With the rise of imperial Christianity emperors frequently inserted themselves into doctrinal affairs. Safeguarding orthodoxy became a matter of strategic concern and, therefore, imperial prerogative. Over time emperors tried to endow their office with its own priesthood. Scholars locate this ambition in Constantine the Great’s claim to be a ‘bishop of outsiders’, with its clearest expression in Leo III’s declaration, ‘I am Emperor and Priest’. However, little evidence survives between Constantine and Leo III (attesting to the development of an imperial priesthood. An exception is found during the reign of Constans II, the monk, Maximus the Confessor, was tried for treason in Constantinople, in part, due to his denial that the emperor was a priest. Court officials argued that the imperial office was a priesthood based on the biblical Melchizedek. This seminar traces the development of the priesthood of the Christian Roman emperor, with a focus on the Heraclian dynasty. Of interest are the statements by the dynasty’s supporters. Here, we consider priestly motifs in panegyric literature, imperial edicts pertaining to religion, as well as the arguments of opponents, such as Maximus the Confessor.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity