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Rome paper 2 - Zach Hudson Class 128 Gustafson Priests and...

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Zach Hudson Class 128 Gustafson 1/30/2007 Priests and Bishops: A Shift in Power The 312 conversion of Constantine also served as a conversion in the role bishops played in Roman society. As the empire became Christian, bishops evolved from spiritual counselors into important political advisors. The process of becoming a bishop became more about who you knew than the strength of your faith and your religious knowledge(C Ch 6 p102). In short, bishops came to fill the role that previously belonged to the pagan priests, and the Pope became the Christian Pontifex Maximus. The symbolic transfer of power occurred with Theodosius’ final removal of the altar of victory from the forum. In that moment the final nail was driven into the coffin for pagan priesthoods as positions of power within the empire’s political structure. Out of the demise of the pagan priesthoods rose the Christian bishops who remain a political force to this day. We previously discussed the role of Pagan priesthoods and political power. Dating back to the Republic important senators were also high priests in the various traditional cults of Rome. Augurs served the important role of divining the gods’ will and were often priests and politicians as well; Julius Caesar served as Consul, Augur and Pontifex Maximus at the peak of his power. The altar of victory in the Senate’s Forum represented the political import of the cults to the ruling class. Holding a priesthood was part of becoming a successful politician, and as republic gave way to
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2 empire it became an avenue for influencing the decisions of the emperor. In the early day of the Christian church bishops were selected to serve as examples of a pious lifestyle for everyday Christians. This practice continued into the fourth century, but the pool of bishops became muddied by those selected for their political connections rather than their Christian lifestyles. While many, such as
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