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Old Society, New BeliefReligious transformation of China and Rome, ca. 1st-6th Centuries$
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Mu-chou Poo, H. A. Drake, and Lisa Raphals

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190278359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.001.0001

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Colonizing the Supernatural

Colonizing the Supernatural

How Daimōn Became Demonized in Late Antiquity

Chapter:
(p.147) 9 Colonizing the Supernatural
Source:
Old Society, New Belief
Author(s):

Sze-kar Wan

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.003.0010

The terms daimōn, “spirit,” “god,” even “genius” in Classical Greek were transformed into the negative “demon” by more than a mere linguistic sleight of hand. The transformation in fact encodes a triumph of the Jewish and Christian worldview over their Greek and Roman counterpart. This chapter traces the linguistic and cultural influences Christianity exerted on the Roman construction of the dead and proposes that conceptualization of the ghostly world does not merely reflect shifts in cultural attitudes but is a deliberate construct designed to bolster the powerful. Armed with monotheism and its constructed power over the spiritual and ghostly realm, imperial Christianity was able to impose a rigid interpretation of the spiritual world and monopolize the cult of the dead. In so doing, the Empire succeeded in colonizing the dead and localized in itself both political and religious power that would last until its eventual collapse.

Keywords:   daimon, daimōn, ghost/soul, demon, death, monotheism, gods

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