 he received an ordinary consulship with Marcus Acilius Glabrio. 61 Later writers go to great pains to explain away those connections with Domitian. Dio Cassius acknowledges that Nerva was in Domitian's closest circle but claims that Domitian would have killed him had not a friendly astrologer declared to Domitian that Nerva "would die within a few days" (67.15.5-6, cf. Mart. 12.6). Pliny prays for Trajan's safety in the Panegyricus : "This is no new concern we ask of you [Jupiter], for it was you who took him [Trajan] under your protection when you snatched him from the jaws of that monster of rapacity [Domitian]; for at the time when all the peaks were tottering to their fall, no one could have stood high above them all and remained untouched except by your intervention. So he [Trajan] escaped the notice of the worst of emperors [Domitian], though he could not remain unnoticed by the best [Nerva]" (94.3). 62
There were of course discontinuities. The personalities of the emperors were different: perhaps Domitian lacked tact and enjoyed being alone, perhaps Nerva was diffident, and Trajan diplomatic; we cannot be sure, for our sources are hardly trustworthy in portraying psychological nuances. More importantly, neither Nerva nor Trajan had a backlog of dynastie support—political legitimacy and divine relatives—which Domitian had by virtue of being the third Flavian. The most important discontinuity was marked out during Nerva's brief interlude. Nerva advertises his reign as a "new era." Coin legends proclaim libertas publica, salvus, aequitas, and justitia. He also proclaims it in edicts, one of which happens to come down to us in Pliny's correspondence: "There are some matters, citizens, which need no edict in happy times like ours, nor should a good ruler have to give evidence of his intentions where they can be clearly understood. Every one of my subjects can rest assured without a remainder that, in sacrificing my retirement to the security of the State, it was my intention to confer new benefits.... No one on whom the fortune of the Empire has smiled, shall need to renew his petitions in order to confirm his happiness. Let my subjects then permit me to devote myself to new benefactions, and be assured that they need ask only for what they have not hitherto been granted" (Ep. 10.58.7-9). Nerva was probably committed to certain "republican" ideals and was willing to relinquish the power of the "sovereign" ( princeps ). Nerva and his cohorts set out, probably with genuine intention, to change the balance of power between princeps and senate and thereby to inaugurate a new era. Tacitus echoes that official dogma in the early work Agricola (c. 98): "Now at last heart is coming back to us: from the first, from the very outset of this happy age, Nerva has united things long incompatible, Empire and liberty" ( Agr. 3). But as Syme says, Nerva's short reign was "an interruption in the development of the Roman government in the Flavio-Antonine period" (1958, 2:631).
Nerva had little effect in the course of imperial development. His successor, Trajan, returned to governing as a strong princeps supported by the military. There is a breach in continuity between the principatus of Nerva and the imperium of Trajan (cf. Syme 1958, 1:12; Waters 1969, 386-87). Although Trajan rejects Nerva's notion of principatus, he retains Nerva's propaganda about a break with the past. Trajan claims to continue the Nervan "new age" of libertas, senatorial power, and freedom of expression. Trajan's official propaganda can be seen in a rescript to Didius Secundus, preserved in the Justinian Digest: "I am aware that the property of persons who have been relegated has been confiscated to the Treasury [ fiscus ] by the avarice of former times, 63 but a different course is agreeable to my clemency, as I wish to give this additional example to show that I have favored innocence during my reign." 64 In brief, Trajan follows Domitian in areas of state personnel and imperial policy; but in propaganda and ideology, he follows Nerva and propagates a "new era" from the death of Domitian.
Trajan is not unique in proclaiming a break with "former times." Politicians from all ages have used the idea of "newness" to establish and to legitimate themselves in the political arena. 65 Nor are Trajan's ideological themes of rejecting tyranny and divinity unique; both Augustus and Vespasian are portrayed as emphasizing the same themes at the beginning of their respective dynasties. Through a combination of social-political realities, senatorial ideals, imperial ideologies, and tendencies in Roman historiography, Roman sources portray the first ruler of a new dynasty as righting the balance between senate and princeps that has become imbalanced through the successive rulers of the previous dynasty.
Rhetoricians of a New Era
In order to propagate his ideology effectively Trajan required more than edicts and rescripts. Not a man of letters, he needed proficient writers and orators who could both articulate and transmit his ideology. C. P. Jones observed, "So far from regarding literature with amused tolerance, Trajan ensured that his reign and conquests would be celebrated directly or indirectly by a flourishing of Greek and Latin letters" (1978, 116). Trajan found many of his needs met in Pliny the Younger, Dio Chrysostom, and Tacitus. Each of these figures no doubt had his own complex set of motives for supporting Trajan and beginning to write under him. Dio's motives were the least complicated: exiled under Domitian, he was honored by Trajan. Pliny and Tacitus, however, had successful public careers under Domitian and were no doubt concerned to establish their loyalty to old friends returning from exile and to the new regime (see Plin. Pan. 45.5). Moreover, they were probably genuinely excited by the possibility of helping to shape the direction of the new dynasty. Trajan valued their particular form of oratory and writings in ways that would have been, at the most, redundant under a Domitian with the authority and legitimacy of the Flavian dynasty.
Dio Chrysostom (Golden Mouth) from Prusa became, in the words of C. P. Jones, an "eloquent witness of the 'new age' and its vaunted conciliation of the principate with liberty"; "His works exemplify the way a benevolent monarchy can mold opinion. Largely through Dio, Trajan transmitted to posterity a picture of himself as the ideal king" (1978, 53, 123). Dio delivered his first discourse on kingship before Trajan at Rome in 100, the same year as Pliny's panegyric to Trajan. In it he characterizes the ideal king "to whom the son of Saturn gives the sceptre" (1.11); and, as Jones points out, this ideal king "turns out to have a distinct resemblance to Trajan" (1978, 116-17).
Pliny the Younger runs a close second to Dio Chrysostom in his praise of Trajan as benevolent founder of a new era of liberty. Like Trajan, Pliny was well known to Domitian. He moved into senatorial status—probably in the late 80s—as quaestor principis, attached to the emperor Domitian as a courier between senate and prin ceps. He became praetor in 93, during which tenure he was involved with public prosecution (see Plin. Ep. 3.11, 7.33). At the end of that year several of his friends were either exiled or put to death "so that," he says later, "I stood amidst the flames of thunderbolts dropping all round me, and there were certain clear indications to make me suppose a like end was awaiting me" ( Ep. 3.11.3-4, Pan. 90.5). Elsewhere Pliny says that after 93 his career was checked by Domitian and even that he would have been brought to trial had Domitian lived longer (Ep. 4.24.4-5, 7.27.14; Pan. 95.3-4). From Pliny's own writings we would assume that his next appointment after praetor occurred under Nerva in 98, when he was made an officer over the main state treasury ( praefectus aerari saturni ) (Ep. 10.3A, 5.14.5, 10.8.3; Pan. 91.1, 90.6); that fits with his statements about a checked career and danger in the last years of Domitian's reign. According, however, to his public career ( cursus honorum ) on an inscription from Pliny's hometown of Comum, immediately after the praetorship in 93 Domitian appointed Pliny to the important post of treasurer of the military ( praefectus aerari militaris ). 66 Contrary to Pliny's own statements, his career was not checked after the trouble in 93; indeed it was furthered. 67 Pliny claims, however, to come to restored liberty under Trajan "awkward and inexperienced" ( Ep. 8.14.3, 9.13.4; Pan. 48.3, 76.3). Perhaps Trajan was a bit slow in using the young Pliny in his administration, as Syme suggests, but Pliny came to be a strong supporter and an effective proponent of Trajan's ideals. He spent his last years as Trajan's special envoy to Bithynia (see Syme 1958, 1:83, but cf. Plin. Ep. 10.2).
Pliny's Panegyricus was delivered orally at Rome in 100 in honor of the Emperor Trajan. 68 Pliny announces at the beginning that the new era requires a new response, a new word in a new style. "It is my view," he writes, "that not only the consul but every citizen alike should endeavour to say nothing about our ruler which could have been said of any of his predecessors.... The sufferings of the past are over: let us then have done with the words which belong to them. An open tribute to our Emperor demands a new form.... Times are different, and our speeches must show this" (2.1-3). The new speech should be frank and sincere, removed from both flattery ( adulatio ) and constraint (1.6). No word under Trajan need be prompted by fear, for Trajan is not one to be flattered as a divinity and a god. He is a fellowcitizen ( civis ), not a tyrant ( tyrannus ); our father ( parens ), not our overlord ( dominus ) (2.3). Never forgetting that he is a man himself, he delights in the liberty, not the servitude, of his subjects (2.4-5). Dio Chrysostom follows the same line. The good king may be called father, but not master (d?sp?t??); he rules for the sake of all men, therefore no one need feel terror or fear around him. He values sincerity and truthfulness, not unscrupulousness and deceit (Or. 1.22-26). Dio Chrysostom says to Trajan, "You delight in truth and frankness rather than in flattery and guile" ( Or. 3.2, cf. 3.12-13). In his third discourse Dio Chrysostom spends more than twelve sections making clear that he does not flatter in his praise to Trajan (see Waters 1969, 399)! From these concurrences in Pliny and Dio, C. Jones concludes, "There is no evidence that one influenced the other; rather, they express the ideology of a particular time.... By their coincidences, among them their coinciding claims to frankness and spontaneity, they are revealed as the servants of his [Trajan's] wishes" (1978, 118-19). Pliny himself gives us the clue when he advises Vettenius Severus about writing a speech of tribute to the emperor: Pliny says concerning his own panegyric, "I made a point of avoiding anything which looked like flattery [ adulatio ], even if not intended as such, acting not on any principle of independence but on my knowledge of our Emperor" (Ep. 6.27.2, my emphasis). Pliny and Dio speak in a style pleasing to the emperor. Their adulation of him as princeps and bearer of libertas reflects the image that Trajan seeks to propagate; their preoccupation with sincerity and frankness of speech without adulatio is a correlate to Trajan's image as a modest, human, and "plain" man.
There seems to be a certain fluidity in the forms of praise that Pliny uses. In a letter to Vibius Severus in which Pliny tells about reading his revised Panegyricus before some friends, he observes, "This is yet another tribute to our Emperor: a type of speech which used to be hated for its insincerity has become genuine and consequently popular today" (Ep. 3.18.7). How new, then, is the form of speech in the Panegyricus? Here Pliny suggests that while past and present types of speech remain the same, under Trajan laudation is genuine.
Tacitus managed a successful career under Domitian: praetor in 88, he was appointed to the board quindecimviri sacris faciundis that directed the Secular Games ( Ann. 11.11.1); he was away from Rome, probably as a legionnaire, during the period 89-93; and consul designate in 96, most likely selected by Domitian (see Syme 1958, 1:70). In retrospect, however, Tacitus characterizes those times of success as a period of submissive silence, deprived "even of the give and take of conversation." For fifteen years under Domitian those who managed to live, says Tacitus, did not open their lips (Agr. 2-3, cf. 45). 69 In contrast, Tacitus praises not only the most blessed era of Nerva but also Trajan's daily increase of the happiest of times ( Agr. 3). Tacitus laments that his father-in-law did not live to see Trajan's most blessed era, a reign that Agricola had frequently prophesied in Tacitus's hearing ( Agr. 44). After completing a successful public career under Trajan with his proconsulship of Asia in circa 112, Tacitus retired from public life, presumably to devote full time to his writings. In the Agricola and later in the Histories he promises to record for posterity the happy times of Nerva and Trajan, "an age in which we may feel what we wish and may say what we feel" (Hist. 1.1, cf. Agr. 3). But like Statius who kept putting off his work on Domitian's feats in Germany, Tacitus never fulfilled his promise to Nerva and Trajan. We do not know the reason. Perhaps he became disaffected with Trajan, as the expectations of Trajan's early years were not realized in ways that satisfied Tacitus; 70 perhaps the promise was nothing more than a literary convention; 71 perhaps he simply did not live long enough to do all that he meant to do. In any case, the early works of Tacitus reflect the official propaganda of Nerva and Trajan. Scholars may debate the extent to which the Agricola is a political tract, but in it Tacitus unquestionably joins with Dio Chrysostom and his close friend Pliny in flattering Trajan according to the style acceptable to the emperor.
For all those writers, contrast with Domitian serves as a device for praising Trajan (C. Jones 1978, 118). Speaking before Trajan, Dio Chrysostom tells how Hermes led Heracles to the two peaks—the "Peak Royal" and the "Peak Tyrannus." The former represents Trajan; the latter is characterized by all the stock traits of Domitian in the retrospective writings (Or. 1.67-82). More explicitly, in the fortyfifth discourse, Dio Chrysostom contrasts the most-hated Domitian, under whom he suffered exile, with "the most noble Nerva" and the "benevolence and an ... interest" that Trajan has shown him (Or. 45.1-2). 72 In the Agricola Tacitus sets up the same contrast: our former servitude versus our present good (Agr. 3). Agricola was not permitted to see "the light of this most happy age," but through his hastened death he escaped the strages, "that last period, in which Domitian drained the state, no longer at intervals and with respites of time, but with, as it were, one continuous blow" ( Agr. 44). The contrast reappears at the beginning of the Histories, on which Waters remarks, "Tacitus' attempt (Hist. 1.1) to define libertas as the absence of adulatio seems to fail; flattery continued unabated under the new regime, often thinly disguised as denigration of Domitian; the change of men produced no change of manners" (1964, 69). In the Panegyricus Pliny underscores the importance of contrast in his praise of Trajan: "Eulogy is best expressed through comparison, and, moreover, the first duty of grateful subjects towards a perfect emperor [ optimus imperator ] is to attack those who are least like him: for no one can properly appreciate a good prince who does not sufficiently hate a bad one.... With all the more assurance, Conscript Fathers, can we therefore reveal our griefs and joys, happy in our present good fortune and sighing over our sufferings of the past, for both are equally our duty under the rule of a good prince" ( Pan. 53). Pliny constructs the Panegyricus on that principle as he sets Domitian's evil and weakness against Trajan's goodness and strength. 73 What a pleasure it is for Pliny to be suffect consul during September, a month of triple rejoicing "which saw the removal of the worst emperors [Domitian], the accession of the best [Nerva], and the birth of one even better than the best [Trajan]" (Pan. 92.4)!
Those examples of the use of contrast illustrate how a retrospective presentation of Domitian and his reign serves as foil in the present praise of Trajan. Their relationship is constructed to form contrasting pairs in which each member reciprocally shapes the other. Domitian has to be the opposite of Trajan—the more evil Domitian, the better the Optimus. Domitian's evil tyranny displays the life of liberty under Trajan, just as Trajan's humanness requires Domitian's exaggerated divinity. The reigns of the two emperors oppose each other: Trajan's principatus requires of Domitian a dominatio. 74 As a paired member, Domitian inevitably becomes a flat character, for there is no room to develop him as a complex figure composed of a variety of attitudes and motivations. He is Trajan's foil, so our writers' conceptions of Trajan shape their presentation of Domitian at least as much as any other single force.
The opposing of Trajan and Domitian in a binary set serves overtly in Trajan's ideology of a new age as well as covertly in his praise. Newness requires a beginning and therefore a break with the past; such a break is constructed rhetorically through binary contrast. Propagandists for a new age have to sharpen both edges of their two-edged sword: both the ideal present and the evil past have to be exaggerated. The sharper the contrast, the clearer the break and the more evident the new era. As we have seen, in most respects Trajan carried on the policies and administration of Domitian; therefore adjustments had to be made in order to fabricate a break with the Flavian period. On the other hand, several factors in the Flavio-Antonine era made the task easier. There is a fluidity not only in forms of praise, as we have seen, but also in terms like libertas and principatus. None of our writers supports political revolution or radical social change. Most are chary of extending power and privilege: Pliny's paternalism towards his slaves is one thing; egalitarianism quite another. Only subtle differences distinguish emperors and dynasties in their shifting mix of liberty and stability, of republican forms and imperial control. Moreover, in an empire where friend and foe "appeared identical down to the smallest detail" (MacMullen 1966, 243), when newness is announced, one can never be sure who, if anyone, has switched sides. 75
Ideology-a verbal product-need not be embodied in practice, and pundits will differ on whether it was embodied or not. But ideological factors in the FlavioAntonine era make for considerable leeway when it comes to matching word and deed in Trajan's "new age" and to contrasting that age with Domitian's time. We need not mar a Pliny's commitment to Trajan with cynical response. His support and that of the others were genuine. But present commitments that involve contrasting pairs—combined with fluid, pliable terms—can shape perceptions of the past (and present) decisively.
7 Christians in the
Province of Asia
On the basis of the previous chapter it would at best be hazardous to assume an empirewide political crisis during Domitian's reign. Writers such as Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio Chrysostom cannot be appealed to uncritically as evidence for corruption, terror, and intensification of imperial demands for divinity under Domitian. As we have seen, Domitian served those writers as foil for Trajan: Trajan's rule as proper "leader" (princeps) was enhanced by portraying Domitian as a tyrant, just as Trajan's proper humanity was enhanced by Domitian's exaggerated divinity. Domitian was no more or less demanding an emperor than those who came before or after him. It would be a mistake to interpret the Book of Revelation as a response to Domitian's supposed excessive claims to divinity or to a reign of terror at the end of Domitian's rule. Domitian provided economic and political stability for the whole empire at least as well as did other emperors at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second.
John of Revelation is concerned, however, with Christian life in a very specific location in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. He writes to seven churches in seven cities in the province of Asia along the western edge of Asia Minor. He experienced his visions on the island of Patmos, off the city of Miletus. Thus, within the Roman Empire, Revelation is to be associated with urban life in the province of Asia. Conditions there are more important to him than life at Rome, and the social and political institutions and arrangements in those cities of Asia are the backdrop for Revelation. For that reason we turn now to local conditions in Asia. The procedure will be to move in ever-larger concentric circles, beginning with Christian life in the province of Asia (the present chapter), then Jewish life in that province (chap. 8), and finally, social, economic, and political life in the cities of Asia where Christians lived and worked (chap. 9). Throughout these chapters special attention will be given to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—the cities of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
Distribution of Christian Communities
Evidence for Christian communities in the cities of Asia comes for the most part from Christian sources. The earliest sources are the letters associated with Paul's name; later are the churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation and Ignatius. Ignatius sends letters to Asian churches at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Philadelphia, and Smyrna and to Polycarp, bishop at Smyrna. Thus, correspondence with Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia is found in both the Book of Revelation and Ignatius; Pergamum, Sardis, and Thyatira are referred to only in the Book of Revelation; and Magnesia (on the Meander) and Tralles are mentioned only in Ignatius.
From the late first and early second centuries, there are no inscriptions or coins that mention Christianity and few references to Christians by non-Christian writers. This complicates our attempt to place Christians in the social world of Asia, for the Christian sources refer only incidentally to factors that could contribute to a social profile. Christian writers are concerned primarily about life and thought within the churches rather than about demographic features of early Christians.
Our earliest reference to Christians in Asia comes from a letter of Paul written from Ephesus, probably in the early 50s, about forty years before the seer wrote the Book of Revelation. Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul states that he plans to remain at Ephesus until Pentecost, "for a door for me opened, a door great and powerful [or effective], and those opposing are many" (1 Cor. 16:9). The sentence is highly metaphoric, and it is not altogether clear what is being said about Paul's activity in Ephesus. The dramatic contrast between the opposition and Paul's open door has something to do with missionary opportunities there (see 2 Cor. 2:12), but little more can be concluded from it. 1 From the same letter it is clear that Paul is not alone at Ephesus. There are, or have been, other Christian leaders there; he asks the Corinthians to send along Timothy if he should come to Corinth; and through Paul "the churches of Asia" send greetings, as do Aquila and Prisca, along with the church that meets in their house (1 Cor. 16:19, cf. Rom. 16:3).
Paul stayed at Ephesus for three years—at least according to the writer of the Acts of the Apostles (20:31), written between 80 and 100, thirty to forty years after Paul's letter to Corinth. Although this source cannot be taken uncritically as a statement about social relations in the time of Paul, it does reflect at least one Christian's understanding, towards the end of the first century, of the emergence and presence of Christianity at Ephesus.
According to that writer, Paul first stopped at Ephesus as he was traveling from Corinth to Syria. 2 He was accompanied there by Priscilla (Prisca) and Aquila (Acts 18:18-19), who, like Paul, were Jewish tentmakers. According to Acts 18:2 Aquila was a native of Pontus (northern Asia Minor), but Aquila and Priscilla had more recently come to Corinth from Rome, as a result of the Emperor Claudius' expulsion of the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:1-2, see Smallwood 1981, 210-16). Paul first met these two in Corinth, where the three worked together in common occupation. Then they travelled together to Ephesus, where, as we have seen, Priscilla and Aquilia eventually established a house church and became a patron of the church at Ephesus (see 2 Tim. 4:19). Still later, according to Paul's letter to the Romans, they have a house church at Rome (Rom. 16:3-5). 3 From their mobility, occupation, and house churches we may conclude that these church leaders and devout Christians were fairly wealthy independent artisans, originally a part of the Jewish community in Asia Minor. 4
After a brief contact with the synagogue at Ephesus, Paul goes on to Syria. At this point the author of Acts introduces a story about Apollos. Apollos is a learned (logios) Alexandrian Jew, well versed in the Scriptures, and a teacher "in the way of the Lord" (Acts 18:24-28). The adjective logios implies "rhetorical ability, perhaps also rhetorical training" (Meeks 1983a, 61). He taught accurately concerning Jesus, but he knew only John's baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila (the woman is again mentioned first) hear him in the synagogue, they take him aside to teach him "the way of God more accurately." Apollos then wishes to cross over to Achaea, more specifically to Corinth, "and the brethren encouraged him" to do that (Acts 18:27). 5 Apollos travels independently. Paul says in his Corinthian correspondence that he strongly urged "our brother Apollos to visit you ... but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity" (1 Cor. 16:12, cf. Titus 3:13). Apollos is thus another Christian convert from Judaism who has independent means and in addition is probably educated in rhetoric.
Still according to Acts, "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples" (19:1). This account reads like another version of Paul's entrance into Ephesus. No mention is made of Apollos, Priscilla, or Aquila. The disciples Paul found at Ephesus had been baptized only "into John's baptism," which in the earlier account was said of Apollos (Acts 18:25). They are then baptized "in the name of the Lord Jesus"; when Paul places his hands on them, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they speak in tongues and prophesy. Altogether there are about twelve of them (Acts 19:1-7). For about three months Paul argues in the synagogue about "the kingdom of God." Because of opposition and disbelief among those in the synagogue, Paul withdraws with his disciples to "the hall of Tyrannus." He argued daily there for two years, "so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:8-11).
A somewhat curious story is told in Acts 19:11-20 about Paul's healing powers, Jewish exorcists, and magic at Ephesus—all of which, according to Acts, contribute toward a church greater in number and purer. After a powerful display of the exclusiveness of Christian exorcism in which several Jewish exorcists are injured by evil spirits, a number of Christian believers come forward confessing that they practice magic. They then burn all their books having to do with magic. "So," writes the author of Acts, "the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily" (Acts 19:8-20). There was a magic dimension to religion at Ephesus. Artemis of Ephesus was associated with the Ephesia grammata, originally six powerful, magical words (see Kraabel 1968, 55). Moreover, Artemis' magical powers are referred to in later Jewish and Christian traditions. 6 At or near Ephesus a few magical Jewish amulets have also been discovered (see Kraabel 1968, 56-59). In the story in Acts the "many who were now believers" who confessed that they had been practicing magic arts secretly could have come from either Jewish or Gentile backgrounds.
After Paul makes plans to travel on to Macedonia but before he leaves Ephesus another conflict arises, this time from silversmiths who make "silver shrines of Artemis" (on Artemis see Oster 1976). The writer of Acts makes Paul so successful not only among Ephesians but more generally among Asians that the occupation of the silversmiths is threatened as well as the temple of their great goddess Artemis. The craftsmen stir up a crowd who drag "Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel," into the theater. Paul tries to go into the theater but is held back by disciples and asiarchs who were friends of his (see Meeks 1983a, 61). In the midst of the confused assembly Alexander, a Jewish spokesman, tries without success to establish calm. Finally the town clerk establishes calm, assuring the crowd that Artemis is not in danger. He warns the crowd that they have brought men who are "neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess." If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a complaint, there is an orderly procedure to follow, for the city has courts and "there are proconsuls." Things must be settled in regular assembly, for "we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, there being no cause that we can give to justify this commotion." The clerk dismisses the assembly. Then after the uproar ceases, Paul exhorts the disciples and departs from them for Macedonia (Acts 19:21-41).
Later, when Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, he calls the elders from Ephesus to Miletus for a final exhortation. This speech in Acts (20:18-35) also contains some information about the writer's views of the Ephesian church. Paul refers to "Jewish plots" against him while at Ephesus. 7 Paul says in this speech that he taught in Ephesus in public and "house to house." Paul recognizes the elders as "bishops" ( episkopoi ) over the flock of Ephesus (cf. Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:25). He says that after he leaves, "savage wolves" will come among the flock and even from among the "bishops" men will speak "perverse things" to draw away the disciples. Paul then concludes by making clear that he labored with his hands while at Ephesus and thereby met his own needs and the needs of those with him; by such toil one helps the weak and gives rather than receives.
The theme of Paul's "laboring with his own hands," found also in his correspondence to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, may also give some clues about the social location of some Christians at Ephesus. 8 According to Acts Paul makes contact with Aquila and Priscilla "because he was of the same trade" (18:3); that is, when Paul went into a town, he made initial contacts not only through the synagogue but also through his trade. Further, Malherbe argues that the shift in Ephesus from synagogue to the schole of Tyrannos (Acts 19:9) was a shift not to a "lecture hall" for wandering philosophers but to a guild hall "which was frequently named for a guild's patron" (1983, 90). Paul would thus have preached for two years in a union hall—a collegium or club of those who practiced the same craft. In this case the club would have included tentmakers, tentmaking being the craft of Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla. Such clubs attracted people of varied social rank and status; they could be headed by wealthy people—even of the senatorial class—and include ordinary plebian members. In that regard, such trade unions reflected the crosssection of the population, just as early Christian churches did (see Malherbe 1983, 88-91). In such a context Paul would be preaching to artisans and tradespeople of modest, and sometimes of relatively affluent, means (see Malherbe 1983, 86). Onesiphorus and his household, an Ephesian mentioned in an carly-second-century Christian work, may have been a convert of that sort; for he is said to have "refreshed" Paul often and to have been a patron of the church at Ephesus. Moreover, he had the means to travel to Rome (2 Tim. 1:16-17, 4:19). Paul's trade also comes into play in the miracles he performed at Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12). The "handkerchiefs" and "aprons" carried to the sick were taken from Paul's workshop. That activity suggests that Paul carried on missionary preaching while at work (see Hock 1980, 37-42). Also, the conflict with the silversmiths can on one level be seen as a conflict between artisan guilds.
At two points the writer of Acts suggests that he knows of different forms of Christianity at Ephesus: first, there were Christians at Ephesus who had different kinds of relations to followers of John the Baptist and Judaism. Secondly, Paul warns the bishops at Ephesus that "savage wolves" will come, even from among the "bishops," and will pervert Christian disciples. Köster (1971, 155) has suggested the following strands of Christianity at Ephesus: "the originally Pauline church," represented by the writer of Ephesians and the author of Luke and Acts; "a JewishChristian 'school' engaging in a daring interpretation of the Old Testament" (e.g., Cerinthus); 9 a Jewish-Christian conventicle led by the writer of the Book of Revelation ; and the Nicolaitans referred to in Revelation 2:6. 10 Central to these variations of Christians were their use and assessment of the Old Testament and their views of the nature of Christ (see Johnson 1972, 187-88).
Generally, among the variations of Christianity at Ephesus Paul and the writer of Acts are open to social intercourse between Christians and non-Christians in their urban social setting. So, too, is the author(s) of the Pastoral Letters, associated with the Pauline Ephesus connection. The Nicolaitans, of whom the seer of Revelation is so critical, are also open to cultural accommodation to urban society (see Aune 1981, 26-29). Among the Christian groups at Ephesus only the writer of the Book of Revelation seems to be hostile towards urban culture and opposed to any Christian accommodation toward it (see Rev. 2:6, 14, 20, Yarbro Collins 1983, 740-41, see also Johnson 1972, 192-93).
Churches in the Lycus Valley
The only other Christian communities in Asia to which there is more than passing reference from the time of Paul are the three cities nestled in the Lycus Valley that joins the Meander River about a hundred miles east of Ephesus. 11 In that area were Laodicea (one of the seven churches of the Apocalypse), a prosperous cultural center located at a major crossroad on the southern route from Ephesus through Anatolia; Colossae, a smaller town about ten miles further on the main road east; and Hierapolis, a textile town five or six miles north on the road to Tripolis and Philadelphia (see Col. 4:13, 16). The letters of Paul include two to Christians at Colossae—Colossians and Philemon. 12 From these two we learn a few things about the constituency of the Colossian church. In the Colossian letter the writer refers to Epaphras, who is from Colossae (4:12) and may have founded the church there (the wording of Col. 1:7 is not definite on that point. 13 According to that letter, Epaphras is with Paul working hard for the three churches in the Lycus Valley (Col. 4:13). 14 Tychicus, whom Paul is sending to Colossae so that they may know Paul's situation and receive comfort, may have been from Colossae. 15 In contrast to Epaphras and Tychicus, Archippus is mentioned as a leader living at Colossae; Paul urges him to fulfill his ministry ( diakonia ) from the Lord (Col. 4:17). Nothing more is known about him. 16
Along with Tychicus Paul is also sending Onesimus, who is definitely from Colossae (Col. 4:9) and is most likely the runaway slave Onesimus of the letter to Philemon. If the letter to Philemon was written earlier, so that the episode with Philemon lies in the past, Onesimus has become a fellow worker with Paul. 17 In any case one learns something about the social position of Onesimus' master (or former master) in Paul's letter to Philemon. He has a house in Colossae large enough to have a house church—and a guest room for Paul (Philem. 22)—and he owns at least one slave (Philem. 2). Along with Philemon, Paul greets Apphia "our sister"— thus, if she is Philemon's wife, she is greeted in her own right—and Archippus "our fellow soldier" (Philem. 1-2). As we have seen, nothing is known of Archippus' wealth or social status in the larger community, though he is a leader in the church at Colossae. 18
The Colossian letter also refers to correspondence with Laodicea. Paul writes to the Colossians, "And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea" (Col. 4:16). That Laodicean letter is not, however, extant. Earlier in the Colossian letter, Paul wants the Colossians to know "how greatly I strive for you, and for those at Laodicea" (2: 1). The church at Laodicea, as well as the one at Hierapolis, is mentioned, too, in connection with Epaphras: the author of Colossians writes, "For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis" (Col. 4:13).
In later Christian literature the church at Colossae does not appear, but the churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis do. That Christians shared in the prosperity of Laodicea is attested in the Book of Revelation where, in an ironic tone typical of the author, the material wealth of the Laodicean Christians is contrasted to their poverty in Christ (Rev. 3:17). They are urged to buy gold from Christ (Rev. 3:18, see Calder 1922-23, 326-27). Hierapolis is best known for its famous Stoic philosopher, Epictetus. 19 In Christian history Hierapolis is known for Papias, the milennarian lover of oral tradition who, according to Eusebius, was "of exceedingly small intelligence." He lived in Hierapolis in Trajan and Hadrian's reign and was a friend of Polycarp of Smyrna (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.39, see also Johnson 1975, 109). Eusebius also locates the apostle Philip and his daughters there ( Hist. Eccl. 3.39.9).
Thyatira and Pergamum
The author of Revelation refers to the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira as communities infested with false prophets. The church at Thyatira is commended except for the fact that it allows "the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess" to teach and beguile "my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols" (Rev. 2:20-21). In the letter to Pergamum the teaching of Balaam— probably the seer's derogatory label for the Nicolaitan teaching—is also said to involve eating "food sacrificed to idols" and practicing immorality (Rev. 2:14-15). Finally, as we saw above, the Nicolaitans are also mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians (Rev. 2:6): the Ephesian Christians "hate the works of the Nicolaitans" and thus do not allow them to be a part of the church at Ephesus. There the Nicolaitans seem to be outsiders seeking to establish themselves in the Ephesian church. In contrast, the adherents of Balaam were a part of the church at Pergamum (Rev. 2:14). 20 They were among those who "did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas" (2:13). So also the prophetess Jezebel and her followers were a part of the church at Thyatira, whose "latter works exceed the first." 21 At Pergamum and Thyatira John is in conflict with local church members, not heretical outsiders. One could perhaps argue that they belong to different house churches in those cities, but there is no indication of that (see also Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 154).
The offense of the Nicolaitans and Jezebel is great in the eyes of the seer—they are called upon to repent—but their evil behavior is not of such magnitude that he refuses to recognize them as members of the churches. That is an important point to remember when trying to ascertain what the "offense" is in those groups. Their offense is stated by means of two closely connected infinitives: "to eat food sacrificed to idols and to practice immorality" (?a???^? ???d?????ta ?a?? p??????sa?) (2:14). The order of the activities is reversed in the description of Jezebel (2:20). The offense alludes to the story of Israel's idolatry with Baal of Peor at Shittim. According to the story in Numbers 25, the daughters of Moab "invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate, and bowed down to their gods" (Num. 25:2). 22 In this context, "eating food sacrificed to idols" is an act of idolatry, "a bowing down to their gods." This close link between the two activities is kept in the indictments in the Book of Revelation: to eat food offered to idols is to commit idolatry (p??????sa?). The second infinitive in 2:14 should thus be understood in its metaphoric sense, "to commit idolatry," rather than simply its more literal meaning, "to fornicate." 23 The fault of the Nicolaitans and Jezebel, then, centers on the issue of eating meat offered to idols and the meaning of that activity.
In order to understand the social significance of this activity we may draw upon Theissen's study of the conflict at Corinth regarding the eating of meat offered to idols. 24 In Greek and Roman cities people had opportunity to eat meat in a cultic setting both on public occasions (in extraordinary situations such as victory celebrations or funerals and in regular calendric festivals) and at more private settings (clubs and associations including guild meetings or small, private banquets in a temple) (see Theissen 1982, 127-28). These banquets and parties expressed social connections and common causes, whether of the whole province, the whole city, a specific group (such as tentmakers, purple-clothiers), or private friendship. Thus, the eating of meat in a cultic setting posed fundamental questions about how Christians should relate to social institutions in the professional and civic order. Theissen makes a convincing argument that the issue affected different social strata in different ways. In brief, wealthier Christians involved in economic or civic re sponsibilities would have to (and want to) engage in the eating of meat in a cultic setting more frequently than poorer members of the church, who would have occasion to eat meat primarily in large public festivals or social clubs that included members from all strata of society (Theissen 1982, 127-32).
Among Christian leaders there was no universally agreed-on position about the eating of meat in a cultic setting and its meaning for a Christian. All agreed that there was only the one true God and that therefore all other cults involved the worship of idols (1 Cor. 8:4-6). But were those idols harmless to Christians who might share the eating of meat in a non-Christian setting? Paul answers that question in terms of the strong (those Christians who know that idols are nothing) and the weak (those whose consciences are troubled by participating in the eating) (e.g., 1 Cor. 8:1-13). Paul argues that the eating of meat does not matter in itself so long as the weak brother is not destroyed (1 Cor. 8:11). Probably Theissen is correct in thinking that Paul thus preserves the "privileges of status enjoyed by the higher strata" of the Corinthian church, for "private meals with consecrated meat continue to be allowed in principle" and "participation in cultic meals" is not excluded in principle (1982, 139). Only in cases where different strata in the Corinthian church would be together—the strong with the weak, as in a public festival—should Christians abstain. It is probably not coincidental that Paul defends his working at a trade in the context of defending eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:13-9:7); for he probably ate such meat in his trade connections. 25
John of the Book of Revelation objects to Christians participating in professional and civic life. Writing to Ephesus, he praises their rejection of the traveling Nicolaitans who try to impose themselves and their apostolic authority upon the Ephesian church. 26 He orders the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira to purge themselves of those false teachings propagated by local leaders: the Nicolaitans, teachers in the local community, and Jezebel, a Christian prophet. In contrast to John's teachings they allow Christians to share in the eating of meat in a cultic setting, which would no doubt occur in the same contexts in the Greek cities of Asia as in Corinth. In other words, those whom the seer views as his opponents (we do not know how they view him) hold to a view similar either to the one Paul espouses in the Corinthian correspondence or to that of the "liberal strong" at Corinth (since idols were "nothing," the eating of meat offered to idols need not offend a Christian's conscience). Theissen presents evidence that this is also the view of Christian gnostics, who were open "to the culture of antiquity" (1982, 132-36). The "strong" at Corinth—to some extent Paul himself, Jezebel, the Nicolaitans, and Christian gnostics—thus shared in a similar attitude towards urban life, although they did not share the same philosophical and theological beliefs. Since we learn of the seer's opponents only through his language and perspective, it is impossible to know whether the Nicolaitans and Jezebel would have agreed more with the apostle Paul or with the "strong" at Corinth regarding Christian obligations to the church as a whole, the model of the crucifixion in Christian living, and the "not-yet" character of Christian existence in relation to the coming kingdom of God. 27 Whatever their differences in theology, their similar attitudes towards urban society reflect a similar social position; that is, those groups consisted of, among others, people who were in crafts and trades, who shared in civic responsibilities, and who were on the whole probably of the wealthier stratum of leadership in early Christian churches. 28
The author of the Acts of the Apostles mentions a woman from Thyatira named Lydia whom Paul met at Philippi in Macedonia at a place of prayer ( proseuche ), presumably a synagogue (16:13-14, see Kraabel 1968, 156-57). She is identified in Acts as a seller of purple cloth and a worshipper of God ( sebomene ton theon ). From the latter phrase we may associate her with the Jewish community: either she was a Jew, a proselyte, or one who was faithful to some, but not all, of the Jewish law (see Meeks 1983a, 207, n. 175). According to Acts she converts to Christianity, with her household, and prevails successfully upon Paul and his companions to stay at her house (16:14-15). Some time later the owners of a soothsaying slave girl whom Paul had healed drag Paul and Silas before the archons of the city and get them imprisoned. After Paul is released from prison, he goes to Lydia's house, sees and exhorts the brethren there and leaves Philippi (Acts 16:40). From the wording of verse 40, one may conclude that Lydia has a house church at Philippi. We thus get several clues about Lydia's status. She is a businesswoman dealing in a luxury item, a sign of wealth. She has a house large enough to house several guests and to serve as a house church. She travels extensively in connection with her trade (see Meeks 1983a, 62). Since Lydia is a Jew from Thyatira who converts to Christianity after leaving Asia, her story tells us little about the Christian church at Thyatira. Nonetheless, it gives further indication that some prosperous Jewish traders from Asia (like Aquila, above) converted to Christianity. Jewish converts of similar social status were also probably a part of the church at Thyatira.
Sardis and Laodicea
Sardis is the other Asian city mentioned only in the Book of Revelation. As we shall see in chapter 8, the city of Sardis supported a large, well-integrated Jewish community throughout the first and second centuries CE. The first Christians at Sardis were probably drawn from the Jewish community there. The city itself was flourishing at the end of the first century CE: it was a judicial (assize) center; the temple of Artemis (of Sardis) had the right of asylum—a status sought by many temples; and after the earthquake of 17 CE private, as well as imperial and sacral, gifts indicate wealth in the community (see Broughton 1938, 723 and chap. 9 below). Sardis's favorable position at the crossing of five roadways (to Philadelphia and Laodicia southeast, to Acmonia east, to Thyatira north, to Magnesia ad Sipylum and Smyrna west-northwest, and to Ephesus south) made it a lively commercial center. The point is that Sardis was a thriving Asian city with a significant Jewish community— the social ingredients for emerging Christianity. Yet Paul makes no reference to a church at Sardis, nor does the writer of Acts, nor does Ignatius. Without the reference in the Book of Revelation, we would not know that a church existed in Sardis at the end of the first century.
Among the seven letters in the Book of Revelation, only those addressed to Sardis and Laodicea do not mention specific adversaries, either Jewish (Smyrna and Philadelphia) or Christian (Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira). Both Sardis and Laodicea are prosperous communities in major commercial centers, and the writer of Revelation speaks of both in an ironic mode: the Laodiceans appear wealthy but are actually in poverty (3:17); those at Sardis have a reputation for being alive but are dead (3:1). Probably both Christian communities had accommodated well to their urban setting, from the seer's point of view too well. Whereas poor and powerless churches receive encouragement and assurance from the seer (Smyrna and Philadelphia), these wealthy and relatively powerful ones receive unmitigated censure. There is another correlation that may be significant: Sardis and Laodicea are known to be centers of Judaism, yet the seer makes no mention of oppression from Jews in those prosperous Christian communities. In contrast, the poor and powerless Christian communities at Smyrna and Philadelphia, where Jews have a less-significant presence are, according to the seer, harassed by Jews or, in his language, so-called Jews of the synagogue of Satan (2:9, 3:9); that is, (1) receiving praise from the seer, (2) little accommodation and assimilation to urban Asian society, and (3) conflict with Judaism in the local city seem to go together, as do (1) condemnation from the seer, (2) accommodation and assimilation, and (3) no conflict with Judaism. To put it differently, a Christian community that sets up high boundaries between itself and the rest of the world and that holds to a concomitant "separatist" definition of the church (which of course the seer supports) sees both Judaism and Greco-Roman society as demonic; but a Christian community that is less concerned with sharp boundaries and exclusive self-definitions seems to have little conflict with either Judaism or Greco-Roman urban institutions. Probably Christians at Sardis and Laodicea view their Jewish and Greco-Roman neighbors much as do the Nicolaitans and the prophetess Jezebel. The seer of the Apocalypse cannot allow such trafficking with the world, for it stains Christian character (Rev. 3:4).
Toward the end of the second century Sardis is heard from again through the voice and pen of Melito, who wrote, among other items, an Apology to Marcus Aurelius and a Paschal Homily (see Wilken 1976, 57-58). Melito was a Quartodeciman—one who celebrated Easter on the Jewish Passover (the fourteenth day of the month Nisan)—and for one such occasion he offered "a prolonged, bitter, personal attack on 'Israel'" (Kraabel 1971, 81). In order to account for the vitriolic nature of this sermon, Kraabel proposes that one cannot look to either Quartodeciman theology or other Christian literature attacking Jews. Rather, the homily addresses the situation of Jews and Christians in Sardis toward the end of the second century. Melito takes an antagonistic stance against the large and powerful Jewish community in Sardis. Because of his close connection to Judaism through the Quartodeciman practice, Melito may have felt it necessary to differentiate his Christianity from Judaism. Further, his apology on behalf of Christianity to the Romans may have also put him on a collision path with the Jews (see Kraabel 1971, 84). At any rate, Melito's Paschal Homily points to serious conflict between his form of Christianity and Judaism in Sardis at that time.
Philadelphia and Smyrna
Both the seer and Ignatius address Christian communities at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia. I discussed Ephesus above; there remain the two churches that the seer lauds without qualification. In the letter to the Philadelphians, the seer links their "little power" with their keeping Jesus' word and not denying his name (Rev. 3:8). Alongside the imitatio Christi theme, there is probably reflected here a social attitude of the seer: the Christians at Philadelphia are keeping high boundaries between church and world and are refraining from much participation in the cultural and social life of the city. The same high boundaries set the church off sharply from the synagogue (Rev. 3:9). There is no indication of persecution by the Jews. The seer is the one making the sharp contrast and opposition between Christians and Jews.
In the letter Ignatius wrote a few years later to the Philadelphians, there is within the church some form of "Judaizing," but as Schoedel notes, little is given as to its exact character (Schoedel 1980, 35). Perhaps there were Gentile Christians impressed with Judaism (I Philad. 6.1), or perhaps there were people in the church simply "fascinated with the idea of Judaism as presented in scripture ... but not tempted to become deeply involved in the actual practice of Judaism" (Schoedel 1980, 35). In either case, Schoedel suggests that "the line dividing Judaizers from true Christians in Philadelphia was not as obvious to others as it was to Ignatius" (1980, 35).
Smyrna, in contrast to the seer's portrait of Laodicea, appears to be in poverty but is rich (Rev. 2:9). Here, according to the Book of Revelation, Jews at Smyrna (who, as at Philadelphia, belong to the synagogue of Satan) are blaspheming Christians. We may assume that the seer in this letter is enforcing the same high boundaries between church and world as he did in the Philadelphia letter. Thus, the "blasphemy by the Jews" may reflect his concern to sharpen the distinction between Christian and Jew. Blasphemia could possibly refer to "charges of anti-social behavior" reported to proper officials against Christians (Sweet 1979, 85), but the term generally refers to "slander" in connection with humans (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:30); that is, Jews at Smyrna "slandered" Christians, just as Christians, including John, "slandered" Jews (though with less clout).
Ignatius does not discuss "Judaizers" in the letter to Smyrna, though he assumes that Christians there have come from both Jews and Gentiles (I Smyrn. 1). He is, rather, concerned with those who do not take seriously the fleshly incarnation of Christ. 29 There is nothing about Jews in Ignatius' letter to Polycarp (of Smyrna) either. According to the later Martyrdom of Polycarp, at Polycarp's murder (c. 154 CE) the Jews are a part of the multitude at Smyrna who cry out for Polycarp's death ( Mart. Polyc. 12). That account, however, has been shaped along lines reflected in the Gospel at Matthew's death of Jesus. At Smyrna Jews are zealous in assisting to kill Polycarp ( Mart. Polyc. 13); and they are concerned with Polycarp's body ( Mart. Polyc. 17), just as they were with Jesus' body in Matthew's Gospel.
Finally, Ignatius provides some evidence that the Christian community at Smyrna was made up of different social classes. He urges Polycarp not to despise "slaves, whether men or women" and he urges slaves not to desire freedom at public cost (I Polyc. 4). The wording suggests that slaves did not make up a large percentage of Christians at Smyrna. Among specific people mentioned by Ignatius, the woman Alce stands out. She is "a name very dear to" Ignatius (I Smyrn 13; I Polyc. 8). According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp she was an aunt of Herod, the officer of the peace who arrested Polycarp, and sister of Nicetes, who tried to convince Polycarp to observe imperial cult (Mart. Polyc. 6, 8) and later appealed to the magistrate at the prompting of Jews not to give up Polycarp's body (Mart. Polyc. 17). Holding a city office such as "officer of the peace" required "the possession of wealth and a readiness to spend" (Magie 1950, 649). Alce belonged to a wealthy family (see also Schoedel 1980, 47). Schoedel aptly compares the social mix at the church at Smyrna—which is typical of the other churches in Asia—to a private religious association in Philadelphia attested to in the first century BCE (see Schoedel 1980, 47). There one Dionysius, by order of a divine dream, opened his house as a shrine for sacrifices and purification rites to several gods. Both men and women were welcome, "both bond and free," so long as they upheld the commandments of the cult. 30
Magnesia and Tralles
Ignatius also writes to churches at Magnesia and Tralles in the Meander River Valley southeast of Ephesus, which sent embassies to Smyrna while Ignatius remained there. Writing to those at Magnesia, Ignatius underscores the separation of Christianity from Judaism: "for if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace" (I Magn. 8). Apparently there was an issue of some Magnesians observing the Jewish Sabbath rather than the Lord's Day (I Magn. 9). Ignatius, of course, argues for the Lord's Day and concludes his exhortation with the words, "It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity" (I Magn. 10). 31 In the letter to those at Tralles, about fifteen miles east of Magnesia on the road to Laodicea, Ignatius attacks docetism (the doctrine that Jesus Christ only seemed to have a human form), as he had in the letter to Smyrna.
William Schoedel examines some aspects of "social experience" in the Ignatian corpus. Ignatius' understanding of church-world relations "cannot be shown to be determined by class conflict" (Schoedel 1980, 46). Drawing on the work of Ramsay MacMullen, Schoedel demonstrates that the social bonds in the church, as in the empire generally, "were forged not horizontally (embracing whole classes of people) but vertically (with the lower classes looking to the upper classes for patronage)" (1980, 46-47). So in Ignatius' churches one finds a range of social classes. As we have seen from the church at Smyrna, the churches embraced both slaves and highranking citizens. Thus the churches "were like the collegia and private religious associations in appealing to people across a broad social spectrum" (Schoedel 1980, 47). Ignatius himself was "a person of some standing" with "a significant openness to aspects of pagan society and culture." Schoedel sees this openness reflected (1) in Ignatius' use of popular rhetorical methods and conventions of the Hellenistic letter, (2) in common social values related to marriage and family life, and (3) in his modeling the Christian community after elements in urban organization: "The presence of these elements in the letters of Ignatius indicates that 'early catholic' Christianity maintained a relatively positive attitude towards the things of this world" (Schoedel 1980, 51).
Social Status of Christians
As Wayne Meeks points out, "status" is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon (1983a, 54). Variables such as power, occupational prestige, income or wealth, education and knowledge, religious and ritual purity, family and ethnic group position, and local community status are involved in deciding a person's status. Since no one is likely to give the same weight to each of those variables, status will be determined in part by which variables are used, what weight is given to each, and from whose perspective the ranking is given (for example, how others see a group or how a group sees itself). 32 In other words, we probably lack the data to develop very subtle models of social status and social stratification in early Christianity.
A few passages give direct information about the social status of early Christians. One is 1 Corinthians 1:26. There Paul writes that "not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth [ eugeneis ]." Theissen has argued for a clearly sociological import to those terms: there were some at Corinth who were influential, educated, and well born. Moreover, he has shown that though a minority, "representatives of the upper classes" were "apparently a dominant minority" (1982, 73). 33 References to slaves in the early church also indicate a variety of classes. The many references to slaves may be one reason why early Christians have often been identified only with the poorest and least powerful. 34 R. M. Grant notes, however, that "slaves were not significant in the church" (1980, 24). Moreover, directives to slaves usually imply that there were also slavemasters in the church, and Christian writers tend to take the point of view of the owners rather than the slaves (see Meeks 1983a, 64). Pliny the Younger, who writes to the Emperor Trajan about Christians in Pontus at about 112 CE (see chap. 6) states that people being examined as Christians or former Christians were "of every age and class, both men and women" ( Ep. 10.96.9). 35 Pliny also refers to two slave women whom Christians called deaconesses ( Ep. 10.96.8).
For the most part, however, clues about status must be drawn indirectly. For example, the Christian activity of reading and writing may tell us something about their status. R. M. Grant, in an essay on second-century Christianity, points out that Christians "belonged to a sector of society in which literary education was highly valued and a disproportionate number of persons wrote books." This sets them off from both the lowest and highest classes of Roman society (1980, 21).
Grant also suggests that something can be learned about class status from the kinds of punishments Christians received from the state. Drawing on an observation of Peter Garnsey that "punishments did not so much suit the crime as suit the criminal," Grant notes that Paul appeals confidently to Caesar; whereas Ignatius, "obviously lower in status, fearfully lists the dire punishments he anticipates at Rome" (I Rom. 5.3); the proconsul threatened Polycarp (also of lower status) with fire and wild beasts (R. M. Grant 1980, 23-24). So in Pliny's dealing with Christians in Bithynia Roman citizens are treated differently from those who are not citizens, and free people are treated differently from slaves. He tortures two female slaves without hesitation.
As we have seen in analyses of individual Christian communities in the province of Asia, status is also reflected in having a house church and in traveling. The owners of house churches probably served as "patrons" to the church much as patrons supported private clubs and guilds (see Malherbe 1983, 69-75). Social analyses of patterns of travel are readily available. Christians traveled a lot, sometimes in connection with their trade, sometimes with the support of a particular church or specific churches. Travel cost money, but individual Christians and churches could afford to do it. 36 In sum, Meeks's description of the Pauline communities also fits the churches in the cities of Asia:
The extreme top and bottom of the Greco-Roman social scale are missing from the picture.... The levels in between, however, are well represented. There are slaves, although we cannot tell how many. The 'typical' Christian, however, the one who most often signals his presence in the letters by one or another small clue, is a free artisan or small trader. Some even in those occupational categories had houses, slaves, the ability to travel, and other signs of wealth. Some of the wealthy provided housing, meeting places, and other services for individual Christians and for whole groups. In effect, they filled the roles of patrons. (Meeks 1983a, 73)
Along with being affluent, many Christians shared fully in urban Roman life. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, if they did not share in that life, they would have "to go out of the world" (1 Cor. 5:10). Ernest Cadman Colwell observed several decades ago that Christians from the beginning had social intercourse with their non-Christian neighbors. Christians were to live a life that could not be criticized or slandered. Non-Christians came to Christian meetings, and Christians ate dinner with non-Christians. 37 At the end of the second century Tertullian states in his Apology that Christians have the same manner of life, the same dress, and the same requirements for living; they depend upon the marketplace, the butchers, the baths, shops, factories, taverns, fairs, and other businesses. Christians sail ships, serve in the army, till the ground, and engage in trade alongside non-Christians; and Christians provide skills and services for the benefit of the whole society (Apol. 42). Ordinary Christians shared in the common life of cities and empire: "they did not live as separately and aloof as their leaders desired," and for that reason they eventually overcame the "opposition of the heathen masses" (Colwell 1939, 70). There were important differences in moral goals and in the Christians' refusal to participate in idolatrous worship, but as R. M. Grant notes, "the differences must not blind us to the general coincidence between the life-styles and attitudes of nonChristians and Christians alike" (1980, 29). 38
Non-Christian Attitudes Toward Christians
There is, then, considerable evidence that Christians shared in the urban life of Asian cities. Their style of life required contact with non-Christians in economic, social, familial, and even political arenas. What impression did these Christians make on their neighbors? How did the non-Christians feel about Christians? What kind of opposition was expressed toward Christianity? That is, I shift now from
Christian attitudes and life-styles in relation to urban society to the attitudes of non-Christians toward Christianity.
Precisely when Christians were recognized as a group separate from Jews cannot be located. Christians, of course, including the writer of the Book of Revelation, make a clear distinction between themselves and Jews (Rev. 2:9, 3:9). Certainly by the time that Tacitus and Suetonius were writing in the early second century, a distinction was made by Roman writers. Whether the distinction was made during Nero's reign (54-68) or whether Tacitus and Suetonius referred to it anachronistically cannot be certainly determined (Tac. Ann. 15.44, Suet. Ner. 16.2). One can be certain that by the time of Pliny's encounter with Christians in 112 Christians were being considered by Roman officials as a distinct group of people, separate from Jewish communities. 39 Probably by the last decade of the first century, when the seer was writing, city-dwellers in Asia who were neither Christian nor Jewish knew that there was a difference between those who went to synagogue and those who gathered in house churches.
At the same time, however, "the beginnings of Christianity in Anatolia are bound up closely with the numerous and wealthy Jewish communities" (Johnson 1958, 14, cf. Wilken 1976, 56, Johnson 1972, 182). So we cannot be certain when a clear distinction began to be made by neighbors, city officials, provincial officials, and officials of the empire; but probably it emerged at different times among those groups. Nor can we be certain about what "a clear distinction" would mean for Christian existence in Asian cities. On the face of it, there would probably be no legal ramifications for Jewish Christians; for so far as I can see, that group could still claim whatever Jewish rights they had, so long as Jews did not challenge the claim of Jewish Christians to "membership" in the synagogue. 40 On the other hand, house churches and other specifically Christian associations could not claim special Jewish privileges, for the very visible Jewish synagogues and other associations in Asian cities belied on the social level the Christian theological claim that Christianity was the true Jewish community (e.g., Wilken 1984, 198).
In Asia opposition to Christianity came primarily from local people, not from the imperial machinery. That is clear from Pliny's correspondence with Trajan, written in 112 in Pontus, somewhere between Amisus and Amastris (see Wilken 1984, 15). There is, to be sure, a certain ambiguity in Pliny's query to Trajan: Pliny pleads ignorance of how to deal with Christians on the grounds that he has never been present at their trial ( cognitio, Ep. 10.96.1). That could mean that a body of legal practice had been established at Rome regarding Christians but that Pliny was unfamiliar with it—not likely, for if the practice were widespread, Pliny, an experienced lawyer in public service, would know about it. More likely, Pliny inquires because there is no set legal procedure for dealing with Christians; and he, a Roman senator sent out to deal with problems in the hinterland, does not want to act without first making a detailed report to the emperor. 41 Most especially, he wants to be sure about the "extent of the punishments"; "the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed"; distinctions that should be made on grounds of age; when a pardon should be granted; "and whether it is the mere name of Christian which is punishable, ... or rather the crimes associated with the name" ( Ep. 10.96.1-2). His procedure is to ask those brought to him whether they are Christians; if they persist in avowing Christianity through threefold questioning, Pliny orders them to be sent away (for execution) unless they are Roman citizens. For Pliny their greatest offence is their "stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy" ( pertinaciam certe et inflexibilem obstinationem ) ( Ep. 10.96.3). 42 Although he has no kind words to speak about Christians, he does say that he "found nothing but a degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths" ( superstitionem pravam et immodicam ) ( Ep. 10.96.8). Christians in Bithynia had customarily met to eat together (in addition to early morning worship) until Pliny had banned the meeting of associations ( hetaeriae ). Thus they had sought to comply with Pliny's edicts. 43
From Pliny's letter it is clear that Christians are brought before him with charges ( deferebantur ). He does not (and Trajan orders him not to) seek out Christians ( Ep. 10.97.2). Pliny writes that the situation is complicated by the fact that "the charges are becoming more widespread and increasing in variety. An anonymous pamphlet has been circulated which contains the names of a number of accused persons" ( Ep. 10.96.4-5). As Pliny says, that is the kind of thing that "so often happens," but it nonetheless complicates his task. Pliny complicates our task by not indicating anything about those who bring charges against Christians and why. Perhaps those involved in the religious and economic aspects of the temples and sacrifices brought charges; towards the end of his letter, Pliny may be connecting the influence of "this contagious superstition" ( Ep. 10.96.9) with the decline of the sale of sacrificial victims. If so, some of the accusers might have been motivated by some of the same forces as the silversmiths in Acts 19 (see Benko 1986, 8). Social class may be a factor in the accusations made to Pliny. Assuming that Christian leaders were involved in trades and crafts, like Aquila of Pontus (Acts 18:2), they would be wealthier than many. They would not, however, be valued as patrons, as was the provincial aristocrat Dio Chrysostom, nor would they be part of a network with imperial or senatorial representatives. They would be more or less unprotected from accusations from either urban dwellers "below" or imperial dignitaries such as Pliny "above." 44
The Pliny correspondence confirms that the imperial cult was not a central issue in either official or unofficial attitudes toward Christians (see pp. 163-64). For the first time in Roman literature we hear of a formal test for Christianity: Pliny writes that suspects had to repeat "after me a formula of invocation to the gods" and to make "offerings of wine and incense to your statue [ imagini tuae ] ... along with the images of the gods [ simulacris numinum ]" and to revile "the name of Christ" ( male dicerent Christo ) ( Ep. 10.96.5, cf. 10.96.6). As Fergus Millar points out, "The Imperial cult thus plays a minor part in this episode" as an element in local religious tradition (1972, 153, cf. Price 1984, 125). Christians had a problem on two counts: they rejected all but the one true God and refused to recognize the divine object of other worship; and they rejected all forms of sacrificing, for Jesus was the one supreme and final sacrifice. They could not sacrifice to any god on behalf of the emperor. That put Christians on a collision course with local religious activity. For Pliny (and Trajan), the real issue centered on renewing local sacred rites; Pliny hopes that such renewal has begun in the towns, villages, and rural districts of Bithynia. Many have turned from Christianity, and he is confident that with a little patience and pressure, that disruptive cult can be checked and the people who were in it reformed (see Ep. 10.96.9-10).
Pliny's letter reflects a fundamental suspicion of Christianity. Even though the state did not "hunt Christians down," everyone—Roman official and local citizen alike—seems to agree that Christianity is a troublesome affiliation that deserves punishment (see Ep. 10.97). For Roman officials, Christians are placed with Bacchants and Druids as antisocial and a danger to the social fabric of the empire. For local citizens, activity that is specifically Christian is suspect. It was new, foreign, secretive, and exclusive; as such it was superstition intruding into the urban order that supported, and was supported by, traditional, customary, public, and inclusive religious piety (see Wilken 1984, 48-67). Nonetheless, overt conflict between Christians and their non-Christian neighbors requiring official, legal action was rare: "In most areas of the Roman Empire Christians lived quietly and peaceably among their neighbors, conducting their affairs without disturbance" (Wilken 1984, 16). "Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles," writes the author of 1 Peter to Christians in the area of Pontus, "so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12).
Most early Christian literature associated with Asia, Bithynia, and Pontus supports that ideal of living peacefully in the Roman social order. Paul's attitudes expressed in his letter to the Corinthians were no doubt also expressed in Ephesus, where he wrote the letter, which city was for a time a center of his missionary activity. Later the author of 1 Peter exhorts his audience to "be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors.... Honor the emperor" (1 Pet. 2:13-17). The author of 1 Timothy urges "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings ... for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1 Tim. 2:1-2). 45 Those at Thyatira and Pergamum whom the author of the Book of Revelation saw as his opponents probably shared that dominant Christian view. On the face of it, therefore, the Book of Revelation presents a minority report on how Christians relate to the larger Roman society. The seer is apparently advocating attitudes and styles of life not compatible with how most Christians were living in the cities of Asia.
8 Jews in the Province of Asia
The earliest Christians in the cities of Asia were probably converts from Anatolian Judaism. Among all the cities in the province of Asia—somewhere between three hundred and five hundred in number—indicators of a Christian presence are found for the most part where there were also Jews. Those cities are also, for the most part, major cities of the province, for example, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Sardis. Thus, both Jews and Christians in the late first and early second centuries lived in major metropolitan areas. As we have seen, evidence from early Christian literature—Paul's letters, Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation, Ignatius— suggests that the links between Christianity and Judaism were close and that converted Jews made up a significant portion of Christians in the cities of Asia. Jews who converted to Christianity continued in their same occupation; their same social, economic status; and their same relationship to the cities in which they lived and worked. For that reason an inquiry into Judaism will indirectly provide information about social characteristics of some Christians and about the social context of Christianity. This inquiry will focus first on Domitian's attitudes towards Jews and Christians, then upon the social location of Jews in the cities of western Asia Minor, primarily in the cities of the province of Asia. As in the review of Christians in Asia, special attention will be given to the seven cities referred to in the Book of Revelation.
Jews, Christians, and Domitian
Suetonius writes in his Lives of the Caesars (after 120, see chap. 6) that Domitian extended the "Jewish head tax" to include not only "those who kept their Jewish origins a secret in order to avoid the tax" but also "those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism" ( Dom. 12.2). This "head tax" was Vespasian's replacement for the Jewish temple tax after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem in 70. 1 Suetonius goes on to mention that he was present once when a ninety-year-old man was examined before the procurator and a crowded court to see if he was circumcised. Domitian extended the tax to apostate Jews (perhaps including some Jewish Christians), and to those who were "followers"—though not proselytes—of Judaism, and he did this vigorously ( acerbissime ). According to Suetonius, overspending and economic disarray were the catalysts for this more rigorous administration of the Jewish tax. 2 As we saw in chapter 6, this portrait of the end of Domitian's reign cannot be sustained. But in this case Suetonius suggests nothing particularly malicious on Domitian's part. He simply indicates that Domitian was more rigorous in administering the tax than his predecessors. There is nothing in this statement to suggest that Jews suffered under Domitian; his policy of rigor merely fits with Domitian's general administrative principles of rationality and consistency (see Smallwood 1981, 377).
The notion that Domitian may have used unjust procedures in administering the Jewish tax comes from a legend appearing on the reverse of some Roman coins minted in the early part of Nerva's short reign (96-98) immediately after Domitian's death. The legend reads FISCI IUDAICI CALUMNIA SUBLATA, ("The misadministration of the Jewish imperial treasury is abolished") (Smallwood 1966, no. 28). 3 There is no direct mention of Domitian on these coins; but the legend announces some kind of reform that the Emperor Nerva made in his administration of the Jewish tax. The legend does not indicate the specifics of that reform except that the previous practice is called calumnia, some kind of misadministration involving a false charge or wrongful accusation. Applebaum offers the most fitting interpretation of this word, which is also found in Aurelius Victor's Caesars. In that work are described calumniae by Trajan's procurators that consisted of "extraction of information on income and its sources by threats and bullying" (Applebaum 1974a, 462-463). As Applebaum points out, this aggressive approach to collecting the Jewish tax squares with Suetonius' reference to a procurator's examining a ninety-year-old man to see if he was circumcised.
In Roman sources there are two more passages relevant to Domitian and the Jews. Dio Cassius claims that Domitian killed Flavius Clemens, along with many others, and banished Flavius' wife, Flavia Domitilla, to Pandateria with the charge "of atheism, a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned" (67.14.2). 4 Dio Cassius also mentions one Glabrio, by name, who was "accused of the same crimes as most of the others, and, in particular, of fighting as a gladiator with wild beasts" (67.14.3). Thus, according to Dio, Domitian condemned fighting with wild beasts, atheism, and Jewish ways. Dio Cassius writes in another place that when Nerva came to power he did not allow anyone "to accuse anybody of asebeia [impiety, disloyalty] or of adopting the Jewish mode of life" (68.1.2); one need not connect the two.
One can make all of these references to Jews fit into the distorted portrait of Domitian's last years in the standard sources (see chap. 6). Suetonius refers to the extension of the Jewish tax as a part of the confusion and disorder during Domitian's last years. Dio's account fits the picture of Domitian as a mad megalomaniac eager to condemn those who did not worship him properly. The sharp contrast between Nerva's policies and Domitian's fits with the rhetoric of the post-Domitian era. Nerva proclaims on other coin legends his "new era" of liberty and safety.
Trajan's rescript to Didius Secundus assures in the same vein that he will no longer confiscate property as was done before from avarice. The republican values of humane treatment and recognition of the human "leader" replace the divine claims of Domitian and his past unjust ways. If one takes this propaganda at face value as reporting the social and political situation under Domitian—an assumption difficult to accept (see chap. 6)- asebeia ("disloyalty"), the Jewish mode of life, atheism, calumnia ("malpractice"), and Domitian's extension of the Jewish tax may be strung together to show Domitian's poor treatment of Jewish converts, if not of the Jews. So Smallwood concludes, "Dio and Suetonius deal with different aspects of the fate of converts to Judaism, Dio with punishment for 'atheism' and Suetonius with delation for tax-evasion, and the two supplement each other in showing how Domitian's development of the imperial cult together with his extension of liability for the Jewish tax put converts into a cleft stick: if they admitted their Judaism, they were liable for punishment as 'atheists'; if they did not, they risked delation to the officials of the fiscus Judaicus " (1981, 380).
If, however, the themes of Domitian's excessive demands for imperial worship, the ubiquity of his informers, his indiscriminate charges of disloyalty and treason, and the contrast between Domitian's and later reigns are to be understood along the lines developed in chapter 6, Domitian's conflicting policy of taxing and then killing Jewish converts, which makes little sense in itself, has little evidential support either. The concern to regularize the Jewish fiscus fits with Domitian's public policy; the contrasts between Domitian and later emperors, with Domitian at the negative pole, fit the rhetoric of the later period. There is no convincing evidence that Domitian modified the imperial cult by demanding greater divine honors than his predecessors (or successors) or that he arbitrarily brought recriminations against people falsely accused of treason against the state or the person of the emperor. Yet such are required to interpret these Roman texts as evidence for a Domitianic persecution of Jews or Jewish converts. If it can be shown that Domitian oppressed Jews, converts to Judaism, or—less likely—Christians, (who were sometimes confused with converts to Judaism), it must be established by means other than the points of view expressed in Suetonius, Dio, and Nerva's propaganda.
If Roman sources about Domitian tend to be taken at their face value, the views of the Jewish writer Josephus tend to be rejected because of his "special relations" with the Flavians. As Rajak has shown, however, that "special relationship" has been grossly overstated. The Flavians gave Josephus many honors (e.g., citizenship, the Flavian name, Vespasian's old house to work in; cf. Rajak 1984, 194-95), but he had his own agenda in writing. 5 In the Jewish Antiquities, which was written in "the thirteenth year of the reign of Caesar Domitian" (Joseph. AJ 20.11.3), that is, 9394, and even more in Against Apion, written in 96 a short time before Domitian's death Josephus magnifies "the Jewish race in the eyes of the Graeco-Roman world by a record of their ancient and glorious history" (Thackeray 1967, 51). Or, as Rajak puts it, Josephus is "concerned with apologetics—the presentation of Judaism to outsiders" (1984, 225). This apologetic was concerned to present Judaism in the best light to outsiders and also to make Judaism attractive to the non-Jew. One cannot say that he was seeking converts; but he was certainly aware that Judaism was attractive to some Greeks and Romans, and he traded on that attractiveness (see Rajak, 1984, 228). Although it is possible that Josephus carried out his apologetic without the notice of Domitian, it is unlikely. More likely, either Domitian was supporting Josephus in an enterprise that could foster converts to Judaism, or Domitian was insufficiently interested in the "Jewish question" to pay much attention to Josephus.
Josephus states that Domitian was aware of him; indeed, that Domitian protected him from false accusers: "And Domitian, who succeeded [Titus], still augmented his respects to me; for he punished those Jews that were my accusers, and gave command that a servant of mine, who was a eunuch, and my accuser, should be punished. He also made that country I had in Judea tax free, which is a mark of the greatest honour to him who hath it; nay, Domitia, the wife of Caesar, continued to do me kindnesses" (Joseph. Vit. 76). That statement supports evidence from Quintilian and even Suetonius that Domitian did not abuse the use of informers. 6
In the twelveth Sibylline Oracle, a third-century Jewish text written away from the capital, Domitian's reign is described (in the apocalyptic form of prophecy after the event) as "a great kingdom whom all mortals will love throughout the ends of the earth and then there will be rest from war throughout the whole cosmos ... from east to west, all will be subject willingly, and ... upon him heavenly Sabaoth, the imperishable God dwelling in heaven, will bring much glory" (Sib. Or. 12.125-132). In this twelveth book of Sibylline Oracles from a "provincial tradition" (Geffcken 1902) specific mention is also made of cities' spontaneously becoming subjects of Domitian and of Domitian's favorable treatment of the provinces. 7 Sibylline Oracles 12 reflects the strong positive feelings of provincials towards Domitian; Domitian was seen as a "benefactor of all provinces," including provincial Jews (see B. Jones 1979, 61). 8
Nor are Christian writers thoroughgoing in their condemnation of Domitian. The notion of a Domitianic persecution first appears in the fourth-century work of Eusebius. According to him, John of Revelation was caught in that persecution, "sentenced to confinement on the island of Patmos" ( Hist. Eccl. 3.18). Eusebius quotes freely from earlier sources, but he is less ambiguous than his sources about the evil character of Domitian. Eusebius tends to follow the official Roman historiography on Domitian, referring to his "appalling cruelty" and his execution "without a fair trial" of "great numbers of men distinguished by birth and attainments" and his banishment of "countless other eminent men." Like the standard Roman pen-portraits, he calls Domitian a "successor of Nero," but Eusebius adds "in enmity and hostility to God" ( Hist. Eccl. 3.17). He probably draws on Dio Cassius as a source for Domitian's persecutions. Eusebius states "that even historians who accepted none of our beliefs unhesitatingly recorded in their pages both the persecution and the martyrdoms to which it led" ( Hist. Eccl. 3.18). 9
In Eusebius' sources and other Christian writings earlier than Eusebius, Domitian is not presented in such totally negative terms. Irenaeus, in connection with a revelatory vision recorded in the Book of Revelation, states simply that "it was seen not a long time back, but almost in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian's reign" (Haer. 5.30 = Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.18.1, cf. 5.8). He does not mention any persecution at that time. According to second-century Christian writer Hegesippus,
Domitian is one of three emperors who hunt down "the lineage of David." 10 The emperor interviews grandsons of Judas, the brother of Jesus, because they were of the line of David. He sees their work-worn hands and their general poverty, interrogates them about Christ and his kingdom, then releases them. The exact quotation is interesting for our context: "At this [after they described the kingdom] Domitian did not condemn them at all, but despised them as simple folk [or, "viewed them as frugal"], released them, and decreed an end to the persecution against the church" (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.20.5). Domitian does not, thus, come off as badly as do Vespasian ( Hist. Eccl. 3.12) and Trajan (3.32). 11 As a Christian from Syria, Hegesippus may be influenced by the provincial view of Domitian reflected also in the Sibylline Oracles.
The Christian apologist, Melito, defending Christianity before Marcus Aurelius, argues that the Christian religion and the empire grew up together (flowering in the reign of Augustus!) and that Christianity was a portent for good as Rome expanded (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 4.26.7-8). Only Nero and Domitian (the bad emperors in Roman historiography) attacked the Church (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 4.26.9). Their ignorance was corrected by Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius (4.26.10). Tertullian argues similarly in his Apology, though he links the emergence of Christianity more accurately to the time of Tiberius (27-37). For him, too, Nero and Domitian are the bad emperors—Domitian "was a good deal of a Nero in cruelty"—who raged against Christianity. Domitian, however, "being in some degree human, soon stopped what he had begun [persecution of Christians], and restored those he had banished" (Tert. Apol. 5). Tertullian, thus, like Hegesippus, on the one hand reflects the standard judgment against Domitian but on the other hand qualifies Domitian for the good. Tertullian and Hegesippus may combine two different traditions of Domitian—the standard Roman assessment of Domitian as an evil emperor and the provincial assessment of him as a good emperor. 12
From the various sources about Domitian's relations to Jews and Christians, two views begin to emerge. There is the view of the standard sources of Domitian's reign—Domitian as the evil emperor—located in the "official" literary traditions and imperial archives at Rome. These sources influence especially Eusebius' account of Domitian's reign, but they also influenced Melito and Tertullian in their apologies to official Roman offices. At the same time, Tertullian equivocates, for he knows another tradition about Domitian, as does Hegesippus. This other, provincial tradition (seen also in Sibylline Oracles 12) praises Domitian as a good emperor. In the cities of Asia, the provincials (including Jews and Christians) would more likely have a positive view of Caesar Domitian than would those in Rome.
Jews in the Province of Asia
Although outsiders could distinguish between Christians and Jews by the last decade of the first century, in Christian life they remained entangled historically, socially, and theologically. Many Christians in urban Asia converted from Judaism, which linked the two traditions. Furthermore, the presence of the synagogue was living testimony to the continued life of Israel apart from Christianity, and that social presence created theological problems for Christian claims that the church had supplanted the synagogue (see Wilken 1984, 112-117). The relationship between Christianity and Judaism is a prominent theme in Christian literature from Asia (cf. Acts, Paul's letters, Ignatius, Melito), and the Book of Revelation is no exception. The seer's reference to Jews at both Smyrna and Philadelphia as members of "the synagogue of Satan" has both theological and social implications. He is rejecting the Jews as being the "people of God"; but he is also condemning Jewish accommodation to Greek city life, just as he condemns Christians who do the same (Rev. 2:9, 3:9, cf. 2:14, 21). Because of these links between the church and synagogue, the status of the Jew can give indirect evidence for the placement of Christians in the social order.
Jews had been settled in this geographical area as early as the end of the third century BCE, when Antiochus III, a Seleucid king, ordered Zeuxis, one of his subordinates, to relocate some two thousand Jewish families from Babylonia to Phrygia as a military colony ( katoikia ) to help control political revolts that were occurring in Phrygia and Lydia (Joseph. AJ 12.147-49). Antiochus gave orders to grant each family "a place to build a house and land to cultivate and plant with vines" ( AJ 12.151). According to Josephus they are also allowed "to use their own laws" ( AJ 12.150) and to provide grain for "their servants" and "those engaged in public service" ( AJ 12.152). 13 Antiochus also orders that thought should be taken so that the Jews "should not be molested by anyone" ( AJ 12.153).
The protection given to this Jewish ethnos (Joseph. AJ 12.153) seems to be maintained down through the hellenistic and Roman periods (see Applebaum 1974a, 420). Josephus once again provides the evidence. In various documents from the time of Julius Caesar, Josephus mentions such privileges as the right to assemble for worship, to obey the Jewish Law, to hold funds, and to build synagogues (see AJ 14.190-216; Smallwood 1981, 134-35). Dolabella, after 44 BCE, on orders from Rome, granted to Asian Jews exemption from military service and permission to maintain their native customs ( AJ 14.223). Josephus includes decrees to Ephesus ( AJ 14.225-27, 228-29, 234, 236-40, 262-64), Sardis ( AJ 14.235, 259-261), Laodicea ( AJ 14.241-43, cf. a reference to Tralles at 14.242), Miletus ( AJ 14.244-46), and Pergamum ( AJ 14.247-55).
Augustus later (c. 12 BCE) renewed those privileges to the Jews of Asia, including their right to send "sacred monies" to Jerusalem (the temple tax) (see AJ 16.166), and the edict was publicly displayed in Caesar's temple ( AJ 16.162-65). Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a longtime close associate of Augustus, during a mission to the East also sent an edict to Ephesus that the sacred Jewish temple tax should be protected ( AJ 16.167-68, cf. 12.125-28, 16.27, 60). Gaius Norbanus Flaccus, proconsul of Asia, transmitted to the city leaders of Sardis Caesar's edict that they should not impede the collecting or the sending to Jerusalem of the temple tax ( AJ 16.171). Finally, Julius Antonius writes to the people of Ephesus to permit Jews "to follow their own laws and customs, and to bring the offerings ... travelling together under escort [to Jerusalem] without being impeded in any way" ( AJ 16.172). From those and other documents about Asian cities, one may conclude that Jewish rights were challenged in the reign of Augustus but that they had been firmly reestablished by the end of his reign (see Applebaum 1974a, 443).
These rights were reiterated by Claudius ( AJ 19.286-91) and again, after the Jewish War, by Vespasian and Titus ( AJ 12.119-24). As Applebaum points out, Jewish privileges in the empire came about through a "series of city-laws of local application, which, although they possessed common principles, differed in detail from one city to the next" (Applebaum 1974a, 457). Jewish status outside Judaea was "ethnic rather than national" and "the question of whether Judaism was a 'permitted religion' does not seem to arise at all." 14
Jewish communities were widely distributed throughout western Asia Minor (cf. Philo, Leg. 245). In Phrygia (the central, eastern portion of the province of Asia and part of the province of Galatia east of Asia), where Antiochus III had sent Jews at the end of the third century BCE, there is evidence for Jews in several cities. Apamea must have been the center of a large Jewish settlement; for Flaccus, a governor of Asia around the middle of the first century BCE, had confiscated from Apamea a temple tax of almost a hundred pounds of gold. Apamea was probably a collection center for the money to be sent to Jerusalem, but it was at least as important as a collection center (see Stern 1974, 143). Other evidence for a Jewish presence is found in three third-century-CE inscriptions from Apamea involving curses against violators of Jewish grave sites (MAMA 6.231; CIJ 773, 774). More interesting, Apamea seems to have adopted the Noah story (probably through Jewish rather than Christian influence). Coins minted there from the first half of the third century CE show Noah and his wife stepping from the ark along with the caption Noah. Mount Ararat, where Noah's ark came to rest, was identified in Phrygia somewhere near Apamea. Here is probably a case of Jewish cultural traditions mixing freely with Greek and Phrygian culture, which indicates acculturation of the Jews in this area (cf. Kraabel 1968, 121-22; Schürer 1986, 28-30).
Laodicea, one of the seven cities in the Book of Revelation, was also a collection center for the Jewish temple tax; there, however, Flaccus confiscated only about twenty pounds of gold (see Cic. Flac. 28.68). Laodicea was both an important commercial center (see Rev. 3:17) and a center for organized Judaism. Josephus records a letter from magistrates of Laodicea to Gaius Rabirius, proconsul of Asia, confirming that they would honor his instructions to allow Jews to observe the Sabbath and other rites and to recognize the Jews as "friends and allies" not to be harmed ( AJ 14.242, cf. Applebaum 1974b, 477). 15 The seer of Revelation does not mention this Jewish community in his condemnation of the wealthy Christians there.
Several inscriptions, mainly epitaphs from the second and third centuries CE related to Jews, have been found at Hierapolis, a city located a few miles north of Laodicea in the Lycus Valley (see CIJ 775-80). Jews took over the local Phrygian custom of decorating graves with flowers but adapted the custom so that graves were decorated on the Jewish holidays of the Festival of Unleavened Bread or the
Pentecost ( CIJ 777, see Kraabel 1968, 128). Jewish names—sometimes double names—include Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. In CIJ 777 local trade associationswhich included both Jews and Gentiles—are given the responsibility of decorating with flowers the Jewish graves of Publins Aelios Glykon Damianos and his family—the chairman of the purple-dyers for the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the tapestrymakers for Pentecost. Finally a prosperous man who is probably a Jew notes on a grave prepared for him and his family that he made seventy-two business trips to Rome from Hierapolis (see IG Rom. 4.841; Kraabel 1968, 135). 16
Acmonia, about a hundred miles north of Hierapolis but reached by road through Philadelphia, had a large Jewish community, which has left us an abundance of epigraphy. Sometime in the second half of the first century CE a building for a synagogue was donated to the Jews by Julia Severa, a magistrate there in the time of Nero. She was high priestess of the theoi sebastoi and a Gentile sympathizer to Judaism (see Applebaum 1974a, 443). Her activity in other religions was not a hinderance to receiving her gift (CIJ 766). A bilingual Greek-Hebrew inscription from Acmonia may be a building fragment from that synagogue (see Kraabel 1968, 92). In the third century a wealthy Jew by the name of Aurelios Phrougianos (24849 CE)—who prepared a tomb for himself with warning curses from Deuteronomy—held several municipal offices, including superintendent of the markets, provider of grain, and sheriff ( CIJ 760); and from the same period another Jew, Titus Flavios Alexander, lists the offices of "magistrate, officer of the peace, provider of grain [two terms of office], senate president, superintendent of the markets, and chief magistrate." 17 From these and other third-century inscriptions from Acmonia it is clear that Jews took the highest responsibilities and offices in civic life and that they had the economic means and appropriate social status to fulfil these obligations. 18 At Acmonia, Jews are well integrated into the municipal life. Kraabel concludes, regarding Jews and pagans, "No group appears to be set apart, but all mix in the social and economic life of the city" (1968, 115).
From elsewhere in Phrygia, but outside the circle of the churches of Revelation, come a few epigraphic remains of a Jewish presence: at Synnada, about twenty miles east and south of Acmonia, a fragment of a first-or second-century inscription referring to a son of Julios, an archisynagogos ( CIJ 759); fifteen miles north and east, at Docimium, a stone with a carved menorah, perhaps a fragment from a synagogue (Kraabel 1968, 80); from Eumeneia, about ten miles northwest of Apamea, may come at least one Jewish inscription, a curse against anyone violating a grave; he will receive a curse against his children's children ( CIJ 761). 19
In Lydia, a region in the river valleys of Phrygia, the most important Jewish community was at Sardis. 20 Recall that the author of Revelation condemns wealthy Christians at Sardis and does not mention Jews there. In a document from the first century BCE Josephus refers to rights given to the Jews at Sardis by Lucius Antonius, a governor of Asia (see Magie 1950, 1256). In a letter addressed to the city council at Sardis, Lucius Antonius directs the council to allow Jews to have "an association of their own in accordance with their native laws and a place of their own, in which they decide their affairs and controversies with one another" (Joseph. AJ 14.235, Applebaum 1974b, 442). A little later Josephus includes a decree passed by the council (c. 50 BCE, cf. Applebaum 1974b, 477-78, Kraabel 1978, 1618) to allow Jews those liberties, and the market officials are charged to bring in suitable food for the Jews (Joseph. AJ 14.259-61). Josephus also records a decree from Gaius Norbanus Flaccus (the confiscator of Jewish funds), proconsul, to the magistrates and council of Sardis (c. 30 BCE) ordering that the Jews should be allowed to send money to Jerusalem ( AJ 16.171; Millar 1966, 161). Thus, Jews at Sardis are said to have been able to practice their ancestral laws, meet for cultic and communal activities, erect communal buildings, conduct litigation among themselves in their own courts, collect funds for Jerusalem, and have their own foods in the market (Applebaum 1974b, 478-79).
A spectacular archaeological find of a Jewish synagogue at Sardis may also provide evidence for the socioeconomic status of Jews and their integration into civic life there. Archaeologists have unearthed a large social center that included a gymnasium, shops, palaestra complex, and a Jewish synagogue (see Hanfmann 1972, 1975). Although the synagogue was walled off from the rest of the facilities, it opened out onto "Main Street" (see Kraabel 1978, 233). Some of the furnishings of the synagogue are striking examples of Jews' combining their own with Roman and indigenous Lydian traditions. A large table was probably the centerpiece of worship ; decorations on the tabletop show it to have been originally from the Augustan period, when it was used for some other purpose. The tabletop is supported on either end by two slabs, each of which is "decorated with a powerful Roman eagle clutching thunderbolts" (Kraabel 1978, 22). The table is flanked by self-standing lions, "originally Lydian, sixth-fifth century BC" (Kraabel 1978, 22). One of the Jewish donors to the synagogue is identified as from "the tribe of Leontioi," a group within the Jewish community at Sardis (see Robert 1964, 46). The lion, however, also plays a significant role in the history of Sardis; and lions are found in connection with the altar to Cybele uncovered in excavations of Sardis (see Kraabel 1978, 22-23). Kraabel concludes, "It seems likely that the Sardis Jews are not simply 'reusing' the lion-statues in their synagogue, but actually associating themselves in some way with this traditional Sardis image" (Kraabel 1978, 23). At the same time, the synagogue has the niche for the Torah scrolls and other appropriate Jewish identifications. Thus the mixture of materials, symbols, and images of Roman, Lydian, and Jewish traditions in the synagogue indicates a vital Jewish community integrated into Lydian and Roman culture and society. Kraabel sees here "the expressions of self-confident Jewish communities, existing in Asia Minor ... for over a half a millenium.... These are bold acts, not timid ones, and should not be misrepresented as 'syncretism' or 'apostasy' simply because they appear strange in the twentieth century" (Kraabel 1978, 24).
From other inscriptions found at Sardis there is further evidence for a Jewish community integrated into Sardian social life. On at least nine inscriptions Jews identify themselves as members of the city council ( bouleutes ), citizens of the city, and citizens of the empire. Three others belonged to the Asian provincial administration, one of whom was a procurator. Although these are third-century-CE inscriptions, Kraabel argues that they confirm that "Jews had been in Sardis a long time" and had accumulated significant wealth and status (1968, 219-20). Sardis reveals a Jewish community quite integrated into the social, economic and political life of a major Anatolian city, while retaining an internal cohesion and a clear understanding of itself as a part of Diaspora Judaism" (Kraabel 1968, 9-10).
To what extent this synagogue contributes to our understanding of Jewish existence in the first century CE depends on the date of the synagogue and how much continuity existed in Jewish life at Sardis through the first three centuries of the Common Era. The synagogue did not become a part of the gymnasium complex before the third century. From an analysis of coins found under the mosaic floor of the synagogue, it is likely that remodeling for the synagogue did not occur before 270, nearly two centuries after the writing of the Book of Revelation. By the end of the third century, Jews at Sardis were integrated socially, politically, and economically into the city, the province, and the empire. Can one assume, as Kraabel does, that such integration was present over the previous half millenium? 21
Marianne Bonz argues (against Kraabel) that the economic prosperity and social acceptance of Jews at Sardis were tied to the economic policies of Septimius Severus (193-211) and Caracalla. Because of extravagance and mismanagement, Caracalla needed to broaden the tax base that included services (liturgies) for the cities, and Jews were brought in as a part of the necessary adjustments. 22 Because of the economic crisis in the empire during the third century, the costs of municipal offices went up and interest in them went down (see A. Jones 1940, 182-91). There is insufficient evidence, however, to link completely the social status of Jews at Sardis to those economic and social upheavals. More Jews may have been harnessed into giving liturgies to the city in the third century, and perhaps the economic crisis contributed to the conditions that allowed a synagogue in the gymnasium at Sardis. But there is sufficient circumstantial evidence from Josephus to conclude that prior to this time Jews lived an integrated social life at Sardis.
Philadelphia is situated about thirty miles southeast of Sardis. John of the Apocalypse praises Christians there but condemns the Jews as belonging to the "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 3.9). A third-century inscription found at nearby Deliler provides evidence for a synagogue; in the inscription Eustathios and his fiancée dedicate to the synagogue a basin for water ablutions ( CIJ 754). Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, may provide evidence for Jews at Philadelphia when he writes, "But if any one propound Judaism unto you, hear him not: for it is better to hear Christianity from a man who is circumcised than Judaism from one uncircumcised" ( Philad. 6). 23
A few other cities in the region of Lydia certainly included Jewish communities. At Thyatira—where Jezebel the prophetess lived (Rev. 2:20-21) and Lydia, "seller of purple cloth," was born (Acts 16.14)—a second- or third-century inscription probably provides evidence for a synagogue. 24 At Hypaepa, between Sardis and Ephesus, an inscription from about 200 was found, the remains of which reads simply, "of the younger Jews" ( CIJ 755, ?? ???da??? ???t????). It refers to either a group in the local synagogue or more likely to "Jewish ephebes in the local palaestra" (Kraabel 1968, 181, cf. the inscription from lasos in Caria in Kraabel 1968, 16). Finally, at Magnesia in the shadow of Mount Sipylos, Strato, a Jew, son of Tyrannos ( CIJ 753) placed a funerary inscription.
The Coastal Region
Finally, we may note some of the cities in the coastal region along the Aegean Sea where there is evidence of a Jewish presence. A Jewish community is well attested at the economic and political center of Ephesus (one of the seven cities of the Apocalypse). Josephus refers to decrees from the latter half of the first century BCE reconfirming Jewish privileges. 25 Two funerary inscriptions from the second or third centuries CE were found at Ephesus: one set up by an "official physician" (?????at???) by the name of Julius or Iolios and one was set up by Markus Mussios. Both charge the Jews of Ephesus to care for their graves. 26 As we saw in chapter 7, Jewish magicians are referred to in Acts 19:13-19. A few protective amulets have been found in and around Ephesus, indicating that there were "Jewish elements in the magic of the Ephesus area" in the first century (Kraabel 1968, 59). That offers further evidence for Jewish acculturation in Asia. Sometime during the middle of the second century, the Christian apologist Justin Martyr debated there with Trypho, "the most distinguished Jew of the day" (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 4.18.6). A few distinctively Jewish household and personal items have been found at Ephesus, but for the most part the Jews there shared in the common culture. Just as they bore the same name as the indigenous citizens (cf. Joseph. Ap. 2.39), so they "displayed the dress and the vocabulary of their Ephesian neighbors" (Kraabel 1968, 60).
Epigraphic and literary evidence from Smyrna indicates an active Jewish community. As we have seen, the seer of the Apocalypse refers to the "synagogue of Satan" there as well as at Philadelphia. A few years later, according to Ignatius, the Christian community at Smyrna was made up of both Jews and Gentiles (I Smyr. 1). 27 In an inscription from Hadrian's reign (c. 125), specifying contributions made to public buildings, a small contribution is made by "those formerly Judaeans" (?? p?t? ?? ???da?^??, IG Rom. 4.1431). The phrase may refer to apostate Jews, but Kraabel has made a good case for interpreting it to mean "formerly from Judaea" (1968, 2832). Thus, Jews supported civic life in Smyrna just as they did elsewhere in Asia. Later inscriptions indicate the presence of a synagogue at Smyrna ( CIJ 739-40). There are also "funerary inscriptions of two officers of the Jewish community" there ( CIJ 741; and Dittenberg. SIG 1247; Kraabel 1968, 41). In another inscription a woman benefactor by the name of Rouphina is honored as "leader of the synagogue" ( archisynagogos ) ( CIJ 741). 28
Jews are also evident at Pergamum, where, according to John, is "Satan's throne" (Rev. 2:13). Flaccus confiscated a Jewish temple tax there around the middle of the first century BCE. 29 Somewhat earlier, Josephus mentions Pergamum in connection with the confirmation of Jewish rights (see AJ 14.247-55). 30 Two objects have been unearthed by archaeologists at Pergamum: one from a synagogue showing "a well-carved menorah" and other distinctively Jewish symbols; the other, a third-century altar with the inscription "God, Lord, the one who is forever" (see Kraabel 1968, 180).
Evidence from Miletus (the town closest to the island of Patmos, where John had his visions) probably shows another Jewish community well-integrated into urban social life. An inscription carved on a row of theater seats reads "the place of the Jews who are also called theoseboi" ( CIJ 748, cf. CIJ 749). Jews entered fully into life at Miletus without losing their identity. As Kraabel aptly says, this inscription says "much about their social life, little about their piety" (1968, 16, but cf. Schürer 1986, 167-69). Earlier evidence of Jews in Miletus comes from Josephus; he cites a document (c. 150-50 BCE) that refers to a proconsul ordering the magistrates, council, and people of Miletus to stop attacking the Jews and forbidding them from observing their customs ( AJ 14.244-46). 31
Jews in Asia: A Composite Portrait
Epigraphic, numismatic, and literary evidence for a Jewish presence in the province of Asia is fragmentary and happenstance. Nonetheless, we can develop a portrait of Diaspora Judaism in this area of the Roman Empire, drawing upon evidence from roughly the second century BCE to the fourth century CE. This portrait is important for our study of the Book of Revelation, for it shows how Jews in Asia lived, worked, and related to their urban setting. We assume that Jewish converts to Christianity continued to relate to their urban setting along the same lines; that is, their conversion to Christianity did not cause or require of them a drastic change in their occupation; in their social, economic status; or in their engagement in urban life.
With the transition to the empire in the latter half of the last century BCE came certain challenges in the cities to Jewish rights and privileges. Josephus is a primary source for these challenges. By the turn of the century, however, Jewish communal rights were reestablished and attacks against them came to an end. Throughout the first century of the Common Era, even during and immediately after the Jewish War in Palestine (66-70), Jews in Asia shared in the prosperity of the common, urban life and were not persecuted or punished for their Palestinian connections. Nor were there successful attempts at putting in jeopardy the rights of Jews to observe their legal tradition, to gather at the synagogue for worship and study, or to be exempt (albeit tacitly) from the state cult and military service. 32
Guarantee of those rights did not, however, create in the cities of Asia a Jewish ghetto, a sheltered community that carefully avoided or circumscribed social intercourse with non-Jewish neighbors. Jews identified with the cities in which they had lived for centuries; in Sardis, they called themselves Sardians, in Ephesus they were Ephesians, and in Antioch, Antiochenes (see Joseph. AP. 2.39; Kraabel 1978, 24). 33 From inscriptions at Acmonia, Sardis, and Ephesus, we know of Jews who served municipal, provincial, and even imperial offices—and all this while active in the synagogue; honored members of the synagogue were not troubled by the "religious observances connected with citizenship and office-holding" (Kraabel 1968, 221). At Smyrna, Jews contributed, however modestly, to the development of the city. Jews at Hypaepa, Iasos in Caria, and elsewhere participated in the gymnasium (Applebaum 1974a, 447). At Miletus they had "reserved seats" for the theater. At Acmonia they received funds for the synagogue from Julia Severa who was also affiliated with "pagan" cults. At Sardis, Jewish shops were set up along the south wall of the synagogue beside a public restaurant and shops by non-Jews.
Jews were active members of guilds and trade unions; at Hierapolis two guilds were responsible for decorating the graves of Jews on the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Pentecost. 34 Probably Jews had "penetrated all the peninsula's normal occupations" (Applebaum 1976, 715). Applebaum cites evidence for Jews in farming, vine growing, and ownership of land. Jews were leather workers, manufacturing tents and hobnail boots; metal workers; and perfumers. Most common of all, Jews were involved in the manufacture of textiles—dyers, carpetmakers, and makers of woolen wares (see Applebaum 1976, 715-19).
Jews in the Asian cities not only identified socially with their urban environment ; they also shared in the cultural traditions. At Ephesus only a few distinctively Jewish artifacts have been discovered. At Laodicea the local customs of decorating graves with flowers was taken over by Jews. At Apamea the flood story of Noah was conflated with Greek and Phrygian flood stories, and at Sardis the symbolism of lion and eagle in Judaism mixed with that in Rome and Lydia.
In sum, the Jews in the cities of Asia neither withdrew into ghettos nor assimilated and lost their identity as Jews. They engaged in what Applebaum calls a "mutual rapproachement" (1974a, 443). Throughout the first two centuries of the Common Era, Jews lived stable lives socially and economically in those cities (see Applebaum 1976, 702). As Kraabel summarizes, in Asia Minor one kind of Diaspora Judaism emerges, "a picture of a number of Ionians, Phrygians and Lydians, each of whom participates in the life of his own city, speaking its language, fitting into its commercial and social life and its government, honoring its traditions, and all the while remaining within the race and the faith of the Jews" (1968, 13). In each of the seven cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation, Jews lived according to their traditions and as active, recognized participants in the municipal life. Those who converted to Christianity continued to live the same kind of life in the seven churches of the Apocalypse.
9 Urban Life in the
Province of Asia
The last two chapters have shown that Christians and Jews in Asia were not isolated from economic and political social structures in the cities where they worshipped and worked. In this chapter I shall consider more systematically some of the features of urban life only alluded to in the previous two chapters. The focus here will be on the organization of cities and the economic and political connections between the cities in Asia and the larger empire. Implicit throughout the chapter is the thesis that political, economic, and social relations within the cities and between the cities and the empire were stable. Those relations provide no basis for assuming crises between empire and province or among classes within the cities of the province. Life in the cities was fairly prosperous and the social structures provided benefits for all; though, as always, the wealthy received more benefits than the poor. In other words, life in the provinces under Domitian was carried on much as it had been and would be for at least another century. Where possible, I provide examples of this life from Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, the circle of seven cities in the Book of Revelation.
Cicero declared that "in the richness of its soil, in the variety of its products, in the extent of its pastures and in the number of its exports it [Asia Minor] surpasses all other lands" ( Leg. Man. 14). Among the provinces in Asia Minor, Asia was the richest. That province contained four great river valleys flowing from the eastern highlands westward into the Mediterranean: from north to south they are the Caicus, Hermus, Cayster, and Maeander, each separated from the next by a range of mountains. These hills and valleys provided the natural conditions for a rich variety of agricultural resources: grains, wine, olives, fruits and nuts, aromatic flowers for perfumes and ointments, textile plants, forest products, and animal pasture for sheep, goats, and swine. The land also offered lead, copper, iron, salt, and marble, which could be mined and quarried (see Broughton 1938, 607-26).
By the time of Augustus (then called Octavian, c. 30 BCE), a mixture of peoples—some indigenous and some invaders—had left their mark on Asia Minor, and ethnic boundaries were blurred, in part by the way the land was organized and controlled. In the Seleucid period (c. 312-64 BCE) the land was incorporated into large estates, with villagers paying dues to the landlord and the landlord, in turn, paying taxes to the government. 1 Retired soldiers received royal grants of land and settled on them, bringing another new element into Asia; this land was either owned by the king or developed into military establishments ( katoikiai ) with corporate power (cf. Broughton 1938, 632-37). In the period of the Roman Empire, villages could have the same internal organization as cities and were also represented at provincial gatherings, like cities (see Price 1984, 82). More often than not, however, villages with their surrounding land were incorporated into city territories where the land was either owned publicly by the city itself or privately by citizens who lived in the city (Broughton 1938, 637-40).
Temples also owned village lands from before the time of the Seleucids through the Roman period (Broughton 1951, 243). Some temples gained great economic power. For example, the temple of Artemis at Ephesus possessed quarries, pastures, salt pans, and fisheries and extensive estates in the Cayster Valley. Wealthy temples also served as banks, acquiring land through mortgages and business investments. 2
From the days of the republic, Roman and Italian businessmen were involved in land investments in Asia (Broughton 1938, 543-54). By the time of the Flavians and Antonines, however, these businessmen had become fully provincialized, and there was little or no distinction between them and wealthy provincials. Finally, the imperial family held private land in Asia. For example, Livia, Augustus' wife, held land at Thyatira ( IG Rom. 4.1213, 1204; Broughton 1938, 648), and Domitian had an imperial estate around Pisidian Antioch (see Pleket 1961, 308). Vespasian probably reorganized all the Julio-Claudian estates as these imperial possessions grew larger and their administration became more complex (see Broughton 1938, 652). Large estates required supervisors and managers, who attained significant status, especially if they worked for an important senator or on an imperial estate. Thus, by the imperial period, land in the province of Asia was incorporated into military settlements; temple estates; public city properties; and private estates of provincials, Romans, and the imperial family. Possession of land assured income from the sale of its natural resources, and it was also seen as a safe long-term investment. 3
The other significant factor in the prosperity of Asia Minor was the growth and maintenance of the cities. Pompey had drawn up charters for the cities of Asia prior to the empire; these charters continued to guide the cities throughout the second century CE (see Broughton 1938, 533). Cities were the places of regional and local trade (aside from village fairs), and they were the places where most industry developed, intensive labor was needed, and the professions recognized. As we have seen, cities also provided a favorable habitat for nascent Christianity.
Distribution and Interconnection of Cities
At the beginning of the empire the coast of the province of Asia was completely occupied by city territories; in the interior of the province, cities were to be found primarily on the major roadways, with fewer cities toward the central plateau. 4 At the time of Octavian's visit to Samos after the battle of Actium (31 BCE), all seven cities mentioned in Revelation were in existence (see Broughton's list of cities, 1938, 700-701). Indeed, they were among the largest cities of the province. Evidence of urban population is scant, and estimates are based upon extrapolations from various sources, but Broughton estimates that in the middle of the second century Pergamum had a population of about 200 thousand, while Smyrna and Ephesus were probably larger (1938, 812-13). Next to Smyrna and Ephesus, Sardis and Thyatira were among the larger cities in the Lydian region. And in the Phrygian region, Laodicea and Apameia were "fairly large" (Broughton 1938, 815). Of the seven cities of Revelation, only Philadelphia is not to be counted among the major cities of Asia.
The cities of Asia were connected by a network of roadways, which emperors improved, remade, and expanded. 5 A web of such roadways connected and surrounded the seven cities of the Apocalypse. Out of Ephesus a northwest roadway went to Smyrna and then on north through Cyme, Elaia, and Pergamum (continuing to Cyzicus on the Propontis). Out of Pergamum another road went east to Germe and then south to Thyatira where it junctioned with another artery coming down from the north. That road connected Thyatira with Sardis. Another road angled southwest out of Thyatira to Magnesia ad Sipylum. Sardis was a major intersection of several roads: one came from the west with a branch to Magnesia ad Sipylum and another branch to Smyrna; one wound southwestward to Ephesus, one east to Acmonia, and southeast to Philadelphia. At Philadelphia one road went east and north, following the Hippourios River joining the Sardis-Acmonia roadway, and another went southeast to Laodicea and the Lycus Valley. At Laodicea that road junctioned with a major east-west road that went eastward through Asia Minor and westward through Tralles and Magnesia on the Maeander up to Ephesus, which completed the loop of the seven cities mentioned in the Apocalypse. Thus, all seven cities were strategically located on roadways connecting the hundreds of cities of Asia Minor. Under the Flavians, road building extended into the interior of Asia Minor, with greatest attention given to the central and eastern sections so that the eastern frontier could be supported militarily. 6
Roads were used by travelers and by small caravans transporting textiles, precious metals, ointments, and other valuables small in bulk. Movement of heavy materials was very expensive and rarely done. There is little evidence for inns along the roads. Individuals arranged to stay in rooms provided by people in their religious or professional networks. Paul, for example, stayed with Christians. Security for the roads was left to the local authorities and, according to Broughton, was successful for the first two centuries of the empire (1938, 866-68). Roads were also important for the imperial post ( cursus publicus ) organized by Augustus (cf. Domitian's order to his Syrian procurator, discussed below).
Among the many cities of Asia—perhaps as many as five hundred—there was lively competition for honors and status. 7 Ephesus was capital, seat of the governor (proconsul) and center for both the senatorial and imperial treasuries (see Broughton 1938, 708). Augustus granted also to Ephesus (and Nicaea) the right to dedicate sacred precincts to Rome and Caesar, for, as Dio Cassius says, "these cities had at that time attained the chief place in Asia and Bithynia respectively" (51.20.6, see Broughton 1938, 709). 8 Another kind of urban honor involved the place where Roman officials would hold court in their judicial itinerary. 9 The province was divided into assize districts, areas around a designated city. These assize districts changed over time and evidence for them is not extensive, but probably in the time of Augustus the assize cities included Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Sardis as well as Alabanda, Adramytteum, Apamea, Cibyra, Synnada, and Philomelium (see Habicht 1975, 70). Sometime no later than the second century, Philadelphia became an assize center separate from Sardis, and in the third century Caracalla granted Thyatira assize status separate from Pergamum (see Burton 1975, 94). 10 A final status symbol for a city was to have a shrine or temple with the right of asylum for evildoers. Among shrines in the cities of Asia with that status Tacitus lists Artemis of Ephesus, Asclepius of Pergamum, Aphrodite Stratonicis of Smyrna, Artemis of Sardis, and nine others. 11 Issuance of coinage also provides evidence for the importance of cities. Most of the cities along the coast began to issue coins at the beginning of Augustus' reign. Coins from cities in the Maeander, Cayster, and Hermus valleys suggest that at the beginning of the empire trade routes into Phrygia were again in operation (Broughton 1938, 713). Finally, building programs, gifts, and establishment of foundations by private families indicate the wealth and status of cities in Asia. 12 From this brief review, it is clear that the cities mentioned in Revelation are major cities in the province of Asia, linked with each other and with the larger empire.
The Organization of Cities
City organization in Asia followed a pattern found elsewhere throughout the eastern part of the Empire. Roman powers did not try to change the basic democratic structure of the old Greek city with its council, administrative magistrates, and assembly of citizens (see A. Jones 1940, 170-91). Nonetheless, several changes were made within that structure. Furthermore, although the empire remained under Vespasian more or less "a congeries of self-governing communities" (Magie 1950, 639), the self-administration of those communities was overseen by Roman authorities.
Through changes in requirements for holding office, the cities of Asia under Rome came to be governed more like the senate in Rome than like a Greek democracy (A. Jones 1940, 171). Members of the city council had to own property (A. Jones 1940, 338). More important, the council became less and less responsible to the assembly of citizens. Membership in the council became permanent rather than subject to election, and gradually the council members came to control its member ship. For the most part, the council consisted of past and present magistrates, and the council determined the list of names to be submitted to the people (where this was done) for magistracies. 13 With such power the council "inevitably became the governing body of the city" (A. Jones 1940, 171). The assembly simply confirmed what the council recommended.The administration of the city was often headed by one official whose name was used to date public documents. Eponymous ("named after") was normally placed before his title. 14 An executive board of magistrates—three to five in numberwatched over city government, managing the income and expenses of the city, enforcing enactments of the council and the assembly, and acting as judiciary to try those who violated such enactments (see Magie 1950, 644).At least seven individual officials were involved in running city government: 15
1. A clerk ( grammateus ) presented resolutions to the assembly, oversaw erection of statues decreed by council or assembly, and tended to many other details of civic administration, including endowments and distribution of money (Magie 1950, 645). In Acts of the Apostles 19:35 the clerk of Ephesus speaks to the people when Paul comes into conflict with Demetrius the silversmith.
2. A superintendent of the markets ( agoranomos ) oversaw the maintenance, and even the construction, of buildings in the marketplace, established prices, determined accuracy of weights, and saw to the supply of food and oil. In times of recession or shortages, this office could be very expensive, for the agoranomos would personally have to provide for the city's needs (Magie 1950, 645). For the overseeing of grain many cities had, in addition to an agoranomos, a provider of grain ( sitones ), who had to make grain available to citizens at a reasonable price, and sometimes a special administrator for the supply of oil to the city, so important for cooking, heating, and the baths (Magie 1950, 646).
3. A superintendent of streets and sanitation ( astynomos ) was responsible for such things as checking the stability and placement of house walls lest they endanger or encroach upon public thoroughfares, keeping drains and fountains in good condition, and providing the city with a water supply (though a special commissioner might be set up for that, see Magie 1950, 646).
4. A treasurer ( tamias ) paid out money as directed by the council, and at Pergamum had responsibility for public slaves.
5. An officer of the peace ( eirenarches ) kept law and order, arrested bandits, and testified at trials in connection with arrests. That officers of the peace, not sheriffs, were involved in arresting Christians is probably evidence that Christians—at least prominent Christians—lived in the cities and not in rural areas. 16
6. A sheriff ( parafylax ) had responsibilities for the larger territory around the city, protecting its land and its boundaries (Magie 1950, 647-48). 17
7. A city attorney ( ekdikos ) acted on behalf of the city in both internal and external affairs (e.g., in a legal issue with the Roman government, see Magie 1950, 648-49).
The administering of city government under the empire developed into a patronage system. Only the wealthy could afford to hold office, for not only were fees paid in order to be "elected," but also the officer had to spend his or her own money to execute the responsibilities of the office. 18 As we have seen, wealthy Jews in the cities held these offices. In return, recipients granted honor and prestige to their patrons. During the time of the Flavians, when opportunities in the imperial system were available for wealthy provincials, they happily took these civic magistracies as stepping stones to imperial service, equestrian status, and, eventually, the prestige of being a senator at Rome. In the later second and third centuries, as costs of office went up and interest in local politics weakened, the wealthy were not so eager to support their cities (see A. Jones 1940, 182-91). 19
The wealthy were required not only to support the various executive and legislative magistracies but also to donate liturgies (services) like helping in transporting grain, paying the imperial tax, erecting a building, or paving a street (see Broughton 1938, 802-3). The distinction between a magistracy and a liturgy was not absolute or universal. In general, however, a magistracy carried greater weight than a liturgy: it entitled one to membership in the council, whereas a liturgy did not; those who became Roman senators were exempt from paying liturgies but had to serve magistracies; a man found guilty of an offense might serve a liturgy but not a magistracy; only citizens could serve magistracies, while any resident could be required to pay a liturgy. Liturgies were sometimes also donated by a god or goddess, the funds being then taken from the treasury of that cult.
Two of the most important liturgies were the running of the gymnasium ( gymnasiarchia ) and the overseeing of contests at festivals ( agonothetes ) (see Magie 1950, 652). The former had responsibility for one or more gymnasium in the city— for the building itself and for expenses in running the gymnasium. Since the gymnasium was "the chief centre of the social life of the community," its upkeep could be very costly, for it included not only baths and exercise rooms but also lecture halls and sometimes a library (Broughton 1938, 806-7, cf. Magie 1950, 62, A. Jones 1940, 220-26). Vespasian gave special privileges to gymnastic trainers and athletic associations, so that they did not have to pay taxes nor provide lodging for officials and troups (see Magie 1950, 572). Large cities had more than one gymnasium, with their clientele divided by age groups (boys, ephebes, young men, elders) or, less often, by sex. In most cities of Asia, young men's associations met at their gymnasium for social life, engaging in contests and studies, and carrying on business related to the club; so, too, elders' associations met at their own gymnasiums for much the same reasons. Both of these associations had recognized corporate status, as they could receive endowments, had their own officials (patterned after the city's), and could prosecute as a corporate entity. 20 The overseer of contests ( agonothete ) was responsible for the contests at festivals—enrolling contestants in musical, dramatic, and athletic events; organizing the events; and awarding prizes (see Magie 1950, 653; A. Jones 1940, 233-34). He was responsible for making sure that the contests were held in appropriate splendor, even if he had to pay for them himself. That officer worked closely with the one who headed up the festival, normally a panegyriarch. Providing contests was very costly, so sometimes the local priest to the emperor (always one of the wealthiest of the city) took the office (see Magie 1950, 653).
Cities in the province of Asia were crucial to the economic well-being of the province as a whole. How they gained and spent money thus contributes to an understanding of life in the province. As we have seen, cities owned land—sometimes a considerable amount—around the municipality itself. Revenue was derived from taxes on that land if owned privately by a citizen, from rents and income if it was public land. Some income was also received from sale or rental of concessions and space for marketing goods, market taxes, charges for public utilities, and fines and from harbor dues if the city was located on the coast. Direct taxes on citizens were discouraged as burdensome, indirect taxes being preferred. Public baths and public latrines were free in the towns of Asia. The most important source of income was no doubt the payment made to the city by magistrates and priests when they assumed office. The wealthy often gave beyond the required amount, establishing gifts and foundations, providing gymnasiums, religious festivals, public buildings, city banquets, and support for the food supply. These gifts were motivated by civic pride; by a desire to be noticed by the imperial system; and by a need for "social insurance" lest the poor riot in protest against the irresponsibility of the wealthy. 21
On the debit side of the ledger there were few personnel expenditures, for no salaries were paid to the high magistrates—as we have seen, they themselves had to pay—and often public slaves did menial tasks. Only a few lesser officials received any salary or fees (see Broughton 1938, 804). Public works were by far the largest expense to a city—the building of aqueducts, gymnasiums, markets, streets, temples, and municipal buildings. Even though these were frequently supported by imperial aid and private benefactors, they remained a significant expenditure for the cities. Cities also provided festivals, popular amusements, banquets, food distributions, grain supply, and the games and celebrations connected with the imperial cult, which demanded large sums. The gymnasiums were especially expensive. Another expense involved sending embassies to Rome to make appeals to the emperor about issues involving the city. The solvency of the cities depended on the generosity of wealthy families and on general prosperity. Broughton states that if such generosity ceased or foundations did not yield income, "the margin of comfort and well-being would be wiped out" (1938, 809).
Industry and Labor
Production of textiles was the most important industry in Asia Minor, with Lydian embroideries, red dyes from Sardis, wool traded at Thyatira and worked at Laodicea and Colossae, and hemp at Ephesus. Pergamum produced parchment; there were tanners, leatherworkers, and coppersmiths at Thyatira; silversmiths and goldsmiths at Smyrna (Broughton 1938, 817-30). As the interior of Asia Minor was opened up, industrial activity shifted from the islands in the Aegean and the coastal cities to inland cities such as Thyatira, Laodicea, and Aphrodisias (see Broughton 1938, 839). Except for textiles (and shipbuilding in the north), industrial production served local and regional needs. Because of difficulties in transporting bulky items, workmen with skills were transported, rather than their products (see Broughton 1938, 868). Skilled workers such as the Christian apostle Paul were thus natural itinerants. Industrial development took the shape of individual craftsmen working in small shops for local consumers (Broughton 1938, 839). Every village had a marketplace where fairs took place as well as regular marketing. Fairs brought not only the buying and selling of goods but also entertainment, temple prostitutes, soldiers, and religious celebrations (Broughton 1938, 870-71; MacMullen 1970). Movement of commerce is hard to trace, but the presence of coins from other cities and epitaphs of visitors from another city can sometimes provide clues about the movement of goods. For the most part, traders moved around within Asia Minor, which was a self-sufficient area (Broughton 1938, 876).
The various industries in Asia provided ample opportunities for labor; slavery was insignificant in both agriculture and industries. Farming was done by owners of small plots of land or by tenants who rented the land. In busy seasons of planting and harvesting, laborers could pay off their debts through agricultural work (Broughton 1938, 691-92). Individual artisans, members of the craft guilds, and their known helpers were almost all free men, not slaves or freedmen. This is true, so far as we know, of Sardis, Philadelphia, Thyatira, Ephesus, and Smyrna. Perhaps slaves or freedmen would tend not to appear in inscriptions, and it may be that they had a place as assistants to guild members, but there is no indication that slaves played an important role in the industries of Asia. The occurrence of strikes is a further indication that the labor market was free. Of course, there were slaves. An inscription from Thyatira honors a slave dealer there ( IG Rom. 4.1257), and according to Galen there were thousands in Pergamum. Another inscription from Thyatira requests relief from the 5-percent tax on manumission of slaves ( IG Rom. 4.1236). 22 Slaves must have been used primarily as domestics, personal agents, clerks and secretaries, civil servants, and menial laborers. Slaves also worked the mines and quarries. So Broughton concludes, "Industrial production in Asia Minor depended mainly upon the labor of free men, a notable contrast with conditions in Italy of the same period" (1938, 841). 23
Those involved in industry and trading formed guilds according to their craft. 24 At Pergamum there were dyers, at Smyrna silversmiths and goldsmiths, at Ephesus bakers, at Thyatira wool dealers, at Sardis builders, at Philadelphia woolworkers, at Laodicea fullers and dyers. Apparently these associations emerged as significant organizations only in the imperial period, the great majority in the second and third centuries CE. Little is known about the organization of these guilds. There was a presiding officer, other officers such as a treasurer, sometimes a steering committee, and supporting patrons. The guilds could receive gifts and trusts, and they could be fined. There is no evidence that the guilds trained workmen, as in an apprentice system. Sometimes the workers and/or their guilds would strike, hold slowdowns, or leave one job for a more lucrative one. What Broughton observes about a bakers' strike was true of strikes in general: "Striking was a recognized means of exerting pressure and not punishable unless accompanied by seditious action" (1938, 848). At Miletus a group of workmen consulted the oracle about whether they should remain on one job or go to another. At Pergamum buildcrs were delaying completion of work contracted; they were causing such difficulties that the proconsul interfered. From Sardis (459 CE) there is an agreement between the general contractors of a building and the union of artisans doing piecework on the building. The union makes a contract binding its members to work on certain terms. All of these documents provide evidence that workers were free agents who could band together in unions to negotiate with their employers (see Broughton 1938,846-49).
The professions included architects, physicians, teachers, lawyers, actors, and performers. Teachers were freed from certain municipal burdens and, in a few cases, received a salary from the city; but public teaching had little status, and true wealth and fame derived from private teaching of wealthy pupils. At the shrine of Asclepius at Pergamum a kind of university charter has been discovered supporting medicine and rhetoric. Sophists of note taught and lectured at Smyrna, Ephesus, and Pergamum. At Smyrna there was a school of medicine founded sometime in the first century BCE; the Asclepion of Pergamum continued in importance, and at Ephesus there was some kind of association of physicians. Medical science progressed there by means of contests in writing medical treatises and solving medical problems. Vespasian supported the work of physicians, and educators more generally, when he exempted them from any obligation to provide lodging for traveling officials or troops and from payment of taxes (see Magie 1950, 572). Law was among the professions in the cities of Asia, but it required Roman training and developed late. Entertainers and performers were held in high honor. Successful performers were given citizenship and honorary council memberships. 25 Guilds of these entertainers and performers also had wealth through trust funds bequeathed to them. 26
Wealth and Class Conflict
The great wealth of Asia was, of course, not divided equally among all its inhabitants. The Roman social historian Rostovtzeff classifies the urban population according to wealth. From the wealthy bourgeoisie, upon whose grants, foundations, and liturgies the cities depended for their well-being, came the governing officers of the city; and they were the class that negotiated with Rome. Below them came what Rostovtzeff calls the petty bourgeoisie: "the shopowners, the retail-traders, the money-changers, the artisans, the representatives of liberal professions, such as teachers, doctors, and the like.... the salaried clerks of the government and the minor municipal officers." Below the petty bourgeoisie were "the city proletariate, the free wage-earners and the slaves employed ... in the households." These classes were not static, and there was in this time of prosperity an upward movement: "We have no means of drawing a line between the higher and the lower bourgeoisie, as the former was certainly recruited from the latter" (Rostovtzeff 1957, 190).
Since Rostovtzeff is usually appealed to by those who assume that economic crisis was one of the crises occasioning the Book of Revelation, his approach to social and economic history deserves attention. In his analysis of Asian society Rostovtzeff tends to assume a model of social conflict: class conflict between the poor and the wealthy in the cities of Asia and political conflict between Asian provincials (rich and poor) and Rome (1957, 117). 27 Rostovtzeff even combines the two conflicts: "The social movement in the cities, especially among the proletarians, necessarily assumed an anti-Roman aspect, since the Romans as a rule supported the governing classes, the manifest oppressors of the proletariate" (1957, 117). Elsewhere, regarding Bithynian cities, Rostovtzeff writes, "Attempts at a social revolution and a bitter struggle against the governors were the main features in their life" (1957, 587). In fact, evidence for these conflicts comes only from a few literary sources such as Dio Chrysostom and Plutarch (see Rostovtzeff 1957, 58687). In contrast to Rostovtzeff, MacMullen notes that "only one doubtful instance is known of poverty and anti-Romanism conjoined, to be set against a mountain of indirect proof of the popularity of the empire among the lower classes" (1966, 189).
Two specific cautions need to be made in using Rostovtzeff's analyses for interpreting the Book of Revelation: (1) serious social distinctions and class conflicts emerged after the end of the first century CE; 28 (2) slaves were an insignificant factor in the economics of agriculture and industry (as Broughton shows), so their presence cannot be used to assume—as Rostovtzeff assumes—that wages were "hardly above the minimum required for bare subsistence" (1957, 190). Broughton offers a more balanced analysis of the economic situation in Asia: "We cannot exclude the possibility that the lower classes in the towns had benefited little [from the prosperity since Augustus], that the prosperous facade concealed much unrest, and that a great deal of the generosity of the wealthy in the towns is to be classed as social insurance. Against this view, however, we have to put the insufficiency of our evidence, which may largely deal with individual and sporadic occurrences of unrest, the genuine increase in industrial and commercial activity, and the wide extension and adoption of city organization itself as Asia Minor within the same period. These processes could hardly have progressed so far without allowing some of the benefits of the imperial peace to filter down to the lower classes" (1938, 812). Greater regularization and imperial control of provincial politics had advantages for the lives of many provincials, especially those who were less prosperous and not active in the political arena. As Oliver points out, the imperial government was concerned to protect the cities from local aristocracy, especially if it abused its connections with Rome (1953, 953-58). Augustus himself issued an edict that Roman citizens—with few exceptions—had to take responsibility for services (liturgies) in their cities. The Roman court was open to the appeal of cities experiencing aristocratic oppression or irresponsibility on the part of the wealthy. 29 Oliver thus concludes by agreeing with Aelius Aristides "that Roman rule satisfies both rich and poor" (Oliver 1953, 958).
A key issue centers on how to interpret urban unrest. Most of the evidence suggests that protests, strikes, and riots brought the results desired by the protest ers. Chrysostom recommends that in response to the riots at Tarsus the lower classes be admitted to full citizenship without requiring the normal fee. 30 Dio Chrysostom and his family were threatened in their home town of Prusa with stones and firebrands, apparently because they, with their great wealth, were not adequately subsidizing the grain supply, and as a result bread was too expensive. The "poor" demanded that instead of investments in porticoes and workshops to be rented out to tenants, Dio Chrysostom should give a liturgy in support of the grain market (Or. 46; Magie 1950, 581). In response, Dio did agree to assume the burden of the grain supply. 31 As we have seen, a city's prosperity depended upon the liturgies, or services, of wealthy citizens. Without that service the cities could not survive. Urban unrest does not necessarily point to "a reservoir of ill-will among the lower classes ready to be converted into open violence" (Macro 1980, 691). It may simply indicate that when the wealthy were not fulfilling their obligations to the city, the poor had an effective social tool to right the imbalance. Correctives did not have to await action from above; they could be made by acts from below.
Networks between Asia and Rome
Strictly speaking, Asia was a senatorial province governed by a proconsul appointed by the senate. That arrangement should not be construed, however, to mean that the network of relations was primarily between Asia and the Roman senate; for the emperor also related to the province in several different ways. Indeed, Fergus Millar (1966) has shown that in practice there is no clear distinction between senatorial and imperial provinces. Both emperor and senate could make regulations affecting all the provinces, and communities in senatorial provinces might send representatives to either the senate or the emperor. Letters, queries, and directions also flowed between emperor and Asian proconsul in the Flavian period. 32 In connection with his discussion of provincial control, Millar makes a general point that is relevant for our understanding of the network of relationships between Rome and Asia: "What we see is not an arrangement of compartments, of administrative hierarchies, but an array of institutions, communities and persons, the relations between which depended on political and diplomatic choices which could be made by any of the parties" (Millar 1966, 166). For an established province such as Asia, queries and directives took different turns as they passed through city fathers, provincial assembly, procuratorial and proconsular offices, senators, and emperor. Within this network, communication could be initiated at any point. 33
Prosperity and Integration under the Flavians
Octavian (Augustus), the first princeps of the Empire, brought peace and stability to it, including the province of Asia. He assured economic recovery in Asia by canceling all public debt and by minting a considerable number of coins at Ephesus and Pergamum. Asian prosperity continued through the era of the Flavians (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian) (see Magie 1950, 566). 34 Under Vespasian the principate stabilized once again after the unrest following the death of Nero. The year of conflict after Nero's death—in which Galba, Otho, and Vitellius one after another laid claim to the throne—left the Roman treasury bankrupt by the time Vespasian came to power. In contrast to the period before Augustus came to power, however, the conflict of 69 was fought in the West and did not directly affect the provinces of Asia Minor. Vespasian, acclaimed emperor while in Alexandria (Egypt), sailed toward Rome along the coast of Asia Minor and received oaths of allegiance along the way (see Magie 1950, 566). The recovery under Augustus and his dynasty continued under the Flavians, Trajan, and Hadrian, as the cities of Asia flourished both economically and in the status and privileges they held. 35
In the Flavian period, provinces—even senatorial ones—came more and more under the control of the emperor. As regards Asia, Vespasian probably appointed Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus proconsul there for three successive years. As Magie indicates, his appointment in 70-73 would not have been popular with the senate, but he was an able and wealthy man on whom Vespasian depended (1950, 569). 36 Domitian showed the same forthrightness when he appointed Gaius Minicius Italus as his imperial procurator in Asia, who acted as governor, after Gaius Vettulenus Civica Cerialis, then proconsul of Asia, was put to death for conspiracy (c. 87-88) (see B. Jones 1979, 25-26; Dessau, ILS 1374). Apparently that situation was one that "necessitated vigorous action"; and even though it may have been viewed as "high-handed" by the senators, it "had no real significance" (Magie 1950, 578). Brian Jones says that over a two-year period "Asia was governed by the patrician C. Vettulenus Civica Cerialis, the imperial procurator C. Minicius Italus and the Italian senator L. Mestrius Florus—a procedure that was no doubt regarded with marked distaste by the traditionalists" (1979, 28). 37 This assessment is most likely correct, since the proconsulship of Asia or Africa was traditionally viewed as the crowning achievement in a senatorial career. Whatever may have been the attitude of certain senators in Rome, however, the Flavian emperors saw to it that excellent governors were appointed to the eastern provinces. Domitian promoted to higher office men whom Vespasian had earlier marked for promotion (see Magie 1950, 578). 38
Under the Flavians another trend in appointments may also have been unpopular with the senate, namely, the increased reliance on eastern provincials. Brian Jones points out that "Domitian was the first emperor to appoint easterners to imperial praetorian provinces" (1979, 2), but that probably followed Vespasian's pattern of promoting easterners. 39 Broughton attributes the increase in the number of private estates during the Flavians and Antonines in part to the "rise of native families to imperial prominence" (Broughton 1938, 666, 745). As we have seen, opportunities in the imperial service stimulated wealthy provincials to serve their cities in order to gain recognition by the emperor and to be promoted into the imperial ranks.
Vespasian and his sons also systematized and organized the provinces, especially with respect to finances. When Vespasian came to power, the treasury was bankrupt and he needed a maximum amount of revenues. 40 He revoked several grants of freedom and immunity from tribute made by Nero, and he reduced the number of exemptions allowed (Broughton 1938, 740; A. Jones 1940, 129). 41 In continuity with policies as early as Julius Caesar, Vespasian shifted tax gathering from publicans or tax farmers to a government agency headed up by a head procurator at Rome and a procurator with a staff of the emperor's freedmen in each of the provinces responsible to Rome (see Magie 1950, 567-68). Probably the procurator of Asia was responsible for collecting the fiscus Asiaticus, a treasury of the emperor, first attested in the time of Domitian. 42 Apparently the procurator who oversaw the marble quarries around Synnada also was responsible to the head procurator at Rome (Magie 1950, 568). This development of the office of procurator also probably reflects Vespasian's reorganization and expansion of imperial estates in Asia (see Broughton 1938, 652-54; Magie 1950, 1425-26). The expansion of this imperial office in a senatorial province further illustrates the complexity of the network of relations between Rome and Asia. 43
The Flavians were also concerned about unnecessary expenditures by cities (see A. Jones 1940, 135). As early as Vespasian's reign, a city had to obtain permission from the governor to increase taxes. Sending delegations to Rome was also an enormous expense born by cities. In order to control those costs, Vespasian limited delegations to the emperor to three members (A. Jones 1940, 135). Because of city rivalry, cities would sometimes spend beyond their means, especially on buildings, and get into financial difficulty. To prevent such foolishness, Domitian created the office of curator civitatis to help cities keep solvent and not spend beyond their means. 44 These auditors watched over investments, communal funds, public lands, and public buildings. They had veto control over virtually all aspects of a city's finances (see Magie 1950, 598). Under Trajan these offices developed extensively (Broughton 1938, 744).
Such regularization and organization of the provinces and their cities took away from civic and provincial autonomy, but those measures helped make the cities of Asia a vital part of the empire. At this time, "making it" in the world required engagement with the empire and entering into its bureaucracy. In the long run, local politics became less interesting to the wealthy because in that sphere there was little opportunity for initiative and significant contribution. The major decisions were made by the Roman administration.
The Imperial Cult
The imperial cult constituted a part of the network between Rome and Asia. It was an equally important means for representing the emperor to those in the province and those in the province to the emperor. Emissaries to the emperor were often imperial priests in Asia, and requests for privileges were associated with offers of cult (see Price 1984, 243; Millar 1977, 365). In the provinces rituals, images, temples, and shrines associated with the imperial cult contributed significantly, if not decisively, to the people's understanding of their relationship to the emperor. Cult to the emperor was established through a reciprocal process between Rome and provincials. Honor involved both sides: it was an honor for the city to have a temple or some designation of imperial cultic status, and it was an honor for the emperor. Both emperor and senate accepted the existence of the imperial cult, and Rome could exert pressure to establish and maintain these cults, as did the provincials. 45
S. R. F. Price considers the network of relations between Rome and Asia as a network of power that found expression in religion as well as in political diplomacy and decrees. Religious expressions of power are no more a gloss on politics than is politics a gloss on religion (see Price 1984, 235). Social structures such as rituals of sacrifice, political negotiations, taxes, or civic claims are equally channels of power. All these relations together make up the network. No relation is merely symbolic or simply expressive of another. Religious expressions are really about religion, however much they may also express political obligations. 46
Distribution of the Imperial Cult
In many aspects Augustus' reign was the high point of activity for the imperial cult in Asia. Language praising him is lofty and is similar to that offered to the gods, and a number of temples and sanctuaries were built during and immediately following his reign. 47 Priests of Augustus were found in more than thirty cities of Asia Minor, and more of his relatives received cult than was the case with any other emperor. 48 Although Tiberius has the reputation of having rejected cult in his honor, he had more than ten priests in Asia Minor (Price 1984, 58; Magie 1950, 1360). Under Claudius there arose, alongside priests to the emperor himself, priests of the Augusti or Sebastoi in general, who had responsibility for the cult of former and present emperors (see Magie 1950, 544; Price 1984, 58). Imperial cult continued under the Flavians and Antonines. 49 Domitian was no more and no less insistent on divine prerogatives than other emperors and, so far as one can tell, he did not change in any fundamental way the social expressions of imperial religion (see chap. 6). 50
Christians living in the seven cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation probably found the imperial cult an objectionable social, religious institution, but it was just as objectionable under Claudius as under Domitian. Change in emperors throughout the first century did not affect the presence of the cult in Asia. The cult was most heavily represented in Lydia, southern Phrygia, Caria, Lycia, and then along the southern coast of Asia Minor into Cilicia (Price 1984, xxii-xxv). In Price's evidence for the geographical distribution of the imperial cult, all seven cities of Revelation are represented. Five of the seven cities had imperial altars (all but Philadelphia and Laodicea), six had imperial temples (all but Thyatira), and five had imperial priests (all but Philadelphia and Laodicea). 51
Price, who has written the definitive work on the imperial cult in Asia Minor, also traces out the distribution of the cult in social and cultural terms. He concludes that it is found only in organized urban settings (cities or villages), not in rural areas, which lacked communal organization (1984, 79-86); and it expresses a "Greek idiom" rather than indigenous, non-Greek customs or Roman expressions of piety (pp. 87-91). 52 In sum, "only when cults acquired a communal organization and borrowed sufficient traits from the cults of the dominant Greek culture did they give a place to the emperor" (p. 98). 53 In contrast, rural areas in which neither the Greek language nor the Greek pantheon was present show no signs of the imperial cult (pp. 92-98). 54 The churches of the Book of Revelation were located geographically, organizationally, and culturally where the imperial cult was most heavily distributed.
The Imperial Cult and the Provincial Assembly
A provincial assembly—catted a koinon (commonalty)—had existed in Asia before the empire. For example, in the republican period it had protested to the senate the extreme demands of tax farmers; and in 42-41 BCE Marc Antony confirmed through that body certain privileges to athletes (see Millar 1977, 385-86, 456). During the imperial period that body became part of the network between the emperor and the cities of Asia. In 12 BCE the provincial assembly inscribed in the temple at Pergamum Augustus' edict making clear the rights of Jews in Asia (see Millar 1977, 391; Joseph. AJ 16.6.2); and the provincial assembly sent the orator Scopelianus of Smyrna to make an appeal to Domitian to rescind the edict regarding the planting of vines (see Rev. 6:6). Sometimes the assembly would even bring charges against a proconsul of the province who abused his office (see Magie 1950, 451).
More and more, however, the interaction between emperor and the provincial assembly in Asia took forms involving the imperial cult. In 29 BCE Augustus granted the request of the provincial assembly of Asia to build a temple to him and Roma at Pergamum—not a city temple, but a temple built and administered under the auspices of the provincial assembly. 55 About the same time, the assembly offered "a crown 'for the person who devised the greatest honours for the god' (sc. Augustus)" (Price 1984, 54). Eventually, with the cooperation of the Roman governor, the assembly recognized the greatest honor as being to begin the year on Augustus' birthday. The decree stated, "We could justly hold it [Augustus' birthday] to be equivalent to the beginning of all things.... And since no one could receive more auspicious beginnings for the common and individual good from any other day than this day which has been fortunate for all, ... therefore it seems proper to me [the Roman governor] that the birthday of the most divine Caesar shall serve as the same New Year's Day for all citizens." 56
The assembly of over a hundred delegates met annually to conduct business, find ways to represent their interests in Rome, and carry out activities of the imperial cult (see Magie 1950, 448). At first they met in Pergamum, then at Smyrna (c. 29 CE), Ephesus (where a third temple was built), and other cities such as Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (see Magie 1950, 448, 1295). The prestige of holding the provincial assembly and maintaining an imperial temple flamed the rivalry and competitive spirit among the cities of Asia (see Price 1984, 62-65, 126-32). By the end of the first century, cities advertised with pride their status as neokoros (temple warden), that is, their claim to an imperial temple with provincial status (see Price 1984, 67). Sometimes a city would be twice or even thrice neokoros, that is, it would have two or three imperial temples with provincial status. 57 The senate and emperor made the final decision about which cities would be granted the title of neokoros, so it was a title that made the city visible to the powers of Rome. Furthermore, this is another indication that the imperial cult "fell under the regular processes of Roman administration" (Price 1984, 70).
The annual president of the assembly was called the chief priest ( archiereus, or perhaps sometimes Asiarches ; see Magie 1950, 449-50, 459, 531). He was responsible for carrying out the business transacted at the meetings, especially for executing formal communications to city or emperor, as well as for cultic duties. If Asiarches supported Paul in the riot at Ephesus, he had some well-placed friends (see Acts 19:31). Other officers included "advocates" (usually to the emperor); a secretary ( grammateus ); and a treasurer who managed the assembly's money and investments and, perhaps, the minting of coins by the provincial assembly. These provincial offices, especially that of the chief priest, were stepping stones into senatorial status at Rome. 58 The son of a provincial priest would typically gain equestrian status, and the priest's grandson, senatorial, and perhaps consular, status (see Bowersock 1973, 182). These offices were thus filled by the provincial elite, the wealthy, and those who were seeking status beyond their provincial realm.
One costly responsibility of the provincial priest was to provide a festival in connection with the imperial cult. Individual cities also held festivals celebrating certain critical times in the life of the emperor (see Magie 1950, 470). In other words, imperial festivals were an important expression of the cult in urban provincial life. Sometimes the emperor shared cult in a festival for a local deity. For example, during a festival for Artemis at Ephesus, images of the emperor and some of his family processed, along with images of Artemis, from the temple of Artemis to a theater (see Price 1984, 103-4). The major imperial festivals, however, were held only for the emperor. City festivals involving widespread competition among athletes and musicians were held usually every four years. Annual festivals were also held in many cities, most often on the emperor's birthday (Price 1984, 105; Magie 1950, 448). His birthday was sometimes even celebrated on the first day of each month (see Pleket 1965, 341; IG Rom. 4.353). Provincial festivals were held annually at first but later more often, when several cities had the status of neokoros (see Price 1984, 104). Imperial festivals might also be held to celebrate the accession of an emperor, success in war, or in honor of other members of his family. Since these festivals lasted more than one day, one can see that several days in a year could be devoted to the "imperial days" when festivities, cultic observances, feasts, and distributions were held in the life of a major city.
These festivals attracted large numbers of visitors from all ranks and professions. Dio Chrysostom mentions governors, orators, prostitutes, craftsmen, and tinkers, among others. 59 Special tax breaks were given to peddlers and craftsmen selling wares (see Broughton 1938, 870). Public buildings such as the gymnasiums would be overcrowded, and sometimes the people became unruly (see Price 1984, 107). No doubt shopkeepers and craftsmen increased business during these festivals, and undoubtedly they brought prestige to the city involved. Nonetheless, supporting the festivals was costly. Provincial festivals were supported by contributions from the whole province. Sometimes the emperor himself donated huge sums of money. Provincial dignitaries and wealthy officeholders, such as the high priest of the provincial assembly, would underwrite the cost of a festival or at least some part of it, such as the expenses of the gymnasiums or distributions to the festivalgoers. 60 Trust funds were also set up to help assure the continuation of a festival at a particular city (see Price 1984, 102-3, 109, 112-13).
For these festivals, imperial temples and sanctuaries were wreathed with flowers. Animals were sacrificed at various altars throughout the main locations of the city, for example, the council house, temples of other deities, theaters, the main square, stadiums, and gymnasiums. These political, religious, and public buildings were linked together by processions of dignitaries, garlanded animals being led to slaughter, and bearers of icons and symbols of the emperor. As the procession passed by, householders would sacrifice on small altars outside their homes. 61 The whole city thus had opportunity to join in the celebration. 62 In provincial festivals the procession would be carefully organized. The provincial high priest would march with crown and purple garb, surrounded by young, male incensebearers (see Price 1984, 129; Dio Chrys. Or. 35.10). Representatives from cities and villages of the province would march in the procession (Price 1984, 128). In Asia, delegates from Pergamum, Ephesus, and Smyrna shared the head of the procession as the three major cities in the province (Price 1984, 129). Unfortunately, we do not know whether or how Jews or Christians may have participated in such processions. 63
Temples, Shrines, Altars, and Statues
Different kinds of buildings, shrines, and sanctuaries provided the physical setting of imperial cult. There were freestanding buildings similar in structure to temples to the gods (not heroes, see Price 1984, 156, 163, 165). In and around them might be statues of emperors, imperial iconography, and cult tables for sacrificial offerings (p. 156). Sometimes in a temple to a god or goddess the emperor was recognized through inscriptions, statues, or a separate shrine (p. 147). When the emperor shared cult in a temple to a deity, the emperor was rarely made equal to the god (p. 149). In the temple, statues of the emperor were subordinated to statues of the deity (p. 147); and through various techniques the emperor was made to appear a participant in worshipping the deity rather than an equal (p. 149). 64 Imperial shrines have also been found in a building housing the city council or headquarters for a group of merchants (p. 134). Such shrines link the city or organization of merchants with the emperor. In a large city such as Ephesus there were everywhere physical reminders of the emperor. That city had imperial temples to Roma and Julius Caesar, to Augustus, to the Augusti (see Magie 1950, 572), to Domitian (see Price 1984, 157), and to Hadrian; shrines affiliated with Augustus and Hadrian in connection with an Artemision; a royal portico with statues of Augustus and Livia; and an Antonine altar (Price 1984, 254-57). In addition there were imperial statues in public buildings, on the streets, on fountains, and on city gates (see Price 1984, 135-36).
Although these physical presences of the emperor were found throughout a city, they were usually placed in prominent positions, either elevated geographically or at the center of civic life (e.g., Price 1984, 137).
Although not all statues of emperors found throughout a city were objects of cult, those in a sacred place or those used in the special time of festival had a ritual significance. 65 In those cultic settings, icons of the emperor could embody and evoke divine attributes as the emperor in person could not have. For example, one type of imperial statue was constructed overtly after statues of the gods. 66 The emperor in person would never have so evoked the thought of the gods. 67
Ritual sacrifices of incense, wine, and sometimes a bull were made in connection with imperial images (Price 1984, 188). These sacrifices, like most sacrifices related to the emperor, were for the most part made on behalf of the image of the emperor, not to it (see Price 1984, 188). So an imperial high priest at Aphrodisias "sacrificed to the ancestral gods, offering prayers himself on behalf of the health, safety and eternal duration of their [the emperors'] rule." 68 And a woman of the same city and office "sacrificed throughout all the years on behalf of the health of the emperors." 69 Small statues, metal busts, or painted portraits were also carried in processions at the time of imperial festivals by special officials ( sebastophoroi ) (see Price 1984, 189-90). Finally, statues also apparently played a part in the imperial mysteries, in which an official (called a sebastophantes ) revealed an imperial image at certain critical moments during the ceremonies. 70 In a famous inscription from Pergamum regarding the imperial provincial choir ( IG Rom. 4.353), it is said that the choir sang at several imperial festivals including the ??st???a—a temple ritual involving sacrificial incense, candles, lamps, and sermons, as well as hymns. 71 Pleket suggests that the lamps were used to illuminate the image of the emperor in these rites. 72
Statues of the emperor were also significant apart from their connection with religious cult. Imperial statues served as places of refuge throughout the empire (Price 1984, 192). Slaves, for example, could flee from their masters by taking refuge at a statue. A prospective buyer of a slave might thus be reassured that the slave was "neither a gambler, nor a thief, nor had he ever fled to [Caesar's] statue." 73 Statues also served as a lawful place for paying fines and depositing petitions (Price 1984, 193). Sacrifices might be made to imperial statues by those entering marriage; small statues were set up in private homes; graves were protected by appeal to the imperial presence, or statues were placed in grave sites; and slaves were set free in front of a statue of the emperor (see Price 1984, 119). Statues of the emperor thus had a variety of religious and political-legal significances in the provinces. They were permanent, fixed reminders—or, better, representations—of the emperor and his power.
Christians and the Imperial Cult
As evocations of power imperial statues could also reveal divine portents. When Caesar defeated Pompey at Pharsalus, the goddess Victory at Tralles turned towards the statue of Caesar (see Price 1984, 195). The power and cult of the statue may be at play in the Book of Revelation. For example, in Revelation 13:11-18 the beast from the land mirrors the earlier beast from the sea, somewhat as the emperor's statue mirrors the emperor. The beast from the land also requires that worship and cult be given to the first beast, as the cultic officials in Asia required observances to the emperor. He caused divine portents or signs (Rev. 13:13, cf. 16:14) and required that all people worship the image of the beast. If the worship of the beast and his image in the Book of Revelation is linked to emperor worship, then a fundamental conflict in the book centers upon the true worship of God and his Christ versus the false worship of the emperor and his cult. Price suggests that the "colossal cult statue" of Domitian at Ephesus may specifically have been in John's mind (Price 1984, 197).
Whatever the exact connection between the "image" of the beast in Revelation and imperial images, 74 the importance of the imperial cult for early Christianity should not be inflated (see Price 1984, 15). The greater issue revolves around Christians' relation to adherents of traditional religious cults rather than their relation to the cult of the emperor (Price 1984, 125). 75 For example, as we have seen, sacrifices were made in traditional cults on behalf of the emperor. That was expected and required. But Christians rejected all forms of sacrifice: they did not sacrifice to their God either on behalf of the emperor or for any other reason. For Christians, then, sacrificing itself was at stake, not obeisance to the emperor. Price cites only four instances where Christians were asked to sacrifice to the emperor—two of them occurred when the Christian refused to sacrifice to the gods, the others were either on the emperor's behalf or to his image placed among the statues of the gods (see Price 1984, 221). For the most part, the emperor in the imperial cult was subordinated to the gods, so that the imperial cult could be assimilated to the cult of the gods. For Christians, however, who did not accept the traditional Greek gods and saw them as antithetical to their own religious claims, the imperial cult was rejected as a correlate to the rejection of traditional cults. The forms of traditional Greek religion were central, the imperial cult was secondary to that.
Domitian and the Provinces
Under Domitian the provinces flourished. Domitian, like his brother and father before him, built and maintained roads in Asia Minor, established cities in the interior plateau, and created new offices to oversee municipal administration. More specifically, Domitian's reign brought new privileges, a heightened status, and economic prosperity to the cities of the province of Asia. In Asia the cities' prosperity was reflected in the amount of building going on, in the minting of coinage, and in the private gifts and foundations available to support civic endeavors. 76 Domitian's fifteen-year reign from 81 to 96 also continued a trend of imperial control of provincial affairs, as Domitian continued Vespasian's systematization and organization of the provinces, especially with regard to finances. On the whole, this imperial attention under Domitian resulted in better administration of the provinces.
There is no indication that Domitian displayed "exaggerated pretensions" toward the provinces in either the imperial cult or in imperial edicts. Magie even proposes that Domitian had a reputation for supporting and giving favors to the provinces (1950, 577), which would explain the positive view of Domitian in provincial Jewish and Christian writings. The greater integration of the provinces into the empire during Domitian's reign and the imperial benefits given to them resulted in a greater justice and equity among provincials. Domitian's concern to deal justly and fairly with all provincials no doubt stemmed in part from a concern for the empire as a whole: healthy provincial life was crucial to the empire. But Domitian also seemed to be concerned about the poor and the weak, and demanded honesty and justice from his procurators and provincial governors in dealing with those people.
Two inscriptions nicely illustrate Domitian's attitude toward the provinces. One comes from Pisidian Antioch, circa 92-93, during a time of grain scarcity. 77 At the request of civic leaders in Antioch, a legate of Domitian intervened to institute emergency measures to deal with the high price of grain. According to these measures, all who had grain were required to make it available on the market (except what was needed for seed and family needs). 78 Further, a sale date for that grain was fixed, and a maximum price was allowed. A general principle was also appealed to in the procedures being followed: "It is most unjust that hunger of one's own fellow-citizens should be the basis for profit to anyone" (D. Robinson 1924; Ramsay 1924-25). At the same time those who had grain could charge up to double the normal amount. Thus, wealthy landowners who had grain were allowed to make more money than in normal times, but those who needed to buy grain were also protected.
Domitian's attempt to regulate the planting of vines—enacted about the same time as this scarcity at Antioch—may also be related to the problem of grain shortage that plagued Italy as well as Asia Minor. In order to make more room for the planting of grain, Domitian ordered that at least half of all existing vineyards be plowed up. In response to this regulation, a delegation from the Asian province (probably from the provincial assembly) traveled to Rome to exempt Asia from this edict. The delegation was successful, and Asia was made exempt. 79 Some interpreters of Revelation see these policies of Domitian reflected in Revelation 6:6, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not harm oil and wine," which accepts a high price for grain but rejects any harm to oil and wine (see Court 1979, 59-60).
A second inscription comes from Hama, Syria. It is a copy of a letter from Domitian to his procurator, Claudius Athenodorus, apparently with regard to the imperial post: 80
From the orders of imperator Domitianus Caesar Augustus, son of Augustus, to Claudius Athenodorus, procurator: Among those special issues needing considerable attention, I know that the privileges of cities received care from divine father Vespasian. Having looked them over carefully, he ordered that the provinces not be burdened with either the contracting of beasts of burden [for the royal post] or the annoyance of lodging travellers. But, nevertheless, this order has not been complied with nor set right. For there remains to this day an ancient, persistent custom [s??????], little by little advancing into law [??µ??], if it is not prevented from becoming more powerful. I command you also to give attention so that no one should receive a beast of burden, if he does not have my permit. For it is most unjust—whether as a favor to some or a request—to grant permits which it is lawful for no one but me to give; now let nothing happen which will break my orders and which will destroy my most sound inclination towards the cities. For it is just to aid the weak provinces which scarcely have enough for necessities. Do not allow anyone to do them violence against my will. And let no one take a guide if that person does not have my permit. For if farmers are taken forcibly off the fields, then the lands will remain untilled. And you will do best, either using your own beasts of burden or leasing them.
Domitian deals here with an abuse of the imperial post and with traveling dignitaries who illegitimately requisitioned beasts of burden, lodging, and guides at the expense of a province. The post itself was a heavy burden on the provinces, and abuses made it even more burdensome. 81 In dealing with this abuse, Domitian enunciates some of the principles he is following. First, he makes clear that this edict continues the policies of his father, Vespasian, toward the care of cities. 82 He also expresses a concern for all the people in the provinces. In language similar to that of the inscription from Pisidian Antioch he affirms, "It is just to aid the weak provinces which scarcely have enough for necessities." Thirdly, he does not side with the traveling dignitaries, the wealthy and influential. They are abusing the system, and he requires them to stop. Domitian is concerned here with justice for the poor. Finally, Domitian also shows concern for the farmer and the land—the lands must not remain untilled. 83
The provinces prospered under the Flavians, and Domitian in particular seemed to have a special concern that all the provinces and all the classes of people in a province should be protected so that no one class or province oppressed the others. He hindered governors and upper-class provincials from jointly exploiting others in a province. He sought to be fair and just towards all his subjects. Provincial life in Asia undoubtedly contained tensions between wealthy and poor—and perhaps between Rome and the east—but the Emperor Domitian sought to minimize those tensions. Domitian's care for the provinces is conceded even by Suetonius: "At no time were they [provincial governors] more honest or just, whereas after his [Domitian's] time we have seen many of them charged with all manner of offences" ( Dom. 8.2). 84 Epigraphy supports Suetonius' assessment and belies Pliny's indictment that Domitian made plundering forays into the provinces and in general treated the provinces poorly ( Pan. 20.4, cf. 70.5-8). In contrast, Domitian checked abuses by the provincial aristocracy and senatorial governors and treated all classes within the provinces with equity (see Pleket 1961, 312).
From this analysis of economic and political life in the cities of Asia there is no indication of political unrest, widespread class conflict, or economic crisis in the cities of that province. The empire—especially under Domitian—was beneficial to rich and poor provincials; and there were checks against extensive abuse of the poorer provincials by the richer ones. There is little evidence to suggest fundamental conflicts either within the economic structure of the province or between the province and Rome. The writer of the Book of Revelation may urge his readers to see conflicts in their urban setting and to think of Roman society as "the enemy," but those conflicts do not reside in Asian social structures. The urban setting in which Christians worshipped and lived was stable and beneficial to all who participated in its social and economic institutions.
IV The Play:
The Apocalypse and the Empire
10 The Book of Revelation
in Asian Society
Broadly conceived, the previous nine chapters have been concerned with religious language and society, specifically with the language of the Book of Revelation and the society of the Roman province of Asia. In actuality the language of Revelation is a part of Roman society: language (chaps. 3-5) and society (chaps. 6-9) form the script and stage, respectively, of the "play"—a larger whole that embraces them both. We are now in a position to begin to look at the play.
Christians and Asian Society
In considering the social order, I have analyzed conditions in the reign of Domitian, local conditions in the province of Asia, and the place of Jews and Christians in those local conditions. A coherent order of society in Asia has emerged from an analysis of relevant social and historiographic elements.
With regard to Domitian, the standard portrait of him in the Roman sources, written after his reign, does not square with literary, epigraphic, numismatic, and prosopographical evidence from the Domitianic period. From sources written in Domitian's reign, it is clear that Domitian did not modify the imperial cult by demanding greater divine honors than his predecessors (or successors). Nor is there evidence from those sources that Domitian turned into a cruel tyrant, suspicious of those around him and fearful of sharing power. Domitian, like all emperors, no doubt had his informers who were zealous against seditions and insurrections. But Domitian promoted deserving senators, tried to mollify the opposition, and ruled with a fairly broad concern for the whole empire. So far as one can tell, Domitian did not prosecute either Jews or Christians with exceptional vigor. In fact there is a provincial tradition that portrays Domitian as a benevolent emperor towards Jews and Christians alike. All sources recognize how effective Domitian was in administering provincial affairs. He checked the excesses of both greedy senators and the provincial aristocracy.
During his rule the province of Asia prospered and that prosperity most likely benefitted all classes of Asian provincials. Jews in Asia were probably among the most integrated and assimilated of Jews living outside Palestine. They identified socially with their urban environment, and they shared cultural traditions and the prosperity of the cities of Asia Minor. At the same time, they remained faithful participants in their Jewish heritage and religion. Finally, Christians in Asia were located socially in different economic classes, with Christian leaders generally of such wealth that they could travel, have fairly large houses, and act as patrons of small Christian congregations and Christian missionaries. Those Christians—as Asian Jews—also shared in the common life of cities and empire. Imperial officials did not seek out Christians to persecute them; in fact, they preferred not to get involved with the sect. But if local residents opposed Christians and reported them through proper channels, they could force them to trial. For the most part, however, Christians lived peacefully with their neighbors in the Roman political order.
In brief, from this social backdrop one cannot assume widespread oppression and persecution of Asian Christians; nor can we assume that Asian Christians lived in an isolated ghetto as separatists from urban, Greco-Roman life. Christians were on occasion brought to trial, as Pliny indicates, but such accusations did not occur very often in Asia at the end of the first century. It is conceivable that the Book of Revelation was written in response to an otherwise unknown crisis in Asian Christianity, in which Christians were being—or about to be—persecuted in large numbers, but such a crisis does not fit with our other sources for this period. Sources other than the Book of Revelation portray Christians, for the most part, as sharing peacefully in urban Asian life alongside their non-Christian neighbors.
Christians and Asian Society in the Book of Revelation
Little in the Book of Revelation contradicts this portrait of Christianity. First, with regard to the seer himself there is no indication that he suffered banishment or relegation to Patmos by urban or imperial officials. He states, "I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 1:9). The relative clause in the first part of the statement ("who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance") refers to what John and other Christians shared with Jesus: Christian existence means, among other things, participating in Jesus' affliction, victory, and steadfastness. 1 The terms tribulation and endurance could refer to social, political realities just as well as to faithful participation in Christ, but the coordination of those terms with kingdom favors the interpretation that all three refer to Christian life with Christ. Social, political realities may have contributed to that description of Christian existence (e.g., the general dislike of Christianity by non-Christian neighbors), but they cannot be seen as the cause or occasion for the seer's statement.
In the main clause of the sentence John refers to his geographical location. He does so in very neutral terms: "I arrived on [ egenomen en ] the island called Patmos." 2 The same verbal construction is repeated in the next sentence: "I came under [ egenomen en ] the Spirit's influence on the Lord's Day" (Rev. 1:10). The bland verb arrived intimates nothing about relegation, persecution, or confinement. If anything, the parallel construction ( egenomen en ) between Patmos and the spirit draws Patmos into a sacral, spatial homologue with the sacral state of being "in the Spirit" and the sacred time of the Lord's Day.
Any notion of banishment to Patmos must come from the prepositional phrase "on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." 3 The preposition onaccount-of (d??) used here, however, designates a very general relationship of cause, occasion, or even purpose. Here, as in the Book of Revelation generally, it signifies either a contributory or necessary cause, in this case, of John's being on Patmos. One possible meaning of the phrase could be that John was on Patmos because he had been preaching the word of God and was banished to the island as a result of the preaching. That was apparently how Eusebius of Caesarea understood the passage in connection with his view of Domitian (see chap. 1). But it could just as well mean that John was on the island because he wanted to preach there. No Roman source designates Patmos a prison settlement or an island for banishment. 4 Nor was it a deserted, barren isle, as is sometimes suggested; it had sufficient population to support a gymnasium two centuries before the Common Era, and around the time of John an inscription refers to the presence of the cult of Artemis (Saffrey 1975, 393-407).
In the message to Pergamum there is a reference to the martyrdom of Antipas: "Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells" (Rev. 2:13). The agent of death is not indicated: it could have been a mob or an official agency, but most likely it occurred because Antipas was a Christian. His death had occurred sometime in the past. 5 There is no reason to connect the death with demands to worship the emperor. The seer's references to "the throne of Satan" and "where Satan dwells" probably refer to the great altar of Zeus at Pergamum ; it could possibly refer to the Asclepios cult and the medical center there. It is unlikely that John had the imperial cult per se in mind, especially since the imperial cult tended to be integrated with indigenous cults (see pp. 162-64). Pergamum received a provincial imperial temple ( neokoros ) in Augustus' reign, but so did Smyrna under Tiberius and Ephesus under Caligula (see Broughton 1938, 709). Pergamum did not receive another provincial temple until 113-114 under Trajan (Broughton 1938, 742). 6
Conflict with the Jewish synagogue may have been a source of persecution and oppression. To the church at Smyrna is written, "I know your tribulation and your poverty ... and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9). Slander ( blasphemia ) is strong language, for elsewhere in the Book of Revelation the term is reserved for activity of the beast and the Whore (see 13:1, 5, 6, 17:3). 7 In the letter to the Philadelphians the conflict with Jews is seen as a present power structure that will be reversed in the future: "Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you" (Rev. 3:9). Elsewhere in the Book of Revelation, bowing down is done only before superhuman figures such as God, the beast, or the dragon. Even an angel commands John not to bow down before him (Rev. 19:10, 22:8-9). Here, however, the one dictating says that he will cause those false Jews to come and bow down at the feet of the Philadelphians. 8 These indictments against Jews and their "synagogue of Satan" (the basic Jewish institution of the Diaspora) probably stem from the seer's rejection of any Jew or Christian who has a favorable social standing in the cities of Asia. He rejects those Jews just as he rejects prophetic circles in the churches that sanction social intercourse with the non-Christian world (see chap. 7). That his indictments result from Jews charging Christians of antisocial behavior before political officials is, I think, unlikely. The language of the seer indicates his attitude toward Judaism rather than Jewish actions against Christians.
Otherwise, the seer does not refer to actual crisis involving institutions outside the church. From within there are the dangers of false apostles and false teachings; and there is the impending eschatological persecution from Jesus ("I will come to you.... "). The seer talks as though he expects tribulation in the near future from the outside world (e.g., Rev. 2:10-11), but such tribulation does not refer to present social distress. So, too, in the visions (Rev. 4:1-22:5) there are sufficient references and allusions to Rome and emperors to conclude that the seer expected tribulation and oppression from political and economic institutions in Asia, but those descriptions do not report past or present hostilities between Christians and any agencies in the Roman and provincial governments.
In sum, John reports surprisingly few hostilities toward Christians by the nonChristian social world. He anticipates conflict, but conflicts stemming from his fundamental position that church and world belong to antithetical forces. In other words John encourages his audience to see themselves in conflict with society; such conflict is a part of his vision of the world.
Genre, Crisis, and the Book of Revelation
Although the author of the Book of Revelation reports little in the way of specific incidents involving overt attacks on the church, he is unequivocal in his negative attitude towards Roman urban society and the Christians or Jews who in any way accommodate to it. In contrast to most Christians in Asia, he views urban society and the empire as antithetical to Christian existence and in league with Satan. Jews who succeed socially belong to the "synagogue of Satan." Christian leaders who espouse participation in the life of the empire as harmless and as irrelevant to Christian existence are made homologous to evil, mythic forces such as Babylon, the Great Whore. The peace and prosperity of Roman society is, from his point of view, not to be entered into by faithful Christians. The seven heads of the scarlet beast are the seven hills of Rome (Rev. 17:9); they are also seven Roman emperors (Rev. 17:10). Other petty kings participate in beastly evil through fornication (18:3, 9). Rome is Babylon the Whore who rides the scarlet beast and who falls into, and becomes, a "prison" (Rev. 18:2, cf. 20:7). The political order of Rome is wholly corrupt, belonging to the Satanic realm. 9
The economic order belongs to the same corrupt realm. Buying and selling require the "stamp" of the beast (Rev. 13:16-17, cf. Deissmann 1978, 341). Merchants are indicted as growing wealthy from the rich wantonness of Babylon (Rev. 18:3, 15, 23). The seer lists in detail all of the goods that merchants can no longer sell because of Babylon's fall (18:11-14); he takes glee in their loss. The sellers, in contrast, weep over Babylon. They were "great men" through her, and without her they are nothing (18:23). Traders and shipmasters are especially singled out as weeping over her fall: "Alas, alas, for the great city / Where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth!" (18:19). Political and economic corruption results in the great city's being empty culturally: neither harpers, minstrels, flute players, trumpeters, the millstone, the light of a lamp, nor the voice of bridegroom or bride shall any longer be found in her (18:22-23). In short, neither craft nor art will be found in her. 10
In a nutshell, the conflict and crisis in the Book of Revelation between Christian commitment and the social order derive from John's perspective on Roman society rather than from significant hostilities in the social environment. In this regard the Book of Revelation fits the genre to which it belongs. There is a crisis orientation in the Book of Revelation, but it is a characteristic of the genre, not of political circumstances occasioning the genre; that is, the formulation of "crisis situations" is a topos, a commonplace topic, in the genre "apocalypse." As we saw in chapter 2, writers of apocalypses regularly incorporate the theme of crisis as a formal element in the genre (and life is such that there is usually something to which the theme can be attached). Apocalypses are not always occasioned by great political and social crises, nor do political and social crises always result in an apocalyptic response. The presence of the theme tells us nothing about the social and political situation.
Apocalyptic themes such as "exhortations to remain faithful," "assurances of hope," and "messages of comfort" are topoi related to that of crisis. Thus the writer of the Book of Revelation not only develops the themes of comfort, hope, and perseverance; he also constructs a reality such that people see their situation as one in need of comfort, hope, and perseverance. In the process of listening to John's apocalypse, those commonplace topics in the genre may begin to shape the reader or hearer's understanding of his or her situation. Or, from a different angle, one who, for whatever reason, tends to view the world as a state of crisis and conflict may find the social, literary conventions of an apocalypse an attractive expression of that tendency.
Crisis, comfort, hope, exhortation, consolation, and the like are thus themes and formal elements that help to make up the genre "apocalypse." They are a part of the generic elements that constitute the "vantage point" of the apocalypticist. Such formal elements in the Book of Revelation do not point to serious conflicts between Christians and the politics of urban Asia; they point to an apocalyptic point of view towards society. In locating the seer and his work in Asian society, one cannot draw directly on those formal elements without first seeing how they contribute to the meaning of the genre, that is, how they help to construct an apoca lyptic understanding of reality (see chap. 2). That meaning, that apocalyptic understanding of reality, can then be located in a social order.
Thus, in considering the social location of the Book of Revelation, I shall begin with an element recognized universally as central to the meaning of the genre, namely that an apocalypse is "revelatory literature." Scholars may differ over whether revelatory literature is synonymous with apocalypses or whether it is a broader category of literature, but all agree that "revelation" is essential to the definition of an apocalypse. "Revelation" is bound up essentially with the meaning of an apocalypse; by focusing upon that meaning, we shall at the same time make a move toward the social location of the Book of Revelation.
Revealed Knowledge, Public Knowledge, and Validation
Let us begin by contrasting two sources of knowledge: revealed knowledge, such as that given in the Book of Revelation, and public knowledge, gained through the public order. In developing this contrast, I shall draw on a particular brand of the sociology of knowledge readily accessible in the writings of Peter Berger. First, consider "public knowledge." We orient to the world—that is, come to know it and respond to it—through the guidance of society around us. We understand "raw experience" through language that provides categories for understanding. That language provided by society (e.g., English) imposes itself on experience and shapes how we value, understand, and relate to aspects of our environment. Not only language shapes us; so do social institutions. They guide and structure how we relate to one another and how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us (see Berger 1970, 6). Public knowledge, then, involves cognitive structures about the world that are embodied in, and learned through, public institutions that provide language, roles, identities, norms, myths, rituals, and a cosmic frame of reference for their members—all of which are integrated into an ordered reality (see Berger and Luckmann 1967, 63-67, 73-74). All societies depend on that kind of public knowledge, which is shared, accepted, and taken for granted by their members. As Berger states, "Every society provides for its members an objectively available body of 'knowledge.' To participate in the society is to share its 'knowledge'" (1969, 21). That knowledge becomes accessible through public institutions. 11 In other words, learning public knowledge is socialization.
Validation of Public Knowledge
in the Province of Asia
For example, in the first century of the Common Era, those living in Greek cities in the province of Asia (including Jews and Christians) gained knowledge about the world through Greek urban and Roman imperial institutions such as those discussed in chapter 9. Roman stability was established and validated in the public sphere: in the constitution laid down by Augustus, in the peace and prosperity of the whole empire, in the very Roman earth so celebrated in the Aeneid, and in the manifest destiny of Roman expansion. In Asia, Roman imperial institutions were fairly well integrated into city life. Roman administration of political, economic, and judicial policies was well integrated into various urban, district, and provincial administrative units. Social position, rank, and status were spelled out fairly clearly for all. 12 The imperial cult meshed well with local religious practices. 13 The topography of the cities was such that people came to know the relationships between, for example, religious and political centers, simply by walking the streets. 14 The spatial layout of the city, its public institutions, and its official activities were all expressions of a "civic ideology" or a "public knowledge" (see Price 1984, 111).
The seer wrote in a period of time when imperial Rome offered Asians—by means of the city, the basic social unit—a coherent, ordered structure of reality that unified religious, social, economic, political, and aesthetic aspects of the world. In the language of Peter Berger, cosmic, social, political, and personal dimensions of existence were so integrated that urban Asians shared "knowledge" that allowed them "to move with a measure of confidence through everyday life" (Berger 1970, 6). 15
In connection with this "public knowledge" there was a certain kind of revealed knowledge, for example, knowledge given to a seer about the divine destiny involved in the birth of a particular king, the founding of Rome, or the afterlife of an emperor (the claim to "finality" and "ultimacy" is always esoteric); but that revealed, esoteric knowledge was authenticated in part by the public institutions to which it was linked and that it founds or supports. For example, the empire itself bears witness to the oracles proclaimed at the founding of Rome, or a person's kingship fulfills publicly the destiny revealed at his birth.
The revealed knowledge about the world that comes from the Book of Revelation does not gain credence from public political and social institutions. If anything, the Book of Revelation rejects those public institutions by giving them a negative force attached to evil, demonic powers. The reader may affirm the negative value of public institutions, but that in itself will not authenticate the apocalyptic view of the world that comes strictly from private, esoteric revelation.
Validation of Revealed Knowledge in the Book of Revelation
The esoteric, nonpublic character of John's knowledge is spelled out at the beginning of the Book of Revelation. Disclosure of the message comes not through public means available for all to see but through special revelation— apocalypsis — that God communicates privately to John (Rev. 1:1-2, 22:16). 16 Since this message has no confirmation in public discourse—not even Christians can replicate his seeing and hearing—it requires a special kind of validation. His visions are private revelations, and as such they can be rejected as being nothing but the subjective experience and partisan claims of a particular person or party in the church. They must be authenticated if they are to influence those who read and hear the words (see Aune 1986a, 89). One aspect of any visionary report is, therefore, establishing the authenticity, the authority, the divine truth of what is being reported.
In Revelation, that authentication is done in two complementary ways:
(1) a narrative report of the seer's experience with the divine and
(2) devices through which the audience is taken into the visions, so that the visions become "internal" to them, rather than remaining "external" messages requiring authentication. In the first instance, the seer's subjective experience is minimized by emphasizing divine initiation in the visions; in the second instance, the seer's subjectivity is downplayed, as links are made directly between God and the reader or hearer, with the seer's role being that of indirect mediator.
The seer introduces his work as a "revelation of Jesus Christ" (?? ?p???????? ?? ??s??? ???st???) (1:1), a revelation given to Jesus Christ from God so that he could make known to his servants what must soon come. Jesus had this revelation communicated through his messenger (or angel) to his servant John, who witnessed to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. "The Word of God and the testimony of Jesus" refers to the content of the revelation John receives from God through Jesus; thus God and Jesus testify to themselves in the message they send. John simply bears witness to all of that (1:2). This introduction gives a chain of revelation authenticated by means Christians would accept. It is presented to the audience in third-person narrative in such a way that John becomes merely a link in the chain from God and Jesus Christ. John's "seeing" is minimized by reference to it in a subordinate clause at the end of the chain of communication ("which things he saw" [?sa ??^d??], 1:2). Thus, the possibility of considering this revelation to be a partisan, idiosyncratic view of the world is minimized by the narrative style that introduces the work (1:1-2). That introduction concludes with a beatitude—the giver of the blessing remains anonymous—for the one reading and listening to the revelation: "Blessed is the reader and those who listen to the words of this prophecy and keep that which is written in it" (1:3). The hearer completes the chain of communication: God-Jesus-angels-John-reader-hearer. John's subjectivity is buried within that narrated chain.
After an epistolary greeting (1:4-5), a doxology (1:5-6), an eschatological acclamation (1:7), and a lofty, first-person assertion by God—all of which further emphasizes divine initiative in the revelatory process—only then does John give a personal, first-person narration of his visionary experience. 17 John begins his personal account by identifying himself closely with those who read and hear his revelation: "I, John, your brother and fellow participant in the tribulation, kingship, and steadfastness in Jesus" (1:9). After giving the time and place of this initial vision (1:9), John begins in indicative mood: "I heard behind me a great voice" (1:10). The voice speaks to John in the imperative mood: "Write down what you see on a scroll and send it to the seven churches" (1:11). John then continues in firstperson indicative mood, telling what he saw. He describes the voice in detail (1:1216) and his response to it: "I saw [1:12].... I fell at his feet [1:17] ... and he placed his right hand upon me saying [1:17].... " The voice then issues a command not to fear him, talks about itself in first-person (1:17-18, cf. 1:8), and reissues the command to write (1: 19).
In this visionary account, direct communication occurs between John and the voice, who is obviously Jesus Christ. The churches in Asia Minor are, however, brought indirectly into the schema of communication through imperatives—"Write and send to the seven churches" (1:11)—and through an explanation of the seven stars and the seven gold lampstands (1:16, 20). 18 The visionary report is thus so constructed, as it moves from description to command (indicative to imperative moods) and direct and indirect forms and levels of communication, that John's subjectivity is minimized. He becomes merely an instrument for the voice to use to speak to the seven churches. As a result, the vision is self-authenticating. The churches are not being guided and admonished by John but by the Christ whom John saw and heard. The message, that is, that the churches are to comprehend the world the way John does, is the message of Christ. The structure for learning to know what things mean, which is set forth in Revelation, comes from Jesus Christ and needs no further verification or authentication for those who follow Jesus.
Validation, the Seven Letters, and Asian Life
In the seven letters that follow, direct communication continues between Jesus Christ and John, as the former commands John to write (2: 1). A slight change occurs in the one to whom John is commanded to write; he writes not to the churches, as before, but to the "messenger of the church" ( angelos, 2:1). However one is to understand these "messengers" or "angels," the "messages" or "letters" clearly address Christians in Asia Minor. The communication between John and Jesus Christ contains within it communication between Jesus Christ and each of the churches. Messages to each of the seven churches then follow. In the transmission of these letters, John disappears entirely from view.
For each of the seven letters, the one dictating identifies himself by repeating elements of the lengthy description of the voice John heard and saw in his inaugural vision (1:12-16). The one John saw in an esoteric vision now becomes the one communicating directly to the seven churches. He assesses, commands, exhorts, encourages, threatens, and promises. Those at Ephesus toil and endure patiently without growing weary. They hate the works of the Nicolaitans. But he orders them to remember whence they have fallen, to repent, and to do what they did at first (2:5). He knows the tribulation and poverty of those at Smyrna; they are encouraged not to fear what they are about to suffer (2: 10). Those at Pergamum hold fast Jesus' name and did not deny him in the days of Antipas. But some hold to the teachings of Balaam; those he warns to repent (2:16). Christians at Thyatira have works, love, faith, service, and patient endurance. Those at Sardis should wake up and strengthen what is about to die (3:2). The Philadelphians have kept Jesus' word and not denied his name. The Laodiceans are neither hot nor cold. He urges them to be zealous and to repent (3:19).
Of greater importance than those exhortations are the symbols, images, and metaphors introduced in the seven letters. That metaphoric language links the church messages to the rest of the Book of Revelation. Those who conquer among the Ephesians will be given to eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God. The diabolos is about to throw some of the Smyrnians into prison, but the faithful will receive a crown of life and will not be harmed by the second death. At Pergamum the throne of Satan is situated. Those who conquer, however, will be given hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name that no one knows except him who receives it. Those at Thyatira practicing fornication with Jezebel will be thrown into great tribulation unless they repent. To those who are victorious Jesus will give power, kingship, and the morning star. A few at Sardis have not soiled their garments; they will walk with Jesus in white, and their names will not be blotted out of the book of life but will be confessed before the father and his angels. Those of the synagogue of Satan will bow down before Christians at Philadelphia. Those conquering will become a pillar in the temple of God and will never go out of it. They shall have written on them the name of God and the name of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven and the new name of Jesus. Those at Laodicea are urged to buy white garments from Jesus so as not to have the shame of nakedness. Jesus stands knocking at the door; to those who open, he will come in. 19 The one from Laodicea who conquers will sit on the throne with Jesus.
The importance of the epistolary elements in the Book of Revelation cannot be overemphasized. 20 John not only addresses his visions to seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:4), but he also concludes his work with a closing grace (22:21). Further, his first vision involves the messages to the seven churches. Because of that placement, the conversations with the churches are not only given first position sequentially, but also the "messages" to the churches become the initial context —the bass line— for images, symbols, and motifs used later in the transcendent visions. Later usages loop back recursively to the messages given to the seven churches, in which Jesus describes the churches' situations, accuses, warns, and admonishes them, and promises good things to those who persevere in the faith (see chap. 3 above). As an example, terms referring to evil forces such as the diabolos and Satan or to demonic activities such as blasphemy, deception, and whoring or to Satan's imprisonment are introduced in the messages to the churches (see chap. 5 above); their later appearances repeat recursively the given elements in the context of the churches of Asia.
In a word, Asia is "home base" in the visions of Revelation. The seer addresses Christians there, and all that he sees and explains is intended for their benefit. He transmits his visions to them so that they may see their situation correctly. The language of the visions, grounded in the seven messages, does not present a symbolic universe alternative to the work-a-day world in which Asian Christians live. Rather, the seer presents a structure through which those Christians may comprehend the proper meaning of objects and relationships in their work-a-day world. As we have seen, proper comprehension occurs when objects and relations of the work-a-day world are transformed into the seer's vision of the world through boundaries that unfold essential structures (see chap. 5). The prophetess Jezebel at Thyatira is understood properly when she becomes a homologue to Babylon the Whore. The martyrdom of Antipas at Pergamum gains proper meaning when related homologously to the Lamb who conquers through his blood. The seer unfolds a sufficient number of those structures so that his audience can know properly everything they encounter in their daily life in urban Asia.
By linking the seven letters on the one hand to the initial vision which John saw and on the other hand to the characters and actions of the visions to follow, the seer links the Christians in Asia integrally to his revelatory visions. They become a part of those visions and do not read or hear them as "external" to themselves. John authenticates not only commandments and exhortations that he addresses to the churches but, more importantly, the essential boundary structures that unfold in the rest of the work. The issue is not simply validation of a fantastic world that John "saw" in his several visions; it is whether John's structure of meaning— established by boundaries, ratios, homologues, and proportions—is a valid one for Christians. In the messages to the churches, Christians are well on their way to accepting the homologues between Jezebel and Babylon the Whore or between Rome, the city of seven hills, and the seven heads of the scarlet beast. Through the initial vision of the seven messages to the seven churches John integrates exhortations, encouragements, threats, and promises with homologues, ratios, and proportions ; and he authenticates that world of meaning and exhortation as true knowledge from God. The exhortations, warnings, and comfortings John offers make no sense apart from how he envisions the world. His particular brand of comforting and exhorting are appropriate only to those who also receive his structures of meaning—his knowledge about the world—transmitted throughout the visions.
Deviant Knowledge and the Critique of Public Discourse
When compared to that "public knowledge" transmitted through institutions, myths, and rituals involving the town fathers and their social order, the Book of Revelation reveals: "deviant knowledge"; that is, its knowledge deviates from the knowledge given and generally taken for granted in the social order (Berger 1970, 6). As we have seen, it is deviant in its source: apocalypses provide knowledge through private, esoteric means apart from larger communal, institutional validation. It is deviant in its assessment of the larger social order: apocalyptic knowledge devalues, rather than supports, the cognitive structures, identities, roles, and norms in the order of society. And it is deviant in its cosmology. In the public order, cosmicizing assures that "the way we do things" reflects "the way that the world really is." Hellenistic kingship mirrors divine government; role acceptance in the social organization of the Roman Empire also fulfills divine obligations. By contrast, in the cosmicizing of apocalyptic, ironic reversals abound. Kings and emperors are disestablished by means of metaphoric links to satanic and evil forces, while the transcendent knowledge transmitted through apocalypses appears in the here and now to be disconfirmed. 21
As deviant knowledge whose truth does not depend upon public institutions and existing political power, the Book of Revelation serves to censure the public order. If accepted in a thoroughgoing manner, it would even replace the public knowledge by means of which people participate in Roman society. In challenging public knowledge by offering an alternative to the stable empire, the seer of the Apocalypse is not unique. As censure of the public order, the Book of Revelation joins loose affiliation with several other deviants in the Roman world. Ramsey MacMullen (1966) has pointed out that philosophers, magicians, diviners, and prophets of different backgrounds disturbed the "public mind" through private transmission of values and ideals from an older public order or from a philosophical tradition or from a more recent revelation. The genre and rhetoric of the Book of Revelation were only one among several attacks against the empire, and some of the genre's distinctiveness may be brought out by comparing it to other "vehicles of literary attack" (MacMullen 1966, 35).
Critiques of Public Discourse in the Roman Empire
There were families and coteries that censured the empire on the basis of remembered days of old when the republic named the public order. This remembrance mixed with Stoic and other philosophical ideals to make various claims for freedom : free speech, liberty, free access to political power, a senate free from imperial constraint, and freedom from subjection to a higher ruler. Libertas was their watchword. 22 Their weapons were strictly literary. They wrote histories filled with exemplary figures who upheld their ideals against past tyrants. Tyrannicide became a genre in narrative, dramatic literature. Dramatic themes from, for example, the mythology of Agamemnon and the house of Atreus coded contemporary protests against the emperor. Satire, explicitly aimed at an emperor, usually came after his death. Relatives and disciples collected and transmitted the writings of earlier martyrs, especially the last words of those who killed themselves—sometimes at the command of a tyrant—in perfect control at a gathering of friends and disciples. Funerals and birthdays of those same martyrs could be the occasion for eulogies, poems, and songs censuring the loss of liberty in the days of the principate. 23 Death and dying were admired widely throughout the latter half of the first century CE as forms of protest against tyranny. 24
More generally, protest took the form of withdrawal and deliberate inaction— which could evoke formal charges from the government. Upper-class Stoicism was obliged to offer a philosophy of leadership that worked for the common good; but if government was "corrupt beyond cure," reform efforts might be useless, and "the wise man [would] not struggle uselessly." Moreover, one had obligation not only to one's own homeland but also to the whole universe. Sometimes withdrawal from the empire was required in order to be a faithful cosmopolitan. 25
Protest by this coterie of aristocrats, who had "a philosophic tinge under the Flavians," was so close to the public order of the empire that it can barely be called "deviant" (MacMullen 1966, 46). These protesters came from the same mold as supporters of the throne and the empire. Their hostility was aimed at "persons who were close neighbors in a cultural and social sense" (MacMullen 1966, 94). On the ides of March in 44 BCE Julius Caesar could not tell the difference between friends and enemies. In the Flavian period the opposition could change allegiance and pass over to the other side "without giving up any essential belief." The emperor could support the "literary vehicles" (e.g., rhetorical exercises extolling tyrannicide) that turned against him, for the imperial establishment and this particular form of opposition shared a common background and many of the same ideals. 26
Philosophy, a prominent form of opposition under the Flavians, included more than ethics and guidance of human conduct. It embraced "powers of the soul" as well as the mind. 27 Philosophers were thus affiliated with ascetics, magicians, miracle workers, astrologers, diviners, and prophets. Teachers presented their philosophical systems as revelations given in direct conversation with Hermes, Isis, or some other deity. Figures such as Peregrinus Proteus (d. 165 CE) or Pachrates (under Hadrian) or Apollonius of Tyana (under Domitian) mixed their teachings with miracles, prophecies, exorcisms, and claims of divinity. They were received among poor and rich, stupid and enlightened, oppressed and oppressors. Any religious system-for example Judaism or Christianity-could be called a "philosophy," for it proclaimed "a way of life that led to God." 28
Literary vehicles for these philosophical magicians included curse tablets, magical papyri, amulets, reports of conversations with a deity, books on demons, and aretalogies (accounts of individual acts of miraculous powers) developed sometimes into elaborate "lives" such as Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana or Christian "lives" of Jesus. Prophecies were written down in oracles claiming the authority of the Sibyl, a literary convention used by Jews, Christians, and pagans. After Nero's death, his return became a popular theme in these prophecies. In 69, 79, and 88 "Neros" appeared "in the East" winning followers and disturbing the public order. This theme appears in Jewish and Christian writings, including probably the Book of Revelation (e.g., Rev. 17:8). In these latter writings, however, Nero's return took a more negative turn as he was identified with a "lawless" figure who would come in the last days. In Jewish and Christian prophecy, the future of Rome was another prominent theme. Some, like the Book of Revelation, expected the destruction of that great city, while others (e.g., Melito of Sardis) saw Rome's destiny bound to that of the church. 29
Magic is, by definition, a form of deviance, a threat to the public order requiring social control (see Aune 1986b). Thus, MacMullen makes an insightful tautology when he writes, "There was thus no period in the history of the Empire in which the magician was not considered an enemy of society" (1966, 125). 30 Of greater threat were the astrologers, diviners, and prophets who could foresee and control the future. They disturbed the "public mind" and threatened stability and the peace. Witnesses had to be present during inquiries into the future lest illegal queries be made. Of greatest danger to the emperor were inquiries into the destinies of the royal house or the future of the state. Since emperors might also value and believe in astrology and divination, "they wanted no meddling with their own stars or lifelines." Such inquiry became an act of treason ( majestas ) punishable by expulsion from Rome—MacMullen asserts that "their expulsion from other cities is never mentioned" (1966, 132)—or death. 31
During the reign of the Flavians both Vespasian and Domitian drove out the philosophers and astrologers (MacMullen 1966, 133). In general Domitian tried to follow the policies of his father in dealing with these people, bearing their "impudence ... with the greatest patience," but neither he nor his father could tolerate their intervention into politics (Suet. Vesp. 13). 32 Domitian's dealings with some of Pliny's philosopher friends have to be considered in light of the general imperial policies sketched out above. 33 Philosophers who told stories about their heroes martyred by emperors or who manipulated maps or who told what had been foreseen from the stars about the emperor's fate could be as great a danger to the emperor as invading Dacians; 34 for they shaped beliefs about imperial power and specific imperial destinies. Most of Pliny's philosophical friends whom Domitian either killed or banished belonged to a "close-knit group who stood in a clearly defined tradition of His Majesty's dis loyal opposition." 35
In dealing with the magical and prophetic dimensions of philosophy we move further from the common, undergirding ideals of the Roman Empire. The ideology and literary vehicles of magicians and prophets do not blend into imperial ideology in quite the same way as the aristocratic themes of republicanism, libertas, and senatorial power. Yet magic and prophecy flourished in all social circles: "The most enlightened people took it seriously" (MacMullen 1966, 126). Perhaps MacMullen is right: there was "black" magic and "white" magic, magic acceptable to good Romans and magic unlawful. But not everyone would have agreed which was which or which side some people were on. The same was true of practitioners of astrology. Emperors were guided in their daily life—especially in relation to state activities— by astrologers, and astrology was a habit of both rich and poor. Yet, as we have seen, astrology and prophecy were seen, as well, to be disturbances in the public order and dangerous activities to pursue. 36
Critique of Public Discourse in the Book of Revelation
It is also obvious that magic and prophecy bring us closer to circles involving the Book of Revelation. The seer is a Christian prophet who proclaims specially revealed information, including the destiny of the Roman Empire. He records conversation between himself and his God. He seeks to disrupt the peace at least to the extent of dislocating Christians in the cities of Asia and proclaiming in the form of apocalypse the destruction of the public order. He draws freely on the Nero legend that promised danger to the empire. The seer also borrows magical elements from the Hecate cult, vowel chants from the magical papyri, and procedures for summoning a god for purposes of divination (see Aune 1986b). At the same time, John rejects the claims of magic—they are deceptions that lead people astray (see Rev. 13:13-15)—and magicians belong with fornicators, murderers, and idolators who will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). He rejects magic and its power, but in so doing he shows how close he is to magic socially.
The style of John's writing may also be a critique of public discourse. Yarbro Collins notices that the seer writes in "a peculiar, contemporarily Semitizing Greek" as "a kind of protest against the higher forms of Hellenistic culture" (1984, 47). As we have seen in chapters 3, 4, and 5, his language is highly metaphoric and fluid; through it he constructs soft boundaries, homologies, and ratios. Transformations and metamorphoses abound. This fluidity in his language endangers the public order because it blurs categories that are essential to stability. Language of the public order tends to be univocal with clear conceptual boundaries. In contrast, the Book of Revelation tends to be more like Ovid's Metamorphoses, where clear causal connections disappear in the gaps of arbitrary transformations. 37 The playful language of the seer—puns, irony, and other verbal forms that metamorphose into opposites—especially endanger the fixed order. Through such verbal manipulation what appears publicly contrasts with what really is: the wealthy are not really wealthy, those of high rank are not really of high rank, and the glories of Roman peace and prosperity mask satanic forces soon to be defeated. The seer's language does more, however, than that of the Metamorphoses. Ovid's language tends to be arbitrary, shapeless, and fickle, subverting without offering an alternative. His constant change becomes too unstable for nature to reflect back a deeper meaning (see Massey 1976, 23). The language of the seer subverts and offers an alternative order. The seer descends into a language more like that of private dream than public communication and casts his enemies in the anonymity of mythic beasts. More is involved than lack of daring and courage. By descending into the beastial language of myth he labels the Roman order as demonic; Curran has suggested that "descent" into animal form is also a way of rejecting a world of empty conventions and of reestablishing one's substantiality (see Massey 1976, 32, 63). An unassailability is established independent of human society.
Whether that depth dimension can be established for the language of the seer or not, there is, as we have seen, a consistency and structure in the transformations that occur in the Book of Revelation. In other words, the Book of Revelation contains "stable" metamorphoses that transform according to a consistent spirit of universal ratios. Through that consistency of spirit the seer offers a fresh vision of the world to subvert the public order of Caesar. Moreover, in the process he reclaims all the public order of Rome. He incorporates the whole of everything in his vision. Everything intersects his world. Conflict with the public Roman domain is inevitable.
On this point there is no fluidity or blurring of boundaries in John's language: his revealed knowledge opposes the public knowledge of Roman institutions. John characterized the opposition and his relation to it in ways similar to Pliny's characterization of Domitian and his reign. In order to establish a new era with Trajan, Pliny and his circle describe Domitian (the old era) as extremely sensual and sexually excessive. So John describes Babylon the Great Whore, the beast she "rides," the kings of the earth, and the merchants (14:8; 17:1-4, 9; 18:3). Through such titles as "Our Lord and God" ( dominus et deus noster ), Domitian is said to make false claims to divinity. So, too, the beasts deceive by their false claims, miracles, and demands for worship (Rev. 13). John and his church, like Pliny and his circle, characterize their relation to the opposition as one of oppression, constant danger, and persecution. Finally, the end of Domitian's reign is described as chaos and confusion in both society and nature. So in John all is lost as nature joins in a cacophany of destruction, followed (as in Suetonius) by a new age, a new heaven, and a new earth with those then persecuted now reigning in power and honor. Those hyperbolic, exaggerated surface characterizations appear for the same reason in the writings of Pliny's circle and the Book of Revelation: to manifest the deep structure of binary opposition and boundary formation—to distinguish insiders from outsiders, authentic self-expressions from false ones, old eras from new ones, and true knowledge from deceptive lies. In short, his revealed vision of reality must be kept separate from that vision of reality embodied in public institutions and public discourse. Public knowledge masks lies and even the primordial Liar himself. Only the divinely revealed Word of God given to John can lead to true knowledge.
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