IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - What Ancient Letters Reveal about Leadership in Late Antiquity
While past studies of late Roman and Byzantine leadership have centred on legal texts, this paper goes beyond that narrow scope, drawing literary evidence from a lesser known source: letters. No other elite form of communication was more meticulously documented than letters, and they are an unparalleled source on the networks and communities of people of influence in the fourth to seventh centuries. Leadership networks between Christian elites, especially bishops, and between non-Christian senators and their Christian counterparts, can tell us much about the vital role of literary friendships in maintaining social bonds between leaders. These included epistolary networks between teachers and disciples, and between men and women of the ruling classes in the Latin- and Greek-speaking parts of the Later Roman Empire. Their letters offer a rare glimpse of how the other half lived and ruled in Late Antiquity.
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