Patronage played a central part in late Roman social life, but as a process of social interaction it was complicated. To explore these complexities, this study follows some sociologists in treating patronage interactions as carefully planned performances. Theodoret's letters of appeal feature the bishop-author playing advocate for various clients before a range of elite audiences. The letters reveal tactics employed to win audience sympathy by signaling common ground, whether through social status, classical culture, or Christian faith. The letters also reveal methods to entice generosity by distancing clients and advocates from the audience and inviting audience members to close the gaps. Multi-letter appeals show signs of careful stage direction, involving several performers and audiences. Most appeals indicate a concern to protect relations even when audiences were unresponsive. Theodoret's patronage performances pursued short-term goals of mediating the distribution of favors. At the same time, they were part of a larger social strategy, to build a network of protective contacts and to find a sense of elite inclusion. Theodoret's patronage performances gave him a measure of social success, but they could not persist amid accusations from doctrinal rivals, who forced the bishop-patron into less flattering roles.


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pp. 274-299
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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