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Title: Nero and the Antichrist : the conception and reception of the Nero-Antichrist paradigm in history
Author: Malik, Shushma
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis deals with the interpretation of the first-century AD Roman emperor Nero as the Antichrist in Christian works of late antiquity and the nineteenth century. Many scholars in recent decades have argued that Nero occupied a pivotal place in apocalyptic literature, based on literary evidence from the early Christian centuries. They took their cue from writers in late antiquity, who claimed that the likes of St Paul and St John purposely shaped their Antichrist figures around Nero because of the perceived similarities between the behaviour of the emperor and the characteristics of the Antichrist. I suggest, however, that the Nero-Antichrist paradigm was actually constructed in late antiquity, when the emperor was already established as the mad tyrant we are familiar with from classical historiography and Nero could, therefore, be fully conceptualised as an Antichrist figure. Writers could exploit both biblical accounts of the Antichrist and historiographical depictions of Nero to shape their image. The paradigm was useful to late-antique Christians because it offered a way of explaining the eschatological figure to wide audiences who were already familiar with the most infamous of Roman emperors. This apocalyptic portrayal of Nero was renewed in the nineteenth century in the works of philosophers and theologians like Ernest Renan and F.W. Farrar because it was once again helpful for informing debates and addressing the era’s religious concerns. This stage in Nero’s reception history proved to be intrinsic to how the emperor is thought about today – Renan and Farrar have had considerable influence on modern biographies written about Nero since the early-twentieth century. By taking a distinctive approach to the paradigm, this thesis contributes to both theology and history scholarship by challenging the assumptions made in biblical studies about Nero and his reign, while adding to ancient history an examination of a paradigm which fundamentally influenced Nero’s reception in history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available