Thursday, 30 April 2015

Allison Ralph:Evidence of the Influence of the Social Body on the Legislation of Theodosius I

Fotinianae labis contaminatio, Arriani sacrilegii venenum, Eunomianae perfidiae crimen et nefanda monstruosis nominibus auctorum prodigia sectarum ab ipso etiam aboleantur auditu. C.Th. 16.5.6

With this law of January 381, Theodosius and his co-emperors name poison, contamination, and sickness, thereby alluding to a fear of the spread of such dangers in the social body. Dale Martin (1995) and Roger Brock (2000) have argued that the idea of the social body was a well-established reality in both elite and popular milieus in late antiquity. Michelle Lee (2001) and Jeffrey Zavadil (2009) have argued that the metaphor underpinned Stoic ethics and ideas of universal humanity. These ethics of the social body directly influenced social policy that controls membership in society on the basis of the health of the whole.
Although there has been abundant research on coercion in the legislation of Theodosius (e.g., Errington; Hunt 2007), there has been almost no scholarship on the widespread use of metaphors of social body and social sickness in his time. This short communication aims to open the discussion by discovering whether such allusions to the social body in the legislation of Theodosius I played a significant role in the justification for coercive measures.

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