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Crucifixion and Death as Spectacle, Umayyad Crucifixion in Its Late Antique Context by Sean Anthony

Crucifixion and Death as Spectacle, Umayyad Crucifixion in Its Late Antique (…)

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The author

Sean A. Anthony is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Oregon.


What historical continuity, if any, existed between the practice of crucifixion in the early Islamic polity and crucifixion as practiced by the Byzantines in the Late Roman empire and by the Sasanids in Persia? Crucifixion and Death as Spectacle explores how the first caliphal dynasty of early Islam, the Umayyads, employed crucifixion in its sundry forms to punish brigands and heretics and to humiliate rebels and enemies, and how, while doing so, the Umayyads drew upon a late antique legacy of punitive practices associated with crucifixion in the Late Roman and Sasanid Persian worlds. Like their Roman and Persian predecessors, the Umayyads wielded crucifixion, and thus the symbolism of violence against the body, to attest to their impunity as caliphs and the legitimacy of their rule. Yet, as this study also argues, this is only one side of the story. Dissidents and political rivals mobilized stories of crucified rebels and martyrs, as told and memorialized by Christians and Muslims alike, against the Umayyads in order to contest and subvert the sublimation of crucifixion as an indubitable symbol of the caliphs’ use of legitimate violence, and succeeded in propagating alternative religious and political ideologies of their own.



1. The Umayyads, Crucifixion, and the Legacy of Late Antiquity

2. Crucifixion in Roman Late Antiquity

3. Crucifixion in Sasanid Late Antiquity

4. Crucifixion in the Early Islamic Period

  • 1. Normative and exemplary paradigms of Umayyad crucifixion
  • 2. Topoi of pre-Islamic crucifixion: Depicting crucifixion in the sīra-maghāzī literature

5. Contesting Umayyad-Era Crucifixion: Martyrologies and Anti-Martyrologies

  • 1. The crucifixions of ʿAbdallāh ibn al-Zubayr and Zayd ibn ʿAlī
  • 2. Crucifying heretics and martyrs: Religious dimensions of Umayyad crucifixion

6. Conclusion

1. The martyrology of Mītham al-Tammār
2. The martyrology of Rushayd al-Hajarī
3. The martyrology and anti-martyrology of Ghaylān of Damascus


View online : Eisenbrauns (Editor)