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Chapter Four "Priscillianist" Heresy Inquisitions at Toledo and Tarragona
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Priscillian was condemned as a Manichaean and magician; Dictinius was charged with membership in the sect of Priscillian; and Severus was labeled a Priscillianist by a secondhand reporter. The increasing abstraction of the language surrounding the figure of Priscillian reflects the progressive simplification of an image that served as a negative counterpart for the evolving identity of a Spanish church that sought to redraw and strengthen its faltering boundaries in a period of dramatic social, political, and cultural change. In the move from "Priscillian" to "sect of Priscillian" and finally to "Priscillianism," one phase in the construction of a heresy was complete. The investigations at Toledo in 400 and at Tarragona circa 418 allow precious glimpses into two moments in the heresiological process and in the accompanying evolution of structures of authority and gender.

In Priscillian's own lifetime, the competition between Priscillian and Hydatius was closely matched: the clearly articulated public authority of ecclesiastical office and the more ambiguous private authority deriving from personal education, eloquence, or asceticism carried almost equal weight in urban contexts dominated by a complex and divided elite class. The social complexity was simplified and the ecclesiastical conflict resolved in favor of Hydatius only by the invocation of the most potent labels available—Manichaeism and sorcery—and the imposition of the most violent instrument of secular power—the emperor's sword.

At Toledo some fifteen years later, the weight had shifted in the balance of authority. While "confessors" and other teachers and ascetics


could still provoke some anxiety on the part of the official hierarchy, the threat was no longer acute. The legitimacy of such privately construed authority had been successfully challenged through the condemnation of figures like Priscillian; where it was not challenged outright, it was at least partially harmonized with the authority of office. The scholar and popular leader Dictinius, much like Priscillian before him, was consecrated bishop; unlike Priscillian, he remained successfully, if tenuously, integrated into the ecclesiastical hierarchy.[109] Yet the merging of public and private authority was still incomplete, as is evident from the council's opposition to the consecration of Dictinius and to the other seemingly uncontrolled ordinations of the Galicians. The Toledan bishops suspected, probably rightly, that the authority of their Galician counterparts, however similarly labeled, was nonetheless differently constituted and thereby inherently threatening to their own authority.

Some twenty years later in Tarragona, in the wake of barbarian invasions that left the communities effectively cut off from centralized imperial rule, this merging of public and private authority had progressed still further, reflecting a similar structural simplification or consolidation of the local governing elites. Men like the presbyter Severus and Bishop Sagittius were affirmed and defended as the rightful leaders of their communities on the basis of both ecclesiastical office and personal wealth, influence, and education, and they could moreover anticipate a degree of solidarity with the local general Asterius, to whom Severus was related by marriage. Where the harmony of public and private sources and strategies of authorization was imperfect, it showed up primarily in internal contradictions exemplified most dramatically in the attitude toward books and private study. These contradictions necessitated a degree of compromise and even dissimulation on the part of leaders who were called upon to embody the authority of both the learned scholar and the official guardian of orthodoxy. They also left open the possibility of accusations of heresy like those brought by Fronto. Nevertheless, a layman like Fronto could scarcely compete with the more firmly anchored authority of a leader like Severus, even under exceptional circumstances. The role of the lay ascetic or monk had become more clearly defined, as well as more explicitly subordinate. The "servant of Christ" was no independent leader like Priscillian but belonged now to the retinue of a powerful representative of the official hierarchy. In terms of his strategies of self-authorization, the cultured presbyter Severus was indeed more of a true heir of Priscillian than the monk Fronto. Yet at the same time, the dynamic of alienation in the private construction of authority was now minimized as public and private spheres merged in ecclesiological rhetoric.

Authority deriving from private sphere networks was, then, in large


part subsumed by the expanding boundaries of the public sphere. It followed that the space within which women could exert authority and mingle with men grew correspondingly smaller. In Priscillian's lifetime, the women of his circle participated relatively freely in the gatherings of dedicated Christians; celibate women of all ages were granted public respect; Euchrotia and Procula travelled with Priscillian, Instantius, and Salvianus to Rome; and Urbica publicly faced an angry crowd. And at the turn of the century when the Spanish bishops met in council at Toledo, ascetic women, whether professed virgins or widows or the celibate wives of clergy, could still enjoy some degree of authority and freedom to interact with male ascetics.

Yet in the language of the bishops gathered at Toledo, the familial home is the sole locus of even ascetic women's activities, the gatherings envisioned appear smaller and more restricted than those discussed by the bishops at Saragossa, and the bishops' own insistence that women should be defined by and restricted to their family roles grows shriller. It is no longer enough to prohibit women from mingling with "strange" men; the "familiar" is now graphically defined by the exclusive bonds of blood and womb. The sexuality of women, and especially younger women, is not merely represented as troublingly anomalous but presented explicitly as a threat to the honor of fathers and husbands, in terms that not only subordinate even ascetic women to their male relatives but also persistently define women by their family relationships.

At Tarragona some twenty years later, the sphere of women's freedom seems even more fully restricted to the family proper, and concerns about women's roles and relations with men appear correspondingly less urgent, although women do continue to define the boundaries of the acceptable. Only in the case of Severa, probably an older widow, and the monk Fronto is a woman described as interacting with a man outside her family, and allusions to 2 Tim. 3.6 hint that even this might be considered slightly improper. Under the conditions of their virtual restriction to the family, women come into public view primarily when their male relations come into public view. This was the case with Severus' prominent family, which included three women of notable mention: Severus' recently deceased mother, who was believed to have possessed a library containing controversial theological literature; Severa, who was well-informed concerning Severus' dealings and interested in discussions with monks; and Asterius' daughter, who was powerful enough to shelter Severa from Fronto's accusations of heresy.

In the decades of the late fourth and early fifth centuries, the creation of "Priscillianism" accompanied the consolidation of authority in the of-


ficial hierarchy of the church and the confinement of women within the boundaries of the family or household. The ambiguous territory of social life that had formerly stretched between the household and the imperial political center was now more solidly assigned to the sphere of male activity, while at the same time the male sphere lost much of its sharpness of "public" definition—or, from another perspective, the public acquired a new definition. Classical forms of thought and expression rearranged themselves once again in order to accommodate a fundamental shift in the social and political landscape.


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