Abstract

Christians were accused of a variety of crimes, including cannibalism, during the second century. Since recent anthropological discussions encourage a degree of skepticism when dealing with accusations of cannibalism, this paper considers the charges as instances of "labelling," whereby social relations are expressed using a symbolic stereotype, rather than relying on the traditional explanation of a misunderstanding of eucharistic "body and blood" imagery, or of a mistake in the identification of real cannibals. Examination of Greek and Roman sources reveals that there were many ancient "cannibals," who for the purposes of analysis can be conveniently classified as "philosophical," "exotic," "mythical" and "political." The various attributes of these "cannibals" are also found in the charges against Christians, which represent a perceived threat to society as a whole, expresssed in terms of the human body as depicted in the fantastic stories of ritual murder.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3184
Print ISSN
1067-6341
Pages
pp. 413-442
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-01
Open Access
No
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