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Theology and Social Criticism: Salvian of Marseilles and the End of the Roman Empire in the West

April 1, 2010

This lecture examined the intellectual and religious background to a writer whose one work--On the Governance of God (written around AD 440)--has always been regarded as an irreplaceable source for the social ills of the Roman Empire in its last days. Salvian has usually been treated only as a "source" for his own times. The lecture attempted to recover his profile as an individual author. This will enable us to measure the manner in which his perceptions of his own times were guided by profound and idiosyncratic theological and religious convictions. Having shown this, the lecture concluded how this reconsideration of Salvian as an author may alter our view of the actual state of the Roman empire in the West in the 430s and 440s, and of the role of Christianity in Roman society in this period of transition.