'Do not deny me this noble death': Depictions of Violence in the Greek Novels and Apocryphal Acts


  • Philip A. Harland


Taking as its point of departure recent scholarly studies of anti-imperialism in the Greek novels, this article reassesses the origins, social settings, and instigators of violence as depicted in the novels and argues that these ancient authors portrayed the sources of violence as far more diffuse. It assesses how specific authors (Chariton, Xenophon, and Achilles Tatius) envision the nature and causes of violence in the household, the city, the countryside, and regional or wider (royal or imperial) settings. These representations of violence, including notions of noble death, are often expressed in terms of pivotal cultural notions of honour and shame, with the gods often playing a significant role in this regard. Careful scholarly attention to violence in the novels may also provide a comparative framework for future studies of contemporary fictional narratives about apostles, the apocryphal Acts. Roman imperialism specifically or violent acts promulgated by the emperor do not usually take centre stage in such apocryphal narratives.

Philip A. Harland is Professor in the Department of Humanities (undergraduate) and in Ancient History (graduate) at York University in Toronto. His works include Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations (2nd edition in 2013 [original in 2003]), Dynamics of Identity in the World of the Early Christians (2009), and Greco-Roman Associations: Texts, Translations, and Commentary. II. North Coast of the Black Sea, Asia Minor (2014).