Castelli discusses how a group's traditions can combine with discourse in order to create myths and meta-narratives. In short, Castelli argues that collective memory can produce culture. How did the collective memory of the early Christians lead to the Christian understanding of Martyrdom, and how can this be seen in the writings of people such as Demosthenes, Seneca, and Epictetus?Some ancient Christian writers, like Justin Martyr, tried to distinguish Christianity from "heretical groups" through the concept of martyrdom. It was used as a way to justify Christianity as the true religion.
Other early Christian writers chose to find a continuity with various "ancient examples," like in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicias. This association between past and present allowed for the story of Perpetua to be interpreted in light of the "ancient examples," as well as allowing for the interpretation of the ancient examples to be shaped by the story of Perpetua. In drawing a new connection between these stories and allowing for them to influence each other, the concept of martyrdom gains fluidity. This Christian understanding of a good death acknowledges, in some way, its connection to the Greco-Roman understanding of what constitutes a "noble death."
While the concept of "martyrdom" may have been new and unique to Christianity, the concept of a good death was nothing new to the ancient world. Moss discusses how, in the ancient world, certain terms like "Jewish," "Greek," "Roman," and "Christian" were not distinctive box categories, but that in actuality, these categories were very fluid. This can be seen in various ways, such as in the influence of Greek culture on Jewish literature and art. In the same way, it could be said that the Christian understanding of martyrdom, and what constituted a good Christian death, were influenced by the preexisting concept of a "noble death."
Dying a noble death meant practicing bravery and self-control. As Epictetus would say, it was about freeing oneself from honoring one's "paltry body." Dying a good, honorable death could negate one's previous negative actions, and could serve as a sign of masculinity. It promised that one would be remembered by the community, and it ensured one's good name. For someone like Lucretia, who had been raped, suicide served as proof of her innocence.
When Socrates chose suicide over exile, his death was highly praised by many philosophers. It spoke to his character, and gave him a good name. When Seneca wrote to a woman named Lucilius, who was troubled by a lawsuit, he sought to comfort and strengthen her by recalling/ praising stories of people who had died noble deaths. He wrote that "Socrates debated when in prison, and refused to accept the promise of escape, remaining there so that he could free men from their two worst fears, death and prison" (Letter 24, 4). Dying a noble death was about dying for a worthy cause. Christianity drew upon that.
In short, the Christian understanding of martyrdom came out of the Greco-Roman understanding of what constituted a good death. In the ancient world, suicide did not have the same negative connotations as it has today. It was believed that there was a time and a place for suicide, and that it could constitute a noble death, if it was done in the right way. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that the early Christians might have believed this, as well, thus complicating the concept of martyrdom.