Elezione iudicio Dei e turpe convicium: Damaso e Ursino tra storia ecclesiastica e amministrazione romana
| AEVUM - 2009 - 1
Epigrammata Damasiana (18 and 40 Ferrua) provide evidence that Damasus, a most important deacon
and a supporter of pope Liberius, tried to reconcile the Roman priests with Liberius after his exile.
Damasus’ ecclesiastical action before 366 may help to understand his disputed episcopal election on
Liberius’ death. Roman deacons’ prosopography is helpful in order to detect ecclesiastical factions
and to highlight Damasus’ role among Roman deacons; deacons were involved in the struggle between
Liberius and Felix, the deacon imposed upon the see during Liberius’ exile; Siricius, wich became
bishop of Rome after Damasus, was Damasus’ supporter among deacons. Damasus’ action gained
the majority of consensus in clerical and Christian community. When Damasus was elected bishop
of Rome in 366, the procedure of his appointment was a regular one. While modern studies follow
our fullest account (Gesta inter Liberium et Felicem episcopos) written by a supporter of Ursinus (a
deacon who contrasted Damasus in 366 and got to be ordained bishop), the focus here is on the
documents of papal elections of Siricius and Eulalius/Bonifacius included in the Collectio Avellana.
This section of the Avellana shows that popular acclamation (testimonium) was an important element
of a regular election in order to approve or reject a candidate. In late empire (IVth/Vth century)
popular acclamations for the elections of the bishop of Rome were watched over by imperial administration.
Popular acclamations were juridically recognized by Constantine (CTh 1, 16, 6) and
functioned for a long time. Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 5, 5 (ed. Zelzer) is especially remarkable for a new
intepretation of Ursinus’ failure: Ambrosius’ text would suggest that a popular acclamation disapproved
Ursinus and disapproval was accepted and ratified by Roman administration. This paper argument
is that Roman citizens approved Damasus as they did later for his successor Siricius and that this
popular acclamation was confirmed by imperial intervention.