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Transforming Roman and/or Christian nobilitas? A new approach to reading Jerome's epistolary correspondence with the socialites of his day.

VAN-'T-WESTEINDE, JESSICA,IRMA,OLGA (2016) Transforming Roman and/or Christian nobilitas? A new approach to reading Jerome's epistolary correspondence with the socialites of his day. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Jerome of Stridon argues that “the most distinguished privilege loses its prestige when lavished on a crowd” (Ep. 66.7). The senatorial aristocracy have been faced with a devaluation of their order due to recent imperial changes. A number of its illustres show an appetite for Christian asceticism. When Jerome liaises with them, he offers a nobilitas-model which preserves the exclusivity of Roman nobilitas through appropriation of Christian asceticism. It emerges that Jerome’s modelling of Christian nobilitas allows his patron-students to remain nobilitas in the old Roman sense, and even restores the traditional Roman understanding of it within a new and only emerging Christian framework. What needs to be asked is how ‘Christian’ was Jerome’s model, and how should we understand the social relation between this provincial advocate of asceticism and his aristocratic associates? In my thesis I apply a new methodology which considers actors (Jerome) as individual agents fully embodied in their contemporary context; it reorients “research on materiality, localised and temporal embodiments of the individual” (M. Vinzent). I have applied this broader framework to a particular focus on one individual religious agent, Jerome, and his relations with individual actors situated primarily in Rome (Aventine area), secondarily in the provinces (Spain, Gaul, Dalmatia, and northern Italy), embedded in an aristocratic milieu, with a temporal range from the late 380s to the early 410s. It follows that Jerome’s model restored the old Roman exclusivist notion of nobilitas as an antidote against the opening-up of senatorial rank to “country boors” by creating a status group of Christian elite. The letters reveal a careful selection of Christian ascetic elements, which in practice did not radically alter aristocratic daily life. Jerome offers a ‘Christian ascetic’ nobilitas-model that embodies continuation which breathes Roman aristocratic status culture of the illustres.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Jerome, Roman aristocrats, nobilitas, social networks, identity, patronage, epistolography
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jan 2017 11:14

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