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Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity

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Edited By Julia Hillner, Jörg Ulrich and Jakob Engberg

This volume results from the international research project ‘The Migration of Faith: Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity (325‒c.600)’. The project is a collaboration between the Department of History at the University of Sheffield, the Seminar für Kirchengeschichte at the University of Halle, and the Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus University. Ten chapters of the volume are revised versions of papers delivered at the XVII International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford in 2015. The three chapters of the first part of the volume discuss the question of "Clerical Exile and Social Control". The second part offers five selected case studies from the 3rd to the 6th centuries. The final part deals with discourses, memories, and legacies of clerical exile in late antiquity.

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Constantine and Episcopal Banishment: Continuity and Change in the Settlement of Christian Disputes

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Éric Fournier1

Constantine and Episcopal Banishment:Continuity and Change in the Settlement of Christian Disputes

Abstract: Constantine’s use of clerical banishment followed precedents in respecting their immunity to physical coercion. It also deferred to bishops to adjudicate their own disputes, through councils, which lacked means to enforce their decisions. Exile was thus the optional civil enforcement of counciliar decisions and the harshest sentence Constantine was willing to use against bishops.

Upon winning both of his civil wars against imperial rivals presented as “persecutors”, Maxentius in 312 and Licinius in 324, one of Constantine’s first actions was to recall bishops exiled during their alleged persecutions.2 In this context, exile was understood as a persecutory measure against Christians. Yet Constantine also exiled bishops himself, following the councils of Arles (314), Nicaea (325), and Tyre (335). The context was radically different, as Constantine was now a supporter of the Christian church and used exile to settle conflicts among bishops. Thus scholars routinely assume that Constantine established exile as a normative sentence in settling ecclesiastical disputes and disciplining episcopal troublemakers.3 But how to explain that ← 47 | 48 → Constantine used exile, a sentence previously employed in persecutions of Christians, against bishops, in light of his commitment to Christianity? Was Constantine also a persecutor? Or did his reign see a change in the way that Roman rulers used exile against bishops?

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