Geoffrey Dunn

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Evidence for the conflict between two rival candidates for the bishopric of Rome following the death of Zosimus at the end of 418 comes from a group of twenty-five letters, most of which are official letters to and from Emperor Honorius (the rest being from other imperial officials and the emperor's sister), all but one of which are found in the Collectio Avellana. Interestingly, we have nothing preserved from the two episcopal claimants about this matter. The group of letters chronicle imperial concern for the preservation of public order. Do we have here an example of imperial interference in episcopal elections in Rome? In this article a careful examination of the letters reveals that Honorius was concerned only that the Roman church's procedures had been followed (Collectio Avellana, Ep. 15), which should determine who was lawful bishop. Sociological Conflict Theory is employed to investigate the nature of the evidence to address issues of the nature of the dispute and its participants, what values were contested, how it escalated, and how it was resolved. Such an approach makes clear that our evidence focuses on the role of the emperor and only incidentally tells us of the thinking and strategy of the two candidates. The final decision was made not on the merits of the candidates and the legality of one of the two elections, but upon Eulalius' violation of the conditions imposed upon the two rivals while the dispute was to be settled. Despite the emperor's concern only to facilitate the church settling this conflict itself, in the end it was an imperial measure that determined the outcome of the disputed election.

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Journal Article

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