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Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity

Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte
Begründet von
Karl Holl† und Hans Lietzmann†

herausgegeben von

Christian Albrecht und Christoph Markschies

Band 119

De Gruyter
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity

Edited by
Johan Leemans, Peter Van Nuffelen,
Shawn W. J. Keough and Carla Nicolaye

De Gruyter
ISBN 978-3-11-026855-3
e-ISBN 978-3-11-026860-7
ISSN 1861-5996

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Episcopal elections in late antiquity / [edited by] Johan Leemans ... [et al.].
p. cm. - (Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte, ISSN 1861-5996 ; Bd. 119)
English, French, and German.
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
ISBN 978-3-11-026855-3 (hardcover 23 ¥ 15,5 : alk. paper)
1. Bishops - Appointment, call, and election - History. 2. Church
history - Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600. I. Leemans, Johan,
BV664.E65 2011
2621.1220901 dc23

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Gedruckt auf säurefreiem Papier
Printed in G e r m a n y
In memoriam Boudewijn Dehandschutter

The present volume is the result of the conference 'Episcopal Elections in

Late Antiquity (ca. 250-600 A.D.)', held in Leuven between 26 and 28
October 2009. Its aim was to re-assess the phenomenon of episcopal elec-
tions from the broadest possible perspective, examining the various factors,
personalities, rules and habits that played a role in the process that resulted
in one specific candidate becoming the new bishop. In particular it was
the purpose of the conference to approach this phenomenon through a
large number of case studies. The conference was a joyful event, profiting
from a late autumn sun and the excellent facilities of the university's con-
ference center in the middle of the beautiful surroundings of the Grand
Beguinage of Leuven. After a rigorous process of peer-review and due revi-
sion, a number of papers was selected which form, together with the main
papers, a representative collection of case studies. We consciously do not
wish to cover the later Roman empire in its full chronological and geo-
graphical extension. This is not only practically impossible, but it would
also generate a false impression of homogeneity. The volume rather wishes
to display the variety of practices that existed in different places and at
different times, and to present new dimensions of the phenomenon by
drawing on distinct methodologies. In this way, we hope to provide build-
ing blocks for a future synthesis of episcopal elections and to contribute to
the continuous new assessment of the crucial figure of the late antique
bishop by focussing more on ordinary bishops and the social and political
dimension of their position.
The conference was part of a project sponsored by the Flemish Fund
for Scientific Research, entitled: "Nobody Should Become Bishop before
He is Thirty Years Old". A Historical and Theological Study of Episcopal
Succession in Late Antiquity (250-600 AD) (Project G.0575.07N). The
FSR-F project-funding provided the two collaborators, Dr. S.W.J.
Keough and Dra. C. Nicolaye (part time), with the freedom to devote
themselves to scholarly work on episcopal succession. Moreover, the FSR-
F supported the conference with a substantial conference grant, allowing
for the invitation of additional keynote speakers. We express our warmest
thanks for this generous support. We also thank wholeheartedly the Re-
VIII Preface

search Council of the K.U. Leuven for their financial support of the confe-
During the editing of this book we received support for which it is a
pleasant duty to express thanks. First of all we thank the Faculty of Theol-
ogy (K.U. Leuven), the Faculty of Arts (Ghent University), the Lichten-
berg Kolleg (DFG-supported Institute of Advanced Study at the Universi-
ty of Gottingen) and the Department of Ancient History of the RWTH-
Aachen for the institutional framework and support provided. We express
our thanks to Walter de Gruyter Verlag in the person of Dr. A. Dohnert,
the responsible editor, for the smooth cooperation towards the publication
of this book. Thanks are also due to Hajnalka Tamas (Leuven) and Andy
Hilkens (Ghent) who helped with the final editing and with the indices.
When this volume neared completion, Professor Boudewijn Dehand-
schutter, the main promoter of the project passed away. He had already
been ill, recovered during the autumn of 2010 but ultimately the disease
got firmly hold on him again. He passed away in peace of mind. He was a
great scholar, an unsurpassable Doktorvater and a good friend. We re-
member him with admiration, gratefulness and affection. This volume is
dedicated to his memory.

Peter Van Nuffelen

Table of Contents

Preface VII

Peter Van Nuffelen -Johan Leemans

Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity:
Structures and Perspectives 1

Keynote Lectures

Pauline Allen
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 23

Timothy David Barnes

The Election of Ambrose of Milan 39

George A. Bevan
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 61

Philippe Blaudeau
Selection d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin
(451-482): une designation artificielle et contrainte? 89

Peter Brum
BischofswahlundBischofsernennungimSynodiconOrientale 109

Bruno Dumezil
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle .. 127

Geoffrey D.Dunn
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops:
Innocent I's Letter to Victricius of Rouen 145

Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? Die Einsetzung von
Klerikern in ihre Amter und die von diesen vorangetriebenen
Bauprojekte 167
X Table of Contents

David G. Hunter
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West:
FromSiriciustoLeoI 183

The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus ofNoricum 203

Raymond Van Dam

Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century:
Numbers and Their Implications 217

Peter Van Nuffelen

The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 243

Ewa Wipszycka
Les elections episcopales en Egypte aux VF-VIP siecles 259

Bedingungen-Akteure-Verfahren 293

Short Papers

Les elections episcopales en Orient
sous Severe d'Antioche (512-518) 307

Daniel Alt
.. .ut sancto sanctus succederet... oder: Haben Heilige eine Wahl?
Ein Ausblick auf die fruhmittelalterliche Bischofserhebung
indenVitenheiligerBischofe 315

Bishop Pesynthios of Koptos (Egypt): "He did not pursue the honour,
but it was the honour that pursued him" 331

An Extraordinary Bishop: Eusebius of Caesarea in Cappadocia 343
Table of Contents XI

Oliver Hihn
The Election and Deposition of Meletius of Antioch:
The Fall ofan Integrative Bishop 357

Christian Hornung
Haeres Petri: Kontinuitat und Wandel in der Bischofsnachfolge
desSiriciusvonRom 375

Episcopal Succession as Criterion of Communion: The Rise of
Rival Episcopal Genealogies in Alexandria according to
Liberatus of Carthage 389

Young Richard Kim

Epiphanius of Cyprus vs. John of Jerusalem: An Improper Ordination
and the Escalation of the Origenist Controversy 411

Susan Loftus
Episcopal Elections in Gaul: The Normative View of the
Concilia Galliae versus the Narrative Accounts 423

Ecclesia non abhorret a sanguine. Les elections episcopales
dans l'Eglise armenienne aux IVe-Ve siecles 437

Jaclyn Maxwell
Education, Humility and Choosing Ideal Bishops in Late Antiquity 449

David McOmish
The Manipulation of Tradition: The Past as a Tool for Political
and Religious Victory during the Laurentian Controversy 463

Episcopal Elections in 5th-century Vandal North Africa 477

Claudia Rammelt
Bischofswechsel in Edessa zur Zeit der christologischen
Auseinandersetzung 499

Zum Beispiel Proklos von Konstantinopel. Uber Chancen und
Grenzen des spatantiken Bischofsamtes 515
XII Table of Contents

The Election of Sahak I as Catholicos of the Armenian Church 531

Andreas Thier
Procedure and Hierarchy: Models of Episcopal Election in
Late Antique Conciliar and Papal Rule Making 541

Johannes A. van Waarden

Episcopal Self-Presentation: Sidonius Apollinaris and the Episcopal
Election in Bourges AD 470 555

The Election of Paul the Jew (519) in Light of the Theopaschite
Controversy 563

ListofAuthors 575

Indices 577
Indexnominum 577
Indexrerum 586
Indexlocorum 587
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and

Peter Van Nuffelen - Johan Leemans

In the second book of his Ecclesiastical History (2.6.3) Socrates writes
about the events surrounding the succession of bishop Alexander of Con-
stantinople in 337. According to the church historian, Alexander gave his
community the following message on his deathbed: "If you want an hon-
est and wise teacher, choose the young presbyter Paulus. If you want
somebody who distinguishes himself by giving an impression of piety,
then choose the old deacon Macedonia". Despite the clarity of the de-
ceased bishop's advice, both candidates did not get a clear majority behind
them. Factors playing a role here are not only their different personality
and way of life Socrates is referring to but also their different theological
position within the Trinitarian debates of their time: Paul seems to have
been attached more to a Nicene-inspired theology while Macedonius
seems to have adopted a more arianising, subordinationist position. Politi-
cal pressure nor riots in the Constantinopolitan streets helped to resolve
the tensions and ultimately each group ordained its own candidate. The
deadlock did not last long: emperor Constantius II supported Macedonius
and sent Paul into exile.
This incident illustrates the complexity of late antique episcopal suc-
cession, in which many elements played a role, such as: local traditions
(the apparent usage that the bishop had a say in the election of his succes-
sor); church politics and doctrinal conflicts (here "Arianism" versus a "Ni-
cene" theology); imperial politics (the intervention by Constantius II);
canon and civil law (was the "double ordination" of Macedonius and Paul
lawful and was it lawful that the emperor intervened in church affairs?);
the role of the people that voiced its opinion through acclamations and
street riots; theological ideas about the "ideal bishop"; the personality and
charisma of each of the candidates.
The present volume contributes to a reassessment of the phenomenon
of episcopal elections from the broadest possible perspective, examining
the varied combination of factors, personalities, rules and habits that
played a role in the process that eventually resulted in one candidate tri-
2 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

umphing. The importance of episcopal elections hardly needs stating: with

the bishop emerging as one of the key figures of late antique society, his
election was a defining moment for the local community and an occasion
when local, ecclesiastical, and secular tensions were played out. Drawing
and expanding on older contributions, 1 a few general studies have recently
been dedicated to the phenomenon. 2 The reason for adding a volume of
papers to these publications is that the existing syntheses, for all their me-
rits, tend to impose a uniformity on electoral practices throughout the
later Roman empire, often by implicitly taking the practices of the majori-
ty church in the main cities as normative. There are obvious reasons for
doing so: the sees of, say, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople are
among the best documented and most powerful of the age. Nevertheless,
the late antique church was much more diverse and that diversity needs
first to be understood before an accurate synthesis can take shape. The
present introduction sets out some considerations regarding the religious,
social, and political structures influencing episcopal elections that have
emerged from the papers collected in this volume and from recent re-
search. It provides a general framework in which to situate the individual
papers and by indicating which routes have not been taken by the various
contributors, it also hopes to open up perspectives for future research.

Bishops, Local and Universal

In reality as well as in imagination, bishops were the pillars of the ancient

church. The rise of the monarchic episcopate in the third century created a
church structure which entrusted to a single bishop the ultimate authority

1 Notable examples are: D. Claude, Die Bestellung der Bischofe, ZRG 80, Kan. Abt.49,
1963; F. Letter, Designation und angebliches Kooptationsrecht bei Bischofserhebun-
gen, ZRG 90, Kan. Abt. 56, 1973, 112-150 ; R. Gryson, Les elections episcopates au
Illieme siecle, RHE 68, 1973, 353-404; Id., Les elections episcopales en Orient au
IVieme siecle, RHE 74, 1979: 301-344; Id., Les elections episcopales en Occident au
IVieme siecle, RHE 75, 1980, 257-283; J. Gaudemet, Les elections dans FEglise
Latine, des origines aux XVIe siecle, Paris 1979; E. Dassmann, Die Bischofsbestellung
in der friihen Kirche, in: Id., Amter und Dienste in den friihchristlichen Gemeinden,
Hereditas: Studien zur alten Kirchengeschichte 8, Bonn 1994, 190-211; F.-R. Erkens,
ed., Die friih- und hochmittelalterliche Bischofserhebung im europaischen Vergleich,
BAKG 48, Koln/ Weimar/ Wien 1998.
2 P. Norton, Episcopal Elections 250-600. Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiqui-
ty, Oxford 2007; P. Christophe, L election des eveques dans Feglise latine au premier
millenaire, Paris 2009; A. Thier, Hierarchie und Autonomic Regelungstraditionen
der Bischofsbestellung in der Geschichte des kirchlichen Wahlrechts bis 1140, Frank-
furt am Main 2011.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 3

in a local community. 3 Traces of a more shared leadership can still be de-

tected in Rome and Alexandria at the beginning of the fourth century.
The triumph of the monarchic episcopate in the fourth century refocused
church life on the bishop: whilst we have a wealth of information about
bishops, we know less about other clergy than we might hope. 4 Late Anti-
que accounts often focus on ideal bishops, who displayed spiritual authori-
ty and fit into the modern category of 'holy men'. 5 They were depicted as
the defenders of the local community against all sorts of evils and interces-
sors with God. Yet not all bishops were saints: ecclesiastical histories are
full of stories of conflict and intrigue that sometimes cast their adversaries
in the role of evil-doers. Crucially, the saintly and the sinful cast a long
shadow over ordinary bishops, more or less competently directing their
diocese, who remain largely invisible.
The church was (and is) at once a local and universal institution. The
bishop hence incorporated both dimensions. Leaving aside the issue of the
decline of civic structures in Late Antiquity,6 it is largely correct to state
that local communities continued to maintain strong traditions and foster
loyalty and allegiance. From different perspectives, P. Blaudeau and E.
Watts have recently shown that local traditions and allegiances had an
important impact on the symbolic construction of power and a real influ-
ence on events/ Local secular actors could also pursue their own interests
that could spur intervention in the church. But a bishop was also eminent-
ly linked in with the church at large. He constituted the link with other

3 A. Faivre, Naissance d'une hierarchie: les premieres etapes du cursus clerical, Paris
1977; E. Dassmann, Zur Entstehung des Monepiskopats, JbAC 17, 1974, 74-90 (=
Id., Amter und Dienste [note 1] 49-74); G. Schollgen, From Monepiscopate to
Monarchical Episcopate: The Emergence of a New Relationship between Bishop and
Community in the Third Century, The Jurist 66, 2006, 114-128.
4 R. Godding, Pretres en Gaule merovingienne, Subsidia hagiographica 82, Brussels
2001; S. Hiibner, Der Klerus in Der Gesellschaft des Spatantiken Kleinasiens, Stutt-
gart 2005; P. Delage, ed., Les Peres de l'Eglise et les ministeres : evolutions, ideal et
realites: actes du Hie Colloque de La Rochelle, 7, 8 et 9 septembre 2007, Jonzac 2008.
5 J.W. Drijvers/ J.W. Watt, eds., Portraits of Spiritual Authority: Religious Power in
Early Christianity, Byzantium and the Christian Orient, Religions in the Graeco-
Roman world 137, Leiden 1999; P. Brown, Poverty and Leadership in the Later Ro-
man Empire, Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures, Hannover 2001; A. Sterk, Re-
nouncing the World yet Leading the Church: the Monk-bishop in Late Antiquity,
Cambridge, Mass. 2004; C. Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: the Nature of
Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition, The Transformation of the Classical
Heritage 37, Berkeley 2005.
6 J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, Decline and Fall of the Roman City, Oxford 2001.
7 P. Blaudeau, Alexandrie et Constantinople (451-491). De l'histoire a la geo-
ecclesiologie, Rome 2006; E. Watts, Riot in Alexandria. Tradition and Group Dy-
namics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities, Berkeley 2010.
4 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

churches, as he incarnated the universal church in his local community

and represented the local church within his province, either through cor-
respondence or through his presence at synods. Fourth century Cappado-
cia and the correspondence of Basil of Caesarea offer a good example here.
Basil's correspondence was clearly "a strategy of communion" with the
bishops within and without his church province and it also contains a
substantial number of references to local synods.8
If the at once local and universal position of the bishop is one key
structure to understand episcopal elections, the implicit tension between
authority and consensus is the other one. A bishop possessed ultimate
authority in his community, but just as an ancient monarch was not (sup-
posed to be) a dictator, the monarchic episcopate did not by definition
imply a top-down imposition of power. A bishop represented and to a
certain degree even incarnated his community: as we shall see, a bishop
was invested with the consensus of his community. Even if formal checks
and balances were largely absent, a bishop was supposed to steer his com-
munity for the common good. He could forfeit his position when this was
not the case anymore, for example when Peter I of Alexandria was per-
ceived as abandoning his flock during the Diocletian persecution.9 But a
bishop also had to be elected and rule with the consensus of the universal
church, i.e. with his peers. Their always existed a temptation for the bi-
shops of the province or the metropolitan to impose a candidate of their
own choosing, in particular in periods of doctrinal strife. This authorita-
tive imposition could, however, imperil the consensus, as (part of) the
local community could outrightly reject the new bishop or form a perma-
nent opposition. To judge from the rich correspondence of Isidorus of
Pelusium, the latter seems to have been the case in Pelusium in the early
fifth century. The bishop Eusebius seems to have been a bad bishop: a
weak administrator, a corrupt person and also in religious matters far from
holy. Some of his clerics shared his unpastoral attitude, others however
criticised him sharply. The Letters of Isidorus document his attempts to
criticise and correct the behaviour of Eusebius and his gang as well as the
support he lent towards the victims of their way of doing.10

8 B. Gain, L'Eglisc de Cappadoce au IVe siecle d'apres la correspondance de Basile de

Cesaree (330-379), Oriental* Christiana analecta 225, Rome 1985; R. Pouchet, Basile
le Grand et son univers d'amis d'apres sa correspondance: une strategic de commu-
nion, Studia ephemeridis Augustinianum 36, Rome 1992.
9 T. Vivian, St. Peter of Alexandria, Bishop and Martyr, Studies in Antiquity and
Christianity, Philadelphia, Pa. 1988, 20; H. Hauben, La premiere annee du schisme
melitien (305/306), AncSoc 20, 1989, 267-280.
10 P. Evieux, Isidore de Peluse, Theologie historique 99, Paris 1995, 206-241.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 5

Many of the issues that come to the fore during episcopal elections can
be related to these two axes, the local and the universal, and authority and
consensus. As the bishop was both local and universal, episcopal elections
were a nexus where the universal and the local met, and occasions when
the competing demands of authority and consensus were played out. This
situation, as well as the obvious potential for conflict it generates, makes
the election of a bishop a complicated phenomenon to assess correctly, in
particular in a state of limited evidence. We just wish to draw attention
here to one important element. Given the nature of our sources, we are in
particular running the constant danger of underestimating the local di-
mension. Episcopal elections were hugely important events for a commu-
nity. We often tend to look at them from a disengaged and distant pers-
pective, focusing on long-term developments, in particular regarding
histories of doctrinal conflicts. But for individual communities, the elec-
tion of a new incumbent was of tremendous importance. Except for cases
of deposition or voluntary retirement, bishops held their position for life.
The tendency was to elect elder members of the community, first driven
by the authority of age but later enshrined in the clerical cursus honorum
in the West which ensured that one could hardly become a bishop before
the age of 45. 11 Tenures were maybe shorter than one would expect in a
system with election for life, but could last long.12 Elections thus potential-
ly determined the life of a community for many years to come. Individual
ambitions and faction rivalry within a city and a church were thus played
out at these occasions. This local context tends to be underestimated in
scholarship, where the focus is often on the macropolitical at the expense
of the micropolitical, on doctrinal conflicts and imperial strategy at the
expense of local tension.13 For lack of information on that context, many
elections remain obscure or we tend to focus on factors that can be more
easily detected, such as imperial intervention and doctrinal conflict. Al-
though the evidence seldom allows us to really grasp that local dimension,
as even the papers in this volume show, we must be aware of it as a crucial
dimension and try to see how the universal and the local interact.

11 Siricius ep. 1.13 (PL 13.1142a-l 143a); Zos. ep. 9.5 (PL 672b-673a).
12 See the contribution by R. Van Dam in this volume.
13 For attempts to correct that perspective, see P. Van Nuffelen, Episcopal Succession in
Sixth Century Sicily, in: D. Engels, ed., Zwischen Ideal und Wirklichkeit - Herr-
schaft auf Sizilien von der Antike bis zur Friihen Neuzeit, Stuttgart 2010, 175-190
and Episcopal Succession in Constantinople (381-450 C.E.): The Local Dynamics of
Power, JECS 18,2010,425-451.
6 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

Current Approaches

Seeing episcopal elections as a nexus of the local and universal and of au-
thority and consensus, may, we hope, help us to grasp better their com-
plexities. We are obviously not the first to argue that elections were impor-
tant and complex. In this section, we wish to sketch briefly three larger
tendencies in scholarship.
Earlier research on elections in the ancient church was often driven by
contemporary issues: Catholic scholars have implicitly or explicitly tied
their research on ancient episcopal elections into debates about the nature
of the modern church and its hierarchical institutions.14 Unsurprisingly,
many of them focus on the role played by the local community and laity,
and it comes not as a surprise that R. Gryson linked the elaboration of a
hierarchical church in the fourth century with a decline of the real impact
of the laity.15 The recent monograph by Peter Norton has explicitly chal-
lenged that view and argues that the people continued to play a role until
the end of Antiquity. Such schematic assessments may not do justice to
the evidence,16 and moreover, it may be misleading to focus just on the
role of the people and the issue of their "real" influence. As we argue be-
low, episcopal elections must be seen as consensus-seeking phenomena
that played out in a complex social environment. There does not seem to
be a fixed procedure for running an election and organising, for example, a
formal vote. Rather, the finding of a consensus could be informal, which
later was publicly approved of by acclamations. The extent to which the
people had a say in such a process is hard to measure. In an ideal consen-
sual election there is no conflict of opinion and hardly a need to express a
view. It is rather in contested elections that one can see that the people
could indeed reject certain candidates or vocally (or militarily) support one
particular candidate. But these were situations when consensus was not
achieved and the different actors had to manifest their own will. The issue
of popular involvement thus needs to be set in a wider context and not
studied as an isolated element.
Second, canon lawyers have had a long standing interest in episcopal
elections, often with the aim of reconstructing the antecedents for current
practice.17 This has, however, lead to a projection of a systematizing view
of canon law back on Antiquity: most work has focused on establishing

14 Gaudemet, Les elections (note 1) and Christophe, l'election (note 2).

15 Gryson, Les elections (note 1).
16 For a much more differentiated picture, see Thier, Hierarchie (note 2), 194.
17 With Thier, Hierarchie (note 2), we have now a new synthesis that can function as a
guide to previous scholarship.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 7

the procedure for elections in Late Antiquity. Although earlier scholars

obviously took into account regional variation and change over time, they
have tended to overestimate the regulatory character of ancient canons and
often attempted to detect a linear development. Both aspects are chal-
lenged in this volume,18 which suggests a more dynamic view of canon
law. Canon law is not a neutral resource laying down the rules for elec-
tions in Late Antiquity, but part of the various factors that played a role
during the process and that could be highlighted or downplayed depend-
ing on the circumstances.
Finally, the application of prosopographical methods to Late Antiqui-
ty has raised the issue of the social background of clergy and bishops in
general. The traditional issue at stake here is the degree of continuity be-
tween the old, secular elite, and the new Christian one. It is now clear that
most bishops were drawn from the curial class, with relatively few bishops
drawn from the humiliores or the senatorial class.19 There are individual
exceptions, of which Ambrose is the best known, and geographical ones,
with Gaul in the fifth and sixth century as the prime example.20 Whilst the
church was thus not a refuge for the top elite in an age of decline, it is not
the case either that the local municipal elite simply espoused clerical office:
evidence for Italy shows that more than half of the bishops did not origi-
nate from the city they governed. In the words of Claire Sotinel: "Se de-
gage l'image d u n e institution avant tout soucieuse de se doter de cadres
efficaces pour son gouvernement interne plus que dune Eglise confondue
avec la hierarchie sociale de son epoque."21 The evidence from the early
Byzantine empire, however, has been taken to indicate a greater degree of

18 A. Thier, Dynamische Schriftlichkeit: Zur Normenbildung in den vor-gratianischen

Kanonessammlungen, ZSSKA 124, 2007, 1-33 and his contribution in this volume
focus on the dynamics of late antique dealing with written sources of law, whereas P.
Van Nuffelen emphasises the rhetorical function of canon law.
19 F.D. Gilliard, The Social Origins of Bishops in the Fourth Century, Diss. Berkeley
1966; W. Eck, Der Einfluss der konstantinischen Wende auf die Auswahl der Bischo-
fe im 4. und 5. Jahrhundert, Chiron 8, 1978, 561-585; C. Sotinel, Le personnel epis-
copal: enquete sur la puissance de l'eveque dans la cite, in: E. Rebillard/ C. Sotinel,
edd., L'eveque dans la cite du IVe au Ve siecle: image et autorite, Rome 1998, 105-
126 and Ead., Les eveques italiens dans la societe de l'Antiquite tardive: emergence
d'une nouvelle elite?, in: R. Lizzi, ed., Le trasformazioni delle elites in eta tardoantica,
Perugia 2006, 377-404; C. Rapp, The Elite Status of Bishops in Late Antiquity, Are-
thusa 33, 2000, 379-399.
20 M. Heinzelmann, Bischofsherrschaft in Gallien: zur Kontinuitat romischer Fiihrungs-
schichten vom 4. bis zum 7. Jahrhundert: soziale, prosopographische und bildungsge-
schichtlicheAspekte, Munich 1976.
21 C. Sotinel, Le recrutement des eveques en Italie aux IVe et Ve siecles. Essai d'enquete
prosopographique, in: Vescovi e pastori in epoca teodosiana, Studia Ephemeridis Au-
gustinianum 58, Rome 1997, 193-204, 202.
8 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

continuity.22 Local diversity is thus again evident, but even so it seems fair
to state that the clerical elite is not a mere avatar of the age-old elites: it
marked a true mutation in the social and political history, even if bishops
started to model their behaviour on that of secular rulers.23 This does not
mean, however, that social hierarchies played no role at all within the
church and that the church was the great avenue for social promotion
from sharecropper to bishop. An elite background was an obvious boon
when pursuing a career in the church.
Whilst engaging with these debates, this volume hopes to inspire fur-
ther discussion by proposing a number of new perspectives. As said, one of
the aims of the volume is to demonstrate the sheer variety of cases and

Procedure and Consensus

We must start by confessing our ignorance in an important respect. The

information we have, and in particular the canon rules, is mostly con-
cerned with the proper preconditions of the ordination, and not with the
actual designation of the candidate.24 Some aspects of the designation were
formalized at some point in time. Justinian, 2 ' probably preceded by Anas-
tasius,26 formalised the rule that a shortlist of three candidates should be
drawn up from which the new bishop could be selected and stated that the
clergy and the leading citizens should be involved. The ancient focus on
ordination is an important fact, as modern interest tends to regard desig-
nation and election. Indeed, the present volume discusses episcopal elec-
tions, i.e. the process resulting in the appointment of a new incumbent, in
its wider social, ecclesiastical and political context. In the relative disregard
for the actual ordination this betrays a modern perspective on episcopal
elections: what is important for us, is what happens before the ordination,
the correct procedure or the kowtowing and back-stabbing. The actual
ordination is often seen by us as the merely ceremonial endpoint of that

22 M. Whittow, Ruling the Late Roman and Early Byzantine City: A Continuous Histo-
ry, Past and Present 129, 1990, 3-29; A. Laniado, Recherches sur les notables munici-
p a l s dans l'empire protobyzantin, Rome 2002, 151-4, 253.
23 R. Haensch, Die Rolle der Bischofe im 4. jahrhundert. Neue Anforderungen und
Neue Antworten, Chiron 37, 2007, 153-182.
24 Norton, Episcopal Elections (note 2), 31 and G. Dunn in this volume.
25 Codex Iustianianus 1.3.41 (528) (CIC(B).C, 26 Kriiger); Novellae 123 (546) and 137
(565) (CIC(B).N 594-595, 696-697 Scholl/Kroll).
26 Severus Select Letters, 1, 39 (Vol. 1/1, 124 Brooks; Vol. 2/1, 111 Brooks), with Nor-
ton, Episcopal Elections (note 2), 37 and F. Alpi in this volume.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 9

process. The ancient church did not see it that way. The ordination is not
just the moment when God's spirit is imparted on the new bishop. As the
ordination is performed by neighbouring bishops and, possibly, by the
metropolitan, it is also the moment when the local community is inserted
anew into the universal church and when the local community and the
universal church express their shared wish to see a particular individual as
the new bishop. Ordination was thus the key moment and many examples
show that in disputed elections one of the factions would rush to ordina-
tion to forestall the other candidate. Disputes were often about improper
ordinations. In other words, there was no point such as the official proc-
lamation of the results during modern elections which determines the
official outcome, followed in due course by the installation of a new presi-
dent or government. In episcopal elections, up until the ordination every-
thing was open.
This fact should direct us away from seeing, consciously or uncons-
ciously, modern electoral procedures in our democracies or modes of de-
signation in the modern churches as paradigms. Given the position of the
bishop as the incarnation of the community and its link with the universal
church, the election of a bishop was eminently consensual. As an expres-
sion of the communal consensus, an election could not ignore a consti-
tuant part of the community. The people thus always had some role to
play. One cannot draw one straight line in the development of church law
on elections: A. Thier argues that western canon law tends to attribute a
more important role to bishops from the fourth century onwards, but
from the fifth the laity again receives more emphasis. The argument for a
linear decline of the people's influence should thus be nuanced.27 This
does not mean that the people always played a decisive role, or even an
important role: often the vox populi may have been rather pro forma.28
Evidence from Constantinople in the early fifth century suggests that the
role of the people could be decisive in cases of disputed elections when the
church and secular hierarchy could not agree on a candidate.29 Most im-
portantly, however, the people could reject a bishop who was imposed on
them, a situation that does not seem to have been that uncommon. 30 Here
one notices that the local and the universal church had to agree. Just as the
theoretical and actual role of the people varied over time and from place to

27 Gryson, Les elections episcopates en Orient (note 5), 302-4; Rapp, Holy Bishops
(note 1), 200.
28 On these lines, for a later period, see B. Moulet, Intervention des laics et regulation
ecclesiastique des nominations episcopales a Byzance (Vlll-Xe siecles), Revue beige de
philologie et d'histoire 85, 2007, 213-221.
29 Van Nuffelen, Episcopal Succession in Constantinople (note 13).
30 Norton, Episcopal Elections (note 2), 44-5 and J. Rist in this volume.
10 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

place, consensus could be achieved in a variety of ways: proposing a candi-

date and allowing him to be scrutinised; drawing up a list of three and
have one selected; having candidates acclaimed.
One has to take account of the onus of consensus. In a modern elec-
tion, one can be declared a clear winner with just over fifty percent of the
vote or, depending on the electoral system, even less. In an episcopal elec-
tion that would not have been sufficient. Canon 6 of Nicaea presumes the
necessity of consensus among all provincial bishops, even when allowing
for some form of majority decision: "If all have come to a harmonious
agreement according to the ecclesiastical rule and two or three disagree for
reasons of private rivalry, the wish of the majority is to prevail." This vo-
lume chronicles sufficient instances when a minority succeeded in block-
ing the election of the bishop of the other faction or the majority could
push through its will only at great cost. The highly disputed nature of
episcopal elections is thus not just due to the ecclesiastical and political
importance of the function, but also to the high demands of consensus.
The high stock set by consensus is best reflected in hagiographical
sources. Lives of saints are frustrating sources if one wishes to use them as
historical sources. They tend to gloss over all the more wordly concerns
that seem important to us and presents a rather irenic picture of the uni-
versal wish of a community for a saintly individual as bishop. But the
emphasis on consensus, including that of the people, reveals the ideologi-
cal focus on agreement of all, including the people. Indeed, Merovingian
lives of saints attest to popular participation in a region and at a time
when many elections seem determined by royal decree.31 The focus on
consensus also allows to circumvent the difficulties faced by individuals:
Sulpicius' Life of Saint Martin hints at the opposition of the hierarchy to
Martin's election, but depicts the choice as a divinely inspired action of
the people. The disgruntled bishops are marginalised in the suggestion of a
wide consensus.32

State Intervention and Ecclesiastical Conflict

Bishops are elected in a specific society and context. Two crucial factors
need to be singled out, imperial intervention and ecclesiastical conflict.
That the secular state and the emperor (and later, in the West, the
king) intervened needs no discussion, but it is worth raising two interre-

31 See the contribution by D.Alt.

32 Sulp. Sev. V. Martin 9 (ed. J. Fontaine, Vie de Saint Martin. Sources chretiennes 135,
Paris 1969).
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 11

lated issues: how often and where did he intervene, and on what legal
grounds did he do so? A traditional view would ascribe to the emperor an
overriding and direct influence on episcopal elections, directly on the ma-
jor sees and indirectly on the minor ones.33 Justification for this was found
in a legal stewardship of the emperor over the church,34 often traced back
to Eusebius' depiction of Constantine as "bishop of those outside" or the
heritage of the position of pontifex maximus,35
Such a view of imperial competence and intervention in episcopal
elections now seems on the wane. In a recent paper, J. Dijkstra and G.
Greatrex have revisited the relationship between Anastasius and the pa-
triarchs of Constantinople to show that the patriarchs, especially when
they aligned themselves with the people, were powerful individuals who
could effectively challenge the emperor,36 In a study of episcopal succes-
sion in Constantinople under the Theodosian dynasty P. Van Nuffelen
has argued that the emperor had to take into account the views and power
of an ecclesiastical establishment, which succeeded in controlling succes-
sion in the capital for most of the first half of the fifth century, against
contestation by the johannites and imperial intervention,37 His interven-
tion may have been less frequent than we assume, mainly limiting it to
cases when no consensus was reached.
In the context of this volume it is striking that no contribution to this
volume deals mainly with imperial and regal intervention - except for the
papers by B. Dumezil and C. Nicolaye, both arguing against overestimat-
ing its importance. This is a sign that the earlier emphasis on imperial
intervention as the crucial element in late antique elections is in the
process of being corrected, and that, as we shall see, attention is being
shifted to intra-ecclesiastical motifs and agents. This shift of focus should
not lead to a neglect of the role of the secular elite, nor to a failure to con-
ceptualise imperial intervention. Yet the argument that imperial interven-
tion is related to a legal privilege reflects a tendency to analyse modes of
conduct in legal terms, whereas ancient practice was much more messy.
More importantly, even if the emperor may have understood himself as

33 Gryson, Les elections episcopates en Orient (note 1), 345-7, nuanced by Norton,
Episcopal elections (note 2), 82.
34 F. L. Ganshof, Note sur Election des eveques dans l'cmpirc romain au IVme et pen-
dant la premiere moitie du Vieme siecle, RIDA 4, 1950, (^Melanges Fernand de
Visscher 3), 407-498; B. Biondi, II diritto romano cristiano, Milan 1952, 203-230; P.
G. Caron, ^intervention de l'autorite imperial romain dans l'election des eveques,
Revue de droit canonique 27, 1978, 76-83.
35 Eus.v.c.4.24.
36 J. Dijkstra and G. Greatrex, 'Patriarchs and Politics in Constantinople in the Reign of
Anastasius (with a reedition of O.Mon.Epiph. 59)', Millenium 6, 2009, 223-264.
37 Van Nuffelen, Episcopal Succession in Constantinople (note 13).
12 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

having a right of overview, this was in the period we are concerned with
never conceptualised as such by the emperor. On the contrary, even in a
region and a period where appointment by the emperor was the rule, Me-
rovingian Gaul, councils did reassert the ecclesiastical privilege of appoint-
ing a bishop. As B. Dumezil points out, royal intervention always re-
mained beyond legal conceptualisation and affirmation of ecclesiastical
autonomy regularly took place. His proposal to analyse the existing prac-
tice as an informal system on its own, without trying to root it in a specific
legal justification, succeeds in showing that the system could be stable and
functioning while the church could keep alive the idea of its own autono-
my and reassert it in certain circumstances. Moreover, as an informal sys-
tem, each appointment marked the renegotiation of the relationship be-
tween king and church: the king was supposed to comply with implicit
expectations, such as the importance of moderation and the duty of res-
ponding adequately to the circumstances. Conflict arose when king or
church failed to honour their part of the implicit agreement.
These recent approaches rely on the public dimension of elections in
arguing that bishops could play out popular support against the emperor
or that the king had to be seen as guaranteeing the implicit moral codes of
expected behaviour. They thus back away from a strictly legal perspective.
It is this public dimension that may also help to explain another pheno-
menon: the recurrence of violence and riots during elections.38 It may be
fruitful to situate the presence of riots during episcopal elections against
the background of widespread local violence and riots throughout Later
Antiquity. Attempts have been made to explain late antique violence as a
specifically Christian phenomenon spurred by the rise of the bishop,39 but
given the extensive presence of city violence throughout the empire, not
just for religious causes, this is not entirely convincing: riots and violence
need to be related to the changed nature of local city life, in which Chris-
tianity obviously played a role but was far from the only factor.40 It may,
in turn, be reductive to state that the street battles for the episcopal see in

38 It is most explicitly discussed in the paper of F. Fatti.

39 R. MacMullen, Changes in the Roman Empire. Essays in the Ordinary, Princeton,
1990, 205-276; P. Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity. Towards a Chris-
tian Empire, Madison, Wi. 1992, 85-95.
40 For a social perspective on late antique religious riots, see J. Hahn, Gewalt und religio-
ser Konflikt: Studien zu den Auseinandersetzungen zwischen Christen, Heiden und
Juden im Osten des Romischen Reiches (von Konstantin bis Theodosius II.), Berlin
2004. A sketch of a more integrated approach is laid out by M. Whitby, Factions, Bi-
shops, Violence and Urban Decline, in: J.-U. Krause/ C. Witschel, eds., Die Stadt in
der Spatantike - Niedergang oder Wandel?, Stutggart 2006, 441-461.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 13

fourth-century Rome were just a mutated form of traditional patronage41

- a version of the thesis of social continuity between secular and ecclesias-
tical elites. If, however, we see episcopal elections as essentially public
events, it becomes more understandable that violence could erupt when no
consensus was reached, especially if this was happening in a society where
local violence was common. Imperial intervention, in turn, often had the
basic aim of maintaining order or forestalling disorder.
What this volume leaves in obscurity and has, to our knowledge, re-
ceived no in-depth study recently, is how the legislation of Justinian im-
pacted on the actual recruitment of clergy and bishops in the East. It is,
for example, noteworthy that the so-called Dialogue of Political Science
favours a system of state appointment for bishops.42 The role of bishops
within the state was clearly being reconsidered at the time, and it would be
worthwhile to study the aims, effectiveness, and impact of Justinian's
laws.43 This is an occasion when the interaction of internal church life and
external state influence could be very well grasped.
If the influence of the emperor is being cut down to realistic propor-
tions, what are the intra-ecclesiastical factors that the contributions to this
volume draw attention to? Elections were occasions when ecclesiastical
networks of support and patronage could be built up. Bishops tended to
staff their clergy with friends and relations,44 which translates in the emer-
gence of episcopal dynasties, such as that of John and Domnus in Antioch,
and Theophilus and Cyril in Alexandria. But bishops did not remain fo-
cused on their own sees: they would try to install like-minded individuals
on vacant sees across the province, and sometimes even beyond the bor-
ders of a province. Given the importance of synodal decisions, having the
numbers on one's side could be very advantageous. This strategy is partic-
ularly visible in times of doctrinal tension and is documented in this vo-
lume in particular for the patriarchate of Antioch: Theodoretus of Cyr
overstepped his authority by intervening in Tyre,45 as did the patriarch of
Alexandria with the election of Paul the Black (564).46 Elections could
thus be vicarious battle grounds for wider conflicts, and this often led to
the conscious overstepping of accepted procedure.

41 The most explicit statement of this position is R. Lizzi, Discordia in urbe: pagani e
cristiani in rivolta, in: F.E. Consolino, ed., Pagani e cristiani da Giuliano l'Apostata al
saccodi Roma, Messina 1995, 115-140.
42 P. Bell, Three Political Voices from the Age of Justinian, Liverpool 2009, 159.
43 Norton, Episcopal Elections (note 2), 34-6 46-7 has a brief discussion.
44 Blaudeau,Alexandrie(note7),17.
45 See the contributions by Alpi, Bevan, and Keough.
46 See the paper by P. Allen. See also D. I. Viezure's contribution.
14 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

As the following or not-following of procedure itself was not sufficient

to make an election accepted or not, such battles spurred legitimizing
discourses that justified overstepping canonical prescriptions or obscured
infractions of accepted practice. This can be particularly well documented
in Rome, where bishops modelled their self-understanding on that of the
Roman state and used the legal vocabulary that depicted the incumbent as
the inheritor of an unbroken tradition of orthodoxy.47 But also for Alex-
andria such justificatory discourses can be well studied.48 One of the as-
pects this volume wants to draw attention to is the symbolic dimension
present in elections: by this we do not mean the theological dimension of
the imparting of spiritual authority on a bishop as the representative of
Christ in his bishopric, but rather the series of actions and symbols that
justified the position of a particular bishop by setting him in a tradition
and depicting him as the heir to that tradition. Such symbols were impor-
tant. In Egypt the custom existed of putting the hand of the dead pa-
triarch on the head of the new incumbent, or of performing the ordina-
tion in presence of the corpse. This was not an action that was performed
in every instance, but it was part of the collective memory and could be
drawn upon if need be.49 Conversely, since Paul the Tabennesiote in 538,
diphysite bishops of Alexandria were ordained in Constantinople, which
was an obvious symbolic disadvantage. This symbolic dimension needs to
be further integrated in discussions of episcopal elections. Indeed, instead
of understanding popular acclamations as a way of voting (hence giving
rise to the debate whether the people had any real influence or not), it is
possible to see them as the symbolic underwriting of an election, i.e. an
expression of the consensus. This needs not, however, exclude the possibil-
ity of a real popular influence in specific circumstances.
Ecclesiastical conflict, understood in a sociological sense of the estab-
lishment of factions and parties that compete for influence, thus emerges
as a basic factor in elections. But it was a long-term process: unless one
opted for the radical but difficult way of deposing a whole series of bi-
shops, episcopal sees became vacant one by one and each election re-
quested a lot of effort to make it turn the right way. Gains were not always
long-term, as the succession of the Cyrillian Rabulla by the nestorian Ibas
in Edessa (435) shows.50 Another complicating factor was that depositions
for doctrinal reasons, sometimes but not always hardened by exile,51 and

47 See the contributions by C. Hornung and D. McOmish.

48 See P. Blaudeaus chapter.
49 A, is shown by E.Wipszycka in her chapter.
50 See the paper of C. Rammelt.
51 See P. Blaudeau/ F. Prevot, eds., Exil et relegation, les tribulations du sage et du saint
dans FAntiquite romaine et chretienne (He avt-VIe s. ap. J.-C), Paris 2008.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 15

elections of new incumbents were often contested. Bishops often refused

to accept their deposition, which could lead to the splitting of communi-
ties, each with their own bishop. Examples range from the Melitian schism
in the early fourth century to Antioch throughout the longest part of the
same century. It is exemplified in this volume by Pauline Allen's prosopo-
graphical analysis of succession in sixth century Antioch. Reconciliation
implied finding a compromise that integrated the various bishops; the
failure in the cases of both the Melitians and the fourth-century Antio-
chean schism illustrate eloquently the difficulties involved.52 In line with
earlier research,53 this volume thus draws attention to the sociological
process of factionalism that overlaps in important ways with doctrinal
strife, and often is driven by it, but is not always fully coterminous with it.
Other internal factors are also considered in this volume. One could
be termed 'disciplining'. The development of the church into a respectable
institution of power obviously increased the numbers of bishoprics availa-
ble. Although R. Van Dam's admittedly speculative calculations suggest
there might actually have been twice as many senators as bishops at any
given time in the empire, this also increased the need for qualified person-
nel. The development of a cursus, which only allowed one to become
bishop at the age of 45, reduced in a natural way the number of candidates
for a particular see, given the lower life expectancy of that period. D.
Hunter, in turn, focuses on the condition of having been married only
once and how this rule contributed to the establishment of priestly celiba-
cy. He also questions the often stated preference for monks as bishops and
he draws attention to the rather critical view of monks as bishops that also
seems to have existed.

Centre and Periphery

We stated at the outset that this volume maps variety and difference. Here
it may be important to expand our perspective to episcopal succession:
rather than looking at individual elections, regional variety is better de-
tected by looking at succession patterns generated by a series of elections.
Indeed, elections are often the only instances that are discussed in the
sources for a given see, and thus good occasions to get an insight in the
make-up of different churches. In general, it may be possible to state that

52 On Antioch, see the paper by O. Hihn.

53 Cf. D.M. Gwynn, The Eusebians: The Polemic of Athanasius of Alexandria and the
Construction of the 'Arian Controversy, Oxford 2007.
16 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

the form of episcopal succession depended on the structure of the local

ecclesiastical community and on that of the society in which it took root.
The classic image of a bishop residing in a city is only applicable to the
church within the Roman empire: for the peoples beyond the frontiers,
bishops were regularly appointed to entire regions or peoples.54 Goths and
other Germanic peoples usually had only one bishop assigned to them,
who followed them in their travels. Hence for a long time Vandal and
Visigothic bishops resided at court and were not assigned to cities. For the
Visigoths this seems to have happened only in the reign of Leovigild (572-
86).55 The bishops in Armenia, in turn, resided on the large estates of the
magnates of that kingdom. 56 This situation is comprehensible against the
background of the slow integration of barbarian and Roman societies in
the successor kingdoms and the specific urban (or non-urban) make-up of
non-Roman societies. But even within the empire not all bishops were
city-based. Leaving aside the phenomenon of chorepiskopoi, bishops as-
signed to villages within a diocese and under the authority of the local
bishop, bishops could also reside in monasteries, for example in Egypt in
the sixth century when rival factions had their own bishops and only one
of them occupied the city.57
Even within the Roman empire, we should not take the link between
city and bishop as too self-evident or, better, we should not imagine the
"city" as too big or too important a place. Surely bishops in the bigger
cities of the Empire are best-documented but this should not make us
forget that bishops often resided in not much more than villages. Gregory
of Nazianze's Sasima, his cursed station in the middle of nowhere that
comes immediately to mind, may be considered an exception but Nyssa,
where that other luminary of Cappadocian theology resided, was not all
too big a city to judge from the size of the martyr's shrine he describes in
his Letter 25. And what to think of the 500 or more bishopsrics in North-
ern Africa? Many of these bishops must have had their see in smaller cities,
just as one can easily imagine that not all of these bishops were well-
educated, well-to-do people of good descent. Thus, just as the social make-
up of these small cities must have been different from that of provincial
capitals, not to mention cities like Alexandria, elections may well have run
a different course there from what we know from bigger cities.

54 Ruf., h.c. I 9-10 on Iberia and Ethiopia; Prosper Tiro, Chronicon s.a. 431 on the
55 R.W. Mathisen, Barbarian Bishops and the Churches "in barbaricis gentibus" during
Late Antiquity, Speculum 72, 1997, 664-697.
56 See the contribution by A. Mardirossian.
57 The evidence is set out in the paper of E. Wipszycka.
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 17

If the paradigm of the city-based bishop may be too much at the fore-
front of our analysis, so is the idea of a single mode of episcopal succession
in Late Antiquity. Many analyses take the model set out in the canons of
the church as the standard one and then apply it to the various groups. It
can be shown, however, that some sects made conscious choices for differ-
ent modes of succession: the Novatians in Constantinople developed a
tightly controlled system of succession in which elite background and
blood ties were of paramount importance. The short-lived Eunomian
hierarchy was exceptional in assigning only one or a few bishops to entire
regions and by making the bishops subservient to the twin spiritual head
of the groups, Eunomius and Aetius, who did not become part of the
Eunomian episcopal system. Both can be related to the specific social situ-
ation these sects found themselves in, and in the case of the Eunomians
theological considerations.58 It has been suggested that the Melitians con-
tinued the ancient Egyptian practice of having communities directed by
presbyters.59 In a context of cultural and communal diversity, different
bishops could co-exist in the same city.60 Such variety may have been re-
duced in the course of the centuries, but these examples at least show that
it existed and they suggest that differences in succession patterns may re-
flect differences in social outlook and structure of specific churches, or
even distinct theological choices. After all, a bishop is a leader of a com-
munity and the way he exercises his power is related to the self-
understanding and make-up of that community.
Obviously, it would be naive to simply claim local variety without see-
ing that certain places and models exercised a greater influence than oth-
ers. In particular, patriarchal sees - well represented in this volume -
sought to control the local churches by trying to shape succession. De-
pending on geographical location and the strength of local traditions,
some communities aligned themselves faster with the centre than others.
Certain regions long remained properly peripheral in ecclesiastical terms:
the churches of Armenia and Persia, for example, were long subjected to
metropolitans within the Roman empire. Indeed, the abandonment of the
obligation to have the new Armenian catholicos ordained in Caesarea in
Cappadocia marked an important step in the autonomy of the Armenian
church61 and was a clear refusal to remain an appendix to the church of
the Roman empire. Being peripheral was also not without its advantages,
as it could protect against centralising tendencies by powerful metropoli-

58 Van Nuffelen, Episcopal Succession in Constantinople (note 13).

59 E. Wipszycka, The Origins of Monarchic Episcopate in Egypt, Adamantius 12, 2006,
60 As noted in the paper of P. Bruns.
61 See the papers by A. Mardirossian, O. Shchuryk and P. Bruns.
18 Peter Van Nuffelen - johan Leemans

tans Gregory the Great, for example, could not unseat Maximus of Salona
when the latter outbid in 592 or 593 Gregory's favourite candidate. Salo-
na was beyond the reach of Gregory's authority.62 Such examples should
warn against studying episcopal elections just from the perspective of the
emperor or the metropolitan. Local forces could thwart the desires of the

Ideal and Reality

Finally, it is apposite to make a case in favour of the singularly unex-

pected: stories of individual actions that give us pause to think and make
one hesitant to look for master-narratives to understand episcopal elec-
tions. What to think of a person such as Martinianus? Serving as presbyter
under Eusebius of Pelusium (whose predecessor had refused to ordain
him!), he was one of his accomplices in a life of luxury, weak and immoral
leadership, abd financial abuse, exemplified in prefering a luxurious
church over the temple of the body of the poor. After a few years of ill-
conduct, this man took the money destined for the poor and travelled to
Alexandria in order to buy an episcopal see. To judge from church canons
warning for practices of simony with regard to episcopal elections, well-
attested for Merovingian Gaul,64 Martinianus' attempt of buying an epi-
scopal office was not a unique event. More exceptional maybe was the
experience of vicarious shame and irritation Augustine experienced when
his congregation reacted overly enthusiast on the occasion of the visit of
Pinianus and Melania the Younger on their way to the Holy Land: in
church his congregation tried to exhort this incredible wealthy man to
accept the priesthood in their congregation, obviously in view of a future
appointment as bishop.65 Wealth obviously was an important element to
be considered a good candidate to the episcopacy. Paideia, culture and a
good network were important for the big sees. The succession in Constan-
tinople to the disappointing and disappointed Gregory of Nazianzus was a
case in point: after this little-skilled diplomat a non-baptised senator, Nec-
tarius, was chosen and became per saltum bishop of one of the most im-
portant sees of the Empire. Yet, these were exceptions and in the image of
the ideal bishop piety was at least as important is paideia. In the Apostolic

62 See, e.g., Greg. Magn. en. I 10, 19-20, IX 150, 152, 154-156, 159, 177-179, 231,
63 Van Nuffelen, Episcopal Succession in Sicily (note 13).
64 See the paper by S. Loftus.
65 Aug. ep. 125-128 (CSEL 44, A. Goldbacher).
Episcopal Elections in Late Antiquity: Structures and Perspectives 19

Constitutions (2.1.2) it is said that the candidate-bishop should be edu-

cated if possible, but if he were to be uneducated, that he should have
experience in reading the Bible, be of suitable age and maturity. In other
words: functional and basic knowledge were important but spiritual edu-
cation and leadership skills were considered more important. Other nor-
mative texts about the ideal bishop66 also explore the tension between
piety and paideia: a bishop should have paideia but not too visible and he
certainly should not show off. Ultimately piety was considered more im-
portant. In practice, however, Christians (and, if need be, non-Christians)
were very happy to ask the bishop for a letter of support or an intervention
in a difficult situation. These images of the ideal bishop, construed in
hagiographical literature67 or by bishops themselves,68 had no direct relev-
ance on individual episcopal elections but it is not illogical to assume that
such images influenced how bishops and bishops-to-be behaved and how
their congregations expected them to behave.


The foregoing discussion could be taken to suggest that we advocate a

series of microstudies that describe the interplay of imperial intervention,
ecclesiastical conflict, and local circumstances for each specific election and
that a more general account is firmly beyond our reach. Whilst we do
caution against generalisations from specific instances that are too easily
taken as representing the standard, such a conclusion is too sceptical. This
introduction has pointed to a series of structural factors that can give
shape to a future synthesis. That is the modest aim of this voluminous
collection: to take a step back to take stock of the sheer variety and to
explore possible approaches so as to provide crucial building blocks for a
future synthesis.

66 E.g. Greg.Nys., ep. 19 and the texts discussed by J. Maxwell in this volume.
67 See the papers by D. Alt and R. Dekker.
68 See T.D. Barnes and J.A. van Waarden in this volume.
Keynote Lectures
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 1

Pauline Allen


Episcopal succession in Antioch in the sixth century has to be seen in the

context of imperial attempts at ecclesiastical unity in Late Antiquity, typi-
fied by the publication of the Henoticon (Instrument of Union) by em-
peror Zeno in 482, which was the forerunner of the "Second Henoticon
of emperor Justin II (571?), and of the Ekthesis of emperor Heraclius
However, apart from the raging debate about Chalcedon, which was
influential in episcopal elections in sixth-century Antioch, we have to give
serious consideration to the march of tritheist doctrine, which could have
lain behind several episcopal elections and demises. Tritheism emerged
among anti-Chalcedonians in about 557 from an attempt to establish a
one-nature trinitarian doctrine on the basis of the christological terminol-
ogy of Severus of Antioch. It spread rapidly and was early in vogue in
Syria. The opponents of this doctrine, both pro- and anti-Chalcedonians,
were as vociferous as its adherents, thus causing further turbulence among
anti-Chalcedonians and engaging the attention of Chalcedonian bishops

1 The following abbreviations are used in this paper: Allen, Evagrius = P. Allen, Eva-
grius Scholasticus the Church Historian, Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, Etudes et
Documents 41, Leuven 1981; CPG = Clavis Patrum Graecorum; Downey, History of
Antioch = G. Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Con-
quest, Princeton 1961; Frend, Rise of the Monophysite Movement = W.H.C. Frend,
The Rise of the Monophysite Movement. Chapters in the History of the Church in
the Fifth and Sixth Centuries, Cambridge 1972; Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus 2/3 =
A. Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus im Glauben der Kirche 2/3. Die Kirchen von Jerusa-
lem und Antiochien, ed. T. Hainthaler, Freiburg 2002; Honigmann, Eveques et eve-
ches = E. Honigmann, Eveques et eveches monophysites d'Asie anterieure au Vie
siecle, CSCO.Sub 127, vol. 2, Louvain 1951; Norton, Episcopal Elections = P. Nor-
ton, Episcopal Elections 250-600. Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity, Ox-
ford 2007.
2 A detailed comparison of these edicts is a desideratum.
24 Pauline Allen

in the East,3 who realised that, as long as the anti-Chalcedonians remained

divided among themselves on the question of tritheism, unity between
adherents and opponents of Chalcedonian was impossible. Tritheism was
one of the factors which troubled the nexus between Antioch and Alexan-
dria on the anti-Chalcedonian side. Another important consideration on
this point was the large number of exiled anti-Chalcedonian bishops and
clergy who sought refuge in Egypt after 518, making the region a centre of
the anti-Chalcedonian cause. I shall therefore be devoting some time to
the relationship between the Syrian and Egyptian churches and its influ-
ence on episcopal succession in Antioch.
In this paper I shall also try to address Norton's lack of attention to
case-studies and to the role which monks played in episcopal succession by
concentrating on fifteen case-studies of patriarchal succession in sixth-
century Antioch. 4 This prosopographical approach will enable us better to
determine trends and influences in a particular region over a hundred-year
period,5 rather than extrapolating across different regions and periods, as
Norton does. I study these episcopal successions under the following ru-
brics: origin, curriculum vitae, circumstances of election, demise, sources, and
literature. I include mentions of the mostly peaceful deaths of patriarchs

3 On tritheism see H. Martin, La controverse tritheite dans l'cmpirc byzantin au Vie

siecle, diss. Louvain I960; R.Y. Ebied, A. Van Roey, and L.R. Wickham, Peter of Cal-
linicum. Anti-Tritheist Dossier, OLA 10, Leuven 1981; A. Van Roey, La controverse
tritheite depuis la condamnation de Conon de Eugene jusqu'a la conversion de
l'eveque Elie, in: W.C. Delsman, J.T. Nelis, J.R.T.M. Peters, W.H.Ph. Romer and
A.S. van der Woude, Von Kanaan bis Kerala, Festschrift fur Prof. Mag. Dr. Dr.
J.P.M. van der Ploeg O.P. zur Vollendung des siebzigsten Lebensjahres am 4. Juli
1979. Uberreicht von Kollegen, Freunden und Schiiler, Alter Orient und Altes Tes-
tament. Veroffentlichungen zur Kultur und Geschichte des Alten Orients und des Al-
a n Testaments, Bd. 211, Neukirchen and Vluyn 1982, 487-497; A. Van Roey, La
controverse tritheite jusqu'a l'excommunication de Conon et d'Eugene (557-569),
OLP 16, 1985, 141-165; A. Van Roey and P. Allen, Monophysite Texts of the Sixth
Century, OLA 56, Leuven 1994; Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus 2/3 (see note 1), 279-
4 Norton, Episcopal Elections (see note 1). For a balanced critique of Norton's book see
R. Lim, on Bryn Mawr Classical Review website 2009.07.52, accessed 20 July 2009.
5 Some aspects of the chronologies of episcopal succession in what follows are only
approximate. See T. Hainthaler in Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus 2/3 (see note 1), for
a tentative table of patriarchs after 451 and an outline of the difficulties of dating. In
the prosopographical presentation that follows in this chapter anti-Chalcedonian pa-
triarchs in Antioch are indicated by square brackets.
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 25

simply as a contrast to the violence and bloodshed that had previously

accompanied episcopal successions in Antioch in the fifth century.6

488/491-498 Palladius

This episcopal election is strictly speaking outside my chronological

framework, but I include it because in one source a future emperor is said
to have been one of the candidates.
Palladius was a Syrian priest, attached to the great martyrion of St
Thecla in Seleucia Pieria (port of Antioch). He accepted Zeno's Henoticon.
The future emperor Anastasius I, who also accepted the Henoticon, is said
by the eighth/ninth-century pro-Chalcedonian chronicler Theophanes also
to have been a candidate for the episcopacy.
Palladius seems to have died from natural causes. The main sources for
his succession are the anti-Chalcedonian church historian Zachariah Rhe-
tor or Scholasticus, and Theophanes/

498-512 Flavian II

Like Palladius, Flavian was a Syrian priest; before his election he was also
apocrisiarius or representative of the see of Antioch in Constantinople -
presumably the representative of his precursor, Palladius. Flavian had been
a monk in the pro-Chalcedonian monastery of Tilmognon in Syria
Secunda. A moderate, he accepted the Henoticon, and was therefore at one
with emperor Anastasius' eirenic ecclesiastical policies, until the bishop
was unable to maintain order in his see. Then, unequal to challenges
posed by the anti-Chalcedonian bishop Philoxenus of Mabbug and Syrian
monks, he withdrew from Antioch, and emperor Anastasius exiled him to
Petra where he died.8

6 The most notorious of these were the four accessions of Peter the Fuller (469-470,
470-471, 475-476, and 484-491 [?]), and the murder of Patriarch Stephen in 479.
See further Downey, History of Antioch (see note 1), 486-502.
7 Zach. rh. (= Zach schol.) h.e. VI 6 (CSCO 84 Syr. 39, 11-15 Brooks); Theoph.
chron. AM 5983 (ed. C. de Boor, Theophanis Chronographia, vol. 1, Leipzig 1883,
135). Secondary sources: L. Duchesne, L'Eglise au VIeme siecle, Paris 1925, 8-9;
Downey, History of Antioch (see note 1), 507-508; W. Mayer and P. Allen, The
Churches of Syrian Antioch (300-638 CE), Late Antique History and Religion, Leu-
vzn20\0, onihzmartyrion.
8 Primary sources: Evagr. h.e. Ill 31-32 (ed. by J. Bidez/L. Parmentier, The Ecclesias-
tical History of Evagrius with the Scholia, Byzantine Texts, London 1898, 127-131);
26 Pauline Allen

512-518 Severus

Despite what the sources try to tell us, Severus was born a pagan, not a
Christian, in Sozopolis (Pisidia). He subsequently studied rhetoric and law
in Alexandria and Berytus, before being converted to anti-Chalcedonian
Christianity in Palestine. He became a monk there and an agitator for the
anti-Chalcedonian cause, which he transferred to Constantinople in an
effort to lobby the emperor Anastasius, who made him his theological
adviser. Severus' election was engineered by bishop Philoxenus of Mabbug
and Syrian monks, and supported by emperor Anastasius. For Severus'
consecration as patriarch of Antioch we possess rare documentary evidence
in the form of his public profession of faith on that occasion and the sig-
nature of the consecrating bishops.9 His first homily as patriarch could not
be heard for noise, from which we may assume that his election was not
without its critics. Hence Norton rightly observes: "Anastasius would only
hand over to Severus with strings attached, and when Severus asked for
military support to enforce Monophysite orthodoxy in parts of Oriens, he
was refused on the grounds that there would be too much bloodshed."10
On the accession of the pro-Chalcedonian emperor Justin I in 518,
Severus, like many anti-Chalcedonian bishops, was exiled, and fled to
Egypt, where for twenty years he continued to administer the anti-
Chalcedonian church in Syria (although technically as an exile he was a
non-citizen). Many of his letters come from his exile and demonstrate the
administrative care and skill which he exercised even at a distance until his
death twenty years later in 538.
It is a remarkable fact in the period which we are studying in this pa-
per that we have six edited biographies of Severus, in only one of which he

Theoph. chron. AM 5991 (ed. De Boor, vol. 1, 142) (who says that Flavian opposed
Chalcedon). Secondary works: A. de Halleux, Philoxene de Mabbog. Sa vie, ses ecrits,
sa theologie, Louvain 1963, 64-75; Frend, Rise of the Monophysite Movement (see
note 1), 214-220.
9 See Severus of Antioch, ed. and trans. M.-A. Kugener, Allocution prononcee par
Severe apres son elevation sur le trone patriarchal dAntioche, O C 2, 1902, 265-282.
Secondary sources: J. Lebon, Le monophysisme severien, Louvain 1909 [repr. New
York 1978]; Honigmann (see note 1), Eveques et eveches, 19-25; Frend, Rise of the
Monophysite Movement (see note 1), 201-235; F. Alpi, Recherches sur
l'administration et la pastorale de Severe dAntioche (512-519), diss. Universite de
Lille III, 2003 (microfilm; forthcoming in print in two volumes); P. Allen and C.T.R.
Hayward, Severus of Antioch, The Early Church Fathers, London 2004; Norton, Epi-
scopal Elections (see note 1), 94 n. 29, and 239.
10 Norton, Episcopal Elections (see note 1), 239.
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 27

is portrayed (compendiously) as the ideal bishop.11 The biography com-

posed by his friend Zachariah Scholasticus deals deliberately with Severus'
(pagan) life before his episcopate. However, at the end of this work Seve-
rus is said to have re-established union with the Egyptian church which his
predecessor Flavian had broken.12 In fact Severus spent most of his life in
Egypt, either as a student or an exile. The positive and negative aspects of
this Antiochene-Alexandrian nexus are to become increasingly critical in
the sixth century.

519-521 Paul"the Jew-

Paul was a native of Constantinople, where he was priest and chief admin-
istrator of hostels for Christian tourists. He was acceptable to Rome and to
pro-Roman Scythian monks in Constantinople, and therefore acceptable
to emperor Justin's foreign policy of unification with Rome. Paul had
lived in Antioch for two years during Severus' episcopate and had clashed
with him.13 However, for some reason his election took place more than
three months after the exile of Severus, contrary to canon 25 of the Coun-
cil of Chalcedon, which states that "the ordination of bishops should take
place within three months, unless the period of delay has been caused to
be extended by some unavoidable necessity".14 Collectio Avelkna contains
the information that there were plans to consecrate Paul in Constantin-
ople, but the papal legates intervened and insisted that the ceremony take
place in Antioch, as Pope Hormisdas had instructed.15 Perhaps this ac-
counts for the delayed consecration. Paul was probably elected also be-
cause of his financial expertise, given the state of the depleted church cof-
fers in Antioch at the time, as we know from the homilies and letters of
Severus.16 Emperor Justin I gave Paul a huge amount of money to kick-
start his episcopate.

11 For these sources see Allen and Hayward, Severus of Antioch (see note 9), 4-5. The
biography in which Severus is portrayed as the ideal bishop is the fifteenth-century
homily by a bishop of Assiut; see Y.N. Youssef in PO 50/1, Turnhout 2006.
12 Vie de Severe par Zacharie le Scholastique, ed. and trans. M.-A. Kugener, PO 2, Paris
1907, 3-115 at 114, 6-7.
13 See Collectio Avellana 17 (CSEL 35/1-2, 677,21-27 O. Guenther).
14 In N.P. Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1 (Nicaea I-Lateran V),
London and Washington, D C 1990, 98.
15 Collectio Avellana 216 (675 Guenther).
16 See further Allen and Hayward, Severus of Antioch (see note 9), 14-15.
28 Pauline Allen

The new patriarch encountered opposition in Antioch because of his

persecuting policy, hence his cognomen "the Jew", and appears to have
withdrawn, after which he died. Norton says rightly that Paul's mission
"was probably doomed at the outset but [his] conduct quickly alienated
the people and clergy".17

521-526 Euphrasius

Almost everything about Euphrasius is obscure. His origins could have

been Palestinian, Syrian, or Samarian, and his curriculum vitae before his
succession to the patriarchal throne of Antioch is unknown. If he was a
Palestinian by origin, he was most likely pro-Chalcedonian, which would
fit the imperial ecclesiastical policies of the time. What we do know about
him is that he was killed in the Antiochene earthquake of 526.18 Evagrius,
the eirenic Chalcedonian church historian, says almost nothing about
Euphrasius, indicating that his was a contentious appointment; the anti-
Chalcedonian church historian Zachariah Rhetor claims that the patriarch
was killed in a burning cauldron of wax during the earthquake, which
sounds like the punishment of a persecutor. The twelfth-century Jacobite
chronicler, Michael the Syrian, who often preserves earlier reliable sources,
condemns Euphrasius, saying that he "went to the gehenna reserved for
his master Satan. May his memory be cursed."19

17 Episcopal Elections, 202. Sources: Collectio Avellana 167, 216, 217, 223, 241, 242
(CSEL 35/2, 618-621, 675-679, 683-684, 740-742 Guenther); Malalas chron. 17,6
(CSHB Berlin 35, Berlin 2000, 338 Thurn); Ps.-Zach. rh. h.e. VIII 1 and VIII 6
(CSCO 84, 60-62 and 83 Brooks); Evagr. h.e. IV 4 (154-155 Bidez/Parmentier);
John of Nikiu chron. 90,14 (ed. and transl. H. Zotenberg, Chronique de Jean, eveque
de Nikiou, Paris 1883, 383). Secondary sources: A.A. Vasiliev, Justin the First. An In-
troduction to the Epoch of Justinian the Great, Cambridge MA 1950, 206; Norton,
Episcopal Elections (see note 1), 94 and 202-203; V.L. Menze, Justinian and the
Making of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford
2008, 8-49, and 196-144 on monks and monasteries.
18 Sources: Ps.-Zach. rh. h.e. VIII 1,4-5 (61-62 Brooks); Malalas chron. 17,11; 22 (342
and 352 Thurn); Marc. Com. chron. a. 526 (PL 51, 941); John Eph. h.e. I 41
(CSCO 105 Syr. 54, 50-51 E.W. Brooks); Evagr. h.e. IV 4 (154-155 Bi-
dez/Parmentier). Secondary sources: Honigmann, Eveques et eveches (see note 1),
148-149; Downey, History of Antioch (see note 1), 591, 521, 526.
19 Ed. and trans. J.-B. Chabot, Michael the Syrian, Chronique, vols 1-2, Paris 1899-
1901, vol. 2, 179.
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 29

526-545 Ephrem

One of the most impressive Antiochene patriarchs of the sixth century,

Ephrem was a native of Amida (Mesopotamia I) and thus a native Syriac-
speaker. He was bilingual.
As comes Orientis he was responsible for repairing the damage caused
by the major earthquake of 526; subsequently his superlative administra-
tive skills were recognised, possibly by public acclaim, and he was ap-
pointed patriarch. Perhaps for the purposes of emperor Justin I and his co-
regent/nephew Justinian, Ephrem was a suitable candidate because he
could control anti-Chalcedonian feeling in his home territory of east Syria.
But in any case his succession might have been seen as contentious, be-
cause in Justinianic legislation passed the year after Ephrem's death any-
one coming from the imperial or military service was categorically banned
from becoming a bishop unless they had spent the last fifteen years in a
monastery.20 Although, like Euphrasius, he is denounced in the anti-
Chalcedonian sources as a persecutor, Ephrem was a very able theologian.
Conceivably he suffered from stress and overwork in his reasonably long
patriarchate, given the disasters which occurred on his watch - plague, a
Persian invasion, and an earthquake, to name the most serious. We can
compare the case of Julian, patriarch of Antioch, who was said to have
died in 471 "from vexation".21 Perhaps more than any other bishop under
consideration in this paper, Ephrem bears out half of Norton's contention:
"It is perhaps not an oversimplification to suggest that to many there
seemed to be only two ideal types of bishop - either someone who could
help to get things done here on earth, or someone whose sheer holiness

20 See e.g. Norton, Episcopal Elections (see note 1), 46-47, and 35 n. 34, on Justinian's
legislation: "Anyone coming from the local curia or imperial service was categorically
banned [from becoming a bishop], unless they had spent the last 15 years in a monas-
tery and they had also settled their fiscal obligations to the state." (Novel 123.1-4 [AD
546] [CIC(B).N 594-599 Schoell/Kroll]; cf. Novel 137 [AD 565] [696-697
21 Sources: Ps.-Zach. rh. h.e. VIII 4; X 1 (74-77 and 174-176 Brooks); Vita Symeonis
25; 71 (ActaSS Maii vol. V, 316; 334 C. Janning); Evagr. h.e. IV 6 (156 Bi-
dez/Parmentier); John Moschus, Pratum Spirituale 36 (PG 87/3, 2883-2886); Eph-
rem's own theological works. Secondary works: J. Lebon, Ephrem d'Amid, patriarche
d'Antioche (526-544), in: Melanges d'Histoire offerts a Charles Moeller, vol. 1, Lou-
vain 1914, 197-214; Honigmann, Eveques et eveches (see note 1), 49, 232; G.
Downey, Ephraemius, patriarch of Antioch, Church History 7, 1938, 365-370;
Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus 2/3, 357-373; Menze, Justinian and the Making of the
Syrian Orthodox Church (see note 17), 119-120, 196-198. On Julian's death "from
vexation" ( k o Xv^s) see Downey, History of Antioch (see note 1), 488 with n. 59.
30 Pauline Allen

could help intercede with God."22 Ephrem definitely belonged to the first

545-559 Domninus/Domnus

Domninus, sometimes called Domnus in the sources, was of Thracian

origin. We are told that originally he was the director of a poor-house in
Lychnidos (Achrida, modern Ochrid) in Epirus nova, thus quite some
distance west from Antioch. The circumstances of his election as they are
recounted are extremely odd: supposedly he happened to be in Constan-
tinople on business for his poor-house when candidates for the vacancy in
Antioch were being considered in the capital. Domninus found favour
with emperor Justinian, very likely because he was Chalcedonian, and
became patriarch of Antioch. Possibly because of his Thracian origin, the
new patriarch was unpopular with the Antiochenes. This is reflected in the
negative story about him recounted by the contemporary hagiographer of
Symeon Stylites the Younger (third quarter of the sixth century) and the
silence in the church historian Evagrius (who tries to be conciliatory in
ecclesiastical matters). The biographer of Symeon relates that when
Domninus (the former director of a poor-house, we remember) arrived in
Antioch, he was disgusted at the number of poor people congregated at
the city gates and decided to have them removed. Shortly afterwards, as a
punishment from God, he became unable to walk and eventually died.23

[558 (?)-560 Sergius (anti-Chalcedonian)]24

Sergius was the first of the shadow anti-Chalcedonian patriarchs of An-

tioch. His origins lay in Telia (Constantina, east of Edessa), in the prov-
ince of Osrhoene. He was a priest, and friend and supporter of the foun-
dational anti-Chalcedonian missionary bishop, Jacob Baradaeus, after
whom in some quarters the followers of Severus of Antioch took their
name "Jacobites". Most importantly for our investigation Sergius was a

22 Norton, Episcopal Elections (see note 1), 49.

23 Sources: Vita Symeonis 72. 202. 204 (334, 383, 384 janning); Evagr. h.e. IV 37 (186
Bidez/Parmentier); Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 267), (hostile). Secondary
sources: P. Van den Ven, La vie ancienne de S. Symeon Stylite le jeune (521-592),
Subsidia Hagiographica 32, Brussels, 1970, vol. 2, 79; Grillmeier, Jesus der Christus
2/3, 307.
24 From now on I indicate the shadow anti-Chalcedonian patriarchs by square brackets.
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 31

tritheist; this is where tritheism first manifests itself as a factor in episcopal

succession in sixth-century Antioch.
The circumstances of Sergius' election and his patriarchate are un-
usual, to say the least: he was consecrated bishop in Constantinople as
"successor" to Severus (d. 538) and never left there. This was probably an
anti-Chalcedonian election of only symbolic value for Antioch, as later
historians call Sergius "patriarch of Constantinople". His consecration
demonstrates the strategic importance of Antioch to the anti-
Chalcedonians, and may have precipitated the election of Anastasius I,
who was well acquainted with tritheism and had written against it.25 As far
as we know, Sergius died a natural death.26

559-570 Anastasius I

Of Palestinian origin, Anastasius was apocrisiarius of the see of Antioch

(thus the representative of patriarch Domninus/Domnus) in Alexandria.
He was a strong figure, a very able neo-Chalcedonian theologian, and
composed works against tritheism, as I have said. In fact, his election was
very likely due to his anti-tritheist stance. According to Evagrius (h.e. 5.5),
the future emperor Justin II asked Anastasius to hand over money to him
on his election as patriarch, but the church historian is hostile to Justin.
Anastasius' demise occurred when he refused to subscribe emperor Justin-
ian's aphthartodocetist edict, then after Justinian's death he fell foul of the
erratic Justin II for failing to effect ecclesiastical unity with anti-
Chalcedonians, through no fault of his own. Anastasius was taken to Con-
stantinople and kept there probably under arrest. It is likely that he also
objected to interference in Egyptian affairs by his former apocrisiarius, the
anti-tritheist patriarch of Constantinople, John Scholasticus, who conse-
crated a candidate from the capital as patriarch of Alexandria. According
to the twelfth-century chronicler, Michael the Syrian,27 Anastasius was
chased out by the Chalcedonians, meaning the emperor and the patriarch

25 See CPG 6958; ed. K.-H. Uthemann, Des Patriarchen Anastasius I. von Antiochien
Jerusalemer Streitgesprach mit einem Tritheiten (CPG 6958), Traditio 37, 1981, 73-
26 Sources: John Eph. Lives 49. 50 ( P 0 1 9 / 2 , 153-158). Secondary works: E.W. Brooks,
The Patriarch Paul of Antioch and the Alexandrine Schism of 575, ByZ 30, 1930,
468-476; Honigmann, Eveques et eveches (see note 1), 192-195.
27 Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot, vol. 2, 292).
32 Pauline Allen

of Constantinople. 28 Here we have a case of an Antiochene bishop deposed

for supporting the autonomy of the see of Alexandria against Constanti-
nopolitan interference.

[564-581 Paul"the Black"]

A native of Alexandria, Paul was a monk and probably spent some time in
Syria. He became the syncellus or associate of the anti-Chalcedonian and
anti-tritheist leader Theodosius of Alexandria in Constantinople. At some
stage in his career he was an archimandrite.
Paul was more or less unwittingly and forcibly consecrated through
the influence of ex-patriarch Theodosius of Alexandria, three years after
the death of Sergius (560), although the charismatic Jacob Baradaeus was
still alive and was technically in charge of Syria. In other words, this was
an irregular consecration. Theodosius' aim was to have Paul consecrate
bishops and clergy in Egypt. According to Michael the Syrian,29 it was the
monks of Antioch who wanted Paul as bishop. From the start of Paul's
episcopate there was therefore considerable stress on the relations between
the anti-Chalcedonian churches of Syria and Egypt.
In any case Paul was a puppet who spent more time out of his patriar-
chate than in it, although this was typical of the shadow hierarchy in Sy-
ria.30 In reality he had aspirations to be patriarch of his home city of Alex-
andria. On two occasions Paul communicated with Chalcedonians,
recanted, and was imprisoned. Subsequently he was responsible for insti-
gating a serious schism between Antioch and Alexandria. Paul sought re-
fuge more than once in the desert with the anti-Chalcedonian Arab leader,

28 Sources Chron. Pasch. Olym. 343 (CSHB 10, 692 L. Dindorf); Vita Symeonis 204
(384 Janning); Vita Eutychii (CChr.SG 25 Carl Laga); Evagr. h.e. IV 39-41 (190-192
Bidez/Parmentier), V 5 (201 Bidez/Parmentier), VI 24 (240-241 Bidez/Parmentier);
Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 172-173 and 292); Anastasius' theological
works (CPG 6944-6963). Secondary works: Duchesne, L'Eglise au VIeme siecle, 272-
274; G. Weiss, Studia Anastasiana I. Studien zum Leben, zu den Schriften und zur
Theologie des Patriarchen Anastasius I. von Antiochien (559-598), Miscellanea Mo-
nacensia 4, Munich 1965; P. Goubert, Patriarches d'Antioche et dAlexandrie con-
temporains de saint Gregoire le Grand, REByz 25, 1967, 65-76 at 65-68; S.N. Sak-
kos, Anastasii Antiocheni opera omnia genuine quae supersunt, Thessaloniki 1976;
Allen, Evagrius (see note 1), 24, 204-205, 214-217; Mi. Whitby, Evagrius on Pa-
triarchs and Emperors, in Ma. Whitby (ed.), The Propaganda of Power. The Role of
Panegyric in Late Antiquity, Leiden 1998, 321-343 at 331-332; Grillmeier, Jesus der
Chrisms 2/3, 374-402.
29 Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 319).
30 See Honigmann, Eveques et eveches (see note 1), 173.
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 33

al-Moundhir. During his patriarchate there was an interesting case of an

aborted consecration of a replacement anti-Chalcedonian patriarch, Seve-
rus,31 a candidate of Patriarch Damian of Alexandria. Significantly it was
the Chalcedonian patriarch Gregory (570-593) who prevented the ordina-
tion, presumably to prevent further splintering among the anti-
Chalcedonians. Paul died either in Isauria or Constantinople. 32 His impor-
tance in the history of the anti-Chalcedonians in the second half of the
sixth century is reflected in a remarkable dossier of forty-five documents
compiled by an anonymous supporter of Paul's position, in which the
tritheist controversy plays a significant part,33

570-593 Gregory

Gregory was perhaps of Palestinian origin. He had been a monk at Pharan

and on Sinai, and at the time of his elevation to the patriarchate of An-
tioch he was abbot34 of the monastery of the Byzantines in Jerusalem. A
man of action, having repelled Arab incursions on Sinai, Gregory was
appointed by emperor Justin II, who had also appointed him to Sinai. The
new patriarch seems to have been generally acceptable to both Chalcedo-
nians and anti-Chalcedonians,35 He died as a result of taking a drug for

31 John Eph. h.e. IV 41(221-224 Brooks); Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 345).
32 Sources: Documenta monophysitica (ed. by J.-B. Chabot, Documenta ad origines
monophysitarum illustrandas, CSCO 17 and 103, Paris 1907 and 1933); John Eph.
h.e. IV 41(221-224 Brooks); Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 345). Nota bene:
there is nothing about Paul in the Chalcedonian documents. Secondary works:
Brooks, The Patriarch Paul of Antioch (see note 26), 468-476; Honigmann, Eveques
et eveches (see note 1), 195-205; Van Roey and Allen, Monophysite Texts (see note
3), 265-303.
33 The dossier is edited and translated by J.-B. Chabot, Documenta ad origines mono-
physitarum illustrandas, CSCO 17 and 103, Louvain 1908 and 1933, and studied in
detail by Van Roey and Allen, Monophysite Texts (see note 3), 265-303.
34 Apocrisiarius, according to Theoph. chron. AM 6062 (ed. De Boor, vol. 1, 243).
35 Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 292).
36 Sources: Evagr. h.e. V 6 (201-203 Bidez/Parmentier) and VI 24 (240-241
Bidez/Parmentier); John Moschus, Pratum spirituale 140 (PC 87/3, 3003-3004);
Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 292 and 344). Secondary works: S. Vailhe,
Repertoire alphabetique des monasteres de Palestine, ROC 4, 1899, 512-542; P.
Goubert, Patriarches d'Antioche et d'Alexandrie contemporains de saint Gregoire le
Grand, REByz 25, 1967, 65-76 at 68-71; Allen, Evagrius (see note 1), 217-218;
Whitby, Evagrius on patriarchs and emperors (see note 28), 329-331.
34 Pauline Allen

[581-591 Peter of Callinicum (anti-Chalcedonian)]

As his name indicates, Peter was a native of Callinicum in Euphrasia. He

was bilingual in Syriac and Greek,37 a monk, and anti-tritheist. As a young
man Peter was consecrated by Damian, anti-Chalcedonian patriarch of
Alexandria, either in the monastery of Goubba Barraya (close to Cyrrhus),
or Mar Hanania,38 during the lifetime of Paul the Black - again an irregu-
lar succession. Once more we observe interference in the Antiochene
church by the patriarch of Alexandria. Originally friends, Peter and
Damian became bitter enemies over the question of how to handle the
tritheists,39 Peter appears to have died a natural death.40

[591-595 Julian (anti-Chalcedonian)]

We know little about Julian. He was a monk of a monastery in Qennesrin

(Chalcis) and had been the syncellus (patriarch's associate) of Peter of
Callinicum. Perhaps he was therefore also anti-tritheist, like Peter. The
circumstances of Julian's election are unknown, as are those of his death.41

593-599 Anastasius I (for the second time)

I have dealt with the origins and curriculum vitae of Anastasius in connec-
tion with his first patriarchate. After his deposition by Justin II and patri-
arch John Scholasticus of Constantinople, Anastasius apparently lived in
the capital from 570 until 593, where he befriended Gregory, future

37 Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 348).

38 On the location of this monastery near Callinicum see Ebied, Van Roey, and Wick-
ham, Anti-Tritheist Dossier (see note 3), 4-5.
39 See further R.Y. Ebied, Peter of Antioch and Damian of Alexandria: the end of a
friendship, in: R.H. Fischer (ed.), A Tribute to Arthur Voobus. Studies in Early
Christian Literature and Its Environment, Primarily in the Syrian East, Chicago 1977,
40 Sources: his writings (CPG 7250-7255); Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 345-
348). Secondary works: Allen, Evagrius (see note 1), 32-36; Ebied, Van Roey, and
Wickham, Anti-Tritheist Dossier (see note 3); Van Roey, La controverse (see note 3);
Van Roey and Allen, Monophysite Texts (see note 3).
41 Sources: Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 234, 373, 375). Secondary works: J.
Maspero, Histoire des patriarches dAlexandrie (518-616), rev. by A. Fortescue and G.
Writ, BEHE fasc. 237, Paris 1923, 319; Honigmann, Eveques et eveches (see note 1),
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 35

bishop of Rome, who was nuntius there. As an old man he was appointed
to the patriarchate of Antioch for a second time by emperor Maurice, very
likely as a peace-broker with anti-Chalcedonians. The speech he made on
his return to Antioch has peace as its predominant theme. Additionally,
Anastasius' second appointment no doubt came about because of his fa-
miliarity with tritheism and the Alexandrian church, relations with which
were becoming ever more critical. However, the influence of Anastasius'
friend, Pope Gregory I, was also instrumental in his restoration, as we are
informed by some of the Pope's letters.42 Anastasius appears to have died a
natural death at an old age.43

[595-634 Athanasius Gamal or Camel-driver (anti-Chalcedonian)]

The successor to Julian, Athanasius was a Syrian (born in Samosata), and

before his consecration, like Julian, was also a monk in a monastery in
Qennesrin (Chalcis). This fact may associate him with the anti-tritheist
movement. Athanasius was reportedly driving a camel when the Syrian
bishops, acting on a dream which told them to ordain the first monk they
saw when the monastery gates opened in the morning, forced him to be
consecrated patriarch of Antioch. On his demand, his consecration re-
mained secret for a year, during which he was permitted to remain a
camel-driver. It must be said that this story is the stuff of legend and may
have been devised to excuse the camel-driver's humble background. What-
ever of that, in his long patriarchate Athanasius devoted a great deal of
energy to establishing peace - unsuccessfully - with the anti-Chalcedonian
church of Alexandria. He seems to have died a natural death.44

42 See further Weiss, Studia Anastasiana (see note 28), 34-44.

43 Sources: see above under Anastasius' first patriarchate; Oratio pacificatoria, ed. LB.
Pitra, in Iuris Ecclesiastici Graecorum Historia et Monumenta, Rome 1868, vol. 2,
251-257; Greg. Mag. Registrum 1,6. 7. 24. 25 (CChr.SL 140, 7-8; 9-10; 22-32; 33-
34 Norberg); 5,41. 42 (320-327 Norberg); 8,2 (CChr.SL 140A, 514-517 Norberg);
9,136 (CChr.SL 140A, 685-687 Norberg). Secondary works: see above, esp. Weiss,
Studia Anastasiana (see note 28).
44 Sources: Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 375-377), (hagiographical). Secondary
works: Maspero, Histoire des patriarches d'Alexandrie (see note 41), 319-323; R. De-
vreesse, Le patriarcat d'Antioche depuis la paix de l'eglise jusqu'a la conquete arabe,
Paris 1945, 102; Downey, History of Antioch (see note 1), 576-577; D. Olster, Chal-
cedonian and monophysite: the union of 616, Bulletin de la Societe d'archeologie
copte 27, 1985, 93-108; P. Allen, Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century He-
resy. The Synodical Letter and Other Documents, OECT, Oxford 2009, 24, 26, 43,
59-61, 145.
36 Pauline Allen

Some Conclusions

What can we conclude from these fifteen case-studies? Let us first consider
whether the provenance of candidates played a role in sixth-century Antio-
chene episcopal elections. Ephrem, apart from being a native Syrian, was
also the right man in the right place at the right time. In the case of Dom-
ninus, his western, Chalcedonian background apparently played a role.
Anti-Chalcedonians tended to be Syrian, with the notable exceptions of
Severus (Pisidia) and Paul the Black (Alexandria). Paul's Alexandrian pe-
digree was in fact a source of discontent among Antiochenes. Here again
we note the tension between the churches of Syria and Egypt.
In the post-Chalcedonian context of Antioch we need to consider not
only the circumstances of episcopal succession but also those in which
predecessors died or left their bishoprics. The case of the expulsion of
Severus as a result of a change in imperial policy and the appointment of
Paul "the Jew" to maintain the Chalcedonian position is a good example.
For sixth-century Antioch we are at the mercy of our sources, probably
more than usual, because of the polarization of the writers. Again, with the
notable exception of Severus, we have no full biographies of Antiochene
patriarchs (as I mentioned, for Severus we have no fewer than six), and,
given the polarization in the sources, it is consequently difficult to arrive at
a definition of the "ideal" bishop in sixth-century Antioch. Possible rea-
sons for the imbalance in hagiographical sources would be worth further
consideration. I shall return to the topic of the "ideal" bishop below.
In the introduction I suggested that tritheism lay behind some epi-
scopal successions. This seems certain in the case of the anti-Chalcedonian
tritheist Sergius, and at least very probable in that of the anti-tritheists
Anastasius I, a Chalcedonian, and Peter of Callinicum, an anti-Chalce-
donian. It would also seem logical to posit tritheism as a factor in the suc-
cession of the anti-Chalcedonian Julian, syncellus of Peter of Callinicum.
We can only speculate whether, because of his association with a monas-
tery in Qennesrin, where Julian had been a monk, Athanasius the Camel-
driver was also anti-tritheist.
How did the sixth-century Antiochene bishops come to power? Ca-
nonical criteria seem to have been completely sidestepped in the case of
Ephrem.« Paul, Domninus, Anastasius I (first appointment), and Gregory
were imperial appointments. Anastasius' second appointment (as an old
man, c. 75) was certainly influenced by Gregory of Rome and possibly by
Emperor Maurice. Monks were instrumental in the election of Severus,

45 See Norton, Episcopal Elections (see note 1), 46-47, for the criteria.
Episcopal Succession in Antioch in the Sixth Century 37

but so too were Syrian bishops, notably Philoxenus of Mabbug. The Anti-
ochene people, together with the emperor, played an important role in
having Ephrem translated quickly from comes Orientis to patriarch but it is
unclear from the sources to what extent they influenced other episcopal
successions. Some elections were not successions in the strict sense, or else
they were quite irregular. This is especially true of the anti-Chalcedonians.
For example, Sergius was consecrated as the so-called "successor" of Seve-
rus of Antioch in about 558, some twenty years after Severus' death. Paul
the Black, we are told, was unwittingly consecrated. In the case of the
succession of Peter of Callinicum, the previous anti-Chalcedonian pa-
triarch was still living.
The role of the late-antique bishop has been exaggerated in some
modern scholarship as "lover of the poor", "champion of the poor", etc.46
Sixth-century Antiochene evidence suggests that, at least on the Chalce-
donian side, peaceful, diplomatic negotiation was the criterion for elec-
tion, often with imperial intervention to back it up. The conciliatory
christological movement of neo-Chalcedonianism embraced by Anastasius
I and Gregory was to lead to further attempts at ecclesiastical unity in
monoenergism and monotheletism in the seventh century.47 Anastasius
would have been acceptable as patriarch to both supporters and opponents
of the Council of Chalcedonian if Justin II's religious policies had been
articulated in a more coherent fashion.48 In Anastasius' speech on his re-
turn to his patriarchate in 593 the dominant theme is peace. It is telling
too that the Chalcedonian Gregory is said in the anti-Chalcedonian tradi-
tion to have been a caring pastor, to have acted charitably even towards
opponents of the Council of Chalcedon, and to have made it his business
to make peace with everybody.49 On the anti-Chalcedonian side Athana-
sius the Camel-driver was to play an important, if eventually unsuccessful,
role in re-establishing peace between the anti-Chalcedonian churches of
Antioch and Alexandria in 616, much to the subsequent derision of Soph-

46 Especially P. Brown, Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, The Mena-
hem Stern Jerusalem Lectures, London 2002. See the challenge to Brown in P. Allen,
B. Neil, and W. Mayer, Preaching Poverty in Late Antiquity. Perceptions and
Realities, Arbeiten zur Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte 28, Leipzig 2009.
47 See in detail K.-H. Uthemann, Der Neuchalkedonismus als Vorbereitung des
Monotheletismus. Ein Beitrag zum eigentlichen Anliegen des Neuchalkedonismus,
StPatr29,Leuven 1997, 373-413.
48 See further Allen, Evagrius (see note 1), 28-30.
49 Mich. Syr. chron. (ed. Chabot vol. 2, 292).
38 Pauline Allen

ronius, Chalcedonian patriarch of Jerusalem in the 530s, and the pro-

Chalcedonian chronicler Theophanes. 50
The pattern of episcopal succession at Antioch, especially in the
second half of the sixth century, foreshadowed seventh-century attempts at
unity between pro- and anti-Chalcedonians on the one hand, and between
anti-Chalcedonians in Syria and Egypt on the other. Unfortunately none
of these attempts at unity was ultimately successful.51

50 For Sophronius see Allen, Sophronius of Jerusalem (see note 44), 24-25; Theoph.
chron. AM 6121 (ed. De Boor, vol. 1, 330, 10) (or his source) has the word
u6poPa<fi or "wishy-washy".
51 On this failure see further Olster, Chalcedonian and monophysite (see note 44), 93-
108; Allen, Sophronius of Jerusalem, 23-26.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan

T i m o t h y David Barnes

Who was Ambrose of Milan? Whar was his sranding in the Roman society
of his time? And why and how did he become bishop of that city? These
questions can only be answered precisely, if at all, when we have pene-
trated behind the facade of the public persona which Ambrose carefully
crafted for himself during his more than two decades as a bishop. When
Ambrose edited his correspondence shortly before his death in 397, he
excluded some important letters. Eleven of the excluded letters are trans-
mitted in a small and well-defined corpus, of which one is the original text
of a letter which Ambrose included in the official collection with slight but
significant editorial changes {Epistuke extra collectionem la = ep. 74
[40M]), and at least five more survive elsewhere.1 But some important
letters have been completely lost: these include the letter which Ambrose
wrote to Basil of Caesarea immediately after his consecration as bishop of
Milan, which is known only from Basil's reply (ep. 197,1).2 As a result,

1 The Epistulae extra collectionem are now superbly edited by Michaela Zelzer, Epistulae
et acta. Sancti Ambrosi Opera 10,3, CSEL 82, Vienna 1982, 141-311 (see CPI^
160). Part of a letter to the emperor Gratian preserved in a Vatican manuscript, whose
authenticity is disputed in CPL 3 160a, is edited and its authenticity defended by Y.-
M. Duval, Une reponse d'Ambroise a l'empereur Gratien (CPL 160A). Edition, tra-
duction, commentaire, VigChr 58, 2004, 407-423. On the official and unofficial col-
lections, see the survey of J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz (with C. Hill), Ambrose of Milan.
Political Letters and Speeches, Translated Texts for Historians 43, Liverpool 2005,
2 M. Geerard, Clavis Patrum Graecorum 2, Turnhout 1974, 162 no. 2900; P. J. Fed-
wick, Bibliotheca Basiliana Universalis. A Study of the Manuscript Tradition of the
Works of Basil of Caesarea. 2: The Letters, Turnhout 1993, 307-308 (Ep. 197,1),
605-606 (Ep. 197,2). The letter is edited and translated as if Basil wrote it all by Y.
Courtonne, Saint Basile. Lettres, vol. 2, Paris 1961, 149-163; W.-D. Hauschild, Basi-
lius von Caesarea. Briefe, Bd. 2, Stuttgart 1973, 119-121, cf. 177 n. 258, despite the
proof that the second half (Ep. 197,2) is spurious produced by A. Cavallin, Die Le-
gendenbildung urn den Mailander Bischof Dionysius, Eranos 43, 1945, 136-149; cf.
C. Pasini, Le fonti greche su Sam' Ambrogio. Tutte le opere di Sam' Ambrogio, Sus-
sidi 24/1, Milan/Rome 1990, 37-49, who rightly brackets the second part of the letter
as spurious (49-54). The Latin version of Ep. 197,1 has been edited by I. Costa, Una
40 Timothy David Barnes

the best modern historical study of Ambrose refers to this letter only in
passing and almost incidentally,3 although its author subsequently made
partial amends.4
The author of the Life of Ambrose was Paulinus, who had been the sec-
retary of Ambrose in the last years of his life and thus was in possession of
the bishop's papers after he died. It was Paulinus, it has been plausibly
argued, who preserved the corpus of eleven letters 'outside the collection'
(1-10), which he used in his Life of Ambrose, composed fifteen years after
the death of the bishop.5 The Life is in a very real sense an official biogra-
phy. Although Paulinus claims that Augustine had urged him to compose
a life of Ambrose in the same way as Athanasius and Jerome had written
lives of the desert fathers Antony and Paul, and Sulpicius Severus a life of
Martin of Tours (1,1), his real literary model was Suetonius' lives of the
Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian. For Paulinus adopted
Suetonius' basic structure: he divided the Life of Ambrose into two sec-
tions, of which the first, preceded by a preface (1-2), was a chronologically
ordered narrative (3-36), the second a thematic presentation of his hero's

versione latina anonima di alcune epistole di Basilio, Vetera Christianorum 27, 1990,
21-46, at 39/40; B. Gain, Traductions latines de Peres grecs. La collection du manus-
crit Laurentianus San Marco 584. Edition des lettres de Basile de Cesaree, Euro-
paische Hochschulschriften 15/64, Bern 1994, 446-447, cf. 98-103, dating the tran-
slation to the sixth century (ib. 353-390).
3 N. B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan. Church and Court in a Christian Capital, Berke-
ley 1994, 31 n. 108 - not registered in the index entry for Basil.
4 N. B. McLynn, Basil, Ambrose and Dionysius, Studia Patristica 29, Louvain 1997,
75-84 (a paper delivered at the Twelfth International Conference on Patristic Studies
held in Oxford in 1995).
5 The date of the Life of Ambrose is deduced from Paulinus' statement that Johannes,
who was sent by Theodosius in September 394 as a tribunus et notarius to guarantee
safe conduct for followers of Eugenius who had taken refuge in Ambrose's church, 'is
now prefect' (31,5 Bastiaensen). Johannes is securely attested as praetorian prefect be-
tween June 412 and June 413 (PLRE 1 [1971], 459, Johannes 2). A second prefecture
in 422 was postulated for Johannes on the strength of CTh II 13,1 + 28,1 + 30,2 +
31,1 + 32,1 + VIII 8,10 by O. Seeck, Regesten der Kaiser und Papste fur die Jahre
311 bis 476 n. Chr. Vorarbeit zu einer Prosopographie der christlichen Kaiserzeit,
Stuttgart 1919, 346; PLRE 2 (1980), 594, Johannes 4; 1247. On this basis the Life of
Ambrose has often been dated to 422. But the fact that the compilers of the Theodo-
sian Code dated the law from which they extracted six quotations to 11 July 422 does
not guarantee that it was in fact issued in that year: the transmitted consular date of
Honorio XIII et Theodosio could be an error of the compilers for Honorio Villi et
Theodosio V, i.e., 412. In favour of dating Paulinus' Life to 412, see further E. Lami-
rande, La datation de la "Vita Ambrosii" de Paulin de Milan, REAug 27, 1981, 44-
55; Paulin de Milan et la "Vita Ambrosii." Aspects de la religion sous le Bas-Empire,
Paris/Tournai/Montreal 1983, 21-24.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 41

character as manifested in various actions and achievements (37-48), fol-

lowed by his appearances to others after his death (49-54) and a brief
postscript (55-56).6
No less than Ambrose's collection of his own letters, the biography of
Paulinus both reveals much and conceals much. The letters say nothing
about Ambrose's family or his life before he was elected bishop of Milan,
and although Paulinus' Life discloses important facts, he too omits much -
and some of his omissions appear to be deliberately designed to mislead/
Ambrose was the first man from the senatorial aristocracy of Rome
who is known to have become a Christian bishop, and our evidence,
though woefully deficient in many respects, suffices to make it almost
certain that he was in fact the first member of the senatorial aristocracy to
become a Christian bishop.8 The election of Ambrose, therefore, needs to
be explained, and, since he was chosen bishop by popular acclaim, an
explanation must be sought by considering not only the ecclesiastical situ-
ation in Milan, but the status and standing of Ambrose himself at the time
of the election on 30 November 374. 9 Ambrose claimed that he belonged
to a family which had been noble for at least two generations before he
was born. Should this claim be credited? Neil McLynn both belittles and

6 For Paulinus' adherence to 'uno schema suetoniano' see M. Pellegrino, Paolino, Vita
di S. Ambrogio, Verba Seniorum, N . S. 1, Rome 1961, 19-20; L. Alfonsi, La struttura
della "Vita Beati Ambrosii" di Paolino di Milano, Rendiconti dell'Istituto Lombardo,
Classe di Lettere 103, 1969, 784-798; T. D. Barnes, Early Christian Hagiography and
Roman History. Tria Corda. Jena Lectures on Judaism, Antiquity and Christianity,
ed. W. Ameling, K.-W. Niebuhr & M. Vielberg 5, Tubingen 2010, 196-198. In
constrast, S. Cavallin, Literarhistorische und textkritische Studien zur Vita S. Caesarii
Arelatensis. Lunds Universitets Arsskrift, N. F. 1/30,7, Lund 1934, 15-17, claimed
that 'entspricht der Aufbau im hauptsachlichen dern der Vita Antonii,' with which it has
almost nothing in common. On the structure and literary aspects of the Life, see also J.-R.
Palanque, La Vita Ambrosii de Paulin. Etude critique, Revue des sciences religieuses 4,
1924, 26-61; G. Luck, Die Form der suetonischen Biographie und die friihesten
Heiligenviten, in: Mullus. FS Theodor Klauser, ed. by A. Stuiber and A. Hermann, Jahr-
buch fur Antike und Christentum, Erganzungsband 1, Miinster 1964, 230-241, esp. 239;
La Vita S. Ambrosii e la letteratura biografica tardoantica, Aevum 67, 1993, 181-187.
7 The Life is quoted from the edition by A. A. R. Bastiaensen, Vite dei Santi 3, Milan
1975, which is reproduced in G. Banterle, Le fonti latine su Sant'Ambrogio. Tutte le
opera di Sant'Ambrogio, Sussidi 24/2, Milan/Rome 1991, 28-85.
8 W. Eck, Der Einflufi der konstantinischen Wende auf die Auswahl der Bischofe im 4.
u. 5. Jahrhundert, Chiron 8, 1978, 561-585, esp. 565.
9 Ambrose was consecrated bishop on the eighth day after his election (Life 9): that the
consecration occurred on 7 December 374, rather than on the previously canonical
date of 6 December 373, was proved by O. Faller, La data della consecrazione vesco-
vile di Sant'Ambrogio, in: Ambrosiana. Scritti di storia, archeologia ed arte pubblicati
nel 16 centenario della nascita di Sant'Ambrogio, 340-1940, Milan 1942, 97-112.
42 Timothy David Barnes

dismisses it in his analysis of Ambrose's standing in Roman society. He

contends that Ambrose's aristocratic demeanour is 'less a reflection of real
social eminence than a trick of perspective': although Ambrose easily out-
shone his episcopal colleagues who were not of senatorial extraction,
McLynn expressly denies that he belonged to 'the top drawer of senatorial
society.' He holds that 'Ambrose belongs rather to the margins of aristo-
cratic society in Rome' and he suggests, quite gratuitously, that Paulinus
'was only guessing' about the status of his father.10 But Ambrose makes an
explicit claim that his family had become noble in the Roman sense of the
word nobilis before the 'Great Persecution' which began in 303.
Marcellina, the sister of Ambrose, took a vow of perpetual virginity
and assumed the dress of a consecrated virgin in Rome on 'the birthday of
the Saviour' in the presence of Liberius, the bishop of Rome, that is, on
either 25 December or 6 January during one of the winters between
Liberius' consecration on 17 May 352 and his arrest in the summer of 355
(Ambrose, De virginibus 3,1,1; 4,15)." Addressing his sister in the mid-
370s, Ambrose claims that Marcellina was inspired by a martyr in their
family, who had endured martyrdom without flinching, presumably on 13
February 304 under the terms of the persecuting edict issued by
Diocletian in Nicomedia on 24 February 303. 12 Diocletian's imperial
colleague Maximian promulgated this edict in the West and it was
enforced in Spain, Italy and Africa, where the proconsul of Africa and the
governor of Numidia exceeded its strict provisions by requiring all
Christians in their provinces to perform a symbolic act of sacrifice.13
Imperial officials in Italy may well have done the same.

10 McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 31-32.

11 Liberius was exiled in 355, not 356, and returned to Rome on 2 August 357, not 358:
see Lib. pom. 37,6 (208 Duchesne); Coll. Avell. 1,3 (CSEL 35/1, 2,3-8); Theod. h.e.
II 17 (GCS Theodoret, 136-137 Parmentier/Hansen), with T. D. Barnes, The Capi-
tulation of Liberius and Hilary of Poitiers, Phoenix 46, 1992, 256-265, reprinted as
From Eusebius to Augustine. Selected Papers 1982-1993, Aldershot 1994, no. XVIII.
12 Her natalis is attested as the Ides of February by a Roman inscription with the consu-
lar date of 401 (Rossi 1,212 no. 495 = ICLV). For a full and careful discussion of all
the evidence relating to Soteris, see J. Wittig, S. Soteris und ihre Grabstatte. Hagio-
graphische und topographische Notizen, Romische Quartalschrift 19, 1905, 50-63;
105-133. Wittig argues that the two passages of Ambrose allude to two different epi-
sodes in the life of Soteris separated by more than four decades: her execution in 304
as an aged 'Stammutter seiner Familie' and her much earlier defacement while still a
virgo, which occurred during the emperor Valerian's persecution of high status Chris-
tians in 258-260 (57-58). Wittigs important study is unfortunately neither included
in McLynns bibliography nor used in his discussion of Soteris.
13 As is explicitly stated in a deposition made under oath in Carthage on 18 August 314
and read out during the investigation into the conduct of Felix, the bishop of Ab-
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 43

Ambrose concluded his work On Virgins with the following peroration:

sed quid alienigenis apud te, soror, utor exemplis, quam hereditariae castuuatis inspirata
successio parentis infusione martyris erudivit? unde enim didicisti quae non habuisti unde
disceres, constituta in agro, nulla socia virgine, nulla informata doctore? non ergo
discipulam, quod fieri sine magistro non potest sed heredem lunis egisti. qui" enim fieri
posset, ut sancta Soteris tibi non esset mentis auctor, cui auctor est generis? Quae
persecutionis aetate, ..., cum cetera poenarum genera vicisset, gladium quern quaerebat
invenit (De virginibus 3,7,37-38 [PL 16,243-244/231-232])
But why do I use extraneous examples for you, sister, who have been educated by an
inspired succession of hereditary chastity through the infusion of a relative who was a
martyr? For whence did you learn, when you lacked the means to learn, living in the
country with no virgin as a companion, instructed by no <Christian> instructor? You
have played the role not of one who has learned virtue (which cannot happen without
a teacher), but of one who has inherited virtue. How could it have come about that
holy Soteris was not the begetter of your spirit when you have her as the begetter of
your line? In the days of persecution, ... when she had conquered the other kinds of
punishment, she found the sword that she was searching for «

In the later Exhortation to Virginity, delivered in 394, almost two decades

later, Ambrose boasts that the noble Soteris refused to sacrifice because she
held her Christian faith dearer than the consulates and prefectures of her
at non sancta Soteris, ut domesticum piae parentis proferamus exemplum (habemus enim
nos sacerdotes nostram nobilitatem praefecturis et consulates praeferendam; habemus,
inquam,fidei dignitates, quaeperire non norunt); at non, ut dixi, Soteris vultus sui curam
gerebat: quae cum esset decora facie valde et nobilis virgo maiorum prosapia, consulatus et
praefecturasparentum sacra posthabuit fide, et immolare iussa non acquievit (Exhortatio
virginitatis 12,82 [PL 16,376/360])
But the holy Soteris, to produce an example of a devoted relative from my own family
(for we priests have our own nobility, which is preferable to consulates and prefec-
tures; we have, I say, the ranks of faith which cannot perish) - Soteris (as I have said)
had no concern for her face: although she was extremely beautiful of countenance and
a noble virgin through her ancestral lineage, she reckoned the consulates and prefec-

thungi, on 15 February 315 (the so-called Acta Purgationis Felicis): eius temporis (i.e.,
in the spring of 303) officium incumbebat, ut ex iussione proconsulari omnes sacrifi-
carent et si quas scripturas haberent, offerrent secundum sacram legem (Optatus, App.
2, 198,31 [199,1 Ziwsa]).
14 My emendation for the transmitted quid, cf OLD 1550, s. v. qui 2,1.
15 My translation, though I have consulted B. Ramsay, Ambrose, The Early Church
Fathers, London/New York 1997, 116.
16 On the definition of nobilitas as descent from ordinary consuls, praetorian prefects
and prefects of the city of Rome (and from 359 prefects of the city of Constanti-
nople), see T. D. Barnes, Who Were the Nobility of the Later Roman Empire?,
Phoenix 26, 1974, 444-449, reprinted as Early Christianity and the Roman Empire,
London 1984, no. VII.
44 Timothy David Barnes

tures of her relatives inferior to the sacred faith and, when she was ordered to sacrifice,
she refused.
In these two passages McLynn detects an outright lie. Since there is no
other early evidence for Soteris, he advances a series of a priori arguments
in order to disprove Ambrose's claim: according to McLynn, 'it is incon-
ceivable that the Christian aristocrats of fourth-century Rome ... would
have consigned an authentically noble martyr to such neglect,' and if there
was a connection between Ambrose and Soteris, it can only have been
testamentary, not a real blood-relationship. Furthermore, again according
to McLynn, Ambrose was only able to make his dubious claim about So-
teris in the 390s because by this time 'few could have questioned his asser-
tions.' 17
Such thoroughgoing scepticism is hard to refute, but it is perhaps ul-
timately self-defeating, since it amounts to an a priori rejection of all or
virtually all the relevant evidence. Admittedly Paulinus' Life includes an
omen of dubious authenticity in his account of Ambrose's early years
when he reports that a swarm of bees 'descended on the infant Ambrose to
presage his honey-tongued fluency' (Life 3,3-5).18 Omens of future great-
ness are a commonplace of ancient biography,19 and Ilona Opelt rightly
rejected the story as legendary or invented, 'a literary fiction,' comparing
the story that bees deposited honey in the mouth of the infant Plato as he
lay in a cradle on Mount Hymettus as an omen of his future eloquence
(Cicero, De divinatione 1,78; 2,66; Valerius Maximus 1,6,3; Pliny, nat.
hist. 11,55; Aelian, varia historia 10,21; 12,45).20 But if Paulinus has given
a familiar and traditional literary trope a Christian twist, that in no way
invalidates his precise and factual statement that Ambrose's father was
praetorian prefect when his son was born (3,1).
Admittedly, the presumed senatorial ancestors of Ambrose in the third
century cannot be definitively identified with known magistrates or office-
holders. But the same is true of the ancestors of the orator Symmachus
whom McLynn presents as having a social status vastly superior to that of

17 McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 34.

18 McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 33, argues that Paulinus derived his knowledge of this
miracle' from Ambrose's elder sister Marcellina.
19 As noted by Pellegrino, Paolino (see note 6), 54-55 n. 5.
20 I. Opelt, Das Bienenwunder in der Ambrosiusbiographie des Paulinus von Mailand,
VigChr 22, 1968, 38-44, offering a critical evaluation of the material collected by
Olck, Biene, RE 3, 1899, 431-450, at 447-449, and L. Koep (H. Gossen/T. Schneid-
er), art. Biene, RAC 2, Stuttgart 1954, 274-282. Opelt's article is unaccountably ab-
sent from McLynn's bibliography.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 45

Ambrose.21 For it is notorious that Symmachus' ancestry cannot be traced

with certainty any further back than his grandfather, who was ordinary
consul in 330, even though a late commentator on Aristotle reports a stray
remark which appears to refer to a senatorial family of Symmachi in the
third century and implies that they became prominent in Roman society
in the Severan age (Elias, In Porphyrii Isagogen, praef. 15).22 In the case of
Ambrose, moreover, a possible forebear can be discovered in the
Marcellinus who was ordinary consul with Aurelian in 275. Nothing else
is known for certain about the consul of 275, but he has been attractively
identified both with the Marcellinus whom Aurelian left in charge of the
eastern frontier in 272 (Zos. II 60-61) and also with the Aurelius
Marcellinus who is attested as dux ducenarius at Verona under Gallienus in
265 (ILS 544). 23
Ambrose's father became praetorian prefect in Gaul (Life 3,1), that is,
praetorian prefect of Constantinus, who ruled Britain, Gaul and Spain
between his father's death in 337 and his own in 340. It is normally as-
sumed that, like his son, the father was called Ambrosius, since the trans-
mitted text of the Life of Ambrose states that as his name. However, Santo
Mazzarino identified the father of Ambrose as the Uranius who received
an imperial constitution dated 3 February 339 (CTh XI 1,5).24 Although
subsequent writers on Ambrose have either ignored Mazzarino's proposal
or dismissed it out of hand, 25 it is probably correct.

21 McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 263-276. McLynn accuses Ambrose of 'inability to
handle the basic formulae of polite society (267), argues that 'the relationship be-
tween Symmachus and Ambrose was the fruit of necessity' imposed by the social and
political obligations of each man (275), and concludes that 'the honour that [Am-
brose] was seen to receive from such powerful figures (sc. as Symmachus) made him
seem a fortunate man (276).
22 Ed. by A. Busse, Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca 18, Berlin 1900, 39, cf. G.
Polara, Parola del Passato 29, 1974, 261-266; T. D. Barnes, The New Empire of Di-
ocletian and Constantine, Cambridge, MA 1982, 103-104; Alan Cameron, The An-
tiquity of the Symmachi,' Historia 48 (1999), 477-505.
23 See A. Stein, PIR2 A 1546; PLRE 1 (1971), 544, 545, 549, Marcellinus 1, 2, 17;
24 S. Mazzarino, II padre di Ambrogio, Helikon 13-14, 1973-1974, 111-117; Storia
sociale del vescovo Ambrogio, Problemi e ricerche di storia antica 4, Rome 1989, 79-
81 - unfortunately overlooked in T. D. Barnes, Ambrose, Symmachus and Augustine,
in: Augustine. From Rhetor to Theologian, ed. by J. McWilliam, Waterloo, Ont.
1992, 7-13, reprinted as From Eusebius to Augustine (see note 11), no. XXII.
25 So, respectively, C. & L. Pietri, Prosopographie de l'ltalie chretienne (313-604) Pro-
sopographie chretienne du Bas-Empire 2, Vol. 2, Paris/Rome 1999, Ambrosius 1; J.
Moorhead, Ambrose. Church and Society in the Late Roman World, London/New
York 1999, 21 n. 16.
AG Timothy David Barnes

The Theodosian Code contains a brief extract addressed to an official

named Uranius, whose post is not specified and who is not explicitly at-
tested elsewhere. The subscription does not state the place where the orig-
inal imperial constitution was issued, received or published, which would
have indicated from which of the three emperors ruling in 339 (Constan-
tinus, Constantius and Constans) it emanated. The attribution of the law
to the emperor Constantius by the compilers of the Code {Idem a., cf.
CTh XI 1,4: Imp. constantius a.) proves nothing, since it is merely a func-
tion of the consular date which they either found in the original or as-
signed to the law. Nor does the content of the brief extract which the com-
pilers included in the Code help to identify the emperor who issued the law:
omnes omnino ad oblationem pecuniarum oportet urgueri. lege enim nostra signatum est
nee esse extraordinary nee voeari, quae speeialiter a provineialibus devotissimis eonferenda
Absolutely everyone must be forced to make payments of tax in money. For by our
law it is signified that the payments which are contributed by our most devoted pro-
vincial sublets neither are nor should be called 'extraordinary' 26
If Mazzarino's identification is correct, then either Ambrose's father bore
both the names Ambrosius and Uranius or the name Ambrosius has been
interpolated in the passage of Paulinus' Life, which, as transmitted in the
manuscripts, states that Ambrose was bom posito in adminstratione praefec-
turae Galliarum patre eius Ambrosio (3.1). Although it never occurred to
anyone before Mazzarino to doubt that Ambrose's father bore the same
name as his famous son,27 Ambrosio could well be a later gloss. For Pau-
linus avoids naming any other member of his hero's family when he refers
to them (4.1: cum esset in urbe Roma constitutus cum matre vidua etsorore),
and he makes no reference whatever to Ambrose's elder brother Uranius
Satyrus (ILCV 2165,1-2). The normal rules of Roman nomenclature indi-
cate that it will have been the older, not the younger brother, who bore
their father's name - and hence that their father's nomenclature included
the name Uranius, but not the two names Uranius Ambrosius.28
Ambrose himself was born in 339: the year is deduced from a letter
written in his fifty-third year in which he tells Severus, the bishop of

26 I have considerably modified the translation in C. Pharr, The Theodosian Code,

Princeton 1952, 291, who makes the gratuitous assumption that this law illustrates
how 'heavy expenditures in the Persian wars' compelled the eastern emperor Constan-
tius 'to issue a special tax levy or superindiction.'
27 See, e. g., PLRE 1 (1971), 51, Ambrosius 1.
28 Ambrose states explicitly that he was younger than Satyrus, who was younger than
Marcellina, who survived him (De Excessu Fratris 1,54 [CSEL 73,238], cf.16-17, 44,
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 47

Naples, that in Milan he is exposed to 'the movements of barbarians and

the storms of war' (ep. 49[59M],3-4: nos autem obiecti barbaricis motibus et
bellorum procellis ... cum ad annum tertium et quinquagesimum iam
perduxerim in hoc corpore situs)?" If the father of Ambrose was praetorian
prefect in Gaul when his son was born, that excludes the possibility
embraced or envisaged by several scholars that the letter was written in
387/388 and hence that Ambrose was born in 333/334, 30 For enough is
known about the praetorian prefecture and its holders between 324 and
337 to make it certain that Ambrose's father, whether his name was
Ambrosius or Uranius, cannot have been a praetorian prefect before 336 at
the very earliest31. But the Life of Ambrose describes his father's status in a
strangely ambiguous way: at the time of Ambrose's birth, according to
Paulinus, he was placed in the administration of the prefecture of the
Gallic provinces' (3.1). To speak of a Gallic prefecture in 339 is a clear
anachronism, since the territorial praefectura Galliarum of Paulinus' day
did not come into existence until many years after Ambrose was born.
More important, Paulinus' language seems designed to suggest that
Ambrose's father was not praetorian prefect, but of a far humbler status, a
man who worked on the staff or in the officium of the prefect - which is
how Angelo Paredi construed his words.32
If the father of Ambrose was the praetorian prefect of Constantinus,
then, as the emperor's deputy, he must have been involved in
Constantinus' invasion of Italy in the spring of 340 and probably even
commanded troops, since it is far from certain that praetorian prefects had
by this date lost their military functions, even though these are last
explicitly attested in 312 (Pan. Lat. XII [IX] 8,1, 10,3; IV [X] 4-7).33
Constantinus' attempt to oust his younger brother and imperial colleague

29 J.-R. Palanque, Saint Ambroise et l'Empire Romain, Paris 1933, 480-482, 542-543.
30 A. Paredi, Sam' Ambrogio e la sua eta, Milan, 31994, 3, 15-16, places Ambrose's
birth in 334 and uses this date to discredit the notion that his father was praetorian
prefect in Gaul. In her edition, M. Zelzer, Epistulae et acta. Sancti Ambrosii 10,2,
CSEL 82, Vienna 1990, 54-55, leaves a decision between the two dates open.
31 Barnes, New Empire (see note 22), 131-139; Praetorian Prefects, 337-361, Zeit-
schrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 94, 1992, 249-260, reprinted as From Eu-
sebius to Augustine (see note 11), no. XIII; Constantine. Dynasty, Religion and
Power (2011).
32 A. Paredi, Sam' Ambrogio e la sua eta, Milan 2 1960, 18: 'il padre di Ambrogio era,
non prefetto del pretorio, ma uno dei funzionari della prefettura delle Gallic' In the
third edition, this explicit denial is toned down considerably: nacque egli in Gallia,
mentre suo padre vi risidieva come uno dei piu alti funzionari di quella prefettura' (2-
33 PLRE 1 (1971), 713, Pompeianus 8; Barnes, New Empire (see note 22), 123, 127.
48 Timothy David Barnes

Constans and to seize his territories failed miserably. After his defeat, the
memory of Constantinus was officially abolished: he became (to use
George Orwell's memorable neologism) an unperson, whose very existence
was ignored and in effect denied by Libanius in his double panegyric of
the imperial brothers Constantius and Constans (Orat. 59).34
It may be inferred with some confidence that the praetorian prefect of
Constantinus was considered a traitor and public enemy {hostis publicus)
like his imperial master, and hence that his property was confiscated.35
Paulinus naturally slides over this embarrassing episode, with the unfortu-
nate result that most modern studies of Ambrose (McLynn's exercise in
revisionism no less than the classic 'life and times' by Homes Dudden) not
only play down the effects and significance of the disgrace of Ambrose's
father, but disregard the fact that his property must have been confis-
cated.36 To be sure, the property of Ambrose's mother will not have been
confiscated together with her husband's, and there is no need to imagine
that she was reduced to real penury. But what is known about the secular
careers of both Ambrose and his brother implies that they were brought
up in straitened circumstances. Unfortunately, neither the name nor the
pedigree of Ambrose's mother is known. But it is Ambrose's status as a
noble impoverished by the loss of his father's wealth which provides the
key to understanding both his career before 374 and his election as bishop
of Milan in that year.
Ambrose discloses, though only on one occasion in his voluminous
writings, that he was related to Symmachus, his adversary in the conflict
over the Altar of Victory and consul in 391. 37 In the funeral lament for his

34 H. A. Cahn, Abolitio nominis de Constantin II, in: Melanges de numismatique of-

fer* a Pierre Bastien, ed. by H. Huvelin/M. Christol/G. Gautier, Wetteren 1987,
201-202; T. D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius. Theology and Politics in the
Constantinian Empire, Cambridge, MA 1993, 51-52, 253-254 nn. 18-19.
35 Mazzarino, Storia sociale del vescovo Ambrogio (see note 24), 11-12.
36 F. Homes Dudden, The Life and Times of St. Ambrose, Vol. 1, Oxford 1935, 2-5;
McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 32-33. McLynn admits that the position of Am-
brose's mother and sister may have been 'compromised by the civil war of 340,' but he
immediately goes on to assert that 'the family seem first nevertheless to have spent sev-
eral years on their estates' (33). Paulinus is totally silent about Ambrose's life between
the omen of his future eminence which occurred while he was an infant being taken
for a stroll with his father, mother and sister (3,3-5) and his residence in Rome as a
teenager (4,1: postea vera, cum adolevisset et esset in urbe Roma constitutus cum matre et
sorore, quae virginitatem iam fueratprofessa).
37 Barnes, Ambrose, Symmachus and Augustine (see note 24), 7-13. The 'purported
family connexion with the orator Symmachus' is firmly rejected by McLynn, Ambrose
(see note 3), 31.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 49

brother Ambrose refers to Satyrus' insistence on coming to Milan despite

the danger of a barbarian invasion:
cum a viro nobili revocareris, Symmacho tuo parente, quod ardere bello Italia diceretur,
quod inpericulum tenderes, quod in hostem incurreres, respondisti banc ipsam tibi causam
esse veniendi, ne nostro deesses periculo, ut consortem te fraterni discriminis exhiberes (De
excessufratris 1,32 [CSEL 73,227-228]).
When you were called home by the noble Symmachus your kinsman because Italy was
reported to be aflame with war, because you were hastening into peril and because you
might fall into the hands of the enemy, you replied that you were coming for this rea-
son only, namely, that you might not fail us in our danger, and that you might be a
sharer in your brother's peril. 38
In Ambrose's mouth, the term tuus parens used of the relationship of two
persons other than himself should imply some degree of kinship, not
merely the benevolent protection of the younger by an older friend, as the
bzrc parens or the phrases parens mens andparens noster so often do in Late
Latin when used by one person of another.39 However, even if that infe-
rence is doubted or denied, such language ought to indicate at the least a
deep and long-lasting friendship between Symmachus and the two broth-
ers Satyrus and Ambrose.40 (The Symmachus to whom Ambrose refers is
the orator, epistolographer and consul of 391, since the barbarian peril to
which Ambrose refers can securely be dated to the winter of 377-378, 41
which excludes an identification with his father L. Aurelius Avianius
Symmachus, who had died as consul designate in late 376.42)
The presumed relationship between Symmachus and Ambrose also
surfaces in a letter of Symmachus to his brother Celsinus Titianus, which
describes Satyrus as their frater communis (ep. 1,63). Even though
Symmachus uses the terms frater noster and frater mens somewhat freely,
the explanation may be that Ambrose and Symmachus were first cousins.

38 Translation from J. J. Sullivan/R. P. McGuire, Funeral Orations by Saint Gregory

Nazianzen and Saint Ambrose, FaCh 22, Washington 1953, 176.
39 O. Faller, Explanatio symboli, de sacramentis, de mysteriis, de paenitentia, de excessu
fratris, de obitu Valentiniani, de obitu Theodosii, Sancti Ambrosi Opera 7, CSEL 73,
Vindobonae 1955, 227. Symmachus' letters to Ambrose alone furnish several exam-
ples of the looser use of familial terms with the first person possessive adjective: fratres
mei Dorotheus et Septimius, frater meus Marcianus, frater meus Magnillus, filius
meus Caecilianus (Ep. 3,32, 33, 34, 36).
40 S. Roda, Simmaco nel gioco politico del suo tempo, Studia et Documenta Historiae et
Iuris 39, 1973, 53-114, at 68-69; McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 263-275 (a section
entitled 'Amkitia. Ambrose and Symmachus').
41 O. Faller, Situation und Abfassungszeit der Reden des hi. Ambrosius auf den Tod
seines Bruders Satyrus, Wiener Studien 44, 1924-1925, 86-102; O. Faller, CSEL 73
(see note 39), 81*-89*; Moorhead, Ambrose (see note 25), 36-37.
42 A. Chastagnol, Les fastes de la prefecture de Rome au Bas Empire, Paris 1962, 163.
50 Timothy David Barnes

The paternal grandfather of the orator Symmachus was Aurelius Valerius

Tullianus Symmachus, ordinary consul in 330:« He was probably born,
therefore, c. 280. His son, the father of Symmachus was born c. 310,
Symmachus himself c. 335. Like Symmachus, Ambrose possessed the
nomen Aurelius (ILCV 1800: the manuscript report of an inscription from
the church of St. Nazarius in Milan). In itself that need not to be
significant. But Ambrose could have derived it from his mother, who
could be a daughter of the consul of 330 and thus the aunt of
Symmachus, which would make Ambrose and his bother Satyrus first
cousins of Symmachus the orator.
Whether the tie between them was one of kinship or friendship, Am-
brose and Symmachus were both nobiles by birth and they both belonged
to families which had emerged to prominence in the third century.44 Nor
should it be forgotten that the correspondence of Symmachus reveals that
he had senatorial relatives who were relatively poor (ep. 7.44; 9.133).
In their famous confrontation in 384 over the Altar of Victory, the
two noble adversaries conducted themselves with an extreme politeness on
both sides which may seem surprising in the circumstances. Yet it is not
remarkable for two aristocrats to treat each other with courtesy, especially
if they were in fact cousins. The eight letters of Symmachus to Ambrose
which are included in his collected correspondence have a cool and distant
tone, a formality verging on the querulous (Epp. 3,30-37), and do not
bespeak any sort of warm friendship between the two men.45 On the other
hand, the letters presuppose some tie, either of kinship or amity, since
Symmachus writes to Ambrose as one who expects his addressee to accede
to the requests made, even if they need to be repeated, though he never
feels the need to state precisely or allude plainly to the nature of the obli-
gation on which he believed himself entitled to call.
Ambrose (I have argued) was an aristocrat and a nobilis who was
impoverished in infancy by the condemnation of his father for treason and
the consequent forfeiture of his paternal inheritance. His presumed lack of
financial resources is confirmed by his career and that of his brother

43 Barnes, New Empire (see note 22), 131-132.

44 For a full discussion of the ascendants of Symmachus, see Alan Cameron, The Antiq-
uity of the Symmachi (see note 22), 477-505.
45 J. F. Matthews, Symmachus and his Enemies, in: Colloque genevois sur Symmaque,
ed. by F. Paschoud, Paris 1986, 163-175, at 173-174. For a different assessment (and
what is known about all the men named in these letters), see M. Forlin Patrucco/S.
Roda, Le latere di Simmaco ad Ambrogio. Vent'anni di rapporti amichevoli, in: Am-
broses Episcopus. Atti del Congesso internazionale di studi ambrosiani nel XVI cen-
tenario della elevazione di sant'Ambrogio alia cattedra episcopale. Milano 2-7 dicem-
bre 1974, ed. by G. Lazzati, Vol. 2, Milan 1976, 284-297.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 51

Satyrus, who were compelled to make their way in the world in a fashion
very different from their aristocratic friends and relatives. Symmachus, for
example, began by holding the traditional Republican offices of quaestor
and praetor; he was then appointed corrector of the south Italian province
of Lucania and Bruttii, in which post he is attested on 25 March 365 (CIL
V U 6 9 9 = ILS 2946; CTh VIII 5,25). In the late 360s, Symmachus went
as an envoy of the Roman Senate to the court of Valentinian at Trier,
where he was granted the status of comes ordinis tertii and where he
remained for almost a year (Symmachus, Orat. 1-3; ILS 2946; AE
1966,518). After this the only administrative posts held by Symmachus
were the proconsulate of Africa in 373-374 and prefecture of the city of
Rome in 384-385, though he remained politically active until his death
nearly twenty years later.46 In stark contrast both Satyrus and Ambrose
began their careers with years of service as lawyers {advocati) in the court
of the praetorian prefect. Ambose invoked his dead brother's eloquence:
nam quid spectatam in stipendiis forensibus eius facundiam loquar? quam mcredibiM ad-
miratione in audkorio praefecturae sublimis emkuk! (De excessu fratris 49 [CSEL
For why should I speak of his eloquence tested in years of pleading as a lawyer? With
what unbelievable admiration did he shine forth in the courtroom of the <praetorian>
And Paulinus summarizes the career of Ambrose himself before his elec-
tion as bishop of Milan as follows:
sedpostquam edoctus liberalibus studtis ex urbe egressus est professusque in auditorio
praefecturae praetorii, ita splendide causas perorabat, ut eligeratur a viro illustri Probo,
tunc praefecto praetorii, ad consilium tribuendum. post quod consukritatis suscepit
insignia, it regeret Liguriam Aemiliamqueprovincias/venitqueMedioknum (5.1-2)
But after he departed from the city <of Rome> fully educated in liberal studies and
presented himself in the courtroom of the praetorian prefecture, he pleaded cases to
such splendid effect that he was chosen by the illustrious Probus, who was then prae-
torian prefect, to provide legal advice as a member of his council. After this he as-

46 On the career of Symmachus, see PLRE 1 (1971), 865-870, Symmachus 4; j . F . Mat-

thews, Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court A. D. 364-425, Oxford 1975, 12-
47 Aemilia and Liguria were two separate provinces in 412, when Paulinus was writing
(Notitia Dignitatum, Occidens 1,54-55; 2,12-13 [ed. by C. Neira Faleiro, La Notitia
Dignitatum, nuova edition crftica y comentario historico, Nueva Roma 25, Madrid
2005, 313; 318]), but it seems certain that Ambrose was in fact governor of the com-
bined province with the official title of consukris Aemiliae et Liguriar. see A. Chastag-
nol, L'Adminstration du Diocese Italien au Bas-Empire, Historia 12, 1963, 348-379,
at 356-357.
52 Timothy David Barnes

sumed the insignia of a consular* in order to govern the provinces of Liguria and Ae-
milia and came to Milan.
The careers of Ambrose and Satyrus exactly parallel two of their ignobly
born coevals, whose careers are known from Ammianus Marcellinus.
Maximinus of Sopianae, the son of a tabukrius in a provincial officium
and allegedly descended from the Carpi settled south of the Danube by
Diocletian, proceeded from his studies, which Ammianus disparages, to
the pleading of humble cases before becoming governor of Corsica, Sar-
dinia and Tuscia in succession (XXVIII 1,5-6: post mediocre studium liber-
alium doctrinarum defensionemque causarum ignobilem et adminstratas Cor-
sicam itidemque Sardinian, rexit deinde Tusciam). Maximinus' colleague as
an advocate was Festus of Tridentum, whom Ammianus memorably char-
acterizes as a man of the basest, indeed of utterly unknown extraction
(XXIX.2.22: Festus quidam Tridentinus ultimi sanguinis et ignoti). Signifi-
cantly, Ambrose and his brother were the only aristocrats adduced by
Joachim Szidat in his analysis of social mobility in the Later Roman Em-
pire as exemplified in the career of Maximinus who pursued a career char-
acteristic of those much lower in the social scale.48
In 374 Ambrose reached the age of thirty five, halfway through the
'threescore years and ten' which the psalmist declares to be a man's
allotted span of life (Ps 90[89],10). That is an age for all human beings to
reflect on what they have achieved and what they may yet achieve. What
had Ambrose achieved by the autum of 374? And what lay ahead of him?
He lacked sufficient wealth for a truly aristocratic lifestyle, he was still
unmarried, and he must always have felt (and been made to feel) like a
poor cousin by his noble friends and relatives. Admittedly, he had pleaded
cases successfully in the court of the leading Christian aristocrat in the
West, Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus, who resided in Sirmium from 368
to 375 as praetorian prefect of Illyricum, Italy and Africa,49 and Probus
had not only chosen him as a member of his advisory consilium, but also
undoubtedly used his influence to obtain him appointment as a provincial
governor in North Italy. But it is always galling for an aristocrat to be
patronised by those he considers his social equals or even inferiors.
Moreover, the real locus of power and influence in the West since 367 was
the imperial court of Valentinian in the distant city of Trier. How was
Ambrose to make his mark in the world? The precedent of the recently
deceased Athanasius of Alexandria suggested a way out of his predicament.

48 J. Szidat, Staatlichkeit und Einzelschicksal in der Spatantike, Historia 44, 1995, 481-
495, at 481-486, esp. 484: 'es ist ein Weg, der iiberwiegend von Personen eingeschla-
gen wurde, die noch nicht dem Senatorenstand angehorten.'
49 The relevant evidence is assembled in PLRE 1 (1971), 736-740, Probus 5.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 53

Even though he was of low birth, as the bishop of one of the largest and
most important cities in the Roman Empire, Athanasius had aggregated to
himself considerable political power and influence throughout Egypt. In
351 he was flattered and courted by both the western usurper Magnentius
and the eastern emperor Constantius: although the latter had recently sent
his praetorian prefect Philippus to arrest him after his deposition by a
Council of Antioch in 349 (Ath., hist. Aar. 51,4), he now needed
Athanasius' political support in order to prevent Egypt from switching its
allegiance to his western challenger.50 Athanasius died in May 373 and
Peter, whom he had consecrated as his successor in the see of
Alexandria five days before he died (Historia acephala 5,14) fled to
Rome when the eastern emperor Valens installed Athanasius' old rival
Lucius as the new bishop (Theodoretus, h.e. IV 20-21,4). 51 Ambrose
can hardly have failed to realize the potential political and ecclesiastical
power of the bishop of the metropolitan see of Milan, if emperors
started to reside there again.
The election of Ambrose as bishop of Milan can now be analyzed on
the basis of a realistic assessment of his situation in 374. Only two ancient
accounts can possibly be considered to have any independent value. They
are Rufinus' continuation of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History down to 395
and Paulinus' Life of Ambrose, for Rufinus is the sole source of what the
Greek ecclesiastical historians of the fifth century report about Ambrose,
even though Theodoretus expands his source with much imaginative and
imaginary detail.52 The two accounts of Ambrose's election read as follows:
Post quod consularitatis suscepit
insignia, ut regeret Liguriam
interea Medoknium. per idem tempus,
defuncto apudMedioknum mortuo Auxentio Arrianae perfidiae Au-
xentio haeretkomm episcopo episcopo, qui Dionysio beatae
memoriae confessore ad exilium
utriusquepartispopuli diversis studiis cumpopulus ad seditionem surgeret
ferebantur. dissensio gravi etpericulosa in petendo episcopo,
seditio urbipropriaeparabat exitrum,

50 On the events of the winter of 349-350, see the reconstruction by Barnes, Athanasius
and Constantius (see note 34), 97-105.
51 On Lucius as bishop of Alexandria in 365-366 and 373-378, see Barnes, Athanasius
and Constantius (see note 34), 162-163, 180-181.
52 J.-R. Palanque, Le temoignage de Socrate le scholastique sur saint Ambroise, Revue
des etudes anciennes 26, 1924, 216-226.
54 Timothy David Barnes

nequaquam quodproposuerat obtineret.

provinciaefasces regebat. is cum
pemiciem civhati videret impendere, essetque Mi cura sedandae seditionis,
pro loco officioque sua confestim nepopulus civitatis inpericulum sui eccle-
siamseditionem populi mitigaturus verteretur.perrexitadecclesiam;
ingredkur.cumqueinibimulta ibique
secundum leges etpublicum disciplinam
pro quiete et tranquillitate perorasset, cumadloquereturplebem,
pugnantis inter se et dissidentis populi

subito clamor et vox una consurgit subito voxfertur infantis inpopulo

Ambrosiumpostulantes: baptizari hunc sonuisse Ambrosium episcopum!'
protinus clamant, ad cuius vocis sonum totius populi
Ambrosium episcopum!' itaque qui
antea turbulentissime dissidebant, -
quia et Arriani sibi et catholici sibi
episcopum cupiebant superatis
et sibi episcopum dari, nee aliter unum repente in hinc mirabili et incredibili po-
pulumforeatqueunamfidem, concordiaconsenserunt.
nisi Ambrosius sibi daretur sacerdos.
(Rufinus,h.e.XIll[1018Mommsen]) (Paulinas, Life of Ambrose 5,2-6,2)
Rufinus completed his translation and continuation of Eusebius' history in
the winter of 401-402, so that his account preceded that of Paulinus by a
decade, and, although the order in which Paulinus presents the details of
his narrative differs from that of Rufinus, similarities of wording and par-
allelisms of phrasing establish that he has used the earlier account as a
source.53 Did Paulinus also use other written sources for the events leading
up to the election of Ambrose by the Christians assembled in church? For
these, as opposed to Ambrose's actions between his election and consecra-
tion,54 Paulinus has nothing that he cannot have derived from Rufinus
except for the obvious embellishment of turning the anonymous voice
from the crowd in Rufinus into the voice of an infant. Pierre Courcelle
argued that Paulinus was here modelling his account on Sulpicius Severus'
account of the election of Martin as bishop of Tours (9,3-7).55 A more

53 Pellegrino, Paolino (see note 6), 16-19.

54 Failure to make this distinction invalidates the attempted rehabilitation of Paulinus'
account by Y.-M. Duval, Ambroise, de son election a sa consecration, in: Ambrosius
Episcopus (see note 44), 243-283.
55 P. Courcelle, Les Confessions de saint Augustin dans la tradition litteraire. Antece-
dents et posterite, Paris 1963, 195 n. 1, 657 n. 3.
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 55

probable source of inspiration for Paulinus' invention is surely Augustine's

Confessions, which fixes the precise moment of Augustine's conversion as
his hearing a childlike voice when contemplating in a garden (Confi
Vffl.12: et ecce audio vocem de vicina domo cum cantu dicentis, et crebro
repetentis, quasi pueri an puellae nescio, 'tolle lege, tolle lege').
Rufinus' account is therefore primary, Paulinus' secondary.56 Both
writers, however, repeat an official story which Ambrose began to circulate
as soon as he was safely consecrated as bishop of Milan, which he contin-
ued to reiterate over the following years, and which modern students of
Ambrose have repeated uncritically,57 apparently with the sole and ho-
nourable exception of Hans von Campenhausen. 58 Shortly after his elec-
tion, during the winter of 374-375, Ambrose wrote to Basil of Caesarea,
the leader of resistance against the attempts of the emperor Valens to im-
pose a homoean Reichskirche on the Christians of the East.59 Although
Ambrose's letter is irretrievably lost, Basil's reply survives and reveals that
Ambrose had written to him announcing his election as bishop of Milan.60
Basil thanks God for allowing him to meet by means of a letter one who is
physically so far distant. He then quotes (though he perhaps also en-
hances) Ambrose's introduction of himself in his letter:
[God] has dragged to the care of the flocks of Christ a man from the ruling city [i. e.,
Rome], who had been entrusted with rule over a whole province, one lofty in mind,
admired by all men alive for splendour of birth, for distinction of life, for power of
words, a man who, casting aside all the advantages of <ordinary> life and considering
them an imposition that he may gain Christ (Philippians 3,8), has been entrusted
with the helm of a great church of Christ famous for its faith in God.
Basil encourages and exhorts the new bishop:
Well then, man of God, since you have not received from or been taught the gospel of
Christ by men (cf. Galatians 1,11), but the Lord himself has transferred you from the
judges of the earth to the presiding seat of the apostles, fight the good fight (1 Timo-
thy 6,12), correct the weaknesses of your people if any has been infected with the dis-
ease of the Arian madness, renew the ancient steps of the fathers, and hasten to build

56 Despite E. Dassmann, Ambrosius von Mailand. Leben und Werk, Stuttgart 2004, 26,
who asserts that Paulinus is independent of Rufinus.
57 Hence the title of the first chapter of McLynns Ambrose (see note 3): 'The Reluctant
Bishop' (1-52).
58 H. von Campenhausen, Ambrosius von Mailand als Kirchenpolitiker, Arbeiten zur
Kirchengeschichte 12, Berlin/Leipzig 1929, 26-28.
59 On the standing of Basil as bishop of Caesarea since 370, see esp. H. C. Brennecke,
Studien zur Geschichte der Homoer. Der Osten bis zum Ende der homoischen
Reichskirche, Beitrage zur historischen Theologie 73, Tubingen 1988, 224-241; P.
Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea, Berkeley 1994, 270-317.
60 T. D. Barnes, Valentinian, Auxentius and Ambrose, Historia 51, 2002, 227-237.
56 Timothy David Barnes

on this foundation that you have laid of your affection towards me by constant cor-
respondence. For thus we shall be able to be close to each other in spirit, even if we
live far apart in our dwellings on earth (Basil, Ep. 197,1).
Why did the newly elected Ambrose write to Basil to announce his elec-
tion? Basil was the acknowledged leader of the Nicene party in Asia Mi-
nor, and he had made overtures to Damasus some years before 374, which
had apparently come to nothing.61 To write to Basil at all implied that
Ambrose regarded himself as independent of the bishop of Rome in eccle-
siastical matters.62 Can it be that Ambrose wrote to Basil because he as-
sumed that his status as bishop of Milan automatically made him one of
the leading upholders of the Nicene creed in the West? Whatever the new
bishop's precise motive in writing, however, his letter employed exactly
the same language about his election as his later works De officii; minis-
trorum and De Paenitentia, where he used the phrases raptus de tribunali-
bus atque administrations infulis ad sacerdotium (De officiis 1,1,4 [PL
16,27]) and raptus de tribunalibus, abductus vanitatibus saeculi huius (De
paenitentia 11,8,72 [CSEL 73,192-193]). 63 It has sometimes been asserted
that the striking phrase raptus de tribunalibus was the product of long years
of reflection after Ambrose became bishop.64 On the contrary, the letter of
Basil echoes it in his reply. Hence Ambrose was already claiming in the
winter of 374-375 that he had been dragged unwillingly from his position
as governor of a Roman province.
Ambrose assumed the role of a reluctant bishop immediately after his
election. But it is a grave mistake to project this posture of reluctance back
beyond his election and to interpret his actions before his acclamation in
the light of the subsequent show of reluctance which convention and eti-

61 On Basil, ep. 70 (a letter to Damasus that may not have been sent) and its context, see
R. Pouchet, Basile le Grand et son univers d'amis d'apres sa correspondance. Une stra-
tegic de communion, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 36, Rome 1992, 250-257;
Rousseau, Basil (see note 58), 295-308. Pouchet suggests that Ambrose may have
written to Basil in Greek.
62 McLynn, Basil, Ambrose and Dionysius (see note 4), 82-84.
63 The former passage is translated by I. J. Davidson, Ambrose. De Officiis, Vol. 1,
Oxford 2001, 119 as 'I was snatched into the priesthood from a life spent at tribunals
and amidst the paraphernalia of administrative office.' I would prefer something like:
'snatched from legal tribunals and the insignia of a governorship to be a bishop.' For
the primary meaning of infulae is to something worn (OLD 904).
64 A. Lenox-Conyngham, The Judgement of Ambrose the Bishop on Ambrose the Ro-
man Governor, Studia Patristica 17/1, 1982, 62-65, who opines that 'it was to Am-
brose's intense chagrin that he found himself snatched away from a promising secular
career and thrust into the Church's ministry.'
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 57

quette demanded.65 It is worth noting that this ancient custom still persists
in many political contexts even in the twenty-first century: in June 2009,
for example, when the diminutive John Bercow was elected Speaker of the
British House of Commons in London, he followed convention and al-
lowed himself to be dragged by others to the Speaker's chair in a contrived
show of reluctance, although he had campaigned for the position both
openly and vigorously. As for Ambrose, Rufinus gives a prosaic, factual
and straightforward account of what intervened between his election as
bishop of Milan and his consecration:
obluctante Mo et plurimum resistente ad imperatorem relatum populi desiderium omni
maturitate iubetur impleri. dei enim ait esse, quod discordantem populi fidem et animos
dissidentes conversio subita in unum consensu™ atque unam sententiam revocarit. moxque
dei gratiam consecutus et inhiatus sacris et sacerdos effectus est.
When he showed reluctance and put up great resistance, the desire of the people was
reported to the emperor and orders were given with all speed that it be fulfilled. For
he said that it was God's doing that a sudden conversion had recalled the discordant
faith of the people and minds that disagreed to unanimity and a single opinion. Soon
he received God's grace, was initiated in the sacraments and made bishop. (Rufinus,
h.e. 11.11 [1019 Mommsen])
In brief, Ambrose showed reluctance (whether genuine or feigned), and a
report was sent to the emperor Valentinian, who had presumably already
returned to winter quarters in Trier from his reception of the Alamannic
king Macrianus near Mainz (Ammianus XXX 3,7).66 It will, therefore,
have taken some time for the emperor's reply to reach Milan. Valentinian
replied that the wishes of the Christians of Milan must be respected, since
it was God who had produced the sudden agreement of the warring fac-
tions. At this point, Paulinus provides details which supplement Rufinus
and which may well be authentic even if he has supplied them without any
written source. Valentinian directed his rescript to the vicarius of Italy and
instructed him to ensure that Ambrose was consecrated bishop of Milan.
The vicarius issued an edict and ordered Ambrose to be produced. The
bishop-elect then allowed himself to be baptized, proceeded through the
various ecclesiastical offices in order, and on the eighth day was duly con-
secrated (Life 9,1-3).
In addition to providing these plausible details, Paulinus develops and
expands Rufinus' account with some extravagant and hardly credible
embellishments, which some historians still take seriously, as if Paulinus

65 For ancient examples of l e refus de pouvoir,' see Duval, Ambroise (see note 53), 244-
245; Davidson, Ambrose. De Officiis, Vol. 2, Oxford 2001, 446-447.
66 On Valentinian's activities in 374, see J. F. Drinkwater, The Alamanni and Rome
213-496 (Caracallato Clovis), New York 2007, 308-309.
58 Timothy David Barnes

expected his hyperbole to be believed.67 Paulinus regales his readers with a

series of stories of how Ambrose tried to escape consecration after his
election: first, he announced that he intended to use torture on those due
to appear before him in court; then he went home and began to play the
philosopher; when this did not work, he summoned prostitutes to his
residence, again to no avail; next he attempted to flee to Ticinum during
the night, but got lost (presumably in fog) and found himself at daybreak
outside another gate of the city; and finally he took refuge on the estate of
a senator named Leontius, who disclosed his whereabouts (Life 7-9). Is the
story of Ambrose's unsuccessful attempt to escape (Paulinus assures his
readers that God prevented it) any more credible than the similar claim
made in a Gallic panegyric of Constantine that when his father's army
saluted him Augustus in York, the new emperor jumped on his horse and
tried to ride away (Pan. Lat. VI [VII] 8,4: diceris etiam, imperator invicte,
ardorem ilium te deposcentis exercitus fugere conatus equum calcaribus
incitasse)? On the other hand, it need not be doubted that Ambrose
withdrew from the city of Milan to the country villa of a senator named
Leontius for a time,68 since it must be presumed that he needed the
emperor's permission to relinquish his post as governor of Aemilia and
Liguria before he could proceed towards a formal consecration as bishop.
To that extent, and to that extent only, his show of reluctance was
Ambrose's actions before the moment of his election should not be in-
terpreted on the basis of his own later self-presentation. It is often asserted
that when Ambrose intervened in the election of a bishop of Milan to
replace Auxentius, he had no choice but to act as he did. Thus, for exam-
ple, Paredi in English translation: since 'as governor, Ambrose was respon-
sible for public order, ... he spoke in the church because he had to inter-
vene' and 'it is quite certain that before entering the church he did not
imagine that he would come out elected as bishop.'69 But Ambrose's re-

67 McLynn, Ambrose (see note 3), 44: 'These episodes were until recently disregarded as
hagiographical exaggeration or fantasy. But Paulinus' credit has now been substantial-
ly restored.' He appeals to the discussion of 'les subterfuges d'un elu by Duval, Am-
broise (see note 53), 257-282.
68 Leontius is otherwise completely unknown (PLRE 1 [1971], 501, Leontius 13): for a
conjecture that his estate abutted one owned by the fourth century aristocrat Faltonia
Betitia Proba, see C. Bearzot, Osservazioni su "CIL" V, 6435: Per una localizzazione
della "leggenda" della fuga di S. Ambrogio (Paul. "Vita Ambr." 8.1), Aevum 57,
1983, 109-122, at 121.
69 A. Paredi, Saint Ambrose. His Life and Times, trans. M. j . Costello, South Bend
1964, 118. Similarly, R. Gryson, Le pretre selon Saint Ambroise, Louvain 1968, 220-
225; P. Nautin, Les premieres relations dAmbroise avec l'empereur Gratien. Le De
The Election of Ambrose of Milan 59

sponsibility to preserve order did not require him to enter the church in
person: normal procedure in any society was (and still is) to send in sol-
diers, policemen or their equivalent to restore order. Ambrose did not
follow normal procedure. Hence his action in choosing to enter the
church in person was tantamount to offering himself, with becoming
modesty of course, as a compromise candidate in the disputed election.
The cause and nature of the conflict inside the church can easily be di-
vined. Since the recently deceased Auxentius had been bishop for nineteen
years since 355, he will have ordained the vast majority, perhaps even all,
the clergy of Milan at the time of his death. It must be presumed, there-
fore, that the clergy of Milan, from whose numbers a new bishop would
normally be drawn, inclined to a homoean Christology, whereas the laity
of the city included a strong Catholic party which enjoyed support from
bishops elsewhere in North Italy.70 Once inside the church, Ambrose deli-
vered a speech. Its contents are not reported in any ancient account of his
election. But it happens to be known from a stray reference in a letter of
Severus of Antioch in the sixth century that, when Ambrose became bi-
shop, he 'received those who had received ordination from Auxentius his
predecessor in Milan.'71 Is it too cynical to suggest that Ambrose promised
in his speech not to dismiss the existing clergy of Milan and thus won
their support for, or at least their acceptance of, his election? For his entry
into the church when the electors were deadlocked amounted to using his
position as governor of the province in which Milan lay to offer himself as
a candidate in the disputed election.72

fide (livres I et II), in: Ambroise de Milan. XVIe Centenaire de son election episco-
pate, ed. by Y.-M. Duval, Paris 1974, 229-244, at 229-230: 'II ne songeait encore q u a
faire carriere dans Administration imperiale.'
70 On the relative strengths of the ecclesiastical parties in Milan at the time of Auxentius'
death, see M. Simonetti, La politica antiariana di Ambrogio, in: Ambrosius Episcopus.
Atti del Congesso internazionale di studi ambrosiani nel XVI centenario della eleva-
zione di sant'Ambrogio alia cattedra episcopale. Milano 2-7 dicembre 1974, ed. by G.
Lazzati, Vol. 1, Milan 1976, 266-285, at 269-270; Barnes, Valentinian, Auxentius
and Ambrose (see note 59), 235-236.
71 Severus of Antioch, Sixth Book of Select Letters, trans, by E. W. Brooks, Vol. 2,
London 1904, 304, quoting a letter from Theophilus of Alexandria to Flavianus of
Antioch - which implies that Ambrose wrote to Theophilus to excuse his action as po-
litically necessary.
72 I am most grateful to Gavin Kelly, Janet Sidaway and John Weisweiler for various
improvements to the text which I presented in Leuven in October 2009.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections

George A. Bevan
Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus, has enjoyed a recent, and arguably much
deserved, surge in interest.1 His intellectual sophistication, his apparent
position on the interface between Greek and indigenous Syrian cultures,
and role as an architect of compromise between radically opposed
christological positions make him a sympathetic figure to modern sensibil-
ities. Despite the fact that he was the bishop of a non-metropolitan see in
the province of Euphmtensis, he exercised considerable influence in the
cut-throat ecclesiastical politics of the fifth century. Theodoret was also a
consummate survivor. He remained active from before the Council of
Ephesus in 431 until after Chalcedon in 451, a troubled period that saw
ferocious ecclesiastical strife and downfall of many, although he did not
escape deposition at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 and posthum-
ous condemnation as part of the Three Chapters at the Fifth Council
(553) a century later.2 Yet virtually all recent scholarship has left uncon-

1 Among other works, see T. Urbainczyk, Theodoret of Cyrrhus. The Bishop and the
Holy Man, Ann Arbor, 2002; Paul B. Clayton, The Christology of Theodoret of Cy-
rus. Antiochene Christology from the Council of Ephesus (431) to the Council of
Chalcedon, Oxford, 2007; F. Millar, Theodoret of Cyrrhus: a Syrian in Greek Dress?,
in: From Rome to Constantinople: Studies in Honour of Averil Cameron, ed. by H.
Amirav and R.B. ter Haar Romeny, Late Antique History and Religion 1, Leuven,
2007, 105-126. The late Robert Hill brought attention to Theodoret's exegetical
works through his many English translations. Theodoret's correspondence now has a
full edition and French translation: Theodoret de Cyr, Correspondance, Ed. and
French trans. Yvan Azema, 4 vols. SC 40, 1955; SC 98, 1964; SC 111, 1965; SC 429,
1998. Letters with Roman numerals refer to those letters in the Collectio Sakkelionis,
vol. 1 of Azema's edition, while those with arabic numerals refer to the Collectio Sir-
mondiana, vols. 2 and 3 of Azema's edition. Theodoret's conciliar letters are referred
to by their ACO document numbers and the arabic numberal from vol. 4 of Azema's
edition. English translations of some of this corresondence can be found in The Ni-
cene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, vol. 3 (henceforth NPNF), ed. and Eng-
lish trans, by P. Schaff and J. Wace, Edinburgh 1890, 250-348.
2 For the date of Theodoret's death, see E. Honigmann, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and
Basil of Seleucia (The Time of their Death), Patristic Studies, Studi e Testi 193,
Vatican City 1953, 174-84.
62 George A. Bevan

tested William Maxwell Blackburn's memorable 1879 characterization of

the bishop of Cyrrhus as "gentle Theodoret". 3 Could Theodoret have
indeed have risen above the fray that tarnished the reputations of many?
The evidence argues to the contrary, although many of the accusations
leveled against Theodoret in the 440s have been given short-shrift by
modern scholarship, with the notable exception of Karl Gunther's obscure
1913 monograph on the subject.4 In two troubled episcopal elections in
the 440s, that of Sabinianus of Perrha and Photius of Tyre, and the con-
comitant depositions of the incumbents in those sees, Athanasius and
Irenaeus, Theodoret meddled in ecclesiastical politics beyond his purview.
First, however, one must look to Theodoret's actions in the 430s in the
years following Ephesus to provide the context for his actions in the dec-
ade that followed.

The Council of Ephesus and its Aftermath

Theodoret assumed a leadership role among the Syrian bishops during and
after the Council of Ephesus. He attended the Council of Ephesus in 431
as member of John of Antioch's counter-council, the conciliabulum, and
was among the first to protest Cyril's opening of the proceedings on 22
June, only days before John's arrival.5 Perhaps characteristic of Theodo-
ret's penchant for biting satire, he wrote to his friend Andrew of Samosta
about the council to say that "never had a writer of comedy composed
such a laughable story, or a writer of tragedy such a sorrowful play".6
Though it cannot be proven with complete certainty, Theodoret is the
presumed author of the confession of faith that the Syrian bishops pro-
duced at the request the comes John, the imperial representative sent by the

3 William Maxwell Blackburn, History of the Christian Church from its Origin to the
Present Time, Cincinnatti 1879, 126.
4 Karl Giinther, Theodoret von Cyrus und die Kampfe in der orientalischen Kirche
vom Tode Cyrills bis zur Einberufung des sogen. Rauber-Konzils, Programm des K.
hum. Gymnasiums Aschaffenburg, Aschaffenburg 1913.
5 ACO 1.1.5, 119-24.
6 Coll. Cas. 108 (ACO 1.4, 59,32-36): talem synodum ludo fecerunt Aegyptiaci, Pakestini
et cum PonticisAsiani cumque istis et Occident; hunc enim languorem maxima iam pars
mundi recepit. qui mimorum risus sic depompauerunt inpietatis tempore pietatem? quis
umquam comoediae scriptor talem fabulam finxit? quis denique tragoediae digne porta
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 63

emperor to reconcile the opposing parties during the summer/ This fate-
ful document would, with only minor changes, become the very statement
of belief assented to by Cyril of Alexandria two years after the council in
his letter Laetentur Caeli to John of Antioch.8
When the council dragged on into August Theodoret was selected
along with six other bishops to represent the interests of the conciliabulum
at a series of colloquia to be held in Constantinople to resolve the impasse.9
Civil disturbances, however, caused the emperor to change the venue to
Chalcedon, just across the Bosoporus, in the hope that the violence could
better be contained. Here again the bishop of Cyrrhus seized the opportu-
nity to enter the limelight. In the company of John of Antioch and against
the backdrop of clashes between rival supporters, Theodoret preached four
sermons to large crowds at Chalcedon.10 When violence threatened to
derail the purpose of the colloquia, the emperor personally summoned
Theodoret and demanded that he desist. But uncowed, at least according
to his own report, Theodoret objected to the unfairness of the emperor's
demand and - here is Theodoret the consummate diplomat - stated that
they were not reading the gospel or offering the eucharist, but only offer-
ing prayers for the well-being of the emperor. »
As is well known the emperor finally dismissed the Council of Ephe-
sus in October without acquiescing to any of the demands made by John
of Antioch and Theodoret. Not only was Nestorius' deposition upheld,
but Theodosius invited Cyril of Alexandria's partisans to Constantinople
to assist in consecrating a new bishop, Maximian. Cyril and Memnon of
Ephesus, who both had been placed under arrest on order of the emperor
in the summer, were released and sent home; Cyril was never forced to
recant his controversial 12 Anathemas. What seems less well known is that
the bitter disappointment of the conciliabulum found expression in an
invidious scheme of deception.12 On their way home they visited the ve-

7 Coll. Ath. 48 (ACO 1.1.7, 69-70) = Latin Coll. Cas. 105 (ACO 1.4, 55-57) = Coll.
Winteriana 10. See H. Chadwick, Eucharist and Christology in the Nestorian Con-
troversy, JTS N.S. 2, 1951, 147 note 2.
8 For recent discussion of this document, see G. Gould, Cyril of Alexandria and the
Formula of Reunion, Downside Review 106, 1988, 235-52; D. Fairbairn, Grace and
Christology in the Early Church, Oxford 2003, 212-17; and T. Krannich, Cyrill von
Alexandrien und die Unionsformel von 433 n. Chr., ZAC 9, 2006, 571-79.
9 Coll. Vat. 96 (ACO 1.1.3, 36-3) = Coll. Cas. 111 (ACO 1.4, 63).
10 Sermons by Theodoret and John of Antioch given at Chalcedon survive: Coll. Ath. 71 (ACO
1.1.7, 82-83, Latin: Coll. Cas. 125); Coll. Ath. 72 (ACO 1.1.7, 84, Latin: Coll. Cas. 126).
11 Coll. Ath. 69 (ACO 1.1.7, 79-80) = Azema vol. IV Ep. 3a, 80-89.
12 For full discussion of this issue, see G. Bevan, The Chronology of the Council of
Ephesus (forthcoming).
64 George A. Bevan

nerable Acacius of Beroea, a figure of some gravity in Oriens (he had at-
tended both the Council of Constantinople in 381 and the Synod of the
Oak in 403 at which John Chrysostom was deposed), and told him that
the emperor had upheld the depositions of Cyril and Memnon by the
conciliabulum.13 The visiting bishops appeared to have been armed with
an imperial sacra that backed up their story, a text that is now preserved
only in Latin translation in the Collectio Casinensis}* Doubtless expecting
such news to be greeted with skepticism, or outright contradiction, John
of Antioch's party supplied additional reasons for Theodosius' decision:
Cyril had illegally escaped custody in Ephesus and fled to Egypt; and
among the papers of the recently deceased eunuch Scholasticus a memo-
randum had been discovered that recorded the receipt of large amounts of
gold by the comes Paul in the imperial consistory, who just happened to be
Cyril of Alexandria's nephew.15 Whatever the merits of these two claims, a
fundamental contradiction remained. The official Greek text dismissing
the council said nothing about the continued arrest of Cyril and Mem-
non.16 There is very good reason to believe that the document that the
returning bishops showed Acacius was at best an out-of-date draft of an
imperial sacra, or, at worst, a wholesale fabrication. This was a risky game
of more than questionable probity, and one that Theodoret, by then a de
facto leader among the Eastern bishops, either connived at or actively par-
ticipated in. It is not surprising, then, that when the elderly Acacius of
Beroea summoned Theodoret to come to him to assist in formulating a
response to a letter of Cyril's asking for his support, the magister militum
per orientem forbade Theodoret to leave his see.17
Though Theodoret claimed in a letter to Nestorius that he would ra-
ther have his hands cut off than assent to his deposition, 18 he tactfully

13 Coll. Cas. 130 (ACO 1.4, 85: 33-5): deposit* vera Cyrilli et Memnonis fuerat
confirmata, et ut praedicaretur quoque, conuenerat; et sic tempus inueniens, dum
custodiretur in Epheso, fuga est usul
14 Coll. Cas. 118 (ACO 1.4, 68-9).
15 Coll. Cas. 130 (ACO 1.4, 85).
16 Coll. Ath. 97 (ACO 1.1.7, 142) = Coll. Cas. 122 (ACO 1.4, 73-74).
17 Coll. Ath. 106 ( ACO 1.1.7, 147). In the deception of Acacius perhaps we should look
for a reason why Rabbula of Edessa, a member of the conciliabulum, moved to the
Cyrillian side by 432. Cf. Claudia Rammelt, Ibas von Edessa. Rekonstruktion einer
Biographie und dogmatischen Position zwischen den Fronten, Berlin/New York
2008, 126-8 and G.G. Blum, Rabbula von Edessa. Der Christ, der Bischof, der Theo-
loge, CSCO 300 Sub. 34, Louvain 1969, 94-106.
18 The letter is preserved in three versions: Azema vol. 4, Ep. 23a, 252-3 (Coll. Cas. 208)
= Ep. 23b, 256-7 (Coll. Pal. 43, ACO 1.5, 170) = Ep. 23c, 258-9 (^Martin Parmen-
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 65

moved away from this position when John of Antioch, with imperial back-
ing, started to force out bishops who would not submit to the accommo-
dation with Cyril in 433. 19 When the situation became even tenser in 434
upon the accession of the anti-Nestorian bishop of Constantinople, Proc-
lus, Theodoret finally acquiesced and was reprimanded by Alexander of
Hierapolis for his pragmatism.20 As a last resort, Theodoret wrote to Nes-
torius so that the deposed bishop might implore Alexander to capitulate
and thus save the faithful in his see from a less orthodox replacement.21
The upshot was that Alexander and thirteen other bishops were removed
from their sees in 434 and Nestorius exiled to Petra in 436, while Theodo-
ret would retain his bishopric for another twenty years.22
In the next struggle with Cyril, however, John of Antioch and Theo-
doret dug in their heels and won a victory of immense importance for
what would transpire in the 440s. Not long after the Council of Ephesus
ended, Cyril came to realize that the work of the late Diodore of Tarsus
and Theodore of Mopsuestia was the real animating force behind Nesto-
rius, and he sought to root it out from the East. This episode in the chris-
tological controversy is difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct fully, but
some germaine features can be established.23 When Proclus of Constanti-
nople and Cyril pushed for the eastern bishops to anathematize the work
of these two highly-regarded teachers, John of Antioch and other eastern
bishops, gathered in synod in Antioch, replied that they would rather be
burned alive.24 For his part, Theodoret penned a Defense of Diodore and
Theodore, just as he had earlier done against Cyril's Twelve Anathemas.25

tier, A Letter from Theodoret of Cyrus to the Exiled Nestorius (CPG 6279) in a
Syriac Version, Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie 51, 1990, 234-245).
19 Theodoret to Meletius of Neocaesaria, Coll. Cas. 216 (ACO 1.4, 157) = Ep. 24,
Azema, vol. 4, 260-63.
20 Coll. Cas. 240 (ACO 1.4, 174-175).
21 Coll. Cas. 258 (ACO 1.4, 189).
22 The "Fourteen Irreconcilables": Coll. Cas. 279 (ACO 1.4, 203-204). The imperial
order exiling Nestorius: Coll. Vat. 110 (ACO 1.1.3, 67).
23 For reconstructions of these events see, L. Abramowski, Der Streit urn Diodor und
Theodor zwischen den beiden ephesinischen Konzilien, ZKG 67, 1955/6, 252-87
[reprinted in L. Abramowski, Formula and Context: Studies in Early Christian
Thought, Variorum, Aldershot, 1992, no. 1, English trans, by L. Wickham]; G.
Winkler, An Obscure Chapter in Armenian Church History (428-439), REArm n.s.
19, 1985, 85-180; and N . Garsoi'an, L'Eglise armenienne et le grand schisme
d'Orient, Leuven 1999, 77-124.
24 Ep. 72, Codex Vaticanus gr. 1431: eine antichalkedonische Sammlung aus der Zeit
Kaiser Zenos, ed. by E. Schwartz, Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wis-
senschaften, Phil.-hist. Kl. 32.6, Munich, 1927, no. 39, 17-19 (=CPG 5372).
25 The text of Pro Diodoro et Theodora is fragmentary (=CPG 6220).
66 George A. Bevan

An imperial letter to John of Antioch in 439 stated that the emperor had
heard of the trouble brewing in Oriens, and declared that those who died
in the peace of the church, a veiled reference to Diodore and Theodore,
were not to be condemned posthumously:26
...Through Proclus, our most religious and most holy father and bishop, our Sove-
reignty has learned about the turmoil and the tumult which occur in the Orient.
Therefore, since we provide for all persons' quiet and peace, but particularly for the
Catholic faith, which protects also our Empire, we write to your Sanctity that you
should preserve peace and you should attend to no word of those persons who con-
trary to their own salvation desire to disturb the holy religion...
Accordingly, providing for the Church's quiet by this word, from you something
beneficial we expect. Moreover is anything more beneficial than this, except that you
also with the whole Church should decide this: that, as for the rest, non one should
venture any such thing against those persons who have died in her peace?
Whether under the influence of the imperial sacra or the flat refusal of
John's synod to condemn Diodore and Theodore, Cyril gave up his case
and never again ventured into conflict with the Eastern bishops; the bi-
shop of Alexandria never penned another work in the christological con-
troversy until his death on 27 June AAA.
Though Cyril appeared to win the day at Ephesus in 431, the Antio-
chenes had won the war. Not only had they ensured that Theodoret's
statement of belief was the centrepiece of the Peace of 433, but they had
forced Cyril to back down just when he was getting close to the authors of
the dyophysite christology that had inspired Nestorius. Theodoret could
then look to the future with tremendous optimism and could begin the
process of rebuilding his doctrinal network, which had been greatly wea-
kened since the purge of 4 3 4 * He would do this, in part, by stepping
outside the confines of his see on the banks of the Euphrates and influence
the election of bishops sympathetic to his cause in the East. Indeed, it was
for his meddling that Theodoret would be confined to his see by an im-
perial order in early 448, and deposed at the Second Council of Ephesus
in 449.

26 Coll. Cas. 310 (ACO 1.4, 241); and Facundus VIII.3.12-13, 237. Engl, trans, by P.R.
Coleman-Norton, Roman State and Christian Church. A Collection of Legal Docu-
ments to A.D. 535, vol. 2, London 1966, 708-10.
27 For Theodoret's "doctrinal network", see now Adam Schor, Theodoret on the "School
of Antioch": A Network Approach, Journal of Early Christian Studies 15.4, 2007,
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 67


In the early 440s, Athanasius, bishop of Perrha and a colleague of Theodo-

ra's in Syria Euphratensis, faced an uprising against him by a group of
clerics in his see. The details of his case, such as they are, are known from
the fourteenth act of the Council of Chalcedon on 31 October 451. 28 The
clerics of Perrha succeeded in ousting their bishop and Athanasius soon
elicited the support of Cyril of Alexandria to write a letter {Ep. 77) before
his death in AAA in support of his cause to Domnus of Antioch.29 The
details of his removal are uncertain, but at the Council of Chalcedon va-
gue mention is made of both criminal and financial acts on the part Atha-
nasius, thirteen clerics making an accusations,30 and an affair concerning
silver columns (xous axuAous xous dpyupoGs).31 The then metropolitan
of the province, Panolbius of Hierapolis, sent the three canonical sum-
monses to Athanasius to appear before his fellow bishops. As was revealed
at an investigation held in Athanasius' absence, Panolbius was supposed to
be personal friend of Athanasius, a friendship that accounted to Athana-
sius' willingness to send letters to excuse for his absence (the opposite was
later found to be true).32 Rather than appear on the third and final sum-
mons, Athanasius sent his resignation from the episcopate at which point
he betook himself to his private estate in the territory of Samosata (20
miles to the south of Perrha), a sign that bishops at his investigation in
later 445 construed tacit admission of his guilt,33 Notwithstanding his
resignation, however, Athanasius returned to Perrha to perform consecra-
tions in lieu of a successor being appointed to his vacant see,34

28 This session is listed as the fifteenth in the Schwartz's edition of the Greek Acta (ACO
II.1.3, 63-83), but has been renumbered to the fourteenth in the recent translation R.
Price and M. Gaddis, The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Liverpool, 2005, 34-60.
The latter enumeration has been here adopted for convenience.
29 Cyril's Ep. 77 was quoted in full in the fourteenth session of Chalcedon. ACO II. 1.3,
66-67 (= CPG 5377).
30 Actio XV 158-9 (ACO II.1.3, 82-85). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3,
59. Note that the fifteenth session in Schwartz's edition of the Greek acta is translated
in Price and Gaddis as the fourteenth session.
31 Actio XV 115 (ACO II.l.3, 76). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3, 52,
32 Actio XV 60 + 76 (ACO II.1.3, 73-4). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3,
33 Admission of guilt: Actio XV 76 (ACO II. 1.3, 74), (Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis [see
note 28], vol. 3, 49) and Actio XV 123 (ACO II.1.3, 77) (Price/Gaddis [see note 28],
vol. 3, 53). Athanasius' retirement to Samosata: Actio XV 62 (ACO II.1.3, 73), (Engl.
trans. Price/Gaddis [see note 28], vol. 3, 48).
34 Actio XV 68-70 (ACO II.l.3, 73). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3, 48.
68 George A. Bevan

Athanasius did not long remain in the region of Samosata. Another

letter, by Proclus of Constantinople, and read out in full at the investiga-
tion of Athanasius held in 445 at Antioch, decried the removal of Athana-
sius by rebel priests and adds that the erstwhile bishop of Perrha had fled
not to Antioch, but directly to Constantinople, a fact that Domnus is not
to take as an affront to his dignity as the most senior bishop in the diocese
of Orient*
Your religiousness must not think that the aforementioned most God-beloved bishop
betook himself hither out of disrespect for the see of the great city of Antioch: rather,
because, as he says, he suspected some people of enjoying discord and serving their
own passions, he has provided an opportune occasion for indignation.
Cyril's letter adds that Athanasius said that he was able to reduce the
Home Synod in Constantinople to tears with his case.36 Yet when Dom-
nus of Antioch held an investigation into the case of Athanasius in 445,
the assembled bishops concluded that the letters in support of Athanasius
by Proclus and Cyril were the result of Athanasius' own misinformation
and did not reflect the real merits of his case. They confirmed Athanasius'
deposition when again Athanasius refused to heed the three summonses,
and undertook to appoint a replacement. Stephen, Panolbius' successor as
bishop of Hierapolis, consecrated Sabinianus as Athanasius' successor soon
after the council met in Antioch.37
What has Theodoret to do with this case in a neighbouring see? Atha-
nasius had complained in Constantinople that his metropolitan bishop in
Hierapolis was biased against him, first Panolbius and later John, whose
short-lived episcopacy lay between the death of Panolbius and the acces-
sion of Stephen. When the council met at Antioch in 445 to reconsider
the action taken against Athanasius by the investigation held in Hierapolis,
Athanasius submitted to the synod, in advance of its deliberations, an
imperial mandate that excluded both John of Hierapolis and Theodoret of
Sabas the most devout bishop of Paltus said: 'I was in the courtroom; Athanasius pro-
duced an imperial mandate to the effect that neither the lord Theodoret nor the met-
ropolitan John should take their seats in court. The two took their seats in the court,
and I said to them, "If you are judges, then hear the case; if you are not going to sign,
then simply leave" A dispute erupted, and they did not want to sign. Finally, he

35 Actio XV 11 (ACO II.1.3, 68:28-33). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3,
36 Actio XV 10 (ACO II.1.3, 66-7). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3, 40-1.
37 Sabinianus to the emperors Marcian and Valentinian, Actio XIV 5 (ACO II.1.3, 64-
5). Sabinianus adds that he had been ordained against his will.
38 Actio XIV 155 (ACO II.l.3, 82). Engl, trans. Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 3, 59.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 69

[Athanasius] was summoned a third time and failed to come, and for this we deposed
While neither bishop subscribed to the acts of the synod it is clear that
they were present at the synod as non-voting members, an apparent side-
stepping of the imperial order. The grounds for their exclusion can only
be a demonstrated bias against him, just as Athanasius had earlier alleged
with Panolbius. But Theodoret had not been present, as far as is known,
in Perrha when the clerics removed Athanasius, and was not present at the
investigation later held in Hierapolis. That Athanasius' case was no simple
case of episcopal impropriety is suggested by his rehabilitation at Second
Ephesus in 449, the details of which are unfortunately lost in the Syriac
Acts of the council.39 There are strong reasons, however, to think that
Athanasius held theological views that were not consonant with Theodo-
ret's, and herein, I think, lies the real reason for Athanasius removal and
the installation of Sabinianus in his place.
The nature of this personal hostility between Theodoret and Athana-
sius would be wholly speculative if there were no further evidence beyond
that found in the Acts of Chalcedon. Indeed, at Chalcedon, perhaps in a
deliberate act of suppression, neither the letter of Domnus to Athanasius
nor the letter of Domnus to the bishops of Oriens asking them to attend
Antioch in 445 was preserved in the formal acta. Fortunately, just such
evidence is at hand. During the census 446/7 Theodoret wrote to several
high-ranking officials to petition for a reduction in the iugatio of Cyrrhus
before the new census assessment came into effect on 1 September 447,
the start of the new indiction.40 No responses to Theodoret's requests are
preserved and it is uncertain whether or not the campaign was successful.
These letters, though, are not interesting only for revealing the extent of
Theodoret's official contacts, but also for their dark references to an ano-
nymous party in the capital, whom Theodoret describes as "our bishop"
and as a "slanderer" (auKo^vxns). 41 Theodoret complains bitterly that
this excommunicated bishop was obstructing his efforts at having the re-
duction of the iugatio for Cyrrhus confirmed. Ian Tompkins has conclu-

39 Unfortunately, the section of the Syriac Acts of Second Ephesus containing the resto-
ration of Athanasius to his see is lost. S.G.F. Perry (ed.), The Second Synod of Ephe-
sus, together with certain extracts relating to it, from Syriac mss. preserved in the Brit-
ish Museum, Princeton 1881, 278-80, puts it after the section he entitles "Restoration
of Clerics".
40 For the fifteen year census cycles, see T.D. Barnes, The New Empire of Diocletian and
Constantine, Cambridge Mass. 1982, 226-37; and Roger S. Bagnall and K. A. Worp,
The Chronological Systems of Byzantine Egypt, second edition, Leiden 2003, 3-4.
41 Epp. 42 and 45. Azema, vol. 3, 106-113 and 118-121.
70 George A. Bevan

sively identified this figure as Athanasius, the former bishop of Perrha,

who, it will be remembered, was known to have visited Constantinople
earlier according to the letter of Proclus.42 Another letter of Theodoret to
the augusta Pulcheria makes the activities of this ecclesiastical carpetbagger
in the capital abundantly clear:43
Since you adorn the empire by your piety and render the purple brighter by your
faith, we make bold to write to you, no longer conscious of our insignificance in that
you always pay all due honour to the clergy. With these sentiments I beseech your ma-
jesty to deign to show clemency to our unhappy country, to order the ratification of
the visitation which has been several times made, and not to accept the false accusa-
tions which some men have brought against it. I beseech you to give no credit to him
who bears indeed the name of bishop, but whose mode of action is unworthy even of
respectable slaves. He has been himself under serious charges and subject to the ban of
excommunication under the most holy and God-beloved archbishop of Antioch, the
Lord Domnus, pending the summoning of the episcopal council for the investigation
of the charges against him. He has now made his escape, and betaken himself to the
imperial city, where he plies the trade of an informer, attacking the country which is
his mother country with its thousands of poor, and, for the sake of his hatred to one,
wags his tongue against all.

Theodoret pleads with others, such as the eastern praetorian prefect, Con-
s t a n t s , and the bishop of Constantinople, Proclus, and in similar
terms.44 The fact that Theodoret keeps Athanasius anonymous in all of
letters is surely evidence of his concern over the deposed bishop's influence
in the capital; Theodoret did not want to give his slanderer an opportunity
for counter-accusations should the content of his letters be disclosed to
those sympathetic with Athanasius.
Several pieces of evidence point to the fact that Athanasius did not
share the theological views of Theodoret's circle, i.e., that he was a con-
servative supporter of Cyril's later profession of the "one incarnate na-
ture", just like Dioscorus of Alexandria and the hapless archimandrite
Eutyches.45 First, Athanasius was restored at Second Ephesus and Sabinia-
nus, his replacement, removed; the allegations of embezzlement were not
enough, it seems, to sway the bishops from reinstating a man they believed

42 I.G. Tompkins, Problems in Dating and Pertinence in Some Letters of Theodoret of

Cyrrhus, Byzantion 65, 1995, 176-195. This identification had earlier been suggested
by Giinther, Theodoret von Cyrus (see note 4), 12.
43 Theodoret ep. 43 to Pulcheria. Azema, vol. 2, 114-15. Engl, trans. NPNF, 264.
44 Epp. 42 and 47. Azema, Vol. 3, 113-106 and 123-25.
45 For the definition of this "conservative cyrillian position", see now G. Bevan and
P.T.R. Gray, The Trial of Eutyches: A New Interpretation, Byzantinische Zeitschrift
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 71

to be orthodox. Second, Theodoret in 450 chastizes Sabinianus for appeal-

ing to the supporters of the "one nature" in Perrha:46
I was astounded to hear of your having appealed to the men who ejected you. You
ought to have done just the contrary, and, on being invited to grasp the tiller, to have
declined to do so, on the ground that your shipmates had become your foes. Are you
not aware, most godly sir, what our Saviour, through His sacred apostles, taught us to
preach? Do you not know what the heirs of the apostolic doctrines have just now laid
down as objects of worship? For who of the old teachers from the time when the mes-
sage was first preached down to the period of the darkness that now obtains, ever lis-
tened to any one preaching one nature of flesh and Godhead or dared at any time to
call the nature of the only begotten passible? These doctrines in our day are by some
men openly and boldly uttered, while among others their utterance is overlooked, and
by silence men become participators in the blasphemy. What then, may well be asked,
is the proper course to be taken by those who abominate such doctrines? They have, I
should reply, two alternatives before them; they may either come to close quarters,
and prove the spuriousness of the doctrines, or they may decline communion with
their opponents as openly impious.

The presumption is surely that Theodoret believed Sabinianus would

uphold the Antiochene "two natures" unlike his predecessor had done.
Third, there is yet more evidence of this increasing confluence of per-
sonal and doctrinal antipathies towards Theodoret in a letter to Flavian,
bishop of Constantinople in the summer of 448: 47
We exhorted him [Dioscorus] to induce those who are unwilling to abide by these
documents at once to abide by them. But one of the opposite party, who keep up
these disturbances, by tricking some of those who are on the spot and contriving
countless calumnies against myself, has stirred up an iniquitous agitation against me.
Theodoret reports that he had pleaded with Dioscorus earlier that summer
to abide by the terms of the Peace of 433, namely the Antiochene state-
ment of belief in Cyril's letter Laetentur Cadi and Athanasius' letter ad
Epictetum, and reports that he had actually sent one of his presbyters to
urge him to suppress the agitation. Theodoret, however, was foiled in his
purpose by an unnamed individual in an opposing party working against
him Constantinople. I would suggest that this individual should be identi-
fied with none other than Athanasius, whom Theodoret had referred to in
precisely the same way in the previous two years.

46 Ep. 127 to Sabinianus. Azema, Vol. 3, 105-107. Engl, trans. NPNF, 300 (Letter
CXXVI). The letter was written after Theodoret's removal to Apamea (see infra), but
before the accession of Marcian in August 450. This same observation is made by
Price/Gaddis, The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (see note 28), 35-6.
47 Ep. S 86 to Flavian. Azema, Vol. 2, 226-29. Engl, trans. NPNF, 281-2 (Letter
72 George A. Bevan

A fourth tantalizing reflex of Theodoret's antagonism towards Athana-

sius presents itself. The piece de resistance of Theodoret's career as a pole-
micist was a spirited work in dialogue form that pitted one Eranistes, a
supporter of the "one nature", against an individual styled Orthodox, who,
like Theodoret himself, upheld the "two natures" of Christ.48 The name
Eranistes, as Theodoret notes, is a neologism that combines the word eranos, a
beggar or collector, with the form of chrematistes, one who collects money:49
I want this work to be easily intelligible and profitable for readers unacquainted with
verbal disputation. And this will be the case if the identity of the persons speaking is
clear because their names are writing in the margin. "Orthodox" is the name of the
one who defends apostolic teachings, while the other is called "Eranistes." We usually
call someone who is sustained by many people's pit a beggar (uposarms), and one
who is versed in business a businessman (xprpcmoxris); in the same way here we have
made up name for this character derived from a way of acting. And I ask readers to
judge the truth without preconceptions.

The implication is that Eranistes beliefs are stitched together like a beggars
clothes from various defunct heresies. Consequently, either Eranistes or his
doctrine may be called a Polymorph, the alternate title of Theodoret's
The title of my book is Eranistes or the Polymorph, because they produce their own
complex and polymorphous doctrine by collecting the wicked teachings of many evil
men...As a result, this heresy resembles clothing crudely stitched together by beggars
from scraps of cloth; that is why I call this book Eranistes or the Polymorph...
On the literary level, the Eranistes is a remarkable work. It is among the
first dialogues from antiquity to introduce speakers in the margins of the
text, rather than through internal references.51 Theodoret says than this
innovation made his work more accessible to the less well educated than
the dialogues of the Greek philosophers, like Plato. The sophistication of
Theodoret's language, however, belies his desire for a wide audience. The

48 Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Eranistes, G.H. Ettlinger (ed.), Oxford, 1975 (= CPG 6217);
G.H. Ettlinger (English trans.), FaCh 106, Washington D.C. 2003; Giovanni
Desantis (Italian trans.), II mendicante, Rome 1997.
49 Theodoret, Eranistes, Prologue (62.14-22 Ettlinger; Engl, trans. Ettlinger 29).
50 Theodoret, Eranistes, Prologue (61.21-62.7 Ettlinger; Engl, trans. Ettlinger 28).
51 Theodoret, however, was not the first to name speakers in dialogues. R. Lim,
Theodoret of Cyrus and the Speakers in Greek Dialogues, JHS 111, 1991, 181-82.
Cf. N.G. Wilson, Indications of Speaker in Greek Dialogue Texts, C Q n.s. 20.2,
1970, 305. For a broader consideration of the dialogue genre in its Near Eastern
context, see Averil Cameron, Dispute Poems and Dialogues in the Ancient and Me-
diaeval Near East' in G.J. Reinink and H.L.J Vanstiphout (eds.), Dispute Poems and
Dialogues in the Ancient and Mediaeval Near East: Forms and Types of Literary
Debates in Semitic and Related Literatures, Leuven 1991, 91-108.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 73

Eranistes was probably not intended for local consuption in Cyrrhus, but
for christologically savy individuals in Antioch and Constantinople.
The work seeks to prove three fundamental articles of Antiochene
christology, and in almost all respects recapitulates Theodoret's earlier
positions developed in 431. 52 The first dialogue argues that, because God
is immutable, the divine part of Christ could not in any literal sense be
changed during the incarnation. The "Word became flesh" only in the
sense that it assumed a human nature. The second shows that the human
and divine natures could not be intermingled in the person of Christ. The
third dialogue argues that, if God is impassible by nature, only the human
nature of Christ could have suffered.53
No internal evidence permits an exact date to be assigned to the the
Eranistes, but a scholarly consensus puts it in 447, shortly before Theodo-
ret was relegated to his see in 448 by an imperial order for meddling in
other sees.54 Theodoret also uses passages from Cyril's letters to Nestorius
(before his claim for the "one incarnate nature") to prove the case of Or-
thodox. As no living teachers (or heretics for that matter) are adduced by
Theodoret, one must assume a terminus post quem of AAA, the year of Cy-
ril's death.
Theodoret's earlier theological treatises had been written in reaction to
specific texts of Cyril: Against the 12 Anathemas and In Defense of Theodore
andDiodore." In the case of the Eranistes there is no obviously individual
or text against which he was reacting. It was not just an erudite defense of
the Antiochene position, however, but a deeply antagonistic work. While
it was not uncommon in polemics of the period to use passages from one's
opponent(s) to illustrate their faults, Theodoret adopts the virtually un-
precedented practice of using his opponents' heretical teachers in support
of his own position. He discredits the conservative Cyrillian tradition of the

52 L. Saltet, Les sources de l'Eranistes de Theodoret, RHE 6, 1905, 7. For an examina-

tion of Theodoret's uncompromising insistence on divine impassibility in the Era-
nistes, see J.M. Hallman, Theodoret's Eranistes and Its Aftermath: The Demise of the
Christology of Antioch, Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, ed. by P. Allen,
W. Mayer and L. Cross, Vol. 2, Brisbane, 1999, 343-357.
53 For a more complete summary of the christology of the Eranistes, see F. M. Young,
From Nicaea to Chalcedon. A Guide to the Literature and Background, Philadelphia,
1983, 278-84; and Clayton, The Christology of Theodoret (see note 1), 215-63.
54 For discussion of the date, see Clayton, The Christology of Theodoret (see note 1),
215-216. Also Saltet, Les sources de l'Eranistes (see note 52), 290; and M. Richard,
Notes sur Involution doctrinale de Theodoret de Cyr', Revue des Sciences Philoso-
phiques et Theologiques 25, 1936, 470.
55 Impugnatio xii anathematismomm Cyrilli (ACO 1.1.6, 108-144 , CPG 6214) and Libri
v contra Cyrillum (fragmentary, CPG 6215).
74 George A. Bevan

"one incarnate nature" as not only theologically incorrect, but also as

hopelessly contaminated with the heresy of Apollinarius.56 By claiming
that a heretic inspired the conservative followers of Cyril, he also high-
lighted what he believed to be their unfair accusations against Theodore of
Mopsuestia, a teacher who had never been formally condemned like Apol-
linarius. In fact he deliberately eschews Theodore in the Eranistes as too
controversial.57 The Eranistes could not and did not win over supporters to
the Antiochene cause, but did inflame Theodoret's opponents, who, it
turns out, were influential and not few in number. Though written ostens-
ibly as an eirenic work, the Eranistes was brazenly provocative; it was not a
work of diplomacy but an attack on the very underpinings of his oppo-
If the Eranistes targets a particular doctrinal position, can it also be
said to have historical persons in its sights as well? In ancient satire the two
aims, the general and the specific, are not contradictory but mutually rein-
forcing. As C.P. Jones has proven with the targets of a number of Lucian's
satirical works, a Classical author with whom Theodoret likely had a more
than passing acquaintance, the Eranistes attacks both a type, i.e. a suppor-
ter of "the one incarnate nature", and a specific individual.58 Two candi-
dates have hitherto been proposed as the historical target of the Eranistes:
the Constantinopolitan archimandrite Eutyches and the bishop of Alexan-
dria Dioscorus, both prominent exponents of Cyril's later teachings. De-
spite the putative attributes that each shares with Eranistes, neither are
wholly satisfactory identifications.
First Eutyches. Some have found it tempting to see Eutyches as the
itinerant "beggar" caricatured in Theodoret's eponymous Eranistes. Some-

56 See especially Eranistes, Prologue (62.2-4 Ettlinger; Engl, trans. Ettlinger 28).
57 In a letter to Irenaeus shortly before Second Ephesus, Theodoret extentuates the fact
that he has not used passages from Theodore and Diodore in defense of Antiochene
teaching by saying that they would become a magnet for controversy and distract
from the merits of their position. Ep. 16, Azema, Vol. 2, 58-63.
58 C.P. Jones, Culture and Society in Lucian, Cambridge Mass. 1986, 101-16, and
especially 116: "Literature and learning were not confined to the library, or allowed at
the furthest into a common room of refined malice and allusive barbs. They paced the
streets and the squares, they frequented the lecture halls and the great festivals, not as
wraiths or shadows but with the solidity of real beings." Theodoret refers to Lucian's
Cataplus in his Ep. 180 on the death of Cyril. Cf. Azema, Vol. 1, 10 who questions
the authenticity of this letter: 'Les lettres a Jean dAntioche (PC 83, 1489 et suiv.) sur
la mort de saint Cyrille...sont certainement apocryphes' and rejects it for inclusion in
his edition. M. Wagner, A Chapter in Byzantine Epistolography: the Letters of
Theodoret of Cyrus, D O P 4, 1948, 145-51 suggests a strong affinity between the
rhetorical style of Lucian's Scytha and Harmonidas, especially the Sophistic use of the
conversational lalia style to treat epideictic themes.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 75

one worthy of caricature, the reasoning goes, must have been an important
adversary. But the similarity between the ascetic Eutyches and this "beg-
gar" is superficial. Theodoret's large corpus of surviving letters betrays no
knowledge of Eutyches until 449; Eutyches is also not known to have
promulgated any writings before his trial at the Home Synod in the fall of
448. There is no reason to think that Eutyches had a high enough profile
outside of Constantinople to excite Theodoret's interest in far-off Cyrrhus.
As far as doctrine goes, there are, of course, points where Theodoret seems
to lampoon Eutyches' view that the body of the incarnation was not hu-
man but divine:59
Orth: So if the divine mysteries are representations of the real, then the Lord's body is
a body even now, in spite of the fact that it is divine and the Lord's body, for it was
not transformed into the nature of divinity, but was filled with divine glory.
Eran, You moved the discussion to the divine mysteries at the perfect time, for I shall
use them to show you the transformation of the Lord's body into another nature. So
please answer my questions.
O r t h , I shall.
Eran, Before the priestly invocation, what do you call the gift that is offered?
O r t h , We must not speak clearly, for there may be uninitiated people nearby.
Eran./Orth, [circumlocution for Bread and wine]
Eran, But after the consecration, what do you call them?
O r t h , Christ's body and Christ's blood.
Eran, And do you believe that you really believe that you share in Christ's body and
O r t h , I believe this.
Eran, Then, just as the symbols of the Lord's body and blood are one thing before the
priestly invocation, but are transformed and become something else after the invoca-
tion, so the Lord's body was transformed into the divine substance after the assump-
But in this belief Eutyches found himself caught in just the sort of aporia
that Cyril had to wrestle with after he proclaimed the "one incarnate na-
ture" of Christ in his Second Letter to Succensus. While Cyril believed that
the salvific body of Christ in the Eucharist was a heavenly body, the body
of the incarnation was human flesh. Eutyches, however, could not see
clearly the distinction between the body of the Eucharist and body of the
incarnation when he refused to admit the dual consubstantiality of Christ
at the Home Synod of Constantinople. Though this position is usually

59 Theodoret, Eranistes II (151.27-152.12 Ettlinger; Engl, trans. Ettlinger 132).

76 George A. Bevan

depicted as idiosycratic to Eutyches, it was in fact a dilemma into which

any conservative follower of Cyril could fall.60
Next Dioscorus, Cyril's outspoken successor. Dioscorus wrote to
Domnus of Antioch early in 448 to express his concern about the recru-
descence of Nestorianism in the East, implicit in which would have been
criticism of Theodoret. There is no evidence, however, that Dioscorus
involved himself in the controversy until after Eutyches began to appeal
his condemnation to powers outside of Constantinople. By Theodoret's
own admission, he and Dioscorus enjoyed cordial relations from the time
of Dioscorus' appointment as bishop in AAA, as is clear from the letter
written by Theodoret on the latter's accession:61
Looking then to Him, sir, you do not behold the multitude of your subjects nor the
exaltation of your throne, but you see rather human nature, and life's rapid changes,
and follow the divine laws whose observance gives us the kingdom of heaven. Hearing
of this modesty on the part of your holiness, I take courage in a letter to salute a per-
son sacred and dear to God, and I offer prayers whereof the fruit is salvation.
Theodoret goes on to treat Dioscorus as if he were a potential friend well
into 448. Theodoret's letter to Flavian of Constantinople indicates that he
believed the bishop of Alexandria would be an ally, or at least impartial in
the dispute:62
In relation to the attacks which are being plotted against the apostolic faith, I thought
that I should find an ally and fellow-worker in the most godly bishop of Alexandria,
the lord Dioscorus, and so sent him one of our pious presbyters, a man of remarkable
prudence, with a synodical letter informing his piety that we abide in the agreement
made in the time of Cyril of blessed memory, and accept the letter written by him as
well as that written by the very blessed and sainted Athanasius to the blessed Epicte-
tus, and, before these, the exposition of the faith laid down at Nicsa in Bithynia by
the holy and blessed Fathers.

It would be very easy to interpret Theodoret's description of Dioscorus as

an "ally" either as hopelessly naive and over-optimistic, or as disguising his
own hostility towards Dioscorus. But the simplest interpretation is surely
that Theodoret was not disingenuous in making this statement, one that is
at variance with the belligerent aims of the Eranistes.
If neither Dioscorus nor Eutyches is easily identifiable with Eranistes,
there remains another, hitherto unexplored candidate: Athanasius of Perr-
ha. When petitioning officials in Constantinople for a revision of the tax
assessment of Cyrrhus, Theodoret saw his connections with the court
eroded by slander and reacted in the way he knew best, by producing a

60 See Bevan and Gray, The Trial of Eutyches (see note 45), 644-49.
61 Theodoret ep. S 60 to Dioscorus. Azema, Vol. 2, 138-9. Engl, trans. NPNF, 268.
62 Theodoret ep. S 86 to Flavian. Azema, Vol. 2, 226-7. Engl, trans. NPNF, 281.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 77

polemic that would undermine the orthodoxy of his opponents. What

better a name than Eranistes for a bishop who pocketed money like a
chrematistes and who, having fled to Constantinople, must have subsisted
like a beggar on handouts from those sympathetic with his views. In leve-
ling slanders against Theodoret Athanasius, with little originality, stitched
together stock accusations to construct an indictment of Theodoret and
his teaching that threatened to reopen the christological controversy ostensibly
settled by the Peace of 433. By drawing attention to Athanasius' heresy Theo-
doret sought to counter his influence in the capital, but in so doing he over-
played his hand and exposed what many regarded as his crypto-Nestorian
belief in the two natures. Once it became clear in Egypt what had been going
on in the East for over a decade, Dioscorus was forced to become involved to
support the monk Eutyches who was, in the fall of 448, being made an exam-
ple of by the emperor and the supporters of the two natures.
Theodoret reentered the fray in 447 not simply to promulgate the
precepts of Antiochene christology, but to defend himself politically from
the machinations of Athanasius of Perrha, who, Theodoret must have
believed, was seriously undermining his network of influential patrons in
the capital. As the years following 447 would demonstrate, however, this
network was much weaker than Theodoret believed and they closed rank
around the emperor, to the great disadvantage of the bishop of Cyrrhus.
Though he had been shielded by the Peace of 433, the wide circulation of
the Eranistes meant that Theodoret could no longer be ignored by the
conservative Cyrillians, who objected to his doctrines, and by the emperor,
who realized the implications of a new christological fight over the Era-
nistes: nothing short of the resumption of the schism in the church created
by the First Council of Ephesus in 431. Once their attention was turned
to Theodoret, they soon discovered that he was deeply implicated in the
election of another indisputably Nestorian bishop in Oriens, a fact that
only served to compromise his position further.

Irenaeus of Tyre

The election of Irenaeus of Tyre presents us with another likely case of

Theodoret's stacking eastern bishoprics with sympathizers. The comes
Irenaeus was a close associate of Nestorius, and may even have owed his
rank of illustris to the bishop's influence.63 Without any official mandate

63 For the career of Irenaeus, see PLRE II 'Irenaeus 2\ 624-25 and E. Schwartz, ACO
1.4, x-xv. See W. Kraatz, Koptische Akten zum ephesenisischen Konzil vom jahre 431,
78 George A. Bevan

he accompanied the bishop to the Council of Ephesus and came to speak

before the emperor on behalf of John of Antioch's conciliabulum later in
the summer.64 He continued to the office of comes after the council, but
his fate was intertwined with that of Nestorius. When Nestorius was or-
dered into exile to Petra in 436, 65 the emperor issued an order to the Prae-
torian Prefect Isodorus to take Irenaeus and a certain Photius to Petra as
well, along with two horses to carry their baggage.66 Irenaeus disappears
from view for over a decade, although during this time he may have com-
posed a sympathetic account of Nestorius downfall, his Tragoedia, which
now survives only in a redacted sixth century translation by Rusticus.67
Irenaeus then reappears suddenly as bishop of Tyre in the province of
Phoinike I. The acta of Second Ephesus state that Irenaeus became bishop
of Tyre twelve years after Nestorius was exiled, which, if the exile of the
latter is to be put in 436, is to be placed in 447 by counting inclusively.68

T U 26.2, Leipzig, 1904, 5-6 for the suggestion that his rank was due to Nestorius' in-
64 See Irenaeus' report of his meeting with the emperor: Coll. Vat. 164 (ACO 1.1.5,
65 Coll. Vat. 110 (ACO 1.1.3, 67 Schwartz). The general imperial constitution against
the followers of Nestorius, CTh 16.5.66 (ed. by Th. Mommsen, Theodosiani libri
XVI cum Constitutionibus Sirmondianis, vol. 1/2, Dublin/Zurich 1971, 879-880), is
dated by consuls to 435. It beggars belief that the law and the order exiling Nestorius
were issued a year apart. Given that the order at Coll. Vat. 110 preserves the full, orig-
inal addressees of the law, while the date of the text in the Codex Theodosianus is on-
ly an extract, the former is to be preferred as a chronological fixed point. I owe this
point to T.D. Barnes. See note 68 below.
66 Coll. Cas. 277 and 278 (ACO 1.4, 203).
67 This text is preserved in the Collectio Casinensis, edited by Schwartz as ACO 1.4 pars
altera = CPG 6472. Ebed-Jesu, the thirteenth century bishop of Nisibis, states that
Irenaeus wrote five histories of the persecution of Nestorius. J.S. Assemani,
Bibliotheca Orientalis. Sacrae Congregationi de Propaganda Fide, Rome, 1719-1728,
68 J. Flemming (ed.), Akten der ephesinischen Synode vom jahre 449. Syrisch. Mit
Georg Hoffmanns deutscher Ubersetzung und seinen Anmerkungen, in: Abhandlun-
gen der koniglichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Gottingen. Philologisch-
historische Klasse, Neue Folge 15/1, Berlin 1917, N D Gottingen 1970, 119:25-27;
Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus (see note 39), 296. The date of Irenaeus' ordina-
tion is almost invariably given as "ca. 445". PLRE II, 624 and Azema, vol. 1, 29 („vers
444"). The fact that the order exiling Irenaeus and Photius is placed adjacent to the
list of the "14 Irreconcilables" in the synodicon of Rusticus should not mislead us into
believing that the former was issued in 434. The removal of Irenaeus is clearly part of
the same legislative act represented by CTh 16.5.66 (see note 65) and the exile of Nes-
torius. Moreover, the recipient of the order, Isidore, is attested as Praetorian Prefect of
the East from 29 January 435 to 4 August 436. PLRE II 'Fl. Anthemius Isidorus 9',
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 79

This date dovetails with the death of Proclus of Constantinople on 12 July

447, under whose watch both Irenaeus and Nestorius had been exiled and
under whom the recall of the former seems unlikely prima facie.6' Yet in
defending Irenaeus the next year Theodoret claims that Proclus had ac-
tually sanctioned the ordination of Irenaeus:70
Proclus, bishop of Constantinople, of blessed memory well aware of this and many
other instances [of the consecration of bishops who had been married twice], both
himself accepted the ordination, and wrote to praise and admire it.
TToAAa de a i aAAa T o i a u T a dedidayuevos o T % uaKapias u v w TTpoKAos, o T %
KCOVOTaVTiVouTToAiTCSV eTTiOKoTToS, Kai auxos TIIV xeipoxoviav ede^axo, Kai eypa^ev
erraivcSv Kai 8au|iaCcov.
There is no positive evidence from Proclus that he ever had a volte face on
the case of so prominent a follower of Nestorius as Irenaeus. It is indeed
chronologically possible that Irenaeus was ordained in the first half of 447
during the last months of Proclus' life, but the reality may recall the earlier
deception Theodoret participated in following the Council of Ephesus.
One suspects that, at the worst, Proclus was either dead when Irenaeus was
ordained, in which case Theodoret is perpetrating another deception, or,
at best, Theodoret used his connections (see infra) to keep the election of
Irenaeus from Proclus in his last days when he may well have been too sick
to protest his ordination. Theodoret's claim about Proclus' sanctioning of
Irenaeus' ordination cannot easily be taken at face value/ 1 Indeed, al-
though the language of the letter indicates that proof of Proclus' written
approbation of the ordination could be produced, this may very well be
another instance of the sort of gambit Theodoret used following First

631-33. Cf. Giinther, Theodoret von Cyrus (see note 4), 28 who gives only a terminus
postquam of 441/2 for Irenaeus' ordination.
69 The Praetorian Prefect, Isidore, to whom had been entrusted the arrest and exile of
Irenaeus, was also dead by this time (Theodoret epp. 42 and 47, Azema, vol.2, 106-
112; 122-124). For the discussion of the date of Proclus' death, see F.X. Bauer, Pro-
klos von Konstantinopel. Ein Beitrag zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte des 5. Ja-
hrhunderts, Munich 1919, 142-3, where 447 is preferred. The most recent study of
Proclus has selected 446 without argument. N . Constas, Proclus of Constantinople
and the Cult of the Virgin in Late Antiquity, Leiden, 2003, 124.
70 Ep. 110 to Domnus of Antioch, Azema, Vol. 3, 42-43. Engl, trans. NPNF, 290.
71 It is not a priori impossible for an exile to return against the imperial will and become
bishop, or resume the office from which he was earlier expelled. Striking examples of
bishops recalled from exile against imperial will are Athanasius in 344 and Paul of
Constantinople in 342 and 344. T.D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius, Cam-
bridge Mass. 1993, 68 and 86 (Paul), and 89 (Athanasius). I thank Timothy Barnes
for pointing out these parallels to me.
80 George A. Bevan

Ephesus. With Proclus dead there was no one to gainsay Theodoret's

Other than extenuating Irenaeus' ordination once it became a focus of
controversy, what direct role did the bishop of Cyrrhus play in the epi-
scopal election in Tyre? Earlier in his Ep. 110 Theodoret appears at first-
blush to indicate that Theodoret himself consecrated a Irenaeus in Phoe-
nice, an act against the canons:72
I think therefore that a reply ought to be written to the clergy who have written
from the imperial city to the effect that in obedience to the sentence of the very
godly bishops of Phcenicia, and knowing both the zeal and the magnanimity
and love for the poor and all the other virtues of the very godly bishop Irenaeus,
and in addition to this the orthodoxy of his opinions, I have ordained
(exeiPotonnoa) him. I am not aware that he has ever objected to apply to
the holy Virgin the title Theotokos,' or has ever held any other opinions contrary
to the doctrines of the Gospel.
E y u toinun nomiCco xYPnnai y p a c f n a i rrpoj t o u j y e y p a c o t a j arro t f j j ?>ai-
Aeuouorij rroAecoj KArpiKouj, oti ^<t>co men tc3n t f j j QoiniKTIj 8eo<|>iAeotatcon
eTTiOKoTTCOn TTeiOOeij, exeipotonrioa t o n OeoctiAeotaton erioKorron Eiprinainon t o n te
CnAon a i t I I n meyaAo^uxian a i t i i n <t>iAoTTtCoxeian a i t a j a AAaj autco auneiScoj
a p e t a j , Kai rrpoj t o u t o i j , t I I n t C3n Soymatcon opOotTita.

Azema, however, corrects this initial impression and follows Tillemont by

putting the text "I have ordained..." onwards in quotations/ 3 In other
words, this is the text statement that Theodoret is suggesting that Domnus
of Antioch make to justify his ordination of Irenaeus. Even if Theodoret
did not personally ordain Irenaeus, though, Theodoret's impassioned
defense of Irenaeus' orthodoxy, in addition to his personal correspondence
to Irenaeus, suggest that his case was close to his heart/ 4 The diversity of
subject matter in their extant correspondence points to an ongoing friend-
ship. He writes to commiserate with Irenaeus when they are both subject
to imperial censures in 448 (Epp. 12 and 16), he quibbles with Irenaeus
over the appellations theotokos and anthropotokos for Mary (Ep. 16), he
recommends to Irenaeus one Celestinianus, who, with his wife and child-
ren, has fled destitute from the Vandals in Africa (Ep. 35), he consoles

72 Ep. 110, Azema, Vol. 3, 40-41. Engl, trans. NPNF, 290.

73 Louis-Sebastien Le Nain de Tillemont, Memoires pour servir a l'histoire ecclesiastique
des six premiers siecles, Vol. 15, Paris, 1693-1712, 871-872, followed by Giinther,
Theodoret von Cyrus (see note 4), 27. Cf. J. Martin, Le pseudo-synode connu dans
l'histoire sous le nom de Brigandage d'Ephese, etudie d'apres ses Actes retrouves en sy-
riaque, Paris 1875, 84-5. Cited in NPNF, 290 n.1860.
74 Epp. 3 (ca. 435), 12 (448/9), 16 (448/9), 35, and XIV. For Theodoret's
correspondence with Irenaeus, see Azema, Vol. 1, 29-30.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 81

Irenaeus on the death of his son-in-law (Ep. 12), and may even write to
Irenaeus' daughter, Alexandra, on the same subject (Ep. XIV).75
Once ordained, Irenaeus in turn appointed Aquilinus, a fellow sup-
porter of Nestorius, as bishop of Byblus/ 6 Little is known of Aquilinus but
it likely that he is to be identified with "Acylinus of Barbalissus" listed
among the "14 Irrreconcilables" who had lost their sees in 434 (see su-
Acylinus of Barbalissus (in Euphratensis), actually fled from the castrum, because he
would not communicate with John of Antioch; afterward he did indeed communicate
with him, but did not acquiesce to the "homicide" [i.e. the deposition of Nestorius].
The picture of Aquilinus at Second Ephesus as an unreconstructed Nesto-
rian is wholly in keeping with one who had never accepted Nestorius'
deposition in the first place. Though Perry, the English translator of the
Syriac Acts of Second Ephesus, rejects the identification on the grounds
that Acylinus of Barbalissus resumed his see once he re-entered commu-
nion with John, the obvious fact that Acylinus is included on a list of
those removed from their sees makes this extremely unlikely.78 If the iden-
tification is accepted, Irenaeus' ordination of an erstwhile associate bears
strong similarities to the way in which Ibas of Edessa extended his influ-
ence by the ordination of his nephew Daniel as bishop of Carrhae.
How could two men, one exiled by imperial order and the other de-
posed from his see, both unrepentant supporters of Nestorius, find posi-
tions as bishops a decade later in the province of Phoenikei In light of their
evident personal relationship with the bishop of Cyrrhus and their clear
doctrinal affinities with him, it is difficult to believe that Theodoret did
not, at the very least, recommend Irenaeus to Domnus of Antioch as a
suitable bishop of Tyre. Theodoret also enjoyed epistular relations with
several high officials in the East. Theodoret wrote petitions to Flavius
Constantius, then the Praetorian Prefect of the East,79 and a letter of con-
solation and congratulations on attaining the consulship to the then magis-

75 For this plausible hypothesis, see Azema, Vol. 1, 55.

76 See Actio V (22 August) of Second Ephesus, Flemming Akten (see note 68), 77-79;
Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus (see note 39), 182-86, for the evidence given by
PhotiusofTyre against Aquilinus.
77 Coll. Cas. 279 (ACO 1.4, 204). For the town of Barbalissus (Syriac Bales), see now
the descripion in Robert R. Phenix, The Sermons of Joseph of Balai of Qneeshrin:
Rhetoric and Interpretation in Fifth-century Syriac Literature, STAC 50, Tubingen
78 Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus (see note 39), 180-81. The deposition of Aqui-
linus of Byblus is mentioned at Evagr. h.e. I 10 (ed. by J. Bidez and L. Parmentier,
Ecclesiastical History, London 1898, 18).
79 Ep 42, Azema, Vol. 2, 106-113. PLRE II 'Fl. Constantinus 22', 317-18.
82 George A. Bevan

ter utriusque militae per Orientiam Flavius Zeno. 80 It is impossible to de-

termine from the evidence of Theodoret's letters whether he enjoyed dee-
per personal ties with either of these high officials, but the connivance of
one or both of these individuals at these ordinations may be conjectured.
What is known with greater certainty is that when Irenaeus did get into
trouble in 448, Theodoret claimed in a letter to Domnus that an ano-
nymous spatharius and an ^-magister in Constantinople were willing to
promote his case in the capital:81
Moreover the letters which I read on the very day of the letter-bearer's arrival are of a
contrary tenor. For one of the holy monks has written to some one that he has re-
ceived letters both from the very illustrious guardsman and the very glorious ex-
magister stating that the case of the very godly lord bishop I r e n e s will stand more fa-
vourably, and in return for this good will they ask prayers on their behalf.
The identity of these two is not hard to deduce: the eunuch Chrysaphius
and Flavius Anatolius, the magister utriusque militae per Orientem from
433-446, and frequent correspondent of Theodoret's and patron of the
Eastern church.82
Just as in the case of Athanasius of Perrha, Theodoret was overconfi-
dent that the victory Antiochene dyophysitism over Cyril at the end of the
430s had given him carte blanche to install a network of supporters across
Oriens. Though it is tactfully omitted in the acts of Second Ephesus,
doubtless because it is a matter of secular not ecclesiastical concern, Ire-
naeus had violated an imperial order of exile. When the matter at last
reached the emperor's attention the hammer fell swiftly. The emperor

80 Epp. 65 and 71, Azema, Vol. 2, 144-47 and 154-57. PLRE II 'Fl. Zenon 6', 1199-
81 Ep. 110, Azema, V o l . 3, 40.5-10: A de aneynon Kat autr,n tr,n euepan, Ka6 r,n o
AeKtiKapioj aKIiKeto, y p a u u a t a , enantia t o u t o i j e a t i n . A y i o j y a p t i j [ionaCcon
tcdn eTTiOTIUCOn eypa^e r r p o j t i n a , cdj ede^ato y p a u u a t a a i t o u ueyaAoTTpeTreo-
t a t o u orraeapiou, a i t o u endo^otatou axro uayiatpcon, a r p a i n o n t a cdj diop8co-
oecoj t e u ^ e t a i t a rata t o n teo<t>iAeotaton emioKorron t o n Ku p ion Eiprinaion ai
t a u t r i j ye t ? , j orroudrij an t i d o o e i j arrritoun t a j urrep autcSn rrpooeu X aj. Engl.
trans. N P N F , 290.
82 For Theodoret's relations with Anatolius, see Azema, Vol. 1, 47-8. See A. Schor,
Patronage, Performance, and Social Strategy in the Letters of Theodoret, Bishop of
Cyrrhus, Journal of Late Antiquity 2.2, 2009, 274-299 for the broader context of his
friendship with Anatolius and other officials. For the identification with Chrysaphius,
see F. Millar, A Greek Roman Empire: Power and Belief Under Theodosius II (408-
450), Berkeley 2006, 184. Against the commonly accepted view that Chrysaphius op-
posed all those who promoted the "two natures", see now Bevan and Gray, The Trial
of Eutyches, 620-25. Cf. E. Schwartz, Der Prozess des Eutyches, Sitzungsberichte der
Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-historische Klasse Abt. 5,
1929, 1-93.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 83

issued a constitution on 16 February 448 to the Praetorian Prefect Hor-

misdas against Nestorius and his followers, and ordered that the clergy still
clinging to Nestorius' teaching be immediately stripped of ecclesiastical
rank. 83 Singled out among these was, of course, Irenaeus. Just how a man
who had twice been married and had escaped imperial exile had become
bishop of Tyre, the emperor professes not to know:84
But so that all persons may learn by experience, as our Divinity abhors persons affect-
ing Nestorius' impious faith, we ordain that Irenaeus, who formerly for this reason has
been subject to displeasure from us and afterward (we know not how), after two mar-
riages (as we have learned), contrary to the apostolic canons became bishop of the Ty-
rians' city, should be expelled from the holy Church in Tyre, but should live quietly
in his native community alone, deprived entirely of the priest's character and title.
A little more than a month later, Theodoret himself was relegated to his
see for "endeavouring to summon synods to Antioch" and "disturbing the
orthodox". 8 ' A letter of Dioscorus of Alexandria to Domnus of Antioch
supplies the background to the relegation edict.86 Theodoret had been
speaking in front of large numbers in Antioch against the recent imperial
decree that deposed Irenaeus, and continued professing the "two sons", i.e.
When the case of Irenaeus was again heard more fully at the Second
Council of Ephesus, extracts of his sermons were used to prove his Nesto-
rianism. Once again, though, the peculiar charge of digamy was again
raised as the prime objection to his ordination as bishop. The charge of
"bigamy" had long been used as term of derrogation for those who remar-
ried while their first wife was still living.8? In his Ep. 110 to Domnus
Theodoret cites several precedents in recent memory of remarried bishops,
including one Diogenes ordained by no less authority than the venerable

83 Coll. Vat. 138 (ACO 1.1.4, 66). Excerpt in CJ 1.1.3 (CIC(B).C, 6 Krueger), where
the superscription and subscription are preserved. English trans, by Coleman-Norton
(see note 26), Vol. 2, 741-743.
84 Coll. Vat. 138 (ACO 1.1.4, 66). English trans, by Coleman-Norton (see note 26),
Vol. 2, 742. Nowhere does the emperor ever say Irenaeus had been recalled from exile.
85 Ep. 79, Theodoret to Anatolius the Patrician, Azema, Vol. 2, 182-189. Engl, trans.
NPNF, 275. In Ep. 80, Azema, Vol. 2, 188-191, to the prefect Eutrechius, Theodoret
gives the text of the order: "Since so and so the bishop of this city is continually as-
sembling synods and this is a cause of trouble to the orthodox, take heed with proper
diligence and wisdom that he resides at Cyrrhus, and does not depart from it to
another city." Engl, trans. NPNF, 276.
86 Flemming, Akten (see note 68), 136-9; Perry, The Second Synod of Ephesus (see note
39), 335-7.
87 See T . D . Barnes, Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality,
Ithaca 1998, 123-26, especially 126 n. 36, for the problems concerning the second
marriage of the emperor Valentinian while his first wife was still alive.
84 George A. Bevan

Acacius of Beroea, and Praylius of Jerusalem (416-422) who ordained

Domninus of Caesarea.88 In neither case, though, is it clear that the first
marriage took place before baptism, a possible loop-hole that would have
mitigated the charge of digamy.89 Significant, also, is the fact that Theodo-
ret shares his position on digamy, unusual at the time, with Theodore of
Mopsuestia.90 That Irenaeus was a close follower of Theodore, and his
shadowy predecessor Diodore of Tarsus, is made amply clear when Theo-
doret responds to Irenaeus' displeasure at the fact that the bishop of Cyr-
rhus had not made mention of either in his defense of him.91
Just as in the imperial decree of February 448, though, the charge of
digamy at Second Ephesus amounted to something of a red-herring. It
served at once to distract attention from the embarrassing illegality of
Irenaeus' return, an act that surely could destroy careers of those who had
connived at it in imperial service, and to provide clear, unambiguous
grounds for his deposition. Indeed, so shocking was the return of this
notorious follower of Nestorius that Irenaeus lasted less than a year on the
episcopal throne. Although Theodoret had not ordained Irenaeus perso-
nally, the preponderance of evidence shows that the bishop of Cyrrhus,
not Domnus of Antioch, must have been instrumental in his return.
When taken in combination with the case of Athanasius of Perrha, one
gets the measure of just what a storm of controversy Theodoret had
aroused by the beginning of 448. In the end, not even his influential cor-
respondents in Constantinople, many of whom had no doubt connived at
his growing influence, could save him from deposition in 449.


Despite its characterization by pope Leo as the Latrocinium or "brigan-

dage", the Second Council of Ephesus and its decisions had every prospect
of establishing Cyril's "one incarnate nature" as a canon of orthodoxy
across the East.92 Sabinianus was removed from the see of Perrha and

88 En. 110, Azema, Vol. 3, 40-43. Praylius had been the predecessor of Juvenal in Jerusa-
lem and was ordained 416/17. E. Honigmann, Juvenal of Jerusalem, D O P 5, 1950,
209. Nothing is known of either Domninus or Diogenes beyond Theodora's letter.
89 Stefan Heid, Celibacy in the Early Church: the Beginnings of a Discipline of
Obligatory Continence for Clerics in the East and West, San Francisco 2000, 163.
90 Heid, Celibacy (see note 89), 159-162.
91 Ep.S 16, Azema, Vol. 2, 56-62.
92 W. de Vries, Das Konzil von Ephesus 449, eine "Raubersynode"?, OCP 4 1 , 1975,
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 85

Athanasius was re-installed as bishop; the removals of Irenaeus of Tyre and

Aquilinus were formally ratified.93 Theodoret was deposed from his see.
The emperor upheld the decisions of Second Ephesus despite the blan-
dishments of his western family members, and the pleas of the pope well
into 450. Had not Theodosius II, an unyielding supporter of Second
Ephesus, died in a riding accident in July of 450, the condemnation of
Theodoret and his colleagues likely would have stood for many years to
come. With the accession of Marcian and his "marriage" to the late-
emperor's sister, Pulcheria, the rehabilitation of those deprived at Second
Ephesus became a possibility.94
Theodoret was quickly restored by imperial fiat and was dramatically
introduced at the first session of Chalcedon, as a voting member no less,
much to the surprise of the assembled bishops at Chalcedon, many of
whom had voted to depose him in 449. 95 At the eighth session on 26 Oc-
tober, Theodoret was formally reinstated by a vote of the bishops once he
had anathematized Nestorius, who had died not long before the opening
of the council.96 At the fourteenth session the case of Athanasius of Perrha
was brought up, but the actual details were avoided in the investigation
that followed.97 As observed above, key letters describing the details of his
case, especially those by Isaacius the chief lector in Perrha (section 34) and
by John of Hierapolis (section 37), though evidently read out at the ses-
sion, were not recorded in the written acta.98 Similarly, the letters sent by
Domnus of Antioch to Athanasius and other bishops that summoned

93 Irenaeus was followed by Photius, who in turn appointed Peter to the see of Byblus.
Price/Gaddis (see note 28), vol. 2, 169-70.
94 R.W. Burgess, The Accession of Marcian in the Light of Chalcedonian Apologetic
and Monophysite Polemic, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 86/87, 1993/19994, 47-68.
95 Pulcheria reports in a letter to pope Leo, his Ep. 77 (22 November 450), that Marcian
had ordered that those bishops deposed by Dioscorus at Second Ephesus be recalled.
(ACO II.3, 18-19). Engl, trans Price/Gaddis (see note 28), Vol. 1, 93-4.
96 For the death of Nestorius and his relationship with Chalcedon, see G. Bevan, The
Last Days of Nestorius in the Syriac Sources, The Canadian Society for Syriac Studies
Journal 7, 2007, 39-54. Cf R. Kosinski, The Life of Nestorius as seen in Greek and
Oriental Sources, in: Continuity and Change. Studies in the Late Antique
Historiography, ed. by D. Brodka and M. Stachura, Electrum Studies in Ancient
History 14, Warsaw, 2007, 155-170 at 165-7.
97 Actio XV 1-163 (ACO II.1.3, 63[422]-83[442]).
98 For other instances of falsification or omission in the acta of Chalcedon, see R.M.
Price, Truth, Omission, and Fiction in the Acts of Chalcedon, in: Chalcedon in Con-
text. Church Councils 400-700, ed. by R. Price and Mary Whitby, Liverpool 2009,
92-107, especially 96-100. More generally, see E. Chrysos, The Synodal Acts as Lite-
rary Products, in: L'icone dans la theologie et Fart, Les Etudes Theologiques de
Chambesy, Geneve 1990, 85-93.
86 George A. Bevan

them to Antioch in 445, which no doubt retailed the case and are clearly
referred to in sections 96 and 101), were suppressed along with those by
Ibas of Edessa and Andrew of Samosata (section 105)." Why this should
be so is not entirely clear. It was perhaps hoped that the sordid details of
his case could be dealt with in a local council and not confuse matters at
Chalcedon. Indeed, after hearing the reports from the earlier synods that
had examined Athanasius' case, the imperial commissioners handed the
issue back Maximus of Antioch and gave him eight months to arrive at
some settlement in the matter. The commissioners evidently thought,
however, that the onus probendi lay in Athanasius' favour. If no new evi-
dence were to be discovered in the following eight months, Athanasius was
to be affirmed as bishop and aged Sabinianus to be sent into retirement.
That the imperial commissioners left open the door for Athanasius to
return to Perrha strongly suggests that, despite the exoneration of Theodo-
ret at Chalcedon, as well as the inveterate Nestorian Ibas of Edessa, the
case against the bishop of Perrha was simply too weak and charged with
partisan interests to be dealt with at the general council. Indeed, had the
extent of Thedoret's meddling in episcopal elections been exposed, the
very mission of the Council - to reverse the decisions of Second Ephesus -
would have been imperiled. Such a strategy applied a fortiori to the even
more troubling case of Irenaeus. Although matters related to the see of
Tyre came up for discussion on 20 October in an unnumbered session,
Irenaeus was never mentioned in the acta and no attempt was made to
exonerate him.100 Either Irenaeus had died, or his case so far gone as not to
make it onto the docket. In this way Irenaeus wound up in a similar situa-
tion to his old friend, Nestorius, whose few friends at the Council, Eusta-
thius of Berytus reported in a letter, called for his remains to be re-
turned.101 These calls, however, met with strong imperial diapprobation
and never made it into the official acta.
Theodoret never wrote about his experiences at Chalcedon, and cer-
tainly never revisited the cases of Irenaeus of Tyre and Athanasius of Perr-
ha in any surviving texts. Even his long Historia Ecclesiastica ends in 428
with the death of Theodore of Mopsuestia, thereby entirely eliding his

99 Other important letters were suppressed in the reading of the acta at Chalcedon: the
additional complaint by the subdeacon Philip (section 107) and statements by the
deacons Maris and Theophilus (section 120), both of whom had, it seems, detailed
knowledge of the affair concerning the silver columns.
100 For the act concerning Photius of Tyre and Eustathius of Berytus, see Price/Gaddis
(see note 28), Vol. 2, 169-182.
101 Evagr. h.e. II 2 (39 Bidez/Parmentier). See also Bevan, The Last Days of Nestorius in
the Syriac Sources (see note 96) at 46-7.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Syrian Episcopal Elections 87

involvement in the Christological controversy. Only a fragmentary letter

to John of Aegea, a Nestorian hold-out to Chalcedon, attests to his defense
of that council.102 The bishop of Cyrrhus' silence on this issues, however,
must not be mistaken for evidence of a pacific temperament. While he had
bent to prevailing wind and accepted the Peace of 433 and re-entered into
communion with John of Antioch, and by extension Cyril of Alexandria,
to save his own position when others, like Alexander of Hierapolis, were
being forced from their sees, the episcopal elections of the 440s gave
Theodoret scope to strike back at the conservative followers of Cyril whose
crypto-Apollinarianism the bishop of Cyrrhus held to be a profound af-
front to Christian orthodoxy.

102 For discussion, see P.T.R. Gray, Theodoret on the 'One Hypostasis.' An Antiochene
Reading of Chalcedon, Studia Patristica 15, 1984, 301-304.
Selection d'archeveques diphysites au trone
alexandrin (451-482): une designation artificielle et

Philippe Blaudeau
Des decouvertes textuelles recentes - notamment permises par le fonds
ethiopien - eclairent le processus de l'election au siege d'Alexandrie a une
haute epoque. En fonction de l'enseignement delivre par les acres ethio-
piens de Pierre d'Alexandrie, on peut retenir qu'avec le passage au mone-
piscopat, dans la seconde moitie du IP s., la regie consista dans le choix
d u n des pretres de l'Eglise, designe et ordonne dans la cite par ses col-
leges, en presence si besoin du cadavre de l'eveque precedent.1 Articulee a

1 "L'evangeliste Marc entra dans Alexandrie la septieme annee du regne de Neron; il

ordonna Ananias eveque, ainsi que douze pretres et sept diacres, et leur dit cette regie
qu'apres que serait mort l'eveque d'Alexandrie, les pretres se reuniraient et poseraient
leurs mains, dans la foi de notre Seigneur Jesus Christ, sur celui qu'ils auraient elu
parmi eux et agissant ainsi ils l'ordonneraient pour (etre) leur eveque en presence du
cadavre de l'eveque mort. Cette doctrine a demeure dans leur succession pour tous les
eveques qu'ordonnaient les pretres, depuis Ananias jusqu'au bienheureux Pierre, pa-
triarche qui racheta cinq cents prisonniers de la Marmeneqe (Marmarique), lui qui est
le seizieme eveque d'Alexandrie...". Acta Petri Alexandria, codex EMML 1763, cf.
"The Martyrdom of Saint Peter of Alexandria (EMML 1763, ff 79'-80"), ed. et trad.
anglaise G. Haile, AB 98, 1980, 85-92. La presente traduction francaise est etablie
d'apres la version italienne plus recente d'A. Bausi publiee par A. Camplani, Lettere
episcopali, storiografia patriarcale e letteratura canonica a proposito del Codex Vero-
nensisLX(58), Rivista di storia del cristianesimo, 3, 2006, 120. L'insistance sur cette
regie originelle du choix des douze pretres et de la "participation" du defunt precede
de YHistoria episcopatus Alexandrine (fin IV= s.), ouvrage que refletent les fragments de
la collection canonique recemment identifies par Bausi. Voir A. Bausi, La collezione
aksumita canonico-liturgica, Adamantius 12, 2006, 50, 55-56 et A. Camplani, A New
History of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (3 r f to 4* Century), in Ninth International
Congress of Coptic Studies (International Association for Coptic Studies, September
13-20, 2008), contribution qui m'a ete aimablement communique par l'auteur, a pa-
raitre. On la retrouve evoquee ensuite par la Vita sancti Petri Alexandria (BHG 1502
a), Une passion grecque inedite de S. Pierre d'Alexandrie et sa traduction par Anastase
le Bibliothecaire, ed. P. Devos, AB 83, 1965, § 18, 176, 34-37 et par Liberatus, Bre-
viarium Causae Nestorianorum et Eutychianorum 20 (ACO II.5, 135 Schwartz). Elk
90 Philippe Blaudeau

l'etude des autres textes evoquant la tradition ancienne, l'analyse de la suite

de ce meme passage atteste une evolution: elle laisse apparaitre que la par-
ticipation des eveques a l'election est sans doute a placer apres que Deme-
trios (189-232/233) eut commence a repandre l'institution episcopale
dans la vallee du Nil2. A suivre les conclusions d'E. Wipszycka, il faut
done considerer que l'introduction des chefs de communaute, recemment
crees, dans le processus de decision, intervint des la promotion d'Heraklas
(233) ou de Denys (247) comme l'indique saint Jerome. 3 Toutefois, il
resta de coutume de designer, avec la recommandation du predecesseur4 et
l'assentiment populaire, l'un des presbytres alexandrins qualifie par ses
moeurs et sa predication, jusqu'a ce que l'elevation d'Athanase, d'ailleurs
contestee, ne modifie quelque peu l'usage puisqu'il n'etait que diacre.5 Son
long episcopat de combat devait contribuer a accredits un peu plus en-
core le proces ainsi reforme, face a la contestation melitienne, face aux
installations ariennes surtout, celle d u n Gregoire (339)6 ou d u n Georges
de Cappadoce (357)7 tous deux etrangers au clerge local - au contraire de
Lucius (373)8 - et consacres loin dAlexandrie puis imposes par la force.

a cependant du souffrir nombre ^exceptions, voir en dernier lieu E. Wipszycka, The

Origins of the Monarchic Episcopate in Egypt, Adamantius, 12, 2006, 78.
2 "...Ensuite le bienheureux Pierre disposa [que], pour les eveques, [lordination] de
lordonne advint [ ? de la part des eveques]", dans A. Camplani, Lettere (cit. note 1),
3 E. Wipszycka, Origins (cit. note 1), 77 specialement.
4 Sur cette coutume a laquelle tend a sopposer le canon 23 du concile dAntioche
(legislation, traditionnellement datee de 341 mais a fixer plutot en fonction du concile
preside par Eusebe de Cesaree en 327), cf. A. Martin, Athanase dAlexandrie et l'Eglise
d'Egypte au IVe siecle (328-373), CEF 216, Rome, 1996, 326-327 et E. Wipszycka,
Le istituzioni ecclesiastiche in Egitto dalla fine del III al inizio dell'VIII secolo, in
L'Egitto cristiano: aspetti e problemi in eta tardo-antica, ed. A. Camplani, SEA 56,
Rome 1997, 253.
5 Et age de trente ans tout au plus, cf. A. Martin, Athanase (cit. note 4), 328-335 spe-
6 Index des lettres festales 11 (Histoire "acephale" et index syriaque des lettres festales
d'Athanase dAlexandrie, SC 317, 236-239 Martin). Gregoire est elu par le concile eu-
sebien dAntioche (338-339), voir Socr. h.e. II 10 (SC 493, 40 Maraval). II avait etu-
die a Alexandrie. Voir A. Martin, Athanase (cit. note 3), 404.
7 Index des lettres festales 29 (256-257 Martin), Histoire acephale 2,2 (144 Martin).
Sur son ordination a Antioche des 350, cf. Soz. h.e. IV 8 (SC 418, 216 Sab-
bah/Grillet/Festugiere) et en dernier lieu les remarques de P. Maraval dans Socr. h.e.
II 14 (55 avec note 3, Maraval). II partageait avec Gregoire une origine cappado-
cienne. Sur le personnage ainsi promu, voir encore A. Martin, Athanase (cit. note 3),
8 Histoire acephale 4,7 (158 Martin); sur son parcours jusquau siege alexandrin et son
intronisation, cf. A. Martin, Athanase (cit. note 3), 790-792.
L'election d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 91

Conservee face aux intrusions ariennes, la pratique specifique de l'election

au siege alexandrin satisfait aux canons niceens et conforte l'union en
forme de controle etroit qui caracterise le rapport entre la structure eccle-
siale de l'Egypte et son unique chef. Tout autant que l'effort de controle
progressivement montre par Mite urbaine, importance acquise du phe-
nomene monastique marque a son tour le deroulement electif, tant du
cote de la manifestation populaire signifiant sa preference, que du laureat
dont l'experience ascetique est particulierement appreciee. Quant au lien
de parente avec le defunt, il peut ajouter a la distinction de l'interesse et
garantir ainsi le programme geo-ecclesial fixe, pourvu que le candidat ne
contrevienne pas aux autres qualites requises. Ainsi un certain profil tend-
il a se degager, a mesure egalement que l'appareil de gouvernement eccle-
sial attache a l'archeveque, la curie en quelque sorte,9 se developpe et que
des figures comme l'archipretre, l'archidiacre (ainsi de Dioscore)10 ou
Confortee par la longevite de figures parvenant a s'imposer et a ac-
croitre leur autorite, qu'il s'agisse de Theophile (385-412),12 de Cyrille
surtout (412-444), dont l'election fut pourtant contested 3 la credibilite

9 Dont la composition est remarquablement mise en lumiere par E. Wipszycka, Les

gens du patriarche alexandrin, in Alexandrie medievale 3, ed. Ch. Decobert, Etudes
alexandrines 16, Le Caire, 2009, 93-109 specialement.
10 Liberatusbrev. 10 (ACO 11.5 113).
11 Peut-etre faut-il concevoir que cette fonction a pu etre repartie a loccasion entre deux
ou plusieurs responsables: cf. E. Wipszycka, Les gens du patriarche (cit. note 9), 20.
12 Theophile etait vraisemblablement diacre quand il fut retenu (Histoire acephale 5,14,
168 Martin) ou archidiacre peut-etre, Excerpta latina Barbari (dont la forme grecque
originale pourrait remonter au VL s. (?), M G H AA 9, ed. Th. Mommsen, 1892, 297),
voir la note d'A. Martin, Histoire acephale (cit. note 6), 212-213. Voir aussi F. Fatti,
"Eretico, condanna Origene!" Conflitti di potere ad Alessandria nella tarda antichita,
13 Deja clerc quand il assista au concile du Chene (403, d'apres sa lettre a Acace de
Beree, ep. 33, 432 (ACO 1.1.7, § 4, 148), Cyrille n'etait cependant pas en charge du
poste le plus eleve dans son grade lorsque survint la mort de son oncle. II dut affronter
la concurrence de l'archidiacre Timothee. Aussi son election fut-elle soutenue - et non
contrariee - par le comes Aegypti Abundantius comme le prouve le temoin armenien
du texte de Socrate, preferable en l'espece: Socr. h.e. VII 7 (SC 506, 34 Maraval) ; voir
les precisions dans l'apparat critique de G. Ch. Hansen, Sokrates Kirchengeschichte
(GCS NF 1, 353) et T. Barnes, Armenica Veritas, JEH 48, 1997, 729. Considerer que
le propos de Socrate est le produit de son hostilite a Cyrille et se revele par suite vrai-
semblable en l'espece, comme le fait S. Wessel, Socrates' Narrative of Cyril of Alexan-
dria's Episcopal Election, JThS 52, 2001, 103, c'est evacuer la difficulte du recit plu-
tot que de la traiter. Sur cet episode, voir encore notre Puissance ecclesiale, puissance
sociale: le siege alexandrin au prisme du Code theodosien et des Constitutions sirmon-
diennes, in Le Code theodosien et l'histoire sociale de l'Antiquite tardive (Universite
92 Philippe Blaudeau

attachee au processus de designation ainsi precisee de Farcheveque alexan-

drin, contribue a l'expression de son pouvoir, dont Dioscore fait un usage
immediat sans doute un peu plus appuye que de coutume seulement, en
remaniant la curie et en ecartant done de postes retribues certains familiers
de Cyrille qui lui en conserveront une vive rancune.14 De meme chaque
nouvel archeveque, normalement ordonne dans la cathedrale (eglise de
Denys tout d'abord (?),15 Theonas 16 puis Kaisareion17) cherche-t-il a
s'assurer de la fidelite des tres nombreux eveques, jusqu'a cent-dix peut-
etre, qui lui sont subordonnes, en nommant aux postes vacants - confor-
m a n t ou non au souhait local - et en consacrant personnellement les
individus retenus. Aussi, anticipee en quelque sorte des la premiere session
par la defection de quatre eveques egyptiens18 - qui ne lui devaient sans
doute pas leur ordination - la deposition de Farcheveque Dioscore a Chal-
cedoine suscite un veritable traumatisme pour l'Eglise d'Egypte tout en-
t i r e , bien illustre par la celebre formule de treize autres suffragants: con-
voques lors de la 4e session du concile, alors qu'ils se voient sommes de
donner leur assentiment au Tome de Leon, ils s'ecrient en effet: "Nous
mourrons, par vos pieds, ayez pitie de nous. Que nous mourrions ici et
non la-bas. Qu'on nous donne un archeveque et nous souscrivons et tom-
bons d'accord. Ayez pitie de ces cheveux blancs. Qu'on nous donne un
archeveque. Anatole, Farcheveque tres cher a Dieu, sait quel est Fusage
dans le diocese d'Egypte, que tous les eveques obeissent a Farcheveque
d'Alexandrie. Nous ne desobeissons pas mais on nous tuera dans la pa-

de Neuchatel, Neuchatel, 15-17 fevrier 2007), ed. J.-J. Aubert et Ph. Blanchard, Uni-
versite de Neuchatel, Recueil de travaux publies par la Faculte des Lettres et Sciences
Humaines 55, Geneve, 2009, 99.
14 Ainsi du diacre Theodose et du pretre Athanase qui deposent des libelles centre lui
devant le concile, lors de la session du 13 octobre 451, cf. ACO II.1.2, 15-17 et 20-
15 Uhypothese est lancee par A. Martin, Les premiers siecles du christianisme a Alexan-
dria Essai de topographie religieuse (IIP - IV= siecles), REAug 30, 1984, 213.
16 J. Gascou, Les eglises d'Alexandrie: question de methode, Alexandrie medievale 1, ed.
Ch. Decobert et J.-Y. Empereur, Etudes alexandrines 3, Le Caire 1998, 39.
17 Habituellement situe sur Templacement de l'ancien sanctuaire dedie au cuke imperial.
Cf. A. Martin, Topographie (cit. note 15) 217-218. Pour une comprehension alterna-
tive du monument precedent (des bains) - et done de sa localisation - qui aurait servi
de substructure a l'edifice, cf. J. Gascou, Eglises (cit. note 16), 32-33.
18 Athanase de Busiris, Ausone de Sebennytos, Nestor de Phragon et Macaire de Cabasa.
Ils soulignerent alors que Flavien, lors de la T session du synode constantinopolitain
de novembre 448, avait bien expose la foi (ACO I I . l . l , 116-117). Voir notre Alexan-
drie et Constantinople (451-491). De l'histoire a la geo-ecclesiologie, BEFAR 327,
Rome 2006, 142.
E l e c t i o n darcheveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 93

trie."19 Cette expression ne revele pas seulement la specificite de la cons-

truction ecclesiologique egyptienne. Elle manifeste l'immense deficit de
credibilite et de legitimite qui menace tout substitut de Dioscore. Pire
encore, a trop apparaitre comme ayant ete designe par un concile juge
hostile, ce remplacant risque bien d'etre identifie aux precedents arche-
veques ariens de sinistre memoire, a Alexandrie et par toute l'Egypte. Ren-
due plus critique par cette redoutable evocation, la situation du nouvel elu
promet d'etre compliquee encore par la degradation du rang reconnu au
siege de saint Marc, telle quelle a ete enregistree lors du concile de 451,
tant au plan doctrinal, puisque Yhoros peut etre considere comme peu
conforme aux enseignements cyrilliens, qu'au plan hierarchique, eu egard
a l'enonce du decret disciplinaire (28e canon).20 Face a un tel defi, faut-il
done croire que les elevations de Proterius et de ses successeurs, Timothee
Salophaciol et Jean Talaia, ne sont que mascarades entierement orchestrees
et verrouillees par le pouvoir imperial? L'etude des differentes sources con-
fessionnelles, au-dela des vigoureuses charges polemiques, ne confirme pas
la simplicity de cette representation. Bien plutot, elle laisse entrevoir des
initiatives plus soucieuses du respect de la tradition elective que ne le laisse
supposer une trop rapide repartition narratologique des recits. Cette quete
de legitimite alexandrine fait aussi apparaitre une evolution sensible des
choix identitaires, que revele exemplairement la colere de Zenon a la nou-
vellede la designation de Jean Talaia.

Election chalcedonienne et quete de legitimite alexandrine:

I. Proterius, ou la recherche d'une certaine delegation successorale

Chalcedonien, l'archidiacre carthaginois Liberatus, qui redige son Brevia-

rium causae nestorianorum et eutychianorum avant 566, est l'auteur qui
nous informe le plus precisement des conditions de designation de Prote-
rius fin 451. Sans doute son recit, qui merite d'etre cite, emprunte-t-il aux
archives alexandrines, peut-etre meme a ces annotations chronistiques

19 ACO II.1.2, 113. L'age avance qualleguent les protestataires nest pas un simple topos:
voir E. Wipszycka, Istituzioni (cit. note 4), 247.
20 Pour une mise en evidence de ces consequences du concile chalcedonien particuliere-
ment penibles aux Alexandras, voir Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 126-
94 Philippe Blaudeau

appelees ephemerides21 abritees par les archives ou a des formes plus elabo-
rees de narration attestataire. La teneur du passage est la suivante: "Une
fois done termine le grand et venerable concile de Chalcedoine ... on or-
donna que Dioscore soit exile dans la cite de Gangres, et que les eveques et
les clercs qui etaient venus avec lui revinssent a Alexandria des ordres
imperiaux destines a l'augustal Theodore avaient precede Athanase eveque
de Busiris, Nestorius de Phragon, Auxane de Sebennytos et Macarius de
Cabasa qui avaient siege a Chalcedoine et anathematise Eutyches et sa
croyance, souscrivant a la lettre de Leon et a la condamnation de Dioscore,
afin qu'avec la volonte de tous les habitants, ils elisent l'archeveque a or-
donner. Les nobles de la cite furent done rassembles pour qu'ils elisent
celui qui etait digne du pontificat par la vie et la parole: e'est cela en effet
qu'ordonnaient les decisions imperiales. Et comme bien des hesitations
s'etaient prolongees, les habitants voulant absolument que Ton n'ordonne
personne, de peur qu'ils ne parussent parricides, puisque Dioscore vivait
evidemment, en derniere instance, la sentence de tous pencha pour Prote-
rius, celui a qui en tout cas Dioscore avait confie l'Eglise et qu'il avait fait
archipretre. Ordonne, le susdit Proterius fut done intronise, en presence
des eveques signales, eux qui, comme il a ete dit, avaient souscrit au sy-
node. Et une fois intronise, une division et une separation du peuple se
produisit, par ce que Dioscore etait vivant et se trouvait en exil."22 La ri-
chesse du propos, de meme que ses omissions et ses retenues, sont remar-
quables: on releve en effet que pour eviter tout rappel facheux, la proce-
dure se tient entierement a Alexandrie. Apparaissent nettement la qualite
clericale,23 conforme, de l'elu, la participation au choix, attendue mais en
l'espece contrainte, de Mite sociale et politique de la plebs fidelis et
implication des quatre eveques deja signales, censes represents tout le
college episcopal, tant en matiere de designation que de consecration. On
remarque aussi la recommandation dont aurait fait l'objet l'archipretre au
depart, toujours aleatoire, de l'archeveque vers le concile et l'unanimite des
differents decideurs finalement obtenue. A ces traits qui soulignent la legi-
timite de l'ordonne, Liberatus apporte un contrepoint significatif. Il in-

21 Sur celles-ci, cf. A. Campkni, in Athanase d'Alexandrie, Lettere festali, Anonyme,

Indice delle lettere festali, Lettere cristiane del primo millenio 34, Milan 2003, 88.
22 Liberatus brev. 14 (ACO II.5, 123). Voir egalement la contributation de S. W. J.
Keough, Episcopal Succession as Criterion of Communion dans ce meme volume.
23 Sa connaissance de l'apparcil ecclesial alexandrin se serait double d u n e aptitude a
controler l'emploi de ses tres importantes ressources et du nombreux personnel qui
devait les administrer. Une source copte le dit en effet econome (A Panegyric on Ma-
carius Bishop of Tkow Attributed to Dioscorus of Alexandria (CSCO 416 Copt. 42,
93 Johnson), Leuven 1980. Voir encore E. Wipszycka, Les gens du patriarche (cit.
note 9), 105-108 notamment.
E l e c t i o n darcheveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 95

dique en effet que la population manifeste son opposition a la procedure et

reprend meme l'accusation de parricide, ce qui denote une reelle capacite a
evoquer les caracteristiques de la position adverse, alors que, depuis le
pontificat de Leon, l'heresiologie romaine brandit au contraire cette incri-
mination a l'encontre de Timothee Aelure.24 Sans doute cette indication,
apparemment contre-productive, provient-elle d u n e prise de conscience
aigue: connaisseur avise des usages alexandrins, Liberatus est pleinement
au fait du grave ecart a la regie represent, en un moment ou le siege est
tres serieusement fragilise, par l'absence de toute transmission de la charge
du mort au vivant. II ne meconnait pas que la blessure symbolique ainsi
constatee accuse le sentiment de trahison eprouve par un grand nombre,
sentiment que recapitule la terrible incrimination. En outre le Carthagi-
nois tait toute implication specifique du clerge dans l'election. Ce silence
est singulierement pesant, surtout si Ton considere le grade diaconal de
rhistoriographe et son interet pour ses confreres.25 II est a croire que ce
groupe de ministres, pretres et diacres surtout, a refuse de se prononcer
jusqu'a ce que, sous la pression des quatre eveques, sans doute accrue par
le prefer augustal et ses obliges, l'archipretre et econome ait consent! a son
elevation. Le souvenir de cette reserve qui confine a une assez forte de-
fiance semble a l'origine du passage qui figure dans le panegyrique de Ma-
caire de Tkow: dans celui-ci, Proterius, desireux de souscrire au Tome de
Leon en toute hate, se voit refuser le calame par tous les secretaires (de
Yepiscopium?) jusqu'a ce que l'un d'entre eux, Salophaciol (!) le lui procure
enfin.26 Designe avec le vigoureux appui de l'autorite imperiale, Proterius
est done accepte bien plus que plebiscite par son clerge, qui joint cepen-
dant un courrier a la synodique que celui-ci adresse au pape Leon. Expri-
mant une nette insatisfaction, la reaction du pontife aux trois lettres recues
(la poste comportant egalement le courrier des ordinateurs) suggere que
l'archeveque alexandrin n'a pas accepte d'emblee son Tome, au contraire
de ses consecrateurs.27 Autrement dit, ayant conscience que la rupture
symbolique intervene entre les deux sieges en 449 est dune singuliere

24 Voir notre Rome contre Alexandrie? I n t e r p r e t a t i o n pontifkale de l'enjeu monophy-

site, Adamamius 12, 2006, 184-185 specialement.
25 Sur ce point, voir notre article Liberatus de Carthage ou l'historiographie comme
service diaconal, Augustinianum 50, 2010, 543-565.
26 Panegyric on Macarius (CSCO 416 Copt. 42, 93 Johnson).
27 L e o n a J u l i e n d e C o s . e p . 113, 11 mars 453, J W 489 (ACO II.4, 66,28-30): "Concer-
nant les moines d'Egypte, dans quelle mesure ils sont calmes et quelle est leur foi et au
sujet de la paix de l'Eglise dAlexandrie, je desire savoir ce qui vous est rapporte (a ce
propos) par des messagers veritables ; les ecrits que j'ai envoyes a leur eveque, a ses or-
dinateurs ou aux clercs, j'ai voulu que tu les connaisses par les copies que je t'ai
jointes" (sauf mention contraire, les traductions de l'epistolier pontifical sont notres).
96 Philippe Blaudeau

gravite et previent tout accord identifie a une capitulation de la christolo-

gie alexandrine, ce n'est pas d'abord du cote de Rome que Proterius re-
cherche une eventuelle confirmation prestigieuse de son elevation, quoi
qu'en disent plusieurs sources miaphysites d'origine copte.28 II est probable
en revanche qu'il signifie sans tarder son souci de donner a Marcien les
gages attendus en souscrivant la foi du concile.29 Ce n'est que plus tard,
devant le durcissement des positions, l'emeute populaire et la repression
d'Etat, peut-etre adoucie par son intervention, que Proterius admet la
lettre doctrinale de Leon, malgre l'imperfection et l'ambiguite de sa tra-
duction grecque,30 La mort de Dioscore (sept. 454) lui donne une derniere
occasion de chercher a conjurer la faute originelle associee a son election,
celle de n'avoir pas eu l'agrement de son predecesseur. Si les indices sont
tenus, Zacharie le Rheteur semble suggerer qu'une insertion du nom du
defunt est operee dans le diptyque des morts,31 alors meme que deja peut-
etre se repand le bruit, cote antichalcedonien, suivant lequel Dioscore s'est
prononce en faveur de Timothee Aelure,32 Vaine, cette derniere tentative
fait bientot place a l'oppression d'Etat, notamment scandee par l'edit du
1" aout 455, puis a un dechainement de violence dont Proterius est lui-
meme la victime le 28 mars 457. La cremation de son corps puis la disper-
sion de ses cendres previennent certes toute veneration de ses reliques,33
Elles ont aussi pour objectif de rompre absolument la chaine de succession
de ceux qui admettent l'enseignement chalcedonien. Ce faisant, cependant
elle facilite paradoxalement la tache de celui qui pourrait devenir le chef

28 Que ce soit le Panegyrique de Macaire de Tkow deja signale ou l'Histoire de Dioscore,

patriarche d'Alexandrie ecrite par son diacre Theopiste, ed. et trad, francaise F. Nan,
Journal asiatique, lOe ser. 1, 1903, 291, recits selon lesquels Proterius accepte sans de-
lai la lettre dogmatique de Leon.
29 Ce dont fait a sa maniere memoire Jean de Nikiou dans sa Chronique, ed. H. Zoten-
berg, in Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Nationale, 24, Paris,
1883, § 88, 476: "cet eveque avait d'abord ete archipretre a Alexandrie ; puis lorsquil
eut signe le rescrit imperial, les chalcedoniens l'avaient nomme eveque".
30 Pour une presentation plus detaillee de ce raisonnement, cf. notre Alexandrie et Cons-
tantinople (cit. note 18), 145-148.
31 Ce qui laisse accroire qu'une telle initiative a pu etre un temps prise par Proterius au
moment de la venue de Jean le Decurion. Cf. Zach. rh. ( = Zach. schol.) h.e. Ill 11
(CSCO 87 Syr. 4 1 , 114,6-9 Brooks): "et son nom avait ete place dans le diptyque ;
mais que personne parmi ceux qui prennent soin de vituperer les choses qui ne sont
pas faites avec l'attention de l'ordre (requise) ne fasse de critique".
32 Cf. Histoire de Dioscore, patriarche d'Alexandrie ecrite par son diacre Theopiste (cit.
note 28), 255 ; voir aussi le Panegyrique de Macaire de Tkow (CSCO 416 Copt. 42,
94 Johnson), dont le passage est malheureusement corrompu.
33 Pour toutes les references utiles, voir notre Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note
18), 148-153.
L'election d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 97

diphysite de l'Eglise d'Egypte, en le degageant de tout rapport memoriel

par trop etroit avec l'infortune trepasse.

II. Timothee Salophaciol, ou la recherche de l'assentiment populaire

Un usage vraisemblable consiste a identifier Timothee Salophaciol avec le

pretre et econome homonyme faisant partie du groupe d'eveques et de
clercs proteriens qui se sont refugies a Constantinople apres le massacre de
l'archeveque,34 Or, si dans leurs courriers largement diffuses par
l'intermediaire du questionnaire imperial {codex encyclius), Proterius est
presente comme une victime innocente, ou meme un veritable martyr,35 il
ne semble guere que Timothee, une fois devenu archeveque, ait cherche a
exalter son predecesseur en tant que nouvel Abel.
Car Salophaciol parait avoir medite les causes de la preemption
d'illegitimite largement imputee a Proterius. Etroitement lie a lui certes, si
l'on admet qu'il etait pretre attache a son service, s'il etait son econome
surtout, il est repute pour des vertus ascetiques,36 volontiers cultivees par
Aelure mais qui, en revanche, n'avaient guere distingue, semble-t-il,
l'archeveque supplicie Proterius. Aussi lorsque Timothee le miaphysite est
eloigne d'Alexandrie (mars 460) non sans que le sang de nombre de ses
partisans soit abondamment verse,37 puis exile vers Gangres (juillet 460), 38
Salophaciol apparait-il comme l'homme idoine. Le recit de Liberatus rela-
tif a son election se fait cette fois singulierement bref et pointe principale-
ment Implication de l'ordre imperial confie au due Stilas.39 Toutefois, la

34 Ainsi que le porte la mention de sa signature au bas de la supplique adressee par ces
chalcedoniens d'Egypte a l'empereur (ACO II.5, 17,16).
35 Cf. la reponse des eveques de la province d'Europe, ACO II.5, 27,25.
36 Theod. lect. h.e. E 379 (GCS N.F. Ill, 106, 22 Hansen).
37 Zach. rh. h.e. IV 9 (126 Brooks), Vita Petri Iberi, ed. R. Raabe, in Petrus der Iberer.
Ein Charakterbild zur Kirchen- und Sittengeschichte des funften Jahrhunderts. Syri-
sche Ubersetzung einer um das Jahr 500 verfassten griechischen Biographie, Leipzig,
1895, 69 ; Michel Le Syrien, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite
d'Antioche (1166-1199), IX 1, Paris 1899-1910, Bruxelles 2 1963 (126-127 Chabot).
38 Voir Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 162.
39 Liberatus brev. 15-16 (ACO II.5, 124-125): "Et ces lettres ou relations de tous les
eveques (reunies) dans le corpus d'un seul codex sont appelees encycliques. Une fois
cela fait, l'empereur Leon ecrivit au due d'Alexandrie Stilas pour que, de quelque ma-
mere que ce soit, il chasse Timothee de l'episcopat et en intronise un autre par une de-
cision du peuple qui vengerait le synode. Ayant recu cet ordre, Stilas fit ce qui lui avait
ete commande, et relegua en exil Timothee Aelure sous severe garde a Cherson, et a la
place de Proterius, Timothee surnomme Salafacialus ou le blanc fut etabli."
98 Philippe Blaudeau

correspondance pontificate, par le biais des reponses de Leon donnees a

l'envoi groupe habituel en pareil cas, permet d'en savoir un peu plus. Au
pape qui avait reclame quelques mois plus tot de l'empereur une interven-
tion energique afin qu'un pasteur diphysite fut elu a Alexandrie,40 ses dif-
ferents interlocuteurs egyptiens, represents par le pretre Daniel et le
diacre Timothee, expriment l'assurance que c'est bien le choix du clerge,
du peuple et de tous les fideles qui s'est manifeste. lis insistent sur le calme
qui a entoure cette designation.41 Le nombre des consecrateurs (dix)42

40 Le pape Leon a l'empereur Leon, ep 169, 17 juin 460, J W 546, Coll. Avell. 51 (CSEL
85, 117,20-118,2 Giinther): "Decidez au sujet du chef catholique de cette cite ce qui
plaise a Dieu: qu'il soit exempt de toute aspersion si frequente de l'impiete condam-
nee, de peur que peut-etre, sous l'aspect de la cicatrice refermee, le cceur de la plaie ne
croisse et que le peuple chretien qui a ete libere de la perversite heretique, grace a votre
action (accomplie) ouvertement, soit de nouveau soumise aux poisons mortels" ; voir
aussi la lettre de Leon a Gennade, eveque de Constantinople, ep 170, 17 juin 460, J W
547, Coll. Avell. 52, 119,26-120,5: "Et que pour les Alexandrins, un eveque catho-
lique (issu) de leur clerge soit consacre, selon la coutume ancienne, par des Egyptiens
orthodoxes car ce parricide ne sera pas autrement abandonne par ses defenseurs a
moins que l'Eglise dAlexandrie qui doit etre restituee dans l'honneur de ses Peres et
dans sa liberie, n'obtienne un guide tres sur pour guerir tout ce qui a ete mauvaise-
ment accompli."
41 Cf. Leon a Timothee (Salophaciol), ep 171, 18 aout 460, J W 548, Coll. Avell. 53,
120,9-25. "Sous la splendeur de la sentence apostolique, il apparait manifestement
que, pour ceux qui aiment Dieu, tout a concouru pour le bien, et que, par dispensa-
tion de la piete divine, la ou sont enlevees les choses contraires, c'est la aussi que les
choses prosperes sont donnees. Car ce qui a ete experimente par l'Eglise alexandrine
demontre dans quelles peine et endurance des humbles elle a rassemble pour die les
tresors de patience, parce que le Seigneur est tout pres de ceux qui sont d'un cceur
tourmente et qu'il saluera les humbles d'esprit, une fois la foi de l'illustre prince glori-
fiee, par lequel la droite du Seigneur a montre sa force, afin que l'opprobre de
l'antichrist ne siegeat pas trop longtemps sur le trone des saints peres, lui dont
l'impiete ne nuisit a personne plus q u a lui-meme parce que meme s'il determina cer-
tains autres a l'association criminelle, il se souilla lui meme inexpiablement du sang.
Aussi, au sujet de ce que, par l'instigation de la foi, le choix du clerge et du peuple et
de tous les fideles a fait relativement a ta fraternite, je reponds que toute l'Eglise qui
est avec moi se rejouit et que j'espere que la bonte de la piete divine confirmera cela
par une grace demultipliee" ; de meme Leon aux eveques ordinateurs, ep 173, 18 aout
460, J W 550, Coll. Avell. 55, 123,4-15: "Je me rejouis d'avoir pris connaissance des
lettres de votre fraternite que nos fils le pretre Daniel et le diacre Timothee m'ont ap-
p o s e s , parce que la foi du glorieux et venerable empereur unie aux doctrines prophe-
tiques et evangeliques est parvenue, comme il l'avait voulu, aux saints resultats qui
plaisent a Dieu, de sorte qu'une fois que le tres cruel envahisseur de l'Eglise alexan-
drine eut ete chasse, transfere dans des lieux plus eloignes, le choix (electio) de toute la
cite a gagne un recteur digne de son gouvernement, en vue d'une consecration ou
nulle intrigue ne vous a agite , aucune sedition ne vous a ebranles, aucune adversite ne
L'election d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 99

conforte l'idee que l'episcopat ne manifeste pas une hostilite aussi sourde
et massive que celle qui avait encercle Proterius et ses quatre ordinateurs.
On releve en outre une insistance significative des courtiers que le pape
souligne a son tour: l'amour reciproque qui unit le pasteur et son peuple.43
Plus qu'un topos electif, elk consume l'enonce d u n programme, comme si
apres de nombreux tourments, la promotion de Salophaciol devait annon-
cer par son deroulement meme la visee principale de son gouvernement, a
savoir la recherche d u n sentiment unanime. 44 Pour gagner l'affection du
peuple qu'il se voit confier en plus du controle des eglises de la cite, le
nouvel archeveque reintroduit a son tour le nom de Dioscore dans les
diptyques, avec quelques gages de succes cette fois. Car, dans son cas, cette
initiative n'est plus grevee par la terrible hypotheque de s'etre substitue a
lui. Des lors, les tablettes constituent egalement un remarquable moyen de
pallier l'impossible iteration du rituel d'ordination le plus complet. C'est
pourquoi malgre les objurgations de Leon, il y a lieu de croire que cette
insertion n'est pas annulee tandis que le regne de l'empereur se prolonge.
C'est egalement la raison pour laquelle Salophaciol renouvelle cette meme
operation, quitte a s'en excuser ensuite aupres du pape Simplice,45 apres
avoir ete retabli, non sans violences, durant Fete 477. Articules a une mo-
deration que meme le miaphysite Zacharie, est amene a constater46 -
meme s'il cherche a la ridiculiser - , a une pratique de la charite que

vous a mis en mouvemem, Ion ne doutat pas que le merite de la saintete etablie, au vu
de tous, le preposait, lui dont tous desirait qu'il leur presidat."
42 D'apres l'adresse de Leon: Theophile, Jean, Athanase, Abraham, Daniel, Ioha, Paph-
nuce, Musaeus, Panulius et Pierre eveques egyptiens, ibidem, 123, 2-3. Deux d'entre
eux seulement se pretent au jeu de 1'identification des sieges. Cf. Alexandrie et Cons-
tantinople (cit. note 18), 163.
43 Cf. Leon aux pretres et aux diacres de l'Eglise alexandrine ep 172, 18 aout 460, J W
549, Coll. Avell. 54, 121,25-122,4: "Aux fds tres aimes salut dans le Seigneur. Exul-
tant, je me rejouis dans le Seigneur au sujet de la tres pieuse disposition que vous avez
entre vous, tandis que, comme vos ecrits le manifestent, Ion voit que le pasteur aime
son troupeau et que le troupeau aime son pasteur. Appliquez-vous done comme le dit
l'apotre a garder l'unite de l'esprit dans le lien de la paix (Ep 4, 3), hatez-vous de par-
venirau fruit devotre patience".
44 Liberatus brev. 16 (ACO II.5 126,5-11).
45 Simplice a Acace, ep 9, 8 mars 478, J W 578, Coll. Avell. 61, 139,10-15 (mention de
1'initiative, reprehensible aux yeux de Rome) ; a Acace, ep 11, 8 octobre 478, J W 580,
Coll. Avell. 63, 142,18-20 (indication de sa r&ipiscence). Voir encore Zach. rh. h.e.
IV 10; V 5 (127,25-26; 152,31-32 Brooks); Liberatus brev. 17 (ACO II.5 127,1) et
nos remarques dans Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 164-165.
46 Zach. rh. h.e. IV 10; V 5 (127, 152,29-34 Brooks).
100 Philippe Blaudeau

l'appareil archiepiscopal rend consequente47 et a une defense de la gran-

deur du siege de saint Marc face a Fenvahissante affirmation constantino-
politaine,48 les choix de Salophaciol contraignent Aelure a renforcer sa
revendication exclusive de legitimite: c'est ainsi qu'il ramene de Gangres
(475) les reliques de Dioscore49 et restaure ce contact communicatif deve-
nu un evident enjeu garantissant la validite sans partage de son autorite.
L'affection, sinon l'adhesion populaire dont jouit Salophaciol, ex-
plique a n'en pas douter son repli sans dommage a Canope (475).50 Elle
marque plus generalement un premier acquis de son entreprise pacifica-
trice censee verifier les promesses de son election. Mais l'archeveque ne se
contente pas de ce seul resultat: il vise a la perpetuation de la hierarchie
chalcedonienne en Egypte - en cream eveques certains de ses proches
comme l'y incite l'usage traditionnel. Cette intention suppose egalement
de prevoir sa propre succession face au peril constant consume par la pre-
sence active, quoique clandestine, de Pierre Monge. La crise antiochienne,
l'elevation, a Constantinople, de Calandion au siege syrien accusent un
peu plus l'urgence dune action en vue d'epargner a l'Eglise diphysite
d'Alexandrie une telle extremite, ou de l'obliger a admettre un texte de
compromis a la mode hierosolymite.51 Lancee dans ce but, la mission de
Talaia et de Gennade d'Hermopolis (480/481), au-dela des ambiguites se
rapportant a la conduite de l'econome,52 obtient de l'empereur le rescrit
qui parait donner satisfaction a cette attente.53 Aussi peut-on considerer

47 Perceptible dans le surcroit de soin mis par Zacharie le Rheteur pour signifier combien
celle d'Aelure, au moment de son deuxieme temps d'episcopat, l'emporte jusqu'a se
manifester a l'endroit de Salophaciol lui-meme: Zach. rh. h.e. V 4 (151,7-11 Brooks).
48 Zach. rh. h.e. IV 10 (127,27-35 Brooks).
49 Zach. r h . h . e . V 4 (151, 4-7 Brooks).
50 Theod.lect. h.e. £ 4 0 9 ( 1 1 4 Hansen).
51 Sur les differents elements de ce contexte, voir notre Alexandrie et Constantinople
(cit. note 18), 191-198.
52 Cf. Gesta de nomine Acacii, Coll. Avell. 99, 448-449 (sans quallusion soit faite aux
contacts etablis entre Jean et le maitre des offices Illus); Liberatus brev.16 (ACO II.5,
53 Cf. Felix a Zenon, ep 1, mars 483, J W 591, Be 20, Publizistische Sammlungen zum
acacianischen Schisma, ABAW N.F. 10, 67,2-6 Schwartz: "Or, jusquici ce fait de-
meure vrai que, tandis que la religion etait alarmee, vous promites au venerable Timo-
thee, alors vivant, que s'il devait lui arriver quelque chose de conforme a la nature
humaine, personne ne devait lui etre subsume si ce nest un pasteur (issu) du college
des clercs catholiques et consacre par des catholiques, parce qu'en aucun cas, au su de
votre serenite, aucune coutume, aucun rite, ne peut faire de ce premier dans la de-
mence eutychienne (Pierre) le successes de l'eveque (antistes) orthodoxe"; Felix a
Acace, ep 2, mars 483, J W 592, Be 2 1 , ibidem, 71,6-12: "repondant (par rescrit) a
Timothee le catholique de sainte memoire, alors a l'article de la mort, il (Zenon) avait
E l e c t i o n d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 101

que Salophaciol estime que les conditions ne sont pas routes reunies pour
que la promorion de Jean Talaia, peur-erre un ancien moine tabennesiote,
du couvent de Canope (?), pretre et econome en tout cas,54 puisse avoir
lieu sans heurt, et ce malgre la conformite de son origine, la progressiva
de son cursus ou les qualites dont il est dote. La conception defavorable du
rapport de force confessionnel qui regne dans la cite, quoi qu'on en dise,
tend done a conferer a la puissance etatique, puisqu'elle est requise pour la
troisieme fois, un indispensable et cependant facheux role participatif dans
le processus de designation de l'archeveque officiel.

III. Jean Talaia, ou la revendication d u n e autonomie federatrice?

A la mort de Salophaciol, et selon le voeu du defunt,55 Talaia est elu (entre

fevrier et avril 482) sans difficult* particuliere, a telle enseigne que Zacha-
rie le Rheteur se trouve dans l'incapacite d'alleguer quelque acte de vio-
lence cette fois, ni d'ailleurs quelque violation du respect formel des dispo-
sitions electives et sacramentelles. On peut penser peut-etre que la
transmission de Yomophorion du cadavre de Salophaciol a Talaia avait
meme conforte sa consecration.56 Cela expliquerait un peu plus pourquoi
Monge eprouva le besoin, une fois reconnu officiellement eveque
d'Alexandrie quelques semaines plus tard, de s'en prendre a la sepulture de
Salophaciol, de la deplacer, depuis sa depositio archiepiscopale (tres proba-

present par un mouvement d'inspiration divine tant pour les plans de son pontificat
que pour le clerge de la ville d'Alexandrie, en toute prevoyance, que devaient etre
prises des precautions afin que, quand le Seigneur aurait ordonne que le susdit eveque
quitte le sejour terrestre, seulement ne succedat au pontife defunt du corps des clercs
catholiques qu'un disciple qui serait eprouve comme etant quelqu'un qui communiait
avec les Eglises orthodoxes et ordonne par des catholiques". On remarquera la nuance
apportee par le juriste Evagre: Tempereur decreta qu'apres la mort de Timothee, ce-
lui-la devint eveque que le clerge et les autorites publiques auraient elu". Evagr. h.e. Ill
12 (Byzantine Text 1, 110,5-7, Bidez/Parmentier), trad. A.-J. Festugiere, Byzantion
45, 1975, 317,5-6.
54 La metanoi'a. Cf. notre Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 198-199.
55 Cf. De vitanda communione Acacii du pape Felix (sans doute l'ebauche d'un traite
repondant aux objections rapportees de Constantinople par l'ambassade menee par le
maitre des offices Andromaque en 489), Publizistische Sammlungen (cit. note 53),
33,16-17: "L'empereur a laisse toute chose au choix de Timothee le catholique. II est
done necessaire que s'ensuive ce que celui-ci a etabli et dit: qu'un catholique soit or-
donne par des catholiques".
56 Cfnotel.
102 Philippe Blaudeau

blement dans le martyrion de saint Marc) 57 jusque dans une tombe de

simple laic et d'en degrader ainsi la fonction memorise. 5 8 Quant a la
tranquillite apparente dans laquelle la consecration de Jean se serait te-
nue59, Zacharie le Rheteur la rapporte au concours de l'augustal Theo-
gnoste, seduit par les promesses corruptrices du simoniaque pretendu
qu'aurait ete Talaia.60 Bien plus grave encore, l'accusation de parjure qui,
sans tarder, est imputee a Jean par l'empereur, incrimination soutenue par
Acace61, est associee dans l'esprit du souverain a l'inquietante familiarite de
l'Alexandrin entretenue avec le maitre des offices d'alors Illus. Car, lors de
sa venue a Constantinople, couvert des louanges imperiales, Jean aurait
promis oralement de ne pas briguer la charge episcopale pour lui-meme.

57 Sur cette localisation, cf. Vita sancti Petri Alexandria (cit. note 1), § 13, 172,28-29:
aspasa/menoj (sc. Petrus) tou agiou euaggelistou Ma/krou ton ta/fon kai twn pro
autou ekei keime//nwn agi/wn episko/pwn .., Voir aussi l'komelie de S. Athanase des pa-
pyrus de Turin, ed. et trad. L. Th. Lefort, Museon 7 1 , 1958, 229 et J. Gascou, Les
eglises d'Alexandrie: question de methode, Alexandrie medievale, 1, ed. Ch. Decobert
et J.-Y. Empereur, Etudes alexandrines 3, Le Caire 1998, 38 ou encore id., Les ori-
gines du cuke des saints Cyr et Jean, AB 125, 2007, 273.
58 Felix a Acace, ep. 6, 28 millet 484, J W 599, Ve 5, Publizistische Sammlungen (cit.
note 53), 6 ; Theod. lect. h.e. E 425 et F 22b (118 Hansen); Liberatus brev. 17 (ACO
II.5, 130); Evagr. h.e. Ill 17 (116 Bidez/Parmentier). Par ailleurs, renouvelant en cela
une initiative deja prise par Aelure, les noms des titulaires chalcedoniens du siege
alexandrin sont effaces des diptyques. Voir Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note
18), 208.
59 Tranquillite que le temoignage de Simplice accredite un peu plus: "Naguere nous
avons recu, selon la coutume, une relation envoyee par le synode catholique d'Egypte
et par tout le clerge de l'Eglise d'Alexandrie, qui nous apprenait que Timothee notre
frere et co-eveque de sainte memoire, etait mort, et q u a sa place avait ete elu Jean, par
le consentement unanime de tous les fideles. II semblait done qu'il ne nous restait plus
autre chose a faire (p. 152) q u a rendre grace a Dieu et a nous rejouir, afin que, sans
scandale ni desordre, le prelat catholique qui avait succede au dtfunt dans son minis-
tere, put etre affermi comme il le desirait par l'assentiment du siege apostolique"
(Simplice a Acace, ep 18, 15 juillet 482, J W 587, Coll. Avell. 168, 151-152, la traduc-
tion est d'E. Revillout, Le premier schisme de Constantinople. Acace et Pierre Monge,
Revue des questions religieuses 22, 1877, 120-121).
60 Zach. rh. h.e. V 6 (154,32-155,2 Brooks); Evagr. h.e. Ill 12 (110, 8-10 Bi-
dez/Parmentier) reprend avec reserve l'accusation de corruption, mais rejette l'abus de
61 Simplice a Acace, ep 18, 15 juillet 482, J W 587, Coll. Avell. 168, 152,4-10: "Mais
voila que tandis que je traitais cette affaire, selon la coutume, on me remit des lettres
du tres heureux prince, dans lesquelles il etait dit que Jean etait coupable d'un parjure
qui n'etait pas inconnu a ta fraternite et le rendait indigne du sacerdoce. Aussitot je
me suis arrete et j'ai meme revoque ma sentence concernant sa confirmation, de peur
qu'on ne put me soupconner d'avoir fait hativement quelque chose contre un tel te-
moignage" (trad. E. Revillout [cit. note 59], 121).
E l e c t i o n d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 103

De ne pas la briguer certes mais sans doute pas de la refuser.62 II pensait

eviter ainsi d'apparaitre comme un autre Calandion, deja designe, au
risque du discredit, par le pouvoir et l'Eglise de la capitale conjugues. Sans
doute pensait-il que l'assurance de disposer de l'appui d'lllus - obtenue
alors que celui-ci n'est pas encore devenu l'adversaire declare de Zenon 63 -
lui offrirait en temps voulu le moyen de s'emanciper de la protection im-
perials de cette derniere, Jean n'avait en effet cesse de mesurer
l'ambiguite, puisque sa garantie ne tenait guere Monge a distance. Ainsi le
choix de la communaute diphysite d'Alexandrie, intervenu au debut du
printemps 482, repondait-il exactement au vif desk eprouve par l'elu lui-
meme: promouvoir une Eglise degagee, ad intra, du soupcon collabora-
tionniste sans etre en rupture avec l'orthodoxie chalcedonienne.64 Les voies

62 Cf. Ch. Pietri, D'Alexandrie a Rome: Jean Talai'a, emule d'Athanase au V° siecle, in
ALECANDRINA, hellenisme, judai'sme et christianisme a Alexandrie, melanges of-
fer* a Claude Montdesert, Paris 1987, 288. Voir encore le De vitanda communione
Acacii (cit. note 55), 33,17-30. "II est done faux de le (Pierre Monge) dire avoir ete
place en depot, de sorte qu'il fut elu en remplacement de celui avec qui jamais il ne
communia et dont il avait demande qu'il fut relegue plus loin. Si Jean avait jure de ne
pas devenir eveque, comment m'as-tu signifie par ecrit qu'il etait digne que lui fussent
confiees les tres grandes (choses) qui appartenaient au gouvernement de l'Eglise. Au
dessus du presbyterat, qu'y a-t-il de plus grand en vue du gouvernement de l'Eglise
que l'episcopat? S'il avait jure, pourquoi me signifier cela par ecrit? Et s'il a jure, pour-
quoi m'exposer qu'il advint ce contre quoi il avait jure ou bien s'il a ete fait ce que tu
as signifie par ecrit, pourquoi te mettre en colere? Pourquoi dis-tu qu'il s'est parjure
alors qu'il s'est produit ce qu'il avait jure ne pas devenir alors que toi tu avais signifie
par ecrit qu'il devait le devenir? II etait apocrisiaire, toutes choses lui revenaient, il
avait lui-meme le soin de toute chose de l'Eglise, personne n'etait tenu parmi les clercs
alexandrins pour preferable a lui, par l'honneur il etait pretre; que lui ajouter de plus
en vue du gouvernement de l'Eglise? Que lui apporter davantage sinon l'episcopat? T u
as voulu qu'il soit eveque, lui dont tu as signifie par ecrit qu'il devait etre plus qu'il
n'etait (car il restait rien d'autre sinon qu'il devint eveque)". Sur le raisonnement juri-
dico-canonique ensuite developpe a Rome a propos de la violation de serment impu-
r e a Jean et de la deposition qui s'en est suivie, cf. notre Quand les papes parlent
d'exil: l'affirmation d'une conception pontificate de la peine d'eloignement durant la
controverse chalcedonienne (449-523), in Exil et relegation: les tribulations du sage et
du saint durant l'Antiquite romaine et chretienne (P'-VP s. ap. J-C). Actes du col-
loque organise par le Centre Jean-Charles Picard, Universite de Paris XII Val-de-
Marne (17-18 juin 2005), ed. Philippe Blaudeau, De l'archeologie a l'histoire, Paris
63 Zach. Rh. h.e. V 6. (154 Brooks); Liberatus brev. 16 (ACO II.5, 125).
64 On notera a cet egard l'interessante remarque de Jean de Nikiou, tout a la fois inami-
cale a l'endroit de Talai'a et cependant tres suggestive quant a ses desseins: Celui-ci
(Jean Talai'a) s'etait empare du siege d'Ayes (Salophaciol) en corrompant les magistrats
par des dons. II declarait avoir pris l'engagement solennel de ne point rechercher
l'agrement de l'empereur Zenon pour sa nomination au gouvernement de l'Eglise
104 Philippe Blaudeau

retenues pour transmettre les synodiques informant de son election, privi-

legiant Rome et Antioche au detriment de Constantinople, resonnent alors
comme un supplement d'audace. Quant a l'envoi de xenia a Illus, il con-
fine a la provocation.65 Il n'est pas jusqu'a la fuite de Talaia, qui precede
de peu l'arrivee du nouvel augustal Pergamius, l'intronisation officielle de
Monge et sa reception de l'Henotique, qui ne consume comme l'ultime
prolongement de l'ordination du chalcedonien.66 En choisissant l'exil vo-
lontaire - dans l'espoir du retour triomphal - il entend inverser la distribu-
tion des roles et faire revetir au miaphysite le costume du candidat devoue
au pouvoir et soutenu par la force armee. Toutefois, bien que pleure, nous
dit Theodore le Lecteur, par tous les eveques, le clerge, les moines et le
peuple prets a le defendre,67 Talaia ne se retire pas dans la chora egyptienne
mais rallie Antioche, puis Rome.68 S'il n'est pas sans se referer a un certain
modele athanasien, un tel choix montre le mediocre enracinement de la
cause chalcedonienne dans la vallee du Nil. En un sens, l'echec de Talaia,
bientot confirme, revele l'incompletude de l'entreprise signifiee par son
ordination: capable certes d'etre elu a Alexandrie au temps voulu, au grand
jour et sans echauffouree notable, il ne peut s'enfouir le temps necessaire
en amont de la ville. Bref, en passe de reussir a etre l'eveque de la cite
alexandrine, au contraire de Proterius et plus assurement que Salophaciol,

65 Puisque Acace et Gennade, bien en cour, en sont prives (Liberatus brev. 16 [ACO II.5
125,32-33]); on sait que dans le cadre de la capitale, l'envoi de ces cadeaux honoraires
apres election pouvait donner matiere a insatisfaction. Ainsi, selon une tradition cons-
tantinopolitaine, le cubiculaire Chrysaphe, a moins que ce ne soit l'empereur Theo-
dose lui-meme - sur ce point cf. P. Gray et G. Bevan, The Trial of Eutyches, ByzZ
101, 2008, 622-623 - prit-il ombrage des simples pains benits que lui fit parvenir Fla-
vien en 446. Cf. Theophane, Chron., AM 5940 (BSGRT, 98 De Boor), et le frag-
ment sans doute tire de l'Histoire euthymiaque - ecrite entre 550 et 750 - sur ce
point, voir S. J. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and
Assumption, Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford 2002, 68-69 - qui figure dans le
Pandecte de Nicon (= PG 96, col. 747, note 58) et dans Nicephorus Callistus (h.e.
XIV 47 [PG 146, col. 1221]). L'echo de cette meme affaire, repercute dans le recit
d'Evagre (h.e. 11-2, 39), est cependant deforme. Voir encore P. Norton, Episcopal
Elections 250-600. Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity, Oxford Classical
Monographs, Oxford 2007, 88. Cette pratique, qui marque l'ingerence du pouvoir
imperial dans le processus de designation, semble s'etre etendue au contexte alexan-
drin. Car Zach. Rh. h.e. V 4 (151 Brooks), s'emploie a son tour a bien faire comprendre
que Timothee Aelure, apres sa reinstallation, ne fait pas acception de personne et envoie
a l'empereur du moment, Basilisque, ainsi qu'aux principales figures auliques, de bien
modestes xenia. Cf. aussi Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 615.
66 Sur l'ensemble de ces evenements, voir notre presentation historique dans Alexandrie
et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 200-202.
67 Theod.lect. h.e. £ 4 2 4 ( 1 1 7 Hansen).
68 Voir Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 206-212.
E l e c t i o n darcheveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 105

il echoue a s'affirmer comme le patriarche consacre pour route l'Egypte,69

nonobsrant la presence acrive de plusieurs eveques, pas seulement des cites
du delra les plus proches,70 er de quelques contingents monasriques, de la
Meranoia par exemple, lors de sa promotion.
Avec la reconnaissance officielle de Pierre Monge, la hierarchie chalce-
donienne s'interrompt un long moment. Tres habile dans sa gestion des
tensions propres aux sensibilites miaphysites, Monge n'evite pas tout a fait
la suspicion de connivence avec une Eglise imperiale jugee trop favorable
au siege constantinopolitain. Ce soupcon se manifeste plus severement a
l'occasion de la consecration de certains de ses successeurs. C'est le cas, a
en croire la Chronographie de Theophane le Confesseur, lors de la promo-
tion de Dioscore II (516?).71 Le reproche qui l'affecte ne concerne pas sa
personne - il est meme distingue par son etroite parente avec Timothee
Aelure - mais bien plutot la trop grande emprise des autorites representant
l'Etat sur la procedure qui l'a designe, au point que le clerge - ou une
partie principale de celui-ci - s'est estime floue. Une nouvelle ordination,
seule valable a ses yeux, est meme reclamee, non dans la cathedrale, mais
dans le complexe du martyrion de saint Marc semble-t-il/ 2 afin de mieux
refonder sa legitimite dans la succession des eveques qui est censee remon-
ter jusqu'a l'evangeliste. Encore faut-il relever que cette celebration ne
calme qu'apparemment les mecontentements: lors de la synaxe qui suit, a
l'eglise Saint-Jean/ 3 l'augustal Theodose est mis a mort. Une situation plus

69 La remarquable opposition a son egard de Gennade d'Hermopolis (cf. Liberatus brev.

17, 126,30-127,1) ajoute peut-etre a ce constat, meme si, en l'espece, die parait moti-
vee plus encore par les raisons personnels signalees ci-dessus.
70 Puisque les election et ordination n o n t guere tarde apres le deces de Salophaciol et a
meme pu faire l'objct d u n e mobilisation anticipatoire. Sur ce rapport de facilite entre
proximite et participation, cf. E. Wipszycka, Istituzioni (cit. note 4), 253.
71 Chronographie (cit. note 65) AM 6009, 163. Voir aussi notre contribution Ordre
religieux et ordre public: observations sur l'histoire de l'Eglise post-chalcedonienne
d'apres le temoignage de Jean Malalas, in Recherches sur la chronique de Jean Mala-
las, II, ed. S. Agusta-Boularot/J. Beaucamp/A.-M. Bernardi/E. Caire (Centre de re-
cherche d'Histoire et de Civilisation de Byzance, Monographies 24, Paris 2006, 245-
72 On sait q u u n e eglise lui etait associee. Cf. A. Martin, Topographie (cit. note 15),
216-217, note 34. Peut-etre la pression s'est-elle exercee tandis que le nouvel arche-
veque entendait celebrer les obseques de son predecesseur?
73 Faut-il se risquer a localiser l'episode? Penser en raison de l'imprecision des termes (sis
ton 'Icodnnnn) qu'il s'agit du martyrion conservant les reliques du Baptiste? L'idee est
tentante en ce que le sanctuaire, particulierement frequente, etait lui aussi federates:
Cyrille y fit savoir que la Concorde avec l'Eglise d'Antioche etait retablie (23 avril 433,
cf. ACO 1.7, 173). Et des lors situer done la manifestation dans l'edifice construit sur
une partie de Templacement du Serapeion? (A. Martin, Topographie [cit. note 15],
106 Philippe Blaudeau

conflictuelle encore intervient lorsqu'il s'agit de donner un successeur a

Timothee IV (535). Liberatus decrit non sans complaisance mais avec
precision le d e c r e m e n t qui advient alors parmi les miaphysites / 4 le seve-
rien Theodose, elu et consacre comme en catimini dans Vepiscopium (a
proximite du Kaisareion probablement) en presence des habituels commis
de l'Etat auquel s'est joint le cubiculaire Calotychius, envoye expres de
Theodora, est rejete tandis que l'incorrupticole Gaianas est choisi, fort
d u n assentiment repandu dans les differentes couches sociales et eccle-
siales. Ayant obtenu un soutien decisif, cette contre-ordination permet a
l'archeveque des julianistes de se maintenir a la tete de l'Eglise alexandrine
pendant plusieurs mois et oblige finalement a une intronisation manu
militari de Theodose/ 5 Cet epilogue marque non pas seulement
importance symbolique de sieger sur le trone de saint Marc, acte qui
conclut ordinairement l'ensemble des ceremonies de consecration, mais il
revele l'impasse dans laquelle se trouve le candidat du pouvoir. C'est seu-
lement la convocation du miaphysite a Constantinople puis son long exil
surtout qui valent a Theodose de beneficier dune legitimation aupres de la
communaute non-chalcedonienne que son election avait absolument
echoue a lui procurer/ 6 Comme si finalement, toute forme de connivence
d u n impetrant avec l'autorite imperiale tendait a etre proscrite par l'usage

222); voir les observations mettant en cause cette indication topographique de J. Gas-
con, Eglises (cit. note 16), 33-35 et la critique de celles-ci par A. Camplani, L'identita
del patriarcato alessandrino, tra storia e rappresentazione storiografica, Adamantius,
12, 2006, 38-40.
74 Liberatus brev. 20, 134-135.
75 Liberatus, brev. 20, 135,9-22: "Ayant done le soutien de certains parmi le clerge, des
notables {possessor*) de la cite, des corporations, des soldats et des nobles, Gai'anus
demeura dans l'episcopat 103 jours puis s'eloigna, chasse par les representants de l'Etat
(iudicibus). Et apres deux mois, le cubiculaire Narses envoye par l'augusta Theodora,
intronisa Theodose puis envoya Gai'anus en exil. On ignore ce qu'il advint de celui-ci,
mene a Carthage la Grande et de la apparemment envoye en Sardaigne. Or, Theodose
demeura sur le siege un an et quatre mois, peu de personnes prenant part a sa com-
munion, la plupart communiait dans le nom de Gai'anus. La population se battit pour
Gai'anus pendant de nombreux jours, die qui frappee par les militaire perdit la ma-
jeure partie (de ses membres) mais un plus grand nombre de soldats encore tomba.
Narses etait mis en echec non par les armes mais par l'union de la cite: des lieux les
plus eleves des habitations les femmes jetaient sur les soldats tout ce qui leur passait
sous la main. Et celui-ci obtint par le feu ce qu'il n'avait pu avoir par le fer, et la cite
fut divisee par ce schisme jusqu'a aujourd'hui". Voir aussi Michel Le Syrien, Chron.
1X21, 193-194 Chabot.
76 Comme en atteste le propos prete au populaire et commente par Michel le Syrien:
"comme le zele des Alexandras etait vehement, ils disaient: "Theodosius partage le
sentiment de l'empereur, tandis que celui qui est exile est orthodoxe". Aucune de ces
chosesn'etaitvraie" (Michel Le Syrien, Chronique, 1X21, 194.10-15B).
L'election d'archeveques diphysites au trone alexandrin (451-482) 107

alexandrin. Comme si la memoire du martyre de Pierre, des exils

d'Athanase et de la condamnation de Dioscore ajoutait aux exigences re-
quises celle de savoir se tenir a distance de la volonte imperiale, sans con-
tester par principe son pouvoir. Cette condition, discernee par Talaia,
devait etre decisivement bafouee au contraire lorsque Justinien montra son
intention d'imposer a nouveau un chef chalcedonien a Alexandrie. Volon-
tiers ordonne a Constantinople et sans aucune participation du clerge
alexandrin, ancien officier parfois/ 7 voire dote d'attributions militaires,78
sans etre lui-meme d'origine egyptienne (a l'exception de Paul de Taben-
nese),79 le choix du nouveau patriarche diphysite conformerait par le pro-
cessus de sa nomination meme l'elu a un serviteur de l'Etat,80 au risque
d'accuser la transformation de son Eglise remanente en une simple com-

77 A l'instar d'Apollinaire ordonne en 551 (cf. Apollinarius 2, PLRE III, 100) ou de Jean
IV consacre en 570 (voir jean de Nikiou, Chronique, § 94, 522, et J. Maspero, His-
toire des patriarches d'Alexandrie depuis la mort de l'empereur Anastase jusqu'a la re-
conciliation des Eglises Jacobites [518-616]. Ouvrage revu et publie apres la mort de
l'auteur par Adrian Fortescue et Gaston Wiet, preface Bernard Haussoulier, Paris
78 Ainsi de Paul le Tabennesiote surtout, sans doute pour preparer la mise en ceuvre de
l'edit XIII; voir A. M. Demicheli, La politica religiosa di Giustiniano in Egitto, Aegyp-
tus, 63, 1983, 235-238 et notre Alexandrie et Constantinople (cit. note 18), 439. Les
attributions d'Apollinaire paraissent egalement comporter une capacite a dechainer la
violence armee; e'est en tout cas ainsi que les sources d'origine copte se souviennent de
son action brutale: cf. J. Maspero, Histoire des patriarches (cit. note 77), 162-164.
79 Sur ses origines, cf. Liberatus brev. 23, 138-139 et nos remarques dans
L'historiographie comme service diaconal, (cit. note 25).
80 Conformement a une tendance que la legislation justinienne avait fortement accrue en
confiant aux eveques des taches de surveillance et de controle en matiere administra-
tive, civile et judiciaire. Cf. par exemple A. M. Demicheli, La politica religiosa di Giu-
stiniano (cit. note 78), 248-250.
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im
Synodicon Orientale 1

Peter Bruns
Der Irak isr seir Jahren ein Dauerthema in unseren Medien. Krieg
und Terror-Anschlage beherrschen die Berichtersrarrung. Hintergrundin-
formarionen liber Land und Leure fehlen dagegen weirgehend. Kaum
jemand im Wesren weifi, dass in diesem heme mehrheirlich islamischen
Land zahlreiche chrisrliche Gemeinschaften mit einer groEen kulturellen
Vergangenheir leben. Darunter befmdet sich auch die mit Rom unierte
chaldaische Kirche, die uber eine eigene Liturgie und ein eigenes Kirchen-
recht verfiigt. Im Folgenden soil ein erster fliichtiger Blick auf die kirchli-
che und kanonistische Vergangenheit „der Kirche des Ostens" im Zwei-
stromland geworfen werden, ohne dass bei einem solchen Unterfangen
Anspruch auf Vollstandigkeit erhoben wurde.

Die apostolische Fruhzeit

Die Ursprunge des mesopotamischen Christentums 2 liegen im Dunkeln
und sind im Laufe der Zeit von uppigen Legenden uberwuchert worden.
So wusste die fromme Uberlieferung den heiligen Thomas ostlich von
Antiochien im Partherreich am Werk, machte ihn gar zum Begrunder des
Apostolischen Stuhles in Seleukia-Ktesiphon, dem politischen Zentrum
des persischen Reiches, und lief] ihn schliefflich bis nach Indien und Chi-

1 Wir zitieren im Folgenden nach der Ausgabe von j.B. Chabot, Synodicon orientale ou
Recueil de Synodes Nestoriens, Paris 1902. O. Braun, Das Buch der Synhados oder
Synodicon orientale, Stuttgart-Wien 1900; eine allgemeine Einfiihrung in die ostsyri-
sche kanonistische Literatur findet sich bei W. Selb, Orientalisches Kirchenrecht I.
Die Geschichte des Kirchenrechts der Nestorianer von den Anfangen bis zur Mongo-
lenzeit, Wien 1981. Das nestorianische Synodicon in seiner iiberlieferten Schlussre-
daktion, wohl unter Elias von Nisibis (1028-1049), scheint das umfangreichste Werk
seiner Art zu sein, gewiss noch umfangreicher als die von Chabot besorgte Edition.
Insgesamt gehoren mindestens 80 Einzeltitel zum Corpus, darunter auch die unter dem
Namen Marutha iiberlieferten Akten, vgl. W. Selb, Orientalisches Kirchenrecht, 59-63.
2 Eine gute Einfiihrung in das orientalische Christentum bietet W. Hage, Das orientali-
scheChristentum, Stuttgart 2007.
110 Peter Bruns

na gelangen. Nach jiingerer Tradition waren es die JUnger Addai (syrisch

fur Thaddai = Thaddaus) und sein Gefahrte Mari, welche vom Aposte
Thomas aus Jerusalem nach Edessa ins Zweistromland entsandt wurden.
Addai habe denn auch, so referiert die umstrittene Chronik von Arbela
(das heutige Erbil),3 jenseits des Tigris den ersten Bischof eingesetzt, wel-
cher sparer die Liste der Katholikoi von Seleukia-Ktesiphon eroffnete.
Allen divergierenden Traditionen ist schliefflich die eine Tendenz gemein:
Es soil fur das mesopotamische Christentum ein apostolischer Ursprung
beansprucht werden, der nicht zuletzt auch in den zeitgenossischen Rang-
streitigkeiten der Metropoliten und Bischofe mit dem Katholikos den
entscheidenden Ausschlag zu geben habe. Allgemein anerkanntes histori-
sches Faktum ist indes der Verlauf der christlichen Missionsbewegung,
welche die Glaubensboten osdich von Euphrat und Tigris endang der ublichen
Handelsrouten4 von Antiochien liber Edessa in den Osten bzw. von Palastina
liber Damaskus und Palmyra ins Zweistromland fiihrte. Uber die konkrete
Verfassung der Kirche und ihrer Hierarchen ist damit wenig ausgesagt.
Es ist also weitgehend der Sparlichkeit der Quellen geschuldet, wenn
wir uber die Wahl der Bischofe und Metropoliten im Zweistromland,
uber den Umfang ihrer mit der Weihegewalt erhaltenen Vollmachten
sowie die territoriale Abgrenzung ihrer einzelnen Sprengel fur die Zeit vor
410 kaum informiert sind. Fur die Fruhzeit gibt es keine Synodalakten,
die uns Aufschluss boten. Erst mit der im Kern auf den Katholikos-
Patriarchen Timotheus I. (t 823) zuruckgehenden und unter Elias von
Nisibis (1028-1049) abgeschlossenen Sammlung von Synodalbeschlussen,
dem sog. Synodicon Orientale, betreten wir einigermaEen sicheren
kanonistischen Boden. Fur das vierte Jahrhundert erfahren wir z. B. aus
der XIV. Darlegung Aphrahats des Persischen Weisen5 einiges von einer

3 Es ist hier nicht der rechte Ort, die z. T. recht komplizierte philologische und iiberlie-
ferungsgeschichtliche Problematik der sog. „Chronik von Arbek" neu aufzurollen.
Dieses wohl ins sechste Jahrhundert zu datierende Geschichtswerk verficht mit Nach-
druck die Metropolitanrechte des Stuhles von Arbela gegen die zentralistischen Ten-
denzen des Katholikos von Seleukia-Ktesiphon, vgl. hierzu auch W. Hage, Synodicon
orientale und Chronik von Arbela, die Synode von 497 und die zwei Metropoliten der
Adiabene, in: M. Tamcke, Syriaca. Zur Geschichte, Theologie, Liturgie und Gegen-
wartslage der syrischen Kirchen, Miinster 2002, 19-28.
4 Vgl. hierzu J. Innes Miller, The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire 29 B.C. to A.D.
641, Oxford 1969; N. Pigulewskaja, Byzanz auf den Wegen nach Indien, Berlin
1969. So enthalt die Doctrina Addai ein durchaus historisches Detail, wenn vom
Apostel gesagt wird, er habe bei einem jiidischen Seidenhandler namens Tobias, der
den christlichen Glauben angenommen habe, gewohnt.
5 Vgl. P. Bruns, Aphrahat. Demonstrationes. Unterweisungen II, Freiburg 1991, 330f.
355f. Der Monch beklagt vehement, dass es den Hierarchen seiner Zeit mehr urn
Anciennitat als urn gelebte Frommigkeit gehe.
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 111

synodalen Tatigkeit der „Kirche des Ostens", doch erhalten wir kein Hares
Bild liber die historischen Vorgange, die einen handfesten Streit um die
Sonderstellung des Bischofs von Seleukia-Ktesiphon zum Inhalt hatten.
Das Christentum in Mesopotamien war namlich keinesfalls monolithisch.
Die christliche Mission6 drang, wie bereits oben erwahnt, schon gegen
Ende des ersten oder Anfang des zweiten Jahrhunderts in die Region ost-
lich von Euphrat und Tigris vor. Dieses historische Faktum wird heute
nirgends ernsthaft bestritten, auch wenn der eigentliche Missionierungs-
prozess angesichts der prekaren Quellenlage kaum exakt nachzuzeichnen
ist und wir wenig uber die Organisation der einzelnen Gemeinden Be-
scheid wissen. Im Allgemeinen wird angenommen, dass das Judenchristen-
tum 7 eine erhebliche Rolle gespielt habe und das Christentum schon friih
in den westlichen Zentren der SeidenstraEe wie Edessa beheimatet gewe-
sen sei. Unter Schapur I.8 in der Mitte des dritten Jahrhunderts starkten
daruber hinaus groE angelegte Deportationen von griechischen Einwoh-
nern aus dem stark christianisierten Antiochien und dem syrischen Hin-
terland die christliche Prasenz im sudlichen Zweistromland.9 Diese grie-
chischen Exilgemeinden fuhrten wie im Falle des Bischofs Demetrian 10
ihre eigene Hierarchie mit, die auch weiterhin an Kontakten in die alte
Heimat Antiochien interessiert war. Damit verbunden war eine gewisse
kirchliche Eigenstandigkeit, welche den Zentralisierungsbestrebungen der
spateren Jahrhunderte zuwider lief. Denn es ist leicht einzusehen, dass die
Nachfahren jener griechischen Deportierten in einem Katholikos, der enge
Beziehungen zum persischen Hof hielt, keinen wurdigen Reprasentanten
der Kirche11 sehen konnten. Das vierte Jahrhundert brachte unter

6 Noch immer sehr lesenswert und anregend, wenngleich in manchen Einzelheiten

iiberholt ist die Darstellung bei J. Labourt, Le christianisme dans l'empire Perse sous
la dynastie Sassanide (224-632), Paris 1904.
7 Jiidischer Einfluss ist selbst noch im 4. jahrhundert stark prasent, wenn wir an die
Darlegungen Aphrahats denken oder die Hymnen Ephrams betrachten.
8 Vgl. Labourt, Le christianisme (s. Anm. 6), 1-17; Labourts Untersuchung ist auf einen
neueren Stand gebracht worden durch j . M. Fiey, Jalons pour une histoire de l'eglise
en Iraq, CSCO 310, Louvain 1970, bes. 85-99.
9 Vgl. hierzu W. Schwaigert, Das Christentum in Huzistan im Rahmen der friihen
Kirchengeschichte Persiens bis zur Synode von Seleukia-Ktesiphon im jahre 410,
Marburg 1989.
10 Zu Demetrian als erstem Bischof vgl. Schwaigert, Huzistan (s. Anm. 9), 19-23; P.
Peeters, S. Demetrianus, eveque dAntioche, in: AnBoll 42 (1924) 288-314.
11 Zur kirchlichen Opposition gegen das Katholikat in Seleukia-Ktesiphon vgl.
Schwaigert, Huzistan, 47-57, zum Streit um den Primat, vgl. ders., a.a.O., 63-101;
ethnische Konflikte innerhalb der christlichen Gemeinden spielten bei der Neuwahl
eine nicht unerhebliche Rolle, vgl. ders., a.a.O., 174f.
112 Peter Bruns

ShapurIL 12 wahrend des romisch-persischen Krieges eine brutale Verfol-

gung Uber die Christen im Sassanidenreich. Seit dem „groEen Schlachten",
das Aphrahat im zweiten Teil seines Schriftkorpus13 um 344 erwahnt,
blieb der Bischofsthron von Seleukia-Ktesiphon und anderer wichtiger
Diozesen - von kurzen Unterbrechungen abgesehen - fur mehrere Jahr-
zehnte vakant. Die chrisdiche Hierarchie schien als Folge staadicher Repressi-
on gegen Ende des vierten Jahrhunderts14 in Persien fast ganzlich ausgeloscht.

Die kirchliche Erneuerung auf der Synode


Einen Umschwung in der Religionspolitik der Sassaniden leitete erst der

Regierungswechsel unter dem „Frevlerkonig" Jazdegerd I. (399-420) ein,
der auEenpolitisch eine Friedenspolitik mit den christlichen Romern ver-
folgte und innenpolitisch die Vormachtstellung des Adels und der mit ihm
verbundeten Magierschaft brechen wollte. Zu diesem Zwecke brauchte
Jazdegerd die Unterstutzung durch die religiosen Minderheiten seines
Reiches. Die persischen Christen profitierten von der allgemeinen Ent-
spannung zwischen den Gro&nachten. Auf Grund des im Sommer des
Jahres 408 geschlossenen Friedens konnten vor allem die griechischen
Exilgemeinden wieder geregelte Beziehungen zu Antiochien knupfen.
Bereits 399 hatte der ostromische Kaiser Arcadius eine Delegation an den
Hof des persischen GroEkonigs entsandt, worunter sich auch Marutha 15 ,
Bischof der Grenzstadt Maipherkat in der romisch-armenischen Provinz

12 Zur Christenverfolgung unter Schapur II. und der allgemeinen Situation der kirchli-
chen Bistiimer vgl. Schwaigert, Huzistan (s. Anm. 9), 135-170. Die Ursachen fur die
Christenverfolgung unter Schapur II. sind sowohl aufienpolitisch durch die militari-
schen Auseinandersetzungen mit den Konstantin-Sohnen als auch innenpolitisch
durch die Erstarkung des traditionellen Zoroastrismus gegeben. Vgl. dazu auch P.
Bruns, Beobachtungen zu den Rechtsgrundlagen der Christenverfolgungen im
Sassanidenreich, in: R Q 1 0 3 , 2008, 82-112.
13 Vgl. hierzu Bruns, Aphrahat (s. Anm. 5), 579f.
14 Der Substanzverlust war enorm, die Quellen erwahnen jedenfalls keinen Hierarchen
mehr von Format fur diesen Zeitraum, vgl. hierzu Schwaigert, Huzistan (s. Anm. 9),
15 Umfassendste Studie zu Marutha mit dt. Ubersetzung der Texte noch immer O.
Braun, De Sanaa Nicaena Synodo. Syrische Texte des Maruta von Maipherkat,
Miinster 1898. Die Ausgabe der syr. Kanones wurde von A. Voobus, The Canons As-
cribed to Maruta of Maipherqat and Related Sources (CSCO 439-440), Louvain
1982, besorgt. Zur Teilnahme Maruthas an der romischen Gesandtschaft vgl. Socr.
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 113

Sophanene, befand. Mit ihm setzte eine rege romisch-persische Pendeldip-

lomatie16 ein, in der die kirchliche Hierarchie eine n i c k unwichtige Funk-
tion Ubernahm. Marutha fiel damals die Aufgabe zu, den durch die Ver-
folgungen dezimierten Klerus im Perserreich zu reorganisieren, die
funfzigjahrige Vakanz des Stuhles von Seleukia-Ktesiphon17 zu beenden
und sobald wie moglich eine Synode einzuberufen. So wurde nach Ab-
dankung des bisherigen Bischofsvikars Qajuma Isaak von Kaschkar auf
Maruthas Betreiben zum neuen Bischof der persischen Hauptstadt Seleu-
kia-Ktesiphon gewahlt, eine Entscheidung, die bei vielen Metropoliten
Widerstand hervorrief, so dass die alten Streitigkeiten aus der Zeit vor der
groEen Verfolgung erneut, und diesmal mit aller Heftigkeit, aufflamm-
ten18. Ein Synodalbrief des antiochenischen Patriarchen Porphyria sowie
seiner angesehensten Suffragane19 ermachtigte Marutha, gegenuber dem
GroEkonig und auch der einzuberufenden Synode persischer Bischofe die
Position des Westens. Auf der Synode20, welche im Jahre 410 in der persi-
schen Hauptstadt Seleukia-Ktesiphon stattfand, wurde zunachst einmal in
der ersten Januarsitzung am Epiphaniefest der Synodalbrief der westlichen
Vater verlesen, angenommen und zugleich beschlossen, die bestehenden
Spaltungen zu beseitigen. Anfang Februar trat die Synode erneut zu einer
zweiten Sitzung zusammen. Die Stimmung der anwesenden vierzig21 persi-

16 Vgl. N. Garsoi'an, Le role de la hierarchie chretienne dans les relations diplomatiques

entre Byzance et les Sassanides, REArm 10, 1973/74, 119-138; L. Sako, Le role de la
hierarchie syriaque-orientale dans les rapports diplomatiques entre la Perse et Byzance
auxV=-VIPsiecles, Paris 1986.
17 Wenn man mit Braun, De Sanaa Nicaena Synodo (s. Anm. 15), 4, Anm. 5, den
Beginn der systematischen Verfolgungen auf das Jahr 340/41 verlegt und davon aus-
geht, dass der letzte Bischof von Seleukia-Ktesiphon, Barbaschemin, 347 das Martyri-
um erlitt, kann man 52 Jahre bis zum Beginn der diplomatischen Aktivitaten
Maruthas konjizieren.
18 Nach Elias von Damascus, zitiert bei Barhebraus, Chron. eccl. 2,47 (Abbeloos/Lamy),
geschah dies auf einer Synode in Seleukia im ersten Regierungsjahr Jazdegerds
(399/400). Doch liegen von dieser Synode keine Akten vor. Es ist nicht ganz auszu-
schliefien, dass es sich bei Elias' Angaben urn einen Schreibfehler handelt und vom elf-
ten Regierungsjahr (410) auszugehen ist, vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1),
19 Vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 9; Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm.
1), 18. 255. Im Einzelnen werden noch genannt: Acacius von Aleppo (Beroea),
Paqida von Edessa, Euseb von Telia und Acacius von Amida, der nach dem Tode
Maruthas (vor 420) dessen diplomatische Aktivitaten fortsetzte.
20 Quellentexte bei Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 5-35; Chabot, Synodicon
orientale (s. Anm. 1), 17-36.253-276.
21 Es liegen 37 Unterschriften vor, wobei fur die Diozese Nehargur zwei Bischofe unter-
schrieben haben. Es fehlen vier Namen, die fur die allgemeine Bischofsliste erwahnt
114 Peter Bruns

schen Bischofe, die aus dem Reich angereist waren, war geradezu eupho-
risch ob der durch GroEkonig Jazdegerd eingeleiteten religionspolitischen
Wende. 22 Die Synodalen dankten Marutha fur seine Mitwirkung, erkann-
ten die Leitungsvollmacht des Bischofs Isaak an und versicherten GroEko-
nig Jazdegerd ihrer grundsatzlichen Loyalist und ihres Gebetes fur die
Wohlfahrt des Reiches. Mit gestarktem Selbstbewufosein und hohen Er-
wartungen stellte man sich den neuen Herausforderungen. Verschiedene
Beschlusse23 wurden gefa£t hinsichtlich der Bischofsordination, der Neu-
ordnung der Liturgie (Epiphanie- und Osterfestkreis) und der Konzilska-
nones von Nicaea,24 welche in das entstehende Rechtskorpus der persi-
schen Kirche ubernommen wurden. Auch wurde ein neues, an das
Nicaenum angelehntes Glaubensbekenntnis25 formuliert, das uns hier
allerdings nicht naher beschaftigen soil. Gleichwohl stent zu vermuten,
dass die Vater bei der Ausformulierung der Kanones die gleiche Freizugig-
keit waken liefen wie schon zuvor beim Credo.
Gleich der erste Beschluss der Synode von 410 26 verbietet die Doppel-
oder gar Dreifachbesetzung einer Diozese, was z.B. fur das Bistum
>;Erstens.Etwas fiber die Bischofe. Es sollen also nicht leichtfertig in einer einzigen
Stadt zwei oder drei Bischofe sein. Vielmehr sei ein einziger Bischof in jeder Stadt und
in ihrem Regierungsbezirk. Und wenn ein Bischof stirbt, so darf er nicht einen ande-
ren zum Bischof machen, weder in seiner Todesstunde noch zu seinen Lebzeiten. Wer
Bischof durch einen oder zwei Bischofe wird, ist nicht echt, sondern nur durch drei,

werden, so dass wir genau auf vierzig kommen, vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s.
Anm. 1), 31f. 34f.
22 Die Vater sprechen von einer geistigen Auferstehung und dem Beginn einer langen
Friedenszeit. Das Gebet fur den Grofikonig ist durchaus aufrichtig gemeint, vgl.
Braun, Synodicon orientale, 11. Die Konzilseuphorie jener Tage kommt in Satzen wie
diesen zum Ausdruck: „Und beim herrlichen Anblick der Bischofssynode wuchs unse-
re Seele, als ob wir vor dem Thron der Majestat Christi stiinden." (Chabot, Synodicon
orientale (s. Anm. 1), 20,3f).
23 Vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 12f.
24 Es miissen also schon Ubersetzungen ins Syrische vorgelegen haben, auf die die Vater
dann zuriickgreifen konnten. Vgl. F. Schulthess, Die syrischen Kanones der Synoden
von Nicaea bis Chalcedon, AGWG.PH NF 10, Gottingen 1908; vgl. auch H.
Kaufhold, Die syrische Ubersetzung des Briefes der Synode von Nikaia an die Kirche
von Alexandrien, in: M.B. von Stritzky/Chr. Uhrig, Garten des Lebens (= FS W.
Cramer), Miinster 1999, 119-137.
25 Vgl. P. Bruns, Bemerkungen zur Rezeption des Nicaenums in der ostsyrischen Kirche,
AHC 32, 2000, 1-22.
26 Die Doppeliiberlieferung ist zu beachten. Denn der Beschluss der Synode des Mar
Isaak (410) ist mit dem nachfolgenden can. 1 zusammenzunehmen. Er referiert
gleichsam den Inhalt, wahrend die canones der Synode auch getrennt iiberliefert sein
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 115

selbst wenn dieselben Bischofe sehr emfernt sind, und zwar mittels eines
Vollmachtsbriefes des Metropoliten, des Hauptes der Bischofe."27
Die Griinde fur eine mogliche Doppelbesetzung werden im Text leider
n i c k explizit benannt. Vielleicht war es ein lokales Schisma innerhalb
einer einzigen Gemeinde, vielleicht waren es mehrere Gemeinden unter-
schiedlicher ethnischer Herkunft und kirchlicher Obodienz am gleichen
Ort 28 , die sich nicht auf einen gemeinsamen Bischofskandidaten einigen
konnten. Aus den vergleichbaren Vorgangen des dritten und vierten Jahr-
hunderts ist hinreichend bekannt, dass sich die griechischen Deportierten
mit der alteingesessenen aramaischen Bevolkerung schlecht vertrugen und
ein gemeinsames Glaubenszeugnis in der heidnischen Umgebung dadurch
erschwert war. Nun sah aber der antike Monepiskopat, an dem im fiinften
Jahrhundert niemand mehr zu rutteln wagte, nur einen einzigen Bischof
fur eine Stadt und Region vor. Der freiwillige, vorzeitige Rucktritt eines
Ordinierten hatte den Ausweg aus dem bestehenden Schisma weisen kon-
nen. Dazu waren die am Streit beteiligten Personen nicht immer bereit,
was den Einsatz einer ubergeordneten Instanz wie z.B. des Metropoliten
Die alte nizanische Vorschrift, wonach der Bischof durch mindestens
drei Konsekratoren, im Idealfall durch die Bischofe der gesamten Kir-
chenprovinz unter Aufsicht des Metropoliten geweiht wird, spiegelt sich
gleichfalls in dem Beschluss von 410 wider und ist auEerdem in den ersten
Kanon eingeflossen. Die Sonderstellung des Metropoliten wird eigens
betont; sollte er aufgrund der groEen Entfernung nicht personlich anwe-
send sein, dann ist auf jeden Fall schriftlich sein Einverstandnis fur die
Can. 1 der Synode des Mar Isaak (410) schreibt in bezug auf die Bi-
Jeder, der (nur) von einem oder zwei Bischofen zum Bischof gemacht wurde (Ifwa),
soil abgesetzt werden, und zwar Gemachter und Machender. Vielmehr sollen, wenn
ein Bischof gemacht wird, die Bischofe sich in der Stadt versammeln und die (allge-
meine) Meinung befragen und ausforschen beziiglich eines Mannes, der fur die Ar-
men sorgt, die Fremden (xenoi) aufnimmt, den Bedrangten Erquickung verschafft, die
Waisen und Witwen nahrt, sein Geld nicht zum Wucher gibt, keine Bestechung an-
nimmt, im Gericht nicht auf das Ansehen einer Person schaut, sich von Hochmut
und Aufgeblasenheit fernhalt, der in weiser Rede bewandert ist und in der Lehre der
Schriften bei Tag und Nacht sinnt, der Verstand und Urteil besitzt, urn alle zum
Dienst notigen Bediirfnisse der Kirche bereitzustellen. Sobald dann die Bischofe unter

27 Syr. Text bei Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 20,8-15.
28 Nach dem Zeugnis der Chronik von Seert (PO 4, 219-223) fiihrten
griechischsprachige und aramaische Christen in der Diaspora ein Eigenleben, was sich
auch in der getrennten Liturgie niederschlug.
116 Peter Bruns

seinem Volke in seiner Kirche vor dem Altare Christi versammelt sind, sollen sie zu
der Zeit, da das Opfer bereitet wird, das Evangelium auf sein Haupt legen und ge-
meinsam die Rechte fiber ihn ausstrecken. Das Haupt unter ihnen rezitiere fiber ihn
die Weihe(-gebete). - Hernach komme der eingesetzte Bischof herbei, um vom
Grofcnetropoliten, dem Katholikos von Seleukia-Ktesiphon, vollendet zu werden, in-
dem er von den Bischofen, die ihn eingesetzt haben, einen Brief mitbringt. - Wer aber
von uns es wagen sollte, einen anderen Bischof zu machen, sei es zu seinen Lebzeiten
oder sei es in seiner Todesstunde, soil nach dieser von der grofien, heiligen Synode der
318 Bischofe aufgestellten Bestimmung - Gemachter und Machender - erbarmungs-
los aus dem Klerus der Kirche ausgestofcn werden." 29

In freier Anlehnung30 an can. IV von Nicaea definiert dieser erste Kanon,

dass mindestens drei Bischofe fur die Konsekration eines Bischofs erfor-
derlich seien. Wird aber die Dreizahl der Konsekratoren n i c k erreicht, so
ist die Weihe ungultig. In praxi bedeutete dies, dass auf diese Weise eine
ganze Reihe von in der Verfolgungszeit zwischen 340 und 400 gespende-
ten Weihen als ungultig betrachtet werden musste. Viele Bischofssitze
waren in der zweiten Halfte des vierten Jahrhundert verwaist, oft fanden
sich wegen der akuten Verfolgung die Nachbarbischofe nicht ein, so dass
der betagte Bischof seinen eigenen Nachfolger selbst bestimmte und kon-
sekrierte. Der Kanon spricht wortlich von einem „Machen"31 des Bischofs
(syr. °bd) im Sinne des griechischen poiein (Mk 3,14); wie der Herr die
Zwolf zu Aposteln macht, so machen die Bischofe den Weihekandidaten
zu einem der Ihren. Diese Terminologie ist singular und kommt, wie
Braun32 nachgewiesen hat, nur im Text der Synode von 410 und in den
pseudonizanischen Kanones des Marutha vor. Als besondere Qualifikation
verlangt der Kanon einen guten Leumund, d.h. die Meinung uber den
Kandidaten wird erfragt. Eine Lesart bietet hier die „allgemeine Mei-
nung", worunter Braun33 die heidnische Offentlichkeit, nicht aber die

29 Syr. Text bei Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 23,8-25.
30 Zu den syrischen Kanones von 410 vgl. Bruns, Rezeption des Nicaenums (s. Anm.
25), 16-22. Die Akten sprechen zwar von einer Niederschrift der Kanones, welche je-
doch in mehreren Etappen vonstatten gegangen sein mus. Eine Nahtstelle liegt ein-
deutig beim Ubergang von c. 10 zu c. 11 vor; c. 10 markiert einen Sessionsschluss
und stellt sprachlich die Verbindung zum Glaubenssymbol her. Ein zweiter Einschnitt
ist mit c. 17, der erneut Zustimmungserklarungen der versammelten Synodalen em-
halt, gegeben. Eine dritte Reihe (cc. 18-21) regelt schliefilich die regionale Ordnung
der persischen Kirche und bildet eine weitere Einheit. Nur im ersten Teil (cc. 1-10)
lafit sich eine direkte Bezugnahme auf die nizanischen Kanones erkennen.
31 Resp. passiv „gemacht werden" (syr. Ifwa) was griech. ginesthai entspricht.
32 Vgl. dazu Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 12, Anm. 1.
33 Vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 16. Denkbar ware auch die binnen-
kirchliche „allgemeine" Meinung fiber den Kandidaten, d.h. nicht nur der Bischofe,
sondern auch der Laien, der niederen Kleriker und der Bundesbriider (Monche).
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 117

kirchliche, verstanden wissen will. Moglicherweise stand nach der langeren

Verfolgungszeit die besondere Offentlichkeitswirkung des stark angefein-
deten Christentums im Vordergrund des Bemuhens. Staatliche Stellen
hatten ohnehin ein besonderes Interesse an „kooperativen"34 Bischofen.
Konkret werden die diakonalen Tugenden wie ArmenfUrsorge etc. erfragt.
Unter die Xenoi fallen auch die Kranken35, und es ist wohl kein Zufall,
dass zwischen 410 und 420 unter dem Konvertiten Schapurbaraz das erste
christliche Krankenhaus in Karka de Beth-Selokh36 errichtet wurde.
Der Bischof musste gewisse administrative Aufgaben nicht nur im Be-
reich der Krankenfursorge wahrnehmen und sollte daher uber entspre-
chende Eignung verfiigen. Offensichtlich waren die Diakone bevorzugte
Aspiranten fur den Bischofsthron, da sie haufig diese erforderlichen Quali-
fikationen mitbrachten. Der Tugendkatalog des c. 1 ist durchaus biblisch
(vage Anspielungen an Ps 1; 24), er orientiert sich an dem vorbildlichen
Leben der Amtstrager in den Pastoralbriefen (Tit 1,7-9) und den einschla-
gigen Kirchenordnungen. Die Warnung vor Bestechung lafit an simonisti-
sche MiEbrauche denken. Auf dem Hintergrund der Mahnungen
Aphrahats vor der Habgier bei Klerikern und weltlichen Wurdentragern in
der bereits zitierten Darlegung XIV,3 37 ist dies ein durchaus nachvollzieh-
barer Gedanke. Ferner sei in diesem Zusammenhang an den umstrittenen
Bischof Barsauma von Nisibis38 erinnert, der als enger Freund des Mark-
grafen nur so mit den Goldstucken urn sich warf.

34 Gut zehn Jahre sparer emstand ein heftiger innerkirchlicher Streit fiber die Kompro-
missbereitschaft der Katholikoi, welche einigen Glaubigen zu weit gegangen war. Die
Spaltungen in den Jahren 417/18 zeugen von den immensen Spannungen innerhalb
der Gemeinde der Hauptstadt und des Gesamtepiskopats.
35 Vgl. O. Hiltbrunner, Art. Krankenhaus, in: RAC 21 (2006) 882-914; fur den syrisch-
palastinischen Raum vgl. bes. S. 897-899. Dem Autor ist unter Bezugnahme auf Selb,
Orientalisches Kirchenrecht (s. Anm. 1), 99-102, unbedingt zuzustimmen, wenn er
dem pseudonizanischen c. 70, wonach es in grofieren Stadten ein Xenodochium ge-
ben und der Bischof dessen Vorsteher sein soil, die Historizitat abspricht. Dieser Ka-
non spiegelt eindeutig einen spateren Zustand, lange nach 325, wider, als die Kirche
in Persien Frieden hatte und sich starker ihren karitativen Aufgaben widmen konnte.
36 Von Schapurbaraz, dem Bischof von Karka, heifit es in der Vita: „Er errichtete aus ihrer
(sc. der Eltern) Erbschaft ein Haus fiir die Fremden, in dem Kranke, Bedrangte, Arme
und Notleidende Aufnahme und Erquickung fanden. Er spendete dem Haus und teilte
ihm Besitztum zu als Lohn fur die dort stattfindenden Heilungen und zur Bestreitung
jener Dinge, welche fur heilungsbedurftige Personen erforderlich sind." (AMS II, 518,4-8).
37 Vgl. Bruns, Aphrahat (s. Anm. 5), 332f
38 Vgl. P. Bruns, Barsauma von Nisibis und die Aufhebung der Klerikerenthaltsamkeit
im Gefolge der Synode von Beth-Lapat (484), A H C 37, 2005, 1-42. Der weltgewand-
te Bischof verstand es geschickt, sich kurzerhand mit fiinfzig oder hundert
Golddareiken seine Suffragane gefiigig zu machen.
118 Peter Bruns

Die eigentliche Bischofsweihe findet in der Hauptkirche wahrend der

Meffliturgie noch vor der Opferung start, essentielle Bestandteile des Ritus
sind die Handauflegung und das Weihegebet. Wahrend der Weiheliturgie
befindet sich das Evangeliar auf dem Altar, hierfur ist der (Archi-)Diakon
zustandig. Im Moment der eigentlichen Konsekration wird dem Weihe-
kandidaten das Evangeliar auf das Haupt gelegt; der Metropolit der Kir-
chenprovinz, so wird man den syrischen Ausdruck „Haupt der Bischofe"
zu interpretieren haben, rezitiert das Weihegebet,39 wahrend die anderen
Konsekratoren still unter Ausbreitung der rechten Hand verharren. Mit
der Weihe ist die sakramentale Befahigung zum Bischofsamt gegeben, eine
besondere Befugnis, dieses auszuuben, wird durch den Gro&netropoliten
von Seleukia/Ktesiphon personlich erteilt. Indes holten nicht alle Bischofe
eine solche Erlaubnis ein, jene von Arbela40 waren beispielsweise sehr kri-
tisch gegenuber dem Gro&netropoliten der Reichshauptstadt eingestellt.
Auch die Bischofe von Qatar und Bahrain haben sich - schon allein wegen
der groflen Entfernung - nicht immer zu einem solchen Mmina-Besuch
in der persischen Hauptstadt Seleukia-Ktesiphon eingefunden; 410 wird
Daniel von Qatar41 auf der Synode des Mar Isaak abgesetzt. Er war noch
von dem des Amtes enthobenen Bischof Battai konsekriert worden und
kam nach Seleukia/Ktesiphon in der freilich eitlen Hoffnung, sich seine
irregulare Weihe bestatigen lassen zu konnen. Indes wurde seine Ordinati-
on von der versammelten Synode fur ungultig erklart und seine Person
feierlich mit dem Bann belegt. Von der Rechtssystematik42 her betrachtet,

39 Auf die liturgischen Vorbilder in der sog. Traditio Apostolka, (cap. 2f) und dem syri-
schen Tegmentum Domini (cap. XX-XXIII) kann hier aus Platzgriinden nicht einge-
gangen werden. Die altere Ausgabe von I.E. Rahmani, Testamentum Domini Nostri
Jesu Christi, Moguntiae 1899, bedarf aufgrund neuerer Handschriftenfunde dringend
eingehender Korrekturen.
40 Vgl. Schwaigert, Huzistan (s. Anm. 9), 50-57. dass spatere offiziose Patriarchen-
chroniken und -biographien diese Sicht nicht teilen, bedarf keiner weiteren Erklarung,
vgl. Schwaigert, Huzistan (s. Anm. 9), 57-101.
41 Vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 33. Battai war Bischof von Meschamhig,
einer der Qatarinseln, zwischen Bahrain und Oman gelegen. Zur genauen Lage vgl.
Anm. 1. Battai und Daniel werden im Synodicon als .Aufriihrer" bezeichnet. Uber
eine materiale oder formale Haresie der beiden erfahren wir aus den Quellen nichts.
Oder waren sie nur Schismatiker, die sich der Gewalt des Bischofs von
Seleukia/Ktesiphon nicht unterordnen wollten? Als Metropolit fur die Region am Per-
sischen Golf wird ein gewisser Paulus bestatigt. In spaterer Zeit (6. Jh.) wurde diese
Gegend als Suffraganbistum dem Sitz von Rew Ardaschir zugeschlagen. Doch blieb
die Inselgruppe ein Zankapfel zwischen den benachbarten Metropoliten.
42 Man hat hier gleichsam die vertikale und die horizontale Ebene des Sakramentes zu
beachten. Die Bischofe empfangen bei ihrer Weihe die apostolische Vollmacht direkt
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 119

ist die „Vervollkommnung" des Weiheritus (syr. §umldyd) durch den

Gro&netropoliten von Seleukia/Ktesiphon fur die GUltigkeit nicht eigens
erforderlich, dient aber doch der allgemeinen Festigung der Kirchenge-
Nicht nur die Golfregion bereitete den Synodenvatern Kummer.
Denn auch um die Neubesetzung des Bischofsstuhls in Seleukia-
Ktesiphon war es nicht eben gut bestellt. So enthalt der letzte Satz des
Kanons einen Seitenhieb gegen Mar Papa43, den seligen Vorganger des
Mar Isaak, wenn es dort heifit, es sei einem Bischof nicht gestattet, den
eigenen Nachfolger selbst zu bestimmen. Genau das war aber mit Simeon
bar Sabba'e, dem „Farbersohn", geschehen. Mar Papa sah sich aus einem
doppelten Grunde zu einem solchen Schritt veranlaEt. Zum einen war der
Klerus in Mesopotamien vollig zerstritten und wollte sich der Oberhoheit
des Stuhles von Seleukia-Ktesiphon nicht unterordnen. Um nun internen
Nachfolgestreitigkeiten vorzubeugen, ernannte Mar Papa den Simeon
vorsorglich mit dem Recht auf Nachfolge. Zum anderen sah der Bischof
die politische Situation der Christen im vierten Jahrhundert von offener
Verfolgung gepragt. Angesichts der drohenden Einmischung des GroEko-
nigs in die kirchlichen Belange erschien es Mar Papa angemessener, fur die
Bereitstellung eines geeigneten Kandidaten seines Vertrauens selbst zu
Welche Rolle spielt der Metropolit einer Kirchenprovinz bei der Bi-
schofswahl? Folgt man c. 20 der Synode des Mar Isaak (410), dann er-
scheint die Leitungsgewalt des Metropoliten nicht sehr umfangreich:
„Wenn der Bischof eines ihm untergebenen Ortes stirbt, so ist der Metropolit ermach-
tigt, die anderen Bischofe zu versammeln und einen der Stadt genehmen Bischof auf-
zustellen. Nachdem er denselben eingesetzt hat, sende er ihn mit einem Schreiben an
den Grofimetropoliten, damit er von diesem vervollkommnet werde. Davon abgese-
hen, hat der Metropolit jedoch keine Macht fiber die ihm unterstehenden Bischofe
und darf auch nicht aus Habsucht und Aufgeblasenheit auf dem Tauschwege Dinge
Der Metropolit leitet demnach die Wahl eines neuen Bischofs, weiht den
Neugewahlten zusammen mit mindestens zwei Konsekratoren, und er-
sucht den Gro&netropoliten um die Bestatigung des Neugeweihten. Im
wesentlichen nimmt er also Aufsichtsrechte wahr und vermittelt im In-
stanzenzug zum Gro&netropoliten. Er visitiert die Diozesen seiner

von oben durch die Hand der Konsekratoren, wahrend die Sumldyd die sichtbare
kirchliche Gemeinschaft mit dem Stuhle von Seleukia-Ktesiphon herstellen sollte.
43 Zum Streit um Mar Papa, seinen Vorganger und seinen Nachfolger, die Rede des
Agapetvgl. Schwaigert, Huzistan (s. Anm. 9), 57-101.
44 Syr. Text bei Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 32,10-16.
120 Peter Bruns

Hyparchic Als zweite Instanz entscheidet er Uber die von den Bischofen
erstinstanzlich getroffenen Entscheidungen « Ebenso hat der Metropolit
Streitigkeiten zwischen den Bischofen seiner Hierarchie zu schlichten, was
nicht eben selten vorkam. Er darf aber nicht ohne weiteres auf das Gebiet
eines Suffraganbischofs46 vordringen, sondern hat Beschwerden schriftlich
vorzulegen. Bei geringeren Anlassen ist die Metropolitansynode zustandig,
in schwierigen Fallen, besonders wenn es um den Vorwurf der Haresie
geht, hat der Metropolit von der Moglichkeit Gebrauch zu machen, sofort
den Gro&netropoliten und die allgemeine Synode der persischen Kirche
anzugehen. Bei alien Entscheidungen, die dem Metropoliten selbst oblie-
gen, ist hingegen seine hierarchische Zwischenstellung offenkundig. Er
kann die Entscheidung dem Gro&netropoliten ubertragen und umgekehrt
durch Delegation in jenen Angelegenheiten, fur die eigentlich der GroE-
metropolit zustandig ist, selbst tatig werden.
Zusammenfassend lafit sich sagen: Bereits zu Beginn des funften Jahr-
hunderts prasentiert sich die Kirche im Sassanidenreich als straff organi-
sierter, zentralisierter Verband47 mit dem Hauptsitz Seleukia-Ktesiphon
und den funf Metropolien Nisibis, Arbela, Karka de Beth-Selokh, Beth

Die Reformsynoden des sechsten Jahrhunderts

Der Reform des Mar Isaak war zu Beginn des funften Jahrhunderts eine
lang andauernde Nachhaltigkeit beschieden. Gut anderthalb Jahrhunderte
hatte das von Marutha angestoEene und von Isaak durchgefuhrte Reform-
programm auf die Geschicke der persischen Kirche eingewirkt. Mar Aba
verfuhr in der Mitte des sechsten Jahrhunderts nach dem namlichen
Grundsatz. Der energische Katholikos trieb die von Dadischo initiierte
Zentralisation auf die Spitze. Kirchenpolitik machte er mit Hilfe von Bi-
schofsernennungen, oftmals auf Kosten lokaler Metropolitanrechte. So

45 Vgl. c. 18 des Isaak (Braun, Synodicon orientale [s. Anm. 1], 27).
46 Vgl. c. 19 des Isaak (Braun, Synodicon orientale [s. Anm. 1], 28).
47 Vgl. hierzu D.H. Marot, Un exemple de centralisation ecclesiastique: l'ancienne eglise
chaldeenne, Irenikon 28, 1955, 176-185. Zu den syrischen Bischofssitzen im Einzel-
nen vgl. auch die Untersuchung von I. Guidi, Ostsyrische Bischofe und Bischofssitze
im V., VI. und VII. Jahrhundert, Z D M G 43, 1889, 388-414. Vgl. auch E. Sachau,
Zur Ausbreitung des Christentums in Asien, in: AAWB.PH 1, Berlin 1919, 3-80 (mit
haufigem Rekurs auf die nicht immer zuverlassige Chronik von Arbela).
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 121

setzte Mar Aba auf seinen zahlreichen Visitationsreisen48 schismatische

Bischofe ab und bestellte in Kaschkar und Rew Ardaschir eigene Kandida-
ten, die dann vom Volk bestatigt wurden. Die Regelungen friiherer Syno-
den wurden von ihm bestatigt, insbesondere die Entscheidungen kleinasia-
tischer Synoden wie Gangra wurden in das Rechtscorpus der ostsyrischen
Was die Metropolitanrechte anbelangt, so bestimmte c. 23 der Synode
des Mar Ezechiel (Februar 576) die Wahlaufsicht genauer. Die spateren
Konsekratoren sollten gewissermaEen als Wahlleiter amtieren und die
Bevolkerung der Stadt zur Wahl auffordern, ohne selbst bei der Wahl
„Der Synode hat gefallen, dass beim Tode eines Bischofs sein Metropolit, sofern vor-
handen, die Mitbischofe versammle. Diese sollen dann kommen und die Einwohner
der Stadt zur Wahl einer geeigneten Person auffordern, damit sie diese einsetzen.
Stirbt der Metropolit, dann sollen sich die Bischofe der Hyparchie versammeln und
die Einwohner der Stadt auffordern, dass durch ihre Vermittlung und Zustimmung
eine geeignete Person gewahlt wiirde. Und sie sollen es dem Patriarchen (sic!) mittei-
len, wenn namlich - sollte kein Metropolit vorhanden sein - durch Vermittlung eine
lange Zeit wegen des Metropoliten oder des Bischofs verstrichen ist, bis ein Bischof
anstelle des Verstorbenen geweiht wird. Vier Monate (sollen es sein); sollten aber
die schwierigen Umstande einen Zeitaufschub erzwingen, dann ist die Angelegen-
heit in die Lange zu ziehen; doch diirfen die Bischofe keineswegs die Dinge ver-

Die Wahl des Bischofs-Gro&netropoliten resp. des Katholikos-

Patriarchen stellte einen Sonderfall der Bischofswahl dar, funktionierte
aber im Prinzip nach den oben skizzierten Normen. Da der Bischofssitz
von Seleukia-Ktesiphon, der „beiden Stadte", eine der Residenzstadte der
persischen GroEkonige war, wurde die Wahl schnell zu einem Politikum.
So hielten Marutha und Isaak eifrig Kontakt zum GroEwesir (Buzurg
framadar), Chosrau Jazdegerd mit Namen, und auch zum Standortkom-
mandanten Mihrschabur aus dem Hause Argabet. Letzterer drangte nach
dem Tode Jazdegerds den Bischofen einen gewissen Marabocht
(Farrbocht)50 als Katholikos auf, was keineswegs als Prazedenzfall anzuse-

48 Uber die Vorgange liegen verschiedene Quellen vor, die vita des Mar Aba schildert die
Dinge selbstredend aus der Sicht des Katholikos, vgl. hierzu Braun, Synodicon orien-
tale (s.Anm. 1), 93-145.
49 Syr. Text bei Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 124,5-16.
50 Vgl. hierzu Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 44, Anm. 4. Der Name variiert in
den Handschriften. „Marabocht" bedeutet soviel wie „vom Herrn erlost" und konnte
als Taufname an die Stelle des heidnischen Farrbocht („im Gliicksglanz erlost") getre-
ten sein. Es ist in jedem Falle bemerkenswert, dass Perser, also weder Griechen noch
Aramaer, vom Grofikonig als Bischofskandidaten bevorzugt wurden.
122 Peter Bruns

hen ist. Seit den Tagen Schapurs II. suchten die persischen GroEkonig
Einfluss auf die Wahl des Bischofs ihrer westlichen Residenzstadt zu neh-
men. Die Friihjahrs- oder Herbstsynode der Bischofe sollte jeweils im
Beisein des GroEkonigs oder seiner Wesire stattfinden, so sahen es die
Bestimmungen Jazdegerds 410 vor, was den Rang der Diozese in den
Augen der weldichen Gewalt nochmals unterstreicht. Gleichzeitig entwi-
ckelt sich innerhalb der kirchlichen Hierarchie der Hauptstadt ein ausge-
pragtes papales Bewufosein. Bereits Mar Papa suchte im vierten Jahrhun-
dert den Bischofssitz von Seleukia-Ktesiphon51 sehr zum VerdruE seiner
Suffragane aufzuwerten; seit der Synode des Mar Isaak 410 ist mit diesem
Sitz der Titel „Gro&netropolit" verknupft, spatestens seit den zwanziger
Jahren des fiinften Jahrhunderts, seit den Tagen des Dadischo also, nennt
sich der Bischof der Reichshauptstadt Katholikos,52 und seit Mar Ezechiel
(576) ist der PatriarchentiteF fur die Ostsyrer verburgt. Unter dem Re-
formbischof Ischojahb I. (585/S6)54 erreicht das primatiale Denken seinen
Hohepunkt. Wir konnen an dieser Stelle nicht naher auf die eigenwillige
Umdeutung der Pentarchietheorie bei Ischojahb, die sich nicht unwesent-
lich von jener in den Kanones des Marutha 55 unterscheidet, eingehen,

51 Richtungsweisend ist hier neben der Untersuchung von Schwaigert jene von W. de
Vries, Antiochien und Seleucia-Ctesiphon. Patriarch und Katholikos?, in: Melanges
Eugene Tisserant. Vol. III. Orient Chretien, He partie (StT 233), Rom 1964, 429-
450, geworden. Eine umfassende literarkritische Studie zu den Akten des Dadischo
hat jiingst Luise Abramowski (Tubingen) auf dem 6. Deutschen Syrologentag
(16.07.2009-18.07.2009) in Konstanz angekiindigt. Ihrer Grundthese zufolge, auf die
aus Platzgriinden hier nicht naher eingegangen werden kann, trug der Bischof von
Seleukia-Ktesiphon urspriinglich den Titel „der allgemeine Bischof (Katholikos). Er
sei dem Patriarchen von Antiochien niemals untergeordnet gewesen, sondern habe
stets unabhangig als Oberhaupt der Kirche des Ostens aufierhalb der Grenzen des
Romischen Reiches gewirkt. Letztere These ist diskussionswiirdig, denn sie ist nicht
die Sicht der pseudonizanischen Kanones des Marutha, s. u.
52 Zum sprachgeschichtlichen Hintergrund vgl. G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek
Lexicon, Oxford 1976, 690b-691a. Verburgt ist in Konstantinischer Zeit die Verwen-
dung als offizieller Titel fur einen hohen weldichen Finanzbeamten (Superintendent),
erst in spaterer Zeit fur Erzbischofe und Metropoliten, die eine gewisse Kontrollfunk-
tion fiber einen grofieren kirchlichen Sprengel wahrnehmen.
53 Er kann auch in Mesopotamien nicht eher als in der Reichskirche aufgetreten sein.
54 Der literarische Nachlass Ischojahbs (Kanones, Briefe, Glaubensbekenntnisse etc.) ist
kaum zu iiberblicken, vgl. Braun, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm.l), 190-277.
55 Vgl. Voobus, Canons ascribed to Marutha (s. Anm. 15), 53-55. Der Liste lautet hier
Rom, Alexandria, Ephesus (!), Antiochien. Da Konstantinopel keine apostolische
Griindung ist (die Andreas-Legende kam wohl erst spater auf), wurde der Patriarchal-
sitz von Ephesus in die Reichshauptstadt verlegt. Beziiglich des Sitzes von Seleukia-
Ktesiphon heifit es: „Auch der Stuhl von Seleukia im Orient soil von nun an in Zu-
kunft die Erlaubnis haben, wie ein Patriarch Metropoliten zu kreieren, damit nicht
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 123

doch wollen wir nur den einen Punkt festhalten, dass sich der Bischof von
Seleukia-Ktesiphon56 seither als einer der fiinf Patriarchen der Gesamtkir-
che verstand. Papal ist Ischojahbs Vorstellung, wonach alle priesterliche
Vollmacht dem Primus Orientis eignet und von seinem bischoflichen
„Ebenso gehen vom Haupte der Kirche die priesterlichen Ordnungen in verniinftiger
Weise aus und wird die Leitung der Gemeinschaft in vaterlicher Weise fortgefiihrt.
Deshalb befiehlt der Kanon, dass bei seiner Weihe drei oder vier Metropoliten in Be-
gleitung zweier oder dreier Bischofe zusammenkommen sollen, nachdem sie von den
Bischofen der grofien Hyparchie sowie dem Archidiakon, den Kirchenvorstehern und
angesehenen Laien der beiden Stadte der Mahozaye schriftlich berufen wurden. Nach
Ankunft der Metropoliten und der Bischofe mit ihnen wird zuerst in Anwesenheit der
Bischofe der grofcn Hyparchie auf einer allgemeinen Versammlung der Priester und
Glaubigen der Stadte der Mahozaye die Wahl eingerichtet und in einer Wahl fern von
Voreingenommenheit und Parteiengunst und untadelig vor Gott eine Person ausge-
sondert, die fahig und geeignet ist, den Patriarchenstuhl und Primat, welcher Mutter
aller Primaten ist, zu regieren. Hernach stellen sie ihn den angekommenen Metropoli-
ten und Bischofen vor und zeigen ihn an, damit diese ohne Zogern seine Weihe
(chirotonia) vomhrcn.^

Der bereits zitierte c. 29 thematisiert die Mitsprache der Laien bei der
Wahl des Katholikos-Patriarchen. Wie diese genau ausgesehen hat, geht
aus dem Kanon selbst nicht explizit hervor. Hier und dort horen wir in
der syrischen Literatur von Beschwerden seitens des Katholikos, bei der
Wahl der Schismatiker seien Klerus und Volk ubergangen worden. Doch
war dies nicht selten die Sicht des Patriarchen, die von den Abweichlern
nicht unbedingt geteilt werden musste. Wie sah die Mitsprache konkret
aus? Wir wissen z.B. aus spaten Quellen, der Vita des Rabban Sauma aus

durch ihr Hinauf- und Hinabziehen zum Patriarchen des Orients, d.h. von
Antiochien in Syrien, das im romischen Gebiet liegt, die Heiden einen Vorwand ge-
gen unsere christlichen Briider finden und gegen sie Verfolgungen erregen. Auch ist
der Patriarch von Antiochien infolge guten Zurredens der Versammlung gewillt, sich
nicht dariiber zu betriiben, dass die Vollmacht fiber den ganzen Orient (!) ihm abge-
nommen wurde. Wir tun es ja urn der Ruhe unserer christlichen Briider im Perser-
reich willen, damit sie nicht zwecklos von den Heiden angeklagt und getotet werden."
(Syr. Text bei Voobus, Canons ascribed to Marutha [s. Anm. 15], 60,23-61,10).
56 Der in diesem Zusammenhang zu bemiihende c. 29 hat Uberlange, vgl. Braun,
Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 229-233. Nach Ischojahb gibt es im Abendland vier
Patriarchen und im Morgenland einen einzigen, namlich den von Seleukia-Ktesiphon.
Der westliche Betrachter muss sich schon ein wenig an die orientalische Perspektive
gewohnen, in der Antiochien und Konstantinopel im Land des Sonnenunterganges
liegen, von Rom einmal ganz zu schweigen.
57 Syr. Text nach Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 160,31-161,13.
124 Peter Bruns

dem 13. Jahrhundert, 58 dass einflussreiche Arzte im allgemeinen, die Leib-

arzte des Kalifen von Bagdad im besonderen, vorstellig warden, um die
Gunst der weldichen Obrigkeit zu erlangen. Ahnliches war auch schon im
vierten Jahrhundert Fall, wenn etwa der Katholikos Simeon bar Sabba'e
durch den Einfluss der vermogenden Kaufleute und Seidensticker als mog-
licher Kandidat ins Spiel gebracht wurde. Im fiinften Jahrhundert gewan-
nen dann auch die Arzte, die Leibarzte der persischen GroEkonige an
Einfluss bei Hofe, wie das Beispiel des Gabriel von Singara zeigt, der aller-
dings fur die miaphysitische Sache sich bei Hofe verwandte. Aus diesem
Grunde war die „Orthodoxie" im Sinne des „nestorianischen" Bekenntnis-
ses unbedingt erforderlich, wie auch die Kanones bestatigen. Ja, diese Fra-
ge musste sich im Verlauf des sechsten Jahrhunderts noch verscharfen, da
die westsyrische, miaphysitische Hierarchie sich anschickte, in den Osten59
Die arabische Zeit brachte in diesem Punkte keinen grundsatzlichen
Wandel. Nach dem Zusammenbruch des Sassanidenreiches und der Ver-
treibung der Byzantiner aus Syrien suchten sich die sog. „Nestorianer"
nach Westen auszudehnen, wahrend sich die Miaphysiten zum argen Ver-
druE des Katholikos im Zweistromland dauerhaft festsetzten und ihr eige-
nes Vikariat errichteten. Die besseren Beziehungen zur weldichen Obrig-
keit waren wie schon zur Sassanidenzeit unter Chosrau Anoschurwan auch
bei den neueren konfessionellen Streitigkeiten von entscheidender Bedeutung.
Bereits zur Zeit des Katholikos-Patriarchen Georg wurden Klagen uber die
Kaufiichkeit des Klerus laut (c. 3 der Synode des Mar Georg vom Mai 676):
„Daruber, dass die Kirchenvorsteher nach herausragendem Lebenswandel, nach
Kenntnis der Lehre, nach Rechtglaubigkeit und nach Eignung fur den Dienst gewahlt
werden sollen, nicht aber nach ihrem Ansehen bei Standespersonen, nach Gunst und
tadelnswerten Geschenken den Dienst des Apostolats erhalten sollen, worin die Erlo-
sung der Menschen verborgen ist. - Wenn irgendwo ein Bischof stirbt, so wird die
Wahl eines anderen entsprechend den von unseren seligen Vatern festgesetzten
Kanones anberaumt. So soil entsprechend den apostolischen Gesetzen mit Zustim-
mung der Internen jemand nach Sitten und trefflichen Eigenschaften ausgesondert
werden, der im Priesterdienst angestellt ist, indem Klerus und Laien des Bischofssitzes
dem Metropolit mitteilen, wer ihnen dazu geeignet erscheint. Der lerne ihn kennen,
setze ihn ein und benachrichtige davon den Patriarchen, indem er die Zustimmung
des Volkes absendet. Nach dem Befehl des Patriarchen soil er seine Wurde erhalten

58 Vgl. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan Emperor of China, London
1928. Die von A. Toepel, Die Monche des Kublai Khan. Die Reise der Pilger Mar
Yahballaha und Rabban Sauma nach Europa, Darmstadt 2008, besorgte deutsche
Ubersetzung nach dem englischen „Urtext" bei Budge ist leider vollig unbrauchbar.
59 Denken wir hier etwa an Simeon von Beth Arscham und seine Korrespondenz mit
den Christen des Zweistromlandes.
Bischofswahl und Bischofsernennung im Synodcon Orientale 125

und soil seine Vervollkommnung ordnungsgemafi vollzogen werden. Diejenigen aber,

welche in menschlicher Gesinnung eine Wahl mit Riicksicht auf Standespersonen
vornehmen und um verfluchte Bestechung und verwerfliche Geschenke von den gott-
lichen Dingen in solch siindhafter Wahl Gebrauch machen, deren Wahl ist ungiiltig
imfurchtbaren Wort des Herrn.""°
Indes wird man die strengen MaEstabe des westlichen Reformpapsttums
des 11. Jahrhunderts nicht unverandert an die orientalischen Verhaltnisse
anlegen diirfen. Wahrend die Katholikoi in islamischer Zeit in der Regel
von der Kopfsteuer befreit waren, hatten die Laien die gesamten finanziel-
len Lasten fur die Kirche, sprich die Toleranztaxe der dschisja, auch fur die
Patriarchen zu schultern. Nach Spuler61 war dies lediglich die Fortfuhrung
einer alten sasanidischen Gewohnheit, wenn der Kalif von seinen christli-
chen Untertanen Ehrengeschenke entgegennahm.

60 Syr. Text bei Chabot, Synodicon orientale (s. Anm. 1), 218,8-24.
61 Zum „Geschenkwesen" im Orient vgl. B. Spuler, Iran in friihislamischer Zeit. Politik,
Kultur, Verwaltung und offentliches Leben zwischen der arabischen und der
seldschukischen Eroberung 633 bis 1055, Wiesbaden 1952, 367-369. 453. Geschenke
an einen Hoherstehenden zu iibersenden, gehorte zu einem feststehenden Teil des
iranischen und iiberhaupt morgenlandischen Zeremoniells. In einem religiosen Kon-
text haftete einem solchen Vorgang freilich immer der schale Beigeschmack der Simo-
La royaute merovingienne et les elections
episcopales au Vie siecle

Bruno Dumezil
En septembre 597, le pape Gregoire le Grand envoie une lettre au monde
franc pour lui demander de lutter centre la simonie et centre l'accession de
simples laics au rang d'eveque.1 Du point de vue de Rome, l'achat des
charges qui preside aux elections episcopales se traduit par la mauvaise
qualite morale des prelats gaulois. Pourtant, la lettre de Gregoire le Grand
n'est pas adressee au clerge pour l'inviter a corriger, en interne, ses propres
pratiques. Ce sont les rois merovingiens qui se voient remettre la charge de
retablir l'ordre et la moralite dans la procedure de nomination des nou-
Telle semble etre l'ambiguite fondatrice du monde franc: alors que
l'Eglise, conciles et papes en tete, reclame la libre election des eveques,
personne ne conteste le droit des souverains a surveiller les successions
episcopales, quitte a ce qu'ils interviennent pour que le "meilleur" candi-
dat soit choisi. La royaute franque apparait ainsi a la fois comme perturba-
triceetgarantede l'ordre canonique.
Ce jeu d'interrelations complexes entre l'Etat et l'Eglise peut etre de-
crit de differentes facons. Souvent, les canonistes tels que Jean Gaudemet
ont applique leur propre grille de lecture.2 Si Ton suit cette vision legaliste,
il y a d'un cote une procedure unique pour les elections episcopales - celle
qui est definie par le concile de Nicee - et de l'autre cote des irregularis
regionales, dont la situation franque consume un cas d'ecole. De fait, cette
description est en elle-meme parfaitement legitime. Mais il est egalement
possible de soumettre la Gaule du VP siecle a une interpretation beaucoup
plus fonctionnaliste.3 Plutot que de voir le controle royal sur les elections
comme une anomalie, considerons-la comme le cadre normal, sinon nor-
me, dans lequel chaque election se deroule. Dans une telle perspective, il

1 Greg. Mag. ep. VIII 4 (CChr.SL 140a, 518-521 ed. D. Norberg).

2 j . Gaudemet, Les elections dans l'Eglise latine des origines au XVIe siecle, Paris, 1979.
3 Cf. M. Heinzelmann, Bischofsherrschaft in Gallien. Zur Kontinuitat romischer Fiih-
rungsschichten von 4. bis 7. Jahrhundert, Munich, 1976.
128 Bruno Dumezil

s'agit maintenant de comprendre comment le systeme apparait, s'auto-

entretient et resiste aux critiques. Ainsi peut-on degager les interets
qu'offre la procedure, tant pour le palais que pour les eveques eux-memes.

Pratiques et critiques de Intervention royale

En 597, le pape croit savoir que les rois des Francs, et notamment la tres
c o n t r o v e r t reine Brunehaut, disposent du pouvoir d'imposer leur candi-
dat dans les elections episcopales. Ce point de vue n'est certainement pas
faux, mais il est reducteur. II serait en effet illusoire de vouloir identifier, a
travers un siecle d'histoire merovingienne, une procedure unique par la-
quelle le palais interviendrait dans la designation des prelats. Quelques
pratiques reviennent toutefois avec une grande regularite dans nos sources.
En premier lieu, l'autorite publique dispose d u n pouvoir de surveil-
lance sur Fentree des laics dans le clerge. Sous l'Empire tardif, la procedure
s'expliquait pour des raisons d'ordre fiscal: un nouveau clerc constituait en
effet un curiale de moins, et done un manque a gagner pour l'Etat. Le
Code Theodosien autorise done le souverain et ses agents a controler etroi-
tement le recrutement du clerge; en Gaule romano-barbare, ce dispositif
fut relaye par le Breviaire d'Akric* L'Eglise gauloise accepte sans trop de
difficult une telle ingerence. Des le concile d'Orleans I de 511, il semble
etabli que le roi et ses fonctionnaires ont le pouvoir d'autoriser,
d'ordonner ou d'interdire Fentree d u n laic dans la clericature.5
Responsable du maintien de l'ordre, le prince dispose en outre du
droit de decider de la tenue dune election apres la mort d u n eveque, ne
serait-ce que pour en valider ensuite les resultats.6 En Gaule, cette forme
d'intervention semble assez ancienne. Pour se limiter a Fepoque barbare, le
phenomene commence a etre visible chez les Wisigoths du royaume de
Toulouse dans les annees 470. Lors d u n e rebellion des Gallo-Romains

4 Voir notamment Breviaire XVI 1.5 (= C.-Th. XVI, 2,39 [ed. by Th. Mommsen,
Theodosiani libri XVI cum Constitutionibus Sirmondianis, vol. 1/2, 848-849]); Bre-
viaire. Novelles de Majorien I (= C.-Th. Maiorianus I [ed. by P. Meyer/Th. Momm-
sen, Theodosiani libri XVI cum Constitutionibus Sirmondianis, vol. 2, Leges novellae
ad Theodosianum pertinentes, Zurich 1971, 156]); et Breviaire. Novelles de Valenti-
nien XII ( = C.-Th. Valentinianus XII [93-94 Meyer/Mommsen]).
5 Concile d'Orleans I, c. 4 (in Les canons des conciles merovingiens [VL-VIL siecles],
ed. by J. Gaudemet/B. Basdevant, vol. 1, SC 353, 74).
6 Lune des attestations les plus precoces en Occident, encore que peu claire, est la lettre
de Valentinien II au prtfet de Rome Pinianus sur l'election du pape Sirice (Collectio
Avellana 4, CSEL 35/1, 47-48 O. Giinther).
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 129

catholiques, neuf cites se virent ainsi interdire de proceder au remplace-

ment de leurs eveques defunts/ Cette sanction fut toutefois levee quelques
annees plus tard, lorsque les Gallo-Romains se rallierent au pouvoir wisigoth.
Dans un tel cadre, le palais doit imperativement etre consulte lots de la
vacance d u n siege. Ceci ouvre une premiere breche dans le principe de
l'election clero etpopulo, puisqu'un eveque age peut intriguer aupres du roi
pour preparer la nomination de son successeur. Gregoire de Tours rap-
porte ainsi que, vers 580, Feveque Dalmatius de Rodez avait redige un
testament indiquant qu'il ne voulait pas que son successeur soit un Gran-
ger a sa cite ou un homme marie.8 De la a court-circuiter la procedure
normale d'election en faveur d u n individu donne, il n'y avait qu'un pas,
qui fut frequemment franchi. Au debut du VP siecle, Eonius d'Arles ecri-
vit ainsi au palais wisigoth de Toulouse pour donner le nom de son futur
successeur, Cesaire, un homme originaire de Chalon-sur-Saone et qui
appartenait a sa propre famille.9 De meme, Maurilon de Cahors exigea que
l'on consacre pour lui succeder un certain Ursinus.10 La strategie pouvait
toutefois se retourner contre son beneficiaire suppose: ainsi, Feveque du
Mans Domnole avait obtenu l'accord du roi pour qu'un abbe local le
remplace, mais le souverain se ravisa et choisit finalement un haut fonc-
tionnaire.11 Dans les annees 580, Bertrand de Bordeaux echoua tout au-
tant a designer son propre successeur.12
Peut-etre les clercs furent-ils ainsi les premiers a faire appel au prince
dans les elections. Mais il est evident que le palais franc comprit tres tot

7 Sid. ep. VII 6.7 (Poemes et lettres, 44 A. Loyen): "Pour toutes ces raisons, laissez-moi
vous instruire promptemem de la maladie encore cachee de la communaute catho-
lique, pour que vous puissiez en toute hate y appliquer ouvertement un remede. Bur-
digak (Bordeaux), Petrogorii (Perigeux), Rutenii (Rodez), Lemovices (Limoges), Gaba-
litani (javols/Mende), Helusani (Eauze), Vasates (Bazas), Conuenae (St-Bertand-de-
Comminges), Auscenses (Auch) - et ce sera bientot le cas dans un nombre beaucoup
plus grand de cites - amputees par la mort de leur supreme pontife, sans qu'on ait
nomme par la suite dans les fonctions des defunts d'autres eveques qui auraient pu en
tout cas assurer les successions dans les ordres mineurs... toutes ces villes ont vu
s'elargir le champ des ruines spirituelles".
8 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 46 (Gregorii episcopii Turonensis historiarum libri historia-
rum X, M G H SS rer. Merov. 1,1, Hannover 2 1951, 256-7, ed. B. Krusch and W. Le-
9 Vita Caesarii I, 13 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 3, 461 Krusch): ipsos dominos rerum per
internuntios rogat ut [...] sanctum Caesarium eligerent fieri successorem. L'expression
"domini rerum" est largement utilisee par le Breviaire dAlaric pour designer les rois
wisigothsde Toulouse.
10 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 42 (248-9 Krusch/Levison).
11 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 9 (279 Krusch/Levison).
12 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 22 (388-9 Krusch/Levison).
130 Bruno Dumezil

l'avantage qu'il pouvait trouver a participer a la nomination des nouveaux

eveques. On doit d'ailleurs constater qu'en la matiere, la religion person-
n e l du souverain n'avait guere d'importance. Du temps ou il etait encore
paien, Clovis semble ainsi avoir ordonne la nomination de Termite Vaast
sur le siege d'Arras.13 Plus certainement, il presida a la nomination de trois
eveques dans le nord de la Gaule; quelques annees plus tard, dans le cadre
d u n e controverse sur une ordination discutable, saint Remi de Reims prit
d'ailleurs plaisir a rappeler a ces trois personnages combien leur propre
election avait ete peu canonique.14
Pour autant, une nomination par le roi n'etait pas toujours contraire
au droit de l'Eglise des Gaules. La premiere reconnaissance officielle de
replication royale date du concile d'Orleans V de 549, ou il est dit qu'un
eveque ne doit pas acheter son siege, mais le recevoir "avec l'assentiment
du roi, en conformite avec l'election du clerge et du peuple".15 L'objectif
semble ici de trouver un compromis entre la vieille election locale et les
nouvelles exigences des pouvoirs centraux. Peu a peu formalist, la proce-
dure de nomination merovingienne passait par l'octroi d u n precepte offi-
ciel emis par la chancellerie palatine et dont Gregoire de Tours fait men-
tion a de nombreuses reprises. Aucun de ces documents ne nous est
conserve pour le VP siecle, mais on les connait pour la periode suivante;
Sandrine Liger estime d'ailleurs que 8.500 actes de ce type ont pu etre
emis pour l'ensemble de la periode merovingienne.16
Pour obtenir son precepte, le candidat a l'episcopat devait apporter des
cadeaux au palais. Doit-on pour cela parler de simonie? Les presents pou-
vaient etre purement symboliques et il arrivait que le roi refuse de recevoir
les biens qui lui etaient offerts.17 Dans tous les cas, comme le souverain
etait en mesure de controler les nominations episcopales, les candidats a la
mitre prirent l'habitude de rechercher la recommandation de personnages
bien en cour. Le concile de Clermont de 535 est le premier a evoquer "le
patronage de puissants" dans l'election des nouveaux eveques.18 Gregoire le

13 Vita Vedasti 5 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 3, 409 Krusch).

14 Epistula austrasicae, 3 (MGH Epp. 3, 114 Gundlach): Tanto in me prorupistis felle
eommoti, ut nee episeopatus vestri detukritis auetori. Ces trois eveques avaient accuse
Remi de Reims d'avoir ordonne pretre un homme peu recommandable sur ordre du
roi Clovis. La replique etait de ce fait cinglante.
15 Concile d'Orleans V (549), c. 10 (SC 353, 308 Gaudemet/Basdevant): eum uoluntate
regis iuxtaeleetionemelerietplebis.
16 S. Liger, L'ecrit a l'epoque merovingienne dapres la correspondance de Didier, eveque
de Cahors (630-655), Studi medievali 33, 1992, 799-823, ici 810.
17 Voir par exemple Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 7 (139-40 Krusch/Levison).
18 Concile de Clermont (535), c. 2 (SC 353, 212 Gaudemet/Basdevant).
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 131

Grand denonce egalement ce patonicium qu'il considere comme une pra-

tique courante.19 On salt effectivement que dans les annees 580, un candi-
dat au siege de Rodez chercha a faire intervenir le parrain de son fils, qui
n'etait autre que le regent du royaume d'Austrasie.20 Les notables locaux
semblent egalement avoir pris initiative des demarches, meme si celles-ci
n'etaient pas tres canoniques. Vers 540, ce fut ainsi a la demande de
membres de hplebs de Melun que Childebert F proceda a la nomination
d'un eveque.21
La totalite des elections episcopales gauloises du VP siecle resultaient-
elles pour autant de nominations royales? Au vu des rares sources conser-
v e s , on ne saurait l'affirmer de facon categorique. De plus, l'immixtion
du palais se trouvait regulierement critiquee. Si le concile d'Orleans II de
533 est le premier a evoquer des desordres dans les elections,22 le concile
d'Orleans III de 538 invite fermement a un retour a Election clero et pa-
pula avec consentement du metropolitan. 23 Le concile d'Orleans IV de
541 rappelle egalement qu'un eveque doit etre elu et consacre dans la cite
ou il officiera,24 disposition qui avait sans doute pour but d'eviter le para-
chutage par le palais d'hommes etrangers a la ville. Le concile d'Orleans V
de 549 synthase cette critique en decretant que "mil eveque ne soit don-
ne a ceux qui ne veulent pas de lui". 25 Si le canon entend surtout lutter
contre les patronages dont beneficient certains candidats, il peut egalement
se comprendre comme une contestation de l'arbitraire royal dans les no-
minations. Toutefois, la reunion d'Orleans V se tint sous un controle
etroit du roi Childebert I" et la liberte de parole des eveques restait limitee.
Quelques annees plus tard, le troisieme concile de Paris put se permettre
d'etre beaucoup plus vehement. Reuni dans la periode de faiblesse de la
monarchic qui suivit la mort de Childebert P r et de Clotaire Pr, il prescri-
vit qu'un eveque elu par designation royale ne pourrait pas etre recu par
ses comprovinciaux, dans la mesure ou son election etait irreguliere.26 En

19 Greg. Mag. ep. VIII 4 (518-521 Norberg).

20 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 46 (256-7 Krusch/Levison).
21 Epistola aevi merowingici collectae 3 (MGH Epp. Ill, 437-438 Gundlach).
22 Concile d'Orleans II (533), c. 7 (SC 353, 198 Gaudemet/Basdevant).
23 Concile d'Orleans III (538), c. 3 (SC 353, 232 Gaudemet/Basdevant).
24 Concile d'Orleans IV (541), c. 5 (SC 353, 268 Gaudemet/Basdevant). Ce concile n'a
vraisemblablement pas ete reuni par un roi merovingien et disposait de ce fait d'un as-
sezgrande liberte de parole.
25 Concile d'Orleans V (549), c. 11 (SC 353, 308 Gaudemet/Basdevant): nullus inuhis
detur episcopus.
26 Concile de Paris III (556-573), c. 8 (in Les canons des conciles merovingiens [VL-VIL
siecles], ed. b y j . Gaudemet/B. Basdevant, vol. 2, SC 354, 420-422).
132 Bruno Dumezil

pratique, cela signifiait qu'un candidat choisi par le roi ne devait pas etre
consacre. La mesure prise par Paris III presentait meme une vocation re-
troactive, puisque des proces pouvaient etre souleves contre les prelats en
poste dont l'election n'aurait pas ete tenue pour canonique.
Apres la guerre civile - pendant laquelle l'activite conciliaire
s'interrompt dans le monde franc - , la reunion de Paris V de 614 rappelle
une derniere fois les anciens principes d'election niceenne dans l'Eglise de
Gaule: le choix doit se faire au sein de la cite, clero etpopulo et sous la sur-
veillance bienveillante du metropolitan assiste des comprovinciaux.27 Tou-
tefois, le roi Clotaire II ne laissa pas passer la chose. Lorsqu'il promulgua
l'edit de confirmation du concile de Paris V, il modifia le texte du canon
de facon a reintroduce l'idee dune intervention royale dans le processus
Si Ton sort maintenant du debat juridique et que Ton entre dans le
champ de la pratique reelle, on remarque que la rhetorique conciliaire, tres
critique, ne se traduit pas par une opposition frontale entre le roi et
l'episcopat. Les tentatives faites pour casser les nominations operees par le
palais resterent ainsi rares, isolees, voire exceptionnelles. Elles paraissent
d'ailleurs correspondre a des situations de faiblesse du pouvoir central.
Ainsi, ce fut parce que le roi d'Austrasie Theodebald etait tres jeune en
552 que des eveques estimerent pouvoir elire un certain Caton sur le siege
de Clermont sans demander l'autorisation du palais.29 De meme, a la mort
de Clotaire I" en 561, le metropolitan de Bordeaux, Leonce, deposa
l'eveque de Saintes, Emerius, qui avait ete choisi par ce roi et avait ete
ordonne en dehors de la province. Le nouveau souverain, Charibert, refusa
d'etre place devant le fait accompli: il confirma Emerius et soumit Leonce
a une forte amende pour le punir de sa tentative de deposition.30 Visible-
ment, le metropolitan de Bordeaux avait pense profiter d u n e crise de
succession royale pour retablir ses privileges metropolitans. Vaincu, il sut
faire bonne figure et se reconcilia meme avec Emerius.31
De la meme maniere, si Ton cherche a reconstituer le point de vue de
Gregoire de Tours sur la question des ingerences royales dans les elections,
on ne peut manquer d'etre surpris. Le chroniqueur critique bien sur cer-
taines nominations qui lui semblent abusives, mais il ne conteste pas en soi

27 Concile de Paris V (614), c. 1 (SC 354, 508 Gaudemet/Basdevant).

28 Edit de Clotaire II, c. 1 (MGH Capit. 1, 21 Boretius).
29 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 6 (139 Krusch/Levison).
30 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 26 (157-9 Krusch/Levison).
31 Leonce et Emerius participerent ensemble a l'achevement de l'eglise Saint-Vivien:
Venant. Fort. carm. I, 12 (Venance Fortunat, Poemes, ed. and transl. by M. Reydel-
let, vol.1, Paris 1994, 31-32).
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 133

le pouvoir du roi a attribuer les sieges. II est vrai, si on en croit une lettre
de Venance Fortunat, que Gregoire avait lui-meme recu son siege episco-
pal des mains de Sigebert I" d'Austrasie et qu'il avait ete consacre par le
metropolitan de Reims, ce qui etait la une entree en fonction fort peu
II reste toutefois impossible d'expliquer la perennite d u n systeme de
nomination par la veulerie des hommes qui en auraient profit*. En effet,
les souverains controlaient les elections, mais pas les elus. Une fois consa-
cres, ceux-ci pouvaient s'affranchir de la tutelle du palais avec d'autant plus
de facilite qu'ils se savaient inamovibles: les destitutions autoritaires
s'averaient tres rares en Gaule merovingienne. De temps en temps, on l'a
vu, des eveques crees par le palais osaient d'ailleurs elever la voix contre les
designations royales. Si le systeme se perpetuait dans le monde franc, ce
n'etait done pas parce que le clerge l'acceptait de bon coeur, mais plutot
parce qu'il repondait aux attentes de l'ensemble de la societe. Discutable
sur le plan legal, la pratique se comprenait parfaitement dans un monde
du clientelisme generalise, dans lequel la qualite d u n promu etait finale-
ment indifferente aux circonstances de son election.

Figures d'eveques elus par nomination royale

Que sait-on des eveques nommes par designation royale? Dans l'attente de
la prochaine parution de la Prosopographie chretienne des Gaules, on se
contentera ici d'exploiter les informations plus ou moins explicites offertes
par Gregoire de Tours, Venance Fortunat et Fredegaire pour la periode
situee entre 500 et 614. Ce sondage, meme s'il est partiel et laisse de nom-
breuses incertitudes,33 n'est pas depourvu d'interet,34
En tete des personnalites choisies par le palais pour occuper un siege
episcopal, on trouve d'abord des clercs, qui sont mentionnes a au moins

32 Venam. Fort. carm. V, 3,15 (Venance Fortunat, Poemes, ed. and transl. by M. Rey-
d d k t , vol. 2, Paris 1998, 17).
33 Condition initiate du candidat non prkisee: Emeri a Saintes, nomme par Clotaire Ier et
confirme par Charibert (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 26 [157-9 Krusch/Levison]);
Apollinaire a Clermont, qui obtient du roi l'episcopat en echange de cadeaux contre le
candidat canoniquement elu (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. Ill, 2 [98-99 Krusch/Levison]);
Ommatius a Tours, nomme par Clodomir (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. Ill, 17 [117
34 On retiendra ci-dessous a la fois les candidats qui recurent l'episcopat entre v. 500 et
614, ainsi que ceux qui ont obtenu la faveur du palais mais sans parvenir a etre consa-
cres pour une raison variable.
134 Bruno Dumezil

vingt-six occurrences.35 Dans leur cas, on ne saurait done dire que la pro-
cedure de designation royale ait ete un moyen de bouleverser l'ordre cano-
nique. Dans plusieurs cas, le candidat a meme ete clairement elu clero et
populo avant de partir au palais recevoir son precepte de nomination.

35 Nomination de clercs locaux. Verus II a Vienne, pretre de famille senatoriale (Greg.

Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 39 [405-6 Krusch/Levison]); Nizier a Lyon, designe par son
oncle Sacerdos a Childebert Ier (Greg. Tur. vit. patr. VIII, 3 [Gregorii episcopii Tu-
ronensis miracula et opera minora, M G H SS rer. Merov. 1,2, Hannover 1885, 242-3,
ed. B. Krusch]; Aetherius a Lyon (L. Duchesne, Fastes episcopaux de l'ancienne
Gaule, Paris, 1907, 168); Gall a Clermont (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 5 [138-9
Krusch/Levison]); Caton, pretre a Clermont, pense pouvoir obtenir l'episcopat local
du roi (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 6 [139 Krusch/Levison]); Eufromius a Tours,
pretre, nomme par Clotaire Ier (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 15 [147 Krusch/Levison]);
Marcel, diacre, a Uzes (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VII, 7 [329-30 Krusch/Levison]);
Promotus, pretre, nomme a Chateaudun lors de l'erection de la localite en eveche par
Sigebert (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VII, 17[338 Krusch/Levison]); Romulf, pretre, desi-
gne a Reims pour remplacer Egidius, depose pour haute trahison (Greg. Tur. hist.
Franc. X, 19 [510-513 Krusch/Levison]); Cautin, archidiacre a Clermont, sous Theo-
debald (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 7 [139-40 Krusch/Levison]). Archidiacres: Avitus
de Clermont, apres une difficile competition contre Eufrasius et Firmin, qui donnent
des fortunes en numeraire et en objets precieux (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 35 [167-8
Krusch/Levison]); Theodose, archidiacre a Rodez, finalement deboute apres la dispari-
tion de son protecteur au palais (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 46 [256-7
Krusch/Levison]). Clercs etrangers: Virgile d'Arles, ancien abbe d'Autun nomme sur la
recommandation de Syagrius d'Autun aupres de la reine Brunehaut (Greg. Tur. hist.
Franc. IX, 29 [447-8 Krusch/Levison]); Platon, archidiacre de Tours, nomme eveque
de Poitiers vers 591, sans doute sur intervention de Brunehaut (Venant. Fort. carm. X,
14 [Venance Fortunat, Poemes, ed. and transl. by M. Reydellet, vol. 3, Paris 2004,
93]; Greg. Tur. virt. Martin. IV, 32 [Gregorii episcopii Turonensis miracula et opera
minora, M G H SS rer. Merov. 1,2, Hannover 1885, 208, ed. B. Krusch]); Caton,
pretre de Clermont, designe par Clotaire I» pour occuper le siege de Tours, puis recu-
se (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 11 [141-2 Krusch/Levison]); Pappoul, archidiacre
d'Autun, nomme eveque de Langres apres une succession difficile (Greg. Tur. hist.
Franc. V, 5 [200-203 Krusch/Levison]); Domnole, abbe de Paris, devenu eveque du
Mans (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 9 [279 Krusch/Levison]); Gregoire a Tours, grace a
l'appui de Sigebert et Brunehaut (Venant. Fort. carm. V, 3,15 [vol. 2, 17 Reydellet]);
Germain a Paris (Venant. Fort. vit. Germ. 39 [Venanti Honori Clementiani Fortunati
presbyteri Italici Opera pedestria, M G H AA 4,2, Berlin 1885, 14, ed. B. Krusch]; Ni-
zer a Treves (Greg. Tur. vit. patr. XVII, 1 [278-9 Krusch]); Gery a Cambrai, a la de-
mande de Childebert II (Vita Gaugerici 6, M G H SS rer. Merov. 3, 654 Krusch). Exi-
les etfugitifs: Fronimius de Vence, ancien eveque d'Agde ayant fui les Wisigoths,
nomme par Childebert II (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IX, 24 [443-4 Krusch/Levison]);
Munderic, nomme par Gontran pour devenir eveque de Langres, il s'enfuit face a la
colere du roi et est recueilli par Sigebert d'Austrasie, qui le fait eveque d'Arisitum
(Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 5 [200-203 Krusch/Levison]); Theodore, Procule et Dini-
fius, eveques de Burgondie en exil, installes a Tours par Clotilde et Clodomir (Greg.
Tur. hist. Franc. Ill, 17 [117 Krusch/Levison]; X, 31 [532 Krusch/Levison]).
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 135

On remarque toutefois que le parrainage royal ne favorise pas les can-

didats les plus attendus: ainsi, seuls deux archidiacres locaux sont connus
pour avoir profite de la protection du palais, alors que le poste etait repute
predisposer a l'accession a l'episcopat.36 De plus, le roi a tendance a nom-
mer beaucoup de clercs etrangers a la cite: on connait au moins le nom de
neuf d'entre eux,37 Parmi ceux-ci, on note une proportion non negligeable
de clercs chasses de chez eux par une persecution ou exiles de leur siege par
des difficult politiques. Ces parias beneficient dune grande bienveillance
de la cour, qui n'hesite pas a contrevenir a la discipline ecclesiastique pour
les accueillir, parfois en nommant deux eveques sur un meme siege.
A cote du clerge, la fonction publique consume le second vivier de re-
crutement des eveques designes par le souverain. Pour le seul VP siecle,
onze fonctionnaires francs au moins ont profite d u n e promotion a
l'episcopat grace a la protection royale,38 Deux originalites meritent d'etre
soulignees. D'abord, ces nominations ne concernent que des membres de
la tres haute administration; ensuite, les officiers palatins sont tres large-
ment preferes aux agents territoriaux. La nomination royale beneficie done
a des personnalites de premier plan, qui ont generalement mene de
En elles-memes, les nominations de fonctionnaires a des postes epis-
copaux posent certainement des problemes canoniques. Toutefois, le con-
cile d'Arles de 52439 ne prevoit deja plus qu'un an de conversio avant de
devenir eveque; la prescription se trouve repetee par les conciles d'Orleans

36 Vita Praeiecti 13 (MGH SS rer. Merov. 5, 232-233 B. Krusch/W. Levinson).

37 V.^m,note35.
38 Fonctionnaires: Cariatto de Geneve, ancien spathaire de Gontran (Fredeg. Chroniques
III, 89 [ M G H SS rer. Merov. 2, 117 Krusch]); Licerius d'Arles, referendaire de Gon-
tran (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 39 [405-6 Krusch/Levison]); Jovin, ex-recteur de
Provence, nomme sur le siege d'Uzes qu'il ne parvient pas a occuper (Greg. Tur. hist.
Franc. VI, 7 [276-7 Krusch/Levison]); Innocent, comte de Javols nomme eveque de
Rodez par Brunehaut (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 38 [309 Krusch/Levison]); Baudin,
referendaire de Clotaire V nomme a Tours (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IV, 3 [136-7
Krusch/Levison] et X, 31 [532 Krusch/Levison]); Ursinus, ancien referendaire de la
reine Ultrogothe a Cahors (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 42 [248-9 Krusch/Levison]);
Flavus, referendaire de Gontran, nomme a Chalon-sur-Saone (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc.
V, 45 [254. 256 Krusch/Levison]); Albin, ancien prefer de Provence de Marseille, a
Uzes (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VII, 7 [229-30 Krusch/Levison]); Badegisele, maire du
palais, nomme au Mans (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 9 [279 Krusch/Levison]); Hari-
mer, referendaire d'Austrasie, nomme a Verdun contre le candidat local, un abbe
(Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IX, 23 [443 Krusch/Levison]); Gondesigele, comte de Saintes,
nomme a Bordeaux contre le candidat local, un diacre (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII,
22 [388-9 Krusch/Levison]).
39 Concile d'Arles IV (524), c. 1 (SC 353, 138 Gaudemet/Basdevant).
136 Bruno Dumezil

de 53840 et de 549.41 Comme la forme de cette conversio reste sujette a

appreciation, un dignitaire menant une vie pieuse peut etre juge parfaite-
ment digne d'acceder au sacerdoce. De plus, les hauts fonctionnaires bene-
ficiant d u n promotion a l'episcopat essaient souvent de respecter les regies
canoniques, meme si c'est a minima. Par exemple, lorsque le maire du
palais Badegisele est nomme sur le siege du Mans, il se fait tonsurer puis
ordonner successivement a tous les ordres clericaux. Son seul tort est sans
doute d'accelerer un peu trop la procedure, puisqu'il parvient a l'episcopat
en quarante jours.42
Aux yeux des contemporains, la nomination de fonctionnaires ne
consume nullement un scandale. Sans doute ces hommes etaient-ils juges
competents, ou tout au moins impartiaux puisque exterieurs aux querelles
locales. II en va tout autrement des promotions de laics n'ayant jamais
servi l'Etat, evenements qui soulevent toujours l'indignation des chroni-
queurs. On ne connait toutefois que peu d'occurrences assurees de ce phe-
nomene; il semble d'ailleurs que, dans ce cas, le candidat ait du faire
d'importants cadeaux au palais pour obtenir son precepte.43
Si Ton poursuit le releve des mentions dune intervention royale con-
nues pour le VP siecle, on est surpris de constater qu'elles ne beneficient
qu'assez rarement aux moines et encore moins aux ermites.44 Pe point est
d'autant plus notable qu'avant les annees 480, le monachisme constituait

40 Concile d'Orleans III (538), c. 6 (SC 353, 234-236 Gaudemet/Basdevant).

41 Concile d'Orleans V (549), c. 9 (SC 353, 306 Gaudemet/Basdevant).
42 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 9 (279 Krusch/Levison).
43 Simples laics: Nicetius devient eveque de Dax sous Gontran, grace a un precepte de
nomination recu sous Chilperic (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 20 [386-7
Krusch/Levison]); Didier d'Eauze, laic, est elu apres avoir verse beaucoup d'argent
(Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 22 [388-9 Krusch/Levison]). Le cas d'Eusebe de Pais est
plus incertain, car on ne sait pas s'il a achete son poste aupres du roi ou du college
electif (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. X, 26 [519 Krusch/Levison]). De meme, la situation de
Sulpice de Bourges est discutable, dans la mesure ou quoique n'etant pas signale
comme un fonctionnaire, il etait issu d'une famille senatoriale et disposait d'une vaste
culture (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 39 [309-10 Krusch/Levison]).
44 Personnalites monastiques: Pair d'Avranches, nomme avec le soutien de Childebert Ier
(Venant. Fort. vit. Patern. 47 [37 Krusch]); Virgile d'Arles, ancien abbe d'Autun
nomme sur la recommandation de Syagrius d'Autun aupres de la reine Brunehaut
(Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. IX, 29 [447-8 Krusch/Levison]); Domnole, abbe de Paris, de-
venu eveque du Mans en recompense pour son aide aux espions de Clotaire Ier (Greg.
Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 9 [279 Krusch/Levison]). On peut eventuellement ajouter a cette
liste Germain de Paris, dont la carriere nest toutefois pas exclusivement monastique et
pour qui la nomination royale reste implicite (Venant. Fort. vit. Germ. XII 38-39 [14
Krusch]) de meme que Vaast dArras, pour qui l'implication royale est incertaine (Vita
Vedasti 5, ActaSS Feb. vol. I, 795 Henschen).
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 137

l'un des foyers de recrutement les plus importants pour l'episcopat gau-
lois.45 Apres 614, la monarchie merovingienne privilegiera a nouveau un
recrutement monastique, notamment en faveur des personnalites issues
On peut enfin constater que le palais n'a pas d'attitude unique a
l'egard du nepotisme, ni pour l'interdire, ni pour le favoriser. Certes, les
successions a l'interieur de la famille etroite semblent nettement plus rares
au VF siecle qu'au Ve siecle. Toutefois, a l'occasion, on voit un roi organi-
ser une succession entre cousins sur le siege de Nantes, contre l'avis du
metropolitan de la province.46 La famille royale n'est en tout cas pas favo-
risee par les nominations episcopales: tres peu de membres de la dynastie
merovingienne sont designes pour devenir eveques et, dans les rares occur-
rences connues, il s'agit de collateraux et non de princes du sang.47 II est
vrai que les rois chevelus n'avaient nul interet a entrer dans le clerge s'ils
entendaient garder des vues sur le trone; deux siecles plus tard, la structure
lignagiere de la famille carolingienne predisposerait mieux cadets et ba-
tards a accepter la mitre.
Au final, on ne peut que souligner l'extreme diversite des candidats
soutenus par le palais merovingien. Du referendaire bien en cour a l'exile
depourvu de tout bien, le spectre des niveaux sociaux est immense. Ajou-
tons que la diversite des favoris ne saurait etre interpretee comme la conse-
quence du pur arbitraire du souverain. Jamais un roi ne chercha en effet a
donner des preuves de sa puissance en multipliant les scandales patents. La
consecration d u n homme notoirement indigne reste ainsi un phenomene
rare et plutot limit* aux situations de crise.

Strategies suivies par le palais

Des lors, il s'agit d'essayer de comprendre quelles etaient les strategies

suivies par le palais lorsqu'il procedait a la nomination directe d u n nouvel
Commencons par reflechir aux accusations de simonie. En temps or-
dinaire, l'argent et la corruption ne suffisent pas a obtenir l'episcopat; seule
la volonte du souverain prime. Ainsi, lors d'une election disputee pour le

45 F. Prevot, Eveques gaulois dorigine monastique (IVe-VIe siecle), in: Prosopographie

et histoire religieuse, ed. par M.-F. Baslez/F. Prevot, Paris, 2005, 379-400.
46 Nonnichius, cousin de Felix de Nantes, lui succede par ordre royal, lors qu'il appert
que celui-ci ne peut pas choisir son jeune neveu Bourgondion comme successes
(Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 15 [285 Krusch/Levison]).
47 Le cas le plus notable est celui de Bertrand de Bordeaux (PLRE III, 227).
138 Bruno Dumezil

siege de Bourges, les candidats viennent au palais avec des cadeaux. lis
s'entendent repondre par le roi Gontran: "Ce n'est pas la coutume de
notre regne de vendre l'episcopat a prix d'argent et ce n'est pas non plus la
votre de l'acheter en faisant des cadeaux".48 Face aux intrigants, le souve-
rain prefere nommer un certain Sulpice, un pur laic certes, mais estime de
tous pour sa stature sociale et sa grande maitrise de la rhetorique.
Dans le dernier tiers du VF siecle, le monde franc doit toutefois af-
fronter des guerres civiles a repetition, qui vident le Tresor public. Vendre
un siege episcopal, surtout si c'est celui d u n e cite depourvue d'interet
strategique, peut parfois aider a remplir les caisses. Gregoire de Tours re-
marque le fait a propos de la nomination d u n eveque d'Eauze en 585. 49
Notons dans ce cas que le palais a demande au candidat d'offrir du nume-
raire et des objets precieux. Meme dans une situation difficile, l'Etat me-
rovingien n'a pas besoin de terres ou d'esclaves; il exige plutot des biens
immediatement mobilisables pour ses activites militaires.
D'ailleurs, cette "soif d'or" que denonce episodiquement Gregoire de
Tours 50 n'aveuglait pas trop les souverains merovingiens. Ainsi, au milieu
des annees 580, un diacre bordelais nomme Waldo chercha a obtenir
l'eveche de Bordeaux. Il se presenta au palais avec une forte somme et
declara disposer du soutien de la population locale. Pourtant, le roi Gon-
tran refusa de lui conferer le siege. Waldo avait en effet ete recommande
par son predecesseur, l'eveque Bertrand, que Gontran soupconnait de
haute trahison. Plutot que de voir une nouvelle personnalite douteuse
controler Bordeaux, le roi prefera de pas empocher d'argent.51
Dans le monde franc, les eveches constituaient en effet des centres es-
sentiels pour le controle du territoire. La geopolitique suffit ainsi a expli-
quer beaucoup de nominations royales. Ainsi, lorsqu'une ville venait d'etre
annexee et que le clerge local s'y montrait rebelle, le souverain etait natu-
rellement tente de placer un etranger comme eveque. Un tel homme se
montrait generalement fidele, ne serait-ce que pour se maintenir en place.
C'est ainsi que l'auvergnat Gregoire obtint son poste a Tours et que saint
Gery fut nomme a Cambrai par le roi d'Austrasie.52 Plus largement, privi-
legier des candidats peu soutenus localement permettait au roi de ne pas se
faire l'esclave d'une faction aristocratique.

48 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 39 (309-10 Krusch/Levison).

49 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 22 (388-9 Krusch/Levison).
50 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 22 (388-9 Krusch/Levison).
51 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 22 (388-9 Krusch/Levison).
52 C. Meriaux, Gallia Irradiata, Saints et sanctuaires dans le nord de la Gaule du haut
MoyenAge, Stuttgart, 2006, 55.
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 139

Parfois, le palais devait aussi accepter de nommer dans des zones sen-
sibles des hommes a poigne, lesquels n'avaient pas toujours de grandes
qualites de pasteurs. Ainsi, pour garder le controle de Rodez, cite situee a
l'extreme sud de ses possessions, Brunehaut fit consacrer en 584 l'ancien
comte de Javols.53 Cet homme etait soupconne d'avoir trempe dans
l'assassinat d u n abbe,54 mais sa fidelite a la reine ne faisait pas de doute.
De meme, il arriva que les rois merovingiens eprouvent le besoin d'eriger
une simple paroisse en siege episcopal, au mepris de l'ordre canonique.
Dans ce cas, le nouvel eveque ne devait pas etre embarrasse par les scru-
pules. Sigebert I" d'Austrasie parvint a recruter de tels individus pour ses
nouvelles creations a Arisitum et a Chateaudun. 55
Dans ces derniers cas, l'intervention du souverain etait certainement
vecue comme une forme d'ingerence par les populations locales. Et lors-
qu'une cite se sentait menacee dune nomination aussi importune, elle
cherchait a trouver un consensus autour d u n candidat local pour eviter de
subir l'arbitraire royal.56 Toutefois, meme lorsque le clerge et l'aristocratie
s'accordaient sur le nom d u n candidat, ils ne pouvaient generalement pas
resister a la volonte toute puissante du palais.
De temps en temps, une nomination episcopale se deroulait sans au-
cun versement d'argent, mais egalement sans aucun enjeu strategique per-
ceptible. Pourquoi alors le palais intervenait-il ouvertement? Meme si c'est
la faire la part belle aux speculations, on peut supposer que certains postes
furent remis a titre de recompense pour services rendus a l'Etat. Pour un
palatin vieillissant, un eveche pouvait en effet constituer un conge hono-
rable, voire une forme de pension de retraite. On comprendrait ainsi
mieux le nombre important de referendaires qui accederent a l'episcopat.
Un siege pouvait egalement venir solder des services plus interlopes. Par
exemple, l'abbe parisien Domnole offrit pendant des annees son aide aux
espions de Clotaire I". En remerciement, le roi lui proposa l'eveche
d'Avignon, puis l'etablit finalement sur celui du Mans. 57 De meme, Ve-

53 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 38 (309 Krusch/Levison).

54 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 37 (308-9 Krusch/Levison).
55 Sur Arisitum: Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. V, 5 (200-203 Krusch/Levison). Sur Chateau-
dun, Concile de Paris (573), Epistola synodi ad Sigisbertum regem (CChr.SL 148a,
216 C. Munier); l'eveque nomme a Chateaudun etait l'ancien pretre de la paroisse lo-
cale, Promotus (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VII, 17 [338 Krusch/Levison]).
56 Tel semble etre le cas a Bordeaux en 585, ou le milieu local soutient le diacre Waldo
dans l'espoir d'eviter l'irruption d'une personnalite etrangere (Greg. Tur. hist. Franc.
VIII, 22 [388-9 Krusch/Levison]).
57 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 9 (279 Krusch/Levison).
140 Bruno Dumezil

nance Fortunat, qui avait ete pendant trente ans le poete attitre des rois
d'Austrasie, put finir sa vie sur le trone episcopal de Poitiers.
Au final, on peut toutefois se demander quel fut le facteur determinant
dans les nominations d'eveques par le palais. Etait-ce la personnalite du
candidat? L'argent qu'il versait? La situation de la cite qu'on lui confiait?
Tous ces elements jouaient assurement. Mais l'essentiel ne demeurait-il pas
que le roi choisisse l'eveque et que l'eveque se reconnaisse comme designe
par le roi? En effet, etre capable de nommer les prelats constituait dans le
monde franc une prerogative regalienne majeure. Attenter a ce droit cons-
tituait un crime de lese-majeste, dont on ne connait d'ailleurs que peu
d'occurrences. Ainsi, en 584, l'aventurier Gundovald s'empara de la ma-
jeure partie d'Aquitaine et se proclama roi; a ce titre, il proceda a la desi-
gnation du nouvel eveque de Dax, en la personne d u n certain Faustien
qu'il fait consacrer par l'eveque Palladius de Saintes.58 Or, quelques mois
plus tard, le roi de Burgondie Gontran abattit l'usurpateur; immediate-
ment, il fit deposer Faustien et exprima sa colere envers Palladius, juge
coupable de complicite avec l'ennemi.59 En effet, seul un roi legitime avait
le droit de nommer des eveques.
L'affaire Gundovald ne constituait toutefois qu'un conflit au sein de la
famille merovingienne elargie. Le veritable danger aurait ete qu'une faction
aristocratique regionale profite d'une election episcopale pour confisquer
les pouvoirs regaliens. Au VP siecle, le phenomene ne se produisit qu'une
seule fois, en 581, lorsque le recteur de Provence Dynamius entra en seces-
sion par rapport au palais d'Austrasie. Pour montrer son independance, il
proceda a deux reprises a la devolution du siege d'Uzes en faveur de ses
amis, contre le candidat soutenu par le palais. Les pouvoirs centraux ne
purent pas tolerer qu'un simple fonctionnaire ait lui-meme designe un
eveque et on envoya une armee pour abattre l'importun. 60 Le scandale,
pour l'heure, resta mineur. Dynamius contestait l'autorite des Grands qui
exercaient la regence en Austrasie, mais il reconnaissait la personne du
petit roi Childebert II; sa secession n'attentait pas a la securite de la mo-
narchic. L'alerte fut cependant severe pour la dynastie.
A titre de legere digression, on peut se demander comment les eveques
eux-memes vivaient les strategies dont ils faisaient l'objet: avoir ete nomme
par le palais constituait-t-il une fierte ou un opprobre dans la carriere? La
documentation est malheureusement trop lacunaire pour etudier ce pro-

58 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 2 (371-2 Krusch/Levison).

59 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VIII, 20 (386-7 Krusch/Levison).
60 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. VI, 7.11 (276-7. 280-283 Krusch/Levison); voir B. Dumezil,
Dynamius, une figure lerinienne et son reseau a la fin du Vie siecle, in: Lerins, une ile
sainte de l'Antiquite au Moyen Age, ed. M. Lauwers, Nice, 2010, a paraitre.
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 141

Heme. On peut toutefois remarquer que la nomination royale ne se trouve

que tres rarement evoquee dans les sources hagiographiques et, lorsqu'une
mention y est faite, c'est souvent de facon detournee. Ceci signifie sans
doute que si ce type Selection n'etait pas contraire aux modeles de sainte-
te, il ne constituait pas non plus un critere remarquable. Naturellement,
l'hagiographe preferait evoquer les bonnes relations entre le nouvel eveque
et le roi apres l'election plutot que les manoeuvres du candidal 1 Ainsi,
comme on l'a vu, le tres bavard Gregoire de Tours se montre etonnam-
ment peu loquace sur sa propre election.62 On peut par consequent suppo-
s e que la protection royale se trouvait largement proclamee au moment de
l'election par le biais de preceptes, mais quelle pouvait par la suite etre
dissimulee ou niee, surtout si elle s'averait nuisible a l'image de l'eveque ou
a son interet politique du moment.
Pour le palais comme pour l'eveque beneficiaire, important demeu-
rait, semble-t-il, que la moderation ait preside a la nomination. Le candi-
dat pouvait avoir donne de l'argent au roi, mais il ne se voyait accuse de
simonie que si la somme semblait excessive. Le nouvel eveque pouvait
avoir ete un simple laic, mais personne n'allait le lui reprocher si son acces-
sion au sacerdoce respectait au moins superficiellement les etapes de la
procedure canonique. En somme, Intervention du palais n'interdisait pas
aux contemporains de penser que c'etait toujours le Ciel qui presidait au
choix des nouveaux eveques, meme si c'etait desormais par l'entremise du
roi plutot que par celle de l'election populaire. Un diplomate wisigoth
ecrivit ainsi a un eveque gaulois nouvellement promu: "Tu as merite, grace
a Dieu, d'etre fait eveque par les souverains".63


Au final, Gregoire le Grand avait sans doute raison: ^implication des Me-
rovingiens dans les elections episcopales constituait une realite troublante
mais difficilement contestable et, somme toute, plutot opportune pour la
discipline clericale. Rarement contestees en droit car rarement condam-
nables en pratique, les interventions royales ne nuisaient pas a la qualite

61 Le point est particulierement remarquable dans la Vita Germani de Venance Fortunat,

ou Implication de Childebert Ier dans la nomination de Germain a Paris est plus que
probable, mais ou Fortunat esquive habilement la question.
62 Le seul recit que Gregoire fait de son election se trouve dans Greg. Tur. virt. Martin.
2,1 (158-9 Krusch).
63 Ep. wisigothicae 13 (MGH Epp. Ill, 680-681 Gundlach): Domino dignus es dedicatus
142 Bruno Dumezil

d'ensemble du recrutement. Elles permettaient meme de lutter centre ces

maladies endemiques de l'Eglise gauloise qu'etaient le regionalisme et le
Pour la royaute, le controle des elections importait d'ailleurs plus que
la surveillance des elus qui, une fois installed sur leur siege, etaient kisses a
une totale autonomie. On en vient done a penser que si le roi nommait
des prelats, e'etait avant tout pour que cette prerogative ne soit pas exercee
par d'autres personnages, qui auraient trouve la une dangereuse source de
puissance. De fait, au VIP siecle, la crise de la dynastie s'accompagna
d u n e crise au sein de l'Eglise franque. Pes factions aristocratiques qui
controlaient le palais profiterent en effet des elections episcopales pour
s'enrichir ou pour attribuer les cites a leurs allies. II en resulta un affaiblis-
sement accru de la royaute, mais aucun profit pour l'ordre ecclesiastique.
Donnons un seul exemple. Au milieu des annees 660, le siege de
Clermont devint vacant. Un pretre de moyenne extraction, Praejectus, se
porta candidat a l'episcopat. On lui demanda alors "s'il savait combien
d'or et d'argent il fallait avoir pour pouvoir obtenir cette fonction".64
Faute de disposer des moyens pour acheter son election, Praejectus fut
deboute et on lui prefera l'archidiacre local, Garivald. Or celui-ci mourut
quarante jours apres son election. Praejectus proposa a nouveau sa candi-
dature. Mais cette fois, le palais ordonna d'elire le comte de la ville, Gene-
sius. Pour des raisons incertaines, ce dernier refusa la promotion. Faute de
nouveaux candidats, Praejectus obtint done le siege qu'il convoitait apres
une designation clero et populo accomplie dans les regies.65 On aurait pu
croire que cet eveque de petite naissance et canoniquement elu donnerait
toute satisfaction. Ce fut tout le contraire: pour prendre le controle d u n
heritage dispute, Praejectus de Clermont se mela tres maladroitement de
politique et apporta son soutien a une faction aristocratique au pouvoir en
Burgondie. Ce faisant, il contribua a faire assassiner saint Leger d'Autun.
Au niveau local, Praejectus suscita egalement l'inimitie de puissants lo-
caux, derriere lesquels on croit distinguer la grande famille des Aviti.66
L'eveque elu clero et populo finit ainsi assassine clero et populo en 676.
En somme, au haut Moyen Age, une election canonique ne constituait
pas toujours un gage de stabilite et une nomination royale ne representait

64 Vita Praeiecti 12 (232 Krusch/Levinson).

65 Vita Praeiecti 13-14 (232-234 Krusch/Levinson).
66 Sur l'implication des senateurs locaux: Vita Praeiecti 31(243-4 Krusch/Levinson). Un
Avitus succeda a Praeiectus: Vita Praeiecti 34 (244 Krusch/Levinson); I. N. Wood,
The Ecclesiastical Politics of Merovingian Clermont, in: Ideal and Reality in Frankish
and Anglo-Saxon Society. Studies Presented to J.-M. Wallace-Hadrill, ed. par P.
Wormald, Oxford, 1983, 34-57.
La royaute merovingienne et les elections episcopales au Vie siecle 143

pas necessairement une catastrophe. Gregoire le Grand, qui devait son

poste a l'empereur byzantin Maurice, pouvait comprendre la subtilite de la
situation: l'investiture laique n'etait sans doute pas legale, mais elk restait
preferable au chaos. En Gaule, la dynastie merovingienne et l'Eglise se
confortaient l'une l'autre; en lui-meme, le systeme fonctionnait. Lorsque
cet equilibre fut rompu au VIP siecle, le monde franc tomba dans une
longue guerre civile. Et lorsque le controle royal fut retabli par les Carolin-
giens sous la forme de l'Eglise imperiale, un nouvel ordre vit le jour, que
l'on peut sans peine qualifier de "medieval".
Geoffrey D. Dunn

We scour in vain through the letter of 15 February, 404 from Innocent I

of Rome to Victricius of Rouen for any information about how either man
was elected to the episcopate.1 Further, there are no amusing or salacious
anecdotes from other sources about how they came to be bishops. Such
information that may be deduced from elsewhere can be presented briefly.
With regard to Innocent, elected in December 402, 2 1 have argued that we

* Funding for this research has been provided generously by the Australian Research
1 Innoc. I cp. 2 (PL 20, 468-485 = P. Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontifkum et
quae ad eos scriptae sunt a S. Clement I usque ad Innocentum III, t. 1, Paris 1721,
cols 745-758) = P. Jaffe, Regesta Pontifkum Romanorum, Bd. 1: A S. Petro ad a.
MCXLIII, rev. F. Kaltenbrunner, Leipzig 1885 (rev. edn)] [= JK], n. 286.
2 The arguments of K. Holl, Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Kirchengeschichte, vol. 2,
Tubingen 1928, 332-334, for dating the start of Anastasius' episcopate to December
399, contrary to Prosper Tiro, chron. min. 1223 (MGH AA 9, 465 Mommsen), who
dated it to 398, have been adopted by M.R. Green, Pope Innocent I: The Church of
Rome in the Early Fifth Century, DPhil diss. Oxford 1973, 163, n. 1. Since lib. pont.
41,1 (L. Duchesne, Le Liber pontificalis. Texte, introduction et commentaire, Paris
1955 2 , 218) gave Anastasius an episcopate of three years and ten days, this would
make the start of Innocent's episcopate December 402. This would agree with Pros-
pers commencement date for Innocent. One would need to make a single emenda-
tion to lib. pont. 42,1 (220 Duch.), such that the length of Innocent's episcopate was
fourteen rather than fifteen years. Duchesne, Le Liber pontificalis, ccl-ccli, on the con-
trary, argued that the fifteen years was correct for Innocent (dating the start of his epi-
scopate to December 401), and emended Anastasius' length of episcopate to two years
instead of three, with a commencement year therefore of 399, a rejection of both piec-
es of evidence in Prosper. He also emended the date of 21 December for Innocent's
ordination (mart, hieron., 12 Kal. Ian. [PL 30, 486], although listed as "depositio
sancti Innocentii," as is 4 Id. Mart. [PI 30, 447], which is his date of death in 417) to
22 December, so that in 401 Innocent would still have been ordained on a Sunday.
See C.H. Turner, The Papal Chronology of the Third Century, JThS 17, 1915-1916,
339. Such emendation is unnecessary if one accepts 402. So, despite the fact that
Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum (see note 1), cols 737-738;
Jaffe/Kaltenbrunner, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum (see note 1), 44 (tentatively);
146 Geoffrey D . D u n n

must not take Jerome's statement that he was Anastasius' son literally,3 but
rather that he served as deacon in Rome under Anastasius, since deacons
were referred to filially and it was not uncommon in Late Antiquity for
deacons in Rome to be elected its bishop.4 There seems to be none of the
controversy with his election that surrounded that of Damasus in the gen-
eration earlier or would surround Boniface a few years after Innocent's
death. Writing to Anysius of Thessalonica soon after his ordination, Inno-
cent noted that Christ bestowed the honour of the episcopacy of Rome
upon him "with the consent of the holy priests and all the clergy and
people...,"5 where we understand the reference to priests (sacerdotes) to
mean bishops. However, he does not tell us what bishops had been eligible
to be involved in this process, nor how other clergy or lay people had par-
ticipated. We know that Roman bishops were elected quickly after the

and K. Silva-Tarouca, Epistularum Romanorum Pontificum ad Vicarios per Illyricum

aliosque Episcopos. Collectio Thessalonicensis, Textus et Documenta 23, Rome 1937,
20, date the commencement of Innocent's episcopate to 401, I follow E. Caspar, Ge-
schichte des Papsttums von den Anfangen bis zur Hohe der Weltherrschaft, Bd 1:
Romische Kirche und Imperium Romanum, Tubingen 1930, 296, and Green, in dat-
ing it to 402. A complication is the fact that lib. pom. 41,3 (218 Duch.) dates Anasta-
sius' burial to 27 April. A.D. Booth, The Chronology of Jerome's Early Years, Phoe-
nix 35, 1981, 242-243, argues on the basis of Hier. ep. 97,1 (CSEL 55, 182 Hilberg),
which he seems to date to early 403, that Jerome had dispatched the first two books of
apol. con. Ruf in March or April 402 and the third book, before ep. 97, in September
or October 402, all while Anastasius was alive. For Booth, Innocent could not have
been elected until April or December of 403. Most scholars, however, date ep. 97 to
402 and the sending of the first two books to 401, leaving Innocent's date for election
in December 402 unchallenged. See P. Nautin, Etudes de chronologie hieronymienne
(393-397), REAug 18, 1972, 212; J.N.D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings and Con-
troversies, London 1975, 262; A. Cain, The Letters of Jerome: Asceticism, Biblical
Exegesis, and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity, OECS, Ox-
ford 2009, 69.
3 Hier. ep. 130,16 (CSEL 56/1, 196 Hilb.). See G.D. Dunn, Anastasius I and Innocent
I: Reconsidering the Evidence of Jerome, VigChr 61, 2007, 30-41. Cf. H. Chadwick,
Priscillian of Avila: The Occult and the Charismatic in the Early Church, Oxford
4 G.D. Dunn, Deacons in the Early Fifth Century: Canonical Developments under
Innocent I, in: Diakonia, diaconiae, diaconato: semantica e storia nei padri della chie-
sa, xxxviii Incontro di studiosi dell'antichita cristiana, Roma 7-9 maggio 2009, SEAug
117, Rome 2010, 335-336. See also Ch. Pietri, Roma Christiana. Recherches sur
l'Eglise de Rome, son organisation, sa politique, son ideologic de Miltiade a Sixte III
(311-440), BEFAR 224, 2 vols, Rome 1976, 54.
5 Innoc. I ep. 1 (20 Sil.-Tar. = PL 20, 464 = Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontifi-
cum [see note 1], col 739) = JK 285: ...consentientibus Sanctis sacerdotibus omnique clero
acpopulo ... On this letter see G.D. Dunn, Innocent I and Anysius of Thessalonica,
Byz. 11, 2007, 124-148.
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 147

deaths of their predecessors, usually within a couple of days, and were

ordained bishop on a Sunday, and that, from the middle of the fourth
century, the bishop of Ostia had the right to ordain the new Roman bi-
In spite of the detail that Paulinus of Nola includes in his letter to Vic-
tricius of Rouen about the latter's life as a soldier and conversion to Chris-
tianity,7 we are told nothing about his election as bishop other than that it
was God who raised him to the dignity of an apostolic see,8 and that when
Paulinus had first met Victricius, which must have been about 386, the
latter was already a bishop and in the company of Martin of Tours, a fel-
low bishop but one made a bishop at a different age than Victricius.9
Instead of looking at any particular election, my contribution deals
with more abstract and theoretical issues with regard to episcopal elec-
tions, namely the developing canon law, as found in that letter of 404,

6 Turner, The Papal Chronology (see note 2), 340-341; lib. pom. 35,2 (202 Duch.).
According to lib. pont. 42,1 (220 Duch.) the interval between Anastasius and Inno-
cent was twenty-two days.
7 Paul. Nol. ep. 18,7 (CSEL 29,133-135 Hartel/Kamptner).
8 Paul. Nol. ep. 18,6 (133 Hart./Kamp.). Undoubtedly, Rouen is called an apostolic see
because of the presence of relics of the apostles within it (ep. 18,5 [132
Hart./Kamp.]), rather than it having been founded by an apostle. Writing in 397 or
398, Paulinus had read Victricius' de laude sanctorum, possibly delivered to him by
Victricius' deacon, Paschasius. See D.E. Trout, Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters, and
Poems, The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 27, Berkeley 1999, 239; G.
Clark, Victricius of Rouen: Praising the Saints, JECS 7, 1999, 373.
9 Paul. Nol. ep. 18,9 (136 Hart./Kamp.). P.G. Walsh, Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola,
vol. 1, ACW 35, New York 1966, 250, n. 40, suggests that Victricius was much older
than Martin when he became bishop. The date of about 386 for the encounter is
based on events in the life of Paulinus. See E. Vacandard, Saint Victrice. Eveque de
Rouen IIV=-V=s., Paris 1903, 36. This age difference could still be true, even if Martin
were older than Victricius, as Clark suggests. Since Martin must have been in his mid-
fifties when he became bishop in 371 or 372, for Victiricius to have become bishop
say in 385 in his mid-fifties also, he would have been born in about 330 at the latest.
This would have made him nearly eighty if he died in 409, on the basis of him not be-
ing mentioned in Paulinus' list of good bishops quoted in Gregory of Tours (Paul.
Nol. ep. 48 [389-390 Hart./Kamp.]; Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. II, 13 (Gregorii episcopii
Turonensis historiarum libri historiarum X, M G H SS rer. Merov. 1,1, Hannover
1951, 63, ed. B. Krusch and W. Levison). If Victricius were even older than that
when he became bishop he certainly would have been quite elderly when he travelled
to Rome at the end of 403. Sulp. Sev. vit. Martin. 19,3 (SC 133, 292-294 Fontaine),
mentions the encounter between Martin and Paulinus, but does not mention Victri-
cius. This he mentions in dial. 2(3),2 (CSEL 1, 200 Halm). Were M.E. Moore, The
Spirit of the Gallican Councils, A.D. 314-506, A H C 39, 2007, 2 1 , correct in identi-
fying Eusebius at the Synod of Nimes in 394/396 as Eusebius of Rouen, then Victri-
cius could not have been bishop in 386.
148 Geoffrey D . D u n n

that was designed to prevent abuses. Innocent's letter to Victricius in-

cludes a number of canons the Roman bishop wished to offer to the Gallic
churches for the effective and authentic administration of their churches.
This letter was distributed widely during the Middle Ages as an important
part of Roman canon law.10 Innocent stands at the very dawn of particular
papal letters being placed alongside conciliar canons as containing canoni-
cal material. I wish to begin with a consideration of the general context of
that letter in order to provide the interpretative framework for appreciat-
ing its content. Then I wish to consider Innocent's references to episcopal
elections in the letter and compare that with what he says elsewhere in his
correspondence and what had been said by his predecessors. From this we
should be able to conclude that Innocent's directives were not a general
compendium of Roman ecclesiastical law but addressed the particular
issues Victricius had raised with him, that episcopal election was not the
central topic of concern but was important because control of who became
bishops shaped the future direction of churches, and that Innocent ap-
pealed to the authority of the Council of Nicaea and the Scriptures, par-
ticularly in the light of what his immediate predecessors had said.

Context of the Letter

The context in which we must situate this letter is that of the efforts of
both Milan and Rome in the late fourth century to cement relationships
with western churches. Throughout the last two decades of that century
ties had developed between the churches of Milan and Rouen. Herval
suggests that Victricius and Martin of Tours were among the eighty bi-
shops who had been to the synod in Rome in January 386, which resulted
in the Roman bishop, Siricius, issuing the synodal letter Cum in unum?

10 See in particular F. Maassen, Geschichte der Quellen und der Literatur des canonis-
chen Rechts im Abendlande bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, Bd. 1, Graz 1870, 242-
243, for the distribution of this letter in mediaeval canonical collections, and D. Jas-
per, The Beginning of the Decretal Tradition: Papal Letters from the Origin of the
Genre through the Pontificate of Stephen V, in: D. Jasper and H. Fuhrmann, Papal
Letters in the Early Middle Ages, History of Medieval Canon Law, Washington, D.C.
11 Siricius ep. 5 (CChr.SL 149, 59-63 Munier = PL 13,1155-1162 = Coustant, Epistolae
Romanorum Pontificum, cols 651-658) = JK 258. The letter is preserved in the acta
of the African synod of Zelle or Telepte in 418. See K.J. Hefele, A History of the
Councils of the Church from the Original Documents, vol. 2: A.D. 326-429, trans.
H.N. Oxenham, Edinburgh 1894 (Eng. edn), 386-389. A copy of this letter might
well have been sent to the Gallic bishops, as C. Cochini, Apostolic Origins of Priestly
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 149

that they had visited Ambrose in Milan, where they received the relics of
Gervasius and Protasius, discovered there in the middle of 386, 12 and that
they saw Paulinus in Vienne later in that year on their way home. 13 On
the other hand Thacker thinks that the relics of Gervasius and Protasius
only arrived in Rouen in 393, 14 which, if true, means that Gillian Clark's
observation that we cannot know how Victricius came to be on Ambrose's
distribution list of relics is even more telling.15 In any case, such distribu-
tion seems to have been part of a deliberate strategy of Ambrose, who
placed himself at the centre of an extensive episcopal network.16 His ready
access for much of his episcopacy to the imperial ear was certainly a reason

Celibacy, trans. Nelly Marans, San Francisco 1990 (Eng. edn), 10; and S. Heid, Celi-
bacy in the Early Church: The Beginnings of a Discipline of Obligatory Continence
for Clerics in East and West, San Francisco 2001, 241, believe.
12 That Ambrose had not been to Rome seems clear from the events surrounding his
conflict with the empress Justina, the widow of Valentinian I and mother of Valenti-
nian II, exemplified in the demands for the handing-over of a basilica in Milan for use
by the Homoians. While N.B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a
Christian Capital, The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 22, Berkeley 1994,
196-208, dates Ambr. epp. 75 (CSEL 82/3, 74-81 Zelzer) and 75a (82-107 Zel.) to
spring 386, J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz/C. Hill, Ambrose of Milan: Political Letters and
Speeches, Translated Texts for Historians 43, Liverpool 2005, 124-136, dates them to
January. Ep. 76 (108-125 Zel.) comes from Easter 386. On the discovery of the relics
see Ambr. ep. 77 (126-140 Zel); McLynn, Ambrose of Milan, 209-219; and Liebe-
schuetz/Hill, Ambrose of Milan, 204. On those relics in Rouen see Victricius de laude
6,32-36 (CChr.SL 64, 78 Demeulenaere).
13 R. Herval, Origines chretiennes, de la if Lyonnaise gallo-romaine a la Normandie
ducale (iv=-xi= siecles). Avec le texte complet et la traduction integrate du 'De laude
sanctorum' de saint Victrice (396), Paris 1966, 30-31. Trout, Paulinus of Nola (see
note 8), 60, following P. Courcelle, Fragments historique de Paulin de Nole conserves
par Gregoire de Tours, in: Melanges d'histoire de moyen age dedies a la memoire de
Louis Halphen, ed. by Ch.-E. Perrin, Paris 1951, 152, suggests instead that Victricius,
Martin and Paulinus were in Vienne to receive the relics there. See Walsh, Letters of
Saint Paulinus of Nola (see note 9), 1.249, n. 39, for the date.
14 A. Thacker, Loca Sanctorum: The Significance of Place in the Study of the Saints, in:
Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West, ed. by A. Thacker/R.
Sharpe, Oxford 2002, 7.
15 Clark, Praising the Saints (see note 8), 374. R. Van Dam, Leadership and Community
in Late Antique Gaul, The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 8, Berkeley 1985,
166, presents it differently, arguing that the initiative for acquiring the relics came
from Rouen, as part of the effort of as part of an effort of a town on the fringe of em-
pire to remain connected to its heart.
16 R.W. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism and Religious Controversy in Fifth-
Century Gaul, Washington, D.C. 1989, 11; McLynn, Ambrose of Milan (see note
12), 284; M. Humphries, Communities of the Blessed: Social Environment and Reli-
gious Change in Northern Italy, AD 200-400, OECS, Oxford 1999, 55; and Clark,
Praising the Saints (see note 8), 370.
150 Geoffrey D . D u n n

why bishops in more remote parts of the western empire would have been
happy to be connected to Ambrose, as we see in the Priscillianist contro-
versy.17 In 396 Ambrose sent more relics to Victricius, for which the bi-
shop of Rouen composed De laude sanctorum, an expanded homily wel-
coming these relics into Rouen, a copy of which probably was sent to
Ambrose.18 Victricius proposed a theology of relics,19 and was an enthu-
siastic promoter of the cult of relics with a church-building programme,20
in spite of the legal ban on the translation of human remains.21
On the other hand, Rome also was trying to extend its influence in
western Europe. We know that in 378, in response to a request from a
synod of Italian bishops, which had gathered in Rome and at which
Ambrose was present,22 Gratian agreed to use imperial force to expel bish-

17 E.D. Hunt, St. Silvia of Aquitaine: The Role of a Theodosian Pilgrim in the Society
of East and West, JThS NS 23, 1972, 370-371; Chadwick, Priscillian of Avila (see
note 3), 35; J. Matthews, Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court AD 364-425, Ox-
ford 1998 2 , 186-192.
18 See P. Buc, Victricius of Rouen, In Praise of the Saints, in: Thomas Head (ed.), Me-
dieval Hagiography: An Anthology, ed. by T. Head, London/New York 2001, 31-34.
Does Victricius name the saints whose relics were in Rouen already in de laude 11,5-
13 (86-87 Demeul.)? Those mentioned earlier in the homily certainly seem to have
been arrived in Rouen earlier, while the others mentioned here in section 11 might
have been the newly-arrived relics. See J. Mulders, Victricius van Rouaan: Leven en
Leer, Nijmegen 1956, 29-30. Could it be, on the basis of de laude 6,40-41 (78 De-
meul.) that relics of Paul were sent in 396? See McLynn, Ambrose of Milan (see note
12), 230-232, for Ambrose having contact relics of Peter and Paul in Milan. That
Rome distributed only contact relics, would make it impossible for Paul to have been
included in the "blood and clay" relics Victricius received (de laude 10,4-5 [84 De-
19 Clark, Praising the Saints (see note 8), 367-369.
20 J. Fontaine, Victrice de Rouen et les origines du monachisme dans l'ouest de la Gaule
(IV=-VPs.), in: Aspects du monachisme en Normandie (IV=-XVIIPs.), ed. by L. Mus-
set, Paris 1982, 9-29. On the archaeology of early Christian Rouen see J. Le Maho, Le
group episcopal de Rouen du IV= au X° siecle, in: Medieval Art, Architecture and Arc-
haeology at Rouen, ed. by J. Stratford, The British Archaeological Association Confe-
rence Transactions for the year 1986 12, London 1993, 20-23.
21 G. Clark, Translating Relics: Victricius of Rouen and Fourth-Century Debate, Early
Medieval Europe 10,2001, 161-176.
22 Ambr. ep. extra coll. 7,9 (CSEL 82/3, 195-196 Zelzer). On Ambrose's presence at the
synod, and being the delegate of the synod to take its letter to Gratian at Sirmium see
G. Gottlieb, Ambrosius von Mailand und Kaiser Gratian, Hypomnemata. Untersu-
chungen zur Antike und zu ihrem Nachleben 40, Gottingen 1973, 26-50; P. Nautin,
Les premieres relations dAmbroise avec l'empereur Gratien: Le 'De fide' (livres I et
II), in: Ambroise de Milan: XVPcentenaire de son election episcopale. Dix etudes, ed.
by Y.-M. Duval, CEA.SA 65, Paris 1974, 236-237; Pietri, Roma Christiana (see note
4), 741-748; McLynn, Ambrose of Milan (see note 12), 90-91; D.H. Williams, Am-
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 151

ops who had been deposed from their sees, or to force them to come to
Rome if they refused to appear before an episcopal synod for trial, or be-
fore their metropolitan if they were from more remote regions or, if a
metropolitan himself, before Rome or Rome's delegated judges. What is
novel is that the imperial response, on its own initiative it would seem,
expanded the territory in which this would apply to include the prefecture
of Gaul as well.23 So, theoretically at least, Gallic bishops were to look to
Rome rather than Milan, at least for trials involving metropolitans. In-
deed, in the Priscillianist controversy, Priscillian, Instantius and Salvianus
had first gone to Rome in 381 or 382 in the vain effort to meet Damasus
before going to Milan in the unsuccessful attempt to gain support from
Ambrose.24 Further, if Herval is correct, then Victricius and Martin at-
tended the synod in Rome in 386, and Siricius, around the same time,
involved himself in what he considered to be the illegal presbyteral ordina-
tion of Agroecius, which the usurper emperor Magnus Maximus decided
would be decided by a synod of Gallic bishops,25 and sometime earlier
either Damasus or Siricius had sent canons from a Roman synod to Gallic

brose of Milan and the End of the Nicene-Arian Conflicts, OECS, Oxford 1995,
128-153; Humphries, Communities of the Blessed (see note 16), 119; T.D. Barnes,
Ambrose and Gratian, AntTard 7, 1999, 164-175; and Liebeschuetz/Hill, Ambrose of
Milan (see note 12), 246.
23 Gratian ep. ad Aquilinum (Collectio Avellana 13,12) (CSEL 35, 58 Giinther).
24 Chadwick, Priscillian of Avila (see note 3), 38-40; Van Dam, Leadership and Com-
munity (see note 15), 88-114, esp. 97. We know that Ambrose was in Trier on his
second embassy, probably in the second half of 386, before Magnus Maximus, at the
time a synod was considering the fate of Priscillian. Ambr. ep 30,12 (CSEL 82/1,
214-215 Faller), indicates that he was not involved in that matter, being expelled from
Trier, and seemed somewhat sympathetic to Priscillian. D.G. Hunter, Resistance to
the Virginal Ideal in Late-Fourth-Century Rome: The Case of Jovinian, TS 48, 1987,
57, points out that sympathy from Ambrose, Siricius, and Martin of Tours was not
for his views, but an opposition to heresy being treated as a capital offence. On dating
this letter and the execution of Priscillian see K.M. Girardet, Trier, der Prozess gegen
die Priskillianer, Chiron 4, 1974, 577-608; Chadwick, Priscillian of Avila, 137; A.R.
Birley, Magnus Maximus and the Persecution of Heresy, BJRL 66, 1982-1983, 13-
43; McLynn, Ambrose of Milan (see note 12), 164, n. 25, 217; and Liebeschu-
etz/Hill, Ambrose of Milan (see note 12), 349-351. For recent arguments in favour of
384 or 385 see T.D. Barnes, Ambrose and the Basilicas of Milan in 385 and 386,
ZAC 4, 2000, 282-299; and N. Dorner, Ambrosius in Trier: Zu den Hintergriinden
der zweiten Gesandtschaft bei Maximus (Ambrosius, epist. 30[24]), Historia 50, 2001,
25 Magnus Maximus, ep. ad Siric. (Collectio Avellana 40,2) (91 Gun.) = [Siric], ep. 3
(PL 13, 1148 = Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum (see note 1), cols 640-
152 Geoffrey D . D u n n

bishops {Dominus inter) ,26 All of this does not constitute proof of an actual
rivalry between Milan and Rome for a close relationship with the Gallic
churches but it does suggest that both churches were active in trying to
place themselves at the centre of a network of other churches throughout
western Europe.
Even though by the time Innocent became bishop Ambrose was dead
and the court had just moved to Ravenna,27 when Victricius came to
Rome at the end of 403 it must have presented the Roman bishop with an
ideal opportunity to try and promote even closer ties between Rome and
the Gallic churches as Milan was now a less useful connection for the Gal-
lic churches to have.

26 On Damasus as the author see: E.Ch. Babut, La plus ancienne decretale, Paris 1904;
E. Schwartz, Die Kanonessammlungen der alten Reichskirche, ZRG Kanonistische
Abteilung 25, 1936, 63, n.2; M.M. Winter, Saint Peter and the Popes, London
1979 2 , 154; R. Gryson, Les origines du celibat ecclesiastique du premier au septieme
siecle, Recherches et Syntheses Section d'Histoire 2, Gembloux, 1970, 127-131; Pie-
tri, Roma Christiana (see note 4), 764-772; Y.-M. Duval, La decretale Ad Gallos Epi-
scopos: son texte et son auteur. Texte critique, traduction francaise et commentaire,
SVigChr 73, Leiden 2005; and D.G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in An-
cient Christianity: The Jovinianist Crisis, OECS, Oxford 2007, 211, n 19 (eight years
earlier, in Vigilantius of Calagurris and Victricius of Rouen: Ascetics, Relics, and Cler-
ics in Late Roman Gaul, JECS 7, 1999, 417, Hunter accepted Siricius as the author).
In support of Siricius: Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum (see note 1), cols
681-686; K. Silva-Tarouca, Beitrage zur Uberlieferungsgeschichte der Papstbriefe des
IV., V. u. VI. Jahrhunderts, ZKTh 43, 1919, 692; H. Getzeny, Stil und Form der al-
testen Papstbriefe bis auf Leo der Grofie, Diss. Tubingen 1922, 94-100; Caspar, Ge-
schichte des Papsttums (see note 2), 216 n. 1, 264 n. 4; D. Jasper, Die Canones
synodi Romanorum ad Gallos episcopos - die alteste Dekretale? ZKG 107, 1966,
319-326; Cochini, Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy (see note 11), 13; D. Cal-
lam, Clerical Continence in the Fourth Century: Three Papal Decretals, ThS 4 1 ,
1980, 8, 36; Heid, Celibacy in the Early Church (see note 11), 225; Jasper, The Be-
ginning of the Decretal Tradition (see note 10), 28-32; and P. Norton, Episcopal
Elections 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity, OCM, Oxford
2007, 147. Hefele, A History of the Councils (see note 11), 428-430, even attributes
it to the time of Innocent himself. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism (see note 16),
9-10, remains undecided as the authorship, although Duval's work must make Dama-
sus the probable author.
27 Matthews, Western Aristocracies (see note 17), 274; M. Dewar, Claudian: Panegyricus
de sexto consuktu Honorii Augusti. Edited with Introduction, Translation and Literary
Commentary, Oxford 1996, xxxii, xlii-xliv; A. Gillett, Rome, Ravenna and the Last
Western Emperors, PBSR 69, 2001, 139. The first of the laws from Ravenna is dated
to 6 December, 402 (Cod. Theod. VII 13,15 [Codex Theodosianus, vol. 1/2: Theo-
dosiani libri xvi cum Constitutionibus Sirmondianis, ed. by Th. Mommsen/P.
Kriiger, Hildesheim 1990, 339]).
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 153

What brought Victricius to Rome? We know from Innocent's letter

that Victricius had been in Rome at the same time as the emperor, before
whom Innocent pleaded for some bishops to be exempted from the impe-
rial requirement that former curiales be returned to duty in their local
curiae.™ Honorius had been received in Rome on New Year's Day 404 for
an aduentus/mumph over Alaric/consular inauguration.29 Malcolm Green
suggests that Victricius might have been in the large group of dignitaries
who took the opportunity of visiting Rome at the same time.30 The scant
primary evidence suggests something more complicated. We know that
Paulinus of Nola invited Victricius to visit him, quite possibly for the
anniversary celebrations of St. Felix on 14 January, but that Victricius
failed to turn up, 31 a response to his invitations for personal contact with
which Paulinus was all too familiar,32 It is from Paulinus that we know
that there was some kind of accusation against Victricius,33 who had en-
dured some kind of attack {temptatio) and calls for investigation {quid ergo
quaeritur...?), although Paulinus does not say explicitly that Victiricus was
involved in any kind of trial process while in Rome,34 Despite Walsh,
Trout and Mratschek taking Paulinus' comments about Apollinarianism35

28 Innoc. I en. 2,12,14 (PL 20, 478). For the imperial legislation after Constantine see
esp. Cod. Theod. XII 1,59 (677 Momm./Kriig.); XII 1,104 (688 Momm./Kriig.); and
A. Di Berardino, The Poor must be Supported by the Wealth of the Church (Codex
Theodosianus 16.2.6), in: Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, vol. 5: Poverty
and Riches, ed. by C D . Dunn/D. Luckensmeyer/L. Cross (eds), Strathfield, N.S.W.
2009, 249-268.
29 Claud, de sex. cons. (ed. by J.B. Hall, Claudianus. Carmina, BSGRT, Leipzig 1985,
265-288). See A. Cameron, Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Hono-
rius, Oxford 1970, 180-188; M. McCormick, Eternal Victory: Triumphal Rulership
in Late Antiquity, Byzantium and the Early Medieval West, Cambridge 1986, 51; M.
Beard, The Roman Triumph, Cambridge, Mass. and London 2007, 326. On the vic-
tory over Alaric see most recently C D . Dunn, Easter and the Battle of Pollentia, JRH
30 Green, Pope Innocent I (see note 2), 98. He states that Victricius' business in Rome is
unknown, but probably was not simply for pleasure. I think we can go further than
31 Paul. Nol. ep. 37,1 (317 Hart./Kamp.).
32 S.H. Mratschek, Multis enim notissima est sanctitas loci: Paulinus and the Gradual Rise
of Nola as Center of Christian Hospitality, JECS 9, 2001, 517-521.
33 Paul. Nol. ep. 37,4 (319 Hart./Kamp.): ... etiam de multitude aduersantium et tole-
34 Paul. Nol. ep. 37.7 (323 Hart./Kamp.). See also P. Andrieu-Guitrancourt, Essai sur
saint Victrice et la province ecclesiastique de Rouen aux derniers temps gallo-romains,
LAnnee canonique 14, 1970, 1-23. Cf. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism (see
note 16), 45.
35 Paul. Nol. ep. 37.6 (321-322 Hart./Kamp.).
154 Geoffrey D . D u n n

at face value as being the charge against the bishop of Rouen, others, like
Mathisen, Stancliffe, Van Dam, and Hunter, have argued that there was a
deep division with the Gallic clergy over questions of clerical celibacy,
asceticism, and the cult of relics, with bishops like Martin of Tours,
Sulpicius Severus, and Victricius being in the minority in their promotion
of these practices and their willingness to look outside Gaul for guidance
for the Gallic churches.36 Their support of asceticism made them liable to
accusations of Priscillianism, and that these were the accusations faced by
Victricius is implied by Paulinus when he links Victricius' well-known
asceticism with an enduring opposition.37 Any talk about Apollinarianism
was a smokescreen for other issues.
Whether Victricius went to Rome to answer charges or was there to
elicit Rome's support to make a pre-emptive strike against his opponents
we cannot know with certainty. Given that some of the unique parts of
Innocent's letter deal with issues of clerical celibacy and sexual renuncia-
tion in ascetics,38 it would be plausible to suggest the latter, viz., that, in
the face of considerable opposition in Gaul, Victricius came to Rome to
arm himself with information about Innocent's opinion on these matters
to use as ammunition against his opponents and that Epistula 2 is not so
much a vindication of Victricius against charges,39 as it is a weapon to be
used later to repudiate the opinion of his opponents because it demon-

36 P.G. Walsh, The Letters of St. Paulinus of Nola, vol. 2, A C W 36, New York 1966,
337, n. 33; Trout, Paulinus of Nola (see note 8), 239, n. 244; Mratschek, Multi enim
notissima est sanctitas loci (see note 32), 521. Cf. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism
(see note 16), 45-48; C. Stancliffe, St. Martin and His Hagiographer: History and
Miracle in Sulpicius Severus, Oxford Historical Monographs, Oxford 1983, 297-312;
R. Van Dam, Saints and their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul, Princeton 1993, 14-17;
Hunter, Ascetics, Relics, and Clerics (see note 26), 410-429. On asceticism and Vic-
tricius see also P. Andrieu-Guitrancourt, Le vie ascetique a Rouen au temps de saint
Victrice, RSR 40, 1952, (= Melanges Jules Lebreton, t. 2), 90-116. R.J. Goodrich,
Contextualizing Cassian: Aristocrats, Asceticism, and Reformation in Fifth-Century
Gaul, OECS, Oxford 2007, 19-64, 110-116, contrast the asceticism of Martin, Sulpi-
cius Severus and Hilary with the non-aristocratic, more "professional" version brought
to Gaul by John Cassian.
37 Paul. Nol. ep. 37.4 (319 Hart./Kamp.).
38 A. Di Berardino, Initiation aux Peres de l'Eglise, t. 4: Du concile de Nicee (325) au
concile de Chalcedoine (451). Les Peres latins, Paris 1986, 741.
39 Walsh, The Letters of St. Paulinus 2 (see note 36), 336, n. 1; Mathisen, Ecclesiastical
Factionalism (see note 16), 46. One ought to note in passing, with regard to Hunter,
Ascetics, Relics, and Clerics (see note 26), 423, who contends that one of the areas of
resentment against Victricius was his support of the cult of relics, that this was not a
topic addressed in Innocent's letter. Given Rome's different attitude towards relics
than that held in Milan and Rouen, it would not be surprising if, knowing this, Vic-
tricius did not seek Innocent's support on that particular topic.
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 155

strated Roman support for Victricius' position. That this is the case is
suggested by the conclusion to the letter, which states that the regula (the
rules contained in the letter) will be the instrument by which ambition,
dissension, heresy, schism, and iniquity will be overcome.40 Having taken
the trouble to go to Rome in person, Victricius found, in my estimation,
that Rome would be an ally and ensured, we can be sure, that he gave
Innocent such a depiction of his opponents that the Roman bishop would
be prejudiced against anything those opponents might send later to Rome
to support themselves. Getting in first is always a key tactic in garnering
The liber regukrum that Innocent's letter contains was not innova-
tive.41 Much of it repeats the canons to be found in Siricius' Epistula 5
(Cum in unum) of 386, and some of it echoes the letter sent in the previ-
ous generation to the Gallic bishops themselves (Dominus inter), both of
which appeal to the canons of the Council of Nicaea and to the Scriptures.
Let us consider now the sections of the letter relevant to our topic of epis-
copal elections.

Rights of Metropolitans
and Minimum Number to Ordain a Bishop

Of the fourteen canons into which Dionysius Exiguus divided Epistula 2,

canon 1 is the one most relevant for our purposes. It contains two provi-
sions. The first is that no one is to ordain another without the cognizance
(conscientia) of the metropolitan because his judgement (indicium) is es-
sential to make the process of election complete (integrum).'2 The basis of
this provision is that it is found in the decisions (sententiae) of the greatest
number (plurimorum). This is a reference to the 318 bishops, as tradition
would recall it,43 who had gathered in council in Nicaea in 325. Indeed,
canon 4 of Nicaea had decreed that a bishop was to be established ( m -

40 Innoc. I ep. 2,17 (PL 20, 481): Haec itaque reguk, frater charissime, si plena uigikntia
fuerit ab omnibus Deo sacerdotibus obseruata, cessabit ambitio, dissensio conquiescet, hae-
reses et schismata non emergent, locum non accipiet diabolus saeuiendi, manebit unanimi-
tas, iniquitas superata calcabitur, ueritas spiritali feruore flagrabit, pax paredicata labiis
41 Innoc. I ep. 2,1 (PL 20, 470).
42 Innoc. I ep. 2,1,3 (PL 20, 471): Primum, ut extra conscientiam metropolitan episcopi
nullus audeat ordinare; integrum enim est indicium, quod plurimorum sententiis confir-
43 Athan. ep. ad Afros episc. 2 (PG 26, 1032); Hilary, con. Const. 27 (PL 10, 602).
156 Geoffrey D . D u n n

e.WoeaO by at least three bishops of a province, with the written consent

of any absent bishops of the province and the confirmation (Kupoc) of the
metropolitan bishop.44 The essence of the canon is the desire for episcopal
consensus, yet the importance of the metropolitan cannot be denied. Ca-
non 6 was even more explicit about the role of the metropolitan: without
his consent (yvconn) the ordination of a bishop would be invalid.45 Canon
6 of Nicaea also decreed that a bishop be chosen by a majority of the votes
of all (TTAEUOV).46 "All" here is understood as referring to all the bishops of
the province.47 Innocent however makes no reference to this. What is of
interest is that Innocent omits reference to the written consent of absent
bishops of the province. Is that to be presumed, or has there been an at-
tempt to strengthen the power of the metropolitan by making his consent
the only essential one?
From this context it is clear that when Innocent refers to ordination he
means the ordination of bishops, not other clerics, as is made clear in the
canons of Nicaea. In the canonical heading added early in the sixth cen-
tury, it is clear that Dionysius Exiguus also certainly understood this sec-
tion as referring to the ordination of bishops.48
The second provision in Innocent's letter is that a single bishop does
not ordain.49 The basis for this is stated as being the Nicene synod, where
we have noted already that this is contained in canon 4 with its stipulation
about the minimum number of ordaining bishops. Innocent does not refer
to a specific number, just that it should not be a single bishop as ordaining
prelate because of a lack of transparency in the process. This is a part of
Innocent's letter that relies upon Siricius' letter Cum in unum of 386 as its
source. Green suggests a reason why Innocent would want to cite his
predecessor's letter: Innocent was conscious that he was not presenting his
personal opinion but the tradition of the Roman church.50 Interestingly

44 Council of Nicaea I, can. 4 (CChr.COGD 1, 21-22 Alberigo et al).

45 CouncilofNicaeaI,can.6(23Alb.).
46 CouncilofNicaeaI,can.6(23Alb.).
47 H. Chadwick, Faith and Order at the Council of Nicaea: A Note on the Background
of the Sixth Canon, HTR 53, I960, 171-195; and P. UHuillier, The Church of the
Ancient Councils: The Disciplinary Work of the First Four Ecumenical Councils,
48 See the two MSS of the Collectio Dionysiana: Paris, BnF, lat. 3837, 108v, and
Vatican, BA, lat. 5845, 83v: Quod extra conscientiam metropolitan non ordinetur
49 Inn. ep. 2,1,3 (PL 20, 471-472): ... nee unus episeopus ordinarepraesumat; ne furtiuum
benefieiumpraestitum uideatur. Hoe enim et in synodo Nieaena eonstitutum est, atque de-
50 Green, Pope Innocent I (see note 2), 109.
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 157

though, Green does not consider the possibility, which I mentioned

above, that Victricius had been in Rome for that synod in 386 in which
Cum in unum was issued. Why did Innocent consider it worth repeating
the provisions of a Roman synod if the original canons had been commu-
nicated already to the Gallic churches and if Victricius knew them first
hand? It cannot be that Innocent was merely providing a compendium of
Roman synodal decisions or else surely we would find in the letter to Vic-
tricius many of the provisions found, for example, in Siricius letter (Di-
recta) of 385 to Himerius of Tarragona.51 That letter contains quite ex-
plicit statements about a clerical cursus honorum and the length of
experience in ministry necessary for someone who is to be ordained
bishop, which are not found in Innocent's letter to Victricius but would
certainly have been relevant in such a compendium. 52 Further, we know
that Innocent made reference to the canons of the Synod of Serdica in his
letter to Victricius, considering them to have been issued at Nicaea.53 Had
Innocent wanted simply to provide Victricius with a compendium of
canon law then surely more of the canons from Serdica, like those others
from Serdica dealing with the election of bishops, would have been in-
cluded.54 From this it would seem reasonable to infer that Innocent con-
tained in his letter a response only to those specific matters raised with
him by Victricius, which would suggest that the teaching of Nicaea on the
approval of the metropolitan or on the minimum number of ordaining
bishops was being flouted in this part of Gaul. However, as Duval points
out, for the years from 360 onwards we have no evidence that this was
occurring.55 One suspects that is was and that the proof simply has not
While Green does not notice it in this particular instance, Hefele had
noticed the differences between Siricius' expression and that used by Inno-
cent. We have seen that Innocent referred to the cognizance of metropoli-
tan bishops. Siricius refers to the conscientia sedis apostolicae, hoc est prima-
*. 5 6 Hefele's sensible conjecture is that the original synodal decision,

51 Siricius en. 1 (PL 13, 1131-1147 = Constant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontifkum (see
note 1), cols 623-638 ) = J K 255.
52 Siricius ep. 1.IX.13- 1 X 1 4 (PL 13, 1142-1143). Perhaps one could argue that Inno-
cent's letter only contained the rulings of synods rather than the opinions of individu-
al Roman bishops and that is why Directa was not referenced.
53 H. Hess, The Early Development of Canon Law and the Council of Serdica, OECS,
Oxford 2002, 125-129.
54 Hess, The Early Development of Canon Law (see note 53), 146-161.
55 Duval, La decretale (see note 26), 121.
56 Siricius ep. 5.1 (60-61 Mun.).
158 Geoffrey D . D u n n

made for the Italian situation, contained the reference to the apostolic see
and that when the canons were sent to the Africans either Siricius or the
Africans substituted the involvement of the apostolic see with that of the
primate, there being no metropolitans in Africa. Innocent likewise
changed the language to reflect the equivalent reality in Gaul where there
were metropolitans.57 In other words, Siricius' reference to the apostolic
see is not a claim of Roman universal primacy but must be understood in
the context of the particular Italian geographical situation where the Ro-
man bishop was the metropolitan. All three variations (apostolic see, pri-
mates, metropolitans) remain faithful to the Nicene position that the lead-
ing bishop of a province have particular responsibility in the approval
process for a new bishop.
Other differences between Siricius and Innocent on this point are
minor, due probably to manuscript transmission, and need not concern
us. What we should note, though, is that there is a reference to canon 4 of
Nicaea in Damasus' earlier letter to the Gallic bishops, Dominus inter, and
the requirement of a minimum of three ordaining bishops.58 That such an
injunction is repeated on at least three occasions from Rome to the
churches of Gaul could well suggest that this was an ongoing issue there. It
does not seem to have been an issue that affected Exsuperius of Toulouse,
judging by Innocent's lack of reference to it in his reply in 405 to Exsu-
perius.59 It is also a topic Innocent does not mention elsewhere in his cor-
respondence. This strengthens the sense of Innocent's comments to Vic-
tricius being limited to responses to questions raised.
One could note that it is possible to distinguish conceptually the idea
of episcopal election and episcopal ordination, and that canon 4 of the
Council of Nicaea and Innocent's letter refer only to preconditions for
ordination and are not explicitly about the election process itself. Some
reference is made to the involvement of bishops in that electoral process in
canon 6 of Nicaea. Does this mean that the bishops at Nicaea envisaged
bishops having a dual role in expressing their choice for a bishop: first at
the election and second at the ordination? This becomes an issue if the

57 Hefele, A History of the Councils (see note 11), 389. Green, Pope Innocent I (see
note 2), 102, suggests on the basis of what is found in Innoc. I en. 2,3,6 (PL 20, 473)
that parts of northern Gaul did not have metropolitans. On the basis of what Inno-
cent writes in 2.1.3 (PL 20, 471-472), however, it is clear that there must have been
some. See J. Gaudemet, L'Eglise dans l'cmpirc romain (IV=-V= siecles), Paris 1989 2 ,
58 Damas. ep. ad Gallos episc. 18 (46 Duv.). For commentary see Duval, La decretale
(see note 26), 120-121.
59 Innoc. I ep. 6 (PL 20, 495-502 = Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum [see
note 1], cols 789-796) =JK 293.
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 159

two events are separated by some time. Did the metropolitan, if he was
going to be absent from the ordination (presumably if he were present for
the ordination his very participation would be such permission), have to
provide permission for the ordination to take place even if he had been
involved in the election? If so, he could veto a winning candidate for
whom he had not voted. But what of other bishops of the province who
had voted but were then absent from the ordination: did they have any
power to stop the ordination of a candidate for whom they had not voted
by absenting themselves from the ordination and withholding written
consent? Alternatively, is the consent of the metropolitan (and absent
bishops) before the ordination, as mentioned by Nicaea and Innocent,
merely the way for those who were not present for the election to have
some involvement, since they had missed out on the voting? In this latter
interpretation, which seems to be the natural sense of the Nicene canons,
instead of casting a vote for someone bishops absent from the election
were acknowledged as having some veto over an unacceptable winning
candidate. This would apply to the metropolitan if he had not been pre-
sent for the election. The canon is trying to promote unanimity but what
if an absent suffragan bishop objected, would that veto the ordination?
This potential confusion had not been foreseen by the bishops of Nicaea
or by Innocent. Whatever the case, the central and indispensable role of
the metropolitan actually means that his was the only choice that mat-
tered. Perhaps this is a reason why Innocent said nothing about the in-
volvement of other clergy or the laity in the process of the election of a
bishop, something which we find highlighted in the third century, for
example, among the letters of Cyprian of Carthage.60 While we may pre-
sume that other clergy and the laity continued to be involved somehow,
the emphasis on metropolitans seems to make them somewhat superflu-

Ineligibility for Episcopal Office: Prior Civil Office

No other canon in Innocent's letter touches directly on the process of the

election of bishops. A couple, however, do make reference to the eligibility
criteria for ordination, and for this reason they are worth considering. In
the first of these Innocent states that anyone who has held the cincture of
office of the imperial service after baptism is not to be admitted at all to

60 G.D. Dunn, Cyprian and the Bishops of Rome: Questions of Papal Primacy in the
Early Church, ECS 11, Strathfield, NSW 2007, 10-15.
160 Geoffrey D . D u n n

the clergy.61 The reference to clergy is broad but certainly includes bi-
Throughout the Codex Theodosianus we find reference to the cingulum
militiae saecukris. Most of the laws deal with the loss of this badge of of-
fice for various misdemeanours or with penalties for those who falsely
claim it.62 The references are to members of the imperial civil service, who,
from the time of Diocletian and Constantine, had belonged technically to
the army, although clear distinctions existed between those in military
service and those in civil service.63 Only one or two of the laws refer to
those in active military service.64 Of particular concern to the emperors
was that of ensuring that curiales did not evade their local obligations by
seeking exemption through membership of the civil service. Repeated
legislation indicates just how unsuccessful those attempts were.65
This is most likely to have been the basis for the church's prohibition
of those who have worked in the imperial administration from seeking
clerical office. Many of them were likely to have been curiales and great
disruption would be caused to the church if curial members of the civil
service who had been ordained were ordered back to their curial obliga-
tions. We have noted that Victricius had been with Innocent when they
pleaded with Honorius face-to-face for former curiales among the bishops
and other clergy to be able to remain as clerics. A ban on the ordination of
those who had been in the civil service, where many curiales had sought
refuge, ought to prevent future incidents of the emperor demanding bish-
ops leave their positions.
Innocent's provision is a verbatim repeat of what is found in Siricius'
letter Cum in unum" Innocent has added the word omnino, drawing at-

61 Innoc. I ep. 2,3,4 (PL 20, 472): "Item si quis post remissionem peccatorum cingulum
militiae saecularis habuerit, ad clericatum omnino admitti non debet."
62 Cod. Theod. I 12,4 (49 Momm./Kriig.); VI 30,8-9 (298 Momm./Kriig.); VI 30,18
(300 Momm./Kriig.); VIII 1,11 (363 Momm./Kriig.); VIII 4,16 (371
Momm./Kriig.); VIII 4,23 (372 Momm./Kriig.); VIII 4,29 (374 Momm./Kriig.);
VIII 8,9 (403-404 Momm./Kriig.); IX 38,11 (498-499 Momm./Kriig.); X .20,14
(564 Momm./Kriig.); X 26,1-2 (569-570 Momm./Kriig.); XI 20,4 (608-609
Momm./Kriig.); XII 1,147 (698 Momm./Kriig.); XIV 10,1 (787-788
Momm./Kriig.); XVI 4,4 (854 Momm./Kriig.); XVI 8,24 (893 Momm./Kriig.).
63 A. Miiller, Das Cingulum Militiae, Ploen, 1873; A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman
Empire 284-602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey, Oxford 1964, 563-
64 Cod. Theod. II 10,6 (93 Momm./Kriig.); XII 1,181 (707 Momm./Kriig.).
65 Jones, The Later Roman Empire (see note 63), 739-752.
66 Siricius ep. 5.3 (61 Mun.).
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 161

tention to and emphasising the extent of the ban on the ordination of

such people into the clergy.
Victricius' own previous military service and the suffering he endured
when he rejected his military oath in terms of physical abuse and impris-
onment gave Paulinus the opportunity to describe Victricius as a living
martyr, perhaps self-conscious that he had not been that positive towards
Victricius when they had met in Vienne.67 Victricius as a bishop was
happy to describe himself and the martyrs whose relics he received as sol-
diers for Christ.68 While it might have been a fairly standard Christian
topos it certainly was one that was entirely natural coming from Victricius.
Perhaps Martin of Tours also had been a soldier at the time of his conver-
sion to Christianity and for several years afterwards.69 One cannot imagine
that Innocent, whose letter to Victricius was really one of affirmation and
support in the face of being the subject of criticism among his episcopal
colleagues, would have been careless enough to have issued a provision
which Victricius' enemies could have used as further ammunition in their
opposition to the bishop of Rouen/ 0 The reference to the cingulum mili-
tiae must have been understood clearly not as reference to military service
but to service in the imperial civil administration as being a disqualifica-
tion for ordination, and that the English translation of Hefele, for exam-
ple, is quite misleading when it translates this part of Siricius' letter as a
prohibition of those who have "served in war" from ordination/ 1

67 Paul. Nol. ep. 18, 7 (133-135 Hart./Kamp.).

68 Victric. De laude 1.28 (70 Demeul.); 6.58 (79 Demeul).
69 T.D. Barnes, The Military Career of Martin of Tours, AnBoll 114, 1996, 25-32,
demonstrates that if Martin had been discharged from the army in November 357 he
could not have met Hilary before the latter's exile in spring 356. While this raises
questions about Sulpicius as an author, it does not resolve the issue of whether or not
Martin was ever a soldier. The appeal by A.S. McKinley, The First Two Centuries of
Saint Martin of Tours, Early Medieval Europe 14, 2006, 176-177, to Victricius to
demonstrate that any previous military service by Martin was not the cause of opposi-
tion to him does not take into account the fact that both bishops were not highly re-
garded by their peers, and their previous military service might have been in part a
reason for that antagonism.
70 It could well be that Victricius had left military service as part of his conversion
process, before initiation, in which case Innocent's prohibition would not have ap-
plied to him
71 Hefele, A History of the Councils (see note 11), p. 387. Green, Pope Innocent I (see
note 2), 99, makes the reference apply to both those who had served in the military
and or the higher ranks of the civil services, but does not address the issue of the light
in which this must have placed Victricius if that is how cingulum militiae was unders-
162 Geoffrey D . D u n n

Support for this interpretation may come from the fact that in the ear-
lier letter Dominus inter, if we accept Damasus as its author, we find a
more explicit prohibition on the ordination of those who have served in
the military/ 2 Duval's assertion, however, that this is based on canon 12 of
the Council of Nicaea, however, could be challenged, in that Nicaea could
be referring more to civil service rather than military/ 3 Whatever the case
about that, I would like to suggest that the change of language between
Damasus, on the one hand, and Siricius and Innocent on the other was
not accidental. Any antipathy towards clerics being drawn from a military
background became a more sensitive issue after men like Martin and Vic-
tricius became bishops. Further, in his response to the synod of Toldeo
Innocent would use the verb milito, as had Damasus, as well as referring to
curiales.7* There seems to be a deliberate removal of explicit reference to
military service in the letter to Victricius, and the bishop of Rouen's per-
sonal background might well have been the reason for that.

Ineligibility for Episcopal Office: Marriage to Previously-

Married Women or Married a Second Time

The topic of clerical marriage in early Christianity is a complex one and

cannot be investigated fully here. It is sufficient for our purposes to outline
the degree to which issues of a person's marital status was of interest in the
question of episcopal election for Innocent. He was concerned with the
number of husbands a cleric's wife has had and the number of wives a
cleric has had.
Clerics {clerici) are forbidden from marrying mulieresP By definition a
mulier is a married female person. This means that clerics should not
marry widows or divorced women, but only virgins. The justification for
this is taken from the Scriptures, viz., Leviticus 21:13-14 (see also Leviti-
cus 21:7; Ezekiel 44:22). The prohibition on clerics marrying women,
although limited only to widows and without the quotation from Scrip-
ture, is found in Siricius' letter after the synod of 3 8 6 / 6 Innocent himself

72 Damas. ep. ad Gallos episc. 7 (34 Duval): "Item, de eo qui militauerit iam fidelis
73 Council of Nicaea I, can. 12 (26 Alb.). Duval, La decretale (see note 26), 84.
74 Innoc. I ep. 3,6,9 (PL 20, 492) = JK 292.
75 Innoc. I ep. 2,4,7 (PL 20, 473). See Gaudemet, L'Eglise dans l'empire romain (see
note 57), 116.
76 Siricius ep. 5,4 (61 Mun.). Siricius does provide the quotation from Lev 21 in his
letter to Himerius (ep. 1,VIII,12 [PL 13, 1141).
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 163

would repeat this prohibition in his letter responding to the synod of

Toledo and in his 414 letter to the Illyrian bishops/ 7 Again, one has the
sense in our letter that Innocent is not merely providing a compendium of
Roman ecclesiastical law for Victricius because he has added a sentence
that anyone who has ambition for the higher clerical office of the priest-
hood (sacerdotium), which for Innocent meant the episcopate and some-
times the presbyterate, where good works and an upright life are needed,
would be ineligible for that position if they married a woman previously
married. Put into the context of the ecclesiastical factionalism in Gaul that
Mathisen and others have outlined it would be fair to conclude that this
canon was targeting a widespread practice among Gallic bishops that sup-
porters of asceticism like Victricius and Innocent wanted to eliminate.
This halt to someone's advancement up the clerical ladder is the only pen-
alty mentioned for a cleric who breaks the prohibition/ 8
The next provision targeted laymen who, either before or after bap-
tism, married a previously married woman. They were ineligible from
becoming clerics/ 9 Like the previous canon, this is an expanded version of
what is found in Siricius' Cum in unum™ Siricius had only mentioned
widows and made no reference to whether the layman had married such a
woman before or after his baptism. The question about whether or not
baptism nullified any previous marriages is one that Innocent tackled in
his response to the synod of Toledo and to the Illyrian bishops, and it was
one that had been dealt with Jerome and Ambrose, but that is beyond the
scope of our focus here.81
So any cleric who aspired to higher clerical office or any layman who
aspired to become a cleric was forbidden from marrying a woman previ-
ously married. The next canon in Innocent's letter considers the number
of marriages of the man. Only a once-married man is eligible to be or-
dained a cleric. Again there is scriptural support for this position (1 Tim.
3:2; Tit.l:6). 82 Further, the idea that a layman's second marriage should

77 Innoc. I epp. 3.VI.10 (PL 20, 492); 17,1,2 (PL 20, 528) = JK 303. For analysis of ep.
17 see G.D. Dunn, Innocent I and the Illyrian Churches on the Question of Heretical
Ordination, Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association 4, 2008, 65-81.
78 Cf. David Hunter's contribution to this volume for more on clerical celibacy.
79 Innoc. I ep. 2,5,8 (PL 20, 474).
80 Siricius ep. 5,5 (61 Mun.).
81 Innoc. epp. 3,VI,10 (PL 20, 493); 17,11,3-4 (PL 20, 528-529).
82 Innoc. I ep. 2,6,9 (PL 20, 474). Innocent offered three scriptural verses: unius uxoris
uirum (1 Tim 3:2; virtually identical with unius uxoris uir of Tit 1:6); sacerdotes mei
semelnubant, and sacerdotes mei non nubent amplius. Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum
Pontificum (see note 1), col. 751, mistakenly identified the third of these as Tit 1:6.
Sacerdotes mei semel nubant and Unius uxoris uirum also appear in Innoc. I ep. 3,6,10
164 Geoffrey D . D u n n

count as only his first if his first marriage had ended with his wife's death
before his baptism was dismissed by Innocent, in line with what we have
seen him say in the previous canon about a woman's pre-baptismal mar-
Eligibility for clerical ordination or advancement within the ranks of
the clergy to episcopal office depended in part, according to Innocent's
letter to Victricius both upon the candidate or the cleric and his wife being
people only once married (i.e. to each other), the timing of baptism not-
withstanding. This argument was not based upon the Council of Nicaea
but upon the Pastoral Letters.

(PL 20, 493). Unius uxoris uirum is to be found also in Innoc. I en. 17,2,3 (PL 20,
529), identified by Coustant, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum (see note 1), col.
831, as 1 Tim 3:2 and Tit 1:6, and in ep. 37.II.4 (PL 20, 604) = JK 314, identified by
Coustnat, Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum (see note 1), col. 911, as 1 Tim 3:2.
Prior to Innocent, in Damas. ep. ad Gallos episc. 8 (36 Duv.) we find unius uxoris uir
and in Siricius ep. 1.VIII.12 (PL 13, 1141) unius uxoris uirum and sacerdotes mei semel
nubant, the latter of which Siricius claimed was from the law of Moses, but it certainly
is not the Lev 21:13-14 passage, which is quoted immediately after. In Siricius ep. 5.3
(61 Mun.) we find unius uxoris uirum. For earlier evidence of Innocent's third passage
in ep. 2 {sacerdotes mei non nubent amplius) we have to turn to Tert. cast. 7.1
(CChr.SL 2, 1024 Kroymann) where he claimed the passage sacerdotes mei nonplus
nubant comes from Leviticus. No such passage can be found there. The issue from
these particular letters that attracts most scholarly attention is not that of clerical mar-
riage but of clerical celibacy within marriage. See Gryson, Les origines du celibat
ecclesiastique (see note 26), 136-142, 157-160; Callam, Clerical Continence in the
Fourth Century (see note 26), 24-35; Cochini, Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy
(see note 11), 255-259; Heid, Celibacy in the Early Church (see note 11), 240-245;
Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy (see note 26), 208-219. The second and
third of our scriptural verses, which are nearly identical, therefore, cannot be identi-
83 The parallel is not exact. In Innoc. I ep. 2,6,9 (PL 20, 474) the man's two marriages
are separated by his own baptism while in Innoc. I ep. 2,5,8 (PL 20, 474) the woman
has two marriages but it is not her baptism that is under consideration but that of her
second husband. It is obvious in this latter instance that were his marriage to the pre-
viously married woman to occur after his baptism then his ineligibility for ordination
is incontrovertible. However, if he had married her before his baptism, what effect
could that baptism have on the relationship? It is not that the wife is now considered
to be once married because her baptismal status and the possible wiping away of a
previous marriage is not at issue (as it is for the man in canon 9). The argument,
which Innocent rejects, is that even though it is the man's first marriage there is a
problem because he is marrying a previously married woman, but if he has married
her before his baptism, then, since baptism wipes all things away, he can be considered
not to be married at all, and therefore eligible for ordination.
Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops 165


Innocent's letter of 404 to Victricius of Rouen stands at the very threshold

of the development of Roman ecclesiastical legislation, as the widespread
copying of it into the canonical collections of the Middle Ages attests. The
appointment of bishops is not the dominant issue in the letter, but it is the
first one raised, and its importance is magnified when we include a few
other canons in the letter that deal with the matter of the eligibility criteria
The examination of the context of this letter has highlighted how,
during the last decades of the fourth century both Rome and Milan sought
to include the Gallic churches as parts of a network of influence. The Gal-
lic churches themselves were deeply divided over the issue of asceticism
because of the fears held by some of Priscillianism and of the extent to
which imperial intervention was needed to combat it. Victricius' visit to
Rome late in 403 was not, I would suggest, because he was being tried on
any charges but was because he was under suspicion of Priscillianism from
many of his episcopal colleagues (or at least opposed by many episcopal
colleagues who expressed that opposition in terms of Priscillianism) for his
support of asceticism, and because he wanted to take pre-emptive action in
gaining the support of the Roman bishop for his embattled position. Such
support was readily forthcoming. The provisions contained in Innocent's
letter were not, I believe, simply a compendium of Roman ecclesiastical
law but were those dealing only with the particular issues Victricius had
raised during his time in Rome, responding to the situation in Gaul.
Not only did Innocent come out in support of ascetical practices but
by dealing with the question of episcopal ordination indicated the way
that all problems in the church ultimately would be overcome. It was all
well and good to issue directive to incumbent bishops, but by exercising
control over who would be future bishops one could eventually ensure
support for particular theological and disciplinary positions. Innocent's
letter suggests that the rights of a metropolitan to have a veto over the
election of bishops within his province and the minimum number of
bishops needed to ordain a fellow bishop were not being respected in some
of the Gallic churches. The absolute requirement for the consent of the
metropolitan before the ordination could occur would ultimately make
the electoral process involving laity, other clergy, and even other provincial
bishops less of a requirement, and Innocent indeed had nothing to say
about that.
Innocent's source of authority for his statements was the Council of
Nicaea, with regard to the election process for bishops and the reference to
the cingulum militiae, and the Scriptures, with regard to the number of
166 Geoffrey D . D u n n

marriage for a cleric and his wife. In particular, Innocent was guided by
the ways in which his predecessors, Damasus and Siricius, had interpreted
the council and the Scriptures on those topics, although he was not lim-
ited entirely by that.
So keen was Innocent to support a bishop who was prepared to look
to Rome for support, that he tempered the language used by his predeces-
sors and himself on other occasions in this letter. In the light of Victricius'
previous military service Innocent here interpreted the church's ban on
accepting those who had held the cingulum militiae only to those who had
service in the civil administration rather than the military.
Through Innocent's letter to Victricius we gain some insight into the
Gallic churches at a critical turning point in Late Antiquity just before the
barbarian invasions at the end of 406. It adds to and reflects the picture
we have of troubles plaguing the Gallic churches at this time, in which the
question of what kind of person becomes a bishop and how they reach
that position were of immense importance.
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem?
Die Einsetzung von Klerikern in ihre Amter
und die von diesen vorangetriebenen Bauprojekte

Rudolf Haensch
Ein Teil der neueren Forschung zur Geschichte des Christentums in der
Spatantike geht n i c k nur davon aus, daE sich der spatantike Episkopat zu
einem erheblichen Teil aus den sozialen FUhrungsschichten des Reiches -
und insbesondere den stadtischen - rekrutiert habe.1 Vielmehr nimmt
man auch an, diese Personen bitten ihre bisherigen Wertvorstellungen
ohne Bruch von ihren alten Zielen, den stadtischen Amtern, auf die neu-
en, die kirchlichen Funktionen, ubertragen.2 Das muEte dann unter ande-
rem zur Konsequenz gehabt haben, da£ sich diese Personen auch weiter-

kanntlich mit dem von A. Boulanger erstmals gebrauchten Terminus

Euergetismus ein Phanomen bezeichnet, das nach Veyne - und die For-
schung ist ihm bei alien Modifikationen4 grundsatzlich gefolgt - fur die

1 Vgl. die Zusammenstellung der Forschung bei R. Haensch, Die Rolle der Bischofe im
4. Jahrhundert: Neue Anforderungen und neue Antworten, Chiron 37, 2007, 153-
181, hier 159-161, besonders in Anm. 25; s. z.B. auch R. Lizzi Testa, The Late
Antique Bishop: Image and Reality, in: Ph. Rousseau/J. Raithel (ed.), A Companion
to Late Antiquity, Oxford 2009, 525-538, hier 533.
2 Zu einer solchen Sicht schon Haensch, Rolle (s. Anm. 1), 158 fi, 180 f. (in Bezug auf
andere Aspekte eines bischoflichen Lebens).
3 P. Veyne, Le pain et le cirque, Paris 1976. Zum Euergetismus jetzt insbesondere A.
Zuiderhoek, The Politics of Munificence in the Roman Empire, Cambridge 2009.
4 Dazu insbesondere M. Christol/O. Masson (ed.), Actes du X° congres international
d'epigraphie grecque et latine. Nimes, 4-9 octobre 1992, Paris 1997 (u.a. 371-396, Y.
Duval/Y. Pietri, Evergetisme et epigraphie dans loccident chretien [IV= - VP s.]) zur
Frage, inwieweit in den christlichen Inschriften des spatantiken Westens des romi-
schen Reiches ein solcher Euergetismus zu fassen ist; 305-331, W. Eck, Der
Euergetismus im Funktionszusammenhang der kaiserzeitlichen Stadte, mit Warnun-
gen vor einer Uberschatzung des Phanomens); vgl. auch H.-J. Gehrke, in: D N P IV,
1998, 228 f.s.v. Euergetismus.
168 Rudolf Haensch

Antike seit dem Hellenismus von grower Bedeutung war. Euergetismus

meint die Finanzierung offentlicher Gebaude (oder anderer offentlicher
Anliegen) durch eine innerhalb der jeweiligen politischen Gemeinde sozial
herausragende Person, ohne da£ diese ursprunglich dazu verpflichtet ge-
wesen ware. Der entscheidende Anreiz fur die euergetische Tat soil nach
Veyne das soziale Prestige gewesen sein, das dem Euergeten aufgrund sei-
ner Tatigkeit zufiel und das zudem seine soziale Position legitimiert habe.
Veyne hatte zwei verschiedene Formen des Euergetismus definiert: den
„freien" Euergetismus - also die wohltaterische Bemuhungen ohne spezifi-
schen (offentlichen) AnlaE - und den Euergetismus ob honorem, d. h.
Wohltaten anlafflich der Ubernahme eines offentlichen Amtes. Mit
Veynes eigenen Worten: „L'evergetisme est le fait que les collectives (ci-
tes, colleges ...) attendaient des riches qu'ils contribuassent de leurs deniers
aux depenses publiques, et que leur attente n'etait pas vaine: les riches y
contribuaient spontanement ou de bon gre. Leurs depenses en faveur de la
collective allaient <...> bref, a des plaisirs et a des constructions, a des
voluptates et a des opera publica. Tantot les evergesies etaient offertes par
les notables en dehors de toute obligation definie (c'est ce que nous appel-
lerons l'evergetisme libre), tantot dies etaient offertes a l'occasion de leur
election a un 'honneur' public, a une magistrature ou fonction munici-
pales; dans ce deuxieme cas, nous parlerons d'evergetisme ob honorem; et
cet evergetisme-la etait moralement ou meme legalement obligatoire."5
Dieser Euergetismus ob honorem von stadtischen Magistraten hatte sich
vor allem in drei Formen von Stiftungen geauEert - der Finanzierung von
Schauspielen aller Art, der Vergabe von Geld- und Sachspenden an ausge-
wahlte Bevolkerungsgruppen und der Stiftung von fur die Offentlichkeit
bestimmten Bauten. DaE insbesondere diese letzte Form des Euergetismus
von Bischofen aus den alten Fuhrungsschichten praktiziert worden sei,
dies war z.B. die Ansicht von Claude Lepelley: „Toutefois, on constate que
ces eveques issus de l'ancienne couche dirigeante ont, pour une large part,
transpose dans leur fonction les usages et les mentalites de leurs ancetres,

5 P. Veyne, Le pain et le cirque, Paris 1976, 20 f.

6 C. Lepelley, Evergetisme et epigraphie dans 1' Antiquite tardive: les provinces de
langue latine, in: M. Christol/O. Masson (ed.), Actes du X° congres international
d'epigraphie grecque et latine. Nimes, 4-9 octobre 1992, Paris 1997, 335-352, hier
352, vgl. 348. Vorsichtiger Duval/Pietri, Evergetisme (s. Anm. 4), passim; P.-A. Fe-
vrier, Qui construit et le dit? Quelques remarques sur la fin de lAntiquite, in: X. Bar-
ral i Altet (ed.), Artistes, artisans et production artistique au moyen age, II. Com-
mande et travail, Paris 1987, 9-14, besonders 14; vgl. auch P. Brown, Poverty and
Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, Hanover NH/London 2002, 29. Recht hau-
fig finden sich unprazise Angaben von der Art „Diese Form des Engagements fur die
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 169

Trifft diese These zu, gab es also einen Euergetismus ob honorem von
Klerikern, speziell Bischofen? Das einzige reck eindeutige Beispiel fur die
Orientierung an einem derartigen Verhalten, das man in der bisherigen
Literatur zu den spatantiken Bischofen und deren Wahlen m. W. finder,
ist der Fall des Bassianos von Ephesos.7 Diese cause celebre war Gegen-
stand zweier Sitzungen des Konzils von Chalkedon. 8 Bassianos war ein
reicher Burger von Ephesus, der sich entsprechend den Angaben, die er
beim Konzil machte, seit seiner Jugend in seiner Stadt durch seine phil-
anthropise!™ Aktivitaten beliebt gemacht hatte. Inbesondere hatte er ein
Hospital mit 70 Betten gestiftet. Seinen Angaben nach, hatte diese seine
Beliebtheit den Neid des damals amtierenden Bischofs von Ephesos,
Memnon, hervorgerufen. Er hatte ihn daraufhin zum Bischof des ganz
und gar unbedeutenden Bischofssitzes Augaza ordiniert - nach Bassianos
mit Hilfe brutaler Gewalt. Bischof von Augaza zu werden, entsprach aber
nicht den Vorstellungen des Bassianos. Er hatte sich daher nie dorthin
begeben und war auch nicht in Kommunion mit dieser Gemeinde getre-
ten, sondern hatte abgewartet, bis schliefflich der Nachfolger des
Memnon, Basilios, seine Ordination zum Bischof von Augaza fur ungultig
erklart hatte. Nach dem Tod des Basilios von Ephesos gelangte Bassianos
endlich an das eigentliche Ziel seiner Wunsche. Mit Unterstutzung eines
betrachtlichen Teils der Glaubigen von Ephesos und zumindest eines Teils
des dortigen Klerus sowie anscheinend nur eines herbeigerufenen Bischofs,
namlich desjenigen des kleineren Bischofssitzes Theodosiopolis, wurde er
zum Bischof von Ephesos gewahlt und geweiht. Auch der Kaiser, den er
schriftlich uber seine Wahl informiert hatte, und der damalige Erzbischof

Biirgerschaft (d. h. Baustiftungen jeglicher Art; R. H.) entsprach traditionellen Erwar-

tungen an stadtische Oberschichten" (Ch. Markschies, Die politische Dimension des
Bischofsamtes im vierten jahrhundert, in: j . Mehlhausen, Recht - Macht - Gerech-
tigkeit, Giitersloh 1998, 438-469, hier 462). Vgl. z.B. auch S. Baumgart, Die Bi-
schofsherrschaft im Gallien des 5. Jahrhunderts, Miinchen 1995, 137, 159, 166 Anm.
29, 169, 195.
7 Zu ihm jetzt insbesondere S. Destephen, Prosopographie chretienne du Bas-Empire 3.
Prosopographie du diocese d'Asie, Paris 2008, s. v. Bassianos.
8 ACO II.1.3 act. XII und XIII [versio Graeca] (42,18-56,2 Schwartz); ACO II.3.3 act.
XI und XII [versio Latina] (52,17-65,11 Schwartz); Ubersetzung: R. Price/M. Gaddis,
The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Vol. 3, Liverpool 2007, 1-22. Zur Episode zu-
letzt P. Norton, Episcopal Elections 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late An-
tiquity, Oxford 2007, 223-231. Gegen die Darstellung von Norton gibt es aber schon
eine Reihe von Untersuchungen zu dieser Affare: S. Scholz, Transmigration und
Translation, Koln, Weimar, Wien 1992, 86 f; A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Em-
pire, 2 Bande, Baltimore 1986, 916 f, 919.
170 Rudolf Haensch

Proklos von Konstantinopel, den er aufgesucht hatte, hatten ihn aner-

kannt. Erst nach vier Jahren war er - wiederum gewaltsam - von dem
Priester Stephanos (der zum Zeitpunkt des Konzils 50 Jahre zum Klerus
von Ephesos gehort hatte) und anderen aus seinem Amt gedrangt worden
und sein Vermogen anscheinend zwischen den an diesem Akt Beteiligten
aufgeteilt worden. Der Anfuhrer Stephanos wurde, wie dieser in seiner
Stellungnahme behauptete, von einem Konzil von 40 Bischofen und alien
wichtigen Vertretern von Ephesos (den viri clarissimi, den ubrigen Mit-
gliedern der Fuhrungsschicht, dem Klerus und der gesamten ubrigen Be-
volkerung) zum neuen Bischof von Ephesos gewahlt. Das Konzil setzte
letztlich beide als Bischofe von Ephesos ab, billigte beiden aber weiterhin
den Titel Bischof und erhebliche Gehaltszahlungen aus den Mitteln des
Bistums Ephesos zu. Das Vermogen des Bassianos sollte diesem zurucker-
Zweifellos hatte Paul Veyne, wenn er seine Fragestellung im groEeren
Masse in die Spatantike verfolgt hatte, dieses Geschehen als ein Beispiel
fur Euergetismus ob honorem anfuhren konnen. Ganz offensichtlich hatte
Bassianos von Ephesos sein Vermogen bewuEt eingesetzt, urn Bischof von
Ephesos zu werden, und das war auch sowohl von denjenigen, die ihn
gewahlt hatten, wie auch von denen, die ihn dann absetzten, so gesehen
Aber wie typisch war Bassianos? Oder gilt hier, exemplum unum,
exemplum nullum} Bevor diese Frage weiter untersucht werden soil, sind noch
einige Klarstellungen notig. Im Zusammenhang mit der Frage nach
Euergetismus ob honorem geht es nicht urn kleinere (oder grofere) Geldbetra-
ge, die als „Gebuhren" bei der Ordination gezahlt wurden, wie dies zumindest
im Osten des Reiches im 6. Jh. ublich war und wie dies dann von Justinian
geregelt wurde.9 Euergetismus ob honorem liegt auch dann nicht vor, wenn

sozial geachtet,11 wahrend der Euergetismus ob honorem in den Stadten des

9 lust. Nov. 123, 3 (aus dem Jahr 546) [CIC(B).N 597-598 Schoell/Kroll], vgl. 16 (fur
Kleriker) [606-607 Schoell/Kroll]. DazuJones, Empire (s. Anm. 8), 904 f, 909; Nor-
ton, Elections (s. Anm. 8), 114, 144, 183, 189.
10 Derartiges scheint mit den promissiones gemeint gewesen zu sein, gegen die sich
Justinian in Nov. 123, 1 pr. (593 Schoell/Kroll) und 123, 2.1 (596 Schoell/Kroll)
wendet. Vgl. Just. Nov. 123, 16 (606-607 Schoell/Kroll) und den Sprachgebrauch in
Nov. 137, 2: u r e s e s (697 Schoell/Kroll). Grundsatzlich C. Rapp, Holy Bishops in
Late Antiquity, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 2005, 211 f.
11 Jones, Empire (s. Anm. 8), 909 f; R. J. Macrides, Simony, in: A. P. Kazhdan (ed.),
The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford 1991, III 1901 £; Norton, Elections (s.
Anm. 8), 179-191; K. L. Noethlichs, Anspruch und Wirklichkeit. Fehlverhalten und
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 171

Hellenismus und der Hohen Kaiserzeit ein allgemein geschatztes und an-
erkanntes Verhalten gewesen war. Im Einzelfall wird freilich bei manchen
knappen Nachrichten liber Bischofswahlen in der Spatantike nicht ausge-
schlossen werden konnen, da£ das von unserer Quelle als Bestechung be-
zeichnet wird, was der Kandidat selbst eher als euergetischen Akt betrachtet
haben mochte. Mit dieser Moglichkeit sollte man insbesondere dann rechnen,
wenn von einem grofen Empfangerkreis der Geldgeschenke die Rede ist.
Wie weit es in der Fulle der spatantiken patristischen Literatur eher
versteckte Hinweise fur Euergetismus ob honorem von Klerikern gibt, ist
fur mich nicht zu ubersehen.12 Aber es geht auch nicht urn Einzelfalle,
sondern urn die Frage, ob tatsachlich groEere Gruppen unter den Fuh-
rungsschichten das Verhalten, das sie nach Veyne bei der Ausubung stadti-
scher Magistraturen Jahrhunderte lang gezeigt hatten, weiterhin dann
praktizierten, wenn sie Amter im kirchlichen Bereich ubernahmen. Urn
diese Frage zu beantworten, mussen geschlossene groEere Gruppen von
Klerikern untersucht werden. Dabei versprechen insbesondere solche Re-
gionen zuverlassige Ergebnisse, in denen erstens die stadtischen Fuhrungs-
schichten vergleichsweise wenig von den Auswirkungen der verschiedenen
Krisen des Romischen Reiches seit dem dritten Jahrhundert n. Chr. be-
troffen worden waren, in denen sie also aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach am
wenigsten die Notwendigkeit empfanden, ihre Verhaltensmuster zu an-
dern. Zweitens sollten es Regionen sein, die sehr viele oder die meisten
Belege der Quellengattung aufweisen, die immer die zentrale Quelle fur
alle Untersuchungen zum Euergetismus darstellte, namlich der Inschrif-
ten. Beiden Anforderungen entsprechen die Gebiete der Patriarchate
Antiocheia und Jerusalem. Knapp uber tausend Inschriften berichten aus

Amtspflichtverletzungen des christlichen Klerus anhand der Konzilskanones des 4. bis

8. Jahrhunderts, ZRG KA 107, 1990, 23-24, 35, 42, 44; ders., Materialmen zum Bi-
schofsbild aus den spatantiken Rechtsquellen, JbAC 16, 1973, 28-59, hier 33-35, 49,
55; Rapp, Bishops (s. Anm. 10), 211 f, G. Schmelz, Kirchliche Amtstrager im spatantiken
Agypten nach den Aussagen der griechischen und koptischen Papyri und Ostraka, Leipzig
2002, 69 F; E. Wipszycka, Les ressources et les activites economiques des eglises en Egypte
du IVe au Vllle siecle, Bruxelles 1972, 95 Anm. 2; dies., Fonctionnement de Feglise
egyptienne aux IV=-VIIP siecles (sur quelques aspects), in: C. Decobert (ed.), Itineraires
d'Egypte. Melanges ofFerts au pere Maurice Martin, Le Caire 1992, 115-145, hier 116fF.
12 Ein reicher Alexandriner soil einen erheblichen eigenen Beitrag zu einer von Johannes
dem Almosengeber veranstalteten Sammlung angesichts einer Hungersnot mit der
Bitte verkniipft haben, Johannes moge ihn zum Diakon machen, damit er an seiner
Seite am Altar stande und so Vergebung Fur seine Siinden erhielte: V. Joh. Eleem. 11,
43-46 (ActaSS Ian II, 500 and 507 Bollandus/Henschen) dazu Rapp, Bishops (s.
Anm. 10), 212. Brown, Poverty (s. Anm. 6), 41 F. erwagt ein solches Verhalten Fur
Basilios von Kaisareia, gibt aber zu, dafi seine Interpretation ganz von dem unsicheren
Datum der BischoFsweihe des Basilios abhangt.
172 Rudolf Haensch

Wie immer bei der Untersuchung einer Fragestellung am Beispiel einer

Region ist allerdings grundsatzlich nicht auszuschlieEen, da£ es n i c k in
anderen Regionen eigene Entwicklungen gegeben hat. Das gilt ganz be-
sonders fur das spatantike Romische Reich und die dort bestehenden
ChristentUmer, die so viele regionale Besonderheiten aufwiesen. Es wird daher

Befragt man die uber 1000 Inschriften aus diesen beiden Patriarchaten
danach, ob es einen Euergetismus ob honorem im Zusammenhang mit der
Ubernahme kirchlicher Amter gab, so ist erstens ein zentrales negatives
Ergebnis festzuhalten: Keine einzige dieser Inschriften erwahnt explizit,
daE der betreffende Bischof (oder Kleriker) den entsprechenden Bau im
Gefolge seiner Wahl (bzw. Ordination) errichtet hatte. Im Gegenteil, die
einzige Inschrift, die in dieser Hinsicht ein wenig AufschluE gewahrt, die
Bauinschrift der Kirche der Gottesmutter in Bostra urn die Mitte des 5.
Jh., erwahnt, der Bischof habe sie nach zahlreichen siegreich bestandenen
Kampfen (gemeint waren wohl gegen die Origenisten) errichtet,15 also
doch wohl nach einer langeren Amtsdauer.16 Im Gegensatz zu dem, was
Jahrhunderte lang der Fall gewesen war, erwahnte man zumindest in den
inschriftlich festgehaltenen Stellungsnahmen nicht, da£ es einen Zusam-
menhang zwischen der Ubernahme eines kirchlichen Amtes und der von
dem entsprechenden Amtsinhaber gestifteten Bauten des christlichen Kul-
tes gegeben hatte. Wenn es eine solche Beziehung gab, redete man nicht
daruber. Zumindest in der offentlichen Selbstdarstellung ist also schon
einmal ein wesentlicher Wandel festzustellen.
Dieser ist umso eindeutiger, als es durchaus Inschriften gibt, in denen
ein Bischof fur die in seiner Amtszeit entstandenen Kirchenbauten ge-
ruhmt wird. Ein besonders ausfuhrliches und explizites, leider nur generell
in die zweite Halfte des 5. bzw. die erste des 6. Jh. datierbares Beispiel

13 Zur Quellensituation ausfiihrlicher R. Haensch, Le financement de la construction

des eglises pendant lAntiquite Tardive et l'evergetisme antique, An.Tard 14, 2006,
47-58, hier 49 f.
14 Zum Euergetismus der Hohen Kaiserzeit im hier untersuchten Raum insbesondere M.
Sartre, L'Orient romain, Paris 1991, 147-166.
15 IGLS XIII 9119 = R. Merkelbach/j. Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen
Osten, 5 Bande, Stuttgart und Leipzig 1998, 22/42/05.
16 Das Gleiche gilt auch fur die Grabinschrift des M. Iulius Eugenius, so stolz dieser
auch auf die wahrend seiner Amtszeit wieder erbaute Kirche war: AE 1910, 165 = ILS
9480 = W. Tabbernee, Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia, Macon 1997, p. 426-
444 no. 69.
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 173

stammt aus Birsama, dem Zentrum des saltus Gerariticus, in der Palaestina
I. Die entsprechende Inschrift sagt zum Lob des damaligen Bischofs, unter
ihm seien Tempel aufgefiihrt und glanzend ausgestattet worden, so daE
die Heiligen geehrt warden und die Gemeinde sich so freue, da£ sie bei
seiner Herde bleibe.17 Doch trotz all dieses recht unverbliimten Lobes
verlautet nichts von einem fmanziellen Engagement dieses Mannes. Das
gilt ebenso auch fur eine andere, ebenfalls nicht genau datierbare, nach
Ansicht des Erstherausgebers um 400 entstandene, moglicherweise aber
auch Jahrzehnte oder gar ein ganzes Jahrhundert sparer zu datierende In-
schrift aus Kanatha in Arabia. Der dort genannte Bischof wird dafur ge-
ruhmt, da£ er mit Eifer und Schnelligkeit einen Bau vollendet habe, der

die Schonheit des errichteten Baues geruhmt wird, ohne da£ uber den

gen Inschriften, die die Frage der Finanzierung beruhren, belegen be-
zeichnenderweise, da£ nicht der Bischof den Bau fmanziert hatte. Im Falle
der 533 vollendeten Kirche der hll. Kosmas und Damianos in Gerasa hatte
der entsprechende Bischof einen zumindest vor Ort bedeutenden Laien
(anrp apiaros) dazu gewonnen, den Bau zu wesentlichen Teilen zu fi-

Madaba im Jahre 608 gelten, bei dem die Gaben zweier Bruder hervorge-
hoben werden. Dabei wird vorausgesetzt, dafi mit iepeus in dieser In-
schrift ein Bischof in einer poetischen Formulierung angesprochen wird.21
Es ist aber nicht nur so, dafi explizite Hinweise auf eine Finanzierung
von Kirchenbauten durch Bischofe im Zusammenhang mit ihrer Wahl in
Inschriften und in den literarischen Quellen fur diese Region fehlen.
Vielmehr lafit sich auch auf dem Wege der indirekten Beweisfuhrung
untermauern, dafi es keinen Euergetismus ob honorem von Bischofen gab.
Die theoretisch denkbare Moglichkeit, dafi man anhand der Daten der
Kirchenbauten feststellen wurde oder widerlegen konnte, dafi sehr viele

17 SEG 46, 2009, no. 6/7 = A E 1996, 1568: o6en e^ [auxou]/ naoi anleyeiponxai]/ a i
Xamrpoino(n)/Tai Kai oi a y i o i / Koomounxai a i l o Aaos ayaXXeT(ai)/ Siameinai xr,/
ayeA^ auxou.
18 SEG 37, 1537 = Merkelbach/Stauber, Steinepigramme (s. Anm. 15), 22/35/02.
19 SEG 8, 119; SEG 26, 1629 = 38, 1555; SEG 31, 1774 = IGLS XXI 2, 135 (vgl. SEG
31, 1472 = IGLS XXI 2, 140); I. Gerasa 299; I. Gerasa 327.
20 I. Gerasa 314 = Merkelbach/Stauber, Steinepigramme (s. Anm. 15), 21/23/08.
21 IGLS XXI 2, 145, cf. BE 1989, 987; SEG 38, 1657.
174 Rudolf Haensch

Bauten von Bischofen in den Jahren kurz nach ihrer Wahl begonnen oder
gar vollendet worden waren, ohne daE dies explizit erwahnt wurde, besteht
realiter zwar nicht. Zwar sind vergleichsweise sehr viele der 1000 Inschrif-
ten prazis datiert - mindestens ein Drittel - , es ist aber andererseits nur
ganz selten bekannt, wann die entsprechenden Kleriker ihre Amter antra-
Aber ganz grundsatzlich belegen von den uber 1000 Inschriften nur
neun (unter EinschM aller unsicheren Falle maximal 12) epigraphische
Zeugnisse, da£ ein Bischof den Bau einer Kirche entscheidend vorange-
trieben hatte. In dieser Zahl sind auch schon die gerade diskutierten In-
schriften eingeschlossen, die Bischofe fur die wahrend ihrer Amtszeit er-
bauten Kirchen loben. 120 Inschriften erwahnen zwar den amtierenden
Ortsbischof in Formulierungen mit Hilfe der Proposition em, weisen also
daraufhin, daE die BaumaEnahme in der Amtszeit von Bischof X bzw.
unter dessen Oberaufsicht erfolgt war (Die Bedeutung des Formulars ist
nicht eindeutig zu bestimmen, u. a. deshalb weil es in den verschiedenen
lokalen Kontexten unterschiedlich gebraucht wurde). Aber Hinweise auf
ein konkreteres Engagement eines Bischofs als der generellen Oberaufsicht
ergeben sich nur aus den genannten neun (maximal 12) Inschriften, die
die Rolle des Bischofs naher charakterisieren als diesen nur mit Hilfe der
Proposition em anzufuhren. Nur im Falle einer einzigen dieser neun (12)
Inschriften konnen kaum Zweifel daran bestehen, da£ der betreffende
Bischof private eigene Mittel im groEerem Umfang eingesetzt hatte: In
Sakkeia (Arabia) entstand im Jahr 566 eine heute nicht mehr erhaltene
Kirche des hi. Georgios eK ipoo<|>cop(as) eines Bischofs, also anscheinend
auf der Basis eines (finanziellen) Beitrags dieses Bischofs.22 Einen mogli-
chen zweiten Beleg liefert eine Inschrift aus Kafr Kama (wohl dem antiken
Helenopolis) in der Palaestina II. Nach diesem epigraphischen Zeugnis
wurde eine Kapelle einer groEeren Kirche urep acoxnp.'as eines Bischofs
und eines vir gloriosissimus und magister militum vollendet und mit Mosai-
ken versehen.23 In derselben Inschrift heifo es zwar auch: Jesus, nimm den
Beitrag eines Diakons namens Arianos an: Se^e Tnv moo^opav 'Ap.avou
5>aK(ovou). Dies legt zweifelsohne zunachst nahe, da£ der Diakon den
Bau bezahlt hatte. Und man konnte zunachst vermuten, da£ sich der
Hinweis auf den Bischof nur daraus ergab, da£ er die Errichtung dieser
Kapelle angeregt oder zumindest genehmigt hatte. Aber auf diese Weise
lafit sich kaum die parallel gebaute Erwahnung des magister militum erkla-
ren. DaE er genannt wird, kann eigentlich nur bedeuten, daE er finanziell

22 Wadd.2158.
23 SEG45.1954.
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 175

zumindest einen Teil der Kosten Ubernommen hatte; denn in anderen

Zusammenhangen werden weltliche Amtsinhaber bei Kirchenbauten im
Gegensatz zu dem, was bei paganen Bauten ublich gewesen war, nicht
mehr genannt. So muE man entweder davon ausgehen, da£ in diesem Fall
der soziale Abstand zwischen den drei genannten Personen zu unterschied-
lichen Formulierungen fur ein ahnliches Handeln gefiihrt hatte, da£ also
die Kapelle von alien dreien finanziert worden war. Oder aber der Diakon
meinte mit seinem „Beitrag" nur seine Bemuhungen um die Inschrift oder
die Baudurchfuhrung. Schliefflich ist eine dritte Inschrift aus Gerasa zu
erwahnen, in der der Ortsbischof zwar eingangs nur mit Hilfe der Proposi-
tion em angefuhrt wurde, dann aber gesagt wurde, daE der Bau aus den
preisenswerten (Gaben) dieses (Bischofs) und denen eines zweiten Kleri-
kers, eines Diakons, finanziert worden ware.24
Drei Belege fur ein finanzielles Engagement eines Bischofs bei uber
1000 Inschriften (mit 120 Nennungen von Bischofen) ist zweifellos keine
grosse Zahl. Aber auch die literarischen Quellen fur die untersuchte Regi-

meinen sie seine Rolle als Organisator, wie es z.B. Euseb zu Beginn seiner
Rede bei der Weihe der neu erbauten Bischofskirche in Tyros 2anz deut-
lich sagt (ou dia spoudhj <...> newj filoti/mwj epeskeu/astof5 und Jo-
hannes Chrysostomus anlafflich des Neubaus des Martyrions fur den hi.
Babylas ausfuhrlich beschreibt.27 Man sollte den Unterschied zwischen
Bischofen, die aus eigenen Vermogen Kirchen erbauten, und solchen, die
ihre Gemeinde und besonders deren finanzkraftige Mitglieder zu Kirchen-

24 SEG 7, 872 = I. Gerasa 3 0 4 : ' E p i Pau/lou t o u q e o f i l e ] s t a / t o [ u k]ai o s i s t a / [ t o u ] /

episko/pou eplhrw/q[h] t o agion [ma]rtu/rion a [ p ] o / eulogiwn autou ka[i] S a w / l a
eul[abes]t(a/tou) diako/nou/ kai paramon(ariou) e p i s t o t o j (1. e f e s t w t o j ) P r o -
kopi/o[u t ]ou kaqos(iwme/nou)/ tw q p f ' e t e i T p e r b e r e t a i o u xro/n(wn) [ e ' ? i ] n d [ i ] k -
25 Nur die Passagen aus den in griechischer Sprache verfafiten (bzw. erhaltenen) Quellen
werden zitiert. Theod. h.e. I 3, 1-2 (GCS Theodora, 7 Parmentier/Hansen):
wkodo/mhsen; Theod. h.e. Ill 7: edei/mato (184 Parmentier/Hansen); Eus. h.e. X 4:
epeskeuasto u.a. (SC 55 81-104 Bardy); Marc. Diac. v. Porph. 18 (ed. by Societas
Philologa Bonnensis, BSGRT, Leipzig 1895, 16): ektisen (ganz ahnlich Marc. Diac. v.
Porph. 20 [18 Soc. Phil. Bonn.]).
26 Eus. h.e. X 4, 1 (81 Bardy); zu spoudh vgl. I. Cilicie p. 166 f. und P. Donceel-Voute,
Les pavements des eglises byzantines de Syrie et du Liban, Louvain-la-Neuve 1988,
27 Joh. Chrys. horn, de s. Babyla (PG 50, 533 £): meta t w n prosedeuo/ntwn a u t w , kaq'
eka/sthn eba/dizen ekei t h n hme/ran, oux w j q e a t h j mo/n on a l l a kai w j k o i n w n o j t w n
ginome/nwn eso/menoj. Kai g a r li/qou sunefh/yato p o l l a / k i j , kai sxoinon eilkuse, kai
oikodomaiaj deome/nw t i n o j , p r o t w n upourgou/ntwn uph/kousen.
176 Rudolf Haensch

bauten antrieben und dann auf dieser Basis und der freiwilligen Mitarbeit
der armeren Gemeindemitglieder Kirchen errichteten, n i c k verwischen,
auch wenn dies wohl schon in der Antike n i c k ganz selten geschah. „Bau-
pfarrer" gibt es noch heute und fur den Stolz auf das erbaute Gebaude bot
die Bibel mit dem Lob des Tempels Salomons ein allgemein akzeptiertes
Vorbild (1. Kon. 5-6). Aber all dies ist kein Euergetismus ob honorem im
definierten Sinn. Und ahnliches gilt auch fur andere Teile des Reiches.
Wenn die Inschriften zweier nordafrikanischer Bischofe im Zusammen-

die Abgrenzung von den bisherigen Fukungsschicken und deren Modell

Wenn aber Bischofe in den untersuchten Patriarchaten Antiocheia

und Jerusalem generell sehr selten den Bau von Kirchen in ihren Diozesen
mit groEeren Betragen aus ihren eigenen finanziellen Mitteln unterstutz-
ten, dann ist auch speziell ein Euergetismus ob honorem von Bischofen im
groEeren MaEe unwahrscheinlich. Dieses weitgehend negative Ergebnis
fur die Bischofe wird durch recht ahnliche Beobachtungen fur die ubrigen
Kleriker bestatigt. Eine Finanzierung eines Kirchenbaus aus privaten Mit-
teln ist nur bei einer von einem Periodeutes geschaffenen Kapelle und
sieben von Presbytern und vor allem Diakonen erbauten Kirchen sicher
oder wakscheinlich - wobei sich im Falle der Presbyter und Diakone
zudem zumeist noch eine weitere Person beteiligt hatte. Dazu kommt
noch eine von einem Subdiakon erbaute und vielleick eine von einem
Okonomen errichtete Kirche. Insgesamt ergibt sich angesichts der viel
groEeren Gesamtzahl dieser Kleriker und angesichts dessen, daE die Kleri-
ker in den Inschriften insgesamt ungefahr doppelt so haufig wie Bischofe
faEbar sind (insgesamt uber 310 Belege), kein wesentlich anderes Bild als
bei den Bischofen.
Was generell zu beobachten ist, gilt auch im Detail: Nur ein einziger
Befund konnte im Zusammenhang mit der Frage nach einem
Euergetismus ob honorem von Klerikern unterhalb der Ebene der Bischofe
einschlagig sein: Aus dem heutigen Rihab der Bene Hasan sind drei Kir-
chen bekannt geworden, die unter demselben Diozesanherren, dem Erzbi-
schof Polyeuktos von Bostra, zu Beginn des 7. Jh. errichtet wurden. Zu
nennen ist erstens die Hauptbauinschrift einer heute vollig verschwunde-

28 CIL VIII 20903; AE 1922,25.

29 Anders C. Lepelley, Les cites de l'Afrique romaine au bas-empire, Paris 1979, I 384;
ders,Evergetisme(s.Anm. 6), 348-350.
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 177

nen und nie hinreichend publizierten kleinen dreischiffigen Kirche der hi.
Sophia. Nach dieser Inschrift wurde diese Kirche (o naoj ou(toj) t h j
agi/aj S o f i a j ) gegrundet, vollendet und mosaiziert - eqemeliw/q(h) <•••>
eteliw/qh (kai) eyhfw/qh - im Februar 605 zur Zeit des Erzbischofs
Polyeuktos aus einem Beitrag - ek p r o s f o r a j ) - eines Diakons und
zweierBruder(vonihm?). 30
Unter demselben Erzbischof, aber 15 Jahre sparer, also im Jahr 620,
srifrere ein Priesrer Sergios mit seinem Bruder auf vom Varer ererbren
Grund und Boden (en t w p a t r i k w autwn to/pw ) eine heure ebenfalls

594 eine heure nur noch teilweise erhalrene und ebenfalls nicht genauer
publizierte dreischiffige Kirche des hi. Basilios anscheinend unter der Auf-
sicht - ec epim]el(eiaj) - einer Diakonissin und von fiinf Laien wegen
der ewigen Reihe - [uper] anapau/sewj - eines gewissen Prokopios und
ihrer Eltern erbaut worden. 32 Offensichtlich wurde in diesem Fall eine
Kirche zu wesentlichen Teilen aus testamentarisch hinterlassenen Mitteln
Insbesondere die beiden erstgenannten, zeitlich spateren, Inschriften
ahneln einander auch in ihren Formulierungen sehr. Zudem fallt es gerade
angesichts der Sparlichkeit sonstiger Hinweise auf Stiftungen ganzer Kir-
chen durch niedrige Kleriker auf, wenn zwei bzw. bei EinschluE der Dia-

30 M . Piccirillo, Chiese e mosaici d e l k Giordania settentrionale, Jerusalem 1 9 8 1 , 68 ff.

En ono/mati t h j a g i a j (kai) omoousti/ou) T r i a / d o j ep[i] t o u a g i w t ( a / t o u ) Polueu/ktou
hmwn arxiepiskoCpou) (kai) mhtropo(li/tou) eqemeliw/qCh) o n a o j o u ( t o j ) t h j a g i a j
Sofiaj (kai) ete/liw/qh (kai) eyhfw/qh ek p r o s f o r ( a j ) Iwa/nnou qeof i l e s t a / t o u )
diako(nou) Sergi(ou) (kai) Pro/klou uiwn R i s w n o j en etei uoq/mhn(oj) Febrou(ariou)
xr(o/noij)ogdo/hj i n d i k t i ( w ) n o j .
31 Picirillo, Chiese Giordania (s. A n m . 30), 73 £, cf. P.-L. Gatier, Les inscriptions
grecques et latines de Samra et de Rihab, i n : J.-B. H u m b e r t u n d A . Desreumaux (ed.),
Khirbet es-Samra 1, Jordanie. La voie romaine. Le cimetiere. Les documents epigra-
phiques, 1998, 3 6 1 - 4 3 1 , hier 363 f. m i t A n m . 23:'En ono/mati t (hj) a g i a j (kai)
omoous(iou) Tria/doj [epi t ] o u agiwt(a/tou) Polueu/k(tou) arxiepisko/pou eqemeliw/q(h)
o n a o j o u t o j t o u agi/ou Stefa/nou (kai) eyhfw/qfh) (kai) eteliw/q(h) ek p r o s f o r ( a j )
Sergiou p r e ^ u t e / r o u ) (kai)/ Ste fa/nou) uiwn Gewgriou en t w p a t r i k w a u t w n
to/pw Iwa/nnou Karkousou paramo(nariou) en mh(ni) Mai/w x r (o/noij) h
i n d ( i k t i w n o j ) t o u et(ouj) fie .
32 Piccirillo, Chiese Giordania (s. A n m . 30), 70 ff. Pronoi/a q(eo)u eqem e l i w i q h k(ai)
eteliw/qh o n a o j t o u endo^ota/tou) ma/rtur[(oj) t o ] u a g (i/ou) B a s i l [ i o u ep]i t o u
a g i w t ( a / t o u ) k(ai) osiwt(a/tou) Polueu/kt[ou a]rxiepirsko/(pou) ec epim]el(eiaj)
Zw/hj diako(ni/sshj) kai Stefa/nou k(ai) Gewrgiou kai Ba/ss[ou (kai)] Qeodw7rou
k(ai) Bad[agiou uper] anapau/s(ewj) P r o k o p i o u k(ai) g(o)ne/wn. Egra/f(h) t o u
e t ( o u j ) upq x r o ( n o i j ) ib i n ( d i k t i w n o j ) .
178 Rudolf Haensch

konissin drei soldier Bauten unter ein und demselben Erzbischof entstan-
den. Andererseits sind zwei bzw. drei, auf fast 25 Jahre verteilte, Beispiele
letztlich doch zu wenig, um audi nur mit einiger Sicherheit behaupten zu
konnen, dieser Erzbischof habe seine Kleriker zu Kirchenbauten gedrangt.
Noch unsicherer muE dementsprechend bleiben, ob er dies im Zusam-
menhang mit ihrer Ordination getan hatte.
Insgesamt gibt es also aus der untersuchten Region hochstens einzelne
Beispiele fur einen Euergetismus ob honorem und audi insgesamt ver-
gleichsweise wenige Beispiele dafiir, daE Kleriker und Bischofe auf der
Basis ihres eigenen privaten Vermogens Kirchen gebaut bitten. Vielmehr
war der Bau von Kirchen in der untersuchten Region, wie im anderen
Zusammenhang erlautert wurde, ganz uberwiegend das Werk groferer
Gruppen von Personen, also von Stadten, Dorfern oder kleineren lokalen
„Einzugsbereichen."33 Offensichtlich trugen sehr viele Christen entspre-
chend der GroEe ihres Vermogens ihr Scherflein bei. Wer kein Geld bei-
steuern konnte, ubernahm die Arbeiten, fur die es keiner besonderen Qua-
lifikation bedurfte. Die Finanzierung ganzer Kirchen auf der Basis
einzelner Privatvermogen von Mitgliedern der Fuhrungsschichten war
ebenso selten wie diejenige auf der Basis der privaten Mittel von Klerikern.
Im Falle beider Gruppen scheinen maximal 10% aller Kirchenbauten von
ihnen allein finanziert worden zu sein. In anderen Regionen - insbesonde-
re wird immer wieder Gallien angefuhrt - sollen Kleriker und speziell
Bischofe in wesentlich groEerem AusmaE aus ihrem eigenen Vermogen
zum Kirchenbau beigetragen haben.34 Sollte diese These zutreffen und
nicht nur in vielen Fallen aus dem Lob auf den Erbauer einer Kirche ruck-
geschlossen worden sein, daE er sie auch finanziert hatte, dann ware in
diesen Regionen unter Umstanden mit einem groEeren AusmaE an
Euergetismus ob honorem von Klerikern zu rechnen.
Konkrete eindeutige Belege in groEerer Zahl fur ein solches Verhalten
gibt es m. W. aber auch aus Gallien nicht. Im Falle eines von Sidonius
Apollinarius gelobten Kandidaten fur einen Bischofssitz unterstreicht
Sidonius explizit, daE dieser verschwieg, daE er in seiner Jugend schon
eine Kirche gestiftet hatte.35 Wenn es aber keine groEere Zahl von Baustif-
tungen ob honorem gab, so ist auch ein daneben denkbarer, sich in Akten
der cantos auEernder Euergetismus ob honorem eher unwahrscheinlich.
Da£ trotz der prinzipiellen Unterschiede zwischen christlicher cantos und

33 S. vorlaufig Haensch, Financemem (s. Anm. 13), 53 f.

34 S. Baumgart, Bischofsherrschaft (s. Anm. 6), allerdings ohne diese Aussagen im Detail
35 Sid. cp. VII 9, 21 (ed. by W.B. Anderson, Sidonius. Poems and Letters, LCL, Lon-
don/Cambridge 1965, 352-354).
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 179

antikem Euergetismus sich in der Realitat beide Formen der Wohltatigkeit

vermischen konnten, zeigt das Beispiel der Forderung der Gemeinde von
Hippo, der schwerreiche romische Aristokrat Valerius Pinianus solle zum
Priester ihrer Gemeinde geweiht werden.36 Aber bezeichnenderweise war
es die dortige Gemeinde, die entsprechende Forderungen an ein Mitglied
der ReichsfUhrungsschichten stellte, und n i c k der Aristokrat, der eine
einschlagige Taktik benutzte, urn in den GenuE eines kirchlichen Amtes
Fur einen entsprechenden, von einem Kandidaten fur einen Bischofs-
sitz inszenierten Akt eines Euergetismus ob honorem eines Klerikers kenne
ich auch aus Gallien nur ein mogliches Beispiel: Es ist dies einer der drei
von Sidonius Apollinarius getadelten Kandidaten fur den Bischofssitz von
Cabillonum (Chalon-sur-Saone). Sidonius kritisierte einen unter ihnen
mit dem Argument, er stutze sich ja nur auf den Anhang, der von seiner
Kuche profitiere (ep. 4, 25, 2). Mir ist aber z. B. kein Bischof bekannt, der
unmittelbar nach seiner Wahl sein Vermogen unter den Armen verteilt
hatte. Nur mit einem solchen Akt aber hatte man sich letztlich gegenuber
den ubrigen Gemeindemitgliedern entscheidend profilieren konnen, denn
das Gebot, entsprechend seinem Vermogen karitativ tatig zu werden, gait
ja fur alle Gemeindemitglieder. Den radikalen Schnitt des vollstandigen
Vermogensverzichtes vollzog man aber nicht aus Wahltaktik, sondern nur
aus tiefer christlicher Uberzeugung und die entstand nicht angesichts einer
Vakanz im Bereich kirchlicher Amter, sondern vielmehr insbesondere bei
der Entscheidung fur ein monastisches Leben.
DaE es also insgesamt einen Euergetismus ob honorem von Klerikern
kaum gab, lag z. T. in den Charakteristika des antiken Euergetismus be-
grundet und ergab sich z. T. aus der neuen christlichen Lehre. Der
Euergetismus ob honorem von stadtischen Magistraten hatte sich, wie er-
lautert, vor allem in drei Formen geauEert - der Finanzierung von Schau-
spielen aller Art, der Vergabe von Geld- und Sachspenden an ausgewahlte
Bevolkerungsgruppen und der Stiftung von fur die Offentlichkeit be-
stimmten Bauten. Die erste Form des Euergetismus war schon deshalb fur
kirchliche Amtsinhaber in spe ausgeschlossen, weil Schauspiele generell
von den geistlichen Fuhrern des spatantiken Christentums aus theologi-
schen Grunden bekampft wurden. 37 Die zweite Form des Euergetismus

36 Dazu G. A. Cecconi, Un evergete mancato: Piniano a Ippona, Athenaeum 76, 1988,

371-389; vgl. auch Lepelley, Cites (s. Anm. 29), I 385-388; Rapp, Bishops (s. Anm.
10), 200.
37 Markschies, Dimension (s. Anm. 6), 462; Ch. Pietri/L. Pietri (Hg.), Das Entstehen
der einen Christenheit, Freiburg u.a. 1995, 659; vgl. insbesondere W. Weismann,
Kirche und Schauspiele, Wiirzburg 1972. Fur die verschiedenen Verbote nordafrika-
180 Rudolf Haensch

wies zwar oberflachliche Ahnlichkeiten mit Speisungen aus dem Geist der
chrisdichen cantos auf, aber da diese erstens ein generelles Gebot an alle
Christen darstellten, dessen ErfUllung zudem im Verhaltnis zu dem vor-
handenen Vermogen bewertet wurde,38 und zweitens zu den selbstver-
standlichen39 Aufgaben eines Bischofs gehorte, fur die er auch immer
kirchliche Mittel einsetzte, war es nur schwer moglich, sich in diesem
Bereich besonders zu profilieren. Der Kirchenbau aber wurde in vielen
Regionen des Reiches von so breiten Schichten getragen, da£ es gleichfalls
kaum moglich war, sich auf diesem Gebiet besonders hervorzutun. Zudem
gab es Theologen wie Palladios, Augustinus oder Rabbulas von Edessa, die
den Kirchenbau auf ein Minimum beschranken wollten, urn die dadurch
freiwerdenden Mittel fur karitative Zwecke verwenden zu konnen. 40
Noch gewichtiger waren wohl die Grunde jenseits der Charakteristika
des antiken Euergetismus. Als Leiter der Gemeinde wunschten sich viele
spatantiken Christen ganz offensichtlich entweder einen holy man, der der
Gemeinde durch seine besondere Nahe zu Gott helfen wurde, oder einen
erfahrenen (Kirchen)politiker, der sie durch die Sturme der inneren und
auEeren Bedrohungen hindurchfuhren wurde, oder, wenn moglich, einen
Kandidaten wie Basilios von Kaisareia, der beides vereinte. Die Finanz-
kraft des potentiellen Kandidaten spielte demgegenuber eine vergleichs-
weise geringe Rolle. Die Verstetigung der kirchlichen Laufbahn - gerade
im Falle der nicht so im Rampenlicht der Kirchenpolitik stehenden kleine-
ren Bischofssitze - durfte es zudem mit sich gebracht haben, daE sich ein
Presbyter oder Archidiakon oder Diakon, der vor der Wahl zum Bischof
stand, nicht mehr so nachhaltig in Erinnerung rufen musste, wie dies fur

nischer concilia, dafi Sonne von Bischofen offentliche Spiele gaben, s. C. Munier,
Concilia Africae. A. 325 - a. 525, CChr.SL 149, Turnhout 1974, 37 Z. 87 £; 105 Z.
144 f, 122 Z. 145-149; 138 Z. 156-158, 290 § 39 (schief Rapp, Bishops [s. Anm.
10], 213). Eine sehr lebendige Beschreibung eines spielegebenden Euergeten und sei-
nes Empfangs bei Joh. Chrys. De inani gloria 4-5. L. Robert hat eine Reihe solcher
Beschreibungen bei den kappadokischen Kirchenvatern zusammmengestellt, die die-
sen dann als Folie dazu dienten, die wahren Lobeshymnen durch Glaubige oder Engel
im Himmel darzustellen: Tpo^suc et 'Apioxsuc, Hellenica 11-12, 1960, 569-576. Fur
den Westen s. z.B. Amb. Off. II 109-111 (CChr.SL 15, 136-137 M. Testard) und
dasjenige, was Lepelley, Cites (s. Anm. 29), I 298-302, 376-388 aus Augustinus zu-
38 B. Ramsay, Almsgiving in the Latin Church: The Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centu-
ries, Theological Studies 43, 1982, 226-259.
39 Vgl. z. B. Brown, Poverty (s. Anm. 6); Rapp, Bishops (s. Anm. 10), 223-226.
40 Pall. Dial. 6, 62; 13, 91 f (SC 341, p. 132; 268); Possid. v. Aug. 24,13 (Possidius,
Vita Augustini, ed. W. Geerlings, Paderborn 2005, 74); V. Rabb. (Bickell, BKV 44)
p. 194; vgl. auch Amb. Off. II 111 (CChr.SL 15, 137 M. Testard). Dazu Haensch,
Christlicher Euergetismus ob honorem? 181

einen stadtischen Honoratioren notig gewesen sein mochte, der sich fiinf
oder zehn Jahre nach seinem ersten Amt jetzt um das hochste stadtische
Amt bewarb. Vor allem aber hatte sich die Bewertung des Einsatzes finan-
zieller Mittel fur den Amtserwerb geandert. Was in den vorausgegangenen
Jahrhunderten zumindest von der breiten Bevolkerung als individuelle
GroEzugigkeit bewertet worden war, geriet jetzt leicht in den Geruch der
Simonie und verringerte damit eher die Wahlchancen als das es sie erhoh-

41 S. z. B. lust. Nov. 6, 1, 9 (aus dem jahr 535) [38 Schoell/Kroll]: et banc (das Bischofs-
amt) nonpecuniis emere nequeper rerum aliquarum dationem suscipere... (und andere
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin
West: From Siricius to Leo I

David G. Hunter

The origin of priestly celibacy in the Christian church is still quite poorly
understood. While there is general agreement about the basic evidence,
debate continues about the interpretation of this evidence. For example,
there is universal agreement that the earliest appearance of a canonical
requirement of sexual continence to be imposed on married clerics is
found in the canons of the Council of Elvira early in the fourth century
(ca. 305). 2 Later in the fourth century a letter to bishops of Gaul, probably
to be attributed to Pope Damasus (366-384), and several decreta of his
successor, Pope Siricius (384-399), present clear evidence of an attempt to
impose the discipline of permanent sexual continence on the higher ranks
of the clergy throughout the Western church.3 While some Catholic
scholars have recently tried to argue that the continence requirement is of
apostolic origins, these efforts have not proved convincing to most schol-

1 After its delivery at the Leuven conference in October 2009, this essay benefited much
from the comments and criticisms of George Demacopoulos, Mark Humphries,
Ralph Mathisen, and Claudia Rapp.
2 Can. 33: Pkcuit in totum prohibere episcopis, prebyteris et diaconibus vel omnibus clericis
positis in ministerio abstinere se a coniugibus suis et non generare filios. Quicumque vera
fecerit, ab honore clerkatus exterminetur. Text in E. J. Jonkers, ed., Acta et symbola
conciliorum quae saeculo quarto habita sunt, Textus Minores 19, Leiden 1954, 12-
3 A persuasive case for attributing the letter Ad Gallos episcopos to Damasus (with the
assistance of Jerome) has been stated by Y-M. Duval, La decretale Ad Gallos Episco-
pos: son texte et son auteur, SVigChr 73, Leiden 2005.
4 The "apostolic origins" thesis has been defended, most recently, by Stefan Heid,
Celibacy in the Early Church: The Beginning of a Discipline of Obligatory Conti-
nence for Clerics in East and West, San Francisco 2000.
184 David G. Hunter

Nevertheless, there remain unresolved questions. What was the origi-

nal reason for the requirement? In what is still the best study of the emer-
gence of clerical celibacy, Roger Gryson has argued that a concern with
ritual purity lay behind the requirement.5 As the practice of daily eucharist
developed, Gryson suggested, an earlier tradition of temporary sexual ab-
stinence became a rule of permanent abstinence. But others have taken
issue with Gryson's claims, both about the prevalence of daily eucharist in
the Western church in the fourth century and about the concern with
ritual purity.6 The alternative view is that fourth-century ascetic ideals
were the primary influence that shaped the emergence of permanent sexual
continence as a discipline for the higher clergy/
It is not my intention here to engage in these particular controversies.8
My aim, rather, is to relate the emergence of the requirement of perma-
nent sexual continence in the late fourth century directly to the theme of
this volume. A constellation of questions will guide my inquiry. First, is it
possible to detect some influence of the new requirement on the recruit-
ment and election of bishops in Late Antiquity? Second, given the inhe-
rent difficulty of enforcing this requirement, what were the means by
which ecclesiastical authorities attempted to ensure the appointment of
the best candidates, that is, those most suited to sexual continence? Third,
were there other requirements for those in higher orders that would have
lent support to the practice of sexual continence? In the course of address-
ing these questions, I hope to shed further light on the nature and purpose
of the continence requirement itself. Before I proceed any further, howev-
er, I must address one rather tempting answer to my first question, a
temptation that I believe must be resisted.

5 Les origines du celibat eccl&iastique du premier au septieme siecle, Gembloux 1970.

6 See, especially, Daniel Callam, Clerical Continence in the Fourth Century: Three
Papal Decretals, TS 41, 1980, 3-50; id., The Frequency of Mass in the Latin Church
ca. 400, TS 45, 613-50.
7 Richard M. Price, Zolibat II: Kirchengeschichtlich, TRE 36, 2004, 722-39.
8 Let it suffice to say that on the question of the historical origins of the requirement, I
think it is best to stick to the extant evidence and to place the origins of the require-
ment in the fourth century, although it also seems likely to me that an informal cus-
tom of sexual continence for the higher ranks may have existed at some point in the
third century prior to its establishment as law in the fourth century. And on the ques-
tion of the "ascetic" versus "ritual" dimensions of the requirement, I note that both
reasons are given in the sources, a fact which suggests that it might not be wise to try
to isolate a single theological or moral motivation for the discipline.
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 185

The Limits of the'Monk-bishop'

It would be easy to assume that a requirement of permanent sexual conti-

nence immediately encouraged the appointment of monastic candidates to
clerical office. Recent studies, such as Andrea Sterk's Renouncing the World
Yet Leading the Church and Claudia Rapp's Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity,
have focused attention on the role played by distinguished monks who
entered the episcopacy in the fourth century and exerted significant influ-
ence on ideals of clerical office.9 But the evidence treated by Sterk is en-
tirely from the Eastern church and does little to illuminate the Western
context. Rapp, by contrast, treats evidence from both the East and West.
In a chapter on "Ascetic Authority" she discusses at length "Monks as
Bishops and Bishops as Monks" and cites the usual examples of Western
clergy drawn from the monastic life: Eusebius of Vercelli, Martin of
Tours, and Augustine of Hippo. 10 Although most of the evidence Rapp
presents comes from Eastern sources, nonetheless she suggests that the
"practice of clergy living as monks seems to have been more common in
the West, where the celibacy of priests was more widespread, than in the
East."11 Noting that the hagiographical and theological literature on which
she relies presents ordination as a confirmation of personal virtue, Rapp
concludes her discussion of the monk-bishop with the suggestion that
"monks and holy men were prime candidates for ecclesiastical office."12
I believe there are serious reasons to doubt Rapp's conclusion, at least
as a valid generalization about Western practice regarding the recruitment
of monks into the clergy, especially in the fourth and early fifth centuries.
We must recall that the election of bishops required the affirmation of
several different constituencies. According to Pope Leo I, both the clergy
and the people retained active roles in the elections of bishops, and we
cannot assume that all of the clergy and people in the Western church
would have been equally eager to elect monks into the episcopacy.13 Sever-

9 A. Sterk, Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late
Antiquity, Cambridge, MA 2004; C. Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Na-
ture of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition, Berkeley and Los Angeles 2005.
10 Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 137-52. As I will argue below, none of these cases
was as straightforward as it appears at first glance.
11 Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 151.
12 Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 152.
13 As Leo I put it in his Ep. 167.1 to Rusticus of Narbonne (PL 54, 1203): Nulla ratio
sinit ut inter episcopos habeantur qui nee a clericis sunt electi, nee a pkbibus sunt expetiti,
nee aprovineialibus episeopis eummetropolitan judieio eonseerati. Cf. Ep. 14.5 (PL 54,
673): Cum ergo de summi saeerdotis eleetione traetabitur, ilk omnibuspraeponatur quern
186 David G. Hunter

al fourth and fifth-century Western authors, in fact, suggest just the oppo-
site. In Adversus Iovinianum Jerome lamented that married men were often
preferred to celibates as candidates for ordination, both by the clergy and
the laity, and in Contra Vigilantium Jerome complained that some Gallic
bishops would ordain only married men who had already produced child-
ren. Later Sidonius Apollinaris, writing about 472, suggested that some
people opposed the election of monks into the episcopate, arguing that the
monastic candidate is "better qualified to intercede with the heavenly
Judge for our souls than with an earthly judge for our bodies."14 The
comment of Sidonius indicates that at some times and in some places
(especially, perhaps, in territories where imperial administration had be-
gun to break down, such as late fifth-century Gaul) bishops were expected
to exercise functions formerly reserved to secular officials, and it was not
clear to all that monks were always up to the job. 15
One problem was that in the late fourth century Western monasticism
was still something of a novelty, and monks were often perceived as dis-
ruptive to church order or as rivals to clerical authority. It is instructive to
read the late fourth-century Latin apologetic treatise, The Conversations of
Zacchaeus and Apollonius, which contains an elaborate defense of the mo-
nastic life addressed to Christian opponents of monasticism. In it the
Christian apologist Zaccheus must meet the following objection placed on
the lips of the newly-baptized Apollonius:
"Now explain to me: what is that gathering or faction of monks, and why are they
despised, even by our own people? Certainly, if they are engaged in honorable pursuits
and are not violating the unity of the faith, they ought to be imitated, rather than

cleri plebisque consensus concorditer postulant. Leo went on to insist that no bishop
should be forced upon an unwilling congregation; ... nullus invhis et non petentibus or-
dinetur; ne civitas episcopum non optatum aut contemnat, aut oderit. The active role of
the laity in episcopal elections has recently been stressed by P. Norton, Episcopal Elec-
tions 250-600: Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiquity, Oxford 2007.
14 Hier. adv. Iovin. 1.34 (PL 23, 289); Hier. c. Vigil. 2 and 17 (PL 23, 355-56 and
368); Sid. ep. VII 9,9; tr. W.B. Anderson, Sidonius: Letters HI-DC, LCL, Cambridge,
MA 1965, 343.
15 On the many, formerly secular functions that the Christian clergy in Gaul began to
exercise, see the discussion in R. Mathisen, Roman Aristocrats in Barbarian Gaul:
Strategies for Survival in an Age of Transition, Austin 1993, 89-104. Mathisen argues
that by the fifth century Gallic aristocrats had begun to see careers in the clergy as an
acceptable path for aristocratic advancement. On this theme, see also Richard Bartlett,
Aristocracy and Asceticism: The Letters of Ennodius and the Gallic and Italian
Churches, in: Society and Culture in Late Antique Gaul: Revisiting the Sources, ed.
by R. W. Mathisen/D. Shanzer, Aldershot 2001, 201-216. Bartlett sees a difference
between Italian and Gallic practice.
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 187

avoided. A, I see it, it is a crime and a sin in the eyes of God to hate good people and
not to avoid wicked people." 16
In his response to Apollonius, Zaccheus tried to defend the monastic way
of life, arguing that the profession itself is "irreproachable and holy." But
he had to admit that some abuses took place, as, for example, when alleg-
edly holy men used their way of life as a pretext to gain access to women
and deprive them of their wealth or chastity.17 One is reminded of the sort
of accusations that Jerome raised against his follow ascetics, or the charges
to which he himself was subject and which led to his banishment from the
church at Rome in the spring of 385. 18
In addition to these more general suspicions of monastic piety, it
seems that even the best-known examples of monk-bishops in the West
did not always achieve unqualified success in their endeavors. Eusebius of
Vercelli is usually invoked as the earliest example of a bishop devoted to
monastic discipline. In a letter written to the church at Vercelli near the
end of his life, Ambrose of Milan spoke enthusiastically of the pioneering
efforts of Eusebius to establish a monastic model of clerical life:
"Eusebius of blessed memory was the first in the lands of the West to bring together
these diverse practices, so that living in the city he observed the rules of monks and
ruled the church in the temperance of fasting. For one adds much support to the grace
of the priesthood, if one binds youth to the pursuit of abstinence and to the guidance
of purity, and forbids to them, while living in the city, the customs and way of life of
thecity" 1 9
Rapp refers to Eusebius's "successful experiment of combining monastic
life and ministry," but this view is based entirely on Ambrose's partisan
account and on Eusebius's own idealized picture of his community of
fellow-priests (Eusebius called his followers "a gathering not so much of

16 Consultationes Zacchaei et Apollonii 3.3.1-2 (SC 402, 178 Feiertag).

17 Consultationes 3.3.6 (180 Feiertag). On the date and provenance of the Consulta-
tiones, see M.A. Claussen, Pagan Rebellion and Christian Apologetics in Fourth-
Century Rome: The Consultationes Zacchaei et Apollonii, JEH 46, 1995, 589-614;
and the discussion in D. G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient
Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy, Oxford 2007, 250-56.
18 Hier. ep. 22.28.1-2 (CSEL 54, 185). For a recent discussion of Jerome's forced depar-
ture from Rome, see A. Cain, The Letters of Jerome: Asceticism, Biblical Exegesis,
and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity, Oxford 2009, 105-
19 Ambr. ep. extra collectionem 14.66 (CSEL 82/3, 270). On Eusebius and his monastic
efforts, see J.T. Lienhard, Patristic Sermons on Eusebius of Vercelli and their Relation
to his Monasticism, RBen 87, 1977, 163-72; and Paulinus of Nola and Early Western
Monasticism, Theophaneia 28, Koln-Bonn 1977, 89-93, 107-10.
188 David G. Hunter

men but of virtues").20 We know, however, that Ambrose wrote his letter
to the church of Vercelli because the Christian citizens of Vercelli refused
to elect another monk-bishop upon the death of Eusebius. As Peter Brown
has observed: "Rather than choosing to be ruled by a lifelong celibate
drawn from the local monastery, the city decided, as many a city would do
in later centuries, to select a powerful landowner as their next bishop."21 It
is revealing that the church of Vercelli declined to follow the precedent of
their path-breaking monk-bishop and that Ambrose felt it necessary to
attempt to intervene in the selection process.
The case of Martin of Tours in the next generation presents an even
more problematic example. Most of what we know about Martin is de-
rived from Sulpicius Severus' Life of Martin, completed around 396, his
letters, and his Chronicle and Dialogues, composed early in the fifth cen-
tury.22 Sulpicius' writings are, to put it mildly, a sustained polemic against
most of the bishops of the Gallic church. He presents Martin as the per-
fect fusion of monk and bishop, but does not hide the fact that Martin
had many detractors, especially among his fellow bishops. These bishops,
as Sulpicius put it, "hated in him what they did not see in themselves and
could not imitate."23 According to Sulpicius, Martin spent much of his
episcopate in schism from the rest of the Gallic bishops, refusing to attend
synods or share communion with bishops who had been tainted in any
way by the events surrounding the execution of Priscillian in 386. 24
Perhaps of even greater significance is the fact that at Martin's death in
397, one of his chief rivals, the presbyter Brictius, was elected to replace
him. According to Sulpicius, Martin and Brictius had numerous occasions
to quarrel, especially when Brictius accused Martin of falling prey to
"empty superstitions" and "the ridiculous phantasms of his visions."25

20 Cited in Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 150.

21 P. Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early
Christianity, New York 1988, 361.
22 For the dates, see C. Stancliffe, St Martin and his Hagiographer: History and Miracle
in Sulpicius Severus, Oxford 1983, 71-85.
23 Sulp. Sev. vit. Martin. 27.3 (SC 133, 314): ... in Mo oderant quod in se non videbant et
quod imitarinon valebant.
24 Cf. Sulp. Sev. dial. 3.13 (CSEL 1, 211), who notes that Martin nullum synodum adiit,
ab omnibus episcoporum conventibus se removit. Sulpicius also suggested that it was the
clergy and bishops who were most skeptical of Martin's alleged wonder-working:
"These unfortunates, these sleepyheads, these degenerates are ashamed that Martin has
done what they themselves cannot do. They deny his miracles rather than confess
their own impotence." See Dialogus 1.26 (CSEL 1, 179).
25 Sulp. Sev. dial. 3.15 (CSEL 1, 214): inanes superstitiones.. .fantasmata visionum ridicu-
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 189

Martin, it appears, was in the habit of conversing with saints Agnes, Thec-
la, Mary, and the apostles Peter and Paul. Brictius, for his part, was not
above reproach, according to Sulpicius. He had capitulated to luxury upon
joining the clergy and had taken to keeping horses and buying slaves (es-
pecially barbarian boys and pretty girls). It is a telling commentary on the
so-called "success" of Martin's monastic episcopacy that his chief rival was
chosen to replace him. At the very least, it indicates that the clergy and
people at Tours, as elsewhere, were not convinced that monks always
made the best bishops.26
Similarly, Augustine's experiment with a clerical monastery at Hippo
was not altogether successful. Monasticism came late to North Africa, and
not without contention. In his Retractation* Augustine says that when he
wrote De opere monachorum, in the early years of the fifth century, monas-
teries had only recently begun to appear at Carthage, and that they had
brought in their wake "roiling controversies" {tumultuosa certamina) on
issues such as whether monks should do manual labor or let their hair
grow long.27 Everyone from Jerome to Cassian to Benedict of Nursia re-
garded as a nuisance those monks who wandered from place to place (the
notorious gyrovagi); in his famous Letter 262 to Ecdicia, Augustine had to
deal with the case of a Roman matron who had distributed most of her
property to two wandering monks, without the permission of her hus-
band.28 Elsewhere Augustine also had to address the problem of monks
who abandoned their monasteries out of ambition to join the clergy. In
Letter 60 to Aurelius, composed around 402, Augustine warned Aurelius
not to accept into the clergy two monks who had fled from his monastery
at Hippo. He noted that monastic flight into the clergy had led some
people to joke: "A bad monk makes a good cleric." But Augustine had his
doubts about whether even good monks were suited to pastoral ministry
purely in virtue of their celibate lives. Sexual continence alone, he ob-
served, was not sufficient qualification for office; one also needed a mi-
nimal degree of education {instructio necessaria) and personal integrity

26 On the subsequent, controversial career of Brictius, see R. Mathisen, Ecclesiastical

Factionalism and Religious Controversy in Fifth-Century Gaul, Washington, D C
27 Aug. retr. 11.21 (CChr.SL 57, 107).
28 Hier. ep. 22.34 (CSEL 54, 196,10-197,13 Hilberg); Cassian. coll. 18.7 (SC 64, 18-21
Pichery); Bened. Reg. 1 (CSEL 75, 18-20 Hanslik). Ecdicia had also adopted sexual
continence without the permission of her husband.
190 David G. Hunter

{personae regukris integritas) ? As George Demacopoulos has recently

"Like many bishops of his era, Augustine noted the paucity of qualified priests. How-
ever, unlike many of his colleagues, he centred his criteria for ordination on education
and social class."'"0
The problem, however, was not simply that monks might lack the requi-
site training in rhetoric or theological expertise necessary to ensure good
preaching. It was also the case that Augustine's own experience with mo-
nastic clergy had caused him to become well acquainted with the problem
of moral scandal.31 For example, after nearly thirty years of fostering the
communal life among his clergy, Augustine was shocked to discover that
one of his own monastic presbyters, Januarius, had been secretly in posses-
sion of property, which he failed to disclose upon entering the monastery.
Moreover, Januarius had willed his goods to the church and thereby
caused scandal upon his death for deliberately disinheriting his two chil-
dren. The event forced Augustine to reject the legacy from Januarius and
to conduct a painful, public accounting of all his monastic clergy, detailed
in sermons 355-356.
But the greatest clerical scandal that Augustine had to face also
emerged from within his own monastic community: the notorious case of
Antoninus of Fussala, a young man who had been raised from childhood
in Augustine's monastery. Rashly appointed to be bishop of Fussala, An-
toninus recruited two other monks from Augustine's monastery, and the
threesome began systematically to deprive the inhabitants of Fussala (quite
literally) of hearth and home. Augustine described the result:
"Whoever fell into their hands lost money, furniture, clothing, cattle, harvests, timber,
and even building stones. The homes of some were occupied; those of others were
torn down in order that what the construction of new buildings demanded might be
carried off from there. At times they made purchases but did not pay the price. The
fields of some were invaded and were returned after the harvests had been seized over

29 Aug. ep. 60.1 (PL 33, 228): ... aliquando etiam bonus monachus vix bonum dericum
faciat, si adsitei sufficient continentia, et tamen desk instruct*, necessaria, autpersonae re-
gukris integritas. It is noteworthy that around the same time the Council of Carthage
of 401 decreed deposition for any bishops who admitted into their clergy monks who
had departed from a monastery in another diocese. See Registri ecclesiae Carthaginen-
sis exerpta 80 (CChr.SL 149, 204). Further discussion in F. van der Meer, Augustine
the Bishop: The Life and Work of a Father of the Church, London, 1961, 209-10.
30 George E. Demacopoulos, Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church,
Notre Dame, IN 2007, 85.
31 For a good overview of the problem of monastic scandal, see C. Leyser, Authority and
Asceticism from Augustine to Gregory the Great, Oxford 2000, 19-26.
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 191

the course of several years, but some of them were retained and occupied up to the
time of the episcopal judgment. 32
Augustine was profoundly embarrassed by Antoninus' behavior, especially
because "this miserable monk" 33 had been appointed bishop at Augustine's
suggestion. In a letter to Pope Celestine on the Antoninus affair,
Augustine admitted that he had considered resigning over the matter,34
Such spectacular examples of the failure of monk-bishops ought to make
us reconsider the notion (as many ancient Christians must have done) that
monks always made good bishops.
Even if all monk-bishops had been outstanding in character or admin-
istrative expertise, simply in terms of numbers, they would have made a
limited impact on the character of the clergy as a whole. To stay with the
example of North Africa, Possidius tells us that he knew of "about ten
holy and venerable men of continence and learning, some of them quite
outstanding, whom blessed Augustine gave upon request to the various
churches."35 But we know that nearly three hundred Catholic bishops
attended the conference at Carthage in 411, and there were double that
number, if the Donatist bishops are included,36 Monk-bishops would have
remained a small minority, and most of the higher clergy would have con-
tinued to come from within the regular ranks of the Christian community,
that is, from among the married, not from the monastic ranks.
Finally, I should note that Claudia Rapp and numerous other scholars
have demonstrated that by the early fifth century there was an increasing
tendency for the higher clergy, especially bishops, to be drawn from the
ranks of the municipal elite, the curiales, and even (though to a lesser ex-
tent) from the senatorial aristocracy. This led to the development of family
traditions of ecclesiastical office-holding and an increasing correlation
between personal wealth and the episcopal office,37 This leads us back to

32 Aug. ep. 20*.6 (CSEL 88, J. Divjak); tr. R. Teske, Letters 211-270, l*-29*, WSA
II/4, Hyde Park, NY 2005, 303.
33 Aug. ep.20*.31. (CSEL 88, J. Divjak).
34 Aug. ep. 209.10 (CSEL 57, 352-353 Goldbacher).
35 Possid. vit. Aug. 11,3 (Possidius, Vita Augustini, ed. W. Geerlings, Paderborn 2005,
44. 46); tr. M. O'Connell, The Life of Saint Augustine, Villanova 1988, 59.
36 The precise numbers are disputed. For a recent accounting see R. MacMullen, The
Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200-400, Atlanta 2009, 51, who places the
number at 284 each: "Though some of these were rivals for the same see, many were
not; and it is often supposed, and reasonably enough, that the total of sees may thus
have been close to 500 or even more."
37 Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 183-207. See also the studies of Mathisen and
Bartlett, cited in note 15 above. In places such as fifth-century Gaul, where some dis-
tinguished bishops were drawn from the monastic life (e.g. Honoratus of Lerins and
192 David G. Hunter

the question with which I began. Can we discern procedures by which

bishops in the West attempted to recruit into the clergy married men who
were prepared to adopt perpetual sexual continence? In the remainder of
this paper I will argue that an answer to this question can be found in the
extensive collections of conciliar decisions from the Western churches and
the decreta of the bishops of Rome from Siricius to Leo I. In these docu-
ments one finds a number of criteria of selection that helped to foster the
discipline of "post-marital celibacy."38

Married Clergy and Clerical Preferment

There are three specific criteria that are repeatedly mentioned in the ca-
nonical literature and that can be seen as supporting, both directly and
indirectly, the new discipline of clerical sexual continence. The first of
these pertains to the process of selection of clerics, namely that the ideal
candidate should have proceeded through all of the ranks of the clerical
ordo and should have spent a requisite time in each rank; the second two
criteria pertain to the qualifications of clergymen: that they should have
been married only once and that they should have married only a woman
who was a virgin (that is, a woman who was neither widowed nor di-
vorced). These, of course, were not the only criteria employed or qualifica-
tions desired in clerical candidates; the extant canons present many other
restrictions on the clergy,39 These three criteria, however, are unique in
that they are not found among the criteria given at Nicaea, but they are
frequently mentioned in the canonical texts that come from the period
between Siricius and Leo. In each case, the rationale presented for each
requirement became more elaborate as time went on, which suggests that
each requirement was acquiring greater importance as an item that served
to characterize clerical identity and competence. Finally, I will suggest, in

Hilary of Aries), it is not clear that their monastic connections were as important as
their aristocratic status and family connections. See especially the discussion in Mathi-
sen, Ecclesiastical Factionalism, (see note 26) 85-92.
38 I borrow the term from P. Brown, The Body and Society (see note 21), passim, who
uses it to describe the requirement of permanent sexual continence imposed on mar-
ried clerics.
39 For example, clerics were told to refrain from all external business, especially money-
lending (faenus); unmarried clerics were instructed to avoid living with unrelated
women; ordination was regularly prohibited to anyone who had engaged in military
service after baptism. Criteria such as these were present already in the canons of the
Council of Nicaea, and they are repeated ceaselessly in the later canonical literature.
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 193

each case the criterion in question functioned to help enforce the disci-
pline of perpetual sexual continence, especially among married clerics.
First, let us address the matter of promotion through the ranks. Con-
cern with the orderly succession of clerical ranks was not a creation of the
fourth century. As early as the time of Cyprian, we know that promotion
through the ranks was considered a mark of distinction. For example, in
one letter Cyprian praised the Roman bishop Cornelius first and foremost
"Cornelius did not get to the episcopate by one sudden step; rather, having advanced
through all the successive clerical offices and having served the Lord honourably in
these services of religious administration, he reached the lofty pinnacle of the episco-
pacy by climbing up through every grade in the Church's ministry." 40
It is revealing that in Cyprian's list of Cornelius's qualifications for the
episcopate his "modesty and virginal chastity" took second place to his
participation in the clerical cursus honorum. Nevertheless, it is not until the
time of Siricius that we find a bishop of Rome trying to legislate in detail
the precise steps and even times to be spent at each rank. The evidence is
found in the earliest document from his episcopate, a letter to the Spanish
bishop Himerius, who had posed a number of questions to Damasus,
Siricius' letter is especially significant because it contains a separate
cursus for those who have been raised as Christians and another for those
who were baptized as adults. Moreover, he provides specific injunctions
for monastic candidates who wished to enter the clergy. The first list reads
as follows:
"Whoever then vows himself to the service of the Church from his infancy should be
baptized before the years of puberty and given a share in the ministry of the readers. If
he lives honorably from the period of adolescence to his thirtieth year and is content
with one wife, one whom he receives as a virgin through the priest with the general
benediction, he should be made an acolyte and a subdeacon. If thereafter he maintains
the level of his previous continence, he should receive the rank of deacon. If then he
performs his ministry commendably for more than five years, he should appropriately
be granted the priesthood (presbyterium). Finally after ten more years he may rise to
the episcopal chair, if through all this time he is approved for uprightness of life and
faith" 4 2

40 Cypr. ep. 55.8.2 (CChr.SL 3B, 264,119-122 Diercks); tr. G. Clarke, The Letters of
St. Cyprian, A C W 46, New York 1989, 37.
41 For a full discussion of Siricius's legislation, see A. Faivre, Naissance d'une hierarchie:
Les premieres etapes du cursus clerical, Paris 1977, 313-318.
42 Siricius ep. 1.9.13 (PL 13, 1142-43): Quicumque itaque se Ecclesiae vovit obsequiis a
sua infantia, antepubertatis annos baptizari, et lectorum debet ministerio sociari. Qui ac-
cessu adolescentiae usque ad trkesimum aetatis annum, si probabiliter vhcerit, una tan-
194 David G. Hunter

After treating the first case of clerical aspirants, Siricius turned to the case
of those candidates who were baptized later in life. For them he proposed
a similar, though abbreviated cursus* Later in the letter he turned to the
case of monks. While he did not reject monastic candidates, Siricius indi-
cated that they, too, had to follow the established canonical order: "They
should not at one bound rise to the height of the episcopate until they
have served out the terms (tempera) which we have just prescribed for each
Siricius' letter is important for several reasons. First, it shows us that
while the bishop of Rome allowed that monks could enter the clergy, he
did not grant to them any special privileges or prerogatives. As Philip
Rousseau once observed, Siricius' opinion was that "all clerics, whether or
not their background was monastic, must rise through the ranks."45 In
other words, monastic life, in Siricius' view, did not confer any special
recommendation on candidates for the clergy; conversely, the very pro-
gression through the ranks itself is presented as sufficient evidence of a
clergyman's suitability for higher office. Especially relevant to my present
argument is Siricius' careful attention to the marital status of the prospec-
tive clergyman. He specifies that he should be "content with one wife, one
whom he receives as a virgin through the priest with the general benedic-
tion." I will return to these two criteria shortly, but first I should note that
decrees from subsequent bishops of Rome strongly confirm the tenor of
Siricius' directives.46 If anything, later popes insisted even more strongly
on the importance of candidates progressing through the ranks and not
ordaining neophytes to the higher orders.

turn, ft fa, quam virginem communi per sacerdotem benedictioneperceperit, uxore conten-
ds, acolythus et subdiaconus esse debebit; postque ad diaconii gradum, si se ipse primitus
continentiapraeeunte dignum probarit, accedat. Ubi si ultra quinque annos kudabiliter
ministrarit, congrue presbyterium consequatur. Exinde, post decennium, episcopalem ca-
thedram potent adipisci, si tamen per haec tempora integritas vitae ac fidei ejus fuerit ap-
probate, tr. T. Shotwell/L. Loomis, The see of Peter, New York 1927, 705.
43 Siricius ep. 1.10.14 (PL 13, 1143). The shortened cursus for those baptized as adults
involves two years among the readers or exorcists immediately after baptism, five years
as acolyte and subdeacon, and a unspecified time at the higher ranks.
44 Siricius ep. 1.13.17 (PL 13, 1144-45); tr. Shotwell/Loomis, See of Peter (see note 42),
45 P. Rousseau, Ascetics, Authority and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian,
Oxford 1978, 129; and the discussion in Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy (see
note 17), 208-13.
46 See, e.g., Innoc. I ep. 3,10 (PL 20, 492-493) and 37,4,6 (PL 20, 604), where he refers
to the specific "times" {tempora) set by his predecessors, i.e., by Siricius.
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 195

Pope Zosimus, for example, who reigned briefly from 417 to 418, vo-
ciferously protested against the hasty promotion of both monks and lay-
men to the episcopate. He regarded such ordinations as an example of
ambitio inefficax, "fruitless ambition," something he found all too familiar
in Gaul, Spain and Africa (though apparently not in Italy).47 He urged his
episcopal addressee, Bishop Hesychius of Salona in Illyria: "Resist such
ordinations! Resist the approach of pride and arrogance!"48 Zosimus put
the blame for such irregular ordinations squarely on the shoulders of lax
bishops, who sought to curry favor with the multitudes by recruiting pop-
ular local figures into the clergy.
Similarly, another bishop of Rome, Pope Celestinus (422-432), in a
letter to bishops of the provinces of Vienne and Narbonne argued that a
period of apprenticeship in the clergy was as necessary to the clerical pro-
fession as to any other career:
"Whoever wants to be a teacher ought first to be a pupil, so that he can learn what he
is to teach. Training in every way of life strengthens itself for its ultimate end by this
procedure. A person who devotes no time to letters cannot be a teacher of literature. A
person who has not progressed through each rank of military service cannot reach the
rank that is due to his service. Is it only the priesthood that is something cheap among
these things? It is rather easy to bestow, although it is rather difficult to fulfill" 49
The tendency to professionalism inaugurated by Siricius's insistence on
the cursus honorum, though continually violated in actual practice, ex-
presses nonetheless a desire among the bishops of Rome for a stable, con-
tinuous process of clerical formation. It is worth noting that Pope Leo I

47 Zos. ep. 9,1,1 (PL 20, 670): Exigit Mectio tua pmeceptum apostolkae sedis, in quo
Patrum decreta consentiunt, et signifies nonnullos ex monachorum popukri coetu, quo-
rum solitudo quavisfrequentia major est, sed et lakos ad sacerdotium festinare. Hoc autem
specialiter et sub praedecessoribus nostris, et nuper a nobis interdictum constat, litteris ad
Gallias Hispaniasque transmissis, in quibus regionibus familiaris est ista praesumptio,
quamvis nee Africa super hac admonitione nostra habeatur aliena, ne quis penitus contra
patrum praecepta, qui ecclesiasticis disciplinisper ordinem non fuisset imbutus, et temporis
approbatione divinis stipendiis eruditus, nequaquam ad summum Ecclesiae sacerdotium
aspirarepraesumeret: et non solum in eo ambitio inefficax haberetur, verum etiam in or-
dinatores ejus, ut carerent eo ordine, quern sine ordine contra praecepta Patrum credide-
48 Zos. ep. 9,1,2 (PL 20, 670-71): Obsiste talibus ordinationibus, obsiste superbiae et
49 Coelest. ep. 4.3.4 (PL 50, 433): Debet enim ante esse discipulus, quisquis doctor esse
desiderat, utpossit docere quod didicit. Omnis vitae institutio hac ad id quo tendk se ra-
tione confirmat. Qui minime litteris operam dederit, praeceptor esse non potest litterarum.
Qui non per singula stipendia creverit, ad meritum stipendii ordinem non potestpervenire.
Solum sacerdotium inter ista, rogo, vilius est? quodfacilius tribuitur, cum difficilius im-
196 David G. Hunter

took this "professionalism" one step further by arguing that failure to re-
ward loyal service in the clerical ranks undermined all ordo within the
I would argue that the emergence of a careful sequence of clerical
promotion functioned as part of a strategy for developing the kind of men
who would be suitable for embracing sexual continence by the time they
reached higher orders. It is not likely a mere coincidence that Siricius was
the first bishop of Rome to articulate the clerical cursus and the first to
articulate at length the rationale for clerical sexual continence. The cursus
itself, in its ideal form, took a young man, even before puberty, and en-
tered him among the lectors. As Siricius' procedures indicated, the young
man was to choose a wife upon reaching puberty, though only a woman
who had not been previously married. The cursus would have made it
possible for the young man to learn about the requirements of higher or-
ders, ignorance of which was one of the main problems encountered by
proponents of the new discipline.51 It was the custom in North Africa to
require a lector at puberty to commit himself either to marriage or to con-
tinence; if he refused to make a decision, he was excluded from the lectors
until he either married or vowed continence.52
It seems clear that progressing gradually through the various ranks not
only served to consolidate the clerical body itself, but also provided a pro-
cess by which a young man-whether he chose to be married or perpetual-
ly continent-was directed towards the higher orders wherein continence
would be required. It gave him the opportunity to decide, after some con-
sideration, whether to advance in rank. Most importantly, it provided
time. That is, if the lengths of time recommended by Siricius were actually
enforced, the young clergyman could not proceed to the diaconate until
he was at least thirty-five years old. Episcopacy would not come for anoth-
er fifteen years. Such procedures provided time for the aspiring cleric to
pursue marriage and produce a family, and subsequently to pursue higher
orders, if he wished. It was a regular procedure that would have prepared a
man to adopt the "post-marital celibacy" of the Western clergy.

50 Leo cp. 12.4 (PL 54, 661): Quibus si mercespro devotione non redditur, omnis obedien-
51 See, eg., the comment of Ambr. off. 1.249 (CChr.SL 25, 91,36-92,50 Testard),
which may imply ignorance of the continence requirement in some rural churches. Si-
ricius en. 1.7.11 (PL13, 1140), allowed that a clergyman who lapsed out of ignorance
could keep his office as long as he embraced continence thereafter.
52 Council of Hippo (393), can. 2 (CChr.SL 149, 20-21 Munier); Breviarium Hippo-
nense, can. 18 (CChr.SL 149, 38-39 Munier); Council of Carthage (419), can. 16
(CChr.SL 149, 105 Munier).
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 197

Let us turn now to the two other qualifications for ordination that are
mentioned frequently in the canonical sources: that is, the requirements of
strict monogamy, both for the clergyman and for his bride. The former
restriction on clerical marriage was, of course, an ancient one. It goes back
to the Pastoral Epistles and the statement that the bishop should be "a
man of one wife" (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). By the third century this was
widely interpreted as a prohibition of any second marriage on the part of
the clergy, as is evident in Tertullian's appeal to this practice to endorse his
repudiation of second marriages for all Christians.53 Of all the qualifica-
tions for the higher clergy, this is probably the one mentioned most fre-
quently in the canonical literature. This suggests, perhaps, that it was one
of the most difficult to enforce. A high mortality rate, especially for wom-
en in childbirth, would have produced a significant number of widowed
men who remarried, thus making the "man of one wife" something of a
distinction. If this was the case, then a "man of one wife" often would
have been someone predisposed or perhaps already committed to sexual
continence (i.e., a widower who had not remarried). In other words, the
requirement of strict monogamy for married clerics in practice would have
led in many cases to the adoption of permanent sexual renunciation.
If the two requirements were actually linked in this way, this would
explain a curious phenomenon in the canonical sources. In the century
that stretched between the pontificate of Damasus and that of Leo we find
an animated discussion of the interpretation of the monogamy require-
ment. It seems to have begun in a debate between Ambrose and Jerome
over the question of whether a first marriage contracted before baptism
counted as a true marriage for a "man of one wife." Ambrose argued that
baptism washed away sins, but not legitimate marriages; Jerome argued
that a first marriage, like any other sin, is washed away in baptism.54 The
subsequent tradition, as evidenced in the papal decrees, unanimously fol-
lowed Ambrose, although it must be noted that Jerome's argument was
raised and refuted so frequently that it must have been attractive to some
Christians. In any case, it is significant that the bishops of Rome began to
articulate stronger and stronger reasons for the requirement of strict mo-

53 Ten. castit. 7 (CChr.SL 2, 1024-1026 Kroymann); Ten. monog. 12 (CSEL 76, 69-
71 Bulhart).
54 For a discussion of the conflict between Ambrose and Jerome on this point, among
others, see D. G. Hunter, The Raven Replies: Ambrose's Letter to the Church at Vercel-
li (Ep.ex.coll. 14) and the Criticisms of Jerome, in Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writ-
ings and Legacy, edited by A. Cain and J. Lossl, Burlington 2009, 175-89.
198 David G. Hunter

Several letters of Pope Innocent I. show us this process clearly. In a let-

ter to Victricius of Rouen, composed in 404, Innocent drew attention to
the usual texts in support of the monogamy requirement: 1 Timothy 3:2
and Titus 1:6. 55 But he went on to defend the discipline based on the
goodness of marriage as a union created by God and on the nuptial bless-
ing bestowed on the Christian couple. The nuptial blessing, Innocent
noted, recalled the blessing of the first human couple in paradise; hence
there is no reason that it should be washed away in baptism.56 Later, in a
letter to Spanish bishops gathered at a synod in Toledo, Innocent restated
the argument but added a reference to Matthew 19:6 ("What God has
joined, man should not separate").57 Although Innocent did not explicitly
invoke the language of "sacrament" in regard to marriage, his reference to
the nuptial blessing and Matthew 19:6 recalls Augustine's nearly contem-
porary argument that strict monogamy was incumbent on the clergy be-
cause of the new sacramentum or "sacred significance" now present in
Christian marriages.58
Still later in a letter addressed to bishops in Illyria in 414, Innocent of-
fered his fullest justification of the monogamy requirement and of the
abiding relevance of marriages contracted before baptism. Citing all the
same biblical texts he added several new arguments. Noting that Jesus
addressed the words of Matthew 19:6 to unbaptized Jews, Innocent ob-
served that Jesus must have been speaking of the permanence of a marriage

55 For a more detailed discussion of the letter of Innoc. I en. 2 to Victricius, see G.
Dunn, Canonical Legislation on the Ordination of Bishops: Innocent's Letter to Vic-
tricius of Rouen, in the present volume.
56 Innoc. I ep. 2,6,9 (PL 20, 474-5): ...cum utique uxor ex legis praecepto ducatur in
tantum, ut et in paradise cum parentes humani generis conjungerentur, ab ipso Domino
sint benedicti; et Salomon dicat, A Deo praeparabitur viro uxor. Quamformam etiam sa-
cerdotes omnes servare usus ipse demonstrat Ecclesiae. Satis enim absurdum est aliquem
credere, uxorem ante baptismum acceptam, post baptismum non computari; cum benedic-
tio, quae per sacerdotem super nubentes imponitur, non materiam delinquendi dedisse, sed
formam tenuisse legis a Deo antiquitus institutae doceatur. Quod si non putatur uxor esse
computanda, quae ante baptismum ducta est, ergo nee filii, qui ante baptismum geniti
sunt, pro filiishabebuntur.
57 Innoc. I ep. 3,6,10 (PL 20, 493): Nam si a Deo, ut scriptum est, praeparatur viro uxor,
et quod Deus junxit, homo non separet; et ipsi auctores generis humani in origine a
Domino benedicuntur: quomodo interpeccata, ista credunturposse dimittR
58 Aug. bon. coniug. 18.21: ...propterea sacramentum nuptiarum temporis nostri sic ad
unum uirum et unam uxorem redactum est, ut ecclesiae dispensatorem non liceat ordinari
nisi unius uxoris uirum, quod acutius intelkxerunt qui nee eum qui catechumenus uelpa-
ganus habuerit alteram ordinandum esse censuerunt. De sacramento enim agitur, non de
peccato. Text in P.G. Walsh (ed.), Augustine: De bono coniugali. De sancta uirginita-
te, Oxford 2001, 38.
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 199

that occurred before baptism since his audience was entirely unbaptized.59
He also argued that no one considers children born before baptism as
illegitimate and unable to inherit; why should the marriage contracted
before baptism be considered illegitimate?60 Finally, Innocent appealed to
the example of Cornelius the centurion in the Acts of the Apostles and the
apostle Peter himself. Just as the virtues of these men (and, indeed, of any
catechumen) are not wiped out in the waters of baptism, he argued, so
baptism does not invalidate a legitimately contracted marriage.61 Inno-
cent's persistent concern with the rule of clerical monogamy is significant
not only because it shows how contentious the requirement was, but also
because in order to defend it Innocent resorted to an implicitly "sacramen-
tal" understanding of marriage. As we shall see shortly, this appeal to the
unique sacred significance in clerical marriages was to become explicit in
the writings of Pope Leo.
This emphasis on a particular kind of clerical marriage is especially
evident in the final restriction on the married clergy that I wish to consid-
er: their wives also had to be married only once. Unlike the requirement of
monogamy for the bishop, presbyter or deacon himself, this requirement
is not found in the New Testament. It is the result of applying to Chris-
tian ministers Levitical purity laws that were once imposed on Jewish
priests. This requirement, based on passages such as Leviticus 21:13-14
and Ezekiel 44:22, is mentioned as early as the Gallic council of Valenti-
num in 374 and, a decade later, in the passage from Siricius' Letter to
Himerius cited above. Like the discipline of sexual continence itself, the
restriction on clerical wives appears to derive from an effort to enhance the

59 Innoc. I ep. 17,2,5 (PL 20, 529): Ipse Dominus, cum interrogaretur a Judaeis si liceret
dimittere uxorem, atque exponeret fieri non debere, addidit: Quod ergo Deus junxit,
homo non separet. Ac ne de his locutus esse credatur, quae post baptismum sortiuntur,
meminerint hoc et a Judaeis interrogatum, et Judaeis esse responsum.
60 Innoc. I ep. 17,2,5 (PL 20, 529-30): Quaero, et sollicitus quaero, si una eademque sit
uxor ejus qui ante catechumenus, postea sit fidelis, filiosque ex ea, cum esset catechumenus,
susceperit, ac postea alios, cum fidelis: utrum sint fratres appelkndi, an non habeantpos-
tea, defuncto patre, herciscundae haereditatis consortium, quibus filiorum nomen creditur
abstulisse regeneratio spinalis? Quod cum ita sentire atque judicare absurdum est, quae
(malum) ratio est hoc defendi, et vacua opinione magisjactari, quam aliqua auctoritate
roborari, cum non possit inter peccata deputari, quod Lex praecepit, et Deus junxit?
61 Innoc. I ep. 17,2,6 (PL 20, 530): Numquid si quis catechumenus virtutibus studuerit,
humilitatem secutus fuerit, patientiam tenuerit, eleemosynas fecerit, morti destinatos qua-
libet ratione cripuerit, adulteria exhorruerit, castitatem tenuerit; quaero si haec, cumfac-
tus fuerit fidelis, amittit, quia per baptismum, totum quod vetus homo gesserit, putatur
auferri? Aspiciamus gentilem hominem Cornelium, orationibus atque eleemosynis revela-
tionem, Petrumque ipsum vidisse: numquid per baptismum haec illi ablata sunt, propter
quae baptismum ei videtur esse concessum?
200 David G. Hunter

"priestly" character of the Christian minister by overlaying him with yet

further sacral significance derived from the Levitical priesthood. Also like
the continence requirement, it appears to be an innovation of the fourth
century. This is strongly suggested by Letter 17 of Pope Innocent, in
which he declared to the apparently skeptical bishops of Illyria:
"No defense can opposed to this precept [the passage from Leviticus], which has been
granted by divine authority, except your custom. But you yourselves admit that this
custom of yours was established out of ignorance, not on the basis of apostolic tradi-
tion and sound reason." 62
It is clear that the bishops in question had employed a different argument
from tradition and had followed a different custom in the matter of cleri-
cal wives.
For the purposes of this paper, the significance of the new restriction
on clerical wives is twofold. On the one hand, it provides another example
of the way in which clerical marriages were being managed to support the
discipline of sexual continence. By reinforcing the persona of the Christian
minister as "priest," the limitation on clerical wives reinforced the grounds
on which the discipline of sexual continence was imposed, that is, as a
ritual requirement of ministers of the altar. On the other hand, the in-
creasing restrictions on clerical marriage could only be justified by an in-
creasingly sacred conception of clerical marriage. This paradoxical devel-
opment is most evident in the letters of Pope Leo who took the theme of
the priest as "man of one wife" and his wife as "a woman of one husband-
one step further than Innocent. Rather than justifying the practice of mo-
nogamy primarily on the basis of 1 Timothy 3 (for the priest) and Leviti-
cus (for his wife), Leo linked the two together and offered an explicitly
"sacramental" interpretation of both requirements:
"The Apostle says, among his other requirements for choosing a bishop, that a man
should be consecrated who, by common knowledge, was or is the husband of but one
wife. And that precept has been considered so sacred that the condition was thought
binding even on the wife of the bishop-elect; otherwise, while possibly marrying a
man without a previous wife, she herself might have been married to a previous hus-
band. Who, then, would dare tolerate anything done to injure so great a sacrament
when regulations concerning this great and venerated mystery were not lacking even
in the divine Law? In them it is clearly set down that a priest is to marry only a virgin,
and that she who is to become a priest's wife is not to have been married to another
man. Even in those times the spiritual marriage of Christ and the Church was prefi-
gured in priests, so that "because a husband is head of the wife," the bride of the

62 Innoc. I ep. 17,1,2 (PL 20, 527-28;.- Contra quod praeceptum, divina auctoritate sub-
missum, nulla defensio mandati alterius opponitur, nisi consuetudo vestra: quae, ut ipsifa-
temini, ex ignorantia, ut verecundius dicam, non ex apostolica traditione et Integra ratione
Clerical Marriage and Episcopal Elections in the Latin West 201

Word might learn to know no other husband than Christ, who rightly chooses her
alone, and marries no other but her." 63
For Leo, the monogamy practiced by the clergy of the Church was prefig-
ured by the Old Testament priesthood and found its ultimate fulfillment
in the monogamous union of Christ and the Church. Hence Leo could
speak explicitly of the "chaste lives of the married" {matrimoniorum casti-
moniam) as a prerequisite for episcopal ordination, along with, of course,
laborum merita or long-standing service in the Church." This conjugal
"chastity," as I have suggested here, was not identical with sexual conti-
nence, although it could lead directly to it.


In this essay I have argued that the emergence of a requirement of perma-

nent sexual continence for higher clergy in the West did not lead immedi-
ately to a preference for monastic candidates to the priesthood or episco-
pacy. On the contrary, I have suggested that the canonical literature,
especially the letters from the bishops of Rome, indicates a certain prefer-

63 Leo, ep. 12.3 (PL 54, 648): Dicente enim Apostolo ut inter alias electionis reguks is
episcopus ordinetur quern unius uxoris vimm fuisse aut esse constiterit, tarn sacrata semper
habita est ista praeceptio, ut etiam de muliere sacerdotis eligendi eadem intelligeretur ser-
vanda conditio; ne forte ilk, priusquam in matrimonium ejus veniret, qui aliam non ha-
buisset uxorem, alterius viri esset experta conjugium. Quis igitur tolerare audeat quod in
tanti sacramenti perpetratur injuriam, cum huic magno venerandoque mysterio nee divi-
nae quidem legis statuta defuerint, quibus evidenter est definitum ut virginem sacerdos ac-
cipiat uxorem, et alterius torum neliat conjugis, quae uxor futura est sacerdotis? Jam turn
enim in sacerdotibus figurabatur Christi et Ecclesiae spiritale conjugium, ut quoniam vir
caput est mulieris, discat Sponsa Verbi non alium virum nosse quam Christum, qui merito
unam eligit, unam diligit et aliam praeter ipsam suo consortio non adjungit. Trans. E.
Hunt, St. Leo the Great: Letters, Fathers of the Church 34, New York 1957, 50-51.
64 Leo makes both of these points explicitly in the paragraph immediately following the
one just cited: ep. 12.4 (PL 54, 649-50): Monente vero Apostolo, atque dicente: Et hi
autem probentur primum, et sic ministrent, quid aliud intelligendum putamus, nisi ut
in hisprovectionibus non solum matrimoniorum castimoniam, sed etiam kborum merita
cogitemus, ne aut a baptismo novellis, aut a saecukri actu repente conversis officium pasto-
rale credatur; cum per omnes gradus militiae Christianae de incrementis profectuum de-
beat aestimari anpossint cuiquam majora committi? Merito beatorum Patrum venerabiles
sanctiones cum de sacerdotum ekctione loquerentur, eosdem ut idoneos sacris administra-
tionibus censuerunt, qui multo tempore per singulos officiorum gradus provecti, experimen-
tum suiprobabilepraebuissent, ut unicuique testimonium vitae suae actuum suorum ratio
perhiberet. Leo's generous estimate of the marriage bond and its significance for cleri-
cal identity helps to explain why he required married clergy to continue to live with
their wives, despite the practice of sexual continence. See ep. 167.3 (PL 54, 1204).
202 David G. Hunter

ence for candidates who had spent many years in clerical service, passing
through all of the lower ranks and serving for a requisite time in each rank.
Moreover, I have argued that papal letters from Damasus to Leo show an
increasing preoccupation with the character of the marriages of the clergy,
that is, with the requirement of strict monogamy both for the priest and
for his wife. These restrictions on clerical marriage, along with the empha-
sis on the cursus honorum, can be seen as supporting the incipient disci-
pline of permanent sexual continence, indirectly or directly.
But, I would argue, there was something more at work. The century
that stretched from Damasus to Leo was one of the most traumatic in all
of Roman history. It witnessed the gradual fragmentation of the social
fabric and disintegration of Roman order. Discontinuity was the order of
the day, and there was desperate need for stable and continuous forms of
authority. The clerical ordo that took shape in these decades, therefore,
could not wholly abandon traditional forms of social life. While sexual
continence had emerged as the privileged coin of spiritual capital, more
traditional models of authority persisted.65 A clergy consisting of once-
married men, who had served their times in the ranks of militia Christi,
was a potent reminder of older continuities. Despite the best hopes of
Ambrose and Eusebius, the time for a perpetually celibate clergy had not
yet come. As Leo and Augustine realized, it was still possible to see in the
marriages of the clergy an image of Christ and the Church.

65 In his essay, "Bishops and Society," in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Vo-
lume II. Constantine to c. 600, ed. by A. Casiday and F. W. Norris, Cambridge 2007,
343-66, Raymond Van Dam has noted the ways in which the hierarchy of the Church
increasingly mirrored the imperial hierarchy.
The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum

Veit Rosenberger

Wenn Sie etwas Trostliches lesen wollen, so suchen Sie ... das Le-
ben des heiligen Severin. Der hat unter dem Umsturz aller Dinge
ausgehalten. (J. Burckhardt, letter March 4, 1848, in: W. Kaegi,
Jacob Burckhardt III, 1956, 379).

Severinus of Noricum was a remarkable person in many respects. He set

out from his cell somewhere east of Noricum, founded a monastery in
Favianis (Mautern), dealt with Germanic kings, rejected the episcopate,
and became one of the most influential individuals in the province and
kept silence about his past. The exact date of his arrival in Noricum, some
time around 460, is heavily disputed.1 Other dates are not doubted: Seve-
rinus died in 482 in his monastery. When Noricum Ripense was given up
in 488, the monks exhumed the body of Severinus and transferred him to
Castrum Lucullanum near Naples - the same place where Romulus Au-
gustulus had been banished in 476. In 902 the remains of Severinus were
brought to Naples, and later in the early 19th century to Frattamaggiore
near Naples. Much has been speculated about the former rank of Severi-
nus.2 Herwig Wolfram observed the contrast between the "minimal Seve-
rinus" of Rudolf Noll, who regarded Severinus only as a regular monk,
and of the "maximal Severinus" of Friedrich Lotter, who identified him

1 453: L. Bieler, Eugippius, The Life of Saint Severin, FaCh 55, Washington D.C.
1965, 57; the mid- to late 450s: P. Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire, London
2005, 407; shortly after 460: G. Alfoldy, Noricum, London 1974, 214; 462: F. Lot-
ter, Severinus von Noricum. Legende und Wirklichkeit, Stuttgart 1976, 246-247.
2 About the life of Severinus cf. A. Schwarcz, Severinus of Noricum between Fact and
Fiction, in: Eugippius und Severin. Der Autor, der Text und der Heilige, ed. by W.
Pohl and M. Diesenberger, Wien 2001, 25-31; R. Noll, Die Vita Sancti Severini des
Eugippius im Lichte der neueren Forschung, phil.-hist. Klasse der Osterreichischen
Akademie der Wissenschaften, 112. jahrgang, Wien 1975, 61-75, especially 74:
„Wenn Forschungsergebnisse derart disparat ausfallen, dann ist doch die Vermutung
nahe liegend, dass der Wurm in der Methode steckt. Und in einer Uberforderung der
204 VeitRosenberger

with Flavius Severinus, consul in 461.3 Discrepancies of this sort stem

from the evidence. In 511 Eugippius, the abbot of the monastery at Lucul-
lanum in Campania, wrote the Vita Sancti Severini. Although Eugippius
had spent some time in the monastery of Favianis, it seems likely that he
had not met Severinus. Eugippius, closely connected to the monastery of
Severinus, is the only major source of information about the saint. The
account of Eugippius is hardly unbiased, but it shall not be the task of this
paper to uncover the historical "kernel of truth" or to distinguish between
reliable facts and fantastic fiction in Eugippius: instead, Severinus shall be
dealt with on the narrative level.
The history of episcopal elections is on the one hand often an account
of competition, strife, and open conflict. On the other hand, many candi-
dates refused to become bishop before, during or immediately after their
election. Severinus was one of only a few who successfully refused the
episcopacy. His is a singular case which allows us to highlight the prob-
lems of the election of a bishop; it deserves further investigation. In the
first part I should like to compare other cases of refusal of the episcopal
dignity. Second, I should like to take a close look at Severinus: although
he was not bishop, he seems to have acted like a bishop. He gave spiritual
advice, he organised the defence of the region, and, depending on the
interpretation of a passage in the Vita Severini, he even dedicated a church.

The Refusal of the Episcopate

Since the days of Augustus Roman emperors were expected to show a

demonstrative cunctatio at the moment they came to power, a reluctance
to underline the modesty of the new ruler/ This ritual - our evidence
certainly does not cover all emperors - had some parallels in early Chris-
tianity: there is a long tradition of clerics regarding themselves as unwor-

3 R. Noll, Eugippius, Das Leben des Heiligen Severin. Lateinisch und Deutsch, 2nd ed.
Passau 1981; F. Letter, Severinus (see note 1), 242-260; H. Wolfram, Die Geburt
Mitteleuropas. Geschichte Osterreichs vor seiner Entstehung, Wien 1987, 482 n. 51.
4 T a c , ann. I 11-12 about Tiberius (ed. by P. Wuilleumier, Tacite, Annales, vol. 1, 15-
17); Plin., Paneg. 12 about Traian (ed. by M. Durry, Pline le Jeune. Lettres: livre X,
Panegyrique de Trajan, Paris 1964, 12-13); cf. J. Beranger, Le refus du pouvoir, in: j .
Beranger, Principatus. Etudes de notions et d'histoire politiques dans l'Antiquite gre-
co-romaine, Geneve 1973, 165-190; a list of the evidence: 168, n. 15. Even the
freedman Pallas, donated by the senate with 15 million sesterces under Nero, turned
the money down: Plin. ep. VII 29 and VIII 6 (ed. by A.-M. Guillemin, Pline le Jeune.
Lettres, vol. 3, CUF, Paris 1967, 43-44 and 56-61).
The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum 205

thy of their office, be it the episcopate or simply priesthood.5 When the

apostle Jacob made Clement a bishop, "Clement's vehement protestations
of his own unworthiness only confirmed for Jacob that he had made the
right choice."6 Whatever be the correct date of the Pseudo-Clement's let-
ter to James, it is almost a topos in ancient hagiography that a bishop
would first decline his office/ One reason for the development of this
habitual refusal might have been the ambition of many clerics: a demon-
stration of humility suited most clerics well, especially if their ordination
was not undisputed. Some examples might help to highlight the options
of a cleric who wanted to reject the episcopate.
One of the most striking cases is Ambrosius of Milan.8 In the report of
his biographer, Ambrose was desperate to avoid the bishopric. He was
hiding away, he fled from the town twice, in the brief interval between his
election and his ordination, Ambrosius invited female entertainers to his
house and ordered the execution of criminals.9 If we leave aside questions
about the credibility of this episode (cf. T.D. Barnes' essay in this vo-
lume), Ambrose delivered the most spectacular refusal of the episcopate,
but was not successful.
When Martin of Tours was asked to become bishop of Tours he hid
in his monastery. A certain Rusticus, citizen of Tours, tricked Martin into
leaving his hiding place. He went to Martin, pretended that his wife was
ill, and persuaded Martin to come to town. Once underway they were
confronted by the inhabitants of Tours standing along the road. Miracu-
lously, a great number not just from Tours, but also from other towns,
had gathered in Tours to vote for Martin. 10 As bishop he lived not in
Tours but in a monastic community outside the town. Many members of
this community became bishops - "For what city or church would there

5 Not mentioned for Nero in T a c , ann. XII 69 (vol. 3, 99-100 Wuilleumier).

6 (Ps.-)Clement, Letter to James 3,1-3 (GCS Die Pseudoklementinen I, 7 J. Irmscher).
7 L. Hagemeier, jenseits der Topik. Die karolingische Herrscherbiographie, Husum
2004. If I understand Th. Pratsch, Der hagiographische Topos. Griechische Heiligen-
viten in mittelbvzantinischer Zeit, Berlin/New York 2005 correctly, the refusal of the
episcopate is not a topos in the middle-byzantine period.
8 N.B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan, Church and Court in a Christian Capital, Berke-
ley/Los Angeles 1994.
9 Life of Ambrose 3,7 (PL 14, 31); C. Rapp, Holy Bishops, Holy Bishops in Late An-
tiquity, Berkeley 2005, 145. Cf. R. Cherubini, Ammonas di Sketis ( + 375 circa): Un
esempio di influsso monastico in un vescovo egiziano del IV sec, in: Vescovi e pastori
in epoca teodosiana, 2, Rome 1997, 334-342 about forced bishops in Egypt.
10 Chapter 9 in j . Drumm (ed.), Martin von Tours. Der Lebensbericht von Sulpicius
Severus, Ostfildern 1977. About Martin: C. Stancliffe, St. Martin and His Hagio-
grapher: History and Miracle in Sulpicius Severus, Oxford 1983.
206 VeitRosenberger

be that would not desire to have its priests from among those in the mo-
nastery of Martin?"11 Even in his earlier career as cleric Martin showed the
virtue of humility: when St. Hilarius, the bishop of Poitiers, wanted to
ordain Martin as diaconus, he refused several times, claiming that he was
not worthy of the office. Hilarius finally realized that he could bind Mar-
tin only by offering him an office which included a humiliation. There-
fore, he suggested Martin the position of an exorcist. "Martin did not
refuse this appointment, from the fear that he might seem to have looked
down upon it as somewhat humble." 12 The elections of both Ambrose and
Martin were not undisputed; tales about their refusal might have been
constructed to balance the strife.
Different is the case of Germanus of Auxerre. Constantius of Lyon,
the author of the biography of Germanus of Auxerre, gives in the first
chapter a brief description of the early years of Germanus: born from up-
per class parents, he received a thorough training in Gaul, went to Rome
to study the law, became a successful and wealthy advocate, married, and
was made governour of a province. His eloquence prepared him for
preaching, his knowledge of the law for justice, his marriage for chastity,
as Constantius remarks. And then, apparently out of the blue, Germanus
was ordained bishop. Suscepit sacerdotium invitus, coactus, addictus: Ger-
manus had to be forced, but Constantius gives no details about the refus-
al.13 Nilammon, a very aged and sick monk, managed to die before his
ordination; it is not clear whether Athanasius of Alexandria wanted to
ordain Pachomius; in any case, Pachomius escaped the episcopate by hid-
ing among his monks. 14 Not all bishops declined the episcopal honour: in
the fairly long Vita Sancti Honorati by Hilarius of Aries, we find a slight
reluctance only during his rise to the priesthood: et qui venire ad dignita-

11 Sulp. Sev. vit. Martin. 10,8-9 (SC 133, 274 Fontaine): pluresque ex eispostea episcopos
vidimus. Quae enim esset civitas aut ecclesia, quae non sibi de Martini monasterio cuperet
12 Sulp. Sev. vit. Martin. 5 (NPNF II, vol. 11, 10-11 A. Roberts).
13 Constantius of Lyon, Vita S. Germani 2 (SC 112, 124 Borius). Cum subito divina
proceditauctoritas, quam consensus univershatis exsequitur. Nam ckrici omnes cunctaque
nobilitas, plebs urbana vel rustica in unam venere sententium: Germanum episcopum
omnium una vox postulat. Bellum indicitur potestati, cuius subiectio facilis fuit, cum e-
tiamabhisquosproseparaverat, vinceretur. Suscepit sacerdotium invitus, coactus, addic-
tus; sed repente mutatur ex omnibus. Deseritur mundi militia, caelestis adsumitur; saeculi
pompa calcatur, humilitas conversationis eligitur; uxor in sororem mutatur ex coniuge,
substantia dispensatur in pauperes, paupertas ambitur.
14 Athanasius, Life of Pachomius 11 (transl. A. Stegmann, Athanasius, Ausgewahlte
Schriften, BKV 31, 47-50); Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 144- 148 about monks
who became bishops in Syria.
The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum 207

tern detrectaverat, ad ipsum dignitas veniP, the acceptance of the bishopric

was not an issue.15 Augustine, elected bishop although the bishop Valerius
was still alive, seems never to have refused the office.
On the discursive level, it is quite clear why the bishopric was not so
attractive for some of the candidates. Monks and holy men were often
ordained as priests and were soon after candidates for the episcopate. In
general, once a monk accepted a position in the world there was the dan-
ger of losing his spiritual gifts and of easing his ascetic discipline. One
example might suffice. When the ascetic Netras had been ordained bishop
of Pharan in the fifth century, he intensified his ascetic lifestyle and ex-
plained: "I do this in order not to destroy the monk in me." 16 Athanasius
of Alexandria wrote a letter to Dracontius, who wanted to avoid the epi-
scopate offered to him. Although Athanasius admitted that "the bishop's
office is an occasion for sin" and "from it comes opportunity for sinning",
he wanted Dracontius to accept the episcopate of Hermopolis Parva.17 In
the council of Valencia in 374, it was considered one of the signa sanctita-
tis if men made false statements about themselves in order to avoid ordina-
tion."18 Laws offer a different perspective on episcopal elections. In 469,
the emperor Leo passed a law about the ordination of a bishop. He
stressed that no one shall buy the office with money, and that the bishop
shall be castus et humilis. The law further reads: Tantum ab ambitu debet
esse sepositus, ut quaeratur cogendus, rogatus recedat, invitatus effugiat.
...perfecto enim indignus est sacerdotio, nisi fuerit ordinatus invitus. The
bishop shall not be ambitious, if he is asked to take the office, he should
be compelled, having been requested, he should decline, and having been
invited, he should flee; he is unworthy of the priesthood unless he is or-
dained against his consent.19 If the old rule applies that a law always re-
flects the existence of the facts or deeds it threatens to punish, this law
proves that a number of candidates were eager to become bishop and were
even willing to pay for the office. Humility, as displayed in the ancient
biographies of the holy bishops, seems to have been the exception of the
rule. Having this tension in mind, we can now take a closer look at Seve-

15 Hilarius of Aries, Vita Honor*.: priesthood, 16,2 (SC 235, 112 Valentin); episcopate,
25 (SC 235, 140-142 Valentin).
16 Apophtegmata patrum, Netras 1 (SC 474, 44 Guy); Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 143.
17 Athanasius, Letter to Dracontius 9 (PG 25, 532-533); D. Brakke, Athanasius and the
Politics of Asceticism, Oxford 1995, 100-110; Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 143.
18 Conciles gaulois du IVe siecle, ed. C. Munier, SC 241, Paris 1977, 110; Rapp, Holy
Bishops (see note 9)145.
19 CJ 1.3.30-3-5 (CIC(B).C, 22 Krueger).
208 VeitRosenberger

The itinerary of Severinus reveals that he was for some time a wander-
ing holy man. He entered Noricum from Pannonia and moved west along
the Danube. His first station was Asturis, where he prophesied that the
city would be destroyed. Since he found no belief, he left Asturis and went
upstream to Comagenis, a city already occupied by barbarians. At Com-
agenis he was recognized by the only survivor from Asturis, and his reputa-
tion as a man of God was established at that moment. The people of
Comagenis followed Severinus' instructions: prayer, fast and almsgiving.
Soon an earthquake confused the barbarians to such a degree that they
rushed out of the city and killed each other. After that the inhabitants of
Favianis, a city befallen by a cruel famine, requested that Severinus come
to their aid. Having solved their problem Severinus retreated to a place
called "at the vineyards", where he wanted to live in solitude. But soon he
returned to a cell near Favianis. There he became famous for his miracles
and for his extraordinary gift of abstinence. He walked barefoot in the
chilly Austrian winter, persuaded the king of the Rugii to become catholic,
and helped him to stay in power. When the young and still poor Odova-
car visited the saint Severinus foretold his rise to power.
In the ninth chapter of the Vita Severini the saint is offered the oppor-
tunity to become bishop. Immediately prior to this proposal Severinus had
purchased the relics of the martyrs St. Gervasius and St. Protasius and
located them in his monastery, thus establishing once more his religious
qualities. The text reads as follows:
Episcopatus quoque honorem ut susciperet postulate praefinita responsione conclu-
sit, sufficere sibi dicens, quod solitudine desiderata privatus ad illam divinitus venisset
provinciam, ut turbis tribulantium frequemibus interesset.20
Which episcopate was offered to Severinus? One option is the bishopric of
Lauriacum, seemingly the only episcopate in Noricum Ripense. The other
possibility is that he was offered to be bishop of the place mentioned be-
fore this passage: Favianis, where Severinus had founded a monastery;
Favianis would then be a new episcopate. Alas, the text allows us only to
speculate.21 Eugippius does not even bother to inform the reader if anoth-
er man replaced Severinus as bishop. The author mentions no further
pressure on Severinus in this matter; the decision was accepted. Contrary
to many other descriptions of episcopal elections, the people play no role.

20 Eugippius, V. Severin. 9,4 (SC 374, 206 Ph. Regerat); transl. L. Bieler, Eugippius,
The Life of Saint Severin (see note 1), 68.
21 Cf. I. Zibermayr, Noricum, Bayern und Osterreich, 2. Aufl. Horn 1956, 44f, Ph.
Regerat, Eugippe. Vie de Saint Severin, Introduction, texte latin, traduction, SC 374,
Paris 1991, 108.
The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum 209

The refusal of the episcopal honour has been interpreted in various

ways. Friedrich Lotter diagnosed a massive difference between Severinus
and the other bishops who first refused the episcopate. While most other
bishops acted in affected humility, Severinus' refusal was honest. Lotter
regarded only Martin of Tours as credible as Severinus.22 For Philippe
Regerat, Severinus denied the episcopate out of humility.23 If we follow
Eugippius, the motive of Severinus was that he had done enough by giving
up the solitudo desiderata - the solitude he wished for - in order to help
the people of Noricum. He does not want to be bothered with the bisho-
pric, which includes further administrative duties. In all, Severinus situates
himself well within the ascetic discourse about ecclesiastical offices. It is
interesting to see how this passage continues: daturas nihilominus monachis
formam sollicitius admonebat... ("His monks, however, whom he wished
to give a pattern of life, he admonished earnestly ...") Although he refuses
to be bishop, Severinus acts as a religious authority.
As the above cases have showed, it was almost impossible for a candi-
date not to become bishop once he was chosen. It was equally difficult to
step down from the office. Some bishops were forced to abdicate. Paul of
Samosata was deposed in 268 because he had used the episcopate to enrich
himself.24 Basil of Ancyra abdicated because he had tortured prisoners.25
One bishop, however, who did manage to be relieved of his office was
Theodore of Sykeon. Born under Justinian (527-565), died in 613, his
situation differed massively from Severinus.26 While we have no informa-
tion about Severinus' life before his arrival in Noricum, the author of the
Life of Theodore has much to tell about the saint's childhood in Galatia.

22 F. Lotter, Severinus (see note 1), 81: „Diese Haltung hebt sich deutlich ab von jener
affektierten Demut des auf den Bischofsthron Erhobenen, fur den es moralisches Ge-
bot war, die ihm iibertragene Stellung zunachst abzulehnen, so dass der Hinweis, der
Gewahlte habe sein Amt nur gezwungen iibernommen, zum feststehenden Topos der
Bischofsviten geworden ist". Cf. Pont. V. Cyprian. 52, S. 110f; V. Hil. Arel. 9, S. 88;
Possid. vit. Aug. 16 (PL 32, 46-47); Ennod. V. Epiph. 40, S. 89; G. Marie Cook, The
Life of St. Epiphanius by Ennodius, Washington 1942, 150 compares to the biogra-
phies of ancient rulers.
23 Ph. Regerat, Severin (see note 21), 92.
24 Eus. h.e. VII 30,7-9 (SC 4 1 , 215-216 G. Bardy); R. Haensch, Die Rolle der Bischofe
im 4. jahrhundert: Neue Anforderungen und neue Antworten, Chiron 37, 2007,
25 Socr. h.e. II 42,5 (SC 493, 224 Maraval); T.D. Barnes, The Crimes of Basil of
Ancyra, JThS N.S. 47, 1996, 553f; R. Haensch, Bischofe (see note 24), 164.
26 Vie de Theodore de Sykeon (BHG 1748), 2 Bd., ed. A.J. Festugiere, SHG 48, Bruxel-
les 1970; cf. S. Hiibner, Der Klerus in der Gesellschaft des spatantiken Kleinasiens,
Stuttgart 2005; Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 142.
210 VeitRosenberger

Theodore, the son of an acrobat and a whore, grew up with his mother;
from his earliest childhood he felt inclined to an ascetic life.
After some years, Theodore was literally forced to accept the bishopric
of Anastasioupolis. While living in a cave near his monastery the clerics
and the landowners dragged him out of the cave, put him on a cart and
drove him to the archbishop of Ancyra, who ordained him. Eleven years
later Theodore wanted to resign from his position. He was afraid to neg-
lect his lifestyle of asceticism and contemplation by acting as a bishop. The
villages belonging to his episcopate were a continuous source of trouble
and he feared to neglect his monks. The process of his decision to step
down is amply illustrated by the author of his vita. Several episodes legi-
timize Theodore's decision. He was visited by the hundred-year-old Anti-
ochus, a saint with holiness evident even in his appearance: endowed with
a long white beard and long white hair, Antiochus was a master of fasting.
With him Theodore discussed the difficulties and worries which beset him
in his episcopal work, the slackness in his monasteries which was caused
by his absence, and his wish to relinquish the office of bishop in order to
return to the company of his monks. Antiochus supported the ideas of the
unwilling bishop and advised him to do it quickly "that he might be inno-
cent in the eyes of God". 27
In the next step Theodore prayed to St. George, his personal saint,
and asked him whether he might without condemnation deliver up his
bishopric. Having received assurance that his request was granted, Theo-
dore applied to the authorities: ordinary people seem not to be important.
He summoned a meeting of the clergy and landowners of the town, the
same people who had forced him to the office of bishop years ago. They
had refused to listen to his protests, he said, and had persisted in making
him their bishop, though he knew that he was unfitted for the government
of the church. He told them: "And now this is the eleventh year that I
have troubled you and been troubled by you, I beseech you, therefore,
choose for yourselves a shepherd in whom you may find satisfaction, one
who can take charge of your affairs."(78) After his speech Theodore re-
garded his withdrawal accomplished. But things became more compli-
cated. In the end it took Theodore remarkable effort to be allowed to
resign. Since the archbishop of Ancyra, Paul, did not want to release him
from office, they decided to ask the patriarch of Constantinople. While
the patriarch was irresolute, Theodore wrote a letter to the emperor Mau-
rice, whom he had helped before. Finally, the intervention of the emperor
decided the case: Theodore was allowed to step down, but he still had to

27 Vie de Theodore de Sykeon 74 (61-62 Festugiere).

The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum 211

wear the omophorion, the distinguishing mark of the bishop. Theodore

could have his will because there was a distinct hierarchy and a powerful
emperor who commanded the province Theodore lived in.

Severinus, the Quasi-bishop

The connection between the religious position of a bishop and his worldly
power has been often analysed in the last 30 years.28 In 1979 Peter Brown
interpreted the bishop or the holy man as patronusP Bishops acted as
defenders of all in need, sometimes even as advocates of an entire city.30
Lately, the importance of the concept of patron* for Roman society has
been challenged.31 This is, in my opinion, an overreaction: although the
terms patronus or aliens do not occur too often in Latin texts, the system of
patronage can be traced in many fields of Roman society. In a later article,
Brown readjusted his interpretation of the holy man as patronus. While it
is beyond doubt that God was the find patronus, stories about the efficien-
cy of the holy man might convey more than that he was an efficient patro-
nus. The help given by the holy man was rewarded in many cases. There-
fore, a story about the efficiency of a holy man might have been invented
in order to explain why a church or a monastery had accumulated wealth.
In the case of Severinus Brown's thoughts do not apply. Eugippius can
have no intention to explain the riches of his monastery by the saint. Seve-
rinus had founded a monastery that was given up.

28 H. Chadwick, Bishops and Monks, in: StPatr 24, 1993, 45-61; Ph. Rousseau, The
Spiritual Authority of the Monk-Bishop: Eastern Elements in Some Western Hagio-
graphy of the Fourth and Fifth Centuries, JThS N.S. 22, 1971, 380-419; R.
Niirnberg, Askese als sozialer Impuls: Monastisch-asketische Spiritualist als Wurzel
und Triebfeder sozialer Ideen und Aktivitaten der Kirche in Siidgallien im 5. Jahr-
hundert, Bonn 1988; A. Sterk, Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The
Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity, Cambridge, MA/London 2004; J.R. Lyman, Ascetics
and Bishops: Epiphanius on Orthodoxy, in: Orthodoxie, Christianisme, His-
t o i d Orthodoxy, Christianity, History, ed. S. Elm/E. Rebillard/A. Romano, Oxford
29 P. Brown, The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, JRS 61, 1971,
80-101; P. Brown, The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, 1971-
1997, JECS 6, 1998, 353-376.
30 R. Haensch, Bischofe (see note 24), 173f; C. Lepelley, Le patronat episcopal aux IVe
et Ve siecles, in: E. Rebillard/C. Sotinel (ed.), U eveque dans la cite du IVe au Ve
siecle, 1998, 17-33.
31 C. Eilers, Roman Patrons of Greek Cities, Oxford 2002; contra J. Nicols, Epictetus,
the Rhetorician from Cnossos, and the Practice of Patronage, Historia 58, 2009, 325-
212 VeitRosenberger

Taking into account the relocation of the monastery and the fact that
Eugippius had his information about the saint from older members of the
monastery, the figure of Severinus was open to inventions and construc-
tions. Whereas it is a topos in ancient biographies to mention the place of
birth and the family of a person, Eugippius does not even tell us where
Severinus came from. Saints had to be strangers where they exercised their
ministries, as Peter Brown has pointed out: by not revealing his origins,
Severinus is the perfect outsider.32 One can argue more along these lines.
In 2001 Walter Goffart asked whether the Vita Severini has an underside,
namely that the text with its overarching theme of the tensions between
Romans and barbarians played an important role in describing the barba-
rians in the time of Eugippius.33 In the same volume Ian Wood tried to
read Severinus as a saint between the worldly and spiritual spheres,34 Peter
Heather pointed out that the absence of Roman military might be empha-
sized in order to enhance the achievements of Severinus,35 To understand
the figure of Severinus one has to take into account his numerous prophe-
cies. He gives a prophecy in at least 50 instances, including two appari-
tions of Severinus in the dreams of others; and in two cases, a J o t more
prophesies" are mentioned. It is hard to find a saint with more prophecies
than Severinus. The prophecies were inserted in order to enhance his au-
thority and to justify his last prophecy: that his monastery had to be given
up, that the people had to leave Noricum. This extraordinary gift seems to
underline the closeness of Severinus to God; nobody else had better con-
nections to the divine,36
Although Severinus had successfully refused the episcopate he acted in
many respects like a bishop. As a "holy man" he surpassed the activities of
a regular bishop: he healed the sick, he helped in a famine, and he was able
to restore the social order,37 Like bishops, Severinus offered free jurisdic-
tion, he was an important person of public life and had a widespread social
network. Unlike a bishop, he did not administer the finances of the dio-

32 P. Brown, The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, in: id., Society
and the Holy in Late Antiquity, London/New York 132, n. 143.
33 W. Goffart, Does the Vita s. Severini Have an Underside?, in: W. Pohl/M. Diesen-
berger, Eugippius und Severin (see note 2), 33-39.
34 I. Wood, The Monastic Frontiers of the Vita Severini, in: W. Pohl/M. Diesenberger,
Eugippius und Severin (see note 2), 41-51.
35 P. Heather, Fall of the Roman Empire (see note 1), 409; B. Ward-Perkins, The Fall of
Rome and the End of Civilization, Oxford 2005, 17-20 and 134-136 reads Eugippius
as a source for the decline of the empire.
36 Even E. Gibbon speaks of the "prophetic tone" of Severinus; Everyman's Library vol.
37 Cf. Rapp, Holy Bishops (see note 9), 6 and 156.
The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum 213

cese, he did not ordain priests, and he had not the power of excommuni-
Three bishops are mentioned in the vita Severini, and the saint has a
special relationship with all of them. First is Mamertinus, a tribune whom
Severinus asks for military help against robbers. Eugippius informs us that
Mamertinus was consecrated bishop at a later time: (4) Me vera Mamerti-
num percontatus est, tunc tribunum, qui post episcopus ordinatus est, utrum
aliquos secum haberet armatos, cum ambus latrunculos sequeretur instantius.
Second is Paulinus, who came as a priest to St. Severinus, attracted by his
spreading fame. Having stayed some days in the company of the blessed
man, and wishing to go home, he was told by him: "Hurry, venerable
priest, for soon, my beloved friend, will you be adorned by the dignity of
episcopal rank, much as the will of the people - so we believe - may be
against your wish." Paulinus, later called sanctus Paulinus episcopus (25,1),
had hardly come home when the words of the prophet concerning him
were fulfilled. For the citizens of Tiburnia, the metropolis of Noricum,
forced him to accept the episcopate.38 It remains unclear if Tiburnia was
the metropolis of Noricum mediterraneum or of both Norican provinces.
To some degree, Severinus seems to be responsible for the ordination of
Paulinus. After only a few days with the saint, Paulinus was made bishop -
and Severinus knew it beforehand due to his prophetic insights. Severinus
even prophesied that Paulinus would be reluctant. The third is Constan-
t s , bishop of Lauriacum. When the pressure by the barbarians increased,
Severinus advised the citizens of Lauriacum to bring all their goods and
property into the city so that the enemies would find no food. Severinus
repeated his advice four days, and finally he sent a monk to Constantius,
ordering the bishop and the inhabitants to guard the walls at night. When
they testified that their scouts had seen no enemies in the area outside the
city, the monk, instructed by Severinus, told them again to guard the
walls. "Stone me, if I am found to have lied", he exclaimed. In the same
night the barbarians attempted to take the city, but were defeated thanks
to the saint. Severinus had contact with three bishops: Mamertinus, Pauli-
nus and Constantius. And he seems to stand far above the three, even
though both Paulinus and Constantius have the epithet sanctus. He gives

38 Eugippius, V. Severin. 21 (236 Regerat): Paulinus quidampresbyter ad sanctum Severi-

numfama eius latius excurrente pervenerat. Hie in consortia beati viri diebus aliquot re-
moratus, cum redire vellet, audivit ab eo: "festina, venerabilispresbyter, quia cito dilectio-
nem tuam, populorum desideriis, ut credimus, obluctantem, dignitas episcopatus ornabit. "
Moxque remeante adpatriam sermo in eo praedicentis impletus est. nam cives Tiburniae,
quae est metropolis Norici, coegeruntpraedictum virum summi sacerdotii suscipere princi-
214 VeitRosenberger

orders to Mamertinus (admittedly, before Mamertinus was made bishop);

he instructs Constantius, and he is somehow connected to the ordination
of Paulinus. Mamertinus, Paulinus and Constantius might be bishops, but
Severinus had a much better connection to God.
Even the death of Severinus is constructed around a bishop. More
than two years before his death Severinus foretold the day it would occur.
It would be the burial day of sanctus (and beatus) Valentinus, once bishop
of both Raetian provinces {Raetiarum episcopus). In his death Severinus is
in one line with the former bishop of Raetia (41). A close reading of the
vita Severini can reveal more about the spiritual activities of the saint.
When Severinus received relics of John the Baptist he seems to have dedi-
cated a church. Eugippius writes: quas dei servus debita veneratione susci-
piens basilicam sancti Iohannis, sicut praedixerat, ultronea benedictione colla-
te sacravit officio sacerdotum... (23) "The servant of God received them
with due reverence, and solemnly dedicated to the service of the priests the
basilica of St. John." As Lotter has pointed out, the dedication of a church
was the task of a bishop. Because Severinus was not a bishop, it is usually
argued, the passage cannot mean that Severinus dedicated the church.
Lotter would expect the terminus technicus for the act of dedication: dedi-
cate or consecrate. According to Lotter, sacrare means "einem Ort oder
Gegenstand religiose Weihe verleihen". So Lotter interprets this passage as
follows: Severinus gave the relics to the church, which then gained the
necessary religious aura (erforderliche Weihe).39 The argument is not con-
vincing. First, the two terms sacrare and consecrare are not so different and
might have been used synonymously. The point is not whether Eugippius
uses the right terminology. Terminology is more fluid than one might
wish: for example, Eugippius calls Severinus sanctus and beatus, obviously
not making much of a precise distinction between the two terms. Second-
ly, and more importantly, Severinus acts very much like a bishop: Eugip-
pius seems to have toyed with the notion of the episcopate in writing the
life of Severinus.40
If Severinus acted like a bishop, was superior to bishops, and even died
like a bishop, the key question facing us cannot be why he refused to be-
come bishop. He did it because everyone was at least expected to do so.
Rather, the question is: why could Severinus successfully refuse the episco-

39 L. Bieler, Eugippius. The Life of Saint Severin (see note 1), 80, n. 24 argues the same
40 A layman can dedicate a church he has financed: Theod. ep. Sirm. 67 (SC 98, 148
Azema); I thank Rudolf Haensch for this reference.
The Saint and the Bishop: Severinus of Noricum 215

It is difficult, if not impossible, to assess the situation in Noricum at

the time of Severinus. When Severinus arrived in Noricum about 454,
there was no longer any imperial civil administration.41 With the excep-
tion of only a few soldiers the army had left. A close look at the structure
of the country is revealing: the province Noricum installed by Augustus
was divided in two parts in Late Antiquity, Noricum ripense and Noricum
mediterraneum, divided by the natural border of the mountain ridge of
the Alps. In the time of Severinus the two provinces differed massively.
The southern region, Noricum mediterraneum, was densely populated;
there are more archaeological finds than in Noricum ripense, for example
Fluchtburgen (refuge centres). In all, Noricum mediterraneum was weal-
thier and more Roman than the Noricum on the Danube, 42 where Severi-
nus lived: here the Roman state had almost completely vanished. The
country was often raided by neighbouring barbarians. It was possible to
successfully refuse the episcopate in this borderland because it lacked an
infrastructure to put pressure on a reluctant candidate - especially if he
was a well-known and influential holy man. Cities like Milan or Tours
offered more compelling and persuading possibilities for the ones who
wanted a bishop. Furthermore, there seems to have been no imperial or
provincial authority to enforce the popular will to make Severinus bishop.


In this paper the question of "episcopal elections" has been dealt with
upside down: when Severinus of Noricum was asked to become bishop, he
refused; he was never again molested in this matter. Speculations regarding
the historicity of the offer of episcopal office or the city which wanted him
as bishop are fruitless. If we remain focused on the narrative itself the fol-
lowing results are probable.
1. In the world described by Eugippius the authority of bishops is not
disputed. Eugippius does not even bother to describe who wanted to vote
for Severinus, the people play no role. If a candidate refuses the episcopate,
it is not worth more than the bare notice. Debate, discussion and doctrinal
strife about the candidates are not an issue. God will finally decide. 2. The
case of Severinus shows that it is not just a hagiographical topos if a bishop

41 E.A. Thompson, Romans & Barbarians: The Decline of the Western Empire, Madi-
son.WI/London 1982, 116-118.
42 G. Alfoldy, Noricum (see note 1), 219-220; cf. P. Heather, Fall of the Roman Empire
(see note 1), 410; Th. Fischer, Noricum, Mainz 2002, 129-146.
216 VeitRosenberger

was reluctant to become ordained. 3. In many respects, Severinus acted

like a bishop. 4. The situation in Noricum was so chaotic that Severinus
could successfully refuse the episcopate.
Synesios of Cyrene organised the defence of his see against nomads43,
Germanus of Auxerre incited the Britons to fight the invaders, St. Patrick,
without the slightest reluctance consecrated bishop in Rome by Pope Ce-
lestine, displayed military virtues.44 The strategy of Severinus was differ-
ent. It consisted of prayer, fast and almsgiving. His humility was so great
that he even declined the episcopate, thereby setting an example for other
clerics. Yet, reality seems to have been much more competitive.

43 Synes. Catastasis (PG 66,1572); j . H . W . G . Liebeschuetz, Barbarians and Bishops:

Army, Church and State in the Age of Arcadius and Chrysostom, Oxford 1990, 231f;
R. Haensch, Bischofe (see note 24), 173.
44 E.A. Thompson, Romans & Barbarians (see note 41), 133.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century:
Numbers and Their Implications

Raymond Van D a m

Demographic studies are a booming field in the interpretation of the early

Roman empire. For studying ancient populations the three most impor-
tant variables are fertility, mortality, and migration. By considering these
variables, demographic studies have highlighted various aspects of the
population of the early empire, including its contours by age and sex, its
total size, its distribution in specific regions, and the possibility of growth
or decline.1
Because adequate data and detailed local records about fertility, mor-
tality, and migration are not available from the ancient world, such studies
typically extrapolate from the model life tables developed by modern de-
mographers. These model life tables are based on modern historical data,
but then deploy different assumptions about fertility and mortality levels
to generate sample profiles of overall populations and patterns of age
structure. In the Roman world life expectancy at birth is assumed to have
been very low. As a result, the scholars of demography in the early Roman
empire recommend the use of the so-called Model West Life Tables, in
particular Level 3 in which life expectancy at birth is 22.9 years for men
and 25 years for women.2
For the later Roman empire there are regrettably few similar studies
about demographic contours. We can probably assume that birthrates and
mortality rates were similar to those of the early empire. The rate of immi-
gration may have changed with the "invasions" of barbarian groups. But

1 For excellent introductions to the demography of the early empire, see T. G. Parkin,
Demography and Roman Society, Baltimore 1992, and B. W. Frier, Demography, in:
The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XI. The High Empire, A.D. 70-192, ed. by
A. K. Bowman/P. Garnsey/D. Rathbone, Cambridge 2 2000, 787-816.
2 Parkin, Demography (see note 1), Frier, Demography (see note 1), and R. P. Sailer,
Patriarchy, Property and Death in the Roman Family, Cambridge 1994, 23, recom-
mend the use of Model West Life Tables, Level 3, available in A. j . Coale/P. Demeny
with B. Vaughan, Regional Model Life Tables and Stable Populations, New York
218 Raymond Van Dam

in contrast to studies of the early empire, it is rare to find estimates of the

total population during Late Antiquity at particular moments, such as for
the empire in the later fourth century before its partition between East and
West. It is also rare to find estimates of the total number of bishops and
clerics in the later Roman empire. Yet without such estimates of the total
population and the number of bishops and clerics, evaluating the impact
of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in the later Roman empire is incomplete.
The following discussion of the number of bishops and clerics is a
modest attempt at locating the ecclesiastical hierarchy in late Roman im-
perial society. This discussion proposes some estimates about various as-
pects of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and evaluates the implications of those
estimates. Some of the estimation involves the use of the model life tables
typically applied to the early Roman empire. The archetype (and inspira-
tion) is Keith Hopkins' article on "Christian Number and Its Implica-
tions." In his discussion of the size of early Christian communities, their
composition by sex and age, and their levels of literary, Hopkins repeated-
ly stressed that he was working with "crude probabilities," not "truth
statements." His estimates "are numerical metaphors, good for thinking
about Christians with." My discussion likewise involves a lot of conjec-

The Number of Bishops in the Early Fourth Century

How many bishops were there in the Roman empire? At the beginning of
the fourth century there were most likely not many. Several vectors seem
to point toward the need for a low estimate.
One is that there were still not many Christians in the empire. Adolf
Harnack guessed that the number of Christians had reached 7 to 10 per-
cent of the total population by 312. Subsequent scholars have followed his
lead, usually with the assumption that the number was increasing rapidly,
in particular after Constantine began to patronize Christianity. On the
basis of the growing use of distinctively Christian names, Roger Bagnall
suggests that just under 20 percent of the population in Egypt was Chris-
tian in the early fourth century, and about 80 percent in the early fifth
century. In contrast, other scholars have suggested lower estimates and
slower rates of increase even after Constantine. Ramsay MacMullen esti-
mates that at the end of the fourth century Christians were still less than 7
percent of the population of Rome: "the evidence from Rome is not at

3 K. Hopkins, Christian Number and Its Implications, JECS 6, 1998, 195.

Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 219

odds with the evidence from cities anywhere else in the empire." He also
suggests that the percentage of Christians in the rural population was even
A second factor to evaluate is the reliability of historical records for
early periods. In his Ecclesiastical History Eusebius was able to provide a
continuous list of bishops only for a few important cities: for Rome, start-
ing with Linus as "the first chosen to hold the episcopacy" (but subse-
quently considered the successor to Peter); for Alexandria, starting with
Annianus in the mid-first century; for Antioch, starting with Evodius in
the mid-first century (but subsequently considered the successor to Peter);
for Jerusalem starting with Jacobus (James), a brother of Jesus. Most of the
other early bishops Eusebius mentioned were stray, isolated references.5
The mid-third century marked, or was thought to mark, a transition.
Eusebius mentioned more bishops in the East only from about the mid-
third century, including Theoctistus, the first bishop he noted for his
home see of Caesarea in Palestine. In the West, a legend recorded by Gre-
gory of Tours attributed the foundation of the episcopal sees at Tours and
six other cities to "seven men ordained as bishops to preach in Gaul" dur-
ing the reign of the emperor Decius in the mid-third century. This tradi-
tion, however, was problematic and did not synchronize well with Gre-
gory's list of all the bishops for Tours. According to this list, Martin
became only the third bishop of Tours in 371, but 120 years after the first
A third factor is the attendance of bishops at councils. Sixty bishops
attended the "huge council" at Rome in 251. These bishops presumably
represented sees throughout the West, not in Italy alone. The council at
Rome in 313 was attended by three bishops from Gaul and sixteen from
Italy, including the bishop of Rome. The council at Aries in 314 was at-
tended by thirty-three bishops from Gaul, Italy, and Africa, as well as
Spain, Sicily, and Dalmatia. These totals suggest that there were still few

4 A. Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries,
tr. j . Moffatt, Vol. 2, London, 1908, 248 n . l ; R. S. Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity,
Princeton 1993, 280-281; R. MacMullen, The Second Church. Popular Christianity
A.D. 200-400, Atlanta 2009, 113.
5 Eus. h.e. II 1,2, Jacobus (SC 31, 49 Bardy); II 24, Annianus (SC 31, 91 Bardy); III 2,
Linus (SC 31, 98 Bardy); III 22, Evodius (SC 31, 125 Bardy).
6 Eus. h.e. VI 19,17, Theoctistus (SC 41, 118 Bardy); VII 14 (SC 41, 188 Bardy),
bishops of mid-third century. Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. I, 30 (Gregorii episcopii Turo-
nensis libri historiarum X, M G H SS rer. Merov. 1,1, Hannover 2 1951, 22-23, ed. B.
Krusch and W. Levison), seven missionaries; X, 31(532 Krusch/Levison), list of bi-
shops of Tours, with the discussion of these traditions in E. Griffe, La Gaule
chretienne a l'epoque romaine, Vol. 1, Paris 1964, 83-115.
220 Raymond Van Dam

bishops in the West. The council of Nicaea in 325 was attended by hun-
dreds of bishops, 318 according to later accounts influenced by the Old
Testament, but more likely fewer, perhaps about 220. Almost all of these
bishops were from eastern cities. Since Constantine had tried to ease the
burden of traveling by allowing these churchmen to use public transporta-
tion, these bishops at the council of Nicaea may well have been almost all
of the bishops in the East at the time.7
In the early fourth century there were most likely more Christian
communities in the East than in the West, and hence more bishops. The
total number of bishops in the empire was probably in the low hundreds.
With the publication of Constantine's support for Christianity, the num-
ber of bishops began to increase in both East and West.

The Number of Bishops in 400

The evidence for an increasing number of bishops becomes more reliable

during the fourth century. By the end of the fourth century typically each
city had its own bishop. According to Theodore of Mopsuestia, in the past
bishops known as "apostles" had administered entire provinces, but now
they each governed only "the city or the region to which they had been
appointed." If the relationship between a bishop and his see was consi-
dered the spiritual equivalent of a "marriage," then each city was supposed
to have only one bishop, and each bishop was supposed to remain wedded
to his original see for life.8
Calculating the number of cities in the empire might hence provide a
way of determining the number of bishops. In fact, various factors upset
this nominal correspondence between cities and sees. Some cities did not
have their own bishops; some communities that were technically not cities
did have their own bishops; and some cities had, for various reasons, more
than one bishop.
For eastern provinces formal records are available, including the lists of
signatories at ecumenical and regional councils, the lists of episcopal sees
in the Notitiaegraecae, and the official registers of Hierocles and Georgius.
By conflating these records, Arnold Hugh Martin Jones, in The Cities of

7 Council at Rome in 251: Eus. h.e. VI 43,2 (SC 4 1 , 153 Bardy). For the different lists
of the bishops at the council of Nicaea, see S. Destephen, Prosopographie chretienne
du Bas-Empire, 3. Prosopographie du diocese d'Asie (325-641), Paris 2008, 18-20.
8 Theod. Mop. comm. in ep. Pauli ad Tim. I (ed. by H. B. Swete, Theodori episcopi
Mopsuesteni in epistolas B. Pauli commentarii. The Latin Version with the Greek
Fragments, Vol. 2, Cambridge 1882, 122-23).
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 221

the Eastern Roman Provinces, listed all the cities in many of the eastern civil
dioceses during "the Byzantine period." Despite occasional uncertainty
about renamed cities and about the dates when some communities became
cities, here are his totals for the dioceses:
Southern part of Thracia, 42 cities plus Constantinople
Asiana (i.e. western and southern Asia Minor), 362 cities
Pontus (i.e. northern and eastern Asia Minor), 98 cities
Oriens (i.e. Cilicia, Syria, Palestine and regions farther east, Egypt
Libya, Cyprus), 369 cities
The total of these diocesan lists is 872 cities for the eastern empire, exclud-
ing the northern part of Thracia as well as the dioceses of Dacia (i.e. along
the eastern middle Danube) and Macedonia (i.e. the southern Greek pe-
ninsula and Crete).9
These lists of cities do not correspond exactly to lists of attested sees.
Sylvain Destephen's magnificent new Prosopographie du Diocese d'Asie,
covering the period from 325 to 641, offers an opportunity to make com-
parisons with Jones' collated lists of provinces. For the provinces in the
diocese of Asiana (sometimes known as Asia), here is the comparison be-
tween the number of sees (i.e. cities for which bishops are attested over the
entire period), as listed in Destephen's "Repertoire des eveches," and the
number of cities, as listed in Jones' tables:
Asia (the province, not the diocese): 43 sees, but 45 cities
Caria: 30 sees, but 34 (or 32) cities
Hellespont: 17 sees, but 34 cities
(Islands: excluded because Jones' table is incomplete)
Lycaonia: 21 sees, but 19 cities
Lycia: 40 sees and 40 cities, but several that do not match on each list
Lydia: 28 sees and 28 cities, but one that does not match on each list
Pamphylia: 43 sees, but 48 cities
PhrygiaPacatiana: 37 sees, but 41 cities
PhrygiaSalutaris: 29 sees, but 31 cities
Pisidia: 24 sees, but 29 cities
In these ten provinces in Asiana there were 349 cities but only 312 sees
(including some that did not match). Until more volumes of Prosopogra-
phie chretienne are published for the other eastern regions, it remains un-
clear whether this discrepancy of about 10 percent between cities and sees

9 A. H. M. Jones, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces, Oxford 2 1971, xiv,
classifying the period from Diocletian to Justinian as "Byzantine."
222 Raymond Van Dam

was common throughout the East. It also remains uncertain when bishops
were first consecrated at some cities, and whether some cities remained as
In Italy, Gaul, and Spain the correlation between sees and cities is
even more problematic. In their Prosopographie de I'ltalie chretienne
Charles Pietri and Luce Pietri listed 242 sees in Italy for the period be-
tween 313 and 604. Many of the bishops at these sees, however, are at-
tested only during the second half of this period in 451 or afterward, in
particular in the letters of pope Gregory the Great. For the period before
the council of Chalcedon, bishops are attested at only about sixty-eight
sees (the approximation is due to the uncertain dating of some bishops).
Some of the other sees were no doubt in existence before any bishops are
attested in the surviving sources; we might estimate that there were about
eighty bishoprics in 400. These crude numbers suggest that the total of
episcopal sees in Italy exploded, perhaps even tripled, after the mid-fifth
century. This increase in the number of bishops was presumably somehow
correlated with the end of imperial rule and the establishment of an Os-
trogothic kingdom and then a Lombard kingdom in Italy.10
For Gaul lists of signatories at regional councils are available, as well as
the civil register of cities in the Notitia Galliarum. This Notitia mentioned
113 cities in Gaul in the late fourth century. The difficulty is determining
how quickly each city (and sometimes a community that was not a city)
acquired its bishop. Elie Griffe estimated that in the mid-fourth century
there were about seventy bishops in Gaul, and up to 117 in the mid-fifth
century. We might estimate that in 400 there were about ninety bishops
in Gaul.11
In Spain it is first of all difficult to define cities. In the later first cen-
tury under the Flavian emperors the peninsula was divided among about
thirty colonies and between 300 and 400 municipia. But clearly there were
never hundreds of bishops in Spain. Nineteen bishops attended the coun-
cil of Elvira at the beginning of the fourth century, and nineteen bishops

10 C. Pictri/L. Pietri, Prosopographie chretienne du Bas-Empire, 2. Prosopographie de

I'ltalie chretienne (313-604), Vol. 2, Rome 2000, 2404-2427, "Fastes episcopaux de
I'ltalie, par cites episcopates."
11 For the Notitia Galliarum as a secular administrative list compiled under the usurper
Magnus Maximus and subsequently turned into an ecclesiastical list, see J. Harries,
Church and State in the Notitia Galliarum, JRS 68, 1978, 26-43. Number of bishops:
Griffe, La Gaul chretienne (see note 6), Vol. 1, 185, mid-fourth century, Vol. 2, 125,
mid-fifth century.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 223

attended the council of Toledo in 400. In the early fifth century thirty
episcopal sees are attested in Spain.12
Cities without bishops is one complication for determining the num-
ber of bishops in the empire. Another is villages with bishops. The promo-
tion of villages as episcopal sees was most apparent in North Africa as a
consequence of the controversy between catholic and Donatist Christians.
At the Conference of Carthage in 411 each side accused the other of try-
ing to inflate its total number by consecrating "imaginary" bishops. The
Donatist bishop Petilianus of Constantina complained that "although
there is one bishop of Milevis from our side, three seem to have been es-
tablished by them." The catholic bishop Alypius of Thagaste complained
that "all of them have been consecrated as bishops in villages or estates,
not in cities." Petilianus had a quick reply: "You likewise have many [bish-
ops] scattered among all the fields. In fact, wherever you have many [bish-
ops], you also certainly have [bishops] without congregations." Almost
300 bishops from each church, catholic and Donatist, attended or were
attested at the Conference of Carthage. These were not all the bishops in
each church, however. In his great edition of the proceedings of the Con-
ference, Serge Lancel concluded that each church in fact had over 400
bishops in the early fifth century.13
Elsewhere in the empire there were other villages or districts that had
their own bishops. As a metropolitan bishop Basil of Caesarea appointed
no fewer than fifty "rural bishops" to serve at villages in the Cappadocian
countryside and on the vast imperial estates. These rural bishops in turn
were involved in the recruitment of new clerics and may have supervised
their own lesser clerics. Basil also noted that near Isaura in Lycaonia there
were several "small communities and small villages that have possessed
episcopal thrones since ancient times." Basil now hoped to replace those
village bishops with "overseers" in order to improve the standing of the
bishop of Isaura. Even though the ecclesiastical hierarchy more or less

12 M. Kulikowski, Late Roman Spain and Its Cities, Baltimore 2004, 1-16, colonies and
mumcipia, 39-43, council of Elvira. For the total of thirty bishoprics, see K. Bowes,
"Une coterie espagnole pieuse." Christian Archaeology and Christian Communities in
Fourth- and Fifth-Century Hispania, in: Hispania in Late Antiquity. Current Perspec-
tives, ed. by K. Bowes/M. Kulikowski, Leiden 2005, 235-237.
13 Conference of Carthage, Gesta 1,65, "duos in unius plebe fuisse imaginarie constitu-
tes," one bishop, 181, villages, 182, fields. For the total number of bishops, see S.
Lancel, Actes de la Conference de Carthage in 411, SC 194, 195, 224, 373, Paris
1972-1991, V o l l ^ S C 194, 119.
224 Raymond Van Dam

replicated the civil hierarchy of cities and provinces, there were still many
anomalies left over from earlier times.14
A final complicating factor is that some sees had more than one bish-
op. The financial support of Constantine and subsequent Christian empe-
rors, either as gifts or as exemptions, had made service as a bishop very
attractive. At the giant cities such as Rome and Constantinople various
Christian factions consecrated their own bishops. At Rome during the
fourth and early fifth centuries, in addition to the official bishops, there
were occasional bishops representing the Luciferians, the Novatianists, and
even the Donatists. At Antioch in the later fourth century two, three, even
four rival bishops claimed the see concurrently. In Asia Minor the suppor-
ters of the heresiarchs Aetius and Eunomius appointed their own bishops
for Constantinople and Antioch as well as regional bishops throughout
Asia Minor, Palestine, and Egypt. Sometimes men simply promoted
themselves. In Cappadocia a deacon assumed the title and robes of a pa-
triarch and gathered a congregation of young men and women. The
spread of Christianity seemingly generated its own counter-culture of
alternative sects that both mocked and mimicked the trappings and offices
of the dominant version.15
The most obvious example of this doubling of bishops was, again, in
North Africa, where many cities had both a catholic and a Donatist bi-
shop. During the roll-call of the first session of the Conference in 411
these rival bishops acknowledged each other. "I am present." "I recognize
him." Some added a few angry comments about their rivals. "I recently
learned about him through the malice he did to me." As a result, although
there were more than 800 catholic and Donatist bishops in North Africa
in the early fifth century, during the entire period covered by Andre Man-
douze's Prosopographie de I'Afrique chretienne, from 303 to 533, only about
734 sees are attested. Many sees had had two rival bishops. In addition,
some percentage of these sees were technically not cities. In North Africa
there were obviously more sees than cities already during the fourth cen-

14 Villages in Lycaonia: Bas. Caes. en. 190,1 (ed. and tr. by Y. Courtonne, Saint Basile.
Lettres, vol. 2, Paris 1961, 141-142).
15 Appointment of bishops: Philost. h.e. 8,2-4.6-7 (GCS Philostorgius, 105-106 and
107 Bidez/Winkelmann). Deacon Glycerius: Greg. Nazianz. ep. 246-248 (ed. and tr.
by P. Gallay, Saint Gregoire de Nazianze. Lettres, vol. 2, Paris 1967, 135-138) = Bas.
Caes., ep. 169-171 (104-106 Courtonne).
16 Conference of Carthage, Gesta 1,126 (CChr.SL 149A, 11 Lancel). The number of
sees is based on a count of the sites for which at least one bishop is attested in the
"Fastes de l'eglise d'Afrique (303-533)" compiled by S.-M. Pellistrandi in A. Man-
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 225

So how many bishops were there in ca. 400? For the eastern empire
Jones lists about 872 cities for the dioceses he surveyed; including addi-
tional cities from the Balkan regions and the Greek peninsula would bring
the total up to perhaps 1,000 cities. Destephen's tables suggest a 10 per-
cent discount from cities to sees, which was perhaps mitigated in part by
bishops representing villages and the extra bishops consecrated by factional
groups. For the eastern empire we can assume a maximum of between 900
and 1,000 bishops in 400. Most likely the actual number was lower.17
For the western empire there were perhaps about eighty bishops in
Italy, perhaps about ninety bishops in Gaul, and thirty bishops in Spain.
Britain was already on its way to disengaging from the empire and can be
ignored. But in North Africa the existence of two rival churches meant
that there were over 800 bishops. For the western empire we might
assume about 1000 bishops in 400, with 80 percent of them in North

The Number of Lesser Clerics

The number of lesser clerics, including priests and deacons, is even more
difficult to estimate, since there was no rule similar to the (nominal) one-
to-one match between cities and bishops. The evidence for the number of
clerics consists largely of stray examples and anecdotes about particular
In large cities there were hundreds of lesser clerics. In the mid-third
century, when Rome still had a population of one million residents, there
were 154 clerics, consisting of forty-six priests, seven deacons, seven sub-
deacons, forty-two acolytes, and fifty-two exorcists, readers, and doorkeep-
ers. In 535, when Constantinople had a population of up to 600,000 resi-
dents, the emperor Justinian ordered the number of clerics associated with
the "great church" to be frozen at 425, including sixty priests, 100 dea-
cons, forty deaconesses, ninety sub-deacons, 110 readers, and twenty-five
choristers, as well as 100 doorkeepers. In the fourth century Carthage had
a population of over 100,000 residents. In the later fifth century, even

douze, Prosopographie chretienne du Bas-Empire, 1. Prosopographie de l'Afrique

chretienne (303-533), Paris 1982, 1246-1300.
17 R. MacMullen, Voting about God in Early Church Councils, New Haven 2006, 120
n.4, suggests 150 or more bishops for the Aegean and Greece. For Egypt, Libya, and
Cyrenaica, Bagnall, Egypt (see note 4), 285, suggests "90 to 100 bishoprics by 320, a
structure that remained stable for a long time thereafter," including about 75 bishops
in Egypt.
226 Raymond Van Dam

though now under Vandal rule, there were supposedly still over 500 clerics
at Carthage, including young boys serving as readers.18
Most cities in the Roman empire were much smaller, with urban pop-
ulations of perhaps 10,000-20,000 residents, but sometimes only a few
thousand. Among these smaller cities the number of clerics fluctuated
greatly. Even bishops might be unsure about the number of their clerics.
When bishop Ibas of Edessa was defending himself in the mid-fifth cen-
tury, he thought that his clergy included "just over two hundred or even
more; I don't remember the number." 19
These numbers are obviously disparate, from different cities at differ-
ent times and conjured up for various reasons. But once Constantine and
subsequent Christian emperors extended privileges and immunities to
clerics, the total was bound to grow. Already in 326 Constantine noted
that men were applying for exemption from municipal burdens "under the
pretext of being clerics." He instead insisted that the number of clerics was
not to be enlarged "rashly and beyond measure."20
By 400, after almost a century of Christian emperors, the number of
clerics had no doubt expanded. As a total number we might estimate
about 100,000 clerics, including both major and minor clerics. This
would average out to about fifty clerics for each of a maximum of 2,000
bishops, certainly fewer in smaller cities and villages, but many more in
larger cities. In terms of size the only comparable institution in the Roman
empire was the army. As a result, modern scholars sometimes follow the
lead of ancient authors by referring to the ecclesiastical establishment as a
"huge army of clerics and monks." 21

18 Clergy at Rome: Eus. h.e. VI 43,11 (SC 41, 156 Bardy); Constantinople: Justinian,
Novellae 3,1 (CIC(B).N, 20-21 Schoell/Kroll); Carthage: Victor of Vita, Hist, perse-
cutions 3,34 (ed. by S. Lancel, Victor de Vita. Histoire de la persecution vandale en
Afrique, Paris 2002, 192-194).
19 For the size of cities in Italy and North Africa, see R. Duncan-Jones, The Economy of
the Roman Empire. Quantitative Studies, Cambridge 2 1982, 259-277. Clergy at
Edessa: Council of Chalcedon, Session 10 (trans, by R. Price and M. Caddis, The
Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Translated Texts for Historians 45, Vol. 2, Liver-
pool 2005, 288).
20 Pretext: CTh XVI 2,6 (ed. by Th. Mommsen, Theodosiani libri XVI cum Constitu-
tionibus Sirmondianis, vol. 1/2, Dublin/Zurich 1971,836-837).
21 Huge army: A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, Oxford 1964, 933.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 227

Bishops, Clerics, and the Total Population

Bruce Frier has suggested that in AD 14 the total population of the empire
was 45.5 million people. On the assumptions that the population grew at
a constant annual rate of 0.15 percent and that 20,000 slaves entered the
empire each year, he concludes that in 164 the population had risen to
61.4 million people. Then the Antonine plague reduced the total popula-
tion by perhaps 10 per cent. During the third century political instability
in frontier regions, frequent military campaigns, and the outbreak of
another plague (described by bishop Cyprian of Carthage) may have led to
an additional slow decline in population. During the fourth century the
total population of the empire was perhaps still around 50 million people,
but then began to decline, earlier in the West than in the East. This num-
ber for the total population during the fourth century is simply a guess
and may be too high.22
In absolute terms a maximum of about 2,000 bishops supported by
about 100,000 clerics seems to comprise an insufficient total for effective
ministry. If the total population of the empire is estimated to be still 50
million people in 400, and if both the total population and the clergy were
evenly distributed, there would be one bishop for 25,000 people, and one
cleric for 500 people. Since such large ratios would have made effective
pastoral care difficult, we might hence assume that a substantial percentage
of the total population was not Christian. If Christians represented only
50 percent of the total population, there would be one bishop for 12,500
Christians, and one cleric for 250 Christians. If Christians represented
only 10 percent of the total population, there would be one bishop for
2,500 Christians, and one cleric for 50 Christians. The pastoral ministry
of bishops and clerics becomes more plausible as our assumptions about
the percentage of Christians decrease.
In fact, neither the total population nor the clergy was distributed
evenly over the empire. In his discussion of the population of the early
empire Frier also estimated the populations of regions within the empire

22 Frier, Demography (see note 1), 811-816. M. Corbier, Coinage, Society and Econo-
my, in: The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XII. The Crisis of Empire, A.D.
193-337, ed. by A. K. Bowman/P. Garnsey/A. Cameron, Cambridge 2 2005, 397-400
discusses the total population during the third century but does not offer even an es-
timated number. B. Ward-Perkins, Land, Labour and Settlement, in: The Cambridge
Ancient History, Volume XIV. Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, A.D. 425-600,
ed. by A. Cameron/B. Ward-Perkins/M. Whitby, Cambridge 2 2000, 327, suggests "a
substantial fall in population" between 400 and 800: "the population did drop, per-
haps even dramatically (i.e. to h a l f - o r even l e s s - o f its previous, Roman levels)."
228 Raymond Van Dam

before the impact of the Antonine plague. He suggested that the popula-
tion of the Latin West had reached 38.2 million, and of the Greek East
23.1 million. If we assume that the total population of 61.4 million people
in 164 had declined to a population of 50 million in 400, then simply as a
heuristic exercise we might also assume that Frier's estimated regional
populations had likewise declined evenly by the same amount of 18.6
percent. In that case, the population for the entire Latin West in 400
would be about 31.1 million, including about 6.2 million in Italy, about
7.3 million in Gaul, about 6.1 million in Spain, and about 5.3 million in
North Africa. The population for the entire Greek East would be about
18.8 million, including about 4.6 million in Egypt and Libya, about 3.9
million in Greater Syria, about 7.5 million in Asia Minor, and about 2.4
million in the Greek peninsula.23
These regional populations can then be matched, more or less, to the
estimated total number of bishops in the regions in 400. According to
these rudimentary estimates:
Italy: ca. 80 bishops, hence about 77,500 people per bishop
Gaul: ca. 90 bishops, hence about 81,100 people per bishop
Spain: ca. 30 bishops, hence about 203,300 people per bishop
North Africa: ca. 800 catholic and Donatist bishops, hence about 6,625
people per bishop; alternatively, ca. 400 catholic or ca. 400 Donatist bish-
ops, hence about 13,250 people per catholic or Donatist bishop
The eastern regions match up even less closely with the civil dioceses of
the later Roman empire, and the estimates are for cities rather than for
Diocese of Oriens, with 369 cities and perhaps about 332 bishops,
matched with the population of about 8.5 million in Egypt, Libya, and
Greater Syria: hence, about 25,600 people per bishop
Dioceses of Asiana and Pontus, with 460 cities and perhaps about 414
bishops, matched with the population of about 7.5 million in Asia Mi-
nor: hence, about 18,100 people per bishop
The presence of giant cities such as Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, and An-
tioch would certainly distort these averages. In addition, these averages
obviously need to be scaled down to represent the smaller percentage of
Christians in the total population. But even in this crude format they
make clear the extraordinary regional variation in the size and responsibili-

23 Regional estimates in 164: Frier, Demography (see note 1), 814, Table 6. C. McEve-
dy/R. Jones, Atlas of World Population History, Harmondsworth 1978, estimate
slightly lower regional totals for the Roman empire in 200. Bagnall, Egypt (see note
17), 177 n.151, suggests a population of 4.2 million in late antique Egypt.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 229

ties of bishoprics during the fourth century. The contrast between regions
in western Europe, with comparatively few bishoprics, and regions in the
Greek East, with comparatively many bishoprics, is very striking, and
North Africa represented a quite unique situation. To cite dueling neolo-
gisms, according to Kim Bowes, Spain was "a starkly under-bishoped
province," while according to Ramsay MacMullen, "Africa was over-

Bishops, Clerics, and the Allocation of Manpower

Another important way of thinking about bishops and clerics is to evaluate

their total number against the available resources of the empire. One
scarce resource was mature men. In the demographic regime characteristic
of the Roman empire "high mortality rates produced a youngish popula-
tion." According to the model life table typically applied to Roman im-
perial society, in a stationary population with no population growth or
decline the average age for males was 26.2 years. Just over one-third (34.2
percent) of males would have been younger than age 15. About 9.8 per-
cent were teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, about 17.6 percent
were in their twenties, about 14.5 percent in their thirties, and about 11
percent in their forties. Only about 12.9 percent of men were age 50 or
In aggregate, about 52.9 percent of men were between the ages of 15
and 49. If we assume that the estimated total population of 50 million was
evenly divided between men and women, then there were about 13.2 mil-
lion men between the ages of 15 and 49. Most of them were working in
agriculture as farmers and pastoralists. In this sort of agrarian society
working the land required at least 75 percent, and perhaps closer to 90
percent, of the labour force. That left comparatively few men to do some-
thing other than work the land.26

24 Bowes, Une coterie (see note 12), 237; MacMullen, Voting (see note 17), 5. Note
that the average for Oriens is also skewed. Egypt had about one-half of the population
of Oriens, but only about one-quarter or one-fifth of the bishops.
25 Quotation about mortality rates from Frier, Demography (see note 1), 794. Percen-
tages of men in age groups from Model West Life Tables, Males Mortality Level 3. In
fact, there were probably slightly more men than women in Roman society: see Par-
kin, Demography (see note 1), 98-102.
26 For estimates of the agrarian labour force, see N. Morley, The Early Roman Empire:
Distribution, in: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World, ed.
by W. Scheidel/I. Morris/R. Sailer, Cambridge 2007, 578, "approximately 10 percent
230 Raymond Van Dam

Other institutions were competing with episcopal and clerical service

for the available manpower. One rival was big cities. In the early Roman
empire Rome is estimated to have had a population of one million resi-
dents. At the beginning of the fourth century its population was perhaps
still about one million, but by the beginning of the fifth century it had
declined to perhaps 500,000 residents. In contrast, at its foundation in
330 Constantinople had perhaps 30,000 residents, but at the beginning of
the fifth century its population had increased tenfold to perhaps 300,000
residents. The combined populations of Carthage, Alexandria, and Anti-
och would have totaled perhaps between 400,000 and 500,000 residents.
Because of endemic diseases and the lack of effective sanitation, mortality
rates were higher in very large cities than in the countryside. To sustain
these very large urban populations residents had to be "imported," perhaps
1 percent of the total population each year. Even though its population
was declining during the fourth century, people still migrated to Rome. In
contrast, the growth of Constantinople would have had a volatile impact
on the eastern provinces. In order to provide for its rapid increase in popu-
lation and for the replacements needed to sustain its large population,
hundreds of thousands of people must have moved to the new capital
during the fourth century.27
A second rival was the army. In the early Roman empire the emperors
maintained a standing army of about 350,000 soldiers. Although this
army discharged between 6,000 and 7,000 veterans each year, it also
required 15,000 new recruits. The army was constantly exchanging older
men for more than twice as many younger men. Then the emperor
Diocletian in the later third century and subsequent emperors enlarged the
size of the army, perhaps by almost one-quarter to 435,000 soldiers. The
number of new recruits presumably would have increased by a similar
percentage, to almost 19,000 young men each year. Some, perhaps many,
of these new soldiers were conscripted from Roman citizens or barbarian
groups already living inside the empire. But since the emperors gradually
relaxed the requirements about age and height, the recruitment of citizens

of Roman subjects were dependent for their food and other resources on the agricul-
tural labor of others," and F. L. Cheyette, The Disappearance of the Ancient Land-
scape and the Climatic Anomaly of the Early Middle Ages: A Question To Be Pur-
sued, EME 16, 2008, 128, "an estimate of eight or nine agricultural workers for every
individual not working in the fields would be a reasonable guess."
27 R. Van Dam, Rome and Constantinople. Rewriting Roman History during Late
Antiquity, Waco 2010.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 231

was presumably becoming more difficult. As a result, many soldiers were

recruited from barbarians outside the frontiers.28
A third rival was the imperial administration. The reforms associated
with Diocletian and the other Tetrarchic emperors had led to a considera-
ble increase in the size of the imperial administration. The co-rulership of
multiple emperors had necessitated the establishment of multiple courts
and an expansion of their accompanying palatine ministries. An increase
in the number of provinces, dioceses, and prefectures required more high-
level magistrates and their accompanying departments of secretaries and
other bureaucrats. Peter Heather estimates that in 400 approximately
2,700 positions with at least equestrian rank were available in palatine
ministries in each half of the empire. These ministries also employed many
lesser secretaries and functionaries. The departments that supported the
three or four prefects, twelve diocesan vicars, and about one hundred pro-
vincial governors would have required another 17,600 bureaucrats. The
administration of the empire hence offered thousands of jobs at various
levels, from secretaries to prefects and powerful court magistrates. Magis-
trates and ministries also hired thousands of legal advisors. While the top
magistrates typically served for comparatively short tenures, the civil ser-
vants had effectively lifetime tenure. Christopher Kelly suggests that there
were about 35,000 salaried imperial officials serving in the administration
of the later Roman empire.29
For his new capital at Constantinople, Constantine founded a new
senate. Initially many of its members were current senators who were resi-
dent in the East. The emperor Constantius initiated a campaign to recruit
more senators, in particular from municipal decurions. The emperors
Valentinian and Valens extended senatorial rank to high-level magistrates,
high-level court officials, and even top military officers. In an oration deli-

28 R. MacMullen, How Big Was the Roman Imperial Army?, Klio 62, 1980, 451-460,
suggests 350,000 soldiers in the Severan army; W. Scheidel, Marriage, Families, and
Survival. Demographic Aspects, in: A Companion to the Roman Army, ed. by P.
Erdkamp, Oxford 2007, 432, calculates the number of discharged veterans and new
recruits for the early imperial army; M. Whitby, The Army, in: The Cambridge An-
cient History, Volume XIV. Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, A.D. 425-600,
ed. by A. Cameron/B. Ward-Perkins/M. Whitby, Cambridge 2 2000, 292, suggests
435,000 soldiers under Diocletian. For the difficulties of recruitment, see Jones, Later
Roman Empire (see note 21), 614-23.
29 P. Heather, Senators and Senates, in: The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XIII.
The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425, ed. by A. Cameron/P. Garnsey, Cambridge 2 1998,
184-210, and C. Kelly, Emperors, Government and Bureaucracy, in: The Cambridge
Ancient History, Volume XIII. The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425, ed. by A. Came-
ron/P. Garnsey, Cambridge 2 1998, 163 n.132.
232 Raymond Van Dam

vered during the 380s Themistius claimed that the senate at Constanti-
nople had increased from 300 members to 2000 members.30
Yet another rival was the growing interest in monasticism and asceti-
cism. Many men now choose to leave their families and communities to
live in monasteries or in ascetic solitude. The number of monks and ascet-
ics in 400 is difficult to quantify. In the eastern regions, in particular
Egypt, there were perhaps already tens of thousands of monks; in the
western regions where monasticism became a force only later, there were
perhaps still only thousands of monks. The reaction of the emperor Valens
nevertheless provides an indirect indication of the increasing number of
monks, because during the 370s he ordered monks to be drafted into the
army. The desertion of young men to monasticism was hindering military
The increase in the number of bishops and clerics during the fourth
century cannot be isolated from consideration of the other demands for
the available manpower. The most important requirement was working
the land. Given the absence of technological innovation and the difficulty
in increasing the productivity of both labour and land, this was not a ne-
gotiable requirement. In the later Roman empire a very high percentage of
the labour force worked in agriculture. The institutions competing for the
remaining manpower included very large cities, the army, the imperial
administration, monastic communities, and, not least, the ecclesiastical
In some cases there was overlap among these rival demands. Monks
and sometimes soldiers also worked the land; monks, former soldiers, and
former bureaucrats might become clerics and bishops; former soldiers
might migrate to big cities. The rapid increase in the number of bishops
and lesser clerics hence needs to be interpreted as an "ecological" problem
involving the allocation of a limited commodity. The significant issue was
not a shortage of manpower, but rather the distribution of available man-
power. In this political and ecclesiastical "ecosystem," because so many
men were working in agriculture, mature men were a scarce resource. If
the population of Constantinople, the size of the army, and the size of the

30 Them. or. 34,13 (ed. by H. Schenkl/G. Downey/F. Norman, Themistii orationes

quae supersunt, vol. 2, BSGRT, Leipzig 1971, 221,15-222,7), with Jones, Later Ro-
man Empire (see note 21), 527, suggesting that the senates at Rome and Constanti-
nople were of equal size.
31 See Jones, Later Roman Empire (see note 21), 930-931, citing some numbers of
monks from various texts, and N. Lenski, Valens and the Monks. Cudgeling and
Conscription as a Means of Social Control, D O P 58, 2004, 95-103, for Valens' at-
tacks on monks.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 233

imperial administration were going to increase considerably during the

fourth century, then something else, such as the population of Rome, had
to decrease.
An increase in the size of the ecclesiastical hierarchy added another
burden. Most likely bishops were fulltime churchmen, consumers and not
producers. But it is unlikely that all of the other clerics were also fulltime
churchmen, supported entirely by ecclesiastical revenues. We should prob-
ably assume that many clerics, in particular minor clerics, were part-time
churchmen. Their primary jobs were still in agriculture.

Clerical Careers

In the later fourth and early fifth century bishops of Rome proposed regu-
lations about the length of clerical service required before promotion to an
episcopacy. Bishop Siricius declared that deacons should be at least thirty
years old and should serve for at least five years. Priests should serve for
another ten years before they could receive an episcopal chair. Bishop
Zosimus subsequently asserted that men should serve as lectors until they
were twenty years old, then as lectors or exorcists for five years, as acolytes
or subdeacons for four years, as deacons for five years, and finally as
priests. Then, if their lives were exemplary, they might hold the "highest
priesthood," an episcopacy. These recommendations implied that the
youngest appropriate age for holding an episcopacy was about 45, 32
The model these bishops had in mind was the Roman army. Siricius
compared the ecclesiastical administration to a "holy army," while Zosi-
mus claimed that clerics were serving "in the camps of the Lord." In its
overall contours the ecclesiastical establishment did indeed resemble the
army, which included many ordinary soldiers and a hierarchy of high-
ranking officers.33
But there were two important differences. One was length of service.
Soldiers served for fixed tenures of at least twenty years and were then
discharged to become peasant farmers, labourers, small merchants, or,
sometimes, monks, clerics, or bishops (such as Martin of Tours). In con-
trast, clerics served for life and were never discharged. The army ex-
changed older soldiers for younger soldiers; the clergy recruited more
young clerics to replace deceased clerics or to join the older clerics.

32 Siricius ep. 1,13 (PL 13, 1142a-1143a). Zos. ep. 9,5 (PL 20, 672b-673a).
33 Siricius ep. 1,14 (PL 13, 1143a). Zos. ep. 9,2 (PL 20, 671a-b).
234 Raymond Van Dam

The second difference was the possibility of upward social mobility.

Service in the army had always offered the most promising opportunity for
ordinary Roman men to improve their rank and status. In the early empire
soldiers could work their way up through the ranks to become centurions
with higher salaries, and non-citizens could acquire Roman citizenship. In
the later empire veterans typically received allotments of land as well as
immunity from various taxes and from service as municipal decurions,34
Clerical service offered some of the same rewards, but not to the same
sort of men. Its hierarchy instead tended to replicate and reinforce the
ranks and statuses of civil society. During the fourth century most of the
bishops were recruited from decurions, who were already well-to-do local
notables. The top clerics, such as priests and deacons, were often also from
curial families. Ordination as a cleric or a bishop was more commonly an
indication of lateral mobility rather than of strict upward mobility. These
men were transferring from one respectable situation that was losing its
advantages, such as service as a decurion, to another respectable situation
that was gaining in prestige and influence. These men hence maintained
or enhanced their prestige not so much by moving up within the ecclesias-
tical hierarchy, but rather as the entire ecclesiastical hierarchy increased its
authority and influence.35
In addition, there were anyway fewer opportunities for upward pro-
motion within the ecclesiastical hierarchy. As we academics know first-
hand, lifetime (or just very long) tenures can create obstructions for ad-
vancement. Unless the number of clerics was constantly increasing in
communities, ambitious clerics had to wait for the deaths of higher-
ranking clerics, including bishops. And if the number of clerics exceeded
the number of bishops by at least fifty-fold, then clearly most clerics never
became bishops, and never had even a chance at becoming a bishop. They
had to make a virtue out of the necessity of stagnation. As Gregory of
Tours said of one longtime cleric, "God allowed him to remain in the

34 For the length of service and the privileges of veterans, see Jones, Later Roman Empire
(see note 21), 635-636.
35 For the backgrounds of clerics, see Jones, Later Roman Empire (see note 21), 920-
929: "The great majority of the higher clergy, the urban deacons and priests and the
bishops, were drawn from the middle classes, professional men, officials, and above all
curiales' (923-924). For additional discussion of lifetime tenure for clerics, see R. Van
Dam, Becoming Christian. The Conversion of Roman Cappadocia, Philadelphia
2003, 53-63, and R. Van Dam, Bishops and Society, in: The Cambridge History of
Christianity, Volume 2. Constantine to c. 600, ed. by A. Casiday/F. W. Norris, Cam-
bridge 2007, 350-357.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 235

service of the cathedral for many years." It is no wonder that this cleric
had enough time to memorize all of the Psalms.36
Several factors conspired against the likelihood of consistent upward
promotion in the clerical hierarchy, in particular toward becoming a bish-
op. One was lifetime tenure, which slowed turnover at the top and
clogged advancement. Another was the irregular promotion of men from
outside the clergy as top clerics or even as instant bishops. Bishop Zosimus
had insisted that in this "celestial army" a man could not become a "gen-
eral" without having first served as a tiro, a fresh recruit. In fact, some,
perhaps many, men became bishops with limited or even no prior service
as a cleric. Every consecration of a bishop from outside the clerical estab-
lishment was another obstacle to the advancement of long-serving clerics.37
A final impediment to promotion was low average life expectancies.
According to the model life table, the average life expectancy was 29.4
years for men at age 20, and 23.9 years at age 30. Even men who started
their clerical careers while comparatively young might well not live long
enough to complete the full sequence of offices before being considered
eligible for an episcopacy. In his study of late antique Egypt, Bagnall sug-
gested that "the average age of death for those who survived early child-
hood" was "the early to middle forties." This was about the age typically
recommended for promotion to an episcopacy,38
The recommendations of the bishops of Rome seemed to define an ac-
tual career path as a cleric, which would lead to promotion as a bishop.
These recommendations implied that experience and long service would
be rewarded eventually. In reality, however, the lengthy clerical careers
typically exceeded average life expectancies. These recommendations were
a quiet reminder to clerics, including priests and deacons, that almost all
of them were never going to become bishops.

Episcopal Careers: Expectations and Life Expectancy

By the end of the fourth century there were perhaps 4,000 senators in the
empire, evenly divided between West and East. In each half of the empire
there were hence about twice as many senators as the maximum number
of bishops. Like many of the new senators, especially the new senators at

36 Greg. Tur. virt. Martin. I, 7 (Gregorii episcopii Turonensis miracula et opera minora,
M G H SS rer. Merov. 1,2, Hannover 1885, 143, ed. B. Krusch).
37 Zos.ep.9,2(PL20,671a-b).
38 Bagnall, Egypt (see note 17), 184.
236 Raymond Van Dam

Constantinople, bishops were typically recruited from municipal curial

families. Increasingly bishops engaged with senators as equals. They also
interacted as equals with the top imperial magistrates, whose offices re-
quired or conferred senatorial rank. In fact, some bishops interacted with
emperors as p e e r s - o r occasionally even behaved like superiors.
Of all the top imperial magistrates, only emperors shared a distinctive
characteristic with bishops: both bishops and emperors had lifetime ten-
ure. Senators kept their senatorial rank for life, but the offices they might
hold typically had short tenures of only a year or two. Senators hence priv-
ileged the life of otium, leisured retirement. This was another classic ex-
ample of making a virtue out of necessity. Senators favoured, or pretended
to favour, what they had to do, live in retirement, more highly that what
they wanted to do, hold offices. In contrast to senators, however, emperors
and bishops could not slip back into retirement. In some exceptional in-
stances an emperor like Diocletian might abdicate or a usurper like Vetra-
nio might be allowed to "retire." But the dominant conviction was that
only death could end the tenures of emperors and bishops.39
Lifetime tenures offer the possibility of imagining a context of expecta-
tions about the possibility of becoming a bishop. For emperors lifetime
tenures were disconnected from their ages, because many were promoted
very young simply through their dynastic relations. When the emperor
Constantius died in 361, he had served as Caesar for thirteen years and
then Augustus for twenty-four years. Thirty-seven total years as emperor
exceeded even the tenure of his father, Constantine. But Constantius had
been proclaimed a Caesar when he was seven. In the fifth century Theodo-
sius II was emperor for forty-eight years, and would have served longer if
he had not fallen off his horse. But he had been proclaimed Augustus
already before his first birthday.
In contrast, the men who became bishops had usually earned their
promotions through service as clerics, monks, or imperial magistrates.
Even the men who became bishops primarily as "legacy" appointments, as
sons or nephews of bishops, were typically older. Since bishops died in
office, the average length of their tenures might provide a general sense of
the expectations about the speed of turnover.
For Late Antiquity reliable lists of bishops at particular sees are rare.
The most reliable is, of course, for Rome. After Constantine martyrdom
or exile no longer ended episcopacies prematurely, and we can probably
assume that the subsequent bishops of Rome died of natural causes

39 For the comparatively short tenures of top imperial magistrates, see Jones, Later Ro-
man Empire (see note 21), 377-383.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 237

(although sometimes aggravated by imprisonment). Bishop Vigilius, for

instance, died suffering from kidney stones. Between 311, when Miltiades
became bishop, and 604, when Gregory the Great died, the Liber
Pontificalis listed thirty-four bishops of Rome. Two bishops can be
excluded, Felix, who served during the tenure of Liberius, and Silverius,
who was deposed after serving less than a year in 536. Of the remaining
thirty-two bishops, the average tenure was almost 9.2 years. The longest
tenures were Silvester, almost 22 years, Damasus, just over 18 years, Leo,
just over 21 years, and Vigilius, just over 18 years.40
Another list of continuous episcopacies is available for Tours. For the
period between 337 and 594, the end of his own episcopacy, Gregory of
Tours listed eighteen episcopacies. One episcopacy, which lasted for two
(or three) years, should be excluded, since it was held jointly by two bish-
ops who had been reassigned from Burgundy: "they were both very old
men." Two bishops died after being sent into exile by the Visigoths.
Another, after serving for three years, was supposedly poisoned (although
in the context of Merovingian Gaul poisoning might be classified among
natural causes). Of these seventeen bishops, the average tenure was 15
years. Some of these bishops served very long tenures, including Litorius,
about 33 years, Martin, 28 years, and Brictius, 45 years. These were the
second, third, and fourth bishops, and their exceptionally long tenures
might suggest a problem in the list. Gregory (or his source) was perhaps
struggling to fill in this century with too few names. If we exclude these
three bishops, then the average tenure of the remaining fourteen bishops
was 10.9 years.41

40 Vigilius: lib. pont. 61,9 (ed. by L. Duchesne, Le Liber Pontificalis, Paris 1886, 299).
According to Bus. vita Const. 3,7,2 (FC 83, 318 Bleckmann), the bishop of the "im-
perial city" did not attend the council because of his "old age." Silvester had become
bishop of Rome in 314, and whatever his age was in 325, after the council he still
served for another decade. According to Phot. Bibl. 88, apparently citing Gelasius of
Caesarea, bishop Metrophanes of Byzantium/Constantinople did not attend the
council because he was over 100 years old. G. Dagron, Naissance d'une capitale.
Constantinople et ses institutions de 330 a 451, Bibliotheque byzantine, Etudes 7, Pa-
ris 1974, 387, argues that Metrophanes was bishop in fact from 306 to 314. Alexan-
der, the next bishop of Constantinople, served until 337; Soz. h.e. Ill 3,2 (FC 73, vol.
2, 338 Hansen), noted that Alexander died at the age of 98.
41 Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. X, 31(352 Krusch/Levison), list of bishops, with the dates in
L. Pietri, La ville de Tours du IVe au Vie siecle. Naissance d'une cite chretienne, Col-
lection de l'Ecole francaise de Rome 69, Rome 1983, 4. Note Gregory's confusion
about the length and the dating of the joint episcopacy of Theodorus and Proculus in
Greg. Tur. hist. Franc. Ill, 17 (117 Krusch/Levison); X, 31,10 (531-2
238 Raymond Van Dam

From the length of bishops' tenures there is, of course, no way to re-
trovert to their ages at promotion. According to the model life table typi-
cally applied to Roman imperial society, the average life expectancy for a
man at age 35 was 23.6 years, at age 40, 21.1 years, at age 45, 18.4 years,
at age 50, 15.6 years, at age 55, 12.9 years, and at age 60, 10.4 years. But
within those expectations the variation was quite unpredictable. For some
famous, but random, examples from the fourth and early fifth centuries of
bishops for whom we know both their ages (or approximate ages) and the
length of their tenures, Ambrose became bishop of Milan in 374 when he
was about 35 years old and served for 23 years (which closely corres-
ponded to the life expectancy of the model life table), while Augustine
became bishop of Hippo in 395 when he was about 41 years old and
served for 35 years (which exceeded his life expectancy at the time of his
consecration by over 50 percent).42
Sometimes older men enjoyed exceptionally long tenures. Gregory the
Elder, the father of Gregory of Nazianzus, became bishop of Nazianzus in
329, having previously held municipal offices. He was then about 50 years
old and might have expected to serve as bishop for another decade or so.
But he died in 374, after serving as bishop for forty-five years. Although
great age was certainly possible in Roman society, the probability was very
low. From an original cohort of 100,000 male and female babies, "only a
handful would have reached the age of 95 years." The probability of a
male baby surviving to age 50 was already only 21.1 percent; the probabil-
ity of surviving to age 95 was .001 percent (i.e. one out of 100,000). Gre-
gory the Elder had had the exceptionally good fortune to have had two full
careers, each of which had lasted a full normal lifetime.43
In contrast, sometimes comparatively younger men had only short
tenures. Basil almost became bishop of Caesarea in 362, when he was in
his early thirties. When he did become bishop of Caesarea in 370, he was
about 40 years old and might have expected to serve for another two dec-
ades or more. Instead, his episcopacy lasted only seven or eight years.

42 For the birth of Ambrose in 339, see N . B. McLynn, Ambrose of Milan. Church and
Court in a Christian Capital, Berkeley 1994, 32.
43 For the career of Gregory the Elder, see R. Van Dam, Families and Friends in Late
Roman Cappadocia, Philadelphia 2003, 40-52. Quotation about handful from Par-
kin, Demography (see note 1), 110. Because of the low probability of great age, the
purported ages of Roman centenarians or near-centenarians should always be treated
with suspicion. One famous example is the monk Anthony, who, according to Ath.
vita Ant. 89,3 (SC 400, 362,8-11 Bartelink), claimed to be almost 105 years old at his
death in 356. The details of Antonys life make better sense if he is assumed to have
been decades younger, perhaps up to forty years younger: see R. Van Dam, The Ro-
man Revolution of Constantine, Cambridge 2007, 319-329.
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 239

Throughout his letters Basil constantly complained about his many physi-
cal infirmities, and already in his mid-forties he referred to himself as an
"old man." He died only a few years after Gregory the Elder, who had
been a contemporary of his grandparents.44
Clearly there were no firm restrictions on the age of the men selected
as bishops. Athanasius was one of the youngest men to become a bishop
during the fourth century. He became bishop of Alexandria in 328 when
he was about 29 years old or in his early thirties and served for almost
forty-five years. One of the oldest to become a bishop was Damasus, who
was consecrated in his early sixties, served for eighteen years, and died just
before turning 80. The tenures of both Athanasius and Damasus approx-
imately doubled their respective life expectancies at the time of their con-
If it is impossible to deduce bishops' ages at consecration from the
lengths of their tenures, we can perhaps still assume that contemporaries
had a general sense of life expectancies. Even without access to our mod-
ern life tables, contemporaries could nevertheless plan ahead and antic-
ipate a timeframe for future episcopal vacancies. Episcopacies, especially
the episcopacies at large cities like Rome and Alexandria, were highly de-
sirable, and replacements would have been waiting, and perhaps scheming.
Athanasius endured a few exiles because of opposition from emperors and
rival churchmen. Some of Damasus' own deacons accused him of adul-
tery. Perhaps they had assumed that the elderly Damasus would be only a
temporary placeholder, and they now hoped that his expulsion would
finally make way for one of them.46
Contemporaries were most likely quite aware that both Athanasius
and Damasus, in their different age brackets, were serving much longer
than expected. In addition to personal animosities or doctrinal feuds, im-
plicit anticipations about mortality provide a context for interpreting this
sort of hostility. A very young bishop and a very old bishop could both
clog the expectation of promotion by serving longer than anticipated.
According to a later story, Athanasius himself had pretended to be a bish-
op already when he was playing as a young boy. But because of his own

44 For Basil's career, including his complaints about poor health, see Van Dam, Families
(see note 42), 15-39. Old man: Bas. Caes. ep. 176 (112 Courtonne).
45 Age of Athanasius: T. D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius. Theology and Politics
in the Constantinian Empire, Cambridge, Mass. 1993, 10. Damasus: Hier. vir. ill.
46 For Athanasius' exiles, see P. Van Nuffelen, Un heritage de paix et de piete. Etude sur
les Histoires ecclesiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomene, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analec-
ta 142, Leuven 2004, 347-363. Deacons: lib. pom. 39 (212-213 Duchesne).
240 Raymond Van Dam

long tenure, two, perhaps three generations of young boys never had the
opportunity to fulfill their own childhood fantasies of growing up to be-
come bishop of Alexandria.47


In this discussion many of the numbers are guesses and estimates. The
percentages and probabilities about the age structure of the overall popula-
tion have been imported from the model life tables generated by modern
demographers; the estimates about the sizes of cities, army, imperial ad-
ministration, and ecclesiastical hierarchy are based on modern scholars'
impressions developed from inductive readings of late Roman texts. These
are numbers to think about and to think with, not to repeat as accurate.
As Hopkins noted, "Initial acceptance implies no final commitment to the
estimates' truth." Like the conjectures in his discussion of early Christiani-
ty, my estimates here are meant to encourage other scholars to play with
the numbers and think about the implications for bishops and clerics in
late Roman society.
This approach obviously needs more elaboration, in several ways.
First, we need to develop a better sociology of bishops and clerics in Late
Antiquity. Many modern studies highlight individual, well-documented
bishops. When modern studies discuss bishops collectively, they often
emphasize their roles as pastors and theologians or their interactions with
emperors and imperial magistrates. Studying individual bishops or discuss-
ing bishops only as ecclesiastical figures and as political figures is inherent-
ly constricting, however. Instead, because bishops and clerics were so ubi-
quitous, they should become the focus of a larger, holistic account of late
Roman society. The size of congregations and the percentage of Christians
will affect our interpretations of the pastoral effectiveness of bishops and
clerics. Conversely, if the recruitment of bishops and major clerics from
local provincial notables competed with the recruitment of imperial ad-
ministrators and senators, and if the recruitment of lesser clerics competed
with the recruitment of imperial secretaries, soldiers, and new residents for
large cities, then we will need to adjust our interpretations of the army, the
maintenance of big cities, and the overall economy of the later empire. We
need to embed bishops and clerics more firmly in society and culture.

47 Athanasius as a young boy: Ruf. h.c. X 15 (GCS Eusebius 11.2, 980-982 Mommsen),
Socr. h.c. I 15,2 (GCS NF 1, 53 Hansen), Soz. h.c. II 17,8 (FC 73, vol. 1, 260 Han-
Bishops and Clerics during the Fourth Century 241

Second, the estimates offered here should be refined. The accuracy

and sufficiency of the data will always be problematic and open to chal-
lenges. But the underlying approach retains its value. The volumes of Pro-
sopographie chretienne du Bas-Empire make it easier to aggregate the limited
data about ages, tenures, and recruitment patterns of bishops and clerics.
It is then possible to quantify the variables by proposing estimates, simu-
late how the variables might intersect, and evaluate the outcomes. The
estimates are simply "numerical metaphors"; but numbers, even estimated
numbers, make it easier to calculate intersections. These thought experi-
ments can then help us create profiles (i.e. contexts) for interpreting spe-
cific texts or specific episodes.
Finally, these sorts of estimates about bishops and clerics can be ex-
panded into later periods. Two brief examples can illustrate the potential.
One is Gaul. In the Touraine of Gregory of Tours in the later sixth cen-
tury, Luce Pietri estimates that there were "several hundreds" of clerics.
That estimate might be quantified as about 500 clerics. In Merovingian
Gaul there were over 100 sees. If the number of clerics in each of those
sees was similar to the size of the clerical establishment in the Touraine,
then there were over 50,000 bishops and clerics in Merovingian Gaul.48
From one perspective such a large clerical establishment might have
strained local resources. This ecclesiastical hierarchy in Gaul would be
about one-half the number of clerics estimated for the entire empire at the
end of the fourth century, but in a region with a population that was only
approximately 14 percent or less of the population of the old empire. But
from another perspective this large number might be reasonable. During
the fourth century Gaul and neighboring regions had supported up to
perhaps 100,000 soldiers in frontier garrisons and field armies. By the
early fifth century perhaps three-quarters of those Roman soldiers had
disappeared. Now, in post-Roman Gaul an army of ecclesiastics had effec-
tively replaced the Roman army as a claimant on local resources. The ec-
clesiastical hierarchy was a burden, but perhaps a manageable burden.49
Quantifying the number of clerics also allows comparisons with other
groups in post-Roman Gaul. Scholars of the barbarian invasions are typi-
cally reluctant to estimate the number of Franks, Burgundians, and other
peoples who moved into Gaul. But by the later sixth century the ecclesias-
tics may have become one of the largest "tribes" in Merovingian Gaul.
Each bishop presided over his own clerical establishment that perhaps
exceeded the number of functionaries at a royal court. It is not surprising

48 Clergy at Tours: Pietri, La ville (see note 40), 652, "plusiers centaines."
49 For soldiers on the Rhine frontier, see Jones, Later Roman Empire (see note 21), 683.
242 Raymond Van Dam

that Frankish kings might feel threatened by the wealth of particular grand
The second example is Italy. By the sixth century there were apparent-
ly over 200 sees in Italy. That high number would imply the presence of
over, perhaps well over, 10,000 clerics. Even though the size of Rome had
diminished considerably, the bishops of Rome were still funding lavish
gifts and construction projects. In addition, after the reconquest of Justi-
nian the eastern empire maintained garrisons in various cities such as Ra-
venna and Rome, up to perhaps 10,000 soldiers. In the early empire there
had been few soldiers and few clerics in Italy, and much of the supply of
Rome had come from overseas as tribute. In the later empire the overseas
tribute had vanished, but there was a large superstructure of ecclesiastics
and soldiers. How did the people of post-Roman Italy support bishops,
clerics, and soldiers from their own resources?51
One possible outcome is that sometimes ecclesiastics and soldiers
ended up as rivals. In the mid-seventh century soldiers even plundered the
episcopal residence at Rome, because they thought a previous bishop of
Rome had withheld their stipends. They may well have been right. From
the fourth century the clergy and the army had consistently been compet-
ing for the same limited resources, including supplies, stipends, and man-

50 For Frankish kings and bishops, see R. Van Dam, Merovingian Gaul and the Frankish
Conquests, in: The New Cambridge Medieval History, Volume I, c. 500-c. 700, ed.
by P. Fouracre, Cambridge 2005, 215-216.
51 Soldiers in Italy: T. S. Brown, Gentlemen and Officers. Imperial Administration and
Aristocratic Power in Byzantine Italy A.D. 554-800, Rome 1984, 84.
52 Plundering of Lateran residence: lib. pom. 73,1 (328 Duchesne).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus

Peter Van Nuffelen

Scholarship on episcopal elections usually sees canon law as laying down
the procedure that had to be followed during the election of a new bishop.
At least from the fourth century onwards, canon law is supposed to have
defined the framework within which actual elections were conducted. This
perspective is reflected in the scholarly habit of first setting out the rules
before studying historical examples. The first chapter of Peter Norton's
recent monograph is dedicated to canon law,1 as is the case in Jean Gau-
demet's Les elections dans leglise ancienne (1979). In his foundational 1979
article on elections in the fourth century, Roger Gryson stated that the
"fourth century is that of the rise of written church law".2 He added im-
mediately that rules were not always followed.
Gryson probably understated the case. Many of the holy and saintly
church fathers had obtained their see in what, from a legal point of view,
were dubious circumstances. Basil the Great was elected against the will of
the majority of the province and through some artful intriguing.3 Martin
of Tours was chosen by the people, his hagiographer says, but clearly
against the will of the episcopacy.4 Augustine felt bad about his own unca-
nonical election as a sort of adiutor to Valerius, while the latter was still
alive.5 Athanasius of Alexandria, whose own election was disputed, conse-

1 P. Norton, Episcopal Elections 250-600. Hierarchy and Popular Will in Late Antiqui-
ty, Oxford 2007. I was unable to consult D.M. Galliker, Canonical Elections, Wash-
ington 1917 and A J . Parsons, Canonical Elections, Washington 1939.
2 R. Gryson, Les elections episcopates en Orient au IVieme siecle, RHE 74, 1979, 301-
44, here 301: 'Le IVe siecle est celui de l'avenement du droit ecrit dans l'eglise'. The
paper is reprinted in R. Gryson, Scientiam Salutis. Quarante annees de recherches sur
l'antiquite chretienne, Leuven 2008, 263-335. See also F. Letter, Designation und
angebliches Kooptationsrecht bei Bischofserhebungen. Zu Ausbildung und Anwen-
dung des Prinzips der kanonischen Wahl bis zu den Anfangen der frankischen Zeit,
ZSRG.K59, 1973, 112-150.
3 P. Norton, Episcopal Elections (note 1), 216-223 sets out the evidence.
4 Sulp. Sev. vit. Martin. 9 (SC 133, 271-275).
5 Aug. ep. 213 (CSEL 57, 372-379).
244 Peter Van Nuffelen

crated his own successor Peter. Proclus of Constatinople, who finally got
elected after three attempts, translated (at least nominally) from Cyzicus to
Constantinople. 6 In a rather quixotic and late report, Theodorus of Mop-
suestia is said to have been ordained bishop because the Macedonians only
wanted someone with the rank of bishop to argue with them. Theodorus
was only later assigned a see (392)7 This list could be extended almost at
will: Gregory of Nyssa was briefly bishop of Sebaste by popular demand
(380), but rapidly abandoned that see;8 Calandion of Antioch was chosen
by Acacius of Constantinople and removed John Codonatus who just
before had been chosen by the people of Antioch to Tyre.9 Most of the
material this volume contains probably are strictly speaking "uncanonical"
There thus exists a wide gap between the modern emphasis on rules as
laying down the procedure in the same way as our procedural laws do, and
actual historical practice: many elections seem to have been conducted in
defiance or ignorance of canon law. This gap may have important conse-
quences for our understanding of episcopal elections in Late Antiquity,
and by extension, of the late antique church. If compliance with rules is
the hallmark of a stable institution, the manifest disobedience of canon
rules would mean that the early church was in a constant state of "anomie"
- a term defined by the sociologist P. Merton as the open conflict between
publicly professed values and the real social processes, in this case between
the creation of rules that are supposed to govern elections, and the actual
electoral processes and the social and political play at work in them.10 Al-
though there may have been cases of "anomie" (and late antique bishops
liked to accuse their enemies of this11), this seems unlikely in the face of
the manifest stability of the church: institutions in a state of anomie are
unlikely to prosper for a long time. A possible solution, in line with domi-
nant Anglo-Saxon scholarship, would be to see the divide between rules
and reality as an instantiation of the tension between institutional and

6 Socr. h.c. VII 36-37 (GCS, 384-387). See Rist in this volume.
7 Barhadbessadba, h.e. (PO 9, 506-507).
8 Greg. Nys. en. 19 (GNO 8,2, 62-68) with F. Diekamp, Die Wahl Gregors von Nyssa
zum Metropoliten von Sebaste, Theologische Quartalschrift 90, 1908, 384-401.
9 Theod. lect. h.e. E 421 (GCS N.F. Ill 116 Hansen).
10 R.K. Merton, Anomie and Social Structure, American Sociological Review 3, 1938,
11 See Ps.-Mart. V. Joh. Chrys. 507a, 521a, 531ab (M. Wallraff, C. Ricci, Oratio fune-
bris in laudem sancti Iohannis Chrysostomi. Epitaffio attribuito a Martirio di Antio-
chia, Spoleto 2007, 142, 170, 190); Pall. vit. Chrys. 11.31-52 (SC 341, 271-218) on
the enemies of John Chrysostom.
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 245

spiritual authority, between church and holy man.12 Such an approach

may explain cases when canon law was trumped by charisma, but fails to
deal with instances when an election put one ordinary candidate against
another. Notwithstanding the proliferation of hagiographical holy men,
they must have been rather rare in reality.
In my view, the gap between rules and reality invites us to reconsider
our conceptual framework that sees canon law as laying down the proce-
dure of an election. This chapter argues that canon law did not lay down
the rules of the game, but was itself part of the game. My argument has
three steps. First, rather than presupposing that law implicitly ruled the
conduct of an election, the act of finding the law has to be emphasized:
canon law was not readily available or even known, would normally only
be drawn on in disputed cases, and then needed to be interpreted. Many
of the cases listed above only appear to contravene the rules, because we
project a later, systematic view of canon law on them.13 Second, this en-
tails a different understanding of what episcopal elections actually were. In
contrast to modern elections, which are procedures trying to adjudicate
existing disagreement of opinion, the election of a bishop was about find-
ing a consensus in the community. Late antique elections start out from
the presupposition that agreement is the normal situation. The higher
demand of consensus obviously created much more room for tension and
dispute: those who refused to yield to the consensus could upset an elec-
tion, even when there was a clear majority for one individual. The role of
canon law was to safeguard the creation of a consensus, not to create it.
Third, the frequent use of canons in rhetorical arguments about elections
implies that law did have an important authority. Progressively, a set of
basic rules became accepted through the frequent reference to them in
This chapter wishes to throw a stone in the pond and question some
of the widely-held but rarely articulated assumptions about the role of
canon law in episcopal elections. It hopes to point the way to a more
nuanced and realistic understanding of how elections took place and the
role played by canon law in them.

12 C. Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity. The Nature of Christian Leadership in an

Age of Transition, Berkeley 2005.
13 See the contribution by A. Thier in this volume on the different strands within canon
246 Peter Van Nuffelen

Finding the Law

The formation of systematic collections of church canons lags behind the

rise of church councils (regional or "ecumenical") as the bodies that can
"legislate" for the church. The earliest collection is the one E. Schwartz
hypothetical^ ascribed to Euzoius of Antioch (361-378): this supposedly
"homoean" collection was later sanitized by adding the canons of Nicaea
(325), Constantinople (381), and Chalcedon (451).14 It formed the basis
of later Eastern collections, of which the first fully preserved collection is
that of John Scholasticus (ca. 565-577). In the West early collections seem
to start with the so-called vetus romana, dated to the second half of the
fourth century. The earliest collection in Africa is the so-called breviarium
hipponense of 397, which proposes an authoritative selection of earlier
church rulings.15 The creation of these early collections was probably
spurred by disputes over which canons were authoritative and where one
could find the right ruling. The so-called Apiarius-affair (419), when the
church of Africa asked its sister churches in the East to provide it with the
canons of Nicaea, is probably the best-known of such instances. In this
respect, they can be compared to the earliest private collections of imperial
laws at the end of the third century; as has been observed, we do not know
who copied and circulated the various canonical collections.16 The emana-
tion of "canon law" as an authorized, supposedly systematic and complete,
and universally shared body of rulings is thus a slow process, which culmi-
nated in the sixth century with Justinian's request that future clergy read
the canons before their ordination (535) and his decision to give force of
law to the canons of the four ecumenical councils (543).17 It is thus only
towards the end of Late Antiquity that the idea of a (at least theoretically)
universally accessible body of church law is a workable concept. Before
that (and even then), finding the law was the key issue - as it was in Ro-

14 E. Schwartz, Die Kanonessammlungen der alten Reichskirche, ZSSKA 25, 1930, 1-

15 See the overview by J. Gaudemet, Les sources du droit de l'eglise en Occident du II au
VII siecle, Paris 1985; H. Hess, The Early Development of Canon Law and the
Council of Serdica, Oxford 2002 (2nd ed.).
16 F. Millar, A Greek Roman Empire, Berkeley 2006, 237; C. Humfress, Orthodoxy and
the Courts, Oxford 2007, 206.
17 Just. Nov. 131(CIC(B).N 654-664 Schoell/Kroll) and 6.1 (36-40 Schoell/Kroll).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 247

man law.18 This has important consequences for our understanding of the
role played by church canons in episcopal elections.19
There is, first, the simple issue of transmission. In absence of an au-
thoritative collection, which superseded all other existing rules and collec-
tions, one could never be sure that one possessed all rules in their correct
form. During the public appointment of his successor Heraclius (429),
Augustine famously regretted that his own election was not in accordance
with the canons: he had been elected while his predecessor Valerius was
still alive - something the council of Nicaea forbade, so he says.20 As has
been pointed out by Roland Kany,21 no such thing was forbidden by Ni-
caea, but Augustine probably relied on Rufinus' Church History, which
lists the canons of Nicaea, and has as number 10: et ne in una civitate duo
sint episcopi. It is unclear how Rufinus came to include this ruling and why
Augustine does not refer to the correct version of the canons of Nicaea
which since 419 were in the possession of the church of Africa. At any
rate, to avoid that his successor was uncanonically elected, Augustine in-
sisted to the people of Hippo that Heraclius would immediately be desig-
nated as his successor, but only ordained after his own death.
The story illustrates three points. 1) One could never be sure that one
knew all the rules, nor that the collection one possessed, was correct. Elec-
tions clearly proceeded on the basis of what was supposed to be established
and accepted practice. 2) There was a limited flow of information between
the different parts of the empire. Not only did Augustine ignore what the
rules of Nicaea exactly were, he also ignored that his own election and the
designation of Heraclius were uncanonical in the light of canon 23 of the
council of Antioch, which forbade the election of a successor by the
present incumbent. This practice had often been condemned in the East,22
and it is difficult to imagine that nobody in Hippo would known about it.

18 J. Harries, Law and Empire in Late Antiquity, Cambridge, 1999, 81: "(...) a Roman
citizen did not choose to obey or disobey the relevant law, but whether or not to in-
voke them in his or her own self-interest".
19 The development of canon law in relation to elections is set out in the Habilita-
tionsschrift of A. Thier, Hierarchie und Autonomic Regelungstraditionen der Bi-
schofsbestellung in der Geschichte des kirchlichen Wahlrechts bis 1140, Frankfurt am
Main 2011. See also A. Thier, Dynamische Schriftlichkeit: Zur Normbildung in den
vorgratianischen Kanonessammlungen, ZSSKA 124, 2007, 1-33 and his contribution
in this volume.
20 Aug. ep. 213 (CSEL 57, 372-379).
21 R. Kany, Der vermeintliche Makel von Augustins Bischofsweihe. Zur Rezeption
griechischer Konzilskanones in Rom und Nordafrika, ZAC 1, 1997, 116-123.
22 S.L. Greenslade, Sede Vacante Procedure in the Early Church, JThS 62, 1961, 210-
248 Peter Van Nuffelen

Unless one questions Augustine's good faith, however, that seems to have
been the case. 3) Canon rules do have authority, especially when they
derive from a council of the status of Nicaea. But they must be found.23
Second, having to find the law entails the possibility of picking one
that suits one's case. The second and final exile of John Chrysostom (404)
was based on the consideration that his return from his first exile (403)
had not been annulled by a council. His enemies produced a canon to
support their argument: canon 18 of the council of Antioch (341). John's
followers were quick to point out that this was a canon emanating from an
Arian council directed against the saintly Athanasius. In Palladius, the
poor emperor Arcadius is unsure whom to believe until one of John's fol-
lowers challenges their enemies to say that they subscribe to the faith of
the council that had decreed this canon.24 The aim of the story in Palla-
dius may be to safeguard the emperor from the accusation of heresy, as the
church historian Socrates explicitly states that the canon was the basis on
which John was condemned and subsequently exiled.25 Later Innocent of
Rome would also accuse Theophilus of relying on heretic canons.26 This
episode shows that there did not exist a generally accepted set of rules that
governed procedure in cases like that of John. Rules had to be found, and
once they were found, their authority and applicability could be chal-
lenged.27 This is the reason why the church of Africa in 419 sought the
confirmation from the churches in the East that the canons alleged to be
from Nicaea truly were so.
Third, even when found, rules had to be interpreted.28 The debate sur-
rounding the translation of Proclus from the see of Cyzicus to that of
Constantinople (434) well illustrates that interpretation is always bound
up with authority and power. Since the exile of John Chrysostom (404),
the church of Constantinople had been divided between johannites and
anti-johannites. The former constituted a formidable opposition: they
fielded their own candidate, Philip of Side, who never got elected but had

23 One striking conclusion that has to be drawn from Kanys paper is that scholars do
not know the church canons as well as one would expect, because they have always ac-
cepted Augustine's account at face value. Can we expect late ancient bishops to know
their canons better than modern scholars do?
24 Pall. vit. Joh. Chrys. 1X20, IX 60 (SC 341, 183-184).
25 Socr.h.e. VI 18 (GCS, 341-343).
26 Soz.h.e. VIII 23 (GCS, 379-381).
27 Both John and Theophilus appeal, for example, to canon 5 of Nicaea that bishops
should not overstep the boundaries of their provinces: see Pall. vit. Joh. Chrys. VII
132, VIII 170 (SC 341, 154, 172).
28 The role of interpretation and argument in late ancient law has been emphasized by
Humfress, Orthodoxy and the Courts (note 15).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 249

sufficient support to block three times the election of the johannite candi-
date Proclus (425, 427, and 431). Compromise candidates were chosen at
each turn: Sisinnius, Nestorius and Maximian.29 Sisinnius tried to reduce
the tensions by getting rid of Proclus and ordained him bishop of Cyzicus
- a well-known trick to dispose of an unwanted candidate. The people of
Cyzicus rejected Proclus, and he stayed in Constantinople as a bishop
without a see. In 434 he was quickly chosen as successor of Maximian.
The johannites raised protest, claiming that translations were forbidden by
the council of Nicaea (canon 15). The church historian Socrates, a parti-
san of Proclus, spends quite some time countering the argument: he points
out, among other things, that translations were common. His suggestion is
therefore that the ruling of Nicaea was practically invalid. Moreover, Proc-
lus had the support from all the major sees, including Rome, who con-
firmed that the translation was no problem. Proclus duly became bishop.
Proclus, belonging to the ecclesiastical establishment of the capital, was
able to control and to direct the interpretation of the rules. It has been
argued with reference to the case of Proclus that we should make a distinc-
tion between "translation" and "transmigration", the former designating
an authorized move, the latter an unauthorized one.30 This distinction has
the aim of legally explaining what seems an illegal series of translations
throughout Late Antiquity, but it actually confirms my emphasis on the
power of interpretation: the absolute rule of Nicaea was not absolute for
those who had the clout of obtaining an authorization and turning a
transmigration into a translation.
The suggestion that canon law sets out the legal framework and pro-
cedure for episcopal elections, much as electoral law does for modern elec-
tions, is thus misleading. Not only is there the historical record that many
elections were conducted in apparent violation of what canon law pre-
scribes, but the above considerations on the difficulty in finding the rules,
the selectivity in using them, and the necessity of interpretation suggest
that we may be approaching late antique canon law and episcopal election
with a misleading and modern conceptual framework.

29 See P. Van Nuffelen, Un heritage de paix et de piete. Etude sur les Histoires ecclesias-
tiques de Socrate et de Sozomene, Leuven 2004, 30-37.
30 S. Scholz, Transmigration und Translation. Studien zum Bistumswechsel der Bischofe
von der Spatantike bis zum Hohen Mittelalter, Cologne 1992; j . Rist, Ut episcopus
non transeat: Die Problematik der Translation von Bischofen in der Spatantike darge-
stellt am Beispiel des Proklos von Konstantinopel, SP 29, 1997, 119-126 and his
contribution to this volume.
250 Peter Van Nuffelen

Finding Consensus

Simplifying grossly, modern political thought can be said to see society as

composed of atoms, i.e. of individuals who pursue their own interests, or,
if one has more communitarian inclinations, of distinct groups with their
own identity and needs. The political process has the aim of finding, quite
literally, a modus vivendh the expression of individual antagonism has to
be limited by or channeled through institutions, so as to prevent us from
being wolves to one another. Compliance with procedure is thus the bed-
rock of a modern democratic society: one has to accept the rules of the
game and to submit to the outcome of the procedure. Hence some of the
peculiarities of modern democracies: a US president who is elected with
barely 52 percent of the votes is hailed as having received a powerful
mandate from the population, and he is allowed to rule against the will of
the other 48 percent. A president elected with less votes in absolute num-
bers than his opponent is still legally elected because the procedure pre-
scribes the existence of an electoral college. Even more puzzling, from a
pre-modern perspective, is that in the UK, between 2005 and 2010, a
party with just 35 % of the vote was able to govern the country. Elections
in modern democracies are thus not tools to generate consensus but to
adjudicate profound disagreement.
Episcopal elections in Late Antiquity were fundamentally different.
The election of a bishop was not seen as the result of a procedure to which
one had to adhere strictly; rather, the chosen candidate was supposed to
represent the consensus of the entire community. Appeals to consensus are
common in late antique elections: various papal letters, for example, em-
phasize consensus and the importance of not imposing a candidate against
the will of the community or that of the wider church.' 1 The earliest
church canons about episcopal elections have precisely the aim of remov-
ing obstacles to the emanation of a consensus: Canon 4 of Nicaea, which
is later, as we shall see, often reductively interpreted as requesting three
ordaining bishops, actually wishes to ensure that all bishops of the prov-
ince agree and that no one gets elected without the agreement of all: three
bishops must be present at the ordination, but all must at least give their
consent through a letter. Canon 6 of the same council affirms that one
needs the agreement of the metropolitan, but also that the wish of a clear

31 Leo cp. 14 (PL 54, 673): cum ergo de summi sacerdotis electione tractabitur, ille
omnibus praeponatur quern cleri plebisque consensus concorditer postularit; Caelest.
ep. 4.5 (PL 50, 451), ep. 23 (PL 50, 543): consensu sanctae congregationis. See also
Aug. ep. 209.1 (CSEL 57, 347-353).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 251

majority can be imposed on a minority of two or three: an emerging con-

sensus cannot be blocked by the stubbornness of a few. Canon 13 of Lao-
dicea, to give a last example, emphasizes that the people do not have the
right to impose their candidate unilaterally. These and other canons32
should be seen as attempting to safeguard the formation of a consensus
whilst dealing with the new elements generated by the Constantinian age:
the monarchic and hierarchical episcopacy; the creation of church prov-
inces on the model of state provinces; the increasing role of elite laity; the
ambition and other unholy motives generated by the power, wealth, and
prestige of the bishop. What they do not do, however, is setting out a
comprehensive procedure that generates a universally accepted candidate.
Seeing episcopal elections as consensus-seeking events, in contrast with
modern elections in which procedure adjudicates disagreement, has four
important consequences. First, the need to reach a consensus raises the bar
significantly. Indeed, a significant minority could block the election of the
majority candidate: simple majority voting was not accepted. A good illu-
stration of this is the fact that the johannites, a minority in the church of
Constantinople in the first half of the fifth century could block the elec-
tion of the candidate of the establishment on three occasions (425, 428,
and 431). 33 They never succeeded in having their own candidate elected,
but on each occasion a compromise candidate was chosen in stead of the
establishment candidate,34
Second, there was no procedure to deal with dissent. We actually do
not know how consensus was reached during elections. Were there succes-
sive ballots? Was there a gathering during which the candidates were ac-
claimed? We simply do not know, and it is likely that the actual course of
an election differed from place to place and occasion to occasion,35 Even
when the idea of a shortlist of three candidates develops from which the
other bishops or the metropolitan can choose, we do not know how that

32 See e.g. Council of Carthage 390 canon 12 (CChr.SL 149, 18 Munier); breviarium
hipponse 38 (CChr.SL 149, 45 Munier).
33 See Van Nuffelen, Un heritage (note 28), 30-37 and P. Van Nuffelen, Episcopal
Succession in Constantinople (381-450 C.E.): The Dynamics of Power, JECS 18,
34 For a list of western examples of disagreement between people, clergy, and the metro-
politan bishop that lead to disputed elections, see L. Pietri, Y. Duval, C. Pietri, Peuple
Chretien ou plebs: le role des laics dans les elections ecclesiastiques en Occident, in M.
Christol (ed.), Institutions, societe, et vie politique dans l'cmpirc romain du quatrieme
siecle, Rome 1992, 373-395, 380-386.
35 The informality of the procedure in the High Middle Ages is noted by J. Peltzer,
Canon Law, Career and Conquest. Episcopal Elections in Normandy and Greater An-
jouc. 1140-1230, Cambridge 2008, 15.
252 Peter Van Nuffelen

list was drawn up. There does not seem to have been anything like a set
"procedure". As a consequence, dissent and disagreement were a recurring
and difficult problem during the election of a bishop.36 Procedure was
usually improvised on such occasions: often the parties appealed to a high-
er authority or an outsider.37 It was often attempted to forestall future
disagreement and sideline potential but unwanted candidates, who were
too controversial and whose election might disrupt the community. One
favoured trick was ordaining such figures to a different see: as we have
seen, Proclus was ordained as bishop of Cyzicus by Sisinnius after he had
unsuccessfully tried to become bishop of the capital. Another possibility
was to have the unwanted candidate swear an oath never to compete for
the top post. According to Sozomen, it was one of the stipulations of the
comprise that aimed at ending the schism in Antioch,38 It was alleged by
his johannite enemies that Arsacius, the brother of Nectarius of Constan-
tinople, refused the offer of a different see and swore an oath that he
would never become bishop of the capital. But in 404 he became the suc-
cessor of John, 39 According to Zacharias Scholasticus and Evagrius, John
Talaia swore an oath that he would never become bishop of Alexandria,
when the emperor suspected him of that ambition.40 In other circums-
tances, a contested bishop could abdicate to restore peace.41
Third, the absence of precise rules for who could vote made it very dif-
ficult to identify the actors in the process. In particular, without a proce-
dure that establishes how the will of the people could be securely estab-
lished, anybody commanding a vociferous part of the people could argue
to represent the people. For example, when reading the dossier on Bonifa-
tius of Rome's disputed election (418-419), it is impossible to determine
who truly represented the majority of the people, let alone the consensus:

36 See, eg., Ambr. ep. extra coll. 14 (CSEL 82, 235) (to community of Vercelli). See also
Joh. Chrys. de sac. 3.11 (SC 272, 188-200).
37 See Sidonius Apollinaris and Bourges (Sid. ep. 7.5 LCL, vol. 2, 308-312, with the
paper by J. van Waarden in this volume) and Ambrose and Vercelli, with references in
the previous note.
38 Soz. h.e. VII 3 (GCS, 304): 'For it seemed best, to take oaths from those who were
considered eligible, or who were expected to occupy the episcopal see of that place. Of
these there were five besides Flavian. These promised that they would neither strive
for, nor accept the episcopate should an ordination take place among them during the
life of Paulinus and Meletius, and that in the event of the decease of either of these
great men, the other alone should succeed to the bishopric.'
39 Pall. vit. Chrys. XI 31-52 (SC 341, 217-218).
40 Ps-Zach. rh. ( = Ps.-Zach. schol.) h.e. V 6 (CSCO 88, 153 Brooks); Evagr. h.e. Ill 12
41 Aug. ep. 69 (CSEL 34, 249-50).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 253

Colkctio Avelkna Ep. 14 suggests that Eulalius had the most support, but
Ep. 17 accuses him of usurping the election with the support of a limited
group of the plebs and the clergy. In his letter, the emperor Honorius
emphasizes the unanimous choice for Bonifatius (Collectio Avelkna Ep.
37.3). Although P. Norton is right in emphasizing that the people re-
mained an important voice,42 this voice had to be interpreted - allowing
for the possibility that it was not heard.
A fourth consequence of seeing episcopal elections as consensus-
seeking phenomena is that an emerging consensus permitted to overstep
the rules that existed. This ties in with a tendency among men of the
church to stress the importance of virtue over that of procedure, or,
phrased differently, of true piety over earthly status: there was a distinct
awareness that bishops elected according to the rules did not always make
good bishops.43 Hagiography is particularly rich in examples of virtue
overcoming rules.44 Often divine will was adduced as the reason for choos-
ing a particular individual. Augustine's appointment of Heraclius as his
successor in 429, for example, strongly banked on consensus: Augustine
chose him, but had the choice publicly approved by the people. The long
account found among Augustine's letters (Ep. 213) of this public meeting
conveys the impression that Augustine knew he was on shaky ground: his
choice of Heraclius could be seen as forestalling the future consensus.
Augustine therefore deployed two arguments: first, the absence of an ap-
pointed successor might cause strife among the congregation at his death;
second, it was God's will that Heraclius was chosen. The people dutifully
acclaimed Augustine's chosen one, public acclamation being the most
obvious sign of a consensus.
Because they were supposed to be the result of a consensus, episcopal
elections tended to be deregulated: there are certain things one is not al-
lowed to do, but very few things one has to do. Canons rules did not pre-
scribe a procedure that established the consensus; at best, they set mini-
mum requirements for how it could be guaranteed that all parties could be
duly involved in process and that a true consensus could be found in the
community. If one wishes to use the term "procedure", one must be aware
that it was a very weak procedure, which was often sacrificed to consensus.
To put it differently: a bishop was not the person who got "elected", but

42 P. Norton, Episcopal Elections (note 1), 240-241. See also the nuances by A. Thier in
this volume.
43 Greg. Naz. Or. 26.15 (SC 284, 262-264). See also Origen. Comm. Matth. 16.19 (PG
13, 1438).
44 Soz. h.e. VIII 26.13 (GCS, 386); Sulp. Sev. vit. Martin. 9 (SC 133, 271-275); Paul.
Nol.vit.Ambr. 5.2-6.2 (PL 14,27-46).
254 Peter Van Nuffelen

the individual who could be seen as embodying the consensus of the

community. If he failed to do so, even when having the support of the
majority of the community, he risked being seen as lacking legitimacy.
One could argue that the nature of episcopal elections, as consensus-
seeking phenomena, reflects their origin in the pre-Constantinian local,
closely-knit communities where consensus and internal coherence were of
high importance. Another factor was the implicit assumption that the
bishop was chosen by God and that the consensus omnium expressed divine
volition. But we may not have to look for specifically Christian explana-
tions: it has been argued by E. Flaig that elections in the Republican com-
itia functioned as expressions or forgers of consensus rather than adjudica-
tions of dissent.45 This parallel suggests that the concept of elections as
procedures to deal with disagreement is a profoundly modern one, which
cannot be transposed onto Antiquity without due caution.

The Rhetoric of Law

The centrality of consensus in episcopal elections, for which the preceding

section has argued, explains two characteristics of canon rules. One has
already been stated: they do not set out a procedure, but try to safeguard
the emanation of a consensus. Another is that many canon rules seem
entirely ad hoc: a canon like number 5 of the council of Riez (439), stating
that a bishop who conducts the funeral of bishop should not stay longer
than seven days, was probably aimed at an individual case.46 In response to
a specific case, when things were perceived to have gone wrong, such ca-
nons tried to make sure that next time a true consensus could be found.
Yet this might result in too reductive a view of the role played by ca-
non law: my argument so far could be taken to imply that canons did not
play a role at all or were just a legal veneer on power politics. Yet it is ob-
vious that law did have an important authority and that appeal to it might
make a difference. Moreover, there does seem to develop a sense of an
authoritative body of church law. Sources, especially of the fifth and sixth
century, show a clear awareness of certain minimal formal requirements
for episcopal elections and they can note that someone was appointed

45 E. Fkig, Ritualisierte Politik: Zeichen, Gesten und Herrschaft im Alten Rom, Gottin-
46 Second Council of Aries Canon 54 (CChr.SL 148, 125).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 255

"canonically."47 In the sixth century, episcopal elections was one of the

areas that Justinian legislated on: he set the rule that a shortlist of three
candidates should be drawn up by the local people, from which the bishop
was to be selected. This rule had been stated before.48 This suggests that
slowly a body of legislation developed. This is a complex process which I
cannot attempt to sketch here. I wish to emphasize a single factor here,
namely the role of rhetoric and dispute in this process.
Canon 4 of Nicaea, according to which at least three bishops had to
ordain a new bishop, stood at the centre of many a controversy about an
election.49 The election of Timothy Aelurus in Alexandria (454) is a case
in point: Ps.-Zacharias points out that there were two Egyptian bishops
present and that the people seized upon Peter the Iberian, bishop of
Maiouma, to make up the total of three (4.1). Evagrius, the Chalcedonian
historian, only mentions Eusebius of Pelusium and Peter (2.8). Evagrius is
obviously suggesting that Timothy was illegally ordained. Importantly,
this episode reveals the distance between the precise content of the rule
and its rhetorical use: the Nicaean canon demanded three bishops of the
same province, not any three - Peter the Iberian did not qualify. Evagrius
is obviously ignorant of this fact: by his time, the idea seems to have been
that Nicaea only requested three ordaining bishops and nothing more.50
This suggests that it is not a better knowledge of the canons of Nicaea that
explains the reference to canons, but rather the need to have arguments in
disputed cases. The example of Timothy shows that such arguments did
not necessarily imply a direct recourse to the canons, but rather depended
on what people thought was the law.
This conclusion has several consequences: first, it creates a distance be-
tween the body of law as we find it in the collections of canon rules and
law "in reality". It is habitual to suggest that laws set out the theory, which
then has to be applied in practice: law as found in the law codes is the

47 Gesta 43 (ACO 1.1.2, 12,23); Jo. Mai. chron. XVII 22 and XVIII 98 (CFHB Berlin
35: 352,69 and 409,36); Theod. lect. h.e. E 444 (124 Hansen); Leo en. ad Genna-
dium, Collectio Avellana 52 (CSEL 35, 119-120).
48 Cod. Just. 1.3.41 (528); Just. Nov. 123 (546) and 137 (565), discussed by Norton,
Episcopal Elections (note 1), 34-37. See Second council of Aries, canon 54 (CChr.SL
148, 125,207); Boniface, in Collectio Avellana 17.2 (CSEL 34, 36).
49 Without having perused all sources systematically, it seems that two other principles
seem to occur with relative frequency: the prohibition having two bishops in a city,
implying the prohibition of ordaining your own successor; and the prohibition of
translations, which we have already discussed above.
50 See Damasus, ep. ad Gallos epics. 18; Synodicon orientale, Synod of Mar Isaac (410),
canon 1 (J.B. Chabot, Synodicon orientale ou recueil de synodes nestoriens, Paris
256 Peter Van Nuffelen

ideal, and historical sources give us the practice. This is too easy an oppo-
sition. On the one hand, as suggested above, collections of canon laws are
later systematizations, which attribute a universal authority to what were
by and large ad hoc regulations. The "theory" of canon law may be a later
construct by legal scholars and collectors.51 On the other hand, these rules
were not simply applied: indeed, the episode in Evagrius shows that there
could be a gap between what the rule precisely said and what people
thought it said, precisely because they often lacked precise knowledge of
the rule. Similar situations could occur with secular law, and officials often
had to seek legal advice and clarification: the application and interpreta-
tion of law could be difficult and open to challenge; finding the law and
interpreting it in the right sense (i.e., from a litigant's case, the sense that
suited one's own case) was part of the legal struggle.52
Second, canon law was part of a rhetoric of justification and accusa-
tion. As we have seen above, the demand of consensus made it easy for
dissent to be voiced: certainly from the fifth century onwards, we encoun-
ter conflicting accounts of elections with each side arguing that the other
side was elected against the rules and, moreover, did not possess the neces-
sary virtue. Canon law is thus part of the game: it is an argument among
others. The comparison between the chalcedonian Evagrius and the anti-
chalcedonian Zacharias is rich in examples. Apart from the account of
Timothy Aelurus's election, we possess, for example, widely diverging
versions of the election of Theodosius of Jerusalem (452). In Evagrius,
Theodosius is nothing short of a criminal and is elected illegally (2.5),
whereas in Zachariah he is a paragon of virtue (3.3).53 It is hard to see
where the truth lies in such cases. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the
reference to canon law in these disputes raised the awareness of its role.
But the "misinterpretation" of the canon of Nicaea shows that a greater
awareness does not necessarily mean an exact knowledge.
The rhetoric of law does not mean that law was only seen as rhetoric.
On the contrary, it implies a recognition of its possible power. A good
example comes from the letters of Gregory the Great. In 603 pope Gre-
gory sent a defensor, John, to Spain to judge the conflict between Januarius
of Malaga and other bishops who had him violently removed from his see

51 A. Thier, Dynamische Schriftlichkeit (note 18) proposed the term 'dynamische Schrift-
lichkeit' to describe how rules could be re-interpreted in the process of codification.
52 See, e.g., Aug. ep. 113-114 (CSEL 34, 659-661). These letters refer to the case of
someone who appealed to Augustine because the governor Florentius did not respect
the law. Augustine appends the law text in his response.
53 See also Ambr. ep. 9 extra coll. (CSEL 82, 201-204), arguing on the relative merits of
Maximus 'the Cynic' and Nectarius (381).
The Rhetoric of Rules and the Rule of Consensus 257

(August 603). Several letters instruct John: Ep. 13.49 is a long cento of
extracts from Justinian's Digest, the Codex Justinianus, and the Novellae.
Such precise legal instructions are rare in the letter corpus, whereas inter-
ventions such as that by John are very common. 54 It is striking that in no
other letter relating to episcopal elections or trials of bishops Gregory
mentions laws. The reason seems to be that papal authority in Spain was
weak - most of it fell under control of the Visigothic "arian" church and
Gregory was banking on the rhetoric of law. Lacking the authority that
allowed him to go his way elsewhere, Gregory now had to rely exclusively
on law.
The rhetoric of law thus presupposes its authority, but does not always
respect the strict letter of the law. Especially in disputes one might be
more inclined to refer to what was generally thought to be the law, with-
out being too precise. My suggestion here is that the rhetorical use of ca-
non law in disputes was an important factor in increasing the sensitivity
for the power of canon law, whilst at the same time also impacting on how
the existing body of law was interpreted.


This chapter has pursued a negative and a positive aim. It has argued
against the assumption that canon law set out the authoritative procedure
to follow in episcopal elections in Late Antiquity. I have suggested a) that
such a view projects the later systematization of canon law back onto the
fourth and fifth century, when canon law was often simply ignored, and b)
that it approaches ancient election with a conceptual framework suited for
modern electoral procedure.
On the positive side, I have argued that we should fully appreciate the
implications of the fact that episcopal elections were meant to be consen-
sual. This implies that an emerging consensus would always trump strict
adherence to canon law. Moreover, the primary purpose of canon law was
to remove obstacles to the emergence of a true consensus, and not the
creation of a fully-fledged procedure. This does not, however, imply that
canon law played no role at all. On the contrary, it was often referred to
during disputes. In line with recent work on imperial law, I have empha-

54 For a case-study of Gregorys dealings with elections in Sicily, see P. Van Nuffelen,
Episcopal Succession in sixth century Sicily, in D. Engels et al. (ed.), Zwischen Ideal
und Wirklichkeit - Herrschaft auf Sizilien von der Antike bis zur Friihen Neuzeit,
Stuttgart 2010, 175-190.
258 Peter Van Nuffelen

sized the role played by rhetoric and argument in finding the law that
suited one's case and in then interpreting it. This does not, I would sug-
gest, diminish the status of law: it was recognized to be a powerful argu-
ment: law surely had authority in Late Antiquity. Indeed, the rhetorical
reference to certain canons during disputes (such as canon 4 of Nicaea)
may have led to these becoming seen as the corner stone of a properly
conducted election.
Finally, this chapter leaves open certain important questions. First, I
have suggested that there is a stronger tendency to refer to canon law with
the progress of time, a process which runs parallel with an increasing proli-
feration of collections of canons. It is likely that this was a two-way
process: greater demand and greater availability are not just functions of
one another. This process still needs to be better understood. Second, I
have largely left out imperial interference in episcopal elections, either in
individual cases or through legislation. This raises the complicated issue of
the precise legal relationship between church and state, an area where I do
not wish to venture here. Notwithstanding these limitations, I hope to
have shown that canon law was part of the game that was an episcopal
election. It was not the objective rule book that formed the basis of the
actual elections; rather, canon law was one element in the dynamic and
often difficult process of identifying the person who could represent the
consensus of the community. Depending on the occasion, it could be
ignored or appealed to. It is this dynamic that the study of episcopal elec-
tions in Late Antiquity should try to grasp.
Les elections episcopates en Egypte aux Vle-

Dans la vie des villes du monde chretien, l'election de l'eveque etait tou-
jours un moment de grande importance, suscitant de vives emotions dans
tous les milieux. Etant donnees les taches qui attendaient le detenteur de la
dignite episcopale et l'ampleur de ses prerogatives, qui resultaient de la
tradition et de la legislation imperiale, beaucoup dependait des qualites
humaines du candidat, car la remise d'aussi vastes pouvoirs entre les mains
dune personne incompetente risquait d'etre lourde en consequences pour
la communaute. II arrivait (sans doute assez souvent) que la decision
commune du clerge et des laiques confiait quasi unanimement le trone
episcopal au candidat propose, sans soulever de controverses ni entrainer
d'ennuis. Mais il arrivait aussi que les membres de la communaute chre-
tienne etaient divises, formant des groupes qui soutenaient chacun un
autre candidat. Ne connaissant que des cas precis, nous sommes dans
l'impossiblite de repondre a la question de savoir laquelle des deux situa-
tions etait la plus frequente.
En regie generale, les parties rivales tentaient de negocier un compro-
mis ou de reduire au silence les groupes les plus faibles, dans l'espoir qu'au
bout d u n temps ceux-ci oublieraient tant les circonstances dans lesquelles
l'eveque avait pris ses fonctions que les critiques formulees a son encontre.
Cependant, parfois des conflits violents eclataient, suivis de tueries et de
ravages; les manifestations religieuses tournaient en emeutes et pillages.
A la lecture des sources relatives a de tels faits, il apparait nettement
que, dans leur mentalite, les populations des villes chretiennes ne s'etaient
pas encore defaites des vieilles habitudes qui remontaient jusqu'a l'epoque
des cites archaiques et des violents conflits politiques appeles staseis. A
l'occasion des elections, des luttes internes avaient souvent lieu et ceci aussi
bien dans les petites et moyennes villes que dans les grandes villes comme
Rome, Alexandrie ou Constantinople. La presence dans ces villes de hauts
fonctionnaires envoyes par le pouvoir central et disposant d'une force
armee stationnee a proximite ne faisait qu'empirer la situation, car
260 EwaWipszycka

d'ordinaire ceux-ci prenaient position pour une des factions et n'hesitaient

pas a la soutenir manu militari. D'habitude, ces luttes faisaient reagir
l'empereur qui intervenait avec des consequences tantot bonnes, tantot
C'est de la premiere moitie du IVe s. que datent certaines regies cen-
sees regir toute la procedure d'investiture de Feveche et donner satisfaction
a differents groupes participants a l'election, dont le clerge de la ville, sur-
tout les plus importants presbytres et diacres, des notables locaux et des
fonctionnaires imperiaux (residant en ville), des commandants de troupes
(dans des villes de garnison) et de simples laiques qui avaient garde une
partie de leurs anciens droits. Le choix du candidat etait generalement
approuve par acclamation: "il en est digne, il en est digne!" Ainsi, surtout
lorsqu'ils etaient organises, voire manipules, les electeurs disposaient dune
arme dangereuse (en effet, il aurait ete impossible de faire quoi que ce soit,
s'ils refusaient obstinement d'assister a la messe). Dans toute cette proce-
dure, un role important (et, avec le temps, de plus en plus important)
revenait aux eveques des autres villes de la province concernee. Certains
d'entre eux se rendaient a l'election, d'autres faisaient parvenir leur con-
sentement par ecrit, le dernier mot appartenant toujours a Feveque metro-
politan. Ce qui fut institue par le Concile de Nicee et exprime dans un de
ses canons.
Canon 4: "Le plus convenable est qu'un eveque soit etabli par tous les
eveques de l'eparchie; si la chose s'averait difficile, soit en raison dune
necessite urgente, soit a cause de la longueur de la route, il faut de toute
facon que trois eveques se reunissent au meme endroit - les absents aussi
donnant leur suffrage et exprimant leur consentement par ecrit - et fassent
alors l'ordination. Que l'autorite sur ce qui se fait revienne dans chaque
eparchie a Teveque metropolitan."
La procedure durait parfois longtemps, meme si la candidature du fu-
tur pasteur ne pretait pas a controverse. Des lettres et des delegations cir-
culaient. Toutes ces demarches etaient supposees empecher des prises de
decision trop hatives, pouvant elever a la dignite episcopale des personnes
compromises, surtout celles qui etaient suspectees de corruption dans leur
course au pouvoir.
La consecration solennelle avait habituellement lieu dans la plus im-
portant eglise de la ville. Afin que Facte lui-meme puisse etre reconnu
comme legitime, il etait necessaire que trois eveques assistent a la ceremo-
nie (des cas d'ordination celebree par deux eveques sont egalement attestes,
Les elections episcopales en Egypte aux VIe-VIIe siecles 261

mais de telles situations n'etaient pas appreciees).1 II n'y avait aucune rai-
son de nature doctrinale (d'ailleurs aucune ne fut jamais evoquee), il
s'agissait tout simplement dune conviction basee sur le pragmatisme et le
Ces regies etaient en vigueur dans routes les regions du monde chre-
tien, sauf l'Egypte. Ici, les institutions ecclesiastiques suivaient d'autres
principes et respectaient d'autres usages. Les eveches metropolitans
n'existaient pas, les eveques dependant directement de l'eveque
d'Alexandrie. En effet, c'est deja au IIP siecle que fut institute la regie
selon laquelle tous les eveques d'Egypte devaient etre consacres par le pa-
triarche en personnel et l'ordination se faisait toujours en son siege. Il
n'existe pas de temoignages sur des ordinations qui auraient pu avoir lieu
lors de ses visites pastorales dans d'autres villes. Les candidats se rendaient
a Alexandria accompagnes d'une delegation d'ecclesiastiques et de no-
tables locaux, qui apportait le psephisma, le document relatif a la designa-
tion d'un candidat (ou de plus d'un candidat). Il nous est impossible de
situer avec exactitude dans le temps le moment ou il fut admis que, dans
son choix, le patriarche n'etait pas tenu de respecter les preferences des
fideles.3 II choisissait les candidats selon son gre, il pouvait (cela ne veut
pas dire qu'il le faisait systematiquement) installer sur le trone episcopal
une personne ne jouissant d'aucun appui, voire c o m p l e m e n t inconnue
des fideles. Cela modifiait profondement les regies du jeu. En effet, ces
pratiques limitaient considerablemement les droits des groupes qui, en

1 Dans les Canons Apostoliques faisant partie des Constitutions Apostoliques (VIII,
47), le canon 1 stipule: "Que l'eveque soit ordonne par deux ou trois eveques"(SC
336, 274).
2 Pour des raisons pratiques, dans cet article, je vais designer l'eveque d'Alexandrie du
terme de patriarche, bien que ce mot ne soit entre dans l'usage courant qu'au VP
siecle. La premiere attestation de l'emploi de ce terme pour designer le chef de l'Eglise
d'Egypte apparait dans un diptyque ecclesiastique a usage liturgique de la fin du VIP
siecle (done posterieur a la conquete arabe): "notre bienheureux patriarche" (il s'agit
d'Agathon, qui exerca sa fonction de 662 a 680). L'inscription du diptyque est publiee
dans le Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Agypten, n° 6087 [SB III Berlin-
Leipzig 1926]. C'est egalement pour des raisons pratiques que je vais employer le
terme "diocese" dans le sens qu'il a aujourd'hui. A la fin de l'Antiquite, ce terme desi-
gnait une unite administrative de l'Empire. Je vais neanmoins l'employer dans son
sens ecclesiastique moderne, pour ne pas compliquer mes propos. Voir aussi E. Wip-
szycka, Le istituzioni ecclesiastiche in Egitto dalla fine del III al inizio dell'VIII secolo,
in: L'Egitto cristiano: aspetti e problemi in eta tardo-antica, ed. A. Camplani, SEA 56,
Rome 1997, 219-271.
3 Der Papyruscodex saec. VI-VII der Phillippsbibliothek in Cheltenham. Koptische
theologische Schriften ed. W.E. Crum, commentaire W.E. Crum, avec une contribu-
tion de A. Ehrhard, Strassburg 1915, p. 60-61.
262 EwaWipszycka

dehors de l'Egypte, decidaient traditionnellement de l'investiture de

l'eveche: du clerge local, des notables et du peuple de Dieu, autrement
dit du commun des laiques. De meme, le role des eveques des eglises de
la meme province etait different; certes, une partie d'entre eux partici-
p a n t au debat sur les candidatures proposees, mais leur role se limitait a
Les regies qui etaient en vigueur dans la pratique ecclesiastique furent
exprimees sous forme de questions-reponses dans un petit texte redige en
dialecte copte sahidique. Le manuscrit date du VT ou du VIP siecle, mais
l'ouvrage est un peu plus ancien, il peut etre attribue au Ve ou au VF
siecle. II est probable que l'original etait en grec. Deux diacres, dont nous
ignorons tout, excepte les noms qui sont grecs, interrogent le patriarche
Cyrille sur differents sujets, entre autres sur les principes qui le guident
dans les ordinations episcopales. Dans ses reponses, Cyrille affirme qu'il
accepte le candidat qui lui a ete presente unanimement par les habitants de
la ville, les fonctionnaires et les petites gens (leptodemos), mais que, lors-
qu'il connait lui-meme un bon candidat qui aime les pauvres, n'est pas
tout a fait etranger au diocese et a atteint un certain age, il le consacre; et
que, s'il le faut, il est pret a accepter un candidat imparfait, en lui recom-
mandant tout de meme de ne pas s'enorgueillir. Si, lors de la designation
des candidats, l'opinion de la majorite des habitants diverge de celle des
notables de la ville, en regie generale il se range du cote de ces derniers. Il
envisage neanmoins la possibilite du tirage au sort. Le texte ne fait pas
mention de l'attitude du clerge, comme s'il etait evident que celui-ci ap-
prouvera sans conteste la decision du patriarche. L'editeur de cet opuscule,
W.E. Crum, et son commentateur, A. Erhard etaient d'avis qu'il s'agissait
de propos authentiques de Cyrille, mais il est difficile de savoir si leur hy-
pothese etait juste. Les patrologues ne se sont pas trop interesses a ce texte,
personne n'a entrepris d'etudes sur la pensee theologique qui - ne fut-ce
que sous une forme simplifiee - s'y exprime. Meme si Cyrille n'y a pas
prete la main, en raison du contenu de l'ouvrage, nous devons le conside-
rer comme l'expression de l'opinion du clerge de la curie.
Tous les candidats a l'ordination designes par les suffrages locaux
etaient envoyes a Alexandria Cette procedure etait censee eliminer
d'eventuelles tensions et reduire le risque de conflits (a ma connaissance,
en Egypte, en dehors d'Alexandrie, des cas d'emeutes causees par la desi-
gnation des candidats n'ont pas ete notes, mais il s'agit la d'un argumen-
tum exsilentio, il vaut mieux ne pas y recourir). Le retour de l'eveque nou-
vellement elu pouvait en revanche creer des problemes, lorsque les
divisions au sein de la communaute chretienne etaient tellement profondes
qu'elles rendaient impossible toute activite pastorale. Le malheureux elu
Les elections episcopales en Egypte aux VIe-VIIe siecles 263

n'avait alors q u a se retirer, prenant souvent la direction d u n autre diocese

ou il exercait sa fonction sans trop de mal. Nos textes en fournissent de
nombreux temoignages; de telles situations y sont signalees ouvertement et
sans home, car l'echec de la mission pastorale en un lieu ne signifiait nul-
lement que la personne etait malhonnete.
Le patriarche avait-il l'habitude de s'adresser a la communaute de la
ville pour connaitre son avis, s'il n'avait accepte aucune des candidatures
proposees? Un seul texte semble en temoigner, a savoir la Vie de Pisen-
thios, du moine qui devint eveque d'Hermonthis, une petite ville sur la
rive occidentale du Nil, face a Thebes.4 Le patriarche aurait rejete par deux
fois la candidature presentee, car - comme cela est propre a la realite ha-
giographique - par inspiration divine il savait tres bien que dans les envi-
rons d'Hermonthis vivait quelqu'un de tres pieux, du nom de Pisenthios,
et c'est sur lui que porta son choix. Il est impossible de savoir si des cas
analogues avaient lieu pour des candidats ordinaires. Mais, compte tenu de
la nature autoritaire du pouvoir du patriarche en Egypte, je doute que de
tels cas aientpuetre frequents.
Comme il a ete deja dit, la ceremonie d'ordination episcopale avait
habituellement lieu a Alexandrie, toujours un dimanche. Elk etait prece-
d e d'une veillee nocturne organisee dans l'eglise ou allait se derouler
l'office.5 La ceremonie elle-meme reunissait le patriarche, qui arrivait en
compagnie de son clerge, et les eveques d'Egypte presents dans la capitale.
Elle se deroulait selon un rituel bien etabli: l'archidiacre jouant le role de

4 II apparait dans le synaxaire sous la date du 20 Kihak: R. Basset, Le synaxaire arabe

Jacobite, PO 3, 1904, 490-491; voir aussi W.E. Crum dans: H.E. Winlock, W.E.
Crum, The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes, New York 1926, t. I, 136; W. Gabra,
Pesyntheus, Bischof von Hermonthis, MDAIK Abteilung Kairo 40, 1984, 27-29; J.
Van den Vliet, Pisenthios de Coptos (569-632), moine, eveque, saint, Topoi (Sup-
plement 3), 2000, 61-70.
5 Mes connaissances relatives a la liturgie de consecration des eveques et des patriarches
viennent entre autres du texte copte du manuscrit 253 conserve au Musee Copte. Le
texte date de 1364. II fut publie en deux parties: The Rites of Consecration of the Pa-
triarch of Alexandria, ed. tr. O.H.E. Burmester, Le Caire 1960 et Ordination Rites of
the Coptic Church, ed. tr. O.H.E. Burmester, Le Caire 1985. II ne fait pas de doute
q u a lorigine se trouvait un texte grec d'avant la conquete arabe. Bien que remanie et
complete, il a garde, pour l'essentiel, son caractere initial.
Sur ce texte: H. Brakmann, Pseudo-Clemens Romanus, homilia 3,72 als Petrinisches
Konsekrationsgebet der Kopten und der agyptischen Melchiten, Zeitschrift fur Anti-
kes Christentum 10, 2007, 233-251. Sur l'importance de ce genre de textes liturgiques
dans les etudes sur l'ideologie du patriarcat alexandrin voir A. Camplani, La funzione
religiosa del vescovo di Alessandria: a proposito di alcune recenti prospettive di ricerca,
dans: Sacerdozio e societa nell'Egitto antico, ed. S. Pernigotti, M. Zecchi, Bologna
264 Ewa Wipszycka

maitre de ceremonie remet entre les mains du partiarche le psephisma qui

est ensuite lu par un diacre designe par le patriarche parmi son clerge.
Redige selon une formule consacree, le document presente la forme d u n e
supplication adressee au patriarche qui etait la seule personne susceptible
de donner une valeur religieuse au choix fait par la plebe et le clerge. II y
est nomme "Illuminateur orthodoxe", "Pere de tous les peuples",
"Homme du veritable savoir", "Celui que le Christ a choisi pour l'elever
au trone orthodoxe", "Digne du trone de Marc l'Evangeliste" et "Homme
du veritable savoir que notre saint Pere, Marc l'Evangeliste, enseigna le
premier lorsqu'il fonda et consolida l'Eglise catholique et apostolique