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Mobility and Exile at the End of Antiquity

von Dirk Rohmann (Band-Herausgeber:in) Jörg Ulrich (Band-Herausgeber:in) Margarita Vallejo Girvés (Band-Herausgeber:in)
©2018 Sammelband 302 Seiten


This volume explores how forced movement and exile of clerics developed over time and ultimately came to shape interactions between the late-antique Roman Empire, the Byzantine, post-Roman, and early medieval worlds. It investigates the politics and legal mechanics of ecclesiastical exile, the locations associated with life in exile, both in literary sources and in material culture, as well as the multitude of strategies which ancient and early medieval authors, and the exiles themselves, employed to create historical narratives of banishment. The chapters are revised versions of papers given at international conferences held at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, the German Historical Institute London, and the University of Alcalá in 2016 and 2017.


  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Preface
  • Contents
  • List of Contributors
  • Introduction
  • Part 1 Roman and Post-Roman Politics of Exile
  • A New Database on Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity: Research Report, Methodology, Quantitative Finds and How to Use
  • 1 Reflections on the Methodology
  • 2 Recording Data on Exile and How to Use the Database
  • 3 Quantitative Finds of the Database
  • Clerical Exile and Imperial Functionaries: Mechanism of Civic Exclusion in Late Antiquity
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Ambrose’s Success in Avoiding Exile as a Case-Study
  • 3 On the Expulsion of Clergymen from their Seats: Between Conciliar Decrees and Imperial Law
  • 4 Conclusion
  • Episcopal Banishment under Constantine’s Immediate Successors: Solidifying the Pattern
  • Superstitiosa coniuratio soluatur: Jovinian’s Exile in Cod. Thds. 16.5,53 (398)*
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Querella episcoporum – Controlling Rome’s Topography
  • 3 Deportatio in insulam – The Island of Boae as a Place of Exile
  • 4 Conclusion
  • Exile and Prison in Late Antiquity: Attacks against Pagans under Emperor Zeno – Imperial or Indiscriminate Persecution?
  • Case Studies of Church Asylum and Exile in Late Antiquity
  • 1 Evading Exile: Ecclesiastical Asylum
  • 2 Exile as indulgentia Thanks to Ecclesiastical Asylum
  • Part 2 Between Life and Death: Places of Exile
  • Liberius and the Cemetery as a Space of Exile in Late Antique Rome
  • Xenodocheia – Reception Camps for Refugees? About Clerical and Imperial Patronage for the Xenoi
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4 Conclusion
  • Laid to Rest Abroad – Evidence for Forced Movement of Clerics in the Archaeological Record
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Case Study: From North Africa to Naples
  • 3 Case Study: From the Levant and Alexandria to Cyprus
  • 4 Case Study: From the Levant to Rome
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Part 3 Fashioning the Exile Persona
  • How to Gain indulgentiam: The Case of Liberius of Rome
  • Negotiating Memories of Exile: Hilary of Poitiers in the Writings of Sulpicius Severus
  • 1 Usurpation and Theological Struggle in Gaul (350–402 CE)
  • 2 “The Violence of Heretics”: Hilary’s Exile in the Life of Martin
  • 3 “A Sower of Discord”: Hilary of Poitiers in the Chronicle
  • 4 Conclusion
  • Not that Far from a Madding Crowd: Jerome “Exiled” in Bethlehem
  • 1 Introduction: A Brief Overview of the Unfolding of Events
  • 2 Jerome “Reconnecting”: Creating Presence in Absence
  • 3 Conclusion
  • John Chrysostom’s Support Network: The Letters from his Second Exile
  • 1 Who Needs Whom?
  • 2 “Keep Me in the Loop”
  • 3 Victim or Hero?
  • 4 The Hero
  • 5 Conclusion
  • Sidonius Apollinaris and the Making of an Exile Persona
  • 1 The Threat
  • 2 The Cause (epp. 7.6 and 7.7)
  • 3 The Release (epp. 8.3 and 8.9)
  • 4 Sidonius’ Narrative Roles
  • 5 Epistolary Narratives of Exile, Athanasius and Sidonius Compared
  • Faustus of Praesidium and His Exile as Mirrored in Fulgentius of Ruspe’s Life
  • Introduction
  • 1 The 484AD Synod against the Catholics and its Consequences for Faustus
  • 1.1 Huneric and the 484AD Synod against the Catholics
  • 1.2 Faustus’ Fate after the Synod: The Exile
  • 2 Faustus’ Life in Exile
  • 2.1 Faustus’ Monastery
  • 2.2 Faustus’ Way of Life according to Fulgentius’ Vita
  • 2.3 Fulgentius’ Life in Faustus’ Monastery and Later
  • 3 Conclusion
  • A Tale of Two Exiles: Maximus the Confessor and Wilfrid of York at the End of Late Antiquity
  • 1 Setting the Scene
  • 2 The Making of a Network
  • 3 The Networks in Exile
  • 4 The Tide Turns
  • 5 The Exiles in Context

List of Contributors

Ariane Bodin is a Postdoctoral Researcher in History at the University Paris Nanterre, France

Samuel Cohen is Assistant Professor of Ancient and Medieval History at Sonoma State University, United States

Michaela Dirschlmayer is Associate Lecturer in Ancient History and Archaeology at the Goethe-University of Frankfurt, Germany

María Victoria Escribano Paño is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Zaragoza, Spain

Éric Fournier is Associate Professor in Church History at West Chester University, United States

Michael Hanaghan is Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, University College Cork, Department of Classics, Ireland

Maria Konstantinidou is Lecturer of Early Byzantine Literature at Democritus University of Thrace, Greece

Sihong Lin is a PhD Student in History at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Rita Lizzi Testa is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Perugia, Italy

Jaime de Miguel Lopez is a PhD Researcher in History at the University of Alcalá, Spain

David Natal is Lecturer in History at Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom

Dirk Rohmann is Lecturer in History at the University of Wuppertal, Germany

Jörg Ulrich is Professor in Church History at the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

Margarita Vallejo Girvés is Professor in History at the University of Alcalá, Spain

Ute Verstegen is Professor in Christian Archaeology at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

Jessica van ‘t Westeinde is Junior Research Fellow at the Department of History, University of Bern, Switzerland, and Excellence Junior Researcher at the Department of Ancient History, Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen, Germany←9 | 10→←10 | 11→

Dirk Rohmann


Exile, mobility and migration are striking characteristics of the period from the end of antiquity to the early middle ages. These characteristics are even defining features of the period in question as it is known variously as the migration period or Völkerwanderungszeit in several European languages. While academic research into this period has for a long time held a relatively marginal status (in German-language rather than Anglophone academia) due to its being situated in between two well-defined fields of study, it is hardly surprising that both the period itself and the topics of mobility and migration are receiving increasing attention among researchers. The amount of contributions collected in this volume as well as their references to further recent books, volumes and individual contributions attest to this. Within the broad topics of mobility and migration, the category of exile as a legally defined method of forced movement of individuals or groups stands out, not least because the expulsion and movements of clerics contributed to the diversity of late antique Christianity in various regions of the Roman, Byzantine and post-Roman worlds. The present volume therefore sets out to shed new light on these developments.

With few exceptions, the present volume combines pertinent papers presented at three different occasions: a workshop held at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg on 2 September 2016, hosted by Jörg Ulrich; the international Forced Movement in Late Antiquity conference at the German Historical Institute in London from 6 to 8 April 2017, hosted by Julia Hillner and myself; and the III Destex International Workshop: confinamiento y exilio en la antigüedad tardía at the University of Alcalá in October 2017, hosted by Margarita Vallejo Girvés. The papers have been selected in order to explore a number of pertinent questions on late antique exile, with special emphasis on clerical and ecclesiastical exile, and to include a rich and diverse group of scholars at all levels of academic experience and from diverse educational and professional backgrounds (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, USA), reflecting the wide-ranging interest into the ancient heritage of the Mediterranean world. The focus of the various contributors is likewise diverse and interdisciplinary, ranging from classical, ancient and early medieval to archaeological, religious, ecclesiastical and theological studies. All papers have been invited in English in order to make the volume accessible to an international readership.←11 | 12→

The material has been arranged thus to explore specific areas of interest in the history, space and narratives of exile. Part 1 sets out to investigate Roman and Post-Roman Politics of Exile (Lizzi, Fournier, Escribano, de Miguel, Vallejo, and my own contribution) in both synchronic and diachronic ways, discussing either specific periods, or cases studies, or the mechanics of exile over time. Part 2 (Between Life and Death: Places of Exile) focuses on the variety of places associated with exile and, generally, forced movement (Cohen, Dirschlmayer, Verstegen). The final Part 3 (Fashioning the Exile Persona) gives an in-depth review of the ways in which individual destinies of exiles were portrayed, and often distorted, in order to fit specific contemporary narratives of exile, by means either of self-representation or third-party views, whether hostile or not (Ulrich, Natal, van’t Westeinde, Konstantinidou, Hanaghan, Bodin, Lin). In so doing, this part aims to look beyond the narratives provided in ecclesiastical source material and to elucidate life in exile for the very many instances where no such information is otherwise known.

The volume starts with my own contribution in which I describe the methodology of the quantitative assessment and network analysis underlying the database Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity, my research into the data, ways how to use the database and a preliminary presentation of finds.1 This opening chapter sets out a number of themes that will be addressed in the individual contributions of this volume: legal questions surrounding late antique exile, considerations on the locations of exiles, on the reliability and tendencies of ecclesiastical sources on exile, and on ongoing activities of clerics in exile. Rita Lizzi’s chapter goes on to describe the role of councils in deciding clerical exile sentences for doctrinal reasons during the fourth century. Starting with an in-depth analysis of legal procedures described in a letter by Ambrose of Milan, Lizzi gives no easy answer on the question of whether emperors could expel clerics at will, arguing instead that concerning the principle of episcopal primacy in deciding doctrinal issues “being previously based on custom, it had been variously applied but also widely transgressed.” Nevertheless, the legal basis for imperial judgements involving the banishing of clerics was that of laesa maiestas, often in conjunction with accusations of riots and seditions, even if the cause for seditions was doctrinal in nature, rather than a verdict on the theological dispute itself. This shows that emperors, or post-Roman kings, refused to consult ecclesiastical institutions in cases where summary actions were needed in order to deal with emergencies at hand.←12 | 13→

Éric Fournier’s chapter immediately follows up on the role of councils in imperial decision-making with regard to exile. Focusing on Athanasius’ Historia Arianorum, Fournier contends that because of Constantius’ own Arianism our sources are heavily inclined to portray him as a violent, unjust persecutor, who was, however, in fact only following the procedures set out by his father Constantine. Since Constantius tended to favour certain factions amongst the bishops, Athanasius’ view can best be explained as an attempt to call into question council decisions of his own adversaries. Fournier therefore suggests that the sources on Constantius’ policy of exile should be understood as grievances of bishops that were themselves exiled, as a kind of source material that is seldom preserved but may well have existed in other contexts as well. Among late antique laws on exile, the case of Jovinian stands out because its related law is the only one expelling a heretic by name. Beginning with the legal language of disease, contamination and the creation of heterodox space, María Victoria Escribano Paño explores the legal tool of episcopal querellae in the process of petitioning imperial legislation. The chapter goes on to reconstruct their preceding circumstances in the case of Jovinian, the jurisdiction of the urban prefect up to a hundred miles outside the city and its relevance for exile, as well as the nature of graduated punishments, arguing that the most severe form of exile, the deportatio and accompanying corporal punishment, was linked to charges of laesa maiestas, magic, and conspiracy.

By contrast, Jaime de Miguel López studies specific Christian attacks on pagan communities and buildings during the reign of emperor Zeno in cities that were centres of classical learning and in which we are therefore the most likely to hear about these attacks.2 Proposing as a guiding question the idea that these attacks were orchestrated by imperial guidance rather than spontaneous outbreaks of violence, and that these attacks therefore amount to persecution, de Miguel contends that paganism survived the religious legislation and clampdown on religious practises in urban centres primarily as a culturally-cohesive group who shared their interest in a specifically pagan literary heritage viewed as suspicious in certain ecclesiastical and monastic circles. Exiles and other forms of personal punishment became a tool of imperial legislation with which to gradually deter the remaining pagans of the late fifth and sixth centuries. These legislative acts, primarily ←13 | 14→against magic, as de Miguel shows in case studies, ultimately filtered down to physical attacks against pagans and spontaneous outbreaks of violence in urban areas and became frequent during Zeno’s reign because of a number of rebellions that occurred at the time.

Margarita Vallejo Girvés’ concluding chapter of this part turns to the relationship between exile and ecclesiastical asylum, as a tool with which to escape harsh punishments. Noting a difference between ecclesiastic legislation in the council of Serdica in 344 and later imperial legislation, Vallejo analyses the extant case studies where condemned exiles went on to claim asylum, arguing that bishops and monastic leaders simply refused to hand over to civil authorities exiles that had sought asylum either on way to, or after arrival in, their exile location, rather than making a positive case in their favour. By the sixth century, however, that practice had changed to pertain to laypersons convicted of capital crimes who sought to evade that punishment and often found the help of church authorities acting on their behalf, both in the Byzantine world and in the post-Roman west. In those cases, exile was seen as linked to execution as it accounts for civil death, and this development had wider ramifications on the shaping of medieval law with regard to murderers who sought ecclesiastical asylum.

Overall, Part 1 helps to better understand a number of legal procedures associated with clerical and lay exile. Both Lizzi and Fournier extensively deal with the role of councils in banishing exile and with the extent to which emperors were to put into effect pertinent council decrees.3 While emperors tended to leave doctrinal concerns to the ecclesiastical authorities, they could also take summary actions under the ancient prerogative of laesa maiestas. The Nicene responses to Constantius’ reign even illustrate the ways in which church authorities negotiated their right to be considered as the ultimate arbiter of exile decisions in the fourth century. This supports the observations by de Miguel that exile and laesa maiestas came to be employed as tools with which emperors could clamp down on suspicious pagan activity and conspiracies, no doubt without facing intercessions by church leaders, while Vallejo’s chapter even implies that there could have been a whole group of incidents lost to us because of source bias. At any rate, as Escribano’s contribution also shows there is a direct link between laesa maiestas (understood as a crime against the state and personally against the ←14 | 15→emperor), episcopal petitions and charges against paganism (Epicureanism) as attributed to Jovinian.4

Part 2 appropriately turns to the types of places associated with forced movement of exile, interpreting these, in line with Vallejo’s observations on exile as the end of civil life, as places in between life and death. Samuel Cohen’s contribution discusses in-depth the highly problematic case of Liberius of Rome, one of the very few exiles who received a recall because (in the emerging interpretation) he retracted previous views, and the distortions it underwent in ensuing partisan accounts on his pontificate. For example, the projection of Liberius’ exile location, in such a highly tendentious late text as the Liber Pontificalis, into the cemetery of St Agnes, outside the urban centre of Rome, is telling because the location is variously associated with the exclusion of heretics, a life in death, famous martyrs, and the purging powers of women in the imperial family who allegedly accompanied Liberius in the cemetery.5

An entirely different kind of reception facility for individuals forced to relocate is dealt with in Manuela Dirschlmayer’s contribution: refugee camps and xenodocheia. Explaining the early development of xenodocheiai (guest-houses) as an institute in which to temporarily host pilgrims, the chapter goes on to describe its various forms of use, primarily to provide shelter for people in need and thus its importance for imperial policy and reputation of individual benefactors in Late Antiquity, both clerics and laypersons. Women, and especially empresses, came to play an important role in providing patronage to xenodocheiai. Individuals staying in these facilities included an impoverished migrant workforce in the fourth century, and exiled clerics by the sixth century. This is an important observation as it shows that exiles could no longer rely on support networks but came to be maintained through imperial patronage, and this no doubt contributed to strengthening a sense of identity. Ute Verstegen’s concluding chapter for this part makes a strong case that exile and forced movement had a visible impact on the translation of local rites to the places of destination as can be appreciated from clerical tombs and churches in Naples, Rome and Cyprus, which hosted a number of refugees and exiles from Vandal Africa ←15 | 16→and regions affected by the Muslim conquest, respectively. Veneration of relics of exiles which themselves came to be moved to distant locations also influenced local customs and practices. It is nevertheless interesting to note that while few burial inscriptions actually exist that link individual tombs to exiles, none of these are demonstrably echoed in literary sources, suggesting that exile and forced movement of clerics occurred more often than we are wont to think. Along with the contributions by Cohen and Dirschlmayer, this chapter shows that there are numerous reasons to believe that movement of clerics significantly altered the religious landscape of the Mediterranean and that the heritage of exiled clerics continued to be negotiated about long after their deaths.

The final – and most comprehensive – Part 3 investigates the ways in which individuals either represented themselves on foreign shores or in which their destinies were deliberately chosen to underpin certain narratives which again extended far beyond their deaths, and therefore further illustrates a number of aspects touched on before. We return to Liberius of Rome with Jörg Ulrich’s contribution but from a different angle. Ulrich specifically asks for ways in which individuals could apply for, and ultimately be granted, imperial pardon. The case of Liberius illustrates the lengths convicted exiles had to go to in order to actively secure a recall. Key to this was the lack of a formal inquiry by a synod and council, which means that the exile sentence was solely at the emperor’s discretion, but Liberius also employed a strategy of obtaining indulgentia, through a number of exile letters, in a way similar to how early Christians could obtain the same goal during the persecutions. This case is noteworthy because, save for blanket recalls from exile once an emperor had died, there are few cases known in which exiles were successful in seeking readmission, probably because of the difficulties encountered in such endeavour.

While Liberius’ letters (although these, too, have been interpreted as forgeries) open a window into activities pursued during exile, this is the case in neither the ecclesiastical narratives surrounding Liberius nor in many of the narratives presented in the following contributions. David Natal’s chapter contends that different accounts even by a single author, as in the case of Sulpicius of Severus’ portrayal of Hilary of Poitiers, can reveal diverging narratives of exile, attesting to the wider discourses of imperial and ecclesiastical policies at the time, and the specific purposes of each individual work. This chapter is a strong reminder that more often than not we are simply unable to reconstruct the actual circumstances of clerics in exile from own writings and should instead read later accounts from third parties as testimonials for the ways in which church authors intended to make a stand against emperors, governors, or kings. Natal’s in-depth analysis of third party sources can nicely be read against the contribution by Jessica ←16 | 17→van ‘t Westeinde, who discusses a contentious case of exile which can only be reconstructed from the individual’s own writings: that of Jerome leaving Rome for an extended stay in Bethlehem. As one of the best-preserved authors of Late Antiquity, Jerome’s correspondence is a prime example for how clerics in distant lands kept in touch with the social networks they had left, almost leaving the impression as if they had never left at all. A corpus of sources such as this may indicate that many more clerics kept on corresponding with their existing networks in the places they had left, even though the evidence for this is naturally limited.

We return to this question with Maria Konstantinidou’s investigation into the letter network of John Chrysostom in exile. Konstantinidou contends that John Chrysostom employed different writings strategies in his correspondence, which are aligned with the rank, quality of relationship and expectations of his addressees, framing himself either as hero or victim. Since this is the most voluminous letter collection extant from any single exile, it is interesting to note that while the majority of letters account for ongoing pastoral care with his several acquaintances, others amount to coalition-building and ultimately reflect the attempt to be reinstalled in Constantinople, although to a lesser extent than in the case of Liberius of Rome. Although few clerics in reality received a recall due to own politics in exile, we may infer from this that few clerics were inclined to accept their fate also. By contrast, as Michael Hanaghan goes on to suggest, Sidonius Apollinaris’ self-portrayal during his exile and imprisonment was very much borne out of his hostility against the new Visigothic leadership. Sidonius’ tendency to present himself as a staunch defender of Romanitas makes it difficult to reconstruct the circumstances and causes of his exile. Nevertheless, Hanaghan’s comparison with the entirely different case of Athanasius and his letters in exiles suggests that apologetic strategies and rhetorical devices employed in the fifth-century post-Roman world had long since become established literary topoi. Along with the contributions of Natal and van ‘t Westeinde, the emerging view is that all accounts of exile, whether external or self-representations, were carefully drafted to fashion a certain exile persona, and often building on each other.

The two final contributions, by contrast, attempt to reconstruct the daily life of clerics in exile which are obscure and not handed down to us in own writings. Ariane Bodin’s chapter examines the ascetic lifestyle maintained by Faustus of Praesidium, who was exiled in Vandal Africa, as it is mirrored in the Life of Fulgentius of Ruspe, who was himself the spiritual mentor of Faustus in exile. His case is therefore another pertinent example of how charismatic clerics in exile continued to exert a great deal of influence on their former congregation, while state authorities did little to curb any ongoing interactions, a picture that emerges from several other exile cases ←17 | 18→as well, as I noted in my own contribution. Finally, Sihong Lin undertakes the endeavour to compare two seventh-century exile cases from Northern Europe and the Byzantine Empire, respectively, arguing that while exile was often cast in a negative light, it “could also act as the catalyst for change, as it allowed the people involved to encounter and shape political, cultural, and religious developments far from their homelands.” For example, as Lin’s chapter shows in the context of the monothelete controversy, military, doctrinal and refugee crises gave rise to rare exchanges between the British Isles and the Roman Empire in the seventh century. The phenomena of exile and of migration of faith cannot therefore be seen in regional isolation or within traditional boundaries of early medieval history.


ISBN (Hardcover)
2018 (Oktober)
Exile Clergy Roman Empire Canon Law Church and Politics Networking
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 302 pp., 8 fig. col., 4 fig. b/w

Biographische Angaben

Dirk Rohmann (Band-Herausgeber:in) Jörg Ulrich (Band-Herausgeber:in) Margarita Vallejo Girvés (Band-Herausgeber:in)

Dirk Rohmann is Lecturer in History at the University of Wuppertal, Germany. Jörg Ulrich is Professor of Church History at the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. Margarita Vallejo Girvés is Professor of History at the University of Alcalá, Spain.


Titel: Mobility and Exile at the End of Antiquity