The Roman Senate and the Politics of Religion in the Collectio Avellana (IV-VI Century AD)


  • Guido Clemente Universit√† di Firenze


Collectio Avellana, Damasus, Bonifatius, Acacian schism, Roman senate


The article deals with the nature and content of the Collectio Avellana, in order to try to shed some light on the evolution of the Late Antique senate; the CA contains three important dossiers, on the Damasus affair in the second half of the 4th century, on the dispute between Bonifatius and Eulalius in the elections to the bishopric of Rome in 418/9, and the Acacian schism between the end of the 5th and the first decades of the 6th century, involving the great personalities of Gelasius, Ormisdas and the emperor Anastasius. From these dossiers emerges the evolution of the attitude of the senatorial assembly toward religion, and the roles played in over almost two centuries by the main actors, the pope, the emperor and the in the final stage the king of Italy. In the 4th century the senate did not engage directly in religious affairs, nor in doctrinal disputes; the role of the magistrates and of the senate, when called upon by the emperor, was rather in the wake of tradition, keeping order in the city of Rome. In the following centuries the senate, now Christian, became one of the interlocutors of the pope and of the emperor in matters of faith and power inside the church, siding with different factions, and playing a role, both as assembly and as individual senators, in religious politics.