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Abstract

This essay investigates an aspect of religious competition in antiquity: theories of disasters, individual and collective, elaborated by religious and philosophical movements. This investigation intends to contribute to enlightening popular philosophical and religious theories of disasters in Roman imperial times through the case study of a Stoicizing document of (apparently) a Syrian Hellenized author of the Roman imperial times: the Letter of Mara Bar Serapion (or Sarapion) to his son, from the Roman imperial period. This will be examined in a systematic comparison with Stoic theories of disasters and within the larger issue of the Stoicizing ideas that this Letter displays. It will be argued that both a Christian and a Stoic (who likely heard of Jesus’ execution from Christian sources) could appropriate Jesus’ story and interpret it in their own construction of theories of disasters, which offered competing explanations of dreadful phenomena, both on the individual and on the collective plane alike.

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