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Social Justice and the Legitimacy of SlaveryThe Role of Philosophical Asceticism from Ancient Judaism to Late Antiquity$
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Ilaria L.E. Ramelli

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198777274

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198777274.001.0001

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Nazianzen and Other Late Antique Ascetics

Nazianzen and Other Late Antique Ascetics

Asceticism and Renunciation of Wealth and Slave Ownership

(p.212) 7 Nazianzen and Other Late Antique Ascetics
Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery

Ilaria L. E. Ramelli

Oxford University Press

Chapter 7 examines Nazianzen and ascetics who reveal the importance of asceticism in the rejection of slavery and social injustice. Nazianzen advocated radical asceticism reserved for some, consisting in total renunciation of possessions, and milder asceticism for others, consisting in sharing one’s possessions with the poor. The former involved renouncing slave ownership, the latter its limitation. The meaning of asceticism for Nyssen and other Origenian philosophical ascetics is considered: the rejection of slavery is not merely a consequence of the rejection of wealth, but is grounded in theological and eschatological arguments. The embrace of ascetic life implied renunciation of slave ownership and wealth in many cases (the two Melaniae, Olympias). But the ‘Church of the Empire’ at Gangra reacted against Eustathius and monasteries that freed all slaves who espoused asceticism. Christian philosophical asceticism is shown to have entailed not just self-restraint, but the renunciation of injustice and of oppressing humans.

Keywords:   Nazianzen, asceticism, slavery social injustice, Melania the Elder, Melania the Younger, Eustathius, Gangra, ‘Church of the Empire’

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