This book examines the historical context of the earliest Christian martyrs, and anchors their grisly and often wilful self-sacrifice to the everyday life and outlook of the cities of the Roman empire. Professor Bowersock begins by investigating both the time and the region in which martyrdom, as we know it, came into being. He also offers comparisons of the Graeco-Roman background with the martyrology of Jews and Muslims. A study of official protocols illuminates the bureaucratic institutions of the Roman state as they applied to the first martyrs; and the martyrdoms themselves are seen within the context of urban life (and public spectacle) in the great imperial cities. By considering martyrdom in relation to suicide, the author is also able to demonstrate the peculiarly Roman character of Christian self-sacrifice in relation to other forms of deadly resistance to authority.