This article considers an issue surprisingly marginal both to cultural histories of late antique Christianity and political histories of the later Roman Empire: the Christian identities of imperial officials. It draws on three early sixth-century texts which tackled this problem head-on: the Selected Letters of Severus of Antioch, the Variae of Cassiodorus, and the Letter to Reginus of Ferrandus of Carthage. These letters to, by, and about, political servants split the difference between contemporary advice letters for aristocrats who had “renounced the world,” and the classicizing treatises on administrative ethics which have attracted so much attention from scholars of the age of Justinian. Severus, Cassiodorus, and Ferrandus set up the possibilities of a committed Christian lifestyle within the state in differing, but complementary, ways, rooted in the attainment of an idealized inner state. The authors use biblical exempla, concepts of ascetic progress, and ecclesiological ideas to frame the duties of an administrator. All in all, these letters show how, for at least some Christian writers and officials, ascetic discourse had reshaped the character of service to states across the sixth-century Mediterranean.

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