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date: 29 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the various roles bishops played in Late Antiquity and the debates over the nature and functions of episcopal leadership. Much of the evidence is drawn from the great fathers of the Church: Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the Great. The article first traces the origins of the office of the bishop, and then assesses the impact of the reign of Constantine on that office and on the opportunities available to those who attained episcopal status. Next, it considers the changing place of the bishop within the Christian Roman Empire through the collapse of imperial power in the West, and the roles played by bishops in the early Germanic kingdoms and in the eastern empire down to the rise of Islam.

Keywords: bishops, late antique period, Late Antiquity, Christian Church, Constantine, Germanic kingdoms, Islam

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