Temple, Nicholas (2002) Conversion and Political Expedience: Imperial Themes in the Early Christian Baptistery. Annales del Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, 24 (80). pp. 5-45. ISSN 1870-3062

This article explores the political history of the early Christian baptistery, as it pertains to the symbolic meanings of urban topography and ceremonial practice. It is argued that the changing relationship between the imperium and sacerdotium in early Christianity acquired a particular political dimension had a major influence in shaping the baptismal symbolism. At first, this is expressed in the new political landscape of Rome of Constantine, where the conversion was both a gateway to the new "legal religion" as a recognition, formalized in a ritual of Christian imperial regime legitimacy. Accordingly, we examine the impact of the imperial cult in baptism from Constantine to the government of Byzantium, highlighting how growing political emphasis on monotheism and the correlation between the imperium and sacerdotium attested to the beginning of the symbolism "Caesarean-papal" in the Eastern Empire. This was to culminate in the ritual practices of the Byzantine emperors, including Emperor cuasibautismal ablution being held annually in Blachernae. In the West, on the other hand, the dissenting voice of Ambrose, against increasingly politicized monotheism of Theodosius I, insisted the staff specifically redemptive significance of baptism, without referring to the collective private partnership. Thus, changing the symbolic meanings of baptism in early Christianity offer a framework for redefining cultural and political divisions among the wider Eastern and Western empires.

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