Acts of the Pagan (or Heathen) Martyrs
Is the name given by modern scholars to about a dozen fragments of Alexandrian nationalist literature, preserved on papyri mostly written in the 2nd or early 3rd cent. ce. The majority of the fragments give, in dramatic form, reports of the hearing of Alexandrian embassies and of the trials of Alexandrian nationalist leaders before various Roman emperors. The episodes related, of which the dramatic dates range from the time of Augustus to that of Commodus, are probably basically historical and the accounts appear to be derived to some extent from official records. But they have been coloured up, more in some cases than in others, for propaganda purposes, to caricature the emperors, to stress the fearless outspokenness of the Alexandrians, who are sometimes surprisingly rude to the emperors, and to represent their punishment, usually execution, as martyrdom in the nationalist cause. This literature is in general bitterly hostile to Rome, reflecting the tensions between Alexandria (1) and her overlord during the first two centuries of Roman rule. These included antagonism between the Greeks and Rome's protégés, the Jews, and three episodes concern their quarrels. But despite the violent hatred expressed by the Greeks for the Jews, anti-Semitism is only a subsidiary feature in these primarily anti-Roman compositions.