Sarcophagus fragment
  Classical Studies: Faculty/Staff  
Home > Faculty > Publications: Jed W. Atkins

Fragment of a marble Sarcophagus
ca. 230-240 ACE
Duke Museum of Art


  1. Atkins, JW. "Tertullian on 'The Freedom of Religion'." Polis: the Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought  vol. 37 no. 1, Brill  145-175. [doi]

    Tertullian first coined the phrase 'the freedom of religion'. This article considers what this entails. I argue that Tertullian's discussion of religious liberty derives its theoretical significance from his creative repurposing of the Roman idea of liberty as non-domination. Tertullian contends that the Roman magistrates' treatment of Christian citizens and loyal subjects amounts to tyrannical domination characterized by the absence of the traditional conditions for non-domination: The rule of law, rule in and responsive to the interests of the people, and citizens' rights. On his reworking of these criteria, he argues that citizens and loyal subjects should have the right to act publicly on the convictions of their conscience even if these actions conflict with the state's civil religion. Tertullian shows that non-domination is a highly flexible idea that does not necessarily entail the participatory 'free state' of republicanism. Moreover, by applying the logic of non-domination to questions surrounding religious liberty, he opens up an important avenue of investigation largely ignored in the contemporary republican literature on non-domination.