During the reign of Constantius II (337–361), a number of Christian bishops were exiled from their sees, reportedly for their opposition to the emperor's “Homoian” theological position. Several of them (Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Cagliari, Eusebius of Vercelli) responded to their institutional insecurity and geographical isolation by writing accounts of their experiences in a range of textual forms: letters to individuals or groups, historical narratives with quoted documents, or formal invectives. This article explores the variety of ways in which these examples of exilic literature construct different forms of communities in order to weave supportive narratives around the authors and their allies: Hilary and Lucifer emphasized their possession of parrhesia both within and through their texts; Athanasius constructed a network of opposition to heresy with himself as its focus; Eusebius presented himself as the lynchpin of a north Italian community which he could still lead from exile in Palestine. Through inscribing particular roles onto both their readers and other figures discussed within the texts, these exiled authors sought to foster their own reputations as leaders of these communities and arbiters of membership, thereby bolstering their positions at a time when their authority was under serious threat.
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Research Article| September 01 2019
Witnesses for the Persecution: Textual Communities of Exile under Constantius II
Studies in Late Antiquity (2019) 3 (3): 337–368.
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Richard Flower; Witnesses for the Persecution: Textual Communities of Exile under Constantius II. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 September 2019; 3 (3): 337–368. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2019.3.3.337
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