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Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective


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Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective
Cambridge University Press
9781107031722 - Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective - By Richard Flower

Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective

This innovative study illuminates the role of polemical literature in the political life of the Roman empire by examining the earliest surviving invectives directed against a living emperor. Written by three bishops (Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Cagliari), these texts attacked Constantius II (337–61) for his vicious and tyrannical behaviour, as well as his heretical religious beliefs. This book explores the strategies employed by these authors to present themselves as fearless champions of liberty and guardians of faith, as they sought to bolster their authority at a time when they were out of step with the prevailing imperial view of Christian orthodoxy. By analysing this fascinating collection of writings alongside late-antique panegyrics and ceremonial, this study also rehabilitates anti-imperial polemic as a serious political activity and restores it to its proper place in the complex web of presentations and perceptions that underpinned late Roman power relationships.

Richard Flower is Lecturer in the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter.

Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective

Richard Flower

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Mexico City

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:
© Richard Flower 2013

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2013
Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by the MPG Books Group

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Flower, Richard, 1980–
Emperors and bishops in late Roman invective / Richard Flower.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages) and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-03172-2 (hardback)
1. Church history–Primitive and early church, ca. 30–600.
2. Invective–-Rome–History. I. Title.
BR205.F56 2013

ISBN 978-1-107-03172-2 Hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For my grandmother, Hilda Flower

who knew a thing or two about invective


List of abbreviations
Introduction: The use of abuse
1             Praise and blame in the Roman world
2             Constructing a Christian tyrant
3             Writing auto-hagiography
4             Living up to the past
Appendix 1:   Altercatio Heracliani cum Germinio
Appendix 2:   Epistula Liberii papae ad Eusebium, Dionysium et Luciferum in exsilio constitutos
Appendix 3:   Epistula Luciferi, Pancratii et Hilarii
Appendix 4:   Letters of Eusebius of Vercelli
Appendix 5:   Hilary of Poitiers, Contra Auxentium


This book has its origins in my 2007 doctoral thesis at the University of Cambridge. Since then, it has, like the later Roman empire itself, been transformed into something new, both gaining and losing elements along the way. Moreover, as with the Roman empire, many people played their parts in bringing it to its conclusion. My greatest benefactor during my time as a doctoral student was the A. G. Leventis Foundation, which provided for the Leventis Scholarship in Hellenic Studies and whose generosity made my research possible. I also wish to thank the Master and Fellows of Clare College, Cambridge, both for administering the Leventis Fund and for awarding me the Wardale Bursary; the Faculty of Classics for their support through the Laurence Studentship and the Graduate Studies Fund; and the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers of the City of London for electing me to the Mark Quested Exhibition. I am also extremely grateful to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for awarding me a Research Fellowship and providing an extremely pleasant environment in which to live and work for four years. During this time the thesis made its transition into a book, before achieving its final form in the welcoming surroundings of the Department of History at the University of Sheffield.

I owe the greatest debt of gratitude to Christopher Kelly, who has worked tirelessly through the inception, development and completion of this research, first as my doctoral supervisor and then as a colleague. His diligence, encouragement and friendship over the last decade have been exceptional. I would also like to thank Peter Garnsey and Thomas Graumann, who read my thesis at various stages; Rosamond McKitterick and Mark Humphries, who were a very friendly pair of doctoral examiners; the two anonymous readers for Cambridge University Press, whose detailed and constructive advice improved the work significantly; and Michael Sharp, who has overseen the development of the book and provided invaluable support. They have all helped to make the book better; its remaining faults are therefore my sole responsibility.

In addition, I am very grateful to the following people for their advice, assistance and general good humour over the last decade: Nick Allen, Max Beber, David Beckingham, James Bench-Capon, Paul Cartledge, Dave Doupé, Sue Goodbody, Suzannah Horner, Neal Morgan, Laura Morley, Rosanna Omitowoju, Robin Osborne, Martial Staub, Dorothy Thompson, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Michael Williams, Jane Wright, Peter Young, and the staff of the Cambridge University Library and the libraries of Clare College, Sidney Sussex College and the Faculties of Classics and Divinity. Finally, particular thanks and love go to Maria Whelan and to my parents and sister, whose support has been immeasurable.


All journal abbreviations follow L’Année philologique.

Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout, 1967–.


Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vienna, 1866–.


Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Leipzig and Berlin, 1897–.


Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., Rome, 1922–92.


H. Dessau (ed.), Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, 5 vols., Berlin, 1892–1916.


H. G. Liddell and R. Scott (eds.), A Greek–English Lexicon, 9th edn with a revised supplement, revised by H. S. Jones et al., Oxford, 1996.


P. G. W. Glare (ed.), Oxford Latin Dictionary, Oxford, 1982.


Patrologia cursus completus, series latina, ed. J.-P. Migne, 221 vols., Paris, 1841–64.


A. H. M. Jones, J. R. Martindale and J. Morris (eds.), The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire i: a.d. 260–395, Cambridge, 1971.


H. Mattingly et al. (eds.), The Roman Imperial Coinage, 10 vols., London, 1923–94.

Ancient textsUnless noted here, all abbreviations follow OLD, LSJ and A. H. M. Jones (1964) iii 394–406.
Ad Const.

Hilary of Poitiers, Liber II ad Constantium

A. Feder (ed.), S. Hilarii Episcopi Pictauiensis Opera. Pars Quarta, CSEL 65, 1916, 197–205.

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