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Christiana Respublica: Elements d'une enquete sur le christianisme antique.

The French School at Rome has been blessed not only with the wonderful Palazzo Farnese and a first-class library but also with a distinguished succession of directors. Among these Charles Pietri held office from 1983 to 1991, his tenure being then tragically cut short by death. His great book Roma Christiana (1976) studied the history of the Roman Church and its bishops from 311 to 440 in two volumes, to which his declared intention was to add a third. Happily the School has now published his collected papers, many of which directly bear on the period from Leo to Gelasius and later. Gregory the Great receives exciting treatment and contributes more than the title to the collection. It is a very rich harvest of material, indispensable to historians not only of the Church but of society in late antiquity generally, as one could expect from a pupil and successor of Henri Marrou. Pietri was master in many disparate fields and among his strengths lay his familiarity with inscriptions, a topic to which seven papers in the third volume here are devoted. The historical papers are all underpinned by masterful prosopography, much of this being evidently part of the preparatory studies for the Italian volume parallel to Mandouze's African volume.

A basic question running through the collection of fifty-six papers is: How did Christianization affect the city of Rome? How did Roma Christiana and then Christiana Respublica come into being? Naturally there are parallels with the classical volumes of Erich Caspar and one of the more notable papers, on Pope Damasus, records measured dissent from some of Caspar's judgements. Most of the papers are bolstered by a battery of massively learned footnotes. The focus is not merely on Rome, since much attention is also given to the Christianization of Gaul and Christian topography in towns between the Loire and Rhine. Social history is also prominent in the papers on rich and poor, on aristocratic euergetism, on Constantine's endowments to the Roman Church listed in the Liber Pontificalis. The Laurentian schism receives a masterly sociological analysis, the circus factions being divided in the tension between senators (blue) and the populace (green). It is drily observed that the conversion of the aristocracy solved some problems but also created others, bringing unforeseen frictions.

In short, these three volumes gathering papers, some from recondite places, are of exceptional value.

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Author:Chadwick, Henry
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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