Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS


ENFLAWE Report Summary

Project reference: 332144
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE



In these 24 months I have fulfilled the work plan proposed and successfully accomplish ENFLAWE’s research objectives. The application of network theory and methodology to the late Antique episcopal networks has produced interesting results, challenging previous historiographical assumptions in four main areas:
a) Episcopal authority. By focusing on the structure, nature and scale of these networks, ENFLAWE is modifying our understanding on how the local and regional authority of the late antique bishops worked on the ground (Objectives 1 and 2 of the proposal). Ambrose of Milan (d. 397), for instance, was traditionally considered a powerful bishop both in the local and the imperial scale. More recent historiography has argued that Ambrose was very powerful locally but had problems to implement his authority outside Northern Italy. Using network perspective I have found solid arguments for defending the opposite, i.e. that Ambrose’s authority at the local scale diluted in a cohesive and very interconnected network of bishops with strong local implantation, while at the imperial scale Ambrose had a relevant role, acting as a shortcut between local bishops in distant places and the imperial court (Natal in preparation, see Annex below). The case of Ambrose perfectly shows how the structure, shape and nature of networks moulded episcopal relationships. In the case of Hilary of Arles (d. 449), previous scholarship normally assumed that the bishop’s authority largely derived from his aristocratic status. On the contrary, I have argued that Hilary overcame his scant legitimacy as bishop of Arles with careful network engineering, appointing acquaintances as clergy in the main ecclesiastical instances of Gaul (Natal 2015a, see dissemination activities).
b) Conflict resolution. ENFLAWE has shown the importance of episcopal networks in the escalation and resolution of conflicts, a process of paramount importance in the construction of the institutional framework of the church (objective 4 of the proposal). In my chapter on the Priscillianist controversy (Natal 2015b), I argued that the continuous conflict among bishops raised awareness about the importance of extra-local networks of support and late antique bishops were increasingly prone to be active part of imperial-wide episcopal groups. This perspective modifies previous assumptions on the construction of the church, largely understood as a top-down process negotiated by the imperial institutions.
c) Extra-local identity and belonging. I have paid attention at how the nature of actual and ‘imaginary’ episcopal networks reframed the identity of bishops and their communities (objective 3 of the proposal). I have conducted this research in three different works. In an article published at the end of 2013 (Natal 2013), I studied how, once elected bishop, Ambrose reconstructed his past family history in order to fit into the main ascetic and ecclesiastical networks of northern Italy. In a forthcoming chapter on Ambrose and the rhetoric of exile (Natal 2016), I analyse how Ambrose of Milan reconstructed and exploited his ideological connections with the previous generation of north Italian bishops who had been banished during the reign of Constance II (d. 361). The symbolic capital of exile helped Ambrose to support his episcopal authority in northern Italy and beyond. Lastly, my article on Victricius of Rouen (Natal submitted) explores how the bishop of this remote community in northern Gaul used relics as a token of belonging to an episcopal party in the context of the Felician controversy (ca. 385-425). Through a complex theological argumentation on the unity and power of scattered relics, Victricius manipulated the geographical perception of his audience and advocated for a close connection with the imperial centre in Milan, against the more local-centred bishops and aristocrats that had supported the previous usurpations.
These three works made ample use of relevant sociological perspectives, as part of the interdisciplinary research training anticipated in the proposal. The first one offers a re-evaluation of Bourdieu’s concept of social capital as an individual construct as much as a social inheritance. The second chapter draws on new perspectives on social memorialisation. The third chapter builds on postcolonial approaches to culture and geography.
d) Episcopal hubs and gateways. Finally, ENFLAWE has also revealed the paramount importance of certain peripheral bishops not included in the original research plan. These bishops acted as hubs (links with high number of connections) and gateways, connecting different episcopal networks across the empire (objective 2 of the proposal). Analysing these unexplored connections is the aim of my next research project: ‘Making the late antique church. Episcopal Networks in the West (375-500 CE)’. In the next years, I will complete ENFLAWE’s existing database and digital map (see Annex 2 attached) of episcopal networks in the Mediterranean.
The question of long-distance connections in the late antique and early medieval Mediterranean will be further explored in the collective volume that will result from the conference ‘Linking the Mediterranean’ that I organised in December 2014 (under preparation).

My research under the frame ENFLAWE evolved chronologically from Ambrose of Milan and the bishops of Lerins to Sidonius Apollinaris. Ambrose and the lerinians provided a vast amount of interesting material that allowed me to write six academic works (three chapters and three articles), against the four articles planned in the proposal. For practical reasons I hence decided to focus on this collection of sources and to leave a deeper analysis of Sidonius Apollinaris (superficially explored during ENFLAWE) for my next project on the institutional construction of the church. The extraordinary effort put into analysing the key period 375 to 445 (i.e. the period of Ambrose and the lerinians) will help to better understand and contextualise Sidonius’ world and to develop my future plan of research.
During these 24 months, I also finished and submitted for publication 34 entries for the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, in areas closely connected to the main topic of ENFLAWE, but not directly related to its specific objectives.

There has been an intense effort in order to disseminate the results of the project among different audiences.
a. Impact among the scientific community
In the frame of ENFLAWE I have written six peer reviewed publications in important international journals and publishers from five European countries, contributing to the dissemination of the results of the project. This labour has been complemented with my participation in different scientific conferences and meetings in six European countries, Australia and USA (see dissemination activities).
The approach and methodology of ENFLAWE have attracted the attention of international teams of reputed late antique historians and I was invited to collaborate in the elaboration of the proposal of the research project ‘The Migration of Faith. Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity (325-600)’. Headed by Julia Hillner, (Sheffield) but including researchers from Halle and Aarhus, the successful project is funded by the AHRC-UK (£337.852) and runs from 2014 to 2017.

b. Impact among the wider audience.
Among the activities planned for reaching a wider public, I co-organised a cycle of workshops for postgraduate students and a talk for undergraduate students at the University of Leon (Spain). Both activities were designed to disseminate the last historiographical approaches and methodologies to a diverse audience of university students from different fields of the Humanities.
Aware of the importance of making ENFLAWE’s results available for the general public, I have published one of the articles in an open access, peer reviewed journal. Additionally, I will continue expanding the existing database in order to incorporate the available data into a digital map that will be hosted in an existing open access platform.

Related information

Documents and Publications


RAPP, CLAUDIA (Director, Division of Byzantine Research)
Tel.: +431515 817200
Fax: +431515813440
Record Number: 182641 / Last updated on: 2016-05-11
Information source: SESAM