In considering the spectrum of relations that bishops of the Christian Church had with high-ranking officials of the late Roman state, the letters of Augustine of Hippo have a special place. These letters have been used not only to debate the nature of the relationship between bishops and representatives of the imperial state, but also the moral aspects of the holding and exercise of secular power. This new investigation of the corpus of these letters focuses on problems of identifying the correspondents, their precise positions of state power, and the chronology of the events. The resulting picture reveals that the bishop of Hippo had no prior social or political connections with any of the men of imperial power and that his relations with them had to be carefully cultivated in each individual case, often with quite variable results. The presence of a consistent and substantial hiatus in status and power between Augustine and high-ranking imperial officials must be taken into account in any analysis of the significance of the content of the letters. As a generalization, it might be said that a more precise knowledge of context is always important to historical understanding.


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pp. 32-61
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