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Clandestine Heresy in the Service of the Most Pious Emperor: Origenists in the Court of Justinan (532-553 AD)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

This lecture will present concisely the sixth-century history of the so-called ’Origenist heresy,’ and of its repeated condemnations in 542/3 and 553 AD. The ‘Origenists’ were Christian Platonists who gave a metaphysical interpretation to the dogma. Centred in the Judean Desert monasteries, they were able to delegate their representatives to the imperial court of Constantinople. Two of the movement’s leaders, Domitian, archbishop of Ankyra, and Theodore, archbishop of Caesarea, gained almost absolute power in the service of Justinian. The lecture will trace their careers up to their downfall, in 543 and 553 respectively. This study gives room for musing about the existence of conspiracies but also about their psychological fragility and about the techniques of survival of forbidden intellectual movements under oppressive regimes.

István Perczel is studying Neoplatonist and Patristic philosophy, Byzantine intellectual history and Syriac literature. At present, he is working on a monograph on the political and social history of the ’Origenist’ movement, on its doctrines and the encoded literary pieces produced by the movement. Also, he initiated the digitization and cataloguing of the manuscript collections of the Syrian Christians of Kerala, the project resulting in the digitization of thousands of manuscripts. This material finally permits to write the factual, social. and cultural history of the Saint Thomas Christians, hitherto shrouded in legends.