Original Research

Domestic and public violence in Chrysostom’s community

Hennie F. Stander
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 51, No 3 | a2099 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i3.2099 | © 2017 Hennie F. Stander | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 February 2016 | Published: 31 January 2017

About the author(s)

Hennie F. Stander, Department of Ancient Languages, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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


Chrysostom; violence; women; children


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