Preferred Citation: Burrus, Virginia. The Making of a Heretic: Gender, Authority, and the Priscillianist Controversy. Berkeley:  University of California,  c1995 1995.

Chapter Four "Priscillianist" Heresy Inquisitions at Toledo and Tarragona

Chapter Four
"Priscillianist" Heresy Inquisitions at Toledo and Tarragona

Priscillian and his associates were condemned, not as "Priscillianists," but as Manichaeans and sorcerers. If the dispute surrounding the Spanish ascetic had ended with his death, perhaps he would have been remembered merely as one more of the anonymous crypto-Manichaeans whom zealous western bishops claimed to have apprehended in the late fourth and early fifth centuries. However, the dramatic and controversial circumstances of Priscillian's execution ensured that the conflicts of his lifetime would not easily dissipate, nor would his memory quickly fade. In Gaul, disagreements concerning the behavior of the bishops who took part in the trial at Trier divided the Christian community for at least fifteen years. In Spain during the same period, Christians in the northwestern province of Galicia revered Priscillian as a martyr and continued to study his writings, while others vigorously opposed such practices.[1] One result of these enduring conflicts was that Priscillian's movement was transformed through the mythologizing forces of Christian heresiology into a new symbol of deviance, both defining and enforcing the evolving standards of orthodoxy.[2] "Priscillianism" emerged in the vocabulary of conciliar acts[3] and imperial legislation,[4] while Christian writers worked out diverse interpretations of the relation of Priscillianism to other heresies.[5]

The sources do not allow the construction of a continuous narrative of either the positive influence of Priscillian's teachings in the decades following his death or the evolving use and content of the negative label of


Priscillianism. However, they do provide glimpses into two dramatic moments in that history. The first is the Council of Toledo, which met twenty years after the Council of Saragossa and inquired into the orthodoxy of certain Galician bishops charged with being members of a "sect" of Priscillian. The second is the investigation of accusations of heresy or "Priscillianism" in Tarragona almost twenty years later still, under the destabilized sociopolitical conditions of the Germanic invasions of Spain. Scholars have used the texts recording these two heresy proceedings to reconstruct the history of a distinct Priscillianist Christianity in Spain.[6] But the sources describe the heresy of Priscillian in terms progressively more abstract and stylized, more distant from any real connection with the ascetic bishop executed at Trier. Indeed, a close reading suggests that the proceedings of the Council of Toledo provide only sketchy evidence for a localized Galician form of Christianity that honored Priscillian and his teachings, while the record of the investigation at Tarragona offers no reliable evidence of Priscillianist Christianity at all. The sources do , however, clearly attest to the establishment of a heresiological category of Priscillianism by which a publicly defined orthodoxy sought to discredit various forms of Christian community that remained rooted in the private sphere. Conflicts over the nature of Christian community and authority were still at the heart of these later controversies associated with Priscillian's name, and the evolution of the label of Priscillianism was part of the larger process of the evolution of ecclesiastical structures in Spain.

This chapter examines, first, the surviving minutes of the Council of Toledo (400)[7] and, second, Consentius' recently discovered report to Augustine on the heresy inquisition at Tarragona (c. 418).[8] In each of these cases, as in the controversies during Priscillian's own lifetime, conflicting attitudes toward authority and gender prove to be intimately related both to one another and to the shifting perception of the location of the boundaries of public and private spheres. The minutes of the Council of Toledo suggest a growing tendency to merge public and private authority and to subordinate the private to the public. Yet in 400 some Christian men and women still gathered in small groups for study or prayer and honored the authority of their learned teachers: the bishops at Toledo insist even more vehemently than their predecessors at Saragossa that women be restricted to the narrow confines of the family and that worship take place only under the auspices of the bishop or his clergy. At Toledo, as earlier at Saragossa, Bordeaux, and Trier, bishops raised accusations of heresy in order to challenge or control private authority. At Tarragona, in contrast, a lay-person made the attack on the private authority of a member of the clergy, and—significantly—the attack ultimately failed. Although a disruption of


the ties that linked bishops and other locally influential figures with the structures of imperial government may initially have destabilized the authority of these figures, the Spanish communities soon recentered themselves around their local leaders. Indeed, a degree of resolution of the conflicts of authority appears to have been achieved with a more complete fusing of public and private authority in the persons of learned and aristocratic bishops and presbyters. Conflicts concerning gender seem likewise to have moved toward resolution with the successful confinement of women to a more narrowly defined domestic sphere. The triumph of the public model of Christian community was thus accomplished through its absorption of much of what was formerly regarded as private, or at least nonpublic, a move resulting both in the restriction of women's activity and in the privatization of public authority itself.

The Council of Toledo (400)

Our knowledge of the first Council of Toledo derives from two edited selections from its minutes. The formal Acts of the Council of Toledo has been transmitted in the Hispana collection, which also preserves the records of the Council of Saragossa. The twenty published judgments recorded in the Acts reflect the council's concern with such matters as the process of ordination, requirements for eligibility for clerical office, relations within the ranks of the clergy, participation in the public liturgy of the Eucharist, the behavior of ascetic women, and the communal disciplining of sinners. The editor of the document—perhaps the person who selected these judgments for inclusion in the Hispana —notes that the nineteen bishops gathered at Toledo were "the ones who also in other acts directed a written decision against the followers of Priscillian and the heresy he had established."[9] These words reflect awareness of the council's investigations of the orthodoxy of certain Galician bishops, recorded elsewhere in the council's original minutes.[10] Fortunately, fragments of these minutes have also survived through a separate manuscript tradition,[11] and they allow us a remarkable glimpse into the trial of a group of bishops and presbyters accused of belonging to a "sect of Priscillian."

Investigation of the Orthodoxy of the Galician Bishops

The Transcript of the Professions Held in the Council of Toledo against the Sect of Priscillian was "excerpted from the full acts" by a redactor whose primary


goal appears to have been the documentation of the orthodoxy of the bishops of a certain Galician city, probably Astorga.[12] This redactor compiled the document at a time when the bishops under suspicion were already dead, recording "the professions of the lord Symphosius and of the lord Dictinius, bishops of sacred memory, and of the lord Comasius of sacred memory, then presbyter." Presumably relying on the complete minutes, the redactor reports that the Council of Toledo met from the first through the third of September in the year 400. Subsequently, "various investigations" were held; and, finally, on the sixth of September, the anti-Priscillianist professions of Dictinius, Symphosius, and Comasius were heard.[13] On September seventh, these professions were repeated, and the assembled bishops delivered their final verdict concerning the various bishops and clergy who had been held under suspicion of Priscillianist leanings.[14]

The minutes record the accusing bishops' account of the events that had led to their own gathering at Toledo. In this context, the bishops refer to the earlier council at Saragossa "in which judgment was pronounced against certain ones." Symphosius was present at the Saragossan council only one day, and he later refused to listen to the judgment of that council, they note disapprovingly; this refusal had made it difficult for the bishops gathered at Toledo to listen to what Symphosius and his associates had said.[15] The implication that the Council of Saragossa—which was remembered, rightly or wrongly, for its judgments against Priscillian—marked the beginning of Symphosius' separation from the majority of the Spanish bishops is misleading, as becomes apparent in what follows.

The bishops invoke the authority of the now-dead bishops of Milan and Rome, Ambrose and Siricius "of sacred memory." They recall that "after that council," Ambrose wrote certain letters advising that the bishops under suspicion be restored to peace with their fellow bishops "if they condemned what they had falsely done and satisfied conditions that the letters contained in writing"; Siricius seemingly seconded Ambrose's counsel. The conditions are specified in the lines following, in which the bishops at Toledo lament the fact that Symphosius and his associates have failed to fulfill them: the Galicians were to omit Priscillian and his associates from the list of martyrs read aloud in the church; they were to read neither condemned apocrypha nor the writings of Priscillian; Dictinius was to remain a presbyter rather than be consecrated bishop; and Symphosius and his associates were to cease to ordain bishops, at least until the other conditions had been satisfied. Such conditions, together with the invocation of the authority not of Damasus but of Siricius, reveal that the bishops are using the phrase "after that council" loosely: in fact, they refer


not to the period immediately following the Council of Saragossa, but rather to the years following Priscillian's death. The bishops at Toledo likewise mention that Symphosius and his associates proposed these conditions in Ambrose's presence.[16] One can infer, then, that the Galicians were criticized by other bishops in Spain sometime in the late 380s or early 390s. The attack seems to have been sufficiently serious that the Galicians travelled to Milan to appeal to Ambrose, who attempted to mediate a compromise between emergent episcopal factions in order to preserve the unity of the churches in Spain.

Evidently Symphosius and his fellow bishops were unable to satisfy the conditions they themselves had proposed. Although Symphosius claimed to have ceased reading Priscillian's name from the list of martyrs, it was revealed that he had not in fact done so. Furthermore, he was "forced" to ordain Dictinius as bishop, as well as to ordain other bishops to some of the surrounding sees, including the prestigious see of Braga.[17] Symphosius remained innocent only of the reading of apocrypha and Priscillian's works; and, there, the letters of his son and episcopal colleague Dictinius proved that he had "fallen."[18] Eventually, perhaps in 396,[19] Symphosius' and Dictinius' opponents' "great patience" ran dry, and they summoned the Galician bishops to give an account of themselves before a council of bishops at Toledo. Initially, the Galicians refused to attend.[20] But sometime later, in 400, with both Ambrose and Siricius dead, Symphosius and his allies felt the need to make their peace with the other Spanish bishops, and they agreed to be present at another council, known traditionally as the first Council of Toledo.

The editor of the anti-Priscillianist professions has preserved only those statements in which the Galicians most strongly separate themselves from Priscillian. The accused evidently comply with requests that they condemn certain heretical books and teachings attributed to Priscillian, "together with the author himself" (cum ipso auctore ).[21] Dictinius, in addition, condemns his own writings in which he has claimed—in language that indeed seems to echo Priscillian's emphasis on the "divine birth" of humanity—that "the nature of God and humanity is one."[22] He makes much of the bishops' right to "correct" those who have erred and begs for such correction in his own case, so that he may be included in the kingdom of heaven.[23] His use of biblical citations likewise recalls Priscillian,[24] and he hedges a bit in his condemnation of Priscillian's teachings: "all which has been discovered against the faith I condemn with the author himself"; "all that Priscillian either wrongly taught or wrongly wrote I condemn with the author himself."[25] In the end he, like the presbyter Comasius, professes his allegiance to Symphosius: "I follow the opinion of my lord


and my father and begetter and teacher. . . . Whatever he said, I say."[26] Symphosius himself seems even more anxious than the others to comply with the bishops' requests. He is particularly eager to clear himself of the charge of claiming, with Priscillian, that the Son is "unbegettable" (innascibilis ),[27] a term whose monarchian or docetic associations the Toledan bishops exploit in order to demonstrate the unorthodoxy of Priscillian's teachings. "In accordance with what was read a little before on some parchment, in which it was said the Son is unbegettable, I condemn this doctrine, which claims either that there are two principles or that the Son is unbegettable, along with the very author who wrote it."[28] Symphosius asks for the piece of paper on which the charges have been written, so that he can condemn them word for word; his presbyter Comasius does likewise, reiterating that he follows the authority of his bishop.[29]

Not all the Galician bishops were as compliant as Symphosius and Dictinius, who were rewarded with reacceptance into communion conditional upon the approval of the bishops of Milan and Rome, as well as their continued compliance with the rulings of the council.[30] The clergy of bishop Herenias shouted out spontaneously that Priscillian was a catholic and a saint; Herenias agreed and added that Priscillian "suffered persecution by bishops." At this point three other bishops were emboldened to speak up in support of Priscillian's memory, and all four were deposed from the episcopacy by decree of the council; their testimony was furthermore declared unreliable. Galician bishops in communion with Symphosius who had failed to attend the council were given the chance to sign a statement issued by the council. Upon signing, they would be readmitted into communion, with their acceptance again conditional upon the approval of the bishops of Milan and Rome. If they refused to sign, the Galician bishops were to be expelled from their churches along with Herenias and his three episcopal cohorts.[31]

The bishops at Toledo close their verdict with a call for vigilance on the part of their fellow bishops, warning that those whom they have excommunicated are not to be allowed to gather in the homes of women, that condemned apocrypha are not to be read, and that Christians in communion with the bishops of Toledo are not to associate with those whom those bishops have excommunicated. In addition, the bishops specify that their fellow bishop Ortygius, who has been driven out of his churches, is to be returned to his see.[32] These closing lines, which at first seem strangely unrelated to the preceding investigations, suggest that the bishops gathered at Toledo perceived Galician Christianity as threatening not least because of its potentially unsettling effect on those bishops' authority in their own communities.


The fifth-century Galician bishop and chronicler Hydatius specifies that Ortygius was driven out by the Priscillianists because of his catholic faith.[33] Ortygius' case was probably exceptional and unlikely to have arisen outside Galicia. However, the Toledan bishops were ready to believe that even Symphosius had been unable to resist demands that he ordain Dictinius as bishop. In Dictinius, the people had chosen a leader who seems to have been noted for his study of the apocrypha and the writings of Priscillian[34] as well as for his own theological compositions. As already noted, Dictinius refers to his writings (scriptis meis ) at the council, stating that they belong to the early days of his conversion; in their summary statement, the Toledan bishops refer to these writings as "letters" (epistolis ).[35] Some twenty years after the Council of Toledo, when Dictinius was dead, one of his works, known as the Libra , which consisted in a discussion of twelve questions, was still read and discussed in Galicia and beyond.[36] Unfortunately, little is known about the content of the Libra or the circumstances of its composition, although Augustine claimed it included a defense of lying about religious beliefs.[37] In the mid fifth century, Bishop Turribius of Astorga complained to Leo of Rome that the Priscillianist "tractates" (tractatus ) of Dictinius were still greatly respected and read by many.[38]

The people's insistence that Dictinius be consecreated bishop suggests that while authority was more firmly consolidated in the clergy than it had been some twenty years earlier—note again that all of the main actors in this drama are bishops or presbyters—an individual of exceptional learning, eloquence, or ascetic piety could still provide a significant challenge to the official hierarchy of the church. A weak sense of ecclesial hierarchy seems to have been particularly characteristic of the churches of Galicia, probably owing both to the relatively late establishment of Christianity in that province and to the distinctively rural cast to fourth-century Galician social organization.[39] Now, even more than in Priscillian's day, there was pressure in the broader Spanish community to resolve the tension between public and private sources and models of authority by incorporating the ascetic teacher into the official hierarchy. Nevertheless, some threat of competition remained, and the bishops gathered at Toledo were particularly anxious to prevent members of their own communities from receiving the excommunicated Galicians. They warned that any who did so would be considered guilty by association; indeed, they could expect to be burdened with even heavier penalties. The Toledan bishops feared that the Galicians would challenge their own public authority of office: they might encourage private meetings with women as well as men, and they might promote the study of apocryphal literature, two activities that supported


the authority of learned teachers.[40] Thus anxieties about decentered forms of community life, destabilized gender roles, and privatized sources of authority continued to arise on the margins of even a strengthened ecclesiastical hierarchy. Divergent and shifting strategies of extralocal alliance further complicated the conflict. The Spanish bishops who gathered at Toledo attempted to ally themselves with the authority of Milan and Rome and opposed the Galician bishops in communion with Symphosius. Symphosius, for his part, succeeded at one point in gaining at least the qualified support of the Milanese bishop, and he had still greater success at swelling the ranks of his episcopal supporters with new ordinations in Galicia, in the case of Ortygius perhaps even replacing a hostile bishop with one sympathetic to his faction.[41]

The bishops at Toledo combated the threat represented by Galician Christianity not only by invoking the authority of the Italian bishops but also by utilizing the figure of Priscillian to insinuate accusations of heresy more locally.[42] The council insisted that the Galician clergy condemn the heretical content of Priscillian's teachings—of which Priscillian's designation of the Son as "unbegettable" (innascibilis ) seems to have been their primary evidence—and that they "condemn the author himself." Priscillian himself was made to personify heresy, and denunciation of Priscillian became the touchstone of orthodoxy in the repetitious cadences of the council's acts. Priscillian's own writings were now condemned as heretical alongside the apocryphal scriptures. Images of a pernicious "sect of Priscillian" emerged to challenge the cult of Priscillian and the private authority of leaders like Dictinius.

The Judgments of the Council of Toledo

The formal judgments published in the Acts of the Council of Toledo pertain to matters more generally applicable to the church as a whole and reveal the broader concerns that were uppermost in the minds of the bishops gathered at Toledo. An analysis of these judgments both confirms and nuances impressions of the anxieties and disagreements relating to authority and gender that continued to trouble Spanish churches in the early fifth century.

The discussions that resulted in the council's twenty formal judgments probably took place on the three initial days of meeting, September 1–3, as is suggested by the minutes of the investigation of the Galician bishops.[43] The title of the conciliar Acts indicates that the judgments were presented and given final approval on September 7, at the close of the council,


at the same time that the final verdict concerning the Galician bishops was delivered.[44] The Acts opens with a statement by the presider, Patruinus, bishop of Merida, that different customs regarding ordination have produced schism in the church; he urges that the ordinances of Nicea henceforth be followed by all.[45] Patruinus probably refers to the fourth canon of Nicea—which requires that a minimum of three bishops be present for an episcopal ordination[46] —and intends thereby to curtail the ordinations performed by Symphosius or Symphosius and Dictinius alone.[47] The conflict with the Galician bishops appears to have been on the minds of those gathered at Toledo from the start.

The remaining twenty judgments are recorded in the indirect placuit form.[48] The dominant concern in the meetings over the first three days seems to have been the definition of terms of eligibility for clerical office, a topic discussed in the first four judgments, and then again in the eighth and tenth. In these six judgments, the bishops make particular use of standards of sexual behavior to define the different grades of the hierarchy and to separate the members of the hierarchy, not only from one another and from the mass of the laity, but also from holders of secular office. This advocacy of varying degrees of sexual continence for the ranks of the clergy is distinct from the broad call to asceticism preached by Priscillian and perhaps by such later followers of Priscillian as Dictinius. However, it too represents a response to the influence of ascetic ideals on the Spanish churches and, indeed, can be seen as continuous with the impulse already evidenced at Saragossa to relocate the disciplined authority of the ascetic life at the center rather than on the margins of the ecclesiastical structures. As Samuel Laeuchli comments in reference to an earlier Spanish council, "by setting sexual taboos the synod meant to limn the image of an ascetic clerical leadership."[49]

Most of the judgments regarding eligibility for clerical office are fairly complex, and their wording indicates involved discussion. The first judgment, for example, begins with the statement that deacons are to observe sexual continence "even if they have wives": only those who live chastely are to be appointed to the ministry. The bishops go on to discuss the special case of deacons who had sexual relations with their wives "even before the prohibition was decreed by the Lusitanian bishops" and the similar case of presbyters who had children before the Lusitanian decision, apparently referring to the judgment of an otherwise unknown local synod. They conclude that neither deacons nor presbyters with a history of sexual activity are to be promoted to a higher clerical office.[50] The Toledan bishops did not need to specify punishment beyond the denial of office or promotion.


Another issue on the minds of the bishops at Toledo was the control of the bishop over his clergy, especially presbyters. This issue did not draw the same kind of sustained discussion as did the topic of eligibility for ecclesiastical office, but did reappear at three different points in the course of the meeting. The fifth judgment requires that all clergy attend a daily Eucharist in the church or face possible expulsion by the bishop; the twelfth forbids a member of the clergy to separate voluntarily from his bishop—so long as that bishop is orthodox—and communicate with another bishop; and the twentieth judgment addresses the problem of presbyters who usurp the episcopal right of anointing. The twelfth judgment in particular seems to have the Priscillianist faction in mind and suggests that the Toledan bishops were concerned about members of their own clergy defecting to Priscillianist bishops. This judgment goes on to prohibit any catholics from entering into communion, whether openly or secretly, with excommunicated Christians, a ruling that recalls the concern about the influence of excommunicated supporters of Priscillian expressed in the minutes of the investigation of the Galician bishops.[51]

The bishops were anxious to maintain their authority not only over their clergy but in the community at large. Four of the judgments—the fifth (discussed above), the ninth (discussed below), the thirteenth, and the fourteenth—highlight the liturgy as the focus of the solidarity of the public community gathered around the bishop. Some or all of these may have had the private gatherings of supporters of Priscillian in mind. The thirteenth and fourteenth seem to represent a continuous discussion of the problem posed by those who attend the eucharistic service without partaking of the Eucharist, a practice also denounced at Saragossa.[52] The punishment in the fourteenth judgment is stated in particularly strong terms: "let that one be considered sacrilegious."[53] Also as at Saragossa, the bishops are concerned that their acts of excommunication not be circumvented. This issue is addressed, not only in the twelfth judgment, discussed above, but also in the fifteenth and the related discussions of the sixteenth, in which the bishops warn that those who refuse to follow the command to shun a sinner will also themselves be shunned. Finally, two judgments refer to the relations between clergy and local secular leaders. The tenth judgment acknowledges the right of a patron to grant or deny permission for a dependent to be ordained. The eleventh threatens excommunication to secular leaders who exploit members of the clergy economically.

The remaining seven judgments concern women in one way or another and occur in two clusters: the sixth, seventh, and ninth reflect issues raised relatively early in the meetings, following upon the initial pro-


tracted discussion of eligibility for clerical office. Another series of discussions took place near the end of the meetings, culminating in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth judgments. Anxiety concerning the roles of women of notable authority and independence of action is the unifying thread running through the first cluster of judgments regarding women. The sixth reads as follows:

Likewise let no maiden of God [puella dei ] have intimacy with a confessor or any layman of strange blood or go to a social gathering alone, except where there is a large number of respectable older men or widows, where any confessor can respectably take part with the witness of many. Moreover, the maidens are not to be allowed inside the homes of readers or to be seen with them, unless perhaps she is a sister related by blood or of the same mother.[54]

The emphasis here, as earlier in the first judgment of the Council of Saragossa, is on the relations between men and women in private gatherings. Some virgins, designated puellae , were evidently in the habit of meeting with certain Christian men on intimate terms: literally, they had "familiarity" with them, relating to them as if they were members of the same family or household. These men are described as belonging either to the laity or to the ambiguous category of "confessors," a rare title, which seems sometimes to have been applied informally to ascetics.[55] The virgins were also accustomed to meet with readers, men with special access to the books of scripture; these meetings commonly took place in the homes of the readers. Although the readers were members of the lower ranks of the hierarchy, their authority in such private meetings, like the authority of the confessors and laymen, would have derived primarily from their ascetic accomplishments or devotion to the study of scripture.[56] In opposing intimate relationships between virgins and confessors or readers, the bishops at Toledo reinforce a strictly biological definition of family, which excludes the possibility of intimate relationships between young virgins and their male friends. Blood and womb define the areas within which men and women can mingle freely. Christian virgins cannot have "familiarity" (familiaritas ) with men of "strange blood" (sanguinis alieni ) but only with brothers "of the same blood" (consanguineus ) and "of the same uterus" (uterinus ). Their private interactions with unrelated men are to take place only under the watchful eyes of older men and women.

The seventh judgment targets the wives of clergy, who, it is feared, have "freedom to sin more."[57] The implication may be that these women—who in the upper ranks, at least, were in theory required to be continent by virtue of their husbands' vows—might fall back into sexual


relations with their husbands, if not with other men. Whatever the precise nature of the sin feared, the council acted to prevent a transgression by explicitly granting to clerical husbands the right to punish their wives in any way short of death. Specifically, the bishops recommend that sinning wives be imprisoned in their own homes, given only meager rations of food, and denied the companionship of their husbands. There are clear connections here with the foregoing judgment, in which the freedom of ascetic women is likewise restricted and the rights of the family defended. However, the harsh violence directed toward the wives of the clergy reflects their greater potential threat to the honor of the male clergy and their distinctive role in bearing the displaced burden of male shame.

The ninth judgment again reflects concern about gender relations, and here, even more than in the sixth judgment, the competition between the informal authority of ascetics and the official authority of the clergy is clear:

No professed virgin [professa ] or widow may in the absence of a bishop or presbyter chant antiphonies in her own home with a confessor or her slave; indeed, the evening prayer may not be read except in church—or, if it is read on an estate, let it be read with a bishop or presbyter or deacon present.[58]

The variation in the terminology designating ascetic women is noteworthy: perhaps by the year 400, distinctions were made between virgins with episcopal consecration (the devotae ) and virgins who have simply taken a personal vow, by reason either of youth (the puellae dei ) or choice (the professae mentioned here alongside widows). At any rate, the ninth judgment deals with ascetic women who are mistresses of their own homes, in which they hold private devotions along with male companions, who might be either slaves, and therefore legitimate members of the woman's household, or the ambiguous confessors. These private devotions constitute a challenge to the episcopal control of the liturgy. Ideally, the bishops maintain, daily prayers should be read in the church in the presence of a bishop or presbyter.[59] They were not, however, confident of being able to enforce this ideal and concede that prayers might be read on a country estate in the presence of a bishop or presbyter—or even a deacon, they add as a further concession. As in the sixth judgment, no punishment is threatened, suggesting that the bishops' authority over the private activities of ascetic men and women was still somewhat limited.

The second cluster of judgments about women reflect a concern shared by the seventh judgment—namely, that of the clergy for "their" women and "their" honor. The only exception is the seventeenth judg-


ment's ruling about men's relationships with concubines, in which the mild attempt to control male sexual behavior contrasts markedly with the council's severe punishments of female sexual transgressions. The sixteenth judgment punishes virgins (devotae ) who marry or are otherwise unchaste with ten years' penance; the eighteenth rules that the widow of a bishop, presbyter, or deacon who marries is to remain among the excommunicated until her deathbed; the nineteenth rules that if virgins (devotae ) who are daughters of a bishop, presbyter, or deacon sin by marrying they are to be shunned by their parents and—unless their husbands die—are to undergo lifelong penance and only be readmitted to communion on their deathbeds. These three judgments, like the seventh judgment and the six judgments discussed above concerning eligibility for clerical office, serve to distinguish the three highest offices by the particularly stringent demands placed on the sexuality not only of the clergy but also of their wives and daughters—whether literal or figurative.[60]

A comparison of the issues that dominate the judgments of the Council of Toledo with those that had preoccupied the bishops at Saragossa twenty years earlier reveals intriguing continuities and contrasts. In both cases, the bishops sought to promote the authority of their office and the centrality of the episcopally led liturgy for the communal identity of the church. The bishops at Toledo were, however, far more interested than their Saragossan predecessors in articulating the ranks of the clerical hierarchy—bishop, presbyter, deacon, subdeacon, reader, doorkeeper—and the relationships among members of that hierarchy. A moderated and hierarchalized sexual asceticism for both the clergy and their wives, widows, and daughters, together with other moral restrictions, was a major means of differentiating that hierarchy. There was also by 400 a heightened interest in articulating the relationships between officials of the church and local secular leaders.

While the focus was now on competition and differentiation within the ranks of the clergy, the consolidation of all ecclesiastical authority within the hierarchy was not complete. The private gatherings of ascetic Christians, in which men and women mixed with relative freedom and the informal authority of learned or exemplary individuals was acknowledged, still aroused particular anxiety. Those who attempted to defend a public model of community and authority and to eliminate competition from rivals whose authority derived primarily from the private sphere insisted on the separation and subordination of women. Women were defined by their sexuality, which was strictly controlled by segregating them from nonfamilial men, and was, furthermore, viewed primarily in terms of its consequences for male honor.


Heresy Inquisition at Tarragona

The account of the heresy investigation contained in the letter of Consentius to Augustine brings readers into a very different world, in which "Priscillianism" emerges as a further linguistic abstraction in the heresiological vocabulary, while evidence of any actual continuing positive influence of Priscillian dissolves into "the emptiest mist of suspicion"—to borrow a phrase from one of the participants in the inquisition.[61] Apart from the meddling literary activity of Consentius, the conflict remained local, despite efforts to draw upon the influence of Patroclus of Arles—whose intervention seems to have been ineffective—and Augustine of Hippo—who was as dismayed by the tactics of the accusers as by the supposed heresy of the accused. In the absence of significant external intervention, the Christian communities of the Ebro valley in northeastern Spain were able to rally around their leaders and deflect accusations of heresy, even when those leaders were proven to have compromised themselves by lying publicly about their secret study of unorthodox books.

Consentius, an ascetic living on the Balearic islands off the eastern coast of Spain, had initiated a correspondence with Augustine in the second decade of the fifth century.[62] It was probably in the year 419 that he sent Augustine copies of his works against the Priscillianists, composed at the request of bishop Patroclus of Arles.[63] Accompanying Consentius' anti-Priscillianist writings was a letter in which he explained that while he had not initially intended to bore Augustine with these "inept and rough" works, circumstances had compelled a change of mind. Consentius goes on to relate that he had recently received a visit from Fronto, a fellow ascetic who had been living in a monastery in the city of Tarragona. Fronto had recounted an amazing tale of secret heretics in the Tarragonese province, which Consentius transcribes for Augustine "as I received it from his mouth."[64] Although Fronto had proven their guilt in public investigations at Tarragona, the heretics had not been deposed from the ecclesiastical offices they held; moreover, Fronto himself had been run out of town. He had fled to the sympathetic and influential Bishop Patroclus, who had summoned a council to rectify matters. But Consentius doubted that the Spanish bishops would attend such a council, and he was furthermore concerned because the supporters of the "Priscillianists"—as he identified Fronto's heretics—were using the example of Augustine's own lenient treatment of the Donatists in Africa in order to justify not deposing reformed heretics in Spain. Consentius urged Augustine to write a letter to Patroclus lending support to his call for harsh punishment for the Priscil-


lianists and deposition for their leaders. He also suggested that Augustine might recommend his own books for the training of young heresy hunters and modestly predicted that if such a training were provided, hordes of Priscillianists would be uncovered even in Hippo itself (in ista praecipue urbe ).[65]

Consentius was not an uninvolved or impartial judge of Fronto's actions against the heretics of Tarragona. It was he who had instructed Fronto in the art of combating heresy. To this end, circa 418, Consentius had sent Fronto a packet of writings that included his anti-Priscillianist works.[66] These works contained practical instructions on how to insinuate oneself into the confidences of a heretic in order to expose heresy. Consentius even composed a discourse written from the point of view of a heretic for use in the undercover investigation of supposed Priscillianists.[67] Augustine, who had read Consentius' works, summarizes the content of this discourse: cautious praise for Dictinius' life; reverent mention of Priscillian; discussion of the divine origin and substance of the soul; and, finally, extravagant admiration for Dictinius' Libra .[68] Leaving nothing to chance, Consentius seems to have supplied Fronto with not only a script but also a specific target in the person of Severa, whom Fronto describes to Consentius as the one "whose name you had expressed to me clearly."[69]

Fronto's behavior had come under serious attack in the course of the investigation, and he was anxious to establish legitimacy for his aggressive and duplicitous methods. Invoking the authority of Consentius' writings, he enhanced both his own prestige and that of the author by refusing to surrender the works to the bishops at Tarragona on the grounds that they were not meant for everyone's ears.[70] Fronto insisted that he had understood everything Consentius wrote and followed his recommended method of approaching heretics to the letter.[71] Consentius, for his part, was flattered to have such a receptive disciple and appears to have had no qualms about the controversy provoked by Fronto's use of his writings. But in spite of Fronto's and Consentius' agreement that he had adhered exactly to Consentius' recommended plan, it is at least questionable whether Fronto in fact approached Severa with the prepared script and whether the "heretics" whom he unearthed were actually secret followers of Priscillian. Fronto himself never once invokes the term "Priscillianist," consistently referring more vaguely to "heretics." Nor, as we shall see, do any of his accusations against those whom he identifies as heretics point specifically toward any connection with Priscillian.[72]

Whatever the precise nature of the monk's approach to Severa, she evidently responded positively to his overtures and confided in him some of the activities of the members of her social circle. From her, Fronto


learned of Severa's relative Severus, a man "famous for his wealth and power, as well as his scholarship," who was a presbyter in the church of Huesca.[73] According to Severa, Severus possessed three controversial books. Fronto describes the contents of these "cursed" volumes—which he almost certainly had not read—in vague terms: "they contained all kinds of sacrilege" and included "the shameful and sacrilegious knowledge of magic incantations."[74] Severus' possession of these books had been discovered through a remarkable series of events. When Severus was travelling to a fortified family estate, barbarians plundered his baggage, stole the books, and sold them to Sagittius, bishop of the nearby town of Lérida, midway between Tarragona and Huesca. Sagittius, concluding that the books were unorthodox and realizing that they had been taken from Severus, stored two of them away safely in the church archives and forwarded one to Tarragona for the consideration of the metropolitan bishop, Titianus. Titianus, in turn, sent the sample book back to Huesca and recommended that Syagrius, bishop of that town, investigate the orthodoxy of his presbyter Severus. Severus explained that he had inherited the books from his mother, who had recently died, and, not realizing their unorthodoxy, had been taking them out to his castle for a quiet and considered reading when they were stolen. Syagrius believed him, and the matter was laid to rest.[75]

None of this was news. But Severa told Fronto more. First, there were hints that the books did not, after all, come from Severus' mother, with the damaging implication that Severus had acquired them on his own initiative. More explicit and incriminating was Severa's revelation that Severus had in fact persuaded Syagrius and Sagittius to return the books to him quietly, promising certain favors in exchange.[76] Furthermore, Sagittius himself had masked the full extent of the books' unorthodoxy by sending Titianus not the most offensive sample, as he claimed, but rather a book from which he had carefully removed the most unorthodox parts.[77]

Fronto now felt that he had enough evidence to charge both Severa and Severus publicly with heresy.[78] But in attacking Severus, the respected member of a leading family of the region, Fronto, a man of few resources or connections, had bitten off more than he could chew. Severus' supporters charged that Fronto was uncultured and poor, motivated by envy to invent lies about so holy and noble a man as Severus, and the people of Tarragona were sufficiently aroused to threaten him with death. If we can trust his dramatic portrayal of the events, Fronto avoided this immediate disaster only by going on record as agreeing to a sentence of death by stoning if he were unable to prove his charges.[79] Meanwhile, Severus had solicited the support of the powerful Count Asterius, his relative by mar-


riage, claiming that Fronto had attacked their whole family with gross accusations. Asterius arrived on the scene along with his daughter, a woman of great influence. The daughter immediately extended her protection to her kinswoman Severa, who now denied all of Fronto's accusations.[80]

Bishop Titianus had agreed to hear Fronto's charges and had written to Sagittius and Syagrius, requesting them to come to Tarragona with the books in question.[81] However, it was clear that Severus had the strong support, not only of his influential family and the people of Tarragona, but also of the bishops Titianus and Agapius; the latter, whose see is not mentioned, had originally brought the packet of letters and writings from Consentius to Fronto[82] and was still in Tarragona at the time of the heresy investigation. When Count Asterius questioned them, the two bishops repeated that Fronto was a lying detractor who had deceived a defenseless woman, invented false accusations against a presbyter, and finally involved the count's entire illustrious house—including his daughter—in his vicious slander. Upon Fronto's countering that Agapius was not even worthy of reading the documents that Consentius had sent to Fronto under seal, Agapius physically assaulted Fronto in the count's presence.[83]

When Fronto finally succeeded in bringing his story to Asterius' ears, the count was evidently persuaded that he himself was not seriously threatened by Fronto's accusations and that it was neither necessary nor wise for him to intervene directly on Severus' behalf. He withdrew politely, asking for Fronto's blessings in his upcoming campaign against the barbarians and making it clear that his faith was not tainted by any possible heresy on Severus' part. Severus and his supporters were momentarily stunned by the count's unexpected neutrality, but did not cease to campaign actively against Fronto. Indeed, Fronto claimed that at this point he scarcely dared leave the church for fear of his life, and that even in the church he was threatened by a most powerful servant of the count. When that servant subsequently died, Fronto, who interpreted the death as an act of God, was accused of using magic against him.[84]

Meanwhile, Severus was attempting to remove any evidence supporting Fronto's damaging accusations. He sent the monk Ursitio hurrying to fetch two of the books from his castle and return them to Sagittius. Sagittius received them with great relief and set off immediately for Tarragona in order to prove Fronto's accusations false. Armed not only with the apparent evidence of his own possession of the books, but also with his great power and learning, Sagittius swore on the gospels that the books had never left his archives; Severus likewise swore publicly that he had not seen them since they were first taken from him. Fronto was denounced as an envious liar when he persisted in his accusations against them, protesting that Severus must have secretly returned the books to Sagittius.[85]


Fortunately for Fronto, Severus' and Sagittius' attempt to cover up their covert exchanges of books did not ultimately succeed. Before receiving the books from Severus, Sagittius had already taken measures of his own to conceal his return of the books to Severus, and those measures now backfired. Writing to Bishop Syagrius, whom he understood to be in the same predicament of having returned the book now requested by Titianus to Severus, Sagittius had confessed that Severus had the two books that were supposedly in his own keeping as well. He intended to claim, however, that he had meant to send the books to Syagrius—since Syagrius was supposedly undertaking an investigation of Severus—and that it was only by accident that they had been delivered to his presbyter Severus instead.[86] Upon receiving this letter, Syagrius was frightened by the awkward situation in which he now found himself. He initially decided to support Sagittius' lie and thus protect both Sagittius and Severus. But a terrifying dream of future judgment caused him to change his mind. Armed with Sagittius' letter and, furthermore, with a written confession extracted from the monk Ursitio, who had by this point secretly returned the books to Sagittius, Syagrius set out on foot for Tarragona with the intention of exposing Sagittius' and Severus' lies.[87]

According to Fronto, it was on the very day on which he had been judged a false accuser and sentenced to death that Syagrius reached Tarragona. Impressed that one so old—and so rich—had undertaken such a long journey by foot, Fronto approached the quarters where Syagrius was staying and berated him for the lies that would cost Fronto his life. Not anticipating success in obtaining the aged bishop's support, Fronto was astonished when Syagrius immediately confessed to having returned a book secretly to Severus. Still shaken by his dream, Syagrius allowed himself to be persuaded to hand over to Fronto the damaging letter from Sagittius as well as Ursitio's confession.[88]

On the next day, when Fronto was supposedly scheduled to be stoned to death, he allowed his enemies to perjure themselves further before he brandished his proof against Sagittius, who now bore the brunt of Fronto's animosity, perhaps because of his personal attack on him the day before. Unable to defend himself in the face of the written evidence, Sagittius simply left, along with a number of his supporters. Fronto relates that he pursued him and charged him further with having cut out and kept some pages from one of the books. Sagittius initially denied this charge but later was somehow induced to return the pages, which were subsequently read aloud before a horrified crowd. The people pressed for Sagittius' condemnation, but Titianus demurred, offering the explanation that a greater number of bishops were needed to condemn a fellow bishop;[89] Fronto reports that seven, including Sagittius himself, were present.[90]


Eventually it was decided that both the books and the records of the investigation would be burned; no one was to be excommunicated or deposed, much less stoned to death. Fronto was outraged by what he considered a suppression of the truth and the sale of a judgment to the powerful, wealthy, and learned men who were the leaders of the Christian communities in the Ebro valley. As he continued his vocal protests, Bishop Agapius was once again moved to assault Fronto physically—an ill-advised act, which, as in the case of Severus' servant, had fatal consequences for the assailant—and Fronto aroused such general resentment that he was forced to leave town. He travelled first to Arles where he sought and obtained the verbal support of Patroclus; from there he journeyed to visit Consentius.[91]

It is evident from Fronto's narrative that the status of the lay ascetic or monk was somewhat more clearly defined than it had been in Priscillian's day, but also correspondingly diminished. Fronto, who describes himself as the founder of a monastery,[92] is identified by Consentius and by Asterius in Fronto's narrative as a famulus Christi , or servant of Christ;[93] Consentius describes himself as a "servant of Christ" as well.[94] Augustine uses a similar phrase, servus Dei , in reference to Fronto.[95] Elsewhere in Augustine's writings, this term frequently serves to designate the private asceticism of cultured lay Christians possessing considerable wealth, education, and social status;[96] in this context, the term servus invokes a rhetoric of renunciation of power that in fact serves to enhance the authority of the speaker or writer. However, there is little sense of rhetorical paradox in the title famulus as it is used in Fronto's narrative. By his own account, Fronto's detractors denounce him as "a worthless man of mean character and an impoverished beggar"; he is repeatedly referred to as a "barking dog," and he himself feels like a "dead flea" when faced with the overwhelming power, wealth, and learning of his opponents.[97] Similarly clear is the inferior position of Ursitio, who is variously described in Fronto's narrative as a monk (monachus ), as a friend of Severus (amicus Severi ), as a dependent member of Severus' household (domesticus ), and finally as "Severus' monk" (Severi monachus ).[98] He is subject to the will of his clerical and social superiors, being "compelled" by Severus to deliver the codices secretly and then by Syagrius to confess to the same deed.[99] Lay "monks" or "servants of Christ" like Fronto or Ursitio appear, then, clearly subordinate to the higher clergy.

Perhaps responding in part to the exceptional opportunity created by the social and political instability brought on by the Germanic invasions of Spain,[100] Fronto attempted to enhance his personal prestige and authority, first, by standing before the public with accusations of heresy directed


against some of the most powerful men and women of the region and, second, by invoking the support and authority of Bishop Patroclus of Arles and of Consentius, a self-proclaimed theologian, who pursued a literary correspondence with such powerful bishops as Patroclus and Augustine. Fronto elaborated and memorialized his heroic role as accuser and his alliance with these influential figures in the dramatic narrative circulated from Arles to Hippo. By identifying Fronto's "heretics" as "Priscillianists" and framing Fronto's narrative in his own self-glorifying prose, the lay ascetic Consentius likewise attempted to enhance his authority, not only by constructing himself as a theologian, but also by placing himself and his own anti-Priscillianist writings at the center of a valiant combat and presenting himself as a peer of such great heresy fighters as the bishops Patroclus and Augustine.

The vigorous attempts of Fronto and Consentius to establish their authority outside the ranks of clerical office were not particularly successful. In Tarragona, Fronto was accused of sorcery and nearly killed, and his opponents retained their positions of power. Consentius himself seems to betray awareness of the need to deflect accusations of heresy through an elaborate—and indeed otherwise somewhat puzzling—protestation of his own aversion to scholarship.[101] And while Patroclus of Arles was happy to make use of both Fronto and Consentius in his own attempts to label Priscillianist heretics in Gaul, Augustine not only doubted the veracity of Fronto's report but also denounced the deceitful methods utilized by Fronto and actively promoted by Consentius. In the end, the "servants of Christ" could not compete with a Christian leadership in which the public authority of ecclesiastical office and the private authority of education, eloquence, or discipline of life had almost completely merged. The presbyter Severus was a man "famous for his wealth and power, as well as his scholarship," and related by marriage to the local potentate Asterius.[102] Severus' bishop, Syagrius, was considered by Fronto to be wealthy and was probably not as simple and credulous as Fronto depicts him in an effort to excuse his support of Severus.[103] Bishop Sagittius was "powerful and learned in higher literature."[104]

This merging of public and private authority in Christian leadership seems to have been accompanied by a lowering of anxieties about gender roles and relations. Such a claim cannot be supported by silence alone, but it is nevertheless noteworthy that in spite of the prominent appearance of a number of women in Fronto's drama—Severa, Severus' mother, Asterius' daughter—overt tensions concerning their roles as women and their relations with men are not evident.[105] Now confined primarily to the circle of their families, women become visible only when the men in their fami-


lies are highly visible, and all of the women mentioned by Fronto seem to have belonged to the same powerful Tarragonese family.[106] The sole instance in which a woman is described as interacting with a man outside her family is in the relationship between Fronto himself and Severa, who was probably an older woman and perhaps a widow as well.[107] There are slight hints that even this interaction between an ascetic male and an older woman or widow was perceived as somehow improper. Fronto brags about how "Severa, that little woman [muliercula ] . . . revealed all the secrets of her crimes to me, as if to a heretic," while the bishops charge him with having "craftily deceived an incautious and simple little woman [in-circumspectam ac simplicem mulierculam ]."[108] In both cases, Fronto—or the heretic in whose guise he presents himself—seems to be depicted negatively in the role of the false Christian of 2 Tim. 3.6 who wrongfully enters private households and deceives "little women."


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.


Chapter Four "Priscillianist" Heresy Inquisitions at Toledo and Tarragona

Preferred Citation: Burrus, Virginia. The Making of a Heretic: Gender, Authority, and the Priscillianist Controversy. Berkeley:  University of California,  c1995 1995.