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The Formation of Papal Authority in Late Antique Italy
Roman Bishops and the Domestic Sphere


  • Date Published: July 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107423480

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About the Authors
  • This book is the first cultural history of papal authority in late antiquity. While most traditional histories posit a 'rise of the papacy' and examine popes as politicians, theologians and civic leaders, Kristina Sessa focuses on the late Roman household and its critical role in the development of the Roman church from c.350–600. She argues that Rome's bishops adopted the ancient elite household as a model of good government for leading the church. Central to this phenomenon was the classical and biblical figure of the steward, the householder's appointed agent who oversaw his property and people. As stewards of God, Roman bishops endeavored to exercise moral and material influence within both the pope's own administration and the households of Italy's clergy and lay elites. This original and nuanced study charts their manifold interactions with late Roman households and shows how bishops used domestic knowledge as the basis for establishing their authority as Italy's singular religious leaders.

    • The first cultural history of papacy and pope in late antiquity
    • An original history of ancient Christianity and private life
    • Provides a new interpretive paradigm for studying bishops and their authority in late antiquity
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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107423480
    • length: 340 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: household management and the Bishop of Rome
    1. The late Roman household in Italy
    2. From dominion to dispensatio: stewardship as an elite ideal
    3. Primus cultor: episcopal householding in theory and practice
    4. Overseeing the overseer: bishops and the lay household
    5. Cultivating the clerical household: marriage, property and inheritance
    6. Mistrusting the bishop: succession, stewardship and sex in the Laurentian schism
    7. The household and the bishop: authority, competition and cooperation in the gesta martyrum

  • Author

    Kristina Sessa, Ohio State University
    Kristina Sessa is Assistant Professor of History and Associate Director for the Center of the Study of Religion at Ohio State University. She was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Rome in 2001 and a Fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University in 2006–7. She is the author of several articles on bishops, Christianity and the domestic sphere and edited a special volume of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.

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