Playing the Ritual Game in Constantinople (379–457)

Peter Van Nuffelen

in Two Romes

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199739400
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933006 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity

Playing the Ritual Game in Constantinople (379–457)

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This chapter examines the ceremonial relationship between emperor and the people of Constantinople from the end of fourth century until the end of the Theodosian dynasty. First, it is argued that ceremonial and ritual are not merely modes of self-presentation for the emperor, but above all means of communication with the people. Second, it is argued that we can see the development of a double ceremonial relationship. On the one hand, traditional forms of victory celebrations and adventus (in the form of processus) persist, as does the emperor’s presence at games. On the other hand, the emperor increasingly participated or took the lead in particular religious services (e.g. transfer of relics, public penance). Occasionally both clash. Third, ceremonial was useful in controlling conflict and popular anger. Indeed, conflict and reconciliation were often acted out in ritual, rather than being “solved” through discussion and negotiations. The conflict between John Chrystostom and the empress Eudoxia provides an important case study here. Finally, although ritual is often seen as opposed to text and language, it is argued that ritual and text alike contributed to the creation of a discourse on how an emperor should behave.

Keywords: Theodosian dynasty; Constantinople; John Chrystostom; ritual; ceremonial; emperor

Chapter.  8607 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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