Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2009 Volume 5 :: Article 1
2009 Volume 5, Article 1
Christian City Councillors in the Roman Empire Before Constantine

Author: Paul McKechnie (Macquarie University)

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ABSTRACT

The cities of the Roman Empire had a degree of autonomy in the responsibility for their local affairs. This autonomy was exercised on terms that differed in detail from place to place, but the general principle was that there was a city or town council whose members were selected by a nomination process in which men (and, in a few cases, women) of the propertied class were available to be nominated and, once nominated, were obliged to serve unless the individual could establish by litigation that he or she was entitled to be exempt. Service was costly, requiring expenditure of council members‘ own funds on the community‘s needs; but a councillor might gain recognition and prestige by discharging council duties with distinction, and in some cases, service on a city council would qualify a councillor (who had sufficient means) to advance to imperial appointments in equestrian grades. The extent to which Christians served as members of councils (i.e., as decurions) during the period when Christianity remained illegal is of interest as a pointer toward the social status of Christians and the degree of engagement between the Christian churches and institutions of government in the Roman world. In this article, a catalogue of all pre-Constantine Christian city councillors who are known by name is given, with commentary on the evidence in each case.

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