Saturday, February 26, 2011

The first Council of Nicaea
& the later reconstructive representations of it /

Η πρώτη Σύνοδος της Νίκαιας
& οι μεταγενέστερες ανασκευαστικές περιγραφές της

The documentation of councils—as sites of public debate—not only displaced the actual events after the fact but also contributed to the cramped style of the deliberations themselves: "The dynamics of public debate were altered dramatically when one could be held responsible for everything one said in the heat of discussion." Interestingly, the Council of Nicaea, which inaugurated the history of the authoritative "ecumenical" councils, lacks written acta. The high level of dissension that gave rise to a council later reputed for its unity, Lim points out, may have "rendered a set of acta unnecessary and undesirable." He goes on to discuss the late-fourth- and early-fifth-century literary representations of the Nicene council, which in the final event made such acta doubly superfluous. "The death of Athanasius, who attended the council as a young priest at the side of his bishop Alexander, marked the advent of the post-Nicene age. With all eye-witnesses dead, legends about Nicaea began to emerge." Did the end of Athanasius's eye-witnessing, however, really mark the beginning of "legends about Nicaea"? It seems equally important to point out that Athanasiuss death marked the end of a crucial phase in the literary invention of Nicaea, and that, furthermore, the layered inscription of his "historical" or "apologetic" texts—resulting in his retroactive construction of a virtual archive for the council—contributed heavily to the creation of a documentary habit that was, as Lim and others have demonstrated, crucial to the success of the late-antique council in producing "consensual" orthodoxy.

* Virginia Burrus,
‘Begotten, not made’: Conceiving manhood in late antiquity
[Γεννηθείς και όχι ποιηθείς’: Η σύλληψη της ανθρωπινότητας στην ύστερη αρχαιότητα],
Stanford University Press, 2000,
p./σ. 59.

No comments: