Tag Archives: Laurence

Laurence’s name

In response to my recent posting Richard Fellows asks whether Laurentius might be a “leadership name.”

It is possible, but may equally be a (Christian) slave name. Indeed, it dawns on me, slave-naming may be the (contra-cultural) basis for leadership names. According to Varro, slaves sold at the market at Ephesus might be renamed by a trader or buyer after the seller, or the region in which they were purchased, or the city where they were bought (Varro Ling. 8.9.21). Slaves might also undergo a change of name during the period of servitude, when transferred to a new owner: P. Turner 22, a contract for a slave sale from Side in Pamphylia, identifies the “merchandise”, a ten-year-old Galatian, as “the slave girl Abaskantis, or by whatever other name she may be known.”

Thus slave-naming practice provides a cultural context for Fellows’ suggestion of “leadership names” in the Pauline churches.

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On the martyrdom of Laurence

For some time I have been quietly putting together a note on the martyrdom of Laurence in third century Rome. In essence my intent was to defend the fundamental historical core of the legend that has been received against the somewhat reductionist approach of Franchi and Delehaye.

Today I find that somebody had got there first, namely Dom Bernard Green in a conference paper from 2008 entitled “The martyrdom of St Laurence reconsidered” to be found here.

Although this is not exactly the paper I was writing, it is close enough. We agree on the substantive and central points that Laurence, as deacon, had charge of the church’s goods (and charity) and that he died under torture. I do not have the same degree of confidence in the Liber pontificalis as Green, and might point out that the use of hot plates is an attested method of torture, but these are detailed matters. There is no point my producing a paper almost identical in substance and so rest content with this posting.

The one substantive point I would add to Green’s paper, which gives it pertinence to the blog, is that Laurence’s death under torture indicates that he might have been a slave, and not a free citizen as Delehaye seems to assume. This links to the discussion below with Daniel Vaucher about slaves as office-holders. It seems that still, in the third century, it is possible to find an office-holder of servile status in Rome.

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