Scholars of Late Antiquity have long recognized that bishops played an influential role in the formation and execution of Roman law. Such was the case even in the Syrian realm, traditionally considered the exotic hinterland of the Roman Empire. Fifth- and sixth-century sources, such as the Syro-Roman Lawbook, early exemplars of canon legislation, and homilies and hagiographic narratives, point to a considerable preoccupation with matters of law and justice for Syrian clergy. This article examines a particularly well-attested slice of this data surrounding Rabbula, the fifth-century bishop of Edessa. Rabbula's background in imperial administration and his post-conversion pursuit of asceticism make him in many ways the prototypical late ancient bishop, combining monastic charisma with civic acumen. A collection of rules for clergy and ascetics attributed to him focuses closely upon priests' and bishops' function in the Roman legal system, their collaboration with Roman magistrates, and the ways in which clerical judicial processes reflected and sought to distinguish themselves from their magisterial analogues. Drawing upon the evidence of the Rules and roughly contemporaneous texts addressing legal practice in Edessa suggests that, Syria's reputation as sui generis notwithstanding, in their judicial capacity Syrian clergy bore striking resemblances to their Western counterparts.

You do not currently have access to this content.