Reading councils backwards: Challenging teleological perspectives of Constantinople’s ecclesiastical development from 381 to 451


Pigott, Justin Matthew. (2016). Reading councils backwards: Challenging teleological perspectives of Constantinople’s ecclesiastical development from 381 to 451 [Thesis].
AuthorsPigott, Justin Matthew
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The period from the First Council of Constantinople (381) to the Council of Chalcedon (451) is considered to be a formative one in the development of Constantinople’s self-identity and confidence as an ecclesiastical authority. Traditional representations of Constantinople during this era portray a see that was experiencing meteoric growth in episcopal authority and was increasingly attempting to assert supremacy over the churches of the east as well as challenge Rome’s authority in the west. However, it is the contention of this thesis that such a view is informed by a highly teleological perspective of Constantinople’s earliest history. Constantinople’s future significance as the centre of eastern Christianity and foil to Rome have seen perceptions of the Constantinopolitan see of the late fourth and early fifth centuries subsumed into the broad and far-reaching narratives that are synonymous with the city and its Byzantine legacy. By re-examining this seventy-year period through a close consideration of the unique theological, political, and demographic characteristics specific to the Constantinople of the time, this thesis will argue that the city’s political importance and imperial symbolism significantly preceded the development of a bishopric with the necessary institutional strengths to cope with the city’s meteoric growth. The intermingling of imperial and episcopal politics, the city’s lack of theological heritage, and the diversity of the city’s mushrooming population would cause the Constantinopolitan bishops of this period immeasurable difficulties. Eschewing the supra-narrative of Constantinople’s rise to global prominence, and repositioning the councils of 381 and 451 and the decades between them within a local Constantinopolitan context, I argue that the pronouncements of both canon 3 of Constantinople I and canon 28 of Chalcedon are not indicative of a see growing in geo-ecclesiastical confidence but were in fact responses to systemic weaknesses internal to a struggling episcopate.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupInstitute for Religion and Critical Inquiry
Final version
Publication dates22 Dec 2016
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