Addressing conflict in the fifth century: Rome and the wider church

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In seeking to trace the escalation, avoidance or resolution of conflicts, contemporary social conflict theorists look for incompatible goals, differentials in power, access to social resources, the exercise of control, the expression of dissent, and the strategies employed in responding to disagreements. It is argued here that these concepts are just as applicable to the analysis of historical doctrinal conflicts in Late Antiquity as they are to understanding modern conflicts. In the following, I apply social conflict theory to three conflicts involving the late antique papacy to see what new insights it can proffer. The first is Zosimus's involvement in the dispute over the hierarchy of Gallic bishops at the beginning of the fifth century. The second and longest case-study is Leo I's interven- tion in the Chalcedonian conflict over the natures of Christ. The final brief study is the disputed election of Symmachus at the end of the fifth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-114
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Christology
  • Council of Chalcedon
  • Late antique papacy
  • Leo I, pope
  • papal letters
  • social conflict theory
  • Symmachus, pope
  • Zosimus, pope


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