As the high-ranking Bishop of Alexandria from 328 to 373, Athanasius came into conflict with no fewer than four Roman emperors—Constantine himself, his son Constantius, Julian the Apostate, and the “Arian” Valens. In this new reconstruction of Athanasius’s career, Timothy D. Barnes analyzes the nature and extent of the Bishop’s power, especially as it intersected with the policies of these emperors.
Repeatedly condemned and deposed by church councils, the Bishop persistently resurfaced as a player to contend with in ecclesiastic and imperial politics. Barnes’s work reveals that Athanasius’s writings, though a significant source for this period, are riddled with deliberate misinterpretations, which historians through the ages have uncritically accepted.
Untangling longstanding misconceptions, Barnes reveals the Bishop’s true role in the struggles within Christianity, and in the relations between the Roman emperor and the Church at a critical juncture.
Barnes’s contribution to late Roman studies has been of the first importance. He often plays the role of devil’s advocate, scrutinizing our preconceptions about the period and provoking us to think again about issues of central importance… Barnes has provided us with another masterpiece of historical reconstruction. A lucid narrative is supported by appendices and notes so detailed that they take up more than one-third of the book… No review can really do Barnes’s work justice and it is impossible not to admire its richness… At a time when such studies are unfashionable, it is good to know that they have a defender of remarkable calibre.
An indispensable chart for the tricky waters of fourth-century history. [Barnes] has written another classic.
- 364 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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