The Legacy of Gildas: Authority and the Monastic Ideal

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Event Details

Date: 18 May 2018 – 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Venue: Room E561, Menzies Building


School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies


The Legacy of Gildas: Authority and the Monastic Ideal

Gildas’s most significant surviving work, De excidio Britanniae (De excidio), addressing a political and spiritual crisis in Britain sometime between the late fifth and the mid-sixth century, provides the earliest surviving instances of several medieval literary conventions. The De excidio is the earliest surviving text to construct a ‘national’ history (as Britannia) of a former Roman province; Gildas is the first author to identify a post-Roman gens or ‘nation’ (the Britones) as a Chosen People of God; the De excidio is the earliest surviving work describing the legal expectations, in a scriptural sense, of the authority of Christian kings and bishops, the emerging polity of post-Roman Western Europe. In relating Gildas’s political innovations in his De excidio – a merging of the monastic authority of Jerome (c. 347-420) and Cassian (c. 360-435) that allowed him to criticise his seniors in the manner of an Old Testament prophet – I will suggest that medieval kingship did not derive from ‘barbarian’ or pre-Christian models, but was a political and ecclesiastical innovation theorised by ascetics within the Roman world (and in Britannia in particular) from the biblical kingdom of Israel.


Friday 18 May


12:00PM – 01:00PM


Monash University
Room E561,
(Menzies Building) 20 Chancellors Walk,
Clayton Campus

For further information, please contact Jocelyne Mohamudally on or 99052223


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