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Philip Rousseau and Richard Goodrich

Born in c. 360 ce, Cassian was one of the principal conduits for the transmission of eastern ascetic practices to the west. A disciple of Evagrius of Pontus, he travelled through Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, making extensive contact with the masters of eastern *asceticism and gaining a thorough grounding in the theory of the ascetic life.With the Egyptian condemnation of *Origen (1) in 399, he enjoyed the protection of John *Chrysostom in Constantinople, together with many other exiled admirers of the *Alexandrian master. After a period of obscurity, Cassian re-emerged; he settled in southern Gaul (c.415) where he wrote two treatises, Institutes and Conferences, intended to restructure western monasticism along eastern lines. Cassian's audience included local bishops interested in the ascetic life as well as the monks of the nascent monastery at Lérins.The Institutes emphasized the practical elements of coenobitism: liturgical detail and the systematic treatment of the vices. The Conferences reported conversations with ascetics of northern Egypt and gave new Christian vigour to the dialogue form.


Cassiodorus, Roman magistrate, author of political and religious works, c. 485–c. 580 CE  

M. Shane Bjornlie

Cassiodorus was a prominent participant in the political, intellectual, and religious life of 6th-century ce Italy, and a learned scholar of the classical and Christian traditions. As a member of the administration of the Gothic government under Theoderic and his successors, he advanced through what may be considered the late-Roman cursus honorum. He was also witness to the dramatic political and religious debates of the day, including volatile interactions between the royal court at Ravenna, the Senate at Rome, and the emperor in Constantinople. Justinian’s Gothic War in Italy effectively ended his political career, after which he first became an exile in Constantinople, and then the founder of a school for Christian learning (Vivarium) on his ancestral estates in southern Italy. The literary works that he produced span the spectrum of his personal experiences and attest to the intellectual and cultural range of people living during the 6th century: panegyrics, a chronicle, ethnography, letters, treatises on reading, grammars, Christian exegesis, and ecclesiastical history.


catacombs, Christian  

Ian Archibald Richmond, Jocelyn M. C. Toynbee, and Leonard V. Rutgers

A term derived from κατὰ κύμβας, a locality close to the church of St Sebastian on the *via Appia, 3 miles south of Rome. The name may refer to the natural hollows across which the road passes or to an inn-sign, but was in use in the 4th and 5th cents. ce for the Christian cemetery associated with St Sebastian's in the form ad catacumbas or catacumbae. This famous cemetery consisted of a series of narrow underground galleries and limited number of tomb-chambers cut in the volcanic rock. The walls of the galleries are lined with tiers of up to seven simple coffin-like recesses (loculi) for inhumation, holding normally one but sometimes up to four bodies apiece and sealed with a stone slab or tiles. Tomb chambers tend to be more monumental, containing wall paintings and arcosolia (arched) graves. The early Christian catacombs were designed as large communal cemeteries from the outset and were used for burial from the late 2nd through early 5th cent. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the Jewish catacombs of Rome (see catacombs, jewish) may have served as an example.


Celsus, Roman author of The True Doctrine, late 2nd cent. CE  

William David Ross and David Potter

Author of a comprehensive philosophical polemic against *Christianity, The True Doctrine, written probably between 175 and 181 (Origen, C. Cels. 8. 69, 71). The work is primarily known through *Origen (1)'s Contra Celsum, which directly quotes selected passages. Celsus wrote from the perspective of a Middle Platonic philosopher, though in one section of his work he also appears to have adopted the criticism levelled against Christianity by a Jew (Origen, C. Cels. 1. 28). The True Doctrine is important evidence for knowledge of Christian doctrine among Gentiles, as well as for the difficulty outsiders had in determining the difference between ‘orthodox’ Christians and *Gnostic fringe groups (Origen, C. Cels. 5. 61 ff.). The importance of Celsus’ book is suggested by the fact that Origen's massive refutation was written in the 240s.Efforts to identify this Celsus with the Celsus who is the addressee of Lucian's Alexander are not convincing: the author of The True Doctrine was a Platonist, while the recipient of the Alexander was evidently an Epicurean.


cento, Latin  

Stephen Harrison

The extant Latin tradition of cento (the replication and combination of verse lines from a previous text to make a new work) largely uses the hexameter poems of Virgil, familiar to all educated Romans. The earliest extant cento proper is the 461-line tragedy Medea, usually ascribed to Hosidius Geta (200 ce), in which all the characters speak in Virgilian hexameters, and the choral lyrics consist entirely of final half-hexameters. There are eleven other pagan Virgilian centos from late antiquity, none longer than 200 lines; many are short epic narratives on mythological subjects (e.g., Mavortius’ Judgement of Paris [Iudicium Paridis]), but some are amusing parodies on trivial topics (e.g., the anonymous De alea and De panificio on dice playing and baking). The best known are the two epithalamian examples, the wittily obscene Nuptial cento (Cento nuptialis) of Ausonius, written c. 374, and the slightly less risqué Marriage-song of Fridus (Epithalamium Fridi) of Luxorius (early 6th century); Ausonius describes his technique in an important prefatory letter, classifying his cento as frivolum et nullius pretii opusculum—‘a slight work, frivolous and worthless’.



Alexander John Graham and Stephen Mitchell

Megarian colony founded in 685 bce (so Euseb. Chron.) on the Asiatic side of the *Bosporus (1) opposite Byzantium (mod. Kadıköy). It was called the city of the blind (Hdt. 4. 144) because its founders missed the uncolonized site of *Byzantium, with which it was subsequently closely linked. Apart from stray tombs few ancient remains have survived.


chastity, Christian  

Christopher Rowland

Christian Celibacy and asceticism are endemic to Christianity and are typical of the distinctive outlook on life which runs throughout much of early Christian literature. The practice of holiness, which, at least in general terms, Christianity inherited from the Hebrew Bible, required the fulfilment of certain norms of sexual and marital behaviour, though abstinence was not typical of Jewish life, except in certain circumstances, e.g. ascetic practices were a central part of the apocalyptic tradition of Judaism (e.g. Daniel 10). The level of purity demanded by the Qumran sect reflects the regulations with regard to sexual activity in Leviticus, and the requirements laid upon men involved in a holy war in Deuteronomy 20–21 probably explain the reference to virginity in Revelation 14.4.The life-style of John the Baptist, and the canonical gospels’ portrayal of the apparent celibacy of Jesus, set the pattern for subsequent Christian practice. While the influence of Greco-Hellenistic ideas cannot be ruled out, the background of this form of religious observance is to be found in the ascetical practices of certain forms of sectarian Judaism. The centrality of eschatological beliefs for Christianity meant that from the earliest period there was a significant component of Christian practice which demanded a significant distance from the values and culture of the present age. The hope for the coming of a new age of perfection, in which members of the church could already participate, meant that baptized men and women thought they could live like angels (cf. Luke 20.35), putting aside all those constraints of present bodily existence as well as the institution of marriage. Paul's approach in 1 Corinthians 7 in dealing with the rigorist life-style of the Corinthian ascetics is typical of a compromise that evolved in which there is a grudging acceptance of marriage and an exaltation of celibacy. The emerging monastic movement, therefore, drew on a long history of ascetical practice, which was taken to extremes in some Encratite circles. See asceticism.



Jill Harries and Gillian Clark

Christianity began as a Jewish sect and evolved at a time when both *Jews and Christians were affected by later Hellenism (see hellenism, hellenization). Following the conquests of *Alexander (3) the Great, some Jews found Hellenistic culture congenial, while others adhered to traditional and exclusive religious values. When *Judaea came under direct Roman control soon after the death of *Herod (1) the Great in 4 bce, cultural and religious controversies were further exacerbated by the ineptitude of some Roman governors. Jesus therefore, and his followers, lived in a divided province.The ‘historical Jesus’ is known through the four Gospels, which are as sources problematic. Written not in *Aramaic but in Greek, the four ‘Lives’ of Jesus were written some time after his death (and, in the view of his followers, resurrection) and represent the divergent preoccupations and agendas of their authors. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke (to give their probable chronological order) differ from John in such matters as the geographical scope of Jesus’ ministry, which John expands from Galilee to include *Judaea and Samaria as well; John also is more influenced by Greek philosophical thought.


Christus Patiens  

John Dewar Denniston, Kenneth Dover, and Nigel Wilson

A play in 2,610 verses describing the Passion of Jesus Christ, bearing the name of *Gregory of Nazianzus, but now usually thought to have been written by a Byzantine of the 11th or 12th cent. (important evidence pointing to an earlier date has recently been assembled by A. Garzya in Sileno1984, 237–40). It contains a very great number of lines from *Euripides, and some from *Aeschylus and *Lycophron (2). It is of doubtful use for the textual criticism of Euripides, but portions of the lost end of the Bacchae have been recovered from it (see E. R. Dodds's edition of Bacch. (1960), 243 ff.).


Chrysostom, John, c. 354–407 CE  

Stanley Lawrence Greenslade and J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz

John Chrysostom (c. 354–407 ce), born at *Antioch (1), where after studying rhetoric under *Libanius, he attended an ascetic institution. Having spent three years as a monk and two as a hermit, he was ordained a deacon in 381 and priest in 386. An outstandingly successful preacher in the Nicene cause, he reluctantly became bishop of Constantinople (398). A passionate reformer and austere moralist he made many enemies, among them the empress Eudoxia, *Theophilus (2) bishop of Alexandria, some powerful politicians, and several Asiatic bishops who resented his interventions. He was deposed by the Synod of the Oak (403), banished, recalled, banished again to Armenia (404) and died in exile (407).John expounded Scripture in the Antiochene tradition according to its traditional sense practically and devotionally. Sermons form the basis of commentaries on Genesis, the Gospels of Matthew and John, the *Acts of the Apostles and all the Epistles of *Paul.


churches, early Christian  

Bryan Ward-Perkins

The first Christians met in the private houses of the faithful. Gradually, as local Christian communities became more established both in numbers and in wealth, they might acquire their own church-houses, using them specifically as places of worship and for other religious activities, such as the granting of charity and the instruction of converts. Externally these buildings looked just like other private houses, though internally they might be adapted for their new function, for instance by combining rooms to create a large enough space for worship. The best example of an early church-house is that excavated at Dura-*Europus on the Euphrates: an ordinary town house, built around ce 200, adapted for Christian use before 231, and destroyed when the city walls were reinforced in 257. Before the conversion of Constantine I, and his conquest of the empire between 312 and 324, some Christian communities may already have commissioned halls specifically for worship, and certainly small shrines, such as the 2nd-cent. aedicula over the supposed tomb of St Peter in Rome (see vatican), were already being built over the bodies of the martyrs.


Clement of Alexandria  

M. J. Edwards

Clement of Alexandria was born c.150 ce, probably at Athens and of pagan parents. He was converted to *Christianity and after extensive travels to seek instruction from Christian teachers received lessons from Pantaenus, whose catechetical school in *Alexandria (1) was then an unofficial institution giving tuition to converts. Clement affects a wide acquaintance with Greek literature, since his writings abound in quotations from *Homer, *Hesiod, the dramatists, and the Platonic and Stoic philosophers (see plato(1); stoicism). However, comparison with ps. -Justin's De monarchia and Cohortatio ad Graecos shows that he made much use of florilegia. His Protrepticus is a copious source of information about the Greek *mysteries, though his wish to represent them as a perversion of Scriptural teachings must have led to misrepresentation. After ordination he succeeded Pantaenus as head of the school some time before 200, and held the office till 202, when, on the eve of the persecution under *Septimius Severus, he left Alexandria and took refuge, perhaps with his former pupil Alexander, then bishop of *Cappadocia and later of Jerusalem.


Clement of Rome  

Henry Chadwick and M. J. Edwards

Clement of Rome, author of an epistle (c. 96 ce) from the Roman Church, rebuking the Corinthian Church for arbitrarily deposing clergy. This letter is remarkable, in a largely pacifist Church, for its use of martial imagery. Clement has been identified improbably with *Flavius Clemens and more probably with Peter's successor as bishop of Rome. The Clementina say that he is of Caesar's household, but associate neither him nor Peter with Rome.The chief of the numerous works attributed to him are (1) the Second Epistle, a mid-2nd-cent. sermon on virginity of uncertain origin; (2) Apostolic Constitutions, eight books of law and liturgy, c.375, of which the seventh contains Hellenistic–Jewish prayers; and (3) the Clementine Romance, which combines an apologetic dialogue featuring Clement as the adversary of *Apion with an account of Peter's legendary encounter with Simon Magus. The plot which brings the two together substitutes domestic separation and reunion for the erotic stereotypes of pagan novels. This romance survives in two 4th-cent. recensions of divergent character: the Homilies in Greek and the Recognitions in Syriac and Rufinus (2)'s Latin.


Columbanus, abbot of Luxeuil and Bobbio, d. 615 CE  

Michael Lapidge

Columbanus is important for two reasons: he was the earliest Irish scholar to have composed a significant corpus of writings in Latin, and he founded an austere but influential form of monasticism which flourished in France and Italy from the 7th century onwards. He was born in Leinster about 550 ce; his Irish name was Columba (perhaps a diminutive of Irish Colmán, perhaps a baptismal name influenced by Latin columba “dove,” which was subsequently Latinized as Columba-nus). (Scholars often refer to him as “Columba the Younger,” in order to distinguish him from the well-known abbot of Iona.) His earliest studies took place at Clain Inis (Cleenish, county Fermanagh) under one Sinell, but he subsequently became a monk at Bennchor (Bangor, county Down) under Abbot Comgall. The only written testimony to his years at Bangor is a Latin hymn for Eastertide in rhythmic verse (beginning “Precamur patrum”), which is preserved, anonymously, in the famous “Antiphonary of Bangor,” written around 700 and now preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan (MS. C 5 inf.). With the permission of Abbot Comgall, Columbanus left Bangor in 590 or 591, accompanied by twelve monks (a number symbolic of the twelve disciples of Christ), on a “pilgrimage for the love of God,” the aim of which was to convert pagan peoples to Christianity. His journey took him first to Brittany, then subsequently to Burgundy, where, apparently through the patronage of King Guntram (d. 592), he was granted the site of a hermitage in the wilderness at Annegray (département Haute-Saône), probably in 592; a year or so later, through the patronage of Guntram’s son Childebert II (d. 596), he was given a site for a monastery in the Roman ruins at Luxeuil (Luxovium), where he became the abbot of an ever-growing community of monks, both Irish and Frankish. While at Luxeuil, Columbanus enjoyed the patronage and protection of Childebert’s son Theuderic II (596–612); however, he lost this support when he chastised Theuderic for consorting with concubines, and, without royal support, the Burgundian bishops and nobles, who were unhappy with his (royally protected) independence from their jurisdiction, were able to secure his arrest and expulsion from Burgundy in 610. After proceeding to Auxerre and Nevers, Columbanus took a boat down the Loire to Nantes. When he failed to find a boat to take him to Ireland, he refocussed his attempts to find a permanent home for his monks, looking first in the region of Lake Constance, then ultimately in the Lombard kingdom of northern Italy, where at Milan in 612 he secured the patronage of the Lombard king Agilulf, from whom he obtained possession of a ruined church at Bobbio. After rebuilding the church there, he re-established his monastic community and ended his days, dying there on 23 November 615.



J. H. D. Scourfield

Christian Latin poet, probably from 3rd-cent. Africa, but assigned by some to the 4th or 5th cent. and to other locations; perhaps of Syrian origin. In the Instructiones, 80 short poems mostly in *acrostic form, he attacks paganism and Judaism and admonishes Christians; the Carmen apologeticum or De duobus populis is an exposition of Christian doctrine with didactic intent. His language and versification have been much vilified; in particular, he shows scant regard for classical prosody. The character of his verse, however, is better attributed to a desire to innovate and write poetry with appeal for ordinary uneducated Christians than to incompetence.


Constantia, half-sister of Constantine and wife of Licinius  

Julia Hillner


Constantina, daughter of Constantine, wife of Gallus Caesar, and patron of St. Agnes at Rome  

Julia Hillner

Constantina, born in c. 320, was the eldest daughter of Constantine I. She was married twice, first in 335 to her cousin Hannibalianus, whose death in 337 left her widowed, and second in 351 to another cousin, Gallus Caesar. Between her marriages, she resided in Rome, founding the church of St. Agnes on the Via Nomentana, where she would be buried in an adjacent mausoleum after her death in 354. Constantina was an active political player in the early 350s. In 350, she intervened against the usurpation of Magnentius through proclaiming the magister militum Vetranio Caesar to her brother Constantius, and she exerted influence on her husband Gallus when the couple resided in Antioch from 351 to 354. Constantina was venerated as a saint in Rome in the 7th century.Flavia Constantina’s name is recorded with this variant of her cognomen on two inscriptions erected during her lifetime in Rome (CIL VI 40790; ILCV 1768 = ICUR VIII 20752; for the full texts see below, .



Alan Douglas Edward Cameron

Constantinople was founded by *Constantine I on the site of *Byzantium in 324 ce, shortly after his victory over *Licinius near by. There are hardly any sources before the 6th cent., and these are already full of myths: e.g. that Constantine started to build at Troy and brought the *Palladium from Rome. When he claimed to ‘bestow an eternal name’ he probably meant his own! The city was styled ‘New Rome’ from the start, but it is not likely that Constantine had any thought of superseding Rome. He was simply building his own tetrarchic capital: the New Rome motif took on new significance after the sack of Rome (410) and the disappearance of the western empire.Though not such an obvious site as has often been claimed (being vulnerable from its hinterland and deficient in drinking-water), the new foundation grew rapidly in size and importance, though it did not become a regular imperial residence till the end of the century. By the reign of *Valens (373) an elaborate system of *aqueducts and conduits was installed to provide sufficient water for the growing population.



M. J. Edwards

In classical Greek metanoia signifies change of heart or purpose rather than renunciation of one way of life or worship for another. Latin conversio may suggest alteration of principle, but not a metamorphosis (*Cicero, Nat. D. 1.27; *Pliny (2), Ep. 9.13). It is possible, as *Apuleius boasts (Apol.55), to be an adept of numerous mysteries; Nock read too much history into his tongue-in-cheek romance, the Golden Ass, in which the hero's return from asinine to human shape, perfunctorily explained as an allegorical deliverance from the sins of the flesh, is crowned by initiation into the cult of his saviour Isis. This fanciful scenario at least confirms Nock's maxim that in ancient times philosophy did the work that we associate with religion. Change could be incremental or instantaneous. The Stoic Polemon is said to have turned from debauchery to austerity after breaking in on a lecture; *Antisthenes (1) and *Plotinus, already bent on philosophical studies, had frequented a number of schools without profit before a single audience convinced them that they had found their teacher at last.


Cosmas Indicopleustes  

Samuel James Beeching Barnish

Cosmas Indicopleustes, fl. 545 ce, *Alexandrian merchant, Nestorian, and argumentative autodidact. His travels included *Ethiopia, but perhaps not the Indies. His self-illustrated Christian Topography (547–9) mixes astronomy, geography, and theology, with some personal observation and humour; it is informative on Ethiopia, India, and Ceylon. Scornfully rejecting classical cosmology and its Alexandrian Monophysite synthesis with *Christianity, Cosmas probably attacked John *Philoponus, who countered in De opificio mundi (557–60). Expounding a rectangular, vaulted universe, the model for the Tabernacle, he combines this oriental, Bible-based cosmology with Greek science. His literalistic exegesis follows the Nestorians of Nisibis and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who was controversially condemned in 544 and 553. Cosmas’ attitude to classical science likewise belongs to contemporary disputes; he shares interests with John *Malalas (e.g. Christian historical teleology), and shows the cultural vitality of his world; his influence was prolonged and widespread.