'Cherchez la femme!' Heresy and law in late antiquity
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In contrast with contemporary heresiological discourse, the Codex Theodosianus, a Roman imperial law code promulgated in 438, makes no systematic gendered references to heretics or heresy. According to late Roman legislative rhetoric, heretics are demented, polluted and infected with pestilence, but they are not seductive temptresses, vulgar ‘women’ or weak-minded whores. This article explores the gap between the precisely marked terrain of Christian heresiologists and (Christian) legislators. The first part gives a brief overview of early Christian heresiology. The second explores late Roman legislation and the construction of the heretic as a ‘legal subject’ in the Codex Theodosianus. The third turns to the celebrated account crafted by Pope Leo I of anti-Manichaean trials at Rome in 443/4, arguing that they should be understood as part of a much broader developing regime of ecclesial power, rather than as concrete applications of existing imperial anti-heresy laws.
Humfress , C 2020 , 'Cherchez la femme!' Heresy and law in late antiquity . in R McKitterick , C Methuen & A Spicer (eds) , The church and the law . vol. 56 , Studies in Church History , Cambridge University Press , pp. 36-59 . https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2019.3
The church and the law
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 2019. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work will be available at https://doi.org/10.1017/stc.2019.3
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