Polemics and persecution: East Romans and Paulicians c.780-880)

Dixon, Carl Stephen (2018) Polemics and persecution: East Romans and Paulicians c.780-880). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Paulicians represent one of the most dynamic religious and military phenomena in the eastern Mediterranean during the ninth century. Despite being unknown to Greek sources at the beginning of this century, Paulicians were persecuted by the East Roman Empire in the 810s and again in the 840s. After this later persecution, they aligned themselves with the Emirate of Malaṭiya and raided the empire’s eastern provinces until their eclipse as a regional power in the 870s. Yet modern scholarship concerning Paulicians has conventionally focused on their religiosity, which has traditionally been identified as a variant of adoptionism descended from primordial forms of Armenian Christianity, and/or as a Manichaean or Marcionite dualism which would influence later heresies in Bulgaria and the Languedoc. In contrast to approaches such as these, which locate Paulicians within broader religious metanarratives, this thesis seeks to analyse Paulician religiosity on its own terms by grounding it within its social, religious and politico-military contexts. In doing so, it will reappraise Paulician activity after a comparative dearth of scholarly interest lasting several decades.

Firstly, it will reinterpret the relationship of the Greek heresiological sources which describe the heresy, in the process arguing that several of these sources (notably Peter of Sicily’s History of the Paulicians and Pseudo-Photios’ Contra Manichaeos) are forgeries which date to the reign of Constantine VII (945-59), many decades after the Paulicians’ downfall in the 870s. It will explain the significance of this fact for the study of Paulicians, as well as positing methods by which these forgeries could have been undertaken, and their testimony corroborated. In doing so, I will pay particular attention to the symbolic language (particularly numerical and onomastic) with which Roman heresiologists read religious texts.

Secondly, the thesis will offer a new explanation for Paulicians as a historical phenomenon indigenous to Asia Minor, without tangible links to earlier Armenian heretics, or dualists, such as Manichaeans or Marcionites. It will argue that Paulicians in this area had an apostolic religiosity founded upon reverence for the apostle Paul, by employing two Paulician sources which are now preserved in the History of the Paulicians, namely the Didaskalie and the Letters of Sergios. I will contextualise these sources in the aftermath of the Roman persecutions of the 810s, in the process examining the Paulicians’ idiosyncratic understanding of the Holy Spirit and the sin-based narratives which they developed after these persecutions. These findings on Paulician religion will then be placed in an even wider context by positing reasons for the Paulicians’ expansion which locate them within the cultural and socio-economic fabric of the borderlands between the East Roman Empire, the ‘Abbāsid Caliphate and Armenia. It will refute the traditional interpretation that a de-facto alliance with the iconoclast movement was instrumental to Paulician expansion, instead arguing that their success was intimately linked to East Roman persecutions against them and the manner in which they made sense of these events. Beyond this, the thesis will undermine the conception of a distinct Paulician identity and religiosity throughout the period in question, arguing that they should best be understood as a fractious and heterogeneous network, rather than a single confessional entity.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Taylor, Claire
Cunningham, Mary
Keywords: Medieval History, Byzantine Studies, Heresy Studies
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DG Italy
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of History
Item ID: 52984
Depositing User: Dixon, Carl
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2019 11:29
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2020 04:30
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/52984

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