“Two Romes, Beacons of the Whole World”

Neil McLynn

in Two Romes

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

Series: Oxford Studies in Late Antiquity

“Two Romes, Beacons of the Whole World”

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This chapter discusses Canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople in 381, which proclaimed that “The bishop of Constantinople shall have the privileges of honour after the bishop of Rome, through its being New Rome.” This would become the basis of the more precise (and more contentious) definition of Constantinople’s status in Canon 28 of Chalcedon. Commentators have tended to assume a connection between the two rulings, as successive stages in the evolution of the new capital into the most powerful see of the eastern church. However, a more complex picture is suggested by looking closely at the evidence, including the writings of Gregory Nazianzen, as well at the terms of the canon itself. The circumstances of the 381 council turn out to be crucial. There was not, in fact, a decisive voice (either from the bishops or from the emperor) demanding the promotion of the see of Constantinople or the relegation of its rivals; rather, the canon should be seen as an attempt at neutralizing the see’s authority. This new interpretation requires us to revise our conceptions of the geopolitical horizons of fourth-century churchmen, and of the extent to which Old Rome impinged upon the consciousness of New Rome.

Keywords: Gregory Nazianzen; Council of Constantinople; Constantinople; Chalcedon; Rome; bishop; New Rome

Chapter.  9790 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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