Pagan Elements in the Afterlife Depictions of Early Christian Martyrdom Accounts
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This thesis is an exploration of the pagan influences on early Christianity and its depictions of the afterlife, as seen through popular martyrdom accounts. The first chapter situates early Christianity in its context of Greece and the Roman empire. Chapter two explores two significant examples of pagan eschatology through the Orphic gold leaves and book six of Virgil’s Aeneid. Chapter three explores The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp and compares its eschatology to that of contemporary pagans. Chapter four explores the four eschatological visions in The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas and compares them to the depictions of the pagan afterlife explored in chapter two. These comparisons are done through a combination of scholarly research and literary analysis. This thesis makes no attempt to argue a pagan origin for Christian doctrines but seeks to explore the eschatological beliefs shared by contemporary religions.