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Riot in AlexandriaTradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities$
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Edward Watts

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520262072

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520262072.001.0001

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Creating the Legend of the Alexandrian Bishop

Creating the Legend of the Alexandrian Bishop

(p.162) (p.163) 6 Creating the Legend of the Alexandrian Bishop
Riot in Alexandria

Edward J. Watts

University of California Press

This chapter looks at Athanasius and the efforts that he made to tie the authority of the bishop of Alexandria to his strong and unwavering advocacy of orthodoxy. In the same way that religious services allowed living bishops to shape thinking about current affairs, so too did the liturgical commemoration of past bishops shape a congregation's understanding of its own history. This commemoration often smoothed over the rough edges of an individual's career to create a thematically consistent and easily apprehended historical profile. Throughout his episcopate, Athanasius gradually developed a distinctive personal identity that emphasized a particular sort of spiritual authority and promised his followers divinely inspired leadership. His efforts generated such a large and passionate following among Alexandrian Nicene Christians that even imperial authorities found themselves grudgingly backing away from open confrontation with the bishop. The chapter also discusses Athanasius's episcopal power, his role in the politics of self-definition, his return to Alexandria from exile following the death of Constantine in 337, and his historical legacy.

Keywords:   Athanasius, bishops, Alexandria, orthodoxy, episcopate, episcopal power, politics, self-definition, Christians, exile

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