6-7 December 2018

University of Oxford, United Kingdom


Building the Church in the Late Antique West (380-450 CE): a Social Network and New Institutionalist Approach

David Natal

Royal Holloway, University of London

The late antique western church was a fragmented institution with very few mechanisms of policy implementation and coercion. And yet, clerics from around the Roman world sometimes respected the incipient ecclesiastical hierarchy, resorted to common laws to defend their positions, and respected the decisions taken in distant ecumenical councils. This paper argues that the existence of clerical interactions favoured the dissemination of common ecclesiastical rules, ecclesiological visions, and patterns of clerical behaviour that helped to strengthen an organisational structure with some degree of accountability and cohesion. In particular, I will focus on analysing how specific structures of clerical networks contributed to consolidating the church’s provincial geography and to reinforcing the authority of metropolitan bishops.

This paper stems from research conducted within the project ‘Connected Clerics: Building a Universal Church in the Late Antique West (380-604)’, funded by the ERC-Starting Grant scheme.  By applying social network analysis and new institutional theory to the scant and scattered late antique material, this project seeks to test the validity of these sociological approaches for less-documented institutions, such as the late antique church.

More info about the conference: http://torch.ox.ac.uk/connected-past-pastnet-conference

International Medieval Congress

Sponsor: ERC Project ‘Connected Clerics. Building a Universal Church in the Late Antique West’ / Royal Holloway, University of London
Organisers:     Victoria Leonard
                          David Natal 
Session 1012 
Wednesday 03 July 2019, 09.00-10.30
Late Antique and Early Medieval Networks I: Exploring a Quantitative Approach – projects and tools

Chair:  David Zbiral (University of Brno)

Network theory is proving an increasingly valuable approach to analyse past societies. In this session, the first of the four proposed on the topic, we will discuss the application of quantitative analytical tools to the scant and scattered late antique and early medieval material.

1.         Victoria Leonard (Royal Holloway, University of London): ‘Social Network Analysis and Clerical Connectivity in the Fifth Century AD’

2.       Alex Watzinger (Austrian Academy of Sciences): ‘OpenAtlas: An open source application to map historical data with CIDOC CRM’

3.         Ekaterini Mitsiou (University of Vienna): ‘Clerical networks after a state collapse: the case of 1204 and a new project on the Nicaean Empire’

4.      Maxim Romanov (University of Vienna): ‘Modelling Connectedness. Networks of scholars in the “History of Islam” (600-1300 CE)‘

Session 1112
Wednesday 03 July 2019, 11.15 -12.45
Late Antique and Early Medieval Networks II: Patterns of dissemination

Chair: Rebecca Darley (Birkbeck College)

Recent research is starting to question previous assumptions about the regionalisation of the post-Roman worlds.  This session, the second on the topic, analyses examples of how specific structures of networks produced different patterns of dissemination of commodities, which respectively hindered or fostered fragmentation.

1.        Johannes Preiser-Kapeller (Austrian Academy of Sciences): ‘Network failure? Connectivity and fragmentation in the late antique Mediterranean’

2.      Horacio González (Austrian Archaeological Institute): “Late Antique Ephesian trade in the Iberian Peninsula: A church business?”.

3.         Luise Schintlmeister (Austrian Archaeological Institute): “Networks of Glass. New findings from a late antique-medieval quarter from Ephesus”

4.         Stefan Eichert (University of Prague): Networks of cemeteries: Early Medieval burials from Austria and the Czech Republic as object-oriented networks

Session 1212
Wednesday 03 July 2019, 14.15 – 15.45 
Late Antique and Early Medieval Networks III: Imagined connections

Chair:  Robert Wisniewski (University of Warsaw)

Despite the context of political fragmentation, late antique Christian thinkers envisaged a universal, united church. This session, the third of the four proposed, explores how intellectuals used past social networks as a rhetorical device to discuss ideas of orthodoxy, political ideology, gender, and intellectual affiliation.

1.        Máirín MacCarron (University of Sheffield): ‘Gendered Networks in Late Antique and Early Medieval Church Histories’

2.             Julia Hillner (University of Sheffield): ‘Networking Helena Augusta’

3.         Evina Steinova (Huygens Instituut): ‘Isidore’s Etymologiae as a Window into Carolingian Intellectual Networks’


Session 1312 
Wednesday 03 July 2019, 16.30 -18.00
Late Antique and Early Medieval Networks IV: Agency and Strategies
Chair:  Claudia Rapp (University of Vienna)

In this session, the fourth on the topic, we will look at how different social actors used their networks to achieve specific goals and mobilise support. Both the cohesive as well as the divisive power of network formation will be discussed.

4.       David Natal (Royal Holloway, University of London): ‘Rebuilding clerical networks. Controversy and political crisis in early fifth-century Gaul’

5.           Marta Szada (University of Warsaw): ‘Studying clerical relationships with the “Presbyters in the Late Antique West” database’

6.        Maik Patzelt (University of Osnabrueck): ‘About holy inheritance hunters, frivolous nuns and liberated women: A new approach to the agency and network strategies of widows in late antiquity’

7.      Daniel Knox (CEU-Budapest): ‘Ennodius the Lobbyist: Intermediaries, Requests, and Network Emergence in the Ostrogothic Kingdom’