This article offers a new view of the papacy of Felix III (483–492 c.e.). After examining the evidence for his social origins, I argue that Felix was not the first aristocrat to become bishop of Rome, as is generally claimed. Rather, he rose through clerical circles as a deacon. But Felix had made close personal ties to Rome's lay senatorial aristocracy, possibly through the marriage of his daughter. Felix's aristocratic networks shed light on his accession and on his policies on charitable giving, as attested by a remarkable document known as the Scriptura of 483. Moreover, Felix relied on his aristocratic networks as he asserted papal autonomy in the face of imperial pressure to agree to a new formulation of the creed, the Henotikon. Felix's decision to break with the eastern court and the patriarch in what is today called the Acacian Schism grew out of a specific set of political as well as religious circumstances in the wake of the departure of the last western emperor from Rome. A more accurate understanding of the papacy of Felix and his reliance on aristocratic as well as clerical networks elucidates the separation of ecclesiastical and secular elites in Rome until the middle of the sixth century, and is consistent with more recent scholarship that emphasizes the limits of papal authority in late antiquity.


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pp. 465-489
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