chapter  9
10 Pages

Controlling the Message: Accounts of Vincent the Martyr

If force didn’t end martyrdom, how about disinformation? Could changing texts control martyrs? In his struggles against the Donatists, Augustine discovered that martyrdom can be a powerful force against the social order, and thus he and others were ready for the age of martyrs to end. The church was victorious and thus had no more need of martyrs; it could simply celebrate those who already had died heroically for the faith. However, as we have seen throughout this book, the power of the martyrs lay not only in their deaths but also in the accounts by which people remembered their sacrifice. The texts, with their strong messages, were profoundly influential-we have seen how the texts shaped ideas as disparate as anti-Semitism and motherhood. As the church became organized and at peace, what would happen if a martyr’s passion seemed to contradict the message of the church? Just as now, those in charge recognized the need to control important texts, and the accounts of the martyrs were no exception. Passions were often rewritten to be sure the message of the text conformed to contemporary values.