The Rhetoric of Migration at Rome in Late Antiquity
This article examines the relationship between heresy, migration, and community in mid fifth-century Rome through the lens of Leo I’s anti-Manichaean persecution of 443/444. According to the bishop, Manichaean heretics had migrated to the city of Rome due to »a disturbance in other places« (aliarum regionum perturbatio), almost certainly a reference to the Vandal conquest of North Africa. Importantly, Leo’s preaching against Manichaeism took place in the context of this movement of peoples as well as a reimagining of Rome’s social structure away from traditional notions of citizenship bound by civic euergetism towards a new Christian conception of society, which emphasized the deserving poor, the populus dei, receiving alms administered by the church. In this context, the Manichaean functioned didactically as the ultimate ›other‹. As heretics and outsiders to the city, they were the perfect foil against which Leo could contrast his populus dei, and thereby delineate the boundaries of his community. Indeed, Leo’s condemnations of Manichaeans can be found principally in sermons about other topics including charity, a theme that was particularly well-suited to address questions of community and belonging.
In 2020, I was awarded RSCAP funding to support my research on mobility and migration in Late Antique Italy. This work resulted in three articles. First, I completed substantial edits on an essay entitled “Topography and Ideology in Late Antique Rome,” which will be published in Late Antique Archaeology 13 (forthcoming, 2021) later this year. A second publication, which examines the polemical demonization of outsiders by ecclesiastical authorities at Rome, is currently under review with the journal Entangled Religions. This article is part of a project headed by Christina Brauner (Tübingen) and Sita Steckel (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster), which examined the phenomenon of polemical comparisons and discourses of religious diversity, juxtaposing case studies from Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist contexts from Late Antiquity until the nineteenth century. Finally, I completed a third article, which examines the reception of North African migrants to Rome in the fifth century. It will appear this summer in the journal Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum. Additionally, I am also editing a collection of essays in that same journal based on papers presented at two workshops entitled Migration: Rhetoric and Reality that I organized at the International Conference on Patristics Studies held at Oxford University. For the 2021 Virtual Research Gallery, I present my Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum article, entitled “Aliarum regionum perturbatio: Migration, Charity, and Community in Fifth-Century Rome.