Karl Heiner Dahm (KCL) - 2019-20 Students

(Re-)Writing the History of a Christian Roman Empire - A Study on Conflict and Authority in Socrates of Constantinople's and Sozomen of Gaza's Ecclesiastical Histories

Due to a lack of a complete extant historiography for the 4th and early 5th centuries the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus and the same-titled work of his contemporary Sozomen form crucial sources of information for the basic reconstruction of historical events, not to mention for the study of violence in Late Antiquity, which has recently flourished. Despite this, their writings have rarely been the primary subject of any sustained investigation. The aim of this research project therefore is to comprehensively analyse the handling of conflict and authority within the Ecclesiastical Histories of Sozomen and Socrates. Church historians selectively compiled numerous sources, especially hagiographies, letters and laws, either quoted verbatim or rephrased. Contrasting the original documents’ approach to different types of authority with the new, manipulated narrative of the church historians will allow me to pin down, compare and contextualise both authors’ attitude towards this issue. The guiding question at this will be what role both authors ascribed the contested legitimacy of violence and coercion in the formation and decomposition of conflicting legal, traditional and charismatic authority within the Roman church and state. The outcomes of my project will not only contribute to the ongoing discussion on violence and the shifting patterns of authority formation in Late Antiquity, but will also be of great benefit to current research teasing out the individual literary agenda of both authors, which is crucial for our understanding of the two main narrative historians of this period and thus the pivotal time they write in.

Primary supervisor: Dr. James Corke-Webster, KCL

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