Thursday, 7 May 2015

Pauline Allen: Post-mortem polemics: the literary persecution of Severus of Antioch (512-518)

One of the most enduring religious conflicts of the late-antique period was that occasioned by the Council of Chalcedon (451 CE). The person who galvanised the anti-Chalcedonian side theologically and politically was Severus, patriarch of Antioch from 512-518. During his lifetime he engaged vigorously in debate with his theological rivals, being eventually exiled in 518 and condemned by imperial edict in 538. The odium that attached to his person and works continued after his death, as can be seen, for example, from the numerous references to him and his works in imperial documents and conciliar acta. However, two sustained post-mortem attacks on the patriarch of a non-theological nature stand out: a long letter by the otherwise unknown monk Eustathius from the mid-sixth century (CPG 6810), and the polemical poem by George of Pisidia (CPG 7836), which dates from between 619 and 634. This paper will investigate the rhetoric employed by these two authors and their hostile representation of the pre-eminent opponent of the council of 451 and his followers, in which negotiation and conflict-resolution did not play a part and damnatio memoriae was paramount.

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