Late Roman Lodging and the Law: when travelling Clerics get comfortable

Norman Wetzig (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut)


When Ammianus Marcellinus in his res gestae lamented the excessive use of the cursus publicus by bishops, saying that „since throngs of bishops hastened hither and thither on the public post-horses to the various synods, as they call them, … he (viz. Constantius II) cut the sinews of the courier-service,“ he was mainly complaining about the alleged economical burden, the travelling clerics imposed on the public purse. It stands to reason if clerics with an imperial evectio were also given the right of hospitium, in the meaning of compulsory quartering and hospitable arrangements, as e.g. soldiers. Many laws and rescripts from the time of Constantine the Great onwards defined the position of higher clerics in the empire’s legal system, granting them tax exemptions or the exemption from compulsory services like the requirement to receive quartered persons. Yet the imperial legislation as well as the some canons from the early church councils evoke the image of a scenario in which clerics should not travel and thus lodge too much and too comfortably. In this paper an attempt is made to clearer determine the written and unwritten laws of Late Roman lodging for clerics and a theory is brought forth about how the church took a new measure to reduce the economical burden it allegedly caused the public.

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