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The Eschatological Arena: Reinscribing Roman Violence in Fantasies of the End Times

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Eschatological fantasies of divine judgment and retribution constitute a common feature of sacred literature and often serve to legitimate violence, both physical and rhetorical, against others. This paper examines allusions to Roman spectacles of violence—which operated part and parcel of imperialist strategies to dominate and intimidate subject populations—in descriptions of final judgment. It argues that these references constitute forms of colonial mimicry, which ambivalently appropriate Roman symbols of power for their own self fashioning. This process, however, is not uniform, but serves different purposes and strategies in different texts and contexts. This article explores examples of such mimicry and asks what it means for visions of the final judgment to reinscribe the very methods of domination that these fantasies seek to displace. Additionally, it considers the role of voyeurism implicit in public disciplinary displays and the implications that imagining eschatological justice as a blood spectacle has for theological conceptions of divine surveillance and control.

Affiliations: 1: Carleton University


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