With the rise of imperial Christianity emperors frequently inserted themselves into doctrinal affairs. Safeguarding orthodoxy became a matter of strategic concern and, therefore, imperial prerogative. Over time emperors tried to endow their office with its own priesthood. Scholars locate this ambition in Constantine the Great’s claim to be a ‘bishop of outsiders’, with its clearest expression in Leo III’s declaration, ‘I am Emperor and Priest’. However, little evidence survives between Constantine and Leo III (attesting to the development of an imperial priesthood. An exception is found during the reign of Constans II, the monk, Maximus the Confessor, was tried for treason in Constantinople, in part, due to his denial that the emperor was a priest. Court officials argued that the imperial office was a priesthood based on the biblical Melchizedek. This seminar traces the development of the priesthood of the Christian Roman emperor, with a focus on the Heraclian dynasty. Of interest are the statements by the dynasty’s supporters. Here, we consider priestly motifs in panegyric literature, imperial edicts pertaining to religion, as well as the arguments of opponents, such as Maximus the Confessor.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Classics and Ancient History seminars are followed by a wine-and-cheese reception ($2 coin donation per person). Enquiries about the seminars may be made to Dr David Pritchard

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for 2017 can be found at http://www.friendsofantiquity.org.au.

Venue

Michie Building
Room: 
216