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Le massacre des Innocents, une construction mémorielle

Abstract : The Slaughter of the Innocents provides the date of birth of Jesus and gives the starting point of the persecutions of Christians. Although this event plays a functional role in Christian literature, the Gospel of Matthew is the only text that discusses it. Other evangelists, as well as the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who all share the reprobation of Herod’s crimes, never mention such an event. The only testimony which could indirectly attest to the Slaughter of the Innocents is a joke by Augustus, declaring that it would be better to be Herod’s pig than his son. This pleasantry, known though its mention in a late anthology, owes its success to the cultural context at the Imperial Court where Greco-Roman puns were in vogue. Augustus’ witticism is a mixture of Roman common place thinking on infanticide and an anti-Jewish slur referring to the abstinence from pork. The Christian amalgam between the children of Bethlehem and the sons of Herod is not, however, due to Augustus, it is an a posteriori addition, popularized by collective memory.
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Edith Parmentier. Le massacre des Innocents, une construction mémorielle. Pallas. Revue d'études antiques, Presses universitaires du Mirail, 2017, Ekklèsia. Approches croisées d’histoire politique et religieuse. Mélanges offerts à Marie-Françoise Baslez, 104, pp.225-240. ⟨10.4000/pallas.7631⟩. ⟨hal-02536558⟩

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