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Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective


  • Date Published: May 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107031722

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About the Authors
  • 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. Furthermore, by analysing this unique collection of writings alongside late antique panegyrics and ceremonial, it also rehabilitates anti-imperial polemic as a serious political activity and explores the ways in which it functioned within the complex web of presentations and perceptions that underpinned late Roman power relationships.

    • Invective in the Roman empire is considered not only from a rhetorical perspective, but also for its place within political ideology and ceremony
    • Explores ways in which both Christianity and Roman society adapted to the religion's new status in the generation after Constantine
    • Some of the texts discussed here are presented in English translation for the first time in the appendix
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Richard Flower's important book is accessible and readable, and wears its impressive store of learning very lightly. Flower is a patient guide through this historically, literarily and theologically tricky field, leavening the material with gentle good humour and sophistication. But do not be deceived by this deftness: this is also a weighty study that will be read widely and appreciatively by all in the field. This book is quite some achievement.' Pegasus

    'What Flower offers is an innovative, engaging and richly informed treatment at the sharp end of theology, literature and politics in the controversial fourth century.' Nicholas Baker-Brian, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

    'Richard Flower's Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invective is a welcome contribution to this field … [It] will be of value to students of late antique history, rhetoric and Christianity.' Catherine Ware, The Journal of Roman Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107031722
    • length: 312 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.63kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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.

  • Author

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

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