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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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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 November 2019

Colonizing the Supernatural

Colonizing the Supernatural

How Daimōn Became Demonized in Late Antiquity

(p.147) 9 Colonizing the Supernatural
Old Society, New Belief

Sze-kar Wan

Oxford University Press

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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