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Crisis of Empire

Crisis of Empire: Doctrine and Dissent at the End of Late Antiquity

Phil Booth
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 419
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  • Book Info
    Crisis of Empire
    Book Description:

    This book focuses on the attempts of three ascetics—John Moschus, Sophronius of Jerusalem, and Maximus Confessor—to determine the Church’s power and place during a period of profound crisis, as the eastern Roman empire suffered serious reversals in the face of Persian and then Islamic expansion. By asserting visions which reconciled long-standing intellectual tensions between asceticism and Church, these authors established the framework for their subsequent emergence as Constantinople's most vociferous religious critics, their alliance with the Roman popes, and their radical rejection of imperial interference in matters of the faith. Situated within the broader religious currents of the fourth to seventh centuries, this book throws new light on the nature not only of the holy man in late antiquity, but also of the Byzantine Orthodoxy that would emerge in the Middle Ages, and which is still central to the churches of Greece and Eastern Europe.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95658-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In the course of the seventh century, the Eastern Roman empire underwent a profound transformation. As first the Persians and then the Muslims swept over and seized the valuable provinces of the Roman Near East, the inhabitants of the now reduced empire experimented with a series of structural and cultural changes that responded to the dramatic curtailment of Roman power. The structural elements of that change—that is, the series of administrative, economic, and military reforms imposed by the emperor Heraclius and his successors—are now for the most part well known; and aspects of the cultural change (in particular,...

  6. 1 Toward the Sacramental Saint
    (pp. 7-43)

    At some point in the 350s a.d., an ecclesial council was convened at Gangra in Paphlagonia. The disciplinary canons that that council produced were the first to legislate on the nascent monastic enterprise and constitute a classic expression of the anxieties that that enterprise engendered among clerics. The council had been convened to examine the activities of the Eustathians, a monastic sect whose leader had been the erstwhile ascetic mentor of Basil of Caesarea. The charges leveled at the Eustathians at the council can be categorized to constitute three central purported abuses: first, the introduction of ascetic innovations against established...

  7. 2 Sophronius and the Miracles
    (pp. 44-89)

    John Moschus was born (ca. 550) at Aegae, in Cilicia, during the reign of Justinian I.¹ According to the short biographical prologue attached to some manuscripts of his opus, the Spiritual Meadow, he became a monk in the coenobium of Theodosius, in the Judaean desert.² Soon, however, he appears to have retreated to the Laura of Pharon, farther north, where Moschus himself claims to have spent a decade, and where several tales place him roughly in the period 568–78.³ It was perhaps here that he first encountered the sophist Sophronius, an educated Damascene who would become his disciple and...

  8. 3 Moschus and the Meadow
    (pp. 90-139)

    To move from Sophronius’s Miracles of Cyrus and John to the Spiritual Meadow of John Moschus is to step into another world: from the hustle and bustle of an Alexandrian cult to the stillness of the Eastern deserts, from the complexities of the mundane to the simplicities of a world rendered black and white, and from the high-minded rhetoric of the sophist to the simple koinē of the monk. The differences in presentation are nevertheless deceptive, for the reader will discover fundamental strands of shared interest: like Sophronius’s Miracles, Moschus’s Meadow questions the relation of asceticism to the sacramental structures...

  9. 4 Maximus and the Mystagogy
    (pp. 140-185)

    Throughout the 620s, as Moschus and Sophronius had retreated westward to North Africa and Rome, the provinces that the pair had abandoned remained under Persian occupation, and Constantinople itself came under considerable threat. In 622, having established his dominion across the Levant and Egypt, the Persian shahanshah Khusrau II launched a bold assault upon Anatolia, and soon after Heraclius was compelled to abandon an ambitious counteroffensive into Persia and to rush westward. The reason, perhaps, was the creeping menace of the Avars, who soon after attempted to capture him at a supposed summit in June 623 and thence proceeded to...

  10. 5 The Making of the Monenergist Crisis
    (pp. 186-224)

    Before Heraclius departed from Jerusalem after his restoration of the Cross, he thanked Modestus for his reconstruction of Jerusalem’s churches and elevated him to the patriarchate.¹ He then distributed imperial largesse to the communities of the Judaean desert, thus reviving a form of imperial euergetism that appears to have lapsed since the reign of the emperor Maurice.² According to several sources, however, Modestus’s patriarchate soon came to an abrupt end, for on a mission to Damascus to obtain further monies for church reconstruction he died (or was poisoned), perhaps on 15 April 631 (thus thirteen months after the restoration of...

  11. 6 Jerusalem and Rome at the Dawn of the Caliphate
    (pp. 225-277)

    The Heraclian regime’s grand claims to political and cosmological restoration were soon to prove premature, and therein no doubt was confirmed the evident reticence of Sophronius and Maximus toward its claims to restoration. While memories of the Persian occupation still remained fresh, the armies of the nascent caliphate swept over the former territories of the Eastern Roman empire. In the same period, an increasing number of Eastern ascetics once again traveled westward, to North Africa and Rome. As Constantinople then struggled to realize doctrinal consensus among Chalcedonian communities through abrogating monenergism and promoting instead monotheletism (the doctrine of Christ’s single...

  12. 7 Rebellion and Retribution
    (pp. 278-328)

    In the period of Sophronius’s patriarchate, Maximus in a letter to Peter the Illustrious, as his master in Palestine had done, reflected on the reversals that now racked the Roman empire: “What is more precarious than the evils now surrounding the inhabited world?” he asked his correspondent. “What is more terrible to those who have perceived what is happening? What is more pitiable or more fearful for those who are suffering? To see a barbarous, desert people [ethnos erēmikon kai barbaron] overrunning another’s land as their own, and our civilized way of life consumed by wild and untamable beasts, who...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 329-342)

    Throughout this book we have on occasion encountered the so-called Georgian Appendix to the Spiritual Meadow, a short collection of spiritual tales appended to a Georgian manuscript of the Meadow, compiled in its final form before 668 and derived from the pen of a person close to Moschus. Like Moschus, the author was, it appears, a Palestinian monk who had traveled to Rome, and like Moschus again, he demonstrates a notable interest both in the popes and in the sacraments.¹ As we have seen, the Georgian Appendix is conspicuous for its implication within the earliest cult of Gregory the Great,...

    (pp. 343-384)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 385-394)