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Part of Belief and Beyond Belief

From Socrates to Sikhism, Jesus Christ to Thomas More, martyrs come in many forms, and often go on to become examples of their causes or beliefs for centuries to come. Delve into martyrs and the beliefs they die for with author and presenter Tom Holland.

Being willing to die for a cause or a belief has shaped the history of religion, and in recent years defined debate with the rise of religious terrorism. What distinguishes ancient martyrs who refused to renounce their faith in the face of fierce opposition, and who died for their beliefs, from religiously motivated terrorism?

Tom Holland is the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Persian Fire, his history of the Graeco-Persian wars, won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award in 2006. His third work of history, Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, was published in the autumn of 2008. In the Shadow of the Sword (2012), covers the collapse of Roman and Persian power in the Near East, and the emergence of Islam. Dynasty, about the first Caesars, has been published by Little, Brown Book Group and is out now in paperback. His most recent film, ISIS: The Origins of Violence, explored the origins of modern jihadism in eighth-century Islamic concepts of martyrdom.

He is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Making History. He has written and presented a number of TV documentaries, on subjects ranging from religion to dinosaurs.

Dates & times

This event has passed.


Royal Festival Hall
Blue Room, Level 1


Included in Pass
£15, £25

need to know

This event is included in both the Saturday and Weekend Passes, and is part of With God On Our Side... Religion and War Weekend.